Luke 7- You Only Die Twice

Luke 7 Bible with Green and Blacks 85 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassageLuke 7

There’s a lot happening in any given chapter of Luke. Consider, for example, Luke 7, which just so happens to be today’s chapter. Jesus heals a centurion’s slave, restores a recently-deceased man to life, preaches about John the Baptist, and gets invited to a Pharisee’s house, where he tells a parable about two debtors. Which of these incidents shall we look at in today’s post? We certainly aren’t going to look at all of them. I love you guys, but not that much.

I was tempted to examine Jesus’ words concerning John the Baptist, particularly his jab at the excesses of the wealthy: “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces!” (25). But there’s a diversity of material in the gospels, and I don’t want to be the guy who zeroes in on a single issue to the exclusion of all else. Jesus’ preaching about John isn’t what I’d call “shots fired” where the wealthy are concerned, and there are other passages in which he dunks explicitly on the rich. We’ll save the social justice angle for those sections.

Both Jesus’ sermon about John and his parable at the Pharisee’s house contain criticisms of the religious elites, but I’m not going to talk about that theme, either. After reading the chapter a few times, one scene eclipses the others, and that’s the resurrection of the widow’s only son in the town of Nain. It’s the first time Jesus raises someone from the dead. Moreover, the widow is in a precarious socio-economic position; in the patriarchal world of first-century Roman-occupied Judea, without a husband or any living sons she’s left without anyone with any power to speak of to take care of her. Her support structure has taken two heavy blows. Just about the only miracle Jesus could do that would be more advantageous to the widow than resurrecting her son would be to topple the entire social hierarchy that devalues and marginalizes people like her–and I suppose, in a manner of speaking, he does that too, but to pull it off, it takes his own death and resurrection and several hundred years.

It’s a little odd that of all the gospel authors, only Luke reports this resurrection incident. He himself notes, “This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district” (17). Did Matthew and Mark deem an actual resurrection of a dead man not important enough to put into their gospels? Given that they report miracles far smaller in scale, it’s odd that they’d omit Jesus bringing a man back from the dead.

But I suppose it’s to be expected that Jesus’ own resurrection and victory over death would eclipse other miracles, even postmortem resuscitations like this one. The widow’s son would die again, receiving merely a new lease on life, but Jesus Christ’s resurrection was the nail in death’s coffin, promising God’s gift of immortality to those who trust him with their lives. Did Matthew and Mark expect that including the incident in Nain would detract from the impact of Jesus’ own resurrection and invite theological confusion over its import? It’s conceivable.

But I speculate. Suffice it to say that if any of the other gospel writers knew about the event, none of them saw fit to include it in their accounts. However, Luke did, and there it is. Physically speaking, for a tiny minority, it is appointed to die twice.

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