Luke chapter 7

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What does Luke chapter 7 mean?

Luke 7 continues Luke's pattern of describing Jesus' Galilean ministry by alternating stories with calls to faithfulness. This chapter presents six events which describe reactions to Jesus and His ministry. Interestingly, the events are arranged in a chiastic structure. "Chiasms" group related stories in a pyramid form and are common in the Bible and ancient literature. The form for this passage may be:

A. The faith of the generous: the centurion (Luke 7:1–10).

  B. The blessed powerless woman: the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11–17).

    C. John the Baptist: doubt and encouragement for continued faith (Luke 7:18–23).

    C' John the Baptist: the two reactions to his and Jesus' message (Luke 7:24–35).

  B' The blessed powerless woman: the sinful woman (Luke 7:36–40).

A' The faithlessness of the generous: Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:41–50).

Luke 7:1–10 gives the first account: the faith of the generous other. A centurion in Capernaum who built the local synagogue sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his servant. Unlike others who have sought Jesus' help, the Gentile military commander trusts that Jesus is powerful enough to heal over distance. He does not expect such a prestigious teacher to condescend to enter his home. Jesus marvels at his faith and heals the man's servant. Simon the Pharisee is a foil for the centurion (Luke 7:39–50). He doesn't realize who Jesus is, nor does he understand the depth of his own sin, and his actions prove it.

Luke 7:11–17 records the first story of a powerless woman. While walking into Nain, Jesus raises the dead son of a widow. Luke does not record any interaction between the woman and Jesus beforehand. Nor does he note if those in the funeral procession recognize Him. The passage merely says He acts out of compassion. In response, the townspeople fear Jesus and glorify God. The companion event is that of a sinful woman who anoints Jesus in thanks for His forgiveness (Luke 7:36–38)—giving her eternal life.

Luke 7:18–23 contains the first of two stories about faith and John the Baptist. This account shows that despite Jesus' works, John still has a misunderstanding of who Jesus is. John is in prison and sends disciples to ask Jesus if He is the one they have waited for, or should they expect another. Jesus reassures John with descriptions of His ministry that demonstrate how He fulfills Old Testament prophecy.

In Luke 7:24–35, Jesus describes the two reactions the people have to John and Jesus' different lifestyles and their shared message. John fasts while Jesus feasts, but they both teach repentance. Those who know they need forgiveness don't care about the different lifestyles; they love the message. The religious leaders who think they need no forgiveness reject both.

Luke 7:36–38 is the second story of a powerless woman. While Jesus eats at a Pharisee's house, a sinful woman washes Jesus' feet with tears, her hair, and precious perfume. Like the widow of Nain, she has no power in Jewish society. Yet she knows Jesus forgives and loves her. Her response to Jesus' work in her life mirrors the widow's neighbors who glorify God (Luke 7:16).

Luke 7:39–50 finishes with the foil for the faith-filled centurion. Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to a banquet; but unlike the centurion or the sinful woman, he has given the bare minimum in courtesies. Like the religious leaders in Luke 7:24–35, he does not properly see his condition in comparison to Jesus.

Luke 8:1–3 is not, of course, in this chapter, but it completes the series of stories. We learn that Jesus has many disciples but it is women who financially support Him. Like the centurion, they are outside of the respected Jewish male culture but show their faith with their lives, and like the sinful woman, they understand the honor Jesus deserves. Their story helps transition to a subtle call to salvation through the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4–8).

Between Luke 4 and 9 are numerous ties between Jesus and the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. Several are included in Luke 7; these show that Jesus is a prophet and a healer and is willing to minister to Gentiles. The Hebrew symbolism may seem out of place considering Luke was a Gentile writing for Gentiles. Yet Luke worked with Paul, who always started his evangelism in a local synagogue, arguing that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures' prophecies about the Messiah (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1; 18:4, 19; 19:8). Invariably, the Jews as a community would reject Paul's message—except in Berea (Acts 17:10–12)—and he would move on to the Gentiles. In his Gospel, Luke does something similar. He describes how Jesus fulfills the Jewish Scriptures and how the Jews rejected Him, but he also proves that Jesus always intended to save Gentiles, as well as the Jews.

Luke's pattern continues with stories of faith, teaching, and powerful miracles. Directly after the account of the practical faith of the women, he records the Parable of the Sower. The parties mentioned in Luke 7:1—8:3 loosely fit: John the Baptist, for example, the seed choked by thorns; the Pharisees are like rocky soil; the centurion is a picture of the good soil, and the women are a picture of the good soil that yields a hundredfold with their faithfulness. The examples continue. Jesus' mother and brothers (Luke 8:19–21) are like the Pharisee who had the background information of Jesus' past—the Pharisee had the prophecies while Jesus' family had His birth—but can't accept it. The frightened disciples in the storm (Luke 8:22–25) are like the concerned John the Baptist. The man with a demon receives unsought, miraculous grace (Luke 8:26–39) just like the widow of Nain. Jairus, fearful for his daughter's life and demanding that Jesus come in person (Luke 8:40–42, 49–56) serves as a foil for the trusting centurion. And the woman who dares to touch Jesus' robe (Luke 8:43–48) is the faith-sister of the sinful woman who trusts Jesus for more than physical healing.

Context doesn't suggest a strong, deliberate connection between the stories and the types of soils. However, it seems reasonable that Luke surrounded the Parable of the Sower with examples. At the least, these are examples of Jesus' interactions with a variety of types of people and their varied responses. Next is a section of events where Jesus calls His disciples to a deeper, sacrificial faith (Luke 9:1–50). Then, He starts His journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
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