What does Luke 8 mean?
Throughout his account of Jesus' Galilean ministry (Luke 4:14—9:50), Luke has alternated stories which reveal Jesus' character and expectations for His followers with calls for His hearers to follow Him. Luke 8 is no exception. Luke 7:1—8:3 describes Jesus' blessings toward those faithful who fell outside Jewish bounds of respectability. Luke 8:4–18 describes some of the mechanics of the call to follow Him. Luke 8:19—9:17 gives stories about the faith people show after engaging with Him in different ways.
Luke 8:1–3 describes women who financially support Jesus and His disciples. This serves as a transition section between chapters 7 and 8. Like the other characters of chapter 7, the women are not part of typical ancient Jewish circles of influence or power. Like the centurion who built the synagogue (Luke 7:1–10) and the sinful woman who poured perfume on Jesus' feet (Luke 7:36–38), they use their resources to glorify God.
Luke 8:4–15, the "parable of the sower," provides a basic outline describing different reactions to the gospel message. Those who hear will respond depending on their receptivity and their attachment to the world. The parable of the sower is also found in Matthew 13:1–23 and Mark 4:1–20. Luke uses it in a different way. Where Matthew and Mark place it in a group of parables about God's kingdom, Luke uses it more directly as a call to believe for salvation. Luke then records several miracles and interactions demonstrating different reactions to Jesus' message: people as the different "soils" that receive the seed of the gospel confirmed by miracles.
In Luke 8:16–18, Jesus tells the "parable of the lamp under the jar." Like a light on a stand is meant to be seen, so Jesus shares the gospel for people to hear and accept. Mark 4:21–25 also records the parable of the lamp. Matthew includes a similar parable exhorting Jesus-followers to spread the gospel, not merely to accept it (Matthew 5:14–16).
Luke 8:19–21 presents the first example of how people respond to the gospel. Jesus' mother and brothers want to see Him. They stand "outside" as a metaphor for rejection of His gospel. Those who are "inside" hear His message and accept it. Jesus' followers are His true family. Of course, according to the Bible, His mother and brothers eventually accept Him as their Savior. Jesus' initial rejection by family is also recorded in Matthew 12:46–50 and Mark 3:31–35.
In Luke 8:22–25, the theme continues. The disciples have heard Jesus' message; now they witness His power over the uncontrollable power and chaos of the stormy sea. The seed of worldly physical salvation falls on "soil" choked with the "thorns" of a sea that is trying to kill them. When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples must decide what it means and who Jesus is. Jesus' power over the storm and the disciples' confusion are also found in Matthew 8:18, 23–27 and Mark 4:35–41.
Luke 8:26–39 gives the well-known account of the man possessed by a legion of demons. By expelling the demons, Jesus provides worldly spiritual salvation. The fertile soil of the man accepts it gladly. The townspeople, choked by thorns, are too afraid. Matthew 8:28–34 and Mark 5:1–20 also record Jesus' exorcism of Legion.
The chapter ends with the healing of Jairus's daughter and the woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8:40–56), another nested story like that of the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36–50). In addition to providing a woman salvation from illness, Jesus also saves a girl from death. Jesus praises the woman with an issue of blood for her faith. The response to the girl's resurrection is open-ended. How do the disciples, the townspeople, and the family react to the girl's resurrection? Luke leaves the question for us to answer for ourselves. Jairus, his daughter, and the woman are also mentioned in Matthew 9:18–26 and Mark 5:21–43.
Luke 9:1–17 continues the stories of Jesus' power with an added aside to mention Herod Antipas' confusion as to whether Jesus is John the Baptist. In the last section of Jesus' Galilean ministry, Jesus calls His disciples to greater faith (Luke 9:18–50). Then He moves on toward Jerusalem.
Luke 8:1–3 completes the prior chapter's stories about those lacking advantaged positions in society who have faith in Jesus and welcome His blessings. Women in the ancient world did not have the respect of their culture. Even so, several use their financial resources to fund Jesus' ministry. They are like the sower who plants seeds in fertile ground and the lamp that shines from a stand (Luke 8:4–18). The synopsis of Jesus' travels is also recorded in Matthew 9:35, but the introduction of Jesus' supporters is unique to Luke.
Luke 8:4–15 introduces the different ways in which people respond to the gospel. The sower—Jesus—spreads the "seed" of the gospel, and people accept or reject the message in varying degrees. Following are real-life examples of faith, particularly in conjunction with examples of miraculous salvation from the evils of the world. The parable of the sower is also found in Matthew 13:1–23 and Mark 4:1–20.
In Luke 8:16–18, Jesus tells the parable of the lamp under a jar. When someone lights a lamp, they do so in order that others see the light. When someone shares the gospel, it is so others will hear and accept it. People are responsible for how they hear. Luke 8:19–56 gives examples of how closely people hear Jesus' message, beginning with Jesus' family. Mark records the parable in the same context (Mark 4:21–25). Matthew seems to give a similar but different parable to exhort Jesus-followers to be the light and share the gospel, themselves (Matthew 5:14–16).
Luke 8:19–21 is a real-world example of the previous two lessons. The parable's sower spread good seed, but the harvest depends on the receptivity of the soil. The good news is spread like a lamp on a stand, but people must hear the message and see the light to respond. In a similar way, Jesus' mother and brothers do not listen (yet), so His followers become His new family. Jesus' family's concerns are also found in Matthew 12:46–50 and Mark 3:20–21, 31–35.
Luke 8:22–25 records people's reaction to Jesus' message. Here, people must decide who Jesus is in the face of miraculous salvation from earthly threats. When Jesus calms a storm over the Sea of Galilee, He rescues the disciples and shows His authority over both nature and chaos. They understandably must rethink who He is. Next Jesus saves people from demons, illness, and death. The story of Jesus taming the storm is also in Matthew 8:18, 23–27 and Mark 4:35–41.
Luke 8:26–39 records a man's rescue from a legion of demons. This comes just as Jesus has saved the disciples from chaos and nature. The rescued man believes, having seen the light and heard the message (Luke 8:15–18). The townspeople don't listen and are filled with fear. When the once-chained man begs to stay with Jesus, Jesus instead commissions him to spread the good news he has heard and experienced, becoming the apostle to the entire district. Next, Jesus shows His power over sickness and death (Luke 8:40–56) before imbuing that power to His disciples (Luke 9:1–6). Mark also records Jesus' power over Legion while Matthew notes there were two possessed men (Matthew 8:28–34; Mark 5:1–20).
Luke 8:40–56 records the third and fourth examples of Jesus providing salvation from worldly hardships—this time, illness, shame, and death. Jairus begs Jesus to come heal his daughter. Along the way, a chronically ill woman touches Jesus' robe. Jesus stops, blesses her faith, and calls her "daughter." He then raises the young girl from the dead. Jairus and the woman both show their faith through their diligence and boldness to procure Jesus' healing power. Next, Jesus will imbue His disciples with His power to continue His work. These stories are also found in Matthew 9:18–26 and Mark 5:21–43.
Luke 8 includes portions of three sections of Jesus' Galilean Ministry. The women who support Jesus' ministry bridge the faithful outcasts of chapter 7 to the sower who spreads the news of God's kingdom (Luke 8:1–3). Luke 8:4–18 includes the parables of the sower and the lamp under the jar. These illustrate the importance of hearing Jesus' message with a mind to believe and obey. Luke 8:19–56 presents different faith reactions when Jesus' life, power, and authority elicit questions about His identity.
This passage continues Luke's pattern in the account of Jesus' Galilean ministry: alternating calls to discipleship with stories that describe the discipleship He expects. In Luke 6:17, Jesus transitioned from calling and training the Twelve to a more general call; in Luke 7, Jesus interacted specifically with those with less privilege in society. Chapter 8 reveals how people react when Jesus reveals who He is, mostly through miracles. In Luke 9:18–50, Jesus returns to intense discipleship of the Twelve to give them courage and faith, preparing them for the journey to Jerusalem and what they will witness there.
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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