This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary reading for the day, along with a headline from world news:
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Jesus heals an epileptic boy
37-40 Then on the following day, as they came down the hill-side, a great crowd met him. Suddenly a man from the crowd shouted out, “Master, please come and look at my son! He’s my only child, and without any warning some spirit gets hold of him and he calls out suddenly. Then it convulses him until he foams at the mouth, and only after a fearful struggle does it go away and leave him bruised all over. I begged your disciples to get rid of it, but they couldn’t.”
41 “You really are an unbelieving and difficult people,” replied Jesus. “How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”
42-43a But even while the boy was on his way, the spirit hurled him to the ground in a dreadful convulsion. Then Jesus reprimanded the evil spirit, healed the lad and handed him back to his father. And everybody present was amazed at this demonstration of the power of God.
The realism of Jesus in the midst of enthusiasm
43b-44 And while everybody was full of wonder at all the things they saw him do, Jesus was saying to the disciples, “Store up in your minds what I tell you nowadays, for the Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men.”
45 But they made no sense of this saying—something made it impossible for them to understand it, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
Jesus and “greatness”
46-48 Then an argument arose among them as to who should be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were arguing about, took a little child and made him stand by his side. And then he said to them, “Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.”
49 Then John broke in, “Master, we saw a man driving out evil spirits in your name, but we stopped him, for he is not one of us who follow you.”
50 But Jesus told him, “You must not stop him. The man who is not against you is on your side.”
The section titles supplied by the translator are always questionable and in this instance, completely inappropriate. Jesus does not heal “an epileptic boy.” He heals a boy intermittently possessed and tortured by an evil spirit. Illness in Luke’s day was seen as a spiritual rather than a physical condition. Its cure, therefore was equally a spiritual matter. Jesus’ impatience only makes sense if we see that he is responding to his disciples’ lack of spiritual authority in the face of this evil spirit.
Luke says that the healing of the boy os a sign of God’s power, but the crowd and the disciples attribute it to Jesus’ power, who responds by again prophesying that he will be handed over into the power of men. He is not superman. His hearers, carried way by worldly notions of power don’t understand. Indeed his disciples begin arguing about power amongst themselves: who is the greatest?
WELCOME THE SMALLEST
Jesus takes a little child and tells them that she, the smallest and least important is the place of God’s power. In welcoming her they welcome Jesus, and in welcoming him, they welcome God. In this way he explains the healing of the boy. Jesus has welcomed the boy in love and has therefore with God’s power expelled the evil spirit; whereas they were seeking supernatural power to carry out a healing. The secret of Jesus’ power is the “weakness” of love that welcomes the smallest. This is the same love which will lead to his being handed over into the power of men so that God’s power may be evident in his weakness.
In face of the various evils of worldly power, churches have been tempted to seek power for themselves, by the possession of wealth, by magical powers (inerrant popes and bibles and supernatural healers), or by advertising which sells Jesus like a new deodorant. (Try JESUS and you’ll smell of PURE GOODNESS). This is all the sort of mistake which made Jesus impatient with his disciples. There are no shortcuts to the kingdom; there are no magical solutions. There is only the miracle of love which welcomes the little ones and suffers for it.
Yes, this is a very sober gospel but it deals with reality.