The gospel of Luke is written with a Gentile or Greek-speaking cultured people in mind. To them the author writes an account, composed using eyewitness accounts, of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Luke, compared to the other gospels, includes more of the role and importance of women and the poor, and relates the most parable teachings of Jesus in his story of who Jesus is, how he was and is in the world, and how that changes even us, today.
In the unfolding story of Jesus, he has begun preaching and teaching publicly to immediate interest and acclaim. Today’s selection relates two healing miracles which reveal the heart of both Jesus and his understanding of God.
The first tells of a man defined not by name or age, but by his tribe and vocation. He’s a Roman occupier, a foreign soldier, a leader of many. And while one would (at least then) assume that this man didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, he does. He comes to Jesus for help. He comes as one who would usually not deign to ask a Hebrew for assistance. He comes as one that usually Hebrews would only interact with out of fear and political obligation. Here though is an open relationship, one in which Jesus lifts up the one who is not a usually invoked example of faith, as a paragon.
The second encounter with Jesus seems to be a redo of the story of Elijah resurrecting the dead son of a widow related in 1 Kings 17:17-24. There are striking differences though. Elijah is told by God what to do. Jesus is motivated by his own deep compassion, feelings arising from his “bowels” the deepest part of his being. That’s word the word means in Hebrew and Greek. It points to the heart of Jesus who is broken in seeing the brokenness of this grieving woman. He shares in it. He literally does in touching the coffin, becoming himself ritually (or religiously) unclean according to their Torah tradition – as association with sinfulness and broken humanness. He acts, restoring not just the dead boy to life, but this woman who seems to have become a zombie like walking dead person of great grief, broken by life.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What strikes you in this passage? How does it interact with your life today, the questions you have, the issues you’re facing?
- At the root of these encounters is the healing and relationship. Jesus sees the centurion and the woman for who they truly are. He doesn’t just empathize with them, his deep compassion is a radical solidarity that makes all things new, creating a new wholeness. How do you long to be seen by Jesus? How do you need healing and relationship with him?
- As the fame of Jesus grows, people are moved by his power, passion and prophetic word. He disorients a culture of mistrust and tribalism. How do you find him re-orienting today?
You can download a textual study aid for personal contemplative reading of the text HERE.