Luke XVIII: Lk. 4:31-44
Jesus came healing the sick, but every single person that Jesus healed is dead. Every single healing Jesus performed was a temporary healing – they all eventually died. This raises questions about the healing ministry of Jesus. Why perform healings at all if they will only be temporary? And why is Jesus so concerned about preaching?
The Authority of Jesus
According to Luke and the other gospel writers, Jesus quickly become famous for His miracles. Luke says that He rebuked the demons and the sickness, and everybody noticed that His word carried an astonishing power and authority (Lk. 4:36). Luke emphasizes this point throughout this chapter: When He commanded the unclean demon to leave the man in the synagogue, it obeyed (Lk. 4:35). When He commanded the fever to leave Simon’s mother in-law, it obeyed immediately (Lk. 4:39). When He laid hands on the sick every one of them was healed (Lk. 4:40). And the demons came out of many people when Jesus rebuked them (Lk. 4:41). Luke repeats that word “rebuke” three times in this episode: Jesus rebukes the unclean demon, He rebukes the fever, and then Luke says He was regularly rebuking the demons and not allowing them to speak because they knew He was the Christ (Lk. 4:41). This explains why news about Jesus would travel so fast and why many would find out where He was staying and come find Him (Lk. 4:40). This explains why they would plead with Him to say there in Capernaum with them (Lk. 4:42). And the fact that people might still get sick or get sick again or that demons might return, would be added urgency to stay near Him.
The Puzzle of the Kingdom
This certainly helps explain the buzz surrounding Jesus. Imagine being there at that time. What a glorious moment to live. Death may be looming, but while He is there in their midst, there is hope. His word is comforting, reassuring. If something goes wrong or badly, Jesus can speak the right word and command our circumstances, and they will obey. And yet Jesus doesn’t seem nearly as bothered or concerned about the potential for relapses and death looming as the people are and as we are. When He is pressed to stay in Capernaum (which is an interesting contrast to the reception He received in Nazareth), He says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk. 4:43). This matches what He preached in His hometown of Nazareth and is apparently what He was preaching in the other towns and synagogues in Galilee. He preached from Isaiah 61 about the servant of the Lord (Lk. 4:18-19). When Jesus says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns,” He’s apparently talking about the same message. The “good news of the kingdom of God” is synonymous with the good news He is announcing to the poor, the liberty He is proclaiming to the captives.
The Good News of the Kingdom
What is the good news of the kingdom of God? And how is it good news? How is it really freedom from captivity if the sick are going to get sick again and eventually die? Part of the answer is in what we have already noted that Luke highlights: the authority and power of the word of Jesus (Lk. 4:36). The thing that amazes is His word. The powerful thing is His word. The miracles point back to the word. The miracles are signs. In other words, the miracles aren’t the solutions to the problem of death. They are temporary reprieves meant to point us to the One who is the solution, the One who will accomplish the true and permanent solution. Elsewhere Jesus points to the signs to indicate who He is and what He is doing (Lk. 7:22, 10:9, 11:20). In other words, the healings and the exorcisms are signs of the kingdom, they are proofs that God’s Kingdom has come and is coming. And they point back to His Word. They point back to Him. While many have been tempted to conclude that this must only mean that people can go to heaven when they die, this wouldn’t have made much sense given the geopolitical situation of the Jews. When Jesus begins announcing that God’s Kingdom is with Him and in Him, God has come to set the captives free, the Jews can’t help but get excited and intrigued and begin to think that perhaps God really has come to set them free from the Romans and the Herods.
But how can this possibly be connected to preaching? Why not healing? What about action? What about doing acts of mercy and justice? Those are certainly important, but there’s something unique about preaching that God especially loves. Not only does Jesus say that He was sent for this purpose (Lk. 4:43), but He then proceeds to send out preachers into the world and even Paul says Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). A big part of the answer to our question has to do with the power of words. God loves to accomplish great things with words. In the beginning, God spoke the universe into existence with His Word by the power of His Spirit hovering over the waters (Gen. 1:1-3). When God speaks, things change, things come into existence. Paul says in Romans that this is the way God has always loved doing things. He promised outrageous things to Abraham and announced that he had become the father of many nations when he as yet had not even one child. Our God gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist by speaking them (Rom. 4:17). And Abraham believed. This is why God loves preaching. God loves faith. God loves it when those who bear His image look at what is not there and speak words of promise, of blessing, of hope, of truth.
All the miracles and exorcisms were signs that pointed back to Jesus and the power and authority of His Word. But ultimately Jesus is the Word of the Father, and He came to be rejected in order to go down into the very depths of our rebellion, our rejection of His life-giving word, in order to undo it all and remake all things. God loves to use words to do great things because it highlights the power of His Spirit. What we cannot do in our own power, God can and is doing by the power of His Word and Spirit. He really has come to throw down the proud and mighty and lift up the humble and weak. And He is doing it through the announcement that God reigns.