What does the people's reaction to Jesus' teaching and His encounter with evil spirits in Luke 4 and then His directions in Luke 5 to his disciples about fishing mean for us today?
Commentary on Luke 4 and 5
4 31Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 "Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!"
35"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!"=====
40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."=====
5 1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
Week 3 (January)
We humans are often way too impressed by a person's "position." Let someone get named to a position of leadership and immediately that person's utterances take on new authority... authority his or her words didn't seem to possess previously.
That person is the same man or woman as before. He or she is probably even saying the same kinds of things they've always said. But now everybody listens to them or is supposed to! With the elevation to a new position, a person's words assume new importance.
It happens in politics. It happens in business. It even happens in the church.
With Jesus it is different. Really different. This Man's words, said His contemporaries, had authority and power.
Jesus didn't need the external trappings of position that people might try to confer on Him. He never got elected or appointed to anything. He held no "position" of any kind. Yet, His word was with power (Matthew 7:29, Luke 4:32)
Since the late 1700s, believers have sung Edward Perronet's song, "All hail the power of Jesus' name." More recently, Bill and Gloria Gaither had us humming along with their song "There's Something About that Name." The message of both of those songs is true. Jesus did exude power and authority. Luke wrote that the first-century Jews were amazed and awed by the power and authority in Jesus' words.
When some people talk of the Spirit of Christ leading us, they refer to a "still, small voice," a phrase picked up from Elijah's life story. Christ didn't have to speak loudly to say powerful things. There's nothing bombastic, harsh or demanding about God's voice even when it exudes authority. Real authority.
There's something else about this Man that I can't get away from. Though He exuded awesome power and authority, He used it as few men of authority have ever tried to do. His earthly life was one long story of responding compassionately to human need. Luke tells of Him casting out demons and healing the sick -- using simply His authority and not through some manipulative capacity or power.
The world needs to sense His authority through us -- not as we attempt to wield a club or shout commands or give orders, but as we respond to human needs. I hope we're rediscovering this aspect of the gospel message (although sometimes we tend to shoot our wounded!).
A recent period of misunderstandings and rejection by people I had trusted has sensitized me to the traumas of other people. I knew all along that there was hurt in the world. But in my moments of hurting, so many others have comforted me with their own stories of victory over rejection, over misunderstandings, and over feelings of helplessness in a power structure.
I still don't understand why the Lord allowed this crushing experience to envelop me and my family. But I do know that this personal trauma has given me a greater sensitivity for and an understanding of those who may also be watching their dreams and hopes evaporate.
The union Jesus makes between power and compassion probably doesn't make a lot of sense to those outside the Kingdom. They often view compassion as weakness. They see it as the opposite of power and authority.
The closer we Christians get to this Man of all power, the more insistent we'll hear His call to be sensitized to human trauma and need.
I wrote these devotional thoughts while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in Standard, a weekly take-home Faith Connections curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Reflections on the power of words: Would Jesus cuss?
-- Howard Culbertson,
Other devotional articles: Year-long series in Standard Reflections on illustrations from ham radio Are you ready for Christmas? Come Ye Apart Come Ye Apart devotionals on pastors