“10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people's heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matt 13)
Luke 8 ends with three healings. Three tales of the miraculous power of God displayed through Jesus. We could look at them and feel good and know we should ask for things we want, no matter how big or how impossible and we should believe God loves us and can do them and we’d be taking away only half the message… possibly not even that much. We’d be guilty of the same dullness of heart as the three people in our story. Fortunately, Jesus isn’t satisfied with healthy dullards.
They each get off to a good start. “27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons…28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you…”
“41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him…”
“43 And there was a woman…44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment…”
Each one comes and willingly falls at Jesus’ feet. Notice, in no instance does Jesus tell them, “Oh quit groveling and get up!” Quite the contrary, Monty, this is the only proper approach of sinful creation to Holy God. Humility is not pretending to be less than you are, it’s knowing exactly who you are and where you stand, whether to your brothers who’s sins are no less nor greater than your own or to your God who created you. So on the surface, it appears these folk are approaching Jesus correctly.
On the surface ice can appear to be thick enough to hold your weight too. But scrape a little deeper and we see demons afraid of the abyss. We see a man who believed Jesus could heal but was amazed when Jesus raised from the dead. We see a woman with an almost superstitious belief in power. What we don’t see, is anyone looking for a Savior.
Jesus doesn’t see it either but they each have something: a kernel of faith. Jesus can work with kernels. To the ones who have, faith and humility, He gives abundantly more! He takes their smoldering wicks and gently blows their blinded minds. He sees the need beneath the need. He knows the true, glorious destiny beyond the dusty destinations of our rabbit trails. Jesus is not content to heal bodies, bodies continue to decay and die even after being healed, even after being raised from the dead in this plane. Jesus reaches in and heals their hearts!
The demon-possessed man begs not to be tormented. He is instead, released from torment, healed, restored and given back to his home! He is given back his Life! The god he feared as an angry avenger becomes the God who Saves!
The woman with the issue of blood just wants her body healed. The best she can hope for is anonymity. Jesus not only grants her request, this is the least of his powers, he brings her secret into the light. Through confession, she is raised up from the ground, from anonymity, from shame to honor! To forgiveness! She had sinned greatly according to the Law by making all the people in the crowd who touched her unclean under the law. Jesus, her great high priest, intercedes, “34 And he said to her, “Daughter[!]”” He declares her not only clean but a child of God! He restores her to her people, to peace with them and with her Father whom she has not known!
Jairus believed Jesus could heal. Who knows what kind of man he thought Jesus was. We get a glimpse however by the people he associates with. They send messengers to say, it’s too late. She’s dead. Don’t bother the teacher anymore. We see another, uglier glimpse, when they enter the house and Jesus says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” (Matt 13) They laugh at him. And we see the final proof when Jesus raises her up with but a gentle word, “and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” Jesus goes from being a teacher to being something so much more! He rocks their world and overcomes their cynicism and unbelief! He softens their hearts!
So much of our prayers are for the surface. Too often, even in our faith, we display our lack of faith, our unbelief, our immature and dull hearts. We ask for crumbs while Jesus invites us to the Wedding Supper. We ask for band-aids when Jesus is prepping for surgery. We pray for pennies when Jesus has buried a treasure chest beneath the floorboards of our lives. We limit him to an avenging, angry god or an unfeeling icon or a capricious slot machine.
But keep praying, keep smoldering and sending up that incense, keep watering that kernel… but if you come to Jesus in humility and faith, you better strap in space cadets, cuz you’re going to get a whole lot more than you bargained for!