Who is Jesus?: Thoughts from Luke 8:19-56
In Luke’s Gospel account, more than any other (I think), we find the question “who is Jesus?”. Jesus comes onto the scene and does the unexpected or the impossible and people of all kinds have to ask “who is this guy?”. A few examples:
Luke 5:21—Who is this who speaks blasphemies? (Pharisees)
Luke 7:19—are you the One who is to come? (John the Baptist)
Luke 7:49—Who is this who even forgives sins? (people at Simon the Pharisee’s house)
Luke 8:25—Who then is this who commands even the wind and the waves? (disciples)
Luke 9:9—Who is this about whom I hear such things? (Herod)
And, then, as times goes on Jesus asks the question of others:
Luke 9:18, 20—Who do the crowds say that I am?... Who do you say that I am? (Jesus to Peter)
In the passage at hand, several answers can be found to the question ‘Who is Jesus?’. Of course, there are more good answers but the ones we have here are worthy of much consideration.
In verse 21, Jesus says, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Jesus is bringing people into a family. The family of God. Paul writes in Romans that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ. We don’t follow a general or a president or an earthly dictator when we follow Christ. We follow the king of the universe who, after his resurrection, called his disciples brothers. We follow our savior, with whom we are co-heirs of God. We follow the One who has restored us to the family of God.
In verses 22-25, we read the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm. Jesus was fast asleep. No anxiety, no worry. When his disciples woke him, he spoke but a word and the wind stopped. The storm stopped. Of all the things we humans fear, weather is one of the biggest. We are powerless to change or control it. Anyone who knows farmers knows that all the work you do for crops is useless if it doesn’t rain. We are, in many ways, at the mercy of the weather. But here is Jesus. With no effort and one word commanding the weather. He moves the disciples from a time of worry and danger into a time of calm and peace.
4. He is the One with power over disease
As Jesus is passing through the crowd a woman touches his clothes. The hem of his garment. The woman has spent all she has to be free of her disease. A disease that would have rendered her unclean in the eyes of the Pharisees. This time Jesus doesn’t even speak. The believing woman touches his robe and is healed. Jesus could have left it at that but he didn’t. He called attention to her and then he called her “daughter”. One commenter remarks that this is a unique instance of Jesus calling a woman daughter in the Gospels. How tender and kind he is. He did what none of the doctors could do. He showed his power over our weak bodies and the ailments that we have. He also restored the woman from uncleanness to cleanness.
In verses 40-42 and 49-56, we read the story of Jesus raising a girl from the dead. Again, Jesus comes to a hopeless situation. Everyone has given up. They are mourning the girl’s death. The father’s friend tells him not to trouble Jesus on the account of dead girl (verse 49). Jesus says that no, there is indeed hope. He speaks, “child arise” and the girl lives. With a word, restores the girl from death to life.
Of course all of these things point to one answer. Only God, Himself, can do these thing. Jesus is God in flesh. He is savior of sinners. He is the one who has authority over all nature and sickness. He is one with power over demons, sin, and death. He is the One who came to reconcile lost people to the family of God.
The Lord’s Table
As we come to the Lord’s Table to take communion together. Let’s contitue to think about this question, ‘Who is Jesus?’.
First, we come to the table as people who have answered the question, “who is Jesus?”. In the Heidelberg Catechism, question 81 asks, ‘For whom is the Lord's supper instituted?’. The answer , in part, is given: ‘For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy’. Of all the things that might separate us, they pale in comparison to this thing that unites us. We all would surely say, with Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We would all confess that our only hope for salvation lies in Jesus. By eating the supper, we confess that we do follow Jesus and depend on him for all nourishment and all provision. In the supper, we show that we have answered the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’.
We also come to the table as people who need to have this question answered over and over again. We need to say to ourselves and hear it said to us that Jesus is the Christ. We need to hear it said that “this is a trustworthy saying that Christ came to save sinners.” We need to be told again and again that “while we were dead in our trespasses, Christ died for us.” We need to be told that because He rose from the tomb, we shall also rise from the dead. In the words our Lord used to institute the supper, we have the answer: This is my body, broken for you. This is the blood of the new covenant poured out for you. Again, the Heidelberg Catechism offers words of wisdom. Question 75 asks, ‘How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?’ The answer, in part is thus: ‘…that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I …taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ’.
As surely as we touch the bread and feel it, Jesus Christ came as God in the flesh. Flesh that could be touched and felt. As surely as bread and wine nourish our physical bodies, it is only the flesh and blood and Jesus, of which we partake by believing in him and having a part in his sacrifice that nourishes us spiritually. In the supper, we have a most clear answer to the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’.
We also come to the table as those who want to ask this question of others and show them the answer. Of all the things that a person must deal with, this question is the most important in all of the world. Who is Jesus? What your life is like now and forever depends on how you answer this question. We want others to encounter Jesus and answer for themselves—You are the Christ, the Son of God. The supper gives us a way to answer the question. Paul said that as long as we do this “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again”. Like the man called Legion, we have been rescued from the more horrible conditions. We have been cleaned and restored. We have had our minds transformed. We have been grafted into the family of God. All of this happened and is happening because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So as we take the bread and the cup, we proclaim Jesus’ death. Just as Legion went out and told everyone what God had done for him, so we also tell what God has done in Jesus for us. As we take the bread and wine, we proclaim that we have a part in Jesus sacrifice and that we will have part in his resurrection. In the supper we answer the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’.
So let’s eat and drink together and celebrate who Jesus is.