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Episode 18 – The Gospel of Luke – Chapter 8 Part 2
Luke 8: “Daughters of Israel”
This chapter begins with a list of women who accompanied Jesus and his apostles and provided for their needs: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. Mary Magdalene, who had 7 demons driven out of her, is often erroneously thought to be a prostitute. The Church Fathers saw these demons as a metaphor for the 7 deadly sins. Scripture never calls her by this title, but beginning with Pope Gregory the Great, some have assumed this was the case. However, much like the Eastern Church, many of the great saints of the early church did not apply this label to her. Mary was from Magdala, a thriving fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. Mary has been called “the apostle to the Apostles” as Jesus entrusts her with the mission of bringing the good news of the resurrection to the disciples locked away in the upper room (John 20).
Luke 8 marks a transition from Jesus’ direct approach to teaching (as seen in Luke 6 with the Sermon on the Plain) to the use of parables. These simple memorable stories are rich in spiritual meanings and are often directed to the common people, as opposed to the Jewish aristocracy who seem unable to comprehend their meaning. While used extensively by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, parables can also be found in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 11-12, we read of the story of King David and Bathsheba. King David lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in David’s army. After Bathsheba became pregnant with David’s child, David attempted to cover his sin by encouraging Uriah to sleep with his wife. When Uriah refused, David had him sent to the front lines to be killed, instructing Joab to draw back the other soldiers in the heat of battle, leaving Uriah exposed to the enemy. Nathan the prophet then told David the parable of a poor man whose only lamb was taken by a wealthy neighbor who slaughters it to host a party for a guest. When David heard the story, he declared that the wealthy man deserved to die. When Nathan told David, “You are the man!” David repented of his sin, composing the Psalm 51 where he acknowledged his sin and begged the Lord’s forgiveness.
Much like Nathan, Jesus used parables to speak truth to those in power. Full understanding of these stories will come at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit brought the gifts of wisdom and understanding. Beginning with the parable of the sower, Jesus taught the crowds about the importance of one’s receptivity to the Word of God. The seed is the Word of God, and the ones on the path are those who have hear the Word, yet the devil takes it away from their hearts. The ones on rocky ground are those who hear the Word with joy but have no root and then fall away in a time of testing. The ones among the thorns hear the Word, but they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. Finally, the ones in good soil hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. The mini-parable of the lampstand follows and is a warning to all that what is hidden will ultimately be revealed. All secrets will eventually come to light.
When Jesus entered a boat, he was leaving the western Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee and was traveling to the eastern pagan side. When a storm arose, the disciples panicked and begged for the Lord’s help. After calming the storm, Jesus asked them a rhetorical question, “Where is your faith?” This story recalls the story of Jonah, who was thrown overboard in a storm. As Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish, so too did Jesus spend 3 days in the tomb. As Jonah was expelled by the fish onto the shore, so too did Jesus break forth from the tomb.
Upon arriving on the pagan side of the lake (to the region of the Decapolis), Jesus encountered the Gerasene demoniac, who wandered naked amongst the tombs. Jesus restored the man’s dignity, asking for his name and driving the legion of demons into a heard of swine, who promptly threw themselves off a cliff into the sea, which is symbolic of the abyss from which the demons came. The healed man begged to follow Jesus, but instead Jesus instructed him to tell others what God had done for him. This evangelization set the stage for the miraculous feeding of 4000 that occurred at a later date when Jesus returns to the Decapolis (Matthew 15, Mark 8).
When Jesus returned to the Jewish side of the lake, he was greeted by the news that the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus was near death, so he set off to see her. Along the way, a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for 12 years reached out to touch Jesus’ garment, in the hopes that her suffering would be put to an end. This beautiful miracle within a miracle is steeped with spiritual significance. Because of her bleeding, this woman would have been ritually unclean for 12 years as prescribed Leviticus 15. Through her faith in Jesus, the woman was immediately healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothes. Because the healing was instantaneous, Jesus remained ritually clean and was not subject to the prohibitions outlined in Leviticus 15. Upon arriving to Jairus’ house, Jesus was told that he was too late, and the child had already died. Jesus replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” Taking Peter, James and John with him into the parents’ house, Jesus commanded the child to get up. Her spirit returned and she immediately got up.
These two miracles have a deep spiritual meaning beyond the physical healing of the woman hemorrhaging for 12 years and the raising of the 12-year-old girl. Recall that the number 12 is symbolic for “governance”: the twelve tribes of Israel; the 12 apostles. The woman represents old daughter Zion, who is no longer bearing fruit and the young girl represents new daughter Zion. Before Jesus, Israel was subject to the laws of the Old Covenant. Jesus brings healing to the hemorrhaging woman, just as he brings healing to Israel. Jesus brings life to the young girl, just as he brings life to Israel, ushering in a new governance and a New Covenant.
©2019 Seeking Truth Catholic Bible Study
Sharon Doran serves as the teaching director of “Seeking Truth.” An experienced Bible Study teacher, Sharon has a passion for scripture that will motivate and challenge you to immerse yourself in God’s Word and apply His message to your everyday life.
For more in this series, visit the Seeking Truth with Sharon Doran Discerning Hearts page.
“Seeking Truth” is an in-depth Catholic Bible Study commissioned by the Archdiocese of Omaha in response to John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation for all Catholics to study scripture. To learn more, go to www.seekingtruth.net