November 18, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 7:15-17 (NRSV)
The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
People responded to Jesus in a wide variety of ways. Some were amazed by him. Some were disgusted. Some were moved with awe and wonder. Some followed him with conviction and joy. When witnessing the amazing things Jesus did, people felt awe. They glorified God. They told others what they had witnessed. When we encounter Jesus today, we will also respond in different ways. May our hearts be stirred and our minds expanded by Jesus!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In Luke’s account of the remarkable happenings at the dinner party of a man named Simon (7:36-50), we have seen diverse responses to Jesus and his authority. Simon invited Jesus to his home, but failed to welcome him warmly. Simon’s dinner guests asked questions about who Jesus was. A woman who had been forgiven lavishly by Jesus expressed grateful adoration by washing Jesus’s feet with her tears.
Before we move on from Luke 7 and our reflections on the authority of Jesus, I’d like to circle back to a story we read earlier in the chapter. You may remember that in a town called Nain, Jesus came upon a funeral procession. A young man was being carried to his grave, leaving behind his grieving mother, who was a widow and had no other children. Jesus, feeling compassion for this mother, instructed the dead man to get up. And he did! How did the onlookers respond? Luke puts it this way: “Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favorably on his people!’ This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country” (7:16-17).
Here we see three interconnected responses to the unique authority of Jesus. First, the people experienced fear. Commentators point out that the Greek word for fear, phobos, could also mean “respect” or “awe.” Given the additional responses of the people, “awe” captures the best sense of phobos, though it’s likely that the witnesses also felt something rather like trepidation in the presence of Jesus. When we are confronted with such awesome authority and unexpected events, it’s sensible to be at least a little afraid.
Second, those who witnessed the resurrection of the young man “glorified God.” They recognized that Jesus was not some sort of magician. Rather, he was a channel of God’s own power. What he did, he did with divine authority, using this authority to do something marvelous. Thus, the people wisely worshiped God, recognizing that God had indeed looked favorably on his people.
Third, the observers of the miraculous raising of a dead man became witnesses to others. Luke says that “This word about [Jesus] spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country” (7:17). No doubt the first “spreaders” were those who had seen it firsthand. In time, others would pass on what they had heard from the first witnesses.
As you think about your own responses to Jesus, have you ever felt awe? Or a strong desire to worship? Have you felt compelled to tell others about Jesus? When we read the gospel stories of Jesus, it’s painfully easy for us to respond with nonchalance, especially if we know these stories well. This is understandable, but sad. We miss out on so much when we take for granted the astounding ways in which Jesus exercised his authority.
How might we respond to what we read like those who were present with Jesus? How might we feel awe? What might motivate us to worship and bear witness? First, we can ask God to help us by the Holy Spirit. If we are available, the Spirit will stir in our hearts, enabling us to experience the wonder of Jesus as if for the first time. Second, we can take time to let our imaginations draw us more deeply into the biblical narrative. Rather than quickly reading about Jesus, we can put ourselves into the story. We can picture the scene as if we were in it, imagining what we might have experienced with our senses. Can you put yourself into the consciousness of the onlookers? The mother? Even the young man who was raised from the dead?
May God work within you, so that you might respond to Jesus with awe, worship, and witness!
Can you think of a time when you responded to Jesus with awe, even with fear? If so, what happened? What was this like for you?
Can you think of a time when you responded to Jesus with heartfelt worship? What did you experience?
Have you ever found yourself so impressed by Jesus that you were moved to tell others about him? If so, when?
What helps you to engage with Jesus in the gospels in a transforming way?
Set aside at least ten minutes to slowly read and reflect upon the story of Jesus in Luke 7:15-17. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you enter into the story. Let your senses and emotions engage with what you read. Be open to a fresh encounter with Jesus.
Lord Jesus, as I consider the variety of responses to you and your authority, I find myself yearning for more of you. I confess I can easily take you for granted. I can read the stories of your miracles without letting them touch my heart. I can respond to your teachings as if they are obvious. Lord, I’m glad I am familiar with the gospels. I want to know your story well. But I’m also eager to encounter you in a fresh way, to see you more truly and deeply than I have before, to be moved to respond to you more fully.
Jesus, when I stop to think, I am amazed that you want to engage with me. Thank you for seeing me, saving me, calling me. Help me to respond to you with all that I am. To you be all the glory. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Gutsy Compassion of Jesus