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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Luke 8

 

 

Verses 1-56

WOMEN PROVIDING FOR THE LORD JESUS

(vs.1-3)

The grace of the heart of the Lord Jesus must be made known through all the country, though not yet in its fullness, nor as resulting from the value of the sacrifice of Calvary. The Lord did not therefore preach "the gospel of the grace of God" as did Paul later (Acts 20:24), but preached "the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." The kingdom emphasizes authority rather than grace, yet grace was by no means lacking, as seen in Luke 4:17-22. In fact, one who honestly submits to the Lord's authority will realize his total dependence upon His grace.

In this intensive evangelization throughout the land, the twelve were with Him, and also many women, three of whom are mentioned by name, all evidently having been healed of infirmities or demon possession. Mary of Magdala was one who loved much, for she had been delivered from the oppression of seven demons. This is not, as some have imagined, moral depravity, but spiritual captivity, both frightening and oppressive. Joanna is noted as the wife of Herod's steward, a man of high rank and responsibility. These facts may awaken our interest, but whatever questions we may have as to the facts are not answered. But the faith of Joanna and of Mary Magdalene brought them to the grave of the Lord Jesus on the first day of the week (Luke 24:10). Susanna is mentioned only by name.

These women ministered of their substance to the Lord. For the Lord of glory, possessor of all creation, to make Himself dependent on the ministrations of women, in lowly humility, is really a blessed testimony to the grace of His heart, while at the same time they are given opportunity to express their appreciation of His grace in a way that will receive a full reward from God.

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

(vs.4-8)

When large numbers were gathered together, the Lord told the parable of the sower (vs.5-8). There is serious instruction in this parable to the effect that, however great may be the apparent interest among crowds of people, they do not all hear with the conviction of vital faith in the Son of God.

The sower sowed his seed in a broadcast manner so it was sowed in every direction. Some fell on the hard-trodden pathway and could not take root at all, but was soon eaten by birds. Some fell on the rock with little soil covering it. Springing up quickly, the plant withered away, for there was no depth of earth to hold moisture. That which fell among thorns was soon choked out, there being no room for two contrasting plants. Only that falling on good ground was fruitful, bearing one hundred fold. It is the ground that makes the difference, for the seed is the same: it is all good seed. Giving no explanation of the parable, the Lord cried out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." If there is honest interest in Him, people will desire to know the significance of His words.

At least the disciples were concerned, no matter who else was not. Answering their inquiry, the Lord indicated that believers alone will be able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Others will be given the evidence that there are such mysteries, but if they are not concerned to learn, the parables will leave them in the blindness of ignorance, yet having had a testimony that renders them responsible for their ignorance.

The explanation is beautifully simple (vs.11-15). The seed of the Word of God has in it the vital power of life. It is sown broadcast in the whole world (Matthew 13:38). The Lord began this, His disciples went farther afield to proclaim the Word, and today radio is used to much more broadcast this precious seed. The wayside symbolizes some who hear the Word, but through hardness of heart are impervious to its influence. The birds (evil spirits under Satan's authority) are quick to steal away the seed. No real impression has been made. The rock with shallow soil covering it pictures hearts spiritually hard underneath, though perhaps having pleasing or inquisitive personalities. Such are outwardly impressionable. They receive the Word at first with joy, thinking the gospel of the grace of God to be a wonderful thing, but the conscience is not seriously reached. There is no repentant facing of their sins. It is a shallow thing with no root, so when the testing of the heat of tribulation comes, there is no moisture of the Spirit of God to resist the heat. Such people give up their profession of faith just as easily as they had assumed it.

The thorns speak of the cares, riches and pleasures of this life which many people allow to dominate their very existence, so that, though they would like the Word too, and accept it in a general way, yet it does not mean as much to them as the material vanities that are only thorns that cause eventual trouble. There is no real room for both, and one who wants both will find that it is the Word that is choked out. In this case, though the seed of the Word is good, no mature fruit comes from it.

The good ground speaks of those who in genuine faith receive and keep the Word of God. This ground has been prepared by the plowshare of the Spirit of God working repentance in the heart. The seed falls into the ground, its roots are able to go deep, the cultivating keeps down the weeds and thorns, and the plant, strong and vigorous, brings forth abundant fruit. Luke speaks only of a "hundredfold" increase, emphasizing the great moral contrast in true faith to the shallowness of mere profession. Matthew 13:1-58 and Mark 4:1-41 both speak of differences in the amount of fruit, showing that even true believers do not bear an identical amount. In Luke it is added that believers bring forth fruit with patience or endurance. Fruit takes time it gradually develops and matures. So the reality of faith is proven in the fruit that is eventually borne.

PARABLE OF THE LAMP

(vs.16-17)

While fruit is primarily for God, yet it connects with testimony before people. Therefore the Lord added the symbol of the lighted lamp (vs.18-18). The chief object of light is to bring things out in their true character. Who would deliberately hide a lighted lamp under a vessel or basket or under a bed? Will a believer choose to be ashamed of having others know he is a believer? If the Spirit of God has "lighted" him, it is for the purpose of giving light to others. Let him be willing then to have nothing secret, but that his conduct and words may bear witness to his faith. Hiding the light under a vessel infers our being too busy with things of this life to witness for Christ, or putting the light under a bed infers we are too lazy to let our light shine for the Lord.

Verse 18 refers back to the parable of the sower and those who hear the Word of God. How we hear is of the utmost importance. Hearing with honest faith is true hearing, for faith brings one's life into the open, everything laid bare before God. What one receives by faith will cause further abundance, but if he has not, by genuine faith, received what he appears to have, he will lose it all. For he has never really appropriated it: he is a mere professor of Christianity who seemed to have something, but is like the wayside or rocky ground or thorn-infested ground.

NATURAL RELATIONSHIPS SET ASIDE

(vs.18-21)

The moral connection is continued in verses 1-21. We have seen that it is the seed of the Word of God received by faith that brings forth fruit for God. No matter how close may be a natural relationship, it has no place in the new life produced by the seed of the Word of God. This does not mean that we should ignore our natural relationships, for they have a place that requires our acting rightly toward relatives on the basis of the first creation, to which we are still attached as long as we are in this world. The Lord Jesus showed such natural affection and care for His mother when dying on the cross (John 19:26-27).

But spiritual relationships, by virtue of divine life in Christ and given to believers, are superior to those natural. The Lord's mother and brothers desired to see Him. Mark tell us what their motives were. They wanted to restrain Him from preaching, for they thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35). Will the Lord Jesus agree to His relatives' demands in such a case? No! His spiritual relationships are much more important that those natural. Thus, He told the people, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the Word of God and do it" (v.21). For us too, if our natural relationships interfere with our obedience to the Word of God, we must refuse this interference. It is made clear for us that the Lord's mother and His brothers had no more claim on Him than does any other believer.

HIS AUTHORITY OVER THE SEA

(vs.22-25)

A new section begins with verse 22, which continues to chapter 9:36. Here the fullness of grace in the Lord Jesus is seen in His great ability to meet the many troublesome features of a world away from God. This world is a place of disturbance (ch.8:22-25); a place of bondage to Satan's power (vs.26-39); a place of disease and death (vs.40-56); a place of misery and want (ch.9:1-17) and worst of all, a place in which the Lord of glory is rejected (ch.9:18-38).

The Lord gave instructions to His disciples to take a boat over to the other side of the lake (v.22). Certainly therefore there was no possibility of their failing to reach the other side. Simple faith in Him would have subdued the fearful apprehensions of the disciples when a storm arose. But often we also are guilty of such unbelief in spite of having His written Word to show up our fears and doubts as being groundless.

The Lord calmly slept in the stern of the boat while the storm caused the disciples such anxious fear as to finally awaken Him with their panic-stricken words. At least they waited until the boat was filled with water -- not literally filled completely, but enough to cause them, humanly speaking, to be in serious danger. There is a dispensational lesson in this, reminding us of the deep trouble of the remnant of Israel when in the throes of the Great Tribulation; yet the dispensational picture is not emphasized in Luke, but the moral principles of the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus for every demand of faith, and in spite of the weakness of faith.

Rising from sleep, the Lord simply spoke and the elements were brought into calm subjection. It is that voice alone we need, whatever may be the disturbance of our circumstances, whether the powerful wind, the unseen forces that rouse the waves, or whether the visible and alarming surges of trouble and distress. He asked them a pointed question, "Where is your faith?" For faith in Him would leave no doubt of His authority over the storm even when asleep. In spite of earlier proofs of His divine power, they wondered at the greatness of this Man who commands the winds and the waves.

THE HEALING OF "LEGION"

(vs.26-39)

If the elements must obey the Lord, what of the malignant power of Satan? This He met immediately on arriving at Gadara, in the person of a man who had been long possessed by demons -- totally under satanic power. His condition was one of shame, wearing no clothes, and his environment that of the corruption of death, living among the graves (v.27). There was a strange mixture in the man's condition. While crying out, "What have I to do with You" he was drawn, in spite of this, to fall before the Lord Jesus (v.28). The man still had a human spirit and soul in spite of the awful power of the evil spirit, and it was the superior power of divine grace in the Lord Jesus that drew him, while the evil spirit within him protested, knowing that Jesus is the Son of God. The very presence of the Son of God was torment to the evil spirit, as were the Lord's words of command that he should come out of the man.

The power of the evil spirit was frightening. Chains and fetters were superhumanly broken by the man (v.29). The world may attempt to bind the power of Satan by such things as legislation, rehabilitation and moral reform, but these things fail, and Satan drives his victim into a moral wilderness. This case, however, was particularly pathetic. The man confessed his name as Legion, because he was possessed by many demons, enough to infest 2000 pigs!

It seems a strange fact that demons desire a body in which to dwell. Unfallen angels are likewise spirits, but they evidently have no such inclination. These demons had a fear of being sent into the abyss (v.31), that is, the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1-21; Revelation 20:1-2), a place of confinement from which there is possible release when God allows it. When commanded to leave the man, they asked permission to enter into a herd of swine, which the Lord permitted (v.32). According to law Jews had no right to be keeping swine (Leviticus 11:7), and the Lord allowed the results as a pointed lesson to them. The demons had no proper control of the swine, and they, evidently terrified, rushed headlong by way of a steep cliff, into the lake and were drowned (v.33). Josephus speaks of Gadara as a Grecian city, that is, composed of Grecianized Jews, who therefore ignored Jewish orthodoxy, but the Lord nevertheless did not spare the swine.

The swine herders reported what had taken place, for Mark 5:13 tells us that the herd numbered about 2000. This elicited the interest of the whole country. They found the man who was previously demon-possessed sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind (v.35). But rather than rejoicing at the grace and power of God so clearly demonstrated, they were afraid. They feared more for their illicit livelihood than they feared the power of Satan. They preferred to have the man demon-possessed than to lose their swine! Such is the blindness of unbelief.

Though the matter was explained to them, the whole multitude of the country were united in entreating the Lord to leave them, for their fear was great. He did not force His presence on them: He acceded to their wishes and left again by boat. But an effective testimony remained. The recovered man was anxious to be in the company of the Lord, but the Lord rather sent him back to his accustomed environment, telling him to show others what great things God had done for him (v.39).

This was in contrast to some other cases, for some were told to tell no man (Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:33-34). In those cases the Lord remained in the area where He was, and human advertising tended to hinder His work because of the excitement of those attracted merely for the sake of the miracles. In Gadara, however, this man bore striking witness to the whole city that the Man they had refused was the One who wielded the power of God over the cruelty of evil spirits (v.39). Again, some may be inclined to exaggerate the greatness of the change that has taken place in them. In this case the change was so great it could hardly be exaggerated. The man also had been well known previously because of the dreadfulness of his condition.

THE LORD'S POWER OVER DISEASE AND DEATH

(vs.40-56)

Returning to the west side of Lake Galilee, the Lord Jesus found the people waiting for Him. Now another problem arose. He had stilled the elements and had overcome satanic power, but Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, fell at His feet to entreat Him regarding the impending death of his daughter (vs.41-42). His only thought was that the Lord might prevent his daughter from dying, but we are to learn in this case a deeper lesson as to the Lord's power over death. If the demon-possessed man speaks of Israel's demon-infested state during the Tribulation, from which the power of the Lord Jesus will set them free, the daughter of Jairus illustrates Israel's being reduced to a state of virtual death -- dead in trespasses and sins -- from which the Son of God will yet awaken them in resurrection power and grace (Romans 11:15). The daughter was 12 years old, reminding us of the twelve tribes and God governing in perfect wisdom.

An interruption occurred at this point that teaches us a serious lesson. If the blessed Lord of glory is to rightly meet the question of death, He must first meet the solemn question of sin, which is typified in the long-standing disease of the woman who came up behind Him (vs.43-44). The twelve years in both these cases indicates a complete governmental cycle through which Israel's twelve tribes must pass before the lasting millennial blessing of God will be known to them. People naturally have more fear of death than they do of sin, though sin is really most to be feared, for it is against God, while death is God's righteous sentence against sin.

The woman had spent all that she had on physicians with no good result. What a picture of people's efforts to have their ills corrected by good works, humanitarian service and religions of every kind! But it is Christ they need. Their very life-blood is being drained away by the sin that will not yield to human treatment. By only touching the hem of the Lord's garment, she was healed immediately (v.44). The simplest touch of faith taps the great resources of His power. While His power could heal her disease, yet we know that His own death and blood-shedding was required to take away sin, of which the woman's disease was a picture. In view of the unquestionable certainty of His future sacrifice, He could even then save sinners who put their faith in Him.

However, the Lord did not allow her to leave without her hearing His word. In answer to His question, "Who touched Me?" Peter protested that many were touching Him. But crowds may surround the Lord without any real exercise of any kind, while one coming in faith receives eternal blessing. The Lord pressed the point, adding that virtue had gone out of Him. Of course He knew all that was going on in the woman's heart, but she must make herself known voluntarily. She came trembling, falling down before Him and declaring the full truth of her former state and the reason for her touching Him, with its blessed result (v.47). Therefore, she received, not only the feeling of being healed, but the full, definite assurance from the lips of the Son of God that her faith had made her well. It is vitally important that every believer have the clear, authoritative Word of God as to the absolute certainty of his eternal salvation. Nothing but this can give certainty. With His Word, she may well indeed "go in peace."

He had calmly taken time with the woman while the little girl was dying. While He was still speaking, the news came by a messenger from the ruler's house that his daughter had died, and with the added words, "Do not trouble the Teacher" (v.49). Mere natural thought considered that it was too late. One can imagine the distressed anguish of Jairus in all of this, including his feeling that the Lord had not come quickly enough. How comforting then were the Lord's immediate words, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well" (v.50). As in the case of the woman, so here, the solid assurance of the word of the Lord Jesus is wonderful.

At the house of Jairus He allowed only Peter, James and John and the father and mother of the girl to go in with Him to the little girl. There was no need for more than the witness of the three disciples: they stand for the nucleus of the faithful remnant when Israel will be brought to spiritual life after the Tribulation. The father and mother stand for the previous natural relationship -- Israel connected with the fathers. There was great weeping and wailing in the house, for hope for the girl seemed lost entirely, as it seems to Israel today in reference to any revival of that virtually dead nation.

The Lord put the mourners out of the house. Sorrow and sighing must flee away at His presence. The simple ease with which He acted is again to be noted here, as commonly in Luke. Taking her by the hand, He told the girl to arise. Her spirit returned to her body by divine power and she immediately arose, not only restored to life, but in good health: her restoration was complete. Marvelous miracle of grace! He who has power over the elements, over Satan's power and over sin's ravages, also has power over the dreaded power of death.

He instructed the astonished parents to give her food (v.55), for she illustrates too the case of any individual who has been dead in sins and is brought to life by faith in the Lord Jesus. Spiritual food is an immediate necessity for every new-born soul. In contrast to the case of the man of Gadara (v.39), those here were told not to report the matter to others. The Lord wanted no mere awakening of the curiosity of the crowds (Mark 1:45).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 8:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/luke-8.html. 1897-1910.

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