Luke 8 contains more accounts of Jesus' continuing ministry of preaching and healing (8:1). While we don't have time to go into an exhaustive treatment of the many parts of this chapter, we will note a few highlights.
(On that note, I have a couple of copies of an excellent commentary on Luke. If you are interested in digging into great detail about this or other chapters, please let me know and I'm happy to lend them out for a time. - Pr. Michael.)
8:1 Preaching and Bringing Good News
Luke once again reminds of the central purpose of Jesus: to proclaim/preach and to bring the good news. He proclaimed by means of His spoken Word and brought by means of healing and casting out demons.
8:1-3 Provision by the Women
A notable theme in Luke's Gospel account is that Jesus has brought the kingdom of God not just to Israelite men but all people. Luke specifically mentions Gentiles and women, which should stick out to us in a primarily Hebrew context of that time. To mention women in such specific and honourable ways in a context where that was rarely done is an example of how Christianity has always valued both sexes in the face of cultural differences in how the sexes are treated.
Mary, Joanna, and Susanna are mentioned by name among many who provided for the ministry of Jesus financially and logistically. They were patrons, ones who supported the work with their earthly means. Joanna was connected to Herod's court, a rather surprising thing given Herod's complicated relationship to Jesus.
8:4-15 Introducing Parables with One About the Sower
This is the first parable in Luke's account, and it sets up for us the way that Jesus uses parables, of which we'll hear many in the next number of chapters. Parables are, simply put, earthly stories with heavenly meaning.
It's maybe curious that Jesus uses parables not only to teach something, but seemingly to hide. Though many might hear a parables physically with their ears, they may not hear it in the sense of being a "hearer of the Word", that is, a disciple, someone with faith. Faith is a gift of God, and though a person may physically hear, that person may not hear it with faith in his or her heart, and so may not receive the spiritual benefit of it. That is, they may not understand it. That's partly why Jesus says, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear". Jesus is not speaking only physically, but most especially spiritually.
8:9-15 Teaching the Disciples
The reasons why someone may hear the Word of God but not become "a hearer of the Word" (a believer; a Christian) are varied. The reasons given in this parable are summed up by Martin Luther as he describes an "unholy trinity": the devil (the parable's birds: 8:5/8:12), the world (the parable's rock: 8:6/8:13), and the sinful self (the parable's cares/riches/pleasures of life: 8:7/8:14).
But those who have been given "ears to hear" are those in whom the seed takes good root and grows up to bear fruit. It's critical to note that this is God's work, not our own (8:10 - "it has been given" is what we call a divine passive, which means when we encounter the passive voice used, it generally implies that God is the subject). We tend to think of "bearing fruit" as "producing good works" but it's important to remember that it includes eternal life. The "harvest" comes at the end of the age.
8:16-18 A Second Parable
Without being named by Luke as such, he shares another quick parable from Jesus. Notice that again, we need to understand this spiritually. "Take care how you hear" is an admonishment to persevere in being a Hearer of the Word. We do this primarily through ongoing life in the Church: worship and catechesis (teaching). And the "more" that is given (8:18) is eternal life, not material things.
8:19-20 Jesus' Family
It's tempting to read this as Jesus disowning His earthly family, but that's not the case at all. Taken together with the whole of the Bible, it's clear that Jesus values His earthly family and all earthly families. But they must be seen in the proper perspective: as not more important than the family of God. And those who are family members of Jesus are (here it is again) Hearers of the Word. However, this time Jesus is more explicit; hearing doesn't simply involve listening. It also involves action. Though the specific word isn't used here in this verse (8:20), the idea of "hyper-listen" is the same.
"Hyper-listen" a pseudo-English word based on an overly-literal translation from Greek that's become a favourite of Pr. Michael's; it's usually translated as "obey" but is much richer than simple obedience. It's the idea of listening in such a way that cannot help but result in action. It's fascinating that this Greek word does actually show up very shortly; the wind and waves hyper-listen-to/obey Jesus in 8:25.
8:22-25 Calming the Storm
Jesus has authority even over creation, and not just any creation, but the sea was seen by many people as the place of chaos and evil; even that that's where the devil lived. For the sea to "hyper-listen"/obey Jesus was not just a physical but also a spiritual statement too.
8:26-39 Healing Leads to Proclamation
The demons know who Jesus is! We dealt with this in our leactionary reading on Jan 29 2022 when dealing with Luke 4. The demons confess—though in terror, not in faith—the truth of who Jesus is. Notice they also do what Jesus says; this would be an example of simple obedience and not "hyper-listening" in the sense that they don't do anything in faith. They don't hear the Word, treasure it, and act upon it out of love for God. They hear and obey because they fall under the authority of Jesus as Lord of all creation.
Notice also that the man who was healed becomes a proclaimer of the Good News at Jesus' own calling (8:38-39). Jesus bringing the Good News leads to people proclaiming, and—in a limited way—to also heal and cast out demons (e.g. the Twelve being given this authority (9:1) and the seventy-two (10:1-20).
8:40-56 Healing Women and Children
Again we hear from Luke that Jesus was bringing the Good News to all people. Two under-represented groups—women and children—are in view here. The woman with the discharge of blood approached and touched Jesus in faith, even though she was timid to confess it at first. And Jesus says that the child is "sleeping", which will become an important way of speaking about people who die in faith but who will be awakened to new life again on the last day. In that way, this girl is a prototype, if you will, of the resurrection; an example of what will happen to many more. She and Lazarus (John 11) are examples of that.