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Bible: What Does Luke 8 Teach Us About Parables?

Updated on November 18, 2016

Luke, the Physician

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220px-Byzantinischer_Maler_des_10__Ja...

Accompanied by His disciples, Jesus continues His itinerant preaching ministry, receiving financial support from three women (and many others) [vv. 1-3].

Apparently, Christ had freed all three (and not just Mary Magdalene) from demonic possession and/or influence.

Next, Luke inserts “The Parable of the Sower” (vv. 4-8), the purpose of parables (vv. 9-10), the interpretation of the famous extended metaphor above (vv. 11-15), and “The Parable of the Revealed Light” (vv. 16-18).

[In Matthew, the apostle places the first parable and several others after Jesus’ mother and brothers send for Him (cf. 12:46-50 and 13:1-52); here, it occurs before His relatives come.

In addition, the so-called “Parable of the Revealed Light” does not appear in Matthew’s compendium; it shows up as a concatenation of sayings found in different places in his gospel (cf. 5:15; 10:26; 13:12).

Luke contented himself with choosing a smattering of Jesus’ ideas, while Matthew sought to stress parabletelling as Christ’s predominant teaching method.]

The words in the first parable differ from Matthew’s account in a few ways:

(1) In Luke, Jesus says that people “trampled down” the “wayside” seed; Matthew omits this detail;

(2) In Luke, the plant that sprang up from the rocky soil withered away “because it lacked moisture” (v. 6); in Matthew, plants died because “they had no root” (13:6).

Luke’s record is also shorter in length; and

(3) In Luke, Jesus does not delineate crop yields other than a hundredfold (v. 8); Matthew also has Him say “some sixty, some thirty” (13:8).

Luke truncates Christ’s explanation of the purpose of parables to the “bare bones.”

He writes, in essence, “You understand the mysteries because God has granted you this ability; the others do not comprehend these teachings because they are spiritually blind and deaf.

"I speak parables in order to enlighten the eyes of one group and to confirm willful blindness in the other” (vv. 9-10).

Matthew’s account develops the concept much more (13:10-17).

The numerous differences between Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ interpretation of the parable indicate either that Luke recounts another occasion in which Jesus used this parable, or that the Lord spoke many more words than Matthew records.

Besides employing different words, the evangelists use set phrases that conflict.

Luke also pens clauses that Matthew does not include. (See the chart below for details.)

Words
Set Phrases
Clauses
The devil (Lk. 8:12), the wicked one (Mt. 13:19); the rock (Lk. 8:13), the stony places (Mt. 13: 20)
Those (the ones) on/by the (name of soil) are the ones who hear/those who, when they hear/when they have heard, having heard (Luke); he who received (the) seed by/on the (name of soil). . . is he who hears the word (Matthew)
The seed is the word of God (v. 11);
 
 
Lest they should believe and be saved (v. 12);
 
 
Believe for awhile and in time of temptation fall away (v. 13);
 
 
Choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity (v. 14);
 
 
With a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (v. 15)—Luke
 
 
Nothing comparable to vv. 11- 12, except “word of the kingdom (v. 19a);
 
 
endures only for awhile. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (v. 21);
 
 
the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches . . . and he becomes unfruitful (v. 22);
 
 
bears fruit and produces: some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty (v. 23)—Matthew

Jesus Spoke Parables

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Bloch-SermonOnTheMount.jpg

Hide and Reveal

The so-called “Parable of the Revealed Light” (vv. 16-18) combines three passages from Matthew: 5:15, 10:26, and 13:12.

The first verse exhorts Christians to put their “lamps” on stands where they could fulfill their purpose and do some good; that is, “give light to all who are in the house” (5:15).

The second passage encourages the saints to preach Christ’s word boldly, for God will not forget their sacrifice but will mete out perfect justice upon His enemy’s hidden deeds of darkness (10:26-27).

The final statement adheres most closely to the context, summarizing Jesus’ purpose in preaching parables and stressing the importance of “hearing” with a view to obedience.

On the one hand, those with understanding will amass even greater wisdom; on the other hand, those without spiritual ability will lose what little spiritual knowledge they have (13:12).

Again, Jesus’ bottom-line purpose in telling parables to the unsaved remains to confirm them in their own willful spiritual deafness and blindness (13:13).

He uses the oft-quoted Isaiah 6: 9-10 to indicate that the Jews of the first century fulfilled this prophetic word as did the people of Isaiah’s time.

Both generations shared the same spiritual traits: dull hearts, deaf ears, and closed eyes.

At this point, Jesus’ relatives (that is, his mother and brothers) appear on the scene, apparently fearing for His sanity (vv. 19-20).

[As stated above, Matthew records this visit as occurring before Christ spoke the parables.]

Regardless of the actual chronological order—it does not seem to matter too much to one of the writers—the episode strongly suggests that Mary and her brood are not “with the program” (v. 21).

Luke then reverts to incidents that Matthew records as occurring shortly after the Sermon—the calming of the Sea (vv. 22-25), the healing of the demoniac (vv. 26-39), and the restoration to life of a girl and the healing of a woman (vv. 40-56). [Cf. Matt. 8:23-34; 9:18-26].

The physician/writer has already related the healing of the paralytic, the calling of Matthew, and the question about fasting (see 5:12-39).

Comment: Why Matthew lumps them all together and Luke separates the events is puzzling; again, acknowledging the evangelists’ purposes in writing (chronology is secondary) is the key to harmonizing these gospels.

The phrase in verse 22: “on a certain day” intimates that the calming of the sea does not chronologically follow Jesus’ “rebuke” of His relatives.

Luke’s account of this miracle differs little from Matthew’s.

The stylistic changes appear as follows:

(1) The former calls the sudden heavy rain and wind a “windstorm”; the latter refers to them as a “great tempest” (v. 23; cf. Matt. 8:24a).

(2) Luke records that “they were filling with water, and were in danger/jeopardy” (v. 23b); Matthew merely mentions that they “were covered with the waves,” assuming their peril (Mt. 8:24b).

(3) Matthew shows Jesus rebuking the apostles before He calms the Sea; Luke reverses the order (cf. Luke 8: 24-25a with Matt. 8:26).

The Gadarene Region

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409px-Thedecapolis.png

Luke’s record of the healing of the demoniac differs greatly from that of Matthew. A list of changes appears below.

First, its length. (fourteen vs. seven verses);

Second, the name of the country of the demoniac. (Lk. Gadarenes (v. 26); Gerasenes [NU]; Mt. Gergesenes (8:28; Gadarenes [NU]);

Third, the number of demoniacs. (Luke, one (v. 27); Matthew, two (8: 28);

Fourth, the description of the demoniac(s). (Lk. “a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time” [v. 27]; NU has “and for a long time wore no clothes”]; Mt. “demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way” (8:28);

Fifth, the pronoun number (I to we) and the exclamation or question. (Lk. “I beg you, do not torment me! (v. 28); Mt. “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt. 8:29);

Sixth, the explanatory material.

(To acquire this biographical data, Luke, the physician-historian, undoubtedly collected the demoniac’s history from the townspeople.

The “unclean” spirit [mentioned also in Mark] that seized the man makes the latter exceedingly strong [v. 29], drives him into a maddening exile in the desert, the mountains, and the tombs [v. 29b; cf. Mk. 5:5a], and compels him to perform self-destructive activities [cf. Mk. 5:5b]. Matthew provides no historical background of the demoniac);

Seventh, the demons’ name. (Both Luke and Mark record that Jesus asked for a name [v. 30; cf. Mk. 5:9], while Matthew omits this inquiry);

Eighth, the demons’ request. (Lk. “not command them to go out into the abyss” (v. 31); Mk. “not send them out of the country (5:10); Matthew makes no mention of the abyss or out of the country, only of the swine (a request with which both Luke and Mark also agree) [Mt. 8:31; Mk. 5:12; Lk. 8:32];

Ninth, the townspeople’s reaction. (Luke and Mark align closely here, commenting that the people found the man “sitting” –Luke adds “at the feet of Jesus”—“clothed and in his right mind.

And they were afraid” [v. 35; cf. Mk. 5:15]; Matthew completely disregards any town response to the former demoniac; it focuses only on the people’s desire that Jesus leave their country (8:34).

Luke and Mark, of course, record this desire, too (v. 37; cf. Mk. 5:17);

Tenth, the ex-demoniac’s request and Jesus’ response. (Again, both Luke and Mark report nearly the same words [vv. 38-39]—Mark adds “and how He has had compassion on you” [5:19]; meanwhile, Matthew has already moved on to the next episode).

Obviously, Luke depended upon Mark quite heavily for his report.

Synagogue Official


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Proceeding now to the incidents of the healings of woman’s blood discharges and of the young girl’s restoration to life, Luke writes a lengthy report, again borrowing extensively from Mark.

Matthew, however, presents a much shorter account.

Comment: Luke 8:43-48 (six verses), Mark 5:25-34 (ten verses), and Matthew 9:20-22 (three verses) cover the woman’s healing; Luke 8:49-56 (eight verses), Mark 5:35-43 (nine verses), and Matthew 9:23-26 (four verses) handle the girl’s restoration.

Luke records that Jesus returned from the country of Gadarenes to an awaiting, welcoming multitude (v. 40).

[In Matthew, Jesus heals the paralytic (9:1-8), calls Matthew (vv. 9-13), and answers questions about fasting (vv. 14-17) before meeting Jairus, the synagogue official (Lk. 8:41), to whom Matthew neither gives a name nor a title (cf. 9:18).]

At this point, Jairus falls down at Jesus’ feet (v. 41b); Matthew notes that the official “worshiped” Him (9:18).

Luke, a physician who cares about people as patients, alone describes the girl as Jairus’ “only daughter about twelve years of age”; Mark reports Jairus’ actual words: “My little daughter lies at the point of death . . . ." (5:23)—a point characteristic of this writer.

Matthew merely says “my daughter” (9:18).

Interestingly, both Luke and Mark record that the girl approached death (v. 42; cf. Mk. 5:23), while Matthew indicates that the child “has just died” (9:18).

[According to Luke, the report of the girl’s death arrives after Jesus had cured the woman afflicted with the blood discharge (v. 49)].

Again, Luke reports the medical details of the case with which Jesus was about to deal.

While Luke mentions that the woman had fruitlessly spent her entire life’s savings on physicians (v. 43), Mark issues even harsher criticism of the medicos (“had suffered many things from many physicians.

She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse”) [5:26].

Matthew does not mention the ineptness or limited nature of first-century medicine at all.

Luke and Matthew take care to note that the woman touches the border/hem of Jesus’ rabbinic cloak (v. 44; cf. Mt. 9:20); Mark merely writes “His garment.” (5:27)

[Ryrie comments that “the fringe of His cloak” was a “tassel which a rabbi wore on his outer garment” (New Testament Study Bible, 124).

One can understand why the two former evangelists added this feature—Matthew, because he was Jewish, and Luke, because he was thorough and detail-oriented.

Mark, writing to Gentiles, omitted what his audience would probably consider extraneous material.]

Perhaps more interested professionally in the woman’s instantaneous healing than in her internal ruminations, Luke records the former and omits the latter (v. 44); both Matthew and Mark insert her unspoken faith in Jesus’ power first (Mt. 9:21; Mk. 5:28).

Whereas Mark next records that the “fountain of her blood was dried up,” and that she sensed her healing, (5:29), Matthew does not mention her feelings at all, and only notes that the healing took place after Jesus had pronounced her well (9:22).

Matthew eliminates Jesus’ interaction with the crowd prior to this pronouncement; both Mark and Luke find it noteworthy, however.

Fascinated by Jesus’ thoughts, Mark indicates that Christ merely sensed “that power had gone out of Him,” but did not verbalize to the crowd that this transfer took place (5:30); Luke, on the other hand, records this sensation as something the Lord actually communicated verbally (v. 46).

As for Jesus’ query “Who touched Me?” and the disciples’ response to it, only Luke singles out Peter as their incredulous spokesman (v. 45; cf. Mk. 5:31).

[The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ question, of course.

His second verbalized statement, revealing the reason for His first, was necessary for Him to include—for clarity’s sake.]

When expressing the woman’s discovery and testimony, Luke is far more verbose than Mark (v. 47; cf. Mk. 5:33).

The exact order and the precise elements of Jesus’ pronouncement to the woman appear relatively unimportant (v. 48; cf. Mk. 5:34; Mt. 9:22).

A messenger from Jairus’ house arrives with sad news for him: his daughter has died (v. 49).

The suggestion Mark’s courier offers the synagogue official amounts to a dejected “Why bother?” (5:34); Luke’s, however, phrases his depression in the form of an imperative: “Do not trouble the Teacher” (8:49).

Matthew does not even include this report, probably because the apostle had already indicated that Jairus knew his daughter had died (9:18).

[How this view squares with that of the other evangelists is a mystery.]

Jesus encourages Jairus to keep believing (v. 50; cf. Mk. 5:36).

[Would his persevering faith have any bearing on Jesus’ decision to restore his daughter?]

As Jesus enters Jairus’ home, He allows only the official, the daughter’s mother, and the inner circle of His disciples to be with Him (v. 51).

The text becomes somewhat murky at this point, for Luke does not indicate the presence of professional wailers in the house.

Thus, the only antecedents who can represent those who “wept and mourned for her” (v. 52), those who ridiculed Jesus for His preposterous (to them) assertion that she was merely asleep (v. 53), and those whom He put outside (v. 54) are the girl’s parents and the apostles!

The needed clarification comes from Matthew, who mentions that “flute players and a noisy crowd wailing” greeted Him inside (9:23), and likewise from Mark, who reports that Jesus “saw a tumult (margin, an uproar) and those who wept and wailed loudly” (5:38).

After putting out the noisemakers, Jesus takes the girl by the hand, addresses her, and commands her to arise (v. 54).

[Both Mark and Matthew add that the Lord went into another room to raise the child (Mk. 5:40; Mt. 9:25).]

Mark flavors the text a little, inserting the Aramaic “Talitha cumi” (5:41), but Matthew does not even have Christ address the child (cf. 9:25).

Immediately, the girl rises from death as her spirit returns to her (v. 55), and the twelve year-old walks around the house to everyone’s amazement (v. 56; cf. Mk. 5:42).

Only Mark and Luke report that Jesus instructed someone to feed the girl (v. 55; cf. Mk. 5:43b), and include the Lord’s warning not to make this miracle known (v. 56b; Mk. 5:43a).

Matthew indicates that that strict admonition went unheeded (9:26).

© 2013 glynch1

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