Jesus is announcing the presence of the kingdom – in words and deeds. In the presence of the king, life is being restored – the centurion’s servant (“they found the servant well”), the dead son (“the dead man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother”), the woman of the city (“her sins, which are many, are forgiven … go in peace”), the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear. People seeing and hearing and coming to life.
And who is welcoming the kingdom? Who is it for?
Jesus had said “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Here are some observations about what characterizes those who receive the kingdom:
- The centurion was aware he had no claim on the kingdom – though powerful in the kingdom of this world, he was poor when it came to God. Not one of the people of God, he did not expect that he was entitled. But he recognized authority in Jesus – authority that was given by the God of the universe (who else could raise the dead and forgive sins? The centurion, being in Capernaum, had seen all this). And so, acknowledged his poverty, his unworthiness – he asked.
- The widow had nothing – absolutely nothing. Her only son would have been her means of support and her only hope for the future.
- The “woman of the city” knew she had a debt and, understanding what Jesus had been saying to the crowds (maybe she was at Levi’s big shindig!) knew that even she was welcome to the kingdom. She responded with love and gratitude.
- The crowd and the Pharisees and lawyers had some expectations of what they expected in a prophet from God, what he ought to say and do, and what kind of people he ought to shun (“what did you go out to see?” “If he were a prophet, he would know what kind of person was touching him.” ). The Pharisees like Simon thought the kingdom belonged to them – they were the ones who kept the law, after all, who understood the Scripture!
Jesus’ “parable of the sower” (really it should be called the parable of the soils) makes it clear that it is the condition of the heart of the hearer that matters. Are the hearers the sort of people who are prepared to receive it? "As for that good soil, they are those who hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience … Be careful how you hear … My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
So – its poverty and receptivity that make way for the kingdom of God to take root, bringing life in us, among us. Do you see yourself in these stories?
I am going to stop there – because I think that 8:22 starts a new emphasis. So instead of going on to 9, 10, let’s stay with 8:22-56 for another week! (Maybe that has something to do with the fact that this is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible?)