Today’s passage is Luke 4:31-44:
31 Jesus then went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 35 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.
38 After he left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. 39 He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.
40 At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. 41 And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Messiah.
42 At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
In this passage of the Gospel of Luke, we are presented with the first of many miracles performed by Jesus during the course of his public ministry. Beginning in these first miracles and continuing in the miracles presented in the remainder of his Gospel, Luke seems to convey Jesus’ miracles as occurring in a predictable and identifiable four-step pattern:
- Jesus is made aware of an afflicted individual, either by the individual himself or by the individual’s friends or family.
- Jesus performs the miracle; he heals the afflicted individual.
- The individual exhibits some form of physical and/or spiritual metanoia, a conversion.
- There is a promulgation of Jesus’ miracle working, often initiated by the cured individual or by witnesses to the miracle.
While certain steps of this general pattern may be elaborated on more than other steps of the pattern for a given miracle, it is clear, even in his writing of these first miracles, that these overarching steps contribute to the structure of Luke’s depictions of Jesus’ miracle working.
We can view the unfolding of this four-step pattern by more closely examining the events of the miracles presented in this passage. In the first miracle, Jesus is made aware of the afflicted individual, a man terrorized with the spirit of a demon, when the demon cries out to Jesus in a loud voice. Jesus then heals the man by commanding the spirit of the demon to come out of him. With this command the man is healed, evident in the physicality of his being thrown to the ground as the spirit of the demon vanishes. The release of the spirit of the demon also marks a spiritual cleansing of the man. The witnesses to the miracle, the bystanders in the synagogue of Capernaum, then discuss with each other their amazement at Jesus’ authority and power; and they tell of Jesus’ miracle working to others in the region.
In the second miracle, the afflicted individual, a woman with a fever, is made known to Jesus by Simon, her son-in-law. Jesus then heals her by commanding the fever to leave her. The woman is healed, evident in her physical ability to get up and attend to Jesus and the other people in her home. While Luke does not explicitly tell of the promulgation of this particular miracle working, we can assume that those in the home of Simon’s mother-in-law do, in fact, spread the news of Jesus’ miracle working, because later that day, Jesus’ healing powers are in high demand.
The third and final miracle presented in this passage is actually a series of miracles. Jesus is made aware of many individuals afflicted by various diseases and demons when they are brought to him by other individuals. Jesus then heals the afflicted individuals by laying his hands on each of them. The individuals demonstrate a spiritual metanoia; as the demons are released, they proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. Evidence of the promulgation of this series of miracle workings is seen in that there is a crowd following Jesus the next day as he tries to leave Capernaum to continue his public ministry elsewhere.
The structural pattern that Luke uses to tell of Jesus’ miracle workings offers us inspiration for ways that we can strive to live this Lent and always. To follow Luke’s pattern step-by-step, we can strive to:
- Look out for afflicted individuals in our community. We can be more vigilant in our everyday conversations, to be aware of when we are encountering a person that may be in special need of our prayers and support due to some affliction of body, mind, or spirit.
- “Perform a miracle” by attending to the affliction the best that we can and in the most personal way possible. Unlike Jesus, we cannot command a demon or fever to vanish instantaneously, but we can attempt to heal physical and spiritual afflictions in small ways, perhaps by performing a corporal and/or spiritual work of mercy (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm).
- Have a metanoia, a spiritual conversion, simply through recognition of the many beautiful and wonderful ways, large and small, in which God acts in our lives every day. By offering praise for all of God’s blessings, we can deepen our spiritual relationship with Him.
- Spread the good news, the Gospel, to others, this Lent and always, simply through the ways in which we live our lives. Perform all actions with love. Share the news of a metanoia with others.
The simple and consistent pattern of Jesus’s miracles offers us much comfort in and reassurance of this fact: no matter who we are, what our sins, or what our afflictions, Jesus, as the Son of God, can and will heal us. God knows us at our worst, and He can make us our best. He already knows what each of us struggles with, and He desires to ease these struggles. This Lent, may we voice to God in prayer all of our struggles, anxieties, afflictions, and petitions; and then trust, wholeheartedly, that He, through the intercession of His son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, will work miracles in every one of our lives.
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Human Evolutionary Biology concentrator living in Eliot House.