Monday, April 24, 2006

Faith and the power of the Lord

I’ve started reading through Luke’s gospel, and this morning I read Luke 5. I did two years of New Testament Greek at university, but my mind is too weak and my work ethic is too poor to really gain much from studying the Greek text these days. So, almost all of my observations and conclusions about the Bible are based on English translations (I am most familiar with the NIV, but use the NRSV too). Shoddy, I know, but some of us have to plod.

Luke 5:17-26 stuck in my thinking this morning. Two observations stayed with me on my journey to work.

What did it really mean for the power of the Lord to be present with Jesus? In what sense can the power of the Lord be absent in the experience of Jesus? I wonder if this has something to do with Jesus fulfilling the will of God the Father. Power is given to Jesus, and he is full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) in carrying out specific, discrete tasks. Here’s the slightly controversial thought – I’m not sure if Jesus possessed unlimited divine energy as he worked out his service to God.

It is interesting that there are several New Testament references to authority and/or power being given to the risen Jesus Christ – power and authority that is absolute, and which allows him to hand over his perfected kingdom to God the Father (see 1 Cor 15:24-28). Before his death and resurrection it seems that Jesus really depended upon both the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout his life.

The power of the Lord was with him in the measure required for each moment, each hour, each day of his ministry. I know there are texts that talk about Jesus having the Spirit without measure. But I wonder if we can distinguish between the identity of Jesus (he is God/man, full of the Spirit), and the work of Jesus (he works as a man helped by the power of God)? Perhaps not.

More important, I noticed that Jesus recognises the faith of the friends of the paralytic. This helped me to re-think ‘faith-healing’ passages. Perhaps the main lesson is, not so much that God does what we desire or want (though, check out Psalm145:18,19!), but that he has to respond to faith because he himself is faithful. That is, God demonstrates his character in action. Faith begets faithfulness, not healing as such. The power of the Lord is present wherever faithful people seek it. Faith can count on demonstrations of the power of the Lord. He may surprise us in how he demonstrates this power. But he will not ignore us.

No comments: