You may not have known this, but it is well known throughout Europe that members of William Tell’s family were early devotees of league bowling. They had sponsors and everything. According to the historians, though, the records have all been lost, so no one knows for whom the Tells bowled.
It is a fact that saying what is unexpected makes a great pun but it is interesting to note that what is unexpected can also cause fear. Movie producers are very aware that they can make the audience jump by lowering the volume of music to a low level just before the monster or bad guy jumps out. The audience has been lulled into relaxing with the low and quiet background music and then they jump when surprised.
Our gospel lesson today presents Jesus like this. He does what is unexpected, beyond what we would think. Our gospel reading today is the second of four miracle stories that Luke presents to us. In these four different situations Jesus surprises people; they are taken aback; they are shocked; sometimes they are even afraid.
The first situation Luke shows takes place in the verses before our particular reading (verses 22 through 25.) Jesus was in a boat with his disciples and as they were crossing the lake he fell asleep and a storm came down onto the lake and the boat almost sinks. The disciples wake Jesus up and say “Master, Master we are going to die!” Jesus gets up, he says, “Stop blowing!” to the winds and “Settle down” to the raging waves and everything got calm. He turns to the disciples and says, “Where is your faith?” and they we are told were afraid of him. “Who is this person who can command even winds and water and they obey him?” They thought they knew who he was, but he was bigger, he was more powerful than they had imagined.
And then we have our story we heard in the gospel lesson. Jesus is confronted with a man who has a legion of demons. A legion was a group of 5 or 6 thousand soldiers. So if this man is to be taken literally he has thousands of demons. With the spiritual power of all these demons this man has been able pull apart chains and ropes. Jesus is only one against these thousands of demons. But Jesus is the very Word of God and the demons are completely overwhelmed and completely over-powered. They leave the man at Jesus’ command and enter the pigs at His allowance. The people come and see Jesus talking with this man who formerly had been running around naked, crazy, having supernatural strength and now he is clothed and in his right mind. Who is this person? Jesus is not simply like an exorcist they had seen before with incantations and amulets. No, Jesus has real spiritual power; he has real spiritual authority! And their response is fear as well. And they ask Jesus to go away. He terrifies them.
And then Jesus goes back across the lake to his hometown. A man named Jairus asks him to come help his sick daughter and he starts on his way to help Jairus and then a woman who has been ill for years comes up to him. Luke tells us that this woman has had a discharge of blood and even though she has seen all sorts of doctors, no one can help her and in desperation she comes to Jesus hoping against hope that she can get some help from him. And she touches the fringe on his garment. That’s the little tassels that are hanging down. As he is walking by she sticks her hand out and just brushes her fingers against these tassels and she feels a surge of power. But then Jesus stops and looks around and says who did that? Who touched me? And the woman is afraid. She is afraid of Jesus. She has presumed to touch this man and she had no idea the power he was that powerful. Who is this man who has this sort of power residing within him? We are told she is so afraid that she is trembling.
Jesus then gets to the home of Jairus and his daughter is now dead. In fact the mourners are already there. In those days after someone died, the family hired professional people to come and weep and carry on. In our society we might hire someone to sing a favorite song at the funeral. In their society they would hire people to weep loudly at the home at the time of death and then on the way to the burial. Anyway these mourners were already at the house; the girl had to have died hours earlier. Jesus comes into the home and tells everyone there she isn’t dead. They laugh at him. Then He goes up to the room where the body is and takes the corpse by the hand and says “Child arise” and the child comes back to life! The parents are astonished and amazed! They are not quite terrified but close. Who is this man who can command the dead to return to life?
What is Luke trying to get us to see from these stories? Remember this is the same Jesus who Luke has introduced to us as a little baby. Luke told us about the birth of Jesus, the swaddling clothes and the shepherds. We remember Away in the Manger. Yet now this baby is all grown up. His family doesn’t even recognize him. In the verses preceding the story of the boat ride Luke mentions Mary and the brothers of Jesus trying to get to him because they are worried about him; he is not acting like they think he should act. And furthermore right after Jesus finishes with Jairus he calls his 12 disciples together and gives them authority over demons and power to cure diseases.
Jesus is different than everyone else because Jesus has authority. That’s what Luke wants us to understand. Jesus is in charge. Luke wants us to see Jesus in a new way. Jesus is not simply a miracle baby. Jesus is not simply a man with powers to heal. Jesus is not simply a man who is a great teacher. As wonderful as all of those things may be, Jesus is far greater than those. Jesus has power even over nature; he has power and authority over the wind and waves. Who has that sort power? No one but God does. Jesus has power and authority over all demons and spiritual powers. Who has that sort of power and authority? No one but God does. Jesus has power to heal what the physicians are baffled at; he has palpable power which can be sensed and felt. God’s supernatural power is clearly living within him. And then Jesus has power to even call a person’s spirit back from the dead and reanimate a corpse. Only God has that sort of authority. Only God has that authority and has the authority to give it to those he chooses. That is what Luke wants us to see. Jesus is God here on earth. No wonder people were unnerved and frightened.
What does this mean for us today? We too need to realize that Jesus is still in charge; he still has the authority. He is still the God-man; He can still do the unexpected around us and in us. We are at the first Sunday after Pentecost. This is the green season, the season of growth for us as Christians. Let us use these days and weeks ahead to learn to see Jesus clearly; let us learn to see his authority and power. Let us grow more in our faith. And may our lives be changed by Him so that we too can tell others how much Jesus has done for us.