Print Version September 3rd, 2003
What I want to know is when did Jesus practice? I can understand his ability to teach with authority—I can imagine it all honed and hoarded from years of listening, thinking, living, all that good Jewish disputation, decades of pondering Torah and sitting in lonely places face to face with his God. … That he was ready to teach and preach doesn’t surprise me – but how did he get ready to heal and rebuke demons? When did he practice? How did he practice?
Because the first time must have been quite a challenge, quite a risk. What gets a carpenter to stretch out a rough hand in healing for the first time? How does he feel when it happens? How does he explore the limits and implications of his gift? Does he ever get it wrong?
The one thing I see from these opening stories of Luke’s gospel is that there was no blueprint. The voice that spoke mysteries at his baptism seems to have left Jesus no schedule of grace: day 1, be driven into the desert; day 40, drive out your first demon; day 41, cure a fever; day 86, walk on water.
I see instead a Jesus learning from experience and happenstance. I see a Jesus responding to events and learning from those around him. He stands and reads his manifesto in Nazareth and then, almost through his own prickly defensiveness, irritates his home-crowd into a lynch mob. So he retreats to Capernaum. There he is teaching with authority and making a great impression when an unclean devil shouts out and that provokes his first exorcism. Next thing he’s in Simon’s house and his mother-in-law has a fever. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t asked Jesus to do something? But they do and he does and there he is—healing. By sunset he’s besieged with the sick and the mad, friends and neighbours clamouring for a cure – which he finds he can give.
I see him finding his way, discovering his vocation, as one event after another presses him for a response. We see him learning, even from his mistakes.
We see him praying and reflecting too. Out in the early morning alone in a lonely place, working it all out with his God. Speaking, listening, loving. Learning he has to move on. Soon he’ll learn he needs companions. Not much longer and he’ll learn he has enemies too.
John’s Jesus always seems an inch or two off the ground. Mark’s is a mysterious stranger you either follow or fail. But Luke’s Jesus is really just like you or me. He is you or me living alive in the spirit of his baptism. He lives, he lets life teach him, and he responds in a way that changes the world. I wonder what would happen if we did the same?