Exploring the Meaning of Luke 8
Ni Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman
The Parable of the Sower
1. And it came to pass in the following [days], that He journeyed throughout into city and village, preaching and announcing the gospel of the kingdom of God; and the twelve [were] with Him,
2. And certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and sicknesses, Mary called Magdalene, from whom came out seven demons,
3. And Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many other women who ministered to Him from their belongings.
4. And when a crowd of many was [gathered] together, and they were going to Him out of [every] city, He said through a parable,
5. “A sower went out to sow his seed; and in his sowing, some indeed fell along the way; and it was trampled, and the birds of heaven ate it up.
6. And other fell upon a rock; and growing up, it dried up, since it had no root.
7. And other fell in the midst of thorns; and the thorns, growing up with it, choked it.
8. And other fell on good earth; and growing up, it made fruit a hundredfold.” Saying these things, He called [out], “He that has ears to hear, let him hear”
9. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “What might this parable be?”
10. And He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that looking they might not look, and hearing they might not understand.
11. And the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.
12. And those along the way are they that hear; then comes the Devil, and takes away the Word from their heart, that they should not believe and be saved.
13. And those on the rock [are they] who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, who for a time believe, and in the time of temptation desist.
14. And that which fell into the thorns are they who, having heard, go forth, and are choked by anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and bring no [fruit] to completion.
15. But that in the good earth are they who, in a simple and good heart having heard the Word, retain [it], and bear fruit in patience.
16. And no one having kindled a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts [it] underneath a bed, but puts [it] on a lampstand, that they who go in may see the light.
17. For there is not [anything] secret which shall not become manifest, nor [anything] hidden which shall not be known and come to be manifest.
18. Look, therefore, how you hear; for whoever has, to him shall be given; and whoever has not, even that which he thinks to have shall be taken away from him.”
19. And [His] mother and brothers came to Him, and could not reach Him on account of the crowd.
20. And it was reported to Him [by them] who said, “Thy mother and Thy brothers are standing outside, willing to see Thee.”
21. But He answering said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the Word of God, and do it.”
Jesus’ act of forgiveness toward the woman whose “sins were many” is followed by the healing of many people in every city and village. As it is written, “Now it came to pass afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and teaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1).
Along the way, He healed several women, delivering them from evil spirits and curing them of their sicknesses, This included “Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others” (Luke 8:3).
The healing of women represents the healing of human affections. When our affections are healed, love to the Lord and love to the neighbor are in the first place, while the love of self and the love of worldly possessions is in the second place. When these loves are rightly subordinated, the seeds of Divine truth can be implanted in us, then grow, and finally, bear fruit. Along the way, as the demons of selfishness are cast out, and spiritual infirmities are healed, we begin to truly understand the Word of God, feel inspired by its lessons, and do what it teaches. 1
In this regard, it is noteworthy that when Jesus delivered the women from evil spirits and cured their illnesses, “they ministered to Him from their own belongings” (Luke 8:3). This refers to the reciprocal relationship that each of us has with God. It is what happens within us whenever we willingly hear the Word of God, take it to heart, and allow it to bear fruit in our lives. Whether we are serving as teachers or cooks, business owners or construction workers, each of us in our own way ministers to God “from our own belongings”, returning to God whatever talents and abilities God has graciously given to us. This is how we return to God what God has given to us. 2
All of this is now illustrated in what has become known as “The Parable of the Sower.” This parable, which occurs in both Matthew and Mark, is told again in Luke, but with important differences. In all three gospels, Jesus begins by describing a sower who went out to sow seed. Some seed fell by the wayside, was trampled underfoot, and eaten by birds. Some seed fell on rocky soil and dried up because it had no root. Other seed fell among thorns that choked the growth of the seeds. But some seed fell on good ground, grew up, and produced fruit one hundredfold” (Luke 8:5-8).
As Jesus concludes the parable, He adds these important words, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8). Read in the context of the preceding episode, Jesus’ continues to focus on one of the main lessons of this gospel. That is, people will not believe if they are not willing to believe. As we have seen, the woman who washed Jesus's feet with a flood of her tears was healed because of her faith. “Your faith has saved you,” said Jesus to her. He said the same to the centurion whose servant was healed and to the woman whose son was brought back to life. If we have “ears to hear,” we will understand. And if we are not willing to understand, no amount of convincing, no matter how compelling, will satisfy us. Even though we have “ears to hear,” that is, the ability to understand, we will not hear. This is what can happen when we arrogantly believe that we know better than anyone else, and even know better than God. Thus, it is written in the Hebrew Scriptures, “Woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21). 3
The disciples do not understand the parable, so they ask Jesus to explain to them what it means. Jesus replies, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the rest [it is given] in parables, that looking they might not see, and hearing they might not understand” (Luke 8:10). In other words, a parable both reveals and conceals the mysteries of the kingdom of God. It is written in such a way that only those who truly want to live according to the Lord’s Word, without backsliding, will understand the deeper meaning of the parable. To the extent that we are sincerely willing to live according to these truths, not for a brief period of time, but rather for our entire lives, God reveals the inner meaning of the Word to us. This is what is meant by the seed that falls on “good ground.” 4
Starting at the beginning of the parable, Jesus tells His disciples that “the seed is the Word of God.” This is the key to understanding the parable. Jesus then explains that the seed which fell along the way and was devoured by birds describes people who initially hear the Word, but before it gets a chance to enter their hearts it is plucked away by false thoughts. This process by which divine truth from the Word of God is devoured by birds is referred to as “the devil who takes away the Word from the heart” (Luke 8:12). In this case, “the devil” refers to selfish desire and self-interest rather than a genuine desire to know the truth in order to be of greater service to others. 5
Next, Jesus describes the seed that fell on the rocky ground. This pictures people who initially receive the Word with joy, but do not remain faithful during times of temptation. That’s because their faith is not deep-rooted. When trouble comes, and anxieties arise, their faith is easily shaken. Without a strong root in good earth, their faith is shallow. It can be plucked up easily and destroyed.
Then there are the people who receive the Word, but allow its teachings to get choked out by worldly concerns, especially riches, and the pursuit of worldly pleasure. These people are pictured by the seed that fell among thorns. The intense focus on the satisfaction of physical desires so consumes a person that there is no longer any appreciation for the things that truly matter—things such as learning truths that lead to the development of a heavenly character and taking the time to put these truths into our lives. These teachings and spiritual practices, when neglected, are like delicate flowers that get choked out by the vigorous growth of thick thorn bushes. 6
This, however, is not the way of all seeds. Some take root and flourish. This is a description of those people who, “having heard the Word with a simple and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:11-15).
In both Matthew and Mark, the seed falls on good ground and bears fruit. It is the same in Luke. But only in Luke do we read that those in this final category bear fruit “with patience.” Consistent with one of the main themes of Luke, the Word must be received and studied “with patience.” Luke is the gospel that reminds us to reflect on the Word, to study it, to ponder its meaning, and to spend time in prayer. We are to bear fruit, but we are to do so with patience. More will be said about this important quality when we get to the final chapter of this gospel and consider Jesus’ final words to His disciples.
Meanwhile, it’s important to keep our focus on what Jesus says about the meaning of “seed” in this parable. The seed, as Jesus says, is the Word of God. It is the Divine Word that Jesus speaks to each of us. He then adds, “Therefore, take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). In the previous episode, we were given a stark contrast between a sinful woman who had heard Jesus, and a self-righteous Pharisee who may have listened to Him, but never really understood. Whenever we hear—really hear—it is as though good seed has fallen into the good ground of our heart and has taken root there. It’s not just what we hear. It’s how we hear. Are we listening with humility? Are we listening with a sincere desire to learn truth so that we might apply it to our lives? Are we listening with the belief that Jesus’ words are holy and sacred? All this is contained in Jesus’s admonition to pay attention to how we hear.
Jesus further compares the Word of God to a lamp. When we have really heard the message it contains, it is as though a lamp has been lit in our mind. It brings the light of truth to the dark places within us so that we may clearly see our motivations and desires. It gives us the ability to discern between truth and falsity, selfish desires and noble intentions. As Jesus puts it, “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16).
The Word of God, then, is both a seed and a light. As a seed, the Word of God enters our hearts and awakens our affections. As a light, it enters our minds, reveals our motives, and allows us to choose that which is higher and nobler. This kind of self-examination, while we are still in this world, is essential. As Jesus says in the next verse, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). 7
At the conclusion of this episode, Jesus’ mother and brothers attempt to come to Him but cannot do so because Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd. When it is reported to Him that His mother and brothers are trying to get to Him, Jesus replies, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Jesus is using this situation as yet another occasion to reinforce the teaching that everyone who hears the Word of God and does it is a child of God, a part of God’s family. In other words, we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord in so far as we hear the Word of God and do it. That is what true faith is all about—affectionately understanding the Word and loving to do what it teaches. 8
Where is Your Faith?
22. And it came to pass, on one of the days, that He and His disciples stepped into a ship; and He said to them, “Let us pass over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.
23. And as they sailed He fell asleep; and a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filled [with water], and were in danger.
24. And coming to Him, they awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we perish!” But He, arising, rebuked the wind and the overflowing of the water; and they ceased, and there was a calm.
25. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And fearing, they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He orders both the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
When we truly hear God’s words, and live according to them, we have peace. We know that all things are in His hands and that nothing can shake our confidence in Him. This kind of faith gives us the ability to navigate the storms of life with equanimity and composure. Even in the midst of trouble, we can remain peaceful and calm. This is the kind of peace that Jesus refers to when He says to the woman who washed His feet, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50). And this is the kind of peace we can experience whenever we hear the Word of God and do it.
The next episode, which takes place in a fishing boat, describes this kind of peace and how it comes to us. As it is written, “Now it happened on a certain day that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out” (Luke 8:22). While they were sailing, Jesus fell asleep. Although it is true that God “neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4), we must always remember that Jesus had both a Divine Essence and a human nature. Therefore, like all of us, His human body needed rest and sleep.
There is something special about people who have the ability to sleep through a storm. Even more special are those who have the ability to remain peaceful in the midst of great troubles. Somehow, they are able to remain in a state of equanimity no matter how stressful their situation. They trust that no matter what happens, God will bring good out of every circumstance. 9
It is this kind of peace that Jesus illustrates as He sleeps in the boat. Even when a violent storm arises on the lake and comes sweeping in towards the boat, He continues to sleep. The boat is filling with water, but Jesus is unmoved, and apparently unconcerned. At peace and untroubled by external events, He continues to slumber.
The disciples, on the other hand, have a different reaction. Fearing for their lives, they come to Jesus, wake Him, and shout, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” They are terrified. Jesus, by contrast, exhibits no fear. We read that “He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a great calm” (Luke 8:24). Then, turning to the disciples, Jesus says to them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).
This is an important question. Just a few episodes earlier He said to the woman who washed his feet with her tears, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” When faith is present, there is no fear of perishing. Wherever we go, we can go in peace. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks His disciples. “Why are you so panic-stricken, so terrified?” Similarly, storms may arise in each of our lives, but when we have faith, we can meet every storm with equanimity and strength. We can trust that God, at the deepest level, is always working for us, and will never leave us comfortless. When we know this with certainty, there can be a “great calm” in our lives. Our faith in God saves us from the emotional upheavals and sudden disturbances that would otherwise overwhelm us. This is the faith that quiets our fears and fills us with peace. 10
In the Word, a boat, because it carries us from one place to another, symbolizes a belief system that carries us through the currents of life. Our belief system, which is also called our “doctrine,” is like a boat that carries us to our destination and protects us when storms arise. But what happens when the seas of life get rough, and the winds of adversity begin to blow? As long as Jesus is in the boat with us—that is, as long as our boat contains the life-preserving truths of the Word—we will be able to remain calm, even in the midst of a storm. But when Jesus is not in the boat, as when our beliefs are based on confidence in self rather than faith in God, a sudden gust can rock our boat so violently that we will feel as though we are about to perish. That’s why it’s always good to have God in the boat, and the truths of His Word in our mind. This brings about a great comfort. As it is written in the Hebrew Scriptures, “The Lord calms the storm and causes the waves to be still” (Psalm 107:29). 11
The disciples, however, who witnessed this great miracle were not entirely comforted. We read that “They were afraid, and marveled, saying one to another, ‘Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!’” (Luke 8:25). Their question brings to mind a previous episode when Jesus said to the woman who washed His feet, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” In response, the onlookers said, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” In every gospel, the question of Jesus’ divinity continues to arise. Who can this be? Who is it who can forgive sins? Who is it who can command the wind and the sea? Who is it who can see into the innermost recesses of the human soul, and at the same time govern the outermost forces of nature?
As Jesus continues to reveal the nature of God, He meets every question that is raised with a more essential question. He asks, “Where is your faith?”
In the Country of the Gadarenes
26. And they sailed down into the country of the Gadarenes, which is over opposite Galilee.
27. And when He went out upon the land, there met Him out of the city a certain man who had demons for a considerable time, and wore no garment, and did not stay in a house, but in the sepulchers.
28. And when he saw Jesus, he cried out, and he fell before Him, and with a great voice said, What [is there] to me and to Thee, Jesus, Son of God Most High? I entreat Thee, torment me not;
29. For He had charged the unclean spirit to come out of the man; for many times it had seized him; and he was guarded, bound with chains and fetters, and rending the bonds, he was driven by the demon into the deserts.
30. And Jesus asked him, saying, “What is thy name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered into him.
31. And he implored Him not to order them to go out into the abyss.
32. And there was there a herd of a considerable [number] of swine, feeding on the mountain; and they implored Him that He would permit them to enter into them; and He permitted them.
33. And the demons having come out of the man entered into the swine; and the herd rushed down a cliff into the lake, and were choked.
34. And they that fed [them], seeing what came to pass, fled, and going away reported [it] in the city and in the fields.
35. And then they went out to see what had come to pass, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had come out, in a garment, and sane, sitting by the feet of Jesus; and they feared.
36. And they also who saw [it] reported to them how he that was demon-possessed was saved.
37. And all the multitude of the countryside of the Gadarenes besought Him to depart from them, for they were beset with great fear; and He, stepping into the ship, returned.
38. And the man from whom the demons had come out entreated that he might be with Him; but Jesus sent him away, saying,
39. Return to thy house, and tell what things God has done for thee. And he went his way, preaching through the whole city what things Jesus had done for him.
In previous episodes, Jesus healed the multitudes, forgave sins, and calmed the sea. More and more, the people are wondering, “Who can this be?” This question comes into even sharper focus when Jesus and His disciples travel to the country of the Gadarenes. It is here that Jesus shows that God’s omnipotence extends beyond the forces of the natural world; He also has power over the forces of the spiritual world.
The story begins as soon as Jesus steps out of the boat and onto the land. Immediately, He is met by a demon-possessed man: “This man wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house, but in the tombs” (Luke 8:27). When he saw Jesus, he fell down in front of Him and cried out with a loud voice, “What have I done to You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” (Luke 8:28).
The scene is similar to the one reported earlier in this gospel, when Jesus met a demon-possessed man in a synagogue at Capernaum. At that time, the demon spoke through the man, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34). In both cases, the demons fear that Jesus has come to torment them; in both cases they speak through the individual they are possessing; and in both cases they recognize Jesus as “the Holy One of God” and “the Son of the Most High.”
Evil spirits have no question about Jesus’ identity. They know how much power He has, and they know that His presence is unbearable for them. They are tormented by it. It is not that God intends to torment anyone. It is just that their whole nature is so opposed to goodness and truth that they cannot endure being anywhere near Him. His very presence means their torment. 12
The torments that evil spirits feel in God’s presence are self-induced. They rail at the realization that they are no longer able to have power over people they once possessed. It makes them furious when people will no longer obey their commands. In the case of the demon-possessed man, the demon had enjoyed total control over him. Although the people had endeavored to restrain the demon-possessed man with shackles and chains, the demons' control was so great over him that “he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness” (Luke 8:29).
But the demon’s power over the man was nearing its end. Jesus begins by asking the demon-possessed man to tell Him his name. Again, the demons (speaking through the man) respond, saying that their name is “Legion,” meaning that many demons had possessed this man. In fact, the man had been possessed by a great number of evil spirits who had enjoyed tormenting their host victim for many years.
However, now that Jesus has arrived, the situation is about to change, and the demons know it. Therefore, they beg Jesus not to send them “into the abyss” (Luke 8:31). Instead, they ask Jesus for permission to enter a herd of swine. Jesus grants their request, and they enter the swine. As soon as they do so, the herd of swine, runs violently down a cliff into the lake where they drown (Luke 8:33).
As we have pointed out, every story in the Word is a parable containing deeper truth. In this case, the casting out of the demons represents the way in which evils are removed from people in the process of their regeneration. While it is customary to think that evils are cast off and destroyed, the truth of the matter is that evils still remain, but can become quiescent. Like the demons who are sent into the herd of swine, who then plunge over the cliff into the sea, the demons are indeed sent far away, out and down, but they do not die. Nevertheless, the Lord, through His great power, can keep them in restraint, holding them back, and keeping them from doing us harm. 13
When the citizens of that country found out what had happened, and especially when they saw the demoniac sitting at Jesus’ feet, “clothed and in his right mind,” they were afraid (Luke 8:35). In fact, “they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:37). We are reminded here that the disciples were also afraid when they saw Jesus calming the raging seas. Here was One who had power over the wind, the waves, and the demons, all of whom obeyed Him. Many people, including the disciples, were frightened by this tremendous display of power.
But the man who now sits at Jesus’ feet feels differently. Like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, this man who has been delivered from demon-possession is free from fear. The fear that had consumed and controlled him has been replaced by faith. Now, his only desire is to be with Jesus. As it is written, “The man from whom the demons had departed begged Jesus that he might be with Him” (Luke 8:39). But Jesus has a different plan for the man: “Return to your house,” says Jesus, “and tell what great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).
The demon-possessed man, who had no house, but lived in tombs, having been set free from demon possession, can now return to his house. When the demons of self-love and selfish interest have been removed from our minds and our faith has been restored, we can return to our “house.” As it is written in the Hebrew Scriptures, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever” (Psalm 23:6). 14
“Little Girl, Arise”
40. And it came to pass on the return of Jesus, that the crowd received Him, for they were all expecting Him.
41. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue; and falling at the feet of Jesus, he implored Him that He would come into his house,
42. For he had an only begotten daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying; but as He went, the crowds thronged Him.
43. And a woman suffering with a flow of blood twelve years, who had spent her whole livelihood on physicians [and] could not be cured by anyone,
44. Coming behind [Him], touched the hem of His garment; and immediately her flow of blood stood [still].
45. And Jesus said, Who touched Me? And when all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the crowds beset Thee and throng [Thee], and Thou sayest, Who touched Me?
46. But Jesus said, Someone touched Me, for I know that power went out from Me.
47. And the woman, seeing that she was not concealed, came trembling; and falling before Him, she reported to Him before all the people for what cause she had touched Him, and how she was healed immediately.
48. And He said to her, Daughter, have confidence; thy faith has saved thee; go into peace.
49. While He yet spoke, there comes one from the ruler of the synagogue’s [house], saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Teacher.
50. But Jesus having heard [it] answered him, saying, Fear not; only believe, and she shall be saved.
51. And having entered into the house, He permitted no one enter, except Peter and James and John, and the father of the girl, and [her] mother.
52. And all wept and bewailed her. But He said, Weep not; she is not dead, but is sleeping.
53. And they laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead.
54. But He, putting them all out, and [taking] hold of her hand, called, saying, Girl, arise.
55. And her spirit returned, and she stood up immediately; and He instructed [that] she be given [something] to eat.
56. And her parents were amazed; but He charged them to tell no one what was done.
There is nothing accidental about Jesus’ life. Every move and every word are designed to fulfill a greater plan and teach a deeper lesson. In the previous episode, His journey into the country of the Gadarenes demonstrates that His ministry extends far beyond the Jewish villages of His homeland. Even among those who did not know Him and who had very different beliefs, Jesus was able to work wonders, heal sicknesses, and cast out demons. Nothing could restrict Him or limit His great power.
The only thing that did limit Jesus’ power was disbelief. It is an essential law of order that human beings have free choice in spiritual matters, meaning that people are free to believe whatever they choose to believe. This is why there are people who can rise above the prejudices of their culture, put aside the faith traditions they were raised in, and decide to follow a spiritual path that speaks to them. This is something that everyone can do because God protects our spiritual freedom as a person protects the pupil of one’s eye. 15
This is illustrated in the next episode when a ruler of the synagogue decides to place his faith in Jesus. As it is written, “And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to His house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying” (Luke 8:41).
This is an extraordinary scene. Jairus is a “ruler of the synagogue,” and Jesus is already in disfavor with the religious leaders who regard Him as a blasphemer and a threat to their power. Therefore, it must have taken great humility and exceptional courage for Jairus to come to Jesus. As it is written, “Jairus fell down at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to come into his house” (Luke 8:42). This is a bold gesture of faith, especially for a top religious official in his own town, a “ruler of the synagogue.”
Jesus agrees to go with Jairus to see about his daughter, but on the way, Jesus is thronged by the multitudes, one of whom is “a woman having a flow of blood for twelve years” (Luke 8:43). The woman has spent everything, “her whole livelihood,” on physicians, but none has been able to heal her. Like Jairus, she, too, has faith. Determined to get near to Jesus, she forces her way through the crowd, approaches Jesus from behind, touches the border of His garment, “and immediately her flow of blood stood still” (Luke 8:44).
This is another demonstration of great faith. This woman with a flow of blood merely touches Jesus’ garment and she is instantly healed. Jesus understands exactly what has happened. “Somebody touched Me,” He says. “For I perceived power going out from Me” (Luke 8:46).
The amazing thing about this particular healing is that many people are around Jesus, pressing close and desiring to be in His presence. But there is something special about this woman’s faith that enables her to obtain the result she desires. As it is written, “She came trembling and falling down before Him” (Luke 8:47). This is a poignant demonstration of her humility and her faith. But, most importantly, it illustrates her overwhelming need for Jesus’ help. In response, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).
We note here how similar these words are to the words spoken to the women whose many sins were forgiven. At that time Jesus had said, “Your faith has saved you.” This time, He says, “Your faith has made you well.” And both times He says, “Go in peace.” When dealing with sins, our faith saves us. When dealing with physical problems, our faith makes us well. The result of both kinds of healings is a state of peace. It is always our faith in God that enables us to “Go in peace.”
It should also be pointed out that both of these women—the woman who washed His feet and the woman with the flow of blood—were considered to be untouchables.” Such women were not to be associated with or touched because of their spiritual and physical conditions. The wonder is that in both cases Jesus did not need to touch them in order to bring about their healings. They touched Jesus.
This is another powerful lesson for each of us. There are times when we need to approach God, and not wait for Him to come to us. We must ascend. We must first go upward, ascending towards that which is higher and nobler. We must strive to touch Him who is above everything else—even if it is only His feet or the border of His garment. These external aspects of Jesus’ body (His feet and garments) represent the most external parts of the Word—the straightforward teachings of the literal sense. But even these most external parts hold tremendous power within them, the power to save us from our sins, the power to heal us from all misunderstanding. 16
While Jesus is still speaking to the woman, a man comes from Jairus’ house and says to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the teacher” (Luke 8:49). The man’s words represent states of discouragement in us, times when we feel that it is useless to call upon God. At such times it seems to us that nothing can be done, all is lost, and our hopes cannot be revived. But Jesus answers with words of encouragement, assuring us that there is always hope, and that our tender affections can never die—no matter how lifeless they may seem: “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well,” says Jesus. “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping” (Luke 8:52).
It is similar with us. There are times when our most tender affections seem to be as lifeless as Jairus’ daughter. In spiritual reality, however, they may only be asleep. It is at such times, that God comes to each of us. The first thing He does is cast out all doubts. As it is written, “He put them all out.” And then He speaks to the most tender affections in us, taking us by the hand and saying, “Little girl, arise” (Luke 8:54). The effect is powerful and immediate: “Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately” (Luke 8:55). 17
In the course of our own regeneration, there will be times of deep discouragement, times when we feel lost and hopeless. It is at these times that we must go to God so that we can be healed and brought back to life. As Jesus said to the woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, “Daughter, be of good cheer.” The point is that as far as the spirit is concerned, it is never hopeless. We can always look forward to the renewal of faith and to the return of a cheerful spirit. All she had to do was reach out and touch the Lord’s garment. As a result, “Her spirit returned, and she arose.” 18
Jairus also reaches out, asking Jesus to restore his daughter’s life. Jesus does just that. And then Jesus commands that the little girl be given something to eat. Jesus’ command contains a spiritual lesson. It speaks to the fact that our spirits need nourishment so that we do not lose faith. We need support and encouragement, not just from God but also from others through whom God works. Of course, only God has the power to revive a spirit that seems lifeless; but we each have the responsibility to support and encourage one another in this process. This is why the miracle includes a specific command, not just for the girl, whom Jesus commanded to arise, but also to her parents who were commanded to feed her. As it is written, “And He commanded that she be given something to eat” (Luke 8:55). 19
As the episode concludes, we read that the girl’s parents were “astonished” (Luke 8:56). Like the disciples who marveled at Jesus’ power over natural forces (calming the wind and waves), and like the Gadarenes who were amazed by Jesus’ power over spiritual forces (casting out demons), the parents are astonished by this display of even greater power—Jesus’ power over life and death. Jesus warns them, however, “to tell no one what had happened” (Luke 8:56). As we pointed out in the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus does not desire second-hand testimony, but rather the first-hand testimony of people who have been personally and deeply healed of their afflictions. By placing their faith in Jesus, they were able not only to be healed but also to go forth in peace.
1. Heaven and Hell 368: “A man is born to be intellect-oriented, that is, to think from the understanding, while woman is born to be affectional, that is, to think from her will…. From this it is that in the Word ‘youth’ or ‘man’ signifies the understanding of truth, and ‘virgin’ or ‘woman’ signifies the affection of good.”
See also Divine Providence 282: “To heal the understanding alone is to heal a person outwardly only; for the understanding with its thought is the external of a person’s life, while the will with its affection is the internal of one’s life…. It is the will itself that must be healed, not by means of an influx into it of the understanding, for that is not possible, but by means of instruction and exhortation by the understanding.”
2. Divine Love 13: “The angels of the highest heaven … say that loving the Lord is being useful to others. They also say that uses are the Lord with them. By ‘uses’ they mean the uses and good services of ministry, administration, and employment. This pertains to priests and public officials as well as to business owners and workers.”
3. Arcana Coelestia 215: “Those who reason from self sink into an abyss of thick darkness, that is, into falsities. When they are in this abyss of falsity, the smallest objection prevails over a thousand truths, just as a minute particle of dust in contact with the pupil of the eye shuts out the universe.”
See also Apocalypse Explained 802: “Those who are led by the love of self and the arrogance of their own intelligence recede from faith and embrace falsity. This destroys all the truth of the Word, and all the truth of heaven.”
4. Divine Providence 231: “The Lord spoke in parables so that a person will not inwardly acknowledge truths and then backslide and become a profaner…. A person who has been converted to a state of goodness and truth, should remain in that state to the end of that person’s life. This is meant by the words, ‘Whoever endures to the end will be saved.’”
5. Arcana Coelestia 9553 “The phrase ‘the birds of heaven’ sometimes signifies those who are in affections of truth, but can also have the opposite meaning signifying those who are in affections of falsity.”
See also Arcana Coelestia 5149: “The ‘birds of the air’ that came and devoured the seeds signify reasonings, and also falsities.”
6. Arcana Coelestia 9144: “The falsities that arise from selfish desire are meant by ‘thorns.’ These are the falsities that support worldly concerns and worldly desires…. They are the product of bodily cravings. When this happens, they close a person’s internal, so much so that there is no longer any appreciation for those things that concern the salvation of the soul, and eternal life.”
7. AR 867: “When the spiritual light that is wisdom from the Lord and the spiritual heat that is love from the Lord inflow through heaven, spiritual light reveals the thoughts that make up one’s understanding and faith, while spiritual warmth reveals one’s affections …. Therefore, when spiritual light and spiritual heat flow in together they reveal one’s intentions and motives [Latin: intentiones et conatus].”
8. Arcana Coelestia 4191: “All who are governed by good are joined to the Lord’s Divine, and because they are joined to Him, they are called ‘brothers’ by the Lord.”
See also Arcana Coelestia 8361: In the phrase ‘to hear the Word of God and do it,’ ‘hearing’ refers to perception, understanding, and faith; and ‘doing’ means leading a life in keeping with these things.”
9. Arcana Coelestia 8478-5: “Those who trust in the Divine remain in equanimity whether they obtain the objects of their desire or not…. They know that all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto…. Divine Providence is universal, that is, in things the most minute; and they who are in the stream of Providence are all the time carried along toward everything that is happy, whatever may be the appearance of the means. Those who trust in the Divine and attribute all things to Him are in the stream of Providence … and insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far that person is in a state of peace.”
10. Arcana Coelestia 842: “When evil spirits are dispersed, the state of commotion and turbulence is followed by a state of peace and stillness. This is the case with a person who has been in temptation; for while in temptation a person is in the midst of evil spirits, but when they are driven away or dispersed, there follows as it were a calm.”
11. Apocalypse Explained 600: “In the Word, the word ‘boat’ signifies doctrine.” See also Apocalypse Explained 514: “Jesus ‘teaching from a boat’ signifies that His teaching was from doctrine.”
12. Arcana Coelestia 4555: “In the next life the hells cannot possibly go near heaven, nor evil spirits go near any heavenly community, because the terror of God enters into them. Indeed, when evil spirits approach any heavenly community, they are suddenly seized by feelings of distress and torment, and those who have been through this experience a number of times do not dare to make such an approach. This is what is meant by ‘the terror of God’ in the internal sense.”
13. Arcana Coelestia 868. “The Lord through temptations so subdues a person’s evils and falsities that these evils and falsities appear as if dead. However, they are not dead, but are only subdued.” See also Heaven and Hell 5: “The Lord has all power in the heavens and on earth…. Therefore, He has the power to remove the hells, to withhold from evil, and hold in good, and thus to save.”
14. Apocalypse Explained 175: “In the Word, the term ‘house’ signifies the things that belong to a person’s mind.”
See also Arcana Coelestia 5776: “When ‘entering a house’ is spoken of in the Word, it means entering a person’s mind.”
15. Divine Providence 97: “If the freedom to intend evil and to make it seem reasonable by rationalizations were taken away, it would be the end of our freedom and rationality…. In that case, because we could not be led away from our evils and reformed, we could not be united with the Lord and live forever. Therefore, the Lord guards human freedom as a person guards the pupil of one’s eye.”
See also True Christian Religion 58: “If God’s omnipotence were absolute both to do evil and to do good, it would be possible and even easy for God to elevate all hell to heaven, and to convert the devils and satans into angels, and to cleanse in an instant every impious person on earth from sin…. But God’s omnipotence does not enable Him to do this, for the reason that it would be contrary to the laws of His order in the universe.”
16. Apocalypse Explained 395: “Robes mean truths in general, and ‘borders’ their most external aspect” [i.e., the literal sense of the Word].
See also Arcana Coelestia 9938: “By ‘borders’ are here signified Divine Truths in the ultimates or extremes, such as are the truths of the Word in the sense of the letter…. That a woman laboring with an issue of blood was made whole when she touched the border of the Lord’s garment and in general that as many as touched the border of His garment were made whole is signified that health went forth from the Divine extremes or ultimates [of the Word].”
17. Arcana Coelestia 3067: “In the Word the affections of good and of truth are called ‘little children,’ ‘damsels,’ ‘girls,’ and ‘daughters;’ but in all cases with a difference as to state: when ‘daughter’ is named, affection in general is signified; when ‘girl’ is named, affection in which is charity is signified; but when it is said ‘damsel,’ affection in which is innocence is signified, because the age of girlhood is next to that of infancy, which in the internal sense is innocence.”
18. Arcana Coelestia 2338: “One who yields in temptation remains in a state of doubt, and falls into what is negative; but one who overcomes is indeed in doubt, but still, if he suffers himself to be cheered by hope, he stands fast in what is affirmative.”
See also Heaven and Hell 160: “When angels are in the last of these states, which is when they are involved in their sense of self, they begin to feel depressed. I have talked with them when they were in that state and have seen their sadness; but they kept saying, though, that they lived in hope that they would soon return to their former state, and thus into heaven again, so to speak. This is because heaven for them is to be withheld from their sense of self.”
19. Arcana Coelestia 8352 “Nourishment for spiritual life consists in goodness and truth, just as nourishment for natural life consists in food and drink. If good is lacking it is as if food is lacking; and when truth is lacking it is as if drink is lacking. The grief this causes is like the grief caused by hunger and thirst. This comparison arises from correspondence, for food corresponds to goodness, and drink to truth.”