The Radical Rabbi

Reading: Luke 5:17-39


Luke records a string of events and conversations that highlight the radical nature of Jesus’s ministry. He forgives a lame man’s sins, then miraculously heals him (17-26). He calls a socially-maligned tax collector to be his disciple and shares a meal with his associates and other sinners (27-32). And he breaks convention of rabbinical practices with his disciples by not enforcing human-established fasting (33-39). No other reasonable Jewish teacher would do these things at this time.


Then again, that’s the point. Jesus wasn’t just another rabbi: he was the Master Teacher, God-in-the-flesh. A man forgiving sins is nothing short of blasphemy—unless he backs up his words with works, demonstrating authority of the very Son of God. His mission stretched to a God-sized scope: rather than building walls around self-important elitism like other religious teachers, Jesus built bridges in a call to repentance for lost souls to find God again. The Lord didn’t come to do things as they had always been done; he came to fulfill the Old Law and to usher in a new covenant. Indeed, Jesus violated one’s expectations of a first century rabbi like new cloth tearing from old, or new wine bursting old wineskins (36-39).


So was the problem with Jesus, or the views and opinions of the religious rulers who questioned him? It’s easy to shake your head at the scribes, Pharisees, and others who discredited Christ in his time, but we too may favor our personal views and opinions over the authority and mission of God. Let us then with humble hearts take inventory of such hindrances, laying them down so we may take the Lord at his authoritative word and engage in the good work of his kingdom. In so doing, we will become radically alive in the eyes of a dying world.