Luke 19:11-27 Jesus is the Son of Man Investing the Gospel

Luke 19:11-27

Jesus is the Son of Man

Investing the Gospel

 

Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Luke chapter 19. As I continue to say, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, please see me after the service and we can get one onto your hands.

Continuing through Luke’s Gospel this morning, we are at the conclusion of Jesus journey to Jerusalem. Next Week in our series, he rides onto Jerusalem for the last week of his life. This was a journey that started way back towards the end of Luke chapter 9.

And through that journey, Jesus entire focus has been on the Kingdom of God. Everything, his teachings, his healings, his miracles, all of it. All designed to focus his followers on the coming kingdom of Heaven.

We have seen on this journey, many who have become citizens of the kingdom of Heaven, including just last week as we looked at Zacchaeus and his becoming a new creation. As we finished up with Zacchaeus last week, listen to the words of Jesus in verses 9 & 10. “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 

          This declaration leads directly into our passage this week, Jesus last teaching before entering Jerusalem. We are going to read Luke chapter 19, verses 11 through 27. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 19:11-27, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

 

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants,[a] he gave them ten minas,[b] and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant![c] Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”

 

Thus says the Word of God

Jesus tells those around him one more parable before they leave Jericho and go on up to Jerusalem. And I love these parables in Luke’s Gospel where Luke tells us the why and the purpose of the parable before he shares the parable. It takes a lot of the guess work and confusion out of trying to understand it.

The people who were watching Jesus, following Jesus and hearing Jesus had a great misunderstanding. They thought the kingdom that Jesus was teaching them about and pointing to was appearing immediately. IT appears that they assumed that upon His arrival in Jerusalem, they expected him to be established and inaugurated as King and would free Israel from Roman occupation.

And so, to dispel some of those expectations, Jesus tells them a parable. Do you know in TV shows, especially police procedurals, sometimes they claim that a particular show or plotline is based on true events? Ripped form the Headlines! They sometimes say. It doesn’t mean that they are telling the true story, but that they were inspired to use the true events as a basis for the story they wanted to tell.

That’s kind of what Jesus did here with this parable. We are not going to get into the history too much this morning, but the outline of the parable would have been immediately recognizable to the Jewish crowd as an event that happened almost 30 years prior, when King Herod the Great died and part of his kingdom was left to one of his sons.

But the details were slightly different as this story was about Jesus himself. A man was taking over authority and ownership as a King over that territory. However, to do so, he had to leave that territory for a time. As he was getting ready to do so, he left it in the hands of some of his most trusted servants.

We see this not only in the historical situation that I mentioned, but we see that this is going to be fulfilled in Jesus as well.  In Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection he is taking ownership and being granted authority over his Kingdom. Then he ascended into heaven, leaving his earthly kingdom. As he was about to ascend, he gave us the Great Commission, leaving the responsibility of his Kingdom in the hands of his servants. So, in very real ways, this parable is about us, believers in Jesus Christ, his servants as we wait for his return.

In the parable, the king gives his servants resources so that they could go about continuing his business while he is gone. And he gives them each the same resource, each servant gets 1 mina. This is one of the things that makes this story different than the well-known parable of the talents that we find in Matthew 24. They have some similarities and some similar phrasings, but the ultimate point and the set up are different.

In the parable of the talents, the servants are given different amounts of gifts and talents based on what they will do with them. One was given 10, one 5, etc. It is to show that we all have different spiritual gifts, talents and abilities that we can use for God, and that we are to use what he has given us, not compare us to what he has given to others.

In this parable, each servant is given 1 mina, about three months’ worth of wages. Each servant is given the same thing. The point of this is not to do more or less based on what we are given, but to be faithful. This parable is not that he has given us each different gifts and abilities, but that he has given us all the same mission, all the same resource, the Gospel.

Our job, until he returns is to be faithful and to invest what he has given us. Now, before we get into whether the servants invest their resources well, we see that not everyone was a faithful servant. There were many who were living in the kingdom of the parable, who hated the king.

Now, some of the phrasing can get a little confusing… The kingdom mentioned in this parable is not the kingdom of heaven in that citizens of the kingdom are believers who will be in heaven. Instead, the kingdom is this world, our earthly home where Jesus is still the king and all who live on earth are citizens of it. Jesus is King, he is creator, he has all authority over earth. But not all here today on this earth accept his authority. Some, maybe many hate that He claims to be their King. They reject his authority, and they rebel against Him. The good news is that he reigns whether they accept him or not. The good news is that He reigns whether they like it or not.

Jesus will deal with them later on…

TO make this simple, we are living between verses 14 & 15. Verse 15 shows that when the master returns, he will call his servants to give an account for how well they invested their resources while he was gone. At the Second Coming, Jesus will return, and he will have his servants stand and give an account.

As believers, we will still stand before him and give an account for our actions, for our sins, and for our faithfulness. Now, to be clear, and I’ll say it many different times in many different ways, e will not give an account in order to see whether we get into heaven or whether we deserve to get into heaven or if we have earned entrance into heaven. But we will give an account as to whether we have been faithful to what he has called us to and what he has enabled us to.

Again, all believers will have perfect eternal life in communion with God in Heaven. That is not at question in this parable. That is not a point the parable is trying to make or to undercut.

But there is one thing that we don’t talk a lot about, because I don’t think a lot of us understand it. I know I don’t understand it very well. But the Bible says it in enough different places that we have to look at it. Not all believers, when they enter heaven, will hear, “Well done, Good and faithful servant…” All believers enter heaven, but there will be different levels of rewards and responsibilities and things like that. Not less perfect, because its all-in eternal heaven, in perfect paradise. But things will be different based on our earthly service and faithfulness. The Bible speaks in it numerous times; Matthew 6:20, 1 Cor 3, specifically verses 8, 14 & 15, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, just to name a few and to show I’m not making this up. Again, I don’t fully understand it, but we can’t just ignore something the Bible speaks on, especially that often.

We see with the three servants that Jesus points out here in this parable an example of that. Remember that all servants were given the same amount, the same resource, one mina. And the first servant, he says, your mina has grown into 10 minas. He invested it well and it was almost as if it took over and did all the work on its own. Almost like we plant the seed, but the LORD brings the increase. The Gospel does all the work all by itself, if we are faithful to spread it and invest in it and live it and share it. He is both praised and rewarded by Jesus.

The second is close to the first. He is faithful. The 1 mina he received grew to 5 minas, again, almost as if on its own. Jesus rewarded this servant as well, though not quite to the same level as the first. But the principal is the same, those who were faithful with little, will be entrusted with a lot.

Now Jesus comes to the third servant. And he comes to Jesus and gives him his 1 Mina back to him. He tells Jesus, I dint want to waste your resources. I didn’t want to lose what you gave me. I kept it to myself so that I could give it right back to you since it was yours. He kept it under a bushel! He didn’t labor, he didn’t conduct business. He didn’t let the money multiply itself.

The Master rips into him. He uses his words back at him. Jesus will use our own words, our own attitudes, our own actions when confronting us and condemning us from our sins. And Jesus tells him, you could have done something minimal, requiring almost no effort on your part. IN that context, you could have put it in the bank so it could have at least made interest. In our context. At least live your life as a Christian, don’t give in and live just like the rest of the world and society. Even if you weren’t going to go out and invest in the Gospel, you don’t have to actively hide the fact that you are a believer. At least do the absolute minimum so that the work of the Gospel would still have a chance to replicate. Instead of burying it or hiding it.

And so, Jesus rebukes him and tells him that even what he had will be taken from him. Rewards will be withheld from you. Those rewards that would have gone to you will be reallocated to those who were faithful and were mentioned earlier. IF you are unfaithful with a little, you will lose what little you had.

Now, some see this third servant as an unbeliever, or as someone who was playing church. Someone who knew the role to play but was never really a believer. And that is possible. But to me, the way it reads, this man is saved. He is a servant of Christ. But he is saved with no reward. Salvation is not based on our faithfulness. Salvation is based solely on the grace of God alone. We are sinful. We are unfaithful. We are prone to wander. And yet, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:13: if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

In my eyes, these three servants and their interaction with the Master, this is all an in-house discussion if you will, amongst believers in the church. Another part of that reason is that there is another group of people that the Master will know deal with. The third servant is not lumped in with this next group.

In verse 27, The Master turns his attention to those mentioned back in verse 14. Those who were the enemies of the King. They were the ones who rebelled against him. Who rejected his authority? They are those who chose not to be a part of His Kingdom. He says bring them to me. They will be slaughtered.

God is a God of Love. We do not deny that. In fact, we embrace that, and we bank on that. But he is not only a God of love. He is a God of Justice. He is a God of Holiness. He is a God of wrath. All perfectly and all balanced with each other.

WE are all born as those who reject the King and rebel against him. All of us, in our own nature are these men. By Gods grace, through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, his death, burial and resurrection, he has purchased our forgiveness and offers it and salvation to any who believe, who turn to him, trust him and repent of their sins. He offers free for all who believe.

Bu those who choose to continue to reject Him. Those who continue to rebel against his authority, they will not receive eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. They will not receive the peace of God. Instead, they will face eternal judgment. They will face the deserved and earned punishment for their sins. They will receive the full wrath of God.

Jesus shows this to John who describes it in Revelation 14:9-11:

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

OF course, it is plain to see that eternity in Heaven, even with no extra rewards, is infinitely better that eternal wrath and judgment.

 

As Jesus is telling this parable to those who are around him, at this point in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus time on this earth is close to an end. The people around him needed to make a decision. They had heard all that Jesus had said, all that he taught. They had seen or heard of all the miracles and the healings. They were presented with all the information. They needed to make a decision.

Now, Jesus’ time away is close to end. No one knows the day except the father, but it’s close to coming to an end. We have been presented with all the information needed. Now it is time for us to make a decision.

First, if you have not, receive Christ Joyfully, like we saw last week with Zacchaeus. Call out to Jesus, the Son of David, like we saw the week before with Bartimaeus.

Second, and only after the first, because with out the first, the second has no point, it has no effect. Second, work towards being a good and faithful servant.

Kent Hughes is the one who calls this “investing in the Gospel.”

He writes:

Are we investing in the Gospel? Are we investing what he has done for us? Are we investing what he can do for others? This is not a question of giftedness but of faithfulness. Are we using what we have to invest in the ministry of the gospel? There are many specific applications of this question. Are we using our money to invest the good news? Jesus minced no words about this: “I tell you, make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). Your money personally given to aid people in need or to promote evangelism and missions will win souls, eternal friends who will welcome you into Heaven! How do you spend your time? Your personal calendar tells all. Everyone can make massive investments in the matter of prayer, but few do. Do your mouths, the things we say, invest testimony and witness? There can never be such a thing as a passive investment. Gospel investment requires action.

 

Number 1, above, determines our eternal destination, our salvation. Receive Christ, cry out to him. Trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins.

Number 2 above affects what it looks like in our already determined eternal destination. I will finish up with a quote from JC Ryle who summed it up best: Our title to heaven is all of Grace. Our degree of Glory in heaven will be proportioned to our works.

 

Let’s Pray.

 

 

Luke 19:1-10 Jesus is the Son of Man Repentance is more than saying I’m sorry

Luke 19:1-10
Jesus is the Son of Man
Repentance is more than saying I’m sorry

Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Luke chapter 19.
So, we took a brief break from Luke’s Gospel last week as we looked to Marks Gospel to see how the same stories in the Gospel are told and what some of the different angles and emphases are.
That story we looked at two weeks in a row was the story of the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus on the Road outside of Jericho. And this is important because of what Jericho signifies in the narrative of Jesus earthly life and ministry. Jericho is where travelers would stage and prepare for the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem.
And Jesus and his follower, especially the Twelve, were heading to Jerusalem. They were going for two reasons. The immediate reason is the same as why Jerusalem was so overcrowded at that moment. The Passover was coming up. This yearly celebration was one where Jews from all over Israel come to Jerusalem. So, Jerusalem was overcrowded, and by extension, beforehand, so was Jericho.
The second reason they were going to Jerusalem was because Jesus knew that’s where he needed to go to fulfill his mission. He came, as we are going to see today, to seek and save the lost. He came to restore our relationship with God the Father. He was the long prophesied and promised messiah, the Christ. And that meant, as he has told the disciples numerous times, that he needed to die and be buried before he would rise again.
As Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem, he was continuing to teach, continuing to heal, continuing to call sinners to repentance, and continuing to turn peoples’ assumptions and expectations upside down.
So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 19, verses 1 through 10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage to follow along in your translation.
Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, records:

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Thus says the Word of God.

Now, one of the things we saw, especially the last two weeks, is that Jesus was known far and wide within Israel. People knew who he was. They had heard stories about what he had done, and what he was claiming. The Blind Beggar outside Jericho, likely never having travelled anywhere, knew who Jesus of Nazareth was and knew that He was the Son of David, the Messiah.
And we see that a man named Zacchaeus in Jericho, he knew who Jesus was too. People knew Jesus was passing through. They wanted to see him, they wanted to encounter him, hear him if there was any teaching that was going to happen. And Zacchaeus did too.
Now, Zacchaeus was not a beloved person. He was a tax collector. We have talked about the tax collectors before. Rome was a massive juggernaut at the time, the rulers of the known world. Their empire and their military took money to keep running smoothly and to keep the peace in their occupied territories. So, they hired locals to collect taxes for them. In that regard, especially among the Jewish people, tax collectors were looked at as traitors, working for the enemy against their own people.
On top of that, tax collectors “earned” their income by collecting above and beyond what Rome was ordering to be collected. They go to keep the additional amount. Now, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. This is the only time we see this title in the Bible so what we know are all educated guesses. It appears that he would be a regional manager type. He would have likely been skimming from the amount the tax collectors brought in, of course, making sure that Rome got their cut and that He got his cut. I believe that the regional breakdowns wouldn’t work, but it is possible that Zacchaeus would have been Matthew’s boss, known then as Levi before Jesus called Him. Or at least Matthew would have worked for a Zacchaeus type.
No body would have liked Zacchaeus. And maybe that’s why he was having trouble getting a spot along the road to see Jesus as he and his disciples are passing by. He wasn’t the only one of course, the crowds were thick. Jericho was overfilled and many people wanted to see Jesus. And so, Zacchaeus couldn’t push through the crowd to get a view. It didn’t help that Zacchaeus was a wee little man either. He couldn’t see over the crowd.
So, Zacchaeus did what any normal person would do, he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus. That is how driven, how desperate he was to see Jesus.
Something was compelling him. GO, see this Jesus guy. See what He is all about. Do it now because there might not be another chance, and there wouldn’t.
The Holy Spirit was telling Zacchaeus that the time is now. This is what’s known Effectual Calling, maybe better known, Irresistible Grace, the I in TULIP, which is an acronym for 5 tenets of Reformed theology.
One source describes it this way:
Irresistible grace” is a phrase that is used to summarize what the Bible teaches about the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of sinners. Simply put, the doctrine of irresistible grace refers to the biblical truth that whatever God decrees to happen will inevitably come to pass, even in the salvation of individuals. The Holy Spirit will work in the lives of the elect so that they inevitably will come to faith in Christ. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation those sinners whom He personally calls to Christ

I don’t think there is any way to deny that this is what is going on in Zacchaeus at this point in time. Famed theologian Matthew Henry says: Jesus brings his own welcome. He opens the heart and inclines it to receive him.

So, the Holy Spirit is drawing Zacchaeus to Christ. He compels him to go and see him while Jesus is in Jericho. And the only way that he can see Jesus is by climbing a sycamore tree. These trees are known to be very tall, but with very low limbs, great for climbing. They are also very full, which would make it very hard to be seen if you were in the tree.
And yet, Jesus “just happens,” to look up and see Zacchaeus up in the tree. What a coincidence! We know that coincidences are God working behind the scenes. Things like this. Luck, coincidence, Gods invisible providence, all at work to bring a sinner to Himself.
Jesus happens to pass by under the tree, happens to look up, happens to see Zacchaeus, and happens to know his name. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
TO me, I hear him saying, C’mon on down here Zacchaeus. I can’t talk to you up there! We are going to your place now.

This was an incredibly joyful moments for Zacchaeus. Not all conversions are instantaneous, clouds open up, angels singing style conversions. Some are and praise God for them. But not all are. Some are subtle and gradual, a process that takes time. I believe this is the case for Zacchaeus and sometime in here, sometime during this story is when the gradual process came to its fulfillment. There is no way of knowing when, but we do know that he received Jesus joyfully.
Notice too, along with what we said earlier. Zacchaeus didn’t invite Jesus over. He didn’t do anything to earn Jesus’ attention. All Zacchaeus did was receive Jesus joyfully. And even that, the Holy Spirit had already done everything He had to do inside of Zacchaeus in order to prepare him so that He could receive Jesus. Even Zacchaeus receiving Jesus was not because of Zacchaeus.
Now, not everyone was happy that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully. First of all, Jesus, why would you be caught spending time with that guy. Don’t you know who he is? Don’t you know what he has done. No body wants to spend time with him. Your reputation will be ruined by spending time with him!
Also, Zacchaeus is too much of a sinner to be saved. He’s not worthy of grace, of forgiveness and of recognition. How could he ever be saved?
And that’s the good news, isn’t it? Not that salvation exists. That would be great news if we were worthy of it, if we could earn it, if we in any way deserved it. But we aren’t, we can’t, and we don’t. So, salvation in and of itself is not good news.
But that Jesus came to offer and grant salvation, more accurately to procure salvation for those who could not do so on their own. Not only couldn’t do it on their own but could have no part in it whatsoever. In other words, you, me, and everyone else who believes. Its good news because he procures it for us who can’t do it ourselves. Like Zacchaeus.
That’s the good news. We can’t earn it. We can’t do anything, be good enough. Our works are like filthy rags to him. But we see the other side here.
Zacchaeus was saved. He was forgiven. He received Gods grace. His heart of stone was change by the Holy Spirit into a Heart of flesh. And now, he is showing outwardly what that change looks like.
Zacchaeus was convicted of his sins. He was able to see how grievous they were. His greed, his extortion, his manipulation, his bullying and so much more. He wanted to change, and he wanted to make it right.
But it’s not just as easy as realizing that what you did was wrong and saying your sorry. That’s the minimum and sometimes that’s all you are able to do for a variety of possible reasons.
But Zacchaeus was able to do more. And he wanted to do more. He wasn’t trying to buy forgiveness of those whom he wronged. He wanted to make it right. He was convicted of sin, so he stood and publicly confessed and made it right.
Through faith comes repentance.
Now, this is not an exact formula for all of us on how to repent. Zacchaeus made his wealth and his money by stealing, defrauding, extorting and bullying. And now, to show that money and possessions and wealth are no longer his gods, no longer his purpose, this is what he was to do.
His formula was to, first, give half of his wealth away to the poor and needy. Second, anyone he defrauded; he was going to pay them back four times what he took. This was going above and beyond what the Torah commanded of the Jewish people.
Our formula for repentance and restitution is, first, to be open handed in our generosity. We confess our sins, not only to God, but to the people we sinned against. We are to ask forgiveness, but also, we are to go beyond that, and we are to attempt to make things right, to make restitution and, if possible, to reconcile those relationships.
In verse 9, Jesus makes a joyous proclamation. We shouldn’t need to parse this too deep or try to find the nuances of the statement. Jesus says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus house, and he is a Son of Abraham. What grace! What joy!
What Jesus is not saying is that because of what Zacchaeus did, because he repented, because he gave away a bunch of money and possessions, because of those things, now he is saved.
But that, of course is wrong. That’s earning or buying salvation. Trying to be good enough. That’s work based salvation. And, Ill say this also, if that were the case, it would fit right in with what others were thinking, that Zacchaeus was unworthy if salvation, that he wasn’t worth saving.
Instead, Jesus is proclaiming that the repentance that Zacchaeus was showing was genuine. The repentance and actions being taken are genuine signs of salvation and the fruit of the Spirit show that he is a new creation.
Jesus also show that these things show that Zacchaeus is a true Son of Abraham. In this, with his salvation, he is adopted into the family of God and is now a part of True Israel. Paul wrote sin Galatians 3, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
And Jesus tells us why he came. To seek and save the lost. To reconcile us to God. To make us children of God, co heirs with Christ.
Our natural born state is lost, and it is spiritually and eternally dead. We can’t and we won’t seek God, not the true, biblical God.
So, instead, because of his eternal love, he seeks us.
He saves us.
He calls us.
He helps us find our way.
He gives us the gift of faith.
He leads us to repentance.
He grants forgiveness and salvation.
He gives us eternal life.

We see often in the Gospels two stories put right next to each other in order for us to get the bigger picture. Before Zacchaeus we see the blind beggar and a main point was that he called out to Jesus. Here, Zacchaeus receives Jesus joyfully. Both true. Both accurate. Both showing a change in their lives in literally and spiritually following Jesus. Bartimaeus jumped up and literally followed Jesus, he probably saw all this play out. And Zacchaeus show publicly the change that occurs inside when we joyfully receive Jesus.
IF you have not called out to Jesus or joyfully received him, that’s step one, don’t get the steps out of order. IF you have, its time to show the world the joy and change in us that Jesus creates, asking forgiveness, making restitution, reconciling and following Jesus, both literally and spiritually.
Let’s Pray.

Mark 10:46-52 (Part of our series through Luke) Eyes will be opened

Mark 10:46-52

Jesus is the Son of Man

Part of our series through Luke

Eyes will be opened

                     Good morning. Let’s go ahead and open up our Bibles to Mark chapter 10.

No, I’m not confused, we are going to take a brief detour in our series through Luke. Last wee we looked at Luke 18: 35-43, the story of Jesus healing the Blind Beggar. I mentioned that this story was recorded in 3 of the 4 Gospels and Mark told us the beggars name, Bartimaeus.

Now, we had a great discussion about this passage on Wednesday morning at Prayer meeting and I’ve have numerous good discussions bout it throughout the week with some of you. So, I wanted to go back and reread the same story in the other Gospels.

As I did, I remember that I also preached through the Gospel of Mark previously, so I took out my notes from preparing for that sermon. It was fascinating to see what was so similar and what was different in the two telling’s of the story. So, I decided to go ahead and preach on the same story as we did last week, but from a different Gospel, from Marks Gospel.

 

So first, a brief overview of where this story takes place in Marks Gospel.

Recently, James and John went to Jesus, and they want him to give them a place of honor and glory in heaven next to him. Jesus sets them straight with some uncomfortable truths about the way things will work, telling them that however would be first among them, must be a slave to all. What we are going to see here this morning is that put into practice.

 

Interesting that, in Marks Gospel, just like we have been seeing Luke, Jesus is turning assumptions, beliefs and preconceived notions on their heads.

 

Now, Mark has been recording Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is a few years into his ministry here, the disciples and large crowds had been following him pretty much since the beginning. He started with some teaching and a lot of signs and miracles to show people that he is who he is saying he is, proving that he has authority from heaven, that he is the long-awaited Messiah. Once the disciples realized that he was who he said he was, Jesus’ ministry changed. There would still be some miracles, we will see one today. But his focus was on teaching and preparing the disciples for the time when he would leave them with the Holy Spirit, and they would build the church on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ. During this time of teaching and preparing, Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem for the last time and was telling his disciples that he was going there to be killed, to fulfill his purpose, to suffer and die and rise again. And they just couldn’t quite grasp what he was saying.

I think that about catches us up, so let’s go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Mark 10, verses 46. As usual, I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you all to grab your preferred translation and follow along as we read the Word of God.

Mark, inspired of by the Holy spirit writes:

 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

 

         

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word

 

So, the first thing we see here is that Jesus is in Jericho at this point. He is getting ready to start the very last leg of his journey into Jerusalem. Jericho was roughly 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem and was often a staging area for the last part of people’s journeys into Jerusalem. It was a busy city, lots of people coming and going. Lots of traffic. At this point there would have been even more travelers than normal because they would have been on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming Passover.

We see that, looking to take advantage of the amount of people and, hopefully the amount of grace and mercy that amount of people bring with them, Bartimaeus, a blind man, was begging to make enough money to eat and live. This man was in the very lowest caste of the Jewish culture. Now, he might not have been as unclean as a leper for example, but no one in Jewish society would listen to him or take any notice other than to possibly throw a few coins to him.

He was a man that was 100% dependent on those around him. Now this man is sitting on the side of the road, listening to the hustle and bustle, hearing the crowds, the constant buzz in the air. The he hears something extra, some extra excitement, something different. I’m sure he was asking those around, “What? What’s going on?” And then he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was walking by.

This blind man, sitting on the side of the road, every day of his life, listening to the people walk by, hearing them talk. He knew who Jesus was. He had to have heard people talking about him. Recounting his miracles, his healings, his teachings. He knows who Jesus was.

And what we see is that he doesn’t only know who Jesus is as a man going around, doing miracles and such, but he sees who Jesus is. We see him cry out, ““Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus had a correct view of who Jesus was. He calls him the Son of David. This is a messianic term from the Old Testament prophets. One website explains the term this way:

 

 

 

 When people referred to Jesus as the Son of David, they meant that He was the long-awaited Deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22) and the two blind men by the wayside (Matthew 20:30) all cried out to the Son of David for help. The titles of honor they gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him “Lord” expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and calling Him “Son of David,” expressed their faith that He was the Messiah.

 

 

 

 

This blind man on the side of the road had more sight, more vision than even the disciples did. They heard him calling out to Jesus and they tried to stop him, to quiet him. We see in Marks Gospel, just a few paragraphs earlier, when the parents were bringing their kids to Jesus. The disciples tried to stop them, thinking they were freeing Jesus to do the important work. Jesus told them to let the children come to him.

Here is a similar happening. This blind is calling out for the Messiah to have mercy on him, and the disciples are trying to quiet him, presumably to free Jesus up for his journey to Jerusalem, to once again do his Messiah-y stuff. Jesus hears the man calling out, and then calling again to him, calling him the Messiah, the son of David and asking for nothing more than mercy.

So, Jesus stops and tells the disciples to have the blind man come to him. The disciples go to the man and tell him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” Notice that they very people who were trying to hinder Bartimaeus from calling out to Jesus, were the very ones Jesus used to bring Bartimaeus to him.  

And what does the man do? Does he slowly get up and make his way cautiously to Jesus? No, he throws off his cloak and sprang up and came to him. He was invited by Jesus, and he didn’t wade into the pool, one step at a time, but jumped right in with both feet.

Jesus asked him a familiar question. He asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now that question should sound familiar. In the previous section of Marks Gospel, right before this, James and John came to Jesus and said they wanted Jesus to do something for them. Jesus asked, in verse 36, “What do you want me to do for you?” We saw the Sons of Thunder answer very poorly last week. We see Bartimaeus give a much different answer here. Verse 51 shows that he responds to Jesus, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

          We have seen people in the Gospels call Jesus Rabbi, or Teacher before. The rich young man a few weeks ago, he called Jesus Good Teacher. But Bartimaeus goes a step further here. The word he uses, in Aramaic, is Rabboni. We only see it in one other spot in the Gospels and that is in John’s Gospel, after Jesus raises from the dead and appears to Mary. There she calls him Rabboni. This is like Rabbi but with mass amounts of extra respect and honor. It means “My LORD and My Master.”

And Bartimaeus doesn’t ask for honor. He doesn’t ask for privilege or power or anything like that. He simply asks to see. He asks for mercy. He hears Jesus, he is talking to Jesus. He wants to see Jesus. He wants to see the crowds walking in and out of Jericho. He wants to see the sights of the smells and sounds he has been experiencing. He wants to see.

And what is the first thing he sees? I know I used this last week too, but it just fits so perfectly, I think. Fannie Crosby was a prolific hymn writer that was blind. She wrote many, many hymns. Most people saw her blindness as something that held her back or something she needed to overcome.

One well-meaning preacher once told her, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,”

Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” said the poet, who had been able to see only for her first six weeks of life. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

          She knew that all of creation pales before the face of Christ. The face of Christ is the first thing that Bartimaeus saw. He saw the man that gave him sight, that gave him life, that saved him. Jesus told Bartimaeus, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”

          Bartimaeus knew that, in spite of all his troubles, all his problems, all his hardships, Jesus could take care of him. We get in this story, once again, that blending of physical blindness and sight being literal in its own right, but also standing in for spiritual blindness and sight. He was saw that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, without being able to see.

Jesus had already opened the eyes to his heart, his soul. The Holy Spirit had already healed him from his eternal affliction and given him the gift of faith. And Jesus commends him, saying that it is his faith that made him well.   With this point, we want to be clear. We want to be specific and true to the Word. Jesus said Bartimaeus faith made him well.

One commentator exposits this way:

Faith can make us well. This is not magic, or superstition, or some simple fix of course. It seems clear, to me at least, that when Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well” he is not saying that these people somehow believed their way into wellness. Rather he is pronouncing their wellness, declaring it, making it happen for them. It is Jesus who heals, and faith that receives that healing. And so it is, or can be, for those who hear this story and this good news. Faith can make us well. Faith can open our ears, unstop our ears — even raise us from death. This is the power of the promise wherein faith and forgiveness, faith and wellness, meet; this is the power of Jesus’ word for salvation.

To be clear, Jesus and only Jesus heals. Jesus will heal our broken faith if we ask. He will not always heal our broken bodies, not when we ask. But our broken bodies will be healed when, because of our broken faith being healed, we are together with him for eternity in heaven.

See, we find what we are looking for. If we are looking for the Christ, the God of the Universe to reveal himself to us, he will. If we are looking for a god that we pick and choose what he is like, that’s what we will find, no real God at all.

Many of us can acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, that he is God, and yet we are still blinded to what that means. We say we acknowledge Jesus as our LORD and Savior, but often, practically, we only see him as one or the other.

We may act as though he is our savior. We are forgiven of our sins, we are saved from hell, we are redeemed. But how do we act. We don’t act like Jesus is our LORD. We don’t do what he tells us. We don’t follow his commands, turn away from sin, love your neighbors. We don’t allow him to be the LORD of our lives.

Our we go the opposite side. We live with Jesus being our LORD, our king, our authority. We follow the rules, we obey. We live good, moralistic lives continually trying to live up to some impossible standard that we cannot meet. Trying to live up to that standard because, if we do, we might just be good enough, we might just be better than out neighbor enough to get ourselves into heaven.

The truth is not that Jesus is our LORD or he is our savior. The truth is both. We see Bartimaeus practically living, knowing that Jesus is both. After he gets his sight ack, what does Bartimaeus do? He followed Jesus. This is the same thing we see Peter, Andrew, James, John, Levi all do when Jesus calls them. They follow him. This is what we see the Rich Young Man called to do and then walk away sadly, to follow Jesus.

Bartimaeus sees and acts like Jesus is his LORD and Savior. He saw this spiritually before getting his physical sight back and he saw this physically after being healed. Bartimaeus asked to see and what he saw was Jesus’ face. The face of his LORD and savior and he followed him. He was following him at what ended up being the hardest time in Jesus’ life to follow him.

Jesus was getting ready to enter Jerusalem to live the last week of his life. Knowing he was going to suffer horribly and die, he finished teaching his disciples, saying goodbye and spending time with them, his friends. He would be praying so hard, under so much stress that he would sweat blood. And then he would go and fulfill his purpose, to give his life as a ransom for many. He would prove that he is not only our LORD but our savior as well.

Are you living, knowing the full Jesus, the Whole Jesus? Is he just your LORD? Is he just your savior? Or is he both? Have you asked him to heal your broken faith? So that you can know the full Jesus? Or do you know the Jesus that you created? The Jesus that fits who you think Jesus should be.

Jesus says in Matthew 7, verses 7 & 8:

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

 

We will find what we are looking for, and we will find the Jesus we are looking for. Are you looking for the Jesus that fits your mold? Or are you searching, seeking, asking to see the real, true, biblical, historical Jesus. The Jesus that transcends our expectation, which transcended his friend’s expectations. The Jesus that was and is who he said he was. The Jesus that is both LORD and savior? Which Jesus are you finding, which one are you looking for?

The only right answer is for Jesus to be our Rabboni, our LORD and our Master. RC Sproul points out: Jesus had just taught his disciples to about the importance of being servants. To be a servant is to serve a master.” The way you serve a master is by doing, not what you think you should do, but instead by doing what he tells you to do.

Bartimaeus gained his sight and the first thing he did, the only thing it says he did, was that he followed Jesus into Jerusalem. He left everything he had, which was little, but he was so excited to be a servant of Jesus and that he followed him. That’s what Jesus expects from us, what he demands from us. Be aware of the gift he gives us, the gift of spiritual sight. From there, acknowledge him as both LORD and Savior and jump at any and every opportunity he presents to you to serve him.

The gift is free and clear. The responsibility after wards is clear. Which Jesus are you willing to see? The one you created in your mind, in the mind of society. Or the Jesus who is your LORD, your, your Master?

Jesus tells us what to do if we believe in the true, biblical Jesus. We are to recognize who we are and who God is and not mixing them up. And that’s what we recognize right now with communion. We recognize and remember what Christ has done and what he has accomplished for us.

And so, we remember. Constantly, regularly. We do it every first Sunday of the month. We remember and we know that we are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to take away the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper, and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” 

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

 

 

 

Luke 18:1-8 Jesus is the Son of Man: Parable of the Persistent Widow

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus is the Son of Man

Parable of the Persistent Widow

 

          All right! Let’s go ahead and turn

in our Bibles to Luke chapter 18. As I say every week, if you are in need of a Bible, if you do not have a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help get a Bible into your hands.

You know the rules of real estate, famously stated as Location, Location, Location. And the Bible, reading it and understanding it has its own set of rules. Context! Context! Context!

And some of the context of this morning’s passage is quite important. Jesus has been teaching about eternity and the coming and present Kingdom of God. WE also remember the definition we introduced last week of what the Kingdom of God is, God’s people, in God’s place under God’s rule.

And due to those teachings, Jesus was asked first by the Pharisees, then by the disciples, When? Where? WE want to see the Kingdom!

 

Jesus’ response to them is don’t worry about the when. You know it will happen. Be prepared for it to happen. Prepare others for it to happen. Don’t worry if you don’t see it happen yet. It is coming.

And that brings us into this week’s passage. Luke chapter 18, verses 1 through 8. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 18:1-8.

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record the words of Jesus:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

Now, what’s interesting about this passage, about this parable is that Luke tells us right up front what the point of the parable is. Often, we don’t get the point, or the explanation until afterwards, if at all. And we remember that parables have one main point. And the main point of this parable is to pray always and never lose heart.

Now, I ask that we remember some of the basic rules of biblical understanding, of biblical study. First, not in any order, the text can only mean one thing. As RC Sproul says, there may be 10,000 applications of that one meaning, but there can only be one meaning. Second, Context! Context! Context! And third, the text can never mean what the original author never meant.

So whatever else we do with this passage, it only has one meaning: Always Pray and Never Lose Heart.

And the context is that this parable comes right after telling the Pharisees and His disciples that the Kingdom is coming, not to worry about when and to keep looking and be prepared.

 

 

So, Jesus tells the parable. There was a judge. He was not God fearing so you couldn’t appeal to his sense of right and wrong. He was not man fearing, meaning that you could not appeal to his heart, his compassion, his love for people. He only cared about himself and his power and his position, his authority.

And along comes this widow, who represents in this parable, the poor, the needy and the oppressed. Those having injustice done to them. This widow is looking, seeking for justice, for wrongs to be righted.

And the judge wouldn’t help her. HE didn’t care one bit. But she kept coming, kept asking, kept persisting. This was her only weapon against injustice. She kept crying out to him, “Give me justice against my adversary!”

 

Now, for a while he did resist. She saw no advancement for her cause. She saw no justice. This judge didn’t care about her plight, he causes or about justice at all.

However, she was an annoyance. She was bothering him. And so, to get some peace for himself, to get her to stop bothering him, he finally gave in and gave the widow her justice.

Now, one thing to point out. Not all who give justice, not all who stand up to injustice, or make a decision that’s on the right side is on Gods side. Not all who agree with God’s people on moral or ethical grounds are actually on Gods side.

But in the end, this widow succeeded. She wore him down. She broke him. She got on his nerves enough for him to throw in the towel.  Justice has prevailed.

 

Now, to be clear, God is not this judge. When he is telling us to be persistent and always pray, He is not saying that we will wear God down. He is not saying that we will break him down. He is not saying that we will get on his nerves enough until he finally relents and grants justice.

Instead, Verses 7 & 8 speak of God. He will hear his people.

He will grant justice.

He will dry every tear.

He will right every wrong.

He will Heal every pain.

He will answer those prayers, not all prayers, but those prayers that we hold deep in our hearts. The prayers for justice to be done. The prayers for His return. The prayers the Kingdom to manifest. The LORD, come quickly prayers.

James 5:16, The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

 

          However, its Gods justice. Which means that it is God’s timing. Which means that it is from God’s perspective. Which means its all up to him.

And so, Be persistent. Always pray. Never lose heart. Stay Faithful.

 

You have been told it will happen. Trust that. Have faith in that. Believe that.

 

And work towards that. Jesus is not telling us that we are to sit back, kick our feet up and wait for Jesus to come back for Justice to be granted. WE are to be active in pursuing it like the widow was.

If you see injustice take place, if you see someone being oppressed or held down, if you see wrongs taking place, if you see abuse taking place, it is your responsibility, as an ambassador of Christ, as a child of God and as a decent human being to stand up and fight for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves. It is your responsibility you stand up for being people treated as the image bearers of Christ that they are. We are not to only stand up for injustice done to other Christians, but injustice anywhere and everywhere.

Whether or not we see success in this life and in this world does not change that ultimate and perfect justice will be granted and achieved in God’s timing.

IF you are a victim of injustice, abuse, wrongdoings, please do not hear this as a reason to give up. This parable shows that we are to continue to fight and pursue justice and that God will ultimately grant it and that it will be greater and eternal justice when he does.

And Jesus finishes up and he asks, when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith?

God is not the one who will be answering questions when we stand before him. We all think about different questions that God better answer when we get to heaven. Bu the truth is that he owes none of us an answer.

We will be answering the questions. And really there is only one question that will matter. Will he find faith? Will he find faith in you like in Noah? Will he find faith in you like in Lot? Will he find faith in you like this widow?

Or will he find you outside the faith? Outside the faith like Lots wife? Outside the faith like the judge here? Outside the faith like so many that the LORD will tells us he never knew?

 

Luke 16:19-31 Jesus is the Son of Man Rich man & Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus is the Son of Man

Rich man & Lazarus

 

All right! Turn with me, if you will to Luke chapter 16. As we continue our series through Luke, I ask that if you do not have a Bible or you need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can work on getting one into your hands.

We have been following and reading Jesus’ teaching and preaching to the pharisees, to the disciples, to tax collectors and sinners, to really, anyone who was around and would listen.

And its interesting, that unlike what we want to see, Jesus’ preachers’ different ways to different people and groups. He preaches one way to those who think they are good enough, who look down on those who did not act, believe, look like or live like they did.

To them, Jesus spoke and preached harshly. He still preached grace to them, but he emphasized that it was undeserved, it was unmerited, it was unearned, and it was totally divorced from their righteousness.

But when Jesus preached to sinner, to the oppressed, to those beaten down, those who were lowly, to those he preached grace and repentance, but he did so with grace (no pun intended) and with gentleness. He told them that they did not need to be burdened down, they did not need to earn God’s favor, they did not need to be good enough to achieve salvation, they just need to believe and accept God’s grace, believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He preached not obedience to the law, but grace faith and repentance as the way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Part of what he Jesus was preaching and teaching, to both groups, because he was preaching the same truth, sometimes harshly, sometimes gently. But one of the common parts of his teaching was a complete and absolute adherence to, and belief in the inspiration to, the Word of God.

We see back in verse 17, which was part of what we looked at last week, Jesus said, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. Now, it was usually directed at the Pharisees specifically, but we see everyone on the receiving end of Jesus pointing out that all, everyone has misunderstood, misapplied, misconstrued and mistook the purpose, the application of the Law, the inerrancy of the law and therefore the Word of God.

So, we will pick here in our continuation of Luke’s Gospel, reading Luke chapter 16, verses 19 through 31. As usual, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation.

Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he recorded the words of Jesus as we read Luke 16:19-31:

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[f] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

 

May God Bless the reading of His Word.

 

 

So, we start here with another story that we can easily glide right past. Another story that we make assumptions that we know what it is saying, and we move right past it. More often, this is a story that we read and place our already set assumptions and beliefs and we lay them on top of this story, making it say things it never was trying to say.

 

AS we start here, this story reads like an actual event. It’s told like a story that actually happened, but scholars have agreed since Bible times that this is a parable. And why that’s important is that it means that Jesus is making a point. Not every detail is 100% transferable. For example, this parable does not tell us that in real life, Heaven and Hell are within speaking distance of each other. It also doesn’t tell us that there is or can be any communication between Heaven and Hell. Neither of those are Jesus’ point and so we have to be careful what details we pull out of this.

Now, we remember that Jesus is still speaking to the Pharisees at this point. He was making his point directly to them. They assumed their position in heaven and they thought it was because of their goodness, their obedience, their worthiness, their lineage and their righteousness.

And so, Jesus tells them this parable. And he starts with extreme contrasts. WE remember that this section of teaching started with the Pharisees getting upset that the sinners and tax collectors were spending time with Jesus, upset that they thought they might have a chance to be blessed by God. As if they were on the same level as the Pharisees who earned their blessing from God.

And so, Jesus uses that extreme contrast in his parable. This time between the rich and the poor. WE know of course that Jesus does not say anything as simple as Rich is bad, poor is good. WE see that there are righteous rich and righteous poor. There are unrighteous rich and unrighteous poor.

But we know that there are tendencies, which we see here. Wealth is often, not always, but often accompanied with arrogance and self-righteousness. We see some of this from the rich man when we see that he is clothed in purple, which is usually reserved solely for royalty.

We also see the context in which Jesus is saying this. First, we just saw Jesus talking about stewardship and how important that is. This is a story that shows very poor stewardship on behalf of the rich man.

So, we are introduced to this rich man first. Then we see the poor man, a man named Lazarus. He was poor, destitute, sick, couldn’t move on his own, was carried and dropped at the gate of the rich man in hopes that he may get the scraps from the table of the rich man. He would be seen by the man every time he left his home and came home. It wouldn’t even be a sacrifice on his end. But the rich man didn’t even care enough to see Lazarus plight, let alone to do anything that might help.

Scripture is clear:

1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

James 2:15 & 16:

 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that?

And lastly, James 4:17:

So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

In the end, both men died. Lazarus died and received a pauper’s funeral and went to Heaven. The Rich man also died. His riches couldn’t keep death from getting him. He received a fancy burial, his money providing him with at least that.

What we see is that what was on earth was not how it was in heaven. The Rich man has a fancy funeral and then he goes to Hell. He trusted his riches, he hoarded them. He was unloving and unrighteous. And now, he was being tormented. He looked and he saw that poor, diseased man, who was so obviously not blessed by God. He saw that Lazarus was with Abraham in paradise.

Paul says that in the end, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every single one of us, once we die, we will stand before Jesus, and we will know and acknowledge the truth.

The rich man sees Lazarus, in Heaven, greeted and enjoying fellowship with the saints who went before him. To the Israelites, there was no one bigger than Abraham, he was the literal father of their faith.

Lazarus was poor, he was oppressed, he was sick, he was forgotten, he was alone, he was hungry. And now, he was hanging out with Abraham. All while the Rich man was being tormented in Hell.

SO, the rich man cries out to Abraham and he either starts by begging for mercy or by still trying to order people around. He asks for some water to help quench his torment. He does want mercy from the pain he was going through.

God does grant mercy, but his mercy is not infinite. He tells us who is going to receive mercy in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who mourn will be comforted, those who are poor in spirit will enter in the Kingdom of Heaven. And those who are merciful will receive mercy.

The Rich man refused to be merciful in this lifetime. And now was being denied mercy. Regarding this passage, Augustine observes:

Jesus kept quite about the rich man’s name and mentions the name of the poor man. The rich man’s name was thrown around, but God kept quiet about it. The other’s name was lost in silence, and God spoke it…You see, God who lives in Heaven kept quiet about the rich man’s name, because he did not find it written in heaven. He spoke the poor man’s name, because he found it written there, indeed he gave instructions for it to be written there.

 

Lazarus was in Heaven because he received mercy from God. He did not receive mercy because he was in heaven. The rich man was in Hell because he was denied mercy, he was not denied mercy because he was in hell.

 Abraham tells the rich man that he has already received all his mercy on earth, and that Lazarus was now receiving all his mercy that was denied to him on earth. He also says that there is no crossover between heaven and hell. There is a chasm too great that none may crossover.

Once you are in one place, there is no chance to move to the other. There is no repentance after death. There is no appeal, no reversal of the judge’s decision. What’s done is done, once it is done.

This is why choosing faith, choosing repentance, choosing Jesus are so important to do here in this life. There is no such thing as too late in this life, but we don’t know when this life will be over.

Hebrews 9:27 it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

The Rich man realized that he was judged and that there was no hope for him. And then he has, what appears to be compassion for some brothers that he still has left alive. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the grave to tell his brothers the truth and give them a chance to not be in hell when they die, but instead to be with Abraham in Heaven.

Abraham’s response in one that we need to remember and cling to. The Word of God is sufficient. He says that the brothers already have the truth in front of them. They have no excuse. They have the Law and the prophets; they have the writings. In our time, we would say they have the Bible. They have all they need in order to believe.

One of the applications that we need to recognize is that there is no such thing as so-called Heaven Tourism. Nobody comes back from Heaven. Many books are out there that claim to have done so but the Bible says no. First it says here that there is no point. Second, as we read a moment ago, Hebrews 9:27. And also, this world would be just about a literal hell to anyone that had experienced heaven and had to come back.

The rich man responds to Abraham, “nu-uh! My brothers will totally believe.” If only they had signs, wonders, miracles! Somebody risen from the dead! Then they would totally believe!

But we have scriptures that tell us the truth.

Romans 1:18-20:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.

 

We are spiritually blind, suppressing the truth until God opens our eyes. Romans 3 says that no one chases after God, no one pursues God, no one makes the first move to believe. Jesus says that he is the truth and the truth, that is He will set us free. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10.

The point is that People reject what they don’t want to believe. We see it with all variety of subjects. Aliens, scandals of any sort, sports, guilt and innocence, every theme and subject of politics imaginable, whose lives matter, different opinions of the meanings of different passages of scripture, doctrinal and interpretational differences, God or no God, what must I do to be saved, the authority of scripture, heaven and hell.

All of it, we will reject the side and view of those subjects that we don’t want to believe, regardless of the evidence. God will change minds, and he can use discussions that we have to do so, but people will never be convinced, no matter how strong the evidence, no matter how strong the reason, we cannot convince anyone of changing their beliefs.

Dave Ramsey says, “Someone convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still.”

Abraham makes it clear that if they don’t believe all the evidence that scripture provides, neither will they believe any signs or wonders, it is not the lack of evidence that produces unbelief or a lack of faith, but a hard heart.

The solution is simple; read the Word of God, Believe the Word of God, apply the Word of God. To do one with out the others is null and void. James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Jesus lays it all out in one statement, summed up in John 5:24

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

Lazarus believed despite his circumstances in this life. The rich man didn’t believe despite his circumstances in this life. Make sure you believe, in season and out, during the best of times, during the worst of times, in all times, God is on the throne and in control of it all.

 

Let’s Pray

Luke 15:11-32 Jesus is the Son of Man The Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Prodigal Son

(Note: It has come to my attention that my sermon posts from Nov ’21 through the begining of Feb ’22 have been lost. So i will be reposting them here, meaning they wont necessarily be in the order they were preached and recorded. THank you for your understanding)

 

All right! Turn with me in your Bibles, if you will, to Luke chapter 15. As I say every week, if you do not have a Bible or if you need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help get one into your hands.

Well, last week, we introduced the setting of this passage. Tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus, drawn to him, wanting to hear his teaching and to be on the receiving end of his grace. And as they saw this, the Scribes and Pharisees grumbled about it.

Whether they recognized it or not, they were grumbling at Gods grace. We see what had been happening in Jesus’ ministry. Sinners were welcomed. People were getting healed on the Sabbath. Jesus is claiming the power to forgive sins. Heaven was open to those who would repent and submit themselves to God. But those who think they had no need to repent, those who were self-righteous, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

“That’s not fair! I did everything right! Why does HE get to get in!” That’s the mindset that Jesus is addressing in these three parables that he tells here. The first two we looked at last week, the lost coin and the lost sheep. And Jesus point was we don’t save us. We don’t even help Jesus save us. Jesus chooses to save us and its all grace, no merit involved at all.

The third parable is the one we will look at this morning as well, the parable of the prodigal Son. Again, Jesus showing that the themes of grace are at complete odds with self-righteousness and pride.

Let’s go ahead and read the passage, Luke chapter 15, verses 11 through 32. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 15:11-32, The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the Words of Jesus:

 

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

 

Thus says the Word of God.

This is one of those well know Bible stories that we have been talking about. We think we know what the story is and what the story is telling us, and we do, partly, mostly, sort of. There are many lessons that we can learn from the prodigal son, the character of the son himself. And that who we tend to focus on. We can learn lessons from the how he deals with his father, his attitude, his heart, how he lives apart from his family and from God. So many of those lessons are right and good lessons, but not a single one of them are ultimately the point of this story.

We start out seeing that this man, this older man, had two sons. And in those days, in that society, using this example of two sons, when the dad dies, each son gets a portion of the dad’s estate, property, animals, etc. The older son, the first born would get a double share. This means that he would get 66% and the younger son would get 33%.

Now, in this case, the son doesn’t want to wait for his dad to die in order to get his share. So, he goes to the dad and says, “Give me my share of your estate now.”

Now we don’t know the exact thoughts going through the sons’ head at that moment. He could have been thinking “Why should I continue working in this apparent dead-end job? I’m not the one who is going to get it.” OR he could have been thinking, “This is too stifling, I have to be true to who I am and follow my bliss, follow my heart and my dreams.” The result is the same, not willing to step up and take responsibility for his life, his work or anything else.

So, he goes to the father and says, Give me what’s my mine! Now, this was not exactly unheard of, but it was pretty close. At the least in was incredibly uncouth for the son to do this. And the father did it. He separated his estate in two sections, 1/3 and 2/3s. He gave his youngest son his third of the inheritance and as one commentator said, and I know a lot of you can identify with this, “the father allowed him to make his own choice to go his own way.” As a parent, especially as the kids get older, that’s the only thing we can do. They need to live their life and unfortunately, make their own mistakes and bad decisions.

Verse 13 indicates that someone liquidated the inheritance. Either the father to make the division cleaner or the son so he could just get going and whoop it up. Either way the son took of a long way away, away from the eyes of family and people that would have known him. He goes far away, like leaving here and headed to Redding or Sacramento or even San Francisco. And he proceeds to spend his money foolishly. He squandered it with reckless living.

Sometimes we see in the Bible, things can be overstated, over emphasis used, telling us to go through the eye of a needle in order to make the point how hard it is to save ourselves. (Spoiler; its literally, physically impossible.)

But I think that here we are seeing the opposite. I think we are seeing some very serious understatement here. The son squandered his money in reckless living. It reads to me like those lottery winners that we all see the stories for. Winning millions and hundreds of millions of dollars and being bankrupt within just a few years.

Just in case things are unclear, especially with the ultimate point of these three parables we are looking at last week and this week, our decisions absolutely have consequences. Just because we cannot save or help save ourselves, that it is 100% God in every way shape and form, just because he is sovereign and predestined all things and controls all things from the grand universe to the tiniest of Atoms, and decrees all things, does not mean that we are puppets, that our decisions don’t matter. We make our decisions day by day, moment by moment how we live, how we act, how we respond to what’s going on around us and inside of us.

And this younger son, he made his decisions. He was willfully defiant. He was a lost cause who wanted to be lost. And he lost all his money. He spent it all. It was all gone. He had nothing. And then, after he had lost all his money, a famine hit hard. So, he had no food. Not things were tight. Not he had to go to the local food pantry. He had no food.

And so, he did the only thing he was able to do. He, a Jewish man, hired himself out to a gentile pig farmer. The pig, of course, being the symbol, the epitome of unclean animals. IT seemed like the lowest of lows.

His self-made circumstances, no money, no food, combined with Gods sovereign circumstances, the famine and so on, both combined to bring this main to what seemed like it was the lowest point that the man could ever get to.

He sacrificed his dignity. He sacrificed his respect. He sacrificed his religious convictions. And then it got so bad, that he was looking at the slop he was feeding the pigs and was jealous of how well they were eating. He wanted to eat as well as them, which was not well, make no mistake.

 

And then, what could be said next in the text, what is true and based on the context of the parables, I believe is implied, is “But God…”

The text says that he came to himself. He “came to” as if awakening from a spiritual coma. He woke up as “awoken from God, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.” He was at his lowest point, but God wouldn’t let him stay there. God brought him to his senses.

He thought, I remember the people that worked for my dad. I remember the servants. Even the servants! And they were eating good! They got everything they needed and more. I will go back to my dad; I will repent, and I will beg his forgiveness.

I will tell him, I’m not worthy to be forgiven. I’m not worthy to be called your son. I’m not worthy to be even a lowly servant. I have sinned against you and heaven. I can imagine God bringing a little piece if the scriptures to his mind and heart at that moment, maybe PS 51:4 where David says that all sin is against God.

So, he gets up and starts making his way back to his father’s home. But before he gets there, we see something else. We see that the father, since the son has been gone, he has been actively looking, actively searching for him, actively waiting for him to come back home.

He saw his son while he was still a far way off, just as God sees us when we are still spiritually a far way off. The father saw his son in the distance and ran to him. He embraced him, and grabbed hold of him, again, just as God does to us, to every sinner who repents.

As we established last week at the end, we are loved and received by God before we ever make that decision to repent and trust in him. The son hadn’t even gotten there and hadn’t even said anything, but the father already loved him and received him back.  We always have a home with God if and when we are willing to repent and turn ourselves our to his grace and mercy.

The son, of course, started to recite his spiel that he had rehearsed. But his father wouldn’t have any of it. He sent for his best robe, for a ring, and some shoes. The son didn’t even have any shoes… But he was reconciled back and welcomed back a s a full member of the family.  He was welcomed, he was loved, and he was forgiven by the father. He was also rejoiced over.

The father tells his servants, go prepare the fattened calf for a partay! And to be clear, just in case it needs to be said, the party and the celebration, were in thanksgiving to God, not a godless, self-indulgence party. Just as verses 7 & 10 tell us that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over a sinner who repents.

The son was dead, now he is alive again! Just as Adam sinned and brought spiritual death to the human condition, so too did Jesus, the Second Adam, makes us spiritually alive, bringing us a new heart and a new spirit through the Holy Spirit.

We then are born again. Was dead, now alive. Was lost, now found. Time to celebrate.

 

 

But not everyone was happy.

 

The older son, remember him? He was out in the field working, as he always was. He was dutiful, he was responsible, he was hardworking. He heard the singing and dancing and asked what was going on. What’s the big hullaballoo?

“Your brother is back, and your dad is throwing a party because he is all the way back! He is safe and sound and back a part of the family!”

 

Well, make no mistake, the brother was angry! Just like the Pharisees grumbling about the tax collectors and sinners. The brother wouldn’t take part in the celebration. He couldn’t bring himself to be happy for the brother. The Father came out and tried to bring him in to join. Tried to get him to be happy for his father and his brother.

The brother lashed out: “It’s not fair! He left. He hurt my father. He squandered his opportunity. Not me! I never left. I have been loyal and steadfast. I followed the rules. I have been responsible.” “It’s not fair! You never threw me a party. You never slaughtered the fattened calf for me!”

But the fathers love and forgiveness were great and unconditional. He was brought back in the fold like nothing ever happened.

Now, when we look at application of some of these parables, one of the biggest things we need to remember is that we are not Jesus. We can’t and shouldn’t automatically do the exact and complete things that Jesus does in these stories.

Is this story an example of how we should always run a business? No.

Is this an example of how we should, without exception, run our family and personal relationships? No.

There are times and places to draw lines. There are times to remember that we are called to forgive, but not forget. There are times to reward loyalty and dedication and steadfastness.

 

But that’s not how God’s grace works in relation to salvation. God’s grace is scandalous. It is undeserved. It is unfair from the world’s perspective.

It reminds me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20. In Sinclair Fergusons book, The Whole Christ, he talks about this parable and the scandalous Ness of God’s grace. He points out that its not until the workers who showed up early and worked all day long, not until they saw the workers at the end of the day get the same pay, they did, it was only then that they got upset. It was Gods grace that revealed hidden legalism in their hearts.

That mindset, “I deserve it! Especially because they didn’t deserve it and they got it. So, I should especially get it because I deserve it.” This subtle form of Legalism is heading in all of our hearts.

We see in verses 30 that the older brother won’t even calls him his brother, he just spits it out in disgust, “That son of yours…”

The Father responds, the grace I show him has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t affect you one bit. It doesn’t take away anything from you. Other people being saved doesn’t take away anything from your salvation. Them receiving grace does not take away from grace you already received.

We see in this part of the story that Jesus is still and will continue to call the Pharisees to repent and join him in the kingdom of Heaven. The offer never stops being presented. The plea never stops being made.

The father tells the older brother, it is right and proper to rejoice. It is right and proper to rejoice over your brother coming back home. It is right and proper to rejoice in each and every one of us who was lost and is now found. Each and every one of us who was dead and is now alive.

The father is telling the son, I believe, that if you repent and come to me, we will rejoice for you as well. For then you will have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life and will be brought home.

God often will bring us through the far country in order to wake us up and bring us home. And we see this, and we see How Great the fathers love for us. That we will always be welcome home. That he will never stop actively looking for us, searching for us and waiting for us.

We also need to remember that as often as we put ourselves in the younger brothers’ shoes, more often Id says, we are actually in the older brothers’ shoes. God, I’m doing this work for you. I’m loving you and serving you and being loyal and steadfast. Why don’t I get more grace, more mercy, more whatever?

That heart of ours is an idol factory and that is one of them. That’s one of the reasons that Jesus tells us we need to remember. He is constantly reminding us of his grace and mercy and that it is freely given, as Mike read this morning, so that no man may boast.

And so, we remember. Constantly, regularly. We do it every first Sunday of the month. We remember and we know that we are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to take away the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper, and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” 

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Luke 13:18-21 Jesus is the Son of Man Big God in a Little Package (X-Mas)

Luke 13:18-21

Jesus is the Son of Man

Big God in a Little Package

 

(Note: It has come to my attention that my sermon posts from Nov ’21 through the begining of Feb ’22 have been lost. So i will be reposting them here, meaning they wont necessarily be in the order they were preached and recorded. THank you for your understanding)

All right, please turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 13. As always, of you do not have a Bible or have a need of a Bible, please see me after the service and we can see if we can get one into your hands.

As I was praying and reading over the last few weeks and months, I was trying to figure out which passage of scripture to go over for Christmas. I looked at all the traditional Bible passages and some non-traditional ones as well. They were all good of course, but I was having trouble making a decision, feeling called to a certain passage.

Then I looked ahead and saw this passage in Luke, where we would be, what the next text in our series was and it was too good to be true. This morning is not going to be one of the traditional Christmas texts, but we can see the coming of and the importance of the birth of Christ here this morning.

To set the context of where we are in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has been focusing and prioritizing telling us where our focus should be and what our priorities should be. They need to be on Jesus, on God, on the Kingdom of God and having a right understanding of those things. And he shows us that having our priorities and our focus right will apply itself in our lives through belief, or faith and repentance, leading to eternal life in Christ.

 

And what easier time for us to focus on, our maybe renew our focus, or maybe focus rightly for the first time, focus on the object, the person, the God that The Bible points us to and tells us to focus on, Jesus Christ.

So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s short passage. Luke chapter 13, verses 18-21. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Word.

Luke 13:18-21, Luke inspired by the Holy Spirit records the Words of Jesus:

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Thus says the Word of God.

 

So, a couple of “First-of-all,” s. First, we see that the word, therefore. And as we have seen, the word therefore is a connecting word. That means that this passage is directly connected to the preceding passage or passages. TO contrast, we look ahead and next weeks passage, where it says, “HE went on his way.” That is a transitional phrase. We take a break and move on from the previous passage. There still connected of course, as scripture, but not in a direct connection, inseparable.

And so, last week we saw Jesus miraculously heal a woman, correct a misunderstanding about the Sabbath and before that, the importance of our faith bearing fruit and before that the importance of repenting of our sins.

Now, therefore, he reaffirms the central message of his teachings. Bruce Larson writes:

As varied as his teachings are, the central message is always there. He keeps underscoring that He came to establish a kingdom, the kingdom of God. In that kingdom, there is a new way to live in relationship with God.

 

And here, Jesus gives two examples, two answers to the question, what is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?

 

First, He gives an example of the mustard seed. Proverbially the smallest of the seeds. IT was the smallest of the seeds that were sown in Israel. It is one of the smallest seeds out there, though some take issue with the phrasing, thinking that because there are seeds that are smaller, that Jesus was wrong, and the bible is untrustworthy. Jesus often speaks proverbially though. The key is to understand context. To Israel at that time, for all intents and purposes, there was no smaller seed than the mustard seed, certainly not one that mattered.

Jesus uses the mustard seed in another context as well. In Matthew 17, Jesus extols the power even that small amount of faith, faith the size of a mustard seed. He compares the kingdom of God, and he compares our faith to a mustard seed.

It starts small, tiny in fact. And it grows from so small to very large. The mustard seed grows from the seed up to a very large tree. Big enough to cover the ground and for the birds to nest in its branches. This is also an allusion to Old Testament language where God will encompass not only the nation of Israel, but also the gentiles. The Kingdom of God grows this way. As RC Sproul says it starts with small beginnings and it grows to yield great and vast fruit.

Our faith grows from a small initial, immature, beginning faith and it develops, over time, also yield fruit, into a mature, full grown faith in Christ.

And it all starts with Jesus. It all started in a manger all those 2000 years ago. The most important person, the truest religion, the most monumental started in the most humble and small way possible.

Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

He started as a baby, a human baby, God clothed in flesh. And his ministry grew to encompass everything. Started in Nazareth, well Bethlehem really. It spread to all of the region of Galilee. It spread out to all of Israel and over time it spread over the whole world. All over the known world within 3-400 years and it has been brought across the globe over the last hundreds of years. And the scriptures show us that it also spreads between this world and the next.

One commentator writes that “From a small and seemingly insignificant beginning, the kingdom of God grows- at times invisibly almost imperceptibly- until it reaches all nations with its transforming power.”

 

          Seeds like the Kingdom of God will grow. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes outwardly, like a seed to a tree. Sometimes inwardly like the yeast in the dough, as we are about to see. But always growing.

And like God, clothed in flesh, like the seed that is buried underground and starts to sprout, it all starts with an inward change. The change starts with the Holy Spirit changing your heart, it happens first on the inside, without being seen. But making us different from the inside out, instead of what we often try, which is to show the change in our outward behavior without actually changing us inside.

And Jesus gives another example showing the inner, unseen changing and comparing it to the Kingdom of God. He talks about a little leaven hidden in a large amount of flower. Basically, this is yeast being mixed through some dough.

To me this is a very interesting example that Jesus gives because, again, the leaven being spread throughout a batch of flour is used elsewhere in scripture. Only in other parts its used to show the corrupting power of sin. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 5 how a little bit of sin corrupts much. The principle is that a little bit goes a long way.

It’s that principle that Jesus is using here. A little bit of Jesus goes a long way. It changes everything. It doesn’t take much. A little bit of Jesus transforms a whole person. OF course, it won’t continue to stay a little bit of Jesus. The amount of Jesus in your life should continue to grow and expand, but that’s more in line with the mustard seed.

The kingdom of God is the same way. It starts little, it starts with a small incursion, and then it spreads, and it will end up transforming the entire world. Transformation happens. The old passes by, and there will be a new creation. Our old selves are dead, and we are newly made alive in Christ.

Heaven comes down and invades this world and changes the culture. And we think that we need to fight this war on behalf of the kingdom of God. Yes and no. We are both winning and losing this war. We are destined to both win and lose this war.

We can’t succeed here on this earth. We will not “Christianize” the nation or the world. But we have seen what happens when the church decides that their main mission is to win the culture war. We end up moving to one extreme or the other. We move to the left, embracing friendship with the world over biblical fidelity and holiness. Or we move to the right, and we embrace power, especially political power over love and compassion.

But Jesus tells us that neither of these is right. He came, not to win a culture war, not to be the political leader like Israel was looking for at the time, or like we look for today. He came, not to allow and accept and embrace sin.

No, he came to ransom himself for the needs of the many. He came to acquire and offer salvation to sinners like you and me. He came to bring those who are dead and make them alive. He came to introduce the Kingdom of God to this world. And he succeeded.

RC Sproul writes: Within 40 years from the time Jesus spoke that parable, the kingdom of God had penetrated every locale in the Roman Empire. He started with a handful of people, and they leavened the whole lump. The little seed that was planted by Jesus has since grown into a tree that keeps us in its branches today, 2000 years after the life of Jesus.

          Small things can grow and will grow. The gates of Hell cannot prevail against it because it’s the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of men. With God, all things are possible. With Christ all things are possible. A woman bent in half can be made straight and a culture twisted and distorted can be turned right side up when the people of God act like the people of God.

         

 

          Jesus of Nazareth was born, come down from Heaven, God with us, born all those 2000 years ago. He came to introduce the Kingdom to us and this world. That’s what Christmas is. Celebrating and remembering Jesus’ first coming. We celebrate and remember his birth.

He came, he died on the cross. He rose from the dead three days later and then ascended into heaven. He calls us to respond to the offer of forgiveness and salvation by faith. He calls us to repent of our sins as we become new creations.

And he will be coming back. He introduced the kingdom, and he will return to consummate the kingdom. He will return to recreate the world. The New Heavens, the New Earth, all will be filled with us, His New Creations.

Christmas is the first advent, God come into the world to save sinners. Emmanuel, God with Us. He came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven. And it points us to the second advent, which we look forward to with, among over things, hope, faith, love and peace.

As we celebrate the first advent, the first coming, the introduction of the kingdom, we see the mustard seed sprouting and growing onto a large tree. We see the leaven being mixed into the flour and transforming it from the inside out. And then we will see the final and full manifestation of the kingdom, the transformation of the world completed when he comes again.

Joy to the World is one of the most famous Christmas songs although its not actually written about Christmas, Christs first coming. Instead, it was actually written about his second coming. Look at the lyrics with me as we finish up and then pray.

 

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

 

Luke 15:11-32 Jesus is the Son of Man: The Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Prodigal Son

 

All right! Turn with me in your Bibles, if you will, to Luke chapter 15. As I say every week, if you do not have a Bible or if you need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help get one into your hands.

Well, last week, we introduced the setting of this passage. Tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus, drawn to him, wanting to hear his teaching and to be on the receiving end of his grace. And as they saw this, the Scribes and Pharisees grumbled about it.

Whether they recognized it or not, they were grumbling at Gods grace. We see what had been happening in Jesus’ ministry. Sinners were welcomed. People were getting healed on the Sabbath. Jesus is claiming the power to forgive sins. Heaven was open to those who would repent and submit themselves to God. But those who think they had no need to repent, those who were self-righteous, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

“That’s not fair! I did everything right! Why does HE get to get in!” That’s the mindset that Jesus is addressing in these three parables that he tells here. The first two we looked at last week, the lost coin and the lost sheep. And Jesus point was we don’t save us. We don’t even help Jesus save us. Jesus chooses to save us and its all grace, no merit involved at all.

The third parable is the one we will look at this morning as well, the parable of the prodigal Son. Again, Jesus showing that the themes of grace are at complete odds with self-righteousness and pride.

Let’s go ahead and read the passage, Luke chapter 15, verses 11 through 32. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 15:11-32, The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the Words of Jesus:

 

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

 

Thus says the Word of God.

This is one of those well know Bible stories that we have been talking about. We think we know what the story is and what the story is telling us, and we do, partly, mostly, sort of. There are many lessons that we can learn from the prodigal son, the character of the son himself. And that who we tend to focus on. We can learn lessons from the how he deals with his father, his attitude, his heart, how he lives apart from his family and from God. So many of those lessons are right and good lessons, but not a single one of them are ultimately the point of this story.

We start out seeing that this man, this older man, had two sons. And in those days, in that society, using this example of two sons, when the dad dies, each son gets a portion of the dad’s estate, property, animals, etc. The older son, the first born would get a double share. This means that he would get 66% and the younger son would get 33%.

Now, in this case, the son doesn’t want to wait for his dad to die in order to get his share. So, he goes to the dad and says, “Give me my share of your estate now.”

Now we don’t know the exact thoughts going through the sons’ head at that moment. He could have been thinking “Why should I continue working in this apparent dead-end job? I’m not the one who is going to get it.” OR he could have been thinking, “This is too stifling, I have to be true to who I am and follow my bliss, follow my heart and my dreams.” The result is the same, not willing to step up and take responsibility for his life, his work or anything else.

So, he goes to the father and says, Give me what’s my mine! Now, this was not exactly unheard of, but it was pretty close. At the least in was incredibly uncouth for the son to do this. And the father did it. He separated his estate in two sections, 1/3 and 2/3s. He gave his youngest son his third of the inheritance and as one commentator said, and I know a lot of you can identify with this, “the father allowed him to make his own choice to go his own way.” As a parent, especially as the kids get older, that’s the only thing we can do. They need to live their life and unfortunately, make their own mistakes and bad decisions.

Verse 13 indicates that someone liquidated the inheritance. Either the father to make the division cleaner or the son so he could just get going and whoop it up. Either way the son took of a long way away, away from the eyes of family and people that would have known him. He goes far away, like leaving here and headed to Redding or Sacramento or even San Francisco. And he proceeds to spend his money foolishly. He squandered it with reckless living.

Sometimes we see in the Bible, things can be overstated, over emphasis used, telling us to go through the eye of a needle in order to make the point how hard it is to save ourselves. (Spoiler; its literally, physically impossible.)

But I think that here we are seeing the opposite. I think we are seeing some very serious understatement here. The son squandered his money in reckless living. It reads to me like those lottery winners that we all see the stories for. Winning millions and hundreds of millions of dollars and being bankrupt within just a few years.

Just in case things are unclear, especially with the ultimate point of these three parables we are looking at last week and this week, our decisions absolutely have consequences. Just because we cannot save or help save ourselves, that it is 100% God in every way shape and form, just because he is sovereign and predestined all things and controls all things from the grand universe to the tiniest of Atoms, and decrees all things, does not mean that we are puppets, that our decisions don’t matter. We make our decisions day by day, moment by moment how we live, how we act, how we respond to what’s going on around us and inside of us.

And this younger son, he made his decisions. He was willfully defiant. He was a lost cause who wanted to be lost. And he lost all his money. He spent it all. It was all gone. He had nothing. And then, after he had lost all his money, a famine hit hard. So, he had no food. Not things were tight. Not he had to go to the local food pantry. He had no food.

And so, he did the only thing he was able to do. He, a Jewish man, hired himself out to a gentile pig farmer. The pig, of course, being the symbol, the epitome of unclean animals. IT seemed like the lowest of lows.

His self-made circumstances, no money, no food, combined with Gods sovereign circumstances, the famine and so on, both combined to bring this main to what seemed like it was the lowest point that the man could ever get to.

He sacrificed his dignity. He sacrificed his respect. He sacrificed his religious convictions. And then it got so bad, that he was looking at the slop he was feeding the pigs and was jealous of how well they were eating. He wanted to eat as well as them, which was not well, make no mistake.

 

And then, what could be said next in the text, what is true and based on the context of the parables, I believe is implied, is “But God…”

The text says that he came to himself. He “came to” as if awakening from a spiritual coma. He woke up as “awoken from God, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.” He was at his lowest point, but God wouldn’t let him stay there. God brought him to his senses.

He thought, I remember the people that worked for my dad. I remember the servants. Even the servants! And they were eating good! They got everything they needed and more. I will go back to my dad; I will repent, and I will beg his forgiveness.

I will tell him, I’m not worthy to be forgiven. I’m not worthy to be called your son. I’m not worthy to be even a lowly servant. I have sinned against you and heaven. I can imagine God bringing a little piece if the scriptures to his mind and heart at that moment, maybe PS 51:4 where David says that all sin is against God.

So, he gets up and starts making his way back to his father’s home. But before he gets there, we see something else. We see that the father, since the son has been gone, he has been actively looking, actively searching for him, actively waiting for him to come back home.

He saw his son while he was still a far way off, just as God sees us when we are still spiritually a far way off. The father saw his son in the distance and ran to him. He embraced him, and grabbed hold of him, again, just as God does to us, to every sinner who repents.

As we established last week at the end, we are loved and received by God before we ever make that decision to repent and trust in him. The son hadn’t even gotten there and hadn’t even said anything, but the father already loved him and received him back.  We always have a home with God if and when we are willing to repent and turn ourselves our to his grace and mercy.

The son, of course, started to recite his spiel that he had rehearsed. But his father wouldn’t have any of it. He sent for his best robe, for a ring, and some shoes. The son didn’t even have any shoes… But he was reconciled back and welcomed back a s a full member of the family.  He was welcomed, he was loved, and he was forgiven by the father. He was also rejoiced over.

The father tells his servants, go prepare the fattened calf for a partay! And to be clear, just in case it needs to be said, the party and the celebration, were in thanksgiving to God, not a godless, self-indulgence party. Just as verses 7 & 10 tell us that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over a sinner who repents.

The son was dead, now he is alive again! Just as Adam sinned and brought spiritual death to the human condition, so too did Jesus, the Second Adam, makes us spiritually alive, bringing us a new heart and a new spirit through the Holy Spirit.

We then are born again. Was dead, now alive. Was lost, now found. Time to celebrate.

 

 

But not everyone was happy.

 

The older son, remember him? He was out in the field working, as he always was. He was dutiful, he was responsible, he was hardworking. He heard the singing and dancing and asked what was going on. What’s the big hullaballoo?

“Your brother is back, and your dad is throwing a party because he is all the way back! He is safe and sound and back a part of the family!”

 

Well, make no mistake, the brother was angry! Just like the Pharisees grumbling about the tax collectors and sinners. The brother wouldn’t take part in the celebration. He couldn’t bring himself to be happy for the brother. The Father came out and tried to bring him in to join. Tried to get him to be happy for his father and his brother.

The brother lashed out: “It’s not fair! He left. He hurt my father. He squandered his opportunity. Not me! I never left. I have been loyal and steadfast. I followed the rules. I have been responsible.” “It’s not fair! You never threw me a party. You never slaughtered the fattened calf for me!”

But the fathers love and forgiveness were great and unconditional. He was brought back in the fold like nothing ever happened.

Now, when we look at application of some of these parables, one of the biggest things we need to remember is that we are not Jesus. We can’t and shouldn’t automatically do the exact and complete things that Jesus does in these stories.

Is this story an example of how we should always run a business? No.

Is this an example of how we should, without exception, run our family and personal relationships? No.

There are times and places to draw lines. There are times to remember that we are called to forgive, but not forget. There are times to reward loyalty and dedication and steadfastness.

 

But that’s not how God’s grace works in relation to salvation. God’s grace is scandalous. It is undeserved. It is unfair from the world’s perspective.

It reminds me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20. In Sinclair Fergusons book, The Whole Christ, he talks about this parable and the scandalous Ness of God’s grace. He points out that its not until the workers who showed up early and worked all day long, not until they saw the workers at the end of the day get the same pay, they did, it was only then that they got upset. It was Gods grace that revealed hidden legalism in their hearts.

That mindset, “I deserve it! Especially because they didn’t deserve it and they got it. So, I should especially get it because I deserve it.” This subtle form of Legalism is heading in all of our hearts.

We see in verses 30 that the older brother won’t even calls him his brother, he just spits it out in disgust, “That son of yours…”

The Father responds, the grace I show him has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t affect you one bit. It doesn’t take away anything from you. Other people being saved doesn’t take away anything from your salvation. Them receiving grace does not take away from grace you already received.

We see in this part of the story that Jesus is still and will continue to call the Pharisees to repent and join him in the kingdom of Heaven. The offer never stops being presented. The plea never stops being made.

The father tells the older brother, it is right and proper to rejoice. It is right and proper to rejoice over your brother coming back home. It is right and proper to rejoice in each and every one of us who was lost and is now found. Each and every one of us who was dead and is now alive.

The father is telling the son, I believe, that if you repent and come to me, we will rejoice for you as well. For then you will have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life and will be brought home.

God often will bring us through the far country in order to wake us up and bring us home. And we see this, and we see How Great the fathers love for us. That we will always be welcome home. That he will never stop actively looking for us, searching for us and waiting for us.

We also need to remember that as often as we put ourselves in the younger brothers’ shoes, more often Id says, we are actually in the older brothers’ shoes. God, I’m doing this work for you. I’m loving you and serving you and being loyal and steadfast. Why don’t I get more grace, more mercy, more whatever?

That heart of ours is an idol factory and that is one of them. That’s one of the reasons that Jesus tells us we need to remember. He is constantly reminding us of his grace and mercy and that it is freely given, as Mike read this morning, so that no man may boast.

And so, we remember. Constantly, regularly. We do it every first Sunday of the month. We remember and we know that we are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to take away the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper, and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” 

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Luke 11:14-26 Jesus is the Son of Man Jesus is the Strongest Man

Luke 11:14-26

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is the Strongest Man

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11.

 

We are continuing our series, our journey through the Gospel of Luke. And in this Gospel, Jesus is continuing his travels, making his way towards Jerusalem. His followers, his disciples are travelling with him and being taught by Jesus, being trained by him, mentored in order to continue after Jesus leaves to preach the Kingdom of Heaven is here, it is at hand.

Jesus has been teaching and showing his disciples the two greatest commands; Love God and Love your Neighbor. He has shown them things that can pull them away from loving God; among which include distractedness, anxiety and troubledness over many things.

When this happens, we can often let our preconceived notions about, people, about God, about the Bible, we can let them take over and further get in the way. These preconceived notions can further separate and divide us from God and from those around us.

Jesus is going to deal with some people who have entrenched themselves in their preconceived notions in the passage we look at this morning. It is going to cause these people to ignore all indications of the truth, no matter how clearly it is presented to them.

So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke 11, verses 14 through 26. I encourage you all to grab your Bibles and follow along, whatever your preferred translation. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Luke 11:14-26:

 

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

 

 

May God Bless the reading of his word…

 

So, Jesus is casting out demon, doing what he does. And in this instance, he was casting out a mute demon. This is not meaning that the demon itself could not speak, but that it caused the person it was tormenting to not be able to speak. I think its quite curious that this story about a man not being able to speak because of a demon comes right after the passage about praying and lifting our voices up to God.

 

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

 

Anyway, so this mute man was delivered from this demon, and he spoke. What a feeling this must have been! What emotions this guy must have had! The scriptures don’t say how long he was mute, whether from birth or not, but we know it was long enough that he was known as the mute guy. He was known not to be able to speak. And so, when he spoke and the crowd heard it, there were amazed! People marveled.

And this reaction from the crowd, this astonishment from the mute man, this bona fide miracle that all acknowledged, this is the first step in the point of why Jesus did these types of miracles. Yes, of course, there was the compassion. Jesus had a heart for those who were suffering. He had a heart for those who needed healing.

But the main reason he did the miracles and the healings and the signs and wonders that he did was to testify to his message. It was to testify to his deity. And his message was the kingdom of heaven and salvation from sin. The miracles and healings were down to show that he had the authority to make the claims he was making and the power to back them up.

 

The people saw the miracles, the healings, the casting out of demons, and they were astonished. They marveled! And then they gave credit to Satan.

 

Some attributed his power and abilities to Beelzebub. This was a name referencing the Canaanite god, Baal from the Old Testament and was often a stand in for Satan himself as well.

So, the crowd saw what Jesus was doing, casting out a demon, and they decided that, instead of seeing that this was through the Power of God, they decided that Jesus was getting his powers and abilities from Satan himself.

Isaiah 5:20 could be written about these people in the crowd, as it is written,

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!

 

To see the good being done and to attribute that good to the devil instead of to God, woe, woe to them.

 

WE see another group in the crowd though too. Luke tells us that some in the crowd kept seeking signs to test him. They weren’t willing to give credit of what Jesus was doing to Satan, but neither were they ready to give the credit to God. They were the definition of neutrality that we see towards the end of this passage.

This group reminds me of an episode of MASH that I saw recently. One of the injured soldiers came in and thought he was Jesus Christ. The medics of course don’t believe him and try to get him to tell them who he really is.

He says, “What can I do to convince you?”

Their response, “Well, a miracle would be a good start…”

 

Except that even if the guy really had been Jesus, and if he had been able to do a miracle for them, they still wouldn’t believe. Jesus says this very thing of in Johns Gospel, paraphrasing here, but basically, you are not believing my words, you are not believing my signs and you are not believing what Moses said about me so long ago. You are looking for reasons and finding them to not believe.

 

Jesus of course knew the hearts and the minds and the words of all those in the crowd. And he told them, “Y’all are making no sense whatsoever…”

Why would you fight against yourself? IT makes no tactical sense. Its stupid to fight against yourself. And Satan is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

Satan is smart. He provides and communicates just enough truth wrapped up in his lies. Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 that he can lead astray even the elect. He has power, limited by God, created by God, but he does have some power to do some signs and wonders. To a point. That’s important.

Because the signs and wonders, the power that he posses and shows are not true, against the laws of nature miracles. He can only do so much. We see the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, back in Exodus 7 as an example.

Moses came in proclaiming the name of God, telling Pharoah to let the Israelites go. TO back up his claims and to show the power of God, Moses did signs and wonders. The first couple the magicians in Pharaoh’s court were able to mimic, as if they had the same power that Moses had received from God. But Gods power overwhelmed and defeated the power of the magicians and showed that any signs and wonders done in the power pf Satan are pale imitations of the true miraculous work of God.

 

Jesus then turns to the people and says, “Oh by the way, some of your own people are casting out demons as well. If I’m doing it through the devil, who are they doing it through?”

 

Jesus said, it is by the power of God that I do the things that I do. It is to confirm my words to you that the kingdom of God is here. Most of the pharisees did not believe where Jesus got his power and authority from. Though one did. IN John 3 we see Nicodemus, a pharisee, come to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus says to Jesus in verse 1, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.

Nicodemus was able to set aside his preconceived notions and see what was really in front of him. Many in this crowd were not. The people of that day, like ours, had their own ideas of who God was and who Jesus was. Some of it was a misunderstanding of scripture. Some of it was just purely made up in their own minds. Whichever was the case, they were blinded to the truth.

They were attributing the good works of Jesus to a pagan god, to Satan, instead of to the true God. Because they were unwilling to see the good in Jesus. Because they were unwilling to believe that God would work in this way that they were not expecting.

 

This view of God, that he is Love and he wouldn’t let bad things happen. He wouldn’t punish people for messing up. He allows many paths to himself. Sin is not a big deal and there is no judgment or hell.

This view of the Bible, that it is just a book, not the inspired Word of God. That it’s a book of morals, teachings and life lessons, but holds no authority.

This view that Jesus is not God, or that he is not man. That he was not sinless. That he never died, or that he never rose from the dead. That he never spoke on numerous subjects that the Bible is crystal clear on. That he is not the Word incarnate, that he is not the Alpha and Omega, and that he is not the one who will come to judge.

These preconceived notions are what we need to overcome in order to see the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what he has said. Those things that we are born with, and we naturally hold in ourselves. In our hearts and in our minds. We all have them, and the first key is to recognize them. Because when we see Jesus at work, when we read the Bible, we will read it through the lenses of our preconceived notions.

What you look for, you will find. This is true throughout life but is especially true with the Bible. IF you decide you believe one way about a subject, then you will find validation for it in the Bible.

It could be your view on a specific sin. It could be looking for which political party you want to vote for. It could be any theological issue. What you are looking for, you will find. It doesn’t mean its right, but you will find it. That’s how our hearts and minds work. So, we need the God to raise the cover from our eyes. We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. We need Jesus to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Without them, we are slaves to our preconceived notions.

 

 

Jesus then gives, kind if a parable to the crowd. We see the strong man in his home or fortress. Satan is the strong man in this example. He is the god of this world (little g). God has allowed him to have some power and some authority here for a certain amount of time.

Jesus comes into the earth as the stronger man. He destroys the strong mans kingdom and takes over as the authority in that house. We know from scripture that Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death with his death, burial and resurrection.

Paul writes in Colossians 2:13-15:

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

 

              Its not just that Jesus defeats him in a battle that they just get into, but Jesus is defeating Satan in order to win our souls. He is defeating Satan so that we may be freed from our sins by our faith in Jesus Christ.

RC Sproul writes that yes, we do have to respect and acknowledge the power that Satan has and holds in this world, but not overly so. Jesus already won. He has already shown he is the strongest man. He has already removed Satan’s attempt at a kingdom with the Kingdom of God. Its already finished and The Kingdom of God has already been established.

 

Jesus makes it clear in verse 23, there is no neutrality. You are with Jesus, or you are not. You are a citizen of the kingdom of God, or you are not. There is no dual citizenship. The scriptures make it clear that you cannot serve two masters. You are a follower of Christ or an enemy of Christ. And nothing, not your works, not your attendance, not your knowledge determines which side you are on, only the grace of God giving us faith in Christ.

 

And he who does not gather, scatters. Those who are not a part of the body of Christ, will work at dividing the body of Christ. They will create division and sow disunity among the family of God.

 

We finish this passage in verses 24-26, where Jesus shows us that we cannot do it on our own. The example that Jesus gives here, an unclean spirit, for whatever reasons, boredom, finished job, or exorcism, prayer, sheer will, leaves a body, it goes looking for a new one. But without the Holy Spirit occupying the original host, the unclean spirit just comes right back and is even stronger and does more damage.

That’s not a problem we can solve with good old American ingenuity. We can’t pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We can’t clean up our life by sheer force of will. We need Jesus.

Jesus gives us this example using an unclean spirit, but I see it working practically in our day to day lives if we think about our habitual sins. Some are easy to leave behind when we become new creations in Christ. But others continue to pick at us, nag us, tempt us, sometimes feeling like they own us.

We can make a little bit of outer progress on our own. There are people who change, who quit addictions, we stop cheating, we change quite a bit about their lives and their behavior without turning to Christ. But if they do, they often replace one sin for another, one addiction for another and none of it helps our souls, our hearts or our eternal destination.

That’s all Jesus. He offers salvation. He offers forgiveness of sins. HE is the only way to change who we are deep down inside. The salvation and forgiveness come instantly. But he also changes our heart and our desires. Though not all those desires change instantly. Some happen over time. Some never completely change until we are face to face with God himself.

I had someone make, what I think was a brilliant point to me this week. While we are here on earth, those temptations will not be permanently eliminated completely. But as we dive into Gods Word, and our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be more equipped to deal with those temptations. The temptations might even grow stronger as we grow in Christ. The spiritual sure get fiercer, but our equippedness will also grow stronger, therefore our ability to resist that temptation will grow stronger. And of course, we say our, as if we are the ones doing, but knowing that all the ability, equipment, desire and strength comes directly from the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, we are one in Christ. Christ and his work on the cross are what unites us. His work changes us. His work defeated Satan.  And today we are going to come to the LORDs table, we are going to celebrate communion, celebrate our unity. We are going to this with partaking of bread and juice symbolizing his body and blood and with reflection.

Now, I ask that if you are not a Christian, if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, please just pass the elements along. There is nothing magical about it. There is nothing special about it for those who do not believe that Jesus Christ gave his broken body and his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. There will be no pressure and no judgment.

stemming from that, Communion does not save us, it does not cleanse us, it does not do anything along those lines. It has no power to keep us clean or to restore our relationship with God, only Jesus can do that. This was given to us by Jesus for the purpose of remembering. Remembering who Jesus was. Remembering what Jesus did for us. Remembering how much he loved us and remembering just how big of a deal our sin really is. It is meant to be sobering and somber, but at the same time it is meant to be a celebration.

Thirdly, we are told that we need to come and participate with the right heart. As I said, we do this in remembrance of what he gave up for us, the sacrifice he made. We do this because we remember how big of a deal our sin is, that he died on the cross for it. We need to make sure that our hearts and minds have their hearts set on what’s important and that we seek God’s forgiveness and make our relationships are right with him. In addition to a tradition becoming too important and placed above the word of God, tradition can become bad is by it losing its meaning and becoming simply a ritual. Please take some of this time to reflect on what this tradition means and to make sure that you are prepared to receive. There will never be any judgment if you choose not to participate, and just pass the plate.

Paul recounts to the church in Corinth what I now tell you as well, in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26:

 

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

          We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

 

Luke 10: 25-37 Jesus is the Son of Man Good Samaritan

Luke 10: 25-37

Jesus is the Son of Man

Good Samaritan

(Note: Because of the length of this weeks sermon, the audio will be broken up into two posts, though text will all appear on this post. Sorry for any inconvenience.) 

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn to Luke chapter 10. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or if you need a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get the Word of God into your hands.

If you look at and read through Luke’s Gospel, we have actually been building to this passage for a little while. In Luke 9, we saw a Samaritan village reject the Apostles as they went to prepare the way for Jesus on his travelling teaching journeys. Last week, Jesus prayed in verse 21, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.

          We are going to see this morning an example on one of the wise and understanding, a lawyer, a man who knew the scriptures inside and out, we are going to see how he gets the law wrong, how he gets to love of and the will of God wrong. And how we often get the law and the gospel and the will of God wrong.

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well know stories in the Bible. Unfortunately, as with most of the well-known Bible stories, it is all one of the least understood or most misunderstood stories. When we are too familiar with certain stories, our tendency is to skim by it or to overlook it and not spend enough time reflecting on it and mining the Biblical truths that God has for us in these stories.

Let’s go ahead and read our passage this morning, which includes the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke chapter 10, verses 25 through 37. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along as we read, from your preferred translation.

The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the following Words of Jesus Christ:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

So, in 2008, ABC News did an experiment. Much of what I am sharing with you about this experiment comes directly from the news article.

They placed ads in a newspaper and on Craigslist. The ad said we were looking for people to participate in an “on-camera tryout” for ABC News. Those who responded were interviewed on the phone, and those selected were asked to come to appointments over the course of two days.

When they arrived for those appointments, the volunteers met with an ABC producer who talked to them in general about the audition but did not go into specifics about what they were to do. She explained that each person needed to have a topic to discuss before the cameras, and that she was going to help them select that subject. She then showed each of them a sampling of cards and asked them to pick one.

What appeared to be random was in fact not a choice at all. The topic listed on all those cards was the same: The Good Samaritan story that we are going to look at this morning.

They were given the Sunday school version of the story. A man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men come by and ignore the victim. But a third man, an outcast from society, a Samaritan, comes along next and not only stops to help the man and care for his wounds, but he also takes him to an inn and pays for him to stay in a room there and have meals. Jesus instructs his followers to follow the lead of the Good Samaritan.

After our producer read the story to each person, they were told they were to give a short speech about it for their “audition.” Thinking that the cameras were set up at a nearby studio, they walked the short distance. They set off with the Good Samaritan story fresh in their minds. Following the directions took the volunteers through a small park. They had no idea what would be awaiting them there: actors hired by ABC News.

Two men took turns playing a person in distress. They were seated on the grass directly alongside the path the volunteers were instructed to use. The actors were told to play men clearly in need of help, and both cried, moaned and rocked back and forth. They seemed to clearly need help. Who better to come to their aid than our volunteers, who approached with the Biblical story of helping one’s fellow man echoing in their ears?

The question: Would these participants stop to help? Carrie Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University, expected they would. She predicted they would be suspicious of the situation, and likely to do anything to make themselves look good.

But Keating was in for a surprise: many of the 22 volunteers did not stop. They rushed right by the actors, proceeded to the studio, and gave the speech on the Good Samaritan. Their words were the complete opposite of their actions from just minutes before.

They completely missed the point, much like the lawyer in our story, many, many years before this experiment.

Jesus would often teach in parables. Parables are simple, memorable stories that use common examples or imagery from the culture and use them to teach greater truth. Sometimes the greater truth was painfully obvious and sometimes the truth was hidden. Jesus would, at times explain the meaning of some of the parables, not to the public, but to his disciples.

After teaching a parable early on in his ministry, the disciples asked Jesus what it meant. In Mark 4:11 & 12, Jesus tells them,

        “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

 

“they may indeed see but not perceive,

                and may indeed hear but not understand,

        lest they should turn and be forgiven.

The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. However, sometimes the truth comes through to everyone and, as happens here, is very pointed at the Pharisees, or the religious leaders of the day.

Now, sometimes I think the Pharisees get a bad rap. I don’t mean that they were right when we think they were wrong. But I mean that all the things that we pile on and pick on the pharisees for, we are often guilty of ourselves. I think this parable here is a perfect example of that, whether we want to think of it that way or not.

First, again, as I said at the beginning, we remember the context of this passage. Jesus was rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, praying to God the Father. Things were going well. And part of Jesus prayer was thanking the Father that he had hid from the wise and understanding what the Truth is and exactly who the Father and the Son are. And then this lawyer, this guy full of knowledge, this pharisee stands up and proves Jesus’ point.

We see here that the expert in the law asks a very deep and profound question. Now, he just thought he was trying ask a difficult question to try to trip up Jesus or get Jesus to contradict himself. But he asked a question that people everywhere and, in every time, have been asking and we have here a very clear answer. The lawyer asks in v. 25, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is asking what do I need to do to be saved?

Now this is a common and understandable question, but there are actually two issues with it. First is the lawyer’s motivation. As just mentioned, he wasn’t asking with a pure heart, but asking the question to put Jesus to the test, to trip him up. Secondly, the man asks, “What shall I do?” His focus was on himself, and what he needed to do, instead of what God and his grace and his mercy.

There was an old rabbinical saying, common and famous at the time, that said, “Great is Torah, for it gives to them that practice it, life in this world and in the world to come.”

And in that, we see the focus on obeying the rules, on earning salvation, on being good enough. But the scriptures make it clear that it is not our goodness that grants salvation and life in the world to come, but God and his richness and mercy and love that bestow it upon us.

Jesus, as is the norm for him, answers this question with a question himself. He asks the man, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Good teachers will do this. If you ask a question that you already know the answer to, they will redirect you in a way that has you say the answer and think through it instead of just telling you the answer.

And the man did give the correct answer. He replied to Jesus, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus affirmed this answer as correct.

So, there you go. The lawyer knows what he had to do. Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the summation of the law. And what he will sometimes forget, is that the law does, sort of, offer salvation. If we were able to keep the law, all of it, 100%, outwardly and inwardly, then we would be able to be saved by keeping the law. But as the entire Bible, points out, pretty much the second biggest theme of the Bible, behind pointing to Jesus himself, is that we can’t keep the law.

Jesus is clear in the Sermon on the Mount that, even if we keep it outwardly, we still often and continually sin in our hearts and our minds. Paul points out a couple times that if anyone could make a claim to keeping the law, he would be able to make that claim, and yet, he calls himself the chief of all sinners.

And so, Jesus gives the layer a legal answer. You know what to do. DO it, do it perfectly, do it completely and you will live.

Now, all of us will come to the point where we have a choice to make. If God has changed our heart, opened our eyes, if He has chosen to reveal himself and the truth to us, then we will recognize who we are as sinners, undeserving of eternal life. We will look for God’s mercy and his grace and we throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus.

However, often, before we get to that point, we will refuse to see the truth. WE will entrench our selves in our preconceptions. We will reject grace when it’s offered to us and we will insist on living life ourselves, do it on our own, the American idea of rugged individualism and pulling our selves up by our bootstraps. WE dig in that if we just work harder, try more, get better and shove ahead with brute force and will power, that we can do it. It’s a lie from the devil.

We will do everything we can to justify our views, our opinions, our actions, our beliefs and everything else about us. Just as the lawyer does in verse 29.

The lawyer’s heart was all wrong. The scriptures show us that the lawyer was trying to justify himself when he asked, “who is my neighbor?” Instead of genuinely asking and looking for who his neighbor was and how he could help them, he was looking for loopholes, looking for reasons to not help. He was looking for the least that he could do. The least he could do to not help those around him…To not help those different than him…To not help those he did not like…. To not help those he did not know…

By teaching him this parable, Jesus is showing the lawyer, and us, that the question is not Who is my neighbor? But instead, Am I loving my neighbor?

The lawyer is asking, Who is my neighbor that I have to love? AND underneath, by extension, Who is my non neighbor that I don’t have to love? This is what we often do. I don’t want to love that person, or, as also applicable to this parable, I don’t want to love that group of people…

Jesus twists it, so the question is not Who is my neighbor, but instead, Whose neighbor am I?

 

Now, Jesus is really going to twist things up as he goes ahead and tells those listening and the lawyer the parable. The details that Jesus uses in this parable are not incidental or accidental. The man was walking from Jerusalem down to Jericho. This was a 15-mile journey and the road here was very treacherous. It was steep, rocky and had a lot of twists and blind turns. It was notorious for  having many bandits  being a very dangerous journey. This was well known for having these dangers and people knew the risks involved in this journey. Often times people would wait at one end of the journey for a group of them to gather so that they would at least have a little it of safety in numbers.

So, this man got mugged and beaten and was left lying on the side of the road, half dead. Now, even though this was an infamous, dangerous walk, many people did take this journey alone as well. It took 8 hours for the journey, and sometimes, time was of the essence. It was the only way to get between these two cities.

Now, Jesus brings along a Priest. If anyone would see a man in need and stop and help him, to show him mercy and kindness it would be a priest, right? He sees the man, crosses to the other side of the road and just walks on by. He had a job to do, he was ceremonially clean, and he didn’t have time to deal with this situation and then get ceremonially clean again.

The law at the time was looked at as the ‘Be-all, end-all” and it didn’t matter what had to be sacrificed, or what the motivation behind it was. In this case, there would have been no reason, no excuse in the priests’ mind to becoming ceremonially unclean, not even a different Law of God.  If the priest had stopped, the best-case scenario for him was that he would be unclean until the next sundown. That’s assuming he had time to get home and go through the cleansing process. If the body was a dead body and the priest came in contact, he would be unclean for a minimum of 1 week. During these times of being unclean, he would not be able to enter the temple or take part in any of the ceremonies.

However, some also speculate that he knew he was making the wrong decision and that’s one of the reasons why he crossed over to the other side of the road, so that the man would not recognize him if he survived, and this story later got out. Either way, the priest was not willing to take time out of his busy schedule doing God’s work, to be a neighbor to this beaten broken man.

After he passes by, Jesus brings along a Levite down the road. Instead of crossing to the other side of the road, the Levite actually looked at the situation before deciding to continue on his way. Levites were of the same family, in the line of Aaron that the priests were. In modern terms, if the priests were the pastors, the Levites were the elders, the deacons, the worship leaders, or other people in the church that work behind the scenes to keep the church running.

Just like the priest, the Levite knew the Law and had it memorized since he was a young man. He knew the laws about loving your neighbor, which are all throughout the Old Testament. But, for whatever reason, he did not want to take the time and effort to stop and help this man. He looked at the situation and it was very likely that he could see the gravity of the situation, that he could see that the man would surely die if he did not get any help, but also that the man could be saved. The Levite saw what was happening and then crossed over to the other side and passed on by. These men thought they had the duty to not stop and help a dying and beaten man.

James 4:17 tells us, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

          Now, the people listening likely thought they knew where this story was going. They probably expected the next one to come along and help the beaten man was going to be a common, everyman Israelite. They thought it was going to be a critique of the religious establishment. Instead, Jesus throws everybody through a loop and has the next guy walking along the path be a Samaritan.

A Samaritan! What is he going to do? Finish the man off? See if the robbers and muggers missed anything? At best, he will just do what the other two did and just pass on by. I mean, he is just a Samaritan.

This was the mindset of the Jews at the time regarding the Samaritans, and vice versa. There is no putting it mildly, they disdained each other.

The Samaritans were partial Jews who had been living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Exile in Old Testament times. When the Northern Kingdom was conquered and captured, they intermarried with the culture around them and were often guilty of worshiping false gods and idols.

The Jews looked down on them, mocked them, made jokes at their expense, and this hatred was returned back at the Jews by the Samaritans. When traveling to certain areas of Israel during this time, the quickest, most direct route would be through Samaria, for example from Jerusalem to Nazareth, where Jesus was from, or the Sea of Galilee. Instead of going through Samaria, most Jews went far out of their way, going around the area, adding much time and distance to their journey.

The Jews would say that Samaritans “should be pushed into a ditch and not pulled out.”

So, when a Samaritan comes walking down the path and sees a Jew, beaten and bloody, there is no inclination that he would stop and help.

And yet, he does. He stopped his journey. He bandaged the wounds of this man. Luke, who was a physician, noted that the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds. But he didn’t stop there. He lifted the man up and put him on his own personal donkey and took him to the nearest inn. It was here that he essentially put a down payment and opened up a tab at the inn for whatever the beaten man needed.

The two denarii that the Samaritan gave to the innkeeper would pay for a few weeks of care for the beaten man. Now, we do notice that the Samaritan still had to go about his life. He still had to deal with his own business and take care of his own stuff. But he did that while taken care of and loving this beaten man.

Jesus asks the lawyer in v. 36, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

And you can almost hear the contempt and defeat coming out of the lawyer’s mouth when he says in v 37 “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even refer to him directly, just, “That one…”

 

It hurts, doesn’t it? Those times when unbelievers, atheists, pagans, when they outperform us? When they out compassion us? When they out love us? When they outlive us biblically? That hurts. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to see it. We see an unbeliever doing biblical things and we will find a way to deny that it is biblical. We will cover our eyes and see things through the wrong point of view.

We see that throughout the parable that Jesus told. See, each group in this story saw the man who was beaten very differently. The lawyer saw the man as a subject to discuss. The robbers saw the man as someone to use and exploit. To the priest and Levite, the man was someone to avoid at all costs. The innkeeper sees the man as a customer. To the Samaritan, the man was a human being, a man worth caring for and helping, a neighbor.

  The lawyer in this story was full of head knowledge. But he would not see or admit the truth. He knew what the commandments said about loving God and loving neighbors. He knew who his neighbors were. The priest and the Levite in the story, They Knew! They knew that they were supposed to stop and help the man. And yet, they didn’t. Knowledge without application.

James is quite clear in his letter that faith without works is dead.  This if course is not saying that works are necessary for our salvation, but that true faith will produce works. And those good works are a sign of a changed and repentant heart.

Back to the experiment I talked about earlier. They had divided the volunteers into two groups at the start. Everyone heard the Good Samaritan story but only half of the volunteers got something more: time pressure. That group was now facing a dilemma. In order to get their chance at something they really wanted — a chance to be on TV — they would have to hurry. And researchers discovered, that made a big difference in their behavior.

Only about 35 percent of our volunteers in a hurry stopped to help our actors. But almost 80 percent of those who were not rushed stopped to help.

Since the volunteers thought they were rushing in order to do something they thought would be beneficial to them, perhaps it is not surprising that time pressure would influence them. The researchers found that being rushed changed people’s actions. Time pressure was the only significant factor the researchers found that they concluded would determine if a particular volunteer would stop to help a stranger.

Keating says that other research since then has shown that it is possible to make anyone disregard the needs of others if enough pressure is introduced. She concluded that in this experiment, not stopping to help was not an indication at all of whether any particular participant is a good or moral person. She said any of us might act in the same way.

And we do, every day. But we shouldn’t.  Every subject in this experiment knew that the right thing to do was stop. But many of them didn’t. Would we? Do we? I said earlier that the lawyer asked the wrong question. Again, to reiterate, the question was not Who is my neighbor? But should have been, Am I loving my neighbor?

Now, I have had church people who have told that my neighbor is the person sitting next to me in the pew at my church. The only conclusion to draw from this is that the person is doing the same thing as the lawyer in this story, justifying themselves as to who they do and do not have to love.

And yet, the definition according to Jesus, of who is my neighbor, is any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.

 

We need to remember this, “any other person whom we chance to meet.” It doesn’t matter who it is. God put them into our life, into our Day for a reason.  It doesn’t matter if it is someone we know and don’t get along with. It doesn’t matter if it is someone of a different religion, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu… It doesn’t matter even if they live by different moral codes than the one that God gives to us. It doesn’t matter if they have different political views than us. In other words, it doesn’t matter if they are Republican, Democrat, capitalist, Communist, socialist, fascist.  We are to love them. It’s not a choice available to us to not love them.

But in our minds, we are justifying ourselves, asking, “Do you know how long that would take?” or “But I am on my way to go do this or go do that” “But its inconvenient,” “How much will it cost me?”  I know I do this all the time. But when Jesus said, at the end of v.37, “Go and Do Likewise,” he was not just talking to the lawyer, or to the Pharisees, or to the Jews. He was also talking to us. And the commands he gives to us, they are rarely easy.

One of the aspects that the lawyer missed, is that the law the lawyer referenced earlier was to Love your neighbors as yourself. That doubly shows that the question of “Who is my neighbor?” was an invalid question. If we were beaten, robbed and mugged, how would we want to be treated? Which of these three figures would we want to be the ones to come along? Whatever our answer is, and most of us, if not all, would want someone to act like the Samaritan, stopping to help us, that is how we treat the people we come across in our lives.

I mentioned earlier that each character in the story saw the man who was beaten in a different way. One that I did not yet mention was Jesus. To him each and every character in the story, from the lawyer, to the pharisees, to the priest and the Levite, the innkeeper, the Samaritan and the man who was beaten and robbed, he sees them all the same way, as a sinner in need of a savior, as someone in need of forgiveness and someone who by all objective standards is not worth the time to die for and take care of. It doesn’t cost God anything to not save us. It did cost Jesus his human life to die for us. But, as God, being in complete control, he knew the outcome. He knew that, though we were not worth dying for, the act of dying for us was worth it. There was nothing reckless about Jesus’ love for us. God knows the end of the story and all the outcomes because he wrote the end of the story.

Like the Samaritan, he sees us beaten up by sin, by grace through faith, picks us up and put down a down payment on the price of our sins and has an open tab for us, not matter what it costs to win us, for those that are his, he did it. No one else has been able to do that because no one else was God and man. No one else was able to atone for our sins and offer forgiveness. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, any other religious figure that people follow, they are the lawyer, the priest and the Levite, unable to help us in our sin. Only one can offer forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus said that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE Life. Paul wrote that God showed us what love was, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Love him, trust him, repent and believe, as Jesus says, and let him show us how to love others.

 

 

 

 

 

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