And As They Sailed He Fell Asleep

The Backyard Carnival is happening. It is happening in just under one hundred forty-five hours and thirty minutes. It is happening with one hundred fifty hot dogs and a couple hundred bottles of water (there will be lemonade, too). It is happening with cotton candy and popcorn and snow cones. It is happening with face painting and prizes and gifts. It is happening with thirty or so volunteers. Three hundred homes have been told that it is happening. It is happening to love people by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

And the big question we must be asking is, what are we to learn? Or better yet, what do we need to learn? Pay close attention to how we are asking this question.

And As They Sailed He Fell Asleep

Luke 8:22-25 is short. Matthew tells of this moment and it too is short (Matthew 8:23-25). Mark also tells of this moment and it is longer, but not by much (Mark 4:35-41). Why do all three of these Gospels share with us such a short moment?

This is reminiscent of Jonah chapter one in the Old Testament. There Jonah boards a ship. It sets sail and Jonah sleeps. A massive storm comes down upon it and Jonah still sleeps. He awakes only at the urging of the captain. The end result is that God calms the storm.

In all three of these Gospel accounts, Jesus boards a boat with his disciples. The disciples set sail and Jesus sleeps. A massive storm comes down upon them and Jesus still sleeps. He awakes only at the urging of the disciples. The end result is that Jesus calms the storm.

Again, all three of these Gospels share for us this moment – Jesus in a boat with his disciples. They sail. Jesus sleeps. This is the only record of Jesus sleeping. Why did Jesus sleep? The answer seems obvious, right? In Luke 4, there was that day that Jesus healed and restored lives, seemingly that of an entire town, and he did so all evening through dawn the next day. In Luke 6, there was that day Jesus prayed all evening through dawn the next day. Then throughout Luke 6 and Luke 7, Jesus gives so much time to people, teaching and meeting their needs. He is tired by this point, exhausted even! Mark tells us that he got to enjoy a pillow (Mark 4:38)! It is significant that he slept, but more than simply because he was exhausted.

He Got Into a Boat With His Disciples

Notice Luke 8:22. “One day he got into a boat with his disciples.” This could be the most important verse in this short moment. Who was in the boat? Jesus and his disciples. More importantly, Jesus is with his disciples in a boat. Who are these disciples? Simply, a disciple is a student. Jesus is with his students – those learning from him – in a boat!

The word disciples is only used twice in Luke 8. It is there in Luke 8:9. Jesus tells his disciples a parable and his disciples ask a question. “What does it mean?” He tells what the parable meant. It was about hearing the Word of God and the four kinds of people who hear the Word of God. Sundays are filled with those who hear the Bible. And his point in telling the parable is for his disciples to take care then how you hear the Word of God (Luke 8:18).

After this Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples. The boat immediately follows the parable. Why? There was something more to learn. The parable was for their learning. What could the boat, this lake, this storm be for?

Keep looking at Luke 8:22. Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” Jesus is with his disciples. Jesus said to do something. And Jesus is with them as they do it (he is just asleep). Note those three things.

So, why share this moment with us? There is something to learn. Keep in mind that these disciples knew this boat; were familiar with it. It was someone’s boat, one of these disciples. These disciples knew this lake; were familiar with it. These disciples knew how to sail this boat across this lake; were familiar with it. I would say that these disciples knew all the “pitfalls” of sailing a boat across this lake. And they most likely could see the destination.

But I also want to stress that the disciples were in the same boat together. So, there was something for them to learn, yes individually, but also collectively or corporately. It is why we asked the question the way we asked it. When it comes to this carnival, what do we need to learn? Do not lose sight of this, though: who else is in the same boat? Jesus. Jesus is with them; he is asleep, but he is with them. What does that say about Jesus?

And Then Came the Windstorm

The disciples do what Jesus said to do. And then came the windstorm. It was a literal storm. The word for windstorm is what describes a hurricane. This is a lake, but not unusual for this lake. Sudden, terrifying, unexpected, threatening storms were and are normal for this lake – the Sea of Galilee. The wind is just half of it. With wind comes waves. Luke calls them “raging” (v. 24). Matthew calls this a great storm (Matthew 8:24) which is the Greek word seismic. This was an earthquake on water!

These disciples knew this lake and knew these storms. It reminded me of something Jesus said in John 16:33. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Notice the disciples never hesitated; never objected; never paused to remind everyone, including Jesus, about the unexpected storms famous for this lake. No one said, “Hold on everyone, just a second. Let’s remember and consider that although it is sunny and pleasant now, things could change in a second.”

Why not? Who expects a storm doing what Jesus said to do?

We have these kinds of storms; not lake storms, but doing the work of the ministry storms. These are storms when doing what Jesus said to do. But remember: Jesus is with his disciples. Jesus said for them to do something.  And Jesus is with them as they do it.

These storms can be anything, anything that I end up describing as frustrating, disappointing, discouraging, disheartening, not going as I thought it should go; maybe even devastating. And the storm gets bigger and more intense the longer I keep looking at the storm, thinking about the storm and its effects.

Look at the storm’s effects: the boat is filling with water and now the disciples, the boat, and the mission are all in danger.

The disciples have been doing all they can, in their own ability, to maintain survival, until they come to this undeniable end: we no longer can do it. We now need Jesus.

What is there to make of Jesus still being asleep? He has been asleep the whole time! No storm worries Jesus. The course of things get disrupted and he is always at peace. He is always perfectly calm.

Where is Your Faith?

Notice Luke 8:24. “And they went and woke him…” What is it that finally wakes Jesus? His disciples! “We are perishing!” It was his disciples and their urgent plea which woke him, finally. And it was not until they realized “We are perishing!” They accomplished with their urgent plea what the storm could not do – they woke Jesus up! The storm never disturbed Jesus, but something did.

Jesus awakes. Rebukes the wind. Rebukes the raging waves. “Peace. Be still.” And it all halted at that very moment. The monster wave about to crash into the hull of the boat never made it. All was calm at the very moment Jesus spoke. All was calm. All was bright. Birds were chirping. There was calm. His disciples were a mess, but all was calm.

Now Jesus will ask a question. “Where is your faith?” Notice his disciples’ response: fear. Jesus just did something that no one in the history of the world has done, is doing or will ever do. He controlled the weather (cf. Psalm 107:23-32).

In Luke, Jesus has demonstrated his power and authority over the natural; his power and authority over the supernatural. In Luke, he has met the need of a man by the power and authority of his bare word. In Luke, he has met the need of a mom by the power and authority of his bare word. There is power and authority in his bare word.

This same power and authority applies to going across to the other side of the lake. Notice verse twenty-six which belongs to this short moment: they get across to the other side of the lake.

Listen to the response of his disciples. “Who then is this?” He is the Creator. He is God. He is the Lord who will provide. He is the God who is with me. And there is power and authority when he calls us to do something like Matthew 28:16-20 or Matthew 5:13-16 or John 13:34-35 or Matthew 6:34 or Acts 1:7-8. And so what do we do when storms arise?

Jesus is with his disciples. He has called us to do something. And he is with us as we do it. Why, though, did he question their faith? They lost sight, in the storm, of Jesus’ power and authority. They witnessed it with the storm, but lost sight of it in doing what he said to do. He was with them. And he was with them as they did it.

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They Rejected God’s Purpose For Themselves

In Luke 7, Jesus met the need of a man by the power of his bare word. In Luke 7, Jesus met the need of a mom by the power of his bare word. And in Luke 7, the word about Jesus went here and it went there; it went everywhere, even across the Dead Sea, up a hill, into a fortified palace and down into its dungeon.

In Prison Waiting, Waiting and Waiting

There sat a man nearly forgotten. Nothing like him and no one like him had been seen and experienced in over four hundred years. God had sent the most famous angel from heaven to announce his gender reveal and coming birth. He was the one to prepare humanity to behold the greatest joy in human history. His name was John the Baptist. And yet however long Luke 4 and Luke 5 and Luke 6 can be measured, some suggest a year, there has been no mention of him. And there he sat in prison waiting, waiting and waiting.

There now stood his disciples. What was John thinking when he saw them? He then was told about all these things. He was told about Jesus and that the sick are healed. He was told about Jesus and that the lame now walk. He was told about Jesus and that lepers – it seemed so impossible – are now made clean. He was told about Jesus and that the dead are restored to life. He was told about Jesus and that demons obey his voice. He was told about Jesus and that the gospel is not being limited to anyone. And could it be that John was now thinking, “But what has he done for me?” The only response he could muster was, “Are you the one to come, or shall we look for another?”

Does this question say anything about John? He is sitting in prison. He has been sitting in prison. He has been sitting in prison for a really long time. Is he downcast? Is he defeated? Is he disheartened? Is he disillusioned? Is he disappointed? What is he asking? What are you doing Jesus? What are you doing in my life? Can I be certain of you? Are you who I am supposed to put my trust in? Or is there another? Does this sound familiar to you? What should we do with questions like these? “When you doubt Jesus, do you know where you go? You go right to Jesus.” John called out two of his disciples to go up out of the dungeon, back through the fortified palace, down the hill, across the Dead Sea and go right to Jesus with this very question (cf. Luke 7:18-19).

Waiting, Waiting and Waiting Some More

The two disciples make their way to Jesus. The two disciples approach Jesus. Jesus turns his attention to them. The two disciples, without hesitation, ask Jesus this very question. “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” Jesus makes them wait, wait and wait some more. He says nothing. At the sound of that very question, Jesus begins to heal many people. He is demonstrating, right before their very eyes, his power and authority over the natural and the supernatural. And for the first time in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus restored sight to the blind. How long did Jesus make these two disciples wait to hear his answer? He turned his eyes toward them and finally spoke. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the sick are healed; the lame walk; lepers – it seemed so impossible – are made clean; the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life; and the gospel is not being limited to anyone (cf. Luke 7:20-22). This answer sounds like the same thing, only different to what these disciples have already shared with John. This is what prompted John’s question in the first place!

This answer, like the things reported to John, reflect Old Testament passages like Isaiah 42:6-7 or Isaiah 61:1-2. However, those Old Testament passages also mention setting the prisoner free which is lacking in both Jesus’ answer and the things reported to John. And the question, which really is the reason for Luke 7:18-35, is asked by a man sitting where? He is in prison! And who is in prison asking this question? That’s right, John the Baptist sitting in prison waiting, waiting and waiting some more.

There is something, though, in Jesus’ answer. It is different than the things first reported to John by his disciples. Listen to Luke 7:23. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Let’s pay attention to that word offend. This is the answer to John’s question. This is the answer that makes all the difference. John may have been waiting for more than what Jesus was doing and what Jesus answered. He may have been looking to be set free. He knew those Old Testament passages. And he could have been waiting for more. He could have been looking for Jesus, the Messiah, the long awaited promised One, to do the things Jesus was doing, but also to bring judgment down upon the wicked and the unrighteous and the oppressor. And he would be right. The Messiah would be doing the things Jesus was doing. And the Messiah will also bring judgment down upon the wicked and the unrighteous and the oppressor. So, why is Jesus, if he is really the Messiah, really the one I am supposed to put my trust in, taking his time? with me and with the wicked and the unrighteous and the oppressor? It is Luke 7:23. In a sense, Jesus is saying, “John, do get disappointed with the way I choose to work. You know the Bible. But I do things not according to your timetable. John, listen to what I am saying and you will be blessed.” Do you know what I think that blessing is? Peace. Contentment.

There is an Old Testament verse that fits what Jesus is saying here. “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165; the King James translation uses the word offend which is the identical meaning in Luke 7:23).

More Than a Prophet

Get ready. If not for John’s question, there would be no Luke 7:24-35. And we want to ask, what is it here for?

The two disciples of John get the answer and make their way back across the Dead Sea, up a hill, into a fortified palace and down into its dungeon, again. Jesus turns to the crowds which have gathered, to say something only they will hear. The two disciples of John will not hear it. John will not hear it. And most likely he will never hear it. “Why were you so eager to see John?” Jesus asks. “Why were you so interested in John? Did you want to meet some easygoing man, some man that just goes with the flow? No. Did you want to meet some man that keeps up with the latest and greatest cultural trends? No. Why were you so eager to see John? Was it because he was a prophet?” Jesus answers it for them. “Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet” (Luke 7:26). How was John more than a prophet? I love this answer. Listen to Luke 7:27. This is the answer. “This is he of whom it was written.” John was a prophet just like Isaiah and just like Jeremiah and just like…Malachi. But he was more than a prophet because this is he of whom it was written.

What was written? It is the rest of Luke 7:27 which is a recitation of Malachi 3:1. When was it written? It was written over 400 years prior to Luke 7:27. Who wrote it? It was written by the last prophet of the Old Testament. His name was Malachi. What is it about? How was John more than a prophet? He was the first prophet in a really long time. And Jesus is saying that John was the one Malachi foretold. Jesus is saying that John was the one to prepare humanity to behold the greatest joy in human history.

Now Jesus finishes it off by essentially saying that John was the greatest man to have ever lived (7:28). And part of his greatness is that he prepared humanity to behold the greatest joy in human history and he was steadfast and immovable when it came to this purpose God had for him. Mark that down. The culture had an expectation of him and he would not try to live up to it or give into it. He would not dance to their tune (7:31-33). This is something that I think Jesus also applies to himself (7:34-35).

They Rejected God’s Purpose For Themselves

But the reason for Luke 7:24-35, the reason it is here, is for us. There is something here specifically written for our instruction. And it is something that has been called one of the most terrifying sentences in the English language. It is Luke 7:29-30.

When the crowds heard Jesus talk about John “they declared God just,” which I think is a most profound statement. These crowds included tax collectors. Who were they? Enemies of Israel and therefore enemies of God. They worked for Rome, the enemy. This was a group of people treated as those kinds of people no one else wanted. And here they are declaring, “God is just! God is right! He is righteous!” Why are they responding like this? Listen to the rest of Luke 7:29. “Having been baptized with the baptism of John.” So this excitement has something to do with what Jesus said about John and John’s baptism.

What was John’s baptism? It was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, something that prepared humanity for the greatest joy in human history. The baptism did not give repentance or the forgiveness of sins. It was the response of those who had confessed their sins and their deepest need for forgiveness from a righteous and holy God. And when Jesus said that this man named John was more than a prophet, a man promised a long time ago to prepare you to meet the greatest joy in human history, they could not contain their excitement. They worshiped the Holy God because the purpose he had for John opened their eyes to God’s purpose for them, even for one who no one else wanted. What is God’s purpose?

Then comes the terrifying part. There was a group called the Pharisees and lawyers. This was a religious group filled with those who knew the Bible. It was filled with those who thought that their good works and their dedication to God’s commands would see them through to heaven. Listen to what Luke says about them. “They rejected the purpose of God for themselves” (7:30). How? “Not having been baptized by him [John].” They rejected the baptism! They rejected the message! They rejected the need to repent for the forgiveness of sins. In so doing, they rejected John and in rejecting John they were rejecting being prepared to meet the greatest joy in human history. This joy is Jesus.

What is God’s purpose? This word purpose [counsel, plan or will] is a word used in Acts 2:23 referred to there as definite – the definite purpose, the definite counsel, the definite plan or definite will of God. Meaning, this is pretty clear. This is pretty explicit. There is no debate, no wiggle room. This is God’s purpose. What is God’s purpose? Repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Next big question is this: does God have a purpose for me? The answer is yes. What is God’s definite purpose for me? Repentance for the forgiveness of sins. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:4-5). What is repentance? It is the turning of the heart away from sin and turning the heart toward God. It is turning the heart away from a behavior God hates toward a behavior God loves. It is turning away from relying on self and turning toward the mercy and strength of God. It is turning the heart away from the fleeting pleasures of sin toward eternal joys of God in Jesus Christ.

And so, what am I doing with God’s purpose for me?

Blessed Is The One Not Offended By Me

After two years, the wait was finally over. All 200,000 words filling 448 pages with 1,100 footnotes was handed to the top authority. Ninety minutes would be needed to talk about it before 327 million people would be able to read it. And it takes nineteen hours, three minutes to read or eighteen actors to perform it live at a church. And people are talking. Morning, afternoon and evening, people are talking and will be talking some more…about the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election better known as the Mueller Report.

In Luke 7, Jesus met a man’s need by the power of his bare word. In Luke 7, Jesus met a mother’s need by the power of his bare word. And people were talking. Morning, afternoon and evening, people were talking. “And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country” (7:17). And people were talking some more. “The disciples of John reported all these things to him” (Luke 7:18). What was this report?

According to Luke 7:17 and Luke 7:18, this report was about Jesus and things, specific things, at least three specific things: a certain centurion whose servant was at the point of death; a mother whose only son had died; and that the word about Jesus was spreading all over the place, even beyond the borders.

The Wait Was Finally Over

And now the wait was finally over. Listen again to Luke 7:18, which might be the most important verse in this passage. “The disciples of John reported all these things to him.” After three chapters and sixteen verses; that is, after Luke 4 and Luke 5 and Luke 6 and Luke 7:1-16, the wait was finally over. What was John thinking? More specifically, what did John think of these things?

John has been almost forgotten. It has been so long since he was last mentioned that you may even be wondering, “Who is John?” Well, he is better known as John the Baptist. In fact, this will be the first time in Luke that he is called John the Baptist (7:20). And there has been no mention of him for about year. There was no mention of him in Luke 4. There was no mention of him in Luke 5. There was no mention of him in Luke 6. And there was no mention of him in Luke 7, until verse eighteen. There has been no mention of John since he was locked up in prison (cf. Luke 3:20). By the way, the prison is thought to have been in this fortified hilltop fortress on the eastside of the Dead Sea, overlooking the Dead Sea. Luke 7:1-10 took place in the town called Capernaum. Luke 7:11-17 took place in the small town called Nain, not too far away from Capernaum, about twenty to twenty-five miles away. And where John heard about these things is really far away from Nain.

But the point is that there is no mention of John until he hears this report about these things.

Who Told John These Things?

And who was it that told John about all these things? Keep looking at verse eighteen. The disciples of John told John about these things. John was in prison and his disciples traveled a long way to tell him about these things. So, why did they feel the need to tell John about these things? Are they tattle-tales? Are they gossips?

John is rather important to Luke’s Gospel. Why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel? There are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over (cf. Luke 1:4). And the first thing Luke wants to tell us about in Luke’s Gospel is Christmas. And the first thing that Luke wants us to know about Christmas is…John.

There was this man named Zechariah. He had a wife named Elizabeth. And Zechariah had been praying for a long time for a child. He and Elizabeth had been married a long time and had no children. It is not known how long Zechariah had been praying for a child, but apparently it was a long time, so long, perhaps, that Zechariah got to a point that it was not worth it to pray about it anymore. He and his wife were old, too old. Well, one night at work – Zechariah was a priest – the angel named Gabriel appeared to him and even spoke. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:12). These were the first words out of the angel’s mouth! Zechariah, you will have a son! Your wife will bear you a son! And you will call him John! But what is the most exciting news in that sentence? Your prayer has been heard.

The disciples of John are only mentioned three times in Luke’s Gospel. I want us to notice something about the first time these disciples are mentioned. Keep in mind that a disciple, in one sense, is a learner or a teacher’s student. So, these were people learning from John. Here is the first mention of his disciples in Luke: And they [the Pharisees] said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers…” (Luke 5:33). And here is the third mention of his disciples in Luke: Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). The second mention is Luke 7:18. So, why did they feel the need to tell John about these things? And what had they been learning from John? And where did John learn what he was teaching them? What does this say about John? I think it says something about John and prayer. Pray. Keep praying. And do not give in to the thought that prayer is just not worth it anymore. So, when John hears the report about Jesus and about these things, why does he say what he says?

What did John say about Jesus? “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). What else did John say about Jesus? “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29). He did not call Jesus his friend, he called himself Jesus’ friend! And narrow in on what John said about this friendship. “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” John was just permeating with joy! So, when John hears the report about Jesus and about these things, why does he say what he says? What did he say? Listen to verse nineteen. “And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”

Why is John important to Luke’s Gospel? It is because he tottered. Some say he doubted. Some say he was disappointed. Some say he was discouraged. Some say he was disillusioned. He tottered. He went from filled with joy to, are you really the one I thought you to be? Or should I keep on looking? And the big question is, why is he thinking this way? I read someone say that this was not John’s finest hour. I do not think that is true. This was his most relatable hour. And it is really the last record of John in Luke’s Gospel.

Blessed Is The One Not Offended By Me

John sends two of his disciples with this question to Jesus. Keep in mind that John is in prison and it is a really far distance to get back to Jesus. What is going through the minds of these two disciples? What are they talking about? When they finally get to Jesus they ask the question. “John the Baptist wants to know,” (first mention of John the Baptist) “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And what does Jesus answer? Nothing. He says nothing. Instead, in that hour and maybe for the whole hour, he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. He did what he has been doing. Except this is the first time in Luke that he restored sight to the blind. But still, it is quite an answer. Look at his works. Examine his works. Remember his works. John was to know and recognize these works.

Then Jesus speaks. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” This is the answer. Wait, this is the answer? And just so that these two disciples get the answer verbatim, Jesus reiterates: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk (remember, that was Luke 5:17-26), lepers are cleansed (remember, that was Luke 5:12-16 something that was said is more difficult than raising the dead), and the deaf hear, the dead are raised (remember, that was Luke 7:11-17), the poor have good news preached to them. What is interesting is that Jesus is quoting or echoing several Old Testament passages like Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 42:5-9; Isaiah 61:1-2a; especially Isaiah 61:1-2a. Look at his words. Examine his words. Remember his words. John would know these words.

And remember Isaiah 61:1-2a. It is the passage Jesus read back at the synagogue and then declared that the year of the Lord’s favor is now here. The Messiah is now here. He is now here. “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21). Although in Jesus’ answer he says nothing about proclaiming liberty to the captives or setting free those who are oppressed. And who at this moment is a captive and in prison? John. And his circumstance will not change. He will spend maybe another year there and will be executed.

Is this Jesus’ answer? No, at least it is not his complete answer. Listen to verse twenty-three. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The two disciples then depart. This was all they were told. And most likely this was all that they heard. It is Jesus’ answer to a desperate man’s question. And it is almost as if Jesus waited for those two disciples to vanish out of sight before he talks to the crowds which have gathered. Many of which just had their lives restored, which, too, probably drew an even larger crowd. It is likely then that this crowd also heard the question, Jesus’ answer and that it was John who was asking and needing the answer. He then goes on to say something about John the Baptist. In Jesus’ estimation, John is the greatest man to have ever lived. Why is that?

And So, Why Did John Ask His Question?

And so, why did John ask his question? Why was he, this great man, tottering? Jesus thought John to be a great man because, in part, John did not try to live up to the culture’s expectations and in this case, the religious culture’s expectations. He knew God’s plan for him and he did it without complaint, without waver, until this particular moment. Jesus will quote a children’s poem and apply it to John and I think himself, too. “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’” (Luke 7:32-33). Why? John would not dance to their tune. He was going to fulfill the ministry given to him. So, why did he ask his question?

It is why Jesus, gently and kindly – oh, Jesus is such a kind Savior – responded to his struggling friend, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” It is a beatitude! And maybe the most needed beatitude today. The word offend is such a strong word. It is from a Greek word that sounds like scandal. It means to trip up the traveler. It is a disappointment with the way God chooses to work.

John proclaimed that the coming one, who is mighty, would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire and he would have a winnowing fork in his hand, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:16-17). And John was right. He, though, may have been wondering, “Where is the fork? Where is the unquenchable fire? What is Jesus doing?” This was a two act drama. The fork, judgment, will come one day. But this was the year of the Lord’s favor. The day of judgment would soon follow, but a year is a whole lot longer than a day (Isaiah 61:2). John, do not get disappointed with how Jesus chooses to work. John, do not get disappointed that Jesus works according to his own timetable and his own tune. John, you will blessed. And so it is with us, Jesus’ disciples. Pray. Keep praying. And do not give in to the thought that prayer is just not worth it anymore. Look at his works. Examine his works. Remember his works. Look at his words. Examine his words. Remember his words. And James, do not get disappointed with how Jesus chooses to work. James, do not get disappointed that Jesus works according to his own timetable and his own tune. And James, you will blessed. Your circumstances may not change for a long time, if ever. But you will be blessed.

Young Man, I Say to You, Arise

In Ohio, there is a town called Blanchester. It is a small town with small town street names like Main Street and Center Street. Although, there is a street named Broadway. Football, 4-H and the Future Farmers of America are fundamentals of the community. And there is a church on Center Street. Its imprint of brick and mortar, outreach, church picnics and floats in the Fourth of July parade have been visible now in three centuries. But its impact is far wider because of August 1987.

Mrs. Van Gilder had planned an afternoon filled with activity for her Sunday School class. And it seems that no Sunday School activity is complete without hot dogs, chips, something that looks like Kool-Aid but does not taste like Kool-Aid, ice cream and games. There must be games. When the event was over, kids helped with clean up and then gathered their belongings and piled into the cars taking them home. Mrs. Van Gilder was taking four kids with her. On the way home, her car was involved in a collision with another vehicle. Shannon would be left with no memory of what had happened. Kendra would need extensive surgery on her leg. Chris and Amy did not survive. They were twelve years old. Chris was Mrs. Van Gilder’s grandson. And the collision was Mrs. Van Gilder’s fault.

Broken and trying to meet the need of two families in their untimely pain, the church on Center Street was also without a pastor, that is, until February 14, 1988. The incoming pastor had no idea that the church needed him as much as he needed them.

On his first Sunday, the church sang a particular hymn along with some other hymns. And the pastor preached. On his second Sunday, the church sang some hymns. And the pastor preached. On his third Sunday, the church sang some hymns. And the pastor preached. Following this service a man humbly approached the new pastor with a question. “Why did we not sing our song?” Puzzled, the pastor asked, “What is our song?” The man, with tears, responded with that particular hymn.

On his fourth Sunday, the church sang that particular hymn along with some other hymns. And the pastor preached a little differently. And for seven years, each Sunday, the church sang that particular hymn with some other hymns. And the pastor preached a little differently. And for seven years the impact of the church on Center Street was defined by because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives.

In Luke 7:11-17, there is a town. It is a small town with its small town street names. Its imprint has been visible for twenty-one centuries. It still exists and people still live there. But its impact is far wider.

He Went to a Town Called Nain

It begins in Luke 7:11. “Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain.” Notice that town name; the pronunciation sounds like the number nine. This verse is the first and only mention in the Bible of the town called Nain. And in its first and only mention there are two things to know about Nain.

First, Jesus went there. This begs a couple of questions. Why did Jesus go to Nain? And why would Jesus go to Nain? There is absolutely nothing significant about this town. It is ordinary. Whatever happened yesterday in Nain is the same thing that will happen tomorrow in Nain. So, why did Jesus go to Nain? Well, I do not know. Except there is that Old Testament town called Shunem. And you might be wondering, where is Shunem? Shunem is the town next door. And Shunem is kind of significant; it is mentioned three times in the Bible (cf. Joshua 19:18; 1 Samuel 28:4). Its claim to fame is found in 2 Kings 4:8-37. And maybe Shunem has something to do with why Jesus went to Nain.

Nain, though, is a town that is also close to a town called Nazareth. Shunem would be to its east and Nazareth would be a short distance to its north. So, Nain is sandwiched in between the towns. And Nazareth is pretty significant; it is mentioned quite a bit in the Bible. Jesus said something, though, in Nazareth that might have something to do with why he went to Nain. It is something he said in Luke 4:26. “And Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Sidon is nowhere near Nain. But the important thing to note is that Jesus mentions how the Old Testament prophet Elijah, the most famous Old Testament prophet next to Moses, was sent to a widow. And this is all Jesus has to say; remember that Elijah, a great prophet, was sent to a widow.

The second thing to know is when Jesus went to Nain. He went to Nain after he went to Capernaum. Listen again to Luke 7:11. “Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain.” It may have been as soon as the very next day that he went to Nain from Capernaum. Why is that important? What does Capernaum have to do with Nain? Almost nothing, except Jesus went to Capernaum and in Capernaum there was a certain centurion whose servant was at the point of death. And this has something to do with Nain.

Behold, a Man Who Had Died

Let’s keep looking at Luke 7:11. “Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.” Who went to Nain? There was Jesus and his disciples and a great crowd. Note those three distinct groupings in verse eleven. And now look closely at Luke 7:12. There was a gate to this town, apparently the only gate and the gate was just to say if you blink, you will miss it – there is a town here. Luke then includes the word behold. Whenever we come across this word we almost always pause to point it out because that is its point. It is intended, grammatically, to grab your attention. It is a great Bible word. Luke wants us to notice “a man who died was being carried out.”

And notice something about this man. He is “the only son of his mother.” So, as verse twelve begins Luke wants us to notice the dead man being carried out, but this is not all. Luke wants us also to see his mother and to notice the rest of verse twelve. “And a considerable crowd from the town was with her.” In verse twelve, like verse eleven, there are three distinct groupings – the dead man; the mother and the considerable crowd. It is just an interesting parallel between Luke 7:11 and Luke 7:12. Luke does this intentionally.

But first, let’s put the context in view. Luke 7:11-17 is a funeral. When Jesus comes to Nain he encounters a funeral. Luke goes into great detail about this funeral. The man who died was the only son of his mother. The mother was a widow. And the crowd with her was considerable. The context, though, of Luke 7:11-17 is Jesus meeting a mother in her untimely pain. It is most unnatural for a parent to outlive their child. The death of a child has been described as “a period placed before the end of a sentence.” What then is to be done with that sentence?

And When the Lord Saw Her

Why does Luke write Luke’s Gospel? There are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. So, get ready for verse thirteen. “And when the Lord saw her…” Remember, there were three distinct groupings in verse eleven and three distinct groupings in verse twelve. Why did Jesus go to Nain? Jesus saw the mother. He went to Nain and Jesus saw the mother in her untimely pain. It reminds me of Hagar. She, too, was a mom. In Genesis 16, this mother came to a fresh understanding of who God is. Listen to her testimony. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Genesis 16:13). When did Hagar come to understand this? It is Genesis 16:13, but when is it? She was a mom and it was when life was not going according to plan. In Luke 7:13, when did Jesus see this mom?

And notice, too, what Luke calls Jesus in verse thirteen. He does not say, “when Jesus saw her,” but rather, “when the Lord saw her,” a reference to the limitless bounds of Jesus’ power and authority. And there is more. When Jesus saw her in her untimely pain, when life was not going according to plan, when a period came before the end of the sentence, he had compassion on her. This word compassion, it means to feel what she was feeling. She was broken. He, too, was broken. Her heart ached. His heart, too, ached. She now felt alone and unprotected. He, too, felt alone and unprotected. This is the word compassion, to feel everything she was feeling!

And notice his words out of his compassion. “Do not weep.” Why do you think Jesus tells her not to weep? Since he felt what she was feeling, could he have been weeping too?

Young Man, I Say to You, Arise

Jesus approached what would be like a coffin except this is completely open, more like a stretcher. The man’s body was wrapped in a linen cloth, just as Jesus’ body would be and just as his friend Lazarus was in John 11. And he touched the stretcher. Those carrying the stretcher, all at once, stood still. It was the touch. No one did this; no one has ever done this. To touch the stretcher of a dead body was to make one’s self like a dead man. You would become ceremonially unclean, unable to come before God until made clean. And I think in this moment all movement ceased and all weeping ceased. What is Jesus up to?

Listen to Jesus’ words. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak. What was he saying? Surely, others were thinking the same thing! What is he saying? There was a cloth wrapped around his mouth! And the next part is my favorite part. Jesus gave him, literally, delivered him to his mother. The big idea of the text has to do with Jesus and this mother.

The considerable crowd is about to faint. Fear seized them all! No one has ever seen this. They all have heard of something like this. They heard what Elisha did in 2 Kings 4:8-37; he was a pretty great prophet, and he did it in the next town over called Shunem. They heard what Elijah did in 1 Kings 17; and he was a really great prophet. He was sent to Sidon, to a woman who was a widow (1 Kings 17). But neither did it like this, with compassion, feeling exactly what the mothers felt. And neither did it by the power of their word.

There is coming a day when Jesus will do this again. It is something taught in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It is something we are commanded to talk about – “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). And it is what is to be done with that sentence. There is coming a day when we will all hear his voice. The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of a trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first. And those who remain will follow them. I wonder what that cry of command will sound like. When Jesus told the young man in Luke 7 to arise, that was a command. Chris, I say to you, arise! Amy, I say to you, arise! A resurrection like this is coming for all those whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone, by his grace alone, through his cross alone, by his life alone, to his glory alone!

So, what do we do when a period comes before the end of a sentence? “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

Surprised By Faith

There are many who know S. M. Lockridge. And there are few who know S. M. Lockridge. There are few who know that his initials – the S and the M – are the names of two men in the Bible: Shadrach and Meshach. There are few who know that he was the oldest of eight children. There are few who know that his dad was a pastor. There are a few more, though, who know that he, too, was a pastor. There are few who know that he pastored Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California during a span of five decades. There are few who know that his ministry reached 100,000 people – that is an average of 20,000 people per decade! And there are many who know three to six minutes of S. M. Lockridge (depending on the YouTube video). It begins like this:

My King was born king. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a national King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King. Well I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King?

This is the beginning of something that has been called a “run.” A “run” is like ringing a biblical bell which is to lead to a sermon’s climax or celebration.[1] And so the run continues: My King is the only one whom there are no means of measure can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of his shoreless supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. Well, well, He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s Savior…He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent…He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves…He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?

Then comes the celebration: Well, I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable…He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hand. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. Well, Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King. He always has been and He always will be.  I’m talking about He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There was nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not gonna resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!

And there is about a minute more. But there are few who know that these are the last six minutes of a one hour, six minute, twenty-eight second sermon. There are even fewer who know the content of that rather long sermon. It was about what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. And regarding what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus, S. M. Lockridge had just one question for every listener. Do you know Him?

After He Had Finished All His Sayings

There are what could be several key words throughout Luke 7:1-10. In verse one there is the name of a town – Capernaum – which could be a key word. In verse three there is a request made on the behalf of another; that could be a key thought, but what could be the key word there is the word heal [depending on the translation, save]. In verse five is the word love. This could be a key word for two reasons. First, it is the same word that occurs six times in the previous chapter (Luke 6:27-36) beginning with “love your enemies.” And it is a word that is not like loving your dad or loving your dog or loving a burrito filled with extra white rice, chicken, corn salsa, green salsa, hot salsa, extra cheese and lettuce. No; this is the Greek word agapé. And it is a word that we try to grasp with definitions like sacrificial love or deliberate love or love by choice. But the Bible has a unique demand of us when it comes to this love. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1a). “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Part of the point is that this is a love that reveals the heart of God. The other part of the point is that this is a love that is so closely connected to the cross. Another part of the point is that Jesus expects his disciples to love with this kind of love.

In verse eight is the word authority which could be a key word. And a reason is that it may tie these verses back to Luke 4:31-41. In verse one, though, is the word after [when] which is the key word. Listen to the importance of this word. “After he had finished all his sayings…” The word after is the key word because it contextualizes these ten verses for us. Luke 7:1-10 takes place immediately after Luke 6:20-49. And what is Luke 6:20-49? It is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. The way this verse is constructed is intriguing. Luke does not begin the chapter with just simply after this, but he seems to go out of his way to emphasize that these verses do take place immediately after Jesus finished or completed his sayings, meaning his sermon. Why?

What was the big idea of his sermon? Jesus’ aim was to show how his disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave and feel even in less than ideal or negative circumstances. And Luke goes further to remind us of one of the essentials of a sermon. Sermons must have a preacher. But sermons must also have a listener or two. “After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people…” And what did Jesus stress about hearing at the end of his sermon? There must be hearing. There must be listening. But listening to a sermon must end with doing.

And He Entered Capernaum

Keep looking at verse one. What did Jesus do after he finished his sermon in the hearing of the people? He entered Capernaum. This is not too big of a deal. It is a short walk from the mount where he preached his sermon. But there is something important about Capernaum. In Luke’s Gospel, this is not the first time Jesus has entered Capernaum. It is the second time Jesus has entered Capernaum. The first time was in Luke 4:31-41. Those verses begin with Jesus teaching on the Sabbath in Capernaum at the synagogue (4:31-32). Capernaum was not the big city. It was a small town. Let’s take an educated guess; in a small town of say, 1,500 people, how many synagogues could there have been? At least one.

Luke 4:31-32 is about Jesus’ teaching or about Jesus’ words. The rest, Luke 4:33-41, is about Jesus’ works. And his works demonstrated the limitless bounds of his power and authority. In that short recap I just want us to see two things: Jesus’s words and Jesus’ works. And notice that the works follow the words. Now come back to Luke 7:1-10. How do these ten verses begin? It is with a reminder of Jesus’ words. He just finished his teaching. And it is a short reminder, just one verse. What possibly then could the remaining verses be about? Could the other nine verses be about his works? Luke 7:1-10, the second time in Capernaum, follows the same pattern as the first time in Capernaum. Jesus’ words followed by Jesus’ works. This is important for this reason: I understand his works when I understand his words.

A Certain Centurion in Capernaum

Luke 7:2 then introduces us to a centurion. The King James translation describes him simply as a “certain centurion.” The word certain is used of a person when the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly about the person. However, Luke ends up writing more particularly about this centurion! How is he a certain centurion?

First, he has a servant who is sick or suffering terribly. This same account is found in Matthew 8:5-13 and the servant there is described as paralyzed and suffering terribly. And Luke adds that he is to the point of death. Then something particular is said. This centurion highly regards this servant. We do not know how many servants he has, perhaps this is the only servant, but something particular is made known. He does not regard this slave as a garden tool, but as a man with a soul. What does that say about this centurion?

There is more. He sends the elders of the Jews with a message for Jesus. Now keep in mind, the centurion is not Jewish. He is Roman, the sworn enemy of the Jews. But he apparently has a particular relationship with these elders, these leaders in which they gladly become his messengers. And notice two things. These elders have come asking Jesus to come to the centurion’s house to heal the servant. And in their plea they say, regarding the centurion, “He is worthy.” He is worthy for Jesus to do this and just take a look at this man, they plead. “He loves our nation!” And we have briefly expounded on that word love. But look at what else. “He is the one who built us our synagogue.” He is responsible, most likely financially, for the existence of a building which houses worship; a place for worshipers to sing God’s Word together; to read God’s Word together; to recite God’s Word together; to hear God’s Word preached together; and to pray together. Which synagogue could this have been? Could it be the synagogue in Luke 4, where Jesus’ words were heard and then Jesus’ works experienced?

What makes this centurion a certain centurion? There is something we skipped over in verse three. He heard about Jesus. Actually, verse three reads, “when he heard about Jesus,” suggesting that he heard that Jesus was back in town. But there is more to it. This is a centurion who knows Jesus. He knows Jesus’ words and he knows Jesus’ works. Further, how does Luke 7 begin? Jesus has finished what is probably his best known teaching. And following this best known teaching of Jesus, Luke has us meet a man who knows Him. How can we be certain that he knows Jesus?

Surprised by Faith

Well, after listening to the elders, Jesus makes his way to the centurion’s home. But then, when he knows that Jesus is near, the centurion sends his friends to meet Jesus with a note. The note reads, “I am not worthy for you to enter my home” (7:6). He even calls Jesus ‘Lord.’ Remember what Jesus said at the end of Luke 6? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” There is a sense of humility in this man. And he knows something about Jesus. He knows that Jesus does not have to be in the same room or the same vicinity or the same city to fulfill a prayer request. All that is needed is Jesus’ word and it will be done. How can we be certain that he knows Jesus? He acknowledges Jesus’ authority. So, when Luke tells us that this centurion heard about Jesus, it is much more than Jesus is back in town. He knows Jesus. He knows Jesus’ words and he knows Jesus’ works. He knows the limitless bounds of his authority and power. And he understands Jesus’ works because he understands Jesus’s words.

And what is really important, the big idea, is verse nine. “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him.” Only twice in the Bible does Jesus ever marvel at anyone. And both times it is about faith. In Mark 6:6, he marveled at those who just heard his teaching. He marveled at their unbelief. And then here is a certain centurion. He heard about Jesus. He knew Jesus. And Jesus marveled at his faith.

Does Jesus marvel at me? This could be good or bad. He either marvels at my unbelief or he marvels at my faith. What is faith? This certain centurion is a living embodiment of Luke 6:46-49, of building his life upon the rock. Faith has a lot to do with doing. He believed the words of Jesus, built his life on those words and then called upon Jesus to display his works. Or, he understood Jesus’ works because he understood Jesus’ words. This was a man who loved his enemies (Luke 6:27; 7:5). This was a man who was generous (Luke 6:30; 7:5). This was a man who was humble or poor in spirit (Luke 6:20; 7:6). This was a man who was merciful as God the Father is merciful (Luke 6:36; 7:2-3). And Jesus said he had not found a faith like this in all of Israel.

Do you know Him? Knowing Jesus has a lot to do with understanding Jesus’ works because of understanding his words. The embodiment of this is building life upon his words and looking to him and maintaining our gaze upon him even when the storms come.

[1] https://thefrontporch.org/2016/02/preaching-the-gospel-is-not-like-horseshoes-and-hand-grenades/

Why Do You Call Me ‘Lord, Lord’?

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came tumbling down. The rains came down and the floods came up. The rains came down and the floods came up. The rains came down and the floods came up. And the house on the rock stood firm.

The wise man built his house upon the rock and called it the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach. Mexico Beach is located in Florida’s panhandle; several miles east of Pensacola; Okaloosa Island; Crab Island; and Crooked Island. The twelve-hundred locals call it Mayberry by the Sea. Subway is the only chain restaurant in town. Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle Russell King not only wanted to build a house in Mexico Beach or a house that would survive for generations, but a home that was built for the big one. The big one, historically, had never made it this far. South Florida typically endures its wrath. But it would come. On October 10, 2018, one year after preparing and building their home for the big one, Hurricane Michael came tumbling down on Mexico Beach. The floods came up. And when the storm dissipated and the skies cleared, there the home stood, “majestic amid the apocalyptic wreckage, the last surviving house on the block.” What did it take to build this house upon the rock? It took about double the cost per square foot to build such a house.

The Wise Man Built His House is a children’s song, an older children’s song based upon the last few words of a sermon. The last few words of this sermon are found in Matthew 7:24-27, but also in Luke 6:46-49. And those listening thought it was the greatest thing they had ever heard. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

What is a Sermon?

What is a sermon? Matthew 5 and Matthew 6 and Matthew 7 is a sermon, one whole sermon. Luke 6:20-49 is the same sermon. Some may know a sermon as the homily. Homiletics is the art or science of preaching or delivering the homily. In order for any sermon to be a sermon there must be some essentials. There must be a preacher. This sermon had a preacher and this sermon is probably his best known preaching! There must be listeners. This sermon had listeners, a lot of listeners. But this preacher was addressing a particular kind of listener – his disciples (cf. Luke 6:20). There must be a point. Why must there be a point? One reason is that it makes it much more interesting for the listener! This sermon had a point or a big idea: to show disciples how to respond and think and speak and behave and feel in less than ideal or negative circumstances. And there must be points, that is, there must be as few as one point to support the point or big idea. This sermon has three points: the first point was Luke 6:20-26; the second point was Luke 6:27-45; and the third point is Luke 6:46-49.

There must be content, specific content. The content is the Bible and not a mere mention of the Bible. The content of any sermon starts with the Bible and stays with the Bible. In other words, sermons are to stick to the Bible. The Bible is what we are looking at; the Bible is what we are listening to; the Bible gives the big idea; the Bible provides the points. This sermon has content. It is Luke 6:20-49. And there must be application.

Now, of these essentials which is the most critical?

Hearing, Doing, Building, Digging and Digging Deep

Again, the third point of this sermon is Luke 6:46-49. Listen to how it is introduced. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” What is this third point?

Listen to the very next verse, Luke 6:47. “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them…” I appreciate the way the New International translation words this verse. “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice…” Listen to the rest of verse forty-seven. “I will show you what he is like.” Now, look and listen to the very next verse, Luke 6:48. “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” Pause there and notice the words building and dug deep and laid. What kind of words are these? These are action words or doing words. Notice the words dug deep. The Greek text literally reads, “He is like a man building a house, who dug and dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” There is an emphasis on the digging, meaning the building of this house on this foundation takes effort. And now look and listen to the very last verse, Luke 6:49. “But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.” In this verse there is hearing, but there is no digging, no digging deep, no effort and there is building. In this verse there are, too, some action words. Two builders and two houses being built. What is the difference?

So, what is this third point? Let’s keep in mind the big idea of the sermon: how to respond and think and speak and behave and feel in less than ideal or negative circumstances. If we were constructing a sermon, how could we then word this third point? Hearing, Doing, Building, Digging and Digging Deep – if we were constructing a sermon and preaching this, this is how we would word this third point. But we would need to say more, we would need to expand upon it with a few more thoughts. And we would do so, first, by asking a question. In all those action words, what is Jesus getting at?

Why Do You Call Me ‘Lord, Lord’?

There are two, at least there should be two active participants in every sermon. There is the preacher. And there is the listener. This is not so much two separate actions, i.e. the preacher is preaching, the listener is listening. And yes, the preacher did a lot of studying and notetaking and reading and spent all day Friday writing the sermon. And yes, the listener should have an idea of what the text for the following Sunday will be, and hopefully read it and maybe did some studying and notetaking and reading of their own. But when it comes time to preach, there should be two active participants doing the same thing. The preacher and the listener are doing the same thing in the preaching. Both the preacher and the listener are being affected by the Word of God. Both the preacher and the listener are learning together at the very same moment!

This third point is short but profound. And it does connect to Jesus’ second point. Remember something Jesus did as he began his second point. He paused to prevent hearing loss. “But I say to you who hear…” (Luke 6:27). Or perhaps another way of saying it is, “Listen. You must really listen.” And in this third point Jesus then asks, “Why do you listen but not do what I say?!” Maybe the answer is that Jesus has not yet given them enough time to do what he has said!

No, that is obviously not it. Jesus is pointing out that in general everybody listens. All those who gathered for this sermon did so to hear Jesus teach (6:18). And I think what Jesus is getting at is…great, you listen. But there is more to preaching than just listening. There is doing. No sermon is to end with a conclusion and then a prayer and a song. Every sermon is to end with doing. That is, the most critical part of any sermon is the application.

But who is to do the applying? Who is Jesus addressing in this final point? It is whoever is calling him “Lord, Lord.’ And who would that be? Throughout this whole sermon Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples. But notice how he singles out those who call him not just Lord, but Lord, Lord. What does that mean? Is that significant?

Sometimes in Jesus’ teaching you will hear him introduce something with the words verily, verily or truly, truly. The purpose is the same as here. The double use of a word – Lord, Lord – is normally used in situations of high emotion or emphasis. Calling someone lord would be like calling them teacher, but it goes deeper than just teacher, this is recognizing someone’s rule or authority. So, these are not atheists. These are not agnostics. These are those who live good, moral lives; gather together for worship every Sunday; have been marked as his disciples – believer’s baptism; partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly; involved in ministry; may serve as an elder or deacon or even as a pastor. It is any one of us. So, when Jesus speaks of doing, he does not mean being active in a local church or serving. He is talking about building your life. This doing is about hearing what Jesus says and applying it to your own life.

So, this third point is about two people who listen, two builders. Each are building a house. We each are building our lives, trying to live life. The first builder digs and digs deep to lay his house upon a solid foundation. What could be the solid foundation? The second builder does not dig deep and just builds upon no foundation. The foundation is what Jesus has said, his words. The digging deep is the application. It is taking those words and spending some serious time figuring out where and how the words apply to my own life. This takes effort. Why does it take effort? Because it takes time, but it also may expose some hard to deal with things about me. Maybe even sin. The digging exposes what is underneath the ground.

Why is this so important? Why is application the most critical part of any sermon? Listen to the last part of Luke 6:48. “And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” Problems that I cannot control will always arise in my life. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, these problems are unexpected. It is active listening and honest application that prepare me to withstand these floods. Only storms reveal the quality of the work of the two builders. My favorite part of Luke 6:48 are the words “and could not shake it.” The word shake means to totter over. Why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel? There are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. And what is Jesus saying will keep us from tottering over? Coming to him and hearing his words and doing his words – active listening and honest application (6:47).

The Most Critical Part of Any Sermon

Our preacher needs to pay better attention to the application of any text. And applications vary. The youngest of us will be fifteen years old on Wednesday. The oldest of us here turned ninety-nine years old last Wednesday. Application looks different for a fifteen year old than a ninety-nine year old. But each are expected to listen to the same sermon about the same Bible text and apply it.

So, how might we apply this sermon today? Pray. Pray for the preacher and pray for yourself. When? Well, throughout the week, but what about also during the preaching? Listen to the sermon with your Bible open. Listen to the sermon with your Bible open and take notes. Take your notes home. Take your notes home and review and reflect. Or maybe, recite the sermon. And think about doing this maybe Sunday afternoon, but perhaps also sometime Thursday. And do some doing, some applying.

A young Korean man traveled a great distance to the home of the missionary who had led him to Christ and then announced his reason for the visit. “I have been memorizing some verses of the Bible, and I want to quote them to you.” The missionary listened as the young man without error recited the entire Sermon on the Mount. He commended the young man for the remarkable feat of memory. Then, being a good missionary, he cautioned the young man to not only “say” the Scriptures but to practice them. The man responded, “Oh, that is the way I learned them. I tried to memorize them, but they wouldn’t stick, so I made a plan. First I would learn a verse. Then I would do it to a neighbor. After that, I found that I could remember it.”

Judge Not Or You Too Will Be Judged

The most useful service of the United States Postal Service is the informed delivery daily digest. Or simply, it is an email with pictures of the mail coming to the mailbox today. And so, there is no more need to wonder, be anxious, concerned or surprised when it comes to the mail. Well, except on Tuesdays.

Last Tuesday, even knowing all that would be delivered, there was still a surprise. There was the junk mail – no surprise; there was a bill – no surprise; there was a notice from the insurance company – no surprise. The surprise was what was inside this larger, but not too large, envelope addressed clearly to a James Sperry and my corresponding home address. With some curiosity, I opened it and began to read. It went something like this: Many men in their 60’s struggle with hearing loss. We are here to help. Schedule your free consultation today. At 38 years old this would have been more encouraging if it was an offer to help with hair loss.

Luke 6:20-49 is Luke’s record of probably the best known teaching of Jesus – the Sermon on the Mount. In the middle of this sermon, the largest portion of this sermon, Jesus pauses to prevent hearing loss. “But I say to you who hear…” (Luke 6:27). Perhaps another way of saying it is, “Now pay attention. And keep paying attention.” Listen. You must really listen to this.

If we think of sermons as having a big idea and points to support or flesh out the big idea, then the middle of this sermon is point number two. What is the big idea of the whole sermon? Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples. There are other people there listening, a lot of other people there listening, but this sermon is for his disciples. Jesus’ aim is to show how his disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances – in poverty; in hunger; in grief and sadness, even prolonged grief and sadness; in loneliness and persecution on account of being his disciple; and in love. Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances in love.

How to Meet the Needs of Others

Sermons are to have a big idea and points that flesh out that big idea. The first point of this sermon was Luke 6:20-26. The third point of this sermon will be Luke 6:46-49. But the second point of this sermon is Luke 6:27-45 and it is the biggest point. This second point is about others. There are two perspectives of others.

The first perspective is Luke 6:27-36. This perspective is about meeting the needs of others or how to meet the needs of others. How do Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others? In love; Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love. Love is the predominant word in those ten verses, appearing six times. Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love, but loving those who are rather difficult to love; loving those who do not and will seemingly never love in return; loving when we do not want to love and when it seems really reasonable to not love. And what I love about this is how Jesus captures our ability to meet the needs of others in this way. Listen. It is Luke 6:35-36. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

What does this mean? Loving in this way, meeting the needs of others in this way, you will be what you are, a child of God. This is the great reward! The disciple John who heard this sermon and this point in person wrote these words: See what kind of love – this is the same word Jesus used six times in his sermon. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” (1 John 3:1). How do we have the ability to meet the needs of others in this way? This is how God met my greatest need when I was really hard to love; when I was lost and without hope and an enemy. Christ died for me (cf. Romans 5:8). The affections of God for me are to affect my affections for others.

Judge Not Or You Too Will Be Judged

This is only part of this second point – how to meet the needs others. The other part of this second point is Luke 6:37-45 or how I relate to others. I want us to think upon a simple question. Who are these others?

Let’s notice how this part or part two of point two begins. “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Pause there. I think we would all agree that this is something probably very familiar – do not judge. Considering Luke 6:37-38, it has been said that these are some of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Today they serve as the Magna Carta of much of American religion. Some people do not know a single Bible verse – they might not even know there is an Old and New Testament. But let them know the slightest disapproval and the King James comes forth: judge not, and ye shall not be judged.

Do not judge. What does this mean? First, there is more to those three words. It is accompanied by a sure warning: or you too will be judged. Still, what does it mean? Well, there is more to those words. Just consider for a moment this command. It is written as an imperative, so it is to be obeyed. Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not judge.” The word judge is often a legal term. It means to bring to trial and give a determination of right and wrong. And it can be just a very general word meaning to distinguish, come to a choice by making a judgment. So, is this here a determination of right and wrong or coming to a choice by making a judgment?

We are to judge or determine between right and wrong. Matthew 18:10-20 is a tremendous example which Jesus himself gives to us. If a disciple is caught in sin or an allegation is made that a disciple has sinned and is refusing to admit or acknowledge such wrongdoing, then Jesus gives a patient process that the church is to follow to determine between right and wrong. In 1 Corinthians chapters four, five and six the Apostle Paul writes about judging. First, he tells Christians to not judge others (4:5), but then he tells Christians to judge others (5:12; 6:1-3). There must be a difference. So, what is the difference? Luke 6:37 is the difference. This verse is about coming to a choice by making a judgment or being judgmental. In other words, based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about your motive without really knowing your motive. Or based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about you. A guiding principle would be, especially in church relationships, always think the best of one another. And you will sleep better.

But still, there is more to these words than simply do not judge or you too will be judged. There is more because Jesus says more. Luke 6:37-38 is one long sentence or something said all in the same breath. In addition to not judge Jesus also says to not condemn, but also to forgive others, always ready to forgive others. So far, which is harder, to not judge others or to forgive others? What if the judging others is related to forgiving others? Who are we to forgive? This is to say, who are these others?

Forgiving others would be forgiving those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And who might we be too quick to judge? Could it also be those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us? There is one more command. Do not judge, do not condemn and forgive are each commands or demands Jesus makes of his disciples. The last demand is give. Who are we to give to, ready to supply, furnish, what is needed? It is those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And contextually, this is it!

What did Jesus talk about in the first part of this second point? Meeting the needs others. These others are described as your enemy; those who hate you; those who curse you; those who mistreat you. And Jesus said to love your enemy. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Does it seem reasonable that in the second part of this second point, how I am to relate to others, that Jesus still has these kinds of people in mind? Do not judge your enemy. Do not condemn those who hate you. Forgive those who curse you. Give to those who mistreat you. It seems that these four demands in Luke 6:37-38, correlate to the four demands in Luke 6:27-28.

Listen to the last part of Luke 6:38. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” The standards one applies to others God applies back. A sobering thought to say the least.

Can A Blind Man Lead a Blind Man?

In Luke 6:39-45, Jesus is still relating to this point of how his disciples are to relate to others. And he does so by asking a question. It is in the form of a parable or an illustration of the truth just spoken of in Luke 6:37-38. Can a blind man lead a blind man? Of course not, but what does that mean?

What Jesus says next is really interesting. He talks about a disciple and his teacher. As the teacher molds and shapes and informs the disciple, the disciple will become like the teacher. Meaning, why are there disciples who judge others, condemn others, are not forgiving and not very generous? Like teacher, like student. It just said to me that Bible teachers have a profound effect on Bible students or pastors have a profound effect on churches. There are churches like Luke 6:37-38 because there are pastors like Luke 6:37-38. And the root problem is Luke 6:41-42. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” In other words, why are you so quick to deal with the sins of others without first dealing with your own sin? Their sin is the size of a speck. Your sin is the largest beam which supports a building. Your own sin is the bigger issue! There are students like this because there are teachers like this. There are churches like this because there are pastors like this. It is about repentance – take care of your beam.

The Abundance of the Heart

And it is a heart issue. Jesus near the end of this big point addresses the hearts of his disciples. Something is always filling your heart. Disciples do not have empty hearts. Listen to Luke 6:45. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

How am I to relate to others? Humbly (Psalm 51:3). Prayerfully (James 5:16). Biblically (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Lovingly (John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:6). Mercifully (Hosea 6:6; Luke 6:36). Privately (Matthew 18:15). Exemplarily (1 Corinthians 10:31). Gently (Galatians 6:1, 2). Patiently (Matthew 18:15-20). Hopefully.

What is filling my heart? This is the big question. Is it joy? Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12)! Is it God Himself (John 14:23)? Is it the peace of Christ and the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16-17)? Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave out of what fills their heart.