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.

Be Merciful, Even As Your Father Is Merciful

Why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel? It is because there are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. And what must be done with these things which have happened? Preach. Preach these things. Since there are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over and these things must be preached, then what is preaching?

The word itself, preach, was originally associated with politics, like campaign is associated with politics. Preaching was the function of a herald (a word for preacher) of the king. A king would send his herald to deliver his message to his people. So the herald would arrive in the town square of a city and cry out (a synonym for preach) the king’s message. And the herald would do so in a serious and formal and authoritative voice: Hear ye! Hear ye! – this was the introduction. And to ignore the herald’s message was in effect to ignore the king and the king’s authority. The herald had to handle the king’s message with care and clarity and accuracy. Imagine if the herald misspoke or misunderstood the king’s message, what then?

Listen to 2 Timothy 4:6. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” Notice the word for. This verse is the reason for the previous verses, but what does this sound like? Does it sound desperate, in a sense? Does it sound like time is short? These are the words of the Apostle Paul and for him time was short. His departure was his death. His days were numbered. And because his days were numbered he says 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to Timothy. Notice how it begins. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…” This wording seems serious, as if Paul has weighed carefully what he is about to say and will say to Timothy in the hearing of God himself. And what is the charge? Listen to verse two. “Preach.” And Paul then specifies what to preach. “Preach the word.” Preach the Bible and preach all of it. The importance of preaching rests in its content, not in its function. Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.[1] There are things which have happened to keep us from tottering over. These things must be preached. Preaching, then, preaching these things, is what keeps us from tottering over.

Fulfill Your Ministry for Their Ministry

Now, quickly, pay attention to what Paul says at the very end of verse five. “…fulfill your ministry.” This is just another way of saying, preach the Bible. These three words, fulfill your ministry, is something Paul demanded of just one other person. His name was Archippus (Colossians 4:17). And considering what Paul says here, it seems that Archippus was to preach the Bible. Do not give up preaching the Bible. However, notice the word ministry. We get the word deacon from this word. Ministry, or to deacon, means to serve, but to serve in such a way as to meet the needs of others. The ministry of a pastor is to meet the needs of others by preaching the Bible. But who are these others?

In another letter, the letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells a whole church not just an individual, what is to be expected of a pastor. He says there, too, that a pastor is to meet the needs of others by preaching the Bible. But who are these others? The pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12a). Equip is a meeting needs word! It means to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply. It is to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply the saints. The saints are the others! But catch this; the word equip was a fishing word. It was used of fishing vessels; to mend, to repair, to renew or to re-supply a fishing vessel. Is that not interesting? Do you know what a disciple is? It is a person who is a fisher of people, a gatherer of people (cf. Luke 5:10). But keep looking at Ephesians 4:12. A pastor is to meet the needs of the saints by preaching Bible. Why? So that the saints get mended, repaired, renewed, re-supplied to go do ministry. A pastor is to fulfill his ministry for your ministry. And guess what? This word ministry means to serve, but to serve in such a way as to meet the needs of others. When it comes to your ministry, who are these others?

A Preacher You Must Listen To

Luke 6:20-49 is a sermon and is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. And Luke 6:27-36 is a part of the middle portion of that sermon. So Jesus is preaching this sermon and is primarily addressing his disciples. There are others there, a great multitude of others from all over the place. But Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples (cf. Luke 6:20). Why is that? A preacher is to meet the needs of disciples by preaching the Bible so that the disciples get mended, repaired, renewed, re-supplied to meet the needs of others. And who are those others?

A disciple is someone who is learning from Jesus. A disciple, too, is someone who weighs everything in comparison to Jesus. A disciple, too, is someone who embraces those who are unwanted. A disciple, too, is someone who has abandoned the old life with its old ways for new life with Jesus and his ways. A disciple, too, is someone who delights in the finished work of God, the cross, and so then can delight in God. A disciple, too, is someone whose happiness remains large whether wealthy or not; healthy or not; weeping or not; friendless or not; looked down upon or not. And so Jesus is preaching this sermon to his disciples. I read this week that there are three kinds of preachers: those you can listen to; those you cannot listen to; and those you must listen to.[2] Listen to how the middle portion of this sermon begins. “But I say to you who hear” (Luke 6:27). Some translations have the word listen. It is actually a present active participle, meaning it is a verb with an -ing on the end. It is a listening that is happening right now. It is almost as if to say, “Now for those of you still listening, you must listen to this.”

Luke 6:27-36 is about meeting the needs of others. And it answers the question, who are these others? But it also answers how to meet the needs of others. Jesus gives eleven ways to meet the needs of others. And he gives them as commands: Love. Do good. Bless. Pray (and keep loving, keep doing good, keep blessing and keep praying no matter how it is received – see Luke 6:29). Give (and keep giving). Do as to others as you would have them do to you. Love (love is mentioned quite a bit in this portion; 6 times). Do Good. Give. Expect nothing in return. Be merciful.

But Who Are These Others?

So, it is pretty straight forward how to go about meeting the needs of others. But who are these others? Jesus has a very specific person in view. These others are your enemies. These others are those who hate you, really hate you. These others are those who curse you, meaning, these others wish or desire that really bad things happen to you. These others mistreat you. The natural response to meeting their needs is, “No. No way. This is impossible. I cannot do this. I will not do this. How could I even want to do this?” I think that is part of Jesus’ point. It is not natural to do this or to want to do this, to meet their needs. So, why must we do it? Are there any exceptions? The answer to that last question is, no.

I wondered, though, who is my enemy? I do not think I have an enemy. Facebook says that I have 264 friends and nothing about enemies. Who hates me? I do not think anyone hates me. I cannot think of a reason that anyone would hate me. Who curses me, besides the maniacs on the highway? I do not think there is anyone who wishes really bad things to happen to me. Who is mistreating me? I do not feel mistreated. Oh, I forgot to mention, each of these verbs are present active participles, meaning these are actions happening to you right now. So who are these others? Let’s just ask one simple question. Who is my enemy?

Here is the key. See the word but at the beginning of this middle portion. “But I say to you who are listening…” It is a connecting word and why Jesus is addressing those still listening, that they must listen. This word but connects to what he just said, or something he just said which is Luke 6:22. Who is my enemy? Who would hate me? Who would curse me? Who would mistreat me? It is all on account of Jesus. Your happiness remains large (blessed) even “when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man.” Then in this middle portion Jesus turns it around and demands, meet their needs.

Who are these enemies? Listen to Romans 5:8-10. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” And listen to Philippians 3:18-19. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Who are these enemies? Yes, these enemies are sinners. Yes, these enemies are unbelievers. Yes, these enemies are the lost. But I was once this enemy.

Be Merciful, Even as Your Father is Merciful

Look at that first demand because it explains it all. Love your enemies. The word love does not mean romantic love or plain old love like loving pizza. It is not even friendship love. The Bible kind of goes out of the way to not define this love. It is the Greek word agapé. But we do define it. We define it as a deliberate love, a love by choice. “I will love this person because, by God’s grace, I choose to love this person.” We define it, too, as a sacrificial love. And these definitions are good and correct, but the Bible, again, really does not go out of its way to define it for us. Instead, the Bible says this: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1a). It is a love to see or a love that is shown. Listen to 1 John 4:9. “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.” It is a visible love. And it is a visible love that is only known by looking at God at the cross. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And happening at the cross, Jesus was loving those who put him there. He died not so much because of them, but for them and in their place.

And so, at this point when Jesus first said these words, love your enemies, it must have been so difficult to understand or comprehend. But it is the gospel. The cross makes it clearer. This is what was done for me. And it is a love that has been given to me. How?

Notice what Jesus says in Luke 6:35. In loving like this, doing good like this, giving like this and expecting nothing in return, “you will be sons of the Most High.” In other words, you will be what you are (1 John 3:1). And this is your reward. How often have you heard that you look, sound, act like just like your dad or mom? Or, “that is something your dad or mom would say or do.” Well, that is this! Loving and doing good and giving and expecting nothing in return is what our Father does! The reward is two-fold. Meeting the needs of others in this way is showing who I am, who I belong to. God is my Father. But the other part of the reward is that this is how he saved me. While I was still a sinner, an enemy, God loved me and gave his Son for me.

It is saying to disciples how much we need the gospel. It is because the gospel reveals the affection of God. And my affection for others drives me to meet their needs because of God’s affection for me which was his motive to meet my need – the affection of the Father for me affects my affections for others. And my Father is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Jonah knew this and it is why he did not want to go to Nineveh (Jonah 4:2). He knew that God’s love and loving like this would meet the needs of his enemies. And so, Jesus ends with this last command. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

[1] H. B. Charles, Jr., On Preaching, page 16.

[2] H. B. Charles, Jr. On Preaching, page 10

He Turned His Eyes Upon His Disciples

These are the days, oh, these are days…you’ll remember. These are also words of a song by the band 10,000 Maniacs. It was a song which topped the music charts, coincidentally, nearly 10,000 days ago.

In these days, oh, these are three simple words…to remember. These are also words written by a man named Luke. These three simple words top what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus for nearly 730,000 days. The teaching has been called The Sermon on the Mount.

What is the Sermon on the Mount?

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded for us in two books of the Bible – the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. In Matthew, the sermon fills three whole chapters (Matthew 5; 6 and 7) and can be read in about ten, maybe fifteen minutes. In Luke, the sermon fills just the remainder of a chapter (Luke 6) and can be read in a couple of minutes. In Matthew, the sermon consists of 107 verses. In Luke, the sermon consists of just 30 verses. The point is not so much that the sermon in Luke is shorter. The point is that the sermon in Luke is the same sermon as in Matthew, only different. How is the same sermon in Luke different?

The sermon in Luke is introduced by those three simple words – in these days (Luke 6:12). And in these days Jesus “went out to the mountain.” Pay close attention as to why Jesus went to the mountain. It was “to pray.” Now, what are these days? These are days that must be seen through the lens of the preceding verse, Luke 6:11. “But they,” let’s pause there. They are the Bible teachers and the Bible experts of these days. “But they were filled with fury” – fury means no mind or angry to the point of losing the capacity to think. “And discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” These are the days. And in these days, what did Jesus do? He went to the mountain to pray.

In these days, Jesus did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed and continued to pray all night for his disciples. On the eve of the cross and before he was arrested and before he was betrayed and before he went to the garden, what did Jesus do? He prayed and he did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed for his disciples (John 17). Now listen to Hebrews 7:25. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost [at all times or completely] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” What is Jesus doing right now for his disciples? Part of the application from Luke 6:12-16 is the necessity in these days to be praying for one another; praying that we might comprehend together the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ; and that our love for others would abound and keep abounding some more; and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior, even in these days (Ephesians 3:18-19; Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18).

But look again at Luke 6:12-13. And just mark this down – Jesus prayed for his disciples. And in that statement too, it is in Luke 6:13; highlight those two words “his disciples.” These two words appear here and again in Luke 6:17 and then again for a third time in Luke 6:20. So, three times in this portion of Luke, the best known teaching of Jesus, are these two words – his disciples.

So, the sermon in Luke is different in that Luke takes time to first emphasize these days. A reason may be that the words of this sermon are especially significant or needed for days like these days. But there is one glaring difference between this sermon in Luke and this sermon in Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke include right at the beginning something called the Beatitudes. Just to clarify, these Beatitudes are not attitudes to be; this is not why they are called the Beatitudes. The word beatitude does not even appear in the sermon. But it does mean to make happy and is similar to the word bonus. It is like a bonus of happiness. In Matthew, there are nine beatitudes. But in Luke there are four beatitudes. Why does Luke only include four beatitudes? It is because Luke also includes four woes (Luke 6:24-26).

And He Came Down With Them

Jesus went to the mountain to pray and to pray for his disciples. He then called for his disciples and selected from among them twelve men that he would send out on mission. These are called the twelve apostles – Peter, Andrew, James and John; Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew; James who was the son of Alphaeus; Simon who was a true patriot; Judas whose dad’s name was James; and Judas Iscariot.

Now notice Luke 6:17. “And he came down with them.” Who are them? It would seem that these are the newly chosen twelve apostles. He came down with them and stood on a level place. This is significant, but we will see why in a little bit. Then notice what Luke does and I think it is to distinguish the them. Luke draws our attention to a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people. Why does Luke do this? There are three groups of people, each different in size. There are the twelve apostles (them); then a larger group – the great crowd of his disciples and then a much larger group – the great multitude of people.

Notice the great multitude. These are people from “all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.” I think this is so exciting. Mentioning Tyre and Sidon is an indication that the renown of Jesus is not contained within all Judea and Jerusalem. It is spreading. The good news of Jesus is spreading beyond borders. This is expressed in one of our Bible readings from this week. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (cf. Psalm 67:1-4a).

And these are people who have come to hear him – do not miss this – and to be healed of their diseases. But really notice the last part of verse eighteen. “And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.” The word troubled (vexed or tormented) is a word that is found one other time in the New Testament. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). The word troubled is the picture of a raging mob. And the affect of such trouble is upon the heart and mind of an individual (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-19). Here it is demonic possession and/or influence which is the cause of such trouble. So what is the affect of such possession and influence? It is upon the heart and mind of an individual.

What does Luke say about those who were troubled by these unclean spirits? They were cured. The word cured, it is healed in some translations, is just so unexpected. What though was cured? It was the heart and mind. I love this word. It is the Greek word therapeuó. What word do you see? It is the word therapy. Listen to this word. It means willing service and refers to a faithful attendant who voluntarily serves another, like a friend serving in a tender, noble way (cf. Hebrews 3:5). Jesus tended to, served like a faithful friend, those who were troubled by unclean spirits. This is how he cured them.

This is such an amazing scene! What did it sound like? There must have been clamor, clamor of joy and tears. What did it look like? Were families embracing? Were the lame now leaping? Were people breaking out into praise of God? Lives were being fully restored. Most importantly, what was the mood? I want us to all agree that the mood was happy. This place was filled with happiness.

And He Lifted His Eyes Upon His Disciples

Listen to Luke 6:20. “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples.” It is during this whole scene with the great multitude of people. Jesus then turned his attention to the great crowd of his disciples. Jesus had been standing, but now he was sitting. Matthew tells us that he was sitting (Matthew 5:1). A teacher would sit to teach. As soon as he did, the place grew silent. Remember the great multitude did not come just to be healed, but also to hear him. But notice Jesus has his attention on his disciples, meaning what he has to say is primarily addressed to his disciples. But the great multitude is listening. He does not turn his back on them. Why is that important?

The same power that restored lives is the same power that will be experienced in this Spirit-anointed, authoritative teaching. Yes, it is for his disciples but it can awaken unbelievers to the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus gives his disciples four beatitudes and four woes. The word blessed correlates with the word woe, that is, whatever blessed means, woe is the opposite. And each beatitude correlates with each woe. And by the way, the woes sound pretty good.

The word blessed is an adjective, actually. And often we think of this word as simply meaning happy. I learned this week, though, that it does not mean happy. Happy is way too small of a word. Blessed means to make your happiness large. And here it is used as a statement of fact. Disciples, your happiness is large!

What is a disciple? In Luke, this word first appears in Luke 5:30, part of a chapter called “Jesus Calls His First Disciples.” And I think from there until now, Luke is helping us understand what a disciple is. A disciple is a learner, one who is learning from Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). A disciple has left everything and is following Jesus, meaning, everything is weighed by this question: When it comes to Jesus, what is everything to me? (cf. Philippians 3:7-16). A disciple loves the unlovely, the seemingly unlovable and the unloved. Those who are unwanted know the loving embrace of his disciple. A disciple, too, has abandoned the old life for new life with and in Jesus Christ. And a disciple then is one whose happiness is made large. How is it made large?

Some disciples are poor, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are hungry, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples weep, maybe for long seasons of life, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are friendless and ridiculed and marginalized, but their happiness is made large (Luke 6:20-23). So, what does it have to do with the woes?

The word woe (ouai) itself sounds bad. A woe is an expression of grief; a denunciation. These woes or expressions of grief are about pursuing wealth and health and joy and friends and acceptance, to enlarge happiness (Luke 6:24-26). Some disciples are rich and are healthy and never really weep and have friends and are accepted. But take it all way and their happiness remains large. What is the difference?

Blessed is a synonym for faith. And what is faith? It is simply looking to Jesus. Hebrews 11 is the famous faith chapter. It describes those who had wealth and health and joy and friends. Some though had it all taken away (Hebrews 11:32-38). But in all things, no matter the circumstance, these looked toward and longed for something better. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). And their testimony ends with these words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2). But how do we do that?

Sometimes you must fight for it. There are days, perhaps these days, that just bring you down. But in all the days, sing together. Read God’s Word together. Recite God’s Word together and to one another. Hear God’s Word taught together. Pray together. It is called worship. And there we are reminded, our happiness is large.

In These Days Jesus Prayed

Happy days. Sunday, Monday, happy days. Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days. Thursday, Friday, happy days. Saturday, what a day, rockin’ all week with you. Or at least that was true for Mr. and Mrs. C; Richie; Potsie; Ralph Malph and of course, the Fonz. But what about these days?

What one word best describes these days in which we are living? What is the first word, right now, that comes to mind when you think about these days? Empty. Exciting. Titanic. Hectic. Challenging. Depraved. Unrespectable. Perilous. Uncertain. Scary. Divided. Ungodly. Unsettled. Faithless. Evil. Declining. Baffling. Dangerous. Anticipation. Heartbreaking. Ridiculous! Outrageous! Sad. Unbelievable. How about this word? Opportune.

If these are the days, then what now?

What Are These Days?

Listen. Listen to the first few words of Luke 6:12-16. In these days… Some translations may read in those days or one of those days or at this time or during those days. Regardless, mark those words.

Luke 6:12-16 is just five verses, but these five verses serve as a kind of introduction to the remainder of Luke 6. And the remainder of Luke 6 is basically a sermon, best known as The Sermon on the Mount. Now it is more familiar with the Gospel of Matthew, but it is also much longer in the Gospel of Matthew. Instead of being the remainder of a chapter, it is three whole chapters (Matthew 5 through Matthew 7). But there is a reason that Luke includes it here as the remainder of a chapter. And the reason being is that this sermon is a response to, or better yet, a response for these days. A big question in the first few words of Luke 6:12-16 is, what are these days?

These days are anything but ordinary. This is felt in the original Greek construction of this verse. Listen to how this is translated, word-for-word, from the Greek text. “It came to pass then in the days those.” The word days has a definite article (the), meaning that this is a definite or particular period of time. And Luke then adds the word those as if to say, “It came to pass in the days, yes, those days.” And it is why we are asking a rather big question. What are these days?

The previous passage, Luke 6:1-11, focused on a day that was anything but ordinary. It was the seventh day or Sabbath. We know it as Saturday. Luke 6:1-11 consists of two parts. On a Sabbath is part one (Luke 6:1-5). On another Sabbath is part two (Luke 6:6-11). And throughout these two parts, Luke is really intent on bringing the Sabbath to our attention. The word itself is mentioned six times. In the Old Testament, it was God’s will that the Sabbath be remembered and treasured (cf. Exodus 20:8). It was a day that he set apart, having its own purpose that was different than the other six days. It was even a day, the only day, that he blessed. And blessings are always good.

The basis for the Sabbath is Genesis 2:1-3. The context is creation which in those three verses it is called work (think on what it means that creation would be called work). On the seventh day, it was a Saturday, God rested. Why did God rest? It was because God finished his work. The work was done. We discovered that this word rest, the Hebrew word sabbath, means to stop or to cease, but means so much more. It means to celebrate. The heart of Sabbath is to celebrate that God finished his work. The work was done. Isaiah 58:13 tells us that if we call Sabbath a delight, if we find it a delight that God finished his work; the work was done, then we will delight in God. And it just gets better. It gets better because the fullness of sabbath is realized in Jesus Christ. It was on a Friday. Soon, in just a few hours, Sabbath would begin. But Jesus had something to say. He was nailed to a cross. He was ugly and disfigured. He was bearing my sin and suffering the penalty for my sin. And with this he cried, “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30). Then Sabbath would begin.

So, Sabbath is a big issue in the previous passage. Jesus is satisfying hunger on the Sabbath. Jesus is restoring lives on the Sabbath, the day to celebrate that God finished his work. The work was done. And it ends with these words. “But they were filled with fury [literally, lost their minds] and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” They are the Bible teachers and the Bible experts of these days. So, then comes verse twelve. “In these days…” What are these days? How might we in one word describe these days? This is the context for what is about to happen in this introduction. If these are the days, then what now?

In These Days, Jesus Prayed

In these days, Jesus went to the mountain. And he went to the mountain to pray. Now pay close attention to the rest of verse twelve. “And all night he continued in prayer to God.” Often Jesus would get alone to pray to his Father. In Luke 5:16 there is this general statement. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” So, this is not unusual. But this is unusual. This is the only record of Jesus praying all night long; in fact it is the only record in the New Testament of anyone praying all night long. The words “all night he continued” express persevering energy. He prayed until day came. So, if the sun set at around 8 or 9:00 p.m. and he kept praying until the sun came up over the horizon maybe at 6:15 a.m., this means that Jesus prayed and continued praying for nine to ten hours! Why?

Did Jesus pray a really long prayer because it is the long prayers that really matter? I once heard a man say that if you pray a five minute prayer, you will get a five minute answer. It has been said that Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers, never prayed for longer than five minutes. But he was always praying. Jesus warned against lengthy prayers. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). This was one of his points in his sermon on the mount. I think there are two parts to his warning. Do not pray lengthy prayers thinking that it is the length that gets God’s attention, but also do not pray empty phrases. What does that mean? Prayers are measured by their strength and not their length. Still, what does that mean?

I think it will help to also ask this question, why did Jesus pray so long? In other words, the length of the prayer says something about the prayer. It is not that long prayers really matter. It is that what is prayed really matters to the person praying! Something really mattered – it was not empty – to Jesus to the point that he prayed about it and all night continued to pray about it. So, what was it?!

It is in the context of these days. But I do not think he was praying about these days. He may have prayed about these days a little bit, but the prayer was not about these days. He was praying because of these days.

In These Days, Jesus Prayed for People

In these days, Jesus prayed for people. Do not miss the gravity of this! This is the only record of Jesus praying all night long and to think that he prayed all night for people! How do we know, though, that Jesus could have been praying for people? When the day came he called his disciples. The word called means to call to one’s self. And then from these disciples he chose; pause there. The word chose means a heart-felt choice. There is so much intimacy that follows this all night prayer session. And so he chose from the disciples twelve men. He would name them apostles or ones sent out on mission.

After Jesus prayed he did not go to bed, but instead immediately called for his disciples which had to be at least thirteen people. This is an indication of what consumed his praying. He was praying for these people. But then the majority of these five verses are all about twelve of these people – Peter, Andrew, James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon who was a true patriot; a man named Judas and another man named Judas who would become the traitor.

Jesus prayed seeking God’s will in the choosing of twelve men. Think about these twelve men. Peter is famous. Without a doubt we all know Thomas. And Judas Iscariot is infamous. But the other nine men are…nobodies. Well, there is John. He wrote the Gospel of John. He also wrote 1 John and 2 John and 3 John and Revelation. But the other eight men are…nobodies. Jesus prayed to know and understand God’s will that he might do God’s will. Could it then be that Jesus spent the rest of the night praying for each of these twelve men individually and specifically?

These were common, ordinary and uneducated men (Acts 4:13). You could not pick them out of a crowd because they looked like the crowd. The fact that they number twelve is interesting. There are twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. There are twelve apostles in the New Testament. And both are part of this story called the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ which causes great joy for all kinds of people. What is there about these twelve ordinary, common, uneducated men? God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources (Oswald Chambers). Listen to the impact of these ordinary lives: These men who have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). And it began in these days when Jesus prayed.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is “calling on God to come through on his promise.” It is something rooted all the way back in the book of Genesis. People calling on God to come through on his promise (cf. Genesis 4:26 and Genesis 3:15).

What do you make of Jesus praying all night, most likely for these disciples? A disciple is someone you teach, someone who learns from you. My job is to teach. And I love it. It is hard. Preparing to teach is hard, but teaching is fun. And it is not that I love to teach, though. I have found that the secret, that is not the right word. It is not a secret. It is the difference. I have found that the difference in Bible teaching or the Bible teaching that makes the difference is when the teacher, the pastor, loves those he teaches. It takes some pastors a long time to learn this difference (or after a long time they forget this difference). Again, what do you make of Jesus praying all night, most likely for these disciples? Thursday morning my response, in prayer, was “O Lord, make me a praying man, a praying pastor!”

Jesus was a praying pastor (pastor means shepherd). And he prayed for those he was teaching, those who were learning from him. So, in these days, these empty, exciting, titanic, hectic, challenging, depraved, unrespectable, perilous, uncertain, scary, divided, ungodly, unsettled, faithless, evil, declining, baffling, dangerous, full of anticipation, heartbreaking, ridiculous, outrageous, sad, unbelievable, and opportune days we need pastors who pray for us. Is that not just the wisdom of God? In these days, pray! And pray for disciples, pray for the disciples, pray for your church members. Pastors must pray like this! How, though?

1. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

2. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:17-18).

3. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).

Oh, pastor pray!

The Son of Man and a Withered Hand

James Holzhauer made a promise to his grandmother that he would appear on a game show called Jeopardy someday. Well, he has appeared on a game show called Jeopardy…for twenty-two consecutive days. He will soon appear for a twenty-third day after the annual teachers tournament (and we will see how much these teachers really know).

James has answered 759 of 786 clues correctly. He has answered 49 of 53 Daily Double clues correctly. He has answered 21 of 22 Final Jeopardy clues correctly. In twenty-two days, he holds eleven of the top eleven single game winning totals. He set the highest single game winning total on April 17 – $131,127. In twenty-two days, Jeopardy has paid him more per game than its host Alex Trebek. In twenty-two days, James has won a grand total of $1,691,008. And it could have been more if he only answered correctly the four hundred dollar clue on Thursday.

It was not that he answered incorrectly, but that he did not attempt to answer (neither though did the two challengers). The category was called “Of Biblical Proportions.” Listen to the clue: A day’s journey was around twenty miles, while the journey named for this day was less than a mile. And listen to the correct question: What is the Sabbath? And that is not just the correct question, but it is a good question.

Luke 6:1-11 has two parts. On a Sabbath is the first part (vv. 1-5). On another Sabbath is the second part (vv. 6-11). Each part asks a question. Part one asks, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (6:2). And part two asks, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (6:9). Throughout these two parts, Luke seems intent on bringing something to our attention. It is there in verse one; it is there in verse two; and it is there again in verse five. It is there in verse six; it is there in verse seven; and it is there again in verse nine. It is there throughout these two parts six times. What is it? It is the Sabbath. And we may need to be asking not just the correct question, but a good question. What is the Sabbath?

What is the Sabbath?

It is a word. It is a word that first appears in Genesis 2:1-2. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” It is the word rested. But there is so much that surrounds this word! What is really being emphasized in these two verses?

The first verse I memorized was in pre-school at Shoaff Park Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was sitting “criss-cross, applesauce” on a carpet square. The sun was shining through a window to the left. In my hands was a round piece of orange construction paper. And written in black marker were these words: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And on the first day, it was a Sunday, God worked. On the second day, it was a Monday, God worked. On the third day, it was a Tuesday, God worked. On the fourth day, it was a Wednesday, God worked. On the fifth day, it was a Thursday, God worked. On the sixth day, it was a Friday, God worked. On the seventh day, it was a Saturday, God rested. And why did God rest? It was because God finished his work. The work was done.

The word rest is this word sabbath (or shabath pronounced shaw-bath). But notice something from Genesis 2:3. “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested [there is that word again] from all his work that he had done in creation.” Notice that God made this seventh day, Saturday, holy. Meaning, he set it apart. It was a day that was different from the other six days. It was different or holy in its purpose. But notice, too, that God blessed this seventh day. What does that mean? Blessing is good, right? Why, though, did God bless and set apart this particular day? It was because he rested. Rest does mean to stop or to cease, but there is so much more. It means to celebrate. Can you imagine this?! God celebrated on the seventh day! And why? It was because God finished his work. The work was done!

And So Remember the Sabbath

It is quite a while before this word, sabbath, appears again. It first appeared in the first book of the Bible, but does not appear again until the second book of the Bible. In the context of time, this was a lot of time! In Exodus 5:5, Pharaoh is responding to a particular request made by Moses. “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” Maybe we should remember this verse – rest from burdens.

But then comes Exodus 20. This is after God has rescued the Israelites from Egypt, redeeming them with his outstretched arm (cf. Exodus 6:6). God has a plan and purpose for them, but there is something he wants them to do. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). And holy means set apart and different; set apart and different in its purpose. He then reminds them that there are six days to work – Sunday through Friday. There are six days to do your work, your business, but there is one day that is for God. What is the reason for it? Listen to Exodus 20:11. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” He connects this back to Genesis 2:1-3. Rest because God rested. Celebrate because God celebrated. And why did God celebrate? It was because God finished his work. The work was done! There is something about our work that is to say that God has finished his work. The work is done. And so we celebrate!

How was the Sabbath to be treated? Listen to Isaiah 58:13. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure [business] on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure [business], or talking idly.” How was the Sabbath to be treated? If you call the Sabbath a delight… And listen to Isaiah 58:14. “then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” How was the Sabbath to be treated? If you call the Sabbath a delight then you shall take delight in the Lord. If I call the finished work of God a delight; if I call it a delight that his work his done, then I will take delight in the Lord. The work is finished that I may take delight in Him.

The Son of Man and a Withered Hand

On a Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were walking (Luke 6:1-5). And as they were walking, the road all of a sudden turned into a grainfield (which was not uncommon). The men were talking and the heads of the grain would brush their hands. So naturally, they each began to pull on the grain. The kernels would pull gently off. The men, not even really paying any attention, began to roll the kernels in their hands. The wind took the chaff away leaving just the grain, now a delightful snack (just like sunflower seeds). So each man began to eat. Then appear the Pharisees – where did they come from? Remember, the Pharisees are the Bible experts. “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

The Pharisees had given much study as to what it means to not work on the Sabbath. The rubbing the chaff off the grain was considered work! Traveling further than 3,000 feet from home was work. Carrying anything that weighed more than a dried fig was work. But you could carry half a fig two times on the Sabbath. Eating anything more than the size of an olive was work. If you ate an olive and hated it and spit it out, you could not replace it with a good olive. Why? That was work. So, Jesus answered them asking if they have ever read the Bible. And of course they have! He refers them to 1 Samuel 21:1-6. It was when David was given food to eat, bread, actually. It was bread that was offered to the Lord and bread then that only the priests could eat. Why did David and his men eat this bread? It was because they were hungry. Why was that okay? When Matthew records for us this scene he includes another passage Jesus referred to these Bible experts. He reminds them of Hosea 6:6. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” What is the point?

Jesus ends it with this declaration. “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” It was something that Jesus had said earlier to this group regarding forgiveness (cf. Luke 5:24). “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” The Son of Man is a title from Daniel 7:13. The Son of Man has been given dominion and glory and a kingdom. And Jesus is saying that he is that Son of Man, he is the Messiah. And so when Jesus makes these statements, he is letting the Bible experts know that he is here, the Messiah is here. And he is in charge of Saturday. He is in charge of the Sabbath. He is in charge of rest.

Then comes another Sabbath. This time Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. A man with a wasted and useless and withered hand is there. But so are those Pharisees. Each are sitting in the front row, eager as can be. I kind of think that the man with the withered hand is there close by, perhaps sitting with them. Maybe the Pharisees saw him and invited him to sit with all the important people.

Jesus is teaching and the Pharisees are watching (6:7). The word watched means to watch up close and personal. These men are sitting in the first row with binoculars watching Jesus’ every move. And it is to see if he would heal this man. Is that not something? It seems that these Pharisees did not doubt Jesus’ power and authority to heal. They did not doubt his ability or his willingness to heal. To them it was no illusion, but the real thing. And who since the world began has had the ability and the willingness to heal anyone of anything? And yet they are watching, not out of compassion for the man, but to catch Jesus in the act…on the Sabbath.

Listen to verse eight. “But he knew their thoughts.” I wonder what Jesus was teaching; what book of the Bible? And then he stopped, perhaps midway through his sermon, maybe after just making a big point. He called to the man. “Come and stand here.” What is the man thinking? Jesus then looks at each and every Pharisee. “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” There were whispers throughout the synagogue. “To do good! To do good! Save life!” But Jesus just stands there, waiting. Someone speaks up, “The answer is obvious.” But still Jesus waited. He waited for the Pharisees to answer, but nothing. Why do they not answer? It is because they do not care.

As Jesus looked around at each Pharisee he said, “Stretch out your hand.” And immediately the man’s hand was restored. Yet the Pharisees were filled with fury or rage [anoia]. It is a word that means no mind; a state of extreme anger and incapacity to use one’s mind. It was now that they began to plot Jesus’ demise.

Why did these Pharisees get so angry? They loved and lived for the Sabbath. Their eternal destiny was resting on this day of rest. But they lacked something. You cannot enter the Sabbath without a Sabbath heart. It was not a delight to them and therefore they did not delight in God. They did not celebrate that God had finished his work because they lived as if there was still work to do.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus said that, but is it true? How can it be true? On a Friday evening, just as Sabbath was about to begin, Jesus cried out these words: It is finished! (John 19:30). And then Sabbath could begin.

The Bible exhorts us that our works do nothing for the rest of our souls (Ephesians 2:8-9). Instead, the Bible keeps reminding us that the work is finished. God has finished it. The work is done. And so what do we do? We celebrate! We do good. We love justice. We pour ourselves out for others. We seek that others be satisfied. And the Bible then says, “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).