Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 15:11-32 – A Church that Receives Sinners

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are looking at chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel.  We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke, believing that verse-by-verse expository teaching and preaching is the best way to learn the Bible.  We are looking this morning at what is usually called the parable of the prodigal son.  It is the third of three parables Jesus tells in chapter 15.  We looked last time at the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.  Today we’ll look at the parable of the lost son. 

If we ask, “Why does Jesus tell these three parables?” the answer is given us as we look at the context.  Context is always king and the context of these three parables is located in the first three verses of chapter 15.  Luke writes in verse 1 that, “all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus to hear Him and the Pharisees and the scribes complained.”  What was their complaint?  Verse 2 tells us they said, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”  The religious people complained that Jesus was hanging out with the riff raff.  What does Jesus do?  Verse 3 tells us, “So He spoke this parable to them” – and technically you have here one parable with three illustrations – the parable of the lost sheep (verses 4-7), the parable of the lost coin (verses 8-10), and the parable of the lost son (verses 11-32).  Parables are short stories that drive home one major point.  The parables here in chapter 15 drive home the one major point that . . .

Jesus’ gracious love and mercy is extended

To the outcast and the most despised sinner.

Jesus came for sinners.  Jesus tells these three stories to illustrate His love for lost people; a love illustrated in a shepherd’s embracing a lost sheep, a woman embracing a lost coin, and today a father embracing a lost son.

One of the challenges in teaching or preaching a passage full of so much great teaching is not being able to say everything you would really like to say.  There is so much here in this parable that anyone who preachers and teachers on it cannot bring everything from out of their study (unless they fill up several volumes of material).  There is an old saying in preaching that if one is studying as he should, he will have far more in his storehouse than he has in his showroom window.  A retailer does not have everything out on his showroom floor, but the best of all the stuff from the storehouse.  Preachers and teachers cannot not bring everything into the sermon or study, but the essence of their study.  But of course, most of us preachers find ourselves trying to bring out as much truths as possible.  We are a bit like the poet from Japan who could not resist the urge to provide far more information than was necessary . . .

There once was a poet from Japan

Whose long poetry no one could scan.

When told it was so

He said, “Yes, yes I know,

But I try to get as many words

Into the last line as I can!”

When we preach or teach a passage like the parable of the prodigal son, there is so much we just wish we could say that it requires great discipline to hold back.  I want to treat this passage a little differently than we have before.  I want to apply the passage to the way we think of ourselves as a church.  Drawing from the context of the first few verses, I want us to think about what it means to be a church that receives sinners.  But first, let’s make our way, verse-by-verse, through this delightful parable, the parable of the prodigal son – and we see from the very beginning that it is actually a parable of two sons – look at verses 11 through 13, “Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”  The word “prodigal” here means “wasteful.”  The idea is that this son wasted his father’s inheritance with wine, women, and wrong living.  He literally blew it all. 

The son asked for his inheritance early.  The book of Deuteronomy and Jewish tradition tell how sons are to receive family inheritances.  In this case the older son would receive two thirds of the estate and the younger son one third.  If there had been sisters, the younger son would have received slightly less than one third so that there would be monies for the dowries of the daughters. The dividing up of monies usually took place at the death of the father, but this younger son – so eager to get his share – insults his father by asking for what is coming to him before his father dies.  In one sense his actions could be regarded as wishing his father were dead.

Verses 14 to 16 tell us, “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”  The younger son has really hit rock bottom.  The Jewish people listening to Jesus tell this story really got the fact that this younger son hit rock bottom when Jesus said that the younger son got a job feeding swine.  Pigs were considered ritually unclean animals so to get a job hanging out with pigs meant that a person had nowhere else to turn.  Maybe his former friends saw him feeding pigs and whispered to themselves, “Oh, the shame of it!  Pigs!”  This younger son wasted his father’s inheritance, spent it all.  He has nothing to eat.  He’s got a job probably making less than minimum wage, looking after pigs.  He is so hungry that as he is feeding these pigs he feels he could eat the pig food.  This is really hitting bottom. 

Verses 17 to 19 tells us, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’”  I love the first part of verse 17!  It says, “But when he came to himself.”  It is like he shakes his head and suddenly realizes how low he has fallen.  Verses 17 through 19 are about as good a picture of biblical repentance as one can find among the parables.  The younger son “came to himself.”  We’ve got to “Come to ourselves before we can come to God.”  We have got to come to be honest about our condition – lost, spiritually poor, blind, and maimed.  We have got to come to ourselves before we come to God.  In essence he says, “I need to repent – to turn from my ways and turn to my father.  I will be honest.  I will go to my father and admit that I have sinned against heaven and I have sinned against him, too.  I know I do not even deserve to be called a son.  I will ask my father for mercy and let me just live as a slave in his house.” 

Verse 20 says. “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”  This is a perfectly beautiful picture of the love of Jesus Christ for outcasts.  The father in the parable is looking for his son to return.  The father sees his son walking home and runs to his son and nearly knocks his son over in love, falling on his neck and kissing him.  The Greek verb tense describes a continual, repeated action.  The father repeatedly kisses his son.  And the son is so penitent, so full of shame and guilt.  He goes on with his prepared speech in verses 21 through24, “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.’  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

Here is a son full of shame and guilt for having dishonored his father.  He had run off and spent everything he had and only when he was out of food and money does he think about returning home.  He hopes his father will let him return even if it is just as a slave in his father’s house, but his father will not hear of it.  His father – so full of joy at the sight of his son – throws a party.  He dresses him in a royal robe.  The son has not even bathed yet and his father is draping over him a regal robe and putting a ring on his finger – a ring indicated special status as a son.  The father will not have his son walking around barefoot any longer.  Slaves walk around barefoot.  He puts shoes on his feet.  And then it is party time!  He calls for the killing of the fatted calf.  Meat was seldom eaten for dinner.  Jewish families had meat only on special occasions.  This was a special occasion!

Here are these three themes in the three parables of the sheep, the coin, and the son.   You have the three themes of lost, found, and rejoicing.  A lost sheep, lost coin, lost son.  Found sheep, found coin, found son.  Rejoicing over the found sheep, rejoicing over the found coin, rejoicing over the found son.  But the parable continues.  It is not over.   Remember, verse 11 told us, “a certain man had two sons” – A younger son and an older son.  Verses 25 through 32 tell us, “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’  But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”  The parable ends with this older son in anger standing outside of the house, refusing to go in and share in the celebration of the return of his younger brother.  The father has gone out to him and the father entreats his son, pleading with him to come inside and celebrate, the older son angrily refusing to enter.

Remember why Jesus told this parable.  He told this parable because the scribes and Pharisees complained about Jesus’ welcoming and receiving sinners.  We are able to put the pieces together here . . . 

  • The younger son in the parable is one of these sinners. 
  • The father in the parable is Jesus who lovingly extend His love and mercy upon sinners. 
  • The older son in the parable is none other than the self-righteous scribe and Pharisee.

Jesus is a masterful story-teller.  He is telling this story and then gets to the end and drops a smart bomb that obliterates the self-righteous hypocrisy of every scribe and Pharisee standing within earshot.  This is the clincher, the climax of the story.  The self-righteous scribes and Pharisees who had complained back in verses 1 and 2 have been given a mirror by Jesus.  Jesus says, “You guys see yourself in this story?  You guys relate to the older brother?  Angry?  Refusing to celebrate the fact that the Son of Man has come to seek and save those who are lost?  Refusing to celebrate the fact that I have come as a doctor not to those who think they are well, but to those who know they are sick?  Are you guys the elder brother in this story?”

This passage is not so much about evangelism as it is about self-righteousness.  This passage is not even so much about a lost person getting saved as it is about exposing the hypocrisy of those who fail to see Jesus as One whose love extends to the lowliest of the lowly.  The truth is this: the mirror that Jesus holds up to the scribes and Pharisees – we have got to look inside that mirror, too.  We have got to ask ourselves what we see.  Are we the church of the elder brother or are we the church of the gracious father?  Are we a church that receives sinners?

John Piper notes, “This is passage for long-time churchgoers … people who don’t struggle as much with running from God as they struggle with condemning those who do.  This is a passage for people who tend to think of other people who need this passage.”  We ALL need this passage!  Remember the context here as we consider two marks of a biblical church, a church that receives sinners. 

A Church that Receives Sinners Understands two things . . . ,

1) EVERYONE Is Welcome Because EVERYONE’S A Sinner.

There is no one unwelcome in the church.  The church is for sinners.  I recently saw a church sign that read, “Church for All.”  That was the actual name of the church.  Admittedly, my initial thought was that this was probably some liberal church where it does not matter what you believe and it may be, I do not know.  But the phrase is right: Church is for all.  Everyone is welcome because everyone is a sinner.  The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was that they believed some people were simply not welcome to be around Jesus until they “cleaned up” first.  Here was Jesus going around, hanging out with sinners.

Now, some today have taken this too far by suggesting that, since Jesus hung out with sinners then it is okay for them to go to the bar and have a beer with a sinner; it is okay to go to the racetrack and gamble next to sinners, and so forth.  All of this is supposedly an effort to hang out with sinners as Jesus hung out with sinners.  But Jesus “hung out” with people with a view toward evangelism.  He did not condone the worldly behavior of the people he shared a meal with, but rather he took the opportunity to reveal Himself as the One who has come to fulfill the prophecy He read in the synagogue back in chapter 4 at the beginning of His ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Jesus goes among all people, revealing Himself as the promised Messiah – the promised Savior – of all people, the good people and the bad people, too.  As Robert Stein puts it, “For Luke there was a distinct difference between those who go out and minister in Jesus’ name and the ONE who goes out and ministers in his OWN name.”  Jesus comes to save sinners.  We must examine whether we are ever like the elder brother, smugly looking down our noses upon those whom we think are less worthy of the Gospel.  We are all sinners, every one of us.

A church that receives sinners understands that everyone is welcome because everyone’s a sinner. 

Secondly, a church that receives sinners understands . . .

2) NO ONE Deserves Forgiveness Because NO ONE Is Righteous.

This is perhaps the most important take-away point in this passage.  No one DESERVES forgiveness because NO ONE is righteous.  You see the self-righteousness in the older brother.  He was angry and he would not go in the house to celebrate the fact that his younger brother – that no good, dirty sinner – had come home.  He was angry.  His father comes outside to plead with him to come in.  What does he say?  Listen for the self-righteous tone in verses 29 to 30, “So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’” 

Do you hear the self-righteousness in that?  “Hey, father.  Don’t you realize how good I’ve been?  This other son of yours squandered your wealth and was gone for a very long time, gone in the far country, wasting everything on prostitutes and who knows what else!  And where have I been, father–hmm?!  I have been right here doing what is right every single day without exception.”  And the son adds, “This whole time you never once gave me even a small goat to eat.  You never threw a party for me rewarding me for my righteousness.  But as soon as this son of yours returns, well!  You kill the fatted calf for him.”  Do you hear the self-righteousness in this?  The older son is saying, “I DESERVE better.  I have been good.  I deserve better.”

Here is perhaps the greatest challenge in our churches today: self-righteousness and a sense of entitlement to God’s privileges and blessings.  Listen for it this week: “She really didn’t DESERVE to have that happen to her.”  “He really didn’t DESERVE what God allowed to happen to him.”

Who of us deserves anything?

A church that welcomes sinners understands that no one deserves forgiveness because no one is righteous.  The reason the scribes and Pharisees could not rejoice in Jesus’ love for outcasts is because THEY DID NOT SEE THEMSELVES AS SINNERS AND OUTCASTS!!

We will never be able to love

Others as God loves others

Until we understand

How God loves us. 

We will never be able

To forgive others

As God forgives others

Until we understand

How God forgives us.

We have got to see ourselves as sinners and outcasts before we can love other sinners and outcasts.

As long as you think of yourself as somehow better than others because of your giftedness, natural ability, wealth, or talent you will know nothing of the love of God.  You will feel that God OWES you.  You will feel DESERVING of His love.

There are many Christians who think of their relationship with God the same way this elder brother thought of his relationship with his father.  God is viewed by them as a master, slave owner, as one who dishes out laws to be kept.  If you keep the laws you earn his favor.  You hear that in the elder brother in verse 29, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.”  See it there?  “I’ve served you faithfully, I’ve kept the commandments, I DESERVE better!”  Somehow the older brother had gotten it into his mind that his acceptance or position was based upon his performance.  He wore his own robe of righteousness.  This is legalism pure and simple – performance-based religion.  The scribes and Pharisees are angry that outcasts are receiving salvation without having to bear the burden of obedient keeping of the law.

Some of you have come from churches like that.  “Keep these commands if you want God to love you more.  Fail in keeping these commands and He’s gonna get you!”  You have been taught the wrong theology of the older brother.  You have sought approval from God the way the older brother sought approval form his father.  “Look what I have done!  Look how good I have been!  THAT guy over there is not being as good as I! Bless me, reward me for my performance.  I DESERVE it!!”

But rather than wearing our own robe of righteousness, we should allow Jesus to clothe us in His righteousness.  Then we would sing joyfully with the hymn-writer:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…

…Dressed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne.

Are we the church of the elder brother or the church of the loving Father?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 15:1-10 – What Wondrous Love!

Grace For The Journey

The very last verse of the previous chapter, chapter 14, the very last thing Jesus says is, “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Luke 14:35).  In chapter 15, we will be reading about a couple of parables.  Jesus teaches about a lost sheep and a lost coin.  Listen for how these two parables illustrate the wondrous love of God, especially toward those who would be considered social outcasts. 

Most of us can share an experience of having been lost.  I am pretty good at directions, but I can share a few instances where I have gotten lost after making a wrong turn in my car.  There were times when I was younger, getting lost in a retail store.  Did you ever this happen when you were small – you are looking at all these things on the rack at a toy store, just wandering down the aisles, and you turn to say something to your mom, and you say, “Hey, mom,” but the woman standing there was not your mother?  It is not only embarrassing, but a little upsetting as you deal with feeling silly for calling this stranger your mother and the panic of not knowing where your mom is.  That happened to me more than a time or two.  It is never fun knowing your lost.

But you can also be lost and not know it.  You can be lost and not know it.  How many of you know the cartoon Popeye?  There is an episode where Popeye is taking care of Olive Oil’s little baby – Sweet Pea.  Olive Oil has gone shopping and Popeye is supposed to take care of Sweet Pea.  The whole episode is how Sweet Pea crawls away when Popeye is not looking, and she crawls across a busy street, laughing as cars pass by, crawling into a construction site, with beams moving up and down, and the whole time Sweet Pea is just cooing and laughing and having a great time while Popeye is desperately chasing after her.  Sweet Pea is having the time of her life: she is lost and does not even know it.  You can be lost and not know it.

Jesus tells these parables here in Luke 15.  There are actually three altogether: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son, which we will look at next time. 

These parables reveal the loving, ever-beating big heart of God toward repentant sinners. 

Parables teach one main point.  You can write this one main point across Luke 15 . . .  

“God’s wondrous love –

His grace and mercy –

Toward repentant sinners.”

That is chapter 15:

God’s wondrous love

Towards repentant sinners.

Recalling the immediate context is helpful here.  Remember twice in the previous chapter Jesus spoke about the “poor, the maimed, the lame, and blind” (Luke 14:12-14 and Luke 14:21-23).  He said if you are going to throw a dinner party, invite people who cannot pay you back – the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.  The kingdom of God is for people like this.  He says again go out into the highways and hedges and compel these people to come in – outcasts like the poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  God has a big heart that beats strongly for the outcast, for the sinner.

These verses do not really require much explanation.  Jesus’ teachings are pretty simple and straight-forward.  It is very important, however, that we understand why Jesus tells these three parables in Luke 15.  The reason He tells them is not left to our speculation.  Luke, the Gospel-writer, is very clear as to why Jesus tells these three parables.  The reason is found in the first two verses. 

Verses 1 and 2 tell us, “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Now look at verse 3, “So He spoke this parable to them.”  Why did Jesus speak this parable to them?  Because we are told in verse 2, “The Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’  Jesus tells this parable about the lost sheep and then the following two parables about the lost coin and lost son because the Pharisees and scribes were complaining about the company Jesus was keeping.  That is why Jesus tells these parables.  That will be especially important for us to remember when we look at the prodigal son and how his older brother deals with the son’s returning home.

This is not the first time – nor will it be the last – where we read of the Pharisees and scribes’ disdain for Jesus’ hanging out with sinners.  Back in Luke 5:29-32 the Bible says, “Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”  As the “tax collectors” and “sinners” drew near to hear Jesus, to hang on His every word – they had “ears to hear” – as they are drawing near to Christ, these Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’”  The word “complained” here is the idea of “murmuring.”  Tax collectors were looked upon with scorn.  Because they couldn’t be trusted, their testimony was inadmissible in the Jewish courts of law.  Synagogues would not accept their money.  And the “sinners” were those who were generally immoral people.  But what is really cool is that these people were drawing near to Jesus.

We ought to really feel the hypocrisy in this.  These Jewish leaders are supposed to be shining the light of God’s salvation to the Gentiles and to the nations, to the whole world, to everybody.  Yet, there were some people they felt were not worthy of drawing near to Jesus.  And they’re shocked that Jesus cares to give them the time of day!

Our initial reaction ought to be something like, “What is the deal with these guys?!  Who do they think they are?!”  Then after we have said that, then we pause and we look within, and we ask ourselves: “Have I ever looked down upon someone who comes into worship dressed shabbily, or someone who has a reputation that is not particularly glowing?  What is my initial reaction to the unkempt woman standing at the intersection with a sign asking for help?”  Are not these the very people God created in His image, people who need to hear of the love of God?  Are you ever guilty of being a Pharisee in your thinking as you look at others?

Let’s look at these parables that Jesus teaches about.  The first one is about a lost sheep in verses 4 to 7, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.’”

Most of us do not have a hundred sheep, much less one sheep so maybe that does not resonate with you the way it would if you lost your dog or your cat.  But you get the point.  If something you love is gone, you go after it.  You seek it out.  When you find that lost cat or dog man, you are happy!  You hug it and cradle it, and bring it home.   You tell all the folks you know that the dog that was missing has been found and you share the joy with others. 

Jesus adds in verse 8, “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?”  In the ancient near East, the average home had a dirt floor and it was not always easy to see things on.  Lighting an oil lamp and carefully sweeping the house makes sense.  Verse 9 tells us, “And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Maybe losing a silver coin doesn’t mean a lot to you, but if you lost your iPhone it would!   You might not light a lamp and sweep the floor, but you would ransack the car and your bedroom and pull the cushions off the couch and reach down into the back and stick your hand down there and you would search until you found your iPhone.  And when you have found it – and often you can find it just by calling it from another phone – you rejoice.  You let others know you have found it so they can share in the joy.

Now why did Jesus tell these parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin?  Because the Pharisees and scribes complained about His hanging out with the Riff Raff and Ne’er -do-wells.  Remember that!  We read here something about the love of Christ, and the love of God for repentant sinners.  We read here something about God’s grace and mercy extended toward the outcasts.  These people are lost, and they need to be found.  God in His wondrous love comes seeking them out.  God comes seeking out those who are lost that He may find them.  I was once lost, but God – in the person of Jesus Christ – came seeking me out.  John Newton was right when he wrote:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but not am found,

Was blind, but now I see!

I once was lost.  I was like a sheep that strayed from the fold, but God came seeking me out and found me!  I once was like a coin buried in the dirt, but God came seeking me out and found me!  I once was lost, but now am found.  In His wondrous love, God comes seeking us. 

Let’s remember these three things.  Number one . . .

 In His Wondrous Love, God comes Seeking Us  . . .  

1) So We May Be Reconciled To Our Savior.

Apart from God’s wondrous love – a love that seeks us out, an active, seeking love – apart from God’s wondrous love that comes to us, we are lost and separated from Him.  Apart from God’s wondrous love we are lost and undone.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.”  Because of sin, we are separated from God and stand in need of reconciliation.  We are like a sheep that has gone astray, that has wandered off.  We are like a coin separated from our owner.  We need to be found and brought back – reconciled – to God.  In His wondrous love, God comes seeking us so we may be reconciled to Him.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18 that God is reconciling us to Himself through Jesus Christ.  So He comes to us.  Jesus as the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11) comes to the sheep, comes to us to reconcile us, to bring us back, to God.  The picture we must have in our minds is that it is God who comes seeking us.  It is God who leaves the glory of heaven and humbles Himself, coming down to us to save our souls.

This condescending work of God, His coming down to us, is pictured in the incarnation, God’s taking on flesh to live as the God-Man . . . 100% God that He may live a perfect life we could not live and we get credit for it . . . and 100% Man that He might die a death we deserved to die as just punishment for our sins – and we get the credit for that, too.  Jesus Christ is our substitute.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:24-25, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  If you have this idea of God as some aloof, divine being somewhere “up there” who does not really care about you, you need to think again.  God does not sit smugly upon some throne, pitying your sinful condition, and shaking His head at your frequent failures.  He – in His wondrous love – comes seeking you out to rescue you from your sin, to reconcile you to Himself.  He comes down from the glories of heaven to make atonement for your transgressions (Philippians 2:5-11).  He comes to you.

These words very beautifully sum this truth up . . .

When the Savior reached down for me

He had to reach way down for me

I was lost and undone without God or his Son

When he reached down his hand for me

In His wondrous love, God comes seeking us – so we may be reconciled to our Savior. 

Secondly, in His wondrous love, God comes seeking us . . .

2) So We May Repent Of Our Sins.

Note that God’s wondrous love is extended not just to sinners, but to “repentant” sinners.  In both parables – the lost sheep and the lost coin – –we read of joy in heaven over “one sinner who repents” (We see that phrase in Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10).”  God rejoices when we repent.

Luke writes often of repentance in his two volume set of Luke and Acts.  In the two books the verb “repentance” occurs 14 times.  As a noun, the word “repentance”  occurs 11 times.  But what does it mean to repent?  In the Old Testament it generally means to turn.”  In the New Testament it generally means “to have a changed mind and heart.” 

Taken together, repentance means

a changed heart and mind about

Our sin, our selves, and Savior, and

A turning to Him, trusting Him

As Lord of our lives. 

We forsake our sin

And we follow our Lord. 

We live for Him.

We cannot be saved from our sin, we cannot be reconciled to God, without repenting.   Like the battlefield commander we read about last week, or like the builder we read about in our last study, we must “count the cost” of discipleship, thinking about what it really means to follow Christ, then repent of our sin, and turn to our Savior and Lord, living for Him.

Repentance is the natural consequence of the soul who realizes that God has come to seek him out.  When we realize that – in His wondrous love – God comes seeking us to reconcile us to Himself, to save us from sin, then we will want to live for Him – we turn from our sin and we turn to our Savior.

When we admit that we are lost and undone – spiritually poor, lame, maimed and blind; outcasts! – and we realize that in His love God has come to us to rescue us like plucking smoldering embers from the fire of hell, when we realize this – we will repent.  We will turn to Christ and receive Him as Lord of our lives.  We will repent not just at the moment of salvation, but daily.  Every time we sin, we confess our sin and turn to our Lord afresh and anew, returning to the loving arms of our Good Shepherd, who always welcomes us back because of His wondrous love.

In His wondrous love, God comes seeking us – so we may be reconciled to our Savior, so we may repent of our sins.

Thirdly, In His wondrous love, God comes seeking us . . .

3) So He May Rejoice In Our Salvation.

God is a God of joy.  He loves to celebrate!  God and all the heavenly host celebrate every time a lost person is found.  You see that picture in verses 7 and 10.  Verse 7, there is joy in heaven; verse 10, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when sinners repent.  Here we see the love of God for your soul . . . He loves you so much that when He finds you, He throws a party.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that, “The tears of the repentant form the wine of the angels.”  God loves finding lost souls.

What wondrous love, that God comes seeking us in the Person of Christ.  No wonder verse 1 says, “sinners drew near to Him.”  They felt His love, they were drawn by the love of God.  This God loves sinners and outcasts, people like you and me.  The Pharisees murmured in verse 2 that Christ “receives sinners.”  Aren’t you glad He receives them still?

If you have ever mourned your sins, and felt like the bottom of the barrel, remember that Christ still receives sinful people.  He loves the outcast, the spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Not a one of us deserves that kind of love.  The Bible says in Romans 3:10-11, “There is none righteous, no not one.  There is none who understands or seeks after God.”  We do not seek Him naturally.  We are sinners naturally.  The Bible says in Ephesians 3:1-3 that we are naturally dead in our trespasses and sins.  We are spiritually dead.  We need someone to come to us and give us life.  We need a loving, soul-seeking God.  We need a Good Shepherd who comes after lost sheep.  And that i’s what God does for us in the Person of Christ.

 One scholar said these parables were revolutionary because while the rabbis agreed that God would welcome a repentant sinner, the idea that God seeks sinners was a new insight.  God seeks sinners.  He loves us first.  Remember what the Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”  God loves us first.  We do not simply wake up one day and decide to be a Christian.  We do not just weigh the evidence and then say, “Well, I guess I will follow Christ.”  IF we come to Christ at all, it is because He has first come to us.  He makes the first move.  He sets His affection upon us.  He loves first.

Some have trouble with the doctrine of election taught in the Bible – God’s choosing some to salvation while passing over others.  We look at the verses in the Bible that teach this doctrine and collectively scratch our heads and wonder aloud about how to reconcile it all.  But whatever else we may think about this doctrine, one thing is crystal clear: God always makes the first move.  He loves us first.  And that teaching – a teaching which is illustrated in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin – that teaching is also illustrated in this beautiful hymn:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;

It was not I that found, O Savior true;

No, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;

I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;

‘Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,

As thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole

Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;

For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,

Always thou lovedst me.


This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 14:25-35 – Following Christ: More than Praying a Prayer

Grace For The Journey

What would it be like if Jesus wrote a book on church growth?  That thought occurred to me several times as I studied these last few verses of chapter 14.  The ways of Jesus really run counter to the ideas embraced by so many evangelical churches today.  Verse 25 says there are “great multitudes” following Jesus around.  We can imagine these multitudes would be in the hundreds if not thousands.  People from all over Palestine are coming out to hear Jesus and following Him along the way.  Rather than celebrating this fact that multitudes of people were following Him around and hanging on His every word, He turns to them and speaks in such a way that He achieves what would really be the opposite goal of modern church growth manuals.  Chapter one of the modern church growth manual says something like, “How to make your church irresistible to hundreds of people.”  Yet, according to verse 25 of our passage today, if Jesus wrote a book on church growth chapter one would be titled, “How To Whittle Down The Large Number Of Your Crowd!” 

Jesus is not interested in building a crowd. 

He is interested in building disciples,

True Christians, true followers of Christ.

This passage runs counter to many methods of contemporary church growth, not the least of which touches on the very issue of how one even becomes a Christian.  In our day, it remains very popular to ask someone to repeat a little prayer after us.  A preacher preaches from somewhere or other in the Bible and after he is finished says something like, “Now if you want to go to heaven, just repeat this little prayer with me.”  Or, after sharing at some large outreach event, or a wedding, or a funeral, he might say, “If you want to go to heaven, just repeat this little prayer after me.”  And in many cases the preacher or the speaker has not even shared the Gospel!  He may have talked about a thousand things, many of them perhaps even coming from the Bible – a story, a teaching – but no Gospel; no real teaching about who Jesus Christ is and what Jesus Christ has done and why what He has done was necessary to do.  No teaching about sin, redemption, atonement, death, resurrection, conversion, or sanctification – just “repeat this little prayer after me if you want to go to heaven.”

Yet, there is nowhere in Scripture any notion that simply by asking people to “repeat a little prayer” that they have transferred from darkness to light, from separation from God to reconciliation with God, crossing over from death to life.  Consequently, there are scores of people sitting in the average American church today who have been told they are okay with God when, in reality, they are not okay, they are lost.

This passage is about really following Christ.  This passage is about becoming a Christian, a Christ-follower.  It is not the first time we have heard Jesus speak about this in Luke’s Gospel.  You will remember back in Luke 9:23-26, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Does that sound like Jesus is saying, “Just pray this simple little prayer after Me?”  Quite the contrary.  Again in Luke 9:57-62, “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.  And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’  Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’  But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’  And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Does it sound like Jesus is saying, “If you really want to go to heaven, to get into the kingdom of God, just say this little prayer with Me and you’re in?”  Not at all.  Jesus will go on to say in Luke 18 that salvation is something that is really impossible, something “impossible with man,” but “possible with God.”  Salvation may mean the leaving behind of “house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God.”  The one who does this, says Jesus, will receive “in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:24-30).”  Nothing there about simply, “Repeating this nice little prayer with me.” 

Salvation is a radically changed life

That grows daily under the absolute

Lordship of Jesus Christ.

In last verses in Luke 14, Jesus answers the question, “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)?

In fact all of these terms and phrases in Luke’s Gospel are expressing the same thing; becoming a Christian . . .

  • Salvation (Luke 7:50),
  • Being a disciple (Luke 14:26),
  • Entering God’s kingdom (Luke 18:24),
  • Having eternal life (Luke 18:18),
  • Eating bread in God’s kingdom (Luke 14:15),
  • Being acknowledged before God’s angels (Luke 12:8),
  • And following Jesus (Luke 14:26)

Are different ways Luke expressed the same reality.

This passage is about entering the kingdom of God, it is about salvation; it is about the conditions for discipleship.  IF we find ourselves “leading someone in a prayer to receive Christ” we had better be sure that we carefully explain to him or her these conditions.  We will not do them the disservice of telling them to simply “bow their heads, close their eyes, and say the magical little prayer with us,” thus giving them a false sense of assurance that their sins have been forgiven.  Rather, we will carefully explain the full Gospel message and spell out the conditions of discipleship. 

What are these conditions?

What Is Required If I Am To Really Follow Christ . . .

I. Total Adoration.

We must love the Lord Jesus Christ more than we love anything or anyone else.  That is the meaning behind the words of Jesus in verse 26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”  If all we had in our entire Bibles was verse 26, we would have cause for alarm.  What does this mean, hating one’s family?  This verse seems to fall into the category of “hard sayings of Jesus,” the sort of question a skeptic would raise in an attempt to belittle a Christian.  The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther was known for his abrupt way in answering critics.  Luther was once taking questions from skeptics and one skeptic – in an attempt to trip up Luther – said, “You say God created everything, so what was God doing before He created everything?” Luther replied, “He was thinking about creating hell for people who ask stupid questions like you!”  Not exactly the best pastoral reply!

But this is a real question here in verse 26.  What does this mean, hating one’s father, mother, wife, brothers, sisters, and children?  We must begin to answer this question with the true knowledge that God nowhere contradicts Himself.  It is impossible for God to say something in one place in the Bible and contradict that Scriptural truth in another place.  If God says in Exodus 20, the 5th Commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” then we know that the idea of loving and honoring our parents is not contradicted by what God says here in Luke 14.  Similarly, when Paul tells husbands in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives,” then again, the God who speaks through inspired writers never once contradicts Himself.

We need not be alarmed and immediately rush to the bookshelves for some commentary.  This verse here does not mean that we are to literally “hate” our family.  What we have here is a Hebrew way of speaking about a deeper love for one thing over another.  It is a bit like what we read in Genesis 29:30-31, where we read of Jacob’s greater love for Rachel.  Jacob’s love is described as his “hating Leah” (Genesis 29:31).  The Hebrew usage does not mean “hate” as we commonly use it today.  Jacob did not “hate” Leah in that sense.  He clearly loved her, but His love for Rachel was greater.  It was so much greater that – by comparison – his love for Leah looked like hate.

This describes a love for this thing that is so much more than my love for this that – by comparison – this love looks like hate.  One more time: This love is a love for this thing that is so much more than my love for this that – by comparison – this love looks like hate.

Our love for Christ should be a far greater love than our love for anyone or anything else.  It should be a deeper love, a love that will not be given to another.  This is the kind of love we are to have for Jesus Christ: total adoration.

When we talk to a lost person about being a follower of Christ, we need to talk to them about the love of their lives.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Let’s be sure our lost friend and family member understands that no one gets “first place” except Jesus Christ alone.  This is why Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Matthew 22:37).  Total adoration.

Kent Hughes summarizes this thought when he says, “Some of us love our wives, husbands, and children more than we love God.  We miss the mark when we put their development athletically, intellectually, culturally, artistically, and socially before their spiritual well-being.  We fall short when we spend more time in the car in one day shuttling them to games and lessons than we do in a month in prayer for their souls.  By comparison, our lives reveal that we hate God and love our children disproportionately – and that we are not Jesus’ disciples.”

Do you love God and the things of God more than anyone or anything else?  A great Christian classic is the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan.  It is a far greater read than so much of what passes for popular Christian books today.  Pilgrim’s Progress is about a man who embarks upon the journey of eternal life, having heard the Gospel from a man named Evangelist.  At the beginning of the story, Bunyan writes about the man’s necessary commitment to Jesus Christ and the necessity for total adoration of Him alone.  Writing of the man Bunyan says, “The man began to run (to follow after Christ). Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, Life! life! Eternal life!  (Luke 14:26). So he looked not behind him, (Genesis 19:17), but fled (after Christ).”

Do you have a girlfriend that would keep you from your commitment to Christ?  Do you have a boyfriend that would keep you from following Jesus?  A job? A house?  A pastime?  To follow Christ means total adoration. 

Secondly, to follow Christ means . . .

II. Total Allegiance.

Jesus is Lord.  If we really love Him, we will follow our Lord faithfully, even unto death.  Verse 27 says, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  To “bear one’s cross” means to die to ourselves and to live for our Lord.  We love our Lord so much we are willing to die for Him.  Remember that the cross is a symbol of death.

We may forget that because crosses have become popular jewelry today.  I like the cross in jewelry, by the way.  I always try to comment when I see someone wearing a cross because I also think it is a good conversation piece to talk about Jesus Christ.   But because the cross is so popular even in our jewelry, we may forget that the cross is a symbol of death.  In Jesus’ day, wearing a cross in a necklace would be seen very differently than today.  It would be a bit like wearing today a pendant in the form of an electric chair.  That may sound kind of odd, wearing an electric chair on your necklace, but the symbol conveys death by execution and such was the Roman cross.  Think of that every time you see a cross.  It is a reminder of what Jesus did for us – He died – and it is a reminder that we are called to die as well, dying to ourselves, and being ready to die for our Lord.

That is what it means to “bear one’s cross.”  I am not sure we should really be joking about these silly ways we claim to bear our crosses.  We speak of “a cross to bear” as some trivial suffering like putting up with an ill-tempered mother-in-law: “She’s my ‘cross to bear.’”  No.  That is missing it, really. 

Bearing one’s cross is a call to total allegiance. 

We live for the One who died for us.

It is a life we live by dying – dying to ourselves and being ready to die for our faith.

This is not something we just jump right into.  We do not just make a hasty decision to become a Christian.  We think long and hard about what it really means to follow Christ.  That is what Jesus intends to teach with these two illustrations in verses 28 through 30, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”  You do not just decide one day to build a tower.  You really think about it.  What will it cost to build the tower?  What will it require?  How long will it take?  Jesus says this is the same way we should think long and hard about whether to follow Him.  What will it cost me?  What will it require of me?  How long will it take? 

Another illustration follows in verses 31 and 32, “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”  The decision to follow Christ is not something we hastily enter into like a king going to battle against another king without being prepared.  We must think about these things: What will it cost me?  What will it require of me?  How long will it take?

Do you see, then, how we must do some careful, critical thinking about the Gospel before we just “fill out a card” or “bow and pray a simple prayer?”  The very term “Gospel,” meaning “Good News,” cannot be understood rightly apart from the “Bad News,” that tells of our condition apart from Christ.  We are sinners, lost and undone, separated from God.  He is holy and we are not.  God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He lived a life we could not live – perfection – and dies a death we deserved, as punishment for our sin.  He is raised on the third day, raised from the grave, so that we may be declared righteous and justified.  By God’s grace we repent, turning from ourselves and our sin, and turning to Christ – which means – we will now live for Him.  He will be number one in our lives; total adoration, total allegiance.

But that is not all.  There is one more condition we must meet if we are to be a follower of Christ. 

Thirdly . . .

III. Total Abandonment.

Verse 33 says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”  The word “forsake” here is translated elsewhere as, “Bid farewell.”  One translation of verse 33 says “Similarly, then, every one of you who does not say goodbye to all he has cannot be a disciple of mine.”  Jesus speaks of total abandonment.  We must be willing to “say goodbye to all we have.”  That does not mean, of course, that our salvation means that we are to rush home and get rid of everything we own.  It does mean, however, that if called to do so we will not hesitate.    We will not hesitate because we believe in total adoration of our Lord and total allegiance to our Lord.  If God leads us to give away our car, we will give away our car.  If God calls us to leave the comfort of western society to do missional work in eastern society we will.

Then Jesus adds this picturesque reminder that following Christ is something we do for the long haul.  We persevere in our faith.  Verses 34 and 35 tell us, “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  True Christians, like true salt, never lose their zeal and influence.  True Christians remain faithful to their Lord, not becoming corrupted by the impurities of the world and losing their influence, much like the salt around the Dead Sea, but true Christians remain faithful to Christ, faithful to the end.

True Christians are known for their love of Christ.  They are known total adoration of Christ, total allegiance to Christ, and total abandonment for Christ.

Before leaving for the mission field, a short trip that would end tragically in his own death at the hands of the very natives he was trying to reach, Jim Elliot, while still a student at Wheaton College, one day wrote down these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  We have talked about counting the cost of following Christ.  However great the cost may seem, consider also the cost of not following Christ . . . Because the cost of not following Christ is far greater: eternal hell to pay for our sins.   

Truth is none of us can meet these three conditions perfectly.  Thankfully, we are saved on the basis of who we know and what He has done for us.  Jesus meets all the righteous requirements of the Bible and takes our punishment upon Himself.  But if we receive Him as Lord, receiving God’s grace to believe the Gospel and the grace to repent, turning from our sins; our hearts devoted to Christ – adoration, allegiance, and abandonment – we will receive eternal life. 

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 114:15-24 – How Is Your Spiritual Appetite?

Grace For The Journey

Few things seem more uncomfortable at a dinner party than the awkward silence that suddenly creeps over the guests and fills the room with an uneasy quiet.  Just a moment earlier there was noise of some kind or another, the clanging of plates or the moving of chairs, or the sustaining drone of amiable conversation, but suddenly – as if cued by a director – there is silence.  It is a strange phenomenon and sometimes the silence is simply broken by someone who smiles and says, “It sure got quiet all of the sudden!”  And everyone laughs.  But when the silence occurs among a dinner party whose guests are not at all comfortable with one another to begin with, the sudden stillness of the moment paralyzes the guests, causing them to look down at their plates, everyone waiting for somebody to say something–anything!

This may well have been the situation in which the Pharisees found themselves at the dinner table to which Jesus had been invited.  You will remember from last study that Jesus had politely insulted the guests of the dinner party as well as the host of the dinner party!  You will remember from verses 7-14 that Jesus had said first to the guests at dinner, “Do not sit down at the best places, choosing the first seats, but rather sit at the lowly place so that you might be exalted.”  Then Jesus turns to the host of the dinner party and says in verse 12, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends and the well-to-do, but rather invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and blind.”   

It did not take much looking around for these Pharisees and religious leaders to note that there was not a single one among them fitting the description of poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  The heavy silence must have slowed their movements considerably.  Finally, one of the guys blurts out in verse, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  Seems a strange thing to say.  And everyone peeks up from their plates to see how Jesus will respond to this man’s unanticipated benediction.

Jesus uses the man’s statement as an opportunity to teach about the kingdom of God.   By now we are seeing that the Pharisees and the religious elite of Israel rejected Christ as Messiah; they rejected His teachings like invited guests rejecting the invitation to the great banquet; the great banquet a metaphor for living in the kingdom of God in the final state; the great banquet a metaphor for final salvation and eternal life.

Today, we will go through and study closely these ten verses after which we will  consider a few things from this dinner conversation.  Look now at verse 15, “Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’”  Sensing the awkward conviction resulting from Jesus’ challenge to invite outcasts to a dinner party, this unnamed guest attempts to turn the conversation to more pleasant thoughts.  He strikes me as the sort of fellow who probably paused dramatically after making this statement, himself nodding in agreement to what he had just said, looking around at others for their nods, too.  I am sure he took pleasure in how he heard the words come out of his own mouth.

But this is a sham.  The guy has no real interest in the kingdom of God because he rejects the king – King Jesus.  This is why Jesus tells this little parable here in verses 16 and 17, “Then He said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’”  These verses illustrate what was common practice and custom in the ancient, near east.  When a person was invited to a dinner, two invitations were extended.  The first invitation was something of an RSVP.  A servant is sent out to invite folks to the future banquet meal.  After the invitees agreed to come, then a second invitation was given once the meal was prepared.  That is what you have in verse 17.  The servant goes out and says to those who were invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.”  That is a way of saying, “Soup’s on! The table is set, it is time to eat.”

To accept the first invitation – agreeing to come – and then to reject the second invitation – after the meal is already prepared and the table set – was not good; it was a breach of social etiquette that would cause “Ms. Manners” to become apoplectic!   Socially, it was about as low as one could go.  But these invitees had their reasons – were they reasons, or excuses? Verse 18 tells us, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’”  Hard to imagine a guy back then buying a piece of land without first even looking at it, but that is this guy’s excuse.  The second excuse is in verse 19, “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’”  Here is a guy who buys some 20,000 pounds of livestock and says he has got to go and check it all out.  Then the last guy’s excuse is in verse 20, “Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’”  The guy who only a few days earlier says he can come suddenly gets married and now he can’t come?  Even if he really got married, he can’t bring his wife with him?  This is a parable and we are not supposed to press the details as Jesus is teaching a larger, greater point about the kingdom of God.  These three guys – who represent the Pharisees and religious elite – have rejected the invitation to the great banquet. 

Verse 21 says, “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’”  The food is ready!  The table is set!  The time is now!  The master of the banquet tells his servant to go out and invite others who will gladly come – the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.  The servant does so and reports back in verses 22 through 24, where the Bible says, “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’  Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”

Jesus is teaching about more than some guy inviting people to a supper.  He is teaching about eternal salvation and the kingdom of God.  Remember it was a self-important Pharisee who got this conversation started with his silly platitude, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  The great banquet pictures the ultimate kingdom banquet, what the Bible calls “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).  This parable illustrates ultimate salvation in the kingdom of God.  We have said that the kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future reality.  People enter the kingdom of God now by receiving Jesus Christ into their lives.  They take a seat at the banquet to “feast” on the sumptuous blessings of Christ, the Lord Jesus, Himself the sum and substance of the wedding banquet.  As Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”  Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the wedding banquet.  We enter into the kingdom now by receiving Christ; it is a present realization.  But the kingdom of God is also a future expectation.  We await the final state when all that is ours through Christ Jesus is granted; the final and future consummation of the kingdom of God.

So here it is: the Pharisees and the religious elite leaders, here in Luke 14, sitting with Jesus at this dinner party are the Jews who claimed to live for the kingdom of God.  They claimed to be looking forward to their Messiah and the future fulfillment of the wedding banquet.  But when the invitation finally comes, when the invitation is extended, the invitation that says, “It’s here.  The table is set.  Everything is ready,” they will find themselves all making excuses – Why? –  Because they will not like this so-called “King” of the kingdom of God.  So the invitation is extended to others – people who will gladly come to the feast – people considered by the Jews to be “second class,” the poor, maimed, lame, and blind – the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:23-28).

I am not sure all of that sunk-in at this meal 2,000 years ago.  It is always easier for us to see, living as we do this side of the cross.  But that is the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching: these Jews would reject their Messiah, like invitees rejecting the second invitation to feast with the food of eternal life.  So, in the words of Jesus – verse 24 – “none of those men who were invited shall taste (His) supper.”

It would be easy for us to close our Bibles and think, “How unfortunate for those unbelieving Jews, to forfeit their privilege of being first in the kingdom of God” . . . “And how fortunate for Gentiles like us to receive the invitation to eternal life.”  If that is the way we are going to leave this morning we are not better than the guy who pompously opined, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

So, let’s consider . . . Three Things To Glean From This Dinner Conversation . . .

1) Consider The Lengths To Which God Has Gone To Provide Salvation.

Jesus begins the parable in verse 16 with the phrase, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.”  Here is the Gospel.  An invitation goes out from God to attend the banquet of all banquets; it is a banquet of feasting on the “food that endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27).  It is salvation full and free.

We are sinners separated from God because we are by nature sinful and He is by nature Holy.  Only someone who is both God and Man can bridge the gulf of separation.  What does God do?  God comes to us and takes on humanity; God comes to us in the Person of Jesus Christ to live a perfect life for which we get credit and He dies a death whereby He takes the punishment for sin that we deserved.  He is buried and rises the third day to indicate His power over sin, death, and hell.  We are saved from our sins by believing in Him and accepting what He has done, and living for His glory.

Jesus Christ is the “sum and substance” of the supper and He invites us to feast on the food of eternal life.  He says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”  Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the wedding banquet.

This is an invitation for everyone.  The banquet is NOW here; the table is NOW set; it is NOW ready.  Jesus says in John 6:37, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  All who come will be received!  God loves all and receives all who will come, The Bible tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His unique, one-of-a-kind Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  He loves all.  God loves all people regardless of ethnicity, accomplishment, or ability.  He seeks to save those who are lost – no matter how sinful.  This is why He has come to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

His love is so great for lost people that those who carry the message to them are told in verse 23 to “Compel them to come in from among the highways and the hedges.”

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

Like the wideness of the sea

Number two . . .

2) Know That Religion Alone Does Not Guarantee Entrance Into The Kingdom.

The Jews and religious elite leaders sitting at the dinner table thought they were guaranteed a spot at the banquet in the kingdom of God.  Remember, it was the smug way in which one guy made the comment that got Jesus to tell the parable.  No doubt that man – and all those sitting with him – thought surely if anyone would sit at the ultimate marriage supper it would be they!  But they were wrong.  They were like the guys who made excuses for not attending.  They will reject the King of the kingdom; they will reject the Good News of the Gospel found in Jesus Christ.  And because they reject the invitation, the Gospel goes out to those who will receive it, people the Jews tended to avoid, the lame, maimed, blind, and poor–the Gentiles, the non-religious, non-Jews.

The Bible says in Luke 13:30 the first will be last and the last will be first.  It also says in Luke 14:1 those who exalt themselves would be humbled and those who humble themselves would be exalted.  Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, we may think we know who will be in the kingdom of God based on outward appearances.  But religion alone does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom of God.  It does not matter how religious you are and how religious-sounding you are . . . none of that matters if you are lost.

There is a warning here for us.  You can know spiritual truth, read the Bible, faithfully attend the worship services, and be lost.  Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Number three . . .

3) Honestly Assess Your Appetite For Spiritual Things.

It is painfully instructive that these who were invited to the greatest feast of the ages made excuses to not attend?  The truth is, they loved their religion and they loved the world more than they loved God.  They had a greater appetite for the things of the world than the things of God.  When you examine these three excuses you find that their excuses had to do either with possessions or affections.  Someone said, “Possessions and affections cover virtually every reason by which men and women give their regrets to the kingdom.”   

Would you put an invitation from your family ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His banquet?  Jesus will go on to say in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children…he cannot be My disciple.”  What does that mean?  Would you put your affections before God?  Is an earthly relationship to you more important than a heavenly relationship with God?

Would you put the fleeting desires of this world ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His heavenly banquet?  How much time do you spend at work, trying to acquire status, stuff, prestige, and power?  Are you guilty of putting possessions ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His heavenly banquet?

Honestly assess your appetite for spiritual things.  Understand that no excuse is valid when it comes to forfeiting one’s soul.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 14:1-14 – Things God Does In Our Lives

Grace For The Journey

Our passage today centers upon a dinner invitation.  I like food and I like to read about food, so I am immediately drawn into this text as Jesus is invited to eat in the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees.  There are other Pharisees there as we learn later and there are a number of scribes there, too.  There were a lot of religious people there, most of them opposed to the teachings of Christ.  But Jesus has been invited to dinner.  What the religious host and all of his friends do not know is that, while they have invited Jesus to eat with them, He has brought a meal of His own.  Jesus has brought spiritual food with Him and He is serving it up through what He says and does.  That is really what we have here in these verses.  Really, the dinner scene goes from verse 1 all the way to verse 24, but this morning we’re going to be looking at roughly the first half of this dinner scene, verses 1-14.

In keeping with the theme of food here, I want to treat this text as something of a sandwich.  Now do not get hungry on me!  There is a recipe here for Christian living and there are three main ingredients.  I want to study about these three ingredients of the sandwich and treat them like two pieces of bread with meat in the middle.  The main part of the sandwich is what is in the middle, everyone knows that.  All three parts are necessary, but it is what’s in the middle that really makes it, so I want to spend the greater portion of our time talking about the second ingredient.

If you will allow that imagery, I want to share these three ingredients for Christian living.  Every Christian, every person born twice – physically and then spiritually – by God’s grace will demonstrate these behaviors. 

First . . .

I. We Must Have Mercy: Verses 1-6.

Verse 1 says, “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.”  The fact that these religious people were watching Jesus closely suggests that the whole thing may have been a setup.  Some have referred to the scribes and Pharisees as “The Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  Back in chapter 6 Jesus had healed a person on the Sabbath day and they did not like that; they said healing was “work” and you are not supposed to work on the Sabbath.  It looks like the perfect storm: you have got all these powerful religious leaders present, gathered together on the Sabbath day, and you have got Jesus there, now all you need is someone who needs to be healed. 

Verse 2 tells us, “And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.”  Dropsy in the Greek is the word “hydropikob.”  The root “hydro” is the word we use to refer to water.  This condition was some kind of disease in which various parts of the body became very swollen with fluid.  It would have been obvious that this man was very sick, if not critically or terminally ill.  Jesus knows they are all watching, so, verse 3 says, “And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’”  Note that it says, “And Jesus, answering.”  He “answered,” but they had not asked anything – or had they?  Jesus knows all things.  He is God.  He knows their thoughts; He answers their thoughts.  He asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” What is their answer?  Verse 4 tells us, “But they kept silent.”  By this point in Luke’s Gospel, they are learning that you cannot win an argument with the Master.   

Verse 4 goes on to say, “And He took him and healed him, and let him go.”  I would love to have witnessed that healing!  Then verse 5 tells us that Jesus, again knowing what they are thinking, says, “Then He answered them, saying, ‘Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?’”  If something you care about has fallen into a pit you would get them out as soon as possible. 

Verse 6 says, “And they could not answer Him regarding these things.”  They go from being silent in verse 4 to being unable to answer in verse 6.  They go from “would not” to “could not.”  Jesus is the Master of the conversation here.

The framework of the Old Testament Law; the Books of Moses, allowed for acts of mercy on the Sabbath day.  Jesus’ teaching here has less to do with whether it is right to heal on the Sabbath than the fact that true followers of the Lord should show mercy towards others.  That is really the takeaway point here.  We should have mercy. 

The scribes and Pharisees had allowed their concern

For ritual and religion to blind them to the

Need to show mercy towards others. 

The Law requires love that leads to action.

One of the best ways to honor the Sabbath then, is to heal someone!  How merciful is that?

Now this point is very similar to the latter point, the third point – or the other piece of bread in our sandwich – so I want to jump down to the last two verses of our text and look at point three before we address the meat in the middle.  I realize this is going to stress some of us out, those of us who are neat and orderly, to have to write down point three before we write down point two may get us thoroughly out of sorts.  Hang in there!

The third ingredient in the recipe for Christlike behavior is, point three . . .

III. We Must Have Charity: Verses 12-14.

We must have love, a love for all people.  Look at verses 12 through 14, “Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Jesus tells his dinner guests, when you are having one of these feasts, rather than inviting the “easy” people: relatives, friends, rich people; rather than inviting them, invite the “not so easy” people: the poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Now, of course, Jesus does not mean that one can NEVER invite his or her relatives or friends, and so forth, but that the blessing is found in inviting people who are in no position to reciprocate your kindness. 

Note verse 14 again, “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  The other people are in a position to repay you.  You invite your friends, relatives, and rich people to your parties, they will probably invite you to their parties.  In fact, that is the very reason why some people invite the rich to their homes, that they might be invited in to their home, to rub elbows with popular, friendly, rich, easy people.  If that is what you want to live for, then you will receive that earthly reward of social status, popularity, and reciprocal kindness.

But Jesus says if you want a heavenly reward, be in the habit of showing charity and love to the less fortunate, to the outcasts; poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  They will not be able to “repay” you, but, note the last part of verse 14, “you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  You will receive your heavenly reward on the day of judgment.

How natural does this come to you, showing love to the outcasts?  Showing love to the less fortunate co-workers, showing love to the less fortunate boy or girl at school?  Every true Christian will do this.  It is the worldly who have their own parties and seek to position themselves among the popular, the well-liked, and the rich and famous.  Those of the kingdom, however, true followers of Christ, will show love to all people.  Someone said that in God’s kingdom,

Service is

More important

Than status.”

But, wait!  Me must take care NOT to show love to the outcasts so that everyone can see how truly “spiritual” we are!  This would be the epitome of pride, the very thing we want to avoid. 

And this is what is the real root of the problem. 

Our failure to show mercy, our failure to show charity,

Comes most often because of a failure to have humility.

That is the second point.  So go back to the space you left for point two and let’s look at this middle ingredient in the recipe for Christlike behavior.

II. We Must Have Humility: Verses 7-11.

Humility really is the key ingredient, the main thing, the meat-in-the-middle of the bread.  Apparently after this man is healed of dropsy, there is something of an awkward silence and then the scribes and Pharisees make their way into the dining room to eat.  Jesus – ever a keen observer of human nature – watches how they hurry and scurry to get the best seats.  Verses seven to nine tells us, “So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place..”  The term “best places,” in verse 7 is literally “first seats.”  The image is one with which most of us can relate.  If you have ever been in a position to wait on a shuttle bus at a theme park or at the airport, there is a good bit of hurrying and scurrying when that shuttle makes its way to the curb and a crowd of 150 people start jockeying for 15 lousy seats.  It is something of an embarrassing trait of the human race, isn’t it?  And I am right there with the rest of you, getting on that shuttle seems like the most important act of our lives.  God save us from waiting another 20 minutes for the next shuttle!

That is a bit the way these scribes and Pharisees were scurrying to the seats for the dinner.  Jesus watched them jostling with one another for the best seats at the feast.  The setting suggests there may have been the arrangement of furniture like the Roman triclinium, three couches set around a central table.  These reclining couches were U-shaped and the best seat – the seat of honor – was the one right in the middle of the U.  Imagine rushing over to get the prime seat in the middle of the U and then other people getting in on the right and the left so that you are hemmed-in and then the host comes and tells you, “Uh, actually that seat is for Bob.”  How embarrassing!  Your face is flushed and you hang your head while everyone awkwardly and uncomfortably moves to one side so you can get out of the U and take your seat back in 59F! 

In verses 10 and 11, Jesus tells us, “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place (sit in seat 59F first!), so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  When you are invited to a dinner, take a seat in the lowly places – not in false humility, acting all spiritual-like, you know, “Oh, I’m not worthy to sit in the best seats!”  That is being as prideful as sitting in the best seats.  Just sit down!  Make like you are a kid again at the family get-togethers on the holidays.  If you are family’s like mine, all the important people were in the fine, dining room with the gold silverware and plates used just once a year.  We kids sat at the rickety old card table in the rec-room with paper plates and plastic–sporks!  So what; we were happy.  Jesus says, “Humble yourself and you will be exalted.”  On the other hand, exalt yourself and you will be – what? – humbled . . . or even, humiliated.  Humiliation is not the same as humility.  Humiliation is what happens if you do not have humility.  That is a good anecdote, isn’t it?  Humiliation is what happens when you do not have humility.

If you like Greek grammar, you will find it significant that these verbal phrases in verse 11– “will be humbled” and “will be exalted” – are what scholars call “theological passives.”  In other words . . .

You do not do them yourself,

They are done to you by God.

You are passive in it.  If you don’t humble yourself, then God will see that you are humbled.  On the other hand, if you do humble yourself, then God will see that you are exalted.  Exaltation may happen in this life, but it may not happen until the life to come.  But the key is, show humility.  True followers of Christ are in the habit of humbling themselves.  It’s the meat-in-the-middle.  It’s the main thing.

Remember that humility is NOT the main thing in the world in which we live; humility is not natural in our world.  By default, we are not humble people.  We do not humble ourselves.  We exalt ourselves.  So, Jesus’ axiom here in verse 11 about humbling ourselves is actually at odds with what is believed to be popular, trendy, and right.  Pastor Kent Hughes observes:

“Jesus’ axiom (of having and showing humility) is equally penetrating and appropriate today–because it is not believed!  Washington, DC doesn’t believe it, despite its nods to the likes of Billy Graham and Mother Teresa.  The Democratic and Republican Parties do not believe it.  Listen to the campaign rhetoric.  Professional athletes do not believe it.  Business executives do not believe it.  Has Wall Street ever advertised executive positions as especially available to the humble and lowly of heart?”

It is true, isn’t it?  We are always tempted to exalt ourselves because that is the way our culture rolls.  Exalt yourself and then you will succeed.  Work hard, play tough and then you can write a book entitled, Humility and How I Attained It! There is something offensive about that kind of self-exalting attitude, isn’t there?  Something repulsive about pride to those who are striving to enter the narrow gate of the kingdom.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:31-35 – The Unstoppable Jesus – His Love Never Fails

Grace For The Journey

This contains an image of:   Before we read this morning’s passage, I want to share with you again about this matter of “active listening.”  Yesterday morning in my quiet time I was encouraged by reading Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting on God.  Andrew Murray was a great missionary and pastor in South Africa. In one place he writes: “A minister has no more solemn duty than teaching people to wait upon God.”  Murray applies this to the matter of preaching.  Drawing from an incident in the Book of Acts, Murray asks, “Why was it that in the house of Cornelius, when ‘Peter spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all that heard him?’  They had said: ‘We are all here before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.’”

Murray applies this truth to expecting to hear from God when we gather together for preaching.  He writes: “We may come together to give and to listen to the most earnest exposition of God’s truth with little spiritual profit if there be no waiting for God’s counsel.”   He adds, “And so in all our gatherings we need to believe in the Holy Spirit as the Guide and Teacher of God’s saints when they wait to be led by Him into the things which God hath prepared…”

After Jesus spoke about the narrow way, about entering into the Kingdom of God, verse 31 picks up with what happened “on that very day.”  In these few short verses of our text Jesus mentions Jerusalem three times and, in essence He says, “Jerusalem: You have become pretty well known for your criminal activity.  You need no introduction.  Your reputation precedes you; Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you; Jerusalem, you who have a monopoly on being the locale for killing God’s servants; Jerusalem – it cannot be that a prophet should die anywhere else, but in Jerusalem.”

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, on His way to die there; on His way to die on the cross for our sins.  Jesus has been on His way for quite some time now, on His way with determination and precision of timing.  Nothing will stop Him from His purposes. 

Today we will look at some wonderful truths about “The Unstoppable Jesus.”  First . . .

I. Consider His Divine Control.

The first thing we see in this passage is that Jesus Christ is in absolute control of absolutely everything!  There is nothing that can hinder His purposes.  Look beginning at verse 31, “On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, ‘Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.’”  Some Pharisees came to Jesus and warned Him to get out of town because Herod wanted to kill Him.  Most of us are struck by this because we usually think of the Pharisees as the bad guys.  But not all were bad.  Note closely there in verse 31 that Luke writes “some” Pharisees.  Some, not all.  Apparently, these Pharisees are sympathetic to Jesus’ call and mission.  We need not assume that these Pharisees were somehow lying to Jesus or trying to hurry Him toward Jerusalem so that He would die more quickly.

Some Pharisees were sympathetic toward Jesus:

  • A ruler of the Pharisees in Luke 14:1.
  • Nicodemus in John 3,
  • Gamaliel in Acts 5. 

A side note here: Jesus could have said, “Well, the majority of the Pharisees are a bunch of self-centered, religious crazies who reject Me.  Therefore, I reject them all!”  That is the way some of us might reason when somebody wrongs us.  “Well, I’m not going to talk to any of those people.  They hurt me, so I am writing them all off!”   Thank God for the loving, patient, and preserving example of our Lord Jesus. 

Verse 32 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’”  Jesus knew Herod Antipas to be a schemer, a deceptive man acting with cunning trickery like a fox.  The statement, “Today, tomorrow, and the third day” was an idiom or proverb that simply meant, “I’m going to continue my work.  Nothing will stop me until I am finished.”  The point is, “Tell Herod, He can’t stop me.  Nothing can stop me.  I act independently of that fox’s plots and schemes.  Tell Herod it will be ‘business as usual.’”

Jesus knew where He was going.  It is good to be with someone who knows where he is going, is not it?  On the other hand, it is very frustrating when you are driving behind someone who does not have a clue where he is going, right?  It is good to shop with people who know where they are going and how long they are going to be there, and when they are going to be leaving.  Jesus knew where He was going.  We see again the steadfast determination of our Lord to complete the task for which He came.  He came to die.  He says at the last part of verse 32, “And on the third day I shall be perfected.”   That is a way of saying, “The day will come – and not a moment too soon or too late – the day will come when My work will be complete.”  This is the redemptive work for which Jesus came.  He came to die.

He is in control of every event – everything will happen according to His divine plan.  He is moving inexorably through the day-by-day ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons, moving step-by-step closer to Jerusalem where He will die. 

He says in verse 33, “Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”  There is the phrase again: today, tomorrow, and the day following.  This was a popular way of saying, “It is business as usual.  I have got work to do and nothing will stop Me until I finish My work.  And My work will be finished when I die.”

The phrase, “It cannot be that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem” was a proverbial way of saying, “Given Jerusalem’s reputation for killing God’s servants, it would be highly unusual for a prophet would die anywhere else, anywhere else but in Jerusalem.  That’ is the place that has the monopoly on killing good guys.”  Jerusalem had a reputation that preceded her of killing the prophets and stoning those sent to her:

  • The people wanted to stone David in 1 Samuel 30:6.
  • They stoned Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18.
  • Naboth was stoned to death in 1 Kings 21:13. 
  • Zechariah was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 24:21. 

Jerusalem would live up to this bad reputation by killing Jesus not very long after He makes this statement.  Many of the leaders of the early church would be killed as well, Stephen, for example, in Acts 7.

But you see, Jesus came to die.  And we are reminded yet again that . . .

  • Jesus came not so much to be our moral example, though He is that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to heal the sick, though He did that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to tell stories, though He did that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to hold babies in His arms and bounce them on His knees, though He certainly must have done that.

But these were not the primary reasons our Lord left the glory of heaven and came to fallen creation.  No . . .

Jesus came primarily to die.

This is the theme of the Bible . . .  

Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

John 10:17-18, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”

Jesus knew He would die.  He lay His life down of His own to die for us.  He died on the cross to pay our sin debt.  This truth is what gripped Isaac Watts when he wrote . . .

Alas! and did my Savior bleed

  And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

  For such a worm as I?

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,

  And the burden of my heart rolled away,

It was there by faith I received my sight,

  And now I am happy all the day!

 He came to die … the Bible teaches that nothing will hinder His purposes . . .

Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 21:30, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

  • Herod the Great tried to stop Jesus shortly after He was born by ordering the death of all children 2-years old and under.  Herod couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • Satan tried to stop Jesus by tempting Him in the desert.  Satan couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The Scribes and Pharisees often tried to stop Jesus’ teaching.  The Scribes and Pharisees couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • Herod Antipas tried to stop Jesus, but Herod Antipas couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The soldiers tried to stop Jesus, but the soldiers couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The cross couldn’t stop Him, the grave couldn’t stop Him. 
  • Death could not stop Him. 

He is the “Unstoppable Jesus!”

Consider His Divine Control.  Secondly . . .

II. Consider His Divine Compassion.

Listen to Christ’s His love in verse 34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  He longs for the Jewish people to receive Him as their rightful Messiah, but they will not.  They are not willing.  He wishes to gather them together the way a loving hen gathers her chicks under her wings to shield them, to love them, to protect them, to care for them, to preserve their lives, but “they were not willing.”  Just as John says in John 1:11, “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.”  They were not willing.

Jesus looks ahead forty years to the horrid destruction of the temple of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans; AD 70 when Jerusalem’s “house is left desolate.”  This is what He means when he says in verse 35, “See!  Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”  The barren fig tree (Luke 13:6=9) cannot forever remain unpunished.  Judgment is coming to Jerusalem.

Then Jesus makes this statement at the end of verse 35, “I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”  This statement could refer to a “forced” confession – a confession apart from conversion; apart from salvation – that will be made one day by every current unbeliever.  One day, Christ will return and, as Paul says later, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).  Believers will confess freely and willingly, but the lost will be forced from hell, forced to admit at that point that Jesus Christ truly was and is the eternal Savior and King.

I read last week in my study a statement to this effect by JC Ryle.  He said, “Earth is the only place in God’s creation where there is any infidelity (or unbelief).  Hell itself is nothing but truth known too late.”  There are no second chances after death.  You must receive Jesus Christ as Lord.  If you do, you will be saved and you can say freely, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  He is my Lord, Jesus!  But if you will not receive Christ, you will remain separated from God and from hell you will be forced to confess and admit and acknowledge that He was and is and will always be Lord.

One may also interpret this phrase in verse 35 positively.  The Apostle Paul speaks of a future mass conversion of Jews.  In Romans 11:26-27, Paul writes of a time when the Jewish people – in the main – will embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, a time Paul seems to tie to the second coming of Christ.  When Christ returns a large number of Jews will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The picture we are left with here is a picture of the divine compassion of Jesus.  He loves the way a hen loves her chicks, arms stretched out over them, lovingly caring for them and protecting them.  This picture of God as a loving One who gathers His children under His wings is a frequent picture in the Book of Psalms.

In Psalm 17:8, the Bible says, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalm 36:7, the Bible says, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalm 57:1, the Bible says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.”

In Psalm 61:4, the Bible says “I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.”

What wondrous love of God,

The One

Who shelters us in His wings!

From these two main considerations – Christ’s divine control of all things, and Christ’s divine compassion – we learn about two reasons every Christian can be encouraged today . . .  

1) God Knows What He Is Doing In My Life.

God knows what He is doing at your life, Christian.  Consider His divine control.   He is in control of everything.  He knows your struggles.  He is just doing Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”  God is just working all things out in your life to conform you to the image of His Son, to make you like Jesus.  That is what you want, isn’t it?  Sure it is. 

  • God’s working in your school, He is working at your workplace.
  • He is working through your marriage.
  • He is working through your finances,
  • He is working through your ups and downs to make you like Jesus. 

He is in complete control and He knows what He’s doing in your life. 

Secondly . . .

2) God Loves Me and Covers Me With His Loving Arms.

The beautiful thing about the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is that God’s love for Christians is bound up in the Father’s love for His Son.  The Heavenly Father always sees us “in Christ Jesus,” so He will always love us because we are in His Son.  God will love us no more and no less.  We feel like failures sometimes when we sin.  But the joy of redemption and the glory of grace is that God loves us in Christ Jesus.  His love never changes.  The arms of Jesus are outstretched towards us.

The blind hymn-writer Fannie Crosby, while blind, could see Christ’s love.  She wrote these words . . .

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

  A wonderful Savior to me;

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

  Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

  That shadows a dry, thirsty land;

He hideth my life with the depths of His love,

  And covers me there with His hand,

And covers me there with His hand.

And this is a love we then should share with others.  We should share this love with our neighbors, with our classmates, with our co-workers, with retailers, with waiters, with strangers, with people of every tribe, nation, and tongue; every ethnicity, every people group throughout the world.  In the words of one missionary, “If the arms of God’s people do not reach around the whole world, their arms are too short.”

Christians love because

Christians are loved.

But what of the non-Christian?  In John 6:37, Jesus says to every lost person, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  Come to the One whose arms are stretched out for you.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:22-30 – The Narrow Way

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series through the book of Luke called, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Today we are looking together in God’s Word at a very important passage of Scripture.  In this passage, Jesus deals with a question that many of us may have asked at some time.  This section is clearly centered around salvation, more specifically, entrance into the kingdom of God.  We see this first of all by the people asking, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”  We see this also in the metaphor of a banquet or party at the Master’s house.  Throughout the Bible, the banquet dinner is a frequent symbol of the kingdom of God.

The people have heard Jesus speak of the Kingdom of God.  They are wondering how many will be there.  How many will be saved?  Of course, when we speak of “the Kingdom of God,” we are referring to those who are a part of God’s family, those who will share in eternity with Jesus, those who are saved. 

This question asked of Jesus is a likely one for His followers to ask.  Many thought that Jesus’ kingdom was to be an earthly kingdom, with Jesus conquering the enemies of the Jewish people and reigning on the earth.  Up to this point, Jesus had not made any sweeping movements toward establishing His earthly kingdom.  The people may have wondered, “What’s going on here?”  This question may also have come to the forefront of their minds because of the many other references Jesus made on this subject.  Jesus often spoke of the difficulty of following Him throughout the New Testament.  The people were hearing things from His teachings that they normally did not hear from their rabbis.  These teachings may have prompted His listeners to ask this question.

Indeed, the question is one that many of us ponder today.  How many people will really be in Heaven?  Jesus speaks of three different doors in reference to salvation.  We will examine those this morning . . .

 I. The Narrow Door. (Luke 13:22-24)

Verses 22 to 24 tells us, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.  Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”  The first kind of door that Jesus speaks of is the narrow door, or narrow gate.  The idea here is that most people will not try to go through this door because it is more difficult. 

The gate that Jesus speaks of here is one in which many want what is on the other side, but few are willing to make the commitment to enter the gate.  Although this is indeed the gate that is harder to go through, it is also the one that leads to the kingdom of God.  This gate is the difficult gate, but it offers the greatest reward.

Jesus does not answer the question of how many will be saved, but He does tell everyone to strive to enter through the gate that leads to salvation.  Jesus’ answer is not the answer found in contemporary American culture.  When asked today, “What must someone do to enter heaven?”  You would get a variety of answers:

  • Some would say, “You must be a good person?”
  • Some would say, “Believe whatever you believe with all of your heart?”
  • Some would say, “All religions lead to heaven.”
  • Some would say, “There is no heaven.”

Jesus tells the individual to strive to enter through this gate.  We should not think of “strive” here as working for entrance into the kingdom, but more so of a commitment to enter the gate that leads into the kingdom.

This is for instance not what we speak of when we make a commitment to train for a marathon.  You must work hours upon hours for weeks and months.  This is not the kind of commitment needed to join the United States Marine Corp.  You must undergo strict discipline and grueling work.  This is not that kind of commitment. 

This commitment does not require you

To work to get into the kingdom, but

To give your very self and life to Jesus. 

You commit everything you are to Him,

Because He has already accomplished

The required work to get in.

This is a lesson for us not to focus on hypotheticals, or to try to figure out the mind of God, but to focus on what God has revealed to us.  He has revealed the means of salvation, He has revealed the method of salvation, He has revealed the rewards of salvation, and He has revealed the judgement to those that reject salvation.

 Jesus did not candy-coat His message throughout the Gospels.  He made it very clear what it took to enter the kingdom of God . . .


Jesus constantly warned His followers about the cost of following Him.  It seems at  times that He is trying to talk them out of following Him.

  • We must be willing to give up everything. 
  • We must be willing to turn away from our families if necessary. 
  • We must be willing to lose all material possessions. 
  • We must be willing to even lay down our lives if necessary.

Some of you may say, “Bro. Terry it is really not that hard for me to follow Jesus.  My life has not really changed that much since I have been a Christian.  My life looks about the same as my friends or coworkers.  I have not really given up much to follow Him.”

My encouragement to you is to make sure you know Who you are following. Has your “want to’ been changed?  Is your desire to live for Him or live for yourself.  Have you ever walked through the narrow door?

This leads us to the next door that Jesus discusses . . .

II. The Closed Door.

Verses 25-28 says, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.”  Jesus next speaks of a different type of door.  This door is closed.  It is closed to those who are “workers of iniquity.”  The workers of iniquity are those who have rejected the gospel, the salvation that God provided to His people, and the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  One thing we must remember is that we were all once workers of iniquity.  It is not until we enter through the door that we are friends of God.

It is very clear that the Master who is spoken of here is Jesus Himself.  We see this because the Master was in the presence of the people when they ate and drank, and most obvious is the statement that He taught in their streets.  Jesus makes it very clear that once this door is shut, it will not be opened.  There is a sure indication here that many people who expect to enter through the gate will not be able to.  This is a reference to people to whom Jesus is speaking, the Jewish people.

Jesus is the difference maker

Into whether or not you can

Gain access to the kingdom. 

You are not admitted based

On your status, your goodness,

Your nationality, or even

Your devotion to God. 

It does not matter if

You know the Master,

What matters is if

The Master knows you.

God’s grace is abundant and deep.  However, His period of grace will eventually end.  Remember the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9.  The parable illustrates the Jewish people continually rejecting the Gospel, but Jesus asks for more time with them.  Make no mistake though, the tree will be cut down if it does not bear fruit.  At some point, God’s period of grace will end, and His period of judgement will begin.

When Jesus speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob He is speaking of the patriarchs of the Jewish people, or the representatives of God’s favored people, Israel.  The people that Jesus is speaking of will long to be with these Jewish fathers, but they will be unable.  As a result, the punishment and agony they suffer will lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The time of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness will eventually come to an end.  Remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.  The man tried to store up material possessions for himself, but was not concerned with the things of God.  Little did he know that very night, he would face death.  So it is with all of us.  Just as it was with the rich fool, just as it will be with the Jewish people, so it will be with all of us.  One day the door will be closed, and it can never again be opened.

Jesus was speaking to the people directly.  They must go through the door before it is closed.

Finally, we see the last door . . .

 III. The Open Door.

Verses 29 and 30 tell us, “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.  And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”  In these final two verses Jesus explains not only that the door is open, but that it is open to all.  The reference to east, west, north, and south is a reference to the Gentiles.  Of course, when I say “Gentile” I mean everyone that is not Jewish.  God’s grace not only extends to the Jewish people, but to all corners of the globe.

This is obviously how we received God’s grace.  Most of us, if not all of us are Gentiles.  This is why we are so passionate about reaching the world, because God is passionate about reaching all stretches of the earth.

Jesus also speaks of the last being first and the first being last.  This is a reference to the free offer of the Gospel to all, no matter the notoriety, societal stature, financial means, or family heritage.  Jesus is pointing out that many people who think they will be the first into the kingdom, will indeed not be there at all.  Likewise, many who others would never expect to be in the kingdom will certainly be among those who are with Jesus.

Both of these statements would not have been received well by the Jewish people.  The last time Jesus spoke of the Gentiles receiving salvation while the Jewish people did not repent was in Luke 4.  That passage ends with the people trying to throw Jesus off of a cliff.  It was understood by the Jewish people that all of them would automatically be ushered into the kingdom of God, simply because they were God’s chosen people.  To hear now that non-Jewish people would be admitted, in addition to lowlifes like slaves, tax collectors, and prostitutes, was simply too much for them to handle.

This gate is not reserved only for special people.  It is open to all who are willing to go through it.  Jesus wanted to shake the self-confidence of His listeners.  He wanted to let them know that . . .

It was not their birthright to get into the kingdom. 

Rather, it required entrance through the narrow gate,

Repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.

Let me conclude with some practical application of the truths we learned today . . .

1. Enter Through The Open Door, Before It Closes.

All of us will eventually face the moment when the door closes for us to enter into the kingdom.  When it does, we will hope that we already inside the door.

Many of you have probably heard of the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.  Steve Jobs lost his life to a battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer.  Jobs is responsible for the all of the black, white, or silver devices you see all over America with a little Apple logo on them.  He is responsible for the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Mac, the Macbook, the Macbook Pro, the Macbook Air, Apple TV, iTunes, and many other technological breakthroughs.  At his death he was estimated to have left behind a worth of over $8 billion.  I typed this study on a device created by Steve Jobs.  He was a very popular, innovative, wealthy, and extraordinarily gifted man.  However, the gate is now shut for Steve Jobs.  Wherever he stood with God before he died, is where he stands now.

2. Bring Others To The Open Door, Before It Closes.

 It does not take someone who takes the Bible seriously much time to figure out that Jesus’ method of reaching others with the Gospel is His followers.  We are the ones He intends to use to reach our neighbors and to reach the world.  We must have a sense of urgency in bringing people to the door, while it is still open.  Many people are dying everyday with no escape from the punishment of their sin, and we hold the solution.  TAKE THEM TO THE DOOR!  TAKE THEM TO JESUS!

2. Let Your Assurance Rest Only In Whether Or Not You Know Jesus And He  Knows You.

Friends, if your assurance rests in anything other than Jesus, you are utterly mistaken.  

  • It is not about being from a good family. 
  • It is not about being faithful Baptist. 
  • It is not about being baptized, giving money to the church, or teaching Sunday School.

Many will be sadly mistaken on that day.  They will say to Jesus, “I grew up in Sunday School.  I was married in a church.  I never did anything illegal.”  Jesus will say, “Depart from Me.  I do not know you.”  The only way you can get into the Kingdom of God is if Jesus says, “I know him.  I know her.”

He knows us when we admit to ourselves and God that we are sinners and that we cannot save ourselves, we turn from self and sin and turn to God in repentance, accept what Jesus did upon the cross and the empty tomb, and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior.  When we do that it put us on the right road and allows us to know life now and forever!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:18-21 – The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Grace For The Journey

If you ever have the opportunity to watch a sketch artist at work, it really is something.  He or she begins with a small mark upon a piece of paper; just a small dot or line and draws just a line or two and moves back and looks at it and there is really nothing to see as far you can tell.  Just a small mark or a line, but to the artist it is the beginning of something big and wonderful.  We are going to see in this passage that something that begins so small and so seemingly insignificant will prove to have been the beginning of something mighty and powerful.

When we were last together, we studied the passage just preceding these verses (verses 10-17), the passage where Jesus heals a woman who had been bent over for 18 years.  We said that this healing was primarily an illustration of God’s kingdom coming, the kingdom of God breaking into this world through the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel.  We reviewed Luke 4 when Jesus began His ministry in Jerusalem, reading in the temple from the scroll of Isaiah.  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor” … “to heal the brokenhearted…to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18-19). Christ’s healing of this woman illustrates how the kingdom has broken into this world.  Jesus is preaching the Gospel and healing the brokenhearted and setting people free.  The kingdom of God has broken into this world.

I want to take some time to review what we mean by the “kingdom of God.”  The kingdom of God is something the Christian enjoys now and something to which the Christian looks forward.  The kingdom of God is both present and future.  The kingdom of God is both “now” and “not yet.”  When we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we enter into the kingdom of God, not as a place, but as a position.  We enter into the reign of Christ.  Jesus Christ rules over our lives and we live under that rule and reign as we surrender to Him daily.  The kingdom is something we enjoy now.  But we also look forward to the “not yet” of the kingdom of God.  When Christ returns, we will enjoy the fullness of the kingdom of God.  This part of the kingdom is “not yet.”  We are waiting for it, anticipating its coming, and looking forward to it.  We recognize that while it is great to be a Christian, this world is not completely fixed.  Sin and darkness are still present.  The light is shining, but there is still much that needs to be fixed.  We look forward to Christ’s coming to fix it.  That’s the “not yet” of the kingdom. 

This healing serves as an introduction to the two parables in verses 18-21, the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven.  You will note the connection between the two things in verse 18 by the use of the word “Then.”  There is a connection.  The English Standard Version captures the connection even better.  It reads, “He said therefore.”  That is, after healing this woman who had been bent over for 18 years, after healing her, Jesus said, “Okay, now that I have your attention, I have a couple of questions for you: “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?”

Now these are rhetorical questions; Jesus does not really want an answer from them.  It is a bit like when a man dresses himself for church in the morning and his wife says to him, “Is THAT what you’re wearing?!”  That is not really a question.  She is not really wanting an answer.  She already has the answer.  Jesus asks a couple questions here and is prepared to answer the questions immediately.  He asks, “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?”  Then He answers – He gives two illustrations or pictures of the kingdom of God . . .

I. An Illustration From The Garden.

Verses 18 and 19 tells us, Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”  This teaching is simple and straightforward.  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a tiny, seemingly insignificant seed that grows into a large tree, so large that birds come and nest in its branches.  That which seems like nothing proves to have been the beginning of something really powerful and mighty.

Here is an illustration from the garden.  The next illustration of the kingdom of God is . . .

II. An Illustration From The Kitchen.

Verse 20 says, “And again He said, To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?”  Again, Jesus is not looking for an answer here!  He says, “I will give you the answer; here it comes; wait for it!”  The answer is in verse 21, “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal (or, flour) till it was all leavened.”  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like that which you see happening when a woman bakes bread; she takes some leaven (today we would say, “yeast”) and she takes the yeast and mixes in some flour and works it through all the dough.  The yeast in the dough that has a transforming effect on all the dough.  This is what Jesus says the kingdom of God is like.

Here is the main point of these two parables or pictures or illustrations . . .

Something that begins so small

And seemingly so insignificant

Will prove to have been the beginning

Of something powerful and mighty.

There are at least two main “take away” points from this teaching on the kingdom.  First .. . .

1) Kingdom Power Works Outwardly Through The Church.

The growth of the mustard seed from a tiny seed to a large tree is an accurate picture of the outward work of the Gospel in and through the church.  If you think of this historically, you can see how this has been true.  In spite of persecution over 2,000 years the church has grown.  It has grown from something tiny into something huge.  Many scholars think that the imagery in verse 19 of “the birds of the air nesting in the branches” is a picture of the Gospel’s affect upon the entire world, that the kingdom of God will reach all nations.  There is some Old Testament imagery of nations being represented by birds and so it may well be that this imagery is in play here.  Certainly, this would be consistent with our Lord’s call for us to reach the nations with the transforming power of the Gospel.

We are a missional church because our Lord Jesus tells us to reach the nations.  He says in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  Because churches have been obedient to our Lord’s commission the church has grown from a tiny mustard seed into a tree in which the “birds of the air” or the nations of the world are finding a home.  We must continue to be about the business of reaching the 4 areas of Acts 1:8: our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth or as someone has put it, “our Community, Commonwealth, Country, and Continents.”  This is our mission.  What is remarkably encouraging about this is that God does this work through us, through the church!  I mean, look around at each other!  Look at us!  God works through the church to demonstrate the transforming power of the Gospel – in us and through us – to reach others.

Paul writes to the congregation at Corinth, and he says to them in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”  He says, “Look around, brothers and sisters.  You will note that there are not many in the congregation who are wise, not many of you are mighty or even powerful and popular. No,” he says, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.”  God delights in taking the tiny and seemingly insignificant and demonstrating the power of the Gospel by growing the tiny and seemingly insignificant into something powerful and mighty.  God does that. 

This is a consistent theme throughout the Scriptures.

The wise men came from the East and they came to a popular city and they came to a big temple and they stood before a big and mighty ruler and they asked, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?  We have seen His star.  We figure He must be a pretty big guy and that is why we came to this big city and this big temple and we’re standing before you, Herod, a big ruler because we figure surely you know what’s going on!”

Christ’s work does not begin the way man’s work would begin. 

  • The wise men find the kingdom of God beginning in a small, obscure town – the little town of Bethlehem – what a strange place for a king to begin a kingdom!  This king is born outside in a dirty feed trough!  How tiny and seemingly so insignificant.
  • This king grows and then He does not do things the way we would expect.  He does not call the popular and the princes to be His first followers . . . He calls the tax collector, the common fisherman, the unpopular, the outcast, and the overlooked.  There were a few popular and noble, but in the main, he chooses the seemingly tiny and insignificant.
  • He walks into a place of worship and He does not bring before the people the popular leader of the place, but He reaches to the back and calls forth an obscure woman, bent over for 18 years.
  • He does not build His church the way we talk about building a church in America today.  “Get your brand out there!  Get the color brochure and the billboard with a big attractive logo on the front!”  His logo is a tiny seed – The Word Of God!

Kingdom power works outwardly through the church.  Secondly . . .

2) Kingdom Power Works Inwardly Through The Christian.

Leaven or yeast is unseen and works silently within the dough.  You do not really see it, but you see the effect of it.  There is a transforming power at work within the Christian.  The woman bent over illustrates the working of this power from the inside out.  Christ comes and heals this woman who was bent over for 18 years.  Christ comes and touches her and kingdom power – like leaven mixed with flour – works on the inside and she is straightened out.

This is what God does for the Christian.  Through the power of the Gospel, the kingdom power of the Gospel, the work of grace within our hearts is that which works like leaven or yeast, working on the inside, transforming us, straightening us up, and healing us.  The small beginning of grace within our hearts works like leaven, gradually influencing every fiber of our being, transforming us into the likeness of Christ.  The kingdom of God is like that.  That which is small and seemingly so insignificant proves to have been the beginning of something powerful and mighty.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”  While we are “new creations” in Christ we are still growing . . . We are still becoming more and more like Jesus.  The grace at work in our hearts is working through us as we grow.

Some of us are so impatient with ourselves!  We want to “be perfect” right now.  It does not happen all it once.  Forgiveness happens all at once.  But we are not perfect all at once.  We are growing.   He is still working on us, to make us what we ought to be.

Some of us are so impatient with others!  Gospel power is at work like yeast within dough.  You do not see it, but it is there, working in and through every Christian.  It takes time while it is doing the work.  It is transforming character and conforming Christians into the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).

Like that sketch artist we were talking about.  He starts with something so tiny and something seemingly so insignificant.  It looks like nothing.  To everyone except that artist, it is nothing; just an insignificant mark on a canvass.  In fact, to some people it may even look like a mistake.  But to the artist, that small dot or line, that seemingly insignificant mark will prove to have been the beginning of something beautiful, a remarkable demonstration of the power of the artist.

God is at work through the transforming power of the Gospel.  God is growing His church like a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree.  And God is growing His Christians, transforming them from the inside-out, like leaven working through all the dough.  Praise God for the transforming power of the Gospel!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”