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 . . .

TOTAL COMMITMENT TO HIM.

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.”