A few years ago in London an unusual thing happened. A little fell off her bike – which isn’t that unusual. But it’s what happened next that was. Because she had the OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME. She’s sitting on the curb in tears, knee bleeding, and bike bent. When at that very moment it turns out that THE QUEEN MOTHER is being driven past in her Rolls Royce. She sees the little crying. And I guess it brings out the grandmother in her.
STOP THE CAR, says the Queen Mother. So the driver pulls over. “Help her up,” she says. So the driver gets out of the car and goes to help.
And the Queen Mother says to the little , HOP IN – we’ll give you a lift home.
To which the small English replies, “NO THANKYOU – I’m NOT SUPPOSED TO take lifts from strangers.” And so off she went pushing her bent bike all the way home. When she could have had a lift with ROYALTY.
Now I guess as that little gets older, maybe she’ll regret she missed a ride in the Royal Rolls Royce. As far as she was concerned, it was just some old lady in a big car. When it was really THE QUEEN MOTHER.
Mind you, I guess she’ll become one of the heroes of the Republican movement.
But there she was. Face to face with Royalty. And she didn’t recognise it.
The passage we’re looking at in Acts is all about RECOGNISING YOUR KING when he comes by. It’s about RECOGNISING JESUS.
And we’re going to see it’s SURPRISING the people who DIDN’T. And it’s SURPRISING THE PEOPLE WHO DID. We’re going to see that people who you’d expect to recognise their King DON’T. And people you wouldn’t expect to recognise him… DO.
THE OUTSIDER WHO DID.
So first, THE OUTSIDER WHO DID.
Our attention has switched back from PETER, to SAUL AND BARNABAS. They’re based in Antioch. And they’ve arrived back there after delivering the collection to Jerusalem.
And at the start of chapter 13, we see Saul and Barnabas COMMISSIONED. Set apart, and sent out, for the work the Holy Spirit’s got planned for them.
This is the chapter where Luke starts calling Saul by his OTHER name – his GREEK name, PAUL. So keep in mind it’s the same guy.
But here they are at the start of the chapter, commissioned – to go overseas… as the first ever missionaries.
It’s the sort of thing we do when we send missionaries overseas.
And over the next few chapters, if you look at the map on the overhead, you can work out where they go, on what’s the FIRST of Paul’s famous missions.
First of all, they sail for Cyprus. Verse 4. An island about the same size as Tasmania; and about 100 kilometres off the coast.
Now you’ll notice a pattern. Because when they get off the boat in verse 5, the first thing Saul and Barnabas do is head for the JEWISH SYNAGOGUE in Salamis. See if there are any JEWS who are going to RECOGNISE THEIR KING.
And then across the island with their helper John Mark to the city of Paphos. Now here’s where you get a REAL surprise. Because here’s someone you’d never expect to RECOGNISE JESUS as ROYALTY.
His name’s Sergius Paulus, and he’s the Proconsul. Which means he’s the Roman Governor of the Island. Almost royalty himself. You can read the details in verse 6 to 12 later on; but notice the results, v12. “When the proconsul SAW WHAT HAPPENED, he BELIEVED… for he was amazed – he was AMAZED AT THE TEACHING ABOUT THE LORD.
Here’s the Roman Proconsul of Cyprus. Bowing to a higher authority. THE ROMAN GOVERNOR – accepting Jesus as GOVERNOR OVER HIM. Very surprising.
INSIDERS WHO DIDN’T
But I want to move on with you quickly to look at what happens on the NEXT stopover; (you can follow it on the map if you like) – verse 13, Paul and Barnabas sail for the mainland. This time, to the north. Perga. And from there, inland to Pisidian Antioch.
And again, the same pattern as before. Straight to the synagogue; and they sit down and listen to the reading from the scriptures And then they’re invited to speak.
Paul and the Readers’ Digest
Now if you’ve ever wondered what the Old Testament is all about, here’s a chance to get the whole thing in a Readers Digest CONDENSED BOOK version. Because when Paul stands up to speak, when he stands up to preach in the synagogue to these Jews and Gentile God-worshippers, what he does is he takes them for a guided tour through their HISTORY.
And he finishes by telling them that JESUS is the one who brings all the Old Testament scriptures to a CLIMAX. The Old Testament leaves Israel WAITING FOR A KING. A King who’ll rule for ever. Never to see decay.
And Paul’s conclusion is simple. That King has COME.
But are they going to RECOGNISE HIM?
He says God chose your forefathers, you Jews, starting with Abraham; follow it from verse 17; he tells them how Israel was led out of Egypt in the Exodus; how he gave them the promised land. How they were ruled over by judges, and then King Saul; and then King David. Who was a man after God’s own heart.
It’s the old testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings. All in a nutshell.
And now, Everything Paul says from here on in, is going to be about RECOGNISING ROYALTY. About the ROYAL FAMILY OF ISRAEL. He’s going to give them some CLUES about RECOGNISING THEIR KING.
With the Queen Mum, most people recognised her from the smile and the wave. The hats and the Rolls Royce were a bit of a giveaway too. But how’s ISRAEL meant to recognize the ETERNAL KING when he comes?
Look carefully what Paul’s saying in the section from verse 23 to 39; and you’ll see why it is that the people of Israel should have recognised ROYALTY when they saw JESUS.
John the baptist came; verse 23, he says, the people of Jerusalem and their rulers DIDN’T RECOGNISE JESUS as King; they had him executed instead. and buried.
And verse 30; here’s the big one; that’s not the end of the story. The signpost above all signposts. BECAUSE GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE .
Now those are the facts; that’s what Paul and the apostles are telling people. But I want you to notice in the next few verses how he goes on to make the point that the RESURRECTION OF JESUS is the ultimate CLUE to the fact that he’s ROYALTY.
There’s more to the resurrection of Jesus than meets the eye. Because it actually SHOWS HIM TO BE the ETERNAL KING Israel’s been waiting for – for hundreds of years.
Because he says, WE TELL YOU THE GOOD NEWS; verse 32; “What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, BY RAISING UP JESUS.”
And in the RESURRECTION OF JESUS, Paul can see the FULFILMENT of every promise of God. In a way that maybe you haven’t thought of.
Remember, Paul’s preaching a sermon in the Jewish synagogue here, in the city of Pisidian Antioch; and so it’s not really surprising he’s quoting the Old Testament. But the verse he focuses on in an unusual one. He quotes from Psalm 2; he quotes from Isaiah; he reminds them that God’s made a promise that DAVID’S LINE IS GOING TO RULE FOREVER.. And then in verse 35, he quotes from Psalm 16, where King David says to God “You will not let your Holy One see decay.”
Now here’s the point Paul’s making. Here’s how it normally works. You’re born. You die. You’re eaten by worms. This body DECAYS. Doesn’t matter who you are. Happens to everyone. And it happened to King David, just like everyone else.
So what’s the PSALM TALKING ABOUT? I mean, the Jews have been reading Psalm 16 for hundreds of years. YOU WILL NOT LET YOUR HOLY ONE SEE DECAY. What’s it mean?
Well, here’s the clue. Paul’s in the middle of telling them about someone who died. But DIDN’T STAY . Who was BURIED. But DIDN’T STAY IN THE GRAVE. He’s telling them about someone in David’s line WHO DIDN’T SEE DECAY. Literally. Which means, he’s the one DAVID was talking about ALL ALONG.
And that’s the clincher in verse 37; he says “But the one God raised from the DID NOT SEE DECAY.” Which means, he’s the HOLY ONE OF GOD. The Messiah King they’re waiting for.
Now look, you may well be sitting there thinking SO WHAT. I mean, it’s dry enough listening to sermons THESE DAYS/ without having to go back 2000 years for a history lesson.
But the fact is, all the promises of the Old Testament POINT RIGHT AT JESUS. That’s the history lesson! The Old Testament is all about Jesus. You might never have thought of your Old Testament like that before. But that’s the gist of what Paul’s saying.
And it’s a history lesson with A PURPOSE. With RELEVANCE. Did you catch what Paul said up in v26?
26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, IT IS TO US THAT THIS MESSAGE OF SALVATION HAS BEEN SENT.
God’s sending us a message. Are we listening?
The people of Jerusalem missed the lesson. Make sure you DON’T. And if you’re there in the synagogue listening to Paul and you don’t recognise Jesus as your King, you’re missing something far bigger than a ride in a nice Rolls Royce.
Because if you reject him; then you’re missing the biggest thing God’s ever done in history. And it’s not just embarrassing. It’s .
Have a look at the words in verse 38 and 39. And if you haven’t followed anything else this morning, follow this.
You want to know what you miss out on if you don’t recognise Jesus? You miss out on THE WAY OUT OF THE CYCLE OF DECAY. The way out of the cycle of SIN AND .
Paul says to them, “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS PROCLAIMED TO YOU. Through HIM, everyone who believes is JUSTIFIED from everything you couldn’t be justified from by the law of Moses.
Now JUSTIFIED means DECLARED TO BE RIGHTEOUS. Justified means COUNTED . And that’s the problem, isn’t it. The problem with the law of Moses, the problem with the 10 commandments and all the other laws – all they could do was point out WHERE THEY’VE GONE WRONG. All they can do is CONDEMN. And never the reverse. They can never MAKE YOU .
It’s like if you get caught by a speed camera. It’s no good complaining. And saying that you stayed below the speed limit through all the OTHER cameras. And that should wipe out THIS infringement.
Because keeping to the speed limit is what you’re REQUIRED to do. It’s not a way of earning brownie points for when you DON’T keep the speed limit.
It’s not like a gigantic see-saw. Your NOT-speeding outweighs your SPEEDING. And so, you should get off.
And it’s the same with God’s laws. Keeping them is what God EXPECTS. So there’s no way that KEEPING them is going to balance out the times when you BREAK THEM.
Laws can never JUSTIFY YOU. They can only condemn. Catch you when you’re WRONG. Just like speed cameras. Point out the obvious. No-one’s perfect.
And so here are these Jews who’ve been struggling to get right with God by keeping the law; and the thing they need most is to just be FORGIVEN. Have the slate wiped clean.
Which is exactly what Jesus has done in his on the cross. Taken God’s CURSE for every sin, every broken law.
And it’s exactly what WE need most too. To be given a second chance. To be forgiven.
4. A Warning
And Paul finishes with a warning. Take care, he says in verse 40; take care you don’t miss out on recognising YOUR KING. When he’s staring you in the face. Just like the prophets said.
See, you Jews, Paul says, if you’re scoffing, if you’re saying it’s a lot of nonsense, if you’re saying IT’S NOT FOR ME… be careful. Because in the end you’ll PERISH.
Because the past IS relevant. There is A POINT to history lessons.
Read what the prophets said, and take it to heart. “Look you SCOFFERS, wonder and perish – for I’m going to do something in your days that you would NEVER BELIEVE – even if someone told you.
God did it in sending Jesus. And RAISING HIM FROM . Hard to believe. But TRUE.
So what happens.
Verse 42, crowds mill around Paul and Barnabas, and they say, THAT WAS TERRIFIC, come back next week and tell us some more. And a whole lot of them were converted. And then the next Saturday, just about the whole city was there – everyone had brought a friend. Jews bringing along their Gentile neighbours.
Verse 44, almost the whole city gathered to hear the WORD OF THE LORD.
But when the Jews see the crowds – and I guess it’s the Jewish leaders here, the power brokers; the Jews of INFLUENCE – they’re filled with jealousy. And speak against what Paul’s been saying.
And Paul and Barnabas answer them boldly. They say, YOU’VE HAD YOUR CHANCE. You needed help: you’ve been offered a ride home in the Royal Rolls Royce. You’ve had your offer. If you’re not going to RECOGNISE ROYALTY, it’s on your head.
Verse 46, they say, “We had to speak the word of God to YOU FIRST… Since you REJECT it and do not consider yourselves WORTHY OF ETERNAL LIFE, we now turn to the gentiles – for this is what the Lord has commanded us… to be a light to the gentiles. And bring salvation to the ends of the earth. See if THEY’LL recognize Jesus as the King that he is.
Which is where WE COME IN, isn’t it. With the question DO YOU? Do you – all these years away, half a world away – when you see Jesus, when you hear the message of the gospel, do you RECOGNISE ROYALTY there? Like Sergius Paulus did? Like all those Jews and Gentiles back there in Antioch?
Because recognizing the King who didn’t see decay is the only way into the KINGDOM that doesn’t see decay. The only way to be saved from and judgment.
In the end, Paul and Barnabas are run out of town. Paul says, what it shows is you don’t consider yourselves WORTHY of eternal life.
Funny twist, isn’t it. I guess it means to count yourself worthy of eternal life means to count yourself UNWORTHY. Count yourself A SINNER… someone LOST. HURT. HELPLESS. In a perishing world.
And Jesus stops by; and he says, can I give you a lift home. And you’re saying to him – no thanks; I’m not meant to take a lift with strangers. I’m not interested.
That would be a terrible thing, wouldn’t it. To fail to learn the lesson from history. To miss the chance of a lift with the King. And if you sense God’s Spirit is stirring your heart about that this morning, maybe you need to do what the Gentiles do in verse 48; they were glad. And honoured the word of the Lord. And all those who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Maybe you’ve come to that point. Or else you need to. If you want to talk about it, grab me sometime.
But in the end it’s between YOU AND HIM. Recognise him as who he is. Recognise Jesus as ROYALTY. Take him on as your very own personal HEAD OF STATE. And as you do that, know what it means to be TRULY FORGIVEN FOR YOUR SINS. A fresh start. With a fresh heart. Justified from everything that you could never be justified from no matter how hard you might have been trying.
And if that’s something you’ve already done/ are you CONTINUING to do that. To recognise Jesus as your king? Because it’s something we need to do AGAIN AND AGAIN. At the start of every day. And throughout every day.
If he’s your king. Then Jesus demands your allegiance, your obedience, your heart, your loyalty, your energies, your voice. YOUR LIFE.
To love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
Jesus wants us to be MONARCHISTS. Not republicans. To recognise our King. And to give him our LIVES.
To give him our TIME, and our FAMILIES. To give him our weekends and holidays. To give him our MONEY. Our plans and aspirations. Give him our hopes and dreams.
That’s how we CONTINUE to recognise royalty.
Listen to how Paul put it in Philippians 3. What it meant for HIM to recognise Jesus’ royalty. Phil 3:7-11
7 BUT WHATEVER WAS TO MY PROFIT I NOW CONSIDER LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his , 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the .
The events of Acts 13:4-14:28