June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 4:14-44: An unexpected message from God

There’s a revolution coming. A secret plot to overthrow the rulers. And it’s growing. It’s subversive, and it’s political. It’s counter-cultural. And it’s life-changing. But you don’t read about it in the newspapers very often. It’s a revolution that’s bringing in a new kingdom. And it wants to take-over from the ruling regime. Because the OLD kingdom is -end. Going nowhere. It’s dangerous, and deceptive, and ly. And revolutionaries are being trained. Equipped for battle. Special soldiers. Pockets of resistance. And there are guerrilla operations going on all the time. Victories for the revolution.

You mightn’t have NOTICED this conflict. This warfare. But it’s going on all around you. It’s not happening in Iraq, or East Timor, or the Solomon Islands. It’s a revolution that’s going on right here in Australia. You mightn’t have noticed. Because the kingdom of THIS world is so NICE. And comfortable, and enticing, and in-your-face, and satisfying. It sparkles, and glitters, and attracts us.

All around people promise us peace, and prosperity, and promotion. Comfort, and contentment. It offers us success, and popularity, and achievement, and recognition.

Just buy this CAR, and you’ll get all the s. Just take this , and you’ll be accepted. Just make this much MONEY, and you’ll have made it.

Just lose this much weight, and all the boys will like you. Just buy a house THIS BIG, and then you’ll be happy.

Just have some children, and then you’ll be content. Or buy a dog. Or take a holiday. Or leave your wife. Or buy a lottery ticket.

The promises go on and on. But there all empty. The things they promise seem solid and long-lasting and real. But they’re temporary, transitory. Passing-away.

Just like the world of THE MATRIX, it’s all an illusion. Reality isn’t obvious. Reality isn’t always what you SEE.

That’s the reality of the kingdom Jesus calls us to enter. He’s offering us a choice. The red pill or the blue pill.

Take the blue pill – ignore what Jesus says and does – and life goes on the same. You can chase your dreams. Live the life you want. And you may never feel uncomfortable again. At least until you die.

But take the red pill – and you’ll begin to see the truth. Eternity. The world the way Jesus sees it. A kingdom where Jesus is the king.

A LASTING kingdom. An eternal kingdom. A kingdom of JUSTICE, and PEACE, and TRUE riches, and joy.

And he calls us to be part of the revolution. To recognise the kingdom we’re living in. To see it for what it is.

As we look at these chapters of Luke’s Gospel, we see a picture of Jesus – the revolutionary ruler.

But more than that, Jesus invites US to be part of the revolution. Will you join him?

2954 words

PRAY FIRST!!

You don’t expect to get a message from God when you’re driving home from work.

But that’s exactly what happened a few years ago in America. A Christian businessman actually organised AN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN for God. A series of billboards, and signs on buses, right across America.

Unexpected, but perfectly clear, MESSAGES FROM GOD.

Here are some of the messages.

  1. Let’s Meet at My House Sunday Before the Football Game.–God
  2. What Part of “Thou Shalt Not …” Didn’t You Understand?–God
  3. We Need to Talk.–God
  4. Keep Using My Name in Vain And I’ll Make Peak Hour Longer.–God (That was placed in congested cities).
  5. Loved the Wedding, Invite Me to the Marriage.–God
  6. That “Love Thy Neighbor” Thing, I Meant It.–God
  7. I Love You … I Love You … I Love You.—God
  8. (On the back of a bus) Follow Me.—God
  9. My Way IS the Highway.—God
  10. Need Directions?—God
  11. (During the Summer) You Think It’s Hot HERE?–God
  12. Have You Read My #1 Best Seller? There WILL Be a Test.–God

It’s a clever campaign, isn’t it? They’re exactly the things God says in the Bible, but people are seeing them in UNEXPECTED places.

Today we get to hear an unexpected message from God. Courtesy of Jesus, the message from God. Exactly what God’s got in store. And how he’s going to do things.

And the great news is that GOD’S KINGDOM is on its way. His wonderful UPSIDE-DOWN kingdom.

It’s an UPSIDE-DOWN kingdom because things are going to be DIFFERENT when it arrives. God’s kingdom will flip things on their head. Injustices will be made right. The strong and the mighty will be thrown around like flyweights. The big egos will be put in their place. And things will be looking better for those who’ve had it tough.

Finally, God’s on the move.

That’s what Jesus has come announcing. And with news like that, it’s no surprise that everyone gets EXCITED by his words. Look at v14 of Ch 4.

(Luke 4:14-15 NIV)  Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him through the whole countryside. {15} He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

The message from God was great news!

But, as is often the way, there was a of UNEXPECTED surprises that went with it. And we find out about them when Jesus goes back to his home town. Nazareth. It’s where he grew up.

And just like he did everywhere else. Just like he’d done his whole life. When Saturday rolled around, he went to the synagogue.

Just as an aside – notice that Jesus was a church-goer, too! Next time you feel like “taking a Sunday off”. When you feel like it’s too much effort to make it along. Remember that Jesus made it a priority to meet with God’s people. And so you need to as well.

So Jesus was in church. Now the general custom in those days was that whenever a visiting teacher popped in, he’d be given the honour of reading from the Scriptures.

He’d read them out in Hebrew – just like Jews STILL do all over the world. He’d do this standing up – out of respect for God’s word. And then he’d sit down, and give a rough translation, and an explanation, in Aramaic – which was the language most of the Jews spoke at that time.

And that’s what happened with Jesus. He’s given the Scroll of Isaiah. The whole book was written on one continuous length, probably of leather, wound onto two rods. Maybe twenty or thirty metres long.

And Jesus unrolls it until he finds Isaiah 61. And he reads these words. Verse 18.

(Luke 4:18-19 NIV)  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, {19} to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

It’s a great promise for the future/ from God to his people.

And then, (Verse 20) Jesus finishes. Rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant, and sits down.

Everyone looks at him. In fact they stare right at him. Not a sound. All his old acquaintances. The old men who knew him when he was a baby. Who taught him in Sabbath School. The young men he grew up with. His family.

And they wait EXPECTANTLY. Because they’ve heard on the grapevine that he’s been doing, and saying, some pretty amazing things. “What’s he going to say about these verses? They’re pretty special verses. About God promising to send someone who’ll do remarkable things”.

And then Jesus starts talking. Verse 21. “Everything I just read from Isaiah / was written ABOUT ME. “I’m doing more than just QUOTING Isaiah,” he says. “In fact, it’s the other way around. Isaiah wrote those words with ME in MIND”

“The Spirit of the Lord is on ME, because he has anointed ME to PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR. He has sent ME to PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE PRISONERS and RECOVERY OF SIGHT FOR THE BLIND,

to RELEASE THE OPPRESSED, {19} (and) to PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOR.”

I’ve got a message from God. And it’s good news! His kingdom is on the way. And it’s about freedom, and sight, and the end of poverty, and relief from pain.

And, understandably, people are pretty pleased about this. Life’s a bit of a struggle in Nazareth. Look at v 22.

(Luke 4:22 NIV)  All spoke WELL of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

“Who would have thought? Such good news from someone we’ve known since he was knee-high to a grass-hopper!” How UNEXPECTED!

But, here’s the first complication. Do you see it? How do they describe Jesus? Who is he, according to them? JOSEPH’S son.

But in the last chapter we saw the truth about who Jesus was. At his baptism. What did we learn? What does God say to Jesus? (3:22). “You are MY son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”

And then in the very next verse. We see the flip side. In his human family tree. He was only Joseph’s son – SO IT WAS THOUGHT (3:23))

And that’s what the locals think. JOSEPH’S son. It’s the first sign that they’ve got Jesus wrong. And that they haven’t understood his message. His own don’t even know him.

And that’s what Jesus realises. Because he comes back with a strange comment. It’s to do with the people’s MISUNDERSTANDING. And what they EXPECT Jesus to do. Let me read it out, then I’ll try to explain it. (Everyone’s just said how wonderful Jesus is) And then, Verse 23.

(Luke 4:23 NIV)  Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'”

Jesus is saying, “Surely you’re going to expect to see some of this good news right here. You’ve heard about the miracles down the road in Capernaum. And now you want to see some of that Isaiah-stuff here, too – if it’s good enough for them, then surely, it’s good enough for us, too!”

But the problem is/ Jesus HASN’T come just for his OWN people. The UNEXPECTED message is that God’s agenda is much bigger than just Nazareth.

And when people start to selfishly grab hold of all the promises for themselves, – to expect that they can keep him all to themselves – it’s time for a short, sharp rebuke.

Which is just what Jesus comes back with. God’s kingdom is much bigger than Nazareth. In fact, it’s much bigger even than ISRAEL.

And he goes on to give them a history lesson. About Elijah and Elisha. Verse 24.

And his point is/ in their time, God chose to work among THE GENTILES. Plenty of Jews to help. And yet it was for NON-Jews that God did a miracle.

He’s not going to restrict himself to Israel just because they’re his special people. And, in fact, if they’re sinful, rebellious, proud, and presumptious – then he’ll find some OTHER people to work with.

It’s what he did in the time of Elijah and Elisha. And Jesus is saying/ that that’s what he’ll be doing now.

And we see by the crowd’s reaction that Jesus hits the nail on the head. They’re livid! “How DARE God choose to take his good times somewhere else! Who does he think he is?! (God or something?) Look at v28.

(Luke 4:28-30 NIV)  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. {29} They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. {30} But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

So much for their good-will towards Jesus! They try to KILL him. You see, they weren’t really glad about JESUS – only about what they could get for THEMSELVES. And if they couldn’t have it, then no-one was going to get it!

When the message from God isn’t quite what they expected, Jesus’ own people reject him.

And if it happened to Jesus, why are we surprised when the same things happen to US?

When we are accused of bigotry, and pride, and intolerance. Simply because we stand on God’s word. That there is no other name by which we can be saved. (Acts 4:12). “How DARE we suggest that someone else might be WRONG?”

It’s in the news this week. John Howard declaring that schools have gone too far in removing things like nativity plays from schools, for fear of being non-inclusive, and intolerant.

John Piper, the Christian author, describes an article he wrote for his local paper. He said that the loving thing for Christians to do was to speak the gospel to Jewish people because Jesus was the ONLY way. NO-one comes to the Father, except through him.”

Several letters came to the paper. From CHRISTIAN CLERGY! Not even from Non-Christians! “Unfortunately, arrogant is the right word to describe any attempts at proselytizing – attempts by Christians to ‘win over’ their Jewish brothers and sisters. Thoughtful Christians will disassociate themselves from any such effort.”[1]

How sad!

The message of Christianity is REVOLUTIONARY. Counter-cultural. And we shouldn’t be surprised when people get hot under the collar about it.

It happened in Jesus’ day. It still happens today. And it will happen until he comes again.

And yet, even though it’s counter-cultural. And gets people angry. It IS good news. At least for SOME people.

That’s what the Isaiah passage said. It’s REVOLUTIONARY. Turning the tables. Restoring the balance.

And by quoting it, Jesus is declaring that this upside-down way of doing things is ON ITS WAY. It’s BEGINNING. Freedom/ for the prisoner. Relief/ for the poor. Sight/ for the blind. Laughter/ from sadness.

And Luke presents us with a typical day to show how Jesus went about doing it. Verse 31. He leaves Nazareth, and heads back down the road to Capernaum. Back to friendlier places.

Four events. Morning, Lunchtime, Evening. Daybreak. A day in the life of a revolutionary.

First up. Morning. It’s another Sabbath. And there’s a man in the synagogue with an evil spirit. A prisoner who needs to be freed. And, in v34, the demon cries out

(Luke 4:34 NIV)  “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

And Jesus throws open the prison door. Verse 35.

(Luke 4:35-36 NIV)  “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. {36} All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!”

That’s the first event. Next, Jesus leaves the synagogue, and goes to Simon’s house. Verse 38. Maybe it’s lunchtime. And Simon’s mother-in-law’s got a high fever. It’s literally she’s “CONSTRAINED, or AFFLICTED, by a high fever”. Another PRISONER needing freedom. Another oppressed person who needs release.

And so, verse 39, Jesus REBUKES the fever. Just like the demon. He PREACHES THE WORD that the upside-down kingdom is coming. And the upside-down kingdom COMES. The ANNOUNCEMENT makes it HAPPEN. The power of the word.

The oppressed woman is released. And at once, she gets up and makes them lunch. (I could make a joke about mother-in-laws here, but I won’t!)

Well, that’s episode 2. Lunchtime. Next for episode 3. Later, that evening. Verse 40.

(Luke 4:40-41 NIV)  When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. {41} Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.

All kinds of sickness. And Jesus heals them. All sorts of demons. And Jesus rebukes them. All sorts of prisoners. And Jesus releases them. Anyone and everyone.

The upside-down kingdom is on its way.

But there’s one final, UNEXPECTED, twist. All sorts of wonderful things happening. But for Jesus, they’re not the priority. All these spectacular things happening. Joy and relief just exploding out all over the place like a field of flowers in Spring.

But for Jesus, in the unexpected, upside-down kingdom, PREACHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MIRACLES.

Look at v42. He gets up at daybreak. He needs a break. And so he goes off to find somewhere quiet.

(Luke 4:42-44 NIV)  … The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. {43} But he said, “I must PREACH the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” {44} And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Despite what everyone else EXPECTED. What everyone else WANTED. Preaching the good news is more important than miracles.

Why?

Because the sickness, and demon-possessions, and the oppression, are just SYMPTOMS of the REAL cause. The REAL problem is mankind’s sin, and separation from God.

It’s no good just treating the symptoms, but not doing anything about the root cause. That’s like taking an aspirin when you’ve split you’re head open. You might feel better for a little while, but the aspirin won’t fix the problem.

Or it’s like pulling up the weeds in your garden, but not the root system – the runners under the ground. The garden looks good for a while, but soon, up come the weeds again.

Jesus heals and frees people because he LOVES them. He LOVES to see pain and suffering removed. It’s what the kingdom is about. But they’re only the symptoms.

And so Jesus has to deal with the underlying problem. And that’s what his preaching is doing. He’s come to bring men back to God. To proclaim forgiveness of sin. And ultimately to die on the cross so that can happen. And that’s fixing the root cause.

That’s TRUE release. True freedom.

That’s why preaching is more important than healing. And it’s where some churches get it wrong today. Focussing on the symptoms, rather than the cause.

I saw a church at Windsor calling “The HEALING church”. Now, they might actually preach the gospel. But if their focus is PHYSICAL healing, rather than making people friends with God. Then they’re focussing on the symptoms, rather than the cause.

The same with churches who concentrate on social needs, or aged care, or education. All symptoms. Not the disease.

They’re like a major hospital only offering pain relief, and not doing surgery.

It makes them friends in the world. But they’re not making friends for God.

Jesus’ priority is preaching, and the cross. It’s at the cross that we hear the message from God most clearly. “Here’s how much I love you. Here’s the debt that’s been paid. Everything’s forgiven. My wonderful kingdom is here”

But there’s one other thing. It’s only because of the cross, that the TEMPORARY can become PERMANENT. What we see Jesus doing FOR A MOMENT can become a reality FOR ETERNITY.

Because the wonderful freedom and light and release that Jesus gave ON EARTH are only a shadow of the reality. A glimpse. A foretaste. God’s kingdom in Jesus THEN will be nothing compared to when Jesus comes back. When the NEW heavens and the NEW earth begin.

Jesus HAS come to give us physical healing. And riches. And comfort. And prosperity. And peace. But it will only FULLY be here when he returns.

And if you want to be part of that, you need to listen to Jesus’ PREACHING. You need to look to the CROSS. To believe that it was THERE that Jesus did his most important work. It was THERE that Jesus did something ETERNAL.

What the people wanted from Jesus, he could only do one at a time/ for short periods of time. But at the cross he won release and joy and sight for ETERNITY for ANYONE who asks for it.

And that’s God’s wonderful/ UNEXPECTED message!


[1] Brothers we are not professionals, p164

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.