Sunday, January 20, 2019

190120 Jesus Enters the Battle

Luke 4:31-37 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
Jesus’ life begins to take on new significance as he moved toward the cross. He is described in Isaiah as being “a man of sorrows”! (Isaiah 53:3) These words were written about 700 years before Christ’s birth. It is obvious that Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ because his descriptions were so precise. Jesus lived a rather boring life as the son of the carpenter and, after Joseph’s death, as the carpenter in Nazareth. Then at about age 30 he walked away from the little town he grew up in. He went to be baptized by John in the Jordan River and then the Holy Spirit took him into the wilderness of Judea to be tempted by Satan. So far as we know, this was the beginning of his struggle. When he came out of the wilderness he began to preach the gospel of the kingdom in the local synagogues.
All of this was growing out of the fact that Jesus moved from his human identity into his divine identity. When he came out of the water at baptism the spirit descended upon him “like a dove”. I do not believe the spirit was in the form of a dove but instead, it was settling on him with a fluttering motion like a dove. The next time you see a pigeon coming into land look at the pattern of its wings. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, he was baptized, and he went into the wilderness.
The Holy Spirit compelled him to go into the desert. I think we should remember this event when we think of being filled with the Holy Spirit today. Most people who are tuned into a Holy Spirit filling, by their remarks, would definitely not expect the Spirit to drive them into a wilderness! Jesus’ ministry was not marked by being carried along on flowery beds of ease. Using the words of Isaac Watts (Am I a Soldier of the Cross?) Jesus sailed through bloody seas. His ministry was marked by a daily battle. But along the way…
He began to gather followers. Let’s look at the account in Mark 1:16-20. Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus had met these men sometime before this account. John tells us of an earlier encounter at Jesus’ baptism. This would be at least six weeks before the formal calling of these men to follow him. While he was in the wilderness fighting with the devil they were back home with their family business — fishing.
John the Baptist was arrested and his public ministry came to an end. This marked the time for Jesus to begin his ministry. At least two of Jesus disciples had spent some time with John the Baptist. According to John’s Gospel (not the Baptist but the Apostle) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, and another person who we believe was John, the brother of James, identified in Mark’s gospel.
It seems that, at least in the early days, Jesus’ disciples came and went from their homes to his ministry. Only toward the end of his life were there with him 24/7. Because we see an account in Luke’s gospel where Peter was back at work and Jesus came and spoke from his boat. Jesus confirmed Peter’s call at that time.
After he had begun to gather his disciples…
Jesus established a new base of operation. We will continue with the story in Mark 1:21. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
Several times in the Gospels — all four Gospels — Capernaum is mentioned as being his base of operations or his home. Many miracles and much teaching came down in Capernaum. So much so that Jesus pronounced woe on the city. He compared them to the evil city of Sodom. Saying “if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24).
It was in Capernaum that he was approached by a Roman centurion whose servant was sick. Because of the faith of the Roman, Jesus healed him at a distance.
It was at Capernaum that the tax collectors questioned Peter about Jesus paying taxes. It may be discouraging to many people today that Jesus immediately covered his tax as well as Peter’s.
At Capernaum, he questioned his disciples about their ambitions. He had just told them that he was going to be delivered into the hands of men and they would kill him. Then they immediately began to discuss who would be greatest in his kingdom. They never got the message clear. Only after his crucifixion and resurrection did they begin to understand. Along the way…
His teaching was powerful. Let’s continue with Mark1:22. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Jesus did not spend his teaching time quoting the professors. In fact, he had begun teaching them when he was 12 years old. He taught as one who had authority because he does have authority. His authority comes from the fact that he is the eternal Son of God! Before anything at all existed Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed together. His authority grew out of his person. When he became man he carried that authority with him. He had the authority to lay down his life and he had the authority to take it up again.
At least once, and possibly twice, he cleared the temple of moneychangers and those who would cheat the people in regard to their sacrifices.
He had authority on earth to heal the sick and to forgive sin. He had authority to cast out demons and he shared that authority with his disciples.
His teaching was powerful and with it…
He began to challenge the enemy. Let’s go back to Luke 4:12-13. And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
When Jesus went into the wilderness, compelled by the Holy Spirit, he went there for the very purpose of confronting Satan himself. Now we often think of Satan as being an enemy of ours but I dare say none of us qualify for such a powerful enemy. A junior demon can take on any of us anytime anywhere. But Jesus’ confrontation was with the enemy himself. Satan challenged him to turn stones into bread because he was hungry, having fasted 40 days. Jesus replied with Scripture. Then the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and again Jesus replied with Scripture. Satan challenged Jesus to jump off a building so that the angels would come to protect him. Again Jesus answered with Scripture. We can learn a great deal from the way Jesus dealt with temptation. We need to know the word so we can use it as a double-edged sword on our enemy who comes to “steal and kill and destroy” in contrast, Jesus “came that they (we) may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). As he challenged the enemy…
He confronted demonic forces. Let’s read Mark 1:23-27. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Again, he had this experience at Capernaum. I don’t know why the demon-possessed man was in the synagogue. I would have thought that the rulers of the synagogue would not allow a person who was clearly demon possessed to come into the synagogue. Neither do we have any explanation as to what is meant by an unclean spirit. We do not know how it manifests itself. But it doesn’t take much imagination to consider what unclean means. He might not outwardly have shown any symptoms. I am sure people with unclean spirits have been in our churches over the years. I am so grateful to God that he has authority over all these spirits. What happened, in this case, was the spirit saw Jesus and immediately challenged him. Jesus knew exactly what to do. First, silence him and then cast him out. When this happened the crowd was amazed at his exercise of authority. One of the consequences of this exercise of authority was…
He became widely known. Let’s look at Mark 1:28. And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Again and again, Jesus instructed those that he helped to tell no one. However, they felt a compulsion to tell who he was.
We can use the songwriter Don Francisco’s imagination on this topic. In one of his ballads, “Gotta Tell Somebody”, he recounts the story of the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the did. Afterward, he instructed Jairus and his wife not to tell anyone what happened. Then, in the song, not in the battle, Jairus says, “gotta tell somebody”, and that becomes a repeated theme throughout the song. Any parent can easily imagine how hard it would have been to remain silent if your child had been brought back from the dead!
His healing ministry was not confined to the synagogues. Wherever he went, wherever there was a need, Jesus healed sicknesses and cast out demons. There is no other period of time in which so many miracles were compressed in such a short time. Their purpose was obvious! John, in his gospel, refers to the miracles surrounding Jesus as “signs”. God the Father, beginning with his baptism, and continuing throughout his ministry provided evidence that Jesus was, without a doubt, who he claimed to be. It’s not enough to believe that Jesus existed we need to also believe he died as a substitute to pay for our sins. Also, he did not stay dead! We put faith in his work on the cross, repent of our sin, and confess him as Lord. When we do he saves us not by our works of righteousness but by his! If you have not done so, confess him as Lord so he can be your savior.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, January 14, 2019

190113 Jesus Was Rejected

Luke 4:22-30 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘ “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
Jesus had had a very full time leading up to this event. He had been baptized by John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit had led him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan himself! After he had survived that ordeal he began a ministry of preaching in the synagogues. He was praised by all who heard him. He came to his own hometown and read from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1, 2) and the Psalms some of the words concerning himself. Then he assured the people present that this Scripture referred to him.
When Jesus had come from his baptism in the Jordan he was immediately led by the spirit into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting. During that time he was tempted by Satan himself. In every attack, Jesus responded to the enemy with the word of God. We need to remember that God’s word is a sword. In fact, the writer of Hebrews raised the bar telling us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Anytime we are confronted by temptation we can use that weapon to defeat the enemy. Our enemy is always stronger than we are thus forcing us to defeat or else to dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t use a weapon you have never learned. You need to read the word, store it in your mind, and the Holy Spirit will call it up when needed.
Luke makes a point of the fact that…
The people praised him. Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
The phrase “being glorified by all” could be translated “being praised by all”. Jesus’ humanity might have been somewhat impressed by the response of the crowds. We are not told what his reaction was. His divinity would’ve understood that this kind of praise was not particularly good.
As he went from synagogue to synagogue guided by the power of the Holy Spirit people spoke highly of him. Then he came to his hometown. Here he had been brought up and he was their carpenter! The people apparently had no category to put Jesus in. He was the hometown boy and when Jesus began to speak in his hometown synagogue the first response of the people was “all spoke well of him”! And then he began to speak from the text found in Isaiah chapter 61 and in Psalm 146 as well as other passages. He was not impressed with their praise because…
He saw beyond their shallow praise. Let’s look ahead to his warning given in Luke 6:26. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Early in my ministry, I found these words of Jesus to be very encouraging. It was easy to listen to those who said good things about you. It was hard, sometimes, to listen to those who had criticism to share. However, this is where we learn the most about ourselves. Jesus certainly understood everything about himself and put their shallow praise in a category that he could deal with.
They had heard of his ministry in Capernaum. Matthew 4:13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
After Jesus’ battle with Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, he established residence in Capernaum. His ministry was so identified with that city that it was occasionally referred to as “his own city”! This raised questions in the minds of the local people. A number of times Jesus answered questions that were only in the minds of the people he was talking to. Yes, he knows what we think before we speak it! In this case, he heard them thinking “What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”
What had he done at Capernaum? I will give you some examples. Some of them will be after the experience in Nazareth but they are descriptive of what went on in his life and his adopted city.
It was in Capernaum that Jesus healed the paralyzed man who had been let down through the roof to bypass the crowds. It was in the vicinity of Capernaum that he called some of his disciples who became apostles. He called Levi, who became Matthew! It was at Capernaum that he was called on to heal the son of an official. In order to continue to respond to the crowd, Jesus answered with Scripture examples.
The people wanted him to do something special in his hometown and he wanted them to know that God was concerned about all people everywhere. Therefore…
The first example came from the life of Elijah. Let’s turn to 1 Kings 17:8-9. Then the word of the Lord came to him, (Elijah) “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”
Elijah was one of the early prophets of Israel. He did not write as many of the prophets did. He was a very powerful man of God. He came from the hill country of Gilead and confronted the king Ahab! Ahab had led Israel into evil. He married the daughter of the king of Sidon — Jezebel! And along with her Ahab worshiped Baal!
We are told by the Bible that he did more evil than all the kings of Israel who were before him. Elijah came to him with the word from God “there shall be neither dew nor rain except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:2). During the first several months of this major famine, Elijah lives by a nearby creek and was fed by God. Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening and he drank from the brook.
I have often thought of how Elijah was cared for. Where do you suppose the ravens got the bread and meat? Well, the way I imagine it they flew through the open windows of the king’s palace and snatched the bread and meat from his table. Remember there would be no window glass to obstruct them. This was the way Elijah was provided in the beginning and when the water dried up God told him to go to Sidon. Where did Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, came from? Sidon, that’s where, and that’s also where God took care of Elijah. God did not use a woman of Israel, or Judah, to feed Elijah. He used a widow of a suburb of Sidon called Zarephath! This widow had only enough oil and flour to prepare a small meal for herself and her son before they set down to starve to death! Elijah, having a good word from the Lord, ask her to prepare him a meal first. His words were assuring “first make me a little cake and afterward make something for yourself and your son”. In order to do this, she had to believe that there would be an afterward with flour and oil sufficient to feed her and her son. Elijah promised her that the God of Israel would keep her jar of flour and jug of oil filled until the famine ended. We do not know how long this lasted but we do know that it was “many days”!
Elijah ministered to this lady when her son died. Elijah prayed for him and the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah and the child was brought back from the dead. With that event, the widow was given faith to believe in the God of Heaven!
We do not have time to go over all that happened in Elijah’s and Ahab’s battles. Suffice it to say that God used Elijah to break the power of Baal worship!

The second example came from the life of Elisha. He was Elijah’s servant who had become the prophet in his place. Let’s look at the story told in 2 Kings 5:8-14. But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Elisha did not have any respect at all for the king of Syria. Naaman was the commander of the army of Syria. He had a servant girl in his house who had been taken from Israel to become his wife’s slave. When it was discovered that Naaman had leprosy the servant came to her mistress, his wife, and said, “Would that my Lord was with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Let me explain the story of Naaman’s healing.
Naaman went to his king — after all the proper protocols should be followed — and told him what the servant girl had said. So, the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel asking that Naaman be healed!
This is not a simple process. The king of Syria had sent a large number of gifts to pay for the cure. Now, of course, the king of Israel had no idea what had transpired in the home of the Syrian commander. He went into panic mode when he was confronted by Naaman and his team.
Elisha heard about the king’s panic. And he sent a message. He asked why there was a panic in the castle. Elisha then told the king of Israel to send the foreigners to him and he would show that there is a prophet in Israel.
Naaman came with his entourage to the house of Elisha. Expecting to be treated like a royal guest, Naaman was highly offended when Elisha did not even come to the door. Instead, he sent a servant to him to give him the message, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh will be restored, and you shall be clean.” The Syrian commander was very angry that he had been treated so lightly.
He turned and went away and his servants came to him with a proposition. The prophet had given them a great word and it was easy enough to do it. Why not try and see what happened?
Naaman went to the Jordan and dipped himself seven times. I can picture the scene. He dipped once in the water and nothing happened. Twice and nothing happened. Three times and nothing happened. And on the seventh time when he came up his flesh was like that of a little child. He was clean! There’s much more to the story so  I would encourage you to read those chapters in 2nd Kings and imagine what it would’ve been like to see that great healing experience. Learn also what happens to those who are greedy and self-centered.
Let’s go back to Jesus. Throughout his entire life, there had been those who would try to take it from him. On the hillside outside of Nazareth, they wanted to kill him because he made himself out to be God! Well, this is no new experience for him. At the very beginning of his life…
The people attempted to kill him. Let’s read Matthew 2:16. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. The Magi had come seeking the newborn King. This was some time after the birth of Jesus. They were no longer in the stable but in a house. As soon as the Magi left God told Joseph to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to save his life. This also fulfilled a prophecy that God would call his son out of Egypt. The family was able to avoid the assassins by this trip. God the Father kept his hand of protection upon Jesus and his family for the next 30 years. Near the beginning of that period of time, Jesus came to Jerusalem spend a couple days with the teachers in the temple. As a 12-year-old he was not a threat to them. Just a curiosity but let’s look at the record in …
 John 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus had gone to Samaria and caused many people to believe in him. He moved around the area healing and preaching. And John tells us what the result was.
The old saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
The response of the people in Nazareth mirrored that of every generation of people since. In his humanity, he may have thought they might hear him. After all, he had grown up in their midst. We have every reason to believe that Jesus lived an exemplary life. He was the carpenter in town, the son of Mary. He had brothers and sisters living in their midst. Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. Amazing unbelief! That is the condition of mankind. Jesus had come to seek and to save the lost and yet amazingly he is rejected in spite of overwhelming evidence. I hope you will not reject him.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.