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Entries in Rejection (8)

Tuesday
Aug252015

The Stone That Is Rejected

Luke 20:9-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 23, 2015.

The materials that are used in a building project are a critical factor.  If they are not of good quality they can affect the looks, durability, and especially the safety of the structure.  This is important because God has been building a structure Himself.  However, this structure is not made of wood or stones.  It is made out of people who put their faith in Jesus.  Yet, much like stones, they are being cut, shaped and placed next to other believers.  This structure becomes a living temple, both as individuals and as a group, in which the Spirit of God dwells.  Today we are going to see that our Lord, Jesus, is a critical stone in this structure.  If we are thinking of a rectangular building then Jesus is the critical foundation stone.  If we are thinking of a pyramid shape then he is the critical capstone.  Another critical stone in architecture can be seen in the keystone of an arch.  The center stone becomes the one thing that holds all the others up.  God has made Jesus the most critical part of this structure we can refer to as the Kingdom of God.  He is that one thing that holds all the others up.  When we reject the authority of Jesus, like the religious leaders of his day did, we do so to our own folly.  They were more interested in asserting and defending their own authority than to recognize the authority that God had given Jesus.

The Parable Of The Vineyard

In Luke 20 we are in the last week leading up to the cross.  Jesus is in the temple compound teaching daily.  The religious leaders have challenged the authority of Jesus to kick out the merchants.  Though Jesus turned them away with his own challenge regarding the authority of John the Baptist, in verse 9-19 he turns to the people and shares a parable that is intended to be heard by those leaders.

In this parable there is a vineyard that is owned by a certain man.  Jesus is clearly using Isaiah 5:1-7 as a background to this parable.  In that passage God tells Isaiah that Israel is like a vineyard that God planted to grow good grapes.  Yet, it kept producing wild grapes.  Thus the vineyard is not so much Israel as a national entity, but rather, the kingdom of God’s people who had been drawn together under His leading.  God’s purpose in drawing the children of Jacob into this kingdom was to bring forth good fruit.

In the story the vineyard is put in the charge of certain vinedressers, we will get to them in a bit.  At harvest time the owner would send servants to check on the fruitfulness of the vineyard and to bring back a sample of the fruit.  But these servants were beat and turned away by the vinedressers.  So who are these servants?  The servants are the prophets that God periodically sent to Israel to both check on the fruit and to instruct them on how to be more fruitful.  In 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 it is recorded, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.  But they mocked the messengers of god, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”  This testimony of how Israel rejected the prophets when they spoke is sad.  Notice that God uses the phrase, “rising up early,” of Himself.  It means that He was faithful and diligent to do a good job of trying to help them be fruitful.  This phrase is used by Jeremiah (the prophet that prophesied during the destruction of Jerusalem) 7 different times.  Although this parable only mentions the servants being beaten, we know from the Old Testament that many of them were put to death as well.

Finally the owner, God, reaches an impasse.  “What shall I do?”  We see here the perplexity and difficulty that God has with trying to help mankind.  No matter how faithful and diligent He is, we tend to reject Him and go after others.  So the owner determines to send his beloved son.  Surely they will respect the owner’s son.  Of course the Beloved Son is none other than Jesus.  Here we see that Jesus the Messiah is much more than another prophet (i.e. servant of God).  He is prophet, priest, and king.  He is the one ruler from whom all proper authority finds its authenticity.  Clearly the parable shows that this is a last resort option of the owner, God.

Now let’s deal with the vinedressers.  They are the leaders of Israel who have been given authority over the vineyard, but for the purpose of growing good grapes.  Yet, they have abused their authority.  Instead of pruning, irrigating, and fertilizing the vineyard, they had used it for their own purposes and for their own promotion.  So in the parable the vinedressers do not respect the owner’s son.  Instead they conspire to kill him in order to keep the vineyard for themselves.  Regardless of how they thought they would get away with it, this clearly demonstrates that Jesus knew they would kill him.  They rejected his authority and even more would seek to remove him.  In John 7:7 Jesus says to his brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”  Though the religious leaders would justify their rejection of Jesus through pious and noble justifications, Jesus makes it clear the real reason they were rejecting him.  He exposed their wickedness.

Though the vinedressers have had their way with the servants of the owners and now with His Beloved Son, they will not get away with it.  What will God do?  God will judge Israel’s leaders and put the vineyard in the hands of others.  His purpose is not just to create a people, but to create a people who bear good fruit.  The religious leaders were content to just be a people.  But they didn’t fear God enough to recognize that it wasn’t good enough to just bear His Name.  They had to produce righteousness that was worthy of the character of God.  Yes, Israel as a nation is going to be destroyed, and in so doing, the political and religious leaders of Israel will lose their place in the vineyard.  Yet, there is still some good clusters of grapes (the faithful remnant).  The faithful believers who attached themselves to Jesus and who will produce good fruit, are plucked up and sent into the nations as a new group called the Church.  They are put under new vinedressers:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers.  Let me just pause to give warning to those of this age who are in positions of religious authority.  You have a duty before the owner of these people to exercise your authority in such a way as to increase the fruit of righteousness.  Just as God judged the religious leaders in Israel, so He will judge those who abuse their authority in His Church.  Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked for long until His judgment comes to bear on wicked leaders.

The Judgment Of The Priests And Elders

In Matthew’s account of this interaction (Mt. 21:43) it is clear that Jesus makes the parable very explicit.  He flat out states, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”  Of course the religious leaders do not like this and respond with great incredulity and raging anger.  This categorical rejection of the idea that God would remove them from leadership and put others in charge shows that they are not interested in the proofs of the authority of Jesus.  They cannot even conceive of the idea that God would judge them.  In a sense they see this as blasphemy.  Be careful that you do not confuse statements against your actions as the same as statements against God.  In so doing you can blind yourself to the merciful attempts of God to turn you away from a wicked path.  Even today the idea that God might hold pastors and leaders of the Church accountable through judgment and removal is unthinkable to many.  In many places throughout the Church in the USA we are producing wild grapes and slapping a “God approves” sticker on it.  But this is folly. 

Jesus reminds the leaders of Psalm 118.  Now this is the same Psalm from which the people were quoting when they cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosannna!”  It is a messianic Psalm that is very interesting to read.  The same Psalm that blesses the coming of the messiah states, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  Jesus asks them what could it mean, but that the leaders would actually reject the very messiah that God was making the central stone in His work.  The Psalm also warns those who would stand against God’s plans.  They will be destroyed if they insist on standing against Him.  We can often be very blind to things in God’s Word because we can’t conceive of their possibility.  How we ought to humble ourselves and have enough respect of God to recognize that we have a place in His kingdom only by His grace.  If we eat up His grace and use it to produce sour grapes, will this be acceptable?  Of course, not.  God forgive us of using grace as a license for immorality and a license for using the Church for our own purposes.  The messiah was and still is today a stone that is rejected not just by the world, but also by many within the Church itself.

Jesus says that this rock will trip people up and grind others to powder.  This alludes to Isaiah chapter 8.  There we are told that the cornerstone of God (Jesus the messiah) would be a rock of offense.  The rock is first and foremost a stone of stumbling.  It is intended to cause those who are oblivious to their sin and looming judgment to trip over it.  Though they may injure themselves in the fall, they can at least now have their eyes opened and repent.  They can come to trust the ways of Jesus and not their own.  However, those who reject even this mercy will be ground into powder in a final judgment of God.  We see this in Daniel chapter 2 where the image that represents the kingdoms of this world is struck by the rock of God.  It grinds the kingdoms of this world to powder and fills the whole earth.  Let us recognize that God loves us too much to let us blindly walk in wickedness.  He is faithful to trip us up and try to get our attention.  But eventually judgment will fall on those who reject His attempts to get us to turn from our wicked ways and turn towards the truth of His Beloved Son.

There was no repentance in the souls of the religious leaders of that day.  Yes, there were a few like Nicodemus.  But, most of them hated what Jesus was, a blinding light exposing their wickedness.  They will go on to fulfill the words of the parable even while rejecting the truth of it.  The book of Revelation mentions 4 times that the people did not repent in the face of the increasing outpouring of God’s wrath.  God’s judgment always comes in birth pangs.  They are increasing in pain and closer together.  This is to give us fair warning and plenty of time to change.  Do you not see the birth pangs all around us today?  God has been faithful to send his servants and yet our nation has beat them and sent them away.  God has been faithful to give us warnings militarily, economically, and even in our weather.  But we still refuse to repent as a nation.  Friend, please recognize that this world has a sin problem.  Even when the truth is staring us in the face, we not only refuse to see it, but we also try to kill it out of anger and hatred.  The only way to save yourself from the coming judgment is to flee in faith to Jesus Christ.  Give your life to trusting Him and learning from Him how to please God.

stone rejected audio

Tuesday
Jun092015

The Kingdom of God

June 7, 2015-Luke 17:20-37

Today we have a portion of Scripture that deals with the Kingdom of God.  In the book of Daniel it was prophesied that God would establish a kingdom that would smash all the empires of this world into bits and fill the whole earth.  This promise and many others like it seemed to be a pipe dream to many in the first century.  The big question would be, “When is it really going to come?”  Even today, we have that same sense with the second coming of Jesus.  It is easy to let the question of “when” turn into cynicism that it is never going to happen.  In this passage Jesus gives us a key understanding to aid the believer’s faith and hope.  In essence he reveals that we are already participating in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is Already Here

Jesus is approached by the Pharisees regarding the question of when the Kingdom of God would come.  They knew that the prophets promised an anointed leader from God who would judge the nations of the world and lead Israel into a Kingdom of God.  This raising up of Israel under the banner of the Messiah was what a believer at that time was looking towards. Here is a man whom many are saying is the Messiah, and who has amazed them with his understanding of Scripture.  Thus they want to know what he thinks about the Kingdom.  The answer Jesus gives to the Pharisees is to basically tell them that the Kingdom of God is not a visible kingdom. 

They had defined God’s kingdom within a very narrow sense:  the messiah coming, judgment of the nations, and Israel raised to rule over the earth.  This had kept them from recognizing the very, real, but invisible, rule of God that existed already.  They were looking for signs that such things were about to happen.  The truth is, no matter how amazing Jesus was, there was no sign that he was going to judge the nations and rule over the world from Jerusalem.  Jesus tells them that the coming of the kingdom is not something that can be observed with the eyes.  Sure if you know what you are looking for you can recognize the Kingdom of God.  But this is precisely what their problem was.  The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world.  It does not have a capital city with well defined borders, palaces and armies that can be seen in this world.  This is not the same as saying that God doesn’t have a real kingdom.  No, His kingdom is very real, but you won’t observe it with your eyes.

He then explains that the Kingdom of God is within the hearts of faithful believers.  The kingdom was already present in the lives of those who trusted God and followed Him.  Now it would be easy to see this as only referring to those who believed on Jesus.  However, I think his point is broader than that.  Even those prophets, who never saw Jesus, still believed on the promises of God and lived lives surrendered to the rule and authority of God.  They had experienced His kingdom within their hearts and had expressed it into the world they lived.  We see this same dynamic in the Lord’s Prayer.  Notice that it begins with recognition of God’s rule in heaven and praying for it to be the same on earth.  Such a prayer is surrendering one’s self to be a vehicle of it.  “Lord, rule in me first; so that your rule may be seen in this earth.”  The faithful have always prayed for and lived out the rule of God.  In that way they have always experienced the Kingdom of God.  Now this is not a denial that there will never be a day when there is an observable kingdom that rules over the nations of the earth.  Rather, it is the correcting of an error that sets us up for disappointment and unbelief.  If we always live as if God’s promised kingdom is way out there somewhere, we will grow weary.  But if we live every day knowing that God’s Kingdom is ruling within me and being expressed into my life, then I am only awaiting the next phase of that Kingdom.  If we see now as lacking, we will miss the experience of the very, real Kingdom of God in the now.  In fact we may miss out on the future Kingdom experience because our faith and hope gives out.  Recognizing God’s kingdom now readies us and strengthens us for his coming.  I am experiencing more than a down payment now.  I am experiencing the heart of what is to come, even though it isn’t obvious to the untrained eye.

Jesus Will Leave and then Come Back

In verse 22 Jesus turns towards his disciples and gives further understanding.  The Pharisees needed to quit looking ahead and enter into the Kingdom of God as it was then.  But the disciples were the ones who were entering into and experiencing the Kingdom of God through Jesus.  They could rightly look ahead, but needed understanding.  Part of that understanding was that Jesus was going to go away for a while and then later come back.  He says to them that the day will come when they will long for just one of the days of the son of man.  This future longing will not be satisfied, “you will not see it.”  This passage is an important balance to those who say that Jesus and his disciples expected him to come back in their lifetimes.  Here, Jesus points out a future longing that will not be satisfied.

He goes on to point out that in the midst of this longing for him to be physically with them, people would speculate about his coming.  “He is here, or He is there!”  In other passages this speculation is connected with false prophets, false teachers, and even false christs.  Matthew 24:23-24 says, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  People are never more vulnerable to shams and cons than when they want something badly.  This longing that should be in the heart of true believers will be plied upon by deceivers.  Jesus warns us not to trust any who claims to be the Christ, know when he is coming, or where he is.  There are many such examples today.  Those who point to some Christ figure who is already here but hasn’t shown himself yet, are charlatans.  Jesus points this out by telling us that his coming will be as obvious as lightning in the sky.  The coming of Christ will be no secret or invisible coming.  There is no time where he is on earth waiting for mankind to be ready for his revelation.  No. He will be revealed at his coming in an obvious and glorious way.

Yet, before he leaves, he must suffer rejection.  This is a small line in the context of the future coming kingdom.  But he speaks of the work of salvation on the cross and his victory over death in the resurrection.  The messiah must be rejected by this world and leave.  Thus the believers hope is place in the return of the rejected King.

The World Will Not Be Ready For His Coming

Starting in verse 26, Jesus gives two examples from the Old Testament to inform us.  The first has to do with Noah and the global judgment that came at that time.  Noah lived in a society that had been warned of God’s coming judgment, but had rejected it.  They had plunged headlong into a path of rebellion against God and His Word.  By Noah’s day, most people scoffed at the idea of a judgment.  Yet, God had given Noah specific instructions on how to avoid the coming judgment.  This is a picture of how God is dealing with this generation.  He will give the world plenty of warning and He will faithfully give instruction on how to avoid the coming judgment.  But only a few will take advantage and be saved.  The world will not be ready as a whole for the coming of Christ.  Instead it will be focused on enjoying life rather than escaping judgment.  The things Jesus mentions are not necessarily wrong.  The emphasis is not on the moral nature of the actions.  The emphasis is on the lack of wisdom.  They continue on with life in the midst of judgment being poured out on the earth.  A wise man looks ahead and prepares for the future.  The ancient world perished, not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of faith in God’s warning.  The cares of this world had pulled their hearts away from Him and choked out any faith.  They lived for the kingdom of man rather than the kingdom of God.  The believed only in the kingdom of man and held out no hope for the kingdom of God.

Next we are reminded of Lot.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had done the same thing.  Lot had continually warned them against the wicked things they were doing.  They pretty much had told him to shut his mouth.  Yet, on the day that Lot left Sodom, the judgment of God rained down upon them and they were caught off guard.  Again, this happens, not for lack of knowledge.  They just didn’t believe.

This is how it will be when Jesus returns.  God will pull out the righteous and rain down judgment upon a world that would rather serve its own kingdom rather than His.  Jesus refers to it as a day of the son of man being revealed.  His true glory and righteous judgment will be unveiled and made known to the world.  This is the same word that is the title of the book of Revelation.  A world that scoffs at a quaint idea of Jesus will get a rude awakening on that day, only too late. 

Starting in verse 31, Jesus gives several warnings to us as disciples, so that we will not experience the judgment of God.  He warns against attachment to the things of this world.  Our desire to save and hold on to the things of this world will jeopardize our salvation.  He then tells us to remember Lot’s wife.  She had done exactly this.  Even though she had the information on how to be saved, and even though she was in the middle of being physically saved from the judgment, her heart was still connected to Sodom.  Salvation is not about geography or biology, it is a matter of the heart.

Thus the day of Christ’s coming will be a day of separation.  It will separate the righteous from the wicked so that judgment will only fall upon the wicked.  Jesus gives several scenarios in which he reiterates that one person will be taken but another left.  Two people will be in bed, or two women grinding their grain, or two men in the field.  The point in these issues is not the ratio, but rather it is about the separation.  Many who are close in every respect will find that they are left while others are taken.

At this point the disciples as the question, “Where, Lord?”  In all likelihood they are wondering where the ones will be taken to.  However the answer of Jesus is clearly in reference to the judgment of the wicked.  So that poses the question to us, “Are the wicked those who are taken or are they the ones left?”  I believe that the two illustrations of Noah and Lot, which are the context of this statement, give us the answer.  In each case the righteous are taken out of the way so that the judgment coming will be upon the wicked.  It is also clear in Revelation that the judgments of God are poured out on the whole earth.  Thus the wicked would still be on the earth.  Jesus seems to disregard the concern for where the righteous are going to be taken and focuses upon where the judgment will fall.  Like a decaying body laying out in a field will be surrounded by the eagles that seek its flesh, so the wicked all across the world will find themselves unable to escape the circling judgment of God.

Friend, have you made sure that you will escape this judgment?  The only way of escape is to put your trust in Jesus and turn towards him as you leave your sins behind.  Make sure that your salvation is sure today.

Kingdom of God Audio

Tuesday
Sep162014

Consequences: Rejecting the Gospel

Today we will be looking at Luke 10:12-16.  Here Jesus points out the consequences of rejecting the Gospel.  In some ways we are a generation in rebellion against this principle of cause and effect.  We like it when it allows us to create new technology.  But we do not like it when it gets in the way of our sin.  Sin always has destructive consequences in your life, of which the ultimate one is eternal judgment.

Jesus had just finished telling his disciples how to deal with rejection.  They were to shake the dust off of their feet as evidence against that city and those people.  They had heard the gospel.  Now Jesus turns to speak to those cities regarding the consequences.  Do you recognize that our decisions and choices in life have many consequences, and that some of those may be eternal?  Yes, some choices are about small matters and have minimal consequences.  But, rejecting the gospel of Jesus has eternal consequences.  Thus Jesus warns them of the coming Day of Judgment.  Jesus uses a term translated as “woe.”  It is more a cry than it is a word.  It is used to simulate the cry that comes from a person who is receiving punishment or judgment.  Woe is coming upon this world, and woe to those who refuse to hear the truth.

The Greater Witness

Jesus points out that some people have receive a greater witness of the Truth of God than others.  Greater here can mean in content.  Some had received a testimony of the law and yet others had received the greater testimony of the Gospel.  Although the Gospel is in the Law it is there in seed form.  In the gospel we see those seeds as full grown and flourishing plants.  However, some have received greater witness in the sense of the person and power displayed.  Sodom did have a witness of righteousness in the person of Lot.  However, Lot did not do any miracles that we know of.  Yet, the people of Capernaum had Jesus and his disciples who came healing all who came to them and casting out any demons.  Thus Jesus says in verse 15 that Capernaum was “exalted to the heavens.”  Of all Israel this city had received the greatest portion of Christ’s ministry, not because they deserved it more, but because that is just how things happened.  Jesus stayed in the north because it was not his time yet and Jerusalem was too hostile towards him.  His own town did not really want him around either.  Thus the cities of the Sea of Galilee received a greater portion of God’s grace to that age.

Yet, all peoples will be held accountable for that witness that they did receive.  These cities are being used to represent those who lived within them.  Jesus is not just warning cities, but in actuality, those individuals who lived within them.  Though some have received more witness and some less, all had received enough to believe.  In the Gospel of John Jesus had said, “My sheep hear my voice.”  Those who are hungry for truth will drink of it when it is given, regardless of the amount.  This Day of Accountability comes in two ways.  Sodom had received a judgment from God in which the whole city was destroyed and disappeared from the face of the earth.  This represents an extreme judgment while one is alive upon the earth.  They are not always this extreme.  But, we often experience God’s judgment against sin throughout our lives in various ways.  Yet, Jesus speaks of a judgment upon Sodom that is future.  Here he refers to The Final Judgment that takes place at the end of this age.  It is a judgment that is after our death and has eternal consequences.  Jesus says that it will be more tolerable for Sodom at the Final Judgment than it will be for Capernaum.  How could this be?  It will be this way because Capernaum had received far more than Sodom and yet would still ultimately reject Christ.

Think of each of these ancient cities.  Sodom, Tyre and Sidon were all Gentile cities that had received clear and overwhelming judgments from God.  Each of them had received some witness of the truth, whether through the lives of the righteous, or warnings from prophets.  It was easy for Israel to look down upon these cities as wicked and doomed by God’s judgment.  But they couldn’t see the same problem within themselves.  Just like Sodom, Capernaum would be brought down to hades, or the grave.  Not only will the inhabitants die, but the city will be completely destroyed too. 

So what is a “more tolerable” judgment?  Jesus is not saying that they will get off without judgment.  The inhabitants of both Sodom and Capernaum will suffer judgment.  But those who had the greater witness will receive a greater judgment.  There are several verses within the New Testament that mention different degrees of punishment in hell.  We are given no details which has lead to the imagination of men to write books like Dante’s “Inferno.”  But, recognize that lesser punishment is no great hope.  It is the greater punishment that is meant to be a warning to Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.  Though the degrees of punishment are not detailed they are presented as a matter of fact.  Here is one of them.  Luke 12:47-48.

“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

Thus, the key is to take full advantage of the truth and witness that God gives you.  No one will be held accountable for what they didn’t receive.  Sometimes we have the tendency to expect God to “prove” himself to us.  I will not believe unless God does such and such exactly to my specifications.  Be careful of such an attitude.  God has revealed himself to you in a way for which you will be accountable.  You can miss the blessing of that witness because it is not “great” enough.

Rejecting His Disciples Is Rejecting Jesus

Jesus ends this with the statement that his disciples represent him.  He has appointed and sent them.  Down through the ages this teaching has been passed down.  To reject these teachers was to reject Christ himself.  Now it is clear that not all who claim to represent Christ actually do.  They represent their own selfish motivations.  Yet, this is not an excuse to reject those who really do represent Christ.  We are fooling ourselves if we say that no one represents Jesus.  This is a warning to both Churches and to those who judge them.  It is a warning to both Christians and those who despise them.  We will be held accountable for what God has given us.  Lastly, Jesus is equated with the Father.  To reject Jesus is to reject God the Father.  Many say they serve God, but refuse to accept Jesus.  This is tragic because the Father sent Jesus.  Jesus is his plan.  He wants you to know that and is working to reveal that truth to you.  There is no other way.  Don’t use your devotion to God as a means of cloaking your rejection of Jesus because to reject Jesus is actually rejecting the Father himself.

Final Thoughts

America has received a great quantity and quality of God’s witness compared to many other places.  Will we not go through difficult things in this life and in the Final Judgment because of this?  Don’t harden your heart because you don’t think it is great enough.  In fact, many from places that have received far less witness are pressing into the Kingdom of God ahead of Americans.  We most certainly have judgments coming within this life at every level: individual, city, state, and the nation as a whole.  Unless we repent and turn in faith to Jesus it is unavoidable.  The warning signs are all around us and in fact we are already knee deep in it.  Yet, even now, if we will turn from our wicked ways and turn towards Jesus we can be saved.

God loves us and will be faithful to give us enough in order to believe.  Great miracles are no guarantee of faith.  Many have perished and gone on to judgment in spite of amazing miraculous things.  Look at the grace and truth He is pouring out to you even now and believe.

Consequences audio

Tuesday
Aug262014

Misunderstanding Greatness

Luke 9 is filled with situations that deal with the issue of greatness: the greatness of Jesus, the greatness of his disciples, and the world’s idea of what greatness means.  Today’s passage is Luke 9:51-56 and focuses on Jesus being rejected by a Samaritan village.  When Jesus is rejected several of the disciples want to destroy the village.  This story forces us to ask the question, “How should a great person react to rejection?”  Isn’t greatness defined by how many people receive you?  In truth, Jesus was great.  The crowds initially flocked to him for self-interest.  But, the closer he came to the cross the fewer people there were around him.  So let’s look at this passage.

The Resolution of Jesus

It says in verse 51 that when Jesus knew it was time to be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.  This Hebrew idiom of setting ones face towards something is a picture of resolve.  If you want to go somewhere you first turn yourself in that direction.  Christ intentionally headed towards Jerusalem and his crucifixion.  It was the next major stop along his destination of sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, this Samaritan village was along the way.

Now let me just point out that when it says Jesus was to be received up (also to be taken up) it is pointing to the ascension into heaven.  This same word is used in 1 Timothy 3:16, “He was…taken up into glory.”  It is easy sometimes to know the wonderful things ahead of ourselves and not pay attention to the difficult things that lie in the path to it.  Jesus is headed towards ascension, but rejection and crucifixion lie on the path to it.  It takes firm resolve and a steadfast spirit to stay on such a path.  In order to be glorified our Lord must first be killed.  He bravely marches towards his death because he knows it is a necessary step towards the heavenly work he is doing now.  If he is not crucified and resurrected, then he will not be able to be that high priest who intercedes for us before the Father.  Thus, it is important for us, as believers in Jesus, to understand the purpose of God in this day and age.  We have a glorious future ahead of us that God has promised.  And yet, there are many difficult things that we will encounter throughout our life on our way to that glory.  We may not understand all that they are as Christ did.  However, we must prepare ourselves to be resolute and steadfast.  I have to learn to firmly march towards things that I do not want to deal with in order to reach the good things that God has for me on the other side.

A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus

Though John 4 records the Samaritan village of Sychar receiving Jesus, here we have the opposite.  As Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem, certain ones are sent ahead to prepare a place to stop, rest, eat, and most likely minister as well.  This would prevent a situation where they all arrive weary and hungry while someone looks for a place to stay.  Plus, it would enable the word to get out to the surrounding area that Jesus would be there.  He could minister to far more that way.  Yet, at some point, the destination of Jesus comes up and the villagers are not happy.  Jesus is headed to Jerusalem.

The racial and religious difference between the Samaritans and the Jews comes to a head here.  The wall of hostility between the two was because of the attitudes of both sides.  They were willing to embrace Messiah if he promoted their side of the religious argument.  Of course Jesus was not a partisan in this debate.  He pointed out the errors of the Samaritans and the Jews.  In fact, the religious Jews were rejecting Jesus for many of the same reasons.  He wasn’t supporting their view.

Now it is most likely that it was the elders of the village who were standing in the way of Jesus staying there.  Either way, the effect of that decision is that they will miss out on a blessing.  The blessing of healings, being set free from sin, and salvation, could have come to this village.  Pride and stubbornness often cause us to miss out on blessings that God has for us.  He is not going to force them upon us.  Yet, we push them away because of things we are not willing to experience.  Are you so tied up in the interpretations and traditions of your ancestors that you are missing what God is trying to do today?  Even the secular world has its own traditions and views of life.  Yet, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, our pride and stubbornness can wall us off from God’s blessing.

James And John Rebuked

James and John’s violent reaction to the offense of rejection is rebuked by Jesus.  But let’s look a little deeper here.  Why would James and John be so offended that they want to destroy the village?  We are given no description of what is going on inside of James and John.  However in Mark 3:17 we are told that Jesus had nicknamed these two, “Sons of Thunder.”  They both seem to have had stormy, quick tempered personalities.  We definitely see such here.  There is probably some bigotry going on here as well.  Jesus had been rejected in other places too.  But this Samaritan village receives their greater wrath.

Either way, James and John ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven and destroy the village.  Yes, they were probably offended on behalf of Jesus.  But they were men just like you and I.  They were offended on their own behalf too.  They don’t want to scare the villagers, or give them a sign to impress them.  Rather, they want to destroy them.  They ask Jesus because he is the master and because it is in keeping with what happened earlier in Luke 9.  Jesus had given his disciples authority to heal, cast out demons, and proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  He hadn’t given them authority to do this.  Thus they are more than asking permission.  They don’t have the ability to bring fire from heaven.  They are asking for God to back up their pronouncement.  Have you ever prayed such a prayer?  “Lord, give me the power and strength to crush and destroy those who stand against me!”  We need only look at how our Lord responded to those who stood against him to know his response to us.

Now the newer translations only say that Jesus rebuked them and they left.  This has to do with the fact that when the older translations were done we didn’t have all the manuscripts we do today.  It seems that early on some notes were added (whether by Luke or others we do not know) to explain further. 

So, the words “like Elijah” appear to have been inserted.  This explains the reason the disciples would have thought of such a drastic action.  They are clearly thinking back to the story of the prophet Elijah in 2 Kings 1.  After Ahab’s death, Ahaziah ruled.  One day he falls and is injured.  So he sends messengers to the false god Baal-Zebub in the Philistine city of Ekron for a prophetic word concerning whether he would recover or not.  Elijah intercepts the messengers and tells them to tell Ahaziah that he is going to die.  When Ahaziah hears the news he is angry and sends 50 troops out to capture Elijah.  The captain of the troops refers to Elijah as “man of God.”  To which Elijah responds, “If I am a man of God then may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”  Fire does come down from heaven.  Ahaziah sends out another 50 men with the same results again: fire comes down and consumes them all.  When Ahaziah sends out a third group of fifty soldiers, the captain is a humble man.  He tells Elijah why he has been sent but also begs for his life and the life of his men.  Elijah then relents and goes with him.  In this story Elijah represents God’s Law and is not going to be killed by Israel’s king.  When we approach God in arrogance and the might of men we can only expect to be judged by His law. But when the man approached in humility and begged for grace, he was received.

Now that situation is very different from the Samaritan village.  We can be too quick to use examples of godly men for our own justification.  Christ had been rejected before and no such thing was ever encouraged.  He had told them when he sent them out that if they are rejected they are to shake the dust off of their feet and move on.  In the case of Elijah they sought to apprehend the man of God outside of God’s will.  But, here they do not want to apprehend Jesus.  They are simply saying, “Go somewhere else.”

Jesus rebukes this attitude.  Whether these words were added or not, anyone who has studied the teachings of Jesus knows that this is exactly the reason he would rebuke them.  The spirit of Christ was not motivating them to destroy the villagers, but rather it was the spirit of Satan.  What manner of spirit am I?  That is a powerful question.  The Bible says in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  They wanted to judge quickly out of hurt pride and revenge.  This is not how God judges mankind.  When God’s judgment comes it will not come out of pride and hurt.  It will come from a pure holy understanding that nothing more can be done to reason with those who have chosen rebellion.

Even the teachings of Christ stand in opposition to this vengeful request.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who do you wrong.  Bless them that curse you.  Jesus commands this, not because it is okay.  But, he commands it precisely because the long suffering judgment of God has been appointed for a specific day and it will come upon them.  This is the day of God’s grace.  This is the day where God wrestles with man and cries out, “Why will you die?  Come let us reason!”  The spirit of this world is quick to judge and quick to destroy.  But, the Spirit of God is slow to judge in order to leave room for repentance.

Thus Jesus rebukes his disciples because he is here to save people not destroy.  It is impossible for fallen men to perfectly perform the judgment of God.  Only Jesus can do that.  He is the one whom God will send to judge the world and many will be destroyed in that judgment.  Judgment is final and we are too quick to pronounce eternal judgments.  There is no overturning it and no coming back from it.  Thus God is slow to judge.  Don’t let your emotions misrepresent God.  We too often get God’s greatness mixed up with our own.  Jesus says to us, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  This will take a steadfast resolve and a humble understanding of what a great person does when they are rejected. 

Misunderstanding Greatness Audio