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Sunday, April 23, 2017

posted Apr 24, 2017, 10:09 AM by Site Administrator   [ updated Apr 24, 2017, 10:35 AM ]

THE GOOD NEWS IS PREACHED TO THE POOR

 

Luke 7:18-35

Key Verse 7:22

 

So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

 

       First, “Good news to the poor” (18-23). In the previous passage, we studied about how Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, and how he raised the dead young man, by saying, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” When people saw this, they were amazed, and the news about him spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. When the disciples of John the Baptist heard this, they told him who was in the prison about all these things. Then, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Once, at seeing Jesus coming to him, John shouted, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) Another time, he testified to Jesus, saying, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Lk 3:16,17) He even testified to Jesus’ deity, by saying, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” (Jn 1:15) John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah, and fulfilled his mission successfully. But now, at the end part of his mission, he was confused about Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Why? It was because things did not go as he had expected. Even though his understanding of the Messiah was not political as in the case with all other Jews, still he expected the great messianic kingdom established by Jesus – all injustice removed, evil destroyed, and the society being restored into holiness and righteousness. Because the Messiah came, he expected that things would get better and better, heading toward the complete establishment of the Messianic kingdom where all sins were taken away, and where all people enjoyed peace and happiness. He expected that the desert and the parched land would turn into the rosy gardens. But, on the contrary to his expectation, Jesus was quiet, and it seemed that there was no change even after Jesus started his mission. Moreover, as he struggled to fight against the evil of the society, by challenging king Herod to repent of his immoral life, he was put in prison, and he was not sure what’s going to happen to him. Things, instead of getting better, got worse. He was confused. He asked himself, “Why?” So he sent his disciples to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 

What was Jesus’ reply to his question? Look at verse 22. Let’s read this verse together:

 

So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

 

       Here, Jesus showed John the Baptist the work of the Messiah based on the Scriptures. Jesus’ quotation was from Isaiah 35:5,6, which reads: 5Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” How happy they will be when the blind can see, when the lame walk and when the deaf hear – their parched, sour and dried hearts will be nourished with grace of God so much that they will shout for joy, and render glory to God; water will gush out in the wilderness, and streams in the desert and roses will blossom in their hearts and lives. This is what the Messiah does. What the Scriptures suggest is that God’s salvation, God’s blessing in and through the Messiah is very personal and individual.

 

Many of us were blind, without knowing who we were, where we came from and where we were going; we didn’t know what to do with our lives. Many of us were deaf that we couldn’t hear; we didn’t receive any information from God at all, but just remained in our own world. At that time, we pursued worthless things wholeheartedly while many servants of God shouted not to do so. Many of us were crippled mentally, physically, and spiritually that we were very dysfunctional. But Jesus came to us as our Messiah, and opened our eyes to see who we are – children of God who were sent into the world to do the business of our Father. So now we know how we must live our lives, and what we ought to do as children of God. Now our eyes are opened to see the glory of the eternal kingdom of God, so we wait for it to appear so earnestly. We now hear the word of God, so the word of God in the Bible is like beautiful music like the “New World symphony.” Sometimes, as we read the Bible, we pant for joy. We are not deaf any longer. God does not need to shout to us to teach us any longer, but just a gentle instruction or even a gentle whisper is enough; now we live the life of obeying God’s will. This is the work of the Messiah as described in Isaiah 35:5,6. This was what Jesus was doing, and this is what Jesus is doing today.

 

Modern day, people reject Jesus as the Messiah, as a result, they remain blind, without knowing what to do with their lives – they change their major continually, and cry out, “What shall I do?” They don’t know who they are and where they came from, so they end up saying, “Monkey is my cousin, and Gorilla is my uncle.” They don’t know where they are going, so at the death bed, they are dead-scared. These days, so many people live in sin, as a result, their souls are so unclean like leprosy. The sense of uncleanness really bothers them that they become so excessive in taking a shower or hygiene that they wash their hands over and over; they come to hate themselves, become self-destructive, and eventually, suicidal. To these poor people, the good news is preached - this is the work of the Messiah. As the body of the Christ, we must do his work on our campuses, preaching the good news to the poor. Then, as we ourselves have experienced, many blind people will receive sight; many deaf will hear; many mute will praise God, and the spiritually dead people will cross over from death to life. 

 

Look at verse 23. Jesus says, “Blessed is he who does not fall away on account of me.” This statement is really shocking. People never imagine that anyone can fall away because of Jesus. But Jesus’ statement shows that we must be very careful not to fall away because of him. John the Baptist was confused and he almost fell away from his faith in Jesus, because Jesus did not do the things he had expected him to do. The way God worked was different from John’s way, John’s expectation. Many people have some vague, but fantastic ideas about serving God, so they try hard at first, expecting fantastic results. Then, when things do not go as they expected, but instead, persecution comes to them, or they suffer financially, they doubt about God, and give up their faith and mission. Some people when they believe in Jesus, think that everything will go very well - they will get all As at school, they will get good jobs, and have a wonderful family. But when things do not go as they have expected, they doubt about God’s love for them, and even end up losing their faith. We must not be like them. Blessed is he who does not fall away because of Jesus. How can we avoid this danger? Our Christian life must be real, not fantasy, based on the word of God, not on our own expectation. Our life must be rooted and built up in the word of God.

 

Second, “What do you go out into the desert to see?” (24-28). After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John. He said, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.” When John was put in prison, it seemed that he was a failure. Even now he was confused, wondering if Jesus was really the promised Messiah or not. At this, some people may say, "Man, he was even confused about the most basic thing - Jesus' Messiahship?! What's wrong with him?" But Jesus recognized his greatness fully. He says, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Of, they did not go out into the desert to see a reed; if it were so, they would have gone to the beach. What is Jesus talking about? Jesus talks about John the Baptist that he was not a person like a reed that is swayed by the wind easily; instead, John was a man of integrity with a strong backbone, standing firm on God’s side, withstanding all kinds of difficulties, threats, persecutions and temptations. John was that kind of person – a man of integrity with strong backbone for God and God’s mission. How great it was for John that his Master Jesus recognized him this way. Some people live as God’s servants when things go well; but when difficulties rise and challenges come, when persecution comes, when they have to suffer for God, they are blown away and are not found in God’s work any longer – they are like a reed that is swayed away by the wind. Some people serve God’s work during college period when there is nothing to hold on. But after graduation when temptation for money and success comes, they are blown away – they are like a reed that is swayed away so easily. How do you want Jesus your Master describe you? We must be strong in Jesus Christ, taking down deep root in His grace, in his calling, and in his mission so that we can remain in him as faithful servants, standing firm for Him in any circumstances.

 

       Jesus also says, “If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.” Certainly, you don’t go out into the desert to see a man dressed in fine clothes; you don’t expect that the man staying in the desert would be dressed in fine clothes. If you were looking for such a person, then, instead of going into the desert, you should have gone into the palaces, looking for a famous TV evangelist who drives Porsche Super Car. What is Jesus talking about? He is saying that John was not the kind of person pursuing money, success and luxury in serving God’s kingdom work. In serving God’s work, John did not give his heart to money or luxury, but pursued God’s will and purpose alone. Jesus indeed fully recognized how wholeheartedly John had served God’s work. When we serve God wholeheartedly, Jesus recognizes us this way. How sad it will be if Jesus says of us, “This man looked like serving God, but actually, he was secretly pursuing money.” If Jesus says of us this way, we will be utterly ashamed in heaven. We must serve God alone with our single-hearted devotion.

 

John was the prophet who was to come ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way for him. Look at verse 28. Let’s read this verse together:

 

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

 

Jesus says that John was the greatest among those born of women; simply, the greatest man among all peoples on earth. Jesus says, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” showing that basically, each and everyone in the kingdom of God is at least as great as John the Baptist. So, John’s greatness is the standard for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God. If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must be at least as great as John the Baptist. This is really shocking and amazing. This shows us what kind of people enter the kingdom of God - not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord,” “Lord,” but truly great people, not wishy-washy. Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls me “Lord,” “Lord” will enter the kingdom of God, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). One time, the disciples asked Jesus a very important question, saying, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Then, Jesus answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because, many, I tell you, try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:23-24) They want and try, but they fail to enter the kingdom of God. This is really shocking. Then, who enters the kingdom of God? Only those who are completely determined to enter it, and thereby, make every effort to enter it can make it; such people are not wishy-washy; they are not swayed by challenges or temptation; rather, with a heart’s complete determination, they seek the kingdom of God - these people enter the kingdom of God - they are great. What about those who wanted to enter the kingdom of God, but failed? When they are rejected to enter at the gate of the kingdom of God, they weep for sorrow of not entering it, and gnash their teeth angrily, for not seeking God’s kingdom wholeheartedly, but for being swayed away by temptations and difficulties. Those who make their journey to the kingdom of God are great, because they are the ones whose hearts and lives are completely dedicated to God’s kingdom; they are the ones who value things of God most highly and thereby, they serve God’s kingdom work with a single-hearted devotion.

 

If you make your entry to the kingdom of God, you are recognized at least greater than John the Baptist who is the greatest among all peoples on earth. So, John’s greatness is the standard for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God. By the way, all these great people, who are greater than John the Baptist gather in the kingdom of God and form a community there. What kind of society is it? The society of really great people - so great society. What about living among those great people in such a great society? Imagine that all your classmates are so great like John the Baptist; when you gather together to discuss something of the society, all those who gather there are so great, awesome, fully dedicated to God, pursuing God’s kingdom only in one mind and heart. It will be such a wonderful society and living among those great people will be such great experience - nothing to worry about; you will be truly satisfied. Let’s pray that our church may be such a great community - the kingdom of God here on earth. Let’s pray that we all may become truly great in God’s eyes, with our heart’s complete determination to serve God’s mission in any circumstances, and with our single-hearted love and devotion to God.

 

       Third, “Like children sitting in the marketplace” (29-35). Look at verses 29 and 30. Let’s read these verses together:

 

29(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

 

       This passage describes the two responses of people when Jesus came and delivered his message. One group of people, when they heard his words, acknowledged that God’s way was right. When they heard his message, they agreed to what he had said, recognizing him as a servant of God. Based on his words, they acknowledged that God’s way was right, and their way was wrong, and thereby, they would live according to God’s way; thus, their life changed. The other group of people – the Pharisees and experts in the law – rejected God’s purpose for themselves. Wait a minute! They were Pharisees and teachers of the law - Bible scholars, theologians and seminary professors. They had degrees and certificates in theology; they had religious and spiritual titles and positions in Israel; they were considered most devout. But the author writes, “They rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” Weren’t they already living according to God’s purpose for their lives, since they lived a religious life? This passage shows that becoming a Pharisee or a teacher of the law, having such degrees and certificates in theology, having such religious and spiritual titles and positions is one thing, and living according to God’s purpose for their life is quite another. They lived a religious life, pursued degrees and certificates in theology; they had jobs in religion; yet, they were the very ones who had rejected God’s purpose for their life. When they heard Jesus’ words, they did not him as God’s messenger for them; instead of acknowledging God’s way was right, they rejected Jesus and his message, insisting their own way.

 

       Both of these two groups heard the same message from the same messenger, Jesus, yet, how come their responses were so different? The author comes up with only one reason, saying, “because they had been baptized by John,” and “because they had not been baptized by John.” The first group of people responded to John’s message, acknowledging their sin as sin, and repented through the baptism. At that time, their eyes were opened to what was really right and what was really wrong, and how they must live their life before God. Then, when another servant of God, Jesus came and delivered his message, they could recognize it as a message from God also, so they responded to Jesus’ message as well. But the second group of people did not respond to John’s message; they did not acknowledge him as God’s messenger, insisting that there was nothing wrong in their life. Then, another servant, Jesus came and delivered his message to them, they still did not recognize him or his message; instead, they still thought that their way was right; so, they did not respond to God’s servants, nor to God’s messengers; in this way, they had rejected God’s purpose for their life, even if they had lived a religious life.

 

       These two groups’ responses to Jesus show us the importance of true repentance. When people really repent and turn to God by responding to God’s message, there, their eyes are opened to see what is truly right and what is truly wrong; they come to acknowledge that God’s way is right; thus, they live according to God’s will and purpose upon their life. But when people do not have this true repentance, real turning to God, there is no fundamental change in their life at all; at best they become religious; at best they become moralistic with tons of Bible knowledge. All these people reject God’s purpose for themselves even though they go to church, or even though they have a PhD in theology. How sad it is that so many people say, “I believe in Jesus,” or even, “I love God,” but reject God’s purpose for their life. How sad it is that even though people memorize John 3:16 perfectly, they reject God’s purpose for their life! How sad it is that people have been in church for ten or twenty years doing all religious activities such as, communion, baptism, Bible reading and praying, but have been rejecting God’s purpose for their life! At their death bad, they are empty, and full of regret. To whom can we compare these people? What are they like? Look at verses 31 and 32. Let’s read these verses together:

 

31“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’

 

       “The people of this generation” refer to the Jews who believed in God, but they were the very ones who had rejected God’s purpose for them; instead of accepting God’s purpose for them and living accordingly, they were just religious. God tried to help them by sending his messengers, but they were not responsive to God’s efforts at all, just like the children in the marketplace. Sadly, this is how so many God-believing people live their lives - just being religious, but rejecting God’s purpose for them. Jesus was not happy with these people.

 

       In Jesus’ time, God established two servants - John the Baptist and Jesus the Savior - the two opposite styled ministries. John’s ministry was very strict, holding onto the virtue of discipline - memorizing Bible verses extensively, praying 3 or 5 times a day absolutely, fasting 2 days or 3 days or even 4 days a week. Jesus described John’s ministry as the ministry of singing a dirge - a funeral song. If you visit his ministry - a big ministry with many people in a big building - you will be surprised because the whole building is so quiet - no one laughs, no one shouts, but everyone is so serious, and no one makes a mistake in anything; they are all super-holy. No one drinks, no one smokes, no one dances,... Modern day, there is a debate among Christians in regard to drinking wine, but what would John say about it? Absolutely no way! In our terms, John’s ministry was very conservative - an extreme right wing. His ministry was powerful, but at this, the Pharisees and the experts in the law criticized him, saying, “He has a demon,” and rejected him and his ministry. Then, God operated Jesus’ ministry. Jesus described his ministry as the ministry of playing the flute - always joyful and exciting. In his ministry, his disciples enjoyed a lot of fun; while John’s disciples fasted, Jesus’ disciples had a feast, eating and drinking. It seemed sometimes that Jesus was drunk - that’s why they called him, “a drunkard.” While John’s disciples were so serious, Jesus’ disciples had a lot of fun, maybe, often, having street evangelism with hip hop dance and raps. In our terms, Jesus’ ministry was an extreme left wing. Some people liked John’s ministry style, while others liked Jesus’ ministry style. God operated his kingdom work with these two ministries - one extreme right wing and one extreme left wing; with these two wings widely stretched, God was trying to catch even the last person. This was God’s effort - with his two wings widely stretched out, God tried to save all kinds of people.

 

       Yet, how was people’s response? When they came to John’s ministry, they said, “He has a demon,” meaning “He is too extreme,” or “He is too legalistic.” Then, when Jesus’ ministry came to them, they said, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard.” Thus, they rejected both of God’s ministries. This is how people, especially, God-believing respond to God’s efforts to help them repent.

 

       Today God operates all kinds of ministries, literally several hundred or even several thousand ministries in the world, with different focuses, styles and methods, even with some different theological approaches so that He can reach out to the last person in the world. Indeed, God is working hard for the salvation of many, willing to go extra miles. But people are not responsive. They come to one church where everyone is zealous for God, and they say, “This church is so legalistic.” So they go to another church where they enjoy rock band, but they say, “This church has no word of God.” Their problem is, simply they are not responsive to God’s efforts for them, and thereby, they reject God’s purpose for themselves. So, they never make true commitment to any church, and thereby, to God at all - they do just some religious things. God sings a dirge for them, but they do not weep; God plays the flute for them, but they do not dance. This is how modern day so many Christians live their life in God’s eyes. They reject God’s purpose for themselves, because fundamentally they have not received the true baptism yet - their acknowledgment that the way they have lived was wrong and that God’s way, God’s will for them is right. They must repent of their wrong way of life and accept God’s will for their lives, acknowledging that God’s way is right. They should not rely on their own righteousness of perfect church attendance, or their great Bible knowledge, or their spiritual legacy of attending a church with a famous pastor. Then, they will be able to see that God’s way is right.

 

One Word:      The Blind Receive Sight, The Lame Walk, and The Deaf Hear - This Is The Work Of The Messiah

 

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