Sunday, December 16, 2018

War on the Home Front, Luke 4:14-30

Let it be known to the listener: I referred to Jezebel as Bathsheba, my mistake, in this sermon. Enjoy!

War on the Home Front, Luke 4:14-30

Previously, Paul preached about the war against evil that had been declared by Jesus in His baptism and then we learned about the personal confrontation with Satan in the 40 days of testing Jesus endured.

There is a change in today’s passage; we have an abrupt break between verse 13 & 14. And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. In verse 13 we see that Satan had broken off the attack and departed until an opportune time. This is a classic tactic in any war - engage the enemy to discover weaknesses and defeat him, if possible. If not, retreat to recoup and seek out a better engagement, based on what you learned in the first one. And Satan must learn as he goes – he is not omniscient. In our text today we will see that Satan has redrawn the battle lines, from the spiritual domain of this age to Jesus’ home front, Nazareth. What Satan may have thought was a more opportune time.

As we consider these events, let us bear in mind the weight of what the Lord Jesus bore. The Creator of all flesh was the object of scorn and wrath by His creatures – including some of those He grew up with. Man of sorrows, obedient to the Father to save His own people, bearing shame and rude scoffing from those He grew up with. For our sake, God made Him who knew no sin to take our sin upon Himself.

Contrary to Satan’s slinking off to regroup, Jesus went back to Galilee refreshed, in the power of the Spirit. This is a mark of the one with whom the Spirit of God dwells – rather than shrinking back from conflict, Jesus knew His defense would be found in being obedient to the Father. People heard about Him, far and wide, and as He taught in the Jewish synagogues, they all glorified Him – they made much of Him. The account in Matthew gives us some insight as the Lord’s activities while Galilee and the reception He received. Matt 4:23-25 (page 1827). Many signs and miracles – attesting to His identity.

It is still as it was when the ancient preacher said that the ear never tires of hearing something new. People flocked after Jesus, just as they had John. Some of these people rushed to hear these new prophets because they desired healing and feeding and others because they believed on the Lord Jesus; this is pattern we see throughout the Scriptures. Those the Spirt has quickened will receive the gospel with joy; those still in their natural condition will reject the message. And the numbers in the crowds, both groups of people, were large enough to intimidate the religious leaders.

Verses 16-22. When Jesus went to His home town of Nazareth, He stood up to read from the Scroll of the Word of God, as He had been doing for some time – it was His regular practice at this point, having begun when He was twelve. But something was different this time. The time was approaching for the kingdom to be declared. The Son of God had been validated by heaven, it was now public knowledge who He claimed to be.

He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, a passage the Jews identified with their being set free from all political tyranny. At first everyone was impressed – Jesus read the scroll with authority that did not come from man! All eyes were on Him as they waited anxiously to hear what He would say about the text He had read. When Jesus said He was the One spoken of in this passage, they were amazed at His gracious words, yet confounded by their fleshly knowledge that He was the son of Joseph. Wasn’t that what Nathanael asked – could anything good come from that town, Nazareth? The Jews knew their deliverer would come from the house of David – Bethlehem – not from the nowhere town of Nazareth.

Verses 23-27. Jesus cites a proverb and refers to the miracles He had performed in Galilee – doubtless keenly aware of what these men were thinking. After commenting about how hard it is to be accepted by one’s home folk (Is this not Joseph’s son?), He brings up two accounts from their history. After Elijah won the famous victory over the prophets of Baal, he found refuge in the care of a widow mother in Sidon. People were starving and only this widow – not even a Jew! – was saved by a miracle. And note: her jar did not stay full until she obeyed Elijah and fed him with the last bit of flour she had. The second example is the well-known story of the Syrian army officer who was cleansed of leprosy. There was no record of the many Jewish lepers of that time being healed; God chose to save this Syrian.

Note an incident that would take place later in the Lord’s life. He and his disciples are traveling between Samaria and Galilee – the same region our text in chapter 4 takes place. Luke 17:12-19 (page 1857). The only leper who gave thanks and praise God for his physical healing was a Samaritan, not a Jew. And he was the only one of the lepers whose soul was healed. Here is the message: being a Jew, a descendent of Abraham according to the flesh, does not provide eternal life, reconciliation with God, entrance into His kingdom.

Verses 28-29. When those in the synagogue in Nazareth heard Jesus read Isaiah 61, they marveled and spoke well of Him. When the man they knew as a youth taught them the fulfillment of that passage, they were filled with wrath. The message in the Scripture citations was not lost on them – their God sometimes favored Gentiles over Jews. They tended to forget that their father Abraham was promised he would be a father to nations, far and beyond the boundaries of national Israel. This was the common reaction of the Jewish people, anger at the message from their Messiah, stiff-necked blindness, and a love for temporal comforts – just as they grumbled about being led out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness. Slavery was better than the constant wondering, not knowing where they were going or when they would get there. Note the contrast with the man they called “father” – God had called Abram to leave his family and go to a country God would show him. No map, no GPS, no direction or duration. And Abram went, as the Lord had told him. We learn that he was led to Canaan, but Abram didn’t stay there. He was a wonderer all his life, looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abram was a man of faith – he trusted God more than he trusted his own reason. People who demand a sign as evidence give evidence they don’t have faith. They want to see with their eyes of flesh what only spiritual eyes can see. About these Jesus said, The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's preaching, and look--something greater than Jonah is here (Luke 11:32). We see frequent evidence that even those closest to Jesus were prone to fall into this pattern – Thomas said he would not believe Christ had risen from the dead, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25). This is the default for man, trusting in what his natural sight can see, what his human mind can reason out. In Romans 5 we read that natural man is an enemy of God, in Phil 3 those who are devoted to things of the world are enemies of the cross, in James we are told friendship with the world is enmity (hostility) towards God, and in Col 1 we see that natural man is hostile and alienated from God by evil actions.

And when the men from Jesus' home town reacted to His message with anger, seeking to murder Him, verse 30: But passing through them, He went away. Jesus came to earth in the fullness of time; God's time. He would ascend back to the Father in God's time, not according to the whim of men. Verse 30 is a subtle reminder of Who He is. And this message and identity of their Messiah was lost on most of the Jews; even those who knew Him best - according to the flesh.

The Jewish people were, by and large, spiritually dead, ruled by their fleshly desires of temporal comfort and prestige. The Levitical religion they were given to point them to the promised Seed who would take away their sin had been turned into a religion of painting the outside of a tomb white so everyone would think it clean. They mostly had little regard for God, with the leaders taking advantage of the poor and the widows, robbing the priests who took care of those. And to these Jesus would say, You are of your father, the Devil (John 8:44). Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. (Matt 21:43) That nation, or people, producing fruit are those given by the Father to Jesus, that He would redeem the sheep of national Israel and the sheep beyond those borders, bringing all into His sheepfold. He would pray for us (John 17:24-26): Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me. I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them. And to His people, the Lord Jesus provides this guidance through His apostle: though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds (2 Cor 10:3-4). Just as Jesus waged war through obedience to the Father, so we wage war as spiritual people, not as worldly people. Christ has won the victory over sin and death and the devil – we are equipped by the Spirit to stand fast in the grace He gives to us.

This is our security – not our work, not our religion, not our earthly pedigree or station in society. God saves sinners, to the uttermost, through the redemption found in His Son, by grace alone. Unless a man is born from above, Jesus told a leader of the Jewish people, he cannot see – much less enter – the kingdom of God. In the New Covenant, we all know the Lord, we see Him with eyes of faith. We believe what was written even when the best human minds tell us it cannot be. While the world seeks a sign so they make a judgment, the sheep of God hear their Shepherd and believe.

To sum up. Satan had attacked true Israel directly; that was the scene last Sunday. In our passage today, he goes to Jesus’ home town to stir up family and friends in national Israel against the Israel of God. The Jewish leaders didn’t know it but they had grown lax, complacent, as their fathers had before them. They had grown attached to the idea that their physical connection to Abraham was their assurance of being in favor with YHWH. When YHWH shows up in the flesh, reads their Scripture about Himself, tells them it was being fulfilled as they listened to Him, their true colors were revealed.

When Job was suffering, his friends assumed it was because he had sinned and was being punished by God. They thought wealth and health were sure signs of God’s favor; illness and poverty signs of His wrath. Job was of the same mind as Abraham – he trusted God and dared not curse Him, though everything was taken from him. Do you and I see God the way Job’s friends and most Jews did, or do we see God as Job and Abraham did? Do you and I trust wealth, comfort, and the applause of man or do we trust the righteous one who judges justly? If we trust the gifts He gives, we are idolaters; if we demand signs, the men of Nineveh will rise in judgment against us.

The Jews of Jesus’ home town looked like and were treated as men of God. Yet most of them hated God and loved and trusted in their traditions and positions and sought signs. Some of the Jews in Capernaum, as in Berea, trusted the Word Who walked among them and was preached unto them.

For those of us who are in Christ, your background does not define you; your friends and family do not; your identity in Christ does. Rahab was a harlot, but she believed in God and is a sister in Christ. One Samaritan leper gave thanks to God and praised Him and was healed body and soul. Do not allow those who know you from childhood define you, as those who heard Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth judged Him. Do not allow the fear of what people close to you might say to keep you from serving God and His people, bringing joy to the brotherhood of saints and glory to your Father in heaven. If you are in Christ, you have a family that is closer and more dear that your friends and family according to the flesh. Jesus said (Matt 12:46-50) that His family was not defined by the flesh, but those who do the will of the Father in heaven were His “brother and sister and mother.” Do we identify with that family or do we cling to things and people of the flesh?

For each one of us, God forbid we allow our family, traditions, and positions blind us to the truth being taught in our midst. Let us search the Scriptures, not our traditions, to see if these things be so. Faith that saves is faith that believes the Word, obeys the Word, loves the brotherhood, and does not grow weary in doing well. Our Lord promised to defend His people, declaring that hell itself could not tear down the New Jerusalem He is building. Though Satan is defeated, his influence is seen everywhere as people of the world exalt in shameful deeds. Many who call themselves Christian despise His truth and, though many accept them as Christians, their words and their traditions betray them.

When the spiritual war stirs up trouble on the home front, when family and friends turn against you because of your testimony of Christ, look to Him, put no confidence in the flesh. We have a sure refuge, the man of sorrows who bought us at a high price. Trust Him, rest in Him, today. There is no other savior, no other advocate with the Father, no other refuge from the storms of this life or from the judgment that is surely coming upon this world. Do not live to please men. Warn those who love the world to turn and embrace Christ. He surely will save all that the Father gives to Him. 

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