Sunday, January 6, 2019

Luke 5:12-16, The Poor and the Prideful

The Poor and the Prideful, Luke 5:12-26

Matt 5:3  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I. vs 12-14: Introduction - Spiritually poor leper
Jesus was in a town in Galilee. He had been teaching large crowds and had publicly called 3 men to be His disciples. While in one of these small towns, an outcast from society - a man with a serious skin disease all over him. Leprosy was the term used to describe numerous skin conditions, including leprosy. But all were treated as contagious and kept out of the covenant community. He saw Jesus, recognized Him, fell on his face and begged Jesus to make him clean. IF He - Jesus - was willing. This man was a Jew and cared not that Jesus didn't fit the Jewish expectations of their Messiah. He was poor in spirit and wanted the cleansing that only comes from the true Messiah. Yes - and Jesus, who learned obedience as a man, was vulnerable. But He came for such as this one. And for you and for me. Oh, praise Him!

This outcast begged Jesus to cleanse him, if He would. Jesus reached out and touched the man - he probably hadn't been touched by another human in years. Note how different from every common expectation He was. Not aloof, prideful, condescending, self-promoting. He listened to this man treated as a sub-human, probably looking him right in the eye, touched him - conferring humanity upon this beggar! And Jesus tells him the most marvelous thing: I'm willing; be made clean!

Now what does a person who has won a million dollars do? Most people go tell everyone they know. This Jewish leper was lifted up from the debris where his kind were forced to live, treated like a human, and cleansed! He was told to "go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing as a testimony to them." This leper was a Jew. But He did not care whether Jesus met the Jewish expectations for a political savior; he wanted to have life! “IF you are willing …” This leper KNEW salvation and cleansing was of the Lord, if He wills!, and not of man. Mark’s account, chapter 1:39-45, reveals that this man went from Jesus talking freely to everyone about what Jesus had done for him (page 1895).

Such was the fame that was swelling up around this man who heals!

II. vs 15-16: Not of this world
Contrary to what many people in our day think, large crowds of people are not necessarily a good thing. As many as 40,000 flock to see and hear Joel Osteen each week; never hearing the gospel, but they're told their destiny is to be healthy and wealthy in this age. Jesus was not teaching that message. His kingdom is not of this world; the world will hate you as it hated Him; ALL who follow Christ WILL suffer. And people from everywhere thronged to get a glimpse of this man, to hear a word from Him; to be cleansed. From this point forward, His whereabouts were fairly well known. People were looking for Him. How many accounts are there in the New Testament that tell us of the large crowds that followed Jesus; and how many of them end with a rebuke for wrong motives?

In our passage, He removes Himself from the crowds, as He often did; seeking a place to commune with His Father. The approval of the crowds was not what He sought; the approval of His Father was the goal. The Christian gets encouragement from other saints, but we dare not seek applause or disciples for ourselves. Every one of us should seek the approval of the One Who is self-approving. The Lord Jesus has always been in close communion with the Father. But since taking on flesh, since adding our nature to His, He also had human needs during His first advent. He grew and learned and ate and grew tired. His food was to do the Father's will (see John 4:28-34). Prayer is communion with God. The human nature of Jesus desired the close communion He had always had in the spirit. It is the Father's will that we spend time in prayer with Him. Not so much asking for things (which is not necessarily bad), but merely seeking closeness with him, admitting our need and His sufficiency. This type of prayer builds up the souls of the saints. This is the example our Lord gave us.

III. vs 17-20: Spiritually poor people, not those looking for bread to fill their bellies
Verse 17 describes "one of those days." The Lord Jesus had been going from town to town preaching the kingdom of God, healing people, filling some bellies. Once again, leaders from the Jewish community were gathered - along with scores of people from the villages in the region - from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. A LOT of people, from some distance. A crowd, wanting to hear, waiting to see who would be healed.

Luke includes a very curious statement, And the Lord's power to heal was in Him. Here is revealed one aspect of His earthly ministry that He spoke clearly of in John 5:30 (page 2032). This shows us the closeness amongst the persons in the Trinity - no rogue members, all in total agreement.  As the Messiah was one prophesied to bring healing to Israel, so Jesus came to heal physical Israel physically as a revelation of the spiritual healing He was bringing to spiritual or true Israel.

Many a sermon has been preached on the determination and faith of these friends. That ain't the main point. The main point of this passage is that Jesus has come as promised, to deliver the poor in spirit to freedom. These men who brought their friend to Jesus were not after food; they desired their friend to be healed. This was a genuine hunger for the goodness of God, for Jesus saw that they had faith in Him! All the other people were sitting, waiting for Jesus to perform. These 4 “took the kingdom by force” in making a hole in the roof and lowering their friend to where Jesus was. We know this faith was not merely in Jesus as physical healer because Jesus’ response to them was directed at the man’s soul – seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your SINS ARE FORGIVEN.” In the scene of the 10 lepers, Jesus first heals the body of all of them and then heals the soul of the one who returned to give thanks. Here, He first heals the soul of this man – your sins are forgiven. The lesson in this passage is all about putting spiritual things first.

We know from the biblical accounts of other miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 for example – that people followed after Jesus for food! John 6:26 - Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” As we read a few minutes back, Jesus’ food consisted of more than physical bread – to do the will of the Father. In John 6:27 He taught that we should not work for food that perishes but for food that endures to eternal life – which the Son of Man will give!

Now we are good Baptists and enjoy our fellowship meals – one of which we will enjoy in a short while. Paul wrote that all food is good if received with thanks to God, for every good thing comes to us from Father of lights. The ancient preacher, in Ecclesiastes 8:15 observed that one of the primary joys in life was to eat and drink and be glad; he posited this against the tendency we have to worry about evil men who prosper.  Eating is not our focal point, but we should be content with what we have been given. Those who followed Jesus because their bellies had been filled are identified in Phil 3:18 & 19 (page 2289) as enemies of the cross. Let us be foremost focused on seeking food that endures to eternal life, which Christ Himself gives us as we fellowship with Him and one another, through prayer, and quiet godly lives.

There is another group of people watching and listening to Jesus. The religious leaders.

IV. vs 21: Prideful people clinging to fleeting power
Note the short, sharp report Luke provides about their response. No concern about what has been taught, no concern with the paralyzed man. Their concern was as it had been – with their religious rules being kept so their position would be protected. In Matthew 12 Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Verse 14 tells us the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might destroy Him. In Luke 11, Jesus was teaching the religious leaders about their hypocrisy, pronouncing a series of “woes” upon them; summing up in verse 52 “Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.” And rather than examining themselves to see if these things were true, the chapter ends with this - When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose Him fiercely and to cross-examine Him about many things; they were lying in wait for Him to trap Him in something He said.

Note the contrast between the two groups present in our passage. One group of people who were routinely put in their place by the other group – religious leaders. The poor people were described as little children by Jesus in Matt 23 as He rebuked the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers. Verses 37-38 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you desolate." Note that the poor people of Israel were those He desired to gather tenderly, yet the leaders of Israel - called Jerusalem, as was the custom (calling civic leaders by the name of their territory) - were unyielding and unwilling, so precious to them was their political power within national Israel. In Acts 5, when Peter has been released from jail and he and John are preaching the gospel, the Sanhedrin and Pharisees were enraged and wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33).

Details will differ, but there are still and always will be (until the Lord returns) these two groups of people: the spiritually poor who want the Lord for Himself and the prideful who want themselves as lord.

V. vs 22-24: The Lord reveals Himself
Next up we see how Jesus responds to these prideful folk who accused Him of blaspheme. These men had not spoken, but had begun to think Jesus was blaspheming because no one can forgive sins but God! Jesus perceived their thoughts - a sign that He is God - and then asked them that pointed question. He was telling them, Talk is cheap, ain't it? Anyone can SAY "your sins are forgiven" but something greater than Solomon is here, telling the man to "get up and walk." And then He sets things straight, telling the brood of vipers: So you will know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins. He doesn't finish the sentence, but turns to the forgiven, paralyzed man and says, "I tell you: Get up, pick up your mat, and go home." You would think all would see this as good news. It WAS good news to the poor; it was not seen as good news by the prideful. But one thing was clear: Jesus, the Son of Man, has the ability to heal AND He has the authority to forgive sins. He is God.

VI. vs 25-26: Spiritually poor people rejoice at the goodness of God
No doubt in anyone's mind Who was before them. Sins forgiven, paralysis healed, muscles restored. Not slowly, over a matter of days and weeks. The One Who created all things, by Whom all things are held together, God in the flesh forgave the man's sins, restored the man's body, and told him to pack up and go. The man immediately got up, packed up his mat, and went home glorifying God. Just like the one leper. The sign of a person who truly desire the ultimate healing of being reconciled to Holy God is that he is thankful to God, rejoicing at having found mercy in time of need.

And note this - all the poor folk were astounded! They had heard the prophecies for generations. The Messiah would come and He would heal them! They had seen and heard of the healing miracles - but TODAY this man forgave sins and healed the man! He put the prideful religious leaders in their place by declaring Himself to be God in saying and doing what he did.

They were filled with awe! Think about this. We call all sorts of things "awesome." One definition of awesome is extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration. Is there anything more awesome - more extremely impressive, worthy of great admiration - than the Lord Jesus? What is more awesome than forgiveness of sins and the ultimate restoration of our bodies that will take place when He returns? Let us spur one another to once again be amazed at the grace given us to bring us into reconciliation with holy God. The last thing we should desire is to be complacent at the thought. These people in Galilee had been oppressed by their religious and political leaders for a long time. They rejoiced at what Christ had done in their midst and they were in AWE. We should be. As He said to the leaders of the Jews in His parable of the talents, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Mark 12:11) It is awesome to see or hear of a sinner being reconciled to God - it is the Lord's doing and it is MARVELOUS in our eyes!

What does all this mean? I hope you've picked up here and there a few things we ought to grasp. First always first and most important: do you know the Lord? Do you trust in Him for the healing of your soul? Are you willing to bring a paralyzed friend to the knowledge of who He is? Are we desperate enough and sure enough that He is the Lord that we would do something like tear a hole in a roof? How about driving 20 miles to meet someone for coffee and prayer, or give them a ride to church?

Are our lives marked by the applause of man or are we content to be found faithful to the One Who called us? Seeking the applause of men, the approval of the world, is antithetical to being pleasing to God.

There are only two groups of people – masses of spiritually poor people, oppressed by religious tyranny and the religious leaders who were puffed up and intent on preserving their power. Those who come to the gospel eagerly and those who try to suppress the gospel. Those who proclaim the gospel and those who proclaim a false one.

How do you and I respond when we hear the gospel? How do our friends and family and neighbors respond? There are only two groups of people on this planet – the poor in spirit and the prideful. The poor in spirit will receive the gospel with joy while the prideful will hate those who preach it.

Christ Jesus is God in the flesh, come to live a life we could not, pay a debt we could not, to reconcile woeful sinners to Himself by the blood of His cross. Is this good news to you? If it is, you are blessed to be spiritually poor. Is this not good news; doesn't have to be BAD news, merely other than GOOD news; is this good news to you? Let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith. Jesus came to save sinners and He actually does just that. And that is really good news to those who are poor in spirit.