was Jesus’ Mission? : Luke 4:31-44
Have you ever
heard of “Hot Rivet Syndrome”? Well be thankful men. Picture a scene from the
Old West, sometime in the 1870s. Weary cowboys in dusty Levi’s gather around a
blazing campfire after a day on the open range. The lonely howl of a coyote
counterpoints the notes of a guitar as the moon floats serenely overhead.
Suddenly a cry of pain shatters the night, as a cowpoke leaps away from the
fire, dancing in agony. Hot-Rivet Syndrome has claimed another victim.
In those days, Levi’s were made, as they had been from the first days of Levi Strauss, with copper rivets at stress points to provide extra strength. On these original Levi’s—model 501—the crotch rivet was the critical one: when cowboys crouched too long beside the campfire, the rivet grew uncomfortably hot. For years the brave men of the West suffered this curious occupational hazard.
Then, in 1933, Walter Haas, Sr., president of Levi Strauss, went camping in his Levi 501’s. He was crouched by a crackling campfire in the High Sierras, drinking in the pure mountain air, when he fell prey to Hot-Rivet Syndrome. He consulted with professional wranglers in his party. Had they suffered the same mishap? An impassioned YES was the reply. Haas vowed that the offending rivet must go, and at their next meeting the board of directors voted it into extinction.
People view change differently. The 19th Century Duke of Cambridge is reputed to have said on one occasion, “Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.” More realistically, Isaac Newton deduced in the First Law of Motion, “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”
How do you feel about change? Are you afraid of change, or do you welcome it? Most of us find some change unwelcome. Have you noticed how clothe sizes seem to be getting smaller … or how people seem to be walking more quickly… or not speaking loud enough… Sometimes we are afraid of what change might bring. On the other hand… When we look at the world as it is, we often long for it to be different than it is. I glanced through the paper yesterday. Sure there was a spattering of positive stories and of course there are the sports pages, but they were the minority. In fact, most pages were filled with stories of genocide, ethnic cleansing, murder, rape, child abuse, war, torture, bio-terrorism, corruption, political in-fighting, celebrity scandals, law suits, AIDS, suicides, starvation, adolescent sexual activity, adultery, and divorce. These matters dominate the pages.
Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish things could be different?” During Jesus’ time, people said the same thing - they were tired of being occupied by foreign armies and ruled by foreign governments. They despised paying crippling taxes extracted by some of their own people willing to work for the Romans. It was all so oppressive.
But Jesus came offering something better. Hope. “Things can be different… Things will be different… Something good… Something better… Hope… Peace… Deliverance… now… today… Trust me.” Jesus cast a vision of a better world, now and in the future. In casting this vision, Jesus’ aim wasn’t to entertain the people, or even to change their external world. Instead his goal was to cause a change on the inside. To bring them into contact with the living God. In Matthew’s account of this narrative before us today, because he was writing primarily for a Jewish audience, he adds this quote from Isaiah which Jesus identifies with.
"Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:15-16)
Isaiah looked forward to a time when a great light would dawn. Jesus Christ claimed to be that light. Three simple observations about how the light of Christ can and will bring positive change to people’s lives.
1. Jesus comes preaching
”Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.” (Luke 4:31-32)
To preach, is to proclaim. It is to make known truth verbally with the intention of changing the hearts, minds and wills of one’s hearers. It is what I am aspiring to do right now. Preaching by definition assumes a measure of certainty, not doubt. So when Jesus came preaching, it was not a matter of “What do you think,” but a matter of “This is the way it is.” Preaching - that is, proclaiming God’s word was Jesus first priority. Healing the sick and casting our demons were secondary. They were the evidence, like windows that illuminated, that demonstrated his authority and authenticity. How do we know? Jesus says so.
“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:42-44)
primarily to preach and teach. As Christ followers, servants of the Lord Jesus
Christ, this is also our primary role as a church and as individual Christians.
That is why our mission statement at Christ Church is…. “To know Jesus and make
Jesus known” Everything else, everything else is secondary. It is our priority because
this is the primary way people come to know God through Jesus Christ. The
apostle Paul put it like this:
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)
Jesus came preaching. And the proclamation of God’s Word is the principle role of the church today. But what did Jesus preach?
2. Jesus preaches
Again, Matthew fills in the story. “From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."’ (Matthew 4:17). Jesus message could be summed up in that one word, “repent”. Repentance means that we have to change. Change our hearts, change our minds and above all, change our wills. Jesus preached for change. The demons knew precisely who Jesus is and why he had come.
"Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" (Luke 4:34).
As people repented of their sin and turned back to God, the devil had to flee. James the brother of Jesus found this to be
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7).
We should not be surprised therefore that the devil has done a good job convincing people to be suspicious of anyone who tries to change their minds. Try it and see. Try to persuade someone to change their minds about Jesus and see what happens. Preachers are about as popular as second hand car salesmen and estate agents.
‘Persuade’ has become a dirty word. It implies you are right and I am wrong. The fact is Jesus is right and we are wrong. Jesus calls us to turn away from sin, to turn around from going the wrong way and turn back to God. When we encounter Jesus our views change. Our values change. Our hopes change. Our goals change. Our destiny changes. The way we live changes. Repentance means that we turn away from sin and turn to God.
Let me illustrate this. We all like the snowy scenes of a winter landscape draped in white. But the impact is not always so attractive. Rivers in cold climates often freeze over in winter. In the spring, when they thaw, the sound of ice cracking can be incredibly loud and disconcerting. The more extensive and severe the freeze, the more thunderous the thaw. Yet, the pressures that build up and lead to the ice cracking are necessary for the river to flow once again. No one would say, "Let’s not suffer the thaw; let’s keep the freeze; let’s keep everything nice and quiet." The same is true in us. Change is often a painful process. It does violence to the existing pattern. We may want change out there but not in here. Jesus came preaching - preaching a message of repentance because a new world is coming.
3. The kingdom of God has arrived
"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43)
something far away. No longer some other day. ”The Kingdom of heaven is near.”
(Matthew 4:17) What had been hoped for had finally arrived. I think we can
identify in some way with this idea. For several years we have been praying for
a dynamic, God anointed youth ministry in Virginia Water. Now that day we
believe has arrived. We believe God has led Mark and Megan to come and serve
alongside us and reach teenagers in our community with the good news of Jesus
Christ in ways those of us over the age of 30, 40, 50, 60 will never be able
to. Some find the changes that are being made hard. Please be assured Mark and
Megan enjoy the full and unconditional support of all in the leadership at Christ Church. And we expect you to do the same. Please pray for them and us as we work
through the changes necessary to achieve our vision. Lets summarise what we
have learnt from the passage.
The kingdom rule of God had arrived - in the person of Jesus. God was on the scene. God’s kingship, His rule, and His sovereignty were being revealed. The light of Heaven was breaking through - evidenced in the predictions made hundreds of years earlier, now coming true. As we read last week, Jesus sat down in the synagogue in Nazareth having just read a portion of Isaiah and said,
"Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21)
saying this to us, today, here and now. The kingdom rule of God has arrived.
What would the implications be? What would he expect of us? We know what Jesus
mission was. The question is what is yours? Three things:
Put your trust
You and I are changing whether we like it or not. Society is changing. The world is changing. Not always for good as we saw earlier this week with two major reports on global warming - apparently its twice as bad as previously predicted.
And in the Middle East, while there have been elections in Iraq and Palestine, we might not like the flavour of those democratically elected - and now war with Iran seems inevitable. Worldly change is rarely positive for very long because it cannot deal with the heart of the human problem.
The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. That is why the change Jesus asks of us is a good change. And His invitation to follow Him still stands. Say “yes.” Bow before Him as your King. Relinquish your rights to be a king or queen in this world. We have too many already. Stop striving to “run the show” and “call the shots.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, was a guest several years ago at a breakfast. When he had finished his testimony, he made a few comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic. Someone asked him, "Dr. Muggeridge, you have been very pessimistic. Don’t you have any reason for optimism?" Muggeridge replied, "My friend, I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone." He allowed that remark to settle for a few seconds, and then he added, "Just think if the apostolic church had pinned its hope on the Roman Empire." Put your trust in Jesus.
Submit to His Gracious Rule
It is time. It is time to live. It is time to find comfort when we are sad. It is time to experience mercy when we fail. It is time to know the privilege of living as children of God. It is time to know God. Today and forever. For each one of us, the kingdom of God can begin today, right now. And though it starts, it is not finished.
In Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew, he quotes from a message by Tony Campolo, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming.” Its about the loss of hope on Friday, when Jesus died and the new found hope on Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead. "The other two days have earned names on the church calendar: Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. What the disciples experienced in small scale - for three days, in grief over one man who had died on a cross - we now live through on a cosmic scale. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and the time of fulfilment.
Can we really trust that God can make something holy, beautiful, and good out of a world that includes the countries impacted by the Tsunami, in Rwanda, in Gaza, in Baghdad, as well as the inner-city ghettoes and jammed prisons in one of the richest nations on earth? It’s Saturday on planet earth.
Will Sunday ever come? That dark, Golgothan Friday can only be called Good because of what happened on Easter Sunday, a day which gives a tantalizing clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter opened up a crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay, sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale. It is a good thing to remember that in the cosmic drama, we live out our days on Saturday, the in-between day with no name.
I recently heard of a woman whose grand-mother lies buried under 150-year-old live oak trees in a cemetery. In accordance with the grandmother’s instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: ‘Waiting.’” Put your trust in Jesus. Submit to his gracious rule and,
Remember the Best is Yet to Come
The best is yet to come! God’s gracious way will be the absolute rule. But in the meanwhile, we can make a difference. People can see in us - in our words, in our values, in our hope, that the kingdom of God is here; that Jesus brings hope that is real and substantial. How do we do that while we look forward?
Feed Your Soul
Keep your priorities straight. Set time each day to talk to God.
To read His Word. To listen to Him speak and bring your world to his throne. Feed your soul.
Light Your Street
Identify with your community. It can be your road, apartment complex, workplace or school. The people you commute with, the people you work alongside, your family and friends. Pray for God’s blessing on them. Pray that they will see God’s light in you. Jesus is good news. How might that good news change your friends and family? Imagine it. Envision it. Pray for it. Pray that God uses you to bring change in what you say and do.
3. Start a Revolution
“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” (Luke 4:40)
This is my vision
for Christ Church. Let us find creative ways to honour people, encourage
people, bless people. Through simple acts of kindness. Serving people with
Christ-like humility. For when we serve, it has a way of breaking down walls. And
as those walls come down, we communicate grace and truth. And we earn the right
to speak, to teach and preach and yes, even persuade, for they will be
listening. Lets live the kingdom… Lets demonstrate that we can live under God’s
gracious rule now, for it is the way to mercy, peace and fulfilment.
Lets feed our souls, light our street and start a revolution, for although we live on “Saturday”, Sunday - the eternal Sunday, praise God, is coming. Now…May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Process of Change
It helps greatly if we understand the process of change. When things don’t go our way, we typically go through 10 stages which are a normal part of the coping and healing process. Think about a particular change you are going through and chart where you are on this line.
1. Denial ”It can’t be,” It can’t happen to me,” “It’s not true”.... The first stage of reaction to any sudden, unexpected event tends to be denial. Denial is normal if it lasts a short time, but persistent denial is unhealthy because it blocks further growth and healing.
2. Anger ”Whose fault is it?,” “This makes me mad,” “This isn’t fair,” “Why me?” The second stage of reaction looks backward in hopes of finding the cause and someone or something to blame it on. Although nothing can be done at this point to change the past, it’s nevertheless a normal response. Like the stage of denial before it, the anger/blame stage is unhealthy if it persists for an unreasonable amount of time.
3. Despair This stage tends to be characterized by tears, negative and hopeless/helpless thoughts, and a feeling of total emptiness and loss. Sleep and eating disturbances are common as the “reality” of the situation sets in. Relationships with other people can become more difficult at this time, but understanding and compassion must be given and accepted if one is to move beyond this stage.
4. Perspective In this stage, the individual begins accepting the change and is no longer caught up in denial, anger, blame, or despair. The problem is seen in its proper perspective. Although the sense of loss may be significant, the individual does not feel that “all is lost.”
5. Relationships Coming out of the withdrawal and isolation that is inherent in the previous stages, the individual is able to talk and relate to other people and participate in normal activities.
6. Spiritual Changes The individual’s relationship with the spiritual side of life is strengthened as a result of having lived through (and survived) the experience.
7. Acceptance This stage involves the restoration of self-esteem, and the acceptance of the consequences and boundaries of the new reality.
8. Humour Smiles, laughter, and a sense of humor return to the individual and help in the healing process. There’s a renewed sense of joy in life.
9. Action Where once the individual had been restricted or immobilized by the change, he or she now returns to activity, action, and improved productivity. Travel and group activities become more interesting.
10. Perspective In this final stage, the individual is able to focus on the positive aspects of whatever change occurred, and on new goals and activities. They take comfort in Ashley Brilliant’s line, “I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent!” When faced with an unexpected, unpleasant change, you may not go through all 10 of these stages in this order, but it helps to keep them in mind. While it can seem as if life changes nearly drown us at times, eventually we come to see that it’s only through meeting the challenges of change that we can grow.