Now I want to do a quick whistle stop tour of Luke 10-19, thinking about Jesus mission asking the question ‘what does he come to do?'
Christianity is ‘responding to Jesus appropriately’ and involves a relationship with him. Jesus was the Christ – God’s long promised king who speaks with God’s authority and acts on God’s behalf. But what did it mean in terms of his mission?
Jesus was the Rescuer
The angels don’t just give Jesus the title “Christ”, they also say that he is “Saviour”, a rescuer, one who comes to deliver people in danger. That is seen not just once but twice, and it is crucial for understanding who he is.
Do you know what your name means? I guess most of us do, but we don't put too much store by our names meaning, however, in Jesus' day it was different.
Well Jesus means ‘God saves, or God rescues’. Both his name and his title tell us what he comes to do, he comes to rescue, to deliver people. But the big questions are who does he come to rescue and what was he going to save them from?
The answer to that question is found in the Old Testament and what it has to say about God’s judgement.
Jesus and judgement
How do you know what is right and wrong? You may say its because of social norms, upbringing, or conscience. The Bible's answer is very different from our man centred thinking.
Divine judgement is not a popular theme today. We like to think we are free to decide what to do and how to do it. But actually we do live in a world where there are certain standards. We do view some things as just being wrong, the holocaust or the actions of men like Ian Huntley. And when that is the case we want to see justice done.
The Old Testament tells us that God is the creator of the world and will one day judge us for our treatment of him and of others. But he doesn’t do it immediately he waits until the end of history to give people a chance to seek his mercy and change.
What the Bible says is quite comforting because God sees the injustice we experience and because he loves us will deal with it. So God will punish the perpetrators of the holocaust or of 9/11. But it is also disturbing because he doesn’t only see the big injustices, but every single act of injustice. Just as God’s love is personal and individual so is his judgement.
Jesus as the Christ is God’s administrator of judgement. In Luke 13 someone asks him “Lord, will only a small number of people be rescued?” In response Jesus identifies himself as the one who judges, he is the one who ate and drank and taught (26) and the owner of the house who has the authority to open or shut the door to God’s kingdom.
The big idea is that you do not want to be an outsider, that’s why Jesus tells them to “make every effort to enter”, because judgement will bring division between those welcomed in and those locked out.
Jesus the rescuer of sinners
One of the things Jesus was famous for was eating, drinking and spending time with those who others expected him to judge and condemn. The religious people of the day accused him of being a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.”
Jesus said that God was going to judge every act of injustice, yet he befriends those who have offended God the most. Why?
If you can read Luke 15. What prompts Jesus to teach these parables? (1-2). He is explaining the apparent contradiction between him being God’s judge but spending time with ‘sinners’. That word was a common way of referring to someone considered to be under God’s judgement, people like the corrupt and cheating Tax Collectors.
The 3 stories explain why Jesus befriends sinners and in the third story Jesus gives us his definition of a sinner.
15:11-32 In this third story the younger son represents the sinners, the elder son the moaning religious leaders and the Father represents God
If you had to define sin how would you define it? Doing bad things, breaking the law? But Jesus definition of sin is more subtle and more troubling.
V11-13, what was the young man’s offence? Its not that he ends up in wild living, it’s that he demands his share of his Father’s resources and then spends them on himself far away from the Father. He wants what the Father has to offer but not relationship with the Father himself. (It’s actually the same problem the older son has too!)
That is Jesus definition of sin. We claim God’s resources – relationships, food, money, environment, but want nothing to do with God. Sin is not living wildly it is living separately.
But Jesus not only has a unique view of sin but of God.
(20-24) What does the Father do? He sees the son while a long way off – is looking for him
Runs, embraces and kisses before apology and after apology lavishes gifts and sonship on him.
Jesus speaks with God’s authority and we need to listen to what he tells us about ourselves and God. A God who is a searching, running, embracing, pardoning, lavishing, partying parent. A God who loves those who deserve his judgement and sends Jesus to warn and to save. That’s Jesus mission, that’s why Jesus befriends sinners to assure them and bring them back to God.
The question that comes out is am I a sinner still living at a distance from God or have I returned to him and asked for forgiveness?