Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Daily Reading: Luke 4v31-44 'The mission of the Kingdom'

Words or deeds? That’s the question. Which is the best way to share the good news of Jesus with someone. Do you have to explain it to them or can you just live it out in front of them? After all wasn’t it St Francis who said “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”   It’s not just an ancient idea, I was speaking to someone this week who shared the experience of a CU who wanted to put on an evangelistic event. They asked a local church which was part of the ‘Love your uni’ project if they could use their coffee and tea making equipment. The church asked them what exactly it would be used for, the CU said they were intending to provide free drinks to people and give out tracts and gospels. The churches response was that they would rather they didn’t use their coffee and tea making equipment for that type of project. Do you see what they are saying – it’s not loving to give people the gospel or tracts.  So which is it? What should we be doing, is it words or actions?

Luke 4 shows us Jesus in the early stages of his mission. Yesterday we looked at (18-19) where Jesus says his mission is that of Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Here we see Jesus engaged in his mission, and it is a mission marked by:

1. Speaking God’s word

What is the repeated word in (18-19)? It is the word “proclaim”, to make known. Jesus comes and tells people good news. What is Jesus doing in the section we read? (31) “He taught the people”, he is proclaiming as he does so, last week Luke gave us a summary of what he taught – he proclaimed he was the Messiah come to bring freedom and relationship with God.

When Jesus confronts the demon possessed man, as he engages in a cosmic battle what weapons does he use? He uses words (35) “Be quiet! ...Come out of him!” No candles, ceremonies, incantations, or violence, Jesus uses words, words that carry authority.

What is it the people go away talking about and marvelling over? “What words are these!” Jesus is on a mission of proclamation, a mission that declares the exile is over, God’s kingdom is here and now and yet to come. That is why he silences the demons; because Jesus words matter so much he doesn’t want demonic testimony to stop people listening to him because his words are words of eternal life.

(43) Jesus tells the people his mission. “I must proclaim 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.” Jesus mission was to bring freedom by declaring, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was come, that he was God’s Spirit anointed one come to bring the year of the Lord’s favour, to enable right relationship with God again.

May be as we sit here we think that’s OK for Jesus look everyone loved him. But look at (28-29) his words have just provoked such a reaction that the people in Nazareth want to hurl him off as cliff. That puts the smirks we receive into context doesn’t it, it tells us opposition to the gospel is normal. But notice what Jesus says “I must proclaim…” it is not optional, not to proclaim would be to fail in his mission, to take the easy way out.

Proclamation has a bad name today; it is thought to be arrogant to claim you have the truth. Am I really saying everyone else is wrong? That other religions will not lead to God? It is just so narrow, to proclaim to preach Jesus as the only way.

The key to what we believe and teach is what Jesus believed and taught. Where is Jesus as he preaches and proclaims? In the synagogue. Who is he preaching to? Jews or God fearers. And what is his message? That their religion is not enough, Judaism is not enough, that they must accept him as the messiah, as God’s anointed one, it is the only way to know the Lord’s favour.

Proclaiming the truth matters because that is Jesus mission. His mission couldn’t be fulfilled unless he proclaimed it, unless he told people who he was, what he came to do and called them to respond. He is God’s Spirit anointed one come to proclaim freedom and release, and declare God’s kingdom is here.

The question is what will we do with that claim? Will we accept it? Having accepted the good news will I share it with others?

2. Having God’s authority

There is another important word here: authority. Jesus words and actions are marked by authority, it is what makes his teaching stand out (36).  There are three instances of miracles here and the emphasis is on the importance of proclamation but Jesus words are accompanied by authoritative actions which give his words weight. They declare that he is who he proclaims himself to be.

Look at the confrontation between the man with an evil spirit and the one who comes in the Spirit of the Lord. And Jesus is utterly victorious, the demon knows who he is and that Jesus has the authority, the power, to destroy him and such is the total deliverance that (35) “the demon came out without injuring him.” Jesus has authority over demons.

Then we see Jesus authority over sickness, as he uses words to heal Peter’s Mother in law so completely she gets up and serves, no rest, no recuperation, total restoration.

Finally Luke records other instances of Jesus exercising his authority over the sick and possessed. Jesus has God’s authority, he is fulfilling his mission, he is revealing the kingdom, every miracle paints a picture of what God’s kingdom will be like. No sickness, no crying, no pain, no battle with evil and sin but marked by the authority of God, freedom and relationship. They reveal him to be God’s long awaited, spirit anointed, kingdom inaugurating king whose words matter because they bring freedom.

God’s word has not lost any of that authority. God’s word still reveals his kingdom. We may not be able to go into DRI and clear out the wards as Jesus does at Capernaum. But actually God still heals doesn’t he? As we pray for one another, God does still heal because his word does not change.

I guess demon possession is a little more tricky for us to see. I think in the west the devil very cleverly hides the spiritual battle. In the gospels it is very clear, I think that’s because it is where the opposition is at its fiercest because the devil is opposing Jesus. But he still operates today, in fact the bible tells us he has the whole world as his slave – but the word of God brings freedom that. Every one of us who has accepted Jesus as Saviour and Lord, repented and now strive to live by grace is living testimony that God’s word still frees.

Will I use God’s word as it is, as a word of authority?

3. Loving lost people

What do you notice about Jesus actions, his words, his mission? It is about people. It is prompted by concern for people.  Jesus heals individuals, be it the demon possessed man or Peter’s Mother-in-law even the crowds that are brought (40) “laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” Jesus doesn’t need to lay his hands on them but he deals with them as individuals because he loves them and he is revealing the kingdom to them.

Jesus is God’s Son on God’s mission to reveal and call people to enter God’s kingdom. He does so as he acts and speaks, declaring and showing what that kingdom will be like if they will accept his words, that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed exile ending kingdom bringing king. Have you accepted that?

But Jesus actions and words also reveal a pattern of how he engaged in his mission, a mission that as he ascends into heaven he hands on to us. Deeds or words? Is to ask the wrong question. Jesus uses deeds to prove and authenticate his words, to show his authority, to show the change the kingdom brings, but only his words and accepting them bring entrance to the kingdom.

We must proclaim the good news that Jesus proclaimed, but we must also show by our actions the affect of living in the kingdom, the change that grace brings, that just like our Father and his Son we love people. It can be seen in offering to pray for the ill, in providing a meal for a struggling family, support for a single mum, a listening ear to a suffering friend, stopping to help a stranger. It is about loving people as God loves them, a love that drives us to action and proclamation.

Imagine this morning I told you I had discovered a cure for AIDS. 33 million people have it hanging over them as a death sentence right now, and I have discovered a cure. What would you say if I told you I was going to keep it quiet? I didn’t want the pressure, or was worried about the possible reactions of others? What if I said I wasn’t going to tell anyone but I was going to go and work in an AIDS hospital with dying patients or a home with AIDS orphans, would that make my silence OK?

I guess you’d be outraged and rightly so. To love people is to do what is best for them and that means practical love. Love that reveals the kingdom of God in actions but also shares with them the way into the kingdom - calling them to recognise Jesus and enter the kingdom by repentance.

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