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Home Sermons God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people” [1] Text

God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people” [1] Text

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God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people” [1]

Luke 6:12-26

David Calderwood

Television coverage of our federal political leaders debating in the lead up to an election has made us all familiar with ‘the worm’ - a live time response from viewers to what the politician is saying. And one of the notable features is how quickly and severely it can turn.

Luke, in his biography of Jesus, has brought us to a point of crisis in Jesus’ ministry. Look at 6:11 - The worm has turned quickly and severely the worm turned on Jesus.

Turn back to 4:15. At the start of his public ministry Jesus enjoyed incredible popularity as a teacher with his fresh, compelling approach. Now, and Luke doesn’t tell us precisely how many months have passed, the Jewish religious leaders and heavies were considering what punitive action to take against him to silence him and his blasphemous teaching.

To understand this crisis properly we need to understand Luke’s structure, so once again I urge you to recognise that Luke’s biography is carefully structured to build his case about Jesus.

This means that there is as much to learn through understanding how all the various incidents Luke records, are connected and develop a theme, as there is from the details of each incident.

Christians historically, but wrongly, have milked the details of individual incidents for personal application, and completely missed the big picture about Jesus and his kingdom, which is where the real personal benefit is to be found.

So I want to take a few minutes to revise where we are up to in the drama that is Jesus’ public ministry. Turn back to Luke 4:43 . The reason Jesus came into this world was to “Preach the good news of the Kingdom of God”.

Turn back further to Luke 4:17-20 . Jesus is the living reality anticipated by the likes of Isaiah - God’s Messiah; God’s King who would make clear once again God’s rule in his world.

He would make things right by restoring people to spiritual health and relationship with God. He would gather God’s people into God’s place, a wonderful new community where the Lord would be properly honoured and where obedience and loyalty would be obvious.

To evidence of all this, Luke records incident after incident, nine thus far, and each one combines with the others to paint a portrait of Jesus as God’s powerful King, and show us what God’s kingdom actually looks like in practice. Even his words come with an amazing authority that confronts and challenges people who take the time to listen.

His actions show clearly he is God. Who else has power to control the spirit world; power to reverse any type of physical or mental illness; power over the minds of people, knowing what they think before they speak and able to turn around an individual’s life in an instant?

And Jesus models clearly what his Kingdom is like in these incidents, each one helping establish its focus, what’s important, who will be part of God’s kingdom, and how it fits with what God’s people already thought about what Messiah would do.

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom concerned with spiritual realities such as sin, repentance, salvation and new relationship with God.

Christ’s kingdom is focussed primarily on people – ordinary, sinful, hopeless, despised, outcast people. Jesus is busy at work, confronting such people; turning them around in their thinking, attitudes and circumstances, and gathering them into his kingdom or bringing them under his rule in new love and obedience.

Christ’s kingdom is radically different from what the Pharisees had taught God’s people to expect, and practice. Turn to Luke 5:31 , it was not about salvation by segregation and race.

The Pharisees believed God would favour them because they were God’s favoured race, and because God would be impressed by their observance of special religious actions, like fasting and praying, 4:33-39, and special religious days like the Sabbath, Luke 6:1-11 .

But Jesus is clear that God’s kingdom is about mercy and grace and having correct heart attitude to God rather than simply external activity and rituals.

Now, friends we can see why the point of crisis, Luke 6:11 , has arisen. As the Jewish religious leaders heard Jesus teach and watched him model practically what it was to be Messiah, and what the Kingdom of God was like, they began to see strange and dangerous tendencies.

They recognised how radical Jesus was. They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God and that his Kingdom could not be fitted into the Jewish religion as they understood it and taught it to their fellow Jews. So, Jesus would have to go.

Now we are in a position to move ahead in Luke’s account, into the next incident, which is Luke 6:12-49 , and which Luke records as Jesus’ response to this point of crisis in his ministry.

Jesus knew the Jewish religious authorities were so opposed to him, that they were already plotting desperate measures and one day would kill him. The worm had turned severely and dangerously against him.

What does Jesus do? He spends the night praying, presumably seeking strength and focus to stay true to his mission to preach the Kingdom of God, even in the face of the suffering that lay ahead

Then continues to act as King, rolling out his kingdom in a provocative way by continuing to highlight how radically different his teaching is to that of the Jewish religious leaders.

First Jesus, from among a large number of disciples or followers, appoints 12 apostles, symbolically redefining God’s covenant community of Israel.

Then Jesus preaches a sermon, verses Luke 6:20-45 in which he makes clear this new covenant community would be defined by radically new attitudes and values, which properly reflected the original intent of God’s law given to Moses.

And to top it all off, verses Luke 6:46-49 , openly calls for people to find in him their hope of salvation and security for the future, and change their loyalty to him, implying that only fools would stick with what the Pharisees were teaching.

Friends, I have laboured this structure because only when we understand the structure do we see that King Jesus is not unnerved when the worm turns. He does not try and tone down what he is teaching.

He is deliberately throwing out a challenge for people to decide. He is brining in something radically new and radically beautiful for those who take the time to examine what is on offer.

Either way, the beliefs and structures established and promoted by the Pharisees which suggest God’s people will be saved by doing good things and because they are good people is wrong and will have to give way to the gospel of Jesus. People must decide – salvation by self effort and personal goodness or salvation by association with Jesus.

Now, let’s look at the detail of Luke 6 : 12-26, verses 27-49 will have to wait to next week.

1. Christ’s kingdom is like a radically new Israel (Luke 6:12-19 ). Remember Luke is keen to show us what the Kingdom of God looks like and how it differs from what the Pharisees have taught them.

Jesus has already dropped a bombshell on their view of the Sabbath, which was one of the defining points of the framework of life for God’s people.

The original idea of Sabbath rest was in the seventh day of creation, and God entering into active enjoyment of the relationships of creation, especially with people, his image bearers. God’s plan was always that his people would enjoy hanging out with him as if it was a permanent long weekend.

Over the centuries the Pharisees had turned it into a day of legalisms – don’t do this, do that – such that they had lost any sense of it being a day to celebrate and enjoy relationship with God and the good things of God.

But King Jesus puts yet another thing right, stating clearly to the Pharisees that his Kingdom is not about hair-splitting rules, but about love and mercy and enjoyment of God and the good things God has for us.

In the same way he drops a bombshell on the Pharisees understanding of their identity as a nation. They prided themselves on the covenant with Abraham, his son Jacob, and his 12 grandsons. They were the founders of the nation of Israel, God’s own special nation.

But over the years the Jews had lost any sense of grace and privilege in the covenant and become racially arrogant and exclusive and unloving. They alone would be the recipients of God’s blessing simply because they were the descendents of Jacob.

Here, in appointing 12 apostles, Jesus is giving a very visual lesson that the old Israel is defunct and that God’s original covenant plan to have a great nation of obedient servants whom he would bless and who would be a blessing to the whole world, would now be worked out through this new community being formed around King Jesus and his followers.

And notice that these new leaders of God’s salvation community are ever so ordinary. They had nothing to commend them in themselves rather their success in the future would be due to the fact that King Jesus would transform them and make them fishers of men.

2. Christ’s kingdom has radically new defining standards (Luke 6:20-26 ). Once again Jesus was healing any who came near him. But once again Jesus is quick to shift the focus to more important things.

He is far more than simply a healer of physical and mental problems. He is the one who heals relationship with God and here teaches his people the context in which that spiritual healing and relationship will happen.

Once again the symbolism is very clear. Just as Moses spent time alone with god and then returned brining the Law which had been given to him, so Jesus is like an even greater Moses giving a new law to God’s new covenant community.

Now its really important we understand than the Old Testament Law, the Ten Commandments, did not make the relationship between God and his people. It was never a case of obey these rules and you will be saved. Rather the rules reflected the attitudes and behaviour of those who were already in relationship with God through God’s grace.

When children obey the house rules, it does not make them children, it reflects that they are glad to belong to that house and recognise the responsibilities that go with the privileges of the home.

Here Jesus drops yet another bombshell on the ideas of the Pharisees, who taught that a person would be acceptable to God if they obeyed the commandments and law of God.

Jesus spells out clearly the attitudes and characteristics his kingdom people will have. Put the other way round, when you see people with these sorts of attitudes and characteristics then you see the Kingdom of God in reality.

Jesus, verses 20-23, lists four key characteristics or attitudes that will reflect the rule of God in a person’s life; that will indicate a person is accepted or treated with favour by God, which is what blessed means. And he also highlights, verses 24-26, how different this is from the attitudes and values that are valued by the Pharisees in particular and the world in general.

First, they will not trust in themselves or their own resources. It is not physical poverty, but spiritual poverty Jesus is referring to – knowing that apart from God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness, you cannot be in relationship with God at all.

Second, they will be spiritually hungry. It is another attitude of expressed need - hunger for personal relationship with God, recognising that only in such relationship will true satisfaction in life be found, everything else is junk food that does not satisfy long term.

Third, they will be deeply concerned about sin, and especially their own sin. This is another attitude of expressed need, recognising that our sinful inclination is offensive to the Lord, deserving of his condemnation, and robs him of his proper honour and respect. Only if God forgives our sin can we have renewed gladness and hope.

Fourth, They will suffer gladly in service of Jesus. Though hated, persecuted and killed like King Jesus, kingdom people will see things as God sees them and recognise that loyalty to Jesus is better than acceptance with the world.

What a contrast with the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders, and what a contrast with the attitudes and character that is generally rewarded and noticed in our world at large. They value self-reliance and think that their own goodness will get them into heaven.

King Jesus is clear. Acceptance in his kingdom is in trusting Jesus to do for you what you cannot ever do for yourself. It is the attitude of 5:31-32, which recognises that left to ourselves the disease of sin will kill us and keep us from heaven.

Acceptance in heaven is about repentance and being healed from sin, and being restored to relationship, and living a new life of thankfulness and obedience to the great King who has taken hold of you and sorted out the mess which is your life.

Acceptance by Jesus and belonging to Christ’s new community of people means seeing things as Jesus sees them. That only leaves one question as I close – Do these characteristics and attitudes describe you and thinking about your relationship with god and your hope of being in heaven with him one day?

The equation is very simple. You cannot have acceptance with King Jesus and any hope of being safe under his rule with a future in heaven if you refuse to embrace personally the radical standards set by the King.

Amen

Response questions:

1. Take a few minutes to revise the suggested structural connection between luke 5:33-6: 11and 6:12-26.

2. Why is there better application for us, personally and as a church, when we, first of all, see what these incidents tell us about King Jesus and what his Kingdom is like?

3. Jesus’ standard for inclusion in his kingdom is “expressed need” (Luke 6:20-23 ), and not self-reliance. Why does this make his kingdom so attractive?

 

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