For those familiar with the Lord’s prayer, the idea that God’s kingdom has come might seem odd. It has come, but not yet as fully as it will. Still, not everyone wants it. Being a Christian is sometimes seen as being pretty dull.
The Christian life seems to be about limitations, restrictions, abstinence. It seems pretty joyless. “You have to do good. No, you can’t do that. You have to go to church… etc”
We’d want to say that becoming a Christian is when someone comes to Jesus Christ.
- You acknowledge your offence to God. Your accountability.
- You turn from your past and ask God to forgive.
- And he will. He calls you to himself in Christ.
- Jesus came to save you by taking the punishment you deserve from God. Jesus will bring you life in God.
When we see people coming to Jesus in the New Testament, we don’t see limitation, restriction, joylessness. If that’s what being a Christian is to you, you need to look again.
In fact, in Luke’s gospel, you’re presented with a choice:
- Over and over, those who repent and come to Jesus enjoy the feast of his presence – they experience joy.
- And those who refuse him are cast out. They think they’re right, but they end up cold, bitter, eternally joyless.
So take a closer look.
See what Jesus did
Last week we read about Jesus in Nazareth, his home town.
There he quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2, giving his own personal “mission statement” (or “Nazareth manifesto”).
- He made reference to things they might have heard about him doing in Capernaum.
- Now Luke gives us those events. The gospel writers freely rearranged their material thematically – an “orderly account” – where today you might expect chronological.
- (It’s possible that he went there more than once, obviously)
Read Luke 4:31-32.
There are four scenes in what follows: A demon cast out in the synagogue, Peter’s mother-in-law healed in her own home, crowds of people coming for healing that evening, and then a good-bye on the following morning.
Read Luke 4:33-34.
Notice how there was only one demon, but he asked Jesus “Why are you interfering with us?”
- The people might not have realised the scale of what Jesus came to do, but the demons knew.
- Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil. And all the demons knew, and trembled.
- People thought of Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth” – but the demons knew him to be “the Holy One of God.”
- War has begun. One demon at a time.
Read Luke 4:35.
If I give one of our dogs a command, they will usually obey. They obey to receive praise: “Good dog!”
But demons don’t obey Jesus because they want to. They obey because there is authority in his voice. They are incapable of disobedience. There’s power in his words. The people there that day could see it. They could feel it. Read Luke 4:36-37.
The people were amazed at the authority in his teaching (in v32) and the power and authority in his words even to demons (v36). From that public scene, we go to a private house.
Read Luke 4:38-39.
- You might think it’s a bit mean, getting her to serve them when she’s been so ill! Shouldn’t she rest?
- No, the healing is instant and complete.
- She’s wholly her normal self. She serves a meal gladly!
In the exorcism and healing, Luke uses a word that might seem a bit odd: He says that Jesus rebukes them. V35 “reprimanded” the demon (NLT) and v39 “he rebuked the fever” – actually the same word each time.
Have you ever rebuked anyone?
- You might rebuke a child, or a dog, or a pupil, or someone in work.
- To do so, it means you’ve set boundaries and expectations, and the person you rebuke has broken the rules, or failed to do the right thing.
- In rebuke, you highlight what’s wrong and you expect correction.
Doctors don’t rebuke fevers. So why did Jesus?
He is your creator. Everything was made through him and for him, for his own good pleasure.
- When he said, “Let there be light” it wasn’t a hope or a wish – it was a command. (A 3rd person imperative.)
- Illnesses and fevers are part of the curse of death.
- Demons are a symbol of rebellion.
- So when Jesus rebukes them, he’s rebuking deviancy in his own creation – and his rebuke is a power-filled correction.
A dog owner rebukes a dog for barking: Dog shuts up.
A dog owner rebukes a dog for barking: Dog shuts up.
Jesus can rebuke a fever and the fever is gone. Jesus can rebuke a violent, noisy demon and demon is silenced and gone. No ifs or buts. When he rebukes his creation, disobedience is impossible.
Why? Because he is God the Son. Those people got a whiff of this and were astonished. You know even more than they did. Be astonished!
The next scene is no surprise: Loads of people turn up. (No-one has told them that going to Jesus is boring and restrictive!) Read Luke 4:40-41.
- Now there are crowds, not just individuals.
- More sick people are healed. More demons are cast out.
- Here’s the lovely thing: He laid his hands on every person, one by one, and healed them.
- Maybe he healed 20 people. Maybe 200 or more. But every single one of them had their moment with Jesus.
- One by one, healed.
- That’s how you come. Not in a group. Not even in a family. You come to Jesus yourself. You get your moment with him and you will never be the same again.
You know that because they didn’t want to let him go!
Everyone must hear the Good News
Read Luke 4:42-44.
“The good news of the kingdom of God”?
- That’s the first mention of the kingdom of God in Luke’s gospel. He doesn’t explain it here.
- He expects you to realise that being in the kingdom of God is living under the Messiah’s rule and blessing – which is very good news indeed.
- The kingdom of God isn’t a place, it’s a reign. Wherever anyone bends the knee to the Messiah, the kingdom is there. Antarctica; Easter Island; Cape Town; here.
The good news is for everyone. Every single one. And Jesus was “sent” to preach that everywhere. Sent:
See what Jesus is doing
Last time we looked at what we called Jesus’ mission statement.
Read Luke 4:18-19.
- He was reading from Isaiah 61:1-2 (around 800 BC).
- Those verses borrow language about the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25
- A time when slaves were set free.
- Land was returned to those who had needed to sell.
- The Lord promised enormous blessing and provision.
- It reflected a society dependent on God.
- And it produced a society that reflected God’s concern: Limiting wealth, protecting the poor, provision for the weak and vulnerable.
- Good news for the poor indeed.
- In picking up the Jubilee language, Isaiah 61:1-2 is saying that when the Messiah comes, he will usher in a kind of time of Jubilee.
- It’s called the year of God’s favour – and you’re in it.
- The Messiah’s coming would also signal a day of God’s vengeance (the day of Christ’s second coming on the earth), but we’re not there yet.
- Today is still the year of God’s favour.
Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. He is the anointed one (“messiah”).
And he has come from heaven, sent by the Father to preach good news to the poor – to usher in the kingdom of God. And Jesus preaches with authority, making it clear that it’s what he came to do.
The Big Picture (so far, plus a bit)
So Luke has really built up a massive picture of what Jesus has done and (spoiler) is doing:
- We read about Jesus coming as fulfilment of the OT.
- Jesus, Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit.
- The one who was publicly declared to be Son of God by the Father, and anointed by the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus who went into the desert to take on Satan and stand, where Adam had fallen.
- This Jesus who has announced that his own appearance marks the beginning of the year of God’s favour, the new reign of the kingdom of God for all who come.
- And Jesus who delivers us one by one, bringing you into his kingdom person by person. Have you come to him yet?
- Because here’s the spoiler: Jesus still lives. He still reigns. He still frees you and to know him is still good news.
- The living, reigning Jesus still rules over the year of God’s favour, until the day he returns and ends it all.
- On that day, he’ll rebuke all creation.
- Every wrong will be righted; Satan and every demon and everyone who rejected God will be cast out into the lake of fire.
- And the kingdom of heaven will be on earth, an eternal Jubilee. Good news for the poor: Jesus lives, and he will free you from your sin and guilt and keep you forever.
- And it’s started! It’s the best news you will ever, ever hear.
Experience Jesus for yourself
Obviously in Jesus’ own day there were many who rejected him. Luke’s gospel has made it abundantly clear who Jesus is and what he came to do. He is true Good News.
And still, people reject him.
- Freedom? To be who you want and do what you want?
- Suckered in by adverts telling you you’re not as good, rich, or happy as you could be.
- Stressed by society telling you what you need to believe, what pronouns you must use, what words you can’t say…
- Looking forward to holidays more than anything because day-to-day life is so dull, empty, meaningless?
- Will rejecting Jesus bring you hope for eternity?
- Death will come to you, sooner or later. Then what?
- I saw someone on Twitter complaining recently that there was too much talk about death. He’d turned 70 and didn’t want to think about it, thank you.
And all the while, Jesus stands alive, inviting you to enter into the year of the Lord’s favour.
He says his yoke is easy.
- He frees you from slavery to addictive sins.
- Jesus releases you from guilt from your past.
- He calls you to life, to peace and joy in him.
For those who come, he is joy and peace. But as you find your joy and peace in Christ’s forgiveness and welcome, and as you start to live under his kingdom rule, what happens?
- You will find yourself on the wrong side of this society. It is opposed to Christ and the kingdom of heaven.
- Which means you will be at odds with many people.
- You will be known and loved and cherished by the king of heaven and earth, promised an eternity with him.
- You want to share that with others, even though they think they’re already alright without Jesus.
Preach, live, and hope in Christ
All this gives us a challenge as a church and as individual Christians.
Firstly, we must preach Christ.
- Some Christians want to preach Creation.
- Others want to preach about race, ethics, or Sunday trading.
- The Bible has much to say about all these things.
- But Jesus is the Good News.
- It’s much more important that you’re known as someone who’s “always going on about Jesus” rather than “always going on about [something else]”
So, second, live Christ.
- Keep him in sight yourself.
- Be near him. To know Jesus is to know the Father.
- Christ is the communication and representation of God to you; be close to him. Enjoy him. In prayer and meditation.
- Don’t confuse growth in knowledge with Christian maturity. Maturity is about knowing the Lord and reflecting him to the world.
Lastly, hope Christ.
- As you put your faith in him for forgiveness from sin, turning to him in prayer, your new life in him has begun.
- But this isn’t the end. There’s opposition to him, and to you
- But Jesus has authority over the very things that trouble you, and one day he will issue the command that all Creation will be unable to disobey, and it will be made new.
He has authority over evil, over sickness, over you.
He calls you to life.
This is the year of the Lord’s favour. Jesus is Good News.
Preach him, live him, hope him.