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Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Today we are looking at the Gospel of Luke and how the angel Gabriel announced the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. As we work through these stories we will see how Mary emerges as an example to us in a couple of different ways.

Let me begin by backing up and giving you a very brief overview of –

Luke chapters 1-2


John’s birth

Jesus’ birth

1. Birth announcement – 1:5-23Elizabeth’s response – 1:24-25 2. Birth announcement – 1:26-38Mary’s response – 1:39-56
3. The birth – 1:57-66Prophetic response – 1:67-79

John’s growth – 1:80

4. The birth – 2:1-21Prophetic responses – 2:22-39

Jesus’ growth – 2:40-52

You can see the way these accounts of John and Jesus line up with each other, each having the same topics in the same order. And you can see how the story alternates between John and Jesus. We will focus in on the first part of sections 1 and 2 – the birth announcements – and see what we can learn. In these stories –

Gabriel comes to Zechariah and Mary

. . . to make his announcement about John and Jesus. There are a number of parallels in these two accounts and I want to use these to lay out  these stories. (The presence of parallels are noted by most commentators, but see especially John Nolland).

1. Their social situation is given

  • Zechariah is an older priest, married to Elizabeth – v. 5.
  • Mary is a young woman, betrothed to Joseph – vs. 26-27.

2. Their spiritual status is noted

  • Zechariah and Elizabeth are righteous people. v. 6 says, “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”
  • Gabriel tells her that She is favored by God and the Lord is with her – v. 28.

3. The condition that keeps them from having a child is noted

  • “Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” – v. 7.
  • Mary was a “virgin” – v. 27, engaged, but not yet married.

4. The angel Gabriel came to them

  • He appeared to him in the Temple in Jerusalem while he was offering up incense in the Temple during prayers – vs. 8-10; 13.
  • He appeared to her in Nazareth in Galilee – v. 26.

5. They were both troubled

  • He was troubled by the presence of an angel. v. 12 says, “And Zechariah was (literally) terrified when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.”
  • She was troubled by the greeting – “O favored one.”  v. 29 says, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”

6. They are told not to fear

  • “Do not be afraid” – v. 13 – “your prayer has been heard.”
  • “Do not be afraid . . . you have found favor with God” – v. 30.

7. Both are told they will have a child

  • “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call his name John” – v. 13.
  • “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” – v. 31.

Gabriel also tells them both about the greatness and life mission of each child.

8. Both respond with a question to Gabriel

  • “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” – v. 18. In other words, we’re too old!
    • Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin” – v. 34

9. Both are given a sign

  • “You will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words” – v. 20.
  • Elizabeth is with child. This is a sign to Mary that nothing is impossible with God, as Gabriel says in v. 37.

10. What they did after the encounter is told

  • He quietly waited for the fulfillment. What else could he do?
  • She responded in faith, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” – v. 38.

This is an amazing number of parallels. But the significant thing is that these parallels are used to make contrasts between Zechariah and Mary, which show that even though Zechariah is good and blessed –

Mary is highlighted in these stories

Let’s look at this –

1. Their social situation: It was more exceptional that God would come to lowly Mary, as opposed to Zechariah who was a priest, in the Temple, at the time of prayer.

2. Their spiritual status: Zechariah and Elizabeth are righteous, but Gabriel himself tells Mary that she has God’s favor.

3. The condition precluding birth: Elizabeth’s birth would be miraculous, but a virgin birth is an unprecedented miracle.

4. Gabriel came: Zechariah was praying and had asked for a child. God took the initiative to come to Mary. She hadn’t asked for anything.

5. Both were troubled: She was not terrified, but more perplexed about what the angel said.

6. They were told not to fear: Even as she is told not to fear, her favored status is emphasized.

7. Both will have a child: John is great, but Jesus is greater. And it is the greater honor for Mary to have him.

8. Both asked a question: Zechariah responded with doubt. Mary simply wanted to know how God would do what he said he would do.

9. Both received a sign: Zechariah was judged for his unbelief – he couldn’t speak. She received a positive sign – Elizabeth was pregnant.

10. What they did after the encounter: She responded with true faith – ‘Do what you want Lord.’

I am showing you all this to make a point.

Mary is the example

She is the hero of the story. Zechariah is also blessed, but Mary is the focus. What can we learn from her?

1. Mary is an example to us that God loves to use the lowly to fulfill his will. She was of humble circumstances. This is especially so in contrast to Zechariah. He was a priest, a man – who had priority in this culture, and he was older. She had no official role, was a woman and young, somewhere between 14-20 years old.

She was not just lowly in circumstance, she was also inwardly humble. In vs. 28-29, the angel said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” This was a strange thing for her to hear and so she was trying to make sense out of it. She must not have thought of herself as greatly favored by God.

She referred to herself as a “bondservant” or slave in – v. 38. And later in the story she spoke of her “humble estate” in v. 48.

And yet as we learn in this story – God used lowly Mary in the most extraordinary way. As Elizabeth says in Luke 1:42-43, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

She reminds us of what Paul said in   I Corinthians 1:27-28 – “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .”

She also reminds us of what Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” – that is, by God.

As she herself said later in Luke 1:52 – “God has brought down the mighty from their throne, and exalted those of humble estate.”

2. Mary is an example to us of how to receive God’s word in faith. She had amazing faith. She was told that God will do what had never been done in all of human history – the impossible. What was her response? She said in v. 38 – “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” ‘OK God, do whatever you want.’ This is amazing faith!

Did she think of the shame factor, that everyone would suspect that she was unfaithful? Did she think of the complications this would bring to her marriage. Joseph almost divorced her as we learn in Matthew. This was going to mess up her life!

But nevertheless hers was a response of faith. She believed, just as Gabriel said, that “nothing will be impossible with God” – v. 37.

Elizabeth notes Mary’s faith when she says in Luke 1:45, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

She reminds us of what Paul said about Abraham’s faith in Romans 4:20-21. “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

She also reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Now, having said this it is clear that she was not perfect. Later she had doubts about what Jesus was up to, like the other disciples, and Jesus’ brothers. But Mary is an example to us in this story. She teaches us that God loves to use the lowly to accomplish his will. And she teaches us how to receive God’s word in faith, so that God can work in and through us.

May we learn from her example

William Higgins

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We are looking at Luke 15:11-32 this morning and the story of the prodigal son.

The point

. . . of this parable is easy enough to discern. The verses right before it set the context for understanding it: Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”

  • Jesus is receiving and eating with repentant sinners; people who have intentionally disregarded God and knowingly done what was wrong.
  • The Pharisees do not approve of this; people who have tried to keep God’s will.

This is the situation that is being dealt with in the whole of Luke chapter 15.

Then in Luke 15:3-10 come the twin parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin – which comment on this situation. Yes, there are those who are not lost – the 99 sheep and the 9 coins, but when the one that was lost is found there is rejoicing. Even rejoicing in heaven among the angels.

Then in our text we have:

  • The younger son’s repentance which is celebrated
  • And the elder son, who grumbles about this

So, you can see how these all line up, and what corresponds to what:

prodigal context

So all these parables refer back to the situation of Jesus and the Pharisees and comment on it.

The point of our parable, then, is that it is right to welcome and celebrate sinners who repent.

  • The father celebrates his son’s repentance. In vs. 23-24 he said, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
  • The father tells his older son that it is right to do this. In v. 32 he said, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

Now, beyond this central point – there is much that we can learn from this parable about repentance, and we have looked at it in this light.

There is also something to learn about how those who have sought to be faithful and have been serving God for years, should be welcoming to repentant sinners, and rejoice for them, despite their years of sin and failure.

And there is also much to be learned about God’s love. And this is our focus today. And to get to this, first we look at . .

The love of the father in this parable

He is actually the central figure of the story. It begins and ends with him, and he is the thread that holds the two parts together, first with his younger son and then his elder son. So lets look at his love:

1. The father’s love endures rejection. His son’s request was highly unusual, indeed insulting to the father. You only get your inheritance when your father is dead! And so the son is, as it were, treating his father as if he is already dead. And he just wants his money. He doesn’t care about his father, only what he can get out of him.

But the father grants his wish. V. 12 – says “he divided his property between them,” that is the two sons.

2. The father’s love accepts his son when he repents. Even though the father knew his son was wasting his own hard earned resources and squandering his good gifts . . ..

Even though he knew that his son was debasing himself:

  • using the money on prostitutes (v. 30)
  • sinking to the lowest possible point for a Jew, caring for pigs which are unclean animals
  • and being so hungry that he longed for their food . . ..

Even with all this, when the father saw his son coming v. 20 says,

  • he “felt compassion”
  • he “ran and embraced him”
  • he “kissed him”

This kind of display of affection was unusual in this cultural context. It shows the intensity of his love for his son. And this despite all that his son had done wrong.

The father’s love survived all the insult and pain and was there waiting for him as he returned from far away and from his foolishness. It was waiting to accept him.

3. The fathers’ love is full of mercy. He gives him so much more than he deserves, given all that he has done. V. 22 speaks of . . .

  • “the best robe”
  • “a ring” (a symbol of authority)
  • and “shoes”

All of these items speak to a certain social status. The father is proclaiming him to be his son and not a servant. (The son had only hoped to be accepted back as a servant).

And then the father welcomes him with a party – v. 23. The fattened calf is brought out, reserved only for the most special of occasions.

4. The father’s love is patient with the elder brothers grumbling. The elder son objected to the party. In fact, he insults his father by not taking part. Even though the father pleaded with him.

Yet the father is patient and only gently rebukes him. He says in v. 32, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad . .  ..” The father is saying, ‘He’s your brother! And something amazingly good has just happened.’

5. The father’s love rewards the faithful service of his elder son. In v. 31 he says to his elder son who has worked for him so long and so hard, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.”

This shows us again that sin has consequences. The younger son’s inheritance was still all gone. But the point here is that the father honors faithfulness. Everything the father has is his elder son’s. He is blessed for his faithfulness.

Our heavenly Father’s love for us

Now, the father in this parable certainly represents to us our heavenly Father. So let’s see what we can learn from him about the love of God:

1. God’s love endures our rejection of him. So often we dishonor God by making our own choices that go against God and God’s way. But yet, like the prodigal son, we want what we can get out of God. When we get in trouble or there is an emergency we call for God’s help.

But despite our all this, our heavenly father’s love for us endures.

2. God’s love accepts us when we repent. No matter how much we have rejected God, no matter how much we have debased ourselves, no matter how much we have squandered God’s gifts to us – when we come to our senses and come to him in repentance – God is there to welcome us with affection and love.

3. God’s love is full of mercy to us. Our heavenly father gives us so much more than we deserve. When we come in repentance –

  • He blesses us with gifts
  • He calls us his children
  • and there is rejoicing in heaven

None of which we deserve.

4. God’s love is patient with us when we grumble. Although we all live out the prodigal son’s story to some degree, since we understand that we have all sinned against God, we can also all find ourselves in the place of the elder son.

Perhaps you were raised as a Christian, or at least you’ve been a Christian for many years – serving God and seeking to do what is right.

And we become proud and un-accepting of those who have lived truly sinful lifestyles for years. All the attention and fuss that is made over them. We’ve been toiling in silence for years!

Yet God lovingly and gently admonishes us to rejoice with those who have come to their senses; to welcome them.

5. God’s love rewards us for faithful service. God’s grace to those who have wasted so much of their lives in sin, will not cheat anyone out of God’s blessings. No one needs to fret or be upset.

If we have truly been faithful, God will be faithful to bless us for all that we do for him.

So we learn much about God’s love to us in this parable – when we are walking in sin, when we come to God in repentance and when we are faithful as well. God loves us with an amazing love!

William Higgins

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Well today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember when Jesus presented himself to Jerusalem as king. 

We are looking today at “How to be ready for the great gathering” that is, the resurrection of the righteous. I think that this is a timely topic for Palm Sunday. Consider this: 

  • At Jesus’ first coming, he presented himself as king, but very few were ready
  • At Jesus’ second coming, when he appears in glory as king, will we be any more ready?

Review

We saw last week why we need to be ready for when Jesus returns and sends out his angels to gather those who claim him as Lord. We need to be ready because the unfaithful will be separated out from the faithful.

We saw how Jesus talks about this a lot. Here are just two examples:

  • Matthew 25 – parable of the bridesmaids: five make it in, five don’t
  • Matthew 25 – parable of the talents: two make it in, one doesn’t 

So there is a sorting process, and some who are gathered, or who seek to be gathered, will not make it into the eternal kingdom. While those who are found faithful will be gathered to Jesus, will be resurrected, and will receive eternal rewards.

Now we know that . . .

The foundation of our salvation is the gift of grace in Jesus 

It is based on what he did for us through his life, death and resurrection. To receive this gift, we must:

  1. Acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, whom God has sent to be the Savior of the world.
  2. Turn from our old life of sin and wrongdoing, and commit to live a new life just as Jesus has taught.
  3. Ask for and receive the new life that comes through Jesus. This includes the forgiveness of our sins and also new life by the Spirit; new birth.

Without this you don’t get anywhere! This is the foundation. And this is all assumed in what our Scriptures talk about today, for Jesus is speaking to his disciples – Christians. 

The question that is focused on in our scriptures today is: Have we been faithful with the grace we have received?

It’s one thing to receive the mercy of God’s salvation. It’s another to continue on in that mercy until the end; to be faithful. It is as Jesus said, in the midst of the trials and testings of this life, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” – Mark 13:13

And on that day of sorting we want to be found among those who are faithful! So here are . . .

Three marks of faithfulness 

. . . that Jesus speaks of, that show us how to be alert and ready for his coming.

#1. Be Dead To Your Earthly Life. This comes from Luke 17:28-35 –

“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”

Jesus teaches us here that the great gathering of the resurrection will be like when the angels gathered Lot and his family out of Sodom. Jesus said, “Just as in the days of Lot (v. 28) . . . so it will be when the Son of man is revealed” (v.  30). So lets look at this comparison:

The Gathering from Sodom:

  1. Angels were sent to gather Lot and his family
  2. Lot’s wife longingly looked back to her home in Sodom
  3. She was attached to her life in Sodom  and was judged. She was sorted out of the faithful remnant.

The End Time Gathering:

  1. Angels will be sent to gather us (as we saw last week)
  2. We should not tarry or turn back. This is what Jesus is talking about in v. 31. In that day don’t seek to grab your possessions, or if you are in the field don’t turn back toward your home.
  3. So this raises the question for us – Are we attached to our earthly life?

As he says in v. 33, in the context of his second coming, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” This is a warning. Don’t be attached to your earthly life! That is, to your family, possessions, status and earthly plans.  

If you cling to your earthly life on the day of gathering, you will be sorted out, just like Lot’s wife. That’s why Jesus said, in v. 32 – “Remember Lot’s wife.” That’s the lesson here. She sought to preserve her life and so she lost her life. Don’t be like her.

We have to be able to let it all go, to lose it all in a moment – unsaved loved ones, our possessions, our projects and our earthly dreams. 

And the way to prepare for this is to choose now to die to your earthly life. In the words of Jesus “to lose your life.” Already now put God first above all else on this earth. Then you will be ready and not hesitant on the great day of gathering when the angels come for you. 

#2. Do the will of God, just as Jesus teaches. By far, Jesus talks about this the most when he speaks of being ready for the great gathering. 

We will focus in on one example: Matthew 7:21-23 –

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” 

  • Notice that they confessed Jesus as Lord. They looked to him as the Messiah.
  • They did works by the Spirit of God – prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles 
  • And they ministered in the name of Jesus

These are disciples that thought all was OK in their lives. Indeed they thought that they were outstanding followers of Jesus, waiting for their commendation. But they don’t make it in!

Why? They did not obey the will of God. Jesus has just taught about this in the Sermon on the Mount, right before this passage – much of it focused on what it means to love our neighbor. They didn’t practice this.

As Jesus says in v. 21 it is “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” who “will enter the kingdom of heaven” on that final day of sorting.

But these people knowingly allowed sin to remain in their lives. They chose not to deal with it. This is why Jesus said, “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” They are sorted out due to continued unrighteousness in their lives.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Obey God in every part of your life. Put into practice all that Jesus has taught and modeled for us. Hold nothing back; no part of your life. 

And when you fail, repent and find forgiveness and move forward again. Endure in your obedience until the end.

#3. Do your work for the Kingdom. That is, whatever God has called you to do, whatever God has gifted you to do, make sure you do it.

Jesus speaks of this in several passages, but we will focus on the familiar Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. Here’s a summary:

  • Jesus, the master is going away 
  • And so he gives to his servants specific tasks to do according to their abilities, while he is gone
  • Two worked hard at their tasks and were blessed when the master returned
  • One didn’t work. He was lazy and did nothing and was judged. Jesus says about him, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 25:30.

It will work the same way for us on that final day when Jesus returns. If you do nothing to work for the kingdom, you will be sorted out as well.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Serve Jesus with your life, your gifts, your time, your resources. Find out what Jesus wants you to do, and then get busy! Work hard to advance the kingdom.

A final note

Now, I know it can be a somber thing to think about this business of being sorted, and some being sorted out. But we are given this teaching (and there is a lot of it) so that we can examine our lives and make the changes we need to make in order to be ready. So that we can indeed be found faithful. 

But, having said that, lets end on a more joyful note. For if you:

  1. Die to your earthly lives so that you are ready to go
  2. Do the will of God and 
  3. Work hard for the kingdom – you will be blessed! 

You will hear these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We will have Jesus’ seal of approval before all of creation.

He will say, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” We will be rewarded for our faithfulness; for all of our troubles and sacrifices for him. It will all be more than worth it.

And he will say, “Enter into the joy of your master.” We will have joy with Jesus for eternity in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 25:21)

William Higgins

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We are planning a special outreach event on March 22nd – Bring a Friend Sunday. That is, a friend who is not yet a Christian, or a Christian who doesn’t already have a home church.

The idea is to bring in some visitors and make some connections. We want to reach out.

So I want to share some teaching this morning to help us get focused on outreach and our need to be thinking, praying and acting to “Seek out the Lost.” This comes from Jesus’ example and his teaching.

1. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to seek out the lost

 This is what Jesus says about himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus is teaching us that God sent him for this very reason. This was Jesus’ mission; the focus of his existence; why he came to earth.

The purpose of Jesus was “to seek out and save the lost.”

2. Jesus was not satisfied that some were lost

Remember the parable of lost sheep? Jesus said in Luke 15:4-5 – “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

And then remember the parable of the lost coin? Jesus said in Luke 15:8 – “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”

These parables teach us, among other things, that

  • Jesus was not satisfied with the 99 sheep who were fine
  • Jesus was not content with the 9 coins already accounted for 

-all of us who come here regularly and seek to follow Jesus.

He was not satisfied because one was still missing.

3. Jesus worked hard to seek the lost

To use the language of the parable of the lost sheep, he had to “go after” the lost one – Luke 15:5.

He didn’t stand next to the 99 and yell out to the lost one, “come on over here!” He didn’t say, “that sheep knows where we are, let him come and join us if he wants to.”

As the parable pictures, he had to do something. He had to work. He left the 99. He went after the one, walking and looking, seeking it out.

To use the language of the parable of the lost coin, he had to “seek diligently” to find that which was lost –  Luke 15:8.

He didn’t figure that one day the coin would simply show up. That someone would stumble across it.

As the parable pictures, he did something. He had to work. He lit a lamp, he swept the house and he searched carefully.

Searching for what is lost requires work. It can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating, but Jesus did it nevertheless.

Jesus sought the lost even though it was hard work.

4. Jesus sought the lost even though many were undesirable or unlike him 

  • The sheep were no doubt dirty, muddy, bleeding or sick.
  • The coin was no doubt dusty, dirty and covered with cobwebs.

Jesus sought out tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

  • These were people that did things that were wrong and offensive.
  • These were people that were different from him; from a different background and a different social setting.

Yet he sought them and welcomed them – Luke 15:2.

Even though the lost were often undesirable and unlike him, Jesus sought them out anyway.

5. Jesus sought the lost even though others didn’t approve

Luke 15:2 says, “And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” And not only that, since Jesus was with sinners, they began to call him a glutton and a drunkard – Luke 7:34. It ruined his reputation.

But Jesus was not deterred, for though

  • He made some people mad
  • He made the angels in heaven rejoice

As Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus sought the lost even though others did not approve.

6. Jesus sought the lost even though many rejected him

Mark 6:1-6 tells the story of how his hometown rejected him and they asked him, “Who do you think you are?”

Matthew 8:28-34 tells the story of how Jesus healed a demon possessed man, and how afterwards the people of the town asked Jesus to leave. “Can you leave us alone!”

The truth is most people ended up rejecting Jesus, but he sought out the lost anyway.

7. Jesus sought the lost because he loved them

Matthew 9:36 says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus felt for them and their situation; he had compassion.

And so in Matthew 10:6 (right after this) he sends his disciples to “go . . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His love moved him to send out his disciples to help him find the lost.

Jesus sought the lost because he loved them.

Sisters and brothers, as we see in this last verse . . .

We are to be like our Lord and seek out the lost as well

1. Like Jesus our purpose is to seek out the lost. Jesus sends us out to finish what he came to do. This is our mission statement; the very focus of our existence – to seek out the lost.

2. Like Jesus we cannot be satisfied that some are lost. We can’t be satisfied with the 99 sheep that are found, or with the 9 coins already in the purse. With those who already have found Jesus.

  • We cannot be satisfied because one is missing
  • We cannot be satisfied until what is lost is found

3. Like Jesus we are to work hard to seek out the lost. We have to go out. They will not come to us. They are, after all, lost. Which by definition means they don’t know their way back! They can’t find their way to us.

Searching can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating. But nevertheless, we are to do the work that is necessary to seek out the lost.

4. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even though many are undesirable or unlike us. They are dirty, as it were, from their very lostness (which, by the way, we were as well in our lostness). They come from different walks of life than we are familiar with.

Yet we are still to seek them out and welcome them.

5. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost even if some do not approve or grumble that we do so, or slander our reputation.

We do this because we know that the very angels of God rejoice when the lost are found.

6. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even if it brings us rejection. So that people say to us, “Who do you think you are?” Or, they tell us, “Go away!”

Most people will not respond to us, but we seek out the lost anyway.

7. Finally, like Jesus we are to seek the lost because we love them. They are harassed and helpless and need a Shepherd. And so we must act. And in acting we reveal our love for them.

We show them the path to Jesus and to new life and new hope.
______________

Now I know that many of us are intimidated by this, and so we are reluctant to reach out on our own.

And that’s why we are providing you with, what is a fairly simple way to do this – to invite a friend to church for a special service and a meal.

We want you to begin this week by thinking and praying about who you might ask. And then when you have the person or persons in mind, to begin to pray for them.

This is where you can start, and then next week, I’ll have some more information for you.

William Higgins

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This story comes right after Jesus’ conversation about the two greatest commandments and the story of the good Samaritan – which illustrates the second commandment to love your neighbor. In the same way this story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him becomes an illustration of what it means to love God. To learn from and be in the presence of Jesus, who makes God’s word and presence known to us, is to love God.

The Martha and Mary story also illustrates the priority of loving God as the first commandment over serving the needs of others – which Martha was doing. We are to do both and there is a time and a place for each, but loving God takes priority.

It is also interesting, in keeping with Luke’s emphasis on the lowly and outcasts, that the illustration that Jesus uses for both commandments is one of these. The Samaritan illustrates the second commandment. A woman illustrates the first commandment. (Alan Culpepper – The Gospel of Luke)

This section of Luke 10 can be seen as an inverted outline (chiasm):

A. The command to love God – v. 27

        B. The command to love your neighbor – v. 27

      `B. An illustration of neighbor love – vs. 30-37

`A. An illustration of loving God – vs. 38-42.

William

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[This is a message from 6/24/01 on the Martha/Mary story]

This familiar story turns on a contrast between two good things: kingdom service/hospitality and listening to the word of the kingdom.

First of all there is kingdom service and hospitality

In v. 4 we are told that Martha “is distracted by much service.” And she was upset her sister Mary left her to “serve alone.”

In Luke’s gospel (and as well his book of Acts) “service” is a good thing:

* In Luke 4:39 Peter’s mother in law was healed and got up to “serve” Jesus and the others in her house.
* In Luke 8:3 there were several women who had been healed, who “provided” for Jesus’ needs while he traveled.

* The word means to provide food and hospitality; to take care of someone’s needs.
* This word is also the same word that is used for the Deacon work described in Acts 6, where the seven served food to the needy in the church.

Earlier in Luke 10:8 Jesus talked about how his disciples are to accept such service as they traveled about preaching. When they were “welcomed” into people’s homes they were to eat what is set before them.

And this is exactly what Martha is doing in Luke 10:38 when she “welcomed” Jesus into her home and was busy with hospitality needs.

Second, there is listening to the word of the kingdom

In v. 39 we are told that Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what Jesus was saying.” She took up the position of a disciple and was learning his way.

In Luke “listening” is a very important word:

* In Luke 8:8 Jesus says, “let anyone with ears to hear, listen.”
* In Luke 8:18 Jesus says, “pay attention to how you listen.”
* In Luke 9:35, God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son . . .. Listen to him!”

Listening is the first and crucial step in being a disciple of Jesus.

This  brings us to . . .

The Point of Contrast

Martha is “distracted by much service” from listening to the word of the kingdom. And not only this, but she intends to distract Mary too; to take her away from Jesus’ feet.

Jesus responds – there “is need of only one thing” – which is listening. Service is good, but the “better part” is learning the way of the kingdom and this “better part” will not be taken away from Mary.

Now lets look at three applications that come from this story:

1. We must beware of the “Martha Syndrome.”  That is, someone who diligently and consistently works for the kingdom, but 
* who is so busy that they are distracted from the one thing that is  needful – listening to the word
* who is so busy that they are distracted from the better part of sitting at Jesus’ feet

This can happen to any of us. We get so busy in serving the Lord that we are drawn away from the very one we desire to bless and please.

2. The role of women in the Jesus movement.

In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus makes it clear that the presence of the kingdom messes up traditional social conventions. For instance in vs. 59-60 when the man asked to go bury his father before he came to follow Jesus, Jesus says that the kingdom takes priority even over this.

So also here. The traditional role for women was to do the hospitality chores; the serving. Martha was fulfilling this role and pressuring Mary to get with it.

But Mary takes up the traditionally male role of a disciple, learning from Jesus.

Jesus is saying in this story that the “better part” of discipleship is also for women. They are not bound to serve the kingdom in only traditional female roles of hospitality and service.

So even though it breaks social convention, Mary’s listening to Jesus and becoming a disciple “will not be taken away from” her. The kingdom takes precedence over such social conventions.

3. In our own church, when these two good things collide – service and listening to the word – we need to make sure that listening wins out.

Now, women still do more service and hospitality at our meals and beyond, than do the men. So women, I say to you especially, beware of this and never let it distract you from listening and worship.

Let the food burn up; let it get cold, let the fellowship meal be late. Choose the better part. Don’t be distracted by much service.

And men this is what I say to you – learn to serve! Never force women into social conventions that distract them from their being disciples of Jesus on an equal basis with you.

William Higgins

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Good News of a Great Joy

I want us to think briefly on a theme that was interwoven throughout our program today and the Christmas story itself, and that theme is joy.

This comes from Luke 2:10-11.  The angel of the Lord came to the shepherds and said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord.’”

We live in a world that is often not joy inducing. Just look at the headlines on any day, in any given paper and you will see stories and pictures of suffering, injustice, and death. And in our own lives we all experience our share of pain, sadness and even despair at times . And because of this – – – we often struggle with joy.

And yet the angel of the Lord comes and says, “I bring you good news of a great joy.”

(more…)

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