“An Upside-down Kingdom”
I do not believe I will ever forget that doctor. As most physicians, he had a busy schedule. His day was filled with seeing patients, diagnosing problems, and writing prescriptions. Yet, as I watched a young single mom with a small baby in her arms enter his office, he gave her his undivided attention. His eyes were full of compassion. He listened carefully. Somehow he seemed to understand she was just trying to survive from one day to the next. Then, he did something one rarely sees: He offered a prayer on her behalf then he gave her a big hug. When I saw that, I was reminded of the gospel of Luke. The writer is a doctor, and he takes an unusual approach to the story about Jesus. He includes many events in Jesus' life when He ministered to and blessed people who had been cast aside by society. He presents the Son of God as one who is truly interested in the overlooked, neglected, and abused people of this world. Luke shows to us the heart of Jesus. He offers his Savior as the Savior of the entire world, no matter what people look like, where they live, or the problems they face. For Luke, Jesus goes against the grain. He reaches out to those who are not wealthy, powerful, or important and He focuses on those who need help. As we open the pages of this Gospel, we will discover Jesus as one who cares about all people. He offers His love and salvation to everyone, no questions asked. Perhaps you are looking for that kind of acceptance. If so, you might want to join us for today's lesson as Luke tells us about a compassionate Savior.
Have you ever come away from a doctor appointment and felt a little bit disappointed? You went to see the doctor because you had a health concern or problem, yet the information provided really did not answer all of your questions. Oh, I suppose that happens to all of us at one time or another. We all are a little bit disappointed because we do not get enough information. Well, there is a book in the New Testament part of the Bible that is written by a doctor. And that sounds just a little bit odd, doesn't it? Why would a doctor or physician write a book that is included in God's Word? Well, obviously the answer is he had something very important to share concerning the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is so important he spreads it out over two books, the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Now unlike some doctors today, Luke gives us lots of information. It is the longest of all of the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And as you will be able to tell, as we work through his message, Luke is very well educated. He writes with language that the other writers do not use. He records stories that are not found in Matthew, Mark, and John. He also addresses this very fine and orderly account to a man named Theophilus. We don't know for sure who he was, perhaps a local ruler or dignitary. So, based upon his background as a doctor, Luke writes differently than the other three gospel writers. He writes a story about Jesus a few years after Mark wrote his gospel story, and perhaps about the same time or a little bit earlier than Matthew writes his account. As he states in his introduction, this story about Jesus comes from historical facts, from first-hand information. It is not made up. It is not some kind of a fable or fairytale. Oh, Luke even traveled with the apostle Paul and he heard him talk about Jesus and preach about Jesus and some of the things that Jesus said and did throughout His ministry. Right after those events was when Luke wrote his gospel account. Several themes are presented in these 23 chapters, and yet, they all revolve around one primary thought: all people, throughout all nations are loved by God. That includes males and females. That includes the wealthy and the poor. That includes the popular and the neglected, and the old and the young. It includes all people. No one is overlooked. For through His son Jesus, God extends His compassion to the whole world. It is to the important. It is to be less important. He offers His mercies to the women and the children. He blesses those who are weak and helpless. Those are some of the things that we find here in Luke's Gospel. It reminds us that God loves all people. He always has and He always will. Many of Luke's stories revolve around Jesus' teaching and outreach to those who recognize they have sin in their life and they need a solution for it. Something else we notice about his gospel is that he emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, over and over again. We find that especially to be true in the book of Acts. And here's one more thing: he writes more about the subject of prayer than any other New Testament writer. As we look now into Luke's Gospel, it seems that he divides it into three primary parts. The first one emphasizes Jesus' ministry among the people. He came to minister to and serve the whole world. On the day when Joseph and Mary took their baby, Jesus, into the Temple to dedicate Him to the Lord and offer sacrifices, they encountered a man named Simeon. Simeon was a righteous man filled with the Holy Spirit. God communicated to him one day, he would not experience death until he first saw the Savior of the world. When Mary and Joseph came in with their son, Jesus, Simeon knew that this was the One, and this was a very special moment for him. We find that story recorded in the 2nd chapter beginning with verse 28. <Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”> Yes, Simeon recognized that Jesus was the Savior of the world. He brought life and salvation to both the Jews and the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. And as Simeon saw Jesus, he now could say, "Father, I have seen Your salvation and it's okay if I now experience death." From that time on, Luke presents Jesus as one who goes out and ministers to both the Jews and the Gentiles, to all people, as we have already mentioned. In the next eight chapters, Luke includes a variety of stories. Jesus heals a man with leprosy and one who is paralyzed in chapter 5. He calms a storm out on the Sea of Galilee in chapter 8. And then, He feeds thousands of people with just a few fish and some small loaves of bread. Jesus even raises people from the dead in chapters 7 and 8. And He begins to tell some stories, or what we call parables, in the 10th chapter. Matthew includes three chapters revolved around the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus spoke. Luke records a shorter version of that in the 6th chapter. Now through these events, and these miracles, and all of these parables, Jesus demonstrates once again that He came from His Father, that His ministry is based upon the authority that His Father has given to Him and He does and He says things always giving credit and praise to God in heaven. Jesus also came to this Earth to relate to people and to minister to those who were outcasts, overlooked, neglected, and abused. One of the best places where we see that happening is in the 4th chapter. Let's notice these words, which begin in verse 16. <He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom, and He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”> Once Jesus finished reading from Isaiah, He gave the scroll back to the attendant then He sat down. And it was then Jesus said, "Today, that passage has been fulfilled in your hearing." In other words, I am the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. I am the One who brings good news and ministers to those who are oppressed and who are blind and who have problems in their life. Well, His hometown friends and family members did not take too kindly to what He said so they drove Jesus out of town and they were about to put Him to death when He escaped from their grasp. Yet from that moment on, Jesus was a controversial figure in the eyes of many people and many tried to put Him to death. But, Jesus was a Minister, He was a servant, and He blessed everyone who came to Him, no matter who they were. The transition to the second part of Luke's story about Jesus is in chapter 9. We find these words from Jesus himself in verse 22: <"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."> Jesus shared those words with His disciples on a number of occasions, and then the time for Him to experience that finally came, in that 9th chapter. Notice what he states in verse 51: <As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.> Jesus had prepared His disciples for what was to happen. And now, at the end of chapter 9, He turns toward Jerusalem and He makes His way to that city to experience all of the things that God had in store for Him. However for the next ten chapters, Luke tells some very familiar stories that Jesus shares on the way to Jerusalem, and those stories are called parables. He shares these parables with His disciples in hopes that they will understand what it means to follow Him in true discipleship. And through these parables, He teaches even us, still today, what it means to follow Him, to walk in His footsteps, and to truly be recognized as a disciple. Oh, there are many parables that are found here in chapter 10 through chapter 18. We won't look at all of them, but I do want to highlight about four that teach us some things about discipleship. The first one is found in chapter 10, the story of the good Samaritan. Perhaps we have all heard that story before. It's the story about a Jewish man walking down the road one day when he is ambushed, robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two of his fellow countrymen, two Jews, were walking down the road and they saw him in need; and yet, they passed by on the other side. They did not want to get involved. Then there was a Samaritan who walked down that road. He saw that same Jewish man in need of some assistance and he stopped and offered assistance. And that was very strange, because the Samaritans and the Jews were at odds with each other. They did not like each other at all, and yet this Samaritan saw someone in need of help and he helped him. He put him on his own donkey. He went to the village nearby and he told the innkeeper to take care of this man's needs; and, he gave him money to do so. He then stated that if there is more money required he would pay him that amount when he came back on his return visit. Oh, the story of the good Samaritan invites us to ask ourselves some questions about who we are as Jesus' disciples. Am I going to help those people around me, or will I leave that responsibility to someone else? But perhaps here is the greatest question: Am I more concerned about my own theology or my own religious beliefs than I am about putting that into practice? Here's another story. It's found in the 12th chapter. It's the parable of the rich fool. In this story, Jesus describes a man who is wealthy. He enjoys abundant money and blessings, he makes good crops, and he has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it. So, he decides to tear down his barns and build even bigger ones. He wants to sit back and enjoy life, to eat, drink, and be merry. Yet because of that kind of attitude, his soul is required of him that night. Not only does he lose his life but he loses all of his earthly possessions. And Jesus teaches us something very important about discipleship with that parable. He wants His followers to understand that our wealth is not our personal possession, to be used only for our security and our pleasure. However, wealth is on loan to us from God and we are to use our wealth in order to bring glory to Him and to be a blessing and a benefit to others around us. Jesus ended that parable with these words: <"Do not store up things for yourself, rather be rich toward God."> And that is the message of that particular story. Here is another one. It is found in chapter 15. It, too, is perhaps one of the most familiar. It's the story of the lost son. One day a younger son of two came to his dad and demanded from him to give him his share of the inheritance. It was not time to do so, but because the man loved his son he did just that. As soon as the young boy received his inheritance, he traveled to a foreign country. There he spent his money foolishly and, before he knew it, it was gone. The only kind of employment he could find was feeding pigs in a pig pen, and the only food he could find to eat was that very same feed. But one day he came to his senses. He realized that his father's servants had it better back home that he had it here in the pig pen, so he decided to go back home, to ask for forgiveness and to have some kind of a position with his father's servants. In the meantime, the father, representing God, looked every day for the return of his son. When he saw him coming down the road, on that occasion, he got up and he ran to greet him. He embraced and kissed his son and brought him back into the village. And he made the announcement, "This, my son who was lost, is now found;" and everyone began to celebrate. Oh, the point of that story is very simply this: Disciples of Jesus Christ are to appreciate the love and the grace of God. And when sin invades our life, we are to remember that God always welcomes us back and wants to forgive us. Perhaps the greatest message we can learn from that story in Luke chapter 15 is this: God rejoices over those who come home to Him. Let me share one more story with us. It is found in chapter 18. It's the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. One day, these two individuals, a Pharisee, a righteous man, religious man, goes into the Temple to pray, and so does the tax collector, or a sinner. The Pharisee begins to pray, bragging about who he is and what he is doing. He even thanks God that he is not like that sinner over there in the corner. In the meantime, the tax collector humbles himself, beats upon his chest, and he prays for God's mercy and for God's forgiveness. And Jesus states, "It is that man, the sinner, who goes home right in God's sight, instead of the Pharisee, because their attitudes are so totally different." Yes, disciples who follow Jesus take a stand with the sinners of this world. We are never to look down upon other people as better than them. We are not in some special class of followers of Jesus Christ. Rather, a disciple realizes the need to encounter God and cry out for forgiveness. Jesus' message, in all of these stories, revolves around discipleship: "This is what your life is supposed to look like if you want to follow Me." In the final part of his gospel, Luke focuses on the last week of Jesus' life, in 285 verses. Jesus enters the capital city and events quickly begin to unfold that will soon lead to His death upon the cross of Calvary. He is bombarded with questions about His political and religious beliefs. He shares the Last Supper with His disciples. He is falsely accused and put on trial for His life, and is found guilty. After His death, His body is taken down and buried in a tomb that has never before been used. Then, Luke focuses on the story of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Oh, Luke truly puts together a very complete and accurate story of Jesus' life and ministry, His death, His resurrection, and finally His ascension into heaven. And yet, it seems that at the very center, at the very heart, of Luke's message is the story of salvation. He brings good news to all people. He provides the forgiveness of sin and the free gift of eternal life. And that is perhaps best seen in the story of Zacchaeus, in chapter 19. One day, a short man by the name of Zacchaeus climbed into a tree to see Jesus. And as Jesus passed that way, he saw Him and Jesus recognized Zacchaeus, and called him by name, and said, "Come down because I will share a meal with you in your home, today." And then we find these most important words, in verses 9 and 10: <"Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."> Oh, that perhaps is the key verse for Luke's Gospel: The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, came to seek and to save what is lost. When I think about my own life, I realize Jesus Christ came to Earth to save me. He came to save me from sin and Satan, and to save me for an eternal life with Him in heaven. He came to bring me back into that loving relationship with God. Yes it is true, people from all walks of life can relate to Luke's story about Jesus Christ. It does not matter who we are or where we live, God loves us. It does not matter what our life might look like to us or to other people, Jesus sees a life that He wants to find, and to save, and to change. And Jesus then invites us to be His disciple. My prayer for you is that as you continue to study Luke's Gospel, you will recognize the wonderful ministry that Jesus came to Earth to provide to you, the free gift of salvation that He offers. And, I would pray that you would receive that salvation and decide to become a disciple, a true follower, of Jesus Christ.
The doctor, Luke, writes an orderly account of Jesus' life and ministry. It highlights Jesus' tender touch of compassion on a world desperately in need of it. It is a story of good news for those who don't get much. In the beginning, the angels announced the good news, as Jesus entered the world. In the end, His disciples are filled with great joy as they carry on His ministry. Oh, Jesus offered hope and salvation to all people, then, and He still does, now. That is one reason why He came to this Earth. In a world striving for attention, power, and authority, Jesus comes to those who are outcasts, lonely, and needing help. Luke reminds us that no matter who we are we can all benefit from Jesus' compassion and salvation.
Thank you for being a part of today's lesson. Luke's Gospel story about Jesus touches our hearts. He presents One who loves, and who came to save all people. I am thankful for Luke's detailed account of Jesus' ministry of compassion. This lesson is available on our website. If you would like to hear or view it again, go to keytothekingdom.com. There you can download it and other lessons in a variety of formats. It does not cost anything and there is no commitment required. While you are on the website, I hope you will take some time to send me a message by e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you and I promise to respond. By calling the number on the screen, you can request a free Bible study to be sent to you by mail. Leave your name and address and we will be happy to mail it to you in a few days. It too is free and hopefully will assist you in knowing more about a loving Savior named Jesus. Our goal at "Key to the Kingdom" is to offer lessons that will encourage you in your daily walk with the Lord. Please know we are praying for you and trust that God will bless you as you reach out to Him. Thank you for inviting us into your home for today's message. I hope you will tune in again next week as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."