The Sermon on the Plain, part 1

We are now enterning a text commonly referred to as “the Sermon on the Plain.” We are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; however, not many people rush to memorize and quote Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain which is really a shame because it too is a great word from the Lord concerning the kingdom of God. So we will take our time with this study and see what the Lord is really saying and how that impacts our lives today.

The Place

The NIV says this was a “level place.” Some scholars will argue that this could have been the same address as the Sermon on the Mount based upon the langauge in the Greek. However, one need not be dogmatic about this. Scholars think Jesus had a sermon which he delivered like a “keynote” at the various places he visited. It was the same message but perhaps delivered differently. You can see the similarities between this sermon and the Sermon on the Mount because both open with the beatitudes and ending with a parable about builders. Also, it would not have been uncommon for Jesus to preach the same message or parts of a message repeatedly for the various crowds and to embed his teaching in his disciples minds.

The People

Luke tells us there was a “large crowd” of his disciples that had gathered to hear him preach on this occasion. He also lists the places that these people were from: all over Judea, Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. This is quite the mix of people and yet Jesus, the Master preacher, is able to address each group and hit their particular need perfectly.

In addition to his ability to preach, these people come out to see the Great Physician. They have come to be healed, made whole. Apparently these people were familiar with the power of Jesus and ,like the woman with the issue of blood who will be introduced in later chapters, seek to touch the hem of his garment. They knew he was the source of healing and that he had the power to make them or their loved one well and came to Jesus. Jesus no doubt met their needs and surpassed that need to an even greater need: a spiritual need. Like a good shepherd, he gently and powerfully preached the word to them.

The Point

I believe every Christian can learn from Jesus in this setting. He met their need physically to open a door spiritually. We can do this, but I think too often we simply meet a physical need and miss the spiritual need. This is “soup kitchen” religion – it meets a basic need (food, usually) but then misses the major point. “Soup kitchen” religion is not necessarily a bad thing. The question we must keep coming back is whether this activity I am engaging in is just to appease and silence my conscience, or am I seeking to impact the kingdom and change people lives. We are not just feeding people with bread that lasts for today; we are trying to get them the “bread of life,” which is so much more important.

Jesus’ Crew

We know Jesus called twelve men to be is disciples and some of can probably still sing the song we learned growing up which names all of them. We see Jesus calling the 12 in Luke 6.12-16 and we probably breeze over it pretty superficially, not really reading what is going on. We know Jesus called the twelve, so let’s move on…

However, Luke draws our attention to a very imiportant fact concerning Jesus: Jesus is up all night praying to God. What is he praying all night? Is it the model prayer he teaches his disciples to pray in Luke 11? Just quoting that prayer again and again all night? We don’t have a detailed record of what Jesus prayed nor do we need one. What we need to learn is that Jesus prays. He is about to take a big step in his ministry by calling these twelve men to follow him for the rest of his earthly life. He is going to spend hours walking from city to city with these men, instructing them in the deep truths of God’s word and will. These are the men he is preparing for the continuation of the ministry of the kingdom of God. And so for Jesus to spend the night in prayer over these matters make sense.

One more note: notice the last name on the list – Judas Iscariot. This is the man who will betray Jesus, in fact, Luke points that out to the reader that he is the traitor. Jesus was still friends with this man; God put him in Jesus’ group. Why? He had a specific purpose in Jesus’ life. Indeed, God is going to put people in our life who will be around for a while but they may betray; they become the traitor, the Judas. But never for an instant that God cannot work his purpose for you in that relationship. Just as God used Judas to make sure Jesus made it to the cross, God will use friends in your life to accomplish his purpose for your life. Even with the bad friends, God is teaching his children a lesson and is working his purpose.

And like I said, we can read this and breeze past it without making application. But here is what is being communicated: if Jesus, the unique Son of God, needed to spend an entire night in prayer in order to prepare himself to select his followers and friends, wouldn’t it make sense that we ought to spend just as much if not more time in prayer concerning the people we choose to hang around with us? Shouldn’t we lose a little sleep to pray that God would bless us in our pursuit of friendship and mate selection (for those of you singles)? I think so. I think we need to pray this kind of prayer before we go hanging out with just anyone. There have been too many times that because I did not turn myself over to God, I selected the wrong people to hang around with. I never got in serious trouble with parents or the law, but I could tell that because I chose to be friends with certain people, my relationship with the Lord suffered. Indeed, who we choose to be around and who we choose to be our friends does make an impact upon our relationship with God; either these people will help us draw closer to God, or they will pull us away from the Lord. Jesus knew it and therefore he prayed to the Father about. We too should do likewise.

Going against the grain

Have you ever been called “a pain?” “You are a real pain in the neck.” Ever been called that? I suppose if Jesus had a pain in the neck, it would have been the Pharisees. They just keep bothering him and they will not let up until he is dead on a cross. Talk about being nagged to death! In Luke 6.1-11, we see the the Pharisees once again acting as Jesus’ pain in the neck.

A little grainy

The Pharisees first attack Jesus’ disciples for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” They are picking heads of grain and rubbing them in their hands to get the kernals within, a light snack on the Sabbath. It seems that the Pharisees see the act of rubbing the heads together as harvesting the grain. But Jesus corrects them through an account from the life of David. Jesus is trying to communicate that there is something greater at work here than lawful and unlawful activity. There is a bigger picture that is grainy and fuzzy to the Pharisees; they don’t see what Jesus sees. The final assesment is that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He is greater than the Sabbath. But Jesus has to affirm this message somehow.

One Armed Bandit

So on another Sabbath, he is teaching the people. Yet again, he has a pain in his neck as the Pharisees are there. Their attitude is sick, though: they are purposefully looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of healing. This is important: they actually want Jesus to work a miracle so that they can use it against him for “working” on the Sabbath. It is sick.

But Jesus gives them what they want: he has a man with a shrivled hand stand up in front of everyone. Then he asks a very pointed question: What is lawful to do on the Sabbath? Its a good question. You Pharisees who know what is right and good to on the Sabbath, you have everything figured out, can we do good or evil on the Sabbath? Should we save a life or kill? No doubt they were dumbfounded.

So Jesus has justified himself and also vindicates his message of being the Lord of the Sabbath by working a miracle – he heals the man’s shrivled hand. The physician Luke records that it was “completely restored.” Not everyone walks away from the story happy, though. In fact, the Pharisees are fuming. Who is this Jesus that tells us which way is up or down? For centuries the Pharisees have had a monopoly upon the correct translation of the law. Yet, Jesus marches onto the scene and goes against the grain (pun intended). How dare him do that good deed to that man!

Here is the lofty picture of Jesus that is grainy to the Pharisees: mercy. The grand picture over both of these accounts is mercy. The disciples are hungry and need food. But they get no mercy from the Pharisees; they are breaking the law, Jesus! How can you let them get away with this atrocity? Because first Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and two because it is the right thing to do. The disciples needed mercy and this man with the shrivled hand needed mercy. That is the key that the Pharisees are missing in these two accounts is mercy. In fact, Jesus will quote from the prophets concerning this very thing – somewhere God has said “I desire mercy.”

Indeed, with us God desires mercy. And the reason he desires mercy is because he first bestowed mercy to us. How can we expect mercy from God when we ourselves refuse to show mercy to others? We must people of mercy, willing to show mercy to those need it, because God first showed us mercy. We don’t deserve the treatment we get from God (love, kindness, forgiveness) and yet he has given poured it out to us. We must in turn do the same thing and pour forth from our very being the same qualities to all men.

Clothing and Alcohol

My wife will tell you that I used to have a favorite pair of shorts. They were black, light-weight, very comfortable, and were my favorite pair of shorts. However, there came a time when they had been washed too much or I put on too much weight, but I ripped them pretty bad. Fortunately, Kim is very good with a needle and thread and sewed them back up for me. However, this sew job was a short lived victory; it was not very long before I ripped them again and Kim made me get rid of them. So that is the story of my favorite pair of black cargo shorts.

Jesus, in Luke 5.33ff, talks about sort of the same thing. Pharisees make a statement about Jesus’ lack of fasting; apparently Jesus is not religious enough for them. He goes around eating and drinking, and that with tax collectors and “sinners.” Indeed, Jesus will ultimately point out their hypocrisy when he compares John the Baptist and himself in Luke 7.33-34. John fasted and “looked religious” but they said he had a demon; Jesus came eating and drinking and they call him a “wine-bibber” (KJV). It is lose-lose with the Pharisees.

Parable of the Wedding

In this first encounter with the Pharisees about fasting, Jesus utilizes parabolic teaching. He tells a parable about a wedding and in it, he predicts his rejection and death by the hands of the Jews. The point he is making is that so long as he is around, his disciples do not have a reason to fast and do not have to fast to make a show for the religious elites. Jesus does not devalue fasting; he merely points out that for now, they do not fast for the bridegroom is with them. But there will come a time when he (Jesus) will be gone and then they fast.

Parable of the New Garment/New Wine

Now Jesus shifts the parable to a new patch sewn on old garments. In this parable, Jesus is making a comparison between the new covenant that he came to establish (see 22.20) and the old covenant which the Pharisees clung to so fervently. Jesus says he did not come to do a patch job; instead he came with an entirely new garment. Second, he says that he is bringing new wine which cannot be contained within the old system – the new system with burst the old asunder if made to fit in the old. No Jesus is bringing new wine in new wineskins.

Well, what about the last verse in ch.5 about the old being better? Is Jesus saying that the old is better? Not at all. Rather, he is pointing out to the elitists that they wrongly reject the new wine Jesus is bring. As one commentator wrote: “Jesus is not reversing himself and saying that his teaching is not as good as the old it replaces. The point emphasized is that people tend to want the old and reject the new, assuming (wrongly in this case) that the old is better.” Hence, Jesus condemns them for their rejection of the new covenant he is establishing.

One final word: Jesus does not condemn the Law. He is merely pointing to the fact that what he has come to establish is far greater and better than the old covenant. Indeed, this is the point argued by the Hebrew writer throughout the entire epistle: Jesus and his covenant are far greater than the old system. By Jesus’ own admission, he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5.17).

A Friend to Sinners?

In Luke 5.27-32, Luke introduces us to the personal Jesus, the Jesus that every Christian longs to be like but in the darkest recesses of their souls knows what it would entail and it makes them second guess where to plant their next step as they follow Jesus. Do you want to take that step? Do I want to take that step? Because what will follow is something makes a lot churches of Christ cringe. But imagine a world where the church did just what Jesus did in these short verses. Let’s dig in…

The Set-up

First, Jesus calls a tax collector (or if you have a bible written by the Democratic National Convention, a “republican.” That’s a joke, so laugh). And we read that and think, “of course, Matthew!” But think about who and what Matthew is: he is a tax collector, one of the most hated professionals in all of Judaism. This man works for the Romans to exact taxes from the Jews and because he probably pockets some of that, over taxes them. This man is hated. No one wants to be in his fellowship circle and no one has them on their “five” (for you techies who know what I am talking about). No one, that is, except for Jesus. Jesus invites him to become a disciple.

Now imagine the most hated person in the world in your view. I know Christians don’t hate, so let’s pretend. There is a person who just makes your skin crawl every time you think about them. There are times when you wish you could tell them off, driving them up one wall and down the other. We would never do that of course because we are Christians. But this is the person Jesus called to be his disciple.  I don’t know about you, but that stings me. That hurts to know that Jesus woudl call this person who drives me crazy, I can’t hardly stand them…and he would call them to follow in his footsteps.

But it gets better than that: Jesus expects us to make them a disciple. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we would make disciples of those people who we don’t really prefer (to put it nicely). If we are to walk step-in-step with Jesus, then this is what it means. But there is more…

The Setting

Levi apparently so enthralled that someone likes him, especially Jesus, holds a great banquet and invites everyone, including his tax collector buddies and some other degenerates from society. That is when the complaints start. The Pharisees ask the question of the disciples, “why do you (that includes Jesus) eat and drink with ‘sinners’?”

Let’s do some defining: a tax collector, as stated above, is the most hated person in the Jewish mindset. But there is someone lower than even him: the sinner. What is a “sinner?” I know instantly your minds may have gone to Romans 3.23: everyone is a sinner. Right, that’s a great “churchy” answer. But think about this: the Jews had a class of people they designated as “sinners.” These were the bad people, the people of society who were terrible sinners. They were prostitutes, criminals, and drunkards. They are the dregs of society. And so when we reexamine the question of the Pharisees, we see their dilemma. It’s a good question.

The Settling

Jesus settles the matter for us: he explains that his mission was for these people he was eating with. And we read that and make the application that we should evangelize the poor and needy. But does this really happen? There are few churches with lines full of these kind of people at our potlucks. Certainly there are churches which open soup kitchens and feed the homeless – but what about the rest. Ask yourself this: have you (personally) ever been called a friend of sinners? Has your church ever been asked why they eat with sinners? If not, why not? These are very pointed and poignant questions that demand answers from Christians everywhere. How are we viewed in regards to the poor and needy?

But even from this brief commentary on Luke 5.27-32, we begin to draw some lines. What would this entail if I really were to take this passage of Scripture seriously? I believe it would require of us time and money and energy that is all exerted for the glory of the kingdom. However, just looking around we don’t see many people doing this. Hence, they either are too busy or too poor or too tired to do the work. I think there is one thing we can all commit to beginning now – we can commit to never allowing another television show or entertaining expense or excuse keep us from doing what we know is right and that is mimicking our Lord, reaching out to the tax collectors and “sinners.”

Enter the Antagonists

Every good drama has a bad guy. He is the antagonist, the one who either does give the good guy fits or at least tries to give him fits. And the story of Jesus is no different. Luke 5.17 introduces the bad guys that Jesus will sturggle with from now until the end of his life. They are the Pharisees and the scribes. Even as far as Jerusalem these men came to see about this man who had the new teaching and with authority.

Now change the focus: here is a group of men carrying a paralytic to Jesus. See their great faith and they look for any possible way into the place where Jesus. If they can just get him to Jesus, everything will be ok. Jesus will make him well. Faced with no other option, they take their friend to the roof and starting digging through.

I suppose after the first big chunk of roof fell inside there was a ruckus as the people began to wonder what was going on. But Jesus knows and sees the faith of these men with the paralytic and, perhaps even knowing the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes who were present, utters the words in v.20: “your sins are forgiven.” What good news to hear from the lips of the Savior your sins are forgiven. And though we cannot raise the lame to walk again, we can communicate love and compassion to the spiritually lame who have been crippled by a fall and introduce them to the healing power of Jesus’ blood.

Filled with self-righteous indignation, the relgious leaders voice their disapproval…to themselves. Their assessment is correct that only God can forgive sins. But they fail to recognize that God is in their midst. The power of the Lord is present and it is manifest by the healing of the sick. Jesus does not need to hear their disapproval for he knows it already and will not back up not only his teaching but also his authority as the Son of God and the Christ by causing the paralytic to be healed.

I once had a conversation with a doctor I knew and he was explaining to me just how incredible the miracles are. This man has not walked for some time, perhaps his whole life. His legs have no doubt atrophied, his legs probably resembling sticks rather than legs. He is probably malnurished. And yet when Jesus merely speaks the word, his legs are stengthened, muscles that were not there are instantly developed and functioning, blood vessels that were not functioning as they should open up and bring blood to these new muscles, and his strength is restored to him so that stands up immediately. It is, in every sense of the word, a miracle.

I wonder what you are thinking right now. Everyone that saw the great work of the Lord praised God. What about us? We were once spiritual paralytics, held in bondage to the kingdom of darkness, unable to walk in the paths of rigtheousness. But when the Lord spoke word and forgave us all our sins, he made us well and caused us to walk. We ought to be praising God everyday for healing he has given. Do not be like the antagonists and harden your heart. Instead, rejoice with the crowds and declare, “we have seen remarkable things today.”

He Touched Him

The courteous thing to do in our culture when you are sick is to cover you mouth when you cough, not shake hands with folks, and keep your distance from people, perhaps even staying home from work or school. This is a mild form of the quarantine a leper in first century Palestine endured for the rest of their life. As stipulated in the Law, a leper could not enter the camp, they had to go about shouting “Unclean,” and therefore could not have contact with family, friends, or kinsmen. Because of the severity of the quarantine, they could not even participate in fellowship not only with countrymen, they could not engage in worship of God. It was a lonely existence with not only social and physical effects, but also psychological effects.

The leper was the type of what sin does to an individual. Sin cuts a person off from the camp. They are out of fellowship with God’s people and God himself. Left alone over time, it will consume the individual and, if left within the church, will damage other members of the body. Hence, it must be dwelt with in a drastic manner, i.e. cut off from the camp.

The Great Physician…

We come across Jesus in Luke 5.12ff in a certain city. Luke did not deem it necessary to record the city’s name. What is important to doctor Luke is the case of the leper: the leper is “covered” or “full” of leprosy. This disease has just eaten up this poor man. Apparently, though, he has some prior knowledge of the healing capablities of Jesus because he falls prostrate before the Lord (a position of worship) and begs Jesus to heal him. He believes Jesus can heal him but does not know if Jesus is willing to do what the leper believes he can do. After all, no one associates with lepers – you don’t even talk with a leper. They are unclean, cut off from the camp.

Jesus is willing not just to heal him but to offer something no one else would do – he touched the leper. This was a social “no, no.” Surely, Jesus knows you are not supposed to do that. Yes, but what this man needs is more important than what is socially acceptable; he needs compassion. He needs to know someone, anyone cares. And Jesus does care. Before the lepers can come experience the healing of the Master, they need to know he cares, they need to know we care. Everyday we see spiritual lepers around us, but do they know that Jesus cares. The only way they know this is if his hands are reaching out these social outcasts who are pushed to the edge of society. I am talking about the church.

Jesus came for the disenfranchised, the emarginated, those scorned by society. By reaching out and touching this social outcast, the leper, he is demonstrating his mission. He came specifically for this man, this leper. Jesus came to help him. And so when Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man, he is fulfilling a part of his mission.


Jesus tells this former leper what to do: he is still required to do something under tha Law, namely presentation before the priest. So with us, once we show compassion to the spiritual lepers around us, we do not leave them in that state; we point them toward healing and follow up by pointing them to the requirements of the high priest. We “teach them to observe everything Jesus has commanded.” Do not leave the leper to “drip dry in the pew;” they will need direction and guidance, just as this leper Jesus contacted did.

…And Praying

The more Jesus heals, the more popular he becomes. Everywhere the good news of the Great Physician spreads to those in need of healing. But notice that Jesus does not lose focus. He still has alone time with God to meditate, clear away the distractions, and focus on God. It can be a draining thing to be in contact with the social outcasts all day. It takes time and energy. But never lose focus on the power source of our ministry: God. He is the one who gives the increase and provides healing for the lepers. Always allow time for alone time with God and prayer time with him.

Fishers of Men

I suppose it was very early when he saw the appraoching crowd. Tired, smelly, and bedraggled, the weary fishermen dragged their boats ashore and proceeded to clean their nets. The frustration from the previous night weighted heavily upon them and the ruckus approaching only compounded the irritation. But as the crowd approached they began to realize it waas not simply a flock of people aimlessly making their way along the lake shore, they were being lead and taught to as well. And as the work of the night ws finished and fatigue settled into the joints and muscles of the fishermen, the sound of the sweet voice of the teacher seemed to calm them as Jesus came near and stopped before them.

I suppose he asked them whose boats they were and when heard that one belonged to Peter (a man he has had previous contact with, see John 1.42), he climbed aboard and asked to set out into the lake a small ways so that the crowd caould hear him better. You could almost see the little dark cloud of frustration form above the head of Peter as the words come from the lips of Jesus. But he knows the report of many people, even his own brother, about Jesus and so sets out into the water a bit.

The morning sun is bright and warm and the lulling boat comforting for the men. I would not be suprised if Peter nodded off for a few moments before catching himself and starting a little before refocusing on Jesus and his teaching. After all, he is speaking the word of God. Sometime later, perhaps mid-morning or early afternoon, Jesus wraps it up and looks to Peter. He wants to set out into the deep…and that for a catch of fish. Are you kidding me? A carpenter telling an experienced fisherman like Peter “how the cow ate the cabbage” and how to do his job? Doesn’t this guy know we have fished all night and haven’t caught anything? Well, he is sure going to hear it from Peter. And he lays it on him.

Peter probably explained the situation with much vim and vinegar, almost scolding Jesus for his ridiculous request. Now it isn’t in the text, but I would not be surprised if Jesus gave him “the look.” The kind of look that a mother gives her children when they ask “why” or “how do you know that.” The kind of look that communicates someone has inside information: raised eyebrows, chin down, slight frown and piercing eyes. Maybe Jesus did this, maybe not. What I know is something compelled Peter to do what Jesus said in spite of good judgment.

Notice what happens: simple obedience delivers stupendous results. Their nets are so full of fish that their nets begin to break and they pile so much fish in their boats that full of fish that they begin to sink. Peter realizes something amazing has happened and falling before Jesus he pleads for Jesus to “depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus did not depart from him; he called him first, to be his friend, second, to his disciple, and third, to be an apostle. Before Jesus can call him to these things, though, Peter must acknowledge what he is before Almighty God: individually, he is a sinner.

When we are finally confronted with the Son of God after fishing in vain all night, what is our response? Do we still cling to our nets and tell Jesus, “Oh, thanks for the offer, but I think I’ve just about got it.” I sbumit to you that our attitude ought to be the same as Peter’s: we recognize who we are before him (sinners) and we accept him as Lord of our life. Follow this encounter with Jesus, the disciples leave everything (boats, nets) and follow Jesus. Luke does not record the words of Jesus in Matthew and Mark, but the message is their: follow me. Jesus does not want us in our boats fishing without him. Without him, there is no success. Without him, no men are caught. We must turn our lives and efforts over to the master of ocean and earth and sky and recoginze his authority over us.

One more thing: what kind of men did Jesus call? These men are not the religious elitists Jesus will have to deal with in his ministry. These men are simple, not arrogant or pompous. They are low level, working class men, who one day will be called “ignorant” by the upper class elitists (see Acts 4.13). That goes with recognizing who we are before God – humility. These were simple, humble people Jesus called to follow him for the purpose of equipping them to evangelize the world. Jesus can catch fish all day long, but that is not what he came for; he came to catch men, especially those who are looked down upon and in a humble position.

Confirming the Word

Since my sophomore year of high school, I have been into lifting weights. In fact, just a little later today I will be hitting the gym to workout. Suppose I were to come to you and tell you that I could bench press 400 lbs. What would be your the first thing you would ask me to do? “Prove it.” Right? You want proof that I can indeed bench press 400 lbs. And if I could not then you can know whether or not I can do what I claim to be able to do.

Well, in all honest, I cannot bench press 400 lbs. While I can probably max out at 230 or 240, that is not 400 lbs. But this serves to illustrate what is happening in Luke 4.31-44 (and even into chapter 5). Jesus is making some very bold claims: as we saw in verses 18-21, he is claiming to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. God has made some claims about Jesus as well: Luke 3.22b, God says that Jesus is his Son. Even the devil knows who Jesus is when he tempted him: “since you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4.3, 9). So Jesus is claiming to be able to spiritually bench press not just 400 lbs., but and entire world of sin. After all, that is his mission – to die for the sins of the world. Only the Son of God can offer a sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father that will enable God to forgive the sins of mankind.

But it is not enough for Jesus to claim this. He, being human, understands the mind of man and knows what man will ask him to do: prove it. The cry of every man and woman is for proof that Jesus is the Son of God and is able to do what he claims he can, namely redeem us from a world of sin, forgive us all our sins, and grant us eternity with the Father. So Jesus, prove it.

Authority over demons

Verses 31-32 gives us the context for the following miracles. Jesus is teaching (v.31) as he travels throughout Galilee and the people are amazed at his teaching. But they are not amazed because of his eloquence or deep booming voice or because he was some kind of a showman. Certainly Jesus could have been all these but the reason the people are amazed at his teaching is because “his message had authority.” There was power behind. What kind of power are we talking about?

Verses 33-37 gives us the first demonstration of the authority behind his message. Jesus exercises authority over demons. A man with a demon in the synagogue has a confrontation with Jesus and acknowledges who Jesus is: the Holy One of God. Notice the spirit realm knows and acknowledges the second person of the Godhead. Jesus, vested with divine authority to back the message preached, rebukes the demon and causes it to come out of the man. The people are amazed and the news about Jesus spreads. The have heard his teaching (v.36) and recognize the power and authority behind it.

Authority over sickness

Now we see Jesus as the master over human disease and sickness. Peter’s (Luke calls him Simon in this context) mother-in-law is sick. Jesus heals her. Many people come as the sun is setting. There are sick people and also more demon possessed people. Jesus heals the sick and still has the power to drive out demons. He is not just a one shot guy who can only perform a miracle when it is convenient or by slight of hand when no one is looking; his power is constant. Notice also there is more confirmation from the spirit realm as to the identity of Jesus: he is the Son of God and the Messiah.

Jesus does not allow his power or fame to distract him. Very early he wakes up and goes out spend some time in a solitary place no doubt praying (see Mark 1.35). Luke is highlighting Jesus’ dependence upon the Father as the power source and the one who enables him to do what he is doing. Jesus is constantly mindful of the fact that God is at work through him. We would all do well to note the humility of Jesus in acknowledge the Father as the source of all power. We should not become so busy that we cannot take time out of our day (even if it is early in the morning) to have some quiet time with the Father in prayer.

I believe the temptation is always in front of Jesus to remain popular. The people want him to stay (as perhaps his hometown did) and be their miracle worker – clear the hospitals, cleanse the town, etc. But because Jesus has had time to refocus and realign himself with the will of God, he recognizes that he must move on and keep preaching elsewhere. And that is what he does in the synagogues of Judea.

We see Jesus traveling about preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God. But his message is not merely word; there is action, power behind it. Jesus is confirming the word spoken by the miracles he is working thereby giving authority to his message. And we have this same confirmed word today. Christ and his apostles have done the dirty work of confirming the word for us, thus proving it and the power behind it. We do not have a dead letter religion, Catholicism notwithstanding. We have a living word and with authority. We have eyewitness testimony and confirmation of the word. And we “will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts” (2 Peter 1.19).

A Prophet without Honor

Perhaps you’ve heard of Randy Pausch, the teacher diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who recently delivered his “final lecture” to his students. If not, you can click this link to view his appearance on Oprah. During his speech, he mentions how family can really humble you and how when he was working on his doctorate and he was complaining about how hard the work was, his mother reminded him that when his dad was his age, he was in Germany fighting the Nazis. When he finally did get his doctorate, his mother would introduce him and explain that “he is a doctor, but not the kind that helps people.” Indeed, when I go home, it does not take for someone to say just the right thing at just the right time which just hits me square between the eyes and sets me back in place.

Well, in Luke 4.14ff, Jesus goes home. He goes back to the Nazareth, a place that seems to have been a despised place (see John 1.46). It was just a dusty little town, more like a hamlet really. But this is where the Lord was from – he grew up here and not doubt learned many things from the community that raised him. Notice, in verse 15, “everyone praised him.” The people loved him. Jesus has just come out of the wilderness where he was triumphant over the prince of darkness and before that he has the declaration from heaven that he is God’s Son. If it were me, I’d be feeling pretty good right now – he’s popular and people like him and his message. That is until he arrives home.

One Sabbath

As was his custom (Jesus went to “church services” regularly), he goes to synagogue on Sabbath. And that morning, he has something to say. It would seem the town had heard of the great things Jesus was doing everywhere and perhaps they beeseeched him to read. So they hand him the scroll. Now when they met on the Sabbath, the officiator did not say, “Ok, this morning, let’s open our Old Testaments to…” When they picked up the scroll, the continued reading where they left off last Sabbath. And so by divine providence, the scroll is passed to Jesus opened to Isaiah. He stands to read but when he has read he sits to teach, the proper place for a rabbi in those days. Everyone is waiting for a word from their “golden boy.” What is Jesus going to say? We know he teaches wonderful things elsewhere; what will he say here?

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And the crowd goes wild. “Wow!! Isn’t he something? What a gracious word! Isn’t that Joseph’s son?” But they don’t really understand what Jesus is saying. Jesus is revealing what he is really about. The scripture he reads says he has a specific mission: preach good news to the poor, set the captive free, give sight to the blind, release the oppressed, proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. Jesus is explaining that he has come to help the helpless. He has come to fight for the little guy. He came for the disenfranchised and the emarginated. That’s what is fulfilled. This is who Jesus came to save. Newsflash, hometown: salvation is not just for you nor is it just for the Jew. Salvation is for all men.

Push the Envelope

Jesus presses the issue: “Physician, heal thyself.” The hometown has heard of what Jesus has done in the other towns and cities. No doubt they wanted the hospitals cleared by Jesus. Here they have their own personal miracle worker. Surely they expected Jesus to stay around and stay popular. After all, they made him who he is, right?

Not with Jesus. He has a different mission and mindset. If he stays home or if he stays popular, the mission cannot be accomplished. And because of his message, he will not be accepted. He uses two examples of prophets: Elijah and Elisha. And he explains that they did not go to any of Israel, though there were widows and lepers in Israel, but they went to Gentiles. Therefore, Nazareth, this prophet (Jesus) is also going to help the Gentiles by providing salvation for them.

As the text says, the hometown crowd is furious. They cannot believe their ears. Their golden boy isn’t here to do their bidding and heed their beck and call. Let’s get him out of here. Let’s kill him. If Jesus is not going to do what we want him to do, we have no further use for him. They might as well be crying out “crucify him!” But this is not Jesus’ fight nor his time. And he slips from them no problem.

I believe we see what kind of attitude we are not to have. First, we must never view salvation as being for only a select few or for “our church” only. Salvation is for all men. Be it the CEO of the company or the homeless man on the corner, Jesus died “once for all.” Second, we learn not to kill the prophet. This is what upset Jesus so much about Jerusalem when he saw her. No doubt with tears in his eyes he said those words, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.” May the Lord deal with us as he sees fit if we should every kill our prophets and spiritually stone those sent to us. May we never run our prophets out of town or take them to the cliffs to throw them down.