Everyone likes to announce the arrival of their long expected child. When my wife and I were expecting our daughter my wife set about creating birth announcements. I’m sure you have seen (and even received) these special greeting cards.
If you feel a little tired after reading this portion of Scripture, there is a reason for that. I don’t know if you realized it or not, but in those 7 verses you traveled almost 3,000 miles.
Good afternoon. My name is Matt Timmons and I am a pastor here in town. And I would like to talk to you today about the need for repentance.
Now some of you probably do not know what that is. It might be the first time you’ve ever heard the word. Even if you’ve gone to church a lot, you might only be vaguely familiar with the word.
Others of you might be thinking about something completely different than what I’m talking about. When I say the word “repentance” it makes you think about sitting in a box and talking to a priest through a little window.
That’s not what I’m talking about though. What I’m talking about is true repentance—that is, being so sorry for the things you’ve done wrong—for having sinned against God—that you turn away from them to God for forgiveness. That’s what I mean when I talk about repentance.
I think that this is perhaps one of the most important things that I could talk to you about today. Perhaps it is the most important thing you will ever hear. Why do I say that? It is because without true repentance, there is no escaping eternal ruin.
I want you to listen to what Jesus says in the Bible. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
This passage is kind of funny because Jesus was talking to some really religious guys here. These were the kind of guys who went to church every week and were even leaders in the church. And by all outward appearances, they were very ethical people. They were the kind of people you would probably want as neighbors. But Jesus said to them, “If you do not repudiate the sins in your life and turn to God, you are not going to go to heaven. You are going to go to hell.”
Oddly enough, most people today make that same mistake that those people in Jesus’ day make. Most people think they are going to go to heaven when they die. Surveys say that around 80-90% of people think that way. I would assume that if we took a poll here, that would be true of us here today. But I want you to understand that it takes more than simply dying to get into heaven. The Bible says that to avoid going to hell, you must repent.
If you think about it too, you will understand why this is true. If you understand it correctly, you will see the connection between repentance and love.
A number of years ago I was talking to my daughter after she had disobeyed me. At the time she was quite obstinate, and she was even stubbornly resisting my discipline of her. So I began to talk to her about what she had done. I told her, “It hurts me when you disobey me. It really makes me sad.” At that moment her crusty little heart melted. All of a sudden she burst into tears, and she threw herself into my arms.
That was her three year old way of repenting. But what made her do it? It was her love for me. She couldn’t stand to think that she had hurt me because she loved me.
The same is true in regard to the Lord. God will only embrace and eternally comfort those who love him. And those who love him will find themselves deeply grieved that they have in any way offended him.
So I hope you understand that you cannot get to heaven without repentance. And if you think that you are in a state of salvation, but you have never repented, please recognize that you are deceived. And that needs to be corrected. God tells us here that the repentance-less life is the straight track to hell.
Yet, if you turn to him and express regret over your sins, you can be assured that God will be gracious to you. He is tender to those who look to him in faith, and He stands with his arms outstretched, ready to receive you back. He will not turn you away. Neither will he deal abrasively with you for your sins, should you bring them to him. Rather, if you turn to him with repentance in your heart, he will open wide the gates of heaven to you.
A young painter once returned to his studio to find a note attached to a portrait that he was working on. As he looked at the note he could discern that it was the obvious handwriting of one of the great, master painters of the time. It seemed that the genius artist had paid him the honor of stopping by.
Unfortunately, he had called while the young man was out.
What is interesting is that the message contained only one word. It was the Latin word, “Amplius.” It is the root of our word “amplify” or amplification. We use it in reference to sound. But it simply means larger.
That word became the young man’s life inspiration. From that point on he continually thought “Larger,” and it was this mindset that enabled him to attain to a level of high honor in his work.
Looking back over our study of this gospel, we might sum up what we have witnessed with that same word: Amplius. Over the course of these pages Jesus has presented to us a large love.
Some of you may remember that the very first message that commenced this journey was entitled, “The Crazy Love of Jesus.” It was love that impelled him to set his face towards Jerusalem, the place where he knew he would die.
Then we have seen other instances of this love throughout this study. The parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son—all of these were somewhat emotional because of what they say about the love of Christ for lost sinners like us. In more recent times we heard Jesus express his love when he said that “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Indeed, every step in this journey has been taken in love. And no doubt, we end our journey today witnessing the amplification of Christ’s love. As he makes his final approach to Jerusalem we see that Jesus has a large love for his people. And this love can be seen both in the plea that he makes and the tears that he sheds.
Now, you will likely discern where he sheds the tears. That is, of course, referenced in verses 41-44. But what about the plea that he makes? That one might puzzle you. Because in verses 29-40 he barely utters a word. You might wonder where the plea is.
But what I want you to understand is that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a non verbal plea. As he makes this final approach to the city, he makes an appeal to us spectators to trust him as our messianic savior.
I. Jesus’s love is evident in the plea he makes [29-40]
In verses 29-40 we are told about how Jesus rode into Jerusalem for what is typically called his “Triumphal Entry.” But this is more just a description of him coming into town in a grand way. The drama of this event was specifically set up in order to call the people to recognize who he was as their savior and trust in him.
What is he doing here but unabashedly proclaiming himself as their messiah, is he not?. If ever Jesus was explicit about who he was, it is here!
Some of you might remember that I preached on this passage on Palm Sunday just over 2 years ago. And in that message I said that Jesus is intentionally provoking the people. As we read the first couple of verses, what we find is that the whole event was staged.
You see that it starts off in verse 29 by telling us that Jesus had drawn near to Bethany and Bethpage. Now these cities were located just a hop, jump, and a skip away from Jerusalem.
And notice what Jesus does. He sends guys ahead to steal a donkey. Yes. You heard right. They were to basically steal it. Jesus said, “you are going to find a donkey tied up there. Go get it for me. If anyone asks you what you are doing, tell them that the Lord has need of it.”
Now, do you see what is happening? Of course someone’s going to ask, “What are you doing?” The disciples are stealing a donkey! They are not going to just sit around and watch their donkey get carted off. They’re going to say, “Hey! What are you doing with my donkey?!” When they find out that Jesus needs it, that’s going to start a little buzz through town.
You can imagine how that news just spreads like wildfire. Everybody knows Jesus by this point. He’s the miracle guy. He’s the one people are saying is the messiah. That he’s coming to Jerusalem publically (remember that last time he showed up in Jerusalem, he snuck in secretly) is a big thing.
And that he’s going to be riding on a donkey! Now, think about this. Everybody knows their OT. Everyone knows the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Everybody knows that. Jesus knows that. So this is all staged. Jesus intentionally provokes these people to be thinking, “MESSIAH! SAVIOR!”
He doesn’t even shy away from it, does he? I mean the Pharisees get a little annoyed with all the singing and the hosannas. They tell Jesus to make the people pipe down. But what does Jesus do? You know, there were times when he told people, “Be sure you do not tell anyone.” There were times when he was secretive about his identity. But not here. He says, “If they don’t say anything, these rocks will cry out.” In other words, my identity has to be known. I can’t keep it a secret any longer.
Now, what I want you to do is think about what is going on here. Jesus is intentionally letting the cat out of the bag as to who he is. It is nothing other than full disclosure as to who he is. Jesus proclaims in the clearest terms, “I am your Messiah. I am your Savior. I am the one who brings you peace with God.” And the implied question is, “Won’t you follow me?”
I think we can liken it to how presidents in the United States act from time to time. When a president’s poll numbers drop, what does he do? Well, he’s got to get people to trust him. He’s got to win their hearts and get them to believe that he is someone they can follow. So, typically, he will present himself to the people in a more grandiose way. When he walks into a room, they’ll pull out all the stops. They’ll play “Hail to the Chief” in the background. They’ll have a little entourage that escorts him. They’ll make him out to be a real leader. It’s all a staged event to get people to think, “He’s my guy. He’s the kind of fellow I can follow.”
Or maybe we can liken it to a woman who is trying to woo her man. Maybe they’ve been having some difficulties in their marriage. She doesn’t want to give up on him because she still loves him. So what does she do? She dresses up a little. She goes out of her way to not look frumpy. She gets her hair done. She puts on a little lipstick. She even puts on a little perfume.
Why does she do all that? Why does she go to all that trouble to look just right when he gets home from work? It’s because it is a plea, isn’t it? It’s her way of saying, “I love you. Give me your heart.”
I believe that’s what Jesus is doing here. In this grand entry he’s proclaiming his love as the messianic savior. And in so doing he pleads with you, saying, “Won’t you give me your heart?”
And I want you to understand that he’s making that very same plea to you today. You could be here today and you might have been tagging along in this journey. You might be like those Jews who were intrigued by Jesus, but never really put your faith in him.
Well, Jesus is calling to you today. He’s going out of his way to tell you how much he loves you and wants to be your savior. And you have the responsibility to respond to that loving announcement by acknowledging him to be your God and Savior. You need to respond by devoting your life to him and becoming a true disciple of Christ.
This dramatic entry is his plea to you to come to him and find peace with God once and for all.
But, don’t just listen to the plea he makes. Look at the tears he sheds. For this too is a demonstration of his love us.
II. Jesus’s love is evident in the tears he sheds [41-44]
In verse 41 we find something almost ironic, do we not? Certainly it is a wide contrast to the jubilation of the crowds. Verse 41 tells us that Jesus wasn’t joining in on all the hoopla. Instead of singing and shouting and whooping it up, he’s found to be weeping.
Jesus is overcome with emotion because he knows that the songs are sung in falsetto. Jesus knows that as he makes this plea, it is not working. The hearts of the people don’t really trust in him. As a matter of fact, he goes on in verses 42-44 to prophecy the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He knows that their unbelief will result in God’s wrath being poured out upon them.
And, make sure you understand that he is torn up about that. Do you sense the emotion here? His heart is overcome as he thinks about the guilt that this city has incurred. All the mercies that were offered, all the prophets that were sent to it, the labors he had in their midst to call them to faith and repentance, the offers of grace; all the promises of salvation; all of these have been neglected and scorned; all of these things weighed heavily upon him, not to mention the horrors that would be experienced down the road as the fulfilment of this prophecy.
His heart breaks because of all this. His spirit is so overwhelmed that the tears begin to stream down his face.
There are some who like to picture God as a passion-less God. They like to think of God as kind of stoic, and without any kind of emotion. But that’s not the kind of thing you get here, is it? Jesus is full of emotion. There is grief. There is sorrow. There is distress.
And, of course, these emotions flow out of his love.
Why is it that people mourn when someone dies? Is not their sorrow evidence of their love?
I remember early on in my ministry I had to officiate a funeral. I was called in to lead the service, even though I did not know the family personally or the person who had passed away. Now, to be sure, there is nothing joyous about a funeral. But I didn’t get choked up or anything. I didn’t know the person who had died or have any kind of relationship to her.
But there was one young man who sat in the front row who never stopped sobbing through the whole service. There were some points during my message where his grief was so intense that he actually began to howl. He was audibly groaning to the point of being distracting.
Now, it isn’t hard to figure out who loved the deceased more. It was pretty easy to tell that this man’s attachment her was much greater than mine. The whimpers and the tears showed that his love for her was quite intense.
And the tears of Jesus evidence the same kind of passionate love.
Don’t think for a moment though that this love will overshadow his justice. No, this passage makes it clear that the Lord will not hold back in the least. Jesus describes perfectly how Jerusalem would be sacked. And when you read accounts of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, you find that this is exactly what happened. Jerusalem was torn to the ground, and all the people in it suffered horrendously.
When I was in Israel I learned a little about the events that transpired there in the fall of Jerusalem, and how literally, how they did not leave one stone upon another. I learned that when it was attacked a fire broke out in the temple, and the temperature escalated to such a high degree that the gold that lined the temple began to melt. And as it melted, it ran down into the cracks and crevices of all the rock. The soldiers then, in their greedy plunder, tore each of the rocks down in order to get at the gold.
And what was done to the buildings doesn’t even begin to describe the misery that was inflicted upon the Jewish people.
So again, don’t think for a moment that the love and tears of Jesus indicate any sort of relent on the part of God when it comes to his justice. His wrath will be swift and painful.
At the same time, do not let God’s justice overshadow his love. The tears that Christ sheds are real tears. And they should remind you how earnestly he desires you to turn to him.
We hear here an echo of Ezekiel who said that God does not take delight in the death of the wicked.
Sometimes I think that Reformed folk do.
If God does take pleasure in it, it is only because his righteousness is being upheld.
But in Ezekiel the Lord goes on to say, “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their wicked ways and live?” Isn’t that what affords the Lord greater pleasure?
And so, as you look at verses 41-44 and as you see his tears rolling down his face, what you should hear is Christ’s desire for a sinner like you. He loves you, and he would much rather you heed his call to salvation by turning away from your sin. He’d much rather you repent of your unbelief than be condemned to hell for the rest of eternity.
The tears of Jesus are droplets of his love, and these tears call you to love him in return.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity to take a tour of Israel a number of weeks ago. One of the things that we did was walk the path which leads down the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. You want to know what is interesting though? The whole way is lined with tombs. It is basically one huge cemetery.
And one of the odd things Jews do when they visit the tomb of their ancestor is that they put rocks on the tombs. No one knows exactly why they do it. You know, when we go to the cemetery, we usually take flowers. Why do we do that? Why flowers? No one really knows. But it is a way we pay our respects. That’s what they do in Israel, except that they use rocks. This practice is said to have been in existence for thousands of years.
I wonder if it were these rocks that Jesus was talking about when he said that the stones would cry out? If there is one thing that Israel is not lacking, it is rocks. I couldn’t get over how many rocks there were in Israel. But it was these rocks that actually stuck out as distinct.
If this was the practice that Jesus was referencing, I wonder if that is a reference to the resurrection and what the Messiah Savior had come for. The rocks cry out as the tombs fling open and the bodies of the dead rise to meet their eternal dwelling. Or perhaps, the rocks will seem like they are crying out because those who are rising from the dead will be coming before the Lord to meet their eternal doom.
If that is true, you see again the love of the Savior. He has come because each of us deserves a tomb. The Messiah’s love is evident in that he has come to break the power of sin and death.
Of course, it does not matter if that allusion to rocks is true or not. Jesus has certainly made it clear that he has come for that purpose. And as we come to the end of our journey, we must remember that it ends in Jerusalem, the gravesite of Christ. In love, he has come to the city to die, so that we who trust in him might not fear death or die without hope of eternal life.
We’ve been on the road to Jerusalem. Our text for this morning starts off by saying that Jesus told this parable because they were near Jerusalem. I think that’s the Bible’s way of saying that Jerusalem is the next exit.
You know how it is when you are on a road trip, especially one where you’ve been on the road for a while. You’ve been anticipating your arrival. You’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time. Then, when you see your exit—or when you know your exit is coming up—what do you do?
My wife will even sound like a stewardess on an airplane that is making its final descent. “Please make sure your loose items are stowed and your seats are in the upright position.”
When you are nearing your destination you basically make those final preparations and begin to wrap up whatever you’ve been doing on your travels.
It is my belief that our passage this morning is something of that final descent wrap up. We began this journey back in Galilee. In chapter 9 Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. And throughout our journey Jesus has been teaching us about the life of a disciple. The heart of this book, the longest portion of this book has been focusing on the nature of discipleship.
And now Jesus is sort of wrapping up this intensive course on discipleship with this parable. We call it the parable of the Mina’s, after the unit of money that the master bestows upon his servants. And, I believe it is a fitting way to wrap up this journey. It really sums up well what is expected of us as his disciples.
This passage divides easily into three sections, with each section focusing on one of the characters in the parable. There are basically three characters: The master, the faithful servants, and the negligent servant. And so I’d like to break things down that way this morning.
And really, it is best to begin with the master and the trust that he bestows.
I. The Master bestows a special trust
In our passage Jesus likens himself to a nobleman who “went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom.” (v. 12). But before he set off, he called his servants to himself and committed to them a certain sum of money (a mina).
Now, we are not sure exactly what the value of a mina really was. Scholars are divided on its worth. Some say it was around $20, and others say it could be up to $20,000! But, the value of the unit has no real bearing on the meaning of the parable. All we need to know is that the master has bestowed upon us a trust. And what is required of these servants is faithful service. The lesson is about proper stewardship. Servant are to be responsible. They are to take that money and improve upon it. They are to use it in a way that would benefit their master.
Now, what is this teaching. Well, I want to suggest to you that this parable is about discipleship. It is my belief that the trust that Jesus bestows upon us is his word. Throughout this series in these 10 chapters, Jesus has been giving us his word. He’s been discipling us and reminding us of how important it is to follow his word.
Now, coming to the end of his journey he’s saying, “Hey, I’ve bestowed upon you something of great value. I’ve given you everything you need to know to be my disciple. Now it is your responsibility to go out there and be a good steward of my word. You are to bring me glory by the way you obey this word and apply it in your lives.
Let’s pause here and think about how this fits. Turn back with me to Luke 9. You remember that we started off in 9:51-56. There we read about him setting his face towards Jerusalem and his encounter with the Samaritans who rejected him. These Samartians were essentially choosing not to be his followers. Then, the next passage, verses 57-62 Jesus spelled out the cost of discipleship. His first lesson, so to speak, on this journey was “This is what it really means to follow me.” In other words, being my disciple is going to mean you need to set me far above everything else in your life.
Then after that, we had the short term missions trip by the 70 that he sent out. The interesting thing about that passage is that it isn’t so much about what they did in going out as it was about what was going to happen to the people who heard the message. If they didn’t receive it, they would be held responsible for that. The more light they had, the more exposure to the revelation of God, the more responsible they were and the more harsh their punishment would be.
Do you see what Jesus is doing there? He’s pointing out how heavy a thing it is to be a disciple. Then for the next 9-10 chapters Jesus fills in what discipleship looks like. He calls down woes upon the Pharisees because they’re perverting the word of God—indicating that true disciples will be very careful with God’s word. He has a long section about repentance and points out that true disciples will be so cognizant of their failure to uphold that law that their life will be characterized by repentance. He talks about the nature of the kingdom and shows that a disciple will be a kingdom minded man who is cognizant of the way he lives in that kingdom.
Now, he has taught all these things. He has bestowed all this grand teaching. And now, here at the end of the road he reiterates this point: I am going away. I’ve given you this great teaching. You now are responsible to be a good steward of this word.
You know what the book of James says. He says we are to be doers of the word and not simply hearers. James says, “Don’t be like that man who looks at himself in mirror and then walks away and forgets what he looks like.” That’s to hear and not really listen. It is looking in a mirror and not really paying attention to what you saw there.
Jesus is kind of saying the same thing here. I’ve given you all these words. I’ve committed to you the invaluable treasure of my word. Now make sure you do something with it. Don’t be a fool who has heard these things but has not listened.
I want to reiterate this morning one of the things we’ve learned throughout this journey. Jesus has taught us that more light means more responsibility. And since you’ve been on this journey, you need to take great care with the things you’ve learned. You need to remember what Christ has said about himself and the need for repentance. And you need to improve on that.
II. The Faithful Servant receives a fitting reward
Now, the parable goes on to expand on this notion. Jesus tells us about the faithful servants who prove to be exemplary in their conduct. In verse 15-16 we are told about the first servant. He comes back and says, “Master, your mina has made ten minas more.” The master is overjoyed at this. And he rewards the servant by saying, “Well done good servant. You’ve been faithful over a little, I’ll give you 10 cities to rule over.”
The same is basically said for the next servant. His mina has made 5 minas more. And the master rewards him with 5 cities.
Now, again, it is my opinion that this is what God does to those who are faithful stewards of his word. There is coming a day when Jesus will come back. And when he comes he is going to judge the world. Those of us who have received this word and been diligent to obey it will be rewarded. The Lord is going to look upon us with great joy and he’s going to welcome us into the eternal kingdom. And in that kingdom we will be rewarded according to the level of responsibility we’ve shown.
Now, I know some of you probably looked at the faithful servants and thought, “Tough draw for the faithful servants! I mean, after all their hard work, they are given more work!” That’s not the way we typically like things to be. When we talk rewards, we want freedom from work. We want the vacation or the perks of kicking back.
But I think that really tells you something about the nature of heaven. I think a lot of people view heaven as the ultimate retirement plan. You know, a lot of people think that when they get to heaven it is going to be like hanging out at a 5 star resort for the rest of eternity. They get to sit by the poolside and sip colored drinks and just enjoy “the good life.” It is just one big vacation to a lot of people.
But that’s not what heaven is going to be like. I think that this passage implies that it is going to be a place where we continue to work and have responsibility. Work and responsibility is not a something that is a curse, or something that we are to avoid. It is a great blessing that we get to enjoy.
In other words, we are going to have more opportunities to bring more glory to God through our lives and through our productivity. Our obedience now is going to be enhance and multiplied in eternity so that the Lord will continue to receive honor in and through our conduct.
I think this may also imply that we will continue to learn more about the nature of God and his calling in our lives. Again, the idea here is discipleship and the reward for our faithfulness. And it is my opinion that our leaning and discipleship will not cease. We will have all eternity to learn more about the Lord. We will have all eternity to search out his infinite character. And as we receive more and more light, we will have more and more obedience, and thus, more and more opportunity to glorify our God.
What a joy that is for us who believe. The one thing that is our joy (i.e. our admiration of the Lord) will be rewarded and enhanced in the kingdom to come. We get to look forward to a fuller expression of our faith and deeper enjoyment of God’s honor and glory.
But let’s not forget the other servant. The passage not only tells us of the trust that the master bestows and the reward that the faithful receive. It also focuses in on the slothful servant and the punishment that is his.
III. The slothful servant receives a severe punishment
In verse 20 it tells us that one of the servants came before his master and gave back the mina which he had been given. Now, it is interesting that this mina was paid in full. He didn’t steal a dime. Every penny was there.
You might have even said that this last servant was very careful with the money. He put it in a hankercheif and kept it safe the whole time the master was gone. And when he returned, he brought it back without anything missing.
But that wasn’t enough, was it? No. The master says, “You wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why didn’t you at least put it in the bank so that I could have at least made a little interest with it?”
You see how this servant frustrates the master? Now think of what that means in terms of the parallel. Jesus has entrusted you with his word, what does that mean for your life? It means that if you don’t do anything with it, then you are a wicked person. If you are negligent and do not apply that word in your life, then you are an unfaithful servant.
But come on! I heard it! And I heard it gladly! I went to church each Sunday. I sat in on the Bible studies! I listened to the radio broadcasts! I heard the word and even went out of my way to hear it!
Friends, don’t be foolish. It is not enough to hear the word. Christ could care less if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of his word. If you are not applying it and obeying it, it is a dead letter so far as he is concerned. If you are not living a life of repentance and seeking to honor Christ’s word in your life, then you will be damned.
Christ said elsewhere, “If you are not for me, you are against me.” There is no lukewarmness in this faith. And you can be condemned not so much for what you did wrong, but what you didn’t do. Failure to be diligent is just as much an atrocity as outright attacks on Christ.
And I think that is something of what Jesus is saying in the parable. We skipped over the part about the delegation that was sent after the master. Verse 14 tells us that some of the citizens of that kingdom hated the master and they went to advocate against the master receiving the kingdom. Then at the end of the passage it tells us that these people were rounded up and slaughtered.
Now, everyone who heard this parable would have picked up on to what Jesus was referring to here. After Herod the Great died, his son, Archeleaus, went to Rome to have his rule in Judea confirmed. And there was a delegation of 50 Jews who went there too to argue against it. Knowing the character of Archeleaus, they wanted to make the case that he shouldn’t be their ruler.
Well, it didn’t work. Archeleaus was confirmed by the Emperor, and guess what happened to those 50 men when they got back? When you come to power, you typically want to make a statement. You don’t want people questioning your power. So they were rounded up and hewn down.
So when Jesus mentions this part of the parable, you can betch ya that everyone knew exactly what he was referring to.
His point here though, of course, regards the Jews of his day. Jesus is making a very poignant statement about their enmity. A point that I believe came to its fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The point is this: You failed to observe my word. You failed to heed the call of discipleship and acknowledge me as Lord, therefore you will be destroyed.
So, as our journey to Jerusalem draws to a close, our Lord makes one more sobering call to you. You must understand that your journey is drawing to a close as well. Your walk upon this earth only has so many days allotted to it. And when this journey is done, you must understand that you will be called before the great master of all the earth to account for your life.
Our Lord has bestowed upon you the trust of his word. He has called you into a life of discipleship. If your come to him and take up that call—If you are diligent to serve him and apply these words to your life, our Lord will be exceedingly glad and will greatly rewarded on the last great day.
But if you are negligent, you will be cursed. If you are lazy and do not take to heart the things that have been here spoken, you will be found to be an enemy of the state. Know for sure that those who are sluggardly with the truth of Scripture will be gathered together before the Lord and cast into the slaughterhouse of hell.
Just as the faithful experience the abundance of God’s pleasure, you will experience the severity of his stern justice. He will mow you down in his anger if you have not sought to serve him and further advance his glory.
So let not your road end with another day of sloth and sluggardly inattentiveness to his law. Repent of your laxity and flee the indifference that now characterizes your life. Turn to Christ today and become his disciple while he yet allows you grace.
The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most beloved of all bible stories. But it is also one of the most hilarious stories of the Bible. I believe this is Bible comedy at some of its best.
You have to picture the whole unfolding of this event. Here is Zacchaeus. He’s this short guy. He’s actually the second shortest guy in the Bible [the shortest is Peter—he slept on his watch]. Now you have to picture him in this crowd. You know, he’s trying to jump up and see.
Let you mind fill in some of the blanks here too. I’d picture him as a portly guy too. He’s a wealthy man and as we’ll see he’s a rather self indulgent man too.
I'm thinking that you got this little pudgy guy jumping up and down trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. Then, what does he do? He gets the idea to run ahead of the crowd. So picture him waddling as fast as his fat little legs will take him, sweat pouring down his face breathing hard from being out of shape. Now here he is trying to pull his tubby self up into a tree. This is something that would likely cause some good chuckles if not uproarious laughter.
You got to think about Jesus stopping underneath this tree too. Every eye in the crowd is now zeroed in on Zacchaeus. The whole crowd is watching this guy hanging in a tree like a portly pinata. Oh the humiliation!
But no matter how many laughs you may get from this, there is much more to be gained in spiritual truth. This passage is a favorite, not just because of the yucks you can get out of it, but because it clearly expresses the saving grace of God.
If there is one thing that this passage tells us, it is that Jesus saves. As a matter of fact, the passage concludes almost climactically with Jesus saying, “The Son of man came to seek and save the lost.” If you are hear today, that is the message that you should take home with you today. Jesus saves.
But what exactly does that mean? We see that posted in different places “Jesus saves.” What is that all about? One thing I like about this passage is that it clarifies that for us. It helps us understand the very essence of salvation.
I. The essence of God’s saving grace
The word save here in verse 10 is the Greek word “soteria.” It means to deliver or to rescue. And when we think about salvation in those terms, we can get a better understanding of what it is all about.
Christ came to deliver us. He came to rescue us. That of course, means we are in trouble, doesn’t it? We don’t need saving if we are not in any kind of predicament. We could leave well enough alone, if that were the case.
Scripture makes it clear that we are in a predicament though. As a matter of fact, we are in a perilous condition. We are sinners and as such we have offended God by the many ways we have broken his law.
And because we have broken his law, we stand condemned to die. In other words, because of the guilt that we have incurred, we are liable to the punishment that we so justly deserve for having become law breakers.
You know, today we are almost inoculated to this. We are told over and over that our actions do not have consequences. We watch the television and it tells us about free and unhindered sex. People have all kinds of sexual relationships and there never seems to be any repercussions, is there? But that is such a wild myth. There are horrible consequences, both in this life and the life to come.
And it is not just the lack of chastity. But it is every sin that we’ve ever committed. It is the lies, the unkindness, the blasphemies, profanities, the list could go on and on.
We have to understand that we have fallen short of God’s glory and are under his wrath and curse. The wages of sin is death. And every time we sin, we provoke God all the more. God’s wrath towards us has been kindled and his justice demands that we be stripped of every God given blessing and cursed with hell fire for all eternity.
But Christ came to deliver us from that. He came to rescue us from our sin and its punishment. He came, not just that we might have a better life now, but that we might have eternal life. He came so that we might be delivered from the state of sin and death and enter into a state of salvation.
And that salvation can be yours through faith in Christ. He has come to seek and save the lost, and if you are here today, you can rest assured that if you turn to Christ you too can be saved. If you trust Christ he will save you from your sins and give you the gift of eternal life.
Of course, you might be thinking, “That’s good and all, but how far is God willing to go?” You might be thinking, “Sure, God would save some people, but could he save someone like me—with all the things I’ve done?”
In other words, you might not question the essence of salvation. You get it that Jesus saves sinners, but just not a sinner like you. You think that God’s grace just can’t extend that far.
Well, this passage is an answer to that. It shows us not just the essence of salvation, but it shows us the extent of it too.
II. The extent of God’s saving grace
In this passage we have the story of Zacchaeus. I want you to understand that Zacchaeus was one seriously lost sinner. He was one of the lowest of the low. Out of all the people in Jericho who you might think that God is willing to save, it probably would not be Zacchaeus.
Look at verse 7. You hear something of the scandal of it all. Jesus has just told Zacchaeus that he wanted to go to his house. And how the people respond? They say, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Can you hear how aghast they are? The people of Jericho are horrified at this. They are absolutely appalled that Jesus would even dawn the steps of this man’s house, let alone actually spend time in fellowship with him over dinner. This was a scandalous thing to them because Zacchaeus would have been a notorious sinner in that town.
We are given a clue as to what all is entailed when it tells us his occupation. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. And not just any tax collector; it says that he was the chief tax collector. That is to say, he was the head tax collector in the city who would have had other tax collectors under him.
Now, understand, you don’t ascend to places of rank and influence in this part of the world by being a nice guy. This was a cut throat job. And it is likely that Zacchaeus, even though he was a little dude, was a real thug. He was someone who was used to getting his way, if you know what I mean. People don’t let go of their money happily, especially when they are being cheated. That’s what tax collectors did. The Roman government required that you collect so much, anything that you get above that was yours to keep.
And it tells us here that Zacchaeus was a rich man. He had accumulated quite a pile of cash, and you can bet that it didn’t come honestly. (It is likely that he didn’t spend it honestly either). And again, people don’t just open up their wallets when they are being cheated. To feed that greed Zacchaeus likely had gotten feisty with some people. He was not only involved in extortion, he was likely a thug.
Think mob. You know the mob. They extort people for money, and they don’t float around like little fairy princesses. They have their means of getting that money.
But it isn’t just that he is a greedy thug. That would be bad enough. But Zacchaeus’s occupation affiliates him with Roman Empire. He is working for the enemy. People didn’t want to pay into the system because these taxes were seen as a religious thing. To pay taxes was, to some, considered a disloyal act to God. It was to support the pagan system and a direct defiance to the nation of Israel, which is the kingdom of God.
So really, you can think of Zacchaeus as a lying, cheating, mobster, who likely hung around with some not so pleasant characters (You know, the girls he hung around with were probably not your average church going girls). And, above all that, he was a Roman sympathizer. He was a man who defied God’s kingdom on a daily basis. This guy was, in all respects, scum. In terms of people, you couldn’t get any worse than Zacchaeus.
And yet, despite how hideiously (Notoriously!) wicked this man might have been, Christ chose to stop at his tree. Chirst chose to stop at his house. And Christ said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
So, how far does the saving grace of God extend? It extends to even the worst of sinners. The thought should never enter your mind that there is no hope for you.
Most of you would likely be familiar with George Whitfield. But you might not be familiar with his brother. Whitfield’s brother was deeply despondent at times and felt his utter worthlessness. On such a occasions a friend would avail herself of the opportunity to speak with him about his soul’s salvation. She would try to induce him to come to Christ. To all her pleas he would simply respond, “Oh, it is of no use! I am lost! I am lost!”
She used many means of trying to overcome his feelings of helplessness. At one point she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Thank God for that!” The man ask for clarification and she said, “Because Christ came to save the lost. If you are lost, then He is just the one who can save you.”
No matter how great a sinner you are you cannot out sin Christ. The grace of Christ cannot be exhausted or outdone. No matter how defiant you have been; no matter how much you have thumbed your nose at the Lord, the Lord is willing and able to forgive you.
Zachaeus really is an example of what we saw earlier in our study. Back in chapter 18 Jesus said, What is impossible with man is possible with God. Was it possible to save a guy like Zacchaeus? Is it possible for a person like you to escape the wrath and curse of God due to you for your sin? Absolutely.
Christ came to seek and save the lost. And this passage helps us understand that it doesn’t matter how lost you may be. Whether you are a little lost or a whole lot of lost, Christ can save.
But as we look at Zacchaeus we not only see the extent of his saving grace, we also see the evidence of saving grace.
III. The evidence of God’s saving grace
When someone is saved that is going to have an impact on his life. He’s going to show evidence that God has done something. In other words, he is going to demonstrate a repentant lifestyle.
And that is what we see right here. Look at verse 8. It says that “Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor and, if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Now it is interesting that we do not hear about anything that happened at this party. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about who was at the party or anything else that might have transpired. We don’t know if they played charades or pin the tail on the donkey. We don’t know if they had any appetizers or anything. The only thing we are told is that Zacchaeus’s life changed. He changed from one who lived contrary to God’s law, to one who is now seeking to abide by the law.
That’s what is going on here. That’s the sum and substance of what he says here. In pledging to give away half of his wealth Zacchaeus is saying, “I once made a god out of money. I am now turning away from the worship of the money-god and I am pledging to follow the true and living God alone.”
Then he goes on to say that “if he has defrauded anyone, he will repay 4 times the amount.”
What Zacchaeus says here goes back to Exodus 22. In Exodus 22 we read various laws about what is to happen if a man steals something. And it tells us that if a man steals a sheep and kills it he is to repay the owner 4 sheep in its place.
What was that law all about? Why 4 sheep? Well, sheep were a huge part of one’s income. If you lost a sheep, you were out a significant portion of your year’s wages. And it isn’t easy to recoup that.
Zacchaeus doesn’t deal in sheep, but he recognizes the principle inherent in God’s word. He had burned people through his greed. He had infringed on their lifestyle maliciously by his thuggary, and God’s law required him to correct that.
What I want you to understand is that this is the true evidence that someone has been saved. Jesus comes into the world so save men from their sins. And when they come to Christ they realize that they cannot go on living the way they have been. They have to change. Instead of being a law breaker, his live must now be oriented towards obedience to the law.
There is a distinct break with one’s previous lifestyle that occurs and an evidence of true repentance.
And I’d like you to focus on this notion of restitution. Zacchaeus isn’t just saying, “I choose to follow God now.” He understands that his relationship to God is going to manifest itself in his relationships with others. It’s not just about not following money anymore. He understands that it is imperative that he restore what has been broken between himself and his fellow man.
I used to lead a Bible study for some ex prison inmates. It was supposed to focus on addictions and addiction recover and we were to use as the basis for it the 12 step program for Alcoholics Annonymous. Now, there are some critical things you can say about it, but one of the things that was really good was that it dealt with broken relationships. One of the steps said that you needed to try and reconcile with people in your past who you sinned against.
It might have been someone from whom you stole money. It might have been someone you cheated or lied to. Whoever it was, you were to seek, in so far as you could, to be reconciled.
Why was this required? What was the purpose of this step in the program? It was to be a sign of your recovery. It was to be one evidence that you had broken with your addiction and that you were on the way to recovery.
It is true: Every new man will act in new ways. If you are truly saved from your sins, then you will evidence that in your newfound obedience.
I’d encourage you to think about this. Ask yourself if there is any restitution that you need to make. Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile? Maybe you haven’t stolen any of their money, but perhaps you haven’t given them the love that they are due. Maybe it is as simple as your wife or your husband. You’ve stolen from her the sacrificial love that is rightfully hers or you’ve withheld from him the proper respect that he is due.
If Christ has saved you, you ought to show Christ how thankful you are by returning to his law and offering to restore what has been stolen. Doing this will evidence that Christ has indeed rescued you from a life of sin.
A man once stood up to give his testimony in a service. He said, “The man I am now does not know the man I used to be.”
His words were brief, but they could not better sum up the saving power of Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus does.
Zachaeus might have been a wee little man, but he had a life full of sin. And through him we see how a great salvation Christ can bring.
It doesn’t matter how sinful you may be or how desperate your condition is, Christ has the power to deliver you and bring you into a state of salvation. You need only to turn to him, like Zachaeus did, and trust him for his grace.
There is a book in my house that I’m absolutely sick of reading. I’m sure a number of you have read it too: Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? It is advanced reading, I know.
Well, today’s sermon is going to be called, “Blind man, blind man, what do you see?” This passage is an interesting one because it is all about man’s blindness. It is actually ironic because the only one who can really “see” in the passage is the blind man. Despite the fact that he can’t see anything, he has the clearest perception of where things stand.
Then, we noted what Jesus meant when he said, “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.” We said that man’s condition is so bad, his sinful nature is so debilitating, that it is impossible for him to come to a state of salvation on his own. Salvation is only possible by God’s sovereign doing.
Well, in our passage today, our Lord wishes the press that home again. As we look at this passage, I think it will become apparent that man, because of his sin, is completely blinded to the saving work of God. There is no possibility to overcome this blindness on our own.
Our passage begins by describing the blindness to us.
I. The blindness is described
In verses 31 and 32 Jesus predicts what is going to happen to him in a few days. He says, “See we are going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
Now, notice how the disciples react. Actually, notice how the disciples didn’t react. Verse 34 says, “They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
Did you notice the repetition? Luke takes up some extra space on his papyri to let you know that what Jesus just said didn’t sink in. It wasn’t that they were a little fuzzy on the details. They had absolutely no comprehension what Jesus meant.
Understand too that this is at least the third time that Jesus has predicted his death. If you go back to chapter 9 you can read of two other instances where Jesus said that he was going to be handed over and killed.
Now, how many times do you have to say something to get it to sink in? Some of you parents have probably asked that yourselves. You’ve said to your kids, “How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your toys?!” But that’s different isn’t it? It’s not that your kids don’t understand you. They hear you. They know what you mean. They have perfect comprehension. They just don’t do it.
This isn’t like the disciples heard Jesus and simply chose to ignore it. They are not tracking at all. They are completely blank. Their eyes are glazed.
Look at it again. Look at how specific Jesus is. Jesus says, “Guys, I’m going to be handed over, spit on, mocked, shamefully treated and killed.” He’s pretty specific here about what is going to happen. He’s not speaking a parable or hiding anything from them.
And he says that everything that has been foretold in the OT by the prophets is going to happen.
But look at what it says in verse 34. It says that “they understood none of these things.” Actually, the original language says that they couldn’t put 2&2 together. It says “they could not put these things together.” They couldn’t connect what Jesus said with what was going to happen. It was like a puzzle piece that just didn’t fit into their brain.
Now, I wonder if this is referring to their preconceived ideas of what a Messiah was supposed to do. You know, they were expecting a warrior and a political figure. But how do you get that? Where did that come from? It was from the OT. In particular, it was from the way they read the OT.
Now, we do this too, don’t we? When we read Scripture, this is the way we do it: We see verses that talk of God’s love and we highlight them. If there is a passage that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, we underline it and put little hearts beside it. But when we come across a passage that talks about judgment, we kind of skip over that. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,” Let’s put that on facebook. Psalm 137: “Happy is he who dashes their babies against the rocks.” Well, that’s weird. We’ll skip over that one. “God is love.” Now that’s a good one. That deserves to be highlighted.
That’s likely what the Jews did when they read the Scriptures. They looked at the political stuff; they saw what they wanted. They didn’t see things like Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant. That just didn’t fit with their construction of things. So, when Jesus came and started talking about suffering, “they couldn’t put it together.” It was a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit in their brains.
The next thing it says is really interesting too. It says, “The saying was hidden from them.” Now, who hid it? Did Jesus hide something? No. We just pointed out, he couldn’t be any more clear on the matter. He’s very open and specific.
It was hidden because they needed the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Their minds, being darkened by sin, could not allow them to understand it. They needed the Spirit to reveal it in order to comprehend it.
Then finally it says, “They did not grasp these things.” Literally it says, “They did not know” these things. This is a statement of simple knowledge. Jesus spoke and gave them knowledge. But, without the Spirit’s illumination, they couldn’t even pick up that. They were not tracking at all. It was basically bouncing off of them.
All this shows that men are deadened to the things of the Lord. We are completely blind to the gospel and have no ability to embrace it in even a cognitive way, let alone a true spiritual comprehension—a believing way, without the working of God within us.
We are described as being completely powerless to gain even the slightest bit of insight.
And this becomes even more clear in the next portion. In the verses we just looked at our blindness is described. But in verses 35-39 we see how our blindness is demonstrated.
II. The blindness is demonstrated
In verse 35 we read about a blind man who is sitting by the roadside begging for money. Now, recognize that he is in a strategic place here. We are coming upon the Passover Celebration and there would be thousands of people crowding through these streets on their way to Jerusalem. This was the hay day for beggars. You have all these people on pilgrimage and he plants himself right where he is bound to make a killing.
Verse 36 tells us that the blind man hears this crowd going by and he asks what is going on. Now, notice what they say. In 37 the tell him that “Jesus of Nazareth” is passing by. And how does he respond? He cries out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Two things to note here. First of all, it is interesting that the blind man calls out for mercy. He didn’t call out for a healing of his eyes. This blind man recognizes that his problem is not primarily physical. He isn’t struggling with bad case of glaucoma. He recognizes that his eye problem is symptomatic of something deeper. His blindness is just a periphery thing. He understands that his real problem is his relationship with God. His real dilemma is his sin and his need of salvation. He recognizes that he needs to get right with God. He understands that he is under the wrath and curse of God and needs to be forgiven and restored. And the only way he can get that is through God’s mercy.
But there is something more important to see here: This blind man has more perception than the any of the other people of the crowd. Keep your eye on how the people talk about Jesus. The blind man asks what the ruckus is. They say, Jesus of Nazareth is coming. He says, “Jesus, Son of David.” The crowd just refers to Jesus as an ordinary guy. But this blind man confesses as king; Messiah! They say, “It’s just Jesus;” he says, “The long awaited Deliverer is here!”
And it goes on in verse 39 to say that the people tried to hush him up. “Settle down you! You keep your mouth shut. We’ll have no more of this nonsense!” But what is his reaction? It says that he cries out all the more. The word there actually means to scream or screech. In other words, he kicks up the volume until the decibel level is ear piercing.
The blind man sees who Jesus really is. No one else does. And this blind man is essentially preaching to this crowd. Every time he cries out, he is proclaiming the gospel: the King has come, mercy is at hand!
But the crowd just wants him to hush up. What should they have done? They should have said, “You’re right!” and everyone should have fell at his feet. They all should have cried out for mercy. But they are too dense. They are the blind ones. They don’t see that their messiah is standing right there.
That’s the thing about our sinful estate. It doesn’t matter what language you use. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout. It doesn’t matter how good your argument is. It can be the most eloquently stated gospel presentation with the most airtight argument. You can have every detail exact, but it won’t make any difference if the Spirit does not bring with it light and life.
This event right here is not so much about the blind man’s faith as it is about Israel’s faithlessness. What we have here is a dead people. They are a blind. The blind man sees much more than all Israel put together. Every cry is a sermon. But he is preaching to people who have absolutely no interest in what he has to say.
Back in Isaiah 59 the Isaiah talked about how depraved the people of Israel were. One of the ways he described them as being blind. It says that they hope for light, but there is only darkness. He describes them as groping for the wall and stumbling about despite it being noon (the brightest portion of the day). Really, that’s what we have here.
And I think that is a good way of describing much of the church today. Perhaps you heard how one of the members of the Christian rock group “Jars of Clay” has come out in support of homosexual marriage. How can he do that, despite the clear testimony of Scripture on the subject? Well, one reason is because he could probably care less about the clear testimony of Scripture! But it is mainly because he is groping for truth. He’s blind.
The sad part is, I highly doubt that his statement is going to affect his record sales. I wouldn’t even doubt it if his albums start flying off the shelf! Most of the people in the church today probably won’t see anything wrong with what he said.
Men today are just as blind to the truth of God and the revelation that he gives of himself as they were here in this passage. No matter how clearly Christ is revealed, men are going to remain numb to his Lordship until it is broken by God’s power; which brings us to verses 40-43.
We’ve seen how this blindness is described and demonstrated. Now, in verses 40-43 we see how this blindness is destroyed.
III. The blindness is destroyed
In verse 40 Jesus commands that this man be brought over to him. Now remember this is in front of a great crowd of people. So understand that the stage has been set. This has become more than a lesson to this blind man. Jesus put this guy right in front of this huge mass of people to make a point.
And look at verse 41. Jesus asks him again, “What is it you want me to do?” Jesus knew what he wanted! The man had just cried out for mercy. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted. But he’s setting it up.
And notice how the man responds, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” The man asks that his sight might be restored. In other words, he had it before, but he lost it. He now wants to recover it. He had once been able to see, but he became blind. Now he wants to recover his sight so he can see again.
Now, think about this: Isn’t that what has happened to Israel? They had once been devoted to God, but they lost their sight of that devotion. In their apostasy they lost sight of God and now they needed to recover it.
How is that possible? Well, the miracle says it all. Jesus responds by saying, “recover your sight, your faith has made you well.” The way that this blindness is overcome is through a miracle of God.
That is the beauty of redemption. That’s what makes salvation really the God glorifying thing that it is. This is what makes our salvation all of grace. God, in his loving-kindness, extends his saving grace to us when we were blind; when we were helplessly lost and reeling around in the darkness.
Again, we could go back to Isaiah 59. For 15 verses Isaiah talks about how rebellious God’s people are. And by verse 12 or 13 you start to wonder, “Is there any hope for these people?” And in verse 15 it says that God’s stretched out his arm and brought them salvation. They were saved, not by any power of their own, but by the direct intervention of God.
That’s what is being described here in this healing. This healing is (ironically enough) a visible sermon. It is a visible expression of what God does in redeeming a man.
Now, before we finish, there is one more thing that you need to see about this blindness. It is important that you see that this blindness is decreed.
IV. The blindness is decreed.
We would not be doing justice to this passage or the GOSPEL if we did not see how God is sovereign in all of this. I don’t want you walking away from here thinking that sin is just running amuck and there is nothing God can do about it. You have to understand that even as man is groping around in the darkness is still part of the divine plan of God.
Look back at verse 31. Our passage began with a prophecy. Jesus predicted his death. And, it wasn’t just a vague horoscope where he predicted that somehow, somewhere he was going to die. He predicted how everything was going to happen, even down to the most precise detail.
So Jesus knew exactly how things were going to turn out, and that is because he knew the end from the beginning. He knew that this was part of God’s plan. These wicked men were going to treat him shamefully because that was what God had intended from the very start.
And you have to understand it had to be that way.
You see, this blind beggar expressed what we all need. He cried out for mercy. And the Son of David just can’t grant mercy. As a king he has to uphold justice. A king is concerned for righteousness and it wouldn’t be right if justice wasn’t served.
So, you see, this is the predicament: Men are sinful. They’ve broken the law and they deserve to die! How is it they can receive mercy? It is through the cross. The old saying is that justice and mercy kiss at the cross. It is there that we see justice upheld and mercy poured out.
It is awesome to see that man, even in all his blind rebellion, is still doing the work of God. As they were executing Christ they were fulfilling what God had decreed for our redemption.
And this is the wonder of it all: If your eyes have been opened, you can rest assured that Christ has died for you. If God has spoken to you today and you see just how blind you have been—if you today understand that you have been rebelling against him and groping around in your sin, then you can know that salvation may be had. God has provided a way for you to receive mercy in the death of his Son.
One of the things that makes our church distinct is that we are a “family integrated church.” You don’t find a lot of churches around here seeking to integrate children into their worship services. But the reason for this is because we believe something unique about children. You might say we have a family integrated theology.
As Luke wrote to this gentile friends about the kingdom of God and sought to clarify who was in it, he was sure to remind them that the kingdom did not simply consist of believers. It also incorporates the children of believers as well.
Now I understand that some of you might raise an eyebrow at this. You might be sitting there saying, “Did he just say that children are de facto members of God’s kingdom?” This is, no doubt, something new to you, and perhaps it sounds downright heretical.
Before you cast any stones or jump up and storm out, I want you to look again at the text with me. As you listen to the text I believe it will become more clear.
As we look at this passage I want you to see three things about a child’s membership in God’s kingdom. I want you to see that their membership is affirmed by Christ, cultivated by parents, and, ultimately, internalized by personal faith.
Now, I know some of you might be shaking your heads and wondering if you really are hearing me right. “Did he really say that children are members of God’s kingdom?”
And the first thing I want you to see from our text is that Christ affirms as much here in this text. Look at verse 16.
I. Christ affirms it in his word
In verse 16 Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Of course, He says this because his disciples were telling the people who were bringing children to him to skedaddle. They evidently thought that Jesus was much too busy to bother with little babies.
But Jesus rebukes them, and he says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
I know there are some who interpret this to say, “for the kingdom belongs to such as these.” And they say that this refers not to children, but adults who are like a child in that they have simple, childlike faith in God. But I would suggest to you that does not do justice to our text. Jesus is rebuking his disciples for running off the little babies. It wouldn’t make sense to say, “Let the little children come for the kingdom of God belongs to adults.” That would be completely contrary to the point he is trying to make.
The best way to interpret this is to understand that Jesus is talking about the children. “Let them come to me, because the kingdom belongs to them.”
Christ is telling his disciples that he puts a priority on these little guys because they are just as much members of his kingdom as any professing adult. He welcomes them because they are just as precious to him as anyone else and have right of access to their God by virtue of their birthright.
Now, let’s examine this a little closer. Make sure your see that Luke specifies what kind of children these were. In verse 15 he makes sure to point out that they are infants. They were babies.
The word that Luke uses is the same word that is used to describe John the Baptist when he leaped in the womb of his mother. The same word is used in reference to Jesus when he was a day or two old. The angels told the shepherds that they would find a baby wrapped in cloth and laying in a manger.
So I want you to understand that Jesus is talking about newborn children. He’s affirming that these infants, ones who were so small that they had to be carried by their parents, were in fact members of his kingdom.
Do you understand this? These are not children who have grown up and reached some nebulous “age of accountability” where they can now make their own profession of faith. They were ones who were so fresh that they had no capacity to speak, let alone the cognitive ability personally understand the gospel. Jesus says, “These guys who are still in diapers, they are part of my kingdom.”
Of course, when we take into consideration all of what God has revealed up to this point, this shouldn’t be a shocker to us. Back in the Old Testament, children were very much a part of God’s kingdom. If you were born to Jewish parents, then you were members of the kingdom of Israel. You were very much a part of God’s kingdom here on earth. There was absolutely no question about it. As a matter of fact, if you were a boy, you would be circumcised and physically distinguished as being part of that kingdom.
And here in this passage, Jesus is saying that nothing has changed. Even though the new covenant has come the children of believers are still very much a part of God’s kingdom.
Now, understanding what Jesus says here about a covenant child’s status in the kingdom can help you understand why some of us believe that we should baptize our children. I know that it doesn’t expressly say here “You must go baptize your babies.” But you can see the implication and understand why some of us in this congregation and why many people in the world believe that you should baptize you babies.
We at Providence church allow for freedom on this issue. I recognize that not everyone believes this should be done, but you can at least see why many throughout the church do practice infant baptism. If a child is a member of God’s kingdom, as Jesus says here, then it logically follows that they should be designated as such by water baptism.
For instance, if you are born in Ohio, you are given a birth certificate. It is a sign and a confirmation that you have indeed been born into the kingdom of Ohio. If you, or anyone else, has any question about your citizenship in this kingdom, then you have the proof of this piece of paper.
The same is true regarding baptism. If you have been born into the kingdom, then you ought to have the sign that designates you as a citizen of that kingdom.
Another implication of this text, perhaps a more important one. What Jesus says here can help us if we would happen to have a child die in infancy. The question naturally arises, “What happens to that child?” I believe that a text like this provides us great comfort. It can help to assure us that the Lord’s mercies are not just ours, but they also belong to our children because of his relationship to them.
Now, those are two sides to the issue. Important ones, I think. There are perhaps many other applications we could make. What is important to see here is that Christ does affirm that the children of believers are members of his kingdom.
But don’t think for a moment that that is enough. Their membership in God’s kingdom isn’t static. Yes, it is theirs by virtue of their birthright, as we have seen Christ affirm. But you have to understand that parents have to cultivate their membership in this kingdom through godly, Christian nurture.
II. Parents cultivate it by their nurture
It shouldn’t go without notice that these parents were the ones initiating this whole ordeal. These babies were not pulling up their diapers and running over to Jesus all by themselves. The disciples weren’t chasing the babies around and telling them to scram. No, they were infuriated at the parents who were bringing the children.
This is important for us to understand. Because, if we miss this, we miss a vital ingredient for a child’s participation in the kingdom. Godly parents are the means that God uses to confirm children in His kingdom.
This passage is great in this regard. These parents recognized that their children needed Christ’s blessing. We don’t know if they had a full understanding of who he was as the Messiah. But they certainly understood that their children would benefit greatly by having Jesus touch them. They knew that if Jesus had the power to bless these children and impart to them something profound. They knew that if Jesus had contact with their children, their children would be somehow further confirmed in God’s kingdom.
What these parents were doing was seeking to have their children further ensconced in God’s kingdom. Yes they were members of it, but they knew that these children needed further nurture. They understood Christ could bless their child and foster their spirituality. You might say that they knew that Christ could deepen their rootedness in the kingdom.
Let me put it this way: Some of you are starting to see your flowers pop up in your flower garden. It is amazing! Spring is actually going to make it this year! Now, is that seedling that is starting to spout a flower? Yes, of course it is. It is a baby one; it is a very small one, but it is no less a flower. Now, how does it continue to be a flower? Well, it takes sunlight. It takes water. It has to have all the nutrients it needs. If it doesn’t, it won’t continue to be a flower. It will die. God uses those means to cause it to flourish.
The same is true when it comes to our citizenship in the kingdom of the United States. We become members of this nation when we were born. But as we grow up, we need to be taught the principles of our kingdom. We need to learn about the constitution and about the freedoms that it grants. Those things help to confirm us in our citizenship and guide us to be good Americans
That’s exactly what happens with our citizenship in the kingdom of God. Yes, our children are members of God’s kingdom, but they are dependent upon us to help cultivate that membership. They need to grow and develop as citizens of that kingdom. They need to be raised in such a way as to encourage their interests in Christ and his law.
You might remember from a few weeks ago when we baptized Truman. My wife and I took vows to raise Truman in the fear and admonition of God. We pledged to pray with him and for him. We promised to teach him the Scriptures and set before him a godly example, that he might learn to walk in it.
Now, this is integral for the lives of our kids. Just because they are members of God’s kingdom, doesn’t mean that they are automatically saved. They need to be brought to Christ on a daily basis in order to foster their relationship with him.
In other words, we as parents are responsible to expose them to the means of grace. You know, this is one of the reasons why were call ourselves a “family-integrated” church. We think it is important that children be here to hear the word of God. We want to train them to pray—and I should say, kids, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to pray with us during our open prayer time. That’s a good thing! That’s a great thing! We are glad you are singing with us, and we don’t mind if you pray out loud with us too.
And parents, let me remind you again how important it is to be practicing godliness in the home. Ulrich Zwingli, one of the Reformers, once said that parents who don’t raise their children in the nurture of the gospel are robbing God of his children. That is exactly what happens when a father doesn’t read the Scriptures with his kids. That’s what happens when mom doesn’t sing to her children or stop and discipline her kids when it is needed.
Far be it from you to stunt your child’s growth or be the cause of their rebellion against God’s kingdom. The Lord has ordained that you would be His vessel to raise up kingdom kids. And I hope you take that seriously.
Your role is very important. Otherwise a child will never internalize it for himself. And really, that brings us to what Jesus says in verse 17.
III. Children internalize it through childlike faith
He takes the little babies in his arms and he says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
What I want you to understand here is that it is not enough for kids to be recognized as a member of God’s kingdom. It is not enough for parents to cultivate them in a kingdom life. It is imperative that children internalize the kingdom for themselves. Ultimately, they need to personally profess faith themselves.
You see, everything to this point has been very external. They’ve been acknowledged as kingdom members. They have parents who are trying to nurture them in a kingdom lifestyle. But those things must blossom into a personal faith. The kingdom must be personally internalized. And if a child does not embrace it—if a child does not come to appropriate the promises of God himself or herself, then what Jesus says here will come true: He or she will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Children, you need to recognize that. You cannot get to heaven simply by being born into a Christian home. Just because you come to church, doesn’t mean anything. Just because you’ve been baptized, that does not guarantee that you’ve been saved. You must recognize that you have been given a special place in God’s kingdom. You must take the things that your parents have taught you and you must embrace the gospel for yourself.
Jesus says that you must receive the kingdom. You must acknowledge Jesus as your king, your God, and your Savior. You must trust his word and obey his law. If you are going to be part of the kingdom that Christ is one day coming back for, then you must believe that it will come to pass and take him to be your personal God.
And that goes for anyone else in this room. If you wish to be part of that eternal kingdom that God is restoring, then you must receive it. How do you do that? Jesus says it is through simple childlike faith. You must receive it like a child.
The thing about a baby is that he is very trusting. Truman, my little guy, is completely dependent upon his mother and I. When we stick that bottle in his mouth, he sucks it. He trusts that it is going to have something good in it and not be a bunch of poison.
That’s the same way we must come to God. We must simply trust him and take his word as true.
In a passage like this we are reminded that God’s word touches every aspect of our lives. Our theology doesn't just cover the nature of God, the way of salvation, or the basic constitution of man. We understand that it touches every aspect of life, even down to the tiniest baby in our household.
What’s more, we are reminded of God’s love for these kids. He holds them in special regard and relates to them in a special way. Our children are not the same as the children of unbelievers. They are not to be evangelized, but are to be disciple and raised as kingdom members.
After what Christ affirms here, not one of us should doubt the love our God has for our children. Instead, we should be encouraged that he does love and care for them. Moreover, knowing that their membership is valid, we must work it out. May we never prevent a child’s coming to Christ. But may we let the little children come to him and do everything in our power to foster that relationship.
One of the most beloved, yet most controversial, aspects of professional football is what they call the end zone celebration. The NFL has been notorious for having spawned things like the high step, fan jumping, and dunking a football over the goal post.
Football players have been known to do some of the most classic dance moves, ranging from the salsa to riverdance. Of course, many are moved by the moment to imitate the chicken dance or make up their own personal gyration. My personal favorite was the ever so popular “Icky Shuffle.”
The NFL has tried to pooh pooh such celebrations, but to no avail. Most of the viewership loves it. Beyond that, there is no stopping the excessive display of man as he proclaims his own greatness.
What we find on the television though is not just something that exists in the realm of professional football. It is something that lurks in the heart of every human being. Each of us, you might say, loves to proclaim our superiority, especially when it comes to our stance before God.
That is why this passage of Scripture was given. It is here to direct our attention to the peril of personal pride. As Jesus was teaching, he gave us this portion of Scripture to remind us that we ought not to have pride in our personal performance or spiritual achievement. He wants us to understand that entering the kingdom of God requires humility because it is based on God’s grace.
The passage before us divides nicely into three sections. In verse 9 we read about the people Jesus addresses. Then in verses 10-13 we read about the parable Jesus tells. And then it wraps up in verse 14 with the principle that he applies.
And each section reminds us that no one is so morally superior that he can attain eternal life.
Let’s begin by thinking about the people Jesus addresses.
I. The People he addresses 
Verse 9 tells us that Jesus directed this parable to a very specific audience. The people that he is addressing are not just identified as Pharisees. But they are described in two ways. They are described as people who “trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”
For the last several weeks my daughters have been out riding their bikes. It doesn’t matter how cold it has been, they are ready for spring. And my 2 year old has been extra excited because she is old enough to ride the “big bike.” She’s trading in her tricycle for a two wheeler this year. And she is loving every minute of it. Of course, she has training wheels on right now. And, since she is still pretty young and new to the whole thing, she needs me to help her. Even though its got training wheels, she could easily pitch it over and fall off.
So I’ve been helping her get started. I hold on to the handle bars and pull her along so she “rides” her big bike. Then, she started to get the hang of the whole pedaling concept. So, she can pedal, and I can hold on to the back of the seat and just keep her steady.
But every once and a while she will say to me, “Daddy, I do it!” What she wants is for me to let go and for her to do it on her own. But she doesn’t have enough balance yet. The moment I let go, she’s going to fall.
You see, she’s trusting in her own ability. She believes that her skill is of this superior caliber that she doesn’t need me or the help I offer.
I want you to understand that is exactly what is being spoken of here in this passage. Jesus is addressing those people who trust in their own ability and think that they don’t need the help of God and his grace. There are people who think that their righteousness is of such a surperior caliber that they can stand on their own before God.
And let’s not be naïve. There are many people who are morally superior. There is nothing wrong with that. Actually, moral purity is a commendable thing! We want that! But the danger is that you trust in that goodness. The pitfall of becoming sanctified is that you loose sight of the fact that “grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Except for the grace of God, there go I!
What’s more, this moral superiority leads to moral snobbery. That’s the second thing that is spoken of here in verse 9.
These people Jesus is addressing were not only trusting in their own righteousness, but they were also treating others with contempt.”
You know that look that stuck up teenage girls give? The one where they lift their eyebrows at you and wrinkle up their nose? They look down on you because you are just so not cool. Or you can take the snobby rich person. They are so high class that they just can’t associate with you.
That’s what is going on here. These people were just so far above everyone else when it came to their ethical purity that they looked down on those who didn’t measure up. “I’m sorry, you only read one chapter of the Bible a day? You mean, you don’t fast or give a full tithe?”
A good illustration of this can be found in the book of Galatians. In the book of Galatians Paul talks about how once Peter drew back and would not associate with the Gentiles. It was a form of moral superiority. It was ethical snobbery. “I’m sorry, you are a Gentile? You mean you’ve never been circumcised? Oh well, you are just not clean enough for the likes of me. Us spiritual people will sit over here at this table because God actually loves us.”
Again, these people were extremely disciplined, and we shouldn’t knock them for it. The problem was that they did not see themselves in the right light.
The Apostle Paul gives us the right perspective. Paul was a super apostle. He wrote most of our New Testament. There can be no doubt that he was well advanced in his spirituality. But how did he act? He did not trust in that righteousness, like the people that are described here. He continued to recognize the extent of his depravity. And we should always say with him, “The good I want to do, this I do not do. But the evil I hate, this I keep on doing. What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!”
But now that we understand the people Jesus addresses, let’s talk about the parable.
II. The Parable he uses [10-13]
In verses 10-13 Jesus tells a parable and he contrasts a man who is morally superior and one who is a complete moral flunky. Both of these guys went up to the temple to pray.
Now, let’s remember that the Pharisee was the guy who was favored to win. If anyone was going to be accepted with God, the people in Jesus’ day would think that it was the Pharisee. You have to remember that the Pharisees were admired for their scrupulous lives and for their discipline. They wrote the book when it came to holiness. If they had lived in America, people would have made them into action figures and trading cards because they were held in such high regard.
And the Pharisee would be the one you would have wanted in your Sunday School class. Look at what he says, “God I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector.”
Mind you, there is nothing expressly wrong with this statement. We should be thankful that we have been kept from these kinds of lifestyles. What is wrong with this statement is that the Pharisee is taking credit for it, rather than giving the credit to God’s restraining grace.
He goes on to say, “I fast twice a week.” Now, the Israelites were only required to fast once a year. The Pharisees usually fasted only once a week. This guy is going far and above what was required. He says, “I give tithes of all that I get.” Hey, he even tithe’s his income tax return!
This guy is amazing in how meticulous he is in his spirituality. And we should applaud his discipline. But his failure is that he is putting all this forward as that which that should make him acceptable to God. His prayer is nothing but a boast of his moral accomplishments. He’s showing off his spiritual resume, and acting like a showboat. The football player will high step into the endzone to show off how great an athlete he is. This Pharisee is doing essentially the same thing.
The text kind of hints at this when it says, “I thank you that I’m not like this Tax Collector.” Verse 13 says that the tax collector “stood afar off.” The Pharisee might be pointing all the way across the temple and saying, “I’m glad I’m not like him over there!”
Anyway, the Pharisee is a picture of someone who is very right, yet very wrong. He’s one who thinks that his ability will bring God’s favor.
He stands in great contrast to the tax collector who hunkered down in a corner and could not even lift his head towards heaven. The tax collector is one who senses the weight of his sin. He understands that nothing good lies in him. As a matter of fact, verse 13 says that he beat his breast because of his agony. He is in such grief for his failures that he physically berates himself.
Focus in on what he says. The sinner’s prayer. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” If we would translate it literally it would go something like this: God, be propitious to me, the sinner.” The word for merciful is the word that is used for propitiation. That was a word that is used in reference to the sacrificial system. It had to do with the removal of God’s wrath. He was acknowledging that he had offended God and provoked his anger and that there was nothing that he could do to change that. He acknowledged that if he was going to be right with the Lord God had to act on his behalf.
What’s more he called himself not just “a sinner,” but “the sinner.” He recognized himself as the chief of sinners; so engulfed in sin that it was his primary characteristic.
That’s the picture that Jesus paints. And in verse 14 he draws out the principle that he has been driving at and applies it.
III. The Principle he applies 
He says, “I tell you this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other one.” The word Justified is an important one. It is a legal word; drawn from the court system. It means to render or declare righteous.
And this is the real shocker. Because the Pharisee was the one who was more righteous. He was the one who everyone was placing their bets on. But it was this wretch who was proclaimed righteous.
Jesus expands on it by saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In other words, the way you enter God’s kingdom is on your face. The sole basis for life and salvation is the abundant mercy of God, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to gain it except grovel like poor beggars. We have forfeited every right to it and we are completely dependent upon the grace of God.
This is what most people miss. Very few are willing to make this confession. Very few are willing to admit that they are a sinner in need of God’s grace.
While in Israel this past week I had opportunity to witness this first hand. In two ways actually. I had several opportunities to share the gospel with people while over there. I got to put into practice some of the evangelism training that we’ve been receiving in our evangelism class. I would ask people, “Are you a good person?” And they inevitably would say that they were. Then I would take them through a couple of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? They readily admitted to having committed such sins.
But when we got to the next part, the part that involves humility, that’s where people draw the line. If you came before God as Judge, would he find you guilty or innocent? Would he send you to heaven or hell? Everyone knows the right answer to those questions, but they will not answer them. Because to do so requires humility. It means you have to acknowledge that God does not accept you on the basis of your personal goodness.
It takes humility to say, “I am a guilty sinner justly deserving the wrath and curse of God, without hope in this world except through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
Another thing I saw in Israel was the famous Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall is that giant wall where all the orthodox Jews go to say their prayers. They line up against that wall and say their prayers while gyrating back and forth. I found out what that wall is so special to them. That wall is the closest that they can get to where the Holy of Holies is supposed to be. That wall is the foundation to the temple mount and it is the point that is nearest to where God was supposed to have dwelt in the temple.
And those Jews are crowding around that wall because they are trying their hardest to get as close as they can to God. Actually, there is a tunnel that you can go through that takes you under the temple mount. And in that tunnel you can have even more proximity to the Holy of Holies. And it is said that there is a long waiting list of Jews who have signed up so that they can get in there. And when I took the tour through that tunnel, sure enough, there were a few Jewish people standing right at that point offering their prayers.
But I thought to myself, they got it all wrong! If they only knew what the Holy of Holies really was, they would not try to get close to it at all! If they really knew God to be holy, they would find a distant place and they would turn their faces away in shame.
In the OT only one person could enter into that place; and that once a year. And the only time he could do so was after he had been purified by means of the blood sacrifice. And he didn’t even go in with all this usual attire. The high priest was normally to be decked out with all kinds of glamorous attire. But when he went into the holy of holies, he was to take off the garments of splendor and color, and he was to go in with only the most bare essentials.
That was to be a picture of his poverty. It was to display that he could only come to God with the pomp of his greatness. He could only approach in the clothing of complete humility.
The lesson we should learn is the one Jesus teaches us right here. If you want to have a place in God’s kingdom—if you want to enjoy eternal life with him—then you must come humbly, acknowledging your need for his grace and forgiveness.
The good news is that he has provided a propitiation for your sins. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. Through his death God’s wrath has been appeased, and through his blood you can draw near to God. The one who is humble enough to confess Him and acknowledge his need for him, will go home justified.
Scientists tell us that there are certain kinds of insects that live under water with what they call an “external lung.” What happens is that these bugs gather a pocket of air under their wings. With this air bubble held in place, some of these insects have been known to descend up to 100 feet into some of the murkiest of waters.
Even though he may be plunged into an environment that might be completely adverse to his state of living, he is able to thrive. And all this is owning to his little supply of oxygen that he keeps with him.
The Rev WT Dorward once expressed that the life of a Christian parallels that little creature. We are people who are typically submerged in an environment that is adverse to our way of living. The world in which we live is such that it would easily snuff out our faith if it were not for the grace of prayer. By means of prayer we have the ability to descend into its putrid depths and remain uncontaminated. We are able to remain immune to the evils around us because we always have by means of prayer a fresh supply of heavenly grace.
This illustration corresponds well to our passage of scripture today. The opening of our passage says that this passage of Scripture is here to help us “always to pray and not lose heart.” In other words, Jesus knows that our prayer bubble can pop.
And I think we will all admit that our prayer life is not what it ought to be. But if you listen to what our passage says, I believe you will be motivated to pray more often. Jesus provides here encouragement for us to persist in prayer.
In order to bolster our prayer life, Jesus first points us to God's goodness. One of the key aspects of a persistent prayer life is understanding that God is good.
I. God’s is good [1-6]
We see this in the first 6 verses, and we see it by way of contrast. Jesus begins by telling us a parable about a woman who gets justice from this unjust judge.
Now, I’m not sure you can familiarize yourself with this completely, but back in those days political figures were not very trustworthy. They were often corrupt. And here was a man who didn’t give a hoot about justice. And this woman, who represents the poor and oppressed, has only one recourse to gain what she wants: Nag!
It may be that her persistence even rose to the point of violence. I actually like the way the ESV translates verse 5. It says, “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” Some of the other versions have the unjust judge saying something like, “I will give her justice, lest she wear me out” or “lest she weary me.” But the original language has more brutality contained in it. A literal translation would be “I will give her justice, lest she give me a black eye!”
You can imagine this little old lady coming in to this judge’s presence, each time getting more and more feisty. First she approaches calmly. Then the next day she falls on her face and enters her lament through tears. The next day she increases her volume. She begins to become angered and she starts to pull on his jacket as she pleads with him. The next day she pokes him in the chest. Then the next day she’s so earnest that she’s beating him with her purse!
I think the text indicates that Grandma got a little riled with this man and made him feel threatened!
Jesus brings out the contrast in verses 6 and 7. He says, “Here what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”
In other words, Jesus says, “Look. God isn’t like this judge. God isn’t corrupt. He loves justice. He is good and it is in keeping with his character to do that which is right. How do you think He will react to your prayers?”
If this is the case, then what stops us from going to the Lord in prayer? We do not have to beat him with our purses or upbraid him for not acting. God is willing to act. He is zealous for righteousness. He is swift to do good. So what keeps us from praying?
I might even say that God is so good that he almost begs us to pray. Jesus is telling us in this passage that you cannot exhaust God. He’s basically saying, “Keep on asking God.” And, you know, there are other places in Scripture that tell us the same thing. There is the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 that says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Then there is that passage in Matthew that says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.” That passage should actually be translated, “keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”
And Jesus also says in the book of John, “Anything you ask in my name, I will give to you.” I think that’s his way of saying, “Go ahead, bring it on. Give it a try. See if I won’t answer your prayer.”
I believe Jesus is saying that God is so good that he wants us to bombard him with our prayers over and over. God doesn’t mind being nagged in prayer. He is good and he wants us to seek him for that which is good.
I might say that it is almost an insult to God if we do not pray with such fervor. Perhaps I might even go so far as to say that it is idolatry. Because if we do not pray with constant beckoning, are we not saying that the Lord is not good? How about praying for our president or for the state of our country. If we lag off in our prayers, are we not essentially saying that God is not good and will not do what we ask? And is that not Idolatry? Are we not creating another god—one who is not good? Our laxity in prayer expresses that nature of God has been distorted. Our theology at that point is wrong and we’ve essentially fashioned another god in our minds!
The only way to correct that is to get our practice to line up with our theology. The remedy is to remind ourselves that God is good! Forgive me if I sound like a health and wealth preacher, but we have to remember that God is one who will open up the heavens for us. If we are praying for righteousness, God will hear that prayer.
We must act out our theology. If we believe that God is good and just, then let us make our petitions. And let us make them with constancy. Let’s show the world that we believe in the goodness of God by how many times we pray, “Thy will be done!”
But you’ll notice that this is not the only impetus we have to be praying. We are encouraged to pray, not just because God is good, but because he is loving.
II. God’s election is sure
Look at verse 7 again. Jesus says, “Will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night.”
Now, you have to remember that the Lord’s language is inspired. There is never a throw away word or a random string of idle words thrown together. And since that is true, we need to take note that he uses a specific term in this verse.
He doesn’t just call us his people. He could have easily said “his church.” But he didn’t. He specifically denominates us as “his elect.” Why is this? I believe it is to heighten our inclination to prayer. For if we remember that we are the ones that he has chosen from all eternity—the ones whom he sovereignly selected out of all the peoples of the earth, then we will realize that God has a special place in his heart for us.
This is to take God’s goodness and justice one step farther. It is to realize that his justice and his goodness are expressed towards us in particular. Out of all the people of the earth, there are a select number that have his special attention. And everything he does in this world is done specifically for those people.
Now, those of you who are married, your spouse is you “chosen one,” so to speak, right? She is the one you have chosen for yourself, and she has a special place in your heart, doesn’t she? You regard her with a special attention and you have a zeal for her that extends above and beyond that of other people.
That’s the way it is with the Lord. As a matter of fact, in the OT God’s people are referred to as “the apple of his eye.” They are the ones that he has chosen and, as a result, they are the ones who have his special attention. In other places Scripture reminds us that all that He does is for their good.
You know, we read history all wrong. We do history and we study different places and different kings who ruled here or there. But that’s not the way we should really understand history. History, as you all know, is HIS STORY. And everything that happens in this world is simply setting the scene for what God is doing for his church.
We typically read history from a secular perspective. We read about kings and rulers and all their edicts. We read about their battles and their struggles. But we rarely ever understand that God is ordering and ordaining all these events so that his church might be provided for.
Why is it that the Lord allowed the Roman Empire, that hideously wicked kingdom, to advance across the western world? It was so that everything could be in place for the advancement of the gospel at just the right time. The Apostle Paul was able to travel throughout the known world because the Roman Empire had established a superb transit system and a rather stable environment that allowed for ease of travel.
Why was it that the Lord caused such turmoil during the time of the Reformation? Why did he allow three wars to break out between the King of France and the King of Spain during a 27 year period? Well, I believe it was in answer to the prayers of a certain man named William Ferrell, who lived in Switzerland! The conflict of those two nations diverted the path of a young man who was seeking to go to Strasbourg in order to study and enjoy a quiet life of seclusion for writing and intellectual pursuits.
But his pathway was interrupted by a battle that was raging. So he had to take a detour, which led him right into the city of Geneva. And when Farrell heard that this man had come to his city, he went to meet him. And, the end of the matter is that he persuaded this man to leave off his dreams of Strasbourg and remain in the city to help further the reformation of the town.
If God had not raised up those two kings and allowed them to clash, we probably would have never of heard of John Calvin.
God is acting in this world, and all that he does is on behalf of his elect. He has loved them from the beginning of time, he has ordained the life of his Son for their redemption, and he is orchestrating the events of history specifically for them and their benefit.
And ought that not encourage us to pray? We can bow our heads in confidence to say, “God, you move nations like I move furniture. And knowing how easy it is for you to do such things, I pray that your church would be purged of evil. Lord, I want you to build her up and establish her in purity. Fix that broken marriage, or let that apostate church somehow get a gospel loving preacher installed in the pulpit.
Because we are the apple of his eye, we should be inclined to pray and not give up.
But there’s another reason that is found in our text. The fact that God is good and loving should encourage us to pray. But the fact that God is strong should also be another motivator.
III. God is strong
Look at the last verse that we read. In verse 8 Jesus says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
What’s Jesus saying here? He’s certainly not saying that there will not be any believers when he comes. We know from the rest of Scripture that there most certainly will be. What he is saying is that it will likely seem like there aren’t any believers left. Unbelieving people are going to abound, and of those who profess faith, many will apostatize.
In other words, God’s people are going to be outnumbered. And, as a result, they are going to face extreme opposition. They are going to be pressured at every point to turn on Christ and capitulate to the broader society.
In other words, given the pressures all around, they are going to need persevering faith. But how does one obtain persevering faith? It is through persevering prayer! Persevering faith will only come about by means of persevering prayer!
Just this week I heard a report from the Washington Times that Kim Jong Ill, that madman they call the leader of North Korea, put 33 Christians to death. He ordered their execution, calling them enemies of the state. These 33 saints were partners with a Christian missionary who was responsible for setting up over 500 churches in North Korea. Imagine that, 500 churches. And this execution was nothing more than a declaration that Kim Jong Ill will not tolerate Christianity permeating his country. He’d like nothing more than to stamp it completely out.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in North Korea? I’m sure he will. Because these monstrosities have only driven people to pray all the more for their land.
What was it that gave the church such power in its early days? Well, if you flip through the book of Acts, you will find that it is prayer! In the opening chapter it tells us that the disciples were huddled together in their Jerusalem apartment. What were they doing there? Luke tells us that they were “devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14). Then in chapter 2 it tells us that the people were devoted to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (2:42).
Then in chapter 4 there is the great prayer meeting that, when ended, shook the city! They cried out to the Sovereign Lord, who made heaven and earth. They recognized that they were in the very city that killed Christ. And they prayed that the Lord would grant to his servants (in the face of such ominous circumstances) the ability to speak his word with all boldness!
In chapter 13 it says that while the people of God were worshipping—which no doubt would have included a time of prayer-- the Lord told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for missionary work.
The book of Acts is not just a record of how the gospel went forward in amazing and powerful ways despite the opposition it faced, it is a record of how the people of God persevered in prayer.
Some of you might have heard the story of Charles Spurgeon. There once was a certain person who asked him what it was that made his ministry so successful. He preached to crowds of 5,000 people each week. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came to Christ as a result of his ministry. Churches were planted, schools were built, orphans were taken care of. It is only natural that one would want to know the secret to his success.
Spurgeon simply turned and led the man down to the church’s fellowship hall. He opened the doors and there sat 300 people praying for the service that was about to begin. Spurgeon turned to the man and said, “This is the secret to our success.”
The church grows and is sustained, not because we have a personal power or aptitude. It is sustained only by the hand of God. Our milk is his grace and we will thrive only when he extends it towards us. That is why we must be in prayer.
The Queen of England once said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of Scotland. Scotland was protected, not by swords and shields, but by the sovereign hand of God. The Reformation took root in Scotland—and this despite the vehement attacks of Mary I (otherwise known as Bloody Mary) and Mary Queen of Scots. How did it come about? It much due to the fact that people prayed. God raised up great men who stood boldly against tyrants and profaneness in the church. John Knox himself was known to cry out, “Lord, give me Scotland or I’ll die.”
How is it that that the church has survived all through its history? How is it that the church will survive in our day? Will there be persevering faith in this land? Only if there are people who are persevering prayer!
And what of our church? Will Providence church exist in 20-30 years? Will it fade into oblivion? Or will it go the way of most churches and be eaten up by the world? What’s keeping the elders and I from diving head long in to the vast abyss of liberalism that surrounds us? I dare say that its survival is directly dependent upon how you today are praying to God on her behalf!
If anything, think of your own households! What power do you have to ensure your kids grow to love the Lord and follow him all their days? And how can you be sure that they will continue to walk with Christ and not turn aside with the rest of the legions who are turning their backs on the church? Absolutely none! You can lock them away in a room and play Christian music and Bible verses through speakers all you want, but even that is no guarantee that they will live to fear God. Their weak and tender hearts are in the hand of God and we can only ask the Lord that he would make them to be faithful.
When Christ comes back, will he find faith on earth? Such is a question that should remind us of how weak we are. And it should lead us run to the one who is strong all the more.
The Church of Christ owes much to its patriarchs in the faith. Most especially to Augustine. He was one of the foremost figures in Church history. He defined for us the doctrine of depravity and defended it against the attacks of Pelagius and the Pelagians. His legacy lives on nearly 1500 years after his demise. Yet, let us not forget that this great Saint attributed his walk with Christ to his lowly mother, Monica. Behind this great patriarch was a loving mother who never stopped praying for her son.
We could have easily lost the faith and all become humanists. But there was one lowly woman who remembered that God was good. The salvation of God’s elect was much due to some obscure lady who was not afraid to come to the Lord time and time again.
Let us take this to heart and remember that Christ calls us to do the same. We must pray, and we must not lose heart.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.