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Week 24 – Recalibration, Part Two

In chapter 24, Jesus continues Part Two of His mission of recalibrating everyone’s view of what a Messiah should be.  But this time, he tells stories – parables – that start to inform people about “The Kingdom.”  This is next on your outline:  He tells stories about the Kingdom.  But surprisingly, He doesn’t describe this new kingdom as a political upheaval, or a re-ordering of society, or renewed global empire other countries would have to reckon with.

He said the kingdom was like seed scattered on the ground – most people, like most soil,  won’t receive these seeds, but some will – and they’ll multiply and produce this radical idea over and over.  He said the kingdom is like a mustard seed:  seemingly small and insignificant, but when it finds that good soil, when it grasps this upside-down solution, it becomes the largest of all plants.

The point was this:  The Kingdom values people over process.

He said the kingdom values people over process so much, that it’s like the foolish shepherd who’d leave 99 safe sheep and look for one that was lost…like a woman who loses a coin and turns her house upside down…like a man who had two sons, and even though the younger was a greedy opportunist and a jerk, his father couldn’t wait for him to come back home.  That’s how important people are in this kingdom.

Just how important are people?  A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, attacked and left for dead.  Was it the clergy who helped?  No, it was someone you’d never expect:  a Samaritan, who wasn’t blinded by ethnicity and prejudice.  Who’s your neighbor?  Anyone who needs you.

Jesus was saying you may think I’m an odd kind of Messiah, but my kingdom is even more so.  Because you get to choose whether or not you belong – but once you decide, you can’t have it both ways…you can’t have two masters, or store up treasures here, or worry about where the next meal is coming from.

And one more thing:  once you hear this intriguing message, if it really captures you, put it in “Drive” and engage.  Hearing about this extreme philosophy, but keeping your life in neutral is like building sand castles – they’ll be gone with the next tide.  But put these uncommon principles into effect, and no one can shake your foundation.

Chapter 23Small group; Adult Sunday School Class (PDF); Family PagesAudio; Little Ones/Preschool ( Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Early Elementary (Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Kids (Take Home PageActivity Sheet)

Week 23 – Recalibration, Part One

In Chapters 23-24 of The Story, Jesus’ mission is one of creative destruction.  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he starts with a blank sheet of paper and reinvents the notion of a Messiah, a Deliverer.  But it turns out that was just one of his two missions.  As He makes his entrance on the scene, there were two critical missions that Jesus had to accomplish.

So today, we want you to hear everything in Chapters 23 and 24 in the context of the dual missions that Jesus had.  Everything that happens in these chapters falls under one of two key objectives:

  1. Shatter the notion of the long-awaited Messiah.
  2. To authenticate His dominion and authority over all other forces.

Both of these were absolutely critical.

Recalibration, Part One

First, at the outset of his ministry, everyone was looking in the wrong direction.  Israel was anticipating the Messiah would be a world leader, a military force, a revolutionary to restore political power and prominence as in the days of Solomon.  The Messiah had been anticipated, promised, and prophesied about for ages, so that now, the expectations for this Deliverer were huge.

But Jesus’ mission was so radically different, so counter-intuitive, he found, just like the executive at Hallmark, that he had to effectively start all over, first by destroying these popular characterizations of a man with a cape and a big “S” on his shirt.  He had to shatter and then recast and re-purpose this Messiah concept toward his true mission.

Second, he had to validate this new model by demonstrating his power over all obstacles, to authenticate that his absurd claims were actually true.

So, as we go through the events of these chapters, see everything through these lenses.  Watch as he simultaneously goes about these two goals:  authenticating and shattering.

First, we see John the Baptist, who definitely marched to a different drummer and, shall we say, lacked a sense of tact or a balanced diet.  John was the herald of the Focus of human history – but we have to ask, “Hey, where did they get this guy?”  Why him?   John answered their question:  “…the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”  In other words, I serve as a directional arrow, a sign pointing to the One whose sandals I am unfit to tie.

Now, if you were going to pick some sort of beacon to point people to Jesus, wouldn’t you want a very conspicuous one?  John was that hard-to-ignore eccentric that signaled Jesus’ presence – sort of like those people you see on the side of the street dressed like a mattress and waving a sign about a sale.  There’s someone close to our home that’s dressed like the Statue of Liberty that is this crazy person, doing calisthenics on the side of the road to advertise a tax preparation business.

That was John the Baptist – and for that matter, that’s what we are called to be:  a flare, a flag, a flashing yellow light, a semaphore that signals that the presence of Jesus is in whatever room we occupy.  If we are literally the body of Christ, then when we enter a room, it is as if Jesus entered the room.  John the Baptist’s mission was to never fail to point to Jesus.

And so right up front there’s Today’s Equipping PointNever fail to point people to Jesus.  Because when you walk in a room, He walks in a room.

Next we see his first miracle:  turning water into wine at a wedding.  This wasn’t an especially flashy first miracle…you’d think he’d have picked a more public, showy miracle that would at least elicit a golf clap from the crowd.  But instead, it was a behind-the-scenes, how-did-that-happen kind of miracle.

I can’t help but wonder why.  We’ll likely never know for sure, but my guess is that this is part of the shattering mission.  I think this miracle was the first attempt to recast the Deliverer not as a political animal, or even a party animal, but as the gracious and eternal bridegroom of the church – the One who provides even the wine, the One who watches over.  I believe this miracle was a significant symbol of the role that Jesus will play forever at the marriage feast of the Lamb when He gathers His bride, the church, to Him, and the relationship is consummated by drinking the last cup of the Passover in His presence.  Jesus the Messiah, recasting Himself as the husband and provider for His church, turns water into wine.

The next two events are very significant because they happen back-to-back.  First, Jesus meets with an expert in the Law, the religious elite, the well-educated Nicodemus.  Jesus used a lot of confusing language, especially the part about being “born again.”  But his point was this:  whoever believes in Him is not condemned.  In other words, blessed is he who can look past the unexpectedness of a non-political Messiah and believe he is who he says he is.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”  This is what John the Baptist was saying…this was the Upper Story:  everything points to Him.

Then, the very next conversation could not have been more different.  It was not at night with a scholar, but in the daytime, in Samaria, with a woman.  Jesus moves from esteemed professor to half-breed female in a foreign land.  And this time, instead of being “born again,” he speaks of “living water.”

These two consecutive events very clearly shatter the myths and preconceptions of a Superman Messiah.  He could not bookend two sequential conversations whose audiences were more different.  Jesus is deconstructing the Messiah complex and demonstrating that He is Lord of all, Savior of all:  the aristocracy and the riff-raff, male and female, Gentiles AND Jews, Democrats and Republicans, everybody.  He wastes absolutely no time in confounding expectations:  to Nicodemus, he says all there is, really, is faith – just believe.  To the woman, his message is essentially the same:  it’s not about worshipping on this mountain, or in Jerusalem – it’s a matter of the heart.  Just worship in Spirit and in truth.  That’s all – just believe.  Two very different conversations, one essential message.

But these two meetings do more than flabbergast their Messiah image – they also demonstrate His Lordship over Jews and Gentiles alike, and there are the first two blanks in the next section on your outline.  Jesus seamlessly transitions into His authenticity mission:  He is Lord, Ruler and Authority over the Jewish elite and Gentile outcasts.

Next, he demonstrates his authority over the god of this world.   The third proof of His Lordship was key:  even demons obeyed Him.

Next we see the fourth proof of his power and credibility:  Lord, Ruler and Authority over not just people and spirits, but also of illness.  From the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, to the next man with leprosy, to the paralytic lowered through the roof, Jesus demonstrated there was no physical infirmity he could not overcome.

But then He went a step further.  As they lowered the paralytic through the hole in the roof, Jesus said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Now we have the fifth realm over which Jesus had authority:  spiritual sickness.  It’s one thing to heal a fever or leprosy – it’s quite another to speak what was considered blasphemy and presume to forgive sins…to heal those with spiritual fever.

And then what does he do next, but broaden his social circle once again, this time having dinner with a tax collector.

Do you see how he is systematically sabotaging every presupposition about this whole Messiah paradigm?  Remember again the dual missions:

  1. To authenticate His dominion and authority over all other forces; and
  2. Shatter the idea of the long-awaited Messiah.

Jesus is brilliantly accomplishing both missions concurrently:  He is cherry-picking the sacred cows over which he has power, while at the same time showing Himself to be a Messiah who was novel, unexpected, and extraordinary.

Chapter 23Small group; Adult Sunday School Class (PDF); Family PagesAudio; Little Ones/Preschool ( Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Early Elementary (Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Kids (Take Home PageActivity Sheet)

Week 22 – The Time Has Come

Heaven had been very quiet for 400 years. No burning bushes. No pillars of fire or clouds of smoke.  No splitting seas. No visions. No dreams. No prophets.  No message from God…just silence.

Then, in a simple, unpretentious, quiet way, a word – but not just a word, The Word.  At the time, the event mattered only to a blue collar carpenter and his teenage bride.  There was no Doppler system on the planet sensitive enough to pick up this event.  The Richter scale didn’t even budge.  Not only did key event of human history have no buildup, no crescendo, no cymbals and cannons, there was no media, no paparazzi, no breaking news…not even a wedding shower.  Mary and Joseph weren’t registered at Babies R Us, there was no framed birth certificate, no small bassinet with a mobile over it playing Brahms’ Lullaby.  In fact, if it weren’t for some local shepherds and a couple of distant astrologers, no one else would have known.

But in fact, history had changed.  The Word of God had taken on flesh and blood and was first heard in a baby’s cry.  His birth was unspectacular, yet His presence dispelled darkness and cast an inescapable ray of light across history, past, present and future. God’s promises to Abraham and David had found fulfillment at long last.  Jesus would bless all nations and would take His rightful place on David’s throne.  It is this event to which everything thus far in The Story has pointed.

The main point for us to see this morning is this: God’s Upper Story intersects with our Lower Story at the birth of Jesus Christ, the God-man. 

  1. What detail of the birth of Christ has always particularly captured you?
  2. Are you encouraged or nervous that there is no place we are safe from God?
  3. How will you be vigilant today for Upper Story moments in your life?

Chapter 22Small group; Adult Sunday School Class (PDF); Family PagesAudio; Little Ones/Preschool ( Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Early Elementary (Take Home PageTrading Card PosterActivity Sheet); Kids (Take Home PageActivity Sheet)

Luke: Investigating Jesus

What happens when a wealthy benefactor funds a costly and lengthy investigation by an educated medical doctor and historian of the life of Jesus Christ? The Gospel of Luke.

We invite you to join us on Sunday evenings at 6:00 PM as we investigate together the book that investigates Jesus.

Recommended Resources

The following books are offered as further study materials. We do not necessarily endorse every word of these books but feel that they can be useful tools as additional resources. Links will open on amazon.com

Luke (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (2 Volumes)

This informative, balanced commentary includes extensive introductory notes and a comprehensive discussion of the text. An outstanding addition to any academic, pastoral, or student library.

Stories with Intent offers pastors and students an accessible and comprehensive guide to Jesus parables. Klyne Snodgrass explores the context in which these stories were told, the purpose they had in Jesus message, and the way that they have been interpreted by the church and modern scholarship.

Luke (The NIV Application Commentary)

It explains not only what the Bible means but also how it can speak powerfully today.

Luke: Historian & Theologian (New Testament Profiles)

In this study Howard Marshall affirms Luke’s trustworthiness as a historian. But Luke is more than a historian. He is also a theologian who finds his interpretive key in the great theme of salvation. Marshall provides us with a lucid guide to Luke’s theology of salvation as it is unfurled in Gospel narrative, but always with a eye on its ongoing development in the companion work, the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))

The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries have long been a trusted resource for Bible study. Written by some of the world’s most distinguished evangelical scholars, these twenty volumes offer clear, reliable, and relevant explanations of every book in the New Testament.

Luke (Vol. 1): That You May Know the Truth (Preaching the Word)

Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Volume II (Hughes, R. Kent. Preaching the Word.)

Luke’s carefully researched and “orderly account” of the life of Christ is one of the finest pieces of historical writing in all of ancient literature. Yet it also accomplishes its divinely appointed—and more personal—purpose: that people of every century “may know the truth.”  “Those who study Luke cannot stay the same,” says commentator R. Kent Hughes. “He took great pains to present the gospel with maximum power under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The result is a compelling story.” Especially when it is read and studied in sequence, as Hughes has done in these two volumes.