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Mar 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 7, 2020



John [the Baptist] calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” . . . And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Luke 7:18-23

Intro: We’re going to begin a new series of talks–but not today

In the meantime, I’m going to share some of my “meds” with you
– by “meds,” I mean meditations from my daily Bible reading
• obviously, what I share is going to be personal and not profound
◦ these are the sort of thoughts God uses, to encourage me or wake me up
• that is why we find ourselves in Luke’s Gospel this morning

We enter the story just as Jesus receives a message from John

Jesus may have anticipated a reaction like this from John
– but still, I imagine that it would have evoked some sadness in him
• true to form, John’s message was simple and direct
Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?
• John had second-thoughts about Jesus
◦ having raised lots of commotion and making a huge announcement
◦ now, from his view in prison it looked like the whole thing would fizzle
– Jesus told the messengers to give John their him eye-witness account
• but above all, to tell John,
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me
• “If I’m not what you were expecting or what you wanted me to be”

Then, turning to the crowd, Jesus paid respect to John
– what had drawn them to the desert to see the Baptist?
a man dressed in soft clothing? (John was clothed with camel’s hair; Mk. 1:6)
• the Lord gave John the highest possible compliment
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John
◦ but then he added a strange comment
◦ strange, because it sounds like the exact opposite of what he just said,
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than ne

Luke adds a footnote to Jesus’ eulogy to John
(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him)
– John’s ministry received popular support
– the Pharisees and experts in the law of Moses rejected John’s ministry
• only that’s not how Luke words it — he says,
they rejected the purpose of God for themselves

This week I’ll be taking a long drive up north

And, in a sense, I’ll also be traveling back in time
– I’ve been asked to speak at a friend’s memorial service
• it’s been more than three decades have passed since I last saw him
• recently we reconnected, and he kept in touch until his death
– something his wife said to me this week jarred me
• it was a sudden reminder of who I was when they knew me
◦ and who I was then is not the person I am now
◦ I’ve grown through maybe three quantum leaps of evolutionary development
• sometimes the past we must leave behind is not only our sinful past,
◦ but also our religious past
◦ when we thought we were so right, not even God could change our minds

Two primary traditions ran through the history of Israel’s religion

We can refer to them as legalist and prophetic — Moses and the prophets
– in light of Jesus’ coming, both of them became “old school”
• they weren’t wrong, or bad, or even irrelevant
• but God was doing something new
◦ if people were stuck, clinging to the past,
◦ they would miss what God was giving them in Jesus
– earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was asked why his disciples did not pray and fast like the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees
• he answered the question with a parable (Lk. 5:33-39)
◦ if you patch an old garment with new fabric, you will ruin both
◦ if you pour new wine into an old wine skin, you lose both
• he was saying,
“I cannot pour myself into those old systems. I cannot patch them up with who I am or fill them with what I am doing”
◦ so the people who were stuck in the old school traditions found it difficult to tolerate or even understand Jesus

John the Baptist had difficulty accepting Jesus,
– he was embedded in the old school prophetic tradition
• Jesus opened the door to God’s kingdom
◦ and it is so spectacularly better than old school religion, that the lowliest person in the kingdom of God is greater than those who had not lived to enter the kingdom
◦ in the same way, the fulfillment of a prophecy is greater than the prophecy
• that is why Jesus said John was less than the least in the kingdom of God
– as great as the prophets were, they only saw God’s kingdom in the distant future
• the disciples were experiencing, in Jesus, the reality of the kingdom of God

Back to our story

After Jesus finished his talk about John,
– he was invited into the home of a Pharisee whose name was Simon
(we need to understand that the Pharisees were the “Fundamentalists” of Jesus’ time–they were the very serious and stern Bible-believers)
• this is one of those very lovely stories from Jesus’ ministry

While they were dining in Simon’s home, a woman entered–a woman well-known to the guests for her bad reputation. When she came in, she knelt behind Jesus. She began kissing his feet, bathing them with her tears, and drying them with her hair. Then she anointed his feet with perfumed oil. To the Pharisee, it was scandalous for Jesus not to do something, to protest or tell her to leave. Simon thought to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for se is a sinner (v. 39)
• Simon obviously had specific ideas regarding prophets
◦ they could at least discern what any decent person could see
◦ he also had specific ideas regarding how prophet would treat a sinner
– although it was like trying to teach a stone to walk,
• Jesus tried to get through to the Pharisee
◦ to help him see why he had so little love for Jesus
he who is forgiven little, loves little
◦ and why this woman with the bad reputation had such a deep love for Jesus — she had been forgiven much
• tenaciously hanging onto what he believed was true,
◦ Simon rejected the new wine
◦ he rejected the purpose of God for himself

Between eulogizing John and eating with Simon, Jesus told a parable

To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.”
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by all her children
(vv. 31-35)

Jesus was describing the old school generation
– they could not be convinced of the truth proclaimed by John or Jesus
• they were too stuck in their traditions and interpretations of scripture
◦ they were still drinking the old wine from old wine skins
◦ and could not see God in the new thing happening
– it made no difference what game John or Jesus suggested they play
• whether, a happy dance or somber procession
◦ these “children” refused to play
◦ new school music did not appeal to them
• sadly, in rejecting the musicians and the songs,
◦ they rejected the purposes of God for themselves
◦ and so they were baptized neither in water nor in the Spirit

How does religion go wrong?

Well, when people take control of it, and try to “manage” it
– what they tend to create is Religion Inc.
• an institution run according to policies and procedures,
• but devoid of the Spirit

In chapter 11 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus severely criticized both:
The Pharisees who
• cleaned outside of cup, but inside were full of greed and wickedness
• neglected justice and love of God, while being hung up on trifles
• loved best seats in synagogues and receiving recognition in marketplace
• and were themselves like unmarked graves
(people were defiled by contact with them without knowing they were defiled)
The Lawyers who
• loaded people with burdens hard to bear, and did nothing to help them
• built the tombs of prophets, and and so implicated themselves in the murder of the prophets
• had taken away the key of knowledge, refusing to enter or allow others to enter
The people who had the greatest difficulty with Jesus
– were also the most pious and the most biblical
– they were also the most unloving believers in all Israel

When I read about the scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers who opposed Jesus
– I see the faces of people in the religious subcultures of my youth
• dogmatic Pentecostals who believed they were the only true Christians
• angry Fundamentalists, always looking for a fight
◦ building barriers around their churches rather than bridges
• worldly Evangelicals who relied on marketing, management, and political methods–almost anything rather than God’s Spirit–for carrying out God’s work
– all of Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees and Lawyers
• can find targets among Evangelicals and Evangelical leaders today
◦ it is a movement that desperately needs something new
• for better or worse,
◦ God gives us the freedom to reject his purpose for our lives
◦ to live by a contrived set of rules rather than the law of love

Conclusion: In one of my other recent mediations,

I reflected on a statement people made after seeing Jesus in action:
We have seen extraordinary things today (Lk. 5:26)
Spend a day with Jesus, and you will see extraordinary things
– something extraordinary in that particular chapter;
• Jesus called ordinary people to join him in his extraordinary work

How can we settle into an ordinary life?
God is here–now – everything we see is an invitation,
a doorway to the unknown, the mystery
We might as well enjoy this extraordinary day we’ve been given
We might as well live it with Jesus
Go. Have fun. Be amazed!

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