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Aug 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 7, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!           I hope you are all well.           May the Mercy of the Lord be with you.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Some of our friends are carrying a lot of pain.  For some it’s temporary, and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel; for some it’s ongoing, and it can be very overwhelming. May our Gracious Lord offer them His Great Mercy. 

So, we know that God is merciful.  Ps. 145 says that “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  It seems important to consider that the Lord also wants to see us exercise His character of mercy.  In the OT, God says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  In the NT, “Mercy triumphs judgment.”

God said He’ll meet us – at the mercy seat.  When Moses was given instructions for building the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, there was to be fashioned a Mercy Seat to be set over the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies, and this is where God would meet them.  There are 16 verses in Exodus and more in Leviticus and Numbers about the gracious availability of the mercy seat in the Tent of Meeting. 

The LORD is full of mercy, but how do we operate in mercy?  I want to put a little twist on that.  I think that some things we already possess need to be activated.  I think many of the fruits of the Spirit are like that:  Patience, Kindness…they show up when they are needed. I believe mercy is like that too. 

I have a friend who suffers with many long-standing physical ailments.  She has a heart of gold and always wants to commit to serving others, ministering in Jesus’ Name etc.  But very often she cannot finish the work she wants to do, or even has committed to do, because of her frailty.  And she adds to that burden of sickness with Shame. This causes her much suffering–pain upon pain. 

A while back God gave her a vision that I’ve never forgotten.  She said she saw that she was in a circle of people she recognized as people who had done many good deeds with mercy.  Jesus was handing out rewards as He went around the circle, and when He came to her, He handed her the same reward.  She said, “Oh no, Lord I haven’t done as much as the others.”  She said that Jesus told her this: “Those who are merciful and those who stir up mercy are equal in the Kingdom.”  In other words, how would the merciful get to exercise their gifts of mercy if someone else didn’t need mercy?

So, I’m speaking to all of us this morning.  We need each other in profound and mysterious ways.  Let’s remember to pray for others and for ourselves– for mercy and grace.  And let’s allow mercy to be stirred up and activated in us, for we are all God’s children.

Please join me in prayer:

Lord, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, help for ourselves, help for others.  Let us be moved with compassion for everyone burdened with sickness, paralyzed with doubt, and those who are struggling with letting go and living with what is.  Let us not neglect the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy, and faithfulness.  Lead us in the way that we should go, for Your Name’s sake.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist.” But others say Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am? And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18-20

Intro: This passage is a bit strange

I like the strange passages that call attention to themselves
– and force me to pay closer attention to what is there
• I would not say I did my best Bible reading this past week
◦ I took three of my grandchildren to Flagstaff, Arizona,
◦ where we shared a hotel room – so there was no private space for me to read and pray
• nevertheless, I tried, but with many apologies to the Lord
– so yesterday I sat down with this strange scripture,
• and it demanded that I pay attention
• I heard these verses tell me, This is a very important passage

Verse 18a, If Luke put this sentence in a PowerPoint presentation,

Two slides would appear in rapid succession,
– and the second slide would seem to contradict the first
• in the first slide Jesus is praying and he’s alone
• in the second slide, his disciples are with him
◦ which is it? Is he alone or are his disciples with him?
– let’s take a look at the first slide

We have come to another critical hour in the story of Jesus
– but just before it unfolds, Jesus prays
• this has been the pattern in Luke
• before, during, or after a big moment, Jesus prays
– I imagine Jesus in a quiet room – or maybe outside in a garden or under a tree
• he has shut out the world and turned to the Father
◦ the whole atmosphere around him is sacred
◦ heaven pours into the space of his prayer
• anything could happen when Jesus prays
◦ the world could burst into flames, armies of angels could descend
◦ seeing Jesus pray, I find myself feeling lost and stupid
I realize I do not know how to pray – that I know nothing about prayer

Now, the second slide – the disciples were with him
– how could he be alone and the disciples be with him at same time?
maybe he was the only one praying, and they were just there
◦ perhaps observing him, learning by watching
maybe he was alone in prayer, as if having a private conversation
◦ he was alone, but only in regard to humans – he was with the Father
maybe he was alone they way all of us are alone when we pray
◦ God does not embrace people en masse, but one at a time
◦ no one gets lost in the crowd
▫ we cannot minimize the individual attention we receive from God
▫ if we do, our prayers can become empty words
◦ when we turn to God, he is near and gives his full attention
◦ and for that golden moment, we are alone with God
maybe Jesus was alone the way he was always alone
◦ he wasn’t like anyone else – even his own disciples didn’t get him
◦ in Matthew, what follows his two questions and statement, is that Peter rebukes Jesus
– Jesus was always alone, because he is an incomprehensible mystery

Verses 18b-20, And now the big moment–and it hinges on two questions

What is the word on the street?
– Luke already gave us a foreshadow of the rumor mill,
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. (Lk. 9:7-9)
• the first thing about these speculations that intrigues me:
◦ each one refers either to someone long ago or raised from dead
(technically, Elijah would not have been raised from the dead, because he didn’t die)
◦ the crowds recognized a supernatural dimension in Jesus
• the second thing that intrigues me,
◦ no one in the crowds was saying he was a fake,
◦ or that Jesus was a nobody – nothing more than carpenter
– why did Jesus want to know what the crowds were saying?
• I think the point, is to bring the question into sharp focus: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
◦ if he were only a prophet, a John the Baptist or an Elijah,
◦ then he may be a great reformer, but that would be all
• just another voice for God in a nation that had heard many voices
◦ it was important to learn the chatter of the crowd,
◦ but Jesus also had to hear the disciples’ answer

The disciples lived closer to Jesus – spent more time with him
– they had a more complete knowledge of him
• Peter’s complete answer in Matthew:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16)
◦ Mark’s streamlined version, You are the Christ (Mk. 8:29)
◦ Luke, You are the Christ of God
• the promised Messiah – the anointed One – Israel’s rightful king
◦ according to the prophets, the Messiah would usher in a new age
◦ he would establish the kingdom of God on earth
– why wasn’t this suggestion regarding Jesus rumored among the crowds?
• because Jesus did not look like the Messiah they expected
• and the kingdom he preached was hidden, invisible (Mt. 13:11, 31-33, 44-46)
◦ the kingdom was present and powerful with Jesus, but not as a political force
◦ people wanted a political Messiah, a military commander

Our concern in these talks is prayer – SO,
– why was it important to Luke that Jesus prayed before asking the questions?
• Matthew tells this story, but doesn’t mention Jesus’ prayer
◦ Mark tells the story too, and he also leaves out Jesus’ prayer
• Luke tells us Jesus prayed–and in this odd context: alone-yet-with
– here’s how I see it:
• Luke knows he has nothing more important to say regarding Jesus than who he is
◦ did the crowds know? Did the disciples know? Do Luke’s readers know?
• this was Luke’s purpose in writing the story of Jesus
◦ do we know who Jesus is?

Someone might argue, “The most important thing Luke had to say about Jesus is, that he was crucified and then rose again”
• but that is only important if we know who it was that was crucified and raised
• so the right answer regarding the person of Jesus had to be stated
◦ his identity had to be revealed
◦ and as we go on in Luke, the revelation becomes increasingly fuller–e.g., Lk. 24:25-27, 44-47

One more stage to the story
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” Luke 9:21-22
(I told you this passage is a bit strange)

If this story opens with what a seeming contradiction, at this point, Jesus seems to undermine what he wanted to establish
– “Okay, you know the truth. But don’t tell it to anyone!”
• if knowing his identity is everything, why keep it a secret?
– N. T. Wright, a respected New Testament scholar, suggested that “once Jesus was thought of as a potential or would-be Messiah, the movement would swiftly attract attention of the wrong sort.”
• his ministry would’ve been brought to an end much too soon
• or, because he was a different Messiah than expected, it would have caused them to stumble

But there may have been other reasons he kept it secret–for instance:
1. this is a discovery each person must make on their own
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Mt. 11:27)
No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. . . . Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me (Jn. 6:44-45)
2. we can never eliminate the mystery
• that God’s work is transcendent, hidden, beyond knowing
• that is the mystery of the kingdom of God
3. what God desires most from us is our faith–our trust
• not mere belief in a truth
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder (Jas. 2:19)
• a personal–and sometimes painful–trust in God

Conclusion: I think Christians in the United States need to wake up

To be a Christian, means that a person knows Jesus
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed . . . you put up with it readily enough (2 Cor. 11:4)
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him (Jn. 5:43)

When I come to know Jesus for who he is, he shows me myself for who I am,
and I learn things I would have rather remained buried
But though Jesus knows me, sins and all, he gives me life in himself
This is what Luke is telling us and what John said so succinctly:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (Jn. 20:30-31)

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