Notes from the Sermon by Peter Hemming 22nd April 2018
NT Reading Acts 4:5-12 is the story of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) after healing the man at the Beautiful Gate. It ends – ‘there is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved.’ Unequivocal stuff.
Overview – Luke 7 …
Audience: Gentiles. Where Mt. gets tangled in the OT references, Luke’s writing to us. He writes good Greek –literary stuff. Greek was the best language of the day for reaching intelligent people. He dwells more than others on women and other ‘non-folk’. The Gospel is LONG – almost a Coffee Table Book. (Cf Threads in Revelation): add Acts and it’s huge.
Luke presents Jesus: The Saviour of the World – all of us. What Jesus did/does is relevant to us/ now. Our humanity – everyone can be reached.
[It will be helpful too for you to know: My view of Scripture – how I read the passage for myself, and thus will preach! And My view of Mission! There is a risk of all my sermons becoming Missional!]
Jesus has just finished the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (contrast the Sermon on the Mount in Mtt.); 6:17-end covers the ground that Mtt did in 3 chapters. It ends, as does Mtt with the story of the Wise Man and the Foolinsh Man, building their houses on rock or sand. This passage, starting at 7:1 – 35 is at the beginning of the section 7:1 to 8:21 is entitled ‘The Good News’ in the BST commentary. It is the point where the Theory of the Sermon becomes the Practice in the real world. Wise men will …
Though the ‘bibles’ have three headings for the two ‘healings’ and then ‘the message from John’, I see five sections in the Gospel. If you have bible to hand keep it open at Ch 7.
Sections – points to make!
HEAL 1. The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant 1 – 10 (The Text for my confirmation)
Greek words matter. Sozo = save and heal: (As sotḕr = saviour and healer).
Going into a Gentile’s house would render a Jew ‘unclean’: Jesus was quite prepared to do this – the Centurion prevented him. The Jewish Leaders saw the Centurion as ‘worthy of Jesus’ attention, because he had ‘built the synagogue’: not sure how interested Jesus was in this, but Luke records it.
The phrase ‘under authority’ demonstrated that the centurion recognised that ‘the instruction’ mattered more than ‘being there’: Jesus recognised this as the Centurion’s faith.
The slave was ‘valued’: even the underdogs of society don’t need to be unvalued by their owners.
See Peter’s preaching to Cornelius (Acts 10) – the unexpected recipient of grace is not in mainstream church!
HEAL 2. The Raising of the Widow’s Son in Nain 11 – 17
Only in Luke – none of the other Gospels carry this story. A large crowd was there – did Jesus see through the mass of people who’d ‘come to the funeral’ to realise the utter desolation of the Widow? Compare Elisha’s healing of the widow’s child. (2Kings.17) Luke saw this as an important story to tell, here.
JB 1. The Question from John the Baptist 18 – 23
John was in prison for challenging Herod over marrying ‘his brother Philips’ wife’. For John, the expected Messiah of Malachi was going to bring fire, a burning of chaff and gathering of wheat, a sword, a judgement and doom, a challenge to the Roman Authorities: a visible consumption of all that was evil.
Jesus just didn’t look like the coming one: He hadn’t spoken out loudly against John’s imprisonment – or other injustices. If Jesus’ work was not clear then, how much less obvious is it now!
Jesus’ answer is for John’s disciples to ‘look around’. The sick are healed, the dead are raised, (first two sections) and the poor have the Good News preached to them. Both the first two sections example folk who were ‘poor’ in ‘church’ status – the Gentile and the Widow. Jesus illustrates that here is ‘Good News’ for everyone, particularly the marginalised.
What alerts you to faith? I am excited when I hear about someone who’s ‘come to faith’ – penny dropped!
What do you look for? Cash in the plate? Numbers rising? Home Groups growing as folk seek to deepen their faith? More social action? Freedom for ‘captives’?
JB 2. Reflection on the Question 24 – 30
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you,” was a masterful amalgamation of the OT in Ex.23:30 and Mal.3:1: John was indeed the direct forerunner for Christ, yet John was still outside the Kingdom – he had not grasped the change needed to move away from Judaism (as it was) to discipleship (as it was going to be) following Christ.
The Pharisees chose to sit outside the sphere of John’s baptism, as it would have reduced their social status. There is a challenge here for us! Where do we sit in the embrace of the Kingdom?
JB 3. Soliloquy 31 – 35
John wouldn’t play ‘weddings’ and Jesus wouldn’t play ‘funerals’.
John expected everyone to have a hard time; Jesus wanted people to love God, His Father as He did.
John wanted a renewed Judaism, possibly; Jesus wouldn’t do things properly: he was too much fun – he wouldn’t discuss morals and religion, ethics and abstract things: he was too normal, too much fun.
For John, like the cat in ‘Oi Frog!’, ‘doing the right thing’ mattered. For Jesus it was not about doing the right thing by conventional wisdom but doing the right thing by God’s yardstick.
As the Kingdom breaks in, life is always unexpected and upsetting: it is hard to fit with men’s (the church’s, the bishop’s, our) preconceived ideas and prejudices. I just wonder if Jesus thought, for a moment, no-one understood him!
What does it say to us? (to me?) What do I feel are the challenges?
- Do we still acknowledge that Jesus has the power to heal? Do we crave Jesus’ presence, when his word of power is what is needed even in life and death situations? (Read bit of Judy Acheson’s story from DRC).
- If God appears inactive – then what? Jesus says that ‘by this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. What ‘Signs of the Kingdom’ should we be looking for today…?
Are there times when we feel to be real disciples we have to ‘be like John’, real ascetics’?
Are we still concerned to be proper about our faith – and ‘Church’? Are we afraid of breaking the mould – every time we meet together? Are we keen to be really different and present Jesus to others?
How can we, as a church, be more appealing for people to want to join us?
Questions for you! 2 mins. In 2s or 3s. Choose ONE question…
- What ‘Signs of the Kingdom’ should we be looking for today…? Growth in £p, numbers, depth … ???
- How can we, as a church, become more appealing for people to want to join us?
Seek responses! Pick up on things we do together.
What did Luke intend?
That folk such as us, Gentiles, could get to hear the story of the Saviour of the World. My hope is that from what I’ve said and you’ve thought this morning, you see how this some of this fits together. We can never know the full picture, but we can see Jesus at work and acknowledge his power.
What will you take away?
That I have talked too long or have taken the stories at their face value, and not challenged their authenticity, and I have not been rigorously theological and can therefore be ignored?
Or: ‘We must learn to see Christ at work – together.’ In Acts, the Sanhedrin saw that ‘They had been with Jesus’: not Peter alone, but They, plural. We are included; we have been called. It’s not up to you or me; it’s up to us.
What do I intend?
Luke, in Acts, put uncompromising words in Peter’s mouth – ‘there is no other name under heaven …’.
Jesus’ demands on us are also radical: they change everything for us – they changed everything for me.
Today, people don’t respond to the Good News by reason alone. They must be loved into the Church.
If we try to present God to ‘them’: we must remember that God is at work in the hearts and minds of our ‘audience’. Our task is to ‘join in’ trusting that Jesus/ the Holy Spirit will do their bit too.
Whatever you have thought, keep thinking. God’s thoughts don’t go away – SD…
We all see growth differently.
We must become disciples together.