Are You On The Right Train?
October 28, 2018 | Randy Smith
Are You On The Right Train?
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
I want to take a moment and give a special welcome to all the children in the sanctuary – especially those between 4th and 6th grade. I want you to know that it is a pleasure to have you with us every Sunday morning. So on Pastor Appreciation Day, I want you to know that we appreciate you! I have never done this before, but I am dedicating the introduction of this sermon to you! And if you are like my son, I know you like a good riddle.
What do you call a train loadedwith bubble gum? … A chew-chew train.
Why are the railroad tracks angry? … Because people are always crossing them.
How do you find a missing train? … You follow the tracks
What is as big as a steam locomotive, but weighs nothing? … Its shadow.
Why don’t elephants like to ride on trains? … Because they dislike leaving their trunks in the baggage car.
When does a rabbit go faster than a train? … When it is on the tracks.
When does a rabbit go exactly as fast as a train? … When it’s in the train.
I read a story this week about a New Jersey student who on her way home from her Florida college fell asleep while studying Biology. Unfortunately no one noticed. When she woke up, the train reached its end destination, was parked in the yard and she was locked alone inside a passenger car.
You ever get on the wrong train? I fear that every time I travel in New York City. I tried going to a Yankee’s game by rail with Shane last summer. After all the transfers I still can’t believe we made it to the Bronx, moreover the Stadium.
Life is like getting on trains to arrive at a desired destination. For instance, if we desire to be successful in school, we must board the trains of dedication and attention and discipline because the conductors of many express trains like laziness and cheating and quitting are always welcoming us aboard.
There is another train that passes by the lives of all people. We’ll call it the Jesus train. Some ignore it, some wave to it, some get on and then get off and some even try to derail it. But the Bible says if we wish to have a relationship with God, leading to the destinations of joy in this life and heaven in the one to come, we must make the decision to climb aboard and stay aboard the Jesus train. Very few choose to board the Jesus train. Why is that? Have you? Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this from Luke 7.
Getting On The Right Train (verses 31–35)
Let’s being with the first point which I have entitled, “Getting on the Right Train.” It is found at the end of this section in verses 31-35
Look at the question Jesus asks in verse 31. “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like?” Applicable to our generation, but spoken specifically to our Lord’s generation, Jesus seeks to come up with an image that describes the people of His time and their reaction to the Jesus train that came through town.
He says in verse 32, “They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’”
Prior to computer games and cable television, children back then actually did find ways to have fun. They used their imagination and did make-believe. And what was better than the biggest events they would witness in their community (verse 32)? – the wedding game and the funeral game – favorites of all generations.
During the wedding game they would play a flute and the children would dance. And during the funeral game they sing a dirge and children would mourn. No one likes a whinny cry-baby (some things don’t change with time) that refuses to play along – can’t please him with the sad game and then can’t please him with the happy game! You know the kind of kid that always wants to dictate the rules or he’ll take his toys and go home, the kind of kid that can never be satisfied.
God sent John the Baptist. John sang the dirge so to speak – the funeral game. His lived an ascetic lifestyle, alone in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. John was a fiery prophet calling people to repentance and warning of God’s wrath to come. Verse 33, He “ate not bread and drank no wine.” Yet the people didn’t like that kind of messenger. They said he, verse 33, “had a demon.” They in that sense, refused to play along.
Then came Jesus with a much different type of personality. Calmer, gentler, more interactive and personal with others, verse 34, “eating and drinking.” As far as style goes we could say He was the opposite from John the Baptist. So if the children didn’t care for the funeral game, they would indeed enjoy the wedding game. If they rejected John the Baptist, they would receive Jesus Christ, right? Yet what do they say about Jesus? Verse 34, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
They demonize John and they scandalize Jesus (same political tactics used today!). Why?
So the Jesus train comes through town. In a sense there are different cars you can board on the train. Different personalities and cultures represent this train. Those with different gifts and talents promote this train. Each car is painted with a different color welcoming all people. Yet no matter what car in the train the people see, they find a reason to reject it. Why?
Because generally speaking it is the Jesus train. And for many, the Jesus train simply will not take them to the destination they desire because every car in the Jesus train, though packaged differently proclaims the same message. The problem is not with the messengers. The problem is not with the train. The problem is with the hearts of Jesus’ generation and every generation that has ever walked on the face of this earth.
You see, it is our human nature to be like to bossy kid on the playground that always wants to call the shots. We want the game to revolve around ourselves. We even expect God to play by our rules. How frequently do we abandon the objective truth God has given us in His Word for the subjective notions we create in our minds? We then inwardly come to the conclusion that whatever seems right to me or feels right to me is right for me. Though it takes on subtle forms, we turn from worshipping God to worshipping self. We refuse to get on or stay on the Jesus train simply because we do not want Him as Lord over our lives.
God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ entered this world in physical form. He committed no evil, treated people with compassion and respect, performed miracles (even raising the dead) and proclaimed God’s truth for a period of 33 years. The Jesus train passed through in its most visible form and after only three years of public ministry the overwhelming majority of the people in Israel wanted that train fully dismantled and completely destroyed.
What is our Lord’s conclusion to this? Verse 35, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
The Father saved the best for last – His greatest prophet in John the Baptist and then Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. John and Jesus came with a different style, but (as one author said) John was too unsociable with the right people and Jesus was too sociable with the wrong people. The generation only showed themselves to be acting like little children. God’s wisdom is vindicated and the people show themselves to be fools.
Have you gotten on the right train, the Jesus train? Have you acknowledged as John the Baptist proclaimed your sinfulness which will bring about the judgment of God? Have you repented of your sin and trusting fully in the work of Jesus Christ for your salvation? Are you on the Jesus train or are you trusting in yourself, relying upon your own wisdom while rejecting the Words of God? The world might approve you now, but in the end, God will be vindicated.
Staying On The Right Train (verses 18–30)
So we need to “Get on the Right Train” and as we move to the second point, we need to “Stay on the Right Train.” What I mean by this is that many claim to come to Christ, but never really do and fall away for a variety of reasons (never saved) or they really are in Christ, but because of their love affair with the world they are jumping off and getting back on the Jesus train on a continual basis (carnal, walking in the flesh, backsliding).
Even mature believers are all tempted to momentarily jump off the train when their faith is tested during trials. When God permits periods of suffering in our lives it’s easy to doubt His love and kindness. It’s easy to question His wisdom. When people around us all mock us for being on the Jesus train, it’s easy to take a step off at the upcoming stop. It’s easy to wonder if they are right and we have mistakenly gotten on the wrong train.
In verses 18-30 even someone as spiritually strong as John the Baptist began to examine his place on the Jesus train. These are tough verses to interpret, but it is clear that he was having a crisis moment in his faith. However, the question to answer is, was this the rise of doubt or the dawn of deeper faith in his spiritual journey. I believe it was the latter.
Verse 18 says, “The disciples of John reported to him about all these things.” What things? Things like the previous two accounts from Luke in chapter 7 – The healing of the Centurion’s slave and bringing back to life the widow’s son. This made John do some deeper thinking.
Let’s set the context. At this point John was in prison primarily because he rebuked Herod Antipas over his unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. John knew the prophecies about his exalted status as a prophet and there he was, God’s spokesman, rotting in jail.
Moreover, we recall John’s message. It was that the Messiah would come with great wrath on those who refuse to repent. Remember 3:9? “Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
John is watching Jesus from afar through the reports and concluding that He is a far gentler man than he proclaimed. Moreover, the Romans were still ruling Israel, Herod’s life was with relative ease and the religious establishment is still as self-righteous as ever. God’s judgment has not arrived. Where is the Messianic kingdom? Why hasn’t he been released from prison? When will the captives be set free? Where is the Mighty Warrior? Why is the Messiah encountering so much unbelief and hostility from His own people? You can sympathize with his confusion.
Therefore John sent a delegation to Jesus. The question is repeated twice in verses 19 and 20. “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”
So is Jesus the Messiah? That is the answer John wants to be assured of and the answer that Luke wants his readers to be assured of as well. How do I know I am on the right train?
John’s observations are correct. But before Luke provides the answer to his question, he adds in verse 21, “At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind.”
Now in light of verse 21, the answer from the Lord follows in verse 22. “And He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’”
Our Lord does not provide a defensive response, but rather points to His actions. What will be the role of the Messiah according to Scripture? According to the many prophecies from the Old Testament, Jesus was doing exactly what was foretold of Him. Sure, there will be a coming judgment. Sure, He is indeed the Lion of Judah. Sure, the day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord. These things are all true, but these are not part of His mission at this time. At this time He is the Lamb of God offering people a chance to turn from themselves and embrace Him as their only hope. Sure, He will display the power of God, but that power will primarily be seen now (not through eschatological wrath, but) in miracles of compassion delivering people from disease, demons and death. Yes, the Mighty Warrior will indeed come one day and make everything right, crushing those who oppose Him and vindicating His servants, but that will have to wait until His Second Coming.
Our Lord’s point to John is not that He is doing anything contrary to the prophecies spoken about the Messiah in Scripture, but He is not acting according to the popular expectations that people wanted to impose of Him. He is doing what He said He would do in 4:18-19 when He publicly declared His mission. He’s bringing people an opportunity to be forgiven. He’s bringing grace and mercy. And He’s proving it, as He said in verse 22 (a lesson for us to learn), through His actions.
Our Lord adds in verse 23, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” May we all find that as a rebuke or an encouragement. Are we fully trusting in the words and actions of Jesus or does He offend us because are we ashamed of Him, disappointed with Him, embarrassed by Him, expecting Him to be someone or something that He is not. Do we want the Savior to conform to our ways or are we willing to conform to His?
So was Jesus disappointed with John? I don’t think so. I believe He is patient with us as our faith in Him develops. He knows our heart and I do not believe John’s comments came from a heart of unbelief, impatience or anger. He was genuinely seeking to know God better and be assured of His convictions. Therefore before the people, Jesus (our Advocate) comes to the tender aid of His servant and defends John’s reputation.
Verse 24-28, “When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’”
Up until this time and second only to Himself, Jesus affirms that John is the greatest man who ever lived.
You see, there is a cost to ride the Jesus train. The expectation is total full-hearted commitment. At times there are wind gusts and bumpy tracks and sudden stops and delayed departures and noisy engines which promote doubt and temptation to find an alternative means of transportation. But to those on His train, our Lord keeps them close to Himself, advocates on their behalf and promises a safe arrival at the most desired destination. Our Lord’s messenger, John the Baptist was a polarizing figure – Jesus even more so. In a sense there are only two trains – there is the Jesus train and then every other train in the world.
Verse 29, “When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John.” They rejoiced with the confidence of being on the right train. Verse 30, “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” They rejected the Jesus train and thus they were rejecting God.
So which train are you on? Have you accepted God’s purposes? Is it the trains of deception that have already derailed heading for destruction or is it the Jesus train that has been God determined, faith demanding and is head both now and forever in the right direction to the right destination?