Heaven Comes Down
October 27, 2019 | Randy Smith
Heaven Comes Down
Sunday, October 27, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
Moments before steering her minivan directly into a palm tree, police in Florida allege a 36-year-old woman instructed her four children to unbuckle their seat belts and stretch their arms out before them. According to reports, one of Calicia Williams’ children told police in the ambulance en route to the hospital Wednesday her mother yelled out, “Lord Jesus, save me!” as the vehicle slammed into the tree. The child allegedly told cops that, immediately afterwards, Williams told them, “The devil can’t hurt you, he only hurts bad people. You have the light of Jesus in you and only Jesus can cure us.” Investigators from the Ocala Police Department who alleged Williams was rambling about voodoo and a hex she believed her husband cast on her and the kids. Thankfully no one suffered life threatening injuries.
Now, we can chalk up this sad story to mental illness. But we can also say it was a product of bad theology. I can recite countless stories where poor theology, has gotten many people into deep trouble. Maybe not all are believing in hexes like Ms. Williams, but many people because of faulty theology have been mad at God for things He never promised, have refused medical attention, have viciously and wrongly judged other believers, have excused certain sins in their lives, have aborted babies, have worshipped a “different Jesus” and most tragically have accepted a false Gospel that is unable to save.
The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. It comes from the heart of God and thus, has many applications but only one correct interpretation. Therefore, it is essential that we interpret our Lord’s teaching correctly. As Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)
This morning we’ll seek to handle accurately the word of truth and observe the consequences when we fail to do so. This morning we’ll see heaven come down to earth.
I am calling the first of two points, “Heaven Arrives.”
One of the primary reasons God’s Word is so distorted is because it is very offensive. We want to dismiss the Bible. Yet for many people, both then and now, it is tough to outright reject the Bible. So, we often reject it indirectly by changing its meaning. Yet whenever Jesus taught, the teaching was so clear, often the only option was to discredit the messenger – to say He’s from Nazareth or a child of fornication or a puppet of Satan.
Let’s face it, the Bible comes from a holy God and it will always confront sinful people. Rather than repenting, it’s easier to reject God’s truth. Therefore, those who speak the Bible are in the crosshairs of society. You know that no segment of society is more persecuted today than Christians. Don’t be surprised. It was the same back then. When Jesus taught there was always conflict.
So, what sparked this particular conflict? Look at verse 10. “And He [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.” What sparked the conflict? Jesus was teaching. Specifically, He was teaching and practicing truth that confronted His opponents’ improper beliefs regarding the Sabbath.
Immediately in the text we are introduced to a specific woman. She is identified in verse 11 specifically and entirely by her “sickness.” It had persisted for eighteen years. It was to some degree caused by a “spirit” – demonic in nature. Verse 16 confirms as it says she was bound by Satan. Her appearance? Verse 11, she was habitually bent over.
Mostly likely she came to the synagogue that Saturday to worship as she had customarily done in the past. Did she know Jesus would be there? We do not know. Did she expect to be healed? Again, we do not know. We do know she didn’t seek out Jesus, but Jesus took the initiative to seek her out.
Verse 12, “When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your sickness.’”
Immediately she is the center of attention. Immediately Jesus speaks. Immediately she is cured (verse 13). No demonic exorcism. We do not even know of her faith. This was simply a sovereign act of Christ. Was it to show Christ’s compassion? Of course. But not everyone else was healed that day. This miracle was a sign to validate His authority and prepare a devastating blow to the false teaching of His opponents present that Saturday morning.
Her response? Look at the end of verse 13, “She…began glorifying God.” If she was not a believer, it appears she now became one. This was an incredibly joyous moment. Clear evidence of God’s miraculous power. Paralyzed for eighteen years and now cured. Glorifying God for what had just taken place in her life. In the ideal world, how can anyone have a problem with this? Heaven came down to earth. The woman is healed, and God is honored.
Heaven came down that morning some 2,000 years ago, and as soon as it arrived it was rejected by the opponents of Jesus. Someone had a problem! Let’s move to the second point and see why.
Just when you thought all was good in the world. Verse 14, “But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath.” Joy, God being glorified by the woman, but not this guy. According to the text, he’s “indignant.”
So, you get the picture. The concern from this leader of the synagogue was that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The rest of verse 14, “[He] began saying to the crowd in response, ‘There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’”
Now we get to our bad theology. The Sabbath was Friday night to Saturday night. We need to ask, why did the Jews stake so much on the Sabbath?
Answer, because they wanted to believe that salvation from God was based on their works. The Bible from cover-to-cover has always taught that salvation is by grace alone, something God does and we simply accept on the basis of faith alone.
But the problem with this is that we cannot give ourselves any credit. The problem with this is I can’t do any tangible works to prove my worthiness to God. Therefore, every world religion demands “works” on order to be saved – certain things you must do. Even false branches of Christianity have done the same. Knock of doors every week. Pray the rosary. Attend mass. Be baptized. Join a church. You get the idea. The true Gospel of grace alone is too humbling. We want to work for our salvation. We want to earn our salvation. We want to take credit for our salvation.
Take for example the famous “tip jar.” You see them on the counter. No obligation to give, just a freewill offering to possibly help some kids with their college expenses. Yet when we give, isn’t it nearly impossible to put money in there without the worker noticing? The hand just hovers over the jar. We’ll wait so she can see us drop our whopping 27 cents of lose change in the narley plastic container. We want others to think we are good people. We want credit for our goodness.
You see, for the Jews, the Sabbath became very convenient. No one can fulfill the expectations of God to merit their own salvation. Take the greatest command to love God with all your heart. Has anyone done that perfectly throughout the day? And even if one could, how would you measure something like that? Even if you had the right duration your whole life, did you display the right intensity of loving God throughout your whole life?
So, it was easier to ignore these weightier commands (as Jesus said elsewhere) and, in their place, modify other commands where obedience could be more selective, objective and measurable. Enter the Sabbath. Very simple, do you want to please God by your works? Then don’t work on Saturday.
You see, as it pertains to the Sabbath, God did not intend that day to be some meaningless religious duty, but rather a day set aside to be blessed, to refresh our bodies and re-center our lives on Him. As Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mk. 2:27).
But the Jews took the good command and created hundreds of man-made rules that they tied to the day that they could observe that not only turned the day into a burden, but also promoted a false religious system based on their works. Legalism. Bad theology. Problems.
So, what does Jesus do? He aims right at the heart of their false religious system and attacks it directly. This healing on the Sabbath that Saturday morning some 2,000 years ago was intentional and He had no doubt He would provoke a predictable reaction.
Verses 15 and 16, “But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?’”
What is Jesus getting at? Can you make sense of our Lord’s argument toward His opponents? He attacks their bad theology by showing the dangerous and ridiculous by-products of bad theology.
First, their actions were without logic. What was the “work” they were accusing Jesus of doing? Was it saying the woman was healed? Was it her standing up? It was undeniable that His opponents do greater work on the Sabbath. They permit themselves to help their farm animals in need. So why was it wrong for Him to help this woman in need? Once again, Jesus impales them on the horns of their own logic
Second, their actions were also without faith in God. The primary critic was (verse 14) the “synagogue official.” This was the spiritual leader of the city and he was completely spiritually blind. God was acting in his midst and he not only missed it, but he even attacked what he witnessed. Bad theology blinds us to true faith and leaves us in spiritual darkness.
You know what I believe we see here along these lines? An interesting connection to the Egyptian Exodus. This was the time when the Sabbath command was given. Deuteronomy 5:15, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”
This woman was the epitome pf everything the Egyptian captivity represented – slavery, darkness, bondage, false gods, Satan and hardship. And she was given by God an exodus of her own. Was it a bad day for a healing as the official claimed? According to Jesus, the Sabbath was the most appropriate day for her healing (end of verse 16), but this “synagogue official” was too specifically blind to see it.
And third, poor theology (legalism in particular) is often without compassion. This poor lady bound in a hunched position for eighteen painful years is finally delivered and there is no delight in her joy. As Jesus said, His opponents can on a daily basis, even the on Sabbath, they untie their farm animals for a drink. But then they express less pity for a fellow human being, specifically a “daughter of Abraham” (verse 16) that has been tied by Satan for eighteen miserable years.
I wouldn’t like to respond to those accusations. What do you say? Speechless! Verse 17, “As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated”
What could they say? Their response to Jesus brought to light their bad interpretation of God’s word and clearly led to beliefs that were without logic, faith and compassion. Ultimately, their bad theology led to a total rejection of their own Messiah. As verse 17 says, they “were being humiliated.” And this was huge in the shame/honor society in which they lived.
In one strategic sweep, Jesus attacked their false beliefs regarding the Sabbath, the value of women, the cause of sickness being attributed only to sin and their understanding of salvation by works. They were humiliated, but sadly, there was no humility. No repentance (context – verses 3 and 5). No faith despite the miracle before their eyes. They were just all the more determination to kill Jesus.
The rest of verse 17. And this must have killed they guys. “And the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.”
The crowd adds to the woman’s joy and praise of God. Ironically, in opposition to their self-righteous and legalistic religious leaders they had eyes to see heaven come down that Saturday morning.
If we have been reading through the Gospel of Luke none of this should surprise us. Jesus came to deliver those who are spiritually oppressed. He continually passed over the self-righteous. He attacked the heart of false religious beliefs. He validated His authority through miracles. He sought to destroy the works of the devil.
Yes, heaven came down to earth. Next week we’ll examine what Jesus taught as a follow-up to this event in verses 18-21. We’ll see teaching about heaven itself through two parables.