December 09, 2018 | Randy Smith
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
I remember reading the church reformer, Martin Luther, who once said (and I paraphrase in my own words), “If you are not receiving opposition where you are serving Christ you are serving in the wrong place.”
When we serve the Lord we are not always promised visible results, but we are promised opposition. Coming into the ministry I knew that would be the case. Yet what I never expected was to see opposition within the church over the years particularly as it pertains to our biblical mandate, our mission. And what is our mission? It is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the lost and train up Gospel-believers to be mature disciples of Christ. We should expect unbelievers to oppose this. But there should be no opposition in the church in regards to the Gospel. On that all believers should be in complete agreement.
Let me give you an example. A couple years ago a man after the service was giving me a hard time about my use of the word, “repentance” (calling people to forsake their sins). He said if I talk that way in my sermons that I will scare people away. Then he went on to blame me that this is the reason the church is not bigger.
What does the Bible say? Two days ago I began reading Mark in my morning devotions. Mark 1:4, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Ten verses later, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mk. 1:14-15). I think it’s safe to say that the concept of repentance is an important Gospel issue!
Listen, the purpose of the church is not to help people make new friends. It’s not to teach morals. It’s not to give away food. It’s not to improve basketball skills. And it’s not to be political. The purpose of the church is to preach the Gospel, period, to proclaim Christ. We may use food and basketball clinics to aid the process. We will see people connect with each other, shape their political thinking and become increasingly moral as a result of the Gospel. But the goal is to proclaim Christ!
I am making a big deal out of this because this is what jumped out at me as the main point as I read through verses 1-11 of Luke 9. Look at verse 2, “And He [Jesus] sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.” Verse 6, “Departing, they [the Apostles] began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel.” Verse 11, “He [Jesus] began speaking to them about the kingdom of God.”
Remember Luke 4:43? “But He [Jesus] said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.’”
And if you want to keep it in the Christmas spirit, the biblical lesson of the first Christmas was not – overthrow the cruel government or help the poor sheep or invite people into you home when the inn is full or give decent clothes to the shepherds or deliver your baby at home without a doctor. There is a place to talk about all of that and do some of it, but the main message, lest we let Christmas get lost in the packaging, is to proclaim that the King has come. That this Child will be called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21).
The main point is the sermon title: “Proclaim!”
We’ll see today that God gives His witnesses (despite the opposition) all they need to faithfully proclaim His name. Let me simply take you through these 11 verses making some key points along the way.
Command To Proclaim (verses 1–6)
First sub-point, “The Command to Proclaim.” Look at verse 1. “And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.”
So what is happening here? By this point Jesus had chosen His twelve Disciples (“learners”) or we could say His twelve Apostles (“sent out ones”). The two terms are important because they involve what’s going on in this verse.
For a little over one year the twelve men had been sitting under the ministry of Jesus. There has been no record of them teaching or performing miracles. It’s been a “one-man show.” They have been watching Jesus. They have been listening to Jesus. They have been “learning” (disciples), but now the time has come for them to be “sent out” (apostles). Verse 2, “And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” They have been trained by Jesus . Now the time has come for them to do it themselves.
As a footnote, this is the same model we use in the church today – watch, listen, learn so you will be able to do it yourself. Our goal is to train you corporately through the public teaching, but also to train you through life-on-life experiences. Join a ministry to see how those who lead it operate. Hit the streets with our excellent evangelists. Spend time with mature Christians so you can watch how they treat their spouses and raise their children. It is learning from those who are doing it well so you can do it well yourself. This is modeling ministry. This is multiplication. This is the reproduction of Gospel servants.
My friends, there should always be someone in the church that you are learning from and someone in the church that you are teaching. Discipleship goes both ways. It’s like the illustration of a staircase I have shared with you in the past.
For example, a pastor should never get a call from a ministry leader who feels called to another ministry (which is fine), but is leaving no potential replacement to fill his or her place. There should never be a void in any level of ministry at the church. It’s simply next man or next woman up! There should never be a starting over from scratch. You are always learning from others and you are always training others.
Jesus is going to build His church, but He is going to do it through His Apostles. He’s leaving in a little more than a year. He’s masterful how He trains these men up, calls them together (verse 1) and now sends them on a missions internship (verse 2). Now He gives them an opportunity to do it for themselves.
So here’s the four-step progression: I do it to you watch me do it to I watch you do it to you do it. That’s good parenting. That’s good ministry.
The disciples had been observing Jesus – the second phase. 8:1, “[Jesus] began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him.” Now the disciples are in third phase. Jesus tells them to go out, proclaim the Gospel as they saw Him doing it and then come back and they’ll discuss how things went (verse 10).
Staying with the main point, the best proclaimers of Jesus are not ones who learn from a class or textbook, but ones who joined mature evangelists, observed them in action and then under their guidance began to do it themselves.
A couple interesting points to note: First is the fact that Jesus, verse 1, “gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal disease.”
Jesus equipped them with the same authority He had. Why? Very simple, so the people that they spoke with regarding the Gospel would know that they were indeed God’s representatives. The power given them was to validate their ministry. Why is this power not given to us today? Very simple again. We have what they didn’t have back then. We have the validation of the Bible, specifically the New Testament. So how could you tell a representative of God back then? Miracles. How can you tell if someone is representative of God today? You examine what they say with the Bible.
I wish I had more time to dive into this one, but I can promise you that what you see on television today has nothing to do with the nature, the motives or the purpose of miracles back then. The gift of Apostleship ended (very few would disagree with that – making us all cessationists to some degree) and I believe the gifts of Apostleship did as well (2 Cor. 12:12). But that’s a discussion for another day.
Another interesting point is verse 3, because again, this was a unique situation and not a calling for every missionary or evangelist today. “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.’”
Why did Jesus give them that command? Why did Jesus dramatically limit what they could bring?
One, I believe it goes back to our Lord’s primary goal. What was that? To fully prepare these guys to carry on the ministry in His impending absence. What greater way could they be taught to trust God? Take nothing and rely upon the Lord to provide for all their needs. Two, how could they detach themselves from the cares and concerns of this world? Don’t bring anything with you that might detract from where your attention needs to be. Three, how could they be prevented from their motives shifting and profiting off the Gospel? Could you imagine the money they could have made with those gifts? They were to have nothing of material value with them. Just like verse 1 is unique, verse 3 is unique. This was “Boot Camp” to prepare the Apostles for the hardship and opposition that awaited them.
Verse 4, “Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.” The blessing upon people who receive the message. Verse 5, “And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” The warning upon people who reject the message.
And in obedience to Jesus, off they went. Verse 6, “Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”
Opposition To Proclamation (verses 7–9)
So as we move to the second point, we see what we often expect when we proclaim the Gospel: Opposition from unbelievers. And in this case it came from a man named Herod.
Beginning in verse 7, “Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed.” Word was getting out about Jesus and what Herod was hearing brought him great anxiety.
First of all, the guy was a corrupt power-hungry leader of the region and a new king was being proclaimed. No doubt he inherited his sinister jealously from his dad, the man known as “Herod the Great.” Remember Him? Jesus is born in Bethlehem and He is hailed as King of the Jews. Herod doesn’t want any rivals so he chose to execute all the children under two in the region.
Also, this Herod was perplexed because word was getting out that Jesus was (the rest of verse 7), “John [the Baptist] ... risen from the dead.” And that confused Herod because as he said (verse 9), “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” In other words, I’m just very confused if people say it’s John because I killed the man and saw his head on a platter. But if it is indeed John, well now I am freaking out because the guy I killed has come back to life!
The key words in verse 9 are, “Who is this man?” It’s the age-old question. This man is performing miracles. This man is claiming to be the only way to God. This man speaks with unheard authority. Again, like we’ve learned over the past few weeks, there is no neutrality. Either you want nothing to do with Him because He’s a liar or lunatic or you fall down and worship Him as Lord. “Who is this man?”
Yet based on word of mouth, no one could figure it out back then. It was primarily because none took the time to do their own investigation. Verses 7 and 8 say some thought he was John the Baptist, “some…Elijah” and “others that one of the prophets of old [that] had risen again.”
Did Herod try to find out who Jesus was? It sure seems that way because verse 9 tells us, “And he [Herod] kept trying to see Him [Jesus].” Yet I don’t think he had good intentions. We’ll see when we get to chapter 13 that some came to Jesus and say, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You” (Lk. 13:31). That’s when Jesus called him a “fox.” Yes, he was crafty and the only time he will see Jesus is when Jesus stands before Him at the trial that would lead to our Lord’s crucifixion. And there the text says Jesus had nothing to say to him (Lk. 23:9).
In 1 Peter we read, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
Anytime we seek to proclaim Jesus, either through our words or actions, we need to expect some degree of opposition. I not saying do not proclaim Him. I am just saying do not be surprised at the responses from some when you do.
Report From The Proclaimer (verses 10–11)
We need to move to the third sub-point – we learn in verse 10 that the “apostles returned” from their short-term mission trip and they reported to Jesus “all they had done.” Luke provides for us no record of their report, but he does say in verse 10 that Jesus, “Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.”
You know, I take a lot of flak from others when they hear about my “vacations.” And in many ways I probably deserve it. When we go away for a week it is literally nonstop intense activity. Often it’s hitting more National Parks than days we have available.
But I want you to consider what the Apostles went through just from what we read in chapter 8. 8:1 they are travelling from “one city and village to another.” 8:22 they get into a boat and they encounter a dangerous storm and think they are going to die. 8:26 in the morning they arrive at the Gerasenes and face the crazy demon-possessed men. That day they sail back to Capernaum. Then they are sent alone on a short-term missions trip with absolutely no items of comfort and are called to sleep in other’s homes. They return and what does Jesus say? You guys need some refreshment! So, verse 10, we are going to leave these crowds and you guys are coming with me to the remote town of Bethesaida.
If we are living our lives productive physically and emotionally as God intended we should never feel guilty about taking a break. Sometimes a nap or day off or vacation is the best thing we can do. We need the solitude to recharge and reflect. We retreat not in defeat, but we retreat in order to come back stronger and refreshed.
In Mark 6:31, around this time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” And then Mark adds, “For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” Even though the lost needed to hear the Gospel, the Apostles needed a break.
Well, this appears to be the problem again. Luke says in verse 11, “But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him [about 8 miles].” And what is our Lord’s response? “[He welcomed] them, [and] He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.” Even when interrupted, so compassionate! So focused in proclaiming the Gospel!
What is the Christmas message? The King has arrived! The Messiah has come! That first Christmas was all about proclaiming the good news of great joy for all the people from the Shepherds, the Magi and the Angels! Two thousand years later and the opposition has not changed nor has the message and the mandate to proclaim it!