A Jesus For Lords and the Lowly
Pastor Duane Smets
May 21, 2017
I. The Authority of Jesus (v.1-10)
II. The Compassion of Jesus (v.11-17)
III. The Wisdom of Jesus (v.18-35)
Well, it’s been three weeks now since we’ve been in Luke, but we’re back at it today. The last time we we’re in Luke it was the Taylor Swift section, “A Jesus For Haters” where we learned to shake it off. Today I guess is sort of the Karl Marx section, where we’re going to learn that Jesus is “A Jesus For Lords and the Lowly.”
Karl Marx is the well-known sociologist and economist of from the 1800s. Ironically he was actually born out of Jewish ancestry but his family converted to Lutheranism and ended up sending him to college in Berlin, Germany where he first began to develop the ideas we now know as communism.
Marx actually actually had a pretty rough life. He and his wife von Westphalen had seven children together, but four of them died before they reached the age 18. His family was extremely poor and Marx himself battled all kinds of health issues with his liver, gall bladder and skin disease where he ultimately contracted an infection that killed in at the young age of 64.
The main legacy of Marx’s thought is found in his most well-known work, “The Communist Manifesto.” I read it a number of years ago now and basically what he says is that all societies tend toward two main classes, that of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the rich and the poor and that this was the main problem with the human race.
So his idea was that all wealth and resources should be given to the government who would then equally redistribute the money, land and goods to all citizens making everyone equal. And this is the type of government that Hitler and Stalin and Mussolini and other men and countries like North Korea have implemented. The hope is that everyone would then be happy and united. Yet, in no country of communism has this been the case.
What we’re going to see in Jesus is that no political theory or system can bring the peace and unity that we desire…all human solutions tend to corrupt. What we’re going to see is that instead of a new system of power what we need is the unique compassion of Jesus, which restores relationship and gives us life. And what we’re going to see that Jesus offers this to all who turn to Him…both the Lords and the lowly, the rich and the poor.
If you want one take-home line for today to remember, it’s this, “Jesus restores
“Jesus restores relationship.”
With that let’s go ahead and stand. I’ll read the text for today from the Bible, acknowledge it as God’s Word. Then we can thank Him for it and I’ll pray real quick.
1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
24 When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings' courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.) 31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” – Luke 7:1-35
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
Alright, we basically have three different stories here which are all about how the truth and goodness of Jesus is for and offered to two different types of people…the high and the low. Both are valued and honored in the sight of God and those who are wise rejoice in and receive the gift of Jesus and are welcomed into His kingdom.
So I’ve got three points today, one for each story: “The Authority of Jesus”, “The Compassion of Jesus” and “The Wisdom of Jesus”.
Let’s jump into our first point for today, “The Authority of Jesus.”
I. The Authority of Jesus (v.1-10)
This point is from the story of this centurion, who’s servant Jesus heals. It’s an incredible story. Some people think it’s the most powerful miracle Jesus ever performs because He heals the guy without even being present. But I actually don’t think that’s what makes the story so incredible. What makes it incredible is who this guy is.
First, a centurion is a Roman commander of a century of soldiers, a hundred. They were well paid and especially if they completed a successful tour, which is likely since he lives in a Capernaum, a coastal city reward.
This guy definitely has money, which we know because it says he paid for a whole Jewish synagogue to be built. So he has money but he’s generous with it.
He’s also a Gentile, not a Jew, so he’s of a different race and most the time Jews did not like Gentiles at all, but hey, he bought them a church building so they thought he was okay.
This guy is a lord. He’s a warlord and a landlord. He has both wealth and power. The two things people tend to seek out in life. Most think they’d be happy if they just had enough money and had a job they liked, which typically means freedom to do what you want…so money and power.
It’s funny, you know. Kids, they never have these dreams of growing up just to be poor and work a common job. Nobody ever says, “When I grow up I just want to be poor and work at the DMV.” Kids are always like, “I’m gonna be rock star” or something grandiose.
But this guy has it. He’s living the dream. Pretty much retired. Has money and freedom to do what he wants. He’s living in a fat house in La Jolla that overlooks Blacks Beach. He’s hired a bunch of servants who work for him. He’s got maids, groundskeepers, cooks, you name it.
It’s good. Until something happens. One of his servants, with whom he had become close with gets really sick and is about to die. And it hits him, hard. He loves this person. It doesn’t say if it’s a guy or a girl, but says was “highly valued” which doesn’t mean made him a lot of money. The word that’s being translated there is more like “precious.” This person was precious to him.
It’s something that no amount of money or power can protect you from, death. The loss it confronts you with has a way of waking you up. And no one is impervious to it.
Like with Chris Cornell this week, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioadrenaline. He had it all, money, fame, freedom. He faced death in his soul and it was to much so he hung himself.
I think that’s kind of what happened with this centurion. He had it all but when he stared at death in the face of someone he loved, he realized everything was meaningless and that what he needed was Jesus.
Here’s why I think that. Look at verse 6, he says to Jesus, “Lord… am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”
This guy is a lord, but he calls this Jesus guy, who’s a poor carpenter turned poor preacher “Lord” and says he’s not worthy. He realized that his money and power were worthless in the face of death and that he needed someone truly worthy to restore this person he loved.
And what’s phenomenal here is the kind of lord he thinks Jesus is. He compares himself to Jesus, saying he has all kinds of people he can tell what to do and they will do it. He believes Jesus is the Lord over all creation, that all Jesus has to do is speak one word and the human body itself will obey and be made whole.
One of the other books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus, the book of Matthew records this episode and make this super clear. Check it out.
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” – Matthew 8:8
Somehow, God enables this guy to see his own unworthiness and lack of power and to see the complete worthiness and authority of Jesus over all. And Jesus is moved by it. He marvels at it. And then He acts. Matthew records what he did. Jesus said one word.
“And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.” – Matthew 8:13
Jesus here really does two things. He heals the servant restoring him or her to relationship with the centurion and he welcomes in and acknowledges the centurion’s relationship with God. He says the guy has faith and that his non-Jew faith is better than all He had seen in Israel.
It’s about relationship here and I think what gets brought out and highlighted in this story is that the relationship between man and God is one where there is a certain authority involved.
We can’t save ourselves. We’re not good enough or powerful enough. So we have to go to God in need because He’s the one who has the power and authority.
In our culture, most of the time we buck against authority. It seems we’re living in a day and age where nobody wants to be told what to do. That’s why God isn’t popular.
Because God says there’s certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong and there’s a certain way that I’ve made you and my world to work. And if you want to be happy in this life you’re going to have to come under my authority. You’re going to have to call on my Son Jesus for salvation. You’re going to have to recognize that you’re not worthy.
Relationship with God is one where we submit to God authority and then enjoy living under His rule and reign.
In his book, Truth & Power, J.I. Packer writes this,
“What is authority? It is a relational word. Authority signifies the right to rule. It is expressed in claims and is acknowledged by compliance and conformity.
A crucial distinction is between authority and authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is authority corrupted, gone to seed. Authoritarianism appears when the submission that is demanded cannot be justified in terms of truth or morality and actually harms those who submit.
Nazism, Communism, and cults are examples. Any form of human authority can degenerate in this way. You can have it in government. You have it in churches. You can have it in schools. You can have it in families. These unhappy experiences of authority leave a bad taste and prompt skepticism about authority in all its forms.”
All of us at one point or another have probably had someone misuse their authority and mistreat us. And all of us have misused our authority in the way we’ve treated others and ultimately God.
So what Jesus came to do was to restore us. To restore us to loving relationships with others and loving relationship with God. In essence, in His kindness towards us He wins our trust so that when He dies for all the abuses of authority on the cross and then rises again, He speaks and says in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Now go tell people about me that they might be restored to God.
What Jesus does is restore us into relationship with God so that we delight to follow and obey Him. That’s what the centurion discovered.
Power, privilege, possessions, profit can be perilous to your soul. What we need is the worthy savior who enables us to trust and enjoy God’s rule in our lives. We really only have two choices. To reject God’s authority or to receive it.
Are there a few things you know God is wanting you to obey and follow Him in and you’ve been resisting Him? Today are you living under your own authority? Do you delight to obey God?
Relationship with God only works one way, us looking to Him and trusting Him to care for us and all of our needs. Jesus restores that relationship.
Well, let’s transition and go to the next story where we see, “The Compassion of Jesus.”
II. The Compassion of Jesus (v.11-17)
With this next story, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum. Jesus just expressed kindness and grace to a lord, now he extends it to a lowly widow in her lowest moment.
The centurion had had a good life. This woman was a widow, which means she had not only lost her husband but as most widows back then was poor because of it. Now, not only that but her young son dies.
It probably doesn’t get any lower than that. I can’t imagine the pain a parent experiences losing a child. I’ve got three girls, I can’t imagine losing one of them. I’ve done funerals for parents who have lost a child. It’s one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever experienced.
Here’s one account from a dad he wrote about the loss of his son.
“We used prompt measures, and sent early for the doctor, who did not think his case was dangerous; but he grew gradually worse until Sunday, when his symptoms became alarming, and he passed away, after great sufferings. A half hour before he died, he sank into a sleep, which became more and more quiet, until he gently sighed his soul away. This is the first death we have had in our family, and my first experience of any great sorrow. I have learned rapidly in the school of anguish this week, and am many years older than I was a few days ago. It was not so much that I could not give my darling up, but that I saw him suffer such pangs, and then fall under the grasp of the great destroyer, while I was impotent for his help. It shakes the heart with a shuddering terror and a horror of great darkness. To see my dear little one ravaged, crushed and destroyed, turning his beautiful liquid eyes to me and his weeping mother for help, after his gentle voice could no longer be heard, and to feel myself as helpless to give any aid - this tears my heart with anguish.”
Ah man. Doesn’t that just twist you in your gut? I’m not trying to be emotionally manipulative today. I’m trying to draw us into the reality of this story and who Jesus is and what He does. The death of this poor woman’s son hits Jesus in the gut hard. That’s what the text says.
Verse 13 says, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” You see that word compassion. The Greek word behind it that the Bible was originally written in, is “splanchna” and “compassion” is the best English word to translate it but it really doesn’t even come close. “Splanchna” means moved deep in the gut of your bowels. It implies physical emotional pain in the body.
So what the Bible is really saying here is that when Jesus saw this woman’s pain it socked him in the gut and there standing in the face of death, which came into the world by sin and the fall, standing in the face of death which He came to defeat, He could not help Himself. He was provoked deep in bowels of His divine humanity. So He acted.
First, He spoke tender, loving words to the woman, “Do not weep.” And then, I imagine with a voice akin to the one He used when He cast the world into existence with the power of His word, He spoke and commanded life to spring forth in the dead boy’s body. He spoke with His face set against the evil horror of death and said, “No, not this time, not now” and said, “Young man, get up.”
What a moment. What a moment. Then look what He does next. Verse 15 says then, “Jesus gave him to his mother.” So sweet. What compassion! What compassion! What love! What kindness! What a savior we have in Jesus!
Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth and yet He stoops down to the lowest of the low to restore them. And once again, it’s through relationship. He heals for the sake of relationship. He heals the boy so that he might be restored to relationship with his mom and through that restores the woman’s relationship with God.
The universal response, right away is praise. She and all who are there start glorifying and thanking God.
The text doesn’t say this outright, but my guess is either thought that God had abandoned her and didn’t care, first taking her husband and then her son. Or she had given up and believing God all together.
It’s the number one reason today people reject God, is because of the suffering they face. They figure if God is good and all-powerful how could He let bad things happen.
The truth is, those who think that are right. God couldn’t just let bad things happen. And that’s why He sent Jesus, to put an end to it by entering into the suffering and the pain on the cross and then rising again, so that death might no longer reign and have the last word.
You see, in suffering, self-pity, self-protection, self-isolation, and self-sorrow can sabotage your soul. What we need is to turn to the savior, who sits with us in the suffering so we are not alone and He provides an answer and a hope, so that our tears might be wiped away.
Today, are you in a place where you’re hurting and you wonder if God knows or cares? Hear me. Jesus cares for you. Oh, how He cares, His compassion is unsurpassing. He knows. He knows what it’s like to suffer rejection, to feel alone and to suffer in His body. He knows and He has great great compassion for you.
How about for others? Do you have compassion on others? When people are at risk? When we see others who are hurting and going through a hard time, too often we try to give advice. Instead Romans 12:15 says to “weep with those who weep.” We ought to be provoked in our gut and have our hearts and our hands move out in compassion.
2 Corinthians 2:3-5 says this,
“The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
We share in it together. For those who are Christians there is no “I”. There’s a “we”, a “we self.” We’re Christians because we enter into a relationship with Christ and with each other. That means we never go through things alone, there’s no solo Christians. Who I am become a “we self.” We with me and God and we with me and my fellow brothers and sisters.
Is there someone you know right now that’s having a hard time? Send ‘em a text. Take ‘em out for some food or drinks. Give ‘em a hug. Pray for them. Encourage them. Tell them God cares and is with them. Let’s be a compassionate people like our Lord, Amen? Jesus is a Jesus of relationship. Jesus restores relationship.
Well, let’s move into our last and final point for today, “The Wisdom of Jesus”.
III. The Wisdom of Jesus (v.18-35)
So far what we’ve seen are two types of people who welcome and receive Jesus’ grace, compassion and healing. A centurion lord and a lowly woman. With this last story what we have is a third group of people who reject both John and Jesus.
The story gets kicked off because John knew it was His job from God to point people to Jesus. He’s the forerunner who went out ahead telling everyone the King is coming, the King is coming, get ready, get ready.
But John’s a little confused because he expected Jesus to be using the force and might of the King to bring down judgment on the bad guys. Essentially Jesus’ response is that now is not the time for that.
Jesus response, not in this passage but in others is that He’ll come back a second time exercising the judgment of the King, but before He does that, He’s come to extend the good graces of the King. Which He tells John He’s doing by healing people and telling people all about how good life is in His Kingdom.
Jesus has just healed a couple people and most everyone around is pretty stoked. But there’s this group of guys around who are not stoked, these religious leaders called Pharisees who are not happy either with John or Jesus. They don’t like either one of them.
Basically think of the type of person who is always critical, never happy, super judgmental and think they are better than everyone. Anyone know anyone like that? That’s these guys. Super proud and think they’re right about everything.
So Jesus uses this question from John to dig at them. Everyone around is happy and celebrating and they are standing there and they’re not happy at all. So Jesus makes fun of them. Seriously He does.
Check it out. It’s in verses 30-32,
“The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves. (So Jesus said) “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’"
Jesus basically says, “You guys are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.” Children in the first century, like many kids today loved to play dress up games. Two of the games they would play would be weddings and funerals. When they played wedding they would dance and act like a party. When they played funeral they'd be sad and act like they were crying.
Jesus says in verse 32 that these self-righteous Pharisee guys who are rejecting Him and John are like kids just standing there pouting who don’t want to play any game, not a happy game or a sad game.
They don’t like John because he’s too hardcore, calling them sinners who needed to repent and trust in Jesus. They accuse John of having a demon and being out of his mind. And they don’t like Jesus because he’s not hardcore enough, granting grace to sinners and partying with them. They accuse Jesus of being a glutton and drunkard.
Ever heard the phrase “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”? I think that applies here.
Yet despite their hardness of heart, after blatantly confronting them on this, Jesus offers them an invitation saying, “Wisdom is justified by her children.”
He flips his own story about children playing on its head and says, you can be wise by becoming a child of wisdom. Wisdom is making the right or just decisions based on truth.
The truth Jesus shared is in verse 28, He says,
“I tell you (I tell you the truth), among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
This statement is insane. He says of all the children born, John is the greatest. What’s John all about? What makes him great? Because he’s the very last prophet of God who comes and he directly paves the way and points to Jesus. John is great because of Jesus.
And if that doesn’t sound egomaniacal enough, then Jesus says, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Jesus just said John’s the greatest child who’s ever been born. But anyone who is wise, will recognize Jesus is the king, entering His kingdom and thus becoming even greater than John.
This is just wild! Jesus is either the most deluded egomaniac who has ever lived or He is actually the King of kings and the Lord of lords!
What Jesus offers any who will have Him is to be friends with the King of the universe. Anyone who is truly wise, will see that it is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s the relationship we all ultimately long for and are searching for. Jesus offers to restore our relationship to our Creator, our loving Father.
The centurion lord and the lowly widow were wise. They turned to king Jesus for healing and Jesus welcomed them in. The religious leaders were foolish and rejected Jesus and all that He offered.
Today, are you part of the group who’s rejoicing in the goodness of Jesus, in being part of His kingdom and celebrating with His people? Or are you like the dudes on the outside of the group with your arms folded criticizing? Jesus says, come on in. Don’t be foolish. Be wise. He’s good and there’s nothing better than being welcomed as a child of the king. Come on in and join the party, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, black, white, brown, Asian…Jesus is for all. Jesus restores relationship.
Well, lets conclude. I started out today telling the story of Karl Marx. Even though his ideas are what have fueled some of those most atrocious movements in human history, like what happened with Nazi, Germany…he wasn’t a stupid man.
The rich and the poor, the divide between them and all the problems it causes are real. What he didn’t understand is that no law or government can bring the healing people need. What Jesus does is offer love and grace to both parties, which restores relationship and truly brings people together.
Both lords and the lowly have a common denominator, they both need a Savior. Jesus is that man and all who are wise turn to Him for the restoration they need.
Let’s all stand and prepare ourselves to respond, where we come to the table of Jesus to receive His body and blood in the bread and the wine. These elements tell us and remind us that Jesus provides the healing so that we can be in relationship with God and one another.
His death on the cross paid the price for our sin and all that separates us and His resurrection gives us the hope and surety of a life worth living. An eternal life.