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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - Luke 4:16-5:26

Skip Heitzig - Luke 4:16-5:26

Skip Heitzig - Luke 4:16-5:26
Skip Heitzig - Luke 4:16-5:26
TOPICS: The Bible from 30.000 Feet, Bible Study, Gospel of Luke

Would you turn in your Bibles to the gospel of Luke, chapter 4. I was unable to make it through chapter 4 last week. By God's grace we will do so this evening before we take the Lord's Supper. Luke, chapter 4. I'm just curious; do we have any educators, any teachers among us tonight? Just raise your hands up. I am so thankful for you. And Wednesday is my day to pray for teachers, by the way. I do that in the morning on Wednesdays. I pray for our school system, educators, PTA, all that stuff. This is the day I pray for educators and education. So I want you to know I began my day praying for you today. And I'm just curious; do we have any English teachers with us who are teachers? You just not don't want to admit it? Is that it?

Oh, you're an English teacher, way in the back. We only have one? Well, God bless you. Now let me tell you why I'm singling out an English teacher. It's because of the English teachers that I've had in my life that I have become a stickler on punctuation. Those that know me...I have a bad habit. When somebody will say a sentence to me, I hear it, and if it's not quite right, I do this little autocorrect. And it takes everything within me not to say, "Actually, the way that should be stated is..." such and such. It's just how my head works. And it's often that way with punctuation, and that's because of...God bless English teachers in my past. I do thank God for those that corrected me, and got me to spell things right, and tell me the importance of punctuation.

And, you know, punctuation can literally save lives. If I were to say, "Let's eat, Grandpa," I would be saying to my grandpa, "Join me in a meal." If I were to leave out the comma, it says, "Let's eat grandpa." Can you see how a comma could make all the difference? Now I have become a cannibal if I leave out that very important piece of punctuation. That's really what I promised last time we were together that I left out of the study from Luke, chapter 4, that I want to pick up on that. There's a very important comma that was changed into a period by Jesus Christ. It's a passage of Scripture from the Old Testament that Jesus quotes in Luke, chapter 4, in a synagogue service in Nazareth, but he deliberately closes off the thought right where the comma originally was. I want to show it to you.

In chapter 4, verse 16, "He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.'" And you tell me, what is the punctuation after the word "Lord"? It's period. It says period. Now that is in my Bible and yours. In the original quotation that Jesus is quoting from, there was no period there, there was a comma. You need to know why.

The original thought of Isaiah, chapter 61, that's what he's quoting from. The original thought has a comma after "the acceptable year of the Lord." So originally it reads: "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our Lord; to comfort those who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion," and it continues on a couple verses after that. So there's a comma and then it finishes: "the day of vengeance of our God; and to comfort those who mourn in Zion." What Jesus did, however, was end it here, and you'll notice in verse 20, "Then he closed the book." So he is ending on purpose. He's turning the comma into a period.

He's closing the book, "and he gave it back to the attendant and he sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' So all bore witness to him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?'" So Jesus did not finish the thought from the original passage in Isaiah 61 on purpose. He turned the comma into the period, closed the book, gave it to the attendant, sat down, and began to expound. And the exposition is: "What I just read is now fulfilled in your hearing." He's claiming to be the Messiah by that statement. If you were in the synagogue that day and had you known the Scripture and were you Jewish in your background, you would be familiar with the text.

You would have protested, at least in your mind. You would have said, "Now, wait a minute, you didn't finish the text. In fact, you left out the very best part. The best part is the whole 'vengeance' thing and the comfort that follows the vengeance. You're going to get back at our enemies. That's what God promised. And then you're going to bring comfort to the Jewish people in Zion to give them comfort and beauty for ashes and the oil of gladness for mourning. How come you left that part out?" And he did it deliberately. And because he turned the comma into a period, he could say, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Had Jesus continued the rendering of Isaiah 61, he could not have said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

And here's why: the reason Jesus closed the book and turned the comma into a period is because he would come twice. There would be two comings, not one. Yes, he had come, the Messiah had come according to the prophecies of Scripture, but he would leave and he would come again. And so there's not one coming, but two comings. There's a gap, there's a comma, there's a pause after the first coming of Christ and before the second coming of Christ. So, chronologically Jesus same to this earth, and Jesus will return again later on. And when he does, he will fulfill the second part, "the day of vengeance of our God," the tribulation period, the great tribulation period, the wrath of God upon the earth, comforting those who...Zion.

Those who persecute the Jews will be pushed aside and God will raise up Israel in the last days. So it's very important. Now, Isaiah and all the prophets, they did not see the two comings. There's a literary device that Bible commentators will say that the prophets used. Let me give you the term and let me explain it then. It's called "prophetic foreshortening." Prophetic foreshortening, that is, a prophet, let's say Isaiah, is looking into the midst of the future and he sees the Messiah coming. That's revealed to him by God. And then God also reveals that he will rule and reign on the earth. And then the Spirit also reveals that there will be an eternal kingdom past this earth which will go on and on forever and ever.

So he sees several events from the prophet's perspective, but the prophet from that perspective cannot delineate the sequence of the events or the gaps of time between the events. Do you follow me? It's sort of like looking at a mountain range from a distance. If you look at a mountain range from a distance, it looks flat. If you were to look eastward at the Sandia Mountains...when I first came to this city, I just thought it was a single, flat peak. Now when you go up to it and you walk up to it, or you see it from the side, you see that it's not one but it's a few different peaks and there's some valleys in between them. So from Isaiah or Jeremiah or the prophet's perspective, they saw the mountain range from the distance and the different peaks, but they could not tell the intervals of time between them or the sequence of those events.

So we call that prophetic foreshortening. So the Jews believe the Messiah was coming. He had come. He's announcing, "I've come." What they didn't know yet, and now we know because we have been to the side of that mountain range and we can see, there's a thing called the "church age" between the first coming and the second coming. So that comma, ladies and gentlemen, has lasted 2,000 years. Now what I want you to be thankful for is the punctuation. Be thankful for the comma. Be thankful for the comma, because you were saved in the comma. The church age is the comma. The age of grace is the comma. The worldwide gospel going out to all of creation is in that comma. One day there will be "the day of vengeance of our God." There will be no more comma left. There will be a period in human history.

There will be the return of Christ...period; the judgment of the earth...period; a final reckoning...period. But until that period, we live in the comma. We live in the age of grace. It is still the age or the acceptable year of our Lord. We're living in that age where it's acceptable. So here is Jesus announcing, "I'm the Messiah. I'm sent to the poor, to the brokenhearted." And it's a very gracious message. But he turned the comma here into a period, and one day the rest of that verse will be fulfilled in the second coming of Jesus. "He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, sat down. The eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'" And it was.

He couldn't have finished the verse and said, "It's fulfilled," because that won't be fulfilled till he comes back the second time. I love this part: "So all bore witness to him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'" What Jesus spoke were words of grace: gospel to the poor, helping the brokenhearted, the acceptable year of the Lord. The age of grace is being inaugurated. Such gracious words. But watch, their sentiment will not last. They're going, "Oh, this is so good," but just wait. "He said to them, 'You will surely say this proverb to me, "Physician, heal yourself! Whatever you have heard done in Caper...whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your country."'

And then he said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.'" Great men are not appreciated in their own neighborhood, in other words, and he gives two examples of that. We covered them last week. I'll just read through it. "But I tell you truly, many widows were in the Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except for Naaman the Syrian.'" Now watch what he's doing. He's saying, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country."

In his own town, in his own neighborhood, people don't accept prophets and great people. And he gives two examples of that. Elijah and Elisha were prophets who were sort of bypassed by Israel. And he sort of bypassed Israel...they did. Elijah and Elisha were sent to Gentile people. The good news through the prophets went out through the Gentiles, gracious healings through both of them. So they marveled at the gracious words that came out of his mouth. What Jesus is in effect saying is, "You think that was gracious, I'm going open the door of grace so wide. I have come that the world...even non-Jewish people, Gentiles...might believe and be saved. My message is for the earth, for the world, for the 'whosoever wills... let him come.'"

Like these prophets who were not accepted, but they were sent to the Gentiles, so too he's likening his ministry. So watch this: "So all those in the synagogue, when he heard these things, were filled with wrath." They went from "What a great sermon," to "I hate this guy," to wanting to get up in the middle of his message and walk out. "And they rose up and thrust him out of the city; and led him to the brow of the hill upon which their city was built," we covered that last week, "that they may throw him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, he went his way. And he went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and he was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon."

A demon-possessed man in the synagogue, you never know who's going to be in church. "And he cried out with a loud voice"...lo-I would have loved to be in that service just to feel the tension between the spirit realm: the realm of evil, and the kingdom of God. Now, Jesus is in Capernaum, and as we have noted, he makes his headquarters on that little village; that is, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Whenever we go to Israel, we always go to Capernaum, and we show people the synagogue that is still there, the ruins of it. It's actually a second-century synagogue built over the exact spot of the synagogue that proceeded it at the time of Christ. So, you're in the exact location where some of these things took place. And so Jesus made his headquarters in Capernaum and he's in the synagogue.

Now he just got kicked out of one synagogue in Nazareth. The next Sabbath rolls away. He's now in Capernaum. He goes back to the synagogue. Isn't that interesting? Jesus could have said, "I'm not going back to the synagogue ever again. They didn't treat me very good in that synagogue. I had a bad experience in synagogue. I'm never going back." Ever heard those words before? Those are some of the excuses people make about church. Jesus was almost killed for his testimony in the synagogue, but he goes back because he wanted to honor God. That's why he went back. And there he is back in the synagogue, and there's a man who has a demon and he speaks up. He interrupts the service. The demon-possessed man cries out.

The demons inside of him say, verse 34, "'Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are...the Holy One of God!' But Jesus rebuked him, saying"...I like this. I just like the idea of Jesus saying these words: "Be quiet!" You don't picture Jesus saying, "Button it up!" because of your Sunday school experience of "gentle Jesus meek and mild." "Be quiet!" "Whoa! Who said that?" "Jesus" "'Be quiet!'" , Wouldn't even let him speak, "'But come out of him!'" Why wouldn't Jesus let this man who had a spirit inside of him who recognized Jesus...notice that the demon knows, "That's Jesus. That's the Messiah. He's the Son of God, the Holy One of God." Well, the Bible says that "The devils believe, and they tremble," right?

James 2:19, "The devils believe, and they tremble." Maybe it would have been good for Jesus to let these demons who believed, they weren't saved, but they believed he was the Son of God, just to let him speak and tremble a little bit. That would have been quite a show to base a sermon on, "Watch and Tremble," and then let me explain why. No. Jesus tells them to "Be quiet!" and here's why: even though it was true, he did not want the testimony of a demon. It's interesting to me...I have a read some books on demonology. I won't spend long on this, but a thought came to my mind. I've read different books on demonology and Christians who say they've cast demons out of people. And they base doctrines of how to cast demons out based upon what the demons who were inside of the person said.

So now they're basing a theological position on the testimony of a demon. Jesus would not accept the testimony of a demon. And you know why? Because even though what they are saying here is true, Satan is the "father of lies." And if you start taking what demons say as what you ought to do, you'll have a tough time discerning what is true from what is false since Satan is the father of lies. He just wouldn't accept the testimony at all from this man who is demon possessed. "'Be quiet, and come out of him!' And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, 'What a word this is! For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.'

"And the report about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. Now he arose from the synagogue and he entered Simon's house." This is Simon Peter. But watch this: "But Simon's wife's mother" w-w-wait, wait a minute. "Simon's wife's mother"? Do you know the first time I read this I did just what I just did. "W-w-what? I never knew that Simon had a wife. I grew up in a system that believed in the perpetuity of the line of "Saint Peter" and the papacy and the priesthood. And the idea is that priests and popes were celibate. So when I read that Simon Peter was married, I thought, "Ooh, they've got a bit of a problem. Their first pope has a mother-in-law, because he has a wife." He's married. "Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever."

Just a little FYI: all of the gospel writers that speak about this incident include the information that she had a fever, but only Luke, who is a doctor, says it was a "high fever." So just because he's a doctor he's going to note: "This is pretty severe." Now 2,000 years ago a fever was considered a disease. Today we know a fever is really symptomatic of a disease. And, yet, the fever was what was classified as a disease, and here it's a high fever. "And they made a request of him concerning her. So he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them." I love this thought. As soon as she's cured, as soon as she has been touched by the Lord, and her condition is improved, she exhibits the evidence of that healing by wanting to serve.

And I think that follows today. The evidence of salvation is service; the evidence of being touched by the Lord is wanting to serve the Lord. Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a woman come up to him one time and said, "Oh, Mr. Spurgeon, Jesus Christ has changed my life and he'll never hear the end of it. I'm going to tell him and remind him and serve him my whole life. He's never going to hear the end of it." Jesus healed her, touched her, and immediately she got up as a sign that she had been touched and wanted to serve Christ. "When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them." They had to wait till sunset, because it was the Sabbath.

And the Sabbath begins on Friday evening when the sun goes down and three stars appear; and Sabbath ends Saturday evening and the sun goes down and three stars appear. So in the Jewish day, the day begins at night. And the beginning of the Sabbath is the night before Saturday; Friday evening is the beginning of it, and it ends Saturday evening. That's important. That's why in Genesis it says, "And evening and morning were the first day. And evening and morning were the second day." Because the Jewish day begins with a night and ends with a day. Make sense? So the Sabbath has ended, they couldn't bring their sick until the Sabbath had ended. Now that it's over they bring people to him and Jesus healed them.

"And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, 'You are the Christ, the Son of God!' And he, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was [the Messiah] the Christ." When it was day, he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought him and came to him, and tried to keep him from leaving them." Okay, they're in the city of Capernaum. And please compare the city of Capernaum with his hometown the city of Nazareth: the city of Nazareth, they just want to get rid of him; the city of Capernaum, they don't want him to leave. What a contrast that is. In his own hometown they don't recognize he's a prophet, but elsewhere they don't want him to leave their midst. Complete change from one place to the other.

"But he said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.'" Now please notice here the emphasis of Jesus' ministry is his preaching and teaching, not his healing. He didn't said, "I have to go to other places and heal other sick people," though he would. But that wasn't his primary goal. His primary goal was to preach and to teach. It was about his message, not about the marvels that went along with his message. The healing, the marvels would only point to the message, but those things were imparamount, the message was paramount. And so it says in verse 44, "And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee. And so it was, as the multitude pressed about him to hear the word of God" gotta know how much I love this verse.

I love the thought of people so hungry to hear Scripture that they press in to hear the Word of God. They want the Scripture taught. They want it explained. And so it says, "He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret." Do you get the picture? It's the shore, behind Jesus is the lake. He's standing there and people are pressing and pressing and they're moving closer and closer, which could force him into the lake. So, he has an ingenious plan. "He saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. So he got into one of the boats, which was Simon's," this is Peter, "and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he [Jesus] sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat." So I am picturing Peter standing there washing his nets.

It's shallow in that area of the Sea of Galilee. I've been in that shoreline many times. And he's washing the net, Jesus sits in the boat and asks Peter to pull it out a little bit. That would give Jesus a natural amphitheater effect. The sound could be projected as the people were pressed on the shore. There's a natural sloping. There's the water that's flat, and then the shoreline which goes up, sort of like an amphitheater. The voice of Jesus could be amplified in that setting. It could bounce off the water and be heard easily on the shoreline. It kept people from pressing him too close. It moved him out, so if this crowd was wide, he could safely address all of them. And I picture Peter, since he was washing his net, standing in the water just sort of walking the boat out a few feet as Jesus gives this message.

So Peter's holding onto the boat while Jesus preaches. And then it says, "When he had stopped speaking, he said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.'" So Jesus speaks to the multitude, has a message to give to them, but has Peter standing by the boat doing the ministry, doing the work of holding the boat. Why? I believe because Jesus wanted Peter to hear that message as well, whatever it was. We're not told what he preached here, but whatever it was, even though Peter was one of the workers just sort of holding the boat, it was a message that he wanted Peter to hear. He wanted Peter included. There's an important principle for all of us who are on staff or lead worship or do ministry.

Sometimes before a service we pray for the people and it's sort of like this, "Lord, help them hear what you have to say to them. Open up their hearts. Show them what they need to apply", when "them" is us. You're not here by accident. If you're running sound or running lights or backstage or leading worship, you are part of "them." Jesus wants you to hear this message as well as anyone else, and wants me to hear this message as well as anyone else. I'm convinced one of the reasons I'm called to this ministry is because I need to hear it probably more often than anyone else. I have to listen to myself four times on a weekend. That can be grueling, but the Lord must know that I need it. I need to hear it. Has to be reinforced into me. And so, "Peter, hold this boat, but don't go away, I want you to hear this message as well."

Then he says, "'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' But Simon answered and said, 'Master, we've toiled all night and caught nothing.'" Now let me tell you why he said this and how unusual it was for Jesus to give this command. In Galilee the best fishing is at night, not during the daytime. It's daytime now. Jesus preaches during the daytime. There's no fish along the shore. What happens is at night the little fishies go from the deepest part of the lake, the center of the lake, you know, the lake's seven miles by thirteen miles long. The deepest part of the lake in the center is about 141 feet or so. That's the deepest part. All the fish go there during the day. At night when it's dark, they go toward the shore and they feed.

So because of the kind of nets they had, they couldn't do deep fishing in those days, they had to fish along the shoreline. The only time they did that was at night. So Jesus says, "Launch into the deep for a catch." And Peter's going, "Nobody does that. There are no fish in the deep during the day. There's no fish in the lake during the day. They're, like, sleeping." So for Jesus to make this command was unusual. Peter, being a fisherman, understood this and he says, "'Master, we've already fished at the best time of the 24-hour period, we've caught nothing." But watch this: "'Nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.'" "I don't know why you would make this command, Jesus. It seems unreasonable. It's totally illogical. But you said it, so I'll do it."

How's that for a principle? "I don't know quite understand, Lord, why I'm to say this. I don't completely understand how a good God could allow suffering to exist, or a how a good God could allow a hell to exist that he would consign people to forever, but nevertheless at your word, since it is in your Word, I will be faithful to what your Word says. It seems unreasonable to some, illogical to others, but I'll share your Word." Peter could have said, "You know, Jesus, um, stick to preaching. I'm a fisherman. This is my business. I know this really well. Doesn't work that way." No. He submits to the command. "'Nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.' And when he had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

"So that they signaled to the other partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so they began to sink." Now, this is a sermon illustration. Jesus is going to preach a quick little message to Peter, because he's commissioning him to a greater work. "If at my word this can happen, then it must mean that something else could happen." And here's what it is: "Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!' And he and all those who were with him were astonished at the great catch of fish which they had just taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.'"

"I've just given you my word, and against logic and against reason you got a pretty good harvest. Hold on, Pete, you are in for a great ride, a great journey. From now on instead of catching fish, you will catch men. You're in for the ride of your life." "So when he had brought their boats to the land, they forsook all and they followed him." Peter was in for a journey. Peter was in for an adventure. Up to this point all the world that Peter knew was the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, maybe going down to Jerusalem a few times a year for a feast, but all he knew, his whole world was wrapped in a fishing business of a little inland lake called Galilee. That was his whole world. But he's going to catch men. And true to Jesus' word, wouldn't you know it, on the day of Pentecost 3,000 fish went into this net.

Peter preached a sermon, the Holy Spirit came upon the crowd, and people got saved in mass. Huge altar call. James and John were also partners. James, though he will be beheaded, his brother John will become a pastor in Ephesus, will be exiled to Patmos, but see the vision of the future coming of Christ as outlined in the book of Revelation. They are in for an incredible journey. Jesus summons Peter and the other guys to leave their earthly occupation and follow him. This was not typical. Typically, rabbis when they took on disciples, number one, the disciples were the ones to pick the rabbi they wanted to follow. It's like, "You know, I really like that rabbi. I want to sit under that rabbi for a while." But here Jesus is doing the picking. And Jesus, unlike what rabbis would do, tells his men to leave their jobs.

Now I say it's untypical because typically rabbis wanted their disciples to have their own occupation to pay for their own lifestyle, their own...have their own means while they sat under the teaching. But the Lord wants to isolate these men and give them these principles, kingdom principles. He's going to teach them for three, three and a half years, and then he's going to tell them to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." So they were to follow him. They were to follow him. You know what that means? It means wherever Jesus went they followed him. That's all it means. It actually literal...if he walks over there, you walk over there. If he walks to the next town, follow him, he's walking to that town. They just followed him and they watched him. And if he said to do something, they did it. This was OJT, on-the-job training.

He didn't say, "I want to use you guys, but first you have to go to Bible school, seminary would also be preferable. You need to take a course on evangelism, a special course, because you really can't do it right unless you take this course or read this book or whatever." He said, "Just-just hang out with me, just follow me. You're going to watch things, you're going to see things, you're going to hear things, and then I'm going to send you out to do it." That's discipleship. There are stages of discipleship. And here's how it works: number one, I do it; stage number two, I do it, you watch; stage number three, I do it, you help; stage number four, you do it, I help; stage number five, you do it, I watch; final stage, you do it. So they were disciples. They watched Jesus. They heard him. They'll help him. Later on they'll be commissioned.

Just follow Jesus. "I want to serve the Lord. I want to go into ministry." Cool. Just follow Jesus. Just have that relationship with him. It will happen naturally. And so this is the beginning of their commission. Now, something else I want to point out. They caught so many fish, and then Jesus said, "Okay, now quit your business," when it's at the peak. They never caught this many fish. It's, like, sort of at the peak. It's not like, "You know, my business isn't doing very well. We're sort of, like, going under. Not really making ends meet. I think it's time for me to go into ministry." No. I'll call you into ministry when you are at the peak, when you have the highest amount of assets and dividends." "Oh, wow, great catch of fish. Now stop that, because I'm going to do that in your life with people. That's what I want to do."

"And it happened when he was in a certain city that behold, a man was full of leprosy." Again, Dr. Luke is saying he didn't just have leprosy, he "was full of leprosy"; meaning here was a leper who had the advance stages of leprosy. If you're familiar with the Old Testament, around Leviticus 13 and 14 where it speaks about leprosy, you will know that there were two classes, two brands of leprosy. Number one, the first class was a general term to describe a variety of skin diseases...all under the branch of leprosy. So if you had some irritation, you would take it to a priest, he'd exam it. He'd exam it again after a few days. If it was genuine, full-blown what we would call Hansen's disease, you'd be exiled. So that brings us to the second, more severe type, which this man had that, but at the advanced stage.

A certain bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae began as small spots on the body, but eventually engulfed even the nervous system of the body. So where the body, the appendages like arms, fingers, toes, would be eventually left as a stump, a stump without feeling. It was known as the "walking death." There was no known cure at that time. According to the Old Testament if you had that kind of leprosy, and this guy did, you had to tear your clothes, you had to shave your head, you had to leave society. And if anybody came close to you, you had to yell out, "Unclean! Unclean!" In other words, "Get away from me. You don't want to be affected." There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about the Ebola virus. And Samaritan's Purse has dispatched a couple of doctors and nurses to the area affected.

And a couple of them got the Ebola virus, were sent recently back to the states, and they've been treated and they're fine, as you know. This is like the Ebola virus of the ancient world. You were not allowed to fellowship with anyone. There was a special little chamber in some synagogues known as the mehitzah. Say that ten times. Mehitzah, mehitzah, mehitzah, okay, anyway, forget that. Sorry. This was a little chamber where if you had leprosy, you were was sort of way in the back and in the corner, and you couldn't really get into the airspace of the rest of the people. So it was a very isolating social stigma to have leprosy. So, a certain city, there was a man full of leprosy, he saw Jesus. "He fell on his face and implored him, saying, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'"

Now, what should he have said? "Unclean! Unclean!" Because he was not to infect any people. His instructions were: don't come close to anybody. But he just gets low, gets down, and he cries out. He's in extreme situation. "Lord, Lord, if you're willing, you can make me clean." Then it says this, watch this: "Then he put out his hand and touch him." You know what the crowd did then? Doesn't say, but I can guess. "Gasp!" They sucked wind. They gasped. You're not supposed to touch a person with leprosy. The contagion can come onto you. You'll get it. Not Jesus. As soon as Jesus touches somebody, he's healed. Now what did that feel like for that leper who had known human touch to feel the healthy hand of Jesus on his face? What compassion. "I am willing," he said.

"'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one." Now are you scratching your head a little bit by now going, "He tells the demons not to say anything. Tells the guy who was just healed not to say anything." He says, "Don't tell anybody about this." That'd be hard to do, would it not? If you were cured of a life-threatening disease, how could you not tell someone? "What happened to you?" "Can't say." "What do you mean you can't say? You had a death sentence. You had, like, little nubs on your toes. You're, like, okay. What happened?" "Can't say, Jesus said don't tell anybody." "'But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.'"

Why would Jesus say don't tell anyone? I give you a couple reasons that I believe fit. First of all, he didn't want people attracted to him just because he could heal them physically. That'd be the wrong motivation. There's a lot of people who will just want to follow Jesus because what they can from him. It's all about the gift rather than that Giver. So, he didn't want to send the message that, you know, "I'm here to give out free lunches and free healings to anybody." That'd be the wrong motivation. A second reason, and probably a more profound reason, is already the religious elite studied Jesus and eyed him suspiciously and were jealous of his popularity, and he didn't want to attract the attention before the time. Now, eventually, Jesus will get enough negative press that it will bring on the cross.

The human instrument is the jealousy of the Jewish leadership that will drive Jesus toward a Roman crucifixion, but it's not the time to have that kind of negative press yet. So he says, "Don't tell anyone, but go to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing." In Leviticus, in Leviticus 14, I believe, if you think you're cured of leprosy, there's a procedure you go through. You make a sacrifice of a couple birds, and the priest sprinkles the blood, and then you wait for seven days, and the priest reexamines you to see if you're cleaned. Do you remember that portion? So when Jesus was saying to this man go do what the Bible says to do in the procedures for leprosy, according to Leviticus 14, he did this for a reason. He was effectively giving the priests his business card. That's what he was doing.

He was giving the priest, Jesus was giving them his business card. He's making a notification to them: "One with messianic credentials, who can heal even leprosy, is in your midst. The kingdom of God is breaking in on you." He's giving them his business card, because there had not been a leper healed in Israel since Elijah the prophet. So just go to the priest, just go and do what the Bible says to do, make that sacrifice, make that offering, just as Moses commanded. "However, the report went around concerning him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. So he himself often withdrew into the wilderness and he prayed.

"Now, it happened on a certain day, he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And behold, men"...Mark's gospel tells us there were four men, four men, four friends of this guy. "Men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd"...just a dense group of people..."they went up on the housetop, let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus." By the wording here, we can guess that this was a Greco-Roman dwelling place, because there were tiles on the roof.

If it was a Jewish house in Capernaum, no tiles. It would have just been a thatched, mud roof with some branches and grass and stuff on it, just packed in adobe. Tiles were a little bit higher echelon. So, it could be that some guy and his family got saved. They have a little more money. They're kind of notable. They have this nice house. And I can just imagine the conversation: "Honey, we're going to have a group of people over today. Jesus is coming by, the disciples are coming by. We're going to barbecue for them and just have a cool little party for them." And then the house swarms full of people, and Mrs. Whoever-it-is goes, "Man, I didn't know it was going to get this big of a crowd. I don't know where we're going to fit them all." Then to make matters worse, their roof opens up.

"Great, having a part party for Jesus makes me ruin my house. The tiling is coming off." And it's these guys trying to get this friend of his into the house. "When he [Jesus] saw their faith, he said to him, 'Man, your sins are forgiven you.'" I love these guys, four friends. They must have heard Jesus' sermons, they must have seen Jesus' miracles, because they had only one consuming thought: "If we could get our buddy who's paralyzed, if we could get him in front of Jesus, I bet he'll be cured. We've got to get him to Jesus." Those are real friends. A real friend will spare no expense to get their friends to Jesus. "Gotta get him to Jesus." What I also like about these guys is I relate to them. They hate crowds. They hate lines, right? They hate lines. I grew up going to Disneyland. I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I hate standing in line for two hours to go on a twenty-minute adventure. Or being on a freeway. I was in Honolulu last week...worst traffic problem in America, worse than Los Angeles, worse than Washington, D.C. Dense, hard to move around. Beautiful place, but I hate these crowds. And I'm always thinking, "Is there a shortcut? Could I, like" see, in California you can go between lanes of cars, and it's legal, by the way. Here it's legal, but good luck. But there's a shortcut. And these guys were thinking, "There's gotta be a shortcut," so they found the roof. So notice this, I'm setting all this up, because the man who needed to be healed, nothing is said about his faith. In fact, he probably didn't even know who Jesus was.

Maybe he had heard stories about him, but he was not a believer, I don't think, at this point. So notice what it, verse 20, "When he [Jesus] saw"...whose faith?..."their faith." So why is it that some Christian movements or churches make a big deal out of one's personal faith, as if to say, "Well, the reason you're not walking in perfect health is you don't have enough faith"? Whenever I hear that, whenever I hear somebody say, "Well, the reason they're not healed is because they don't have enough faith," if I hear that person speaking, I will say, "Well, let's just use your faith then. You seem to have so much, why don't you believe for them?" You see, "their faith," they believed if they could get their friend in front of Jesus; he says nothing about his faith. He didn't have any, but they did, and he noticed that.

And so, "He said to him," the man who was paralyzed, "'Man, your sins are forgiven.'" You know what I think those four guys did when they heard this? They went, "Aaahhh, man, we didn't come here to hear that. We came here to hear, 'You're healed.'" But Jesus didn't say that. He said, "Man, your sins are forgiven." You know why? Cause that was his greatest need. His greatest need was not physical healing, he'll get to that. The man's greatest need was forgiveness of sin. The greatest need of any person you know is to have sins forgiven. We celebrate communion in a few moments, we're acknowledging, "God, you have come from heaven to earth to deal with our greatest need...the forgiveness of our sins."

There was a thought among some of the ancient Jews that a person's sickness was directly related to his or her sin: "If you're sick, it's because you have sin; if you're greatly sick, it's because you have great sin." Some of you remember the book of Job. There was one of Job's "friends," his "comforters" named Eliphaz the Temanite. Do you remember Eliphaz the Temanite? Job did. Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job when he saw him sick, "Who, being innocent, ever perished?" In other words, "If you had no sin, you wouldn't be in this condition of dying. It's because you must have sin in your life." And, of course, God at the end of the book will rebuke them all, including Eliphaz the Temanite. But Jesus dealt with this man because this was his greatest need.

"'Man, your sins are forgiven you.' The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, 'Who is this who speaks blasphemies?'" Now, they're actually correct. If the One who just said, "Your sins are forgiven," were just a man, this is blasphemy. Only God reserves the prerogative to forgive sins. They're correct in that. But they're assuming that Jesus was only a man. When I was in Honolulu last week at this one conference I spoke at, this dear woman came up afterwards. She was an Israeli. She was a Jewish person from Israel. And she hadn't slept, and that reason is those three teenagers that were abducted and killed that brought on this latest war, the little...the young man who died was her nephew. So she's struggling with all that, but we had a wonderful conversation for a long time.

She did not know that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. So she goes, "So tell me about this Jesus. He was just a good guy, right?" I go, "Well, he was a great guy, but he was more than a guy. And here's what he claimed about himself..." And it was, again, wonderful conversation. So these guys are assuming sort of from that perspective. "Who is this guy making these statements? This is blasphemy." "'Who can forgive sins but God alone?' But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, 'Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is it easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or "Rise you and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins'...He said to the man who was paralyzed, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.'

"Immediately he rose up before them, and took up what he had been lying on, departed to his own house, glorying God." That's an understatement, by the way. "They were all amazed, and glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, 'We have seen strange things today!'" Let's close with that thought and we'll pass these elements out. Let me ask you this: Which is it easier to say? Is it easier to say, "Your sin are forgiven" or is it easier to say, "Rise up and walk"? Well, I think I can answer that. For me it would be easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," for this reason: the forgiveness of sin, you can't see. It's all inward. Anybody could say, "Your sins are forgiven." I mean, just try it. Go to the gas station and go, "Your sins are forgiven." They're going to go, "All right, thanks."

But go to somebody who is paralyzed and say, "Get up and walk." Now, that's hard to say. Actually, both things are impossible to say, unless you're God. Only God can say, "Your sins are forgiven." Only God can heal a person of a disease. One points to the other; the physical miracle pointed to a spiritual miracle. "Watch this guys...Get up and walk." He did. "If I can do that, then I can also forgive sins." That which is seen is spectacular, but that which is unseen, which is more important, the forgiveness of sins, is also impossible and miraculous. "'But that so you may know that the Son of Man has the power of the earth the forgive sins, I'll say, 'Get up and walk.' So when you see him walk, you know that I have the power to forgive sins." And he does. He has forgiven our sins. And we are taking these elements to say that "I know that he has." So as we pray, I'm going to ask the communion board to come and we're going to pass out these elements. Hold onto them until we all have them together and then we'll take them as a fellowship.

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for those who will sometimes fight traffic and press to hear the Word of the Lord. How grateful I am for a fellowship of people who love to hear your Word taught verse by verse, chapter by chapter, the whole Book. Thank you for these who are your flock. They're your church. You died for them. They don't belong to any pastor. They don't belong to any leader. These are your people, your sons and your daughters, and we treat them with honor and respect, those of us who are in ministry, because of that fact. As Paul said to the church, the Ephesian elders, "Shepherd the flock of God which he purchased with his own blood." I pray you would strengthen those who have come, and that by taking these elements in obedience to your command, we will once again be reaffirmed of the forgiveness of sin, that you touch the greatest need in our lives, in Jesus' name, amen.

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