Skip Heitzig - Luke 6:17-7:23
Father, around us right now, around us are men and women of a variety of backgrounds, ages; those that have fears, those that are filled with hope and anticipation of something maybe that's going to happen this week, and so they're filled with joy, not fear. Father, there are people around us in different situations with different needs. And before we even begin to unravel the text of Scripture, we just want to pray for brothers or sisters who are with us, those who are in front of us and behind us and to the right of us and to the left of us, that you would encourage them, encourage their faith. May they grow in grace and in knowledge, may they grow in character and personality, that it would more and more emulate that of the Savior we love and serve, Jesus Christ. We pray, Father, that you would give to us tonight answers to issues that we are facing. We pray that you would increase our knowledge of your Word, our knowledge of Jesus, for we're told to "grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." But as we grow in knowledge, help us and those around us grow in grace, in character, in a graciousness in our attitude and our dealing with people. And, Father, I pray you would equip us to give answers to anyone and everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that lies in us, in Jesus' name, amen.
Last time we left off Jesus had been up on a mountain; on that mountain he camped out. He spent the night. Camping out on that mountain, he spent in prayer alone with the Father. The next day he chose those twelve out of his disciples who would become his apostles that he would train and send out. So he goes from praying, to picking, and then to preaching. And he goes down from that mountaintop and he begins to preach a very familiar sermon that looks a lot like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 5, 6, and 7. As we get into it, I just want to give you my thoughts on it as a whole. Because most of the material is covered already in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, and we've gone in depth both on weekends and midweeks on it, I am not going to go in depth here in Luke.
But the question comes up, and any critical reader of the Bible will ask: Is this a different version of the same sermon? Is it a contradiction of what Matthew writes in Matthew 5, 6, and 7? Because though it sounds similar, there are dissimilarities. It is not the same sermon. There are subtractions from Matthew. There are additions in Luke. It is quoted partially from Matthew, but the rest of it, what we read in Matthew, is not found in Luke. So, it is similar, but it's different enough to ask: Is this Luke's version of the same Sermon on the Mount or is this a different sermon? Well, it's an interesting question. And the reason I bring it up is because I think it was about almost twenty years ago when I went through the gospel of Luke here on a Wednesday night.
And I thought and I stated that I thought it was simply an abridged version of the Sermon on the Mount out Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Today I'm not quite so sure. I have a different thought. Now I'm not here to be dogmatic about it. In fact, some of you are looking at me like, "We don't care." But maybe some of you do care. So, for those of you that do care, let me just say this: it could be (a) the same sermon that Matthew records in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, the Sermon on the Mount. I never liked the term "Sermon on the Mount," by the way. It didn't give you any information. It's like saying, "Today my sermon is called 'The Sermon from the Pulpit.'" Well, every sermon is a sermon from the pulpit. So, this Sermon on the Mount would be better titled the "Sermon on the Kingdom," because that's the theme of the sermon.
It happened to be preached on a knoll or a mount. Anyway, (a) this is the same sermon as Matthew 5, 6, and 7, same one, and Luke pulls out or omits certain parts of that sermon that are characteristically Jewish, it would seem, because Matthew was writing to the Jews; Luke was writing to the Greeks. Make sense? So he could just be for his own purposes recording that what he believed are the salient points of that message leaving certain things out. And, number two, because Jesus originally spoke this in Aramaic (the language of the captivity was what the common people spoke in Galilee and Jerusalem), and it was translated from Aramaic into Greek, there are some differences in the way it's translated with latitude for those words. That's one theory.
The other thought, however, is that this is a similar sermon, but a wholly different event. And I lean more toward that and here's why: having preached now for a number of years, I have preached the same sermon in two different locations and they weren't exactly the same message. I would sort of cut and paste and abridge and add, depending on the situation. So many preachers, including Jesus, he probably had this sermon that he could have preached many times, but he doctored it up and altered it from place to place, depending on the crowd and the situation. And so it would seem to me that Matthew 5, 6, and 7 was one place, and Luke's rendition is at another time and another place. Same message, very similar, with some differences. Not a big deal. I understand that.
So when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, it says he was on a knoll, a mount. The Sea of Galilee is where this takes place. It's a mountainous kind of a region. Not mountains like as high as these, but rolling hills...how's that? And where Jesus preached near Capernaum, there's lots of these kinds of hills. But because Jesus came down from the mountain peak where He had been praying, and then picking his disciples, and then preaching the sermon, what many scholars believe is that this takes place at the foot of what is called...and I know you're at a disadvantage, so you'll have to just trust me geographically. It's called the Horns of Hattin. There is a geographical mountain that's higher than any other mountain around that area called the Horns of Hattin. Oh, look at that. My team is on it.
So can you see that big kind of V cut out in the horizon? Well, you could in the previous one. Let's go back to the previous one. There, okay, you see that big cut out...that kind of V formed right there? Those two are the Horns of Hattin. That's what they're called. And it's believed that Jesus went up there to pray and then come down. Well, that's on the other side of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum where he preached to Sermon on the Mount, so a whole different location. Anyway, that's the backed background of it. Let's begin in verse 17. "And he came down with them and stood on a level place"...so rather than the Sermon on the Mount, this is the "Sermon on the Level" or the "Sermon on the Plain."
..."with a crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon," that's up on the Phoenician Lebanese seacoast, "who came to hear him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him, for power went out from him and he healed them all. Then he lifted up his eyes toward his disciples, and he said: 'Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.'" Anyone who's familiar at all with Jesus knows about the Beatitudes, the statements that begin with "Blessed" It's one of the common, notable features of Jesus' teaching.
Now the word "blessed" means "Oh, how fortunate," "Oh, how blissful," "Oh, to be congratulated," or "Oh, how happy are " So now think of it that way. Think of Jesus saying, as he looks at them, "Happy are the poor... happy are you who mourn... or hunger. Blessed or oh, how happy are you who weep now." That sounds like a contradiction. Jesus, speaking to his disciples who were poor, who had given up their livelihoods, who were just sort of living by faith as they were following Jesus, Jesus gives these words. And I love the word blessed [blest] or blessed [bless id] and I hope it describes you. I hope, though we have ups and downs in life, that you enjoy walking with the Lord, that there's a joy that is yours, a blessedness, a happiness that sets you apart, that makes you noticeable.
Now I didn't even know this was happening, but one time I was coming home from work...it was really an internship program in radiology. I was coming home from the hospital and I unlocked my little apartment that I paid $99 a month for to rent. And I walked up into my little house and put my books down and I got a knock on the door. And it was my neighbor who I also worked with. I knew that he was an orderly in that hospital. And he said, "Hey, this is a weird question, but I just want to ask you a reason for something I see in you." And I said, "Sure, what is it?" He goes, "I don't know what it is, but even you just coming home right now, you seem to have a glow." And so I thought immediately, "That is weird. This is a weird encounter. This is an awkward kind of a thing."
So I'm looking at him, going, "Okay." And I went into the bathroom to see if, you know, I was glowing, or maybe I was exposed to radiation. I didn't know what it was. I worked in the department, maybe I didn't have my badge on and I had too many photons. I'm not sure, but I didn't see anything. But he saw something, he said, in just watching me around the hospital and even walking to my front door. He goes, "I just want to know what it is." So I thought, "This has got to be a setup. It's got to be the Lord." Right? But I think of this word: "Oh, how fortunate," "Oh, to be congratulated," "Oh, how blissful," "Oh, how happy." The word makarios is the Greek word and it embodies all of those definitions. Sadly, Christianity has been seen by the world as something that takes joy away from you.
I had other friends of mine when I told them I was following Jesus, I had one person say...I said...they said, "What's up?" And I said, "I'm a Christian. I follow Jesus now." And he said, "Oh, I'm so sorry." He just thought, you know, my fun days are over, right? And, "Throw a going away party for him or something." It's like, "He's going downhill after this." And it's sad that Christianity has been portrayed as such for a long time. But Jesus says this: "'Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.'" Better a poor follower of Christ than a wealthy unbeliever."'[Happy or] blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you, they revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake.'"
So now we have the reason that they're poor, the reason that they're hungry, the reason that they're weeping: it's because they're being persecuted. And it would continue. In Jerusalem when the early church started, many of the jobs in Jerusalem...we might call it even government based jobs, unfortunately. But the temple, the temple complex in Jerusalem paid an enormous amount of employees by the tax dollars that were taken in through temple and through Jerusalem. So a lot of the jobs in Jerusalem were temple related, because it was just a big complex. As soon as thousands of people came to Jesus Christ, because the Jewish people saw this as some sort of a cult, believers started losing their jobs. The persecution meant they had poverty, they had hunger, and they had weeping, because they were now attached to Christ.
So they were losing their jobs right and left. It got so bad in Jerusalem that the apostle Paul had to take an offering from Gentile churches throughout Asia Minor to bring an offering to Jerusalem to support it later on. So this would get worse as time goes on. And Paul wrote to Timothy: "All those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." However, there's a qualifying phrase here. It's not, "Oh, how happy are those who are hated by people and persecuted," but there's a qualification for your persecution. Notice what it says: "for the Son of Man's sake." This is an important concept that you and I must get. We can't allow our belief in Jesus Christ to make us goofy and weird and obnoxious, and then justify that weird behavior, saying, "Well, it's because I'm a Christian."
Well, it might be because you're attached to Christ, or it could be that you're just odd and you are inviting a persecution that's not because you're attached to Christ, just because you're coming off really weird or hard or harsh, or you're just, like, in people's face, and you won't let them breathe or make their other choices. So be careful in your portrayal to the world of your Savior, that you do it in a way that's inviting. And so that if they're rejecting you because you love Jesus, okay, that's a blessed thing. In Acts, chapter 5, they were persecuted for that very reason. And "They walked away from the council, rejoicing," It says, "that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name's sake." So that's the qualifying phrase.
Jesus said...listen to what he said, and when was the last time you ever heard of somebody doing this who was taunted or called a name or laughed at because they follow Jesus? "'Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!'" Have a party."'For indeed your reward is great in heaven.'" Now why are you to rejoice; because you're being tormented? Not at all, but because of what's coming after the torment, what's coming after this life, what's coming in heaven. You've got a reward waiting for you that is promised to those who do get persecuted for his name's sake. "'For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich.'" Now here's something interesting about this sermon that Luke writes about, not like the Sermon on the Mount where you have many more Beatitudes.
You have four Beatitudes here and you have four woes. So, four "blessed are yous," and four "woe to you other guys." Right? Sort of balances it out. "'Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.'" If your life is filled with just hoarding wealth and going from one entertainment thing to another entertainment thing, and it's all about pleasure and entertainment, and that's all you...your whole life is wrapped up in, woe, woe. Not like, "Whoa, dude!" But like, "Woe!" "'But I say to you who hear"...not everybody does.
"'But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.'" We have here what might be called the pinnacle of this sermon, this little statement that Jesus said "love your enemies," this separates the big leagues from the minor teams. Love...anybody can love. Everybody loves somebody, right? Everybody does. And it's easy to love those who are lovely. It's easy to love those who are powerful. Easy to love those who are wealthy. Easy to love those who are beautiful.
But imagine being able to and following through with loving enemies, those who hate you. This separates the men from the boys, the big leagues from the minor teams. It's the pinnacle of this sermon. It's what Jesus can do in and through people who follow him. And this separates Christianity (following Jesus, a relationship with him) from every other religious system. There's a lot of talk today, and it bothers me greatly whenever I hear it, whether it's in a university setting or on television or in conversations: "Well, all religious are the same. It doesn't matter which one you follow, they're really all the same." Anybody who makes that statement knows absolute nothing about religions, because the definition of God in those religions are mutually contradictory to one another.
Buddhism has no God in its system. Hinduism is pantheistic. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is monotheistic. Their definitions of God all disagree with each other. They can't all be right, unless God is one big, confused entity. But there's a lot of talk like this, and right now there's a lot of chatter going on in the world about Islam and Christianity, because of all that's happening overseas and around the world, much of which has been going on for a long time, but most of which Americans are just waking up to. And so whenever somebody says, "Well, you know, Islam is not a religion of peace," you know, automatically you are censored. You can't say that. You have to say it's a peaceful religion, because, after all, George W. Bush said it was. And I think he did a disservice to us in telling us that.
Now, what people will say who are opposed to what I just said, is say, "Well, go back in your history. Look at the history of Christianity, the crusades." You're right. That was a...that's a blot on our history. The crusades, however, were not based upon the Book, were not based upon the reading of the New Testament. Most of the people back then did not even consult in their lives, ever read in a New Testament, ever once. They didn't have access to the Scriptures. They were given a false promise, they were inflamed by false promises, and they went out and it was wrong. However, if you examine the books of the New Testament, right, the source material, and you compare that with the books of Islam, you have a very different record.
Here you have our Founder saying, "Love your enemies," "If somebody slaps you, turn the other cheek," whereas in Islam it's different. You know, you are in a special category according to a Muslim. You are...the whole world is divided in two groups: Dar al Islam, that's the "House of Islam." That's anyone who is submitted to the will of Allah completely. And the second category is Dar al Harb, which means the "House of War." If you are not submitted to Allah completely, you are a part of the House of War. And in the Qur'an are 109 verses called war verses that tell the Muslim to hunt and to kill people who do not submit to the will of Allah. Not only is that source material there, but there are the Hadiths, the sayings of Muhammad, in which noncombatants in a war are okay to kill if you're fighting jihad against an enemy.
So when you see in the Gaza a father with his child, his son, in front of him as a shield, and he has the rifle on his son's shoulder, and the son is in front of him, and he is shooting that, and you go, "Well, that's horrible!" it is horrible. But you ought to know why that mentality is there, because it's in the source materials. That is not to say that Muslims are not peaceful. They are, many of them, a lot of them are, but if anyone wants to look for any reason not to be peaceful, there's plenty of source material in the Qur'an and Hadiths, Sunna, to not be. So with 1.3 to 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, you should know that at least 10 percent of those are radicalized, we're told. So you've got 130 to 150 million radical, wanting to kill and destroy Israel and the West, you have those on the earth.
So, just so you know where that thinking comes from. It comes from the source material. That's why I say this text is what separates Christianity from everyone else. So, should we hate them? No. We're told to love them. We're told to if we get slapped on one side of the cheek, to turn the other cheek. Now, I don't know if you've ever been slapped before, but I can just say, I had three older brothers, I've been hit, kicked, slapped, punched. Had rocks and bricks thrown at me from my brother...knives. So, I can just say, it hurts. And whenever you get slapped, you get angry and you want to retaliate. That's your first instinct.
And here is your Savior, not saying don't protect yourself, not saying not to be aware, we are to be aware and are to be protective, but, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." And then verse 30, "'Give to anyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.'" It's interesting: Socrates said, "Know thyself"; Freud said, essentially, "Be thyself"; Jesus said, "Give thyself. Give yourself away to people, and keep doing it." "'And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?'"
Can I paraphrase that? "Big deal. If you love those who love you, big deal. So?" "'For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For he is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.'
"And he spoke a parable to them: 'Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, and you don't perceive that you have a [telephone pole] in your own eye?" That's my paraphrase of "plank." It's ludicrous, isn't it? Can you imagine, you've got this big, like, chunk hanging out of your eye, you know, and you walk up to somebody and they're looking, going, "Gosh, that's so awkward." And then you walk up to them and you say, "Hey, I see a little, tiny speck in your eye. Can I help to get it out?" And they're going, "Dude, go home and take care of business first. Go find a mirror, and then let's talk." Right? So it's a ludicrous idea.
"'Or how can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye," when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove to speck that is in your brother's eye. For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every true is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.'" Now, before we finish this off, let me just tell you what I like to do whenever I take people to Israel.
It used to be that we would...I think our second day or third day in the land, we go to this place. We go to Capernaum, which is a lovely little village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. And we would walk over to where traditionally the Sermon on the Mount was given. And we would go into this area, and you're on this beautiful kind of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. And we would open our Bibles, and I used to in the early days go through, like, Matthew 5, 6, and 7, and give commentary on all of it. It took...it took a while. And I just decided not only is it overkill for a tour group who's trying to get over jet lag from coming half way around the world, but I would be better served by just reading the Sermon on the Mount and having people just look around when they hear it. Because that's what it was like.
So, I take a modern version of the Bible that's quite different from what it sounds like here, just so it falls on our ears in a fresh manner, and we just read that Sermon on the Mount. And the last couple of times when we did that, just the way that the translation was put, it moved people, visibly. Many of them had tears in their eyes just listening and imagining in that setting Jesus saying these words. Let's finish this out. And it's a good question to ask: "'But why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and you do not do the things which I say?'" The term "Lord" connotes authority, power. He's the boss. "Why do you call me 'Boss'? Why do you call me your King and your authority, but you never do what I say?" That's a good question, isn't it?
Remember in the book of Acts when Peter was on that rooftop and he had that trance and he saw that sheet coming down from heaven of all these unkosher things to eat? And the Lord said, "Peter, get up; kill and eat." And he said...do you remember what he said? "Not so, Lord!" Now just listen to that statement: "No, Lord!" Is that a perfect contradiction in terms? "Not so, no way, Lord!" "Well, how can you call me 'Lord' and say 'No way'? No, if I'm the Lord, you say, 'Way! Okay, I'll do it, whatever you say, Lord,' if I'm your Lord." Otherwise you have to say, "Not so, dude!" Or "Not so, you, or friend, or whatever." You cannot say "Lord" and "No." So that's the implication of the term "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' you don't do what I say?"
"'Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundations on the rock. And when the floods arose, and the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.'" Jesus is speaking about those who say he is Lord, but do not submit to him as Lord. They use eternal language, but they do not have eternal life, because he's really not the Lord. So Jesus invites us to look at the house in his parable: "Look at the house."
Now, if you were to look at these two houses that he's describing...okay, so there you are, you're driving by or you're riding by on your horse, and you see this house and that house. You look at it, they look probably pretty much the same: front door, maybe a courtyard, a couple windows, two camel garage next to it. And they look very, very similar. Okay, but then look under the house, and that's where one spared the expense and the other spared no expense, put a good foundation. But the first guy just thought, "I can cut corners and just build it on the dirt." And that's great, as long as it doesn't rain, as long as a hurricane or tornado doesn't come through, because you need it anchored to something strong that will endure. So look at it; look under it.
"Now, when he concluded all of these sayings, all of his sayings in the hearing of all the people, he entered into Capernaum." So we're at the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum is where Jesus headquartered his ministry for three and a half years. Remember, he moved from his hometown Nazareth twenty five miles away? He's headquartered at Capernaum. That's where Peter lived, that's where James, John, they all lived there. He headquartered himself there. Jesus does more miracles in Capernaum than any other town. That's why he held them accountable. So, he goes back into Capernaum. "He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and he was ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, pleading with him to come and heal his servant.
"And when they begged...or when they came to Jesus, they begged him earnestly, saying that the one for whom he should do this was deserving, 'For he loves our nation, and he has built us a synagogue.'" I personally find Roman centurions interesting to me. I've read about them. I've done a lot of study about them. They were the backbone of the Roman army. Most of us know that. They ruled between eighty and a hundred men, hence the name "centurion." But it seems that once you made it to the level of centurion, your pay was doubled, in some cases up to seventeen times more as a centurion than has a legionnaire. It was a quite prestigious thing to do, to be. But here's why I say it is interesting: of all the times the New Testament mentions a Roman centurion, they're never seen in a negative light.
They're seen in a positive light, as being full of faith, or very interested, or very kind. And I just find it interesting how the New Testament portrays the occupiers, the enemy occupiers who have come in to occupy the land of Israel as a foreign invader, and that the centurions are seen in a positive light, and this guy definitely. So, notice, they come to Jesus, and listen to what they say: "Jesus, you ought to heal this guy's servant, because"...listen..."he deserves it." Now they have a wrong view of the relationship between man and God. They have the typical view. They have the typical view. If you were to ask, "Well, why should God answer your friend's prayer?" "Well, my friend deserves it. He prays. He goes to church," or "She loves the Lord."
So, in that statement is the belief system that "I earn my favor with God. I deserve God's favor toward me." The Bible teaches us that we are "saved by grace," which means undeserved favor. So this belies, betrays a wrong view of the relationship between man and God, that God should do something for man because man has earned it, they deserve it. "He's built a...he's built a church for us in this town. He loves our nation, the Jewish nation." So, in other words, "He's worthy"...listen..."he's worthy." "And Jesus went with them. And when he was already not a far distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying"...so centurion doesn't come, he sends some himself. Now why is that? Because listen to what he says: "'Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that you should enter my roof.'"
See, his friends are saying, "He's worthy"; he's saying, "I'm really not worthy." Now he has the right view of the relationship between man and God: "I'm not worthy. You don't owe me anything, God. You're God; I'm not. It's not based on what I do or what I earn or what I deserve...I'm not worthy. I don't deserve it." "'Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to you. But say the word'" ...just speak a word. Don't even have to come. I'm not worthy to come to you, just speak a word..."'and my servant will be healed.'" Can I say, I would have loved to have been this guy's servant. The old Greek writings, the writings even of Aristotle looked at servants as something you own. They said a slave, a servant is nothing more than a tool, a human tool, and a tool is nothing more than an inanimate slave.
This centurion did not feel that way about his servant. He loved his servant, so I say, I'll be that guy's servant. Takes pretty good care of his slaves, of his servants. But listen and you'll see why Jesus is stoked on this guy. "'For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.' And when Jesus heard these things, he marveled," the Greek word thaumazó, which means he blew his mind. He was absolutely amazed. It's like he went, "Whaaat?" It's just like...it's noteworthy. "I'm going to stop and take notice of that." He was thaumazó, marveled, amazed. "And he turned around and he said to the crowd that followed him, 'I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!'"
Not even in the covenant land of the Jews. Here is an outsider, a Gentile, an occupier who made this statement. Now what is it that made Jesus marvel? It was this man's perception of the authority structure. The reason the man said, "I'm unworthy to have you come into my house," is because of the perceived authority that Jesus had. Okay, so here's the deal, because he said, "I'm a man of authority also. I get this." Roman authority at this point was completely autocratic; let me explain that. In 30 years BC, Rome changed. Before that it was a Roman Republic. It was a little more democratic. In 30 BC things changed and the Caesar, the first one, Caesar Augustus had absolute total control. More than ever before, right? So, he would distribute that authority to his armies, his centurions.
So when a centurion gave a command, it was based on the command and the authority of Caesar himself. So, for you to disobey the command of a centurion is to disobey Caesar, so you get in trouble for that. He understood that authority structure. He perceived that Jesus operated under a very similar authority structure. "You have the authority of God the Father. So, if you were to just speak a word from this distance, it would be instantaneous healing, because you represent the authority of God the Father. And when you speak that word of authority, things get done." He believed all that. That's why Jesus marveled and said, "Whaaat? Nobody else I've met in Israel, these scribes and Pharisees especially, they don't have this kind of faith. This guy knows who I am. He knows what kind of authority I'm operating under, that the Father has sent the Son and the Son speaks and it's done."
"And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick. Now it happened, the day after, that he went into a city called Nain." And Luke is the only one that records this incredible story. "And many of his disciples went with him, and a large crowd." So you get the picture: Jesus is coming from Capernaum, oh, about twenty five miles away from Capernaum, and it's probably...it is a day's journey. If he's going maybe toward Nazareth, he's going through Nain. Nain isn't far from Nazareth. Our first day of touring, after we go through Caesarea by the sea and Mount Carmel, and we go through Nazareth, we'll take you through Cana and Nain on the way up to Capernaum. Now it's easy on a bus, but they're walking.
So, picture its late afternoon, Jesus and his disciples, and a large crowd now were following him. So he's coming into this city. "And when he came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from that city was with her." Now this is the funeral march. So you have two large crowds combining into a mega crowd. "When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' And then he came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And he said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.' So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And he presented him to his mother. And then fear came upon all"...that's the appropriate response, right? It is. I mean, when was the last time you saw that?
If some dead person gets up, you're not going to go, "Let's go have lunch now." Fear is an appropriate response on two levels: "He was dead and he's looking at me"; and, second, "I'm with a guy who did that. He's standing right here in front of me." That would...that would unnerve one. "Fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, 'A great prophet has risen up among us'; and, 'God has visited his people.'" Here's a woman...what a horrible situation. She has no husband. She's a widow. Now she has no son. So, she has no protection. She has no provision. Her provider is dead, her husband, which would mean her son would take up the mantle of responsibility to look after the mother, and now the son is dead, a horrible, horrible situation. And Jesus' heart goes out to her.
And so he says to her, "Do not weep." Now before he says this, it says that "he had compassion." You know this word. You know this word. And if you've come here for any length of time, you've heard me say this word. I just want to underscore this word. "Compassion" is a Greek word splagchnizomai. Some of you are going, "I don't know that word. That's a weird word." It, splagchnizomai or splanxna, compassion, literally means "the gut." In the old King James Bible it's translated "bowels of mercy." And the reason it is used, the reason the Greek word is employed is because of the ancient belief system that the deepest emotions were felt in the visceral part, the abdominal part. You know, "You feel it in your gut," they would say, we would say.
So, splagchnizomai, which is a word meaning "filled with bowels of mercy," is simply a way to say...just like we will say, "His heart goes out to her." It doesn't mean his heart actually comes out of his body, moves toward her. It's a way, figurative way of saying: "He just felt her pain and wanted to help her, filled with enormous compassion toward her." It's one of the marks of Jesus that Matthew and Luke point out. So he's filled with compassion and he says to her, "Do not weep," and then he touches the casket and says to the young man in that voice of authority, "Young man, I say to you, arise." What we have here is something very interesting. I mentioned there's a crowd coming and there's a crowd already in town; one coming in town, one going out to bury him.
You have two crowds, two crowds: one excited, happy, kind of a party mode..."We're with Jesus. He heals people and says cool things. We're with him, woo hoo!" and a very sad crowd. And now they're kind of together. So you have two crowds and you have two only begotten sons. You have a dead son who's destined to live; and you have a living Son of God who is destined die. And by that authority he says to the dead person, "Get up, get up," and there is a restoration of life. Now we call this a "resurrection" of life, but, again, without being overly technical, let me just say this isn't really technically a resurrection. Follow me here, please. It's a "restoration" to life. He was dead and he had life back to him. The resurrection, Jesus, the Bible says is the firstfruits of the resurrection.
You ever read that, the firstfruits of the resurrection? And here's what it means: when Jesus rose from the dead, he rose from the dead with a glorified body. You understand that, glorified body? He could walk through walls, he could suddenly appear, travel quickly to different places. When you and I rise from the dead, Paul says our body risen will be like Jesus' body risen. He's the firstfruits. He's the prototype. Your body will be much like his. It'll be in fabulous shape. It will be able to have capabilities you don't know now. That's resurrection. This here, these are not glorified bodies; it's a restoration of life. This boy will die again. Lazarus, called from the grave, died again. So, yes, it's a resurrection, but not technically. Technically it's a restoration of life. The resurrection includes a glorified body.
So Jesus walks up to a casket, imagine how it would sound: "Hey you, dead guy, get up," with authority, and he did. This is a preview of coming attractions. First Thessalonians 4, "The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, the trump of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord." It's a preview of coming attractions. That's a preview of your resurrection. He will one day speak his voice into the dust of the earth, into all the molecules of the dust of the corpses, whether they be in cemeteries or at the bottom of oceans or on mountaintops. And there will be a reassemblage of those molecules, but with new capacity and resurrected life in a glorified body.
So this is just a foretaste of that. And you won't fear, you'll just glorify God like the rest of these guys. Now, the reason Luke includes this little story here is because of the conversation that will now come after this story. You need to know that. So it says, "This report about him went throughout all of Judea and all of the surrounding region. And the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things," John the Baptist. "And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent to Jesus, saying, 'Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?' When the men had come to him, they said, 'John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, "Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?"'" You don't know this here, but we do know from other gospel accounts that John asks this question while he was in prison.
He had been in prison. Do you remember what he was in prison for? He was a bold preacher. He didn't care if people liked his sermons or not, that's why. And he preached a sermon one day to Herod Antipas and climbed all over him, because Herod Antipas had taken his brother Herod Philip's wife named Herodias and got her away from Philip and married her. He was already married. He committed adultery with his brother's wife. And John the Baptist called him out on that. Imagine calling out politicians, saying, "Dude, you're an adulterer. You're a liar. You're this or that." It got him thrown in jail. So he is now in a prison called Machaerus, which is five miles east of the Dead Sea, twenty miles from where the mouth of the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea on the east side of that lake or that sea, that body of water, in present day Jordan.
There's a little hill I could show you if we looked across the Dead Sea from the Israeli side. And you can see it, that's where the prison Machaerus was. He was isolated there in the desert. So, what's up with this question? Was he doubting? Perhaps. He's John the Baptist; he is the last Old Testament prophet. That's what Jesus said, "All the prophets prophesied until John." He's the last Old Testament prophet who was prophesied about in Malachi, chapter 3, right? So John knew Jesus his cousin was the Messiah and said, "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." He knew he was the Messiah, but being an Old Testament prophet and having the benefit of Old Testament prophecies, he believed that the Messiah will come and rule and reign and restore Israel.
After all, Jesus preached a sermon that he's going to "open the prison doors" and "set the captives free." He's in jail. Ain't happening for him. So he's been wondering and he's just kind of been waiting and nothing is getting better. Things are sort of getting worse, and so he asks this question: "So, are you the guy? Because I thought you were the guy. I said you were the guy. Or should we look for another one?" So you'll notice how Jesus answers it, and you'll know why Luke includes this resurrection as we close. Verse 21, "And that very hour he cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind he gave sight. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go tell John the things that you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed [or happy] is he who is not offended because of me.'"
Those words to John would have satisfied him for a very important reason, and it's a scriptural reason, but it's one we're going to have to wait till next time to uncover, because it is now the time to bring it to an end. So we'll tell you the reason that would have satisfied John the Baptist in prison.
Father, some of us tonight find ourselves in the shackles of doubt or despair. Or we're wondering, we're at a stage or an age in our life and we're wondering, "Is this it? Is the Lord going to do anything else in me or through me, or is this what I'm destined for?" These are normal thoughts and normal wranglings that we have, and they're good things to consider. But we have every reason, Lord, to rest in you and to put our trust in you, that you know what's best and that we are, as we're submitted to you, we are under a divine timetable that suits your purpose. And even as John learned to rest, I pray that we would learn to rest as well, even in difficult circumstances. So, we look to you, Father, even as we opened up praying for those in our congregation, we now rest in our own situation, that you're the Lord and as the Lord you have authority over us. You can speak a word and change our circumstances immediately. You can raise up the dead or restore them to life. And because you are the Lord, you speak and we should say, "Yes, Lord." It's not easy, Father, so we ask for your strength, in Jesus' name, amen.