Jesus Explains God’s Plan (Part Two)

Luke 18:31-34

Then he took the Twelve aside and told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and he will be mocked, insulted, spit on; and after they flog him, they will kill him, and he will rise on the third day.” They understood none of these things. The meaning of the saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (CSB).

Next, let’s consider Jesus’ message and its significance. Here was God’s Prophet prophesying. I hope no one is thinking, “Oh, that’s nice. So what’s the big deal?” This is very significant! Christ is fulfilling part of his mission. He came as the Prophet that everyone must listen to. He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). And what did Jesus say? He told us how God can do the impossible and save people who cannot save or help save themselves. He told us God’s plan for salvation, and this plan is based on what Jesus, the Son of Man, would do. Here Jesus said nothing about being rich or keeping the commands. Instead, he turned the attention of the Twelve from themselves to Him (Luke 18:23-27).

The essence of true Christian preaching and teaching is to take your attention off yourself and to put it on God through Jesus his Son.  As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (NIV). To live godly in this age, we must have a Christ-focused mindset. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV).

This was at least the third time that Jesus had told them these things. He had previously told them after Peter’s confession of Christ and after the healing of the boy with the evil spirit. Our Lord provided a pattern of gentle and patient instruction (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25; 4:2).

Today’s Christians are infected with the impatient attitude of our culture. We think that we should see instant results. Long term ministry is a recipe for disaster in such minds. “Why take the time to win friends? If they’re going to get saved, they’ll be saved in one week’s time.” Christians seem to be on an endless quest for some method that will produce instant revival. If someone won’t listen the first time, then we hear, “Well that didn’t work. What else can we try?” However, shouldn’t we imitate the Lord’s patience?

What was the content of his message (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-11)?

The sufferings of Christ – Jesus went into detail about these matters.

  • He talked about being handed over to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). Notice that the New Testament does not blame the Jewish people for the death of Jesus. Sadly, even thinking twenty-first century Christians must bear the appalling failures of Christians over the previous seventeen hundred years or so.
  • He told them some of the sufferings he would endure before his death: mockery, insults, being spat on, and being flogged. Jesus is bracing his followers against the storm that would soon break. He pointed out the first rumbles of thunder.
  • He would be killed. In this instance, he did not mention crucifixion, but since the Gentiles, meaning especially the Romans, would be in charge of such matters, it was easy to understand what was meant. There were too many crosses with Jewish victims on them around Palestine.

We should not lose the horror of these words. The sacrifice of Jesus, our Great High Priest, was not pretty. It was not an art form to be admired. Sin brought death to the human race, and the bloody death of Christ satisfied God’s wrath against human sin. We do very well when we bow and worship the Lord. “Why should you love me so?” Worship is not about what you like; it is about what Christ did and your humble, believing response to redeeming love and mercy. “Amazing love, how can it be, that you, my God, should die for me?” Yes Lord, especially that cruel, accursed death on the cross!

The glory that would follow – In the midst of the deepest gloom, Jesus told the brightest hope—his resurrection on the third day. You cannot stop the Christian message at the cross and the tomb. The good news is not Mary mourning over her dead Son. It is not Christ’s followers wandering around saying, “We had hoped…” (Luke 24:21 NIV). No, no, instead it is the all-powerful Lord, ripping death apart in becoming Son of God with power. The earth is shaking, heaven is opened, and the Son of God brings many sons and daughters to glory! Amen!

Grace and peace, David

Not an Easy Path (Part Two)

SAMSUNG

Acts 16:16-24

Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully (16:20-23 CSB).

True Christianity can expect evil people to oppose it (16:19-21). Often, the opponents, like the people in this account, are motivated by greed, which they think will provide them with happiness. They don’t like to hear about truly loving and caring for others, since they seek to get ahead of everyone else.

  • Apart from God’s common grace, the worldly-minded person runs by this formula: “cultural position or wealth equals power that yields happiness.” Many seem to succeed quite nicely by this formula, until you consider their eternal destiny (cf. Psalm 73:17).
  • Apart from God’s restraint, they will not hesitate to use their power to attack those who interfere with their desires.

Wicked people will use distortion and deceit to ruin their godly opponents (16:20-21). Error uses some truth to gain plausibility, but about the only truth they uttered was that Paul and Silas were Jews. Even that would have been used to arouse prejudice. Most public debate is carried out in this way. Name-calling to arouse fears and prejudice to incite hate are favorite tools. The rest of their charge was a lie. Without a belief in absolute truth, telling lies is a very easy activity. We must remember this as we face other religions, and especially people ruled in their thinking by Postmodernism, which denies the existence of truth and absolutes. In order to face strong opposition, we must pray for strength and our integrity.

True Christianity may lead to terrible suffering (16:22-24). This is impossible to accept, if you think that spiritual success is measured by personal ease and prosperity. Too often we see professing Christians mesmerized by worldly success: “A growing church is a successful church.” Christians fail to consider that growing attendance might only mean that their services are more comfortable to worldly-minded people. Paul performed a great miracle through Christ’s power, but church attendance at Philippi did not zoom to one thousand. “Wow! We’re going to have to start a second service!” By the way, let’s read all the New Testament Scriptures! Yes, sometimes churches might see thousands added to their numbers. But it is just as true that sincere, godly people of faith in God might have little to show for their labors.

This is impossible to accept if you listen to lies claiming that God doesn’t want people, especially his people, to suffer. Paul and Silas, two men of faith yet severely flogged and locked in prison, are a painful refutation of such lies. But the Lord Jesus predicted suffering, for the whole church (Matthew 10:16-39; 24:9), and for the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15-16). And the Lord blessed those who are persecuted because of righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).

True Christianity is not an easy path. Let us remember what Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). I really don’t know what God will do in our present situation. Hatred grows daily. As Christ’s ambassador, if you trust Him as your Lord and Savior, all I can offer you is a cross in this world—and eternal glory in the world to come! Should we quit? Never! What did Paul and Silas do as they suffered horribly? They prayed and worshiped (16:25)! We will be very wise to follow their good example.

Grace and peace, David