Sermon Series March 23, 2014

#3 “When Jesus Preached”

Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 4:16-21 & Matthew 4:23, 5:2

March 23, 2014

Matthew 5:2

and he began to teach them.

“When Jesus Preached”

It may rightly assumed that the subject “What did Jesus do…when he preached, and taught” is of particular interest to the person in the pulpit. But to you also, as a person in the pew the matter may be of special interest. If you are someone always able to answer this question in the affirmative, have you attended church at least once during the past seven days….? From the day you join the church until the day you die at the biblical 3 score years and ten, you may well have heard 3,016 sermons! (that‘s 70 years). You will have been exposed to a great deal of preaching.

But the question today relates only indirectly to the preaching you hear, today’s question is…”What did Jesus do…when He preached?” It isn’t an easy question to answer; not because there is too little on record, but because there in this instance, in this context, in this situation of seeking to respond to that question, entirely too much! Adequately and honestly to respond to the query, “What did Jesus do…when he preached?” I had to read the gospels again, had to re-read most of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, with this question in mind, focusing on the particular theme of Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and the varied situations in which he did it.

And having done that, here is only a sketchy answer, but these things stood out:

1.      Jesus preached in church

2.      Jesus answered questions

3.      Jesus experienced interruptions

4.      Jesus told stories

5.      Jesus dealt with everything

6.      Jesus turned the world upside down

How much can I say about these matters in less than half an hour?

First-Though it is obvious that Jesus preached in many and varied places; field, mountains, seaside, homes, boats, roadside; the record shows that he did much of his preaching in the churches of his day and generation.

Matthew tells us, “He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.”

Mark describes Jesus’ ministry this way: “And he went throughout Galilee preaching in their synagogues…”

Luke pinpoints a specific instance…you heard it in the reading from the Scripture…”And Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read…He opened the book…He read…He closed the book…And He began to say to them….he had a text, you see… ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

Luke further indicates that Jesus preached often in the temple. “One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel…” Luke further emphasizes the routine nature of this occasion when he repots:

“And every day Jesus was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged…. “And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.” Jesus never downplayed the church as the pre-eminent place for preaching and teaching.

Secondly-Much of Jesus’ preaching was in response to questions. When a year ago I was reading my father-in-laws The New English Version Bible from cover to cover, I noticed that he had placed a “Q” in the margin every time he came across a question addressed to Jesus, or asked by him. So it was rather easy to skim the pages this time and find that much of Jesus’ preaching was done in response to questions, questions such as these:

“Why do your disciples break the ancient traditions?

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

“Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother?  

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any and every grounds?

“Master, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?

“Who can be saved?

“What will be the sign for your coming and for the end of the age?

“Which commandment is greatest of all?

“Who is my neighbor?

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

And there of course, scores more. Much of Jesus’ preaching was done in response to questions. Questions are important, yes, even vital, to helpful preaching.

It is right to ask questions about your religion and your life.

Both religion and life are apt to be nearly dead when no questions are forthcoming. Beware when you think you have all the answers. Jesus took questions seriously and much of his preaching was dialogue in the sense of question and answer.

 

Thirdly-Closely similar to the fact that Jesus faced almost a barrage of questions, is the fact also that very often his preaching was interrupted, often times by questions, but often times by people who had other answers.

Luke tells us: “On another Sabbath, Jesus went into a meeting house and taught. A man was there whose right hand was crippled. Some teachers of the Law and Pharisees wanted some reason to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him very closely to see if he would cure anyone on the Sabbath.

But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to the man with the crippled hand, ‘Stand up and come here to the front.’ The man got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them: ‘I ask you: what does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save a man’s life or to destroy it?’ He looked around at them all, then said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’

But they were filled with rage and began to discuss among themselves what they could do to Jesus.” (Luke 6:6-11)

You see, Jesus was preaching. Some members of his congregation were listening intently to see what they might learn. Other members of his congregation weren’t there at all to listen to what the preacher had to say. They were looking for “some reason to accuse Jesus of doing wrong.” It isn’t hard to imagine what they were looking for:

in his preaching some departure from accepted belief; some comment upon issues of the day upon which they might build a case that he was dealing with matters not appropriate to the pulpit; some word about “people, places or things” that they might use as the springboard for an attack not only against what he had to say, but against him personally; or perhaps some departure from preaching in the way that preaching has always been done….

Here it is recorded that Jesus virtually read their minds. He “knew their thoughts” and “taking the bull by the horns” called this crippled man to the front and did the very thing which, in their jealous and angry hearts, they had hoped he would do.

He cured the man.

But he surrounded it with such faultless logic and such divine compassion, that those who sought to use that even against him among the people were reduced to angry mutterings, bitter words, and raging thoughts among themselves.

But we were talking about interruptions.

On another occasion, Jesus is preaching in a certain synagogue. His fame is such that the little church is filled. Standing room only on the inside….and crowds pressing at the doors on the outside. And Luke tells us: “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to him, but were unable to join him because of the crowd.”

Someone in position to see…perhaps someone standing near a window…able to see up toward the pulpit and out the window…sees Jesus’ mother and brothers standing out in the yard.

He thinks it is important and he dares interrupt Jesus and says: “Stop the sermon a moment! I want to let you know that ‘your mother and brothers are standing outside, they want to talk to you.’” Jesus turns the interruption to his own purposes, saying to them all, “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 8:19-21)

Something happened to Jesus when he was preaching that happens very seldom… perhaps too seldom…to most of us who preach today….Jesus was constantly interrupted.

Fifthly- (I’ll come back to the fourth)….in his preaching, Jesus dealt with just about everything.

This may have something to say to the modern man who would restrict preaching to, so-called “spiritual matters”, and leave the rest of life to the maneuverings of the devil.

As I flipped through the pages of the New Testament, I found record of Jesus preaching about forgiveness and forgiving; divorce; money…you know the pulpit speaks a whole lot less about money than Jesus ever did!; greatness; God; illness…physical, mental, moral, and spiritual; paying taxes; hypocrisy; resurrection; crime and punishment; city problems; evangelism; troubles; persecutions; poverty; the last days; prayer; fasting; judgment; war; enemies; love; the kingdom of God….again and again and again about the kingdom of God and how it should have rule over all. It is though Jesus were saying in the context of his preaching: “The world is my parish.” He preached about just about everything, especially the things about which people were often the most sensitive.

Sixthly-I observe that in his preaching, Jesus turned the world upside down. And people don’t like that. We heard in the New Testament reading only the beginning of what was probably Jesus’ keynote sermon. It’s a beautiful passage of scripture. But more than that, it is a passage fraught with significance, for his reading from Isaiah was a real inaugural for his whole life and ministry. You remember he read:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me He has appointed me to preach good news to the poor…sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, to announce the year when the Lord will save his people.”

Then Jesus began speaking about this passage of scripture which He had read. But what was the reaction to what Jesus then said? It was not unlike that which happened in America in the 1800’s when a speaker or a salesman, or someone espousing ideas not liked by the townspeople… someone who would come to town and start spouting off certain ideas…They would “run him out of town on a rail.”

Well, in his home town of Nazareth, when his townspeople heard what Jesus had to say in his sermon, they were, as the record states, “filled with anger”…. “They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built, to throw him over the cliff.” Somehow Jesus escaped.

But this was far from the last time that the reaction to hearing Jesus preach led his hearers to feel that they had been personally insulted; their selfish interests perhaps mortally wounded; so that their anger boiled over to the point that they were willing to commit murder. And at last those who could no longer stand or put up with the preaching of Jesus succeeded in having the preacher put to death. Jesus’ teachings turned the world upside down…that’s why he was crucified; no preacher gets killed for mouthing pious platitudes.

Recall portions of the “Sermon on the Mount”: There was a “teaching about anger”.

Said Jesus: “you have heard that men were told in the past ‘you shall not kill’.

“But I say to you: anyone who is angry at his brother, I in danger of hell fire…” There was a “teaching about adultery.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ “But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to posses her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart…” There was a “teaching about revenge.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ “But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who does you wrong. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the left also. And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well.”

And this one, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ “But now I tell you: love your enemies, and pray for those who mistreat you…’”

You see what Jesus did in this, and in so much of his preaching, he was swimming against the tide, he was going against popular opinion, he was turning the standards of the world upside down…or better said…right side up! And our world has not been better off because it has rejected the teachings of Jesus!

Fourthly-now…and finally….Jesus in his preaching, told stories. In my reading, I read again these familiar words: “One time many tax-collectors and outcasts came to listen to Jesus.”

You can see the picture; the riff-raff and the rabble of the community gathered about Jesus, listening with care, hanging on every word, strangely affected by the words from this man of Nazareth.

Passersby from the more “respectable” ranks of society note that something is going on…they pause…not in fashion dissimilar to that which I occasionally did when walking around downtown City of Phoenix. I would hear someone loudly haranguing a small crowd…oftentimes in the name of Jesus, always with an American flag held in one hand or standing near, both as a source of protection and a guarantee of free speech. I would pause, and listen for awhile, and then move on. Others in the crowd sometimes took up the challenges hurled by the speaker, and argue and dispute until the air was hot and heavy with opinions generally coming from opposite poles.

When Jesus was preaching on this occasion, the passersby happened to be “Pharisees and teachers of the Law”, and they “started grumbling”. First they grumbled among themselves; “This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!” Was it that Jesus knew what was in their minds, overheard what they were whispering among themselves; or secure in their positions and in their prestige, did they even dare dispute with Him publicly?

At any rate, Jesus interrupted whatever he was saying and he told them three stories, each of which is familiar to you. I just remind you of them.

One began:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep in the pasture and goes looking for the lost sheep until he finds it. When he finds it, he is so happy that he puts it on his shoulders, carries it back home, and calls his friends and neighbors together.

“Rejoice with me,” he tells them. “For I have found my lost sheep!” ‘In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine respectable people who do not need to repent.’”……….

He went on to reinforce his argument by telling what we call the Parable of “The Lost Coin.”

“Or suppose a woman who has ten silver coins loses one of them…what does she do?

She lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and looks carefully everywhere until she finds it. When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together. ‘Rejoice with me,’ she tells them, ‘for I have found the coin I lost!’ “In the same way, I tell you, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.”

And then from the lips of this man whose life has been called “The greatest Story Ever Told”…there came what is perhaps the greatest story He ever told…the greatest among the parables, the most meaningful, the most helpful, the most wonderful of all….“Jesus went on to say: ‘There was a man who had two sons.

The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me now my share of the property.’ So the father divided the property between his two sons. After a few days, the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. So he went to live with one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. At last he came to his senses and said: ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am, about to starve!’

‘I will get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fir to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.’”

So he got up and started back to his father…. ‘He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity and he ran, threw his arms around his son and kissed him.’ “Father,” the son said, “I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.” But the father called his servants: “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.” “Then go get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast!” “For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive;

he was lost, but now he has been found.” ‘And so the feasting began.’” (Luke 15:1-24)

Never mind, for today, the remainder of the tale with its story of the elder brother. Note especially, for today, and remember for always, that Jesus was saying, “God is like a father!”  God is always waiting, God is always hoping, that His children will come home.

And that is how…in church and elsewhere, with questions and answers, despite interruption, proclaiming a new style of life, dealing with just about everything, telling matchless stories, that’s how…and when…and where…and why…and what….Jesus preached.

To the only wise God our savior, be blessing and honor, glory and majesty, dominion and power now and forever. May the living Christ go with you; before you to show the way, beside you to encourage you, behind you to help should you fall. May His spirit sustain and guide you and grant you peace this day and always.

 

Let’s pray;

O Lord God who is full of compassion and love toward us, who is gracious unto us so far beyond our deserving. We recognize our weaknesses and our failures and our sins and humbly we confess them before You. Sins of body and mind and spirit; sins of word and deed.

Graciously forgive us we beseech You, O God, as we come to You through Jesus Christ your Son. And also grant, our Father, Your blessings upon us; not only forgiveness, but strength to know and to do right. And for living of this and every day grant, O Father, new power, new courage, new vision, deeper understandings that we may live truly as Your forgiven children, that indeed light may shine forth from our lives, blessing the lives of those around us, as well as our own. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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