Bible Passage: Luke 9: 18 - 36
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our study of Lukes gospel. But in Luke 9 – the focus shifts from A) who is Jesus, to B) what does it mean to be a disciple? So we’re kind of zooming in with our telescopic photo lens on Lukes gospel to see what it means to be a Christian – from both positive and negative examples…
Well last week we saw Jesus explain that a true Christian is willing to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Jesus – even if that involves suffering and potential death. The sales pitch was “Come follow me, take up your cross, suffer and die.”
Now I’m not sure what marketing company Jesus was using to recruit followers, but this isn’t a great sales pitch. If you’re trying to get people to do something that is HARD and DANGEROUS – you have to come up with a positive spin. For instance, you may recall THE NAVY used to use the slogan; “Join the Navy, travel the world.” They didn’t say “Join the Navy and fight for your life with weapons put together on a government contract by the cheapest bidder.” No! You generally try to make your sales pitch attractive. It’s the same with the American Army. In the 1950’s it was “Look sharp, Be sharp. Go Army.” In the 1980’s the slogan was “Be all that you can be – join the Army.”
But Jesus sales pitch (as he heads forJerusalem) – is basically “Come follow me, deny yourself, suffer and die.” So, I’m really not sure how many people would be thinking; “beauty – where do I sign up.”
But Ernest Shackleton once gave a sales pitch that was very similar to Jesus. When Ernest Shackleton was attempting to be the first man to the SOUTH POLE – he was struggling to get people to go with him. So, story has it – Shackleton put an advertisement in the London Newspaper that read (Slide 2).
One of the ways to get men to do things that are difficult, hard and dangerous is promise them glory and honor. Men will do just about anything for glory and honor.
But Jesus does not promise glory and honor in this world. The disciples are all talking about greatness and Jesus takes a little child – stands the child before the disciples – and says “yes, in my kingdom you will be as great and highly esteemed as this little child”. Gee, thanks Jesus. I think it’s time for a new PR company.
But what Jesus is getting at today is HUMILITY. As we focus the lens of the camera on the disciples – we see that the next genuine mark of a disciple after COURAGE (in the face of suffering) is humility. My big idea today is that a true disciple of Jesus needs to be humble. The good thing is – I’m an expert on humility. Just kidding. EXPERT & HUMILITY don’t belong in the same sentence. Let’s just look at what Jesus teaches us about humility…
Point 1: True Disciples need Humble Faith in God’s Power
Show: Lk.9:37-40 (READ)
Explain: Well the time reference in verse 37 “the next day” ties this story to what happened last week. The disciples have just worked out they’re hanging out with the promised Messiah. What’s more Peter, James and John have just been involved in some sort of translation to the heavenly realm. 1) They’ve seen Jesus in his heavenly glory. 2) They’ve seen Moses and Elijah alive with their own eyes and 3) they’ve even heard God speak. Now if anything is going to puff up the ego and make you proud – hanging out with the King of Kings and having a trip to heaven is up there.
Illustrate: You know Christians all have their spiritual greatness tests. Among evangelicals (like us) it’s usually things like – I can recite the whole book of Philippians word for word. You want to listen. And everyone goes – Oooo. Aaaaa. But then a Pentecostal says; “Big deal. I can pray in tongues (and I can even translate tongues). And everyone goes; Oooooo. Aaaaaa. But the big one – that kind of trumps all other spiritual stories is – “I’ve gone to heaven, seen Jesus and heard God speak.” That kind of puts an end to the debate. “Yep, you’re the greatest.”
The apostle Paul had this experience himself (and he tells us in 2 Corinthians) that after his trip to heaven he was given a THORN IN THE FLESH to stop him becoming proud and conceited.After his trip to heaven a messenger of Satan was sent to torment Paul, in order to keep him humble. Even Paul needed something to deflate his ego and bring him back to earth. And I don’t think it is a stretch – to see something similar happen in this story. Peter, James and John have a heavenly encounter – and it is not long before debates are taking place about who is the most spiritual? Who is the greatest? PRIDE seems to have crept into their Christianity. So, we get a series of stories and incidents that all seem to deflate their egos.
First of all there is the father who wants a demon driven out of his child. But Jesus is up the mountain. So the disciples step forward and say; “Don’t worry, we’ve go this. We’re the Messiah’s disciples.” Now we know Jesus gave the disciples power to drive out demons on their first missionary journey. But for some reason – they can’t do it. Their abra-cadabra seems to be missing its abra. About this time – Peter, James and John come down the mountain. NOW I CAN’T BE CERTAIN – but I can imagine Peter – telling the other boys; “Step back – I’ve got this. Let me show you how this is done”. We know Peter had tickets on himself anyway – because later on he tells Jesus; “even if all these other clowns abandon you – I never will.” But it seems Peter, James and John can’t drive out the demon – either. This is a humbling.
Apply: Theologian – Darrel Bock – writes this SUBUNIT serves as a contrast between A) Jesus’ power and B) the disciples impotence. The disciples may be 1) followers of the Messiah AND 2) they may have even just seen heaven – but they are still ordinary men. No matter how great a Christian you think you are. No matter what Jesus may have shown you or given you – you still need him, far more than he needs you. That’s humbling…
Now notice Jesus’ REBUKE in verse 41 (Slide 3 – Lk.9:41). Although, this rebuke is directed at everyone – everyone includes the disciples. The disciples in some sense have FAILED A) to exercse faith and B) they have perverted the things of God. What I think has just happened is pride has entered the equation. Pride comes before a fall. And after recognizing themselves to be A) followers of the Messiah and B) some of them even seeing heaven – they come back to earth with a crash. Apart from God, apart from Jesus they quickly discover they are powerless in themselves against the kingdom of darkness. The reality is no person can beat Satan in their own strength. If you think you can beat Satan – you’re actually a sucker to one of Satan’s best lies. In ourselves we are POWERLESS against the Kingdom of darkness. Do you realise that?
Apply: It’s the first humbling point in our church drug and alcohol program – OVERCOMERS OUTREACH. The first of 12 steps is admit – “You can’t do it. Admit – you are powerless to change. There are some things WE CAN’T DO and will NEVER BE ABLE TO DO in our own strength. Driving out demons is one of those things. Beating addiction is another. But so too is the entire Christian life. We don’t have THE STRENGTH in ourselves – to deny self, to forgive our enemies and truly love people like Jesus did. We simply can’t do it. But have you reached the point where you are humble enough to admit you can’t do it yourself? If the answer is “YES” let me say the second point in Overcomers Outreach is (C’mon all my OO people); GOD CAN. That’s right. What we can’t do, God can do – if we rely on Him and seek His help.
I suspect that for a moment – the disciples forgot how much they needed Jesus and God. I think there are moments where we all fall into that mistake. The very fact that Jesus says in Matthew and Marks gospel that such demons only come out with PRAYER (and maybe) FASTING – illustrates the very point. When we are praying AND fasting – whose power are we looking for and trying to access? (PAUSE) That’s right – God’s. When we fail to pray and never fast – whose power are we relying upon to get us through? That’s right – my own. It’s ok, I’ve got this. No supernatural help needed.
Some years ago God showed me that a failure to pray was not a discipline issue or a time issue, it was actually A PRIDE ISSUE. What makes me think I can be a good minister, husband, father or friend without praying and regularly seeking God’s help? I came to see that our prayer life – is one of the best litmus tests for where we really are on the pride-humility spectrum. A non-praying Christian is a Christain relying on themselves to do life. Yet the minute we start thinking we can do life on our own – is the minute we come crashing back to earth. Pride comes before a fall. So are we still humble OR has God’s very blessings in your life – puffed you back up…
Point 2: True Disciples (also) need Humble Faith in God’s Revelation
Show: Lk.9:43b-45 (READ)
Explain: Let me ask a question – why do you think the disciples were AFRAID to ask Jesus what he meant? (PAUSE). These verses are NOT just recording the disciple’s ignorance. These versesare recording how the disciple’s failed in their ignorance. It’s almost the same as the previous story. The disciples could not drive out the demon and they failed to ask God for help. The disciples could not understand Jesus’ words and yet they fail to ask Jesus to help them comprehend.
That’s two failures in a row. They FAIL to drive out a demon and they FAIL to understand Jesus’ words. But there is only one reason they fail. They fail simply because they do not ask God or Jesus for help. But why not ask Jesus for help? What are they afraid of?
School kids, (Liam, Rachel, Louie, Zach, Levi and Io) – I want you to think about school for a moment. Can you remember a time when you’re learning something really difficult, maybe about English or maybe mathematics and you really don’t get it? But at the same time you don’t want to put up your hand and ask the teacher for help. (I think we’ve all been there at some point). Kids why don’t we want to ask for help? Adults why don’t we want to ask for help? (PAUSE). Of course, we don’t want to look silly. We don’t want to be the only one in the classroom who admits they are ignorant. Again, it’s a pride issue. We want to keep up the pretense “I’ve got this. I can do it on my own. I don’t need help.”
But guys I’ll let you in on a secret. The smartest person in the classroom asks lots of questions. The smartest person in the class room asks for lots of help – because being wise is far more important than appearing wise. And if you are humble enough to ask for help – I guarantee it will help other kids too, because other people will also be confused – they just don’t want to admit it. Again, it’s a pride issue.But what is true A)in the classroom is also true B) in the Christian life.
Humble Christians ask for lots of help from God. Not just in power struggles with sin. Humble Christians also ask God (and Jesus) to help them understand. Hang on Jesus, I don’t understand what you’re saying about marriage or money or sexuality – explain that again.
Apply: Did you notice that it says in verse 45 – it was hidden from them. Satan has wrapped up our world in so many lies, deceptions and half-truths that there are many things we fail to understand. This means we are profoundly IGNORANT on a whole range of subjects. But we like to think of ourselves as wise, intelligent and sensible people. WE KNOW how to do marriage. WE KNOW how to be good stewards with our money. WE KNOW everything about everything – just ask Google?
But do we? If we are such wise and intelligent people – why are so many of us (even the rich, academic and powerful) making a mess of their life? THE ANSWER – is ignorance of what is true. We are terrible navigators in the journey of life – because we are IGNORANT of WHO we are and WHAT we are meant to do. But most people are all too proud and arrogant – to admit they need help.
That’s why a true disciple of Jesus needs to be humble and stay humble. The disciples today actually provide TWO NEGATIVE EXAMPLES. 1) They failed to ask God for help in their battle with Satan. But 2) they also failed to ask Jesus for help in their battle with ignorance. As Christians we need to remain humble enough to keep asking for help and humble enough to remain teachable. You will never know everything about God or Christianity. There are lots of things in the Bible that are hard to comprehend OR at first reading just seem plain wrong. But instead of being arrogantly dismissive of Jesus’ words or pretending we understand (when we don’t) we need to – fall on our knees and join with Baptist Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon praying – “More-light Lord. Give me a little more-light Lord, that I may truly understand…” This is humble, teachable faith.
Point 3: True Disciples need a Humble view of Themselves
Show: Lk.9:46-48 (READ)
Explain: Why do we always try to work out where we fit in the pecking order? Why do Christians play one upmanship – with our knowledge of Scripture, or our spiritual gifts or even our intellectual acumen? And when we are working out the pecking order in the room – where does the little child in the corner fit in the equation?
This argument among the disciples about who is the GREATEST is almost TOO CHILDISH to imagine. These guys are meant to be followers of Jesus and yet they are arguing over who has the biggest bonnet on their car. Yes, you get the euphemism. It’s pathetic. Yet, its still one of the favorite games at our Anglican Synod every year. Put a whole lot of Christian leaders, pastors and bishops together in a room and it’s the same game. I can quote more Sciptures than you. Yes, but I’m a better orator – look I’m speaking without notes. Sure, but I lead a bigger church than you ever did…
Well, this is another NEGATIVE EXAMPLE. Whatever a Christian is meant to be – it certainly isn’t this. (GOSPEL) First, we are all wretched sinners. We are not great. We are failures. That’s why we needed a Saviour. The penalty for sin is death. We all made such a mess of our lives that we booked direct tickets to hell. That’s not smart. That’s dumb. But Jesus loved us so much that he took the penalty for us – as he died on the cross and descended into hell. He took the punishment for us, so that – if we say sorry to God and trust in Jesus – we are forgiven. But that shouldn’t make us proud. It should make us thankful.
What’s more, even after we’re saved – everything we have, every milestone or accomplishment we make is by God’s grace. Even if you’ve made some progress in the Christian life that doesn’t mean you’re great. It means God’s great. He’s taken a dirty lump of clay and turned into something half decent. Now who gets the credit the the potter or the lump of clay? (Pause) Well its certainly not the clay.
Jesus takes a little child, stands them before the disciples (and end of verse 48) says; he who is least among you is greatest. (Rpt) The word LEAST is actually the Greek word “micro” from which we get microscope and microbiology. It originally meant small and insignificant. But in some contexts micro came to mean humble, lowly and meek. Jesus is saying; “that in the pecking order game, that we all love to play” the little child who isn’t even aware of the game and doesn’t care about the game is greatest of all.
Sadly, John doesn’t get it. No sooner does Jesus say “that the most humble and most quiet one in the room is the greatest” and yet John is confidently telling another disciple what they should and shouldn’t do. “You can’t drive out demons in Jesus name because you’re not one of us.” There is a certain irony here – because this other man is actually doing what the 12 disciples just failed to do. He’s driving out demons, where they failed. He’s quietly getting on with the task – while the disciples are arguing about who’s greatest. And welcome to the world of Christendom. Who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God? Those puffed up with pride, who are busy pursuing denominational titles and letters after their name? Or those quietly getting on with the job?
There are going to be times when you as a Christian stand in the presence of Archbishops and bishops and perhaps great pastors who lead large churches and I want you to rememberthat the most-humble person in the room, quietly and faithfully getting on with the task is the greatest in Jesus eyes. And there will be times when Jesus may use you to minister to drug addicts, and prostitutes and the homeless on the street and again I need you to remember “the most-humble person in the room, who is quietly and faithfully getting on with the task is the greatest in Jesus eyes.”
So are you humble? Are you a Christian of humble, prayerful dependence on God – ALWAYS REMEMBERING that you need God’s help (no more and no less) than everyone else in the room? Lets pray…