South Sydney Anglican Church
24 October 2021

Jesus Promises Great Reward in His Upside-Down Kingdom

Speaker: Matt Johnson

Bible Passage: Luke 6: 17 - 26

Intro:              Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our sermon series – Portraits of Jesus. All too often we have a picture of Jesus in our mind – that is more informed by A) our culture  and upbringing, than B) what the Bible actually says. So today (looking at the Bible) we see our picture: is Jesus the street preacher.

Prayer: 

Well, when I speak of Jesus as a street preacher – what do you see in your mind? (PAUSE). Perhaps something like this (Slide 2); Or maybe something more like this (Slide 3). Or perhaps even these fellas down at Town Hall. I actually know these two guys. A) The guy down the front is named MARIKA and he’s a bit charismatic. B) And the guy preaching on the soap box is named RUSSEL FANEBUST. He is a conservative, evangelical, Christ alone, faith alone, Bible alone sort of Christian.

And yes, they are also a bit ECCENTRIC. I think it takes a special sort of person to stand on a milk-crate, on the corner of George St and preach Jesus. You have to have bucket loads of COURAGE. You have to have ZERO CONCERN for what people think of you and lots of self-control. Russel tells me when people get in your face and swear at you; “you have to remain a good witness for Jesus”. You need to be cool, calm and loving AND slightly eccentric. But the Bible is full of such people.

I mean EZEKIEL, not only preached Gods message. He also publicly mimed the message in a whole lot of weird skits performed in the street. And JOHN THE BAPTIST was dressed in camel skins and ate wild honey and locusts (which was weird even for first century Jewish standards). And John’s street preaching was typical street preaching. He preached repent or perish. Flee the coming wrath.

POINT IS: street preachers have always been a little bit on the weird end of the Christian spectrum. Either the social niceties of life elude them or they just don’t care. I think it’s usually the latter. They just don’t care. Quite happy to be fools for Christ.

But the good thing is God has given all sorts of gifts to the body of Christ and while the street evangelist is probably one of the LESS PRESENTABLE PARTS in our nice middle-class churches, it is still a part that we need to treat with special honor (1Cor.12:23).

But I don’t usually put Jesus himself in the category of street-preacher. I mean, I’m comfortable with Jesus being the respectable travelling Rabbi. But I’m less comfortable with Jesus being like the weird and whacky street preacher. It’s just a little bit too kitsch, uncool and bad taste for my middle-class evangelicalism. But perhaps, that is more to do with my culture than who Jesus was… 

Point 1:         Jesus was a Street Preacher – who Preached & Healed People

Show:            Lk.6:17-19 (READ)

Explain:        Well, as you can see in verse 18 – people are coming to Jesus to 1)hear him speak and 2) to be healed. And this is all happening out in the open air. It’s not a synagogue. It’s not a church. It’s kind of open-air street preaching. Now are you comfortable with this or when you see a street preacher in Sydney are you one of those people who dips their head? You know, you pretend not to be a Christian for fear of any association between you and the whacky guy on the soap box. But it make me wonder would we have handled Jesus any differently?

In the forties, fifties and sixties – EVANGELISTIC TENT-REVIVALS were a big thing, especially in America. (Slide 5). Notice – the tent revival is linked to miracles and healings (ENTER). TENT-REVIVAL MEETINGS would often include prayer and the laying on of hands for physical healing, before the gospel preaching. So, lots of people would come looking for healing, but then hear the good news about Jesus. It was all a bit weird and often pretty kitsch.

And something SIMILAR is happening in the story today. People are coming to Jesus – hoping he will heal them. But then (after wowing the crowds with a few miraculous healings) – Jesus goes into an extended, evangelistic tent-revival kind of sermon, just without the tent.

Now before we look at the SERMON – I want to make some background comments. There are A LOT OF SIMILARITIES between A) this sermon in Luke’s gospel and B) Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s gospel. But there are also some significant DIFFERENCES. For instance, 1) Luke only has four blessings, but Matthew’s beatitudes has eight blessings. 2) The Sermon in Luke happens on a level plain whereas the sermon in Matthew happens on a mountain. Also, 3) the Sermon in Luke’s gospel has no references to the Jewish Law, whereas the sermon in Matthew has lots of references to the Jewish Law. So how do we understand these similarities and differences.

For the first 1500 years the Christian Church generally believed that Matthew and Luke recorded two distinct sermons. But during the Protestant Reformation it became more common to view them as the same sermon. John Calvin suggested that LUKE records those parts of Jesus’ sermon that are most relevant for Gentiles and MATTHEW records those parts of the sermon that are most relevant for Jews. But this still leaves us with some difficulties in some of the differences…

What we need to remember is that Jesus is a travelling preacher. A few weeks ago, I told you that as Jesus went from synagogue to synagogue he was probably preaching Isaiah 61over and over again. Now if you heard the sermon in Nazareth it probably had a few differences to the same sermon preached in Bethlehem. And I think the same thing probably happened with Jesus’ other teaching – like this sermon in Luke. Despite the many similarities to Matthew I think it’s still possible that they were TWO DISTINCT SERMONS covering similar material, but preached on two different occassions. This is what street preachers and evangelists do. Because they are always preaching to different people they often use the same material again and again (with just a few small tweaks). And there are some hints that Jesus may have been preaching to different people in Luke and Matthew.

Show:                        Slide 6 – Map…

Apply:            If you look at THIS MAP you’ll see Jerusalem is here (ENTER) and all the respectable, proper Jews lived in the south. But Jesus’ parents lived in Nazareth, here (ENTER) and when Jesus grew up he lived in Caernaum (ENTER – Here). Now between Galilee and Jerusalem there were the SAMARITANS (ENTER). The SAMARITANS (had intermarried with Gentiles) and they had their own weird version of Judaism. So the Jews and the Samaritansloved each other about as much SUNNI Muslims love SHIITE Muslims. Yes, there was real tension (MAP) But in Galilee (not only were you near the Samaritans) – you were also surrounded by Gentiles, Gentiles, Gentiles (ENTER, ENTER & ENTER).

Now because Galilee was surrounded by Samaritans and Gentiles – any Jew who lived there was a little bit suspect. A GALILEAN was a little bit weird – just like A) TASMANIANS with their 6 fingers and B) NEW ZEALANDERS with their sheep. (The good news is Jesus still loves Tasmanians and New Zealanders). But let me show you what New Testament professor R.T France says about Galilee and Jesus (Slide 7 & 8).

So Jesus really is like a weird and quirky street preacher. And the people Jesus is attracting are also pretty weird. Luke and Matthew both record GENTILES being present at their respective sermons, but from different places. If you look at Luke 6:17 – you’ll see it says – people came to hear Jesus from Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon. Now if you look again at the map you’ll see (Slide 9) Tyre and Sidon are full blown Gentile cities in Lebanon. Whereas Matthew’s Sermon on the MOUNT tells us large crowds came from Galilee, the Decapolis (ENTER – Here), Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan (ENTER – Here).

So in both sermons Gentiles are present, but from different areas. Now in Mark’s gospel we are told that at one point Jesus went all the way up into Tyre & Sidon – where he healed a Greek woman’s daughter (Mk.7:24-30). My guess, is shortly after Jesus helps the Gentile woman – a whole lot of other people from Tyre & Sidon come for help. So maybe, Jesus preaches this sermon in Luke somewhere here. (ENTER) But Marks gospel also tells us that after Jesus left Tyre and Sidon he headed back towards GALILEE and down into the region of the DECAPOLIS (Mk.7:31). Now we know many people from the Decapolis (and the region across the Jordan) were present at Jesus’ sermon I Matthew. (MAP – Again). Now we can’t be certain. But it’s possible that Jesus preached at least two, and maybe more, very similar sermons.  A)Luke’s sermon is more Gentile in flavor because he was in the north and B) Matthew’s sermon is perhaps more Jewish in flavor because he was closer to Jerusalem. I’m happy to accept 2 different sermons…

Point 2:         Jesus Preaches Blessing for All those who are Hurting

Show:            Lk.6:20-21 (READ)

Explain:        Well Jesus now preaches a series of BLESSINGS and WOES. Jesus basically says; your blessed – if life sux and you’re doing to tough. But “your cursed – if life is good and you have everything you want.” What the? Your blessed if life sux and your cursed if life is good.

This is completely upside down and back to front. Naturally, you might be inclined to say “Shut up Jesus, you don’t know what you are talking about. Poor, hungry, sad people are not blessed.” But Jesus is starting with an IMPORTANT TRUTH for us to grasp. From God’s perspective much of what we believe to be true is upside down.

Illustrate:      Do you remember those mirrors in LUNA PARK that distort your image? If you are really tall, the mirrors make you look short (and vice versa). If you are skinny the mirror makes you look fat and there are even mirrors that invert your image and make you look like you’re standing on your head. Its always a bit of fun.

Apply:            But imagine you stood in front of one of those mirrors every day and you started to believe what you saw in the mirror. Imagine, you actually forgot that you were thin or tall – because every time you looked in the mirror you saw a fat or short person. Eventually, your whole outlook in life would be perverted.

Well Jesus begins to teach us – that in God’s kingdom many things we think are true, are not actually true. We think that rich people, with lots of food and lots of friends have been blessed by God. And we tend to think – those in this world who are doing it really tough and are poor are the ones who have been cursed or punished by God. But Jesus is saying the opposite is true? Jesus is beginning to explain that what we consider “THE BAD LIFE” is actually the blessed life and what we consider “THE GOOD LIFE” is actually the cursed life. But is Jesus actually right or is he just another crazy street evangelist?

Well, let me show you AN IMPORTANT TRUTH that gets repeated a lot. (Slide 10; Jam.4:6). This is literally repeated in Proverbs 3:34 and 1 Peter 5:5. But we also find the idea in many parts of the Bible (ENTER; ENTER; ENTER). Jesus is reminding us that God is often closer to the poor and needy, than he is to the rich and affluent. For instance, how many of us cry out to God in prayer when things are tough, but fail to talk to Him altogether when everything is going smooth? (PAUSE) When everything is working and we have enough money – we figure we don’t need God and we don’t need Jesus. But that is not a good thing. That is a really, really bad thing.

Who do you think ends up BETTER OFF – A) those who come to Jesus for help or B) those who think they’re alright on their own? (PAUSE) Remember, Jesus is surrounded by SICK people and DEMON POSSESSED people and in the C1st AD these are big problems. But Jesus is saying, that if you have lots of problems and those problems drive you into Jesus arms – then you are more blessed than the rich person because in the end you get heaven and great reward.

We need to remember that God doesn’t bring difficulty and hardship into the the lives of the people he hates, but the people he loves. Let me repeat that. God often brings DIFFICULTY into the lives of those he has chosen for salvation – so that they become HUMBLE enough to accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Difficulty in this life is not a sign that you have been cursed by God, but often a sign that you have been chosen by God for salvation. God gives grace to the humble. And God usually needs to humble us first, before we will receive the grace of forgiveness and salvation and eternal life. (Now I know some people are thinking, but I’ve been through so much difficulty. Maybe you’re a slow learner. Maybe you need to be THANKFUL God didn’t give up on you). But difficulty and struggle is often a good thing because God humbles us in order to bless us.

Point 3:         Jesus Preaches Blessing for those Absolutely Committed to Him

Show:                        Lk.6:22-26 (READ)

Explain:        When Jesus speaks of the “Son of Man” in verse 22 he’s talking about himself. Jesus is saying we are blessed when we are 1) hated, 2)insulted and 3) rejected because we are Christians. The next verse says there is GREAT REWARD IN HEAVEN for those who remain commited to Jesus even in persecution.

FRIENDS, THERE IS A COST in following Jesus. Because Jesus’ view of the world is upside down compared to the world – those who begin to follow Jesus are often hated by the world. The more we agree with Jesus, the less we will agree with the world. And the less we agree with the world – the more we will be hated by the world. (At least that’s the way it should be).

Jesus is saying that if we are truly becoming like THE PROPHETS in the Old Testament we should be hated, insulted and rejected by the world around us. Indeed, to some degree – the level the world hates us and rejects us is a good indicator of how much we are aligned with God’s blessing. If the world loves us – we’re probably not salty enough or holy enough or clear enough on the gospel. The good thing is that when we are HATED, INSULTED and REJECTED by the world – it keeps us humble AND God gives more and more grace to the humble.

But it also raises the QUESTION – is following Jesus really worth it? I mean most of us want all the things in verses 24-26. We want to be RICH. We want to be WELL-FED like people on MasterChef. We want to LAUGH and we want everyone to SPEAK WELL of us. So why on earth would we come to Jesus if it means A) letting go of the good life and B) accepting hardship. Well two answers. First Jesus died for us and second heaven is real – so yes, it’s worth it.

Apply:            (GOSPEL) The reason Jesus came to earth is because we all have a problem with sin. Sin is worse than disease and worse than demonic possession. Those who die – without accepting Jesus’ help and without accepting Jesus forgiveness will be sent to hell. Trust mewhen I say, hell will ruin more than your complexion. But God wanted to spare us of hell, so he sent Jesus to help us. When Jesus died on the cross he took the PUNISHMENT for everything we have done wrong. So instead of us being PUNISHED for our wrongdoing, Jesus was punished in our place. This means Jesus paid for our sins (and we should thank him).

But it also means God CAN and WILL forgive us if we are humble enough to come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. Its that simple. If you humbly ask Jesus for forgiveness and you try to follow Jesus God will forgive you. Now have you done that? Sadly, sometimes even poor, hungry, crying people are too proud for their own good. It’s not just the rich that have a problem with pride. We all need to humble ourselves and come back to God through Jesus.

And the reason true Christians are willing to suffer and die for Jesus is because we know Jesus suffered and died for us. And because Jesus loved us this much, Christians continue to love Jesus even when its hard. This, is the nature of true love. But we also endure hardship for Jesus because we know that in heaven we will be vindicated.

You may recall Jesus rose from the dead. God vindicated Jesus’ life (and gave him the name which is above all names). And when we truly trust Jesus and follow Jesus – God promises that one day he will also vindicate us. Now sure you can pursueTHE WORLD’s version of the GOOD LIFE” now. But at best 1) it lasts 50 years and 2) even those who have “the so-called good life” now – often still have bad marriages, or they lose their wealth or their popularity is only wafer thin. But with Jesus (and humbly following Jesus) you can experience what it really means to be blessed by God. (It’s not the same as the worlds version of the good life).

But it is a good life in that you actually do some stuff that is good. It’s also a fulfilling life and a meaningful life. It’s the life blessedby God. The question is – 1) are you humble enough to admit you need some help from God and 2) humble enough to truly follow Jesus? I hope so…

But if you are already a Christian – are you still HUMBLE? There was a point where we all got down on our knees and cried out “Lord, save me.But are we still humble? (PAUSE) One of the best indicators is our prayer life. If you are constantly doing life without consulting God it’s because you think you are ok. The problems in our prayer life is not busyness or bad habits? Its actually pride. We think we can do life well without consulting God. That’s pride. And pride comes before a fall.

The key to success (or blessing) in the kingdom of God is humility. It is the humble who come to Jesus each and every day (seeking his help) who will be most blessed. So we should be praying; “Lord, please humble me and keep me humble.” But that is a scary prayer. Do we really want God to humble us? Well Jesus the street preacher tells us that God’s blessing and humility go hand in hand. Of course, the PROUD Pharisees and scribes will scoff at Jesus on the soap box. So kitsch. So uncivilised and eccentric. What would he know?

THE QUESTION IS 1) will we be humble enough listen to the rest of the sermon OR 2) are we already confident that we have the keys to life?

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