Driving out Demons

Luke 4:31-37

After the incident in Nazareth, Jesus moved on to Capernaum where once again people were amazed by His teaching. Luke gives us the reason for their amazement; it was the authority with which He taught. Of course many teachers teach authoritatively, but Jesus seems to have had an extra ingredient in His teaching, for all four gospel writers tell us that it was His authority that so amazed people. Apparently, being the Son of God is something that has a way of coming out without ever being mentioned, for it brings forth the authority of God, for who is a greater authority on the Word of God than the Living Word Himself?

On one occasion there was a man who was possessed by demons. The demons knew at once who Jesus was, and we know that from what they shouted through the stricken man:

“Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (4:34)

Jesus simply commanded that they come out of the man, and they immediately complied with His command, amazing the people even more than before. More importantly, the man was once again made spiritually whole through the words that came from His mouth; the Living Word in action. As His followers, we must come to recognize that it is the Living Word in us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that gives us our strength, not our cleverness and not our human strength, but God’s alone.

As one might expect, the news of this incident spread quickly throughout the region: What else could this Jesus do?

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Home to Nazareth

Luke 4:14-30

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus headed toward home, and on the way He began to teach and news began to spread about His amazing teaching, for the Spirit was upon Him. When He reached His home town of Nazareth, the people wanted to hear what He had to say on the Sabbath. When the day came, He was handed the scroll of Isaiah and He read the verses quoted above. The scene was electric, tension and expectation were in the air…

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He spoke some more and the people were amazed. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Jesus went on to tell them that no prophet is “accepted” in his home town, and reminded them of several instances from Scripture in which prophets did their work elsewhere for this reason.

At this, the people were angered and they tried to throw Jesus off of a cliff; so much for a hometown crowd. Yet Jesus simply strolled through the crowd and went on His way.

You might well think I’m making a stretch here, but I told you we’d see Satan again!

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Jesus in the Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13

The ministry of Jesus has begun… or has it? He has been baptized by John, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Him in “bodily form” and the Father has spoken; now He has one more hurdle before He begins, He must be tempted.

The Spirit leads Him out into the desert (Wilderness) where He is to fast for 40 days, just as Moses and Elijah have done before. This is the first of several parallels to Israel’s past in this section. After 40 days, Jesus is terribly hungry, and in this we see His humanity in full force, after He was proclaimed by His Father to be the Son of God. Taking advantage of the situation, the devil comes onto the stage…

Knowing Jesus’ hunger, the devil points to a stone and tells Jesus to turn it into bread to ease His suffering. Of course you’ll recall the ruckus among the Israelites in the Wilderness about their lack of food which demonstrated their lack of faith in the God who had so recently rescued them from Egypt in spectacular fashion. Unlike the Israelites, Jesus’ faith does not bend at this point, and He replies to the devil with Scripture (4:3-4).

Next in 4:5-8, the devil shows Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms and offers them to Jesus, if He will only worship Satan. Is the entire world Satan’s to offer? People have debated that for a long time, and it probably doesn’t really matter here, for Jesus again quotes Scripture in rejection of the offer. The really interesting aspect of the offer is that it would have brought Jesus to His destiny in a sense, while bypassing the cross, for in being the king of all nations, every knee would bow to Him. Yet in  His denial, Jesus has passed another test that the Israelites had failed in the Wilderness, for He refused to bow to another god, while they had not only bowed to other gods, they had actually manufactured gods to bow to.

Then, the devil took Jesus to the highest point of the Temple and invited Him to jump so that the angels of God would have to save Him, and actually quoted Scripture to justify his gambit.

Jesus quoted Scripture in His refusal (4:9-12).

Had Jesus performed this stunt, presumably there would have been many witnesses and He could have jump-started His ministry with a big following; something like you might see on TV today, followed by the toll free number to donate money. Yet Jesus was not about to use His power and position toward His personal ends, for His was a mission as a servant leader, of humility and self-denial, not show business.

Jesus was the real deal, and stands in stark contrast to the Israelites who wanted God to prove Himself over and over in the Wilderness.

In the final verse, Luke tells us that Satan withdrew in favor of a more opportune time, and indeed, we will encounter him again and again in the story. When all of this was completed, Jesus returned to His home town to kick off His public ministry, no doubt to cheers from His friends and family.

Or not.

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Jesus Comes into View

Luke 3:21-38

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  

Luke 3:31-22

In contrast to Matthew’s much larger description of Jesus’ baptism, Luke moves right to the result of the baptism. Jesus was baptized and prayed, and when He did the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form the Father spoke, and everyone knew about it: Jesus was the Messiah.

Well, I guess that just about cinches it, don’t you agree?

It might be useful for us to be reminded that Luke was writing to a much different audience than Matthew, who was writing to a predominantly Jewish audience. As a result, Matthew gets into the history of Israel, the prophecies concerning the Messiah and so forth, while Luke, writing to a largely Greek audience skips much of the Israel part, and gets right to the result that has affected his readers: Jesus really is the Messiah, God incarnate… Period.

Interestingly, as a first century historian, Luke then gives the genealogy of Jesus, and so we can see that this is the “official” beginning of His story. Again there is a great contrast to Matthew’s genealogy, for although Matthew shows us every way possible that Jesus = son of David, Luke simply demonstrates that Jesus inherited the royal kingship of David through adoption by his heir Joseph.

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Preparing the Way

Luke 3:1-20

In the first two verses, Luke goes to great pains to let us know that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness in the year 28, but of course the coming of the Word is the most important thing― John’s time had come.

Notice in the text that Luke is careful to point out that John was on the scene in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, for this was no fluke; John’s mission was one that everyone would recognize. It’s sometimes hard for us to remember that in the first century the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to appear, based upon the prophecies of Daniel who had given them the timeframe for His arrival. John’s appearance would have made quite an impact. So there he was, out in the desert, preaching of all things repentance… but the people would flock to Him to hear his preaching, and to receive his baptism of repentance, for they knew that the Messiah would shortly appear, and they wanted to be ready.

Isn’t this an interesting contrast to our attitude about repentance today?

Notice the interesting exchanges recorded in 3:7-14: The people were receptive to his message for the most part, asking what they should do. As we see in the next verse, some were even wondering if John himself was the Messiah, but he quickly set them straight:

John answered them all, “I baptize you wit] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (3:16-18)

John’s ministry would end at God’s appointed time as we see in the last two verses of this section, but not before he has an encounter with Jesus Himself that we’ll look at next time. What we need to review is that the early church also would preach a message of repentance that resonated with many people who remembered John’s teaching, for John was very popular with the Jewish people, if not the Jewish authorities, for they were not particularly feeling empowered by John’s and later Jesus’ appearance on the scene; they were much to honest to play the games of the rich and powerful as John demonstrates in the last two verses of this section…

But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done,  Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. (3:19-20)

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Sunday Sermon Notes: May 15, 2022

I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-14

Do you see what this is?  It isn’t so much the “who” John is addressing, it’s the “why” that is important, contrary to so much that has been written and discussed over the years.  Let’s restructure these verses:

If you are in Christ, John is writing to you BECAUSE:

1. YOUR sins have been forgiven on account of His name.

2. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

3. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.

4. YOU know the Father.

5. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

6. YOU are strong.

7. The Word of God lives in YOU.

8. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.

Did you notice the tense used here?  Each of these “because” statements is either in present or past tense, indicating that they are facts at this very moment, not something to come in the future. I’m sure that I need not mention that there are no “buts” in any of these statements. Now, as for the “who,” there are three “who’s” in the passage, “dear children,” “fathers” and “young men.”

“Dear children” as we have already seen is one of the ways that John addressed the community of believers; it is an inclusive term.  “Fathers” can either be literally a father of children, or it can refer to the head of the household, and in Scripture this is often the case; certainly, it is when referring to a patriarch.  In those cases, something that is true of the father is true of the household.  It seems to me that here, because of the inclusive reference at the beginning, the inclusive meaning is also true of fathers, particularly since there is nothing in the text that would indicate specificity of intent.  “young men” are the heads of households yet to be born, and I think we can take this reference to mean that not only are these things true in believing households of today, but they will also be true of future generations of believing households.  You might wonder about a household of one, but remember that in John’s day, households of one were extremely unusual if not non-existent; they are actually quite a modern development. Looking at the list of statements again, it seems that we can take them to refer to all of us who are in Christ. That is also the context of the previous and following sections…

Notice that there is some repetition.  Numbers 2 and 5 are the same, but 2 comes after a reference to the Son, while 5 comes after a reference to the Father.  If you know Jesus, then you also know the Father.  Having overcome the evil one is mentioned twice also, numbers 3 and 8. Both are directed to young men, and it seems to me interesting that it is repeated the second time in a series of three statements made to young men.  Now if we have an accurate understanding of “young men,” then let’s consider these future heads of household.  They are the future, but they are also young.  They are the ones who need encouragement and the mentoring of the Elder Apostle the most, and so they, who will bear the spiritual battle in the future, need a little more instruction than those who are experienced, the veterans we might say.  Here, John gives an extra assurance that they are strong, filled with the Word, and have overcome.  I would guess that this is as much comfort to John’s “young men” in their day, as this whole list should be to us in our day. This is particularly true when we get into the rest of this letter: John is getting his readers prepared for what is coming.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

Now that we are clear on who we are, and what the realities of life in Christ are, John turns to the world around us. John isn’t referring to the natural world, he’s referring to the world of Mankind; the culture, society, the impulses, the way things are here…  in this I don’t mean “culture” in the sense that John is speaking against literature or music or opera or culture in that sense, but instead the impulses and ways of people and society.  If we were to say that we live in a “dog eat dog world,” we would be referring to the impulses and ways of this world; that is more like what John is getting at. John is telling us that we are not to love the world or anything in it and if we do, we have a spiritual problem for sure.

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” are often cited as the three main categories of sin.  Clearly these do not come from God, for as John puts it, they come from the world. If you think about it, so much of what people consider important has more to do with impressing others than with anything else.  Why are we so often driven by career advancement?  Why do we need so much stuff?  Why is your living room fancier than your bedrooms?  Why do you need the fancy car instead of the economy car?  Must I spend $100.00 on a tie? Why do we want what somebody else has? Our knee-jerk answer to these kinds of questions might be “sin”, but John goes deeper than that; this comes from the world.  Jesus nailed the thought down when He said that we “prefer the praise of men.”

In the final analysis, this world, its ways, and everything in it will pass away, but the love of God endures forever. Our Lord showed us a life that was lived for the love of God.  Isn’t that where our love should be? I’ve heard people say that we are here to fix the world, but I must state clearly that this is a mistake. We were never commanded to fix the world, no− the world is passing away!  We are commanded to share the love of God through Jesus Christ with people, so that they may be saved from the world’s fate.

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Jesus Visits the Temple

Luke 2:41-52

This is the only story we have about Jesus between His infancy and the beginning of His ministry roughly at age 30. Of course there are theories and tales galore, but this is the only reliable record of that period. One thing is clear about young Jesus; He knew who He was.

After the Passover was completed, His family set off for the return trip to Nazareth. It was a large party, and everyone seems to have assumed that 12-year-old Jesus was in the group, but after a day, Mary and Joseph headed back to Jerusalem to find Him; ah yes, 12-year-olds will get into mischief!

After three days they finally found the boy in the Temple sitting with the teachers listening, asking, answering… Everyone there was amazed that such a young boy had so much understanding. Here’s the part that’s telling:

His mother asked Him: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” I would suggest that this would be a reasonable question, one that most mothers would be yelling under the circumstances. Here is Jesus’ reply to His mother:

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (2:49)

Oh yes dear reader, Jesus knew who He was; had His poor parents forgotten? Luke tells us they didn’t understand what he was saying…

Can’t say that I blame them, come to think of it; it couldn’t have been easy to be a parent of the Son of God.

All three returned home, and Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. Mary treasured all of these memories in her heart.

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Jesus is Presented at the Temple

Luke 2:22-40

The Law of Moses required that a male child be circumcised on the eighth day and so Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem and traveled the few miles to Jerusalem for this purpose.  In fact, Luke mentions three ceremonies that were conducted in accordance with the custom of that time: Circumcision for the baby, the purification of his mother, and the baby’s dedication to the Lord as their firstborn male child. While it is important to the larger narrative that these ceremonies were completed properly, the real story here is that of Simeon and Anna.

Both were in their old age, both were upright and righteous people, and both were eagerly looking forward to the coming of Messiah and God’s deliverance of His people. As Luke tells us, Simeon had received God’s promise that he would not die before seeing the Messiah, and that promise is fulfilled here.

Simeon tells Mary and Joseph some interesting things as the Spirit came upon him…

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (2:29-32)

Mary and Joseph marveled at this, but Simeon wasn’t quite finished:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (2:34b-35)

It’s one thing to hear praise for a newborn, but I would imagine that hearing this was quite a different matter, yet as we know, it came to pass. As this was being said, Anna the prophet was nearby giving thanks to God for the appearance of His Son in Jerusalem.

The scene ends with Mary and Joseph returning to Nazareth with the child, who would grow in strength and wisdom…

Notice that they did not return to Bethlehem as so many stories, pictures and traditions would indicate. Does this surprise you?

If you look back at the story of the Magi in Matthew 2, you will notice that after they met with Herod, the Lord guided them to the house where Jesus was, not to the manger where he was born… and Herod calculated from the time the Magi had first seen the sign to the present had had all little boys in Bethlehem murdered who were 2 and under, so it took the Magi quite some time to reach him.

Notice also that when Mary and Joseph were warned that Herod would be on the lookout for the child, they fled the country, not Bethlehem, and went to Egypt until Herod died, which wasn’t very long after that according to secular history.

That’s right dear reader, all of those pictures and plays and carols… are simply wrong.

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Jesus IS Born

Luke 2:1-21

In due course the time came for Mary to give birth to her son; they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told them. There really is no point in my retelling of the story since it is quite possibly the most familiar story in the entire Scriptures for Christian and non-Christian alike. Even so, there are a couple of things I’d like to mention here…

First, you’ll notice that Luke’s account begins with a call by Caesar Augustus for a census to be taken throughout the Empire. Augustus was the most powerful man in the world, and he ruled the mighty Roman Empire as a military dictator. As the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who had been assassinated in 44 BC, he was his heir and became the first Emperor of Rome in 27 BC and ruled until his death in 14 AD. Augustus was not his name; he had been born Gaius Octavian Augustus was actually his self-given title and means “majestic”. He arranged for himself to be declared divine, and all of the people of the Empire were required to worship him…

So he demanded a census be taken so that he could be sure his treasury was collecting the full amount of tax from the people, and thus, Mary and Joseph were required to travel to Bethlehem to be counted… and so that the prophecies of old would be fulfilled. I mention all of this because in Luke’s account, the greatest and most powerful man of all, the ruler of the greatest Empire, the one who would dare to claim divinity and demand worship, became nothing more than a footnote in the story of the birth of a “nobody”, a poor carpenter’s son by all appearances, in a nowhere little town on the edge of the Empire… who just happened to be God Incarnate.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor!

The child was born in a manger, just about the last place anyone would want their child to be born. The announcement of His birth wasn’t made to princes or nobles; it was made to a group of shepherds out in the fields at night. Shepherds, because of the nature of their work were considered to be at the very lowest rung of the social ladder, and as Jewish shepherds, there was little they could do to avoid being ceremonially unclean every day of their lives, and yet God announces the birth of His Son to them. Thus, unclean shepherds were the very first to worship the Son of God.

This Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas came into this world confounding all of the great people, the smart people, and the “beautiful” people. He continued to confound them throughout His ministry, and still does to this day, for God couldn’t care less about the glories of this world; He is the glory of heaven.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: May 8, 2022

 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:1-2

Here at the beginning of the second chapter, John restates what came at the end of chapter one about the forgiveness of sins, although here, he adds a different twist.  Rather than simply saying that if we acknowledge our sins God is faithful to forgive them, thus putting forgiveness in a covenant context, (faithful being a covenant term) now John reminds us of how this is accomplished. It is because of our “advocate” Jesus Christ.

He has also spoken as the Elder, starting out with the words “my dear children.”  John is the last of the Apostles of Christ remaining alive in the body, and his writings in this vein are filled with truth, grace and love for his “children.”  His desire is that we shouldn’t sin, thus he compares and contrasts light and darkness that we might clearly understand the difference as we journey through this life.  Knowing that we will all stumble, he gives us the reassurance that all will be right, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ… and this is always a comfort to me, I don’t know about you, for I am prone to stumbling.

I also would mention that at the end of verse two, John tells us that Jesus has paved the way for our sins to be forgiven, just as He has for the sins of the entire world.  Sometimes, I think that many of us might have the feeling that Jesus has enabled us to have been forgiven, and then we look at the world, and the forgiveness of the world.  We share this with others that they too can be forgiven, and then we stumble ourselves again and forget that our new sin is forgiven also, just like our previous sins.  In fact, I have watched many faithful followers struggle with this concept, and if this is ever our plight, take heart with John’s words here in verse 2.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 2:3-6

I read with interest, and sometimes sadness, when people write that we need never do anything as Christians, because there are no conditions in the New Covenant.  They seem to suggest that since grace is free, we need accept it, and then we’re set for life, so to speak, with no obligation to ever do anything or behave in any particular way.  Most of the time, I conclude that they are probably just wording things a little bit wrong, and don’t really mean to go quite that far, but sometimes, I think they entirely misunderstand the Christian walk.  John makes it quite clear in these verses that we are to obey the commands that Jesus gave us.  In fact, Jesus commanded that we should teach others to obey Him also. (Matt. 28:18-20)

The overriding standard in this obedience is to live our lives as Jesus lived.  How is that? Love your neighbor; serve others by putting their interests ahead of our own.  Spread the Good News to the lost.  Love God, and place His priorities above our own, and to love our brother.  John seems to me to be pretty clear, that we must live as Jesus did, and if we are not willing to do so, we may have a serious problem.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 2:7-11

In these verses, John gives one more comparison and contrast: This time it is love and hate, light and darkness. If we are in Christ, then we must love our brother and sister.  If we claim to be in Christ, yet we hate our brother or sister, then we cannot be in Christ; I think this is a fair summary of John’s point.

You will recall from the previous passages that John made the point that if we are in Christ, we must live our lives like Christ. In fact, he has made this point several times in various ways, but recall in particular 2:3-6.  Where in the Gospels can we find any indication whatsoever that Jesus ever hated anyone? Far from it!  We see Him showing love in all cases, even when He let the Pharisees have it with the seven woes.  Remember, right after that, Jesus is lamenting the fact that despite all that God has done, they insisted on turning against Him; Jesus was clearly grieved by this.  (Matt. 23:37 ff.)  When you reduce the Christian faith down to its simplest form, and I am a fan of doing this, its central idea is love God; love your neighbor. There is no room for hate in that formula.

Our brother may irritate us now and then, he may also let us down.  In truth, our brother may well be every bit as imperfect as we are, but we are to love him anyway, just as he is to love us anyway, just as Jesus loves all of us anyway. Remember that love means that we put the interests of the other person ahead of our own.

To this message from John, I’d like to add my own observation:  How much damage do you suppose has been done over the years to the Gospel by people calling themselves Christians, who fail to demonstrate His love to others? How many thousands have said “no” to Christ because of some so-called believers, who show an attitude of hatred for other people? How many have left the faith because of this behavior in the church?

Those who hate rather than love can call themselves whatever they like, they may fool many people, but they cannot fool God, and I would respectfully suggest they repent, and do so quickly.

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