Sunday, February 28, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Following Jesus"

“Following Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
February 28, 2010
Luke 9:37-62

This our 20th message in the Gospel of Luke, and as I said last week, this chapter is the turning point chapter of the book.  Where the emphasis changes from the northern Galilean phase of ministry where the main question is “Who is Jesus?” to the march towards Jerusalem, more teaching, and the main question is “What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?”

Last week, in verses 21 through 27, Jesus began to clearly teach that he would suffer, be killed, and rise again.  And He issued a clear call for people to follow Him.

V.23 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Following Jesus.

Do you want to be a follower of Jesus?

I do.  And I want to help people to be followers of Jesus.

But before we go to far down that road, we might want to find out a little more of what that means.

What does it mean follow Jesus?

Luke provides some of the answer to that question in the second half of chapter 9.

Last week, we left Jesus up on top of a mountain where He had been transfigured–Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus’ glory with their own eyes–as long as they could look at Him!

And the voice of God had said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to him.”

Let’s see what happened next, when they came down from the mountain.  V.37

“The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.  A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.  A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.  I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’” Let’s stop there for a second.

This is terrible.  This poor boy, the man’s only child is plagued by a demon.  And it is destroying him.

Demons are pure evil.

And the disciples, presumably the other 9 left behind from this mountain trip, couldn’t drive out this demon.

They had power and authority to drive out demons in verse 1 of this chapter. We saw that last week.  But they weren’t able to do this one.

It appears, from Jesus’ response, that it was because they didn’t have faith.  V.41

“‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’  Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”

Here’s what it means to follow Jesus:


If you are going to follow Jesus, you are going to be confronted by evil.

Now, it may not always or often be overtly demonic evil like this was.

But Jesus’ followers face evil every day.

We are not immune to evil.

We are sinned against.
We are still sinners.
We live in a fallen world with evil people, evil spirits, and brokenness everywhere we turn.

Our family was touched by cancer this week.  Heather’s mom was diagnosed with it.  She’s flying tomorrow to Calgary to go spend some time with her.

There was an 8.8 on the Richter Scale earthquake yesterday?

Do cancer and earthquakes and murder and abuse only happen to unbelievers?

No, Jesus’ followers face evil every day.

But they face it with faith.

At least, they’re supposed to.  Jesus’ words are so strong in verse 41 because He knows that God is worthy of our trust and that it’s perverse to not trust Him.

Following Jesus means facing evil with faith.

What kind of evil are you looking in the face these days?

It might depression.
It might even be demonic oppression.

It might be some way that others are sinning against you, and it feels overwhelming.

Maybe its some physical evil, some mark of the curse on this world.

Maybe it’s a loved one who is hurting.

Maybe it’s the effects of our your own wrong choices.

Jesus calls us, in no uncertain terms, to face these evils with faith.

Not to call evil good, but to trust God in the midst of them.

I think that Jesus was disappointed in His disciples because they had subtly shifted from trusting God to trusting in their own ways and means.

But Jesus wants us to trust God and trust Him in the face of evil.

And the result?  V.43, “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”

Jesus trusted God in the face of evil.

The most evil thing that ever happened was the sinless Son of God suffering at the hands of evil men and dying on the Cross for our sins.

Jesus looked into the face of evil and trusted God all the way through.

1 Peter says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23-24).

It was this suffering that Jesus took His disciples aside and tried to tell them about. 
Look at the second half of verse 43.

“While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you [Listen!]: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”

At this moment, Jesus’ followers weren’t able to look this kind of evil in the face.

But Jesus was.  He knew what was coming.

And He walked right into it.  In fact, He chose it.

He chose it for you and me.

And because He did, we can trust God ourselves and face terrible evil.

Following Jesus Means Facing Evil With Faith.


Now, I find this next paragraph completely shocking.

Jesus has just told them that He is going to suffer.  And they can’t handle that, and instead get into a fight about which of them would be the greatest!

This is incredibly stupid and prideful.

But I know that I have done equally stupid and prideful things myself.  V.46

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.   [Which of us is the GREATEST follower of Jesus?!]  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.’”

Isaac, would you come up here?

In Israel, children might be beloved but they weren’t seen as great.

In America, we make out children to be amazingly great.

But, children weren’t considered to be amazing. They were small, dependent, needy, powerless. 

You didn’t get ahead in the world by making friends with kids!

But Jesus, as usual, turns everything on its head.  He says, “See this little guy?   Whoever humbles themselves and makes friends with the lowly, the little guys, they are making friends with me.  And if you make friends with me, you are making friends with my Father, God Himself!”

For whoever is least among you–he is the greatest.”

Thanks, Isaac.

Following Jesus means humbling ourselves to become great.

There is no other way.

How are you going to apply that to yourself?

Let me tell you how I applied this to myself as I was preparing this message.

Last week, was the district theology conference, Stay Sharp.  And I am privileged to be the main organizer for it.  I work with the speaker, I arrange for the promotional materials, I pick the books for the booktable, and so on.

And, this week, I finished my “abstract” for my doctoral project.  That’s a 2 page paper that outlines what I want to do with my project.

And, as Keith mentioned earlier, I have been asked to speak at our district conference in April.

Because of these honors and quote-unquote big things that I’m getting to do, it would be very easy to get a big head about myself.

To think that hobnobbing with the speaker and getting to hang around with my professors and write a big paper and get to be called “Doctor” is true greatness.

But true greatness is listening to my son Isaac when he wants to tell me something.

True greatness is tying someone’s shoe.

True greatness is doing something for someone with no applause.

True greatness is not my preaching to those at the nursing home this afternoon.  It’s those who go along and just hold their hand or look into their eyes.

“For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”

How do you apply that to yourself?

Are you humbling yourself to become truly great?

The disciples had another opportunity to learn about humility in verse 49.

“‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’” Literally, “He is not following with us.”

His name is not on our approved list of disciples!

He is not part of the EFCA!

He is not one of us.

We are the standard. We are the Disciples, with a capital D!

You see the irony here, don’t you?  What was the miracle that they just couldn’t do a few verses ago (v.40)?   Uh huh.

V.50.  “‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’”

He is casting out demons in my name, and you’re trying to stop him?

He’s doing it right?  He’s just not YOU?  Leave him alone.

He’s really on our side.

It takes humility to recognize true greatness in someone else.

To recognize that someone else is doing truly great things in Jesus name and it doesn’t have anything to do with us.

Now, I believe in being on a team.  I believe in being a real functioning part of a local church.

And I believe in being a part of a family of churches.  A meaningful, functioning part of a family of churches.  A team of churches!

But ours is not the only team of churches.  There is a bigger team–called The Church!

And if you aren’t playing for our opponent’s team, then you’re on our team, and that’s gotta be okay with me, too.


Now in verse 51, Jesus sets His face towards his fate.  Look at verse 51.

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

Jesus knows that His time of suffering is coming, and He chooses it for you and me.  He resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

The rest of the book is going to be darker and harder because of what Jesus is wading into.  But He’s wading into it for us.

It starts with some rejection.  He is rejected on the way to Jerusalem by some Samaritans.  V.52

“And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem [because He was headed for our salvation!].  When the disciples James and John saw this [rejection], they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.”

I wish it said more about this event.  I’m not sure if He rebuked them because it wasn’t time for judgment, or because they had the wrong attitude, no mercy, towards the Samaritans, or because they just hated them for being Samaritans.

Probably, it had to do, again, with humbling themselves.  They had probably gotten too big for the britches again, and wanted to show off their powers like an Elijah who called down fire.  Instead of loving God and loving people with the truth.

Either way, Jesus rebukes them and sets off for another village on His way to Jerusalem.  On His way to suffer for our salvation.

And as He travels, He is still looking for followers. But He’s going to be very clear about what that means.  The next section has three interactions that teach us what following Jesus really means.  V.57

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’  [Sounds good!  Here’s a volunteer!  But Jesus warns him.  V.58]  Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”

Following Jesus will mean hardship.

Ever since He was born, and except for a brief childhood in Nazareth, Jesus has experienced homelessness.

And He’s homeless now.

If you follow Jesus, it won’t necessarily be easy.  V.59

“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ [We don’t know if the man’s father was dead yet or if this guy was saying, “I’ll do that ‘down the road’ when my other more important family responsibilities are met.’  Either way, v.60]  Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’”

Jesus is not against funerals.  But He is against anything that gets in way and anything takes a higher priority than following Him.

He calls it in the next few verses, “looking back.”  V.61

“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ [Sounds almost reasonable.  And maybe it was okay.  But that “BUT” doesn’t sound quite right to Jesus.  So v.62]  Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

Anybody here ever plow a field or a garden?

Anybody do it with a team of oxen?

What happens if you don’t keep your eye on the end of the field where you are going?

You get a very curvy field, don’t you?

The song says, “No turning back, no turning back.”

Jesus isn’t against loving our families, or doing our duties.

But He is against anything that turns us away from following Him.

Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best.

Sometimes God’s gifts get in the way of following God.

And we have to fix our eyes on Him and not turn back.

Not for all the gold in Fort Knox.

Following Jesus Means Facing Evil with Faith
Humbling Ourselves to Become Great


Let me tell you about a man named William Borden.

“William W. Borden was the heir of a wealthy Chicago family. In 1094 and 1095, at the age of seventeen and eighteen, he traveled around the world.  This was followed by a brilliant education at Yale and then Princeton Seminary, where he committed his life to seek and win the Muslims in China to Christ.  Before he left, Borden gave away some $500,000 (equivalent to at least $10,000,000 [today]) and served at the age of twenty-three as a trustee of Moody Bible Institute. In 1913, in his twenty-sixth year, he left for Egypt and never looked back.  It was the final year of his life, because in Cairo he contracted cerebral meningitis. As he lay dying, he scribbled this note: ‘No reserve, no retreat, no regrets’” [That You May Know the Truth by R. Kent Hughes, pg. 374].

Following Jesus Means No Turning Back.

Most of us don’t have great fortunes that we’re turning away from to follow Jesus.

But we all have things that we’re tempted to love more than Jesus, to look over our shoulder at like Lot’s wife.

What are those things for you?

Are you able to say today, “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets?”

If you are, then you are following Jesus.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?