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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Sneering at Jesus"

“Sneering at Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
October 10, 2010
Luke 16:14-18


While you’re turning there, I want to thank you for sending Heather and me to the Allegheny District Pastors & Wives Retreat last weekend.  We had a great time. It was just the right balance of fellowship, biblical teaching, and free time to rest.

Thank you for sending us, for giving us the weekend off, and for paying our way.  Heather and I feel very appreciated by our whole church family.

And it’s good to be back with you!  It is a great privilege to be your pastor and to be paid to study the Bible during the week to deliver it to you on Sundays like a chef preparing all week for one great big feast.

It’s time now to feast on God’s Word in Luke chapter 16.

We’re in the middle of chapter 16, and we’re going to study five verses that can be easily overlooked.  Verses 14 through 18.

When you preach through every verse of a long book like Luke, it’s easy to miss 5 little verses like this that are hard to categorize.  In chapter 15, there were lots of stories, and Jesus has already told a story in chapter 16 (the shrewd and dishonest manager) and He’s going to tell another story before chapter 16 ends: the Rich Man and Lazarus, which we’re going to study next week, Lord-willing.

But it’s hard to get the point of these 5 verses that kind of bridge the gap between the two stories.  Unless, we slow down and focus on them in particular.

Obviously, even the translators of the NIV aren’t sure how to categorize these verses.  Verses 14 and 15, they include up with the previous teaching on money, but verses 16 through 18 they put a heading on: “Additional Teachings.”

They’re not sure what to do with these verses either.

One commentary I have, which is in 2 volumes, covering the whole gospel of Luke, just skips these verses altogether!

But we’re not going skip them today. We’re going to think of them as a kind of bridge to connect what we’ve been learning in chapters 13 through 16 so far and what we’re going to learn at the end of chapter 16 and into the next few chapters.

What are some of the themes that we’ve been learning about in the last few chapters?

Kingdom is one theme.  Ever since chapter 13 and especially in chapter 14, Jesus has put a big emphasis on the kingdom of God and what it’s like.  The Kingdom is dawning, and it’s not what people had expected.  It’s a surprising kingdom.  And it’s a kingdom that is characterized by celebration. The kingdom is a party.

And that brings us to a second theme: the Lost.  Remember all of those parables in chapter 15 about the lost [1, 2, 3]?  Something valuable is lost, someone conducts a desperate search, and then when it is found, there is a great celebration.  Lost, search, found, party.  Right?  God the Father has a passionate love for lost people.  The lost must be pursued at any cost.

And that brings us to another theme: money.  Two weeks ago, we studied some of Jesus’ teachings on money.  Be shrewd.  Be trustworthy.  Be loyal.  Jesus isn’t done talking about money.

The Kingdom of God.  Lost people.  Money.  Those are key themes we’ve been learning about.  And all of that has been in a context of a growing hostility to Jesus by the Jewish Religious Leaders–the scribes and the Pharisees.

There’s more of all of that to come. And it’s all actually right here in this little bridge text.

In Luke 16:14, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ teaching on money.  And they do it in the most disgraceful way they can think of...they sneer at Him.

They sneer at Jesus.

“Sneering at Jesus”

The Pharisee go beyond disagreeing with Jesus.
They go beyond opposing Him.
They go beyond muttering about what they don’t like about Him.

And they openly sneer at Jesus.  Can you imagine?

“Sneering at Jesus.”

What we have here is a fight with the Pharisees.

We’re looking here at a confrontation between the Jewish Religious Leaders and our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s so short, you could easily miss this one.  But it’s too good to miss.

Jesus has been teaching on the subject of money, and He ended by saying (v.13), “You cannot serve both God and money.”

And the Pharisees, in essence said, “Oh, yes, you can.  You don’t know what you’re talking about!”  V.14

“The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.”

The Pharisees didn’t like Jesus’ teaching on money. They didn’t like the story of the shrewd manager.  They didn’t like being told to invest their money in eternity with shrewd generosity. They didn’t like to be told to be trustworthy with it because they were just stewards.  And they especially didn’t like being told to be loyal–that you can only serve one master–God or money.

And Luke knows why.  They loved money!  And Paul tell us that the love of money is what? “The root of all kinds of evil.”

So, they were (v.14), “sneering at Jesus.”

Just think about that phrase for a second.

The King James translates this word as “derided.”  “They derided him.”

The English Standard Version has “ridiculed.”

The New American Standard says they “scoffed at him.”

The Greek word here, “mykterizo” literally means to “turn one’s nose up at someone”  (Bock, 1349).

Utter mocking contempt.  Sneering at Jesus.

They didn’t like Jesus one bit, and they sneered at Him.

Now, do you and I sneer at Jesus?

I hope not.  Not intentionally, at least.

I hope we love Jesus and that it shows.

But let’s see what kind of a heart they had that caused them to sneer and then see if the seeds of those sneers are in our hearts so that we can root them out.

Four points of connection this morning:

You are sneering at Jesus, (#1.)  WHEN YOU LOVE YOUR MONEY.

This is why they sneered.  Luke says, “The Pharisees, who loved money...were sneering at Jesus.”

They loved their money.

They loved their cash.

They loved what money could do for them.  Status, power, buying power, possessions, everything that goes with money.

You don’t have to have money to love money.

Some poor people are just as guilty of loving money as rich people can be.

All you have to do to get into this trap is to have a heart that is inclined towards money.

And when you do, you’re prone to sneer at Jesus.

Because you cannot serve both God and money.  Can’t do it.

The New Living Translation renders verse 14, “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, naturally scoffed at all this.”

The only antidote to a sinful love of money is a growing love for God.

And the only way to know if you’re growing in love for God instead of money is to “follow the money.”  To watch where the money goes in your life.

Is there generosity in your life towards what God is passionate about–which we’ve learned is the Lost?

Or is all of the money flowing towards you?

You can tell a lot about someone’s heart by looking at their checkbook register.

What does yours say about you?

One of the things I love about this church is that we don’t make money the focus of the church, but we do give people plenty of opportunities to learn the joy of giving. 

We don’t apologize for having “opportunities for giving” like on pages 7 and 8 in your bulletins.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Because it shows whom the giver really loves.

Now, the Pharisees weren’t “up front” about their love of money.  No, they put up a good front and appeared to be generous.  But that’s what was going on in their hearts.  And God knew it. And Jesus knew it.  V.15

“He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.”

You’re sneering at Jesus (#2.) WHEN YOU PUT ON A SHOW.

When you put on a big religious show you’re sneering at Jesus.

The Pharisees were masters of this. 

They loved to (v.15), “justify themselves in the eyes of men...”

They made a big deal out of how much they gave.  “Blow the trumpet, it’s the offering time!”

They went through their gardens and tithed all of their spices!

And I’m sure they made a big deal of telling everyone all about it.

“10% and proud of it, Baby!”
“Keeping the Law!”

Wait until we get to Luke 18 where Jesus tells the story about a Pharisee who went to the temple and prayed this about himself out loud(!), “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'”

I’m sure that that impressed some people. But not Jesus. And not God.  V.15

“But God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men (money, pride, impressiveness, religious display) is detestable in God’s sight.”  It stinks.

God is not impressed by our religious shows.

God is not fooled by the outward exhibitions that we put on.

God sneers at hypocrisy.

And you and I are not immune from the temptation to hypocrisy.

It’s easy to put on a show.

It’s easy to get dressed up and pretend that everything in our life is right where it belongs.

But the reality is that we are messed up people.  We are broken. We are faulty.  We are hurting.  We are sinners. We are sufferers.  We are needy.

The answer to hypocrisy is authenticity.

God wants us to be real with Him.

Verse 15 says that He already knows our hearts.  Why would we want to go around pretending?

Be real with God.

And, be real with other Christians that you can trust.

I want Lanse Free Church to be full of Real Christians.  Remember that sermon series from a few years ago?  Real Christians.  Not fakes. Not play-acting.  Not going through the motions.  Not getting cleaned up on the outside and impressing other people with our “Christianity.”

But being real with God and being real with other Christ followers.

Because what is highly valued among men is highly detestable in God’s sight.

And that’s the sight that really counts!

Are you being real with God?

Now, I don’t think that Jesus’ audience changes at all in verse 16.

I think that Jesus is still talking to the sneering Pharisees.

And He’s giving them a tongue-lashing for ignoring God’s Word.  V.16

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.  It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.”

I think that Jesus is saying that the Pharisees have been sneering at Him by ignoring God’s Word.

#3. WHEN YOU IGNORE GOD’S WORD.

The Pharisees claimed to love God’s law, to love God’s word. But did they?

Jesus says in verse 16, that “The Law and the Prophets [what’s that?  That’s the Old Testament, right?] were proclaimed until John [the Baptist].  Since that time [when John started preaching–and He pointed to Jesus] the good news [the gospel!] of the Kingdom is being proclaimed, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

The Old Testament Law and Prophets were full of promises, not just commands.

And now is the time of fulfillment!

We’ve been reading the Gospel of John to the kids at bedtime this month, and in chapter 1, John the Baptist points his bony finger at Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the promised Rescuing King is finally here!

And the Pharisees are missing it.

Now, that last phrase, “and everyone is forcing his way into it” is one of the hardest phrases to translate and to interpret in the Gospel of Luke.

It could mean about 4 different things depending on how you translate it and how you understand its place in the context.

It could mean that the kingdom of God is being attacked violently.  Like the Pharisees are attacking it.  That would fit with a similar passage in Matthew chapter 11.

But the verse says, “And everyone is forcing,” not “but.”  So it’s unlikely.

It could mean that the people are trying to force the kingdom of God in the wrong way.  Like when they tried to make Jesus the King by force.  But that doesn’t fit the context very well, either.

It could mean (translating it a little differently, in the passive voice in Greek), that “all are urged insistently to come into the Kingdom.” That’s how the footnote in the English Standard Version would understand it.  And that fits the context really well.  It’s very possible.

But I think the mostly likely interpretation is that many people (the “everyone” of verse 16) are eager to get into the Kingdom now that they have heard the good news about Jesus.

But the Pharisees are missing out.  They have ignored the promises of the Old Testament, and they are missing the fulfillment of the New.

The New Living Translation says it this way, “Until John the Baptist began to preach, the laws of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and eager multitudes are forcing their way in.”

And you’re missing it!  You dummies!  (I added that part.)

You’re sneering at the fulfillment of the whole Old Testament!

Anyway you understand the last phrase of verse 16, the Pharisees were missing out because they were sneeringly ignoring the message of God’s Word.

These guys who supposedly loved the Law of God really didn’t love it at all!

It was just a show.  If they did love the Law, then they would love the Savior whom God had promised to send in the Law.  But they were sneering at Him.

When You Ignore God’s Word you sneer at Jesus.

Do we sometimes ignore God’s word today?

Well, certainly the world does.  That’s obvious.

But what about you and me?

Are we prone to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we like and what parts of the Bible we don’t like so much?

I remember inviting a woman to church once, and her response to me was, “I prefer to worship God in my own way.”

And I thought, “Well, what if God prefers that we worship Him in HIS way?”

We don’t get to choose what God has said and what He hasn’t.

We don’t get to just use the promises and not obey the commands.

The Pharisees, strangely enough, only wanted the commands (because they thought they could earn God’s favor by keeping them in their flesh).  But they ignored His promises–especially those promises that clearly pointed to Jesus.

But God’s word cannot be safely ignored.

It stands forever.  V.17 again.

“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.”

Do you know what Jesus means by “the least stroke of a pen?”

The King James calls it “a tittle.”  The Greek word is “keraian.”  Not crayon!

Do you see any difference between these two Hebrew letters?

One is the later “Dalit” and the other is “Res.”

The difference is this keraian, this little tittle.

Jesus says that the whole Old Testament is fulfilled down to the least stroke of a pen now in Him!

And the Pharisees are missing it.

It’s more likely that the Sun won’t shine tomorrow than that the Word of God will fail.

Why would we ignore it?

But so many do.

Jesus gives just one test case.  Divorce.  I don’t think that verse 18 comes out of nowhere.  It’s an example of what He’s just been talking about.

About the unchanging standard of God’s word.  V.18

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

You are sneering at Jesus (#4) WHEN YOU BREAK YOUR PROMISES.

Jesus is bringing in the new era of the Kingdom of God.

But in some ways, nothing has changed.

The kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, which means (among other things) keeping your sacred promises.  Keeping covenant.

Verse 18 isn’t everything the Bible says about divorce.  There are exceptions to this rule (Jesus gives them the other gospels) in cases of marital unfaithfulness (and Paul adds) abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

Not everyone who is divorced has failed to honor their commitments.  We know that.

But Jesus has in mind those who divorce one person to marry another.

And He says that that’s no better than adultery.  And if you’re a marrying into a situation like that, you’re committing adultery, too.

Marriage is all about keeping your promises.

And that’s not something to sneer at.

The greatest threat to the family in America is not homosexuality.

It’s not even homosexual “marriage,” whatever that is.

It’s divorce.  Especially among Christians. 

It’s not keeping the covenant you made before God.

A threeway covenant.  Husband, wife, and Lord.

At Heather and my wedding, my Dad got up to the mic and shared one piece of counsel.

He said that the secret to a good marriage is very simple: Marry the right person and keep your promises.

And after you’re married, it gets even more simple.

Keep your promises.

Because God always keeps His.

Down to the least stroke of a pen.


And that’s nothing to sneer at.



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?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom

Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money

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