Thursday, March 16, 2017

Luke 4: On His Own Terms

When it comes to your relationship with God, just who is in charge?  Are you okay if God doesn't do what you want Him to?  Are you still willing to do what He wants you to?

Throughout His ministry, the Son of God consistently defied the expectations of others and instead acted on His own terms.  We see this already at numerous points in Luke 4:

The Temptations
Would it really have been so wrong for Jesus to simply yield to the "temptations" offered by Satan?  Wasn't the devil merely posing suggestions?

I mean, if I was hungry and I had the power to transform rocks into bread...why not?  Not technically a sin, is it?  After all, later on in His ministry Jesus would change water into wine and miraculously multiply loaves of bread - twice!  But whether it was because this temptation came as advice from Satan or because Jesus rejected the idea of altering nature for His own personal benefit, Jesus said, "No, that's not my way."

And imagine all the good that Jesus could do if He were given all the glory and authority in the world!  Couldn't we convince ourselves that the ends (the world under the lordship of Christ) justify the means (a simple bit of worship for ol' Lucifer)?  Jesus, however, was having none of it.  He stuck to the narrow viewpoint that worship is for God alone.

Well, then how about doing a showy miracle at the Temple to "wow" the crowds and ingratiate Himself to them?  Satan even has scripture to back up this idea of putting on a little demonstration of spiritual power!  But, again, Jesus has something different in mind, and He is not veering from His course.

The Proclamation
After His sojourn in the wilderness, Jesus is ready to get to work.  He goes to the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and reads a prophecy of Isaiah that sounds awfully messianic - then proclaims that this scripture is fulfilled in the hearing of the congregation!

At first, "all spoke well of Him and were amazed at his gracious words"...but 5 verses later they are "filled with rage" and about to drive Him off a cliff!  What changed?  What did He say?  To me, it appears that Jesus offended the crowd by challenging their identity as "God's chosen people" and specifically referencing moments from the Old Testament when God's grace was shed not on the Jews but on non-Jews!

This nod to the Gentiles being included in God's plan was enough to turn the congregation away from Him right quick.  Did Jesus really have to "go there" on the first day of His public ministry?  He apparently felt that He did.

The Healings
Certainly Jesus could not be controversial when it comes to healings, right?  Who could argue with that?  Yet consider what He does.  He is driving out demons who are giving testimony to His power and identity: "I know who you are, the Holy One of God!" and "You are the Son of God!"  But Jesus would not let them speak.  Why?  "Because they knew that he was the Messiah."

I'm sorry, but don't we all take favorable testimonies wherever we can get them?  I know I do!  Why not use the demons' acknowledgements to His own benefit?  Again, however, Jesus frustratingly doesn't think like I do.  He would rather not have the words of an evil spirit entered in the public record on His behalf.  He is not ready for the world to know Who He is, and certainly not from the mouth of a demon

Well, at least Jesus is healing and the crowds are happy about that and everything is fine, right?  Wrong again.  After attracting large crowds who didn't want Him to leave them, Jesus heads out of town - not to do more healings, but to instead proclaim His message of the Kingdom.  In fact, Jesus identifies that as His primary mission, instead of doctoring people's physical and mental illnesses!

At this point in the Gospel story, one thing is already very clear: Jesus' ministry will be on His own terms!

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