A Taste of the Kingdom
Luke 13:10 – 21
A Taste of the Kingdom
The benefits of having a big brother ...
Once upon a time there were 3 goats, called the 3 Billy Goats Gruff.
There was a little Billy Goat Gruff,
A Medium Billy Goat Gruff,
And a Big Billy Goat Gruff.
One day, the youngest brother needs to cross over a bridge, but he is stopped by a troll.
The troll won’t let him pass.
No matter what he does, the littlest Billy Goat Gruff cannot pass the troll and cross over the bridge.
So he turns around, and goes to get his big brother, Medium Billy Goat Gruff.
Still the troll won’t let them cross,
And so, together, they turn around, get their bigger brother.
Big Billy Goat Gruff comes along,
Troll comes out, “You’re not crossing my bridge”,
Big Billy Goat Gruff, drops his head, and with a flick of his horns, tosses the troll off the bridge into the waters below, never to be seen again.
Big Billy Goat Gruff trots on his way, not having even raised a sweat, and his younger brothers follow him across the bridge.
Now, we know the story, don’t we?
Most of us will have heard that growing up,
But what the moral of the story?
What are we supposed to think or imagine after hearing it?
Isn’t it, that we want a big brother?
To make us think that we need a big brother like this.
Now, I know some of you have a big brother, and you’re remembering your childhood and thinking, “big brothers are over-rated!”
But I mean a big brother like this.
A big brother we can follow,
One who comes to our aid,
Achieves what we couldn’t do for ourselves, and then invites us to follow him and enjoy the benefits of his accomplishments.
That may be different to the big brother you grew up with, but here in Luke 13, we find that Jesus, is the kind of big brother that we need.
Jesus heals a woman, giving a taste of the Kingdom of God (v 10 – 13)
Let’s look at the story.
Luke tells us that Jesus encounters a woman, who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.
As we saw last week, we know our world is broken by sin, all of creation suffers because humanity, supposed to rule creation under God, instead we throw off God’s pattern for life,
We decide we want to rule without God,
We put ourselves in charge, and ignore God,
all that which the Bible calls “sin”, and because of that our world is broken and spoilt.
Our experience of human life is not what God intended for us.
So ultimately all illness and disability is because of sin and evil, because of Satan, verse 16, but this case is slightly different; She has been crippled by a spirit.
If you’re sick, and you go to the doctor, and they don’t know what it is, what do they say? “It’s a virus”
It’s the catch-all, isn’t it? Your arm might be hanging by a thread, but if they don’t know what caused it, they’ll just say, “It’s a virus!”
And some people like to apply that same stereotype to the ancient world, and say that in those days if they didn’t understand something, they just blamed an evil spirit.
Which is code for “we’re much smarter than they are”, the very worst kind of cultural arrogance!
But it’s hard to believe that Luke, a doctor, simply Luke didn’t know the cause so he says, “It’s a virus” I mean, “It’s an evil spirit.”
He doesn’t have to tell us the cause does he?
There’s no reason to tell us that this is the work of spiritual forces of evil, unless it really was.
And quite likely there’s some interaction between Jesus and the evil spirit that’s not recorded here.
Or it may be that at some point later on, Jesus told his disciples, “that was an evil spirit that caused that woman’s disability.”
But Luke wants us to see that the forces of evil are utterly powerless against Jesus.
See verse 13, Then he put his hands on her “and a great struggled ensued.
Those watching wondered who would triumph, Jesus, or the evil spirit.”
No! immediately she straightened up and praised God
In 1947 there was a Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Minneapolis. Mike Collins landed the first punch,
His opponent Pat Brownson dropped immediately to the canvas, and the match was over, 4 seconds after it began.
It’s the world record for the shortest boxing match ever!
Jesus’ power over evil is total
You can see the parallel here, can’t you?
And in fact every time Jesus encounters the forces of evil in his ministry,
Every time he casts out an evil spirit, or rebukes a demon, this is how it goes.
There is no contest.
Jesus’ power over the spiritual realm is total. And in fact, in Colossians 2:15, the words printed on your outline, the Apostle Paul observes, having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
If you’re a Christian person you do not need to fear Satan, evil spirits, demons, the spiritual realm.
I know lots of people who do.
Who live in constant fear of “spiritual attack”,
Who worry that unless they bind Satan,
That unless they claim some geographic area, event, workplace, or relationship from the forces of evil, then they’re left vulnerable, and God’s plans and purposes will be thwarted.
But look at how Jesus completely overcomes the forces of evil.
If this is how Jesus, let’s call it “relates” to evil spiritual forces, utterly overpowers them, instantly, what’s left for you to do?
Do you think Jesus left the defeat of evil partly un-done, He wasn’t quite powerful enough in his battles against the spiritual realm and so you need to go in and claim back from Satan and his minions the bits that Jesus couldn’t quite accomplish.
What’s left to do?!
Actually in Ephesians 6, the great chapter about spiritual warfare in the Bible, the word that’s used over and over for what we need to do, is, “to stand.”
Jesus accomplishes the victory.
Jesus is the Big Billy Goat Gruff!
We need have no fear of spiritual forces, evil spirits, Satan, because Jesus has triumphed over them completely.
He is our big brother, and we follow him through his victory over the spiritual forces of evil.
Of course, that confidence is for people who trust in Jesus, who have been brought into the family of Jesus.
If you’re just the littlest Billy Goat Gruff all on your own, there is no confidence.
It’s you against the forces of evil and, well this one spirit crippled a lady for eighteen years!
No wonder that my friends who don’t know Jesus,
Our friends who are superstitious,
Our friends who like to dabble in the occult and the spiritual world, are often terrified and weighed down with anxiety.
But if Jesus is our big brother, we have nothing to fear from the power of evil.
Which, on its own, would be a wonderful lesson to learn from this story.
Jesus deliberately acts to show that the Kingdom of God has come (v 12 – 13)
But Luke has also told us, it’s a Sabbath, and that Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues
This is the final time that Luke tells us that Jesus was in a synagogue. Opposition to Jesus from religious leaders is growing and growing.
We don’t see Jesus here again.
And you might know, that the Sabbath, the day of rest on the 7th day of the week, had been a point of contention between Jesus and the religious authorities.
And so notice, verse 12, this lady doesn’t come to Jesus and ask for help,
Jesus doesn’t heal her because of her faith.
He seeks her out, to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God has come, that there’s a new way of relating to God.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
The issue is not how much faith she has, or even whether she believes anything about Jesus.
The point is to show Jesus’ power,
And because we know her condition was caused by Satan, verse 16, we see not just Jesus’ power over illness, disability, but over the spiritual powers of evil.
Jesus creates this opportunity, to show people who he is;
That he’s worth trusting,
That he’s powerful,
That the kind of enemies we are powerless against, are nothing to him,
That is, he wants us to understand that the Kingdom of God has come.
With his arrival, the new rule of God over his creation, and the new way of relating to God in Jesus, it’s come.
Of course, it’s just a taste, isn’t it? A sample.
This woman eventually gets old and frail, and dies.
This healing not a permanent restoration to God’s intention for human life;, eternity in relationship with him.
But it is a lived out picture of that,
A reminder of what life with Jesus forever will be like,
God’s kingdom has come with the arrival of Jesus,
This new relationship between God and his people in Christ has begun, now we wait for it to be completed.
Jesus acts to prove, that the Kingdom of God has come.
The blessings of the kingdom of God don’t come through religious rule-keeping (14 – 17)
But people who are “religious”, often don’t approve of how the Kingdom of God functions.
The decision of GoFundMe to ban Israel Falau’s campaign, raising funds for his legal battle has filled mainstream and social media this week. The concept of being “religious” has hardly ever been more in the headlines.
And although the word “religion” is used in the Bible in a positive way, if our religion is about following rules, or relying on my own efforts in order to make God pleased with me, then we’ve got a problem, as this little interaction makes clear.
Theologian Karl Barth’s 13 volume work on Christian theologian includes a chapter titled, “The revelation of God as the abolition of religion.” He defines religion as humanity’s quest for knowledge about God, and our attempts to justify ourselves before God,
Getting the blessings of God’s Kingdom by having ticked all the right boxes.
Often, though, we think there’s some security in that, don’t we? Being able to say, “God should be pleased with me because of, dot, dot, dot.”
But that’s not how it works.
Remember what we just saw of Jesus?
He takes the initiative,
We don’t benefit from relationship with him because of what we offer,
Salvation, and rescue, and wholeness don’t come to us because we’ve done all the right things!
That’s just been decisively established!
The initiative for salvation and blessing is always with Jesus,
And it’s always undeserved,
There’s never a list of things we can point to and say, “Look, I kept all the rules, therefore God’s pleased with me.”
There’s no room to ever say, “look at all the different ways I’ve earned God’s favour.”
But someone who’s into religious box ticking, and list making, will always be offended and angered, when salvation and blessing are poured out undeserved, on people who haven’t done all the “right” things.
Look at the synagogue leader.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
Having witnessed such an amazing display of power, it’s no surprise that he’s too chicken to confront Jesus directly, he just turns to the crowd, doesn’t he, and, has a go!
What an appalling response!
As Jesus said, this woman, a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s precious and chosen people whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, has been healed.
In fact, grammatically, Jesus says “she must be healed”, it’s imperative that this happens,
People must see that Satan’s rule is not total,
People must understand that the arrival of the Kingdom of God is really, really great news!
People must be shown what God’s intention for human life is, what life in God’s kingdom forever will be like,
People must know that Jesus is God’s king.
Jesus is determined people know, what the relationship with God that he offers looks like.
And how seriously this senior pastor has missed the boat!
God has turned up!
The Kingdom of God is being revealed!
People are being given a taste of what life forever with God will be like,
And the response of the person who wants to depend on rules and accomplishments to try and win favour with God, is “Sorry, no, come back tomorrow!”
If your confidence before God, is in the rules you keep,
The way your behaviour is better than someone else’s,
All the good things you’ve done,
The money you’ve given,
And the number of times you’ve served on the roster,
Then you’ll miss out on the Kingdom of God, because that’s not how you get in!
And Jesus deliberately sets up this challenge to religious rule-keeping, and self-confidence because of box-ticking, because he wants to make the point;
The Kingdom of God has arrived,
The benefits of the Kingdom come as a free gift, undeserved, to any who will receive them,
And the Kingdom way of life is utterly incompatible, with the legalistic, self-important, self-righteous approach we often fall into, where we think we can earn our way into relationship with God by doing good things,
Or at least being better than others.
And in Jesus’ day, Sabbath-keeping was the ultimate example of that.
In the 4th Commandment God had said “don’t do any work on the Sabbath.”
It was to remind people of God’s rest, and to point forward to the rest that God’s people would enjoy forever with him in his kingdom.
But around that simple command, the religious leaders had established a massively complex system of what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
So they could point to something, and say, “look, we’ve kept the rule. God will be pleased with us.”
And Jesus confronts that head-on.
He knows it’s the Sabbath. He knows what sort of response the healing will get.
And the woman’s been disabled for 18 years.
One more day wouldn’t make any difference, would it?
He could have given her his business card, “come see me tomorrow, we’ll sort you out!”
No, he called her forward in front of everyone in the synagogue. And did you notice he put his hands on her to heal her. This is not how Jesus normally heals people.
But he doesn’t want there to be any misunderstanding;,
And his power,
And his work, that’s bringing the blessings of the Kingdom of God to this woman.
And understandably, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Of course they’re delighted! God’s pattern and intention for human experience is wonderful! And they’ve just been given a taste of it!
Sin, the throwing off of God’s pattern and intention, us saying, “No, we want to decide what human life and experience should be like”, really is foolish!
Jesus’ pattern and intention for life is always best!
The kind of life that Jesus calls us to is always good for us! And yet we insist, foolish humanity, on saying, “I’m going to decide what’s right and wrong, what life should look like,
God can just stay over there somewhere, and not interfere thanks very much.”
When the crowd in the synagogue get a taste of the Kingdom of God, they are delighted.
And notice that in response to Jesus’ work, this woman praised God, verse 13. There’s no doubt in her mind, that Jesus acts with God’s power, giving her a taste of the life God intended.
Friends, if you’re not yet convinced that God’s intention for your life is better than any pathway that you could carve out for yourself, please see this response to people being given a taste of the rule of God’s king.
See there, “the people went away depressed and angered, because the way of life Jesus calls people to is so oppressive and crushing and it tramples on their humanity.”
No, they are delighted.
The only people who aren’t, are those who think they know better than God.
Maybe you’re a Christian though,
And, because of circumstances,
Or because following Jesus’ pattern for life hasn’t worked out the way you hoped,
With the kind of relationship that you hoped for,
Or the kind of family you wished for,
Or the job prospects and promotion you would have liked,
Maybe you’re tempted to doubt, and wander, and choose some other pattern for life, and not the one Jesus has called you to.
I don’t want to be glib. But please see the delight.
See the wonder of the Kingdom of God being experienced in the lives of God’s people.
See Jesus’ intention and pattern for life;, ultimately, restoration to the image of God, which, of course means, becoming more and more like our older brother Jesus.
the people were delighted
Why don’t we see much overt spiritual opposition today?
Before we come to the 2 very brief parables at the end, perhaps you’ve wondered, why we tend not to see much overt spiritual opposition today?
You read through the New Testament, and it can feel like there’s demons and evil spirits everywhere.
In Luke chapter 4 there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit,
In chapter 6 those troubled by impure spirits were healed,
In chapter 7 Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, And so on!
If it seemed so prevalent then, why don’t we see it much now?
And I think there are a few things to bear in mind.
Firstly, we live in a culture where we deliberately obscure and refuse to consider a spiritual realm. So, maybe our society doesn’t see this sort of thing because we don’t want to see this sort of thing?
We’ve conditioned ourselves to say there is no spiritual realm, because life’s more comfortable and less confronting that way. So why are we surprised if we don’t notice what’s really going on around us.
Which is why you could have heard a pin drop, when I was in a psychology class at university, and the lecturer casually stated that Dissociative Identity Disorder, multiple personalities, is sometimes almost impossible to distinguish from demon possession.
It was the very last thing that 300 university students expected to hear that morning!
Secondly, it may be that the spiritual opposition we see in the gospels and Acts is because the good news of Jesus is pressing forward and crossing new boundaries.
We live in a culture where the gospel of Jesus has already influenced, probably every area of life.
Whole towns and cities aren’t hearing of Jesus for the first time, and being won from under the control of Satan, to being part of the family of their big brother, Jesus.
Sometimes I do hear stories of evil spirits and opposition when the gospel of Jesus is breaking new ground in different parts of the world.
I’ve never seen it, but I hear stories.
But of course, Satan is always going to oppose the gospel, and seek to undermine the Kingdom of God with whatever means he thinks will be most effective.
So why would you use evil spirits in the west, when we have affluence?!
That’s going to be much more effective at distracting people from the blessings of the kingdom of God.
It’s worth remembering though, that despite what can seem to be to us be a great number of dramatic interactions with the spiritual realm in the New Testament, they’re still fairly infrequent.
Jesus’ public ministry lasted 3 years,
The book of Acts extends the story for another 30 years or so, spreading from Palestine, to Rome.
That is, what’s really a handful of incidents like this, come from a period nearly as long as I’ve been alive, across almost the entirety of the known world.
When we realise that, it’s less surprising that I haven’t encountered an evil spirit this week in Mount Barker.
But more than anything else, here’s the thing.
What’s this section about?
The coming of the kingdom of God
Jesus is establishing the rule of God over his creation, in a completely new way.
Jesus is the Christ, God’s king.
He’s described his own ministry earlier in Luke’s gospel as breaking into Satan’s house, tying him up, and taking away his possessions;, people!
His ministry culminates in the cross, where we saw in those words from Colossians, he disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
If that’s the ministry of Jesus,
If that’s what he’s come to do,
If the establishing of the Kingdom of God is about rescuing people from under Satan’s possession, and bringing them into his own family and making them his brothers and sisters,
Then is it any wonder that Jesus encounters evil spirits more than we tend to?
Every evil spirit in Palestine is going to come out of the woodwork,
This is their one chance!
If they don’t stop Jesus now,
If they can’t put him off by showing how powerful they are now, then it’s game over!
It’s no surprise, that as Jesus works to establish the kingdom of God, he encounters more evil spirits, more demons, than we will probably see in our lifetime.
Nevertheless, they are utterly powerless against him.
God’s king, is establishing God’s eternal kingdom.
What is the Kingdom of God like? (v 18 – 21)
And so we come to these two micro-parables about the kingdom of God;
They both teach us, that it starts small,
It has gradual growth,
But the end result will have far-reaching effects.
What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
If I were to begin a sentence by saying, “as fast as a, ”
You would finish it by saying, “as fast as a, speeding bullet” well done!
Or, as fast as a zyrtec, if you’ve been brainwashed by pharmaceutical marketing.
Or think like an Aussie;, “As thick as, ”
“two short planks”
Or “as thick as a brick.”
“As happy as a, Clam” yep.
When the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted to say something was small, they’d describe it as “as small as a mustard seed.”
Of course, no microscopes or particle accelerators, so a mustard seed was just about the smallest thing that you would interact with, and have readily at hand.
And maybe there’s a bit of a surprise for us, it certainly wold have been for them, that that smallest thing they know, is how Jesus pictures the Kingdom of God.
The people here expected the Kingdom of God to kind of explode on the scene.
What Jesus was doing didn’t look like the beginnings of that.
There were moments of power, like this, but the Romans were still in charge,
There had been no great battle,
No coronation of a new king,
And so it didn’t look like God’s kingdom had come.
And even today people wonder this, don’t they?
If the message of Jesus is true, why doesn’t everyone believe?
Why do those who bring the message of the kingdom look so insignificant.
Well just like that tiniest of seeds grows into a huge tree, the Kingdom of God starts small, but will grow very large.
The second parable makes the same basic point, the Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
Can you imagine, sixty pounds of flour, 27 kilos as the footnote tells us, when that’s risen? That’s a serious loaf of bread isn’t it?
We’re going to need a bigger oven!
The point is though, that just as only a couple teaspoons of yeast can raise a whole kilogram of flour, the growth of the kingdom of God is slow, but far reaching.
The Kingdom of God starts small,
It appears insignificant,
If you’re looking for something dramatic and overwhelming, you’ll miss it.
The years it takes for a seed to grow into a tree, is hardly a picture of speed, is it?
A person healed here,
Someone coming to faith there,
A life transformed by the care and concern of a citizen of the Kingdom of God,
The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus, transforming lives, one, two, a few at a time.
Sometimes many at once, but mostly slow going,
Don’t be put off by the fact that that’s what God’s kingdom looks like.
That’s what Jesus expects it to be like.
The reign and rule of King Jesus starts very small, and looks insignificant for a long time, but it will end up, enormous, all-encompassing.
And so while both parables picture the growth of the Kingdom of God, from seemingly insignificant, to enormous, each one also contributes something unique to the picture.
So first one, It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
Do you see the picture of wide-ranging benefit and blessing?
The tree provides safety and shelter.
A tree like this was a popular image in the Old Testament to picture the rule of the king who could come in David’s line.
So in Ezekiel 17, a seedling is planted, and it grows into an enormous tree providing shade and safety, and the nations of the world are pictured as the birds which find shelter in its branches.
You can see how Jesus draws on that image.
The benefits and blessings of the kingdom are offered to all.
This isn’t my peach tree with a net on it to keep the birds out.
The birds are welcome here,
Every nation in the world is invited to this tree, to the Kingdom of God, to receive its blessings, most significantly, the blessing of relationship with God through Jesus, our big brother.
The benefits and blessings of the kingdom are offered to all.
The new bit that the second parable contributes, is the vast transformation that the kingdom brings.
Its effects are far-reaching,
Just as a tiny bit of yeast can affect sixty pounds of flour, the Kingdom of God will transform lives,
And attitudes, in every place that it encounters them.
Nowhere, is beyond the reach of the Kingdom of God.
Are you convinced of that?
If you’re a Christian, which is, probably most of us, I guess,
Is that how you understand God’s Kingdom?
Sometimes looking at God’s work in the world can be disheartening, because it looks more like a mustard seed than a tree,
More like a teaspoon of yeast than the world’s biggest loaf of bread.
But this is how God chooses to work, and to reveal his kingdom,
With small beginnings,
But growth nevertheless, to an enormous size, where the blessings of relationship are offered to all, and where there are no limits, to the Kingdom’s effect.
And we’ve seen this, in our own very small way in the life of our church.
When 15 people started meeting together in 2009 to plan for a new church for Mount Barker, we could almost fit around our dining table,
Who would have imagined that a decade later, a church like this would have grown,
That we’d have seen so many people come to Christ,
That we’d baptise 7 people this month,
That we’d give out hundreds of Bibles at Cornerstone and introduce literally hundreds of students to Jesus,
Who could have imagined that a new church would be started at Victor Harbor,
That we would help countless others start new churches,
That Matt & Kristen Pearce, who were part of that 15 would go to Mauritius, and Georgie Day would go off to Bible college to train for missionary service,
And those were just the first things that came into my head.
And it’s not “how great are we?!”
But this is the work of the kingdom of God,
Don’t ever despair, because it seems unimpressive compared to other things,
Other things;, movements, opinions, causes, start big, powerful, with enormous influence,
But they’ll one day come to nothing.
And if you’ve aligned yourself with the kingdom of God, it can seem at times like you’ve joined the wrong side,
You’re on the losing team,
But you have not, you are not.
The kingdom of God,
The rule of King Jesus,
It starts small,
But it grows and has far-reaching blessings.
And in Luke 13 we see how wonderful the blessings of the kingdom are.