Time for the 9/3 Sunday Summaries

Well, we had an unusual week this week. In our Thru the NT series I am handing out study guides on Sunday for the next week’s chronological Bible reading. The messages I preach on those passages will come on the following Wednesday and Sunday. So my study guides are a week ahead of my preaching.

I decided this week to go ahead and write my messages early in the week, then do the study guide for the following week. It was quite an interesting process since I wasn’t writing the sermons with a deadline looming. I think I took a little longer than I expected to write the messages, but I managed to finish them all by Thursday. Then it was Thursday evening and all day Friday to study and prepare the Study Guides. Amazingly, I was all done by 4:30 pm on Friday. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I think this is the first time in 21 years of ministry that I have had both Friday and Saturday evenings really free. I played a game with my wife and two kids Saturday night, but I was so discombobulated from my new luxury of being able to play a game on Saturday night that I lost. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

Well, to the messages. We are just beginning the Lord’s ministry, so message #1 was Elijah that Should Come, the ministry of John the Baptist, from the synoptic texts: Mk 1.1-11, Mt 3.1-17, Lk 3.1-22. The proposition of the message was this: The answer to the despair of the world is found in the singular focus of John the Baptist’s ministry: preparation for the coming of God’s beloved Son. The world in which John the Baptist began to minister was a corrupt cynical oppressive world, especially for the Jews who would not go along with the Roman policy of tolerance to other religions. John began his preaching in AD 27, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Lk 3.1). (Tiberius began to reign in AD 14, but he was co-regent with Augustus – his step father and father-in-law – from AD 12, hence the date.)

John’s preaching had two themes: Repent – someone’s coming. His preaching caused a sensation, and drew large crowds of the serious, the curious, the official, and the cynical. But they came. And many of them turned to God, including Roman soldiers. But John’s aim was to turn men to the one who was coming, the one whom he knew the moment he approached, and then had confirmed by the sign of the dove and the voice of God from heaven.

John lived in a despairing world (not unlike our own) and pointed men to the only answer to despair: Jesus Christ.

Message #2 was Tempted Like as We Are, on the temptation of the Lord, Mk 1.12-13, Mt 4.1-11, Lk 4.1-13. The central idea of the message was this: The keys to victory in temptation is walking in the Spirit and employment of the Word. We find this approach modelled by our Lord. He experienced the empowering of the Spirit and approval of God at the Baptism, then ‘immediately’ the Spirit ‘drave’ him into the wilderness(Mk 1.1). Luke tells us he was ‘full of the Holy Ghost’ [an interesting phrase only used by Luke on six occasions] and both Matthew and Luke say he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The whole episode was purposeful and preparatory for the ministry to come. I observed that this was probably the last time on earth that the Lord experienced any meaningful solitude. After this, he would always be surrounded by people. In the temptation, the Spirit filled and prepared Lord withstood the temptations by the Word of God, blazing the trail for us to follow. Temptation can be overcome, we need to be spirit filled and employ the Word in our defense.

The afternoon message covered the rejection at Nazareth, the calling of the fishermen to full time training, the casting out of a demon on the Sabbath, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law that afternoon, the healing of many who came after the Sabbath ended that evening [how late did he stay up?], then finally the Lord stealing away ‘a great while before day’ (Mk 1.35) for prayer. On Peter’s discovery of him, he simply says, I must go from here to preach elsewhere. The message was entitled Ministering In His Own City from Mk 1.14-39, Mt 4.12-25, 8.14-17, Lk 4.14-44. The proposition was: The first lesson of discipleship is that the beginning of discipleship lies in genuine faith in Christ.

Through all these experiences we see contrasted sincerity and insincerity. The insincerity comes from those who are following Christ for what they can get out of him or for simply the sensation of seeing miracles. The sincerity comes from the disciples. They have known Christ now for about 6 months (see John 1.19-4.54). They are with him off and on in this period, but they believe in him. They see him rejected in Nazareth, see him heal the nobleman’s son [from Capernaum] in Cana, and then shortly thereafter is the marvelous catch of fish in Lk 5. Simon realizes he is in the presence of something much mightier than himself and begs the Lord, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” The Lord tells him not to fear. The next day (as I see it) he comes and makes the call recorded in Matthew and Mark to leave their nets and follow him. Of course, they do. They are the sincere followers, but they still don’t understand his mission.

As the many in Capernaum throng the house that Sabbath night, the disciples are impressed. They are still expecting the Messiah to take charge and to create a new order, with Israel in charge of the world. When the crowd is up early, the next morning, they think this is a good thing. Let’s get busy and ‘catch the wave’, keep the momentum going. The Lord says, in effect, ‘No, I am not interested in the crowd. I came to say something to Israel, and I’m going to say it.’ So this is the first lesson of discipleship: The first lesson of discipleship is that the beginning of discipleship lies in genuine faith in Christ. In other words, don’t be impressed with a lot of superficial commitments. Look for those who are genuine, who are sincere.

All in all, another great day in the Lord’s house. We have a big week ahead of us. Next Sunday will see us whip through the Sermon on the Mount in two messages! Can it be done??? We’ll see.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3