Sunday, May 8, 2022
The Lord of Grace
Happy Mothers Day, moms.
Later this week, I am going to see my Mom.
I have told her many times I am grateful to her for giving me life.
She gave physical birth to me.
Then when I was 19, she told me about Jesus and I was saved.
So I like to joke with her that she gave birth to me twice.
I owe her a great deal.
Now to our sermon topic.
If you like variety, then our passage this morning from the Gospel of Luke is just for you.
There are at least 7 or 8 themes in this passage.
I recommend opening your Bibles to Luke 16. [PAGE 875]
We will read half of 16 and half of 17.
This section seems to be a collection of Jesus’ teachings on multiple topics.
And it’s a long passage.
So since it’s so long, I recommend you buckle your seatbelts, and put your seats and trays in the upright position, for we’re going to take off and fly.
And if I use up all the oxygen in the room, oxygen masks will come down.
Put your own on first before assisting others.
I’m kidding. We won’t hurry. We will read every verse, but we will spend most of our time on two of the sections.
Jesus has some deep and rich things to say to us.
We’ll read a couple of verses from the end of last week’s sermon to provide some of the context for today’s passage.
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.
17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
Last week Matt looked at the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, and it ended here in vs. 14-15 with Luke’s commentary on the Pharisees.
In case you don’t know, the Pharisees were a powerful group of Jewish religious leaders.
And most of them hated Jesus, what he did and what he taught.
Jesus now speaks to them, not only for their attitude about money, but about several topics.
Two themes are guiding some of the following passages:
- Their love for money which meant they had no love for God.
- In vs. 16, we find a hint that they were largely ignoring the Law and the Prophets, the very Scriptures that they claimed to follow.
Their hearts were hard, and they were rejecting the Messiah promised by God in the Scriptures over the previous 2000 years.
Now in vs. 18, one of those topics they were ignoring was about marriage.
In their day— not unlike in our day—they minimized the sacredness of marriage.
They were inattentive to God’s Word about adultery, divorce, and remarriage.
What is intriguing is that Jesus says only one sentence on this vast, complex, and emotional topic and then moves on.
The topic deserves an entire sermon series on it, so it’s hard to know what to say about it this morning.
But let me say this: Our world’s view of marriage is increasingly in conflict with God’s view.
We would do well to examine the Scriptures in all its fullness on this topic.
Without apology, I am going to move on.
Luke 16:19-31 Rich Man and Lazarus
Now Jesus transitions into a parable.
It ties back in to verse 14, that the Jewish leaders were lovers of money. They put their desire for money ahead of their desire for God.
Here Jesus talks about money, but he has a larger point.
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,
23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—
28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
In our natural thinking, this outcome may surprise us. We might think, “Rich people have all the advantages, and poor people all the disadvantages.”
But the story doesn’t end that way.
In fact, the ending is reversed. Upon death, the rich man ends up in eternal suffering while the poor man ends up in heavenly glory.
I don’t know if any of us are as wealthy as this rich man, or as destitute as this poor man, so it may be difficult to imagine.
But even in our average American lifestyles, imagine that out on the street outside your house (or outside your apartment building) is an impoverished, sick, broken man. He is so poor and in such bad health that dogs lick his wounds.
You see it every day, but you do nothing to help this man. Nothing. Your heart is cold. Calloused.
This describes this rich man.
We may wonder, “What is wrong with him?”
The answer is tragic, but it is rather simple. Look back to vs. 13-14, which gives us the context for this parable:
Luke 16:13–14 ESV
No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
This parable is addressed to the Pharisees.
They loved money, not God. In fact, because of that, Jesus says they actually despise God.
Their hearts are cold towards God and all that concerns him.
And they ridiculed Jesus.
As wealthy, money-loving, God-despising, highly religious men, the Pharisees thought they were God’s gift to this world.
They were self-righteous and proud (vs. 15) and thought that God OWED them heaven.
But they were self-deceived and their hearts were cold and calloused to God.
So Jesus offers this parable to rebuke them.
So Jesus’ point in the parable is ultimately not about their wealth or poverty.
So what is Jesus’ point in this parable?
Before we get to that, I would like to lay out some rules of interpreting parables:
First, as with most parables, we not read more into the story than was intended, for there is typically one main point, and many of the details of the story should not be micro-analyzed.
Simply stated, the point of the parable is, well, the point.
Second, the point of the parable is often clearly stated at the end. This is the case in this parable.
Third, the context of the parable is typically important, i.e., what conversations preceded Jesus’ teaching?
So in this case, the Pharisees’ love of money is important and their sneering attitude towards Jesus sets the stage for the parable.
Fourth, we must be slow to develop doctrinal statements on any one passage, and especially parables.
As I just mentioned, parables tend to have one main point, and many of the story’s details are not to be micro-analyzed.
For example, if we micro-analyze this parable, we could assume that all rich people go to hell and poor people go to heaven.
But when we look at the breadth of Scriptures, we find clearly that salvation is by the grace of God through faith in him.
Jesus is in no way changing the manner of salvation that has been present in the Scriptures since Genesis.
That’s not Jesus’ point.
Now with all such things in mind, what is the message of this parable?
The message is revealed at the end (vs. 29,31):
The message is this:
We will reap what we have sown.
So by this parable, these highly religious, money-loving, God-despising, self-justifying, hard-hearted people are warned that their eternal future is in jeopardy.
They are reaping what they are sowing, unless they repent.
They are ignoring the clear instruction of the Scriptures to love God above all other things.
Their hearts are so calloused and cold like the rich man in the parable that even if someone rose from the dead, they would not believe the truth. Even a miracle from heaven would not persuade them.
And we know that a few months later in Luke 24 that even after Jesus rose from the dead, they did not believe.
Here’s an important point:
Unbelief is not from a lack of evidence. It is due to a hard heart.
So this parable is a rebuke to these religious men.
But it’s also mercifully an opportunity for them to repent of their faithless, love-less ways and to turn back to God.
So what can we take from this story? How can we apply it?
Pay attention to and have soft hearts towards God’s truth.
When you hear something, respond quickly in obedience.
James 1:22 NIV Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
The more we respond, the softer our heart gets.
But if we continually ignore and dismiss what we hear from God, eventually our hearts get hard and deceived, and no matter what truth or proof God may show us, we won’t believe.
Even if someone has risen from the dead.
And by the way, someone HAS risen from the dead. His name is Jesus.
So practically, what are ways we can pay more careful attention? FOUR things.
- Read God’s Word with the heart to obey.
We don’t read for entertainment or knowledge sake. Every time you read or are going to a Bible study or hear a sermon, pray, “Lord, give me a receptive, teachable heart to your words.”
- Regularly confess sin and defiant hearts to God and others.
Don’t be ashamed to come to him. He is the God of grace who sent his Son for this very purpose.
This kind of humility and honesty before God and others keeps our hearts soft towards the Lord, and keep us walking in his grace.
- Find ways to meet the needs of the marginalized in our community.
Scriptures are clear: Good works like this do not save us.
But they are a way we express our love for God.
And giving has a way of loosening our tight grip on money.
Jesus said in vs. 13, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
If you don’t know where to begin, Stonebrook has some ministries we support. Join in with those.
- Wisely and lovingly steward what God has given us personally.
Pray, “Lord, how do you want me to use what you have entrusted to me? How should I use YOUR money? How should I use the time and energy you have given to me?”
Even if you feel like your resources are very limited, God calls us to be stewards with whatever he has given us.
Earlier in Luke Jesus said this:
Luke 8:18 ESV “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
He says, “Listen well. Obey what you hear, for I want to give you even more blessings.”
The Pharisees had all the truth in front of them, but their hearts were hard and they rejected it.
So eventually they lost even what they did have.
Luke 17:1-10 Sin, Faith, and Duty
Now Jesus switches audiences.
Whether the Pharisees were gone now, we don’t know. But his message here is to his followers.
1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Now the audience switches again. Just the 12 apostles are engaged with Jesus here.
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?
8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?
9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
We won’t spend much time on these 10 verses, except let me say this:
- In vs. 1-4 we see that sin is a very serious matter and ought not to be taken lightly.
We ought not to be frivolous with sin.
Nor should we be careless about unforgiveness towards those who have sinned against us.
- In vs. 5-6, even a small amount of faith is all that’s needed.
Faith is not some obscure, mysterious entity.
Faith simply means trust.
The emphasis ought not to be in our great our faith is, but in how great our God is. Our trust is not in our trust. Our trust is in him. HE is the object of our trust.
Simple trust in a great God is a great thing.
- In vs. 7-10, the word “duty” can get a bad reputation in the Christian life. But doing our duty for God with humble and obedient hearts is a beautiful thing.
Jesus is calling us to be humble and obedient before the Lord, and not walk with an entitled or demanding spirit.
We humbly and gratefully serve our great God without demands….even though we know he is incredibly gracious and generous.
Luke 17:11-19 Cleansing the Ten Lepers
For sake of time, let’s move on to this last section.
Now we finish with a remarkable story.
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance
13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.
15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;
16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
This begins his final steps to Jerusalem, perhaps just weeks or a few months before his Triumphal Entry into the city on what we now call Palm Sunday.
In spite of the coming agony that Jesus knows he will endure, he is serving and teaching to the end.
This remarkable story doesn’t need a lot of explanation.
All ten lepers appear to have some level of faith in Jesus, for they asked to be healed by him, and then they did as they were told, heading off to speak with the priest.
But only one of them seems to have a genuine faith.
For he was the only one who returns to worship Jesus.
And what is more surprising is that he is a Samaritan.
Samaritans were half pagans, half Jews, and they were generally despised by the Jews, including the Pharisees.
So for the Jews to see with their own eyes that only one out of ten came back to praise God, and that he was a Samaritan was shocking.
It’s a theme we see throughout the Gospel of Luke. Someone called it the Great Reversal.
Those we think should believe in Jesus and be saved don’t.
Those we think shouldn’t or wouldn’t believe and be saved do.
I like what one author said, “Grace works in surprising places.” (Darrell Bock) [REPEAT]
When we hear this story, we might have several reactions.
- Surely all 10 lepers were taught by their mothers to be grateful and say thank you, right?
Story: Recently I was in a store, and I heard a mom telling her young son to the clerk, “Say thank you.” Isn’t that what moms do?
As we read this story in Luke, some of you moms might be thinking, “If one of those nine was my own son or daughter, I would let them know how rude that was, and that I taught them better than that.”
That’s Possible Reaction #1.
- We might also wonder, why would the nine lepers NOT return?
These lepers were outcasts of society, but now that Jesus had cleansed them, they could be fully integrated back into community.
This was the best day of their lives.
Why wouldn’t they all run back and thank him??
Isn’t worship the obvious response for such a glorious miracle?
What is wrong with the nine not to come back? Did they love their healing but not the Healer?
Are they so completely self-absorbed and faithless that they won’t worship God for this astonishing miracle?
Sadly, the nine lepers are representative of the Jewish people as a whole. And probably representative of modern people today, including us.
The nation saw that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s prophecies to bring his Messiah to rescue his people from their sins.
They saw the evidence of his miracles.
But the majority did not respond, even those who were direct recipients of the miracles.
So as it turns out, by his own actions, the Samaritan leper provides a rebuke to all Jews who were following Jesus.
They should to respond to Jesus in faith and worship.
It’s the Great Reversal.
So what can we apply here?
As disciples of Jesus, let us: Be like the one, not the nine, by giving thanks to God constantly for his many gracious gifts.
Let us not forget him.
Let us thank him constantly. In the good times… and… in the bad times.
We might think, “Well, yeah, it’s easy to give thanks in the good times.”
Not necessarily so. The nine lepers were in the best of times, and did they give praise and thanks to the God who healed them?
Even in the hard times, God calls us—his disciples— to give him thanks.
Instead of complaining, let us give thanks.
Instead of ignoring God’s goodness, let us remember him.
Instead of forgetting how God has graciously answered our many prayers, let us call them to mind.
Psalm 105 expresses it well.
Psalm 105:1–2,5 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
Partly based on this passage, what are some practical ways we can remember God and give thanks to him more consistently? What are ways we can be more grateful people?
Here are a few ways.
- Sing to him, even when you don’t feel like it
Psalm 105:2 (we just read)— “Sing to him, sing praises to him.”
It’s founded upon a command, not a feeling.
- Tell others what he has done for you
Again in Psalm 105, “Tell of all his wondrous works.”
Tell your fellow Christians.
Tell your non-Christian friends.
- Keep a thankfulness journal
Psalm 105:5 that we just read: “Remember the wondrous works he has done…”
We probably not as good at remembering God’s goodness to us as we think.
- Journal your prayers and God’s answers
Psalm 65:5 NIV “You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas…”
God answers our prayers all the time.
- Break bread.
We will do this in a few minutes. Jesus commanded us to do this for a key purpose: “To remember him.”
Let us find habits, practices, and tools to stir up our hearts to remembrance and thanksgiving.
So let us ask ourselves, “Am I habitually returning to Jesus to give thanks like the Samaritan, or am I like the nine, simply and happily going my own way?”
Let’s bring this to a close.
Jesus is so remarkable. Remarkable in so many ways.
Surely his grace and kindness stand out.
If we read the Gospels too casually, we might think Jesus is harsh….constantly rebuking people.
And he definitely is strong and direct.
But when we realize how stubborn some of these people were, we might change our minds about any harshness.
And… when we realize that even in the rebuke, Jesus is offering them life if they will simply change their hearts, then we will be amazed by his grace.
This gives everyone of us hope.
Not one of us is beyond hope.
Whether we are severely disadvantaged like the poor, sick man in the parable…
Whether we are a diseased leper and an outcast from society, OR….
Whether we are a wealthy man who has opportunities to love God right in front of us….
Jesus calls us to his grace.
He calls us to love him. To humble ourselves before him. To have soft hearts towards him.
And he will pour out his grace on us.