Sunday, September 5, 2021
The Good News of the Kingdom of God
Let’s have a political science lesson today, shall we? The best form of government is what? It’s a monarchy. When a king rules over the land.
Now if you’re really into politics, you might be reacting to that. And I’m provoking you a bit to have some fun.
But here’s my case. A monarchy is the best form of government because it’s the kind of government God himself implements.
He is King, and he is going to establish his kingdom. The kingdom of God.
God’s rule is not a democracy. It’s a monarchy. Now before you send me an email arguing the point about human government, I am fully aware that mankind’s propensity to sin adds a difficult dimension to human monarchy.
My real point is about God, not about us.
We are in a sermon series going through the Gospel of Luke. Luke wrote this 2000 years ago to give one more testimony about the most significant, polarizing, world-changing person ever to live on the planet: Jesus. And it is the Gospel—meaning, the Good News—about him.
So let’s start reading.
Take your Scripture journals out this morning. Turn to page 36. Luke 4:31. Take notes in your journals, if that helps you to learn and remember.
This short passage is comprised of three brief stories. Though they are brief, they tell us of some astonishing events in Palestine in 30 A.D.
31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath,
32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.
33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,
34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.
36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”
37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
What a story!
First, some background. Jesus has only recently begun his official ministry.
Earlier in this chapter as Matt read last week, Jesus was in his hometown of Nazareth, and the citizens did not receive him well at all. In fact, they were so enraged at Jesus that they actually tried to kill him by throwing him over a cliff!
An astonishing moment.
Jesus then left Nazareth and traveled 15 miles to the northeast to a town named Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. Much of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel centers on the region of Galilee.
(On a modern day map, the Sea of Galilee is in northern Israel near Lebanon and Syria.)
Then look at vs. 32. The people were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.
The teachers of those days merely taught based on tradition passed down to them. Someone else’s teachings.
But Jesus spoke differently. He spoke with authority. His words ruled. His words had impact and power. He didn’t need to say, “The Lord says…” He could simply say, “I say…”
Any authority I or any other teacher today ever has is not inherent. It has to be granted to us. All I can ultimately say to you is, “The Lord says…”
Jesus was radically different, and the people knew it. They had never heard nor seen anyone like him.
Then in vs. 33 Jesus encounters a demon-possessed man. Many of us in our western culture may be skeptical of the reality of demons. Of unseen spirit beings. In my opinion, we westerners grossly underestimate or even doubt the realities of the unseen spirit world. But the people in the first century here had no doubt. Everyone knew of demons.
And even today, missionaries in parts of the world are quite aware as well, for they occasionally encounter people like this man.
In vs. 34, this demon in this man flipped out at Jesus’ presence. He cried out in a loud voice and asked what Jesus was going to do with him. He asked if Jesus was going to destroy “them,” presumably destroy both the demon and the man.
And interestingly, the demon KNEW who Jesus was: the Holy One of God. He knew Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah sent from heaven.
Then Jesus did something remarkable:
First he commanded the demon to shut up.
Then Jesus commanded him to leave this man. And the demon obeyed.
What is so remarkable is Jesus’ authority and power. Unlike an exorcism we might think of today, Jesus didn’t need to appeal to some higher authority. He didn’t need a religious ceremony or an incantation. He simply commanded the demon, and the demon HAD to obey. It’s like the demon had no other option but to obey Jesus.
So the people of Israel were not unfamiliar with demons. But they were unfamiliar with someone who spoke and acted like Jesus.
First, in vs. 32 they were astonished by his teaching with authority.
Now here in vs. 36 they were amazed by his power and authority to silence and cast out demons.
Just who is this Jesus? they wondered.
And in vs. 37, understandably the news spread. And it spread without any modern media. Jesus very quickly became famous.
As we read any of the four Gospels, and if WE are reading with sincerity, we will have a similar response as these people did.
We wonder, “Who is Jesus?”
If you have never read these Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, once you begin reading you will find yourself on a brand new journey.
To others of us who have read many, many times about Jesus, do his words and miracles and the stories about him amaze us and provoke worship and trust? Or have the stories in the Gospel become so familiar that we are almost bored?? Do we think, “Sure, that’s cool. But show me something new.”
The things that Jesus did and said are stunning. His miracles are jaw-dropping. His authority is like none other.
There is something remarkable going on here.
Let me say it this way:
If reading about Jesus here does not at some point and in some way PROVOKE us to greater trust and increased worship, then we simply have not yet met Jesus at this level.
We are reading of the most phenomenal events in human history. God has come to earth. History pivots on these days. Whether we are a skeptic about Christianity or whether we have walked with him for 40 years, we ought to marvel more and more at Jesus.
Let’s read the next story, which actually turns into two stories.
38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf.
39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.
40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.
41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
So after Jesus expelled this demon in the Capernaum synagogue, he goes to Simon’s house nearby in Capernaum.
Vs. 38 Simon is Simon Peter, one of the twelve key followers of Jesus. Simon is married, and his mother-in-law is there with a high fever.
Then Luke records that the family “appeals to Jesus on her behalf.” Essentially they PRAY to Jesus. That’s all prayer is, is asking.
Even today in legal settings, that term is used when an attorney appeals to the court, he “prays” to the judge that the judge would grant his client’s request.
So they ask Jesus, who gladly complies. He rebukes the fever. This is a fascinating statement.
Again, as he did with the demon possessed man, Jesus speaks with authority. He doesn’t need to appeal to someone else. He doesn’t need to perform a religious ceremony. He simply commands the fever gone, and it is gone.
Jesus has power over creation! What an astonishing moment!!
By now news was spreading rapidly.
In vs. 40 at sundown the people start pouring in. It’s the Sabbath…so it’s Saturday…and the Sabbath officially ended at sundown. So now according to the Jewish traditions, the people can travel. So they start bringing their sick family members and friends.
If we heard that someone in Des Moines was healing every single person who was sick, wouldn’t every one of us be on our phones and getting in our cars? We would go to be healed or take our family members who are sick. Cancer, diabetes, back pain, arthritis. Anything.
These are phenomenal days. What do we make of all this?
Do we know this Jesus? Do we believe that he answers prayers like Simon’s family asked to heal Mom?
Do we believe that Jesus has power inherent to himself? That he can with authority and power command anything he desires? Fundamentally, do we believe he is good?
Now some of us in our skepticism say, “Well, Jesus isn’t healing in the same way as he was back then? I mean, EVERYONE who came to him was healed.” That is true. I believe these remarkable days were short-lived. God still does miracles today, but it’s not everyone and everywhere.
So what do we do with this? What should our expectations be on seeing astonishing things in our day?
Two purposes to Jesus’ demonstration of power and authority::
- Jesus’ miracles and power demonstrated here was to prove who he was.
That he was the Messiah. That he was the One prophesied about by Isaiah, that Matt read last week earlier in this chapter.
Jesus set out to prove that he was sent by God the Father from heaven.
The greatest proof was his death and resurrection. But the miracles also showed that God had sent him and that God is good.
- Second, Jesus’ miracles and power were to give us all a taste of the world that is to come after we die.
A taste of the kingdom of God.
You see, Jesus healed everyone who came to him. Everyone. But he didn’t heal everyone in the world. Millions of others in other nations remained sick and demon-possessed. And he didn’t stay on earth for very long. Only 3 short years of ministry.
Yet all those things were a taste of the glory of this coming Kingdom of God.
Let’s read the next brief story and talk more about that.
42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,
43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
First, vs. 42 Jesus got away to a desolate place. (The Gospel of Mark tells us he did this to pray to his Father in heaven.)
But the people were desperate, so they found him. And they were willing even to force him to stay in their town, if necessary. But Jesus refused to stay.
In vs. 43, Jesus told them, “I cannot stay here, for my purpose—the very purpose I was sent from heaven to earth—was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God all over the land.”
Verse 43 is a key to this passage and actually a key to the entire gospel of Luke. The key is the phrase, “kingdom of God.” It’s used over 30 times in Luke.
What is the kingdom of God?
I’ve wondered about this for many years. The phrase has sounded somewhat mysterious to me. But I’ve made it more complicated and mysterious than it needs to be. We can think about it in basic terms.
The kingdom of God is, in one way, wherever God reigns. Where he is king. God is King over all things, including physical places, like this earth.
But perhaps a greater emphasis is about him as King reigning in hearts. Reigning in the hearts of men and women, and reigning over all of their lives. Both inward and outward lives. Our thoughts and obedience.
In the Gospels, Jesus gives us a taste of his kingship through all of his goodness, his authority in his teaching, and restorative power in miracles and casting out demons.
We see this constantly as we read through Luke’s Gospel. (So we’ll talk about this topic often on Sunday mornings.)
There is also both a present and a future aspect to God’s kingdom. It has been described as, “Now, but not yet.”
The kingdom has come, but it is also coming soon in all its fullness, power, and eternality.
First, Jesus says in Luke, “The kingdom is near.”
When Jesus cast out that demon in Luke 4….when he healed Simon’s mother-in-law… and when he did later that Sabbath day to scores of people… he gave the people a taste of the goodness and glory of his kingdom.
And now because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who believe in Jesus Christ are by grace granted forgiveness and eternal life, and are now a part of his kingdom.
This is the good news of the kingdom of God.
Yet there is still pain and death and rebellion against God in this world now. There is still sin and destruction and brokenness today.
Even in Jesus’ days, the people whom Jesus healed eventually got sick again. At some point they all died. And they all in their own sin turned against him and crucified him.
So if the kingdom has come now, how do we reconcile this?
We reconcile this by recognizing there is also a final, full, eternal aspect to the kingdom. The “NOT YET” part.
There is more good news to come.
Jesus Christ will return to earth as King and Judge over all, and everything will be placed in subjection to him as he reigns in the new heaven and new earth.
On that day, all death will be gone. All mourning, crying, and pain will be no more. All healing will be radical and eternal.
In the resurrection of the dead, our souls will be united with glorified, eternal bodies. And the last enemy, Death, will be crushed.
This is the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. He introduced the world to God’s kingdom when he came the first time. He will bring to full fruition the glories of God’s kingdom when he comes the second time.
That’s our text for this morning.
As we have mentioned in previous weeks, whenever we read the Scriptures, we first look for the meaning of the text. What did the author mean when he wrote to his audience?
And then we should always ask, “How does this apply to our lives today.”
So I want to ask….What do we do now?
The question for the people back then is the same question for us: How will we respond to him?
What is some significance and application for us today from Luke’s message??
- Continue reading Scriptures every day.
One suggestion we’ve made is to read Luke’s Gospel in these journals every days. I’m going to continue mentioning this.
Read it alone. Read it with your household at meal time. Read it as a Bible study or Community Group. Bring it on Sundays to take sermon notes in.
These are words God has given to us to know him and have life. Real life.
If you’ve neglected reading God’s Word, don’t feel guilty. Simply repent, turn to Jesus for help, and start back up again. The King wants you and loves you.
And as you read, pray that your eyes would be opened. Pray that you would see evidence of the good news of the King and his kingdom. And also as you read, pray for a heart to know, trust, and obey your King.
Persevere at your reading. Some days will seem boring or confusing. That’s OK. Not every meal you eat tastes wonderful, but you keep eating.
Read, and let God nourish your soul.
- Be amazed by Jesus.
Another way to say it is to worship him. We ought to adore him and love him. And if we truly understand who Jesus is, we will worship him and trust him. And obey him.
So as you read Luke, pray that you would understand and know Jesus in this way. Then worship him in amazement as you read and discover who he is.
CAUTION: We are not looking for the “cool factor.” Like watching some remarkable feat on a YouTube video over and over again. Every time I look at sports on ESPN.com, they have a video they want me to watch. It will say something like, “Watch this wide receiver make this epic catch.” They want me to click on it and be amazed.
Jesus doesn’t perform these miracles and cast out demons and teach with authority merely to impress us and get clicks, like the athlete on the field or a magician on the stage.
He is ushering in the eternal kingdom of God. The place where God reigns as King over all the earth and over every heart.
The place where God is the Sovereign One.
So read and pray that you would know him like that. He calls on us to worship him, trust him, and obey him. That’s what subjects in a kingdom do: they honor and obey the King.
Be amazed and worship.
- Make Jesus King over your entire life.
This can be both a one-time decision and also a day-by-day decision of faith. This is really what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. To be a Christian. It’s to make him King over all.
To use an analogy, if our lives are like a house, we should ask ourselves and each other, “Does Jesus the King have access to every room?” Do I have some rooms locked and I won’t let him in? Aspects of my life that I hold to as my own and not his? My career or school? My free time? My money?”
Why wouldn’t we let him be the King and Master over all of us?
First, he has all power and authority, and is not to be trifled with.
But also and importantly, he is a good King. He is a merciful and protective and wise King who desires to do only good in us and for us.
Pray: “Jesus my King, is there anything I am unwilling to let you rule over?” And if you are courageous, ask your spouse or close friend if they see anything you’re unwilling to let the King rule over. I asked my wife this about me on Friday.
As I was thinking about this in the past few days, the Spirit brought to mind my heart to serve my wife. To love her like Christ has loved his Church.
I serve my wife in many ways cheerfully. But there are some opportunities I have to serve her that I simply don’t like. And I grumble and complain about them.
One of those ways is that due to her health, I need to take her shopping occasionally. I simply don’t like shopping, and I find myself complaining often about it. It sounds silly, but it’s a serious battle for me. There is a room in my heart called “Loving my wife” that sometimes in my flesh I resist giving Jesus access to. I will give him access only under certain conditions.
I am reluctant to pray for his power to love my wife in this way. I am reluctant to give thanks to my King for the opportunity to serve him, for ultimately all my service is for the King, not simply for my wife.
And I found myself reluctant to share this with you all because then I will feel like a lame husband, and I will be exposed and I might actually have to start giving thanks for the chance to joyfully lay down my life for my wife and stop grumbling.
But he is a good King, isn’t he? After all, he came to earth to die for my sins and rise again for my life. Can I not trust him for everything else, too?
So out of this passage, may we pray, “Jesus, be the King over ALL my life. And help me if there is anything I’m unwilling to let you rule over.”
The King has come and he is coming again. He came to demonstrate the goodness and mercy of God. First through his miracles and his mercy to thousands.
Then ultimately to go to the cross for us for our sins and to rise from the dead to give us the promise of forgiveness of our sins and of everlasting life.
And he promised he is coming again to put an end to all evil and to let goodness reign with completeness over the earth.
This is the good news…the very good news of the kingdom of God.