This is week #3 of our series called Jesus Is. We are kicking off 2014 by spending a month getting to know who Jesus is. The real Jesus. Not the Jesus that is fabricated by legends and traditions and agendas. We want to see Jesus as He really is.
And to do that, we are reading through the four gospels together as a church. The books in the Bible that we call the gospels are the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We developed a reading plan to take us all through those four gospel books.
So far we’ve read through the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Tomorrow we kick off our reading in the book of Luke. And that’s the book that I’ll be preaching from today.
If you didn’t get a reading plan, it’s available on our website, connect.cc. We also have hard copies available at the ConnectCenter. If you haven’t started yet, just jump into the book of Luke with us tomorrow. You can always catch up after the series is over.
The book of Luke is the third gospel book in the New Testament. Luke was an impeccable historian. That’s why I like reading him so much, because he’s a history nerd just like me. Luke wrote the gospel book of Luke and he also wrote the book of Acts. When you combine the two books, you get an incredible account of the life of Jesus and how His church came into being.
One of the themes that Luke talks about in his gospel is what I would call the unexpectedness of Jesus. Jesus was not what people expected Him to be. And as we get to know who Jesus really is, we’ll find that He’s not what we expect Him to be, either.
We’re going to be in Luke 4 today. Let’s pray and then we’ll get after it.
In chapter four, Luke begins to tell us about Jesus’ ministry. And how he chooses to introduce Jesus’ ministry is really significant.
Starting in verse 16, Luke writes, “[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21, NIV)
This is how Luke describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is in the Jewish synagogue. He finds a passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, reads it, and then says, “This is all about me. I am the fulfillment of this prophecy.”
But the really incredible part is the Scripture that He chose. He didn’t choose a wrath Scripture. He didn’t choose a Scripture that said, “When the Messiah comes, He’s going to come with guns blazing.”
He chose a passage in Isaiah that was all about love. And specifically, it was about loving the unloved. The left out. The forgotten. And He told everyone, “This is all about me. This is what I came to do.”
What we’ve got to understand is that this isn’t the Messiah that the people had planned on. This is easy for us to miss in our cultural context. In the first century, most Israelites thought that, when the Messiah came, He would restore Israel to its former glory.
You’ve got to remember where the Israelites were in this time period. They had been taken over by the oppressive Roman Empire. They longed for the glory days, when David ruled. When they had an army that could mow down any enemy. When the nation of Israel was being blessed beyond measure.
That’s what they wanted out of their Messiah. A leader of a revolution. An organizer of an uprising. A new political leader who would take Israel back to its position of prominence.
That’s what they wanted…but that’s not what Jesus gave them at all. And He told them right at the beginning of His ministry that He was not going to be what they expected.
He wasn’t concerned with establishing an earthly kingdom. He hadn’t come to restore the greatness of their nation. He came to love the poor. To give sight to the blind. To release those who were oppressed by the stranglehold of sin.
This is not what the people had bargained for. Jesus was not what the Messiah they expected. And He wasn’t the Messiah that they wanted.
So much so that this is what happened right after this scene in the synagogue. Luke wrote, “They got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:29-30, NIV)
If you are wondering whether someone likes you or not, trying to throw you off a cliff pretty much answers the question, doesn’t it? There’s really not a lot of gray area there. That pretty much answers every question. When someone tries to throw you off a cliff, they’re not exactly a big fan of yours. That pretty much confirms that they don’t like you.
They didn’t like Jesus because He wasn’t what they wanted Him to be. The Israelites thought that the Messiah would come to love Israel and hate Rome. Jesus said that He had come to love everyone, with special preference given to the ones who were forgotten or excluded in this culture. The people that the religious Jews looked down on…those were the very people that Jesus came to love.
They had this idea of who the Messiah would be, but Jesus shattered all their preconceived ideas. He wouldn’t conform to what they wanted Him to be…and He won’t conform to what we want Him to be, either.
I remember a little old lady who was part of a church I worked in years ago. I loved this lady dearly, but she gave the absolute worst gifts I’ve ever received. You know how some people will receive a gift and say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” That actually applies here. When she gave a gift, she REALLY shouldn’t have. Sweetest lady ever. Worst gift giver ever.
And one of the reasons why her gifts were so bad was because she didn’t give people stuff that they liked. She gave people stuff that she thought they should like.
And for me, I always got ties. You could count on it. Every Christmas, I got a tie. Birthday, tie. And sometimes just for no occasion at all, I would get a tie.
Now…have you seen how I dress? Do ties look like they are part of my repertoire? I own a few ties, and I use them for weddings and funerals. Marrying and burying. Other than that, I’ve got no use for them.
But that wasn’t the worst part of her gifts. It’s not just that she gave me ties…she gave me ugly ties. But it’s all because that’s what she thought I should wear. Every time she gave me a gift, there was a little underhanded message. “This is how you should dress. This is what you should wear.” She was trying to get me to conform to what she thought I should be.
But a lot of us do the same thing, don’t we? It may not be through gifts, but a lot of us try to manipulate and change people. We try to get them to capitulate and conform to what we think they should be.
And that get’s especially dangerous when we try to do that to Jesus. What preconceived ideas do you have about Jesus? What role are you trying to force Jesus to play? What agenda are you trying to make Jesus support? How are you trying to make Jesus conform to what you think He should be?
If our goal is to know who Jesus really is, then that’s not an option. We don’t get to change and twist and manipulate who He is. And we have to understand that He won’t always do what we expect…or what we want.
Let’s skip ahead in the book of Luke. In Luke 7, we find that John the Baptist is now in jail. John the Baptist was the one that God sent to prepare the way for Jesus. He was preaching and preparing people for the coming of the Messiah.
But now, John the Baptist is in prison and he had been for at least a year. And he sends his disciples to Jesus with a question.
Luke 7, starting in verse 20. “When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard:
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7:20-23, NIV)
This is really an amazing story because of the people involved. Before he was thrown in prison, John the Baptist had been preaching and preparing people for the coming Messiah.
Let’s go back and look at what He said. In John 1, the Apostle John writes, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV)
John preached and taught that Jesus was the Messiah. He was the one who was to come.
But now, things have changed. John isn’t free anymore. He is in prison. And he had been in prison for at least a year. That will change your perspective, won’t it?
Things were not going as planned. When the Messiah came, things were supposed to get better. For John, they had gotten much, much worse.
That’s what we see in Luke 7. In an understandable moment of doubt, John sent his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20, NIV)
“Jesus, I thought you were the one. But now I’m not so sure. Things aren’t going well. My life isn’t playing out in the way that I had planned. And you aren’t doing what I expected you to do. These evil people are still in power. I’m still in prison even though I haven’t done anything wrong. This is not what I signed on for. This is just not what I expected. So I have to know…are you the one that we’ve been waiting on or is someone else coming?”
In verse 22, Jesus gives them an answer that, at first, seems like a non-answer. Instead of giving them a yes or no answer, Jesus said, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:22, NIV)
Jesus said, “So you doubt who I am? Look at the results. Look at what is happening. Look at what I’m doing. Look at how I am loving all the people that everyone else has forgotten about. I’m doing exactly what I said I would do at the very beginning.”
John was going through a time of extreme doubt because Jesus wasn’t living according to John’s agenda. That’s when Jesus took the time to remind John that Jesus isn’t governed by anyone else’s plans or agendas. Jesus lives and works according to His own agenda, and no one else’s.
And then, He said one very interesting final thing to John’s followers. In verse 23, Jesus said, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7:23, NIV)
Other versions of the Bible say, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:23, ESV)
Have you ever been offended by Jesus? John was.
Jesus’ agenda was all about loving the forgotten and the neglected, and yet John was rotting away in prison with no hope of ever being released. That was not how the script of his life was supposed to go, and John was angered by that. He was hurt by that. He was offended by that.
For a lot of us, life is not going according to plan. A lot of us feel like, if Jesus’ job is to love us, then He really stinks at His job because we’re not feeling it right now. We feel alone. We feel abandoned. We’re hurting. We’re disappointed. We have been hit with a crushing weight that we didn’t see coming. We feel like we’re in a prison and we’re never going to get out.
And then when we hear words like, “Jesus loves you,” we get offended. Not because we don’t want to believe it, but because we just don’t see it.
This Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)
It can feel offensive to hear the words, “Jesus loves you,” but see no evidence of the fact. It’s so hard to believe in the kindness and goodness and love of God when you can’t see anything but your prison walls.
That’s why Jesus answered John like He did. It wasn’t to scold John or to belittle him. Jesus was saying, “John, I know it’s really tough where you are. I know it’s almost impossible, but if you could lift your perspective…if you look above your prison walls…you would see that I have a purpose and I am accomplishing it. It’s so much bigger than you. I came to love, I came to redeem, I came to set free. And I’m doing it. My plans for you are different than my plans for others. You have to trust me. Don’t be offended by me. Don’t fall away from me. Trust me.”
Rubel Shelley wrote that, “The essence of personal faith is trust in God when things work out differently from our expectations.”
For a whole lot of us, life is not working out according to plan. The plans and dreams you had for your life have gone unfulfilled. You have been blindsided by hurt and pain that you never saw coming. You are in prison and it hurts.
And Jesus just isn’t coming through for you. He is not doing what you expected Him to do. He is not the Savior or the Messiah that you expected Him to be.
That’s how John, and so many other people, felt during Jesus’ earthly life. They were disappointed by Jesus. He fell short of their expectations, and they were devastated.
What they failed to realize, and what we have to realize, is that Jesus is going to accomplish His purpose in our world AND in our lives. And if His purpose is for us to suffer for a time, then we must suffer well. If His purpose is to take us through a dark period to shape us and refine us, then we must follow well.
This isn’t the message that you’ll hear a lot from some TV preachers. This isn’t a message that will sell millions of books. We want to be told that if we follow God faithfully, then we will never suffer. Life we always be great. It will just be peaches and cream. That message will sell books. That message will get an audience.
But here at Connect, we are honest. We are real. And we’re not afraid of teaching truths that are really hard. And the hard truth is that sometimes, God does allow us to suffer. Sometimes He leads us through dark times.
Walking by faith is all about trusting Jesus when He doesn’t do what we think He should. And if you follow Him long enough, you’ll go through this season.
There are seasons when darkness falls from out of nowhere. It is completely unexpected and unwanted. And God seemingly sits idly by.
But we can’t give up, because these words from Isaiah 64 are also true. “For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:3-4, NIV)
God acts on behalf of those who wait for him. He does awesome things that we don’t expect when we wait for him.
Faith is trusting God’s timing, even when His timing makes no sense. It is trusting in His goodness when all we experience is badness. It is trusting that you are not abandoned even though you feel incredibly alone. It is trusting in Jesus when Jesus is not the Savior that you had expected.
But remember what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6b, NIV)
Jesus didn’t die for you just to give up on you. He hasn’t brought you this far to drop you now.
Charles Spurgeon said, “[Even] if I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” We may not always be able to understand what the hand of God is doing, but we can always trust the heart behind it.
Things might not make sense right now. You might be in a very dark time and God just doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.
Wait for Him. Wait for Him during the unexpected times of hurt and heartache and struggle. Wait for Him to finish the work He started in your life.
I realize that this isn’t what you signed on for when you decided to follow Jesus. And there are people in this room who are about to cross the line and leave Jesus completely because He just isn’t turning out to be what you expected.
Go back to Luke 7:23 one more time. We’ve looked at this verse in a few different translations of the Bible. It’s such a multilayered verse that there are multiple ways to interpret it. Here’s another…Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:23, NIV 1984)
There is a promise here. Jesus promised you a blessing if you don’t fall away on account of Him. He will bless you if you don’t leave Him, even when He doesn’t live up to your expectations.
If you stick with Jesus through your job loss, you will be blessed.
If you don’t leave Jesus when your spouse leaves you, you will be blessed.
If you don’t give up on Jesus when you lose someone that you love, you will be blessed.
If you don’t walk away from Jesus when the doctor walks in with crushing news, you will be blessed.
If you cling to Jesus when the world is closing in on you, you will be blessed.
I don’t know exactly what the blessing will be. It will probably be something very unexpected, because that’s how Jesus likes to work. He loves to do the unexpected. And it’s possible that the blessing won’t even be seen in this world. It’s possible that the blessing He has in store for you lies on the other side of eternity.
But what I do know is that He promised to bless you if you will stay with Him through the dark times, through the uncertain, hard times.
In James 1, James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)
At first glance, doesn’t this seem like the dumbest thing you have ever read? Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. Are you kidding me?
This is why Jesus seems to disappoint us. This is why He is not what we expect. We expect Him to remove the trials from our lives, and instead, He promises in His Word that trials are coming. And when they come, we are supposed to receive them joyfully.
It seems ridiculous, but that’s because we can’t see the greater work that He is doing. We’re like John. We can’t see past the prison walls. We can’t see how Jesus is using this trial to do a work in us. We can’t see how He is using it to form us and shape us. We can’t see how He will use our experiences to minister and to help other people who are hurting.
All we can see is the hurt. The pain. The disappointment. And if we leave Jesus in the middle of our trial, that is all we will ever see. We’ll never receive the blessing if we bail out in the middle of a trial.
Look…I know that for a lot of us, life sucks right now. It really does. You’ve been dealt a hand that you didn’t ask for and you’re about ready to cash in your chips and walk away.
As hard as it is, you need to own this truth. The greatest blessings lie on the other side of the greatest trials. Jesus promised that He would bless you if you don’t fall away on account of Him. If you don’t bail out during the tough times, you will receive the blessing that He has prepared for you.
I’m convinced that so many people give up right before a breakthrough. Right before a victory.
I remember the Colts game from a few weeks ago. I’m a Colts fan and a Bengals fan. The Bengals have been the Bengals for so long that I adopted a second team. We lived close to Indianapolis for a while. The year we moved to Indy, the Bengals won two games…so it was pretty easy to make the transition!
And I know we have fans of some other teams here in our church, and you’re all ready to make fun of me because both of my teams are out of the playoffs. What time is your team’s playoff game this year? Because I haven’t been able to find it.
Anyway, the Colts first playoff game this year started off ugly. Really ugly. And I was on Facebook and Twitter…and I started expressing my feelings.
At one point in the first half, I wrote, “The Colts defense did know the game was TODAY, right???”
It was ugly. And then it got uglier.
And the only thing I could say at the point was, “My head hurts.”
The Colts were losing 31-10 at halftime. It was bad news. So much so that I almost turned it off. I was so close to just giving up.
But the Colts came out in the second half and put up 35 points, and they won the game by an incredible score of 45-44.
And all I could write after that was, “Un. Bee. Leave. Uh. Bull.”
It was. It was an unbelievable victory. And it was one that I almost missed out on because I was about to give up.
God brought someone to church today to hear this. Right here. Right now. This is why you’re here today. You are here today so God can tell you, “Don’t give up. Don’t cash it in. Don’t walk away from me. Because you have no idea of the victory that I’m ready to give you. You have no idea what I’ve got in store for you. I know things haven’t been going your way. And I know that I haven’t been doing what you’ve expected…or what you wanted. But don’t give up on Me. Trust Me. And when you see what I’m getting ready to do, the only thing you’ll be able to say is, “Un. Bee. Leave. Uh. Bull.”
Jesus is who He is. He doesn’t always do what we expect or what we want. He is unpredictable. At times, He is unexplainable. But He is also good. And He is love. And that love drove Him to a cross for you and for me.
Talk about unexpected and unpredictable? How about a God who was willing to give His life for a bunch of sinners? But that’s the kind of unexpected love that our God has for us.
You may not understand everything He does, but there is no question that He loves you. His love for you is never in question. His love for you was settled on the cross.
And someone here has been rebelling against that love. You’ve been running away from Jesus instead allowing Him to forgive you and restore you and heal you. And today, we simply invite you to stop running and turn around. And you know what you’ll find? Jesus has been pursuing you all along.
He’s that unpredictable. He is that unexpected. And He is that loving and that good.