Date: 7 Aug 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 13:10-35
Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
If you could summarise the gospel in one sentence, what would it say? Or you can do word association. What words if you spring to mind when you think of the word Gospel? Take a minute to think about it.
I posed this question at another church’s youth service, I broke them up into groups, and each group had to come up with their summary sentence of the Gospel.
When I asked them, group by group to share their one sentence, all of them included the person of Jesus – Jesus coming to earth or God sending Jesus down to earth. And all of them included the concept of sin – salvation from sin, or forgiveness of sin. And all of them made mention of the Cross – the crucifixion, the atonement, the death of Jesus at Calvary.
Did you get all these elements into your summary sentence? Jesus, Sin and the Cross? If you didn’t, again, Christianity Explored is a course we run every year.
Now, what was lacking from every single groups’ summary is the word “Kingdom.”
I wonder, did your sentence include any mention of the Kingdom?
And the reason why this is important is because when Jesus proclaims the gospel, he repeatedly and consistently uses the language of the kingdom. The kingdom is not a secondary theme in the gospel of Jesus. The good news isn’t simply a liberation from the consequences of sin, it is an invitation into the kingdom of God.
So, the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom.
Luke 4:43 “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.”
So what’s this kingdom? What is it like? How do we know its real? And most importantly, how do we get into the kingdom of God?
These are the questions that our text today touches upon.
So let’s begin with the basic question. Is the kingdom real? How do we know?
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Here we have a narrative of Jesus healing on the Sabbath which offended the religious leaders. Now Jesus has healed on the Sabbath before, back in chapter 6, which also caused a stir among the religious leaders. Luke isn’t repeating himself for the sake of it.
He’s making a new point. The point he’s making here is related to the kingdom.
Because in response to this Sabbath controversy, Jesus raises the question about the nature of the kingdom. He asks, in v18, “What is the kingdom of God like?”
So the key to understanding the Sabbath healing in this chapter is to ask how it relates to the Kingdom. And the answer is, “the healing of the woman on the Sabbath, reveals that the kingdom has come in the ministry of Jesus Christ”. Jesus Christ has opened the door to the kingdom.
Let’s go back a few steps. What is the reason for observing the Sabbath? In Deut 5, the reason is given: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
Which means this, the reason for keeping the Sabbath is to remember the liberation of God. The Israelites keep the Sabbath to remember that God liberated them from the enslaving domain of Pharoah, so they might be a kingdom of priests unto Yahweh the Lord.
This is why Jesus healed the woman. He is re-enacting in microcosm in an individual, the liberation of Israel in Exodus. This is why his final word on the healing was this: “ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
The loosing of the bond, the liberation of God, has come to us, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He has come to free us from slavery to sin, by opening the door to the kingdom.
In his healing of the woman, we see evidence that the kingdom of God is real, and it has come.
But on the Sabbath, it was just one woman who was healed; its one individual, it seems rather paltry. How great is this kingdom really?
18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
Jesus answers: the kingdom begins humbly, even imperceptibly, but it grow to be great and it will be all-encompassing.
Jesus chose the mustard seed to make the point, because of all the various types of seeds that were gathered and sown by farmers in the region at the time, the mustard seed was the tiniest. The Jews used the mustard seed as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size.
But the mustard tree however, is a big tree, with expansive branches, which birds could build their nests upon.
The kingdom of God is like that. It starts small, but it will not remain small, it will grow great and be a place of refuge and shelter for many.
The second analogy for the kingdom is the leaven. Which is yeast, the agent that causes dough to rise when baked. I have never baked bread, but I checked it out.
And the ratio of yeast to flour is approximately 1 to 100. Its insignificant, and when you mix it into the flour, its imperceptible. The amount of yeast just makes up 1% of the dough. But how many percent of the dough rises when baked? 100%. The entire mixture rises, the yeast affects the whole loaf bread.
Such is the way of the kingdom of God. We are used to kingdoms overcoming another kingdom by way of a larger army, bigger bombs, greater resources. But God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom, it because not with a show of force, but with a humble death of the cross.
This is the nature of the kingdom! And it works, it will prevail, it will be great, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.
33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
What is happening here, is a clash of kingdoms. A battle of powers. Herod, threatened by the news of Jesus, believes that the way to ensure that Jesus fails in his mission, the way to tear down whatever kingdom he is building, is to kill him.
That’s the way of the world, where might makes right, where you overpower your enemies through aggressive use of force.
Jesus responds by saying, Herod can go ahead with his assassination plans, he can carry on with his scheming. It is irrelevant. Jesus will continue doing what he is doing and he will finish the course, he will accomplish his mission. Because Jesus of Nazareth may appear to be a humble and meek individual surrounded by only a dozen men, but the mustard seed will grow, the leaven will spread, and there is nothing the kingdom of the world can do about it.
And here’s the thing, even if Herod had his way, it would not have mattered. Because the way Jesus becomes king is precisely by dying. The way Jesus liberates us from the power of Satan the way he opens the door to the kingdom, is through his death on the cross.
There are two applications for this, one secondary and one primary.
I’ll begin with the secondary. The secondary application of this humble beginning, winning by dying, upside-down nature of the kingdom is that we, the church, do not have to be afraid of being meek and weak in this world. We will bring God’s kingdom to bear upon the earth, not by force, but through faithfulness to our mission; not through power, but by proclamation of the gospel; not by a show of might but by showing Christ.
In other words, there is no need to fear the repeal of 377A, or any other law for that matter. Secular legislation will not derail the growth of the kingdom, so long as the church remains faithful to her mission. We need not be afraid that Christianity does not have a dominant voice in society, it only matters that we use our voices to proclaim the good news. That is the nature of the kingdom. That is how the kingdom grows, and no human rejection or scheming or protesting will be able to stop it.
The primary application is this: If Jesus has come to open the door to the kingdom, how we go through the door, how do we enter the kingdom?
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Short answer, we enter through the door by striving. It is a narrow door, and we don’t simply stroll in, we have to strive. And it’s imperative that we understand this, because many will not enter. Many will assume that door is broad, and we can simply stroll into the kingdom with a skip and a whistle. No. Jesus says, “strive to enter through the narrow door”.
But we are saved by faith and not by works, yes! Then surely that means we enter simply by believing and not by striving. No. It can’t mean that, because Jesus says strive.
And when you understand this, you begin see how Luke 9:23 makes sense,
And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
That sounds very much like striving.
So friends, don’t make the mistake of thinking that salvation by grace alone means you can take it easy in your journey as a disciple. By no means. Grace is opposite of earning, not the opposite of working. There is work to be done, there is a cross to bear, there is a self to deny, there is a Christ to proclaim. Everyone who enters into the narrow door of the kingdom enters through striving.
Every time you preach Luwin, it’s never a feel-good sermon. Never. It’s always do this, do that, do this, do that. As if life isn’t hard enough. I recognise that.
And trust me, I know how I sound. Before I preach to you, I preach to me. But my job is not to make things easy, my job is to shepherd you down the narrow path and through the narrow door. And friends, we get there by striving.
To be clear. Striving is a baseline condition of living, we are all striving, you and I. Striving isn’t optional. The only thing we can choose is what we are striving for.
Strive to enter through the narrow door. Why is this so crucial? Because many will seek to enter and will not be able to enter.
25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
Who are these people who were shut out from the door to the kingdom?
They the people who hinged their relationship on the wrong things. Their reasoning, for why they should be let into the kingdom is this: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.”
They were acquainted with Jesus, but only from a distance. “We ate and drank in your presence” – they were around him during mealtimes, but they never did the hard work of following him in the difficult times. “You taught in our streets” – they heard him preaching, but they never did the hard work of obeying his words.
Having a meal with Jesus, hearing the teaching of Jesus. Those are the easy stuff. That’s the wide and easy way.
It's not the hard and narrow way.
And so Jesus will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” In other words, so you ate with me, so you heard me preach. Big deal. I never knew you, you workers of evil.
In other words, don’t miss the nature of discipleship. Coming to church and listening to sermons is the easy part; the hard and necessary part is applying the sermon; it’s obeying the word. Coming and taking Holy Communion is the easy part; the hard and necessary part is loving and serving and edifying the communion of the holy ones – the church.
Discipleship is not easy, and those who assume it is, may well find themselves face to face with a shut door. Strive to enter through the narrow door.
And if you do, it doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter which Gods you worshipped before, it doesn’t matter how many sins you have committed, it doesn’t matter, the narrow door of the kingdom is open to men and women from everywhere, it does not matter where.
And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
You might think you are the worse of sinners, you might feel like you are the last person on earth deserving of salvation, you might believe that you are furthest away from the kingdom.
Friend, the kingdom is open to those in the furthest reaches of the earth, it is open to the least deserving sinner, the last very last can be the first in this upside-down kingdom of God, who welcomes the sinner who strives.
But strive you must. And now. You strive now, you obey this moment, you believe in Jesus today.
Because the door will not be open forever.
33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Jesus is making two claims here. First, that Jerusalem is a city that is, generally speaking, outside of the kingdom. They are known to reject the word of God by killing his prophets. And therefore, their “house” is forsaken.
But that is not a conclusion, merely a description. They are currently not willing to take refuge and find shelter in Jesus, they are not willing to enter through the narrow door he has opened. But there is hope yet.
And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
This is a reference to Palm Sunday, where Jesus enters triumphantly as a king into Jerusalem, and a whole multitude shouted, in Luke 19:38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The implication is that there is still time for Israel to change their mind, to repent and acknowledge Jesus as their King. And the time is now.
Because a time will come, as we see in v25, “the Master of the house will rise and shut the door”, and those outside will not be able to enter the kingdom. Friends, we do know when that is. It could be well be today, there is simply no way of knowing. We are only promised it will happen. We not told when.
So let it be now. Let the striving begin now. Take your first step of faith, of discipleship today. And encourage each other along the way, as long as it is called today, and more and more as we see the Day approaching.