Sermon title:  KEEPING GOD ON THE BACK BURNER                Luke 9:51-62

   

                            Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, September 30, 2018

 

 

Our weekly coverage of the Gospels

in chronological order

brings us closer now to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

 

So, our Responsive Reading in Luke Chapter 9

began with Verse 51 saying,

 

51 As the time approached

for him to be taken up to heaven,

Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

 

Jesus set out for Jerusalem,

knowing that he would go to the cross.

 

We read earlier that he was ministering in Galilee,

because he knew that the Jews in Judea

wanted to kill him.

 

Galilee was about 60 or 70 miles north of Jerusalem.

This was all part of the land of ancient Israel,

but the occupying power—the Roman Empire—

had the land divided up into 3 administrative districts:

Galilee to the north,

Judea—where Jerusalem was—to the south,

and Samaria in between.

 

So, Jesus’ journey by foot now,

from Galilee to Jerusalem

would require him to travel through

that middle territory of Samaria.

 

That’s why the next verse says,

 

52 And he sent messengers on ahead,

who went into a Samaritan village

to get things ready for him;

 

Jesus wasn’t travelling alone.

 

He had the 12 Apostles with him,

plus a number of other disciples—

both men and women.

 

So, stopping over for the night in a Samaritan village

would be more involved

than just finding a single room at an inn.

 

Meals and accommodations would be needed

for a couple dozen people, or more.

 

So, it says,

he sent messengers on ahead,

who went into a Samaritan village

to get things ready for him;

 

The Samaritans could have made some money

by providing food and lodging

for Jesus and his disciples.

 

But we read,

the people there did not welcome him,

because he was heading for Jerusalem.

 

Although Jerusalem and Judea were Jewish

and Galilee was mainly Jewish,

at this time in history Samaria was populated

by people who were not Jews.

The Samaritans believed

people should worship God

on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria—not in Jerusalem.

 

Hence, they didn’t approve

of anyone going to Jerusalem to worship.

So,

the people there did not welcome him,

because he was heading for Jerusalem.

 

54 When the disciples James and John saw this,

they asked,

"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven

to destroy them?"

 

55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them,

56 and they went to another village.

 

James and John were brothers,

sons of a man named Zebedee,

and they had worked as fishermen

in their father’s fishing business.

 

Although they were sons of Zebedee,  Mark 3:17 tells us

Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”

or “Sons of Rage”

perhaps because of this incident

where they wanted to call down fire from heaven

to destroy that unwelcoming Samaritan village.

 

But, why would they even think of doing a thing like that?

 

Let me read you a little story

from 2nd Kings, Chapter 1, that explains it.

 

Like all Jews at that time,

James and John would have been familiar

with this piece of history

in the opening chapter of 2nd Kings.

 

It tells about when the king of Samaria

sent a troop of soldiers to arrest the prophet Elijah,

and Elijah called down fire from heaven

to destroy the men sent to arrest him.

 

These events occurred

more than 800 years earlier

in that same area of Samaria,

back when Jewish king Ahaziah was ruling there.

 

This Samaritan village that James and John

wanted to destroy by calling down fire from heaven

was nearby the location we read about here,

in 2nd Kings, beginning with Verse 2:

 

2 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice

of his upper room in Samaria

and injured himself.

 

So he sent messengers, saying to them,

"Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron,

to see if I will recover from this injury."

 

3 But the angel of the Lord

said to Elijah the Tishbite,

"Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria

and ask them,

'Is it because there is no God in Israel

that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub,

the god of Ekron?'

 

4 Therefore this is what the Lord says:

'You will not leave the bed you are lying on.

You will certainly die!'"

 

So Elijah went.

 

5 When the messengers returned to the king,

he asked them, "Why have you come back?"

 

6 "A man came to meet us," they replied.

 

"And he said to us,

'Go back to the king who sent you and tell him,

"This is what the Lord says:

 

Is it because there is no God in Israel

that you are sending men to consult Baal-Zebub,

the god of Ekron?

Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on.

You will certainly die!"'"

 

7 The king asked them,

"What kind of man was it who came to meet you

and told you this?"

 

8 They replied, "He was a man with a garment of hair

and with a leather belt around his waist."

 

The king said, "That was Elijah the Tishbite."

 

9 Then he sent to Elijah a captain

with his company of fifty men.

The captain went up to Elijah,

who was sitting on the top of a hill,

and said to him,

"Man of God, the king says, 'Come down!'"

 

 

10 Elijah answered the captain,

"If I am a man of God,

may fire come down from heaven and consume you

and your fifty men!"

 

Then fire fell from heaven

and consumed the captain and his men.

 

11 At this the king sent to Elijah another captain

with his fifty men.

 

The captain said to him, "Man of God,

this is what the king says, 'Come down at once!'"

 

12 "If I am a man of God," Elijah replied,

"may fire come down from heaven

and consume you and your fifty men!"

 

Then the fire of God fell from heaven

and consumed him and his fifty men.

 

13 So the king sent a third captain

with his fifty men.

 

This third captain went up

and fell on his knees before Elijah.

 

"Man of God," he begged,

"please have respect for my life

and the lives of these fifty men, your servants!

14 See, fire has fallen from heaven and

consumed the first two captains and all their men.

But now have respect for my life!"

 

15 The angel of the Lord said to Elijah,

"Go down with him; do not be afraid of him."

 

So Elijah got up

and went down with him to the king.

 

Those events took place in Samaria

more than 800 years

before Jesus and his disciples

passed through that same area.

 

That may be why James and John

thought of calling down fire from heaven

to destroy that Samaritan village

that refused to welcome Jesus.

 

But our Lord rebuked his disciples.

 

The situation was quite different,

and Jesus was not on a mission of destruction at that time.

 

He warned of destruction to come in the future,

but at that time, Jesus was calling people to repentance,

and he was on his way

to die on the cross for our sins.

 

When Christ returns in power at his Second Coming,

then there will be

fire from heaven

raining down destruction

on a world that rejects Jesus and his teachings.

 

And that time is coming soon.

 

According to recent polls,

77 percent of evangelical Christians believe

we are living in “the last days” of this world.

 

And they believe it, because they read the Bible.

 

A majority of Protestants

believe we are living in “the end times” according to those polls,

and nearly half of practicing Catholics

hold the same view.

 

Bible readers recognize

that our world today has become

much like the violent and corrupt world

that God destroyed

when he brought the global flood of Noah’s day.

 

The news headlines tell us

that our world today has become

much like the immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

that God destroyed with fire from heaven.

 

God isn’t going to put up with this world much longer,

just as he didn’t put up with

Sodom and Gomorrah

and the corrupt world before the flood.

 

Jesus is coming back.

 

And our Lord told us to “Keep on the watch” for his return.

 

That doesn’t mean

to watch the sky with binoculars or telescopes,

to catch sight of Jesus coming.

 

He’s coming at the head

of heavenly armies of angels

armed with weapons of mass destruction—

—“fire from heaven”—

like nothing this world has ever seen.

 

But, we won’t see him until he suddenly bursts into sight

to rapture his people to heaven

and to unleash that destruction

on the corrupt governments and institutions

of this world.

 

When Jesus told us to “Keep on the watch,”

he was referring to the “signs” of his coming

and the prophecies about the end of this world.

 

In order to “Keep on the watch” for Christ’s return,

we need to know what those prophecies say,

and how world events are shaping up

to fulfill those prophecies.

 

So, beginning next week,

we’re going to suspend

going through the Gospels chronologically,

to take a closer look at the End Times prophecies.

 

Since just after last Christmas,

we’ve been following Jesus’ life and ministry

in the order that events occurred.

 

But, now we’ll suspend doing that,

so we can focus on the prophecies about the Last Days.

 

Immanuel Baptist Church is a church

“preaching Christ crucified, risen and coming again.”

 

And throughout the month of October,

we’ll look at what the Bible says about Christ “coming again.”

 

In particular, I’ll be preaching

October 7th about the beasts of Revelation

and how the beasts in the Old Testament book of Daniel

help us identify that 7-headed monster of Rev. 13

and know where that beast is right now.

 

I’ve prepared a fast-moving presentation

of full-color graphics

that we’ll project on screen

to see what Daniel saw in his visions,

and what Revelation describes.

 

October 14th I’ll be talking about

how today’s headlines about Jerusalem

were foretold in the Bible,

and how watching Jerusalem

can help us “Keep on the watch”

for Christ’s return.

 

October 21st I’ll focus on Armageddon

and how the armies of Turkey, Russia and Iran

are already taking up positions

for the battles the Bible says will soon break out.

 

And on October 28th I’ll bring it all together

in what the Bible says about the return of Christ.

 

This world likes to think of Jesus as

a tender little baby in a manger

or as a preacher of love,

who let his enemies abuse him

and nail him to a cross.

 

But Jesus says he will be coming back angry,

wielding a sword of destruction

that will make a hundred-megaton nuclear bomb

look like a mere firecracker, by comparison.

 

Romans 2:5 calls it “the day when God vents his anger.”

 

In Luke 19:27, Jesus compares himself in one of his parables

to a king who says,

“those enemies of mine

who did not want me to be king over them—

bring them here

and kill them in front of me.'"

 

You don’t want that to be

the day you meet Jesus for the first time.

 

The time to meet Jesus is right now,

when he’s still welcoming people with open arms

to forgive our sins

and to give us new life as his adopted children.

 

Now is the time to turn to Jesus in prayer,

and to receive him as your Lord and Savior.

 

Tell Jesus that you’re sorry for your sins,

and that you want to live the new life that he calls you to live.

 

Give yourself to Christ,

and ask him to save you.

 

Your prayer can be silent,

between you and Christ alone.

 

And your prayer can be as simple as,

“Lord Jesus, I’m yours.  Save me!”

 

“Lord Jesus, I’m yours.  Save me!”

 

Don’t put it off, because the time is near.

 

And your own time may be nearer than you think.

 

You could leave the parking lot today, and be hit by a truck.

 

Don’t put off your decision for Christ.

 

And that’s the lesson of the remainder of our Responsive Reading.

 

Beginning in Luke 9:57,

 

57 As they were walking along the road,

a man said to him,

"I will follow you wherever you go."

 

58 Jesus replied,

"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,

but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

 

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."

 

But the man replied,

"Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

 

60 Jesus said to him,

"Let the dead bury their own dead,

but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

 

61 Still another said,

"I will follow you, Lord;

but first let me go back

and say good-by to my family."

 

62 Jesus replied,

"No one who puts his hand to the plow

and looks back

is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

 

So, what do we learn

from Jesus’ response to these 3 men?

 

a man said to him,

"I will follow you wherever you go."

 

58 Jesus replied,

"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,

but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

 

Jesus evidently knew

that this man was expecting

plush accommodations as a follower of Christ.

 

But Jesus was on the road, preaching.

 

The life he offered his followers

was a rough life, full of challenges,

and ending at the cross.

 

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."

 

But the man replied,

"Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

 

60 Jesus said to him,

"Let the dead bury their own dead,

but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

 

This man was not asking leave

to attend his father’s funeral.

 

His father was still alive,

and what the man meant was,

he wanted to put off following Jesus

until after his father died.

 

‘Let me stay home until my father passes away,

and then I’ll come follow you.’

 

He wanted to delay serving God

until his circumstances changed.

 

Jesus rebuked him.

 

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord;

but first let me go back

and say good-by to my family."

 

62 Jesus replied,

"No one who puts his hand to the plow

and looks back

is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

 

This man, too, wanted to put off following Jesus.

 

He wanted to go back to his parents’ home

to spend some time there—

who knows how long—

and eventually follow Jesus when he got around to it.

 

Jesus told him he wasn’t fit to serve in the kingdom of God

with an attitude like that.

 

So it is with us.

 

Following Jesus should be our top priority.

 

He will accept nothing less,

and he won’t wait for us to fiddle around

until we’ve done everything else first.

 

If we keep our relationship with God on the back burner,

we may find that we don’t have

a relationship with him at all.

 

 

Our priorities reveal what is in our hearts and minds.

 

If we put off God until ‘tomorrow,’

we may find that we don’t have as many ‘tomorrows’

as we had hoped. 

 

Unexpected death could put us face-to-face with our Creator

sooner than we think. 

 

Now is the time to be thinking about God,

and to be thinking about where we will spend eternity.

 

Jesus teaches us

to assign our relationship with God the highest priority.