Sunday, April 01, 2012

Luke 8:16-39 - Listening Faith

Jesus healing the Gadarene demoniac
Opening thought
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week and the day we commemorate the entrance of the Lord Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on the back of a donkey while people waved palm branches and children sang Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Today is also April Fool’s Day. Psalm 14:1 says that that “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.” Paul explains that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). That message of the cross demands a response from each one of us, and today’s passage of Scripture from the Gospel of Luke tells us that those who have an ear to hear (Luke 8:8), those who have a faith that listens to the Word and responds, they have certain characteristics.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 8:16-39 to teach believers that listening faith brings light from darkness, puts God’s Word into practice, and has authority over fear and the Adversary.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about listening faith.
Key Verse: Luke 8:18
Pray and Read:  Luke 8:16-39

Sermon Points:
1.   Listening faith brings light to darkness (Luke 8:16-18)
2.   Listening faith practices God’s Word (Luke 8:19-21)
3.   Listening faith has authority over fear (Luke 8:22-25)
4.   Listening faith has authority over the Adversary (Luke 8:26-39)

Contextual Notes:
After calling us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2) and to repent of our sin (Luke 3:1-20) through the sacrificial death (Luke 3:21-23a) of the true Son of God (Luke 3:23b-38), who has power to defeat the enemy (Luke 4:1-13), Luke unveils Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:14-9:50), powerfully contrasting belief and unbelief in a series of events.

Unbelief at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:14-30) contrasts with the faith of the Capernaum synagogue (Luke 4:31-44). After Jesus’ first disciples follow him in faith (Luke 5:1-11), the religious leaders’ unbelief is offended when Jesus forgives sin (Luke 5:12-26). Levi’s faith (Luke 5:27-32) counterbalances the Pharisees’ unbelieving anger when Jesus dines with sinners (Luke 5:33-39). Contrasted with the unbelieving Pharisees’ Sabbath rules (Luke 6:1-11), Jesus appoints twelve believing apostles (Luke 6:12-16).

In his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus explains the blessings of faith and the woes of unbelief (Luke 6:17-26), urging us to put our faith into practice by developing Christ-like love (Luke 6:27-36), Christ-like integrity (Luke 6:37-42), Christ-like character (Luke 6:43-45), and Christ-like stability (Luke 6:46-49).

Then Luke demonstrates the astonishing faith of a Gentile centurion (Luke 7:1-10) and the astonishing resurrection of a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17). Despite John the Baptizer’s doubt (Luke 7:18-35), Luke demonstrates believing faith through a sinful woman in the home of a faithless Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Unlike John, whose questioning comes from faith, the Pharisees’ doubts are a blunt denial of the clear evidence of who Jesus was and is.

Then Jesus begins another preaching tour of Galilee (Luke 8:1-3) with the Parable of the Sower, teaching that listening faith (Luke 8:8) bears fruit (Luke 8:4-15), brings light (Luke 8:16-18), practices God’s Word (Luke 8:19-21), has authority over fear (Luke 8:22-25) and the Adversary (Luke 8:26-39).

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   After calling out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8) and telling the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:1-15), Jesus gives another illustration of listening faith. A lamp is of no use if it is obscured, and the gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed for all to hear.
b.   In the days of Jesus, a lamp was kept burning all night in even the poorest of homes, so that a person entering a darkened home could see the dim olive oil lamp burning, but not much else. That is why the person sees the light in Jesus’ illustration, but not what is in the room.
c.   The lamp does two jobs. First, it provides light for those entering the room (Luke 8:16). Similarly, Jesus’ proclamation shines the truth of the Good News for all who are willing to hear it. Second, the lamp reveals things that were previously concealed (Luke 8:17; 12:2). The Good News demands a response and therefore it lays bare the thoughts and intentions of a person’s heart (Luke 2:35). Luke 8:18 reinforces the need for a response (cf. Luke 19:26). Those who “have” are the followers who respond to his kingdom announcement and are receiving the kingdom. Those who “do not have” are the ones who reject his call and so lose not only future blessings but also those they think they already have. The religious leaders opposing Jesus think they have a special status before God. Even that false sense of security will be taken from them.
d.   APPLICATION: The point is that Jesus is the light. One must see Jesus first and Jesus alone. When we have fixed our eyes on Jesus, we can be sure that the hidden things of our lives will gradually be revealed to us. He is the key to our understanding of all things and possession of all spiritual insights. It is our responsibility to shine the light of Jesus. It is the responsibility of the hearer to respond to that light. Seeing Him we will be given more. Not seeing Him, even the little spiritual insight we have will be taken away.
a.   Luke takes this issue of the “haves” and the “have nots” and points it straight toward Jesus’ statement about his true spiritual family. Jesus’ mother and brothers are waiting outside the house for him. The Gospels tell us that Jesus had four brothers, James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon, and a number of sisters. His brothers rejected him during his public ministry (John 2:12; 7:3, 5), but are among the first believers in Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 9:5; 15:7). James will become the leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12) and write the letter of James as well as his brother Jude. Jesus says his family is those who hear God’s word and put it into practice. Jesus is not repudiating his physical family, but rather making a point of the priority of spiritual relationships.
b.   APPLICATION: Not one clause of God’s Word helps us if we fail to respond to it. Listening faith responds by putting God’s Word into practice. Are you one, like Jesus’ half brother James talks about, who said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” And James adds as an application, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:22-26).
a.   Jesus has been in his teaching illustrating the importance of hearing and responding to his message in faith. Luke now begins to address Jesus’ identity, preparing for Peter’s confession of faith in Luke 9:20 and the Father’s confession at Luke 9:35. Jesus has control over nature, yes, but an important undertow in this passage is the disciples’ lack of faith. Jesus’ calm (the only time in the Gospels we see him asleep!) is contrasted with their terror and panic shouting, “We’re going to drown!” Jesus responds, “Where is your faith?” calling them to greater faith in his sovereignty and authority over fear.
b.   The Sea of Galilee is seven hundred feet below sea level and surrounded by mountains. The geography makes the area susceptible to sudden and violent storms where cold air can descend quickly, turning a peaceful lake into a violent sea with 7 foot waves. Luke is not exaggerating. The disciples are in fact in great danger. Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, the natural forces over which he has sovereign control. The fear and awe of the disciples is similar to the unbelieving crew on Jonah’s ship (Jonah 1:6).
c.   APPLICATION: The Lord is sovereign over all life’s circumstances, and he cares for our every need. In what difficulty, what storm, do you need to trust the Lord right now?
a.   Arriving on the other side of the lake, a demonized man approaches him. Jesus will demonstrate his authority over the spirit realm as well, answering that question, “Who is this?” (Luke 8:25). There is terror and panic here as well, among the demons and among the people of Gerasa, but Jesus provides salvation and proclamation for the healed man.
b.   Demons are fallen angels. The NT portrays them as living, personal, malignant, conscious individual beings, subordinate to Satan and in allegiance to his kingdom. They will share the same end as Satan, an eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14; Matt 25:41). They antagonize human beings because they are the crown of God’s creation. They oppress or take residence in persons (Matt 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22-28; Mark 1:32; 5:16-17; Luke 4:33-35; 9:42, etc.) Jesus’ presence stimulated an outburst of demonic activity, as Satan marshaled his forces to resist the Lord.
c.   APPLICATION: Today, just as in the first century, most of those who turn to the occult, usually young people, do so in the hope of somehow using supernatural forces to reach their own ends, to gain some control over their chaotic, wounded lives. The appalling reality is that these forces are utterly malevolent, destructive to humans and hostile to God. It is a terrible risk to dabble in the occult. If you are fascinated by it, either from a movie or a video game or a book you have read, stay away from it. There is great danger and destruction waiting for one who embraces the spirits of death connected to the occult.
d.   Luke 8:27-31 - The demonization of this man had resulted in wild appearance and lack of personal care. The strength he displays is reported in many such cases in various cultures today (Luke 8:29). His name Legion, and Luke tells us that it signifies “many.” A Roman legion was a military unit of 6000 warriors (Luke 8:30). The Abyss or bottomless/very deep pit is a place used for captivity of fallen angels (Luke 8:31; Rev 20:1-3; Matt 25:41).
e.   The Lord sends the spirits into a herd of unclean pigs (Luke 8:32), but the people ask Jesus to leave. He has adversely affected their economy.
f.    APPLICATION: How easy it is for us to place an economic value on things at the expense of human value. This is one reason we must be careful about healthcare reform, that we do not reduce the value of human life because it costs a certain amount, or as we have heard now in the new law, that abortions have a $1 copay, insulting the value of the human being living within a woman’s womb.
g.   Luke 8:35 – Sitting at Jesus’ feet: This man is now in the position of a disciple. This is Luke’s point which he emphasizes by the man’s desire to follow Jesus (Luke 8:38).