Date: December 2, 2018 Audio: Transcript:
Well, on November 6, it was finally over! Whether or not you were pleased with the results of the mid-term elections, most folks on both sides of the political divide were relieved the campaign was over. It felt especially good that the TV political advertisements had ended. Of course, the Presidential primary season is only about a year away.
I want you to reflect a moment on all the political ads you saw on TV, the internet or that made their way into your mailbox. Their focus was seldom to inform you of a candidate’s positions on various issues. Rather, the ads usually sought to help you develop a positive image, a favorable picture of that candidate and also give you a negative picture of his/her opponent.
The first thoughts that come to your mind when you hear a candidate’s name are more important than whether you agree with that person’s positions on various issues. It probably should not be that way, but that’s the way it is. Image matters more than substance. Frankly, that’s true in almost all types of advertising, not just politics.
Friends, I believe the Lord enabled the writers of the four New Testament gospels to understand this as well. These authors don’t just give us the biographical facts or a chronology of events in Jesus’ life and ministry. Instead, they tell us a story. They paint a picture of Jesus for us.
Now, I don’t want to confuse you. The image portrayed in Luke’s gospel, which we have been studying, does not conflict with the reality of who Jesus is and what He did in any way. Every word recorded in each of the four gospels is true.
Yet, Luke presents the truth in a way that will help us develop a particular view of Jesus. When we hear the name Jesus, Luke wants an image to come to our minds that will cause us not to vote for Him, but to choose to trust and follow Him as our Lord and Savior.
Today, as we continue our journey through Luke, we will explore Luke 8:22-56 (page 865). My prayer is that the Lord would use this portion of His Word to help us see Jesus more clearly, to see Him in such a way that our love for and faith in Jesus Christ would grow stronger and deeper.
Our text today contains four different stories:
#1 Jesus demonstrates His power over nature as He calms a storm. Verse 22 tells us that Jesus and His disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee.
Luke 8:23-24a – And as they were sailing he (Jesus) fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!”
This is a desperate situation, but Jesus responds in a marvelous way:
Luke 8:24b – Then he (Jesus) got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm.
Some people were impressed and others angered a number of years ago when Pat Robertson claimed to redirect a storm from the state of Virginia to New York. Through His prayers, Jesus doesn’t redirect the storm. He abruptly ends it!
Folks, weather can change very quickly here in Minnesota, but nothing like what happened that day on the Sea of Galilee.
Luke 8:25b – They (the disciples) were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!”
Jesus has amazing power and authority over nature.
#2 In verses 26-39, Jesus demonstrates His power over demonic forces. When Jesus and His disciples get to the other side of the lake, the Gerasene region, they encounter a man who is demon-possessed. It is a tragic situation.
Luke 8:27b – For a long time he (this man) had worn no clothes and did not stay in a house but in the tombs.
Luke 8:29b – Many times it had seized him, and though he was guarded, bound by chains and shackles, he would snap the restraints and be driven by the demon into deserted places.
Jesus learns the man is possessed by multiple demons. They call themselves Legion. Jesus commands them to leave, but allows them to go into a herd of pigs.
Luke 8:33, 35 – The demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned…. Then people went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man the demons had departed from, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. Wonderful, but Luke adds: And they were afraid.
Why? Because Jesus obviously has greater power than any they had ever encountered.
Now, I realize that to some of you, this may all seem totally incredible – like something you would read in a tabloid which claims JFK is still alive at the age of 101 and living in Cuba.
Someone said to me, “Pastor Dan, how do you expect me to believe the Bible? It was written by people who thought diseases were caused by demons. Now we know it is germs.”
Well yes, germs do cause many diseases. Yet, “PTSD” is not caused by germs, but by trauma. And I believe that some conditions, both in the 1st and 21st centuries are the result of demonic activity. In the 1st century, they probably exaggerated how often that happened, and in the 21st century, we probably underestimate how often that happens. Yet, the demonic realm is real, and sometimes demons really do attack people. This was one of those times. However, these demons are no match for Jesus. His power and authority are so great that when Jesus says jump, the demons say, “how high?”
#3 In the third story we see Jesus demonstrate His power over disease. Jesus returns to Galilee:
Luke 8:41-42 – Just then, a man named Jairus came. He was a leader of the synagogue. He fell down at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter about twelve years old, and she was dying.
As Jesus makes His way through the crowd, He is interrupted.
Luke 8:43-44 – A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of his robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.
Jesus, apparently was not even aware the woman exists, only that “someone” touched Him. When the woman reports what happened to her, Jesus responds:
Luke 8:48 – “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Yes, the woman’s faith is wonderful, but what is even more marvelous is the power of Jesus. All the woman had to do was touch His garment, and she was well.
#4 Jesus demonstrates His power over death in verses 49-56. News comes that the 12-year old daughter of Jairus has died. It is too late to help her.
Luke 8:50 – When Jesus heard it, he answered him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be saved.” (Or will be made well.)
Jesus goes to Jairus’ house and tells the mourners:
Luke 8:52b-55 – “Stop crying, because she is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, because they knew she was dead. So he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he gave orders that she be given something to eat.
Back in 1880, a boy contracted cholera. A few days later, a doctor pronounced him dead, and that evening he was buried in his family’s backyard. That night, his mother had a dream and insisted her husband dig up the casket. Sure enough, the boy was breathing. He recovered from cholera and lived to a ripe old age of 85.
Amazing! But that was not what happened with this 12-year old girl. Jairus’ daughter is really dead, or to quote the Munchkin Coroner, “She’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead!” Her heart stopped beating. Her brain waves were flat. Yet, Jesus brings her back to life. His power extends to the point where He is able to overcome death. He takes dead people and makes them alive.
Folks, this is the picture Luke is painting for us. Jesus has amazing power and authority, whether it is over a storm, demons, disease or death. Jesus is more powerful than each of these or all of them put together. His power has no limits. When we hear the name, “Jesus,” the first thing Luke hopes will come to our minds is that Jesus is powerful. There is nothing He cannot do.
Yet, Luke wants us to see something more as well. He wants us to recognize Jesus’ compassion. If all we see in these stories is His power, we need to look a little closer because when Luke paints his picture of Jesus, he does it in such a way that Jesus’ power is always accompanied by compassion.
Yes, the miracles Jesus performs are evidence that He is the Messiah. They are the signs for which the people of Israel were looking.
Yet, not one miracle Jesus does is solely to demonstrate His power. Jesus never makes a camel disappear or turns a donkey into a dog just to show His power. The miracles He does always demonstrate concern and compassion for other people.
He turns water into wine, so the wedding host will not be embarrassed by not being able to serve his guests. In our text today, He calms the storm so the fears of His disciples can be calmed. He casts out the demons to deliver a man who had been so tormented that he was living in a cemetery. Healing the woman who had spent twelve years going to doctors who could not help her and bringing Jairus’ twelve-year old daughter back to life are both clearly rooted in compassion.
What we see in this chapter is consistent with the rest of Luke’s gospel and the entire New Testament. Jesus performs miracles because He is compassionate and cares about people. That is the picture Luke wants us to see: absolute power and perfect compassion. And those two magnificent characteristics reside in the same person – Jesus Christ.
Friends, if each of us took a piece of paper and listed three of the most powerful people we know in one column and then in a second column wrote down the three most compassionate people we know, I am pretty certain very few names will show up on both lists.
Power and compassion are an unlikely combination. In the modern world, the most powerful political leaders have probably been dictators like Stalin, Hitler and Mao. They were labeled totalitarian rulers because they sought to exercise total control over the societies which they ruled.
This included even the small details of life. People had to plant certain types of flowers in their window boxes. Children could not play with certain colors of balloons. This was an effort to exert absolute power. But there was little compassion. These dictators killed millions of their own people – Hitler-6 million, Stalin-20 million, and Mao perhaps 60 million. In our world, the powerful are often not compassionate, and the compassionate are seldom powerful.
Absolute power and perfect compassion in one person – Jesus Christ. That is the picture of Jesus that Luke has painted for us. It is the picture of Jesus, the view of Jesus God wants us to have. And there is real practical value in this because great spiritual harm can be done when people have a fuzzy picture of Jesus.
Some folks have a view of Jesus that is all out-of-focus. They basically see only His power or only His compassion. They miss out on a big part of who He is.
For example, my friend Joe focuses on Jesus’ power, but really misses out on His compassion. Joe tries to do the right thing. He goes to church, doesn’t rob banks, and does his best to keep the Ten Commandments. He does all these things out of a sense of duty. The reality is he is kind of afraid of the Lord. He doesn’t want to make the one the winds and waves obey mad. Now, I don’t want Jesus mad at me either. Yet, obedience out of fear is a very poor substitute for obedience out of love. Joe has great respect for the Lord, but his love for the Lord is rather thin.
My friend Sue, on the other hand, is struck by Jesus’ compassion. She seldom considers His power, however. For Sue, Jesus always cares, always comforts and always smiles. Yet, she has a hard time picturing Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is difficult for her to read the passages where Jesus gives stern warnings to those who refuse to trust and follow Him.
Friends, a Jesus that is anything less than absolutely powerful and anything other than perfectly compassionate is not the real Jesus. It is a distorted image that misses who He really is.
Failing to recognize Jesus’ power or failing to recognize His compassion does harm to one’s soul. However, when we are able to see Jesus more clearly, and we recognize this magnificent combination of absolute power and perfect compassion, our souls benefit in a variety of ways:
#1 The first benefit would be worship. Recognizing Jesus’ power should bring awe to our minds and hearts. “Wow” is a word that should be on the tip of our tongues. And recognizing Jesus’ power, in contrast to our own lack of power in many situations should fill our souls with humility.
Our intelligence, strength and charm are nothing compared to the Lord’s. He is worthy of worship. And there will be a bit of healthy fear whenever we come before the Lord’s presence. He is not someone to trifle with or someone to treat lightly.
In Leviticus 10, we have the story of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who are struck dead by the Lord because they did not take worship seriously.
I sometimes say that one of our goals at CBC is to take ourselves less seriously and the Lord more seriously. When we remember that Jesus is the one whom the winds and waves obey, we certainly should take Him seriously. But, we must also remember His compassion. When we gather to worship, it is not merely as the King’s subjects, but as His children. Jesus calls us (John 15:15) not His servants, but His friends. That doesn’t mean we don’t take worship seriously, but it does mean that our primary motive for worship is not duty, but delight. We love Him because He first loved us. It is serious, solid joy that fills our hearts. And we take seriously the words found in:
Hebrews 4:16 – Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
#2 That leads to a second obvious implication of Jesus’ power and compassion: Prayer. The very fact that we choose to pray at all reflects that we believe the Lord has some power to work in our world. Why bother to pray if God is unable or unwilling to help in a particular situation.
However, when we realize His power is absolute, when we realize He is able to do whatever He pleases, when we realize His perfect compassion means He cares about us and every aspect of our lives, we look at prayer in a whole different light.
That is true whether we are talking about the big or little things of life. It seems that in our culture, we are more inclined to pray for “big” things rather than “little” things. A mom who learns one of her children has cancer will almost certainly pray. If she didn’t pray before, she will likely learn. And that mom can take comfort in the fact the Lord is both able and willing to help. However, the fact that God has unlimited power and perfect compassion means we should pray in all sorts of situations.
For example, let’s say you lose your car keys. The Lord, with His power and omniscience certainly knows where they are. Even if they are hidden deep in the couch cushion, the Lord knows where they are. Because He is totally compassionate, He cares about the anxiety and stress filling us because we cannot figure out what we did with those keys.
Now, because He is completely wise, the Lord may not intervene and allow us to spend thirty minutes hunting for them because He knows we need to learn a lesson. Yet, it sure doesn’t hurt to ask for His help in finding those keys. It’s OK to pray about little problems because from God’s perspective, all problems are little.
Friends, those are a couple of examples of what should and will happen when we recognize Jesus’ absolute power and perfect compassion.
I can also think of some things that should not happen – fear, anxiety and hopelessness. When we keep in mind the power and compassion of the Lord Jesus, how He is able and willing to always work for our ultimate good, provides a reason for us to be brave rather than afraid, to be calm rather than panic, and to be encouraged rather than in despair.
Now, I am not suggesting that we are to be oblivious to the harsh realities around us – things like disease, divorce, debt, death and depression (those are just the “D’s”) – can make life painful and challenging. Jesus’ power and compassion don’t change that. They do, however, give us a whole new perspective on the challenges we face.
Jesus’ power and compassion enable us to be, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:10 “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” That is the tension of “the already, but not yet” – a realization of the fact that we ain’t in heaven yet.
Because of Jesus’ absolute power and perfect compassion, there is always reason to rejoice, no matter how difficult things might be in life today. There is always reason for hope, even in the darkest of times.
Folks, that may sound too good to be true, but I can assure you it is reality. It truly is. That is why, no matter what else is happening in our lives, we always want to make sure we keep our eyes on Jesus – on His power and compassion. When we have a clear picture of Jesus and who He really is, there is a reason for hope and joy every single day.