26 August 2018: Luke 4:31-44
Good News: In Jesus, God's Kingdom Is Breaking In Good News: In Jesus, God's Kingdom Is Breaking In Matthew Round / General Luke / Kingdom of God; Authority / Luke 4:31–44 0:00 Size of The Week’s “it’s not all bad” section; Often what life feels like. In a world filled with bad news, with so much wrong, who doesn’t want a bit of good news? Well, what if there was some massive good news? The next section of Luke’s Gospel is filled with Good News. 1:30 READING: Luke 4:31-44 3:30 [Good News] Last week we saw Jesus in Nazareth, announcing his manifesto. This week we see Jesus in Capernaum keeping his manifesto promises. I think for most of us for most of our lives we’ve never actually seen anything like that! Weird. A manifesto that you actually intend to implement, not just empty promises, something to tout! Wow. But actually keeping manifesto promises you just made isn’t the only unique thing going on here by any means — the time when God walked the earth as a human was the most unique period in history - foretold through the writings in the Bible which precede Jesus’ coming (e.g. Jer 23:3, Ezk 34:11-16), it’s a singular moment. Nothing like it before. Nothing like it since. Jesus has unique and absolute power + authority - here shown with regard to evil spirits and sickness. 4:30 [power + authority] The first guy in view, “possessed by a demon” v33, likely a regular at synagogue but suddenly stops blending in - something unique is going on here. The demon speaks: “Go away!” Hard not to imagine a my-precious-style Golem voice for this - but all we know for sure was that it was loud. We’re modern, sophisticated people - most of us, anyway. What do we make of this? Could imagine psychological explanations, but the Bible presumes a supernatural world - and so does Jesus, speaking to the evil spirit. Christianity is a supernatural faith, no way around it. “Have you come to destroy us?” the spirit says. It knows what’s been foretold from the beginning - right back at the very start of the Bible, in the first book, the first few pages: a promised child of Eve will crush the supernatural enemy - Gen 3:15 5:30 Evil spirits: No contest - Illustrate: not like an England/Belgium match which could have gone either way. Not even like England/Panama which was a pretty sure thing. This is like no game ever played; England vs. a primary school team doesn’t even come close because there was no contest at all - zero risk; absolute certainty. irresistible power. Over in a moment. Over with just a few words. Words of power + authority. 6:15 Words with authority - this is what strikes the watching Capernaum-ites, what leaves them open-mouthed, jaw-dropped: v32 “amazed … because his words had authority” How did they know? Just a tone of voice or a way of speaking? [British accent in the US illustration - giving a sense of authority] No - demonstrated authority in front of their very eyes: v36 again “amazed … words … with authority and power” - the demonstration: evil spirits obey his orders. 7:30 Second demonstration of power + authority: Sickness: Simon = Peter for the record. Everyone’s down with the multi-name thing back then, so it seems! Peter’s mother-in-law sick and Peter’s obviously a holy person in the making because he’s not thinking “at last - my chance to be rid of her” - or perhaps he is and he’s just gutted when the others with them, the “they” of v38, ask Jesus to help. But either way.. 8:15 Sickness: no challenge - Just like demons, no contest when it comes to sickness. Immediately better - Luke, writing, is a doctor. Perhaps that’s why he’s quite so struck by the suddenness of her recovery and mentions her immediately getting back into action. 8:45 Then come the hordes! Jesus’s actions haven’t escaped the notice of the wider crowds. As the sun begins to set on this first day of miracles in Luke’s gospel, there’s already a long queue forming outside Jesus’ door. Imagine it stretching back towards the edge of town; or perhaps in that culture they’re not quite so good at queuing and it’s more like the place is just mobbed. Either way, “all” who were sick (v40) are brought to Jesus - and again we see the extent of his power and authority: He has a 100% success rate - see how ”laying his hands on each one, he healed them”. 9:45 Now you might have noticed the mention of demons here, too, in v41? What this doesn’t say is that for everyone who was sick, that was associated with a demon. See v40 “all” people come to Jesus and v41 demons came out of “many” - many, not all. So the two aren’t the same thing. This isn’t just a naive ancient culture which pins any and every kind of sickness on something supernatural. There’s a distinction drawn between the two - though there’s no distinction in whether Jesus can deal with this or not. So we shouldn’t draw the conclusion that every sickness is connected with evil supernatural forces - but certainly this passage suggests that some are. 10:30 After this amazing first day we see Jesus heading out to get some time alone - alone with God, something he’ll do again and again as we’ll see in Luke 5:16. But he’s obviously made quite an impression and unlike Nazareth, where they couldn’t wait to see the back of Jesus, the people of Capernaum are trying to keep this fascinating and powerful Jesus with them instead. But Jesus is on a mission. In v43 he describes himself as “sent”: “that is why I was sent”. He has a purpose which goes beyond healing people, which goes beyond driving out demons. Jesus has something even bigger he’s meant to do, something he’s only just started: to “proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God.” v43. 11:30 [Kingdom of God] Now his is the first time the phrase Kingdom of God appears in Luke’s gospel but it’s going to show up loads as we carry on through Luke - 32x, way more than in any other book of the Bible - so I wanted to take a minute to think together about what this phrase actually means - because like so much of our language it can just roll off of the tongue without us ever really getting it, without us ever actually defining it. Think Brexit! So what is Jesus referring to when he talks about the “kingdom of God”? We might be tempted to think of it like another earthly kingdom: the Kingdom of Fife, just across the bridge there; the Kingdom of Scotland, as it once was; for his hearers, the first thing into their heads was probably the Kingdom of Israel. But Jesus doesn’t have an earthly territory in view, a nation-state. 12:30 So how else could you define this? A first attempt might be the sphere, the realm, where God is king? Does that work? Well, let’s think this one through: if you’re willing to admit the idea of an all-powerful God, which is part of the Christian conception of God just as it was part of the Jewish conception of God, then there’s a sense in which God is king everywhere already, right? The whole universe is under his rule, subject to his power, his to command. That’s precisely what it means for Him to be omnipotent. There’s no place or thing in the universe exempt from God’s rule, beyond his power. But that definition doesn’t capture it either - that’s not what Jesus is meaning here. Let me prove that: you might know what’s called the Lord’s Prayer, the one Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him how to pray? He teaches his people to pray “your kingdom come” - which wouldn’t make any sense if this Kingdom was already everywhere. And remember all the bad news that we started with, the way our world is full of things that are wrong, broken — evil, even? If by “the Kingdom of God”, Jesus simply meant the sphere of God’s universal rule, that is, everywhere and always, well, that’s the way things already right now. But Jesus says this Kingdom of God is good news! It’s pretty hard to describe our everyday experience today in our broken and messed up world as good news. I’m sure it was pretty hard back then to conceive of everyday life in Capernaum as good news too. So what does Jesus mean when he talks about the Kingdom of God, something he says is good news? 14:15 He’s meaning [definition] the sphere of God’s active rule: where God’s rule is embraced, where it’s enforced, where it’s enacted. Where God’s designs are honoured; where God’s ways are followed; where God’s plans are fulfilled. If you were with us last week, this is precisely what those words Jesus read from Isaiah were describing: releasing the oppressed; restoring the broken; pressing “reset” on this world and putting it back to the way it was meant to be. That’s the Kingdom of God. Now, Jesus says he has to go elsewhere to proclaim this good news of God’s Kingdom, of God’s active rule - and the implication is that’s exactly what he’s been doing in Capernaum: proclaiming this Kingdom - that is, announcing it. He announces it with words, as he teaches in the synagogue, just like he did at Nazareth. He announces it with actions as he casts out demons and heals, as he demonstrates God’s irresistible power and good rule. 15:15 The Kingdom of God, the sphere of God’s active rule, has come to Capernaum - and it’s come in Jesus himself. Jesus, in a very real way, is the Kingdom of God breaking in to this broken world. Restoring, releasing, enacting God’s rule. Capernaum has experienced the Kingdom of God - and it’s good news! Oppressed are free. Sick are restored. Now Jesus’ mission is to take that proclamation, that breaking in of God’s Kingdom to other places. That making sense? So the Kingdom of God is the sphere, the realm of his active rule. Key definition for us to hold onto as we carry on through Luke’s gospel. And in Jesus, that Kingdom, that active rule is breaking into our world. 16:00 Now to be fair, the folks there on the ground didn’t get this. They didn’t understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God at all - not the Capernaum crowds who heard him, not even his disciples who followed him. Even after he had died and risen! In Luke’s second volume, Acts, the biography of the early church, you see the disciples still have completely the wrong end of the stick when it comes to God’s Kingdom. In Acts 1:6 they’re still looking for a Kingdom of God that’s basically a nation state, a plot of land, a government: “Lord,” they say to the risen Jesus, “are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But the Kingdom of God that Jesus is proclaiming is God’s active rule breaking into his world. 17:00 So what? Two things we have to see today: First, the Kingdom of God is good news. Second, it’s now-and-not-yet. [Application #1] So first, it’s good news: Remember we said the Kingdom of God was the sphere of God’s active rule? That’s what’s breaking in here with Jesus? Well Jesus shows us this is good news with his demonstration in what we’ve read and he tells us its good news in his description of what he came to share. Now if you’d call yourself a Christian here today, that’s probably not something which you’d raise an eyebrow at, seems pretty obvious that God’s active rule is going to be a good thing. But if you’re still considering these things, still exploring Jesus, it can feel very threatening, the idea of God’s rule approaching. Might feel more like God’s rule is encroaching, that as it advances, it pushes back our freedom. It can feel like God’s rule is all about spoiling our fun, sticking do-not-enter stickers all over our wants and desires, telling us what we can’t do, where we can’t go, how we can’t behave; oppressive not liberating. That’s what rules feel like so often. Well, that’s what they are so often. In my own journey to faith the final, and key, step for me was giving up control, submitting to God’s rule. I knew that was going to change my life and I had danced around the edge of it for a long time thinking I didn’t actually want that, didn’t want to submit, didn’t want to come under God’s rule. But ultimately God brought me into his Kingdom. If you’re afraid of God’s rule, what it will mean for you and for your life, look at the picture this passage gives us of God’s kingdom, his rule, breaking in through Jesus: people who are oppressed are released. People who are sick are restored. God’s rule as it comes brings freedom, not oppression. If you were here last week, remember again Jesus’ manifesto from Isaiah: good news; freedom; recovery; favour. God’s Kingdom rule takes nothing good away from us, not one single thing. As God’s Kingdom comes, through Jesus, instead his rule brings good things to us. And that’s just as true today as it was on that day in Capernaum. Sure, we might not see the same pictures laid out of release and restoration as they did, but that’s what comes with God’s Kingdom, God’s Rule. At a level beyond the physical, a greater and more important level, even: release from the prison our own wrong deeds have put us in; restoration of the relationship with God we were made for; resuscitation of the right heart that was meant to be within us, drawing us to good and not to evil. And that was my experience as I bowed the knee to Jesus. I didn’t lose anything - I gained in every way. God’s Kingdom, His rule coming is good news. And it comes one person at a time, just like it did in Capernaum. Is today the day that you’ll finally be willing to let Jesus lay his hands on you and restore you? Because that is what he came to do, that is what he was sent to do. He’s proclaiming and bringing the kingdom - and he’s still doing that. Even here. Even today. PAUSE So first, God’s Kingdom coming is good news. [Application #2] Second, it’s now-and-not-yet. Now and not yet. The coming of God’s Kingdom, on that day in Capernaum, was now-and-not-yet. And it still is today. Let me show you what I mean: I bet Peter’s mother-in-law was glad, so glad, to be free of that fever. All the ones brought to Jesus who were healed that day must have been awestruck and filled with joy. But were they were never sick again in their life? I don’t think so. And I can say this with certainty: all of them died in the end. That city where these wonderful things were done, where people were amazed at Jesus and wanted him to stay - well in the end few in it would really bow the knee to God’s rule; Jesus actually denounces them later, in Matthew 11:20-24, because they saw the Kingdom coming with power and yet they didn’t repent, didn’t change their ways, didn’t turn back towards God. The Kingdom coming with Jesus, in Jesus, was NOW. It happened there and then. Sickness healed. Evil overcome. Things changed. Things were transformed. But it was also NOT YET. This wasn’t everything that was promised. This wasn’t the ultimate ending of all suffering, or the ultimate and final defeat of all evil. The righting of every wrong, the wiping away of every tear. That, that’s still ahead. That’s promised - but it’s not yet. If you like to think in military terms, this is the beachhead. At Nazareth the plans are announced. At Capernaum the beachhead is established. The invasion has begun, God invading and conquering his own creation again. But the battle’s not yet won. The war isn’t yet over. The outcome is certain. The might of the invader is absolutely unstoppable. But there’s still a battle to be fought. That now-and-not-yet of Capernaum is still our now-and-not-yet today. We still live in this in-between: a broken world, being restored; hope breaking in, certainty of a wonderful future ahead - all on account of Jesus - but not yet fully realised. This story’s had its first climax - Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection was victory in the pivotal battle. All that remains is the mopping up before the happy close. But in our own individual experience it’s critical we understand in one way it’s finished: Jesus has won; if our trust and hope is in him then we are safe forever, restored in our relationship with God. There’s nothing more to do. And yet in another way it’s still working its way out. The Kingdom of God is still coming. Our world’s still broken, not put to right. In the midst of the battle we share in Jesus’ call to announce God’s Kingdom coming, even as we see it just beginning to break in. We have the call to share this good news, to beckon people into the wonderful sphere of God’s active rule. Good news. Now and not yet. To be proclaimed. Let’s pray.