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4 Things That Jesus Could Not Do

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Scripture: Luke 14:1-14

Titus 3:8This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

It’s wonderful to have Neighborlink here and represented among us today.  I love this organization and believe it is of great value to our churches for a number of reasons.  It provides an opportunity for service that constantly reminds us of our blessings and those less fortunate than ourselves.  It directly attacks the growth of pride in our hearts that subtly convinces us in one way or another that we are better than this person or that person.  It causes me to remember that I live in a world that is very different from the world that many people in this world live and many people in our own city as well.

| !! Servanthood

 We will serve our community according to the example of Christ, in order that people may understand the value of the church and be drawn closer to God. |

Today the sermon is really about the necessity of and the witness of good works.  Jesus said, 

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. [1]

We may have a wonderful church and I believe that we do.  I believe that we are growing as a people in relationship to God, one another and our community.  But we must serve our community in the name of Christ in order to have the most powerful witness.

If people believe that the church is here to serve it’s own interests then it will largely be ignored and one of the things that we must remember today is that in large that is just what is happening.  While there are churches that are growing, there is much more room and the majority of folks in this city are not in church today.  You can tell me that this is the effect of sin and the common way of life today.  Personally I believe that regardless of how good we may be at certain things that we do, we fall short in this “servanthood” style of witness.

If you want to change your society today, you’ll take up the servant’s towel and serve in the likeness of Christ.  Nothing else is quite so powerful.

1.  He could not ignore a person’s need. (vs. 1,2, 4b)

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched (paratayroomenoi – phonetic pronunciation - means to observe or watch with a sinister intent – they were just waiting for him to slip up.  They had their minds made up and they had the trap baited with a man who otherwise might not have been among them.).  2 There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.( Dropsy is a condition of excess fluid in the tissues of the body, caused perhaps by a type of cancer or possibly liver or kidney problems. The man was probably invited to the Pharisee’s house in order to see what Jesus would do.)   3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”  4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

ð     He never stopped being Jesus regardless of the company that he kept.  He was always looking for the one who was left out, one that he wanted to include.  God help us to be forever inclusive in our relationships in our church.  If there are a group of people who go out together after church then please look for someone else to include.

ð     He never stopped being Jesus regardless of the schedule that he kept. 

ð     He never stopped being Jesus regardless of the theology that he represented. 

He never stopped being Jesus – never. 

They criticized him for the grace and mercy shown to the woman caught in adultery, even though the law was clear on what should be done.  They didn’t like the fact that he ate with Gentiles and sinners.

To study the life of Jesus is theology itself, “theology being the study of God.  For one to be an astute theologian one might become a student of Christ or a disciple of Christ.  Simply by emulating his life we would be safe theologically.

I was running along on Saturday AM by myself on a wooded trail and I was praying and thanking God.  I thanked Him that I knew His heart in spiritual intimacy.  Often I struggle to understand the Bible in different places.  There are many question marks for me that will most likely have to wait for the next life.  I wonder why Marcia Murphy died in her sleep as a 46 year old mother, leaving one son, a grieving husband and father, Bob Black whom we all know.  I remember this wonderful passage in the Word written by Paul the Apostle.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,  15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. [2]

One would have to believe that he was what He did.  He was not a hireling carrying out someone else’s business in a perfunctory manner with no regard for the mission itself.  He was the mission incarnate and those who have the heart and mind of Christ are likely to see this world in the same way that he saw it.

2.  He could not endure the Pharisees’ creed. (vs. 3-6)

3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”  4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?”  6 And they had nothing to say.

The pharisaical legalism pictured in the parable of the good Samaritan is alive and well. As a result, a 15-year-old African-American boy in Chicago is not.

One a warm spring evening in may 1998, Christopher Sercy was playing basketball with a few friends half a block from Ravenswood Hospital. Three teenage Latino gang members looking for a black target approached and shot young Sercy in the abdomen. His frantic friends carried him to within 30 feet of the hospital and ran inside for help. The emergency room personnel refused to go outside to assist the dying boy citing a policy that only allows them to help those who are inside the hospital. The boys called for nearby police to attend their wounded friend. When the officers arrived on the scene they proceeded to call for an ambulance, but refused to carry the boy inside. While passersby pled with the officers to get the boy into the hospital, he lay in a pool of blood unconscious. When, after several minutes, the ambulance had not yet arrived, the police gave in and carried Sercy into the emergency room. By then, nothing could be done to save his life.

As is often true, when we legalistically insist on the letter of the law, the needs of others are overlooked. By holding to standard operating procedures, the "royal law of love" was pinned to the mat. Initially, hospital administration vehemently defended their ER's lack of involvement. Only after a barrage of community outrage did Ravenswood Hospital reverse its policy of treating only those inside its doors.

It was Jesus who observed "Woe to you teachers of the law, you hypocrites. You give a tenth ... but you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23)

Greg Asimakoupoulos. From the files of Leadership.

I liked C.K. Chitty’s philosophical observance of ministry in a former church in which we worked together.  “We have a rigid commitment to total flexibility.”

On person said of trustee boards in a church.  “They are a group of people who make lists of rules designed to prohibit use of the facilities.”

Policy is the keyword of those who cannot see the bigger picture.  While policy is necessary it is never to be elevated above an overarching concern and love for those we have to minister to.  There are times when exceptions need to be made – ask Jesus, he’ll tell you the same thing in his living.

Orthodoxy and adherence to the law above all else at all times was their despised creed.  Somehow here they found license to abuse people and to ignore their responsibility to care for the needy.  It frightens me to see people today turn away from ministry to the downtrodden because we see ourselves to be above them.  And when we turn away we pick up rocks.  It is far too easy to face the world today, labeling it as hopelessly sinful and become rock throwers.  That’s about all that we’ll show up for en masse is a stoning.

You know I’d like to see First Wesleyan show up in some places at some times when there was little else to gain except to remind people that the love of Christ nailed him to the cross for their sin and he loves them desperately and in His name we love them desperately as well.

George MacLeod wrote a poem that helps put a lot of things in perspective, helping to emphasize content rather than cosmetics, Christ rather than self, the gospel going beyond the church walls rather than simply being contained within them.

   I simply argue that the cross be raised again

      at the center of the market place

      as well as on the steeple of the church,

   I am recovering the claim that

      Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral

      between two candles:

   But on a cross between two thieves;

      on a town garbage heap;

      At a crossroads of politics so cosmopolitan

      that they had to write His title

      in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...

   And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,

      and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.

   Because that is where He died,

      and that is what He died about.

      And that is where Christ's men ought to be,

      and what church people ought to be about.

   -- George MacLeod

They were both looking for different things and they saw different things.  Jesus could see nothing else but a suffering man.  They could see nothing else but a heretic who thought he was God or something close. 

It is amazing to me to see how easily we can become sidetracked by times.  We can look with critical eyes upon one another and miss the needs of society around us.  They were protectors of orthodoxy paranoid at the thought that someone might ignore propriety as they had defined it.  If someone else saw it differently then it immediately cast deep dark shadows on their character.

Don’t miss the needy – they are here among us today.  And for the most part they are seeking something much different than others may be seeking.

The striking question that challenges most of our theology and forces us to come to grips with what the Bible says is when we have to decide what it says about us – not about someone else.  Jesus looked at them and said,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?

What a difference when it happens too closely to home.  We can very quickly become open to the greater possibilities of scriptural interpretation.  Our open mindedness to scriptural interpretation is directly proportional to it’s proximity to our own lives.

3.  He could not pander their prideful needs (vs. 7-11)


7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.  9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.  10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


They were absolutely consumed with honoring themselves and being recognized by their relationship to the host of the feast and so they clamored for the seats closest to this man.

I used to do that when I was a teenager in high school.  I wanted to be close to people who were popular believing that this would make me popular as well.  I really cared nothing for the people that I sought to be close to.  Some of them I didn’t even like – but I wanted whatever it was that they had.

I had no concern for others who might have wanted to be close to me.  It was a totally selfish preoccupation and I was of no use to anyone else.

A servant knows how to put others before themselves and they derive incredible satisfaction from the exercise.  They love to make others feel “bigger” or more important or somehow special.  What a wonderful talent (natural) to be given or gift to be developed (nurtured) or habit to be cultivated.

When you insist on being first you make it more difficult for others to gain access.  Whether it is conscious or unconscious it creates a feeling of distance.  It’s that “inside humor” which is funny to those who are a part of things but somehow strange to those who don’t know what is going on.  We try to avoid that type of humor or celebration here.  We want to be able to celebrate the things that everyone else can celebrate.

A pastor recounts the following story:

I was in the supermarket one day, and a lady came down the aisle whom I could barely see over the top of her groceries.  I got somewhat frightened because she seemed to be heading straight for me. She screeched to a halt within a few feet of me, peered over her load, wagged her finger, and said, "I left your church. I left your church".

So I said, "Well, if it's my church, I think that was a very wise decision.  If it's my church, I think I'm going to leave too."

She said, "Don't you want to know why I left?"

I said, "No, not particularly, but I think I'm going to find out". And I was right.

She said, "You weren't meeting my needs".

I answered, "I don't ever recollect seeing you before, let alone talking to you, let alone knowing your needs.  Did you ever tell anyone specifically what your needs were?"

She couldn't recall that she had, so I raised another question. "Can you tell me, if we have 5,000 people sitting in that church, all with your attitude, how anyone's needs are going to be met?  If you reserve the right to have that attitude, then you must give everybody the freedom to have that attitude.  And if everybody has that attitude, who on earth is going to do all the need-meeting?"

Standing her ground, she demanded, "Then you tell me who will."

Relieved, I said, "I thought you'd never ask.  This is what will work:  when people stop sitting in the pew saying, 'They're not meeting my needs' and start saying, 'Whose needs can I meet?' Then needs will be met.  When the servant spirit flourishes in a congregation, then they minister to each other as unto the Lord."

Servant, January/February, 1989

It’s that “me first” spirit that is so seductive.  There is a basic truth that is twisted beyond recognition in this popular psychology that says I have to look after # 1 first.  The truth is that you need to live a balanced life and you do need to care for your basic needs.  If you don’t do this then ultimately you will be no good for anyone or anything else.  That’s a far cry from the current thought that says I am going to act in my own best interests regardless of the consequences for others.  I’ll take care of me and you take care of you.  There have been too many marriages and families and relationships that have been broken because people live this way.  Let me suggest another possible priority.

ð     Put God first before anyone and anything else and honor Him with everything that you have.  Keep your spirit and soul refreshed in this relationship and you will find an abundance of emotional/spiritual/intellectual resource to face the other natural normal demands of life.  In putting God first you are better for everything else.  When you do this you will honor your spouse as God plans.  You will take care of your family properly as well.

ð     The comes your neighbor.  Love that person as you love yourself.  This is the second greatest commandment.  Try to make winners of others.  Respect people and treat them with gentleness.  The same commandment would indicate that you are loving yourself as you love your neighbor.  Your behavior toward your neighbor is nothing more than a reflection of your behavior toward yourself.  You care for others in the same way as you care for yourself.

4.  He could not suffer their preoccupied feed. (vs. 12-14)

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” [3]

My house is full but my fields are empty

Who will go and work for me today.

It seems my children all want to sit around my table

But no one wants to work in my fields.

I think that a church and we as individuals need always to remember others.  There are times when we need to do something so totally selfless that it is shocking. (Ill. Cincy Vineyard – giving away church building)

I cannot keep count of the number of people in whom religion, the love of God and the desire to serve him, or even a quite secular ideal of perfection, lead only to a life of sterility, sadness, and anxiety. The fear of sinning has killed all their spontaneity. The subtle analysis of their conscience has taken the place of that childlike simplicity of heart that Christ demands. All joy has been replaced by the pursuit of duty. They have come to the point of doing nothing that gives them pleasure, as if God, who loves us, never required any but disagreeable things of us! They make incredible efforts but win no victories. They are always comparing themselves with those they look upon as their betters.


Paul Tournier (1898-1986)

Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I've no time to be

A saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee,

Or dreaming in the dawn-light, or storming Heaven's gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.

Although I must have Martha's hands, I have a Mary mind,

And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals, Lord, I find.

I think of how they trod the earth, what time I scrub the floor:

Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven't time for more.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace;

Forgive me all my worrying, and make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea,

Accept this service that I do -- I do it unto Thee.

                                             ... Cecily Halleck

The essence of the worldly man is, as someone has said, that "he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."  The world's motive is profit; the Christian's dynamic is the desire to serve.

Matthew 12       At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”


3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?  6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”


9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,  10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”


11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”


13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.  14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. [4]


[1]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[2]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[3]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[4]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

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