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2016-07-17 Luke 17:11-19 There's a New Temple in Town

Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  52:17
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THERE’S A NEW TEMPLE IN TOWN (Luke 17:11-19) July 17, 2016 Intro – Texans love their state – even newcomers. I asked a guy one time if he’d been born in TX. He replied, “No, I wasn’t born in TX, but I got here as fast as I could.” That would be a good attitude to have toward the Kingdom of God. We’re not born there but it would be good to get there as fast as we can. But the question is how? How do we become part of God’s kingdom? The usual answer is, “Be good. That’s the ticket. Reform yourself.” Moralism – trust in what you can do! That’s what the Pharisees were teaching. Moral reformation. Jesus hated that idea! His message: it’s not moral reformation that is needed but spiritual transformation – a rebirth resulting from repentance. Moral reformation might make better sinners, but what is needed is forgiven sinners. That’s the message of this passage of Scripture. This text is often used to teach thankfulness. But the heart of the passage is asking the question – moral reformation or spiritual transformation? And the answer is spiritual transformation, illustrated by the contrast between the 9 lepers who never returned and the one who did. Let’s look at it in 3 parts. I. Common Condition (11-13) 11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Leprosy in its worst form (Hansen’s disease) is an awful disease of the skin and peripheral nerves. It consisted of oozing sores, flattened nose, and loss of sensation leading to wearing away of extremities. In Bible times it was a virtual death sentence. Lepers were permanently separated from family, friends and society. Considered ceremonially unclean, it was a helpless, hopeless sentence of isolation and death. Ten such outcasts, who’ve formed their own colony have heard of Jesus, so they meet Him on the outskirts of a small village. They keep their distance as required by law and shout their request, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Mercy is their only hope. There is nothing they or any other person can do to change their condition. Jesus is their only hope and so they plead for mercy. Significantly, they are a mixed group. At least one is a Samaritan (v. 16). That’s important bc it shows the horror of leprosy created a common bond between people who normally would never have associated with one another. They were enemies bound by their shared isolation and hopeless condition. Luke shares this on purpose. Leprosy is the Bible’s most vivid depiction of the horror of sin. This dreadful physical reality teaches an even more abhorrent spiritual truth. Luke is bringing into focus the hopelessness of our human condition, hoping that we will take the only action possible. So what does this teach us about our common condition? A. Sinfulness is the universal condition of mankind – The leprosy of sin is universal. No one who has ever lived has been free of a natural penchant to rebel against God. Isa 53: 6) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” That is the essence of sin – to pursue our own way as opposed to God’s way. Paul says in Rom 3:1011, “None is righteous, no not one . . . no one seeks for God.” This is who we are by birth and by choice. Some are worse than others. Thankfully not everyone is a murderer or a sexual predator – not outwardly at least. But God reminds us in Jas 2:10, “10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Guilt is universal. That is Luke’s message. This is our common condition. We are united in our lostness. B. Sinfulness creates an insensitivity that destroys -- One of the greatest dangers to lepers was the increasing insensitivity. Given their deplorable sanitary condition, rodents would eat away at their bodies while they slept, gradually destroying them. Similarly, insensitivity to sin leads to spiritual destruction. “The wages of sin is death,” declares the Lord. Mankind disagrees. Our society has a full-blown cultural insensitivity to sin. The word is anathema – even in most churches today – which is equivalent to saying, “Let’s build a hospital where the word cancer will not be tolerated,” as though by avoiding the word we can deny the condition. Denial does not trump reality, and sin destroys however much we ignore the fact. C. Sinfulness is incurable by human means – Leprosy was terminal – and so is sin. Jer 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” – literally “terminally ill.” No human intervention can cure it. Ritual will not work. Good works cannot erase bad ones. They, themselves, are a form of rebellion. Good works as a cure for sin is like saying, “I’ll cure my asbestos poisoning by avoiding old buildings in future.” Too late, Beloved. It’s terminal. God says we’re “dead in the trespasses and sins.” Dead people don’t cure themselves. Lazarus didn’t raise himself. D. Begging for mercy is the only hope – It’s the only option, Beloved. The lepers didn’t come and say, “Look, Lord! Look how I used peroxide on my sores this morning. Look how I have covered them with bandages. Look, I’m cured. Please accept me back into society.” No! They cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” So sin can only be dealt with like the tax collector in Lu 18:13: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ But to pray that, you’ve got to know you’re lost. We don’t like that word, but outside Christ, that’s exactly who we are despite our best efforts. I found these words on the wall at one of our favorite restaurants: “I have taken the pill. / I have hoisted my skirts to my thighs, / Dropped them to my ankles, / Rebelled at the University, / Skied at Aspen, / Lived with two men, / married one. / Earned my keep, / Kept my identity, /And frankly . . . / I'M LOST.” Our common incurable condition outside of Christ is – we’re lost. II. Common Command (14) 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Jesus didn’t heal them right away. He gave a command. He told them to go show themselves to the priests. Why? The priests could not heal them. No. But the priests were kind of like health inspectors for leprosy. God gave guidelines to determine if it was really leprosy. Occasionally a condition would clear. So they would have to go the priest and submit to an elaborate 8-day process to get a health certificate declaring them clean. So Jesus sends them to the priests before healing. When Jesus healed a leper in Lu 5:13 He said, “Be clean.” Then He sent him to the priest. But here – He sends them without healing. Why? Because Jesus doesn’t always work the same way. Here, He is soliciting faith that is not dependent on any outside influence – just obedience to His Word. Why would you go show yourself to the priest and you’re still a leper? Jesus said so, and you believe Him rather than your lying eyes. Or your lying emotions. Or whatever else is keeps you from assurance of your salvation. Assurance is based on His Word – not on what we see or how we feel or what someone else says. Saving faith clings only to the Word and simply trusts Him! Did they debate the command? We don’t know. But we know they left still filled with sores, “And as they went they were cleansed.” Literally -- “While going, they were cleansed.” They weren’t cleansed and then decided to go. They went and then were cleansed. Saving faith isn’t just agreeing to certain facts about Jesus. Saving faith acts on them. That’s what Luke is telling us. A drowning man suddenly sees a life-buoy thrown his way from a ship. He instantly believes it can save him. But is he saved? Not even close, right? Not until he reaches out and acts by placing the life-buoy around him, right? Only then is he saved. Saving faith is not a simple assent to the facts about Jesus. It is reaching out and taking it by turning from sin to Jesus. That’s the active faith Jesus is showing us when He sends these men off before they are healed. III. Uncommon Commitment (15-19) However, there is a sad reality to this story. It is this. While the physical cleansing of these men illustrates how to be cleansed spiritually, 9 of them never made that connection. They had a spark of faith to receive God’s blessing of physical healing. But only one made the total connection. The rest used God for a temporary benefit. But they tragically missed their moment of decision that would have led to eternal life. John Calvin says, “It is too common a disease that, when we are urged by strong necessity (leprosy, illness, cancer), and we have obtained our wishes, ungratefulness swallows up that feeling of piety. Thus poverty and hunger beget faith, but abundance kills it.” So with the 9. Incredible but temporary physical blessing prevented eternal spiritual renewal. It’s not about thankfulness; it’s about regeneration. 15 “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;” Everything’s been common until now. But no longer. Something happened in the heart of one that did not happen to the others. One grasped the true implications of what had happened to him. And he wanted more than mere physical healing. What he had longed for ever since leprosy overtook him – healing – he now saw as of minor importance compared to what needed most – forgiveness and reconciliation with God. He saw his physical cleansing was symbolic of something far greater and he turned around. Did he invite the others to come? We don’t know. But we know that he got something they didn’t get. Why? Look what he did. He “turned back, praising God with a loud voice (φωνῆς μεγάλης – megaphone!); 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” Who did he praise? God. Where did he do it? At the feet of Jesus. Did Jesus stop this impromptu worship service? No! The implications of this are staggering. Luke is showing us again in unmistakable terms the deity of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind, the leper who returned was a Samaritan. They worshipped at a different temple than the Jews. Mt. Gerizim instead of Jerusalem. Remember when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4? After she got interested He asked her to fetch her husband. She said she didn’t have one and Jesus says in 4:17, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Exposed! So she changes the subject in 4:19:“The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” She’s asking, “Which is the right one?” And Jesus replies in v. 21: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Now there’s a showstopper. He’s a Jew. You’d expect Him to say – Jerusalem. You worship in Jerusalem. Instead He says, “Neither. Neither place.” So what is going on? Well, first we must, “What was the purpose of the temple?” And we know the answer, right? At the center of the temple was the Holy of Holies – the place where God met His people based on sacrificial atonement for sin. The temple is where God meets His people. BUT – there’s been a change of monumental proportions. It’s found in John 2. Early in His ministry, Jesus cleanses the temple of the fraudulent money-changers and merchants. The Jewish elite are apoplectic that at Him interrupting their lucrative business, so we come to John 2:18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” Here’s what Jesus was saying so casually that no one got it yet – not even the disciples. He was saying, “Hey guys – there’s a new temple in town – and it’s me! There’s going to be an ultimate sacrifice for sin who will be raised again in 3 days – and it’s me! There’s a new place where God meets His people – and it’s me!” That absolutely takes your breath away when you realize what it all means, doesn’t it? It’s all Jesus, Beloved. He is the center of everything! Now back to the 10th leper. When he heard Jesus say “Go to the priests,” he had to be thinking, “What priests? The ones at Jerusalem or the ones at Mt. Gerizim?” Like the woman at the well, he’s asking, “Which place is the right place?” But while the 10th leper was contemplating that question suddenly his oozing, hardened, scaley skin was as soft as a newborn baby, and listen – the lights went on! He got what the others didn’t get. He realized, “It’s one thing to go to the temple priest to get a certificate of physical health. But if I’m going to get a certificate of spiritual health, neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem will do.” There’s a new temple – a new place where God meets His people – and it’s at the feet of Jesus Christ. I’m not suggesting he understood all of this, but he got enough to know, “Jesus is everything! I must get back to Him.” Make no mistake, Luke worded it this way on purpose. This man worshipped God at the feet of Jesus because that is the only place God can be found. Takes your breath away, doesn’t it? And that’s just what Jesus is communicating when He says in 17: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” He sent them away, yes, but in the hope that they would come back for the greater healing that comes not through any temple or church – but only at His feet. It’s not thanks He was looking for but the worship of the Father marked by saving faith. How do we know? Because He says to the 10th leper, “Your faith has made you well.” Only that’s not what He said. What He said was, “Your faith has σωζω you – saved you.” All of them were made physically well. Only one was made spiritually whole, forgiven, saved. Only one – and he a foreigner at that. Only one recognized that the only way to the Father is through the Son. There is a new temple in town, and it is Jesus. “He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.” Conc – So what happened to the other 9? Here is what happened. They were like the 5-year-olds whose SS teacher was telling them about the how Solomon built a great temple – and how when he was finished the presence of the Lord filled the temple. The children’s eyes got wide with excitement. But the teacher soon learned that their excitement was not that God had come to dwell in the temple, but rather delight in imagining that huge building filled with P-R-E-S-E-N-T-S from God. The nine never came back because they were satisfied with God’s present of physical healing. Only the 10th got the gift of the presence of God found at the feet of Jesus – the new temple in town. Have you found that gift? Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life (here it is – the only thing that really matters, far more important than healing from leprosy or cancer or anything else. This is eternal life), that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Only at the feet of Jesus. If you haven’t been there, you can come right now. Let’s pray.
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