The King and His Kingdom
A sermon on Luke 4:14-5:11 by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 1/29/2006
What is the goal of history? What is the ultimate end of this world?
There are several biblical texts that answer that question. One is Revelation 11:15. Loud voices in heaven cry out,
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever!
The Kingdom. Jesus came as King, to rule over His kingdom. Remember that Gabriel told Mary the child she would bear would be a king:
[Your child] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1:32-33
Last week we saw the Jewish people prepared for the coming of their King through the preaching of the Good News by John the Baptist. The people needed to acknowledge their sinfulness and God’s coming, righteous judgment. They needed to repent and believe the Gospel. They needed to live a life consistent with repentance. They needed to look forward to the coming one, the coming King who would baptize them not with water but with the Holy Spirit.
We also saw the King Himself prepared in three ways: First, through the entire history of the human race. From Adam to Joseph, God prepared the way for this One to be born at this time. Second, the King is prepared through God’s declaration as the Holy Spirit descends on Him in bodily form: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well-pleased.” Third, through 40 days of prayer, fasting, and temptation in the wilderness. Jesus rejects the temptation not to trust God for His every need; He rejects the temptation to make the kingdom itself His first priority instead of God; He rejects the temptation to test God, to check out whether or not God really is faithful.
This week the King begins His ministry. What is that ministry? Jesus tells us in Luke 4:43:
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."
Preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. That’s His purpose. Proclaiming that God is King. That He is in control. That He is at work in the world. That all His promises will be fulfilled. That He Himself is the linchpin in God’s plan. He is the King.
In presenting this theme, Luke does something interesting: He rearranges events in Jesus life. He takes Jesus trip to Nazareth, which happened later (the same event is recorded in Matthew 13 and Mark 6) and relates that story first. We know it is Luke rather than Matthew and Mark who have changed the order because of Luke 4:23. The people in Nazareth have heard of Jesus’ miracles in Capernaum – but those very miracles are recorded later in the chapter.
Luke puts this story first because he sees this event as key, as bringing out themes both in Jesus’ preaching and in His rejection by the people of Nazareth that are important for the rest of Jesus’ ministry.
So we’ll maintain Luke’s order, looking at the passage under five headings:
This passage leaves each of us with a question: Am I like people of Nazareth – wanting Jesus to perform for me and my friends, and rejecting Him unless He does? Or am I like Peter in chapter 5: Humbled to the dust by Jesus’ authority and power, and thus on the way to being named by Jesus as His ambassador?
After repulsing Satan’s temptations, Jesus leaves the wilderness, heading north to area in which He grew up, Galilee. He teaches in the synagogues, and the people praise His words. What does He preach? Verse 43 tell us: “The Good News of the Kingdom of God.” Luke uses the sermon in Nazareth as an example of what Jesus says.
Nazareth is Jesus’ hometown. He grew up there from the time He was a young child. We know this from the end of chapter 2, which takes place when He was twelve. At that point, the family is in Nazareth and appears to have been there for some time; Mary and Joseph are comfortable with Jesus traveling with others in the caravan.
Now Jesus is 30 years old. He has just recently left Nazareth.
This is Jesus’ only recorded visit to Nazareth. There is no record of His ever going back.
Jesus enters the synagogue on a Sabbath, takes the Isaiah scroll, and unrolls it to what we call chapter 61. Note that this section of Isaiah is about the Kingdom of God. Consider the verses that immediately precede what Jesus read:
Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. . . . The LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. . . . Your days of mourning shall be ended. 21 Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, . . . that I might be glorified. 22 The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it. (Selections from Isaiah 60:18-22)
Jesus then reads:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19
After giving the scroll back and sitting down (Jewish teachers normally sat down while speaking), Jesus says,
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21
He says, “The kingdom is here! I am the Anointed One, the One sent to proclaim the Good News! The time is come!”
But what kind of kingdom is this? An earthly kingdom where the Jews throw off Roman oppression? The restoration and expansion of an empire larger than David and Solomon’s?
Note that the emphasis in the Isaiah passage is not on political power but on the close relationship between God and His people, so that He might be glorified. Indeed, Jesus is proclaiming “Good News,” He is proclaiming Gospel; He proclaims “the year of the Lord’s favor,” God’s grace on His people; He gives “sight to the blind” – and often Scripture uses spiritual blindness as a picture of sin. All these promises can be taken as spiritual promises, with a spiritual fulfillment.
What about the proclamation of “liberty to the captives” and liberty to the oppressed? Even here there are spiritual connotations. The word translated “liberty” appears fifteen other times in the New Testament (eight of these are in Luke’s writings). Every other occurrence of this word is translated “forgiveness.” We’ve encountered this word twice already in Luke, in chapter 1 verse 77 in Zechariah’s song, and in chapter 3 verse 3 describing John’s ministry: He proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
So the most important benefits of the Kingdom are spiritual: Spiritual freedom, spiritual sight.
But even though political freedom and physical sight are of lesser importance, surely the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom includes them. However, this ultimate triumph has not been fulfilled even today, two thousand years after Jesus. So what did Jesus mean when He told the people of Nazareth, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”?
In order to understand the New Testament, we must understand the “already/not yet” character of the Kingdom. As Jesus proclaims here, the Kingdom has arrived with the ministry of Jesus. Yet the complete fulfillment of all the promises of the Kingdom awaits His second coming. Throughout this time between His first and second comings, the Kingdom is already here, but is not yet fully realized.
Why? Why didn’t Jesus usher in the final Kingdom in 30 AD? Why didn’t He end history at that time?
Consider: What happens if the Kingdom comes before Jesus dies on the cross? Remember, in the final Kingdom there is perfect justice. Perfect righteousness. But Paul tells us, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Thus, in a crossless Kingdom of perfect justice, there are no human citizens. So if men and women are to inhabit the kingdom, the final fulfillment of the Kingdom must await Jesus’ death and resurrection.
That explains why Jesus had to suffer and die; that explains why He could not usher in His kingdom during His lifetime on earth. But why didn’t He come back shortly after His death? Why didn’t He come back in, say, 50 AD? Or 500 AD? Or 1500 AD?
At any of those points, some humans would have been forgiven. There would have been human citizens of the Kingdom. But the Kingdom would not have included those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. The promise to Abraham – that all the families of the earth would be blessed in him – would not have been fulfilled. As Jesus says later,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
So Jesus will not return until this is fulfilled. Every tribe and tongue must stand before the throne of God.
In sum, then, consider the already/not yet nature of the Kingdom promises:
Jesus’ preaching, then, completes John’s preaching. He says: “The Kingdom is here! It is inaugurated! I am the promised One! So respond! Turn! Repent! Believe in Me! The one who believes will have forgiveness! Liberty! Sight! You will have God Himself! And eventually you will have political freedom, freedom from disease, freedom from slavery to corruption.”
During this already/not yet era of the Kingdom, that message continues to hold. Do you have that liberty? Have you responded?
Let’s consider now the reaction of the people of Nazareth to this message:
And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" Luke 4:22
Do you discern the two reactions here? On the one hand, they are impressed by His words. But then they think, “This guy grew up around here. I have a table He made. I watched Him making mud pies in the rainy season. Who does He think He is?”
Given what Jesus says in verse 23, it is clear that they are looking for Him to prove Himself. They are testing Him: “OK, You’ve spoken great words, now show us something.” They had heard stories of healings, of His casting out demons elsewhere. In effect, they are putting Him to the test. They are doing to Him what Satan tempted Jesus to do to God.
Jesus also says in verse 24: “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” The word translated “acceptable” is rare, occurring only five times in the New Testament. But two of those five occurrences are in this chapter. It appears first in verse 19, where it is translated “favor:” Jesus says He is to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor.” So it is the year of the Lord’s favor, but the Lord Jesus is not favored in His hometown.
Jesus does perform for them. In effect, He points out that a prophet has a higher calling than to be the representative of his hometown, showering blessings on it. His job is not to get earmarks from the heavenly budget for local voters. He is God’s representative, not Nazareth’s.
So the people of Nazareth, though originally impressed with His words, very quickly coalesce around the second reaction: They reject Him.
Jesus’ answer to them (verses 25-27) shows that the Kingdom in all its fullness has not yet come. He compares the present day with the time of Elijah and Elisha, when many miracles occurred. He says, “There were many miracles in the time of Elijah and Elisha. There will be many miracles now. But this is not yet the time for all disease to end. This is not yet the time for the end of all hunger. And remember: Who benefited from some of those prophets most famous miracles? A Syrian. And a Sidonian. That is, Gentiles.”
So not only does Jesus say, “I’m not going to perform for you.” That might well have led to their mocking Him, but not to their attempting murder. He also says: “God has plans for the Gentiles in His kingdom.” It is His mention of the Gentiles that fills them with anger, just as Paul’s mention of His calling to preach to the Gentiles sends the people of Jerusalem into a frenzy (Acts 22:21-23).
Why such anger? Most of the Jewish people anticipated the coming of the kingdom as vindication for the Jews, rather than as vindication for God. They saw the kingdom as a time of punishment for other nations instead of as a time of joy for all nations. Jesus says the benefits of the Kingdom will be for Gentiles too. So they try to kill him, as other Jews will try to kill Paul for the same offense. But Jesus’ time to die has not yet come, so He slips through them unnoticed and goes away.
He offers them forgiveness. He offers them the Kingdom. But they don’t want His Kingdom. They want their own idea of the kingdom. They want to control their king.
This will be the response of most Jews to their king. Rejection.
The King only takes those into the Kingdom who accept His Lordship on His terms. Do you?
Verses 31-36 relate what happens when Jesus is teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum on another Sabbath. His listeners are astonished just at His authoritative words. But then man who has a demon tries to disrupt the teaching, crying out that Jesus is the “Holy One of God.” But Jesus does not need the testimony of demons! While that is a true title for Him, it is not yet time to proclaim that title. So Jesus casts out the demon. The people thus see that His words not only appear authoritative, but also that they are authoritative over evil.
The story continues:
And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. 38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. Luke 4:37-41
So Jesus has authority over disease as well as demons. By showing that He is King over disease and demons, He is proving that He can do away with these plagues. Here is His down payment of His eventual ridding the world of all disease, of all demons.
So Jesus heals many. He has authority. The Kingdom is at hand.
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose." 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. Luke 4:42-44
Much of the night Jesus spends healing and casting out demons. It doesn’t look like He slept at all. Early in the morning He goes out alone to a desolate place; Mark 1:35 tells us He went to pray. What is He praying about?
Remember, He just healed many. Many more are still coming. Word will get out, and the more He heals, the more will come. He could spend the rest of His life as a healer of disease. He has compassion on the people. Healing is good work. He is helping many. He is displaying one aspect of the Kingdom. So He prays and prays: “Father God, what is ahead for Me?” He concludes that healing is not His primary purpose. His mission, His calling is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. He will heal – but only when healing will help communicate message of the Kingdom. We will see next week how He does that.
The time will come when He will end disease, when He will end all sorrow. But that time is not yet. Now He must preach. Then die. Then rise triumphant. Then return in glory to usher in the Kingdom in its full glory.
So Jesus knows His mission. He keeps Himself from being distracted from His mission, even by good, worthy causes. He goes out to preach.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." 5 And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." Luke 5:1-5
Jesus has gone out to preach elsewhere. He is no longer in Capernaum, but in another town on the same lake. The crowd keeps coming; as more and more arrive, they push those in front up toward Jesus, forcing Him into the water. So He goes out into the lake and, climbing in a boat, speaks from there. After finishing, He tells the expert fisherman to throw in their nets. Now, the middle of the day is not a very good time to catch fish. Peter knows this full well. But to humor this carpenter, Peter agrees to throw in his nets, thinking that he will show Jesus that at least in this area, Peter know more than He does.
6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Luke 5:6-10
Peter is the experienced fisherman, but Jesus knows more about fishing. They get a huge catch.
Is that the only lesson? Is this just another example of the authority of Jesus – this time, of His authority over fish, making them swim into nets?
Look at Peter’s reaction. He falls down before Jesus – thus worshiping Him – and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” That seems a strange reaction. What is that about?
Verse 9 begins with the word “for,” so the next phrase must explain Peter’s response. “They were astonished at the catch.” They are fishermen. They know such things don’t happen. Peter has seen his mother-in-law healed. He has seen many more healed at and around her house. But this miracle, in his own area of expertise, helps Peter see Jesus in a whole new way. This miracle causes Peter to ask, “Who is this man? He is from God! He is God’s man! I’m unworthy to be near Him!”
That’s the right response to a miracle. Not, “OK, he passed the test!” That would have been the reaction of the people of Nazareth had Jeus performed for them. No. The right response is, “This is the power of God! I don’t deserve to be anywhere near God’s power! I am so unworthy!”
Peter is right. He is unworthy. But “a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). So Jesus turns to Peter and says,
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." Luke 5:10b
Jesus says, “Peter, you got it right. All these people have seen miracles, but few have responded in the right way. I will use men like you. I will send you out, as I myself was sent out. You will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, as I have preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. You will bring repentant men into the Kingdom, as I have done. Join me.”
Verse 11 gives Peter’s response:
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John now know that Jesus is worth more than all they own, all they dreamed of, all they hoped for. Jesus has called them. They have a task to do for Him. Nothing else matters. Not their father in the boat. Not the income they forego. All for Jesus. All for Jesus.
Jesus came to rule a Kingdom over all kingdoms. Some aspects of that kingdom are yet future. Some are not yet.
But He offers liberty, freedom, forgiveness of sin – even now! He offers this to all those who respond like Peter, saying, “I am sinful, O Lord. I’m not worthy of receiving anything from you. Forgive me by Your grace!”
Have you responded in that way? Do you see Jesus as Lord and Savior? If not – will you come to Him even now?
He will reign forever and ever. And all those who don’t come to Him will deserve – and will receive – eternal punishment, banishment from all joy. Come to Him. Join the Kingdom.
If you have come, if you are His, ask yourself: “Why am I called? Why did God grant me repentance?”
Like Peter, He granted you repentance so that He might send you out. He brought you to Himself so that He might use you to usher in His Kingdom. Remember, Jesus later will teach His disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come.”
Are you praying, “Your Kingdom come!”? Are you praying, “Fulfill your word! May we proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations!” Are you praying, “Lord, bring Your Kingdom to the realm of my life, so that You reign there. Then send me out as your ambassador to bring Your Kingdom to the realm of those I encounter. Send me out to bring Your Kingdom to the uttermost ends of the earth! Send me, and use me to send others!”
Jesus knew why He was sent; He kept Himself from getting distracted by other good works. He knew His purpose.
Know your purpose! Fulfill it! Be focused! Be willing to leave everything to follow him!And so may His Kingdom come in your life; may His Kingdom come through your life.
This sermon was preached on 1/29/06 at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC. Darrell Bock’s Luke 1:1-9:50 (Baker, 1994) was helpful, particularly in his discussion of the lack of chronological order.
Copyright © 2006, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it in written form, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.
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