On February 20, Pastor Bell preached from Luke 6:20-23 – Jesus’ Upside Down Kingdom
You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page to listen to this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.
On February 20, Pastor Bell preached from Luke 6:20-23 – Jesus’ Upside Down Kingdom
You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page to listen to this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.
Luke 8:1-3 – Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,  and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
What point is Luke making by drawing our attention to these women and their relationship to Jesus? We wouldn’t even ask such a question if this paragraph had mentioned only men. But the fact that it does not name men, but only women, makes the question worth asking. It seems that Luke is going out of his way to tell us that women followed Jesus, helped Him financially and were helped by Him. A few thoughts in answer to this question.
1) Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel of the social outcast. In no other account of Jesus’ life and ministry do we see Jesus involved in the lives of people considered untouchable as we do in Luke. Lepers, tax collectors, sinners, children and women. Luke’s message is clear. This Jesus is for you, no matter who you are. Are you considered unclean because of disease? You can come to Jesus. Are you ostracized because you work for Rome or have cheated and lied? You too can come to Jesus. Has your life been one of immorality and godlessness? He will restore you to God. Come to Jesus. Are you young and deemed worthy to be seen but not heard? Are you generally considered a nuisance and bothersome? Jesus will not think such things. He will gladly and joyfully receive you. Are you considered less important, less intelligent, less valuable because you are not male? Jesus will welcome you with no regard for your gender. What a glorious thing the Gospel is.
2) Jesus receives help from these women. He puts Himself at their disposal. He shows them that they are useful, needed, helpful. He makes them feel fully human. They are grateful for what He has done for them and He allows them to use their abilities and resources to help Him. These women have been healed and freed from demon oppression. Jesus has touched them who could not be touched and now says to them, “Would you please help me?” What an act of love and liberation!
3) He teaches those who are considered not worthy of teaching or too stupid to teach. The text points out that these women and the Twelve are travelling with Jesus. The women are not Apostles, but they are learning the same things that the Apostles are learning. They are not regarded as second class.
4) Even within this group there are divisions that get lost at the feet of Jesus. The wife of a king’s steward and a woman possessed of seven demons travel together because with Jesus the differences disappear.
Luke 8:2-3 seems like such an innocuous little piece of writing. But it packs a real punch and still addresses some of our deepest prejudices based on social class, gender, and what sins a person’s past may be laced with. How thankful we should be that this little text has been included for us.
Proverbs 24:1-2 (ESV)
Be not envious of evil men,nor desire to be with them,
 for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.
We are exhorted not to be envious of evil men. But why would we be tempted to envy the evil? Because of their power, success, wealth, and more. Their evil practises give them things that we would like to have. We live in a culture that honours the acquisition of money. To be sure, there are many laws that seek to protect people from those who would cheat, lie and steal to get the money of others, but that only amounts to saying that there are rules in place regarding how you are to acquire the most money you can. In any case, it is tempting to look at those who are successful, regardless of how they became so, and want what their work, legitimate or not, has given them.
This commandment is given because the Lord knows that no matter who we are or how sanctified we become, we are tempted to want to have what evil people have gained through evil means. To deny that we are so tempted is to open ourselves up for falling into the sin of desiring what evil people have gained for themselves and then being willing to do even as they did to gain it. Let us not skip over this necessary warning to us. To think that we will not fall into this sin is to be closer to it already than we think. The reason we are not to envy evil men is because their hearts devise violence and their lips talk of trouble.
But all that should not blind us to the personal application of this truth in this verse either. Christians must not want money, power etc. at the expense of their faithfulness to Christ. The call of Christ upon us is to follow Him no matter what the cost. This means, from this verse, that we will rather lose the money and the power than maintain or achieve it through evil or disobedient means. Better to be poor and faithful, than rich at the expense of our faith. Do not look at evil people with envy simply because they have money or other desirable things. They have wicked hearts who do not know Jesus Christ. Look at them with pity that because of their riches they are harder to convince of their need for Christ than others are and therefore their power is very short lived. Seek, through prayer and the delivery of the Gospel, to win them to your understanding of life rather than envy them for theirs. They are more needy than you are.
Psalm 67:1-7 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
The Psalm starts with a call for God to be gracious. As this Psalm was written to the choirmaster we can assume that it would be sung in services of worship by a choir. It is a cry for mercy. It is a beautiful thing to envision. A choir leading people in a cry for mercy from the great God. But, as is so true in so many of the Psalms, and in other places in the Scriptures, we are told why it is that we should dare to ask the sovereign Ruler of a vast creation to even consider punt little us. It is so that His way may be known on earth and His saving power among the nations. This gives rise to several thoughts:
1) The purpose behind the mercies of God does not begin or end with us. It is about Him. God shows mercy, first of all so that the world may see that He is a great, loving, merciful powerful God. This is right. It is not ego centric on God’s part for Him to do whatever He does for the sake of His name being known. It is a mercy that He allows us to know anything about Him at all. He is the best and greatest thing that can be known. There is nothing better for us than to know God. We want this incredible blessing to be experienced by others. Salvation does not demonstrate how valuable we are. It demonstrates how loving God is, how great His mercy is and how we are completely helpless to do anything to help ourselves.
2) God deserves to be held in awe and worshipped. To give something else the glory that only God deserves is a great wickedness.
3) We should want other people to know the great mercies of our God. How evil is it to have the greatest possible possession and enough of it to share with others and then greedily hang on to it for ourselves? A lack of concern for others to know our God may be an indication that we do not know Him ourselves. Love of neighbour certainly begins with a desire in our hearts for them to know him whose worth is unfathomable.
4) God has always had a heart for all of the peoples of the world. Verse 2 calls for God’s saving power to be known in the nations. It is a serious misunderstanding of the Scriptures to conclude that the Old Testament is about Israel only. The OT abounds with a message of salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile who come in faith. Consider the Book of Jonah and read Isaiah looking for the message in it to the Gentiles.
5) The Psalm ends with a confident comment that God shall bless us. How can we be so sure? Because He said so and He cannot lie. We can proclaim with confidence that salvation is promised and given and will be honoured. God shall bless us. Such truth does not engender rebellion and disobedience. It produces faithfulness and hope and communion with our God. What a God and what a Gospel.
Luke 7:35-50 (ESV)
 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”  And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus to his house for dinner. The norms of the day allowed uninvited guests to attend such a function in order to listen in on the conversation and no doubt as Jesus was the guest of honour, many from the community would clamour to be there. This explains the presence in the house of a woman that Simon would not normally allow anywhere near him. We are not told what this woman’s sin is that has Simon so upset but people have assumed it was prostitution or some form of sexual immorality, perhaps adultery. But we do not know. Perhaps the assumption that it is sexual says more about us than it does her.
In any case she has caused quite a stir, in Simon at least, because of her adoration of Jesus. Simon’s problem is that Jesus allows the woman to touch Him. This is a very old mistake that people still make today. Since we are commanded to separate ourselves from sin we conclude that there are certain people that we are commanded not to associate with. Many Christians have concluded that God does not want us to have friends who commit certain types of sin. It is certainly true that we should not allow ourselves to get into situations where we will fall into sin. Recovered alcoholics would be very foolish to hang around in pubs. But we need to very careful that we do not confuse the sins that we are commanded to avoid, with the people who do not avoid them. We are called give the Gospel to lost people. How we can do that without interacting with them is a mystery to me.
On the other hand, the tone in the Christian community now is hardly that of over isolation. Many believers commit the opposite error of living as if there is no difference at all between the practises of believers and those who are not. There is such a thing as sin and we are to take great care that we maintain a daily life of consistent holiness, which includes separation from sin. The old adage “in the world but not of the world” is very appropriate.
The Master of this, of course, was Jesus Himself. This is why the woman in this account is so intent on demonstrating love to Him. He has shown that He accepts her. Without condoning sin or sinning Himself, Jesus has loved people who are social outcasts. He has been loving to the hated. He has touched, as He does here, those who no one else will touch. This lady is broken by the love of Jesus, loves Him in return, puts her faith in Jesus (verse 50) and is in heaven today because of it.
Note that in the parable Jesus tells Simon that the point is that the woman is represented by the person who has sinned much. Jesus does not pussyfoot around her sin. He simply shows that His grace is greater. Simon, in the account, is the person who owes little. Simon’s sins are not small, but he thinks they are. He does not believe that he needs much forgiveness. And he gets his wish. Simon does not love Jesus as much as the woman does because he does not see that he needs Jesus.
If he knew that the grace that was lavished out on this woman was exactly what he needed, he would have responded differently to the whole thing. He would have been glad that the woman was there. He would have made sure that many more just like her had the opportunity to get to know Jesus. He would have rejoiced at the expression of love shown by her and that Jesus let her touch Him.
Do you believe that Jesus’ grace to you is immense? And if you do does it translate into wanting other people to know Him as well? And do you interact with the sinners in your circle in such a way that they know you care about them even though you do not agree with how they live or what they believe? We should live in such ways that the self righteous are offended at who we let touch us, while not being open to the charge of committing the sins that have separated them from God and from which we have been saved. May God give us grace to be Jesus to a lost world.
You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page for this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.
- Choosing Up Teams
II. Jesus Prays at Night
- Jesus, the Man of Prayer
- If Him, How Much More Us?
III. The Apostles – Just Like Us
- Ordinary Men
IV. The Apostles – Not Anything Like Us
- The Church Built on Their Teachings
1. This is an interesting text to preach from. Hassan and I meet periodically to discuss what texts of Luke we are going to deal with and which ones we will skip over. We are trying to get through this Book of Luke in a year (and right now the time table does not look good) and we simply cannot include everything. So why not skip over this one?
a. The reason for me is that the choosing of the twelve is a crucial part of Jesus future ministry and crucial for the church for all eternity. Two key texts, which will come up again later this morning, regarding the importance of these Apostles – Ephesians 2:19-20 and Revelation 21:10-14.
b. There is the whole matter of Jesus’ prayer life.
c. And there are certain qualities of these twelve men that are worth looking into as we consider our calling from Christ.
2. Just reading this brief account telling us who Jesus picked to be His Apostles puts me in mind of that age old custom of picking teams for baseball or hockey when we were children. The shame of being picked last meant that, at best, you were allowed to play, but what you felt – and knew – was that no one wanted you on their team because you were considered not good enough to play or contribute to the victory that everyone wanted. There are other examples that this picking of the Twelve might remind us of – American Idol comes to mind … . Applying for a job … . In all these situations the key to getting picked for the team, getting voted to carry to the next level or getting the job, is determined by the qualifications of the applicants. Can he play hockey? Can she sing? Are they fit to do the job we are hiring for? This is the way it should be.
a. The Gospel destroys all that when it comes to figuring out why we are on the team. But it dies hard in us. It is difficult for us not to compare what Jesus is doing here with those other examples of being chosen for something. It is easy for us to think that we are on the team because God saw some quality that He wanted or worse, needed. It is easy for us to think about our abilities, our talents and our gifts. But the Bible is plain that when it comes to being chosen for God’s team we are completely and utterly unqualified. Romans 5:8, I Corinthians 1:26-31 … .
b. And the same thing is true of these men that Jesus chose here. They are not being chosen for the exceptional qualities that they possess but because of the exceptional love Jesus has for them and the unbelievable plan that He has mapped out for them. But we get ahead of ourselves. Continue reading
Luke 6:12-16 (ESV)
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:  Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,  and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,  and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
A segment from the message I preached on Sunday, February 13.
The Apostles – Just Like Us
1. Acts 4:13 – Ordinary men
a. Fishermen – uneducated, hard working, mouths to feed.
b. A Tax collector – perhaps just like all tax collectors – a cheater, heartless, a tool of one of the cruelest empires ever to rule on planet earth.
c. A Zealot – one who thinks that the way to make the world a better place is to stage a violent revolution.
d. A thief – one who never would repent despite all that he saw.
e. Greedy, impulsive, slow to learn, proud …
f. Just twelve very ordinary men – like you and me.
g. See II Peter 3:15-16 – Being an Apostle did not mean that Peter understood all the mysteries of the Gospel. In fact, he had trouble making sense of Paul’s letters – just like you do.
2. Do not look at these twelve men as being a cut above the rest. They were not. There was nothing exceptional about them – except that Jesus chose them and molded them into what they eventually became and filled them with His Spirit so that they could become it. And dear ones – if you are called to something – and we in this church are – the conclusion we are to make is not that we aren’t educated enough or smart enough or rich enough.
a. This, dear ones, is the point. Jesus did not pick these men because of their superiority or their giftedness or their natural born talent. There is nothing about them to set them apart from others. Men with wives and children, eking out a living for themselves. Maintaining a faith, going to synagogue, travelling to Jerusalem a couple of times a year – twelve very ordinary men.
b. Dear ones – Jesus is not calling you to be an Apostle. The job isn’t open anymore. The position has been filled. But Jesus is still very much in the business of calling ill equipped, rough around the edges, … people – just like you. It is what he has always done – Moses, Gideon, David, Jeremiah.
3. Two ways we deny this
a. Never do anything because we are so sure that we are talentless. Dear ones – God calls and God equips. The humility that keeps people from serving Christ in their church is a false humility. It is pride – “I want the big job”, “I can’t do anything”(See Moses in Exodus 3:11-12, 13-14; 4:10-11)
b. Be convinced that you are the best thing that God ever gave to the world and have a plan that you expect the world to buy into or take it somewhere else. No dear ones. If God has put you into this church He has put you here to work with us and for God’s glory.
Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” [6:1] But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”  God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.  I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners.  Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.  Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.  I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ ”  Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.  So the Lord said to Moses,  “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.”  But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?”  But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Moses is speaking to the Israelites, what God has told him to say to them. God is going to liberate them from their slavery. He is going to establish them in their own land. They shall know the Lord and be known by Him. But the people do not listen. There are two things preventing them from hearing the good message that God has for them – a broken spirit and their harsh slavery. The harsh slavery has caused their brokenness of spirit.
It has now been more than ten generations that they have been slaves of the Egyptians. There is not a single person who can remember being anything more than a slave. The cumulative result is hopelessness and despair and an unwillingness to hear a message of hope. There is no hope. All hope is gone. Perhaps there have been other saviours over the years who have tried to redeem the people, stage a revolt, leave Egypt. All have failed. They are in a state of believing that it cannot get any better and that if they listen to Moses it will get worse. Since he came they have had their work increase substantially because of his words to Pharaoh (5:1-23). They are convinced that things will never change.
We can perhaps understand a little bit, why the Israelites in Egypt were skeptical. There has not been a word from God for over four hundred years. They have no written record of anything that God has said – Moses has not written the first five Books of the OT yet. Life is a misery and Moses appearance has only made things worse.
Their spirits are broken. And a broken spirit leads to unbelief, cynicism, depression, and a host of other emotional and mental troubles. In the Jews it led to a willingness to live in slavery rather than attempt to be free. This, even as they cry out for help (Exodus 2:23).
Despair is a horrible state to be in. God had some harsh lessons to teach the people as He carried out His plan to free the Jews from slavery. He did not let the unbelief of His people stop Him from bringing His plan to fruition. Grace triumphed over unbelief.
Many contemporary believers know the pain of despair. But we have far fewer reasons to end up in despair than the ancient Israelites did. We have the completed Word of God, the record of God’s dealings with people, a two-thousand year history of the church that records so much of the incredible providential workings of God for His people. Yet we still fall into hopelessness. This is sin. If we truly have God we always have hope. There are many things that can cause us to despair. In the work of the church, one’s own sin can lead to spiritual depression. The lack of involvement and commitment can be very discouraging for church leaders. The godlessness of the culture we live in can make us wonder if it is worth it to seek to be an influence for good and for God. And, to be fair, church leaders can sometimes be responsible for causing the church grief as well.
The account of Moses and the people’s despair can be a great encouragement to us. God did a great work in them and for them even though they did not believe. He is no less God today and the world which we live in is no more wicked than was theirs. Has God promised us great deliverance and freedom? We have God Himself living in us as a guarantee that such is the case. We have already been liberated from sin. We have a Gospel that is the very power of God, to deliver to the nations. It is not darker for us than it was for the Jews of Moses’ day. We must never become cynical, pessimistic and laissez faire. We serve a great God who does great things in great ways. Let us repent of sin, work diligently in the knowledge that it is not in vain and look to the future with great hope.
And finally, the exodus out of Egypt is a clear picture of salvation from sin and slavery into righteousness and freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. Sin is slavery and it crushes the spirit. Outside of Christ there is no hope. Many people are filled with despair and refuse to believe that the freedom offered in the Gospel is real. They are without hope, but the life they know is better to them than the unknown that is promised them. So what do we do? We just keep doing what God tells us to do. We give the Gospel. We pray. We live transformed lives. God will save people. It’s why Jesus hasn’t come back yet. There is hope for people. Let them know.
Galatians 1:1-5 (ESV)
Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—  and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Galatians 1:3-4 – Verse 4 says that Jesus died for us to deliver us from this present evil age. Am I living in a way that demonstrates that I have been delivered form the evils of sin in our day? There is no reason, other than my own sinfulness, why I should be characterized by the sins of our times. Some thoughts about this:
1) Holiness is accomplished first of all by the death of Christ on the cross for our sins. The Holy Spirit Himself will not sanctify anybody who is not a blood bought sinner.
2) There is no other way to holiness than through the cross. This is where Paul is headed in this text. He will get to verses 8 and 9 and say that to preach any other Gospel is to preach damnation on oneself.
3) Sanctification begins now. This text smashes any doctrine of grace absent of holiness. Grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-13).
4) We cannot be rescued from sin now except by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5) The present age is evil.
6) We are called to be separated from the evil that marks the world.
In verse 5 we are told that this deliverance is according to the will of our God and Father. This at least means that the Father and the Son are in complete agreement about what must be done; about their love for us; about the only solution. It means that the cross is the Father’s will (Isaiah 53:10 and Matthew 26:39). We must never think that Jesus is the God of mercy in the New Testament while the Father is the God of wrath and justice in the Old Testament. We have the Gospel because God the Father loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son. In no way ever does the Son counteract the will of the Father. In no way ever does the Son do or try to do anything that is not what the Father wants Him to do. He and the Father are One. Jesus came into the world to do the Father’s will. He came to save those the Father would give to Him.
Luke 7:24-30 (ESV)
When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? f A reed shaken by the wind?  What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.  What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written,
” ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  ( When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John,  but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
The greatest sinner ever born was John the Baptist. This is an amazing thing to say about a man who does not have a lot said about him in the New Testament. It is obvious in the opening chapters of each of the four Gospel accounts that John the Baptist is a very important figure. While he does not take up a lot of space, each of the four Gospel accounts goes out of its way to tell us about him and his work of announcing the arrival of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. But what made him so great as to merit the remarks by Jesus that he was greater than anyone ever born? His birth was announced by an angel and was a biological miracle, but there are others who could claim one or both of those things as well (Isaiah, Samson, Jacob and Esau). He was a bold, no holds barred preacher, but others could make that claim too. No, what made John the Baptist greater than Abraham, Moses, David, and all the other great heroes of the faith and, as Jesus says here, greater than anyone else ever born, is not the circumstances of his birth or his ability to preach.
Jesus tells us in verse 27 what He is referring to. It is because John is the one who comes before the Messiah and prepares the way for Him. What makes John great is that he directs people to Christ in a way no other prophet has ever been able to do. What makes him great is that he is able to take a back seat to the One who will die and save the world from its just punishment. John was able to point to the identification of the promised Saviour like no one else ever had or could. He can actually point to Jesus and say “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. What makes John great is his ministry of identifying Jesus. John the Baptist has just sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the Messiah he thought he was. Even the greatest of all men has his doubts. John was the greatest prophet up to that time but even he did not know everything about Jesus and His work. John doubted, perhaps because Jesus was not performing the way that John thought He would.
We however, know about the work of Christ. We know that Jesus did not come to overthrow Rome. We know that Jesus lived sinlessly, died as a substitute for His people and bore the punishment for their sins. We know that He rose from the dead and satisfied all the divine justice that our sins deserve. We know that no amount of keeping the Law can earn a person’s right to enter eternal life and fellowship with God. We know that Jesus returned to heaven and is coming back to earth. We know that all who repent and believe in Jesus have eternal life.
We have more of the Bible than John the Baptist had. Our work, as believers, is to give this whole Gospel to a world that so desperately needs Him. Our work is to direct people to the only remedy for their sin. We can give a more complete Gospel than even John the Baptist could. And that is why Jesus can say, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” What made John the Baptist great is what makes us even greater. What made John great was not who he was, but the message he was able to deliver. What makes it possible for Jesus to say that we can be greater than him is the same thing. We direct people to Jesus Christ. We can do it more completely than John did for we have the whole Gospel and a completed Bible to direct people to.
Want to be truly great? Give them Jesus.