Jesus and his Preaching
Jesus saw his coming into the world as involving a serious mission and that mission had to begin with preaching and teaching.
The experience at Nazareth didn't put Jesus off or cause him to change his behaviour. He didn't stop going to the synagogue and he didn't stop doing good on the Sabbath Day either.
Now sometimes we meet people who have had what they consider to have been a bad experience in church life and they decide never to attend again. You might have had this type of experience and although you still attend you are careful not to become too involved. You may in the future have what seems to be a negative experience and you may well be tempted at that moment to withdraw and put some clear water between you and the church.
Jesus' own experience leaves us the best of examples to follow. We may well be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or let down in any number of ways but I doubt whether any of us has had it as rough as Jesus had in Nazareth. The folk in his home town synagogue had wanted to throw him off a cliff and that literally and not figuratively! And what do we find him doing? The very next thing we read is that he's in another synagogue doing just the same sort of thing as before – he's preaching, teaching and healing on the Sabbath Day. That seems like active involvement to me – what do you think?
At the end of the passage Jesus summed up what he had already made very plain by his actions and behaviour: he had come on a mission and that mission was to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. (vv.42-43).
The Content of his Preaching – the Kingdom of God.
The idea of a coming "Kingdom of God" was present in the OT and Jews were expecting this kingdom of "the God of heaven" to be set up by the agency of their long anticipated Messiah. However Jewish ideas had gone wrong and while Jesus used the term Kingdom of God/Heaven his vision of the Kingdom was not a narrowly jewish one. In simple terms the Kingdom of God exists wherever God's reign and rule are readily welcomed and accepted.
As we look through the gospel narratives we find that Jesus had a great deal to say on the subject. His teaching included the following elements:
a. the Kingdom had drawn near – he was thinking about some remote Kingdom or of a Kingdom that was a long way off in the future. The Kingdom of God had a here and now reality about it because he Jesus had come to inaugurate it.
b. what the Kingdom was like – in describing the Kingdom Jesus frequently used the picture language of parables to help people understand because the Kingdom of God was unlike the usual earthly kingdoms with which men and women were familiar
c. the Kingdom demanded a response – this Kingdom was a practical reality and not some piece of information that was interesting but irrelevant in terms of daily life. The fact of the Kingdom raised the questions "Do I belong to it or not?" "Am I a member of it or not?" – such questions are still relevant to us today.
d. the Kingdom must be sought as priority N°1 – Jesus was not content simply to talk about the Kingdom as being important but of being of primary importance. We can perhaps easily nod and agree when we're sat in church on a Sunday morning that the Kingdom of God is important but what happens the rest of the week? Have we made seeking this Kingdom our first priority?
e. how to enter – what are the conditions? If we do take seriously what Jesus has to say about prioritising the Kingdom in our lives we will need to know just how we can enter that Kingdom. It is no use fudging the matter – it is God's Kingdom and the terms and conditions are his and not ours to establish. Jesus taught about these matters.
f. who will enter? Jesus taught that there would be some surprises here as to who will be in and who won't. Now there are plenty of people in the world who look on all those who associate with churches as being religious hypocrites and love the idea that there will be surpises as to membership of the Kingdom of God – because they like to assume that they will be in irrespective of their attitude to God and his Christ. Jesus' warnings to the religiously self-righteous should never be interpreted to mean that the average man in the street is thereby declared good enough for God.
g. warnings are issued that it is and will be possible to miss out – how loving of our Saviour to provide such teaching, teaching that we all need to hear and warnings which we all need to heed!
The Manner of his Preaching
a. with determination – wouldn't let anything stop him:
1) the negative experience at Nazareth – we've already referred to the reaction of the people of Nazareth and their attempt to silence Jesus – but they were not the only negative pressures resisting his teaching and preaching ministry
2) demonic activity – as Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum opposition raised its head in the form of a demon-possessed man who interrupted the service with his outcries.
I wonder if you think it odd that such a man should be in a synagogue where Jesus was preaching. While the Bible doesn't explain what it was that drew him that day some commentators have used this example to suggest that the devil never misses a church service and is always looking for ways to disrupt.
The demon took hold of the man's vocal chords and spoke through him challenging Jesus and deriding him. We should not think of the demon's words as helping Jesus' cause by making known his identity – the people were not yet ready for such a revelation of just who Jesus was, their minds being full of misconceptions and false understandings. There was an attempt that day to force Jesus' hand into inappropriate and untimely action – it was a failure then but we need to be vigilant that other, possibly more subtle, methods don't succeed in our day.
Let me give you an example of what I mean: how much of the message from God's word do you carry away with you at the end of the service. You sit and listen to the preacher for 30-40 minutes but do you think about even one thing that was said during the rest of the day? If the devil can't stop you going to church he will try to ensure that you don't get much if anything out of it!
3) physical needs – ie. sicknesses to heal.
The synagogue service was over and Jesus is at once sollicited to provide help for a sick lady, Peter's mother-in-law. He responded and met her need.
Then when the evening came and the Sabbath was officially over crowds came to find Jesus so that he could help other sick people too. Again, he complied and healed folk from all kinds of sicknesses and dealt with many others who were also suffering from demonic oppression/possession. These evil spirits also also bore their inappropriate testimony to him and he silenced them too! How wrong for inveterate enemies to be allowed to commend the Lord of Glory!
The needs of the physically ill and the demon-possessed were very real – how easily Jesus might have lost his focus and ceased preaching to do what was far less divisive and threatening. But he had come to preach and would not allow even the good of healing and exorcism to hinder his ability to proclaim the truths of the gospel.
Isn't there a lesson for us here too? How we can get totally absorbed by matters of everyday life that we forget that we forget that we have spiritual needs. We can focus so much upon the things that are here today and gone tomorrow – health, employment, family concerns etc. – that we completely ignore our never-dying souls. Jesus kept his focus and his example teaches us to do the same.
4) the positive experience at Capernaum – success can also be a handicap to us and a temptation. Jesus had come to preach and here he was popular and welcome in Capernaum – the people there didn't want to see him go and did what they could to keep him. How tempting, how comfortable! But Jesus knew that his work was wider than Capernaum and didn't allow his success there to hinder him ministering elsewhere too.
Are there new things that we, as Christians, should be attempting for God. When was the last time time you asked yourself questions about how you are living your life? About what God wants you to do with your life? Have you ever done so?
b. with authority – Jesus knew why he had come and he knew what he was talking about. As he preached and taught this was obvious to those who heard him – he was not simply giving opinions or repeating what others had said before like the teachers they were used to hearing. What was more his preaching was backed up with demonstrations of power, confirmatory works of power – the sick were healed and evil spirits were forced to submit to him.
We need to take on board what this man says. Why should we rest our eternal destiny on the uninformed views of the man in the street when it comes to our eternal well-being, when there is a man come from heaven to tell us the way?
c. with approachability – Jesus didn't try to wrap himself in a cocoon and isolate himself from the people to whom he ministered. He taught yes, but was also ready and willing to receive those who heard him or who heard about him.
This remains just as true today – the King of Glory and the Prince of Peace continues to welcome sinners who turn to him. We read again and again of him casting out demons and evil spirits but he promises never to cast out those who come to him in faith.
With such a Saviour who is so approachable I need to ask you: "Have you approached him? Have you come to him in faith and with trust? How foolish we would be if we knew what he was like but never ourselves did anything about it!
Reactions to his Preaching and Teaching
Finally, as we close, let's consider some of the range of responses that greeted our Lord Jesus when he went about preaching and teaching as he did.
a. negative human response in Nazareth
The folk in Nazareth had their own preconceived ideas that they weren't prepared to revisit when Jesus didn't conform to their expectations. They thought they knew all there was to know and in realitythey knew nothing of importance at all.
What do you really know about this man Jesus? I wonder whether some of you are in danger of failing to understand who Jesus is, what he came to do and what his message is because you've made up your mind before even contemplating the facts!
b. the wicked response of demonic activity in Capernaum
1) mocking challenges – it is not necessary to be demon-possessed in order to mock and there are plenty of folk out there who are quite prepared to react arrogantly with their challenges and their defiance.
2) inappropriate revelations cf. Is.61:1-2 it was the Messiah's calling to declare the year of the Lord's favour, not the evil spirits.
3) the evil spirits knew who Jesus was but it was not for them to proclaim the good news nor did they do so with the desire that others would benefit
(they did recognise the man Jesus of Nazareth as being – the Holy One of God, the Son of God, the Christ).
c. distracting response of the people in Capernaum. It is perhaps easy in our self-centred age to imitate these people in Capernaum. Yes, they thought highly of Jesus, yes they wanted to keep Jesus around for longer – but did they really believe in him or did they not rather try to use him to further their own well-being?,He preached the Kingdom of God and they longed for physical healing and well-being.
A while later this is how Jesus would speak about Capernaum and his words suggest that the population, despite what it saw and how it reacted, was not marked by genuine faith at all!
Mt.11:23 "And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."
d. open door in other synagogues in the region – Jesus was welcomed into other synagogues in the region where he could go on preaching and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
The good news is for sharing – let us make sure that we both receive and embrace it for ourselves and then that we make it available and accessible to others too.
If Jesus could be so determined to preach and teach, if his preaching and teaching could be authenticated by the works of mighty miracle working power, then it surely makes sense for us to know not just that Jesus was a great teacher but to also just what it was that he taught.
Make sure you listen to the sermon and that you think it over again through the remainder of the day. Think about what has been said tomorrow and through the week. Take your Bible and read it for yourself. Speak to us if you haven't got a Bible or the one you've got is in an English you find hard to understand. Speak to us if you want some help in reading the Bible.
Please don't just go away and do nothing. Put you faith an trust in this most Wonderful man and pray for God to help you understand all you can about him.
To God be the Glory.