On New Year’s Day, not many of you were here, but we talked about the vision for LBC in 2012. What are we going to be about? What are we going to focus on? I mentioned last time that when choosing a vision statement or a mission statement or whatever you want to call it, we should key in on what the Bible considers to be important. We can’t focus on everything the Bible says so we have to narrow it down.
And actually, it’s not that hard because Jesus does the hard work and narrows down the key ideas for us. And we are left with 2 commands: the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission. The greatest commandment is important for obvious reasons. Jesus labels it THE greatest commandment–love God and love neighbor. The other key command in Scripture is the Great Commission–Jesus’ final words to us to go and to make disciples of all nations. We could be terrible at many things as a church, but those 2 things, we ought to excel in, or at least die trying.
Love God, love neighbors, make disciples of all nations–all 3 have to be pursued simultaneously. How do you do that? That’s why living out Christian life is messy. Which one is a priority, which one should be done first, is there an order we should follow? No, there is no order because in my reading of Scripture, all 3 are fundamentals. Like legs of a tripod, you take away a leg and the tripod will fall down. If one of these 3 components is missing, your spiritual life will fall down and not take off as it should.
If you focus on 1 leg only like loving God, then you will end up in a monastery and pray and read the Bible all day and you might feel close to God in a devotional sense, but that would be insufficient. Love, according to the Bible, is not a fuzzy emotion. In the fourth gospel, John links love with obedience. If we love God, we will obey him. And what should we obey? I believe our obedience has to be related to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
And therein lies the tension. We are not spirits. We are physical beings so we can only be at one place at a time and only do one thing at a time. You do one thing and that means you are not doing ten other things that might be quite important.
When I start with loving God and He fills me with His love, I am compelled to love my neighbor. It overflows. When I start with loving neighbor, I immediately feel my lack and inadequacy and it drives me back to God. The same when I am making disciples of all nations. How can I teach others to obey everything Christ commanded unless I am constantly in the Word and I am being discipled and taught by Christ personally.
3 legs of a tripod–love God, love neighbor, make disciples of all nations. We need to pursue all 3 simultaneously.
We can try and we should try to pursue all 3 simultaneously in hopes of achieving a perfect balance of all 3, but at the outset, as I said last time, I want to say that we are going to fail.
Who is the one person in history that was perfectly balanced in his love for God, love for neighbor and disciple-making? Only one. It’s Jesus. That was the recap of last time. This week, I want to start by looking at the life of Jesus at a high level to glean some principles as we strive to be more like him in the trenches of day to day life.
I am a romantic at heart. So scenery moves me. As a college student, I loved going up the Campanile, the clock tower on the Berkeley campus or the hills of Grizzly Peak. Because it allowed me to see life from a higher vantage point.
So that’s what I want to do for the bulk of this message. I want to take a step back and look at the life of Jesus from a bird’s eye view. To do this, I want to study the larger context that surrounds our main text, the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. So we’ll do a quick pass through the key events of Jesus’ life starting in Luke 9 all the way to the end of Luke 10. And as we are going through these chapters, I want to connect the dots between the life of Jesus and these legs of the tripod. The first leg–love God. The second leg–love neighbor. And the third leg–make disciples.
And I hope you will see a pattern. Jesus was constantly going back and forth from loving God, to loving neighbors, to making disciples. Jesus demonstrates how a pursuit of all 3 legs of the tripod might look like in the trenches of day to day life. Don’t get lost in the details. Take a step back and try to gain an impression as you take in the breathtaking scenery of Jesus’ life from 10,000 ft. above.
Let’s look at the context starting from Luke 9. Keep your Bibles open and follow along. The first section is Luke 9:1-9. Jesus sends out the Twelve to preach the gospel and expand the kingdom. And he gives them this principle–take nothing with you. Go from town to town. Knock on doors. This is the Great Commission, the third leg of the tripod. Make disciples. If someone welcomes you, stay there and you will be a blessing for that family or town. If you are not welcomed, shake the dust off your feet and leave that town in their unrepentance. Make disciples but do it in a way that is discerning. We have one life to live so does it make sense to pour out our lives to people who are unresponsive? Not according to this passage. Invest your time wisely on people who are responsive.
Now we get to Luke 9:10-17. The Twelve return from this evangelistic crusade with testimonies of what they had done. But they are interrupted by a crowd. And their reaction is very human. They had worked really hard and they just wanted to get away with Jesus by themselves and do what Christians do–gather in a small group to share–and get recharged. So they are about to embark on a trip. But what happens? A crowd crashes their party. And the disciples react and say what you and I would say–send the crowds away. The Bible is so true to life. It exposes the human heart. We do all this ministry. We are tired. We just want to be alone with our closest friends at the end of a long day. Let’s go on a private getaway with our Teacher and our peers. But a crowd arrives just as they were about to pull out. Jesus, send them away.
Jesus doesn’t. He is sovereign. You get the feeling that this whole thing is staged and Jesus has something to teach the disciples through the events that are unfolding. This is a recurring theme. Jesus is discipling the Twelve and showing them over and over what love for others looks like.
There’s a crowd of 5,000 men and many more if you include women and children, a hungry crowd and all they have is 5 loaves and 2 fish. And Jesus knows the disciples are tired, He knows they are cranky, He knows they just want to get away, but He has something to teach them about love.
v13 – you give them something to eat. This is the second leg of the tripod. Loving your neighbor is not on your timetable. Love is hard. In fact, truly loving another selflessly and putting another’s needs before your own, that kind of love is impossible to do on your own strength. If we love our neighbors on our own strength, like 5 loaves and 2 fish, we will run out of supply quickly. But if we have Jesus, then a miracle happens. The food is multiplied and we can love supernaturally with his help. That’s the point of the story.
In Luke 9:18-27, the spotlight is on Peter. Jesus asks, who do the crowds say I am? And some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah or one of the prophets. But Peter gets it right! As one of the closest disciples, if not THE closest disciple, Peter is on his A game, he’s right on the money when it comes to Jesus’ identity. He answers, Jesus, you are the Christ of God in v20. This is one of Peter’s shining moments. He loves Jesus with all of his heart, to the best of his ability. The first leg of the tripod. And Peter reveals that he knows something about Jesus’ identity that few people understood, that He is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah.
That insight, Peter knowing that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, was revealed to Peter by God because Peter loved Jesus. The first leg of the tripod.
But in the next section, Peter takes it too far. Luke 9:28-37 talks about the transfiguration. The inner 3–Peter, John and James–went up onto a mountain to pray and what a way to follow up with Peter’s fantastic confession that Jesus is not just a regular religious teacher, but he is THE Christ, the Messiah. Peter must be feeling great about himself. Peter may be a streaky shooter, but he is on fire right now, spiritually speaking. And almost as a reward, Peter is selected to go on a special prayer retreat with Jesus. And while they were there, Moses and Elijah appeared, not in a dream, but while they were awake, they appeared. And at first, Luke notes that Peter and his companions were very sleepy.
Have you ever noticed that at critical junctures the disciples were asleep? Like the Garden at Gethsemane, right before Jesus is about to be crucified and He begs his disciples, please stay up with me and pray. But they keep falling asleep. 3 times they fell asleep. A small detail, but it is revealing. Being with Jesus is tiring.
So the disciples were sleepy and it took them a moment to realize what was happening. But when they were fully awake, they saw Jesus full of glory along with Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament. And it was such a great experience that Peter wanted to set up shelter and camp up there longer.
Who can blame him? A private prayer retreat with Jesus and he saw Moses and Elijah. If I were there, I would have wanted to stay there longer, too. There were many retreats I attended as a college student where I encountered Christ through the preaching of the Word and I wanted to stay at the retreat site. I was with God and God’s people. What more could I want? I could have easily stayed another week. But the point of these retreats is not to remain at the retreat site forever. The point is to prepare ourselves for life in the trenches. There is a mission–to love neighbors and to make disciples–and that’s exactly why Peter had to come down from the mountain. What if Peter insisted that he stay on the mountain? Then, he would have been there alone because Jesus went down the mountain.
We were not supposed to put all of our weight on the first leg of the tripod to the neglect of the other 2 legs. Jesus never intended to stay atop the mountain for long. Why did he go down the mountain? What was waiting for him? We read in Luke 9:37, the next day. That’s important. The VERY NEXT DAY, they came down from the mountain top and instead of Peter and the other 2 disciples getting some time to reflect and digest and write about their experiences in their journal, immediately they were greeted by another crowd. No rest. No down time. And out of the crowd, a man cries out, Teacher, I beg you to help my son who is possessed by an evil spirit.
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t respond as you might expect. He says in v41, O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? It’s as if the same crowd that witnessed the miraculous feeding earlier had gathered again, this time to watch another spectacle, the exorcism of this demon-possessed boy. It’s like going to the movies. They want to be entertained. Jesus doesn’t seem to be interested in calling attention to these great manifestations of supernatural power. He doesn’t want the crowds to follow him for what He can do for them. But he heals the boy anyway in spite of the crowd being there.
Then, in v44, Jesus provides some commentary as to what he is thinking. Jesus warns the disciples, you see these guys who are marveling at these miraculous displays of power? They are cheering for me now, but the very same people are going to turn on me later, betray me and eventually crucify me on a cross. Miracles and signs do not change people. Only a true encounter with Jesus born out of desperate need to be forgiven, only repentance changes people.