Truth and Courage

Footsteps of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:45
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Have you ever had to tell someone the truth even though you knew it was not something they wanted to hear? Telling people the truth when you know it will not be received well requires courage, yet most of us will shy away from it usually to preserve a measure of peace in a relationship. But there comes a time when resisting speaking the truth does more harm than the perceived harm of telling the truth. At the center of our mission to share Jesus to the world is sharing truth that people will find offensive.
Over the past few weeks, we saw Jesus’ activity in Jerusalem and Judea, then he travelled north through Samaria, where he spoke to the woman at Jacob’s well, and he proceeded north into Galilee. All of the four gospels give us a record of his travel into Galilee, but Luke is the only one who provides this narrative where Jesus returns to his hometown. When he gets there, he shares truth that gets a surprising reaction.
Luke 4:14–15 NASB95
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
These two verses provide the backdrop for Jesus’ return to Nazareth. What I want you to see here is what Jesus did and how the people of Galilee responded. Jesus went and taught in the synagogues, an honor for someone who is not formally trained. The reaction of the people was positive. It says he was being glorified by all. Everyone had good things to say about him. His reputation was growing. Then he went home.
Luke 4:16–22 NASB95
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
As he had done in the other towns in Galilee, he went to the synagogue and was given the opportunity to teach. He is handed the scroll of Isaiah, and quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2. He then claims that those verses are now fulfilled. Jesus has gone from private displays of his power (turning water into wine) to public declarations that he is the Messiah. Remember Messiah means “anointed one.” This was the title of the prophesied savior of Israel, the one who they have been waiting for. Jesus is saying to the people of his hometown, “I am the One.” This is a big claim!
Notice again the reaction of the people. Verse 22 records that they spoke well of him and marveled at his gracious words. They couldn’t believe it! This guy, Joseph’s son, little Jesus, was the Messiah? Again, the response of the people was one of positivity. Nobody seemed to object to this. I’m sure the people of the tiny town of Nazareth were baffled by this.
Denison is a town that boasts a population of about 24,000 people today. If you are travelling north from Dallas to Oklahoma, you are on I-75. Denison will be the last town you pass through before you cross the Texas-Oklahoma border. Before I married my wife, I had never heard of Denison. But Denison’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Dwight Eisenhower announced his candidacy for the presidency, I wonder if anyone in Denison said, “You mean David and Ida’s boy? No way!” I bet that when he was elected the town of Denison was excited. Who would have thought that a boy from such a small town would grow up to be President? This seems to be the same kind of reaction when Jesus announces to the people that he is the Messiah. He is met with what looks like immediate acceptance. But then things take a turn...
Luke 4:23–30 NASB95
And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ ” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.
Whoa! What happened? Everybody was happy and excited, but the next moment they want to throw Jesus off a cliff! How did things go from gladness to anger in a mere moment? Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus said.
First, he said they would quote a proverb to them, “Physician, heal yourself.” This seems to be a well-known proverb in Jewish culture back then, and some suggest there are similar sayings in ancient Jewish literature. It also seems to point forward to when he will be on the cross.
Luke 23:35 NASB95
And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
He knows a day is coming when he will be rejected and those who claim to like him now will be mocking him later.
Second, he is predicting their demand for signs and miracles. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he faces demands for signs and miracles from those who stubbornly refuse to believe. It is as if they say, “I will only believe if God writes a message in the sky” or, “I will only believe if God heals my mom.” This is an attempt to manipulate God rather than believe on the basis of what God has already done. This will happen throughout his ministry.
Finally, Jesus reminds them of two stories, and this is the tipping point. He makes references to Elijah and Elisha, two of Israel’s most famous prophets. They served at times when Israel was disobedient. Rather than send Elijah to Israel’s own widows, he was sent to a widow in Sidon, a Gentile nation (1 Kings 17:8-24). Elisha, his successor, was sent to Naaman the Syrian, a leper who was healed over Israelite lepers (2 Kings 5:1-14). We read these stories and we see the graciousness of God toward those outside of Israel. We think, “Oh wonderful! God is the God of both the Jew and the Gentile.” But this was not the Israelite mindset. They developed an elitist mindset. They were the people of God. They were special. But Jesus reminded them that God cares for the rest of the world too. This flies in the face of what Jews thought about the character of God. This is what drove them to try to run Jesus off a cliff.
The Jewish expectation of a Messiah was that of a liberator. They expected him to come and rescue them from oppression like Moses did in Exodus, like the judges did in the book of Judges, like Saul and David did with the Philistines. The Messiah in their mind was a hero who would come and drive out Rome and establish a new kingdom of Israel. He certainly would not be a friend of Israel’s enemies. But that is exactly who Jesus is. He spoke that he was both the Savior of Israel and the rest of the world, including Israel’s enemies. This was the truth.
Jesus knew he would be met with hostility, but he could not come and only speak half of the truth. He had to speak all of it. To follow the example of Jesus:

We must be bold in speaking the truth even in the face of hostility.

The reality is that the gospel message is offensive. For the Jews in this context it meant that their Savior cared about Gentiles, their enemies. The gospel is offensive in that it awakens us to the realization that God is God and we are not. He operates by his rules, not the rules we create for ourselves. We are made in God’s image. God is not created in our image. The Bible presents to us a God who is infinitely holy and infinitely just. His character is above any other being. He is our Creator and our Judge. He has handed down a moral standard in which we are all called to follow. We have violated his standards and justly stand condemned for our rebellion against his standards. Jesus came to pay the price of our rebellion, purchasing our pardon, and provide us the opportunity to be reconnected to God through adoption into his family.
The issue we face today is that people are more interested in making Jesus out to who they want him to be rather than let Jesus speak for himself. Today the Jesus people love is the Jesus that is always kind and tolerant, who accepts people for who they are, never calling people to turn from their sins, but rather embraces them and their lifestyle of sin. The Jesus of today is always loving and never judgmental. The Jesus of today is portrayed as accepting of everybody because everybody has defined themselves as good and moral rather than measure themselves against the moral standards God has given. The Jesus of today is nothing like the Jesus of the Bible.
The Jesus of the Bible was increasingly hated by his own community. He was rejected by those who were supposed to know better. He was rejected by Nazareth because he did not measure up to their expectation. Nazareth was good with Jesus being the Messiah until he said the Messiah also came to love Gentiles. Jesus went out of his way to meet a woman in Samaria before arriving in Galilee. She was receptive where people from his own hometown were not. It is interesting that as you read the book of Acts the Gentile parts of the world were more receptive to the gospel than the Jews were. Who are the people in our lives Jesus is trying to reach if we would only get over ourselves?
The harvest is plentiful if we will work the right fields. Our task is a scary one. We must always be prepared to share the gospel. The message includes sharing the realities of sin, of God’s moral standards, and of our falling short of that standard. We must not back away from calling sin out. We must be courageous in standing firm in what the Bible says even though people will get hostile. Today debates are basically shouting matches where the goal seems to be to shout louder than the other so the other will shut up first. This is not the way of Jesus. He does not need us to win shouting matches. He does ask us to insert ourselves into situations where we can represent him faithfully. The world will grow more hostile to the Christian message, but we cannot back down. We must courageously speak the truth in our spheres of influence.
Is there an area of your life where God is using you to speak the truth? Is there someone who needs to hear the truth even though they might take offense to it? Ask God for the courage to speak the truth at the right time and in the right way.
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