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"The Lord's Lament for the Lost (or, How Not to Be a Naysayer)"

Feb.21/16 Luke 13:31-35 (Mk.1:40-3:6)


People can be very quick to criticize. Often when we meet someone new, we're immediately forming opinions of them and making silent judgment calls based on such superficial things as their appearance or mannerisms, even though they may be very nervous and not exactly "acting themselves". Connie Glasser and Barbara Smalley (More Power to You!) write: "First impressions are often lasting ones. Indeed, if you play your cards right, you can enjoy the benefits of what sociologists call the 'halo effect.' This means that if you're viewed positively within the critical first four minutes, the person you've met will likely assume everything you do is positive. Four minutes! Studies tell us that's the crucial period in which impressions are formed by someone we've just met. Within a mere ten seconds, that person will begin to make judgments about our professionalism, social class, morals and intelligence. People tend to focus on what they see (dress, eye contact, movement), on what they hear (how fast or slowly we talk, our voice tone and volume), and on our actual words." Hm - 4 minutes - doesn't give us much time to put our best foot forward, does it?

In today's Bible reading, we see 2 kingdoms in conflict: Christ under attack from Jerusalem and its power-brokers who did not understand or want His type of leading. Let's summarize some events from early on in Jesus' ministry - back in Mark 1-3 - and let them flesh out in fuller detail the lament He makes over Jerusalem, the capital city which is so loathe to welcome Him. Which side are we on - that of Christ, or His critics?


First, Jesus' mindset ACKNOWLEDGES GOD'S AUTHORITY. We realize God is Boss and we're not! When Jesus has a paralyzed man lowered on a bed inside a house before Him, He doesn't heal him right away, but first forgives his sins - which seems like blasphemy to the religious Pharisees and scribes. Mk 2:10 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…." In Mark 2:28 in a dispute about picking grain to eat on the Sabbath He contends, "The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." His authority extends to rules of religious observance. In fact, it was His healing of people on the Sabbath that most irked the Pharisees. And in Luke 13:25-27 He sternly warns that judgment will be final for those who don't know Him: "Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'" Final authority rests in Him who is divine.

So those in Christ's Kingdom are characterized not only by submission to God's authority, but also by REPENTANCE. To confess our sins and turn back to God is foundational. Lk 13:3,5 "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish...[again, for emphasis 2 verses later] I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." It's hard to be overly critical of others when you're very aware of your own shortfalls.

Those in the Kingdom are not just sitting about waiting for someone else to make a move they can pass a sarcastic comment about. They are GOAL-FOCUSED. For Jesus, His focus was on the cross, the means by which beleivers all over the world and throughout time could be forgiven, made right with God. Responding to a verbal threat that King Herod wanted to kill Him, Jesus said in Lk 13:32, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'" His ultimate goal drew Him forward. The Greek word here has the sense of 'completeness' or being 'perfected'. As in Heb 2:10 "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering."

When you're focused on a goal, you don't have time for bothering others. A little poem called Horse Sense goes like this:

A horse can't pull while kicking,

This fact we merely mention.

And he can't kick while pulling,

Which is our chief contention.

Let us imitate the good horse,

And lead a life that's fitting,

Just pull an honest load, and then

There will be no time for kicking.

For those in Christ's Kingdom, there is a SENSE OF URGENCY. Note the word "must" in Luke 13:33: "In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day-- for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!" NLT "I must proceed on my way." The stakes are high. He warns the unwilling city that desolation awaits, perhaps referring to the city's destruction by Rome in 70 AD. Lk 13:35 "Look, your house is left to you desolate." 7 verses earlier He warns how miserable people will be when they realize they are excluded from God's kingdom in the final judgment: Lk 13:28 ""There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out." So it's urgent that Jesus preaches the Good News of how to be saved.

As for breadth of vision, those in Christ's Kingdom SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE. In Mark 2 Jesus is challenged as to why His disciples don't fast when those of the Pharisees and John the Baptist do. He replies rhetorically, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them." In 2:27, man is not made for the Sabbath, but the other way around. Lk 13:15 When the synagogue ruler objects to Him healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath, Jesus points out they have no qualms about untying their ox or donkey to let them have a drink of water on the Sabbath; how much more fitting it must be to set free a women Satan had kept bound for 18 long years! Then in Mark 3:4, when Jesus is being acutely watched to see if He'll heal on the Sabbath a man with a shrivelled hand, He asks (again rhetorically): "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" See the bigger issues at stake, back up to see the Big Picture. Don't "major in the minors".

The nature of Kingdom mission is basically ACTIVE AND POSITIVE, it has something good to share. Mark 2:2 when so many had gathered that there was no room left, "He preached the word to them." Jesus summarizes His mission for Herod the 'fox' in a nutshell: Lk 13:32 "I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow..." Confronting the forces of darkness, healing people physically - how much more positive can you get? When Jesus tells the man with the shriveled hand in Mark 3:5 to stretch it out, "His hand was completely restored." There's a definite sense of calling to help the sick and sinners: Jesus said to those who objected that he stooped so low as to actually share table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners, Mk 2:17 "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

If we're passionate about Christ's ends, we'll be DISTRESSED BY DISOBEDIENCE. When people were out to try to catch Him and discredit Him for healing on the Sabbath, Mark 3:5 "He looked around at them in anger...deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts..." God feels righteous anger when people oppose Him; stubbornness on our part He finds "deeply distressing". Sin is not to be laughed at or brushed off lightly.

But perhaps the most endearing aspect of this whole enterprise called Christ's Kingdom is its COMPASSION AND MERCY. Jesus' loving care for people comes through much more prominently than His being upset with them. Look at the warmth of His heart! Mark 1:40f "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"" In Luke 13(6ff) we find the parable of the fig tree that has not borne fruit for 3 years. The landowner suggests cutting it down. But the vineyard-keeper replies, Lk 13:8 "Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it." You can sense this is a strong illustration of God's mercy and patience. And Jesus' compassion oozes through in Lk 13:34, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Feel His intense longing for an unwilling city, wanting to gather them together like a hen gathers her chicks.

These then are hallmarks of Christ's Kingdom. They characterized how He served on earth, and they ought to continue to characterize His Church's ministry post-Pentecost. Take a moment and run your daily activities through this grid. Also, how do the various ministries of LWCF measure up? Do we acknowledge God's authority? Is repentance foundational? Are we focused on His goal, the saving cross? Do we have a sense of urgency? Are we seeing the "big picture" or getting mired in details? Are we active and positive, with something to share? Does sin cause us distress? Do our ministries reveal a compassionate heart?


By contrast, those who opposed Jesus - the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees - were constantly negative in their approach, attacking as if throwing darts any chance they could, sniping from the undergrowth, taking pot-shots. They tried to bolster their sense of importance by shoving Jesus down.

They were critical. They had captured God-in-a-box and anything that didn't fit with their preconceived ideas could not be right. Mark 2:7 after Jesus tells the paralytic his sins are forgiven: "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" The Son of Man crashed headlong into their tidy theology. God was doing something new!

They were highly judgmental. During the big party after the conversion of Levi or Matthew the tax collector: Mk 2:16 "When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?""

They were accusatory, looking for any slightest reason to condemn. Mk 3:2 "Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath."

They followed a petty, rule-focused religion. Mk 2:18 "Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"" Also in Mk 2:24 the Pharisees complain to Jesus about the disciples picking heads of grain on the Sabbath, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" Actually Dt 23:25 allowed it, but it was their man-made Jewish tradition (the Mishnah) which forbade harvesting. Then in Lk 13:14 the synagogue ruler is "indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath".

Those who counter Christ are stubborn, hard-hearted, resistant to what the Holy Spirit may be trying to show them. Mk 3:5 "[Jesus] looked around at them in anger...deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts..." We may pride ourselves on what we call "strength of character" or "stiff backbone", but is it really just plain old stubbornness? What would those who have to deal with us day-in, day-out call it?

My own stubbornness showed through a week ago when we were sharing some pizza with our western family after church in the basement of Bridgeland EMC, Calgary. I had put 2 pizzas in to cook in the 2 ovens upstairs and was about to carry them downstairs to the 7 adults and 6 children waiting hungrily. I was SURE I could carry 2 pizzas at once through the doors and downstairs. (Can you guess what happened?!) I stacked them carefully on top of each other on their respective empty cardboard boxes. I made it through the first set of doors no problem. But at the second set, suddenly the bottom pizza slid out and landed face-down on the hallway carpet. Then, before I could react, the top pizza did exactly the same! All because of my pride and stubbornness, not being willing to make 2 trips or find a safer method of conveyance.

And now, for what some of you may consider the WORST part of the story...my Scottish background got the better of me. We STILL ate the pizzas!!

Stubbornness is ultimately stupid; "Pride goes before a fall" - or at least falling pizzas.

Last, while a tendency to be critical, judgmental, accusatory, and stubborn are bad enough, those opposing Christ may become murderous toward whatever threatens them. When your ultimate goal is to protect yourself, instead of give yourself away in love, you tend to try to eliminate those who challenge you. Luke 13:1 "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." Roman tyranny meant Pilate did not hesitate to murder anyone even associated with rebel groups. And, Luke 13:31: "At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."" Jesus tells them, "Go and tell that fox..." so it appears the Pharisees may have been in communication with the political powers-that-be about eliminating Jesus. Herod after all had not hesitated to kill John the Baptist (Mk 6:17ff). And we see in Mk 3:6 after Jesus heals the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath, "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." Unlikely bedfellows, but when they had a common objective - to eliminate Jesus - they would gang up together.


So, should you discern a tendency in yourself to be overly critical, judgmental, accusatory, and stubborn, stop and pray for the Holy Spirit to change your heart to be more like Jesus - positive, having something to share, putting God first, having compassion and mercy toward others. The world doesn't need more critics, but more energized to carry on the ministry of Christ's healing and life-giving Kingdom.

A week ago Saturday, my son-in-law Philipp (who works for North Caribou Airline) and I toured the Aero Space Museum in Calgary. They had a life-size model of the Silver Dart, the first airplane to fly in Canada (Feb 23 1909) under the control of Alexander Graham Bell and team. It was all thin bamboo struts and wire: you would marvel that it would ever get off the ground! In fact, the longest heavier-than-air powered flight by the Wright Brothers on Dec 17 1903 came down just 59 seconds after it left the ground. It covered just 852 feet. People laughed - they were highly critical. The Wright Bros sent a telegram to their father requesting that he "inform press"; however the Dayton Journal refused to publish the story, saying the flights were too short to be important.(!)

Yet, the aircraft-builders did not give up. This past Tuesday our son Keith flew non-stop from Toronto to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, 12 hours straight, some 11,469 km. Aren't you glad the critics didn't overcome?

Theodore Roosevelt has had the following attributed to him: "It's not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Let's pray.