Sermon #41[1] Luke Sermons

 

Title: The Concern of a Condemned Man

Text: Luke 7:18-23

Subject: John the Baptist's Concern for His Disciples

Date: Sunday Evening -- January 7, 2001

Tape # W-20a

Readings: Office: Ron Wood Auditorium: Merle Hart

Introduction:

 

The title of my message tonight is The Concern of a Condemned Man. Our text will be Luke 7:18-23.

 

It is a terribly sad thing to see families divided. It is even sadder to see men and women who are brethren in Christ divided. With families, I suppose, divisions may be, in some circumstances, unavoidable, perhaps even justifiable. But there is absolutely no justification for strife, jealousy and division among saved sinners. Yet, it is often the sad, shameful fact that men and women who are one in Christ are divided in this world.

 

     There were some of whom Paul spoke when he was in prison at Rome, who, though they were his brethren, they thought he was a fake, sought to add affliction to his bonds and were obviously motivated by envy and strife (Phil. 1:12-18).

 

Philippians 1:12-18 "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

 

     The church at Corinth was in a horrible state of strife and division when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In fact the first three chapters of that Book are taken up with the matter. Yet, they were brethren.

 

     The same thing was true, even during the days of our Lord's earthly ministry. Our Lord's disciples were once divided about the matter of who would be greatest among them in heaven. And there was a sad, but obvious, jealousy between the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of our Lord.

 

We see this in the opening words of our text. -- Our Lord had performed remarkable miracles (The Centurion's Servant -- The Widow's Son), and his fame was immediate. In verse 16, we read, "There came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and that God hath visited his people." Then, in verse 18, we read, "And the disciples of John showed him all these things."

 

Reading that statement in the context, it is obvious that John's disciples were concerned, probably concerned that their beloved leader was losing fame and influence. After all, now that he was in prison and very likely to be executed soon -- What could he do? They were a little put out by the increased fame of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Luke 7:18-23 "And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. 19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 21 And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. 22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."

 

Proposition: John the Baptist was a truly magnanimous man, faithful in all things to the glory of Christ and the souls of men. -- He is held before us here, in his very last recorded act on this earth as an example for us to follow.

 

Divisions: Three things stand out in these verses which, I believe, the Holy Spirit would have us observe and remember.

1.   A Faithful Watchman (vv. 18-20)

2.   A Forceful Witness (vv. 21-22)

3.   A Frank Warning (v. 23)

 

I.    A Faithful Watchman (vv. 18-20)

 

Luke 7:18-20 "And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. 19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?"

 

The message John sent to the Lord Jesus was not an indication of doubt or unbelief on his part. This is the man who had all of his adult life pointed sinners to Christ and proclaimed him as the Lamb of God, that One whose shoes he was not worthy to untie, the man who was and is the eternal God. Oh, no; John was not now in doubt about those things. He had been taught of God.

 

The message John sent to the Master was intended to confirm his disciples in the faith and persuade them to follow Christ whom he followed. It was to set the hearts of his disciples, those very disciples who seemed fearful that the Lord Jesus might be getting too much attention, on the Savior.

 

John knew that he was a condemned man. Herod had thrown him into prison. His life was coming to an end. His opportunities of service in the cause of Christ were now ended. His day of labor was over. The prospects before him were obvious. Yet, even in the prospect of his violent death, John was a faithful man, faithful to his God, faithful to his Savior, faithful to his charge as God's prophet, and faithful to the souls committed to his trust. His last act is this: -- He sent his disciples to Christ, that they might see for themselves who he was. This was the concern of his heart, even when he was himself a condemned man.

 

A. It is ever the concern of faithful men to exalt Christ, point sinners to Christ, and urge those under their influence believe and to follow Christ.

 

This was not just John's concern in the prospect of death. He was not trying, in his last days, to make up for past inconsistencies. Not at all. This was John's constant concern.

 

John 1:19-29 "And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

 

John 1:35-37 "Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."

 

John 3:22-36 "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. 33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

 

Oh, how I pray that God will give me grace to follow his example, as a husband, father, pastor, and preacher.

 

B. Like Paul after him, John the Baptist sought to unify God's people, by directing the hearts of those who heard him to Christ himself.

 

With great wisdom and forethought, he sent his disciples directly to the Lord Jesus, asking, "Art thou he that should come? Or, look we for another?"

 

John was keenly aware of the fact that his disciples might easily be led away by the petty strife that often divides men. He did what he could to head it off before he left his friends. Like his Master, he loved his disciples to the end.

 

C.What an instructive example John's action here gives us.

 

Every pastor, every father, everyone who has influence over another ought to make it their business in life to direct those they influence to Christ. Let it be our hearts' concern to set the hearts of those we influence upon the Son of God.

 

Romans 9:1-3 "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

 

Romans 10:1 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."

 

Spare no pains to instruct those trusted to your influence in the things of God. Press them into the Savior's arms. Remind them often of their sins and his sacrifice, -- of their souls and his salvation, -- of their guilt and his grace, -- of their ruin and his redemption!

 

Blessed are those men and women, mothers and fathers, pastors and elders, who can on their dying beds look back upon the faces of those they leave behind, and say, "I've warned you of the wrath to come. I've told you, as best I could, who Christ is. I have not failed to show you the way of life and press you into it. God gave me influence over you; and I have been a faithful watchman to your souls."

 

Illustration: The Oak Tree

 

II. A Forceful Witness (vv. 21-22)

 

Luke 7:21-22 "And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. 22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached."

 

What a remarkable answer our Lord gave to these disciples of John. How would he convince them who he is?

     He offered no historic proof.

     He gave them no account of what other men had said about him.

     He simply pointed them to the facts. -- The works they had seen and the doctrine they had heard.

 

We would be wise to hear the instruction of our Lord's example. By what standard are we to judge the ministry of any man, or any church? How are we to witness to men? How are we to convince others of the gospel we believe?

     Argument, debate, and apologetics are useless.

     Creeds, confessions, and historic positions are meaningless.

     Just tell others what you have seen and heard, what you have experienced, observed, and learned for yourself.

 

1 John 1:1-3 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

 

Wherever Christ is, these things are easily observed.

     The blind see.

     The lame walk.

     The lepers are cleansed.

     The deaf hear.

     The dead are raised.

     The poor (spiritually and literally) have the gospel preached to them.

 

III.             A Frank Warning (v. 23)

 

Luke 7:23 "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."

 

These disciples of John saw standing before them a man, to all outward appearance, as poor, unimpressive, and needy as they were. His followers were a rag-tag band of fishermen. The only men of means among them were publicans, men of notorious ill-repute. It seemed incredible that this man could be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Multitudes have gone to hell because they found him an offense. Will you?

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-24 "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."

 

Galatians 5:11 "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased."

 

So long as the world stands, Christ and his gospel will be offensive to proud, self-righteous men.

 

A. It is offensive to our sense of self-worth to be told that we are poor, lost, guilty, condemned sinners.

 

B. It is offensive to our pride to be told that we are utterly helpless, incapable of saving ourselves or even contributing something to our salvation.

 

C. It is offensive to our self-righteousness to be told that we must be justified by the righteousness of another, washed in the blood of a Substitute, and saved by free grace alone.

 

D. It is offensive to our sense of dignity and superiority to be told that we must enter the kingdom of heaven side by side with publicans, harlots, and sinners.

 

E.  It is offensive to our sense of personal intelligence to be told that salvation, the knowledge of Christ and of God, comes to men entirely by divine revelation.

 

F.  It is offensive to our sense of self-determination to be told that salvation is by God's will and not by our own.

 

G.It is offensive to our rebel hearts to be told that we must bow to the rule and dominion of Christ as our rightful Sovereign, Lord, and King.

 

Untold thousands have heard the gospel and, being offended by it, have despised it. They would not stoop to "enter in at the strait gate." They would not bow to walk in "the narrow way." They despised God's terms of grace. Therefore, they are this hour in hell, tormented by the just wrath of the holy Lord God. They now know the meaning of these words -- "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." It is my prayer that the Lord God will graciously take away your enmity against him and make Christ and his gospel effectual to the saving of your soul, for the praise of the glory of his grace in Christ.

 

AMEN.



[1] Wichita Falls, TX 01/10/01