September 6, 2015
Read Lu 12:54-59 – A man went to the college cafeteria to dine with his son. Upon reaching the entrance the boy said, “They have nothing good tonight. Let’s leave.” Dad asked, “You haven’t even seen the food yet.” The boy replied, “When there are more than 6 knives in the peanut butter, you know dinner is lousy.” Proving it’s important to be able to read the signs! It can be fatal to misread signs. Like the guy who froze to death at the drive-in because he went to see a movie called Closed for the Winter. Misread the sign!
In our text, Jesus suggests that His audience are hypocrites for failure to read the signs of the times. Jesus was not exactly a seeker-sensitive preacher? He really wasn’t. He told the truth. He told it straight. These people knew rain came from the Mediterranean Sea and had a saying, “When in the west the sky turns grey One can expect a rainy day.” And they knew when the sirocco winds blew in from the desert to the south, it was going to get hot. “When blows the south wind, you say Some scorching heat is on the way.” They were as good as the weather channel – able to read the signs.
But the key is v. 56 “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” “You guys are expert at the weather, but your claim to know God is bogus! There you ignore all the signs, in favor of false teaching of the misguided scribes and Pharisees and are about to pay a heavy price.” So pay attention!
Heaven had moved right into their society in the person of Christ. They were walking and talking with God Himself. His very presence doomed the legalistic Judaistic system that was leading people to hell. Yet they willfully ignored all the signs that would have saved their eternal existence. So let’s consider for a few moments exactly what signs they were missing.
I. The Messenger
First, they missed the messenger Himself. Jesus is God in the flesh. So when people looked into His face, shook His hand, or listened to Him, they were interacting with Jehovah. Wow! Granted He was veiled by His body, but how could you miss that here was someone like no one else? Jesus was right to ask, “but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” No one else in history saw what these people were seeing – and they missed it! Why? V. 57: “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” They allowed someone else to interpret for them. Who’s interpreting your reality? They took the word of hell-bound religious leaders instead of seeing the obvious right in front of their face. If only they had been looking, they would have seen two things: His prophetic pedigree and His perfect person.
A. His Prophetic Pedigree – In Luke 24:27 on the day of His resurrection, Jesus kindly rebukes two followers: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus saw Himself all over the OT, and had people truly been investigating, they’d have seen it. He had kingly lineage -- a direct descendant of King David, thru both Joseph, his legal father, and Mary, his biological mother. Tho He lived in Nazareth, He had been born in Bethlehem, a clear and direct fulfillment of Micah 5:2. His birth was announced by angels – which is somewhat unique – and the temple prophets, Simeon and Anna, gave clear testimony to His Messianic mission.
Prophetic signs? How about Herod’s edict to kill the babies at His birth, fulfilling Jer 31:15? How about His parents taking Him to Egypt to escape Herod, fulfilling Hos 1:1, “and out of Egypt I called my son.” How about John the Baptist, the forerunner prophesied in Isa 40 and Mal 3? How about Jesus’ move from Nazareth to Capernaum, fulfilling Isa 9:1-2, Messiah “has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” Matt 13:33 says Jesus’ parables fulfilled Psa 78:2, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old.” Daniel 9:25 states, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a adecree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (issued by the Persian Artaxerxes in 444 BC) until bMessiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” When you understand those are 69 weeks of years – 483 years – and prophetic years are consistently 360 days – Daniel’s prediction of Messiah puts you right on top of the time of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ life fulfills prophecy at every turn. And his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, His death and resurrection, added to the list, uniquely applicable to Him leaving no doubt – this is the One.
In Lu 4, Jesus Himself reads from Isa 35 and 61 about Messiah proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to the oppressed and sight to the blind. Then He says v. 21, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” They tried to kill Him then and there. Signs weren’t easy, but signs were there, Beloved, and they were ignored. His prophetic pedigree was impeccable.
B. His Perfect Person – Like no other, Jesus was without sin. Heb 4:15 identifies Him as one who “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It could be irritating to be around someone absolutely perfect, right? Patty says she has that problem! (Kidding!). It could be intimidating. But sooner or later you’d be asking, “What is with this dude?” wouldn’t you? We overlook this, but it screams of Jesus’ uniqueness. Never a single failure. Sooner or later you’d have to ask, “Why? Who is this guy?”
Remember Butch Cassidy and Sundance being chased by a posse -- usually no problem. But this time, every time they look back, there they are, hot on their tail. About the 3rd time, Butch (Paul Newman) says, “Who are those guys?” Turns out they’re the best lawmen money could buy. Rightfully they asked, “Who are those guys?” Jesus’ prophetic pedigree and perfect person raises the same question, “Who is this guy?” But most of Jesus’ generation missed the signs. They were better at weather than knowing God. Missed Messenger.
II. The Miracles
What about the miracles? You had to be trying to miss those! How could you watch someone day after day cast out demons, heal deaf ears, give sight to blind eyes, straighten crippled limbs and raise the dead and not at some point ask, “What is this all about?” How could you come to accept it as routine?!
For weeks after I first got a color TV, I’d just sit and marvel at the color. It was amazing to me (Kids, quit laughing!). But that became passé long ago. If you asked if I wanted a color TV today, I’d say, “How about HD in 3-D. Now you’re talking!” That’s how these people were. In Matt, just before Jesus’ comments on the weather, He has fed 4,000 with 7 loaves and few small fish. Think about that. He’s created lunch ex nihilo. Then Mt 16:1, “And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.” Color TV? Forget it. We want 3-D in HD! Give us a real sign. No wonder He challenged them in Mt 16:3, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” They couldn’t have read a sign in neon – because they didn’t want to see; they were willfully ignorant. After feeding 5,000, He challenged them to believe in Him. They said, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” (Jn 6:30). This isn’t lack of evidence; this is willful rebellion.
The miracles alone should have blown these people away. That’s why they were called signs, wonders and miracles! They were vast in number. The Bible just gives a few. John says in 21:25, last v in his gospel, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Why the miracles? Because Jesus cared? Yes, but that’s not the primary reason. Peter tells why in his first sermon. Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.” Why the miracles? It was God authenticating His own Son. And they were blowing Him off. Jesus performed hundreds of miracles -- every week -- for 3 years. How do you miss that? John tells us a few people asked, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” (Jn 7:31). The evidence was there, but these hypocrites were in willful denial. Jesus is trying to shake them out of their lethargy.
He’s trying to shake us, too. Those signs were not just for their time, they were for all time! John 20:30-31, “30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Do you believe? Or do you write them off? They were great at nature’s signs. We, more! We can split the atom, put men on the moon, perform brain surgery. But can we read the signs that occurred when heaven invaded earth? Everything rides on that! Heb 2:3-4 “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles.” God says, “I’ve done all I can. No escape if you blow my signs off.”
Spurgeon illustrated: A man sees a murderous enemy approaching by the light of his candle. So the man snuffs the candle and says, “I no longer see my enemy; I am quite at peace.” We’d say, “What a fool!” But no more of a fool than those who missed the signs in Jesus’ time and no more of a fool who refuses them in our time. Refusal to see the sign doesn’t mean it’s not there.
III. The Message
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Think about it. Every word that Jesus spoke was a word of God because He was God in the flesh. Talk about a sign! That’s why preaching was Jesus’ priority. That’s why He left healing meetings in Mrk 1, great as the physical needs were, to address the far greater spiritual needs through His preaching. And what was the message? “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt 4:17). That was always the message. It’s what He preaches here. V. 57: “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? [don’t let the Pharisees take you to hell along with themselves. Judge for yourselves]. 58 As you (singular – addressed personally to each one) go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.” Simple parable; haunting truth. “Suppose your neighbor sues you for killing his ox. You say accidental; he says on purpose. You’d be well advised to settle with him before you get into court and the judge locks you away.” Easy illustration. Now, in real life who is the accuser, who is the judge (magistrate) and who is the officer? And the answer is – all of them are ¬ -- God! You must get this, Beloved. You must or you will never understand the gospel.
The worst enemy the unbeliever has is not the Devil; it is God. God is the ultimate accuser; God is the ultimate judge; and God is the officer who casts them into prison from His presence. Mt 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is not Satan who is our worst nightmare; it is God. He is judge, jury and executioner because every sin denies Him by violating His holy character. Satan is out of the picture at the last judgment. Rev 20:11-12: “11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.” Who’s the judge? God! What books? The books of every thought, word and deed of those not covered in Christ’s righteousness. He has all the records. They will be judged, found guilty and condemned.
And the penalty is permanent. V. 59, “I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” Some people misunderstand that. They teach some 2nd chance or some purgatory where you go pay for your sins and then are released. Not so, Beloved. Sinners will pay “every last penny.” But the only way a finite person can pay every last penny to an infinite God is by ETERNAL separation from Him. Jesus draws an awesome and sobering picture here. He shoots straight, Beloved. He doesn’t sugar-coat the truth.
But He also holds out hope. Don’t miss it. He suggests that you “make an effort to settle with him on the way.” Don’t wait until the end. Heb 9:27, “It is appointed to man to die once and after that comes judgment.” It’s too late then. But until then – on the way – you can settle. How? Repentance. Just like the thief on the cross. Just like the tax collector in Lu 18 who cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Settle on the way. It’s not a negotiation; it’s repentance! It is not trying to trade up; it is not offering your good to cover your bad; it is not offering outward ritual or works. David said Psa 51: 17) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” That’s how you settle. You bring your contrite heart and plead for His mercy.
And what does He do? He forgives! Why? One reason only. Because not only is God the unbeliever’s worst enemy. He is also His greatest friend. And as His greatest friend, He has paid in the substitutionary death of His own Son the price for sin that we could never pay. Every last penny is paid for those who believe. That’s grace. That’s Jesus’ message. That’s the greatest sign of all. You can settle out of court. You don’t have to go to judgment before God. You can settle out of court. That’s why Paul says in Rm 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” They’ve settled out of court with the result of Rm 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” From greatest enemy to greatest friend thru the blood of Jesus Christ.
Conc – Like the great south wind, signifying God’s grace – and most missed the clear and obvious signs of His Person, His miracles and His message. Don’t join them, Beloved. Settle out of court. Don’t miss the signs. Eliz Barrett Browning wrote a poem: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes; / The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.” Don’t miss the signs.
Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air, the story of a 1996 expedition up Mt Everest that resulted in 8 deaths – some by blizzard, but some due to fundamental mistakes. Andy Harris, an expedition leader stayed on top past the deadline he’d help set. On his descent he ran out of oxygen and was soon in dire need of help. He radioed the base camp for help; told them he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by others, but they were all empty. Those listening had passed the same canisters and knew they were not empty but full. The pleaded with Andy to use them but to no avail. Andy held in his hand the very thing his brain desperately needed. But he was blind to reality, ignored all signs and information, and left never to be seen or found.
Beloved, you hold in your hands this morning what you need for eternal life. Don’t miss out. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). Settle out of court. Accept Jesus. Let’s pray.