A Tale of Two Responses (1): Grace
October 11, 2015
Read Lu 10:10-13 – In our study thru Luke, Jesus has just finished a long evangelistic sermon that began in 12:1 with the parable of the fig tree emphasizing that the only life that will find favor with God is a life that is bearing fruit – that is, good deeds in keeping with repentance, resulting from faith. Not works to earn God’s favor, but works that show repentance is real.
Now in vv. 11-17, Lu shows us a real life example of each type of person – one who has fruit, and one who does not. One who believes in Christ and one who does not. One who is repentant and one who is not. One who is saved by grace and one who is condemned by legalism. This is a critical comparison because every person alive is in one category or the other. And it is our response to the message of Jesus, the gospel, that makes all the difference.
Here in CO, we know all about the continental divide -- that imaginary geographic line that determines the flow of streams to the ocean. All rain water falling west of the line eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean. All water falling on the east ends up in the Atlantic or Gulf. It seems far-fetched, but two raindrops can land within a fraction of each other in our mountains, but one will end up in the Pacific, and the other in the Atlantic. So close to begin with – so far apart in the end. And all determined by where they land.
And that is the message of the gospel, Beloved. Here are two people who were at the same synagogue on the same Sabbath in 1st century Palestine. They met the same Jesus and heard the same message. But one has been in hell for the last 2,000 years and the other has been in heaven. The difference? The decision they make regarding Jesus’ call to repentance. Decisions made in this life have eternal consequences. We can decide where we will fall. Will it be grace or legalism?
People often contrast grace and law. But the real contrast is with legalism. The law is good. It is a tutor. It helps us understand how far short we fall of God’s standard to drive us to grace. And after repentance it helps us produce fruit. But legalism is the wrong use of the law. It is the attempt to reach God on my own. It is the refusal to accept grace. As we will see, legalism hates grace. But as we see this tale of two responses, I hope we will be driven again to the cross of Christ to find mercy and grace. Looking today at grace. What characterized this woman that shows grace in her life?
I. She’s Crooked
This is Jesus’ last visit to a synagogue in Luke. These places of opportunity have become places of confrontation as opposition mounts. Some here hope to catch Jesus violating their Sabbath rules. He will shame them into silence.
Now, as Jesus is teaching, this woman enters. She is late, perhaps due to her disability. Nevertheless she is there! Lu says 11b: “She was bent over (literally, bent double) and could not fully straighten herself.” She shuffles to a seat – eyes always on the ground. One commentator says, “She walked about as if she were searching for a grave.” To look up would have taken an immense effort. She is horribly deformed and has been so for 18 years.
Modern medicine has identified her condition as spondylitis deformans. But it was not a mere happenstance. Notice that v. 11 says it was the result of a “disabling spirit”, and in v. 16 Jesus further clarifies that she has been bound by Satan. Satan and his demons can never do more than God allows, but we know that he was allowed to infect Job with a horrible case of boils. And Paul had some kind of physical disability which he calls “a messenger of Satan to harass me” (II Cor 12:7). This woman’s condition was also the result of demonic activity. That doesn’t mean that she was demon-possessed. Jesus does not cast out a demon here. But her condition was demonically imposed.
She would also have been an outcast from society. Why? Remember the Pharisees taught that such disabilities were the result of personal sin. They were wrong about that, but that is what they taught. Thus this woman would have been considered a disgrace. She’s a crooked woman.
In this case, her physical crookedness represents the spiritual crookedness that infects every person who is ever born. Many want to deny that reality, but, Beloved, grace can only begin its work when there is a recognition of the dark heart that is part and parcel of our human condition. Why would someone accept grace if they feel they do not need it? Until we realize that our guilt before God is real and not imagined, we will not seek a cure. But real it is – and it’s been that way for a long time.
David says in Psa 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” He didn’t develop his sin problem somewhere along the line. It was his from the moment of conception – long before Bathsheba. He was morally crooked from the very beginning. For grace to enter our picture, we must own the guilt. John Stott explains: "After God gave the promise to Abraham, He gave the Law to Moses. Why? He had to make things worse before He could make them better. The law exposed sin, provoked sin, condemned sin. The purpose of the law was to lift the lid off man's respectability, to disclose what he is underneath – sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God and helpless to save himself.” When we soft-pedal sin, Beloved, we stifle grace. Grace cannot do its work until we see how crooked we are. It was easy to see in this woman, but spiritually, we all have spondylitis deformans. Grace is the only cure – a cure we won’t accept unless we see how crooked we really are.
II. She’s Chronic
That means this poor, bent woman could do nothing to help herself – nor could anyone else. You can bet she had consulted the best help available, but after 18 years, it is clear. Her condition is permanent. Humanly speaking she is without hope. In this she represents the human condition without Christ.
This is where most people stumble. They do not consider themselves spiritually lost. They believe they are retrievable. They are not so bad compared to others they know – certainly not like criminals and reprobates. But God sees us very differently. Paul says in Eph 2:1-2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” The key word there is dead. Spiritually dead people walk around physically and are spiritually led by the values of the world. But they are dead to God. What characterizes death – absolutely no response. Why is death so devastating? There is no connection. Outside of Christ, we are without hope.
But we don’t believe it. We deceive ourselves. God says in Jer 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Your own heart will fool you. Your own heart will lie to you! It will tell you it’s okay. You can make it. But all the time it is “desperately sick” – anash ¬– terminally ill. The same word is used in II Sam 12:15 of David’s son by Bathsheba which died. It was terminal. God says in Jer 30:12, “For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous.” It’s no surprise that you don’t agree with God. Paul tells why in II Cor 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Outside of Christ we are blind to spiritual realities. Our case is chronic, terminal, hopeless, apart from the work of God in our heart.
The result of all this is Isa 53 6) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Do you see what this verse is saying? It is not that we have been outrageously evil. Society would find us quite respectable. But God sees the murder and greed and covetousness and selfishness and lustfulness in our heart. And He sees more. He sees the essence of sin – that we insist on going our own way instead of God’s way. “I did it my way” is our theme song, and it is right in God’s face. “I did it my way, and I’m going to keep right on doing it my way!” We are just as chronic and hopeless as this woman, and until we face up to that, there is no possibility of salvation.
Voltaire was the French philosopher who boasted that his logic would sound the death knell of Christianity within 50 years. He was wrong, of course. Within 50 years, a Bible society had purchased his home and was printing and distributing Bibles out of his home. A French nurse was present at his deathbed and was later asked to attend an Englishman who was critically ill. “Is he a Christian?” was her question. She was assured, “He is a man who fears and loves God, but why do you ask?” She replied, “I was the nurse who attended Voltaire at his last illness, and for all the wealth in Europe, I would never see another infidel die!” Unbelievers don’t die well, Beloved. Their hopeless, spiritual lostness catches up with them. It may be just before they die – or just after. But reality will hit hard when it comes. We are crooked, and we cannot straighten ourselves. That is the verdict of Almighty God.
III. She’s Called
But, there’s hope! Mid v. 11, “She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over.” What brings hope to hopelessness? The call of Jesus. Here is the glory of the gospel. Here it is. What we cannot do ourselves, God comes to do. When we run from Him, God calls. When Adam and Eve ran in fear and hid themselves, what happened? God called. God called, “Where are you?” The Bible says in Rom 3:10, “no one seeks for God.” But thank God, He seeks for us. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” God has made a house call that cost Him His life, Beloved. And now He calls us to repent and be forgiven based on Jesus’ death. God’s call is mentioned often in Scripture – perhaps no more clearly than in II Thess 2:14, “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Spiritual healing and release from guilt is not found in our own merit, nor is it found in meditation or spiritualism or psychiatry or religious ritual. It is found in responding to the call of God. It is found when we stop running from Him and begin to run toward Him. Jesus says in Rev 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Hope is knocking at the front door, but it is not found anywhere else. Only in the call of God.
Now, Jesus said one other thing in Mt 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” What does that mean? It means that not everyone who is called will respond. Only those who are chosen by God before the foundation of the world will respond. You say, “Well, what if I’m not chosen? How do I know if I’m both called and chosen? ” Those are great questions, Beloved, and the answer is, you will know by whether you accept or reject. But accountable you will be. This is where God’s grace and sovereignty work with man’s will in a way that is a mystery to us in this life. But what we know is that we are responsible. II Pet 1:10 says, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling.” How do you confirm your calling? By saying, “YES!” Paul issued the same invitation. “Be reconciled to God.” Your decision. Have you answered His call? A lady took her 4-year-old to church for the first time, and pretty soon he got a little impatient. He asked, “What time does Jesus get here?” The moment you say, “Yes!” dear friend. That’s when Jesus gets here. Are you chosen? That’s up to you! Have you answered the call?
IV. She’s Cured
This woman answered Jesus’ call – and look at the result! V. 12, “When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.” This is a wonderful picture. The theologians of the time insisted that she was crooked because of some horrendous personal sin. She would have had to do some good works to make up for it in their theology. But with Jesus there is no such thing. He simply speaks the word, and lays His hands on her to identify with her broken condition as we have seen Him do elsewhere. But instead of Him being defiled, she is made whole. He saw her; He called her; and now He has cured her. Eighteen years of misery are forgotten in an instant. Helplessness has met hope and hope won. What a picture of salvation. What a picture of grace.
Let me illustrate further with an apocryphal story. An Englishman had made it rich and bought a new Rolls-Royce – advertised as the car that would never, ever break down. He paid a hefty price and so was surprised when one day not long after he bought it, it broke down in the middle of nowhere. He called the dealer: "Hey, you know the car that will never break down? Well, it's broken down." The dealership reacted quickly -- had a mechanic flown in by helicopter and soon the man was on his way again. Naturally he was concerned how much this was going to cost, and he wanted to get the ordeal behind him, so he called to ask for his bill. There was some discussion on the other end before the owner came on the line and said, "Sir, we are deeply sorry, but we have absolutely no record of anything ever having gone wrong with your car." That’s grace, Beloved. That woman was cured without any sign she’d ever had a problem; and you can be forgiven, cleansed, slate wiped clean – no guilt on your record at all. That’s what Jesus does when we respond to his call.
V. She’s Captivated
Notice her response to all this. V. 13, “she glorified God.” This was the first evidence of a lifetime of fruitfulness to follow because that is what happens when we come to Christ. Fruit follows evidencing that we have been captivated by this King of kings and Lord of lords. A dead tree can’t produce fruit. That’s why a spiritually dead person can’t produce anything acceptable to God. Fruit comes when we are finally tied in to the vine as a new creation in Christ. The fruit doesn’t save us, but it shows we are saved. It shows that grace has arrived. It demonstrates that by grace, through faith the guilt of sin has been washed away. Let me tell you – producing fruit is great, but it’s nothing compared to being captivated by Jesus Christ. Are you captivated by Him? Don’t you want to be? It’s your decision.
Conc -- The OT illustrates this in II Sam 9. Saul had forfeit his throne by disobedience, and been killed in battle. David has become king. To honor Jonathan who was also killed in battle, David asked if there was anyone from Jonathan’s family still living. There was. A son named Mephibosheth who had been crippled in a fall years before and was dependent on others for his living. David sent for him. Mephib supposed he would be killed as a grandson of Saul. Instead, he was invited to the palace, interviewed by the king and offered a permanent place at David’s table. Imagine that! His reaction? II Sam 9:8, “8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” He saw himself for what he was – crooked by family connection, crippled and helpless in his own right – but saved by his connection with another, Jonathan. Grace! Taking those crooked by birth and personal sin being made straight by the greater Jonathan -- Jesus. What a picture. Let’s pray.