Luke 4:42-44 “The Purpose”
Have you ever asked yourself “why?” At a certain stage in child development the toddler who has just learned how to speak discovers the word “why?” As soon as they do, they ask that question over and over again until parents become frustrated and tell them to be quiet.
“Johnny, it is dinner time! Come to the table!” calls the mother.
“Why?” responds little Johnny.
“We always sit at the table at dinner together!”
“We have to eat food to stay alive.”
“Johnny, it’s your favorite: pseghetti!”
“Why?” and so on and so forth.
Eventually the parent teaches the child to stop asking why. That is how we all live the rest of our lives—not asking the simple question “why?” That is too bad for us. I think we need to be asking that question everyday of our lives. We need to understand why we get up every morning, why we were put on this planet, and even why we should have to die!
I believe that this simple question of “why” has been amplified throughout the pandemic these last two years. People are asking, “Why must I wear a mask?” “Why must I have a QR code to enter the State?” “Why do I have to line up to get a jab?” Unless we know for sure why we are doing these things, the frustration grows exponentially. So, the message that needs to be repeated again and again is that “WE are all trying to save lives.” Life is sacred. We do what we must to save lives.
Don’t you feel good when you save a life? How many of you have actually saved another life? As a former firefighter, I can say that I have. I have pulled a body or two out of a car wreck. Twice I have helped drowning persons. And, it feels wonderful to know that you have helped to save a life. It makes your life more worth the living of it! So, today, I want to affirm with all of you that if you have been following the pandemic protocols then you are a hero in my eyes for you have saved a life or two for sure!
Saving others: Our scripture for today deals with this very question. I am sure that some of you were wondering why the reading today was so short. Usually the bible reading goes on for at least five minutes. Today it was about a minute, I think. That is not because of the Annual Meeting to follow. Jesus plainly and simply states this is the reason that ”I have come down from heaven to be with all of you on earth.” This is the purpose of the life of Christ. This is the crux or the key. This is the foreshadowing of everything that is about to happen.
Are you ready now to hear it again? “To share with you the Good News of the Kingdom of God. For this purpose I have come!” says Jesus.
The people that were in Capernaum have now followed Jesus to a lonely place where Jesus is seeking respite. Wow, Jesus really is human and needs a rest! This place is called “hermetic” in the Greek. Jesus is becoming a temporary hermit it seems. I want you to think about that old running joke from Johnny Carson’s skits of the “Great Karnac”: The answer has been hermitically sealed in an empty mayonnaise jar and left on the back porch of Funk and Wagnalls. Hmmmm, maybe that reference is lost to the younger crowd here (ha ha). Jesus is hermetically sealed on the back porch when the people find him. The Bible says that they actually physically restrain him. They cling to him so that he cannot go anywhere away from them.
I get that. If I saw Jesus anywhere, I am sure my first reaction would be to run towards him and hold on tight. Yet, my faith in Jesus also tells me that I have to let him go—go to the Cross, to the grave, to the sky (like the song “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”). Jesus just cannot stay in Capernaum healing everybody because that is not why He came. The healings and the miracles happen because Jesus is God. What else would God do! That is not the purpose of God coming to the world. The purpose is to get us all to accept Jesus so that we may be with God in heaven—in the Kingdom of God.
I want you to remember to last week when we were talking about Jesus being in the “house church” in Capernaum. To that I want you to just recall from Sunday School as a kid that when Jesus did his greatest miracles it was always in people’s homes or on the beach somewhere. He fed five thousand on the beach. He healed the paralytic in a home. The Sermon on the Mount was in fact on a mountain. So, we see that there is a definite theme here. Jesus shares the Good News in what would have to be termed as non-traditional ministry settings!
Here in our text for this morning, short as it is, we see that Jesus tells the people that he cannot stay with them because he must share the Good News with the synagogues of Judea. Some Bibles will actually say “Galilee.” Some ancient texts say one, and other say the other. Just the same, Jesus is going back to the Jewish synagogues to preach there!
Here is a message to Luke’s original audience that we have to appreciate today, too. You see, the new Christians in Luke’s time have all been kicked out of the synagogues already. Starting in the church in Antioch, believers in Christ have even started calling themselves Christians. So, they have separated themselves from their Jewish roots as it were. There is now a new faith. So, why does Jesus go back to the synagogues of Judea? Wait. . . .I know this one: “To preach the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.”
Do not shy away from the difficult ministry at hand! You will need to go to those people who already may feel that you are not worth the time of day. YOU ARE worth their time! The message IS that important, even if they do not think it is! Jesus is going back to the synagogues precisely because they think they do not need him! And, if they really are going to reject the good news of salvation, the coming kingdom of God, then they are going to have to do it right to God’s face. Ouch!
Everybody remembers the Bible text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “For everything there is a purpose under heaven.” But then, that text just does not really say what the purpose is. It just kind of says: “God knows what that purpose is. . . .so, live with it!” So, this is what the people are facing, they can now know what the reason is. Jesus is there to tell them the Good News. The Old Testament is being fulfilled!
Do not be so fatalistic as those in the synagogue that Jesus has to keep knocking you over the head with the Good News! There are people in this world that just need to hear the reason behind it all.
Today is Annual Meeting Sunday. We have kind of a running quest to see how short we can make the meeting. One year we had it down to 13 minutes. Last year was 17 minutes if I recall correctly. Which is good, because I also have a rule in this church that for every minute we spend doing the administrative stuff, we must spend two minutes in prayer and worship. Soooo, a long Annual Meeting today might mean my having to preach really long next week. And, it is football Sunday next week, I think.
I realize it is hard to think about God’s ultimate purpose for sending Jesus into the world, the heavenly Kingdom being ushered in by Christ, when you are staring down at a budget sheet. Honestly, I want you to try. The reason is plainly there for us to read in Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God. . . .” That is why we dutifully pay our taxes and press the crosswalk button and wear our seatbelts. It is also why we wear our masks and do whatever else the law requires of us. But, in doing this we always remember and hold dear the “why” behind our actions on this world. Jesus proclaimed the Good News to us for our salvation. That is purpose, too.
At our Annual Meeting in a few minutes, we will have the opportunity to honor and give merit to a man who was the former pastor here back in the early 1990’s. He left here and served a church on Oahu as its pastor for over twenty years. Now he is semi-retired and doing the Lord’s work at the Kailua Christian UCC, which is the church where he grew up. I look at him and his life in ministry, and I realize that he has indeed known the purpose of his time in this world. He has followed Christ by healing others, finding time to be with God alone, and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Pastor Dale’s life is the Good News.
You may have come to worship today having heard all the bad news of the world, but today we focus on the Good News. This is why Jesus came. It is why we came to day to worship, too. We proclaim this morning the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.