Want to invite you to turn your Bibles to Luke 8. And we’re gonna do something just a little bit different this morning. Last week we transitioned actually from Luke 7 to, chapter 7 to chapter 8. As you’re going to see, the, the territory into which we’re heading does require some continuity in the schedule. So once again, in God’s good and wise providence, he’s given us a Sunday here that allows me to provide an overview of the entirety of Luke 8. And that way we can see how all the parts of this magnificent chapter are all blended together and fit together. We’re going to do a good bit of Bible reading this morning. I trust you’ll find that enjoyable, encouraging, even enlightening, as we understand all the parts in light of the overarching purpose of the whole.
And so if you do not have a Bible with you this morning, it’s okay. We’ve got men at the back who, if you just slip up your hand, they’ll get you a, a copy of God’s word so you can follow along with us. But the overview this morning is going to provide us an opportunity for a bit of an exhortation about the purpose of our church, this church, as we really endeavor to carry out Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples here in Greeley and all the surrounding towns in this region. And a great way to prepare for the Lord’s table as well. A great way to prepare our hearts to celebrate the Lord’s table, to give thanks for our salvation, yes, but also to commit ourselves afresh to carrying out Christ’s work in his church, which is this church.
So what we’re going to do this morning is read through the entire eighth chapter as we go through the sermon, parables of the sower, the parable of the lamp, and then also the accounts of those miracles at the end of the chapter where Jesus calms the storm. Where he cast out demons, where he heals a hemorrhaging woman and raises a little girl from the dead.
So all that’s coming up in the eighth chapter. But, we need to ask a, a question about that. Why does Luke record these accounts and why does he record these accounts in this order? What is the unifying theme or purpose of Luke 8? And to begin in answering that question, I’d like us to start actually not by reading anything from Luke 8, but by skipping ahead to Luke 9. Luke 9, and reading the first fiew verses there. And then we’ll come back to discover how the elements of this chapter fit together.
Two major sections in Luke chapter 8, there’s Luke 8:1-21, and then Luke 8:22-56. Both of those sections should be read in light of what we see happening in Luke 9:1-6. That’s because everything in Luke 8 is preparing us for what happens at the start of Luke 9. Okay, so this is gonna reveal to us the unifying theme of chapter 8. Let’s read Luke 9:1-6 as we start.
“And he, that is Jesus, called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. And he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, and do not have two tunics. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart and wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.’ And they departed. And went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”
That’s actually remarkable. Jesus tells them, “I want you to go proclaim the Kingdom and I want you to heal people.” Ever done that before? No, they haven’t healed anybody. And not only that, but they’re not to go well provisioned. They’re just stripped down, basically, and go like lightning speed. They’re to move from town to town to town to town. Fascinating, isn’t it? And the twelve, well as it says there, “they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” As if, oh sure, no problem. Got it covered. They go.
Jesus just sent those men out into Galilee as his representatives, they’re carrying his message. They’re armed with his power. They’re sent to preach and evangelize their acting here as Christ appointed heralds. They are here to preach his Kingdom as his Kingdom evangelists. Now I want you to go back to the beginning of chapter 8. Go back to the beginning of chapter 8 and ask yourself this question. Here at the beginning of chapter 8, do you think that the apostles are ready to be sent out? Are they ready to go out and proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal?
In Luke 8:9, look at that verse. Disciples asked him what this simple parable meant about the parable of the sower. It’s apparent there that they don’t understand the meaning of the parable that Jesus told. Okay, so they’ve been hearing his preaching, his teaching, his evangelism. They understand the basic message. They get the outline from Isaiah 61 that Jesus has been repeating and claiming all along, “proclaiming good news of the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind.” This verse shows they have got a lot to learn.
Think about what’ve, what would have happened if Jesus had sent out the, the twelve to proclaim and to heal before they understood even some of the basic teaching in these parables. Think about what would have happened if they went out to, especially to heal, to use this power before they had witnessed Jesus’ power over nature, the demons, over disease and death. What confidence would they have had without first witnessing his power?
The command of Luke 9 to go forth and to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. That really would have been way too tall in order for these untaught and fearful, these little faith disciples. And that’s what I want you to see here in this chapter. Jesus’ need to train the twelve before sending the twelve. There’s a whole lot packed into chapter 8, a lot packed there that we’re going to get to in due time. But the basic idea, the unifying theme that brings everything in this chapter together, is the idea of ministry preparation.
That is the unifying theme that ties all the elements of the chapter together. The twelve have a lot to learn before they’re ready to go and preach and heal on Jesus’ behalf. So as Jesus looks ahead of the time that he’s going to send the twelve out to complete his evangelization of Galilee. He is not going to send them without this significant, needful ministry preparation.
He starts here in the chapter by giving the twelve some much needed insight into the nature of salvation. What to expect when people are actually saved, namely, that those who are saved are those who hear the word of God and do it. That’s the point of verses 4-21, to train the twelve in understanding and in discernment. And then Jesus teaches them in the rest of the chapter as they witness his miracles. He teaches them to trust him. He teaches them to exercise faith in God and the power of God. To trust him that God is working through him. Jesus strengthens their faith by revealing the kind of power that is at his disposal. That’s verses 22-56, which is a dramatic and comprehensive display of divine power.
The power that Christ possesses is none other than God’s power. And it’s able to overcome every lesser power in the world. That is the kind of power that Jesus gives them as he sends them out immediately before sending them into the Galilean countryside. So again, Luke chapter 8, it’s about the training of the twelve. At the beginning of the chapter, they are not ready for what Christ has planned for them. They’d be terrified to think that they’re gonna go out and be commissioned to heal somebody.
But by the end of the chapter they’re sufficiently prepared so that, it’s almost without any explanation that they just go and do. Armed here from chapter 8 with discernment, confident in faith and trust, they go forth as Christ-prepared ministers and they find themselves following the same pattern set by Jesus. Who you can see in Luke 8:1, “He went through the cities and the villages proclaiming and bringing good news of the Kingdom of God.” The twelve were with him the whole time.
Now, as we get into our outline for this morning, I want you to see the significance of all of this for us today. The need to train the twelve in discernment and understanding, but also to train them in trust and seeing God’s power. I want you to see the significance for us in our own church. As we do the task that that song reminded us of, of finishing a task that’s unfinished. It’s the unfinished task of evangelizing. This is the mission that Christ has given to us, to make disciples by evangelizing unbelievers and by discipling believers.
And just to see how Christ’s priority registers in your mind, let me ask you a couple questions. First of all, answer this question in your mind. On a scale of one to ten, one being lowest, ten being highest. How would you rate our church’s efforts in evangelizing our own community? How would you rate us, scale of one to ten? How are we doing at taking the gospel to our friends and neighbors? How are we doing and taking the gospel to our family members? To our coworkers? You think maybe we as the church of Jesus Christ that maybe we could be doing a little bit better? Probably, right?
Let’s take it out of the collective and out of the corporate and put it into the second person singular. How are you doing? You personally? Is finding an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others the constant preoccupation of your mind? Do you start your day praying for opportunity, praying for witnessing opportunities? Or perhaps you find yourself concerned upon careful examination that the good seed is in danger of being choked out by the thorns that are there to ensnare you in this life like verse 14 talks about? “Choked out by the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life.”
There can be even among professing believers, legitimate believers, there can be common temptations in us to spiritual lethargy. Temptations to cowardice. Even worse, a temptation to a loveless indifference to people. Some want to cling to the gospel message like it’s their own personal fire insurance, but they seem to care little for their neighbors living next door, fast asleep in burning houses. It’s as if they hope to slide through life as covert Christians. Trying to stay out of trouble, trying to avoid conflict. Trying to fill their days with sights and scenes and wonders and distractions and pleasures and all the rest.
Beloved, I do think that the Lord wants us to enjoy things on the earth and enjoy our life. But to be preoccupied with all those things and ultimately distracted by them and overcome by them, that is not why Christ left us here on earth. It’s not what he left us here to do. And it’s certainly not in keeping with the Great Commission, where Christ himself commands us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” What’s he gonna do with the authority? He’s gonna use it to command us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” For us? Let’s just start here in Greeley. Let’s just start with neighbors, right?
“Go, therefore make disciples of all nations.” What are we to do? We’re to, “Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And then what? Oh, we’re to teach them, “Teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded.” Not just to know things, know facts, but to observe, to do. That means we’re going to be discipling people. We’re going to be taking them along and say, walk as I walk, watch my life, and do likewise. And behold, if we do that, the promise of Christ, “I am with you always to the end of the age.”
Don’t do that? Don’t claim that promise. Do that. Christ is with you to the end of the age. Listen, we’re not here, beloved, to live some kind of precious moments Christianity. You know, the, the kind that’s colored in shades of pastel and cast in soft hues of warm and fuzzy light. We’re not Thomas Kincaid Christians, we’re Martin Luther Christians. Like the hymn we sung at the very beginning. Martin Luther Christians. We’re called to be gospel warriors. We are called to be on the march for Jesus Christ. We’re to be taking the good news of reconciliation to God through the atoning work of that cross to a lost and dying world, to frankly, a hostile world.
Ask yourself, have you lost sight of that? Has that clear goal and mandate of Christ dimmed in your focus? Are worldly cares and temptations and distractions clouding your judgment? Are they getting most of your time and your energy? Listen, as we go out into a hostile world, we need to understand we’re backed by God. We should have no fear. And as we go into the lost and dying and hostile world, we’re to think like shepherds. Shepherds, who are aggressive about going out into the world to find that lost sheep, to rescue lost sheep from the jaws of hungry ravenous wolves. To pluck them like firebrands from the fire. Rescuing lost sheep, an imagery features in Jesus teaching, doesn’t it?
“Jesus strengthens their faith by revealing the kind of power that is at his disposal.”Travis Allen
In fact, that’s in the imagery he used in Luke 10:3. So in Luke 9 he sends out the twelve. In Luke 10, he expanded that missionary force from the twelve to the seventy-two. And he said to the seventy-two, “Behold, I’m sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Our Lord is sending us out, and he knows it. He’s sending us out into a world of hostility. He’s sending us out into the very world that crucified him. We need to be prepared for what we’re going to face, don’t we? We Need to be prepared.
So that’s going to be the focus for our time this morning. The same focus that the disciples had at Luke, chapter 8. It’s ministry preparation. Ministry preparation. We can learn a lot from the way our Lord prepared his disciples then. It’s the same way he intends to prepare us as his disciples now.
So that brings us to the first point in our outline this morning, number one. And I believe it’s written in your bulletin. It’s kind of a fill in the blank kind of a thing. So write this down. Prepare your heart for spiritual opposition. Prepare your heart for spiritual opposition. And you say, where do you see that in the text? Well, I’m, I just reply to you, hey, good for you. Glad you’re asking, demanding that I be biblical. That is exactly the right instinct. So let me show you, you good Bereans you, right from the text, alright?
Apart from the presence of demonic activity, which is the evidence of spiritual opposition in demonic activity, but that’s, that’s clear evidence. But I want to show you and I want you to notice in Luke 1 and in Luke 8:4, the background that we’re going to discover when we compare Scripture with Scripture. Look at Luke 8:1, then verse 4. “Soon afterward, Jesus went on through the cities and the villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” Then verse 4, “And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable.” He spoke in a parable.
Now we’re going to talk more about the nature of parables when we study the parable of the sower in more detail. Because Jesus actually unpacks the reason he spoke in parables right there. But you need to understand that Jesus spoke in parables, not primarily as is commonly said today, and misunderstood actually, but he didn’t primarily speak in parables to illustrate the truth. But rather to obfuscate the truth. Obfuscate means to hide the truth. Notice he told his disciples this in verse 10, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’”
Why would Jesus hide the truth? Are these sincere seekers? Aren’t they all gathering around him, crowds and throngs, crying out to know what he has to teach them? And he says, “I want them to, even though they see, I don’t want them to see. Even though they hear, they won’t understand.” He is hiding the truth from these fickle-minded crowds. He’s speaking in parables to separate the true believers from the false, superficial, fickle followers. In fact, Jesus’ use of parables, which actually chronology, chronologically, historically begins right here, marks a change in Jesus’ ministry strategy. It’s a change in how he spoke to the gathered crowds.
It’s interesting, Leon Morris wrote this. He said, “it’s usually agreed that the parable with which this section begins,” he’s talking about the parable of the sower. “The parable with which this section begins and which is given prominence in all three synoptics, all three, Mark, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, marks something of a turning point. The crowds were thronging about Jesus. He’s becoming a popular preacher, but he looked for more than a superficial adherence, so he intensified his use of parables, stories which yielded their meaning, get this, only to those prepared to search for it. The parables demand thought and spiritual earnestness. They separate the sincere seeker from the casual hearer.” End Quote.
We’re gonna talk more about that in weeks to come. Jesus spoke in parables to sift the crowd. And he wanted to hide from the casual hearer, from the lazy listener. He wanted to hide from them what he was really saying. Because the way you separate the crowd and tell who is really listening are those people who hear something, they sense something of significance, and instead of wandering away, they press into it. They’re willing to work and study and learn. Very important to understand that principle.
Consider what else is hinted at here in Luke 8:4. With Jesus growing popularity, Jesus’ ministry drawing massive crowds of people. What effect do you think Jesus’ popularity had on the religious establishment? You think the Jewish leaders are happy to see the people flocking to Jesus? Did they rejoice in seeing all those crowds chasing after this thirty some year-old rabbi?
To answer that question, I’d like you to turn over to Matthew chapter 12. And let’s see the background of what we’re reading here in Luke 8. And what we’re going to see is how Jesus’ popularity resulted in hostility from the Jewish leadership. You would hope that the Jewish leaders would rejoice and say, finally, here’s the Messiah, everybody run to him. Not at all. That’s not how they responded. It seemed that the more interested people were in Jesus, the greater the intensity of opposition from the leadership in Israel.
It’s always the case with false religion. False religion opposes the truth. Something to understand about Matthew’s gospel is how he relates various accounts from Jesus’ ministry in more of a thematic fashion and not a chronological fashion. It’s actually immediately apparent as you read through Matthew’s gospel that he does not attempt to follow a strict chronology in his gospel. He’s less concerned about chronological historical sequence because he has a different aim and his aim is to bring the gospel to his fellow Jews. That’s why all the four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called evangelists because that’s what they’re doing. They’re evangelizing.
So in Matthew 12, we find a couple of events. And, and just understand they’re not exactly in chronological order. That’s why they differ from Luke’s accounts, because Luke is much more chronological. But in Matthew 12 we find two events at the beginning of the chapter. And both of those events at the beginning of Matthew 12 involve an opposition from the Pharisees over supposed Sabbath day violations.
First, there’s the controversy over Jesus’ disciples who are walking through the fields and they’re picking off heads of grain and kind of rubbing them in their hands and popping the kernel into their mouth just as a little snack. They’re hungry. Okay, so that’s a, a big deal to these Pharisees saying, “Oh, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re gleaning and you’re, you’re threshing. And you’re doing work on the Sabbath, how dare you do that on the Sabbath?” That’s one controversy.
Another controversy is one that Jesus kind of provoked. He healed a man on the Sabbath and he did it intentionally or right in front of the Pharisees. We studied both those accounts in our study of Luke’s gospel. Luke recorded them in more chronological fashion as taking place right before Jesus preached the sermon on the mount.
But after those two controversies, the Sabbath day controversy, healing the man on the Sabbath controversy. We wanna pick up the narrative in in chapter 9, when Jesus healed that man in the synagogue on the Sabbath, right in front of the watchful and censorious eyes of the Pharisees.
Look at Matthew 12:9, “Jesus went on from there, he entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ -so that they might accuse him. And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ The man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.” Look at this. “The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known.”
Interesting, there’s the only evidence I can find of Jesus commanding against evangelism, but there’s a reason for it. Historically, he’s trying to subdue the talk of the crowds, lest they try to push him into a timetable that is not his Father’s timetable. So he resists that impulse and urge of the crowds. And commands them to not make him known at this time. In the next several verses, verses 18-21, you can see how Matthew shows them Jesus’ ministry of healing the sick and the lame and the demon possessed. All of that is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s gentleness, and like we just sang, his compassion. Toward the oppressed, toward the suffering.
And what is so remarkable here is that the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, not only did they fail to recognize the fulfillment of clear messianic realities and prophecies. But they wanted to kill that kind of Messiah. They went out verse 14, “They conspired against him.” Really? On how to destroy him? Never seen such a perfect man in all of their lives and they want to kill him. It’s interesting that even this sin of conspiring to murder Jesus, even the sin of murdering Jesus. That sin could find full and free forgiveness in the grace of God. In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus prayed for while he was hanging on the cross. You remember that? “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
But then Matthew records this next section. And he reveals there among the Pharisees and leaders a degree of hard heartedness among them that is absolutely remarkable and astounding. The Pharisees, they’ve cited with Satan over Christ. And here they cut themselves off from any hope of salvation. Look at verse 22, Matthew 12. “And then a demon-oppressed man who is blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’ But when the Pharisees heard, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.’”
Interesting there just if you stop and think about it, never did the Pharisees, the religious leaders ever deny one miracle that Jesus did. Even in his most fierce opposition, the most hostile enemies to him and his ministry never denied the supernatural going on in Jesus’ ministry. So what do they do? They can’t beat that. They can’t deny that. So they falsely attribute it, don’t they?
“Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them,” in verse 25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city and house is divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he’s divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Seeing Jesus’ miracles performed right in front of them and instead of attributing it to the Holy Spirit, they’re attributing it to Satan. That is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not denying the, the speaking of tongues is for today or whatever. That’s not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not questioning some faith healer on TBN and saying I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s by tricks. That is not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is what’s portrayed right here. That the Pharisees saw what Jesus did. They saw him cast out demons. They saw him heal. They saw him do miracles, and they said, nah, not God, Satan.
So where do I see spiritual opposition in the early part of Luke 8? Right here in Matthew 12. Same context, same background. This is the hostility that Jesus faced. And he faced it immediately prior to delivering the parable of the Sower to those gathered crowds. Everything else that follows in and recorded in Luke 8. This is all that the twelve witnessed together with Jesus as they walked with Jesus, early part of Matthew 12 through the grain fields. As they witnessed the restoration of the man with the withered hand. As Jesus delivered the blind and the mute man, who his here oppressed by a demon.
The twelve, they witnessed this level of hatred against Jesus, which can only be described as satanic. They could see this spiritual opposition and from the most religious in their society, the most respected members of their society. They were there to see the Jewish leadership openly hostile to Jesus. They heard them denying all the evidence to the contrary and attributing the miracles that Jesus performed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and attributing those miracles to Satan.
Listen, there’s a lot to say about all of that. I can’t say everything I’d like to for the sake of time, but we just need to realize that what Jesus experienced. What the disciples, the twelve witnessed, what they experienced as a part of Jesus’ retinue. This is something that Jesus promised to everyone who identifies with the Son of Man. Following Jesus into gospel ministry means receiving the same treatment. It means receiving them, facing the same hostility, the same opposition.
Turn over just quickly in your Bibles from Matthew 12 and go to John 15. Because I just don’t want you to take my word for it that Jesus promised this. But John 15:18, Jesus would later tell his disciples what they had experienced early on in Jesus’ ministry as they followed Jesus. Hostility, opposition even to the point of persecution and physical suffering, even to the point of death. That’s the reaction of a blind and sinful world to the ministry of Jesus Christ. That’s the reaction of the world to those who follow Jesus Christ faithfully. In fact, you have to ask yourself if you experience no opposition for the sake of Christ, you really gotta wonder how clear of a testimony you’re presenting to others. Because Jesus promised it would be there.
Look at John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
“But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have not been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. The word that is written in their law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
Just as Jesus here readied his twelve apostles, just as he prepared them to go out into a world of spiritual opposition, preparing them of what they would face when they proclaimed the gospel. Beloved, you and I, we need to prepare our own hearts. We need to prepare our hearts and realize this is the job, this is the calling. Go back to Luke 8 now. The world doesn’t want to hear what we have to say. But to us, to all those whom God has chosen, Luke 8:10, here’s the blessing. “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.”
Beloved, you just keep preaching and proclaiming and teaching and evangelizing. And God will protect you as he sees fit. And he will draw his own to himself. Those who belong to him will hear your word if it’s faithful to scripture. And if you’re faithful to scripture, those who turn away from you, reject you, resist you, keep praying for them. Amid this opposition, how are we gonna know when people are really responding to the gospel, and when they’re not, how are we gonna know? This is another vital element in gospel preparedness. And now we’re going to see this coming out of the text in Luke 8.
But this is a second point in our outline, so fill this in. Number two in your outline. Educate your mind in biblical discrimination. Educate your mind in biblical discrimination. Discrimination, what an ugly word, right? That is a hate monger word. Discriminate, we don’t do that. We don’t discriminate against anybody except those who are Christians. But another way to think about the idea of discrimination, if that word is somehow culturally distasteful to you, is to use another culturally distasteful word called discernment. I would have used the word discernment in my outline point. But discernment doesn’t write, rhyme with my other outline points, so had to use discrimination.
It would be vital for the twelve, as they went out to preach the gospel, as they proclaim the kingdom, it’s going to be vital for them to know the difference between legitimate responses to the gospel and then what we might call false positives. You say, why do we need to know the difference between true and false professors of the faith? I mean, can’t we just wait until the end when God, God sorts it all out? When he does the harvesting and he, he separates the wheat and the tares? When he separates the sheep and the goats, can’t we just wait till the end? Let him, he’s going to do a better job of judging the heart than I am.
Well, there’s a grain of truth in that. That kind of sorting will happen at the end. When the God who knows every heart, whose word, according to Hebrews 4:12, “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” That all-knowing God, he’s gonna cut through all the garbage, all the excuses, all the reasons, all the lies, all the false motives. And he’s gonna bring everything into the revealing light of his omniscient judgment in the end. He is going to do that.
But in the meantime, God wants the disciples of Jesus Christ to grow in discernment. What I’ve called here biblical discrimination, that is, the ability and the wisdom and the skill to judge the difference between true Christians and false converts. Beloved, we are to be fruit inspectors. We’re to verify good fruit as good fruit. And identify bad fruit as bad. And don’t let it escape your notice that as Jesus gets ready to send out the twelve, it’s evidently important to him that his disciples learn the difference between true citizens of the kingdom and false pretenders.
Luke began this chapter transitioning us from the account of the forgiven woman who worshipped Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee, and already he’s teaching about discernment. The one who has been forgiven much, loves much. That’s how you know. That’s a true believer. Luke introduces us here in the transition time of Luke 8:1-3. Introduces us to several other women who, like that woman in the previous account. They also love much, and they have followed Jesus as disciples. They have left, they’ve supported him out of their means. They too, are true followers, true fruit.
And this transition takes us into two parables that further those lessons in discernment. Jesus is teaching his disciples how to discriminate between the true and the false. How to judge. He’s training the twelve. The parable of the soils teaches them that the hidden condition of the heart is what explains the response to the gospel. That’s verses 8-15, and then the parable the lamp teaches them to discern true from false disciples, verses 9-21. True disciples listen to the word. They obey it, they keep on obeying it.
Let’s take a look at the text, verses 4-21. “When a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds came of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Some fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
“And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it’s been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they’re in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.
“‘But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, there are those who hear, but as they go on their way they’re choked by the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
“‘No one after lighting a lamp, covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.’ And his mother and his brothers came to him, they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’”
Notice the repeated emphasis in what we read there, describing those who hear. Verse 8, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Verse 10, “Even though hearing, Christ speaks in parables that hearing, they may not understand.” So there’s a inappropriate or an ineffectual kind of hearing. In verses 12-15 we see different ways of hearing, three of them ineffectual, only one of them effectual. Which is why verse 18, you have to, “take care then how you hear” because the consequences are so significant. In fact, how one hears verse 21, it proves by action, not words. Demonstrates whether one belongs in the family of God or outside of it.
Jesus, said, “My brother, my mother, my brothers, those who hear the word of God and do it.” So Luke wants us here, the readers, to see that true disciples are those who hear the word of God and do it. And listen, there is an eternal difference between those who hear and don’t do and those who hear and do. One commentator put it this way, “Hearing is associated with response. Accentuating the necessity of acting on the basis of and consistent with what is heard. Failure to respond is not an option.” Just to generalize, having heard the word one may produce fruit or fail to produce fruit. Those who produce fruit are thus identified as those who hear correctly. They are included in the family of Jesus. They are the ones being saved.
Not only that, Jesus teaches us in Luke 8:15, verse 15, true hearing happens in the good soil. And those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart. They bear fruit. It says there, with patience. The word there translated patience, it’s hupomone, which means steadfastness. It means perseverance. It means endurance to the very end. You know what that means? It means it’s no good to look back to yesterday’s fruit. Some kind of dried, shriveled up remnant of a long dead branch. Does no good.
Any false Christians like to claim some kind of past religious act or gift or service as some kind of evidence of the legitimacy of their Christian profession. Listen, true hearing produces continuing fruit, increasing fruit, maturity. Even thorny soil appears to produce something, but in the end, verse 14, their fruit does not mature. That is false fruit. It’s only those who persevere to the end, those who are always producing fruit, maturing fruit, increasing fruit. They and they alone are the true Christians and all the others are false. Why did the twelve need to understand that? Why do we, beloved, need to understand that as a matter of vital gospel ministry preparation? Because we need to know who the true Christians are. We need to discern the difference between a true believer and a false pretender. Why?
Because number one, our mandate is to go make disciples. First by evangelizing and baptizing new converts. And second, by teaching new disciples to obey everything that Jesus commanded. That is the mandate of our Lord. It’s his yoke that’s upon us. But also, we need to discriminate between true and false believers, because number two, we love people. We don’t just love and obey God and his mandate. We love people. We want to make sure that those who say they’re Christians are truly Christians. The way we that, this, this way we evangelize the right people, and we disciple the right people.
Unconverted people cannot produce fruit. They cannot grow into maturity. They cannot endure to the end. Only converted people can do that. That’s our concern. Like you, beloved, as we look around in our city, in our region, our state, our country, we see many who name the name of Christ. But they really produce no true fruit. And we often sadly, see this in our own families. You see this in some cases among those, sadly, who even attend our own church. No spirit produced fruit. Which is gen, genuine, biblically defined as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Instead, what we see among some of these false professors are rotten fruits of wickedness, produces or produced, I should say, by the desires of the flesh. The thoughts, the words, the actions of “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” You know where those lists come from? Galatians 5, works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit.
First for the Spirit is love, love which is described somewhere in Scripture as being characterized this way. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. It does not boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It’s not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” Only those who truly hear the word of God manifest that kind of genuine, divinely wrought love.
And that kind of love is an active, effective, fruit-producing love. That love produces good fruit, not just for today or tomorrow, but for the rest of our lives. And it’s those who produce such fruit, they, and only they, are the true Christians. They, and only they, belong to Christ. They, and only they, are the ones that we’re able to disciple because they have the spiritual mechanism inside of them for change. If they don’t have that, how do we love them? Evangelize, right? Evangelize.
Training of the twelve in Luke 8 started with heart preparation. So they knew, the twelve knew they’re gonna face opposition. The training of the twelve continued with getting an education in biblical discernment to become discriminating thinkers. Beloved, this is all so vitally important for our education, too. We also need to prepare our minds for action. Prepare our minds for spiritual opposition. And we need to educate our minds in discernment and biblical discrimination. But there’s a third thing that’s necessary too, a third thing.
“Never did the Pharisees, the religious leaders ever deny one miracle that Jesus did.”Travis Allen
Third point in your outline. Anchor your witness in supernatural conviction. Anchor your witness in supernatural conviction. Listen, if we, if all we anticipate ahead of us is spiritual opposition and that’s all we think about, you know what’s gonna happen? We’re going to fear, aren’t we? We’re going to be afraid. And we’re going to shrink back. If we anticipate opposition and we’re educated also in biblical discrimination. And those two parts of our training are all that’s formed, you know we’re likely to do is hide behind the walls of the church and look out through the, the people. And we’ll suspiciously examine everybody who enters our doors with kind of beady little eyes of discernment. True or false? True or false?
Listen, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be discerning. I’m not saying we should not anticipate hostility and opposition. But what is it that gives us courage in the face of that opposition? What sends us outside the four walls of our church building to take the gospel out into a hostile world. And to really believe we could find success in identifying true Christians and separating out the false? Did Jesus shrink back from the task? Not at all, did he? He pressed forward. He leaned into the opposition. He leaned into the conflict.
In fact, the Bible says, “It was for the joy that was set before him that he endured the cross, despising the shame. And because of that, he is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Total courage on his part, right? Why? Because he had the confidence in complete and total victory. As do we. That’s why the next section in training of the twelve, Luke 8:22-56 is so vital. The disciples here learn lessons in divine power, which is resident and incarnate in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. And by the same Spirit that same power was provided for them as they went forth in Luke 9:1-6.
Three narratives there of Jesus’ power. And the point there is to show Jesus teaching the twelve that ministry is not of flesh and blood. It’s a spiritual work. It requires power that’s beyond you. He is sending these men out to confront forces too great for them. But there’s no power too great for God, is there? So by God’s power, and through no power of their own, they’re going to confront these forces. They’re going to overcome them because they’re backed by divine power.
In the next section, then verses 22-56, we’re going to read three separate accounts. They really contain four different miracles. Final account shows Jesus healing a woman on the way to raising a little girl from the dead. So that’s two for one there. But these three accounts demonstrate Jesus’ power. First in verses 22-25, you see Jesus power over the impersonal forces of nature. Secondly, we see in verses 26-39, Jesus’ power over the personal and malevolent forces of the spiritual realm, that is the demons. And then thirdly, finally verses 40-56, we see Jesus’ power over the physical forces of the curse that dominate the fallen world, that is disease and death.
Let’s read those accounts and just in one reading, okay? Starting in verse 22, “One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a wind, windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master we’re perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’” Think they need to go know that going forth?
Next account, “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. And when he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. And he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)
“Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let him enter these. And so he gave them permission. And then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
“When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and the country. The people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. And, and then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.
“So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” You think as the disciples go forth, they need to see that kind of power over a legion of demons?
Verse 40, “When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,” had to hurt the physician Luke to write that line. But write it he did.
“She could not be healed by anyone. And she came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ All denied it, and Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing on you!’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’
“While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.’ Jesus on hearing this answered him, ‘Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.’ When he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and the mother of the child. And they were all weeping and mourning for her, but he said, ‘Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
“Taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given to her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.”
As you can see, so much good stuff is lying in wait before us. Those three accounts, and especially as we read them like that together, they paint a picture, don’t they? They paint a picture of Christ’s comprehensive power. Is there anything that he cannot subdue? Those three accounts of supernatural power, they provide us with the best preparation for sending out the twelve. And I’m telling you, the twelve would not have been prepared, apart from seeing the power of God Almighty, resident and incarnate and operative in the miraculous, supernatural ministry of Jesus Christ. But seeing that power, they’re ready for anything. Send it.
And beloved, like the apostles, we also need to anchor our witness in supernatural conviction. Being bold and unapologetic about our supernatural presuppositions. I realize it’s not popular in today’s materialistic, scientific, scientism, I should say culture. To talk about multiplying bread and fishes, to talk about parting the Red Sea, to talk about the world coming into being by divine creation in six literal days. But beloved, we must never hedge, budge an inch, an iota on the miraculous. Our hope is anchored in the miraculous, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And that’s grounded in the authoritative word of God. Who created the world, who interpreted that world to us in his revealed word. We have to affirm everything that the Bible says as a matter of settled conviction. When we’re anchored deeply into a settled conviction about the supernatural revelation of God’s word, we must believe, we must speak, we must act. We step out in bold, courageous faith because we know we’re backed by the omnipotent God who is sovereign overall.
In fact, this is where, as I’m saying, the whole of chapter 8 has been taking us. Luke has been driving us to chapter 9, and after the disciples go out, you know what happens? Unveiling of Christ. For example, Luke 9 in feeding the five thousand there are in verses 10 and following, Jesus is revealed as the bread of life. He’s the very manna from heaven. We read in verse 20 that his disciples know and confess him as the Christ of God. Verses 21 and following, he’s portrayed there as he reveals the suffering that’s coming. He is portrayed as the suffering servant. That’s an allusion back to Isaiah 53.
And then in verses 28 and following, when Jesus is transfigured before them. He reveals his divine glory. And Jesus is clearly identified to his disciples by God speaking from heaven, as the chosen son of God. All this unveiling. And notice, all this unveiling of Jesus’ identity to his true disciples. You know where it happens? It happens after Luke 9:1-6 and not before. After Jesus has commanded his twelve apostles to go out. And after they’ve been engaged in evangelistic work. It’s only then that he’s pleased to reveal more of himself to them.
That should stand out to us, shouldn’t it? We understand enough to trust and obey. And based on what little we may know, if we’re Christians, we speak and we act in obedience. And as we trust and obey, you know what God does? He gives us greater understanding. He gives us greater insight, more trusting, more obeying means more light, more joy, more understanding, and an increased capacity in our hearts to worship. It’s totally contrary, isn’t it, to the spirit of the age, which resists any movement. I’m not getting up off the couch unless you can prove to me that I should. People sit paralyzed in doubt. Rehearsing their doubts, satisfied in their doubts, criticizing everything they see around them. Because that’s easy.
God, though, commands our faith and our action. And he’s pleased to give greater light to those who act, to those who trust, who obey. He’s not at all obliged at all to those who want everything proven to them before they’re gonna lift a little finger in the work of God. As Augustine said, “We believe in order to understand.” And believing, as we’ve already learned, is evident among the twelve. Believing is demonstrated in true obedience and in continuing enduring obedience. In that vein of not just speaking and not acting, but acting, I’m often reminded of the famous words of Theodore Roosevelt, taken from his citizenship in republic speech.
Here’s how it goes. I, I love this. “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strongman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly. Who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort, without error and shortcoming. But to the one who does actually strive to do the deeds. Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions. Who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement. And who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails white, while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” End Quote.
Let it never be said of a Christian, that we are counted among those cold and timid souls. Who neither know victory nor defeat. Don’t we, after all, have a worthy cause to spend ourselves for? Don’t we have the backing of an all-powerful God who has commanded us to go? We have to go forward, as his obedient servants taking the gospel to the world. When we do, we will not suffer final defeat, but we will rejoice in eternal victory, for we have a promise.
This promise is the anchor for our souls, out of 2 Corinthians 2. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. But we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? As men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” Amen to that, right?
Listen, and it’s been a little bit of a different Sunday as I’m not detailing grammar and verbs and all that, all the rest of that and going slowly. There’s a large overview, but I hope it’s been helpful to you to think about the unifying theme of the training of the twelve and how all this fits together and where we’re heading in just a few weeks time. Well, that’s enough for today.
Let’s pray. Our Father we want to thank you for just this bird’s eye view of the text, as we’ve been able to, to get a look at it from up above and, and kind of move through it and read through the different sections. And see the purpose and the unifying theme. And we do hope that you would encourage us, help us to prepare our hearts for action, to expect opposition and hostility. Help us to grow in discernment as we come to understand what, what is, what marks a true disciple, and what is evident of the false. Help us also to, to trust and believe in your power, your supernatural, almighty power, sovereign over everything. Help us to trust you. And then let us not just sit back and trust, but to be obedient.
Help us to obey you and go forth and find full victory and assurance in believing. We love you. We thank you so much for the salvation that we have in Christ. We, being sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins, but you, being so gracious. Even though we were separated from you and headed for hell, you sent Jesus Christ to live the perfect life that he might die the complete and full atoning death. Be raised from the dead for our justification. Raised that we might live. He fulfills your law that we might be covered in his righteousness and stand before you, not only without any sin, but actually in full fulfillment of your perfect law. Being united to him.
We thank you that you make that offer of salvation to anyone who will believe, repent of their sins, trust you, and obey. We ask that that simple message would touch the hearts of those here, those who do not know you. Please bring them to saving faith. Help us all to be good evangelists, faithful to you to the very end. Please use this church mightily in each one of us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.