Signs & Times

Stories Jesus Told

Pastor Jerry Gillis - September 6, 2020

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Read the stories that Jesus told in Luke 12:54-59. 

  1. Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s Teaching. 

  1. Read 1 Chronicles 12:32. What was said of the men of Issachar and how can we apply this to our conversation surrounding the stories from Luke 12? How can we be people who rightly understand the times we are in?  

  1. How can we stay focused on the priority of following Jesus in an ever-changing world? What does it look like to stay faithful to Him regardless of the circumstances? 

  1. What is one action step that you can take in light of Sunday’s message and our conversation today? 


Sermon Transcript

So I've got great respect and admiration for those who have academic credentialing in meteorology. I realize those that do that, that are on television, I sympathize with them from time to time because it probably is no fun in their job when they have to tell you that it's going to be raining out your fun event that you're having, or if they tell you that a storm's coming, or if they tell you that it's going to be a snowpocalypse, which we have experienced once or a million times here in Western New York.

So I have some degree of compassion and sympathy for them when they do that and I certainly admire them and respect them. One of the things that I thought about is whether or not a meteorologist's job here in Western New York is actually fun, or is it stressful, or is it reasonably stress free? And I guess that's subject to interpretation. My guess would be, and this is just me thinking, the fact that it's Western New York, it would seem like it would be quite a bit of fun and not overly stressful. Because if I were a meteorologist, my guess would be that I would do something like this, "Hey folks, today's going to be, ah, ah, ah and here's what I recommend you bring with you today if you're going to be outside. Bring sunscreen, an umbrella, a tank top, a jacket, and a pack of Alaskan Malamutes with a dog sled and you should be good to go today."

That wouldn't generally speaking, be what I would think about doing because it's Western New York, right? It's Buffalo. So the great thing about Buffalo in Western New York is that we understand whether to some degree that maybe other people don't. Like, we know what a snow cloud looks like. We know what lake effect actually is. There are things that we actually can observe with our own eyes that we see, that we understand and that we know this weather is coming because this is what's happening right now. So, because we all understand that, I now with the power vested in me, do hitherto and therefore deem everyone here an apprentice meteorologist. Congratulations to you all. Those who are watching online, those who are here, congratulations, we all. Now you get to keep that designation as long as you can still observe what's going on in your surroundings weather-wise and you have sense enough not to do anything stupid as a result of that and if you do that, you get to keep this degree that I have now conferred upon you. You're welcome by the way.

Now, I feel confident giving you this because I'm recognizing that you know how to observe some things from weather patterns and you know what's coming as a result. And the reason I'm confident giving you that kind of affirmation is because Jesus gave the people of His time the very same affirmation. When he was having a conversation with some crowds in Luke 12, notice how he began that conversation. He said to the crowd, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately, you say it's going to rain and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say it's going to be hot, and it is." Now Jesus was using a very simple illustration with the people that he was talking to because they understood these things.

When Jesus talked about a cloud that's forming out in the west, what he meant he was referring to, if you look at a map of Israel to its west is the Mediterranean Sea. And so they would see clouds that are forming above the Mediterranean sea and they would realize, "Hey, it's going to rain." Because we all know how clouds work, right? We know that there's evaporation that comes off of the sea, and it forms in the clouds, and the clouds get heavy, and they move over land, and they dumped the water. We get all of that. They could see that happening. They said, this is happening. It's going to rain. And Jesus said, "You'd be exactly right."

And then he referred to the south wind. Now the south wind would have been a wind that was coming from south to north and south of Israel would have been Arabia where there is desert land. And if you've got wind, that's coming from a desert, which is hot, and that wind is coming from south to north, then you could pretty much tell it's going to be hot. And Jesus says, "When you feel that south wind coming from the Arabian desert, and you say, it's going to be hot, you would be exactly right." Now, Jesus is doing something that we all know by intuition that we do as well, whether it's snow clouds or lake effect or whatever. We even have rhymes to go along with some of these things, right? That we can see things happening in the clouds and we know what kind of weather there's going to be. Maybe you remember this, red sky at night...

Sailors' delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning, right? We even know these. We may not know the science behind all of it, and that's okay. We just know when it looks like this, this is the weather that's going to happen. So Jesus is using some very simple illustrations when he begins this conversation with the crowd that he's talking to. Now, Jesus is not just having a weather conversation with these folks and going, "Hey, you guys are pretty good meteorologists, take care. Good to see you." That's not how this conversation goes. Jesus actually has a point to why he's beginning that way. And I want you to see how he puts a fine point on it in verse 56, he says, "Hypocrites, you know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?"

See, Jesus is now not just having a conversation that's just about weather, he actually wants them to understand something very important. Now so that you understand, Jesus is talking to many thousands of people. How do I know that? Well, because I read and at the very beginning of chapter 12, which is this long dialogue, it says that Jesus was speaking to many thousands in the crowd, that's how I deduced this. I'm a professor, all right? He's speaking to many thousands and what he does when he's speaking to those people is he's got his disciples alongside of him and he alternates having a conversation with this large crowd of thousands where he's telling them some things and then having sidebar conversations with his disciples.

And so when you're reading the dialogue that goes from chapter 12 into chapter 13, Jesus is in both ways talking to large crowds and talking to his disciples. Well, what's he talking to them about? A number of different things. He begins by warning them about the yeast of the Pharisees. Now the Pharisees were these religious leaders and when he uses the phrase, the yeast of the Pharisees, what he's saying is this, the Pharisees are basically sharing wrong thoughts about God, they're sharing wrong thoughts about the Messiah, they're sharing wrong thoughts about the times that we live in. They're sharing wrong thoughts about the kingdom of God, because it's more motivated by their own self righteousness and their own self-interest, and they're getting this upside down. And what Jesus is saying, you have to be alert because what will happen is that will infect everybody, and it will grow and it will spread like yeast.

And then he goes on to talk about how you have to be careful to understand what life really consists of. And that life is not just about the abundance of our possessions and the stuff that we acquire, but there is more to life than that. And He tells his disciples about God's faithful, fatherly care and he gives illustrations of that. And then He tells his disciples as well, to be watchful for God's activity in the world. And He's basically saying that, look, there is kingdom activity, that's happening in the world. And there's going to be people that reject that and there's going to be people that say yes to that. And it will even affect families. Like they'll be divided around some of this stuff. And Jesus is telling his disciples before that happens, that they should pay attention to that.

And then you get to this place where Jesus is talking about the interpretation of the times, and He's rebuking those who are listening, because he says, you can understand what's going on in the sky, but you can't seem to understand what's going on right in front of your face. Now we all know the phrase signs of the times, don't we? We all understand that phrase, right? I mean, some of you have heard people sing about it. We've heard that phrase signs of the times, right? People have sung about it. Maybe if you're of the generation where Prince was popular back in the 1987, he sang a song called Sign o' the Times.

Some of you are nodding your head, some of you are not nodding your head because you don't want to admit it, but you know it, right? You know the song. Or 30 years later in 2017, Harry Styles is singing a song about the Sign of the Times. Now, when we refer to this idea of a sign of the times, what that really means is simply this. It means something that typifies or exemplifies something relative to a period of time. Now, usually in our modern parlance, we usually talk about that somewhat negatively. We talk about, "Oh, man, did you see that?" "Yeah, it's just a sign of our times." Right? We usually do it negatively, but generally speaking it's about something that typifies or exemplifies a certain period of time.

Now, the Old Testament is not unfamiliar with understanding the times, either. Thinking through what the times are saying to us. In fact, there's a few different places. One that I remember is a place where David is outlining the number of groups of people that are actually going to fight with him, right? These mighty men and the camps that they come from. And in listing off all of those people, in 1st Chronicles 12, he mentions the sons of Issachar and he says, "These are men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." Right? He talked about them as people who were able to understand the times and know what they should do.

And then of course, in the beginning of Esther, it talks about this. It says, "Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times and were closest to the king." So you've actually got this phrase that's used a few different times in the Old Testament about what it means to understand the times that are being lived in. But what Jesus is doing with this story that he's telling here in Luke 12 is Jesus is actually critiquing the self righteousness and self-interest of both the religious leaders and those that are generally just going along in the crowd. Listen to this, His rebuke is not that they can't understand the signs of the times, that they can't understand and interpret the times that they live in, His rebuke is that they're unwilling to.

It's not that they can't. This isn't an intelligence problem for them because he says to everybody, right? You look at the sky, you know that if clouds are gathering over the Mediterranean, that it's going to rain and you'd be right. You know that when the south wind is blowing, it's going to be hot and you'd be right. You know how to do this? You're just not willing to. You say, "Well, Jerry, when I read it, it says, Jesus says, "How come you understand these things but you don't understand how to do this?" It makes it seem as if they don't know how to do this. Remember in that verse that we read just a moment ago, the very first word in it, verse 56, he says, "Hypocrites." Say it with me, hypocrites.

You know what a hypocrite is? Hypocrite is someone who puts a mask over the truth. They know what the truth is, but they mask it. You see, that's what Jesus is actually criticizing here when he uses the term hypocrites. There are people that are putting a mask on the truth. Their intelligence is not the issue. Their ability to see all of these things is not the issue. The issue is their unwillingness to embrace what is right before their eyes. Jesus, the King, the King of the kingdom, who is bringing the message of the kingdom of God and testifying to it in his works and in his words. I mean, truthfully, what more did these crowds need to see? Let's be honest. What more did they need to see? What did these religious leaders need to see? Do you know that these religious leaders, you know what they were doing? When you read through the gospels and Jesus heals somebody, do you know, oftentimes what these religious leaders are doing? They're coming behind that and they're interviewing those people to find out what happened.

"Tell me about this, wait a minute, you're telling me you are blind and now you're not, who did this?" They want to know. They've been investigating all of these things. This is right in front of their eyes. And people have seen. Listen, people have seen not only Jesus disciples, but sometimes larger crowds have actually seen Jesus do things in public settings that are physical miracles, whether it was a wedding in Cana where he turns water into wine. And there were not just his disciples, there. There were a whole host of people. So many, in fact that they ran out of wine, which is why Jesus did what he did. They saw this. What about the people that were gathered on a hillside? And Jesus said, "They look hungry. We can't just send them away." His disciples say, where I mean, "We can't really go to them. We can't go to Wegmans. That's kind of far and that's going to take a long time."

And Jesus says, "Well, what do we got?" We got this little kid right here. He's got a couple of fish and a little bit of bread and Jesus says, "That will work." And he prays and he feeds everybody. And there's more than enough leftover. And he not only does that at one point with 5,000, he does it at another point with 4,000. That's a lot of people who have seen this, they're witnessing these things. I mean, Jesus was out on the lake, the sea of Galilee, Lake Gennesaret, same place and He was out there and there was a massive storm brewing. And with just a few words, peace, be still, Jesus shut it all down.

And one time, I'm sure the disciples probably talked to other people, right? They told their family members, their family members told other people. They were like, one time we were out in the middle of a boat. Jesus was praying on a hillside somewhere. We were in the middle of the night, and we were a little bit scared. And what happens? Jesus comes walking out onto the water and his family's like, "What? Walking on the what?" And he's like, "Walking on the water. Yeah, like the water was a sidewalk. He just came out there. We thought it was a ghost. It wasn't, it was Jesus. We freaked out."

None of these things were happening in a closet. None of these things were happening in a corner. They were happening for everybody to be able to see. Jesus is rebuking the fact, not that they don't have the intelligence, but that they're unwilling to embrace what's right before their eyes. Not to mention, these are Jewish leaders, religious leaders who are experts in the law. They know the Old Testament front to back. Some of them have large swaths memorized, committed to memory. And the people of Israel are also people of the book. They understand the Hebrew scriptures. They know what they are saying. Think about that. They know what the Hebrew scripture say and here stands Jesus.

And as I was looking into that, I started thinking about how much there is in the Old Testament that testifies to Jesus. J. Barton Payne, a scholar said there are 574 verses in the Old Testament that actually have messianic influence. There are about a Messiah or about messianic times. And he said of those 574, 127 of them are personal Messiah predictions. That's astonishing. The great Jewish Christian scholar, Alfred Edersheim talked about 558 pre-Christian rabbinic writings. Now here's what that means, it means rabbis that were writing before Jesus was born. Okay? These are pre-Christian rabbinic writings. So they're writing about the Old Testament.

And he said, when he began to look through all of those rabbinic writings, that there were 456 separate Old Testament references to the Messiah. That is astonishing. And probably, one of the great Old Testament scholars that still living today is named Walter Kaiser. He is the president of Emeritus, the former president of where where I worked on my doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He's a brilliant, absolutely brilliant Old Testament scholar. And to this issue, he says this, and I'm quoting him here. He says, "First it was predicted that Messiah would be born of a Virgin. That's what Isaiah tells us in chapter seven and we see it fulfilled in Matthew 1. He said his birthplace would be Bethlehem. Micah 5 tells us that in Matthew 2 corresponds to that.

And then John, the Baptist would be His foreigner. Isaiah 40 tells us that that would be the case, Malachi 3 tells us that would be the case. And then it's corresponding in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It was further announced ahead of time that Messiah would enter Jerusalem. What turned out to be Palm Sunday in triumph as the crowd shouted Hosanna. Zachariah 9 tells us that, Psalm 118 tells us that, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell us that that was fulfilled in Jesus. But in less than a week, Jesus would be betrayed by one of his own disciples, Judas, as it turned out, Psalm 69 tells us that would be the case and Acts 1 talks about that fulfillment.

Messiah side would be pierced, which is exactly what Zachariah 12 said. And he would suffer vicariously for the sins of the world. That's what Isaiah 53 teaches us and 1st Peter 2 and Romans 4 fulfill. Even more dramatically accurate was the fact that Jesus would be killed with the wicked ones. That's what Isaiah 53:9a says, and that he would be hung between two thieves, which fulfilled that, yet he would be buried with the rich one, which Isaiah 53:9b actually says that he's going to be buried, and he was. He was buried in the tomb of a rich man. Joseph of Arimathea." These are just a handful of things. All of this is right in front of their eyes and they are unwilling to embrace it.

By the way, this doesn't even mention what Jesus said would be the sign that he would give to everyone. Because in another passage of scripture, when Matthew kind of records a passage of scripture, similar to the one in Luke 12, notice what it says, "The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. And he replied, 'when evening comes, you say it will be fair weather for the sky is red.' Red sky at night, sailor's delight, right? 'And in the morning today, it will be stormy for the sky is red and overcast. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."

Now you're thinking to yourself, "Okay, what's the sign of Jonah? I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're saying." Well, a few chapters before Matthew 16, Jesus actually clarified what the sign of Jonah was. Here's what he said in Matthew 12, "Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said, 'teacher, we want to see a sign from you.' And he said, 'a wicked and adulterous generation asked for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish. So the son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it for they repented at the preaching of Jonah and now something greater than Jonah is here."

Wow. Jesus said the sign of Jonah that he was going to give to everyone was one that was coming. And that was his death, his burial and his subsequent resurrection. So when you begin to look at all of this, it was plain to them, all of the things that were in front of them to be able to interpret the time that they lived in and more was coming when Jesus would die and be resurrected from the dead. And so could I suggest something to you? It should be plain to us then, ultimately, Jesus said, "This should be plain to this generation of Jewish people. It should be more than plain to us because we have the benefit of history and time and 2020 hindsight to see the fulfillment of all of these things.

But you know what the problem is and the culture that we live in, the same one that Jesus was dealing with in the culture that he lived in. Self-Righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-interest. It affects our culture too. I mean, right now in our culture, people they're too busy to think about Jesus because they have to swim in the toilet bowl of all of the presidential election and figure out what memes and roasts that they can put out on social media for the particular candidate that they hate, or they're too busy swirling the toilet bowl of QAnon conspiracy theories, or they're watching the stock market so closely to figure out that they're living and dying with every dollar that they lose or make. They're just too busy to actually think about Jesus at this moment.

Plus we live in a generation that embraces a cultural narrative that is different than the generations that proceeded it. You see, in past times, people believed that there was a source of truth that was outside of themselves. A a source of truth that was actually objective and was not subject to their whims and their emotions. But now it's very different. You see, now what everybody pushes us toward is understanding truth just for ourselves. We got to go inside of ourselves. We've got to dig it out of ourselves because we're actually the arbiter of truth. And so whatever we think, whatever we feel, whatever your truth is, people don't talk much about the truth anymore.

They talk about our truth, my truth, your truth. That is completely subjective. Why is that? Because we're self righteous, we're self interested, we're self-reliant. It's a similar thing that was happening here with the crowds and the Pharisees that Jesus was actually dealing with. You see the great sin of our culture is this, is telling people that they need to be saved from something. When in effect, what they're thinking is the only thing I need to be saved from is that I need to be saved from people who tell me, I need to be saved from something. That is actually the culture that we find ourselves in. And it makes it especially difficult because at that point, we ourselves are the sole arbiter of truth. And therefore we do what we do in the way that we want to do it, whoever it affects.

By the way, it's not that our culture doesn't have the intelligence to understand the claims of the gospel. Listen, it's not an intelligence issue in our context, in our culture. Do you know what it is? It's an unwillingness to embrace what the gospel actually demands. That we are sinners who cannot save ourselves and that we are helpless and hopeless without the Lord Jesus Christ. But we think that we can do it all ourselves, that we can just do whatever we want whenever we want, however we want and as a result, we find ourselves in the same place of being spiritually thirsty, longing for something that we cannot actually fill ourselves, and it becomes this endless cycle.

See, that's what we're living in, ladies and gentlemen. It's not an intelligence problem. It's that people realize that if we surrender our lives to Jesus, he's asking for our whole lives in exchange for his, and we don't want that because we think that freedom is doing whatever we want whenever we want it, except we don't realize that we're doing that within the context of the bondage of sinfulness and broken humanity instead of knowing what the recreation that Jesus can bring, can actually do to free us. Jesus says, "You'll know the truth and the truth is what will set you free." He prayed to the father, "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth." Yet we long and we scrounged for every other way that we can find to be able to do that. And it doesn't just affect our culture, it affects believers as well.

We get caught up in the same cycles of self righteousness. We get caught up in actually not thinking for ourselves and letting the narratives that people spin actually think for us. If I didn't know better, for some people, I would think that Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson is your pastor. Because you put more truth in what they are telling you. And by the way, their television shows, their job is to get eyeballs. And ultimately at the end of the day, you and I have to turn our attention back to the word of God and understand what it is that God has said, and we need to be in a position where we're clear eyed enough that we can call wrong, wrong, and we can call, right, right. Listen to this, even if it is wrong on the side of the political spectrum that we may find ourselves on, whether that's right or left, because at the end of the day, believers need to be able to call wrong, wrong, and right, right regardless.

But we don't and here's why, and this is what concerns me about the church. Here's why, because we get self-righteous and because we get self-interested. In other words, we fear that if we call wrong on the candidate, that we're leaning toward voting for, whatever that candidate may be. If we call wrong there, that somehow it's not going to fulfill our preferred narrative. So we ignore it and we justify it and we push it aside as if it doesn't exist. But that's not what the people of God are actually called to be. We're worried. We're worried that it might affect our self interest. See, this is exactly what Jesus was dealing with with the religious leaders of the time and with those that were there.

But Jesus, doesn't just tell that part of the story about the weather to make a point. He actually couples that with another story and he jams them together. You might not see how they work together, but I'm going to show you very quickly. Here's the second part of the story Jesus says in verses 58 and 59, he says, "As you're going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way or your adversary may drag you off to the judge and the judge turn you over to the officer and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny." Jesus is telling a story about getting right before you run out of time and you find yourself in what this story would call debtor's prison.

By the way, debtor's prison was a very difficult place to be in because if you owed and then you went to prison, you don't have a way to make money to pay what you owe. You find yourself in debtor's prison with no way out at that point. Now, Jesus, for those of you who are paying close attention and are students of the Bible, you may remember that kind of story in the sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5. Jesus actually tells this same story in Matthew 5 in the sermon on the Mount. But Jesus is doing something different with that story in that context that He's doing with the same story in this context. In Matthew 5, Jesus is concerned with our relationship to one another.

Remember he said something like, if you find out that your brother has something against you or your sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go make it right with them. And he tells this story, right? On your way to the judge, why don't you work it out so that you don't find yourself maybe getting in a bad spot and going before the judge and then ending up handed over to jail and now you're in debtor's prison and now you're not getting out until you pay the last penny. That word last penny is one of the smallest designations of currency that they had to talk about. It was like one over 100th of just a day's wage, pocket change what he's referring to. Pocket change. The last penny that you have.

And so in Matthew 5, He's talking about getting right with one another, but in Luke 12, Jesus uses this story in a different way because he's trying to help people understand that what they need to do is they need to get right with God before they run out of time. That's what he's doing with the story. You get right with God before you run out of time. See, Jesus is making it clear here for us as we read through this, that this is about being reconciled to God before it's too late and you end up in the debtor's prison called sin, which by the way, not only can you not earn anything to pay it off, even if you could, you couldn't pay it off in a million lifetimes.

So Jesus says, you need to get that straight. Now when we pull these two stories together, here's what we see happening. Listen to this, Jesus is saying to us, and to them specifically, understand the times before time runs out. That's what's happening in these stories as He puts them together. Understand the times before your time runs out. You see, this wasn't fanciful for Jesus. Jesus wasn't saying this just to be a good moral teacher. Jesus knew, by the way, that in Israel, at that specific time that there were impending storm clouds and there was a harsh, warm, hot breeze that was blowing. And it was going to ultimately be the judgment that God allows for Israel because of their rejection of the Messiah. The very thing, the very one who's right before their eyes, that they can interpret everything else but can't see this right in front of their eyes. Not because they can't, because they won't because Jesus was messing with their self interest. Jesus was messing with their self righteousness.

And so Jesus saw that these clouds were building. He knew that something was coming. And in fact, when you go from Luke 12 to Luke 19, even though we call it chapters, this was real time for real people. And you remember what was happening, Jesus is coming into Jerusalem for his last time being in Jerusalem, in his earthly ministry. And he's coming in and triumph in Palm Sunday, riding on a donkey. People are waving Palm branches, blessed to see who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna, Hosanna, right? But I want you to take note of not only how Jesus feels when he sees Jerusalem, but what he says, notice it says this in Luke 19, "As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. And he said, if even you had only known on this day, what would bring you peace? But now it's hidden from your eyes.

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side, they will dash you to the ground. You and the children within your walls. They will not have one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." You didn't recognize the time. You didn't interpret the time of God's coming to you. This is an extraordinary statement that Jesus makes that fulfills what He was warning them about what we see as a few chapters earlier. He's referring to the events that would occur 40 years from the time of his death and resurrection. 70 AD Jerusalem was going to be destroyed.

The Roman general Titus was going to come in. He was going to level the place. Many people would be killed and destroyed. Now, here's the good news. There were a number of people from the time of Jesus' resurrection to the time of 70 AD, who believed the message of the gospel there. There were a number of people that did and I thank God for that. In fact, at Pentecost, we see a few thousand of them, right? But most of them did not. Most of them rejected what was right in front of their eyes. They knew better, but they rejected it and stayed with their own self righteousness, their own self-interests, their own self-reliance God allowed through the Roman empire for there to be judgment. It's as if he was saying in Luke chapter 12, "Can you not see that the Romans are oppressing? And this is going in a bad way for you. Can you not see that the religious leaders that are leading you are self-absorbed, self interested and self-righteousness? Can you not see that? You can tell what's going to happen with the weather, but you can't discern this?"

Jesus was trying to give them a warning because He loved them and He wanted them to know the truth. And that's why right in this story, when he tells two parts of this story, right in the middle of it, He asks a question. Right between these two parts of the story. Notice what he says in verse 57, "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?" This is two stories that he has sandwiched together and right in the middle of it is a question, "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?" Do you know what he does? He puts the onus on the crowd. He says, "You've got to make a decision." He says, "You've got to be reflective. You've got to deal with your own sin. You've got to deal with your own self righteousness. You've got the responsibility for evaluating the evidence that's right before your eyes."

And by the way, so do we. So do we. So maybe I would offer this question to you, judge for yourselves what is right before you run out of time. It's not a question, it's a statement. Judge for yourselves what is right before you run out of time, That's what these stories, these conjoined stories that Jesus is telling, that's what he's trying to say to us, because here's what I want you to understand. Whether you're in this room, whether you're watching online, the evidence is in. Everything that the Old Testament promised about the Messiah is fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus is the very lamb of God. That Jesus is the one who was prophesied. That Jesus is the one who has come to bring the message of the kingdom. That Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father, except through me." That we recognize that there is no name under heaven by which people can be saved, except for the name of Jesus. That Jesus alone can save. That we are sinners who cannot save ourselves. That this is the beautiful hope of the reality of the gospel. That while we were yet sinners Christ died for us because God in his mercy has given us a way of reconciliation. But understand this, if you reject Jesus, whether actively or passively, all of the evidence, that's right in front of your face, it's there for us to read and is testified to. It is there in the transformed lives of people whose lives have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and set foot in now, the kingdom of light as imperfect as we are. You've seen the transformation, you know the truth, and ultimately people can't argue with that.

Sometimes people want to argue with me, they want to argue with me, "Oh man, I don't know if I believe in all this stuff." Here's what I can tell you, I was lost, now I'm found. I was blind, now I see. That I can tell you. A person with an experience of Christ is never at the mercy of someone with just an argument. Never, because not only does the truth still stand and has for thousands of years uncontested in its truthfulness. But so too, to the testimonies of people who have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. But understand this, if you reject him with all the evidence in, understand that the legal case against you is mounting. That it will be brought before the judge of all the universe and that he has every bit of evidence at his disposal. There is nothing he does not know. There will be no smooth arguments that you will be able to offer. There will be no plea deals and you don't know when that's going to occur.

So you judge for yourself what's right before you run out of time. But here's the beautiful truth of the gospel. In God's kindness, He has given us an opportunity to settle this matter out of court. That's why God who so loved the world gave His only son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but instead would have eternal life. Would be justified, gavel wrong not guilty because of faith in Jesus, not our own self righteousness, not our own self reliance, not our own self interest, but because of what the perfect sacrifice, Jesus, God, with skin on has done in our place. You see, Jesus wants to be your defense attorney that argues and proclaims your innocence because of his payment on your behalf. But if you reject him, He will be your prosecutor. But God in his kindness has given you the opportunity to settle this out of court. But judge for yourselves, what's right before you run out of time.

Let's bow our heads together. We'll be dismissed in just a moment. If you're here in this room, or if you're watching us online or listening to us on the radio or watching by way of television, I want you to know that God loves you and He desires for you to be reconciled to Him. Sin is a serious issue that we all face. The Bible says, "We've all sinned and come short of the glory of God." And it also says that the payment for our sin is death. That doesn't just mean that we physically die. We all do that. It means that there's a spiritual separation between us and God for all eternity. You see, the reminder for us as this is that God so loves us that even in that condition where we couldn't rescue ourselves, where we were tied up in the bondage of sin, we've all sinned, not only by what we've done, but who we are.

No one had to teach us how to do some of the broken things that we do. Nobody sits a child down and teaches a child how to lie. They just know how to do it. Just like we did. We are broken by the nature of our sin and we sin to demonstrate our nature. It's a serious thing that affects us all. And there is only one remedy and that is the purifying nature of the blood that was shed for us on a cross willingly and lovingly. So that by faith in him, the savior who died was buried and rose from the dead, fulfilling the sign of Jonah, that he promised that He has overcome sin, and hell, and the grave on our behalf and now by faith in Him we can be reconciled to a Holy God who wants us and who loves us and who does not want to drown in the debtor's prison of sin that we can never pay our way out of.

So if you need to respond by faith to entrust your life to Jesus, maybe you want to pray something like this with all the faith that you have in your heart. There's not magic in the words, but it's just your heart posture and faith to say, "Lord Jesus," you can just repeat this to Him in your heart. "Lord Jesus, I know that I can't save myself. I know that I've sinned and come short of your glory, but I believe Jesus, that you died for me and that you died because of me and my sin. But I also believe that you rose from the grave and that your sacrifice satisfied the justice of God. So now by faith, I entrust what you have done for me that I could never do by myself. And I confess Jesus, you are Lord, I am not. And I receive you as my Lord and savior."

As our heads are bowed and eyes are closed, if that's you, if that's a need that you've understood and you needed to clarify that with God, there's no greater issue that you have in your life than that. And we want to be a help to you. If you're here in person, when we dismiss in just a moment, there's a room right across the atrium, clearly marked called the Fireside Room. Some pastors and some other friends in there who are masked, who will stay properly distanced from you, but they'd love to be able to put something in your hand that's going to help you in your journey of faith and pray with you as you confess that you need Jesus.

Maybe if you're watching online, you can do one of two things. You can either go online to and interact with somebody there virtually, or you could call somebody on the phone if you wanted to. We have people do that periodically, where you could just call them and they're waiting on you. They'd love to talk to you about what it means to entrust your life to Jesus. Just call the number (716) 631-2636. We'd love to help you. Before I pray I want to remind all of us that may be here that are watching, who may be a believer in Jesus, I pray that what you would understand you take away from this is that these things being true, that we should endeavor to live lives that are committed to who Jesus is and to the holiness that he demonstrates in our lives.

And that we should be a witness to the people around us, not only in who we are and what we do, but also in what we say. That we would show them the gospel and that we would declare to them the gospel of Jesus Christ for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Father, I pray that you would take all of our hearts and mold the more into the reality of who you are. That we would understand the time that we live in and recognize that we don't know how long the time lasts that we have to glorify you in this world, or to make a decision to judge what is right, because all the evidence is before us.

May you help us to be the kind of people who throw away our self righteousness and our self reliance and put our faith and trust in the only one who can set us free, the king of kings, the Lord of Lords, the name above all names, Jesus, our savior in whose name we ask all of these things. Amen.

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