Up to this point in our series, Luke has hammered home the identity of Christ. He began by describing the miraculous circumstances surrounding both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ birth and pointed out how those circumstances highlight the Christ child’s identity. He has given us Elizabeth’s declaration along with Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s prophecy about his own son that highlights the person of Christ. He has told us of Jesus’ birth and of the declarations of Simeon and Anna in the temple regarding Christ at the end of chapter 1. In chapter 2, we saw Jesus’ own witness to Himself when His parents found Him in the Temple. Then, in chapter 3, we saw the prophetic witness of John the Baptist as an adult as he declared the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins while pointing to the One who was greater than himself – Jesus. Then, last week, Luke culminated this identification of Jesus by pointing out His place as God’s Son and our obedient representative before God.
Beginning with our text this morning, Luke shifts his emphasis a bit and begins to focus on what Jesus has come to do. Having identified Jesus as the promised Messiah and as the perfectly obedient Son of God, Luke beings to identify what Jesus did when His ministry actually began. Even more specifically, Luke uses this text in 4:14-44 as a sort of paradigm. He wants his readers to finish this part of the text and have a working idea of what Jesus’ mission was as they read through the rest of the book. Luke does not, in this text, give us a comprehensive picture of how this mission was carried out, but he does – using Jesus’ own words – lay out the mission for us. So what is this mission? It is found in the end of our text this morning as Jesus himself says in v. 43, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Here we have – from Jesus’ own mouth – his purpose statement. And this statement leads us to ask, “Well then, what indeed is the good news of the kingdom of God?” The answer to this question is our text today. Luke’s purpose in writing is to explain what is meant by Jesus’ statement in v. 43. So let us look at what makes up the good news of the Kingdom of God.
The first part of this good news of the Kingdom of God is that THE KINGDOM IS HERE (v. 14-30).
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel clearly understood that at some point in history God was going to set up His Kingdom and rule the world. Throughout Israel’s history, God gave hints and clues of a future One who would come. As we walk through the Old Testament, the picture of this One becomes clearer and clearer. Then, the prophets present us with a grand culmination of this hope as they describe this One bringing not only Himself but also an entire Kingdom over which He would rule. So what you have in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, is Israel’s hope in a day sometime in the future in which God’s people (i.e. the people of Israel) would be delivered and in which, simultaneously, God’s enemies (i.e. Israel’s enemies) would be destroyed. There are a number of texts which illustrate this theme (Isa. 34-35; Joel 2; Obadiah 15-21, etc.), but for our purposes, we need look no farther than our own text as Jesus quotes one of these prophetic texts himself.
Jesus quotation in verses 18-19 of our text are from Isaiah 61:1-2. Isaiah 61 is a chapter that falls right in the middle of an extended meditation by the prophet Isaiah on the future glory of Israel. Chapters 60-62 speak in vivid terms of the future deliverance of the Israel. Over and over again, the Lord speaks of this future kingdom. Isaiah 60:3 says, “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” 60:5 says, “Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” 60:11-12 says, “Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.” 62:2 says, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” And in the midst of these references comes the text which Jesus quotes. Isaiah 61:1-2a says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The implications of Jesus quoting of this text should be clear – the glorious Day of the Lord that Israel had anticipated had arrived. The Kingdom of God had been inaugurated among those who were sitting in the temple that day. The promises of God were being fulfilled in their very midst. Imagine having hoped as a nation for so long for something to happen and then being present when it was declared that the very thing you had hoped for had arrived. What would be your response? As we will see in a moment, the response was not what you might have expected – because the Kingdom was not quite what you might have expected.
The thing that Jesus hearers in the temple that day did not understand is that the arrival of the Kingdom cannot be separated from the arrival of the King. Jesus, after reading the passage from Isaiah, is able to say “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” How is it that this is true when he hasn’t done any of the things that he quoted from Isaiah 61? The key is that the main thrust of the prophecy is not the things that would be done, but the One who would do those things. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy because within Himself lay the power and anointing to proclaim good news to the poor and to proclaim liberty to the captives and to grant sight to the blind and to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The coming of the Kingdom is no less and no more than the coming of the King. Therefore, enjoyment of and acceptance into the Kingdom is no less and no more than acceptance of the King and his might and power and authority. One cannot have the Kingdom without submission to the King of the Kingdom. It is in the King that all the blessings of the Kingdom are found and so there is no other place that the blessings can be had except from the hands of the King. This is the problem that we see the people in the temple having in verses 22-30. Initially, they marvel at Jesus’ words and speak well of Him, but they soon turn quite incredulous as they say, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” In parallel accounts of this event in Matthew 13 and Mark 6, it says that the people even went so far as to “take offense at him.” Jesus, in telling the stories of Elijah and Elisha, is making clear to them that authority over the Kingdom and its details lies with the King. Elijah was not sent to those who “deserved” his presence (i.e. Israelites), he was sent to a gentile widow. Elisha did not cleanse the lepers who “deserved” to be healed (i.e. Israelites), he cleansed Naaman – a gentile general. Jesus discerns their hearts and says, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well,” and he goes on to make clear to them that the Kingdom is brought in the manner and the place in which the King sees fit to bring it. And when the people in our story then are filled with wrath and seek to throw Jesus off of a cliff, they are revealing their own hearts. They held the assumption that the Kingdom would be theirs by right and that there was no question that the Kingdom blessings would come to them, and yet their rejection of the King demonstrates that their hopes were false and misplaced. The coming of the Kingdom is the coming of the King. The Kingdom, in fact, is no more than the sovereign rule of the King over his Kingdom – be it people, regions or things.
The second part of the good news of the Kingdom of God is that THE KINGDOM IS COMPREHENSIVE IN NATURE (v. 31-41).
After using Jesus’ encounter in the temple to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God has indeed arrived, Luke goes on to include two different stories that help to demonstrate the nature of this Kingdom that has arrived. If indeed the Kingdom itself is no more than the sovereign rule of the King himself, how far do the borders of this Kingdom go? In essence, how comprehensive is this Kingdom that Christ has brought, to what extent does Christ’s rule as King extend? I think the point of these next two stories is to answer this question in our minds. The first story gives an account of Jesus healing a man in the synagogue who is possessed by a demon. The purpose of this account, coupled with verse 41 of our text, is to make clear to us that this Kingdom of God that Jesus has brought most definitely holds power over the spiritual realm of life. The possession of an individual by a demon, while having physical manifestations and effects, is at root a spiritual issue. Therefore, Jesus actions in this story clearly demonstrate a sovereign power over the spiritual realm – even the spiritual realm that is hostile to Him. Luke seems to go out of his way to demonstrate that this miracle was a clear manifestation of Jesus’ power and authority. The demon itself asks if Jesus has come to destroy it and confesses Christ as the Holy One of God. Then the people who have seen this are amazed and comment to one another about the authority demonstrated by Christ in casting out this demon. This account by Luke clearly is given to show us that the King is exerting his power over His Kingdom, and that Kingdom – at very least – encompasses the spiritual realm of life.
However, the Kingdom does not stop there. The next story is the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Coupled with the healings mentioned in v. 40, this is no doubt meant to show us Jesus’ kingly dominion over the physical realm as well. Just as demon possession is essentially a spiritual reality even though it may have physical consequences, sickness is essentially a physical reality even though it can have psychological and spiritual effects. Therefore, Jesus rebuking of Simon’s mother’s fever is – at very least – an exerting of his sovereign power over the physical realm of life as well. The issue once again is authority. Does the King have power over this part of life? Is this part of life part of His Kingdom? The answer from this story is a resounding yes.
The point in this last half of our text – as Luke demonstrates the sovereignty of the King over both the physical realm and the spiritual realm of life – is the comprehensive nature of the Kingdom of God. Luke wants to make clear that this Kingdom is no mere small parcel of land, if you will. Rather, this Kingdom is a comprehensive one that touches every area of life. In fact, even the passage from Isaiah that Jesus quoted can be interpreted – rightly no less – as being fulfilled in either of the two realms that we are discussing. It is easy to see how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy literally and in the physical realm: he interacted with the poor, proclaiming the good news to them, more than with any other class of people, he did indeed give sight to some who were blind, and he did – even as we saw in our own text – set at liberty many who were oppressed by sickness and ill health. However, it is also easy to see how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy symbolically, in the spiritual realm. For Jesus himself proclaimed good news to the poor by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Surely, it is not hard to see that salvation itself is bringing liberty to those who were held captive in sin and salvation itself is shining the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ into the hearts of those who were blind and salvation itself is setting at liberty those who were oppressed by sin and Satan. One of the main goals of Luke’s passage is to demonstrate the vast sphere over which this King exerts His power. It is no small Kingdom that belongs to Jesus Christ and Jesus himself is making that clear in this passage.
Why is this important? Perhaps you are hearing what is being said by Luke in this passage and you are wondering, “Why is it so important that Christ is indeed King over such a comprehensive Kingdom?” The reason it is so important is because Jesus did not come into a neutral place when he came into this world. Indeed, in some sense, because of Adam’s fall, this whole world lies under the power of the evil one – Satan (1 John 5:19). Jesus bringing in the Kingdom is Jesus breaking into occupied territory. I do not think that this text in Luke can be too quickly separated from the text last week in 3:21-4:13. In that text we saw that Jesus came to do what Adam could not do – be our obedient representative before God. In the same way, we see from our text today that Jesus not only did what Adam could not do, but he also came to undo what Adam had done through his sin. Indeed, why is it that demon possession occurs? Why is it that sickness occurs? Is the source not the same? Of course it is, the source is sin. From sin comes spiritual emptiness and cancer. From sin comes depression and cerebral palsy. It was not enough just for Jesus to bring the positive and do what Adam could not do. He also came to undo the negative and make right what Adam had lost in the garden. Jesus’ Kingdom is not simply some other-worldly realm so that he brings people over to His side so that He can snatch them out of this evil world. Rather, Jesus’ Kingdom is the restoration of everything that was lost and more. Jesus’ Kingdom is absolutely comprehensive – so much so that it even includes the physical world (Rom. 8:18-25). Jesus’ Kingdom is absolutely comprehensive – so much so that it includes the subjugation of every single ruler and authority in the universe, both physical and spiritual (1 Cor. 15:20-28; Phil. 2:9-11).
So, in light of what we have seen about our text this morning, how should be respond? In light of the good news that the Kingdom of God is here and that it is so comprehensive in nature, what should we do as we live this week? I will answer these questions with questions of my own. First, what is your attitude toward the King? Particularly in light of the picture Luke gives us of the people in the synagogue wanting to throw Jesus off of a cliff, what is your response to the King? Particularly if you are not a believer, you need to know that rejection of the King is rejection of the Kingdom. The King has come and made clear the way of salvation – you must repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection as your only hope for salvation. Those who do that find themselves to be friends of the King. They become partakers of the Kingdom with Him. Those who do not do that still have the wrath of the King resting on them. And when the King does return to this earth even as He left it, those who have not believed will be crushed under His feet as His enemies. But God has granted an opportunity for you to believe and follow the King. 2 Peter makes clear that one of the main reasons that the King’s return is being delayed is because God is patient, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. So you are being given ample opportunity to submit to the King. Submit and you will have true, ultimate and eternal life. Refuse to submit and you will be destroyed. What is your attitude toward the King?
Secondly, for those who are believers, I would ask, do you long for the Kingdom of God to come in its fullness? I fear that we as a church have grown much to comfortable with sin and its effects in this world. We have grown so used to disease that we forget that a day is coming in which there will be no disease. We have grown so used to all the suffering that we see on the news that we forget that a day is coming in which suffering will be no more. We have grown so used to natural disasters that we forget that a day is coming in which they will cease. We have grown so used to the sin in our own lives that we forget that a day is coming in which that sin will be fully and finally defeated. Do you long for that day to come? We need to stop being so satisfied with this world that we no longer long for the world to come. We need to regain the thought that there is something grossly wrong with this world and that it needs to change. May our hearts be gripped by the horrible nature of sin as well as by the glorious future that awaits us when the Kingdom comes in its fullness. May we be able to cry out sincerely, Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Lastly, I would ask, do you seek to advance the Kingdom of God even now? One of the glorious aspects of our text today is that, even though the Kingdom of God is not here in its full and final form, God has seen fit to pour out some of the blessings of the Kingdom even now because the King has invaded the world and begun establishing His Kingdom. Therefore, we as His people should be doing our best to seek to advance that Kingdom. We should labor to meet the needs of the poor as much as we are able, because those needs will be met in the Kingdom. We should labor to fight the effects of sin on this world as much as possible because those effects will be gone in the Kingdom. And we should labor to put to death sin in our own lives because that sin will be gone in the Kingdom. Our hearts should truly be, as Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” May we labor even now to advance the Kingdom because the King has already come and begun establishing that Kingdom, even now. Amen.