May 16, 2001
Jesus was the supreme preacher: His listeners were astonished at the power behind His teaching, and His sermons were engaging, well organized, and full of truth. When Jesus preached, some of His hearers were scared, and others were offended—but many also believed. In this message, Alistair Begg encourages pastors to follow Jesus’ example by proclaiming God’s Word with authority.
Sermon Transcript: Print
Let’s turn together to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 4. And as you’re turning there, since I won’t get a chance to say in a setting like this again what a tremendous privilege and encouragement it is to me to have had the opportunity of these few days—as daunting as they were in prospect, they’ve really been quite delightful in experience, at least for me, because it’s a reminder that we’re all in this together. I feel like a kind of coal miners’ convention or something—that we all know what it’s like to be down digging there on the coalface, with the dangers that are represented, and also with the great joy that comes when you’re finally allowed to come back up on that lift at the end of the day, when you see daylight again. And so many of the comments, as George has said, have been encouraging; they’ve been humbling. And we recognize together, don’t we, that the best of men are men at best and that we’re constantly turning our gaze towards Christ.
Now, from Luke 4:31:
“Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.
“In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’
“‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
“All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’ And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
“Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.
“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to … other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”
Father, we pray that as we turn our hearts and our minds to the words before us now, that you will so quicken our minds and so illumine your Word by your Spirit that we may hear your voice. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Jesus was an awesome preacher. The adjective is well used. It is overused in our day, but it is a justifiable adjective when we think in terms of Jesus’ delivery of the word of truth. In the strictest sense of the word, he was awesome, and his message inspired reverential fear and wonder. His listeners, even as Luke reminds us in the passage here, were astonished at the power behind his teaching. His words had the ring of authority, quite unlike those of the teachers of the law with whom they had become familiar.
And we discover that the synagogues were buzzing in the expectation of the arrival of this itinerant from Nazareth, in the prospect of his coming to their synagogue, in the word which had followed his visits to other synagogues. And at the end of the events in the synagogue in Nazareth, which is the section that precedes the section that we have just read, in Luke 4:28, we realize that by the time he had concluded his preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth, the congregation certainly hadn’t fallen asleep. In fact, they were so infuriated by what he had to say that they got up and drove him out of the town. They “took him to the brow of the hill,” Luke says, “on which the town was built,” and frankly, they were ready to throw him right down the cliff. Quite a response to preaching, wouldn’t you say?
And then, when we discover him standing in the synagogue and then sitting to teach, in verse 31, now having moved to Capernaum, there is apparently a rapt silence on the part of the congregation, and again for the same reason: because of the authority with which Jesus spoke. These individuals were not unaware of the Old Testament Scriptures. Indeed, many of them were very familiar with them, and many of them had fallen asleep routinely listening to the religious teachers of their day mumble and bumble on about these Old Testament characters. These individuals were familiar with sermons which started poorly and gradually worsened until they finally trailed away into oblivion. They had heard all kinds of talks about God and about religion, and they had deemed them trivial, legalistic, joyless, weightless, and boring.
It’s therefore no surprise to discover that Luke, with his eye for detail, tells us that in response to the teaching of the Lord Jesus, they were literally on the edge of their seats. For here were talks that proved to be theologically accurate and, at the same time, immediately applicable. The sermons of Jesus, unlike these other characters, were lively, authoritative, well organized, practical, interesting, and true.
Now, we should just pause there for a moment and recognize that in this we have the most splendid example of what it is to be a preacher of the Word of God. And we ought to pause long enough also to bemoan the fact of our own sorry attempts at it, at least to this point in our lives. Spurgeon, in his lectures to his students, tells them, “Keep your sermons to weep over them.” And if you and I have not had occasion to pull out of whatever little box we keep this material in and reread it—especially from the past and from the significant past—if we have not had, at least metaphorically, wept over them, if not literally, then there is probably some problem upstairs with each of us.
Spurgeon again in his lectures to his students—and incidentally, if you’ve only got a few dollars left and don’t know what book to finally buy, get that fabulous edition of the lectures to his students; it really is very, very nicely put together. I have a two-volume one that’s falling apart. I need to get one of them myself. But he says to his students,
Unless we are instructive preachers, and really feed the people, we may be great quoters of elegant poetry, and mighty retailers of second-hand windbags, but we shall be like Nero of old, fiddling while Rome was burning, and sending vessels to Alexandria to fetch sand for the arena while the populace [was starving] for want of corn.
Keep [he said] to the Spirit’s track and you will never repeat yourself or be short of matter: his paths drop fatness. … We must [he says] in these [days] say a great deal [but] in a few words, but not too much, nor with too much amplification. One thought fixed on the mind will be better than fifty thoughts made to flit across the ear. One tenpenny nail driven home and clenched will be more useful than a score of [pintacks] loosely fixed, to be pulled out again in an hour.
From an Englishman to a Scotsman, and James S. Stewart. Incidentally, his books are now out of print, but they’re fantastic. There are perhaps one or two of them on the used bookshelf. But I buy every book by James Stewart that I can find. And he was a Presbyterian in Scotland; he was still coming to speak to the ladies’ meetings in Charlotte Chapel when I was there as an assistant, and the only mistake that I made was not sneaking down into the ladies’ meetings in order to hear him preach.
But I give you this quote because I think that it is important for us just to acknowledge, as we see Jesus at work here, that certainly the way in which people are responding to our sermons is probably not in terms of verse 29—with a sense of fury, whereby they want to throw us over a cliff. There’s little likelihood of being run out of town when our sermons are over. Many of us, in fact, need to waken up the congregation just to consider the possibility. For we dare not preach as Jesus preached, because when Jesus preached as he did, some were scared, others were offended, and some came to believe. None of them remained indifferent. And surely one of the greatest problems that we face, if we’re honest, is the indifference of our people. How, then, can they be indifferent to the authoritative Word of God? Is it possible that they are not receiving the Word of God with authority because of the way in which we come at the task? We need to pray for that kind of preaching in our day.
James S. Stewart, in the 1950s, was saying the same thing. That’s over fifty years ago now. He says to the people who are his listeners, and then his readers,
Surely in this immensely critical hour, when millions of human hearts are besieged by fierce perplexities; when so many established landmarks of the spirit are gone, old securities wrecked, familiar ways and habits, plans and preconceptions, banished never to return; when the soul is destined to meet, amid the crash of old beliefs, the ruthless challenge and assault of doubt and disillusionment; when history itself is being [revised], and no one can forecast the shape of things to come—the Church needs men who, knowing the world around them, and knowing the Christ above them and within, will set the trumpet of the Gospel to their lips, and proclaim His sovereignty and [self]-sufficiency.
Now, that is him addressing the issue in the 1950s in the United Kingdom. Surely he would have said the same thing again, only a little louder and a little more forcefully, if he were to find himself present here on the very knife-edge of the twenty-first century.
Nobody left after Jesus was preaching, saying to one another, “What do you think he was trying to say?” Because there is no doubt that he had said something and that that something demanded attention and demanded a response. And so all the way through these verses, as you look at the surrounding text—I won’t go to them, for want of time—but as you look, you will find that the Word of God is so through him that the word concerning him was spreading everywhere.
And here he is, really, in kind of act 1 of the unfolding drama of his life and ministry. And what Luke is doing for us here is recording a number of scenes which establish the authority and the identity and the power and victory of Jesus. The material that we have just read essentially comprises a day in the life of Christ.
If someone had come to Jesus and said, “What do you do? What’s an average day like for you?” on the strength of what we have before us here, he might have said, “Well, first of all, I try and make sure that I’m not stoned for my preaching, I do a number of exorcisms, I heal people, And I sometimes go over to a friend’s house, and I always try and get at least five minutes to myself. But it’s all in a day’s work.” None of us could ever get from the life and ministry, the preaching and teaching ministry of Jesus, any kind of loophole whereby we could settle down to some kind of cozy, easy-osy existence where we justified just kind of wandering, meandering through our days. Certainly not from the verses that are here.
Now, what I want to do in this day’s work of Jesus is simply identify the scenes for us. I’ll spend longer on the first than I do on the remaining three. But scene 1, you will notice, takes place in the synagogue: “Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath [he] began to teach the people.”
Synagogues had arisen as places of worship and instruction in the Scriptures during the period of the exile. Beginning in the sixth century BC, when worship in Jerusalem was impossible, they had begun to gather in this way. The word synagogue first of all described a gathering of individuals, and then it came on to describe the building in which those people gathered. In the discovery of synagogue worship, we found that the scrolls of the Law and the Prophets were kept by this time in a portable chest, which actually faced the entrance to the synagogue. And the Law was read from a central platform, and the very basic and simple structure of the place helped to reinforce for the people the purpose for which they had come.
Incidentally, in the construction of our places of worship, we want to do the same thing. There are only two necessary pieces of furniture in a place where people gather for worship. One is a table, and the other is a pulpit. A table on which the elements of the Lord’s Supper may be laid, and the other is a pulpit. If you want to add a baptistery as a piece of furniture, I s’pose we could add that thirdly so that the ordinances would be celebrated, but in terms of just physical pieces of furniture, you need a pulpit and you need a table. And so people come in here and say, “There’s nothing in here”—especially people from a Roman Catholic tradition. “How could this possibly be a church?” So it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to explain what a church is.
“Well, we came in, and all there was was just a box that was sitting in the middle of the place. Somebody turned the lights on for us, and we looked in, and all we saw was a box. And when we went up to it, we looked behind it, and all we found was a Bible and bottle of water.” And you say, “Well, I’m not alarmed by this at all. In fact, I’m absolutely thrilled by it, because it is a reminder to us of what is central in our emphasis, and it is a reminder for me to be able to tell you about why it is that we would have the pulpit where it is and why we would have the communion table, which arrives and disappears, underneath the pulpit. Because it is the Word of God which gives significance to the symbols of God which he has left to us, both in the Lord’s Supper and in baptism.”
Well, the synagogue gives to us that kind of simplistic structure, and it’s very, very striking that it became the obvious starting point for Jesus to proclaim the Word of God. And proclaim it he did. Jesus was a preacher. At the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel, you will remember, when they come to him and they say, “You know, you’re having an amazing and wonderful ministry here,” first of all, in the driving out of the evil spirits, and people were coming to him from all over the place, and he said, “Well, let’s just get out of here and get on to the nearby villages so that I can preach there also.”
When, in the moment of the transfiguration, God speaks from heaven, it’s quite interesting that the Father’s declaration is “This is my Son, whom I love,” and then he says what? “Listen to him!” “Listen to him!” He might have said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Love him. Worship him. Serve him. Adore him. Obey him. Trust him.” There are many things that he might have said. But he said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him. He’s a preacher. He’s going to tell you what you need to hear. Listen very carefully to what he has to say.”
When you fast-forward to the end of the Gospels, you go to Luke chapter 24, you have the two strangers on the Emmaus road in their encounter with the Lord Jesus, and their reaction, as they explain it afterwards, is not to remark about the configuration of the physicality of this Jesus of Nazareth. They didn’t speak about what they saw, but rather about what they heard. You remember they say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
You want to be remembered for something amongst your people? Be remembered for talking to them about the Bible and about Jesus. You can’t do all the other things that they want you to do. You can’t go over to all their homes and have dinner with them. You can’t answer all their questions. You can’t sit around with them for the rest of their lives. You can’t hold all their hands. But you can tell them that “I will express my love for you by doing what I have been uniquely given to do—namely, to be a preacher and teacher of the Bible. And at the end of the day, I want you to know that I gave myself unstintingly to the task, and you knew that you never would come here with a friend or a neighbor, with an interested bystander, and be left high and dry because I did not teach to you, I did not preach you, the Word of God.”
In the synagogue, he immediately addresses the issue. Later on, when the Pharisees ask the guards why it was that they hadn’t arrested Jesus and brought him in, the guards replied, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” The words of Jesus gripped the minds of his listeners, they reached the conscience of those who were paying attention, and he was able to get to their hearts with a laser-like directness.
“Ha!” cries the man in verse 34. A startling interruption as Jesus is unfolding the truth. A demon-possessed man: “Jesus of Nazareth? … You come to destroy us? I know who you are—[you’re] the Holy One of God!” Jesus doesn’t get into a dialogue with him. Somebody could say, “Well, we learn here how to deal with interruptions when we’re preaching.” Well, we do in part, actually. Don’t get into a dialogue with the person. We cannot do what Jesus did. But in this case, he simply grants the man deliverance. With two terse statements, he displays his power and authority: “Be quiet!” and “Come out of him!” Having decisively repelled the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, it’s no surprise to discover that the devil now is employing demonic possession as a means of opposing Christ’s ministry and establishing of the kingdom. Indeed, John tells us, remember, in 1 John, that one of the reasons that the Son of God had appeared was to destroy the Evil One’s work. And so what we have in the Gospel records is a whole host of instances where Jesus delivers demon-possessed persons. And every time, as here, when Jesus casts out an evil spirit, the ultimate overthrow of Satan’s kingdom was being anticipated. And so the man is instantly delivered. And despite being thrown in among the people, he is unharmed.
And then the reaction of the people is there in verse 36. This dramatic display of God’s power is akin to what the disciples would afterwards realize when Jesus calmed the storm on the lake, when they said, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the [waves] obey him!” And “all the people were amazed and said, ‘What is this teaching? With what authority does he do this?’”
And so the evil spirits are in no doubt that their goose is cooked, and verse 37: “The news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.” In other words, people went home from the Sabbath worship, and they talked like crazy about what had taken place.
But it’s interesting, even in their response: “What is this teaching?” they say. It’s not even that they’re struck by the fact that the demon comes out; they say, “What is this teaching? I mean, we’ve heard all kinds of sermons; the religious leaders have been teaching us for years. But we’ve never heard teaching like this. What is this kind of teaching?” Jesus says, “This is the kind of teaching that changes lives. This is the kind of teaching that I want others to do. I want you,” he says to the apostles, “to go out now in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the things that you’ve learned, I want you to teach, and teach other men, and teach faithful men, so that they in turn may teach.” This is the apostolic succession.
Now, from all of the activity of the hour or so in the synagogue in Capernaum, it then moves to scene 2. Verse 38, Jesus leaves the synagogue, and now he’s in the home of Simon—invited out for lunch after the Sunday service. “Why don’t we go over to my home?” says Peter. “Or my mother-in-law’s home, I should say.” Actually, in passing, you’ll notice that’s rather inconvenient information, isn’t it, for some seeking to enforce celibacy?
“Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever.” She was in the grip of something that had laid her low. And in response to a request, Jesus decides to help her. He bends over, he rebukes the fever, and it leaves her. Well, you notice how quickly and completely she was transformed.
Now, you see, what is Luke doing here? He’s letting it be known that this outworking of what Jesus has just been saying in the synagogue in Nazareth—“‘The Spirit of the Lord is [now upon] me’ …. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”—and all of a sudden, as he walks out from there, here comes this demon-possessed man, and Jesus says, “Right, you get out of him, and you be quiet, and let’s move on.” He then moves into the home of Simon Peter; Simon Peter’s [mother-in-law] is sick to the point of uselessness, and Jesus bends over her and he puts her back on her feet again.
Incidentally, all of the healings that you have of Jesus are instantaneous, dramatic, and verifiable—unlike the contemporary claims at healing. Beware of going down that path. God is able to heal; he chooses sovereignly to intervene at times. But we should be very, very careful and hesitant about holding out to people the kind of hopes and dreams that they so desperately long for and yet are so patently not God’s normative practice in our day. Most of my friends who have apparently been healed have just stumbled and bumbled along in their lives. But this individual was up on her feet; in fact, she made lunch! They didn’t have to wait around for a year and a half to find out if the healing had actually been a real healing or not—people phoning up all the time, said, “Did his mother-in-law really get healed, or what happened to her?” “Oh no, she’s been back in her bed fourteen or fifteen times.” No, there’s none of that at all. Laid low, on her feet, here’s lunch, let’s go.
In other words, the making of lunch is not only an expression of her cure, but it’s also an expression of her gratitude. “She got up at once and began to wait on them.” Jesus touched her life and changed her, and she stood up and “began to wait on them.” Beware of that kind of devotional preaching that can so easily come out of a phrase like that—a kind of spiritualizing that we can immediately do. You go to a passage like that, and you get to “She got up at once and began to wait on them,” and so it goes something like this: “You know, I know that a number of you have been laid low recently. Well, Jesus is the one who can come along and touch you and get you up, and you can at once begin to minister to him. So why don’t you…?” You know, that kind of thing? It’s got nothing at all to do with the passage. But you can do it, and indeed, your congregation will be intrigued by your ability to do it. But five minutes after you’re finished, they won’t have a clue, really, what you were doing. We teach the Bible by teaching the Bible.
So scene 1 is in the synagogue. Scene 2 is in Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. Scene 3 is at sunset with the crowds. Now, says Luke, “when the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness[es], and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” Now, you see, the preaching of Jesus had authority. That’s what we discovered in verse 32: “They were amazed at his teaching.” In verses 33–37, we discover that his word has exorcising power. Even the demons come out. His touch has healing power, as we discover here in this beautiful sun-setting scene.
You see, the wonders that Jesus performs are indications of the fulfillment of what he has just said in Luke 4. And what Luke is providing for his readers is the awareness of this—this anticipation, this looking forward to all of the finality of this, which has now dawned in the earthly ministry of Jesus.
It surely is a wonderful picture of the kindness of Christ, is it not? The kind of people that were being brought to Jesus were not the kind of people who hosted parties for visiting preachers. The kind of people who were being brought to Jesus were not the kind of local welcoming committee, you know, that you get when you’re invited to go and speak someplace—the fairly well-put-together, the well-presented people, you know, who’ve got a nice house and can bring you up there and put you in the different places. Not that these people are bad people or are doing the wrong thing, but it’s just a different group of people, isn’t it?
The hymn writer Henry Twells, in 1823—actually, he lived from 1823 to —has a fantastic hymn on this that begins,
At even [in evening], ere [just as] the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around thee lay;
O, in what various pains they met!
O, with what joy they went away!
Once more it’s eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that thou art here.
O Savior Christ, our woes dispel;
For some are sick, and some are sad;
And some have never loved thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.
And some have found the world is vain,
Yet from the world they break not free;
And some have friends who give them pain,
And haven’t sought a friend in thee.
And none, O Lord, have perfect rest,
For none are wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within.
O Savior Christ, thou too art man;
Thou hast been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.
Thy touch has still its ancient power.
No word from thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in thy mercy heal us all.
It’s a wonderful old hymn. I bet many of you have never even heard it and probably never sung it.
But Christ’s silencing of the demonic points to the fact that he wants no insurrection on the basis of the demonic’s awareness of who he is, no false misunderstanding of the basis of his messiahship. And when it came, if you like, to letting it be known that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God—when he decided that he would get it out and market it, you know—if he was choosing a PR man, he wasn’t interested in using the demonics to fulfill the opportunity for him. And so he rebuked them and wouldn’t allow them to speak.
Scene 1 in the synagogue. Scene 2: in the home. Scene 3: in the setting sun. And scene 4: at daybreak in a solitary place. “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.” He leaves the city unnoticed. He goes out to seek quietness after all of the demands of the previous hours.
And yet the people are looking for him. And “when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.” They wanted to retain him. They wanted to keep him for themselves. Maybe they wanted to say, “You know, Jesus has actually come and settled in our place now. He’s the teacher in our synagogue. You know who we’ve got as the teacher in our synagogue? We have Jesus of Nazareth. He’s our rabbi!”
A great temptation to want to keep Jesus to yourself, isn’t it? There’s church congregations that apparently want to keep Jesus to themselves. I can only assume they do, because they never tell anybody else about him. Some of them are so tied up in their theological underwear that they’re frightened if they do, the wrong people might actually get saved. So they’re actually afraid of the universal appeal of the gospel, because they don’t really know what to do with it. Some congregations just seem smug in their own self-sufficiencies. That’s why you won’t find hardly any of the marginalized people there. You don’t find many of the sick, or the dying, or the limping, or the lame. You don’t find many people with five different places in their face pierced. You don’t find many people with their hair sticking up in unimaginable ways. You don’t find these people there, because those people haven’t heard the word that is coming out that there is a Jesus who is alive, and he transforms lives, and he fills the empty with good things, and he sends the hungry home filled.
We’re responsible for that. Our congregations will become like us. Our emphases will become our congregation’s emphasis. You will never have an evangelistic congregation without an evangelistic pastor. You will never have your people sharing their faith if you do not share your faith. If you create the impression that the whole operation is “us four, no more, shut the door,” people will be very glad with that. And as soon as they fill that up to the requisite numbers, then they’ll be glad: “Just, that’s fine. We don’t really need any more; we don’t really need anything. We are sufficient, we are fed, we are well.” And the Spirit of God comes and says, “You’re wretched, poor, blind, and miserable! I’m standing at the door. [Knocks.] I’m trying to get in here. And it’s small wonder that so many of the disenfranchised are having a difficulty getting in here, because I am the Lord of glory and I’m having difficulty getting in. I’m standing at the door, and I’m knocking.”
“Jesus, we don’t want you to go away. We love you, Jesus.”
“I understand that.”
“We love the fact that we get to hear you speak all the time, Jesus, and we want you to stay so that we can just have a wonderful time with you. We know it’s important for us to be discipled; we want to be discipled by Jesus. We want to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to become the Dead Sea, Jesus: we want everything to flow in and nothing to flow out.”
Jesus says, “Well, thanks. It’s a wonderful invitation. I’d like to stay and be your pastor, but I’ve got to get on now.” Verse 43: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
You see the clarity of his purpose? See the importance of the call of God?
“Well, why are you doing what you’re doing today, Jesus?”
“Because that is why I was sent.”
“What are you planning to do tomorrow, Jesus?”
“I’m going to preach the kingdom of God to other towns.”
“Because that is why I was sent.”
Our people say to us, “Well, why is it that you’re having to study your Bible as much?”
“Because that is the task that has been entrusted to me. He has given me as a gift to the church. You may think that sounds presumptuous. Frankly, it amazes me that God would have looked down on the likes of me and given me as a gift to the church—the ascended Christ gave gifts to the church, and some were to be pastors and teachers, and he made me a pastor and a teacher. And I know I’m not the best. In fact, I don’t think I’m even in the top 25 percent. But I want you to know that I’m serious about it, and I want to serve you, and I want to preach the gospel, and I want to see you growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. And I’d love if you would pray to that end, ’cause I’m sure that if you would pray for me, then I would be better able to do what it is I’ve been asked to do.
“In fact, if you think it’s bad now, it’s gonna get much worse the longer I stay here. Because I’ve been here a couple of years with you now, and it has dawned on me that you think the reason you brought me here was to do everything—that you were actually a group of people who needed a minister, and so that I could minister to you and for you and so on. But I want to teach you from Ephesians, and I want to show you that the gifts of pastor and teacher were given so that I might be able, through the power of the Spirit, by the Word of God, to edify you so that you could go out and be the ministers, so that you could do all of the works that are so necessary to do.”
It’s a hard place to get to, but it’s a very necessary place to get to. Not out of a sense of self-preservation, because it will demand the best out of us. It’s far easier for me to run around trying to do things on my own than it is to step back and say, “Go ahead”! And the smaller the situation, the greater the danger that we try it—and we diminish things.
Well, we’re off the point.
The point is simply that Jesus kept on preaching, in public and in private. In Q and A sessions, one-on-one, he announced the kingdom. He called people to faith. He trained his disciples. He explained the Scriptures. And finally, he gets them all around him and he says, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” to see unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ.
And as the camera backs off and we go into a long shot, we just have this picture of Jesus moving off now from Capernaum. And the camera zooms way ahead, and we just look over the horizon of the next town. And then we’re given a close-up shot of the synagogue. And then it comes back again to Christ, and we see him moving inexorably towards his next appointment.
That’s our calling, brethren. We got places to go, we got people to meet, we got one message to proclaim: “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We have the one Bible from which to speak. It’s in our hands; we need to study it. And that’s why we call this Basics. ’Cause this is about as basic as you can get. Your wife says, “What did you learn?” You’re gonna say, “Nothing I didn’t know.” And I’m gonna say, “Hallelujah!”
If we can remember to pray for one another that whatever else happens to us, and wherever God takes us or puts us down, that we will endeavor—despite the fact that we know none of us are sufficient for these things—that we will endeavor to keep our heads, to endure hardship, to do the work of an evangelist, and to discharge all the duties of our ministries. And we do so in the confidence that God has set us to the task and that because of his goodness he will honor his Word.
Father, we do thank you again for the Bible. We thank you that all of the clarity and all of the authority is to be found in Scripture. It’s easy for us to clutter it up and to muddy it up. And we pray that you would help us so to be students of your Word and so to be those who are filled with your Spirit that we might be better able to give ourselves to the task to which you have called us.
We do find ourselves saying with Paul, “Who is able for such a task?” “Who is sufficient for these things?” Already our minds have run forward to Sunday, and we know what awaits us. We know some of the things that we still have to accomplish before then. We know that if our congregations ever knew what we were really like, they wouldn’t even listen to us preach. We also know that if we knew what they were really like, we’d probably never preach to them. This is a mystery!
We pray, Lord, that you will revive our hearts in the midst of the years, that you will fill us afresh with your Spirit, that you will close in with us, that we might know what it is for you to come and make your home with us, and that it may be out of the overflow of a genuine, ongoing, developing walk with you, Lord Jesus Christ, that we then bring the Word to bear upon our people.
I pray, Lord, for each of these men and for the church families that they represent, and will represent. And we pray together that we might strengthen one another’s hands in the gospel.
And now may the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us his peace, today, and all the days of our uncertain earthly pilgrimage, and then forevermore. Amen. Amen.
 Luke 4:29 (NIV 1984).
 C. H. Spurgeon, “Sermons—Their Matter,” in Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 72.
 Spurgeon, 73, 77.
 James S. Stewart, Heralds of God (n.p.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946), 12–13.
 Mark 1:36–38 (paraphrased).
 Matthew 17:5 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 24:32 (NIV 1984).
 John 7:46 (NIV 1984). Emphasis added.
 See 1 John 3:8.
 Matthew 8:27 (KJV). See also Mark 4:41.
 See Matthew 28:19–20; 2 Timothy 2:2.
 Luke 4:18, 21 (NIV 1984).
 Henry Twells, “At Even, Ere the Sun Was Set” (1868). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See Luke 1:53.
 See Revelation 3:17–20.
 See 2 Peter 3:18.
 See Ephesians 4:7–11.
 See Ephesians 4:12.
 John 20:21 (paraphrased).
 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV 1984).
 See 2 Corinthians 3:5.
 See 2 Timothy 4:5.
 2 Corinthians 2:16 (KJV).
 See Habakkuk 3:2.
 See John 14:23.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.