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Crowding into the Kingdom

Crowding into the Kingdom

Words of Faith 10-24-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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     As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He continued to encounter the religious people of the day. Chapter 15 deals with the heart of God for the lost.  Chapter sixteen of Luke deals with the heart of man and some of the deep issues that Jesus must deal with in our lives.  First was the matter of money.  Today, we see Jesus deal with the Law and the Gospel and specifically the issue of divorce and remarriage.

 

Luke 16:16-18

    "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. [17] It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

    [18] "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

 

      Jesus does not talk a lot about divorce, but when He does, He gets right down to business.  What he says makes us uncomfortable.  The standard that Jesus sets is so high that it makes many of us squirm as we find our culture judged.  There is probably not one among us who has not had to deal painfully with the issue of divorce either personally, or with family or friends. 

       Divorce is also especially painful within the family of Christ.  We, who believe in healing reconciliation and miracles, are especially hurt when divorce touches the Body of Christ.  We see issues of sin and selfishness, failure and defeat powerfully affecting people whom we love.  Frankly, the church has often not known how to respond very well. 

        So when Jesus says something about divorce, we are eager to hear.  But we are not very comforted by what we find.  This text is by far the most piercing.  There are no loopholes.  No circumstances to consider. But to really understand this text, we will start with the context and move on from there.

       A text without a context is in danger of becoming a proof text.  If we look carefully at this text in its context we discover that while this Scripture addresses divorce and remarriage, it is not ABOUT divorce and remarriage.

     "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. [17] It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. [18] "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

       This teaching is really about Gospel and Law.  Jesus was confronted more and more with legalistic, self-righteous, religionists.  They had turned the vibrant faith in Yahweh into an enormous charade of self justification.  They had developed 613 rules by which they claimed justification under the Law.  Now they were forming accusations against Jesus based on whether He washed His hands at a meal or ate with sinners.  In this text, Jesus addresses self righteous legalism.

        Jesus started by pointing out that the Law and Prophets were proclaimed until John.  But now the Gospel of the Kingdom was being preached and everyone was forcing their way in!  In essence, Jesus said that if you want law you had better know what you are asking for because the standard is HIGH.  Not the least pen stroke of the Law will disappear.  Then Jesus made the point by raising an issue that was disturbing to Him and a glaring weakness among the self-righteous—the issue of divorce and remarriage. 

       The very religious people who were so pious and self righteous had liberalized the practice of divorce in ways that were terribly unjust.  The practice of divorce and remarriage among many religious people was an absolute sham.  So Jesus made the point.  If you really want to be a legalist, let's get legal:  "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

        In this context, Jesus seems to be saying to all who will hear that there is a choice.  You can either take all of the Law or you can enter into the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  In the light of the Gospel, the Law is not vanquished but its requirements are fulfilled in Christ Himself.  More important Jesus was trying get through to the religionists that the Gospel of the Kingdom is being preached, and everyone (who has any sense) is "forcing his way into it." 

      The Kingdom is right here and everyone who hears clearly is forcing his way in!  The word in Greek here is BIAZO and means to "seize by force" or to "violently crowd in!"  It is a powerful image but describes well the response of the human heart to the Good News.  This is the normal way that the human heart responds and if you choose not to receive a Gospel of grace, be careful.

      Now let us stop and see just what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the Gospel of the Kingdom that everyone is violently crowding into?  Luke 4:18-19 defines the Kingdom message though it does not exhaust the definition.

    "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

      The Good News to the poor is summed up in four words: Freedom, Sight, Release and Favor.  Jesus came to set the prisoner free, even those who are prisoners to religion! To give sight to the blind, even the spiritually blind guides of religion.  To release the oppressed, even those oppressed by unjust religious rules.  And to proclaim the Lord's favor in the face of His strong judgement. 

      Jesus wanted desperately to free those who are prisoners to the Law, not by taking away the Law, but by fulfilling its requirements. However, if you do not choose to receive the Good News, then it is Law that you have.  But be careful because not one pen stroke will be taken away.  As religious leaders, you cannot take away part of the Law.

       Now we see!  This text is not really about divorce.  It is about the "Gospel of the Kingdom."  Jesus brings up divorce for a specific reason.  Now that Jesus has raised that issue, we should talk about divorce as this will help us to understand where Jesus was coming from on this.  We will do that tomorrow :-)

 

       O God, I want the Good News, not the Law.  I want the freedom, not the slavery.  I want sight, not the blindness.  I want release from captivity and the favor of the Lord.  I am crowding in.  I am seizing by force this grace that You have proclaimed to me in Jesus.  In His Mighty Name.