06/09/17 - Pastor Young
There's been a few times at the cinema where, if my shyness could be overcome, I would have stood up and clapped as the credits began to roll. It's rarely because of a masterclass in acting, or because of mind-blowing cinematography. It's the story that captures me, and I love it when a good story comes together.
As we near the end of The Gospel of Jesus According to Luke, it bears mentioning that there is some excellent storytelling going on. We're captivated by the motley crew of disciples surrounding Jesus; but more than this, it's the interaction of their lives with God's unfolding plan that interests us. The setting crystallises as we hear about the temple's place in Jewish life, but its place in the greater story of God's redemptive plan is what grabs us.
This week, we looked at a large section from Luke 19:45-21:4. On the surface, we see Jesus entering into the temple in Jerusalem, and His acts causing the religious leaders to intensify their plans to kill Him. The way that Jesus drives out the merchandisers from the temple looks back at the way Jesus drove out the evil spirits and demons from the people -- in a way, both sets of people are oppressed. In fact, the quotation from Jesus that this temple was to be a "house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7), but has become a "den of robbers" (Jeremiah 7:11) characterises the situation quite well: the religious leaders gained economic power through their exclusive right to handle holy materials, both distancing themselves from and violating the needs of those considered "lesser", before taking refuge in the temple, as thieves and murderers would hide in caves to escape justice.
The religious leaders try to get Jesus to claim divine authority for Himself, hoping to accuse Him of blasphemy. Ironically, their own assumption was that they possessed divine authority -- a claim shipwrecked by their inability to answer Jesus's question (Luke 20:1-8). They attempt again to trap Jesus through political and theological debates, but are confounded by His answers.
Jesus even begins to reference what is happening in their hearts through the parable of the tenants. The religious leaders are likened to these tenants, who plot to kill the son and heir to the vineyard. "Let's kill him," the tenants plot, as the religious leaders scheme amongst themselves. They fail to see that this son is described as "my son, whom I love" in the parable -- the same descriptor used by the heavenly voice in Jesus's baptism. The religious leaders do nothing, however, because they fear the people. The division between the people and the religious leaders recalls Simeon's prophecy (Luke 2:34-35), that the message of Jesus would divide Israel.
As the story comes together, one thing should become evident: this sort of storytelling can only be written by the best storyteller. The sheer scale of detail involved in the countless prophecies that come to fruition, not only in Luke's writing, but all throughout the Bible, provides a mountain of evidence for the true identity behind the pen. It is God Himself -- and that means that all of this is happening within God's careful planning. The plot unfolds, and there is a hint in Jesus telling the parable of the religious leaders' plot to kill Him: He is fully aware of what is to come, and He allows it to happen that the plans of God may be fulfilled (John 10:17-18).
The story is great because of who the storyteller is. And no matter how the story seems to be unfolding for us, we can take comfort in the fact that we know the storyteller. He is of gracious character, merciful and abounding in steadfast love. The storyteller knows the end of the story, and He is in control.
Our God is in control.
When the enemies of God plot and attack from every side, our God is still in control. When the outcome seems hopeless at our souls' darkest hours, we can remember the darkest hour in history at Calvary, and say that our God is still in control.
Before the credits roll, let us stand and applaud the storytelling behind the greatest story ever told: the good news of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save the lost. And let us give thanks, knowing the storyteller, the God we can call ours because of Jesus, and remember that our God knows the outcome.