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The Wait Is Over!
"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4: 21
Since man had been expelled from Eden, he has walked a troubled and difficult path.
Pain, sorrow, and hard work in unproductive soil have marked man's existence.
For centuries, the Jewish people had looked forward to the coming of One who would bring relief, salvation, and hope.
- Man has been scared by war, and oppressed by bondage.
- Man has been afflicted by diseases and deprived by poverty.
Isaiah had described Him as the One "who would bring good news to the poor, release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind, and liberty to the opposed." (Isaiah 61:1 as quoted in Luke 4:18)
Generation after generation passed.
Life was difficult and discouraging.
In many ways life got worse.
It must have been like watching a door in a hospital delivery room.
- Could they continue to believe in the coming of the Messiah, the One chosen of God to bring good news?
- Could they sustain hope?
The waiting room involved lifetimes, not hours.
Thousands had died while waiting.
There was no certainty that other lifetimes
would not pass before the promised Messiah would come.
Undoubtedly, many questioned whether He would ever come.
It would be impossible to exaggerate the profound significance of what Jesus said:
"The wait is over, the news is good."
Waiting for What?
They were waiting for the One who, as Isaiah said, would bind up the brokenhearted.
People had been subject to much condemnation and rejection, and had not experienced much healing.
There is always a long line of people who are ready to tell you how wrong you are and how terrible life is.
Most of us are very good about doing that to ourselves.
Too many people already have an inadequate self-esteem problem.
Sometimes a person's first reaction to this thought is: "I know some people who are so conceited
they could never have a self-esteem problem."
Some certainly give that impression.
When you know them better, you often find that their apparent egotism is a defense created to keep others
from knowing how insecure and afraid they really are.
The more a person fears that others will learn of his inadequacy, the more aggressively he will maintain
his mask of adequacy.
When we try to think of examples of people, who do not have a self-esteem problem, we inevitably think of others.
All of us seem to take for granted that we have such a problem.
We just suppose that others do not.
That is because we are aware of our own masks, and we are not aware that others are also wearing masks.
A well-known author once said, "If we confessed our sins to one another, we should laugh at one another
for our own lack of originality."
It may even be that our compulsive religious activity has become a part of our mask.
- We secretly think we are not as smart as others.
- We also think that we are not as personable as others or as skillful as others.
- We also think that we're not as moral as others.
- We think that our secret sins are more shameful than those of others,
and that our capacity for spirituality is not as great as others.
We wear it to keep others from suspecting that we are as bad as we secretly believe we are.
Our tendency to be critical of others is often an attempt to prevent them from observing our frailties.
We assume that the best defense is a good offense.
Publicly, we may defend ourselves to others, but privately, we often judge ourselves harshly.
- We don't need a prosecuting attorney to convict us of our wrong.
- We already are aware of it and feel judged by it.
This is what the Jews were waiting for.
- We need a spiritual physician to bind up our broken hearts.
- We need healing, not rejection.
They did not have a clear idea of what the Messiah would be like, but they did identify their welfare
with the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus said, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Surprised by Grace!
When the people heard this, "They were surprised that words of such grace should fall from his lips."
(Luke 4: 22, NEB)
It is difficult to know just what they were expecting.
Perhaps, they had been harangued so much with harsh judgment and condemnation that they were not expecting anything else.
At any rate, they were surprised that the long-awaited Messiah would be gentle, kind, merciful, and forgiving.
People need to know that Jesus came to heal broken lives, not to condemn them.
It is wonderful to know that Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to help us.
- Jesus did not come to hang around with the good, but to minister to those who needed Him.
- Jesus said that it is the sick person who needs a doctor, not one who is well.
- Jesus urged people to learn the meaning of mercy.
We do not have to hide from Him our hurts and shames.
That would be like trying to keep a fever a secret from our doctor.
He must know, so he can help us.
A doctor does not get mad at us because we are sick.
Neither does Jesus get mad at us because we are struggling with temptation.
That is why Jesus came!
One reason we wear masks is because we fear that if others knew us as we really are, they would reject us.
It is such a great blessing that Jesus knows us as we really are, and still loves us and accepts us.
Such remarkable good news explains why many are still surprised that words of such grace would come from His lips.
There are those who fear that, if they stopped condemning people and accepted them lovingly, the moral structure
of society might collapse.
They somehow believe that their moral judgments are essential to the preservation of decency and order in the world.
This is utter nonsense!
The ethical structure of the universe is an expression of the nature of God Himself.
Instead of spending our time condemning the victims of sin, let us spend our time loving them and helping them.
- It will never collapse, as long as God is who He is.
- It is not upheld by our feeble proclamations.
- It will not fall when we stop condemning people who violate it.
The condemning power is in the sin itself.
We do not need to reinforce that.
Rather, let us reaffirm the good news that Christ came to bind up the brokenhearted.
This does not mean that we are ignoring the significance of sin.
Sin is not made less sinful by grace.
Cancer is not made less harmful by a good surgeon.
A good surgeon may help one escape the harmfulness of cancer.
The answer is very encouraging.
- We must take the good news of Christ to others, and help them escape the condemnation of sin.
What does that mean to me?
- If Christ came as good news to oppressed men, what does that mean to my personal life?
How is He good news to me?
- What gracious message does He have for the tangles of guilt and fear that I experience?
These are questions that many of us might wish to ask.
The answer is wonderful!
Though I feel insecure and afraid of being lost because of my sinfulness,
Christ has good news for me.
It is because God takes my sin more seriously even than I do.
- This is not because God does not take my sinfulness seriously.
- This is not because I have succeeded in overcoming my bad habits and sinful practices.
- This is not because I have been such a model Christian.
- This is not because I have found my own victory over sin.
He hates sin.
- He knows more about its heartache.
- He knows more about its shame.
- He knows more about its morale-destroying character.
- He knows more about its relationship-breaking nature.
- He knows more about all these things than I do.
He sees it as a damnable infection that projects wanton destruction on His beloved child.
The cross is the eternal answer to those who think that a gracious message underestimates the enormity of sin.
The blood of Christ is the answer to those who question, whether the gospel gives adequate emphasis to godly living.
No other message has ever treated sin more seriously than the gospel.
Christ represents an encounter with sin, not a whitewash job.
The wait is over!
- He brings victory, not evasion.
- His good news is not based on weakness but strength.
Jesus has come to save!
In quest of parasitic plants, two college students, Jack Pickett and Fred Stahl, entered the swampland
south of Florida's Lake Okeechobee.
As they walked along the sand bank of a small stream, Pickett, who was ahead suddenly cried, "It's soft here! Stay back!"
What seemed to be sunbaked sand was quicksand!
Picked sank up to his ankles.
He struggled to get onto firm ground.
With each step, however, he sank deeper.
The quicksand rose to his knees.
He shouted, "It's quicksand! Help me!"
Stahl knew, if he plunged into quicksand, both of them would be trapped.
He searched quickly for a tree limb.
Pickett continued to struggle to free himself from the ghastly trap, but to no avail.
Slowly, he toppled forward!
Finding a tree limb, Stahl raced back to his sinking companion.
"Grab the limb!" Stahl shouted.
Pickett made a frantic effort to free his hands from the down-pulling sand, but he couldn't.
Horrified and powerless to help, Stahl buried his face in his hands and wept.
When he looked up again, he saw nothing but a stretch of level sand.
His friend, Pickett, was gone.
Long ago the psalmist testified,
"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock."
(Psalm 40: 2)
"In loving kindness Jesus came,
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame,
Through grace He lifted me."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org