This last Sunday, our faithful storyteller, Luke, recounted to us the marvelous faith of an unlikely follower of Jesus. He was unlikely because of his race: he was a Gentile. He was unlikely because of his position: he was a Roman centurion. And he was unlikely because of his economic standing: he was rich. And yet this Gentile, powerful, wealthy man recognized the Man who was God, recognized his authority and power (Luke 7:6-8), and believed. The response of Jesus?
[Jesus] marveled at him...(Luke 7:9)
After this story, Luke rivets our attention to a person who is just about as opposite from the centurion as you can get. Rather than hailing from Capernaum, she comes from the little backwater town of Nain. She has no authority and no power, she is poor, and she is a widow - which means she has already buried one man. And very likely the thing that means more to her than anything in the world is her only son. On the day that we meet her, she has just lost him to the great enemy, death.
This Sunday, as we study Luke 7:11-17, we will watch Jesus discover, and then interrupt, a funeral procession that marks one of the most tragic moments that could be experienced by a parent - burying your child. What will Jesus do? Why will he do it? And why is this story included in Luke's account, at this particular place?
I want to hone in on just a piece of the answer (you'll have to come Sunday for the whole pie). It is found in Luke 7:13:
And when the Lord saw her...
It is the first time that Luke has used that title in reference to Jesus in the writing of this story. It has taken him 314 verses to do so. And I don't think that one little word is insignificant.
The word literally means: ruler, authority, lord. It also means "one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind, a sovereign master of the inhabited world."
We have another name for someone described like that - King.
You see, I think that our friend, author, storyteller, and historian - Luke - looks back into this beginning of the story of Jesus' ministry, at this particular moment outside of a little podunk town 20 miles southwest of Capernaum, and sees Jesus displaying himself as the sovereign, supernatural, King of the universe.
And I don't think that observation is insignificant for Luke either.
For while Luke's aim - and the previous title of our current sermon series (see above) - has been to establish the certainty of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-4), Luke is doing so much more. Luke is telling us the story of the King, our King. And as I have read, again and again, this story from Luke; as I have studied it and tried to understand the structure and flow of what he is communicating, it has become clear that there are three major acts in the drama he has recorded.
The first act is found in chapters 1-9. It is Luke telling the story of the slow uncovering of Jesus as King. As Jesus lives and travels and ministers mainly in the region of Galilee, some people see this reality so clearly. But others struggle and wrestle, trying to see, but not all the way. And some don't see it at all. But it's there. Jesus is being revealed as King.
The second act is found in chapters 10-19. Jesus knows it's time. The reason he has come is now drawing close. He must set his face toward Jerusalem, for the grand and climactic conclusion of his life, and Luke wants to tell us the story of the travels of our King to get there.
And the final act is presented in chapters 19-24. Those who have now put the pieces together are expecting the King to do what Kings do - reign. But this King is like no other. His coronation will come, but not in the way any would expect. His exaltation above all will come, but not by being raised upon a dais, it will come by being buried in a tomb. For this King, great suffering is the path to the crown.
Did you know that we have been studying together in the book of Luke for thirteen months now? My guess is that we will be here for at least three years. When you are in something that long, you may lose the trees for the forest. So, since Luke has structured his story in three parts, it seemed wise to try and break up what we've thought of as one large series into three separately-themed parts.
My hope is that over the course of our time in this Gospel together, they will help you to remember the theme and components of the story. That way, when someone asks you what the story of Luke is about, you'll be able to quickly recite a three-part outline of the book, describing what happens in each section, and why.
Part One, Luke 1-9 (which we've almost completed), is....
In the coming months, we will enter:
The King on the Move (Luke 9:51-19:27), and finally,
The Inauguration of the King (Luke 19:28-24:53)
Beloved, I've never experienced so much joy, and had so much fun, studying and preaching the Bible. I hope you'll be with me the whole way through.
See you Sunday!