Sermon: Prideful Perceptions (Luke 9:37-56)

Luke 9.37-56 Click for audio

Prideful Perceptions 

We begin this week with last week’s text.  I feel strongly that we should go back and group this entire passage together, include last week’s text and this week’s, if we are to get what Luke is trying to show us.

Luke is showing us that the disciples are not the heroes of the Gospels.  They will go on in the years following the crucifixion to do great things such as performing miracles and write Scripture, but they are not the heroes.  There is but one Hero and His name is Jesus.

In this section of his Gospel, Luke groups together four separate accounts of the disciple’s failing.  They were not worthy, they were not powerful, special, or even all that much help.  In fact they were often a hindrance to the ministry of Jesus.  However, they were a group that Christ came to this earth for.  He loved them and they were among His elect and called.

Their biggest sin was the sin of pride.  They were self centered, proud, and wanted everything for themselves.  The reality is that the disciples are not out of the ordinary when it comes to the sin of pride.  Every human, including everyone here today at some level or another is prideful.  We must be in a battle to kill the reigning pride that’s in our hearts.  It is behind every sin we commit.  Think of a sin and self-centered pride is in the mix.  If we could kill pride we could greatly reduce sin in our lives.

Luke gives us four examples of the sinful pride of the apostles and then shows us how we can battle pride in our own lives.

Let’s look to God’s Word…

Lk 9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Lk 9:38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.

Lk 9:39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.

Lk 9:40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

Lk 9:41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

Lk 9:42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Lk 9:43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples,

Lk 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Lk 9:45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

Lk 9:46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.

Lk 9:47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side

Lk 9:48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Lk 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

Lk 9:50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

Lk 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Lk 9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.

Lk 9:53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Lk 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Lk 9:55 But he turned and rebuked them.

Lk 9:56 And they went on to another village.

Father, kill the root of sinful pride in our hearts, for the glory of Christ, amen…

Let’s identify what pride looks like…

1. The Proud Lack Spiritual Perception

Lk 9:41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation,…

Lk 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Lk 9:45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

They were too consumed with their own place of prominence in the Kingdom that they did not get it when Jesus began to speak about His betrayal and crucifixion.  They were counting on the fact that Jesus was getting ready to set up the new Davidic Kingdom and overthrow every one who opposed Him, especially the Romans, that they could not understand anything else.  Their prideful perceptions had blocked out any reality of Christ’s work and death.  I’ve counseled folks who have certain things ingrained in their thinking so deeply that what you tell them does not even register.  This was where we find the disciples prior to the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus’ words did not fit into their paradigm.  His words were not going to achieve what they had envisioned.  A prideful person lacks spiritual perception.  They did not believe His Words at all…the disciples were faithless.

2.  The Proud Fight for Greatness

Lk 9:46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.

Lk 9:47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side

Lk 9:48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Isn’t this so amazing that the disciples no sooner have Jesus bail them out of their predicament of failing to exorcise the demon then they want to fight and argue about who is greatest.  Who’s the greatest disciple?  That was the topic of their discussion.  I can hear Peter, James and John saying…I’m the greatest because I was up on the Mountain with Jesus when all His glory could be seen…Yeah, but Peter you have big mouth and never think, John might say, at least I know when to be quiet.  At least I’m not afraid to say what I’m thinking, you were thinking the same thing but were too scared to say it…

Mark’s account says that Jesus knew what they were talking about and asked them about it but they were afraid to answer…even Peter.

This wasn’t the only time this discussion is found in the Book of Luke.  Just as they were finishing their Bible study on the crucifixion, they began to discuss which disciple would be the greatest, and again Jesus corrects them.

I find it very odd that each time they veered off into self focused delusions of grandeur; Jesus had just finished telling them something about His death.

Proud people fight for greatness and will have nothing less.  This fight often means pushing others down to elevate yourself.  The disciples were good at this.

Notice what Jesus does in this passage.  He takes a child and places him beside Himself and makes an amazing point.  By placing the child next to Him, at His side, He is giving his power hungry disciples an object lesson.  It was to sit on the right and on the left of Jesus in His kingdom James and John and their mother wanted so desperately as found in Matthew 20.

Greatness, according to Jesus, is humility, childlike faith and trust.  According to Christ the greater you desire to be the greater servant you must become.  We see that there is none greater than Jesus and there has never been a greater example of humility and service.

When we strive for greatness there is a dynamic at work in our hearts.  Pride and a desire for greatness according to the world are fueled by a high view of man and a low view of God.  If your life is a struggle to always have the last word, or to prove you’re right, or to fight for self promotion you have switched from seeing the Lord high and lifted up to seeing yourself high and lifted up.

Hopefully as we come to the end of the message we’ll all see what true greatness is based on Jesus’ definition.

3.  The Proud Are Jealous Over Someone Else’s Success

Lk 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

Lk 9:50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

Ligon Duncan remarks, in every sin pride can be found.  I believe he has a very good point.  Where is there a sin without pride?  Here, the disciples cross the path of a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus.  Rather than rejoicing with this man they make him stop.  They were manifesting what many call a party spirit.  It’s the idea that if you’re not one of us then you are inferior.

I used to belong to a denomination that felt that way.  They would never come right out and say it but most of the people felt that they had it figured out and that they were the closest thing to the Bible.  Then I became involved in another church, one that had no denominational ties.  I discovered there were some amazing believers there as well.

We must never have a party spirit.  As long as a church preaches the true Gospel we should encourage and be encouraged by them.

The other issue here is that this unnamed man casting out demons is accomplishing something that as of late, the disciples failed to do.  Their neat tidy little categories are beginning to break down.

Their sin of pride and party lines was telling them that this man is not one of them so he should stop.  Their jealousy over this outsider’s successful ministry is another manifestation of pride.

I know many pastors like this.  They are more worried that the church on the other side of town has more in attendance than his church does.

Some folks trying to make a case for universalism will often turn to this text to try and prove that all religions are the same and worship the same God only in different ways… for the one who is not against you is for you.”

This is not at all what Jesus means.

This man was ministering in humility and faith with the same goal in mind that Jesus had.  The disciples, however, were prideful and had set themselves up as the experts.  Jesus reminds them that His Kingdom is moving forward and there are others involved that they don’t even know about.

4.  The Proud Offer Judgment Over Forgiveness

Lk 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Lk 9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.

Lk 9:53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Lk 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Lk 9:55 But he turned and rebuked them.

Lk 9:56 And they went on to another village.

Luke includes this account and groups it with the others to show us that the disciples are not the heroes of the Gospel accounts.  There is only one who is great.

In this brief account we see that the disciples in their prideful state are ready to deal out death and judgment.  Jews had always hated the Samaritans and the disciples were no different.  The Samaritans as a result of this animosity built another worship center on Mount Gerizim.

You probably remember the encounter with Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  In the course of their conversation, Jesus was asked about the difference between worshipping in Jerusalem verses Mount Gerizim.  It was a very volatile topic for the Samaritans.

When Jesus sets His face to go to Jerusalem the age-old debate resurfaces.  They reject Jesus and the disciples.  As a result, James and John come up with a solution…Let’s destroy them.

James and John thought that Jesus’ mission was a mission of judgment much like Elijah in 1 Kings by getting rid of the opposing forces.  Elijah confronted the rejecting Baal worshippers and priests and in the end called down fire from heaven to destroy their worship.  However, Jesus’ mission is not a mission of judgment but a mission of reconciliation.  His mission was not to destroy the enemy but to have the enemy switch his allegiance to Him.

We still see that the disciples were basically proud and clueless.  Again, Jesus rebukes them.

5. Can the Proud Become Humble?

Humility is the opposite of pride.  If pride leads us into sin, humility leads us into righteousness.  Humility is seeing ourselves the way God sees us.  It’s the ability to see yourself for who you really are not through our prideful perception of who we are.

Is 66:2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.   

Pride is the foundation of all sin.  Humility is the foundation of righteousness.  Pride sets us up to many sins and increasing wickedness.  Humility is the virtue that allows us to know God in an ever-increasing way.

Notice the flow in this verse…

Humility leads to real contrition, which then deepens into trembling at God’s word. It ends by sensitizing us to God’s word, motivating and equipping us to hear. Paul’s humility led him to work out his salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). David’s humility led him to “rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11). Humility enhances our love for God’s word. With living faith, before it we joyfully tremble, eager to obey, seeking God’s encouragement and correction. –JBC Article Finding Intimacy With God by William Farley  

The key to learning humility is seeing yourself the way God sees you, and the key to doing that is to see Christ as glorious and hero of our faith.  As we see Jesus in the right light we will begin to see ourselves correctly.

We are the disciples in this story, seeing ourselves through the eyes of fallen pride thinking that somehow we could tell Jesus what to do.

As we read our Bibles, we see Christ in all His majesty.  We see His person.  We also learn about His work for us.  We see Christ high and lifted up.  An indication that you are, in fact, progressing in humility is that you begin to take God’s Word very serious…even to the point of trembling before it.

The disciples didn’t even pay attention to the Word at all.  Jesus’ words did not fit into their scheme.  Pride tries to conform God’s word to fit the person, humility sees that we are the ones to conform to the Word.

The key to progressing in humility is to see God’s Word as authoritative and conforming our lives to its doctrine and ethical teaching.  

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