Adolescence is often marked by a phenomenon that researchers have termed…”Imaginary audience.”
So a 13-year-old boy doesn’t want to go to school because he is convinced “everyone is talking and thinking” about him in some incident that in fact hardly anyone noticed.
Or the teen girl who spends hours in front of the mirror as if she is about to go on stage…convinced that the world is focused on her
Adults are susceptible to this as well…it helped take a 65-year-old billionaire’s life last week.
The man died after an elective, cosmetic surgery…while that was sad enough…how he lived his life was even more sad.
-A close friend said that he was always focused on his appearance and how others perceived him…he too was living in front of that imaginary audience.
-The friend said “The only way time he forgot about his insecurities was when his accountant read off his bank statement, which he had him do several times a day.”
The examples of this are everywhere…examples of how we attempt to quench the thirst in our souls through our own efforts and ideas.
The man was thirsty…his soul was dry…he dug wells of wealth and vanity…but they could hold no water…the digging just made him thirstier.
This is the story of humanity…the story of digging empty wells to quench the thirst in our souls. We have spent the first quarter of this year looking at the Bible in overview.
-The creation of the cosmos
-The Fall of humans
-The plan of redemption inaugurated through the family line of Abraham.
-The continued rebellion and mess of humanity in Egypt, the Exodus, Canaan and into Exile.
-The Priests, Judges, Kings, and Prophets…all pointing forward to the eternal Priest, Judge, Prophet and King…Jesus.
The Old Testament ends with the people returned from the Babylonian exile…a severe mercy of God they had been warned of centuries before hand.
The OT ends with the line of Abraham back in the land after the exile to Babylon and under the thumb of the Persians.
They have built a second temple (the first was destroyed by the Babylonians)…but there is no passage in the Bible indicating that God’s spirit had come to dwell in it like he had in the former, grander one.
Let’s see why…and then how this connects the OT to Jesus and his church.
Ezekiel was a prophet who was a part of the first wave taken as exiles into Babylon.
Five years later, on his 30th birthday he was sitting by the bank of an irrigation canal near his refugee camp…thinking, praying…probably wondering what God was up to.
He had this fantastic vision with a storm cloud and strange creatures carrying the throne of God…lots of powerful images…mind blowing stuff.
These images are meant to remind us of when God showed up on Mt. Sinai, where he gave the law to Moses.
And when he powered up the Tabernacle (the tent-like structure where he revealed his presence as he dwelt with his people as they journeyed in the wilderness)
And then when he came in power is his temple…his fixed dwelling place in Jerusalem.
Of course God is an eternal, all-present, Spiritual being…he was never merely physically/geographically tied to a place like Mt. Sinai or the Temple.
But he visibly revealed himself in those places to communicate truth about his desire to live among his people.
Those visible shows of power…they meant something.
God will be in our midst, if we will follow and obey him.
But wait a minute…what is God’s glory doing traveling to Babylon?
Well, Ezekiel later has another vision(8-11) where Israel is worshipping terrible idols in the temple.
Then he sees God’s throne Chariot leave the temple and head east toward Babylon.
God has left his temple…God has not abandoned them, he has gone into exile with them.
Later Ezekiel will hear that the Temple has been destroyed…torn to ground…all because of Israel’s sin. This is a national tragedy of epic proportion…so is God done with them for good?
No…the prophets foretold a time when God would dwell in his people, not just with them…he would write the law on their hearts not tablets of stone.
*Then, there are hundreds years of silence…then suddenly then narrative moves forward again.
The next major block of material in the Bible is the New Testament, 27 books that pick up the story of the first 39 books…it is a single story.
To believe that the OT is no longer needed because we have the NT is like saying…”I no longer need the first 30 years of my life because I am now in the second 30 years…that makes no sense.”
People who have the lost memories of their past…have great difficulty understanding their present.
In fact it is impossible to make sense out of the NT without the OT just as it would be impossible to make sense out of your life now without understanding your history…it is all your life…single storyline.
The Bible is a single narrative…it is the story of Jesus…from Genesis to Revelation.
The first four books in the New Testament are called gospels…they are historical narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
But they are not merely historical narratives…they are “good news” stories…they have much more application and importance than any biography ever written.
For instance you can read a biography of Abraham Lincoln and learn much from his life that you can apply to yours now.
But there is nothing in Lincoln’s biography that would allow you to have actual relationship with Abe Lincoln.
He is dead…you can learn about him…but you can’t become his friend.
So we don’t call them the “four biographies” of Jesus…they are the “four gospels”…they are good news.
The gospels are “living biographies”…sure you can learn from the life of Jesus even if you don’t want relationship with him…but that is not the point.
The point is to demonstrate that Jesus is God became man…he is alive still and you can, through faith…experience his life in you…you can have relationship with him.
He is the greatest celebrity in human history and the only one that not just a few can know…but all people, everywhere can know and love…and be known and loved by him.
There are four different gospels…each speaks the same story to different audiences with different emphasis.
The story of Jesus is so vital that we get four different looks at it…to give it the widest possible range of audience and impact.
WE are going to look at the gospels by focusing mostly on Luke and its companion book…Acts.
*And as our OT/NT tie in…we will see how Jesus and then the Church is the new Temple of God…where he dwells in power…remember the visible manifestation of God on Sinai, Tabernacle, Temple…then leaving for Babylon…watch how it returns in the NT.
Luke was a doctor who did a careful investigation of the eye witnesses of the life of Jesus…then wrote it down to help a friend named “Theophilus”
The storyline begins with a Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth…faithful people who were quite old and unable to conceive a child.
Much like Abraham and Sara were.
God speaks to him and says you will have a son in your old age and his birth will mark something very significant in history…just like the birth of Abraham and Sara’s son did.
The Messiah is coming…how will he arrive?
The story shifts to a formerly unknown young woman named Mary living in a backwater village in the North.
She is told by an angel what is arguably the most shocking news any human has ever received.
“God is going to generate life in your womb and your child will be the Son of God…the promised Savior” Her response was “I am the Lord’s servant.”
But there is much more in Mary’s heart and mind going on…she writes a song to commemorate what had happened and what is going to happen.
She starts with amazement at how God had chosen her…a no-name, lower cast servant girl.
She realizes all of history to follow will know her(she is right about that)…this is amazing for her to contemplate.
Then she praises God for keeping his covenant promises…because he will, through her son…show mercy to the world at large…it is not about her future fame…but God’s glory and promises kept.
So here we see the signals of how the story line will go forward…Jesus will be continually turning things upside down
He is going to be born to a person of low status…someone no one would ever pick for the honor.
God had orchestrated history such that Mary and Joseph would have to go to Bethlehem(their home of origin) for a census.
Bethlehem was the place God had pre-decided Jesus would be born and the prophets foretold it.
The story continues to turn things upside down…the first to hear are lowly shepherds…and Jesus is born in an animal feeding trough.
Nobody (except the prophets) saw any of this coming
Then in chapter 3 the story skips ahead and Jesus and his cousin John are grown.
John is leading a renewal movement…many people are turning back to God.
One day Jesus shows up at the River and is baptized…immersed in the River.
As he is praying “The heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved son, and in you I will well-pleased” (3:22)
This is significant in several ways…but let’s focus on one..
*Remember when Ezekiel saw the presence of God leaving the Temple and his people…well, it’s back.
But it’s not back in the Temple…now called Herod’s temple…because of Herod’s remodel projects…its back because Jesus is here.
*Jesus is the new Temple
He will later say to the religious leaders who took great pride in Herod’s temple…”Destroy this temple and
I will raise it again in three days.”
They thought he meant their physical temple and they were amused…”Are you kidding, it took 46 years to build this thing, your going to build in three days…I don’t think so.”
He was talking about his own body…it was the dwelling of God with them…the temple of God.
When they crucified him…he would raise the temple of his body from the dead in three days.
John’s gospel said about Jesus that he was “God became flesh” and he “Tabernacled” among us.
The Tabernacle was the moving tent-dwelling of God in the wilderness…it was how God lived among the people and how he directed them.
The presence of God that came on the Tabernacle and the Temple…was back…Jesus was the Tabernacle and the Temple…he is God with us…immanuel.
Then the story picks up with Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil for 40 days.
This is Jesus replaying Israel’s forty years in the wilderness…but unlike them…he succeeds in being obedient.
What Luke is demonstrating and all the gospel writers do this…is that Jesus is carrying Israel’s story forward…he is the promised one.
To make the point very obvious…Jesus is next in a Synagogue (Jewish house of worship)
He opens Isaiah and reads… “Luke 4:18-20 “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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Okay…is that clear enough? He said…”Isaiah was talking about me”…the OT is my story.
Then Luke records some miracles Jesus performs…Jesus is going to demonstrate the validity of his claims through his power…put his money where his mouth is.
The story then moves to his selection of a rag tag group of guys to be his key followers…the number of disciples…12, is of course is not accidental…it points to the 12 tribes of Israel.
Then the book outlines his upside-down teaching (or right-side up teaching)
Love your enemies, give generously, show mercy, forgive everyone…lay down your life for others,
greatness is service not being served….over and over he says “You have heard it said, but I say…”
He critiques the ones in power and elevates and promotes the powerless.
He hangs out with sinners of all types…rich and poor…outcasts of all kinds.
Finally he heads to Jerusalem…God has timed this so that Jesus’ death will coincide with the Passover. Passover: Was that great celebration of God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
Again…the powerful OT connection.
The word comes from the fact that Israel escaped judgment on Passover night by spreading the blood of lambs over their doorpost…they were safe under the blood of that sacrifice.
So Jesus the King rides into Jerusalem on a donkey just as the prophets foretold…and as the people celebrate wildly…Jesus weeps…he knows what is coming for him (and them).
The rest of the story unfolds quickly…he is falsely accused…a terrorist is released instead of him. He is crucified for our sins…just as the prophets had said.
Then…he rose again…just as the prophets said.
Luke ends with Jesus taken up from their sight and his people going back into the city to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.
Then we move to the second act of this story…the book called “Acts of the Apostles.”
Luke continues the story communicating what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection.
He told them “Wait till you receive a new kind of power…then you go be witnesses to what you have experienced with me…starting here in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the ends of the earth.”
This becomes the outline of the book as the church is launched in Jerusalem…then spreads because of persecution to the surrounding areas…Judea, Samaria…then to the farthest parts of the known world.
So Jesus’ friends are waiting in Jerusalem as they were told…meanwhile it was now the Jewish holiday called “Pentecost.”
Pentecost had come to be a celebration of when God had given Moses the law on Mt. Sinai.
Tons of Jewish pilgrims were in the city from all over the world…speaking many different languages.
It is no coincidence that the very day that commemorated the giving of the Law to Israel…God gave the church the Holy spirit.
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now let’s make the connection:
-God’s presence in the fire on Sinai -Then on the Tabernacle
-Then the Temple
-Then it left the Temple
-Then descended on Jesus
-Now on the church…not one big pillar of fire like in the Exodus…but many little flames on each of the believers.
Listen to what Paul said about the church…the people of God.
1Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
We…you me…are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
That means he is with you always…you don’t have to go to a place to meet with him
It means…your life is to be holy…your heart…is to be like the Holy of Holies in the Temple…the place where it was dangerous to even enter there unless you were pure and ready.
*What might it do for our thinking, speaking, doing…if we were to more fully understand what it means to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit?
Let me insert an important point here regarding interpreting Scriptures:
There are many places where the Bible prescribes what we ought to do and be…then there are places where it describes what did happen and not necessarily what will or should happen.
This principle is important when reading Acts because there are some things that happen there they are not always mean to be precedent.
Like Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit comes like tongues of fire and the disciples speak and everyone hears in their own language…this is the birth of the church.
It is not supposed to be the ongoing pattern for individuals coming to Christ.
What does apply to us now?…when we commit our live to Christ…the Holy Spirit will take up residence in us…empowering change and witness.
The gift in Acts chapter two…commonly called “Tongues” might be better called the gift of “Language”…people heard in their own native languages as the gospel was proclaimed.
This was the reversal of what happened in Genesis at Babylon…when God dispersed the people and separated them into languages to try and stem the tide of evil.
Now all the languages were reunited as the good news of Jesus was proclaimed
The storyline continues as the Church in Jerusalem is persecuted and some are killed.
A guy named Saul, who will come to be known as Paul…is part of the group trying to stop the church.
He is not just a thug…he believes he is serving the true God…but when Jesus appears to him in person he does a 180 and becomes the world’s greatest church planter and Christian theologian.
So the church is scattered out of Jerusalem because of the persecution and goes out to the surrounding areas and eventually to the far reaches of the known world.
It was a unique time in history…because the Romans roads, and language and protection…meant that
travel was mostly safe and relatively easy.
The gospel spread fast…it broke out of the Jewish culture in Jerusalem and became multi-national in the church at Antioch, Syria.
From there Paul went on three big road trips planting churches as he went.
At one point Paul is arrested in Jerusalem and is charged with some crimes by the Jewish leaders…but because he is a Roman citizen he is taken to Rome.
The book ends with Paul in Rome, under house arrest, living quite well…and right under the greatest human King, Caesar’s nose…he proclaims and writes about the greatest of all kings Jesus.
Acts 28:30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
All through the Bible…the entire OT to the gospels the story of humanity can be summarized by God’s word spoken through Jeremiah.
Jer. 2:12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
This is powerful imagery that represents something very real in our lives
As I said in our introduction…and illustrated with the sad story of the wealthy, empty man….it is truly the story of humanity…forsaking life…digging dry wells.
On the other side is the story of God moving throughout history to redeem humanity in spite of our propensity for forsaking his life for our own empty wells.
Let’s finish with a passage from the gospel of John…it describes Jesus offering living water to a woman as they stood beside an actual well.
The woman had tried for years to dig her own well to quench the thirst in her soul…and the story shows it had not worked, it could not work.
John 4:5 So he came to a town in Samaria, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus was of course jumping in thought from the physical well in front of them…to himself, the Spiritual well that stood in front of her.
She didn’t get it…she was still thinking of H20.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
She is asking for some kind of magic water…so she won’t be bothered with thirst. He flips the script on her…he is going to address the thirst in her soul.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
She must have thought…”how did we get from water to my husband?”
“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jesus is pointing out her broken wells…she must see the problem before she will embrace the solution.
She was trying to quench the thirst in her soul…through relationships with man after man…clearly it was not working.
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Now she diverts…into theological disagreements between the Jews in the South and the Samaritans in the North…this divide goes all the way back to the time of the Kings.
But Jesus is not diverted…he stays on task.
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
All that division of kingdoms and disagreements over special places is over…worship is personal not ritual…it all pointed to me.
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
“Yeah” she says, “It is all confusing…but the Messiah will sort it all out for us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
There are many kinds of broken wells we can dig…what is yours?
Our souls are thirsty and our hearts are foolish…because of this we move through life demanding a life without any pain.
No pain of waiting, no pain of being lonely, no pain of being unknown, or unwanted, no physical or mental pain, no pain of being misunderstood, no pain of being powerless to control the future(fear, anxiety), no pain in relationships only perpetual closeness, the pain of getting what you want and it not being enough.
This demand to be free of pain of any kind right here and now makes us foolish…we become well diggers…digging for relief and finding only more and different kinds of pain.
This is an ancient problem…and there is an ancient solution.
The Bible is not just one stream of human thought among many…the Buddha, the Koran, Darwin, Steve Jobs.
It is the single description of reality for everyone and it is the prescription of hope for everyone…Jesus is the universal solution for humanity’s single greatest problem.
It describes the problem…we have forsaken the one who can give what our souls need and we spend our lives digging wells to quench our thirst…and the digging just leaves us thirstier.
It prescribes the solution…crown Jesus as Lord in your heart (A word that means “the command post of your life”)…and he will reign in all of your life.
He does not promise a life free from all pain…he does promise to quench the thirst in your soul.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
What broken well is at the bottom of your demands for a pain free life?
Do you understand how much this demand drives your life…do you understand how the gospel impacts every single area of your life?
1 Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.