Expository Sermon on Luke 8
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 1/7/2023
©2023 by Maylan Schurch

(To hear this entire worship service, click this link:)

Please open your Bibles to Luke chapter 8.

Several years ago, Shelley and I drove pretty much every summer all the way to South Dakota. We’d stay there for a few days, then turn around and drive back.

A couple of times along the freeway we would see huge hand-painted signs. The one I remember most clearly was actually anchored to the roof beam of a little church. Somebody had painted in five-foot-high black capital letters “JESUS SAVES.”

I remember looking at that sign with mixed emotions. Sure, that sign is absolutely true. Jesus does save. That message needs to be spread all the way around the world.

But is a big black sign with a subject and a verb the way to do that? If that’s the way Jesus wanted it, He would’ve told His disciples to do little else but create roadsigns wherever they went.

I’m assuming that the creators of the sign were hoping that everybody driving along Interstate 90 would glance at those words and would follow up by finding out who Jesus was and how it is that He does save. And over the years, maybe some have done that.

But there is a danger in such a simplistic message. I remember decades ago, talking to a man down in the Auburn post office who claimed to be a Christian. He had invited me to one of those independent evangelical churches who strongly hinted to its members – including this man – that once you have allowed Jesus to save you, it doesn’t really matter that much what you do afterward. In fact, his own shirt pocket was bulging with a cigarette pack. To his way of thinking, Jesus had clicked some sort of “once you’re saved, you’re always saved” switch in this man’s mind, and now the man could just go along through life doing what he wanted to do.

Which of course is not what Jesus wants at all. And that brings me to why I am preaching this short series of sermons over the next month or two. I’m calling this sermon series “The Gospel According To . . .”

If you ask the average Christian to define the gospel, somebody might simply say, “John 3:16.” But there must be more to it than that, or Jesus would have simply told His disciples to go around repeating it as some sort of magic mantra.

The truth is that John 3:16 certainly does express the gospel. But there’s more to the gospel than just that one verse.

So what I decided to do for the next few Sabbaths is to go through the New Testament and look up all the times the word “gospel” is used, and study the context.

This doesn’t mean that I will be covering every single use of the word “gospel.” For example, what I did for today’s sermon was to read through all the times the word “gospel” was used in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And I chose one passage which seemed to sum up a lot of what “gospel” has to say in the ministry of Jesus.

And that’s why I’ve called today’s sermon “The Gospel According to Jesus.” On later Sabbaths I’ll preach a sermon about the gospel according to Paul, the gospel according to Peter, and James, and John, and so on, one sermon per Bible writer.

In other words, what we’ll be doing is taking a deeper look at the gospel which Jesus and His friends taught. And even just looking at Luke 8 for this morning’s sermon has shown me things about the gospel I hadn’t really thought about until now.

So this morning I like to pretend that we are interviewing Jesus about what the gospel is. What is the gospel according to Jesus? I believe we’ll find at least four answers here in this chapter. And I found them to be incredibly encouraging.

So let’s start looking for them.

Luke 8:1 [NKJV]: Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings . . . .

Do you see that phrase “bringing the glad tidings”? That’s the verb form of the Greek word for “gospel,” which is euanggelizo. In the Greek right here it’s a pretty impressive word: euanggelizomenos. Eight syllables, and it literally means “evangelizing,” “bringing the glad tidings,” or simply “good-newsing.” By the way, the eu part of the word means “good,” and the anggel part means “message.” That’s where we also get the word “angel.” An angel is a messenger. And the gospel is a good message.

So here comes Sermon Point One. If we were to ask Jesus what the gospel is, one thing He would say is this:

“My gospel is good news!”

Well, of course it’s good news. It’s right there in its label—euangelizo.

But think of all the other things Jesus could’ve called it rather than “good news.” He could’ve called it “Warnings for the last days.” He could’ve called it “Vital steps to salvation – don’t skip any of them.”

But instead He called His message “good news,” and preached it all through the towns and villages. And during His teaching, He would mention facts such as that anyone who chose to follow Him would be likely to suffer challenges and misunderstanding. But it’s still good news.

If you’ve been following the fate of NFL football player Darrin Hamlin, you know that after cardiac arrest put him in a very life-threatening situation, he’s getting better. His breathing tube is out, and he’s talking to people.

But he knows good and well enough that once he gets to the point where he’s able to take it, he’s going to have to go through some physical therapy. And physical therapy can be challenging, and sometimes painful. But even that’s good news. It means that he will be rehabilitating, and whether or not he decides to play football again, that physical therapy will do what needs to be done.

And since Darrin is a powerful athlete, he’s used to pain. So he will probably say to the physical therapist, “Bring it on!” And I think you and I need to ask the Holy Spirit to do what He knows needs to be done in our hearts.

Now let’s keep reading in verse one to find out another truth about the gospel according to Jesus.

Verse 1: Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God . . . .

Here comes Sermon Point Two:

As He goes about bringing the good news, Jesus says:

“My gospel is not only good news, but my gospel puts God in charge!”

I love American democracy, but when God’s in charge, I love a kingdom better. I don’t know how closely you’ve kept up with the breathtaking, nail-biting, cliff-hanger battle in the US House of Representatives, but you know that consensus-building – which is usually a good thing – sometimes just doesn’t work. Consensus-building is the best we have since we are all sinful, selfish mortals. Consensus building is what well-run churches depend on. Even the church in the Book of Acts got together and deliberated and built consensus about next steps.

And when it comes to many things – including our salvation – God does give us total free choice.

But without a leader, nothing constructive gets done. Won’t it be wonderful to go back to the “family plan” – where there is a benevolent parent in charge? Jesus called God “Father” right around 200 times in all four Gospels. And that’s what God is – a heavenly Parent. Children do not elect their parents, because everybody’s family.

So what should I do, now that I have been reminded that part of the gospel is that God is in charge? I need to turn my attention away from constantly making myself and my own wishes central. I need to first seek God’s will for me.

We need to pray David’s famous prayer, in the last two verses of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me [test me], and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (verses 23, 24) There’s a whole sermon right there – search, know, try [test], see, lead.

Because the gospel isn’t just a flick of a “salvation switch” in the mind. The gospel is about the deepest kind of rehabilitation – spiritual rehabilitation – which spreads out to lifestyle rehabilitation. And God needs to be in charge of that rehabilitation.

And in the verses just ahead, here in Luke 8, we see still another truth about Jesus’ gospel.

Verses 1 – 3: Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Here comes Sermon Point 3:

What else is the “gospel according to Jesus”? He tells us:

“My gospel is not only good news, and not only does My gospel put God in charge, but My gospel is offered to everyone.”

Just glance at that list of Jesus’ followers. First there are the 12 disciples, and as you probably know, these men came from all walks of life and all levels of status. Some had been rich, some had been working paycheck to paycheck.

One of the disciples has the interesting name of “Simon the Zealot,” and though we don’t hear anything more about him than his name, the Zealots were Jewish nationalists, who became fanatical resistance fighters against the Romans. As I say, we don’t know whether Simon was actually a card-carrying member of this Zealot party, or whether he was zealous about something else, but his nickname sounds like he might have been something of a hard-liner. But the gospel was offered to him.

And we could go down the list with the other disciples. Some of them we know pretty well, others not so much. Thomas seems to have been a suspicious and skeptical person. We call him “doubting Thomas” today, and Jesus had to tell him he needed to learn to exercise faith even though he couldn’t immediately verify everything about that faith. But the gospel was offered to Thomas.

And every single one of the male disciples, of course, scampered away into the Gethsemane night when Jesus was eventually captured. Peter publicly proclaimed that he had no clue as to who Jesus was. But the gospel was offered to Peter.

And it’s so fascinating that after the 12 disciples are mentioned, Luke lists some of Jesus’ women followers.

Verses 2 – 3: . . . and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Something I hadn’t noticed before, when it started listing women, was this. It sounds like maybe more than one of these women who are mentioned here had had demon-possession problems. It says “certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.” Mary had been inhabited by seven demons. Maybe some of the others had too. At any rate, they all seem to have been healed of various kinds of “infirmities.”

And the gospel was offered to them. Please, whatever you do during this brand-new year of 2023, never assume under any circumstances that Jesus has no use for you.

Last night Shelley told me about a quote she had recently read from the book The Desire of Ages. I think this could help our thinking – maybe even change our thinking – about what Jesus thinks about us. This is from the chapter called “At Jacob’s Well,” the story of the Samaritan woman. The quote occurs on page 191 of The Desire of Ages. It says:

“Our Redeemer thirsts for recognition. He hungers for the sympathy and love of those whom He has purchased with His own blood. He longs with inexpressible desire that they should come to Him and have life. As the mother watches for the smile of recognition from her little child, which tells of the dawning of intelligence, so does Christ watch for the expression of grateful love, which shows that spiritual life is begun in the soul.” White, E. G. (1898). The Desire of Ages (Vol. 3, p. 191). Pacific Press Publishing Association.

Jesus offered His gospel to everyone – not just the 12 disciples, not even just the women who followed Him from place to place. Notice who else He offered His gospel to:

Verse 4: And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city . . . .

Wherever Jesus went, He created an instant camp meeting. People flocked to see Him, because He offered them hope. They were delighted to hear His genuine good news, and that God’s kingdom (with God in charge) was a good thing. They rejoiced when this good news was offered to them– every single one of them.

I mean, these people were all over the map when it came to personality types, social position, and degrees of health or sickness. There were always Pharisees there, and other rabbis. And of course the Pharisees had different motives for being there than the average camp meeting attendee.
But Jesus offered the gospel to them all.

And as they listened to Jesus on this particular day, they learned one more truth about “the gospel according to Jesus.”

Verses 4 – 8: And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

I’m going to give you Sermon Point Four and then I’ll talk about it. What was the gospel according to Jesus? What would Jesus say about what He was teaching?

“My gospel is really good news. My gospel puts God in charge. My gospel is offered to everyone. And my gospel is courteous and gentle.”

Did you catch that, in the parable of the sower? Imagine how else Jesus could have framed these ideas. Instead of saying “a sower went out to sow his seed,” Jesus could’ve said, “A soldier went out with his sword to defeat evil.”

But when Jesus talked about the gospel – the word of the Lord – being spread, He spoke of the gentle seeds. They fly through the air, they fall, and depending on what sort of soil they land on, they do the best they can. They are courteous and gentle.

Even though God is king, and rules a kingdom, He is not a dictator. He rules from love, and longs for His people to love him back.

So the gospel shouldn’t intimidate us, but we should accept it in the same courteous and gentle way it is offered.

And this helps us understand what I’ve always considered one of Jesus’ most difficult-to-understand statements. This has been a puzzler for me, but I think I figured out the answer. And I think the answer can make us treasure the Savior and His gospel even more.

Let’s start with verse nine.

Verses 9 – 10: Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’

To me, this has been very puzzling. Back at the end of verse eight, after He had finished telling his parables of the multitude, it says “When He had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”

So right there, Jesus is calling people to attention, calling them to listen and understand what He has been saying.

So what does He mean when He says to His disciples in verse 10: “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’”

On the one hand, it sounds like He is saying, “Listen carefully! You need to understand this!” And then on the other hand, it sounds as though He sang, “I’m going to talk in parables so you can’t understand.”

I think the short answer to this puzzle is that for people who aren’t quite ready to receive new truth, a parable is an excellent tool to use. In other words, if Jesus had very clearly spelled out exactly what He wanted the multitudes to learn, right there and then, they might have rejected these ideas as a knee-jerk response without thinking further about them.

But a parable is like a time release capsule you might take as a medication. If the manufacturer coats the outside with sugar, it actually tastes pretty nice going down your throat. But later, when it gets inside you, those little time-release medicated parts begin to work.

And I can picture people listening to Jesus’ parables. Somebody says to their friend, “Wait a minute. What was He talking about? What was he getting at there?”

The other person might say “Beats me. Couldn’t figure it out.”

And then when Jesus is done speaking, the two friends saunter away, and halfway back home, one of them says, “I got it! I think I’ve figured out what He was talking about!” And he shares his ideas with his friend, and they compare notes.

In other words, by using parables, Jesus gave them more of an opportunity to chew over what He had said. After all, the gospel is courteous and gentle.
Most parables are not like a two-by-fours, like blunt instruments. Parables are more like carefully-written poetry. Such a poem might be hard to understand at first, but the more you read it, and the more you think about it, there will often come that “Aha” moment when you get it.

And of course the Holy Spirit is always ready to help you understand what the Savior is saying. So during the next few weeks, as we continue to look at what the New Testament says about the gospel, let’s not forget to keep saying “Yes” to the One who died so that we can live.