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Setting proper priorities is part and parcel of living life period. Not everything that even has a legitimate claim on our time, interest and energy has exactly the same claim. Spiritual matters must take precedence over temporal ones. Bodily health over recreation. Family over work. And even in these, there are emergencies which may lay temporary claim over normal things – but then need to be set back into proper order in due time. No one understood or lived this better than Jesus. And we’ll look at that reality for a few moments on Through the Word in 2020. I’m your host, Reid Ferguson.
Of our 4 passages today Psalm 108, 1 Chronicles 12-14, Philippians 2:19-30 and Luke 4:38-44 it is the short but enigmatic account of Jesus in Luke that captures my attention today.
Short as the Lukan passage is, it presents 3 short vignettes. The first 2 we grasp easily and resonate with. First, Jesus entering Peter’s house where his mother in law lay ill. They ask Jesus to do something and He heals her. Second then, the crowds who brought their own loved ones, to be healed of all sorts of afflictions. And in His mercy and grace He “laid His hands on every one of them.”
The third comes the next morning. Jesus goes out to pray alone when more show up to seek Him out and get Him to stay there. After all – aren’t there still a host of needy folk? But Jesus responds – no. He says to them “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose. And He was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” This scene is harder to digest.
And here we learn what a priority is placed upon the Gospel.
To those who came with sicknesses, infirmities, or loved ones afflicted or demon possessed, it must have been hard to comprehend why He would make the preaching of this message in other places more important than their immediate, felt and very real needs.
Note first that one may enter Heaven without a foot, blind, deaf or leprous; But one cannot enter Heaven without hearing, believing and obeying the Gospel. Jesus knows, and intends to meet our greatest need above all. He didn’t neglect those He could touch. But then, He didn’t let that become the priority either.
Note second how easy it is for the Church to get sidetracked over this very same issue – of not placing the priority of the Gospel above everything else. Think of our current climate and how the Church is being pulled from every side to take on cultural and social issues. And make no mistake, those issues are real, and need to be addressed. They are as real now as the blindness, lameness, deafness, leprosy and other maladies of those they would have been bringing to Jesus then. But even those things, as real, urgent and legitimate as they are must never be pursued at the expense of leaving off the preaching of the Gospel.
The Church needs to prioritize the mission of the Gospel above every other. As individual Christians, we can and should act on the other issues in their place. But as The Church, we are not here to fix society first, but to preach Christ first – the One who alone can fix society by raising dead souls to life and reconciling lost sinners to God the Father through His own blood.
Jesus did indeed, heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils. But when doing those things prevented Him from preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, He left them off to go and preach.
Father, help us to keep YOUR priorities in our generation as well. That Christ might be all in all.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.