THE QUIETNESS OF CHRIST
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 24, 2014
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
— Matthew 12:15-21, ESV
About the closest thing we find to a reality show in Scripture are the four Gospels of the New Testament. Each one is a camera that follows Jesus around for about three years of life and ministry. They record His words, which are perfect and powerful. They record His actions, which often speak louder than words. And sometimes they record His inaction, or retreat, or quietness, which is every bit as profound as the things He says and does. This particular text helps us to examine the quietness of Christ.
In the previous pericope, our Lord Jesus Christ won a Sabbath showdown with the self-righteous Pharisees. They begin a plot to kill Him, because He won the confrontation with His words and actions. But the point is, He won! At that moment, with the right spin, Jesus could have taken over the political and religious world of Israel. But instead He withdrew, spoke softly and carried a big heart, and told people to keep quiet about Him. Some refer to this as the messianic secret. I prefer to refer to it as the quietness of Christ.
Popularity Can Poison Your Mission
At this juncture of His ministry, I am convinced that Jesus could have become king of Israel. I know that not long after this incident, after He fed five thousand men and their families with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, they tried to make Him king. Jesus had become quite popular after His first year or so of ministry and He could have used that popularity to get almost any thing any human being could ever want. But, “He withdrew from there,” not because of the threat of the Pharisees, but because of the threat of popularity.
Jesus understood that popularity can poison your mission. As the Son of God, Jesus was on a mission to unite God the Father with all of God’s children. The mission required a cross first, before the crown, and no crown could be gained by anyone unless He endured the cross. Had Jesus capitalized on His popularity after putting down the Pharisees, or putting food on the table for thousands, the people would never have let Pontius Pilate crucify Him. But as the prophet Isaiah said, the Just for the unjust would be a necessity for victory.
Being popular does not disqualify you from being a Christian. There are a few singers, sports stars, large church pastors, and students who are both extremely popular and thoroughly Christian. If your tide rises while you are living and telling the truth, then go carefully and prayerfully with the flow. But most professing Christians come to a crossroad where following Christ leads one way, and popularity leads another. Sadly, many take the popular road of fame, sex, easy money, dirty politics, and other things that leave their Christian testimony in the dust. Please remember this the next time you are tempted. Popularity is a temporary high never lasts, so don’t drink it in when it can poison your mission to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Right Thing the Right Way
Another reason for the quietness of Christ was His determination to be the right kind of messiah and do things the right way, God’s way. At the rising of His ministry and fame, that term, “messiah,” was being bandied about. The Jews needed a leader, one not corrupted by political power like the Herodians nor religious power like the Pharisees and Sadducees. The expectation was for a messiah to come as a loud and proud politico-religious strongman who would crush the opposition and bring victory to Israel. Wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to rid the land of political corruption and religious hypocrisy and give all the power to the right kind of people? But, being a military messiah would not have been the right way to do the right thing.
How do we know? Because the Bible tells us so. Most of the words in this text in Matthew are a quotation from Isaiah 42:1-4. That Old Testament passage, from the “Gospel According to Isaiah,” is the first of four passages that tell of the temperament and tactics of the true Messiah (see also Isaiah 49:1-9, 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12). Instead of the militant Messiah, Jesus came to be the “Suffering Servant.” This is God’s word and God’s will concerning the first coming of Jesus Christ, which explains why at His first coming Jesus and His followers were often quite quiet. By the way, His second coming will not be so calm and quiet.
How tempting it is to do things, even good things, the quick and easy, fast and furious way. I’ve observed many churches reach many people, which is the right thing, but they do it the wrong way. They use political speech and popular psychology rather than theologically informed exegesis of the word of God. They use entertainment rather than worship, salesmanship rather than discipleship, marketing rather than prayer, and wind up inoculating people from the gospel rather than bringing them to Christ. Remember that every time Jesus was faced with a choice between drawing a crowd and faithfulness to God’s word, He always chose the latter. Jesus did everything right, did it the right way, then didn’t talk about it much. He chose to quietly live a life of total obedience to the word and will of God.
Quietness and Character
Televangelists don’t really heal people, but they brag about it as if they did. Jesus really did heal people, then told them not to tell anyone. Evangelists brag about large numbers of “decisions,” even when such decisions produce no disciples. Jesus saves everyone He quietly calls by grace through faith to Him. The quietness of Christ shows the strength of His character and the effectiveness of His ministry.
The cameras of the Gospel writers show a great deal of the character and conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ. We get excerpts of the Lord’s sermons, episodes of the Lord’s miracles, and even some of the quiet times of the Lord. But remember that John signs off His Gospel by saying that Jesus did more when the cameras were off than when they were rolling. Most of His words and works were served with the seasoning of silence.
Godly character is groomed in the quietness of life. It is the time spent with the Lord that no one knows about but the Lord and you. It is people you helped when other people didn’t know. It is reaching out to other races, without calling a press conference. It is being confident, not arrogant. It is a lifetime of well-worn Bibles, countless checks written to church and charity, thousands of conversations spent inviting people to Christ and to church, a nod of respect and a look in the eye given to a person of another color, a little food or money given to the homeless, showing up early for worship to wipe windows, test the sound, or lay down clean sheets in the nursery. All of these things are typically done off camera, where virtually nobody else knows, but God.
You don’t have to be loud and proud to please the Lord and preach the gospel. You just have to determine that the gospel is your mission, and no popular thing in this world is going to keep you from accomplishing your part in living and sharing for Christ. You have to determine to do the right things the right way, with God’s Spirit and God’s word as your ruler and guide. You have to cultivate quietness, the quietness of Christ, so that your character and conduct will be like His.
So this week, pretend that you are the star of your own reality show. Cameras will follow you around and record everything you do, even in and especially during the quiet times. No one will see it, however, until the end of your life, when you will sit down with the Lord and play it all out.
Come to think of it, you don’t even have to pretend.
WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT SUNDAYS SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOU
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 17, 2014
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” — so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
— Matthew 12:1-14, ESV
What you say about Sunday says a lot about you. It does not tell it all, but it tells a pretty good tale. Since Sunday is the first day of the week, how you spend it reveals what, or who, gets first place in your life.
While the Scriptures teach that every day is special and holy to the Lord, there has always been a certain day that is especially holy to the Lord. At the beginning of the Old Testament it is called the “Sabbath,” and by the end of the New Testament it is called “the Lord’s Day.” Under the Old Covenant, the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, from sunset Friday to sunset on Saturday. Under the New Covenant, the Lord’s Day is the first day of the week, Sunday, and throughout Christian history it has been referred to as the Christian Sabbath.
Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior, and the bridge between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. So it is interesting to look in the Bible and see how He observed the old Sabbath Day and inaugurated the Christian Sabbath, or the Lord’s Day. The first mention of Jesus on a Sabbath is here in this text. It provides fascinating details and sparks a controversy that will take Him to the cross and the empty tomb, the same tomb from which He arose on the very first Lord’s Day.
Jesus Kept the Sabbath
The picture of our Savior on this Sabbath Day is fairly typical of what any God-fearing Jew would have done on just about any Sabbath Day. I dare say it is not unlike what you might observe a devout Christian doing on a Sunday. The Lord of the Sabbath was keeping the Sabbath Day holy, as we should keep the Lord’s day.
Jesus went out to eat, albeit to a grainfield instead of a restaurant. He took time to help someone in need, healing the crippled man. He engaged in a conversation about Holy Scripture, including Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 23:25, 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Jeremiah17:27, and chiefly Hosea 6:6. And all of this took place because Jesus took the time to travel to a local synagogue for public worship. This day was not without controversy, not without difficulty, but you could not say it was not a Sabbath Day well spent. This is how our Lord kept the Sabbath, in public worship and all of its peripherals.
This is also how Christians should keep the Lord’s Day. Everything should revolve around our privilege and duty to gather together in a public place of worship, according to Hebrews 10:25 and many other passages in the New Testament. We should enjoy meals, in or out, with family and friends. We should engage ourselves in serious Bible study. We should be sensitive to opportunities to help people, especially those in our own church. But most of all, we should give our attendance and attention to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who is Lord of all, especially the Lord’s Day!
And by the way, there were hypocrites where Jesus went to church, too.
The Pharisees Used the Sabbath
The Pharisees in the Gospels were perhaps the worst hypocrites of all time. They were judgmental, prideful, sinful, and just plain full of, well, you know. They used religion as a means for personal gain, and gained personally by trumping tradition over truth as a means to control other people.
In this case, they had taken one of God’s ten commandments (the fourth and longest one regarding the Sabbath), and turned it into thirty-nine major commandments with a plethora of sub-commandments under them. Because of their twisted traditions, Jesus was accused that day of practicing farming (plucking grain) and medicine (healing a man) without a license to do so on a Sabbath. Please remember that Jesus was breaking their law, not God’s law. And Jesus deftly pointed out by quoting the prophet Hosea that covenant love is more important than commandment keeping, although the former usually leads to the latter.
But here is where the plot turns sinister. Because Jesus broke their traditional misunderstanding of God’s word, they did not just disagree with Him, they did not merely break fellowship with Him, the Pharisees devised a plot to try to kill Him. The major issue at hand had less to do with commandments and more to do with control.
Religious hypocrites love to control other people. The Pharisees devised their own system of do’s and don’t’s for the Sabbath, for whoever controlled the Sabbath controlled the people. Jesus’ right keeping of the Sabbath threatened their wrongful control, so they wanted to kill Jesus. It happens today when Baptist Deacons devise their own system of do’s and don’t’s for the church, so that they can control other people. When a good pastor begins to show people the right way to worship and serve God, they want to fire or destroy the pastor. It may be Pharisees, it may be Deacons, it may be a small group of men, or even a couple of old ladies. But certain people in the church love to have control over other people. If you get in their way they will get you, unless the Jesus-followers outnumber the Pharisees.
As true as the text makes this point, it is still not the main point I want to make today. Jesus gives us a glimpse of the proper way to keep the Lord’s Day, even if it involves associating with hypocrites. The hypocrites show us how not to use the Sabbath and other sacred things. But they all combine to give us a monumentally important lesson about Sundays and control. How you control the use of your Sundays reveals what or who is in control of your life.
How You Keep or Use the Sabbath Says a Lot About You
God the Son served God the Father seven days a week, not just one day in seven. But making the Sabbath Day and public worship a priority set the tone for every other day of the week. Jesus demonstrated how to love and worship God on this day, and every other day. The Pharisees destroyed Jesus for demonstrating the hypocrisy of their ways. Jesus kept the Sabbath to please God. The Pharisees used the Sabbath to please themselves.
The question now for each one of us is, are we Sabbath keepers like Jesus or Sabbath users like the Pharisees? Does God control our lives, do others control our lives, or do we try to control it ourselves apart from God? A close look at how we keep or use the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, will tell the tale.
If you keep the Lord’s Day for the public worship of God, this says a lot about you. It says, quite likely, that God is in control of your life, that Jesus is Lord. It does not say it definitively, for hypocrites as hard as the Pharisees still abound even in the best churches. But putting a priority on Sunday worship says your priorities may well be in order. A Christian Sabbath should be a gift from the Christian to God and a gift from God to the Christian. Worship is first, but there is still plenty of opportunity for food and family, rest and recreation, and other joyful pursuits that glorify God and are good for people. And God, who is by no means a legalist, will not strike you with lightning if you miss on occasional Lord’s Day worship service for providential means of hinderance like work, travel, or certain personal concerns. Temper duty with grace, and grace with duty, and always be mindful to Whom you owe your highest devotion.
If you use the Lord’s Day for work and earning wages, this says a lot about you. It does not definitely say if you are a godly person or an ungodly person, for only God knows the heart, mind, and motives in most cases. The Bible is set in agrarian times, while the modern world runs on an industrial and service-oriented scale. Today, some of the Lord’s best people have to spend some Lord’s Days at the factory, hospital, or other businesses that requires 24/7 attention. You do not sin against God if God has called you to a vocation that requires some work on Sundays. After all, I, as a Pastor, work every Sunday! But, if you chose to work on the Lord’s Day simply to make more money, then money, not the Lord, is in control of your life.
The same thing can be said about lesser things, even good things, that are not as good as God. If you uses the Lord’s Day consistently for sleep and rest at the expense of public worship, then, you lazy dog, sleep and rest control your life. If you blow off worship and use the Lord’s Day consistently to play or watch sports, go shopping, etc., for your own pleasure, then your own pleasure, not God’s pleasure, is controlling your life. If you use the Lord’s Day frequently to visit or host family members at the expense of visiting with your local church members in worship, as precious as family is, then family, not God, is in control of your life.
Whoever or whatever controls your Lord’s Day controls your life. Don’t let it be a bunch of bad Pharisees. Don’t let it be a bunch of good family and friends. Don’t let it be yourself. Don’t let it be lesser things. Let it be God. For when God controls your Sunday, whether it be spent with your church or some other divine appointment, God is in control of your life.
GREAT DOUBTS FROM A GREAT MAN
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org