THE GIFT OF THE GOSPEL
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 24, 2017
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, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 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.
— Luke 9:43-45, ESV
The beauty of the Gospels is the way the gospel is woven into their fabric. Sometimes the good news is hidden in an otherwise innocuous narrative. Other times it is hinted at in a parable or hit hard with a miracle. Once in a while, however, it is hashed out in plain language by the Savior Himself.
Luke uses quotes from Jesus to make the gospel most plain in 9:22, again here in 9:44, finally in 18:31-33, and graphically in the concluding story of the betrayal, arrest, trials, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. Yet in every case, even Christ’s closest disciples did not completely understand the gospel until He was gone.
Now that two thousand years have passed, we should be able to make better sense of it. The gospel is the gift of Christ’s life. The gospel is the gift of Christ’s death. And though the gospel is hard to understand, it is easy to accept when accompanied by grace. Consider the gift of the gospel and ask God for His grace to make it your own, or grant you the assurance that it already is.
The gospel is the gift of Christ’s life.
Jesus came to earth as the majestic presence of God and the simple son of man. He is deity and humanity all wrapped together in one only begotten Son. His birth was accompanied by angels and farm animals. His life was observed with shouts of joy and the silence of fear. His public ministry attracted those who wanted to make Him king and those who wanted to kill Him dead. The Son of God was beloved, but the Son of Man was despised. At the end of the day, however, the God-man was God’s gift to all men.
The first glimpse we get of Jesus in this plain rendering of the gospel is “the majesty of God.” Jesus had displayed this to His inner circle up on the mountain. He flashed His deity again after coming down from the mountain in another instance of miraculous healing and deliverance. It was obvious to all that there was no one like Jesus, and Jesus was like no one else. He was, is, and always will be God.
It is safe to say at this point that Jesus’ life was safe. People saw Him, for the most part, as a gift from God. His followers were ready to rumble. They wanted to take on Rome and make Jesus the new king. They wanted to overrule the religious rulers and make Jesus the chief rabbi. They wanted Jesus to live and they wanted to live with Him in some kind of earthly kingdom, right then and there.
Then, Jesus spoiled the party by speaking of the purpose for which He came to live on earth. The gift of Christ’s life is actually the gift of Christ’s death. This was, and still is, hard to understand.
The gospel is the gift of Christ’s death.
To His thickheaded disciples, Jesus plainly spoke of Himself as a gift about to be “delivered.” The word is very familiar (found 119 times in the New Testament), intimate (it speaks of activity between family, friends, or close associates), and literally means to come along side and give. Luke uses it positively, as in the introduction to his Gospel when he claims he is giving the good news which “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered … to us” (ref. Luke 1:2). He also uses it negatively, like here and in 22:22 (where the word is translated betrayed). Either way, Jesus is a gift to be given, in life and in death.
Like many of you, we have a Christmas tradition in which one member of the family, usually the youngest, gets to take gifts from under the tree, walk up beside the recipient, and deliver the gift. This is the idea presented by Jesus of Himself as a present, hand delivered. But whose “hands” delivered Him?
“The hands of men” would include Judas, one of the twelve. I suppose the other eleven would be culpable, too, since they tucked their tails and ran out on Jesus when the chips were down. The washed hands of Pontius Pilate should be included, too, along with the soiled, self-righteous hands of the Pharisees and Sadducees. While we are at it, we should all pull out our own hands and take a look at them.
Of course, the unseen hand of God guided Jesus from the cradle to the cross. And, had Jesus not put His own hands on the gospel plow, He would never have planted Himself at the cross. In life Jesus was God and man. In death Jesus was God’s gift to man.
A grumpy group of shoppers crammed into a mall elevator on Christmas Eve. After numerous complaints, one spoke up and said, “Whoever invented Christmas ought to be arrested, convicted, and hung from the highest tree.” Then, someone else spoke up and said, “He was.”
This is hard to understand. Isaiah tried to explain it seven centuries before Christ was born. Simeon saw it shortly after Christ was born. But with all the angels rejoicing and all the people marveling it was hard for the disciples to let it “sink into their ears” that the gift of Christ’ life was actually the gift of Christ’s death.
This is the gospel, straight out. Even spoken plainly, it is hard to understand. But the real question is, do you accept it?
The gospel is hard to understand, but easy to accept.
The disciples found the gospel hard to understand because “they were afraid to ask Him” questions. Fear God but never be afraid of God. He loves you and is eager to hear your questions, no matter how small or serious. And nothing is more serious than the gospel.
It is hard to understand how one person could be both God and man. But this is the gospel, the life of Jesus Christ. He is eternal in His existence, yet born of the virgin Mary in His first advent. He lives, He lived, He lives again, and one day you will see Him, live.
It is hard to understand how someone as divine and loving as Jesus could die, much less be killed, much less be crucified on an old, rugged cross. It is further hard to understand how His perfect life could provide a sacrificial death that makes me perfect and perfectly forgiven before God. He died, He died for me, and in His death I die to sin, its power, its punishment, and one day its presence.
It is hard to understand the gift of the gospel, but easy to accept when accompanied by the gift of sovereign grace (ref. Luke 10:22).
One will never understand the gospel if they deny either the deity or humanity of Jesus Christ. One will never understand the gospel if they deny the holiness of God and His holy hatred of sin. One will never understand the gospel if they do not see their own hands on the hammer and nails that put Jesus on the cross. One will never understand the gospel if they see all religions as equal, or no religion as necessary, or the Christian religion as a means of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.
As a matter of fact, no one can really understand the gospel at all. It is, in the words of the Apostle Paul, the gospel gives “peace that passes understanding” (ref. Philippians 4:7). But many have accepted peace with God through the gospel, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. “Let these words sink into your ears.”
Copyright © 2017 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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