Monday, July 14, 2008


Jesus certainly knew how to be relevant in His presentation of the Gospel message.

Luke 13:1-5 is a perfect illustration of how our Lord effectively communicated the truth and connected with His listeners. We could learn a thing or two from His approach.

In that passage we discover that He has been teaching a little about His eventual second coming. In verse 1 He responds to a question about a recent happening in Jerusalem--Pilate's brutal killing of some Galilean Jewish worshippers. The popular thinking of the day would lead one to assume that those murdered surely must have been wicked sinners to suffer such a cruel fate. Jesus reacts to that false theology by asserting that the tragedy should not be viewed that way at all. Calamities and catastrophes and illnesses can come to anybody because we live in a fallen world. Indeed, all are sinners and deserve God's wrath and judgement and must repent to avoid dire consequences. The bad stuff that happens all around us and can strike at any time actually serves as a warning that evil will ultimately defeat and destroy us unless we turn to God.

But notice how Jesus takes an inquiry from His audience and uses it as a springboard to convey crucial spiritual insight. His mind was keen and sharp. He was aware of the nagging, critical issues swirling about and was ready in a moment to use them to offer helpful, transformative observations. He was able to not just spout off long doctrinal lectures but to speak persuasively about real events going on in the world around Him and how to view them with a divine perspective. I Peter 3:15 comes to mind here. We need to always be prepared to speak a word about our hopeful faith and how it can make a difference in everyday life. Friends and neighbors will occasionally question us about what the Bible says about some cultural trend or fad. They'll want to know what we believe about some philosophy or a particular recent world crisis. Like our Lord, we must be mentally and spiritually equipped to provide honest, gracious answers and show them how God's workings intersect with the affairs of day-to day living. It's almost like Jesus is doing a press conference here! He's really good on His feet. Focused, thoughtful, incisive.This is a way to take the old, old message of scripure and make it relevant to a contemporary generation.

But our Lord does another creative, mind-opening thing in verse 4. He brings up a current news event Himself.

It's only mentioned here in the New Testament. Had there been a Jerusalem Post in those days it definitely would have reported, in some recent edition, about the construction tragedy involving a collapsed tower in Siloam where 18 workers were killed.There were no newspapers, however. There was no CNN or MSNBC. News still got around, though, and Jesus seized upon this devastating happening to further amplify and highlight His teaching about human suffering, God's will, and the ongoing necessity for repentance. Remember how in school we'd have to cut news items out of the paper and bring them to class to discuss? Well, Jesus was aware of the events taking place in society around Him and used them as tools to get across significant principles. Part of our preparation to be fit, crisp, relevant communicators of the Word will be learning how to see and interpret what's taking place around us in politics and sports and entertainment and science and the arts. That may mean watching the nightly news alongside of studying Romans. That could mean subscribing to Newsweek as well as reading Luke or Galatians. Maybe taking in a movie or a college basketball game every now and then would add to our communicating skills in sharing an evangelistic witness. Being alert to what's going on in our world gives us a wide array of illustrations and pictures for presenting truth. The brand new Hollywood film, Wall-E, offers a terrific launching pad for discussing the perils of empty consumerism and neglectful environmental stewardship and the beauty of relationships, for example.

Never forget, however, that although Jesus was relevant in His presentation of the message He did not compromise in the content of it. In verses 3 and 5 He stresses repentance and talks about perishing. Some of our modern preachers are so concerned about being cutting edge and smooth and popular and successful that they don't talk about sin or the Cross or the blood of Jesus or Hell anymore. That's dangerous. God called us to speak His Word, not be Oprahs.

We'd do well to learn from the master communicator(the Master himself) how best to be relevant!