Summary: A defibrillator can’t save someone while it’s in its cabinet. It has to be taken down and operated. In the same way, Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t save a person unless a person makes use of them. A person has to respond to them. There are some 'dos' and 'don'ts'.
In recent years something new has appeared on many high streets: defibrillators. Defibrillators can be life-savers if someone suffers a heart attack. They aren’t only on high streets, of course. I like to do ‘Park Run’ (when it’s happening!) and lots of Park Runs have defibrillators. You often get them in sports centres too.
I read a story in a Devon newspaper about someone who needed a defibrillator. This was in November last year. A man called Andy Hannan collapsed. The article said, ‘He had played a couple of games when his heart and breathing suddenly stopped. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Sue Hutchings, a fellow Stroller who performed CPR and the use of a defibrillator at the sports centre, Andy's heart was restarted.’
This story illustrates what’s going on in today’s passage.
Andy Hannan’s heart and breathing had stopped. Medically, he would be considered dead. The defibrillator enabled his heart to be restarted. He was brought back to life.
We’re approaching Easter. We will remember the fact that Jesus died on the cross and that he rose again. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection have the power to save us from death – forever!
Clearly, a defibrillator can’t save someone while it’s in its cabinet. It has to be taken down and operated.
In the same way, Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t save a person unless a person makes use of them. A person has to respond to them.
In the article I read, a lady called Sue Hutchings helped Andy Hannan after he’d had his heart attack. I don’t suppose that at that moment she was very interested in WHY Andy Hannan had had a heart attack. Nor do I suppose that she was very interested in HOW a defibrillator works. I’m sure all she wanted to know was WHAT SHE HAD TO DO to save Andy Hannan’s life.
Similarly, there are parts of the Bible which tell us WHY we need to be saved. There are parts of the Bible which tell us HOW Jesus’ death and resurrection save us. But at this point in Luke’s gospel, Luke’s focus is on WHAT A PERSON HAS TO DO to be saved.
When I say ‘at this point’ I mean these chapters in Luke, from about Luke 15 to 19. In these chapters Jesus is constantly talking about salvation. It wouldn’t be long before Jesus goes to the cross and takes on himself the punishment for our sins. HE would put the means of salvation in place. But it’s essential that people know what THEY have to do.
Typical operating instruction for a defibrillator are quite simple, but as you might expect, there are some dos and don’ts.
When it comes to responding to Jesus, there are also some dos and don’ts. They aren’t complicated to understand but they might well be difficult to do.
I imagine that all of us know the instructions for salvation and we’ve followed them. But these things are so important that a little refresher course is very worth doing.
So, let’s take a look. In today’s passage we meet four more people, two in a parable and two in real life. Each has something to teach us about the dos and don’ts to find salvation.
Our passage today starts with Jesus’ parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector.
We’ll start by looking at the Pharisee. Carmen read the passage to us so we know how the parable ends. Look at verse 14. Jesus said, ‘I tell you, this man’ – the tax collector – ‘went down to his house justified, rather than the other’ – the Pharisee.
The Pharisee didn’t end up ‘justified.’ In today’s passage there are several terms for salvation. In this parable Jesus uses the word ‘justified’. In the passage about the child, Jesus talks about ‘entering the kingdom of God’. The rich ruler asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life. All these words and phrases mean finding salvation. But I think there’s a particular reason why Jesus uses the word ‘justification’ here. ‘Justification’ is quite a technical word. It means that GOD REGARDS US AS RIGHTEOUS. Some preachers say ‘justified’ means ‘JUST AS IF I’D’ never sinned. That’s correct. But the Pharisee wasn’t justified when he went home. God did not see him as righteous.
The defibrillator wasn’t used properly. He wasn’t saved.
Jesus presents us with the story of the Pharisee to warn us. It’s possible to get things wrong. Where had the Pharisee gone wrong? What was his mistake?
Look at how the Pharisee prayed. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
The Pharisee appears to be a good upright citizen. He doesn’t do lots of bad things and he does quite a few good things. Where did he go wrong?