Tuesday, December 23, 2003

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Luke's Picture of Jesus:
The Savior of the World

The Blackhawk Down Story

The Somalis called it Ma-allinti Rangers-"The Day of the Rangers"; the US Army Rangers stationed in Somalia called it, "The Battle of the Black Sea"-referring to the part of the city of Mogadishu that they fought in. No matter what you call it, it was one bloody day.

The objective was to capture a slippery warlord named Mohammed Farrah Aidid. Word came down on a Sunday afternoon, the 3rd of October 1993, that two of Aidid's aids were meeting in the Olympic Hotel, right in the heart of the city, on Halwadig Road.

Mogadishu is not like most cities; most streets are not paved, and don't be impressed by a name like the Olympic Hotel. It's a crumbling old three-story building-about as high as any building in the city-that was built when the Italians ruled Somalia, back when Mussolini ruled Italy.

Mike Durant was on one of the first Black Hawk helicopters that went out. He and the other Americans-both Army Rangers and Delta Force-were itching to hit at Aidid, who had in effect declared war on them, while they were there, at first at least, just to make sure food supplies actually got to the common people. Back in June, Aidid's men hit and killed some American and Pakistani forces; since then, US forces had nabbed dozens of Aidid's men in raids just like this one.

That mission would turn from a 30-minute drop and snatch operation into a 24-hour nightmare. First one then a second Black Hawk-the one piloted by Durant-went down. An attack turned into a rescue operation-small groups of America soldiers pinned down in the middle of a hostile city, where women and even children carried dreaded RPGs-rocket propelled grenades-to strike at US forces.

One of the pilots, Bill Cleveland, died soon after his Black Hawk crashed. With everyone on his craft either dead or scattered for safety, angry Somalis converged on the craft and dragged his corpse through the streets of the city-a sight that soon showed up on CNN for a world audience to see.

Again and again, in that bloody two-day nightmare, men put their lives on the retrieve the bodies of fallen comrades. The code of the Rangers-Leave No Man Behind-was tested to the extreme. In the end, every man, living and dead, was extracted from Mogadishu-including that of Bill Cleveland.

As for Mike Durant, he was captured and held for 11 days, released after the US government announced that US forces would be leaving Somalia.

The War on Terrorism has reminded us that heroism is real, and that common people are capable of uncommon valor. The last few years have seen a spate of war movies depicting real events and real courage: Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers and yes, a movie version of the Battle of the Black Sea: Black Hawk Down.

All told, 18 Americans would die. 74 would be wounded-out of a total contingent of 750.

It is remarkable the number of men killed and wounded in the effort to extract the men on the fallen Black Hawks. Nearly as many died in the relief operation than in the initial crashes. Men like Sgt. Cornell Houston, Spec. James Cavaco, Pfc. Richard Kowaleski, Sgt. Lorenzo Ruiz, Master Sgt. Tim Martin, Sgt. Dominic Pilla, Sgt. Casey Joyce and Pfc. James Martin. All died to rescue the fallen, to extract the survivors, to leave no man behind.

Which brings me to an odd word.

There is a word that you'll only ever hear in church. That to me makes it a suspect word-if the only place we hear it is in a church, do people really understand it? Do I understand it?

It's a word you'll no doubt recognize from the Christmas story (Luke 2:10-11):

10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

The suspect word is "Savior." It's a church word. People give their story, their testimony, and speak of when they "accepted
Jesus as my Lord and Savior."

The Black Hawk Down story reminds me of the teeth of the term. The cost of being a savior. The blood shed to save. Savior is not a term for wimps.

The Slippery title: "Savior"

Savior is kind of a slippery word.

I heard Lee Stroebel use the term Forgiver in the place of Savior. I like that-it's nice and clear. But we rarely think of forgiving as being a costly operation. Savior is more than that…

Another term I've heard to define Savior is Deliverer. That's closer-it gives some sense of the danger involved in the act of saving, and of the danger that the saved were facing. But "Deliverer" is still an uncommon, unclear term. And Savior means more than that…

Another term: Rescuer. That's even better-as you get the sense of mutual danger. The men who were shot down in Mogadishu were in danger, and rescuing them was dangerous. But Savior is even more than that…

In the language of the New Testament, Greek, the word for Savior is Soter. That term was often given to national Heroes, especially conquerors or those who defeated a great enemy. Rescuer! But there is no idea of personal danger in the way that the Greeks used the term.

So I am forced, by the witness of Scripture, to change just one thing-something very much in line with the pain of the Battle of the Black Sea. I think of the Savior as the bloodied rescuer. Like the men of the Rangers and Delta Force, this Savior rescues-but at a bloody price.
This Peculiar Man, Simeon

In these four weeks leading up to Christmas, we've seen that each of the four gospels have four distinct images or pictures of Jesus:

Matthew: the King

Mark: the Servant

Luke: the Savior (this week)

John: the Word made flesh (next week)
There is a peculiar story about a peculiar man that opens up the theme of Jesus as Savior in Luke. It's recorded right after the story of Jesus' birth.

Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary, even though they were from Nazareth way up north in Galilee, stayed on in Bethlehem for quite a while-perhaps as long as two years. Following Jewish law and custom, Jesus was circumcised and formally named on the eighth day after His birth. The law goes on to require that an offering be made at the temple 40 days after the birth of a son. The offering required was a lamb and a dove, or two pigeon doves if you were too poor. They offered the poor folks' offering. Joseph and Mary walk the short six miles to Jerusalem to carry out the law.

The man (Luke 2:25-27a)

While they were "minding their business," doing their duty under the law of Israel, Luke tell us about a peculiar man named Simeon:

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.

We know absolutely nothing about Simeon apart for what Luke says here. Picture this man, evidently an old man, who lived a life focused on God and His ways. God had whispered to Him that He would live to see the dawn of the age of the Messiah, the Christ. One day, led by the Spirit, he is within the temple courts. The place is as busy as it always was, filled with all kinds of people from places far and near. But Simeon spies one little family, a couple and a baby, and zeros in on them. The Spirit of God cries out in His heart: There He is-the Messiah! Go speak to them!

The boy and the prayer (2:27b-32)

I imagine that Simeon sees them, and with glistening eyes, he asks if he could hold the baby. See what happens next, vs. 27b-32:

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

"My eyes have seen your salvation…prepared in the sight of all people…a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

That's a mouthful. What God had showed old Simeon was that This Child was God's salvation-the Redeemer-the Savior. That this was not a secret, then or in the future. That this message would go out to the nations, the Gentiles and that this child would be the chief glory of the people of Israel.

Now, says, Simeon, now I can die happy, because I've seen the Messiah, just as God promised.

There's a couple of striking things in what Simeon says. He doesn't say, "I've seen the one who's going to save"; instead, it's even stronger: looking at the baby Jesus, he says, "My eyes have seen your salvation." The other is that Simeon realized that Jesus' mission wouldn't just be for Israel; as a good student of the Old Testament, he knows that God's plan has always been worldwide in scope.

The parents and a prophecy (2:33-35)

Now that's all pretty good, but remember what I said about the Biblical idea of Savior always having a bloody edge to it? Listen then to the words he says next (vs. 33-35):

33The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

There's a shadow over the glory now. The Savior's coming causes some to fall-and others to rise. He'll be spoken against-the thoughts of human hearts will be revealed, and it won't all be pretty. And one last word, just to Mary: "And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Mary was Luke's own source. She vividly remembered these words over 60 years later when Luke interviewed her for his gospel. The ministry of Jesus had split society in Israel in two: some for Him, some against. The evil the hearts of the religious and secular authorities that sought His death was revealed. And Mary's soul had indeed been pierced, as she had watched the hands and feet of her Son pierced by the nails of the cross.

That's Why They Call Him Savior

But by that death, His mission was secured. The human race had crashed and burned in a sea of sin and rebellion. Jesus entered the battle to save us, and in the process He perished as well. But in His death, He won life for anyone who'll believe.

The Savior theme is the main image of Jesus in Luke.

In Luke 1:69, Jesus' uncle Zecharias' sings a song of praise after becoming the father of John. Speaking of Jesus, he calls Him "horn of salvation." That may sound weird to us, but to a 1st century BC Jew, the horn was a symbol-like the horn of an animal is used to attack and defend. Imagine two angry rams fighting! See, I told you that "savior" is a battle word!
One of the most interesting uses of the term "salvation" is found in Luke 19. It's the story of Zacchaeus-the height-challenged, feisty, Napoleonic-complex head tax collector. (Just think Danny DeVito). Jesus, on his way into Jericho sees this comic figure of a short man in a sycamore-fig tree, up there so he could see over the heads of the other people in the crowd. Jesus spots him, and I'm sure had a chuckle and said, "Hey you, Zacchaeus, get down here. I'm staying at your house today!"
And so he does, and Zacchaeus says to Jesus, "Lord look, I know I've been a real rat. So I want you to know that I'm changing my ways. Right now, I'm cutting a check for half of all my assets and it's going to the Jericho Rescue Mission. I have an accountant downstairs right now, and we're looking up all the people I've ripped off over the years, and we're sending them rebates worth four times what we ripped off."

And do you know what Jesus said?

Luke 19:9:

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

In other words, mission accomplished. Zacchaeus had been a downed man. His life had been all about power and greed. He was a tough little guy, part Jimmy Cagne, part Don Corleone, part Tony Soprano, but now life had changed because of the successful rescue mission of Jesus, the Savior.

Zacchaeus had been a physical descendant of Abraham, but that day became a faith-descendant of Abraham, and that's what counts-not pedigree but faith.

Why the "Son of Man" came: another take (19:10)

Then Jesus said something that should sound familiar if you were here last week (vs. 10):

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Last week, looking in Mark, we came across Jesus' words in Mark 10:45:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Here we have Jesus again calling Himself the Son of Man, and in slightly different words tell us why He came. In Mark, He comes to serve, and give His life. In Luke, He comes to seek and save the lost. Again, Mark pictures Jesus as servant; Luke as Savior (bloody rescuer, remember!).

I'm glad that Jesus came to "seek and save what was lost." That means I can be on the list.

Many of you here were raised in the church, and so your experience of being lost isn't perhaps as strong as many others. Your knowledge of sin is pretty tame. But others here are more from the Zacchaeus mold. I know, I've spoken to you. You did drugs and slept around and broke the law so much that the police all knew you by name.

And you know better than a lot of other people that Jesus came into a real hellhole for you. You were being shot to pieces, and a little while longer you may not have even lived. But Jesus came in and when He did, He took a bullet for you. His blood flowed down the cross and into the street and became a stream of clear water, cleansing water, and by the grace of God, you jumped in and were washed clean, and brand new, Zacchaeus kind of start.

That rescue mission is what the word Savior is all about. That rescue mission is what Christmas is all about.

Who's Lost? And How do You get Found?

And you can be rescued too. No matter what, He will leave no man, no woman, no boy or girl behind. Just ask Him to rescue you. You can pray like this,

Lord Jesus, I need you. I'm trapped in my own sin. I've broken God's law. Please rescue me; forgive me! Thank You for dying on the cross for me. Thank You for loving me that much. Thank you for rising from the dead. I accept you as My Master and my Rescuer, and I will follow You with all my hearts as long as I live. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

© Copyright 2002, Pastor Glenn Layne, www.templecitybaptist.org

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