How Far Does The Light Shine?
I was teaching one of the beginning preaching classes at Dallas Seminary and one of my students refused to learn. In his first sermon, his introduction didn’t capture attention or lead into his first point that was supposed to be based on his assigned text. He read the text, picked up on a few words, and then launched into a presentation of his own ideas. His rhetoric was passionate and captivating, but his message did not clearly present God’s thoughts in the section of God’s Word he was assigned.
When I critiqued his sermon, he hardened in his own approach and refused to see what I was trying to teach him. This conflict went on for the entire semester and at the conclusion of the course I got some of the worst evaluations from this class that I’ve ever received.
Of course the student who constantly contradicted me gave me a bad evaluation, but the students who wanted to learn corrected me. Many said, “You should’ve simply turned away from him when he refused to learn. You spent far too much time trying to get through to the one student who wasn’t ready to learn and neglected us with receptive hearts.”
When Paul and Barnabas returned for their second synagogue session in Antioch of Pisidian, they didn’t make the mistake that I made.
“Now when the next Sabbath came, almost the entire city assembled to hear the Word of the Lord. When the Jewish leaders saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and contradicted what was being presented by Paul, saying it was blasphemy.
Paul and Barnabas responded boldly, ‘It was necessary to speak the Word of God to you first. Since you are forcefully pushing it away and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, take note, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has ordered us to do,
When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and praised the Word of the Lord. And all those who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Acts 13:44-48
Isaiah, the great 8th century Jewish prophet, had already said that it would be too small a thing for the Messiah to only be a light for his own people. He would be a light for the world and when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple and Simeon, a devout old man took the baby in his arms he said the baby would become “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory to your people Israel.”
As Paul demonstrated in the first part of his message in the synagogue the week before, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Their entire biblical history culminated in him; therefore, they had first claim on the promise of salvation and forgiveness. But then they refused to learn and actively contradicted Paul and Barnabas, they didn’t waste time. They turned to the Gentiles with receptive hearts.
LORD, help me rest in the certainty that though many might reject when I share about your Son and his salvation, I can count on the fact that you will sovereignly move others to believe. Help me learn from my mistake in the classroom and pour myself into reaching and teaching receptive hearts.
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