Category Archives: John

John 21

Title: What are we doing?

Text: John 21.1-14

CIT: Peter and the disciples just experienced the resurrection of Jesus. Having been commissioned, how did they respond?

CIS: After meeting Jesus through his appearances, the disciples did not take the world by storm. Instead, they reverted back to their previous practices.

Introduction: Max Lucado tells a wonderful story about a time when he went fishing as a little boy. He and his father and his best friend were caught in a bad storm and never got to fish. What Max Discovered was when men Who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.

Transition: we see a little of that this morning in John chapter 21. I’ve divided the chapter into four separate parts:

  • Men who are called to fish
  • Miracle by the sea
  • More than a meal
  • The true cost of ministry

Transition: let’s begin with this first section entitled: men who are called to fish.

1.     Men who are called to fish (1-3)

exp.: rd v 1-3; many scholars are harshly critical of Peter and the disciples; have they abandoned what they’ve just experienced in chapter 20? Are they returning to their previous vocation? I mean, these guys have to eat. They probably need to make some money.

I’d like to build on this idea of what men who are called to fish do when they don’t do what they’re supposed to be doing. I’ve entitled it: When men who are called to fish don’t fish they:

  • Do other things to fill the time; v 3; I don’t know if Peter was doing something he loves it it works you simply trying to raise some funds because he needed to make some money.
  • Are easily distracted; v 3; this is the Lord calling from the shore and they don’t even recognize him. I think there are some good explanations for this – I’ll cover this morning the moment.
  • Get bored; v 3; I’ve heard it said that the worst day fishing is better than the best day working. But really, fishing can be boring when you are not catching anything not even getting a bite.

app.:Best we can tell, these guys were not doing what they were supposed to be doing.

Transition: when men who are called don’t fish, they usually get in trouble. Enter Jesus… and the miracle by the sea.

2.     Miracle by the sea (4-14)

exp.: this next section is really divided into two parts:

  1. They meet Jesus but don’t recognize him and
  2. They recognize him and move ashore

Let’s look at the first section in verse 4-8; note:

  • It was at daybreak v 4
  • They were about 100 yards offshore v 8
  • Sound carries across the water
  • Children; Craig Keener suggests that this Word is commonly used by John and that the disciple should have recognized Jesus when he called out. However, others note that this word translated children is a colloquial expression; Lads; Sup, Boys?

It isn’t until Jesus tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat that John recognizes the Lord and so tells Peter; and so Peter responds accordingly. He takes his outer garment and wraps around him. And he dives into the water and swims to shore.  The men follow along behind him in the boat dragging the net for fish.

Read v. 9-12a;

ill.: I’m sure this is nothing like I imagine. My experiences are formed around camping trips and special outings. I’m sure this was more common for them than it is for us; However, I’m sure it was special because it was with whom they were having breakfast. Rd v12b-14;

app.: I think the few minutes they had with Jesus was so very precious to them. And, it would become more precious to them as they would reflect on that time through the years.

Transition: …especially for John. So we see what happens when men who are called the fish don’t fish and we see the encounter that these men have with Christ through verse 14. Now we will see that they will experience more than a meal.

3.     More than a Meal: (15-18)

exp.: read verse 15; Andreas Kostenberger suggests three possibilities:

  1. Does Peter love Jesus more than he loves these men?
  2. Does Peter love Jesus more than these men love Jesus?
  3. Does Peter love Jesus more than he loves these fish– That is, his profession?

Really, in one sense, all three are true: Peter must love Jesus more than he loves people, more than he loves his profession, and he must be dedicated to Christ and willing to surrender every part of his life to Christ beyond what anyone else would do. Remember Peter had already said: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33)

However, having failed Jesus before, I can fully understand the pain he must have experienced. Can you, too? Should he ask you this morning, if you truly love him, would your mind drift back to a time of failure? Brokenhearted, Peter responded: yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Funny thing: Jesus asked Peter Do you agape me? But Peter responded you know I phileo you. It was as if Peter was not able to rise to the level that Jesus was asking. Maybe he’s thinking: After all my failures I just see how frail I truly am and I know I can only have this deep affection for you.

Rd v 16; asked again, this time with no comparisons; Do you really love me? The answer is the same – not an unconditional love. I don’t think this is bad; I think Peter is just being honest because he knows where he truly stands based on his past action.

ill.: Be honest: think about your own life. Have you loved Jesus unfailingly?

Rd v17; A third time he is asked, But this time Jesus changes his word from agape to phileo. Peter was ‘grieved’ because Jesus has asked a third time. I love his answer; Lord, You know all things – You know that I love you. In this moment, Peter loves Christ with all he can muster, but he knows it is a limited love, limited by human desires and passions. It is limited by failure, frustrations and human fatigue.

app.: And then something incredible happens:

Transition: we see what happens when men who are called to fish don’t fish, we’ve seen the meal and the miracle. Finally we’ll see what ministry costs us…

4.     Ministry unto the Lord Costs (18-25)

exp.: rd v 18-19; In the two sections here, John follows A similar pattern: first he tells us what Jesus says and then second, He explains to us what he means.

  1. That Peter is going to suffer for Christ. And, Peter will one day be martyred. Rd v 20-22;
  2. Peter is told not to be concerned about John. Peter was to be strictly concerned with his own life before Christ. Many assumed by what Jesus said that John would live until Christ’s return. But John clarifies once again what Jesus meant in verse 23;

John ends this passage by declaring who he is and that what he’s done and he is limited here by nature.

Transition: this passage raises some valid questions for me. Let me ask them and then you decide if it applies to you.

Observations & Implications: please remember, these questions were formulated out of my own, personal introspection.

  1. Why must I always be so concerned about others and their walk and service, and yet be so neglectful of my own? Martha, Martha, Martha. Luke 10
  2. Why is it I don’t ask myself why I spend so much time doing other things – filling my time with lots of action, but neglect the commission I’ve been given? I participate in good ministries and yet somehow I neglect to share Christ in that work.
  3. Do I communicate to Christ that I love my profession more than him because I spend more time working on my profession? Do I communicate to Christ that I love people more than I love him because I spend more time and energy on them?  Am I really lying to myself and deceiving myself by keeping busy in ministry and not fulfilling the real purpose behind ministry?
  4. Why is it that I do not accurately calculate the cost to myself and to those around me when considering the great commission as it applies to my life?  Maybe I do and that’s why I don’t share? Maybe I just don’t care? Or maybe, just maybe, I am more concerned about my job – making money, retirement, etc.  professions, or my people (I.e.: me and my four and no more).
  5. I’m going to carry this water to the desert and stop this hauling water to the sea. John chapter 20 found the disciples excited over the resurrection of Jesus and taking the message of the resurrection to their own. After being commissioned by Christ we do not see them taking this message to a lost world. I wonder if we are John chapter 20 Christians? I wonder if today we find ourselves still taking the message to other believers I’m not lost world. Are we hauling water to the sea?
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John 20.24-31

Title: Unbelievable!

Text: John 20.24-31

CIT: Mary and the disciples are commissioned to go and tell. This involves sharing with other disciples. Thomas, however, refuses to believe without seeing and touching Jesus. Jesus meets him at his need.

CIS: We’ve been commissioned and tasked with going and telling, too.

Introduction: Last week I ended the message and presented my conclusion. My son, Stephen, who was down here visiting for Mother’s Day, asked why I didn’t address the last verse. I thought I did, so I asked Lisa and she confirmed Stephen’s thinking. You see, the last verse is a tough verse to understand. To recap: last week we looked at verses 19-23; and in that passage, Jesus confirms who he is by displaying his wounds. Then, he commissions them to go. That really was the whole message. What I wanted to do, but apparently failed to do was to show that Jesus was now through. His job done, he would soon return to the father. He told them this from the beginning. He would return to the Father and he would send the Holy Spirit to continue the work. With Jesus now leaving, he commissions his disciples to take this message of hope to the lost world. They would do the communicating, but the Holy Spirit would do the convicting.

I think we sometimes forget that and try to do the convicting part ourselves. But that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Let me pull this all together. It’s the evening of resurrection day. Jesus does something that we see is a reference to what he’s been teaching them. Not just in John 7, but continually – they would one day receive the Holy Spirit. He’s saying that a transition is occurring – things are changing. All that Christ has been trying to teach them is now coming to pass. Shortly they’ll receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they will be his witnesses throughout the world. We see him issuing this commission: he says, this commissioning is based on His authority in the following statement; rd v 23;

This isn’t sacerdotalism (big word!). That’s the power of the priest. But we have a message of forgiveness. That’s it! Jesus is sending these disciples and he sends us, too with a message of forgiveness. People will accept this message and people will reject this message. You offer forgiveness to those who receive it and you withhold forgiveness from those who reject it. An unrepentant person doesn’t have the forgiveness extended to them. That’s what that means. Don’t read attitude into it. Oh, yeah! You reject Christ! Well, He rejects you! NO, NO, NO. Remember – you communicate the gospel. The Holy Spirit does the convicting.

Transition: Interestingly enough, we meet someone who does just that. His name is Thomas and he refuses to believe. Disbelief is what this next passage is all about. I’ve divided the passage into three parts:

  • The Reality of Disbelief
  • The Remedy for Disbelief
  • The Reaction against Disbelief

Let’s begin with the 1st section: The Reality of Disbelief. Look at v 24;

1.     The Reality of Disbelief (24-25)

exp.: rd v 24; He was out, he wasn’t even there; Lots of people have reasons for missing out. When I was a young man, I hated missing church. It seemed every Sunday, something wonderful happened. I hated hearing about it – I always wanted to be there to experience it first hand.

Who knows why Thomas was out? Some have reasoned that he was afraid, but I don’t think so. John is the only writter who records any of Thomas’ words. He speaks in John 11 and says: 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That’s pretty bold – on the same level as Peter, who pulled his sword to defend the Lord. Whatever the reason for his absence doesn’t matter. The disciples who did see Jesus share with him; rd v 25; The Greek uses a double negative; οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω; But he doesn’t believe it – and with good reason; rd 26a; 8 days later; I wonder how many times the disciples tried to explain what happened to Thomas? Rd 26b; Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas (was) with them. Same situation, only this time Thomas is in the room. Rd 26c; Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” He’s just there and says: Hey! Then something really cool happens: he addresses Thomas; rd 27;

ill.: You know what? Sometimes, people who desire an intellectual leaning, struggle with the supernatural. As a matter of fact, you present the facts of the resurrection and they come up with another theory. As a young man I loved The Resurrection Factor, because the book takes you on a journey of intellectual discovery. Josh McDowell does a great job of presenting the various theories raised as alternatives to the resurrection and then ripping them apart.

But you know what? It’s ok that people struggle with the resurrection. That’s ok. Jesus knows and he’ll meet them where they are. He’ll give them just what they need.

app.: Here’s what I want you to take away from this:

  • You have no power or control over anyone else. Your job isn’t to make people believe.
  • You have the power and control over praying and presenting the truth. That’s it. You present the truth with your words and the actions to affirm your words. Your job is to simply tell them. The decision is theirs!
  • They’re not rejecting you, but rather the Gospel.

Transition: You just keep praying and presenting the truth. That’s what Jesus does here – he presents himself (The Truth) to Thomas; He’s the remedy for disbelief;

2.     The Remedy for Disbelief (27-29)

exp.: Look back at v 26c; He’s just there and says: Hey! Then something really cool happens: he addresses Thomas; rd 27-29; I think it’s interesting that Thomas doesn’t have to touch the wounds of Jesus. It seems he feels foolish, but makes an astounding claim: my Lord and my God. Thomas becomes part of a select group of people: Mary, Peter, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, The disciples who had gathered in the room. Paul says to the Corinthians, and to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive when he wrote that letter. But I’m most impressed with John, who was the 1st to believe without having seen the risen Lord.

Today, we’re more like John. We’ve not been granted this privilege of seeing him face to face – at least not yet. Today, we journey by faith, not by sight or smell, not by hearing or touching. We’re presented the evidence and called to believe, to trust, to faith.

Many years have passed between Thomas’ moment of clarity and John’s spilling of ink. John first witnessed it as a young man – probably, somewhere in his late teens. Born sometime early in that 1st century, he’s living in the last part of that century. There have been other records of Christ’s life, but John feels the need to accurately journal his own, personal experience of Christ’s life. And, he tells us why in the next couple of verses…

Transition: I wonder what it is like for John in this moment. I imagine he puts down his quill and covers his ink. He has had a long life, filled with ministry to others. His nickname has changed with the passing of time: John, the beloved; John, the apostle; John, the elder. Soon after he passes, he will be called John, the revelator. All of his friends are now long gone. Each has suffered a martyr’s death, because they believed this very message. Indeed, John is exiled to Patmos for his crime related to this message. I guess he’s just too old to put to death. I wonder what thoughts cross his mind as he listens to the sounds of the sea and the wind. Going is no longer an option as a prisoner. So, like Paul, he picks up his quill to write again.

In this passage we have The Reality of Disbelief: an example in Thomas, The Remedy for Disbelief: an encounter with the risen Christ, and finally…

3.     The Reaction against Disbelief (17.1c)

exp.: rd v 30; If you recall, there were seven (7) signs John recorded over the past 20 chapters. He makes it clear that he only mentions these few. Down in the next chapter he’ll write: Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Now look at v 31; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. The purpose wasn’t to record everything Jesus ever said or did – the purpose is for you and me to believe Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing, you and I might have eternal life.

app.: Concerning the reaction against disbelief, there is an interesting connection between this great commission and this gospel message – the actual going and extending forgiveness. These are two components of your life. You have this Gospel message, but it means nothing if it’s not shared. It’s like love – love isn’t really love until it’s given away. On the one hand, you have been sent – commissioned, but going means nothing if you go and withhold this vital information. Sure, you can go and serve: feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and the dying. These are all noble and worthy causes for your time. But if you say nothing, what eternal good have you done?

On the other hand, the message alone can be invalidated when presented without love. I wonder if the world sometimes responds to our message as: Oh, and I can see it’s done so much for you! It’s amazing to me to think that most instances in my life, where people have surrendered their lives to Christ – those instances have been born out of turmoil, struggle and loss. It’s within these instances, circumstances and situations of need that people are drawn to Christ. How can we present a message of compassion without compassion? How can we present a message of love, without love? How can we present a message of hope, without any hope? How can we present a message of forgiveness, without forgiveness? We must be more than salesman, ladies and gentlemen – we must be satisfied customers, too.

Transition: Have you ever wondered why Jesus only appeared after his resurrection to the disciples? Wouldn’t it have been pretty effective to appear to Annas and Caiaphas? Or maybe Pilate and Herod? My guess is that they still would not have believed – as in keeping with their actions, they would have explained it all away – just like they did with the empty tomb. Abraham and Lazarus; No, Jesus chose instead to appear to those who loved him – to entrust to them this message of forgiveness and hope.

 

Take-a-ways:

  1. Think through your presentation of the gospel.
    1. With whom now are you sharing? Pray for that person or those people by name.
    2. Is your message coupled with your service to them?
    3. Is your service coupled with your message of hope and forgiveness?
  2. Thing now about success: how do you measure that?
    1. Remember: you cannot control others; you can only can control you! \
    2. Success is sharing. Are you doing that regularly?
  3. Invitation

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John 20.19-23

Title: Even so I am sending you

Text: John 20.19-23

CIT: As with Mary, Jesus commissions the disciples with a message of forgiveness.

CIS: We have that same mandate – a message of reconciliation.

 

Introduction: rd v 19a; On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, I wonder what that day was like. It started pretty early with Mary’s report. John and Peter ran to the tomb. Surely their report, coupled with Mary’s would have set off a firestorm. Every single disciple would have made his (or her) way to investigate. Every disciple! I can’t possibly imagine someone in their position not going. Sure, they were afraid; rd 19b (the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews). But, still, they’d do what Peter and John did. I just can’t imagine it being enough just to hear. For sure, each man there would have risked their fears to satisfy their curiosity. The day would have been filled with the story of Christ’s disappearance and Mary’s explanation. One by one or in groups of two or three, they would have ventured over to see what had happened as they heard about it. According to Luke version of the resurrection and appearances, and Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 15.3, Peter had also seen the Lord. Remember it’s night now and the disciples on the road to Emmaus have run back and added their story to the drama being played out. Some have seen Christ, some have seen the empty tomb and others are just confused by it all.

Enter Jesus. He just appears. No open windows or doors to come through. He is just… there! I’m sure the room fell silent as he stands there. Voices dropping as the room falls silent. Rd v 19c; Shalom, he says. He must have known what they were thinking – that they were seeing a ghost. So to alleviate their fears, he shows them his hands and his side. So what does he do first: He confirms that it really is Him. I say this because v 20 says they rejoiced to see it. rd v 20; Kara – Joy in verb form. So, first he confirms.

What’s the message John records here? All these years later, as John, Christendom’s patriarch in the church reflecting back to his teen years – his early adult years, what’s the 1st thing he says to them? He says hello again and then, rd v 21: As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.; Most literally, this verse is translated: Just as (in the same manner, in the same way) the father has commissioned me (you see, the word for sent is the same word we get “apostle” from, which means sent with a commission)

Let that sink in for just a moment: Just as the father has commissioned me, I am also sending you.

  • The 1st words to this group – who’ve been walking with him for a few years now and who know him so well…
  • The 1st words to this group – those who’ve been hiding out of fear for the last couple of days because of his death…
  • The 1st words these people hear – those who experienced his faithfulness to his Father’s commissioning;
  • his 1st words are: Just as the father has commissioned me I also send you.

So the first action of Jesus is to confirm that it really is him, they’re not seeing a ghost. And the 2nd action he takes is to commission them.

So, what does it mean to be commissioned? I think for us, the commissioning is seen in our Savior’s next action; Rd v 22;

  1. He breathes on them. Gen 2.7: then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. So, he breathes on them, I suppose you would say in a symbolic gesture and says to them:
  2. Receive the Holy Spirit. Now, they won’t receive the Holy Spirit until Acts 2; however, Turn to John 7.37; 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Ill.: The Feast of Tabernacles/Booths – This morning would shape up like any of the other mornings. It was the seventh day of the festival. This morning the men rise early and get moving. There is a massive wave of men moving to three different places. The first is to the Temple were the sacrifices for the day will be lifted up.

This is a huge undertaking. There will be no less than 446 priests and an equal number of Levites to conduct this sacrificial ceremony. It is huge and these men are excited as they make their way to the appointed positions that they will take up. The only days that are different are the first two and the last. These days take on a restful, reflective Sabbath day.

These sacrifices began at the beginning of the Festival with 13 different sacrifices taking place. I believe they were all bulls being offered. It will conclude this day with the smallest number of bulls being sacrificed: seven.

What would it be like, if we could be one of their number? Women, and children, if you could stand on the rooftop and catch a bird’s eye view? What would we see? What would we hear?

This huge number of men and their teenage sons leaving their ‘booths’ at daybreak. The are all decked out in festive array. In the right hand of each man is a set of branches. This set of branches consists of one myrtle, one palm and one willow branch, with the palm-branch in betwixt the other two. This is the Lulabh. IN the right hand, another branch, some sort of citrus branch. It is called the Ethrog. Now, this second branch was a point of controversy with the Sadducees.

Thus armed, with the Lulabh in the right and the Ethrog in the left hand, this massive army of men would make their way to three different areas in Jerusalem. As they moved along they would divide into three different groups.

The first group moved to the Temple area where the fire sacrifices would be offered up. They would remain there for the Morning Sacrifices. Another band would make its way in procession below Jerusalem to a place called “Moza”. This road is referred to by scholars as the road they think lead to Emmaus, where Jesus met two disciples after his resurrection. Here, these men would cut down willow branches and adorn the altar while the priests blew on their “shafar”. This would create a leafy canopy over the altar.

A third company of men would move in a processional from the group left at the Morning Sacrifice. These men would follow a Priest who had a golden pitcher, holding about two pints. Onwards the processional would go, led by the Priest. He would make his way to the Pool of Siloam, fed by a living spring. This Pool of Siloam is the same pool mentioned in Nehemiah 2:14: The King’s Pool. King Hezekiah had it built it because he wanted to divert water and protect their water supply from those who were trying to conquer Jerusalem. Here at this same pool the Priest would dip his golden pitcher into the waters and fill it. Then the whole group would return with the priest, timing it so that they would arrive just as the parts of the animal were being laid out for the morning sacrifice. A trumpet sound (three times) would mark the arrival of the Priest and his entourage. He would enter through the “water gate,” so named for the ceremony. He would pass through the Court of Priests. Here, another Priest who carried the wine for the drink offering would join him. These two men would ascend the altar. There were two silver funnels which led down to the base of the altar: One for the wine, the other for the water. As the priest would pour the water, the men would yell louder and louder to raise his hands and not miss the funnel.

This rose to become a tradition by the time Jesus had come onto the scene. It seems that at some point in the past there was a Priest named Alexander Jannaus. He was in favor of the Sadducees who had a point of contention about the water-pouring ordinance as given by Moses. In protest, he poured it out on the ground before he got to the funnel. All the men saw it and began pelting him with whatever they could pick up. He survived, but a riot ensued and as many as 6,000 men were killed in the fights.

And so the men would join in the yelling and screaming to the priest to raise his arms to ensure he didn’t spill any of the water-offering. The Pharisees, who were the more conservative – legalistic group, won out and by the time of Jesus, the men would make this an exciting, loud part of the festivities.

After pouring the water into the funnels, the great ‘Hallel,’ consisting of Psalm 113 to 118 would be chanted by the hundreds, maybe thousands of men who filled that area. It was like responsive reading, only on a much larger scale. The Levites would sing or chant the first line of each Psalm and the people would repeat it. While to the other lines the people would respond with the “Hallelu Yah!”- Praise the Lord!

When they got to Ps 118, the people not only repeated the 1st line, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” They would also say vs 25: “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”

While they chanted, they would shake these branches, the Lulabh – as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the past – a reality of their current praise and a reminder to God for his promises. Keep this in mind now. With these cries of praise and hope from the crowd, it was quickly followed by the sacrificial offering of the animal, the drink-offerings, and by the Psalm of the day, which, on the last day is Psalm 82:5; They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

The Psalm was, of course, chanted, as always, to instrumental accompaniment, and at the end of each of its three sections the Priests blew a threefold blast, while the people bowed down in worship. In further symbolism of this Feast, as pointing to the ingathering of the heathen nations, the public services closed with a procession round the Altar by the Priests, who chanted “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”

But on ‘the last, the Great Day of the Feast,’ this procession of Priests made the circuit of the altar, not only once, but seven times, as if they were once again encompassing, but now with prayer, the Gentile Jericho which barred their possession of the promised land. Hence the seventh or last day of the Feast was also called that of ‘the Great Hosanna.’ As the people left the Temple, they saluted the altar with words of thanks, and on the last day of the Feast they shook off the leaves on the willow-branches round the altar, and beat their palm-branches to pieces. On the same afternoon the ‘booths’ were dismantled, and the Feast ended.

It is with all this activity going on that ‘On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! 38The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”’

Explanation: Notice in this passage the invitation: Come. All who are thirsty! The water being poured out. Note 2nd, the declaration: Believe! Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Psalm 118.19-27a; People are getting all worked up about this water being poured into these funnels and He let’s out this cry of hope for them. The one who can save them is standing right there in their midst! Now, back in John 7.39, John explains just what Jesus means – this living water is the Spirit given to us!

Transition: Let me pull this all together. It’s the evening of resurrection day. Jesus does something that we see is a reference to what he’s been teaching them. Not just in John 7, but continually – they would one day receive the Holy Spirit. He’s saying that A transition is occurring – things are changing. All that Christ has been trying to teach them is now coming to pass. Shortly they’ll receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they will be his witnesses throughout the world. We see him issuing this commission: he says, I’m giving them his authority in the following statement; rd v 23;

Transition: Oh how I wish we could see the importance of forgiveness. How many people suffer each day because they don’t know what forgiveness means. They don’t know how to forgive someone else; they don’t know how to forgive themselves. I think it is so interesting how often Jesus would say: your sins are forgiven. Really, all he needed to say was you are healed, Or your site is restored, or rise and walk. But notice he told them what they needed to hear, “your sins are forgiven.” How often does unforgiveness paralyze us? How often does unforgiveness make us ill as we bottle up the anger, resentment and bitterness?

Observations & Implications: Do you remember that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation: reconciling lost men to God? Us, being reconciled to fellow man? This means going and being restored in our relationships. But even more so, it means restoring the fractured relationship between God and man. Jesus has commissioned you to go. He has commissioned you to go and extend forgiveness to those who need it. And that can only come through the shed blood of Jesus. So my guess this morning is that there are three types of people here today:

  1. First, those who desire to be forgiven. Maybe today, someone here just wants to be forgiven. Have you ever thought to yourself:” I just wish that I could go back and change those things or that thing!” Well, you don’t have to! That’s already been taken care of and that sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. Reconciliation today might be with God and that comes through forgiveness. My guess is someone here today desires to be forgiven. Is that person you?
    1. For the first time
    2. For something you need to repent of…like not being faithful to the great commission.
  2. Second, those who need to extend forgiveness to someone else.Have you been hurt? Has someone done something to you that’s caused a root of bitterness to rise up or maybe anger? I wonder if the person who hurt you even knows? And if they do maybe they think it’s behind you guys. Don’t let that cancer eat away your soul. But instead forgive that person today.
  3. Third, those who need to ask someone for forgiveness. You know you’ve hurt someone or you sense the relationship has suffered recently because of your actions. This is so hard to do… but will you respond as the Lord has been dealing with your heart.

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John 20.11-18

Title: Mary Magdalene

Text: John 20.11-1

Introduction: In an article Mindy Belz @ World Magazine – Dr. Jerry Umanos moved his family to the war-torn province of Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago. Lawndale was devastated by the riots of 1968 and never really fully recovered economically. He wanted a ministry that mattered. So he and his wife and their three children lived in this low-income area of the city. For 25 years Dr. Umanos served the less fortunate.

Seven years ago, he felt a calling to serve those who needed desperate help – the people of Kabul, Afghanistan. Many times, after putting in a long week in Chicago, he would board a plane and fly the 20+ hours to Kabul, where he would serve the needy. He would become so frustrated at the loss of a baby being born full-term, but dying from some preventable cause; Or a baby being born with some deformity. If only these women could get the prenatal vitamins these babies needed! As a pediatrician, he would care for the children. He said he wanted to go to Afghanistan because, “it was the most dangerous place to be born.”

Dr. Umanos would travel to Afghanistan and stay in the hospital’s guest house for visiting Doctors. He kept a stationary bike there to get exercise, because exercise outside of the hospital’s compound was just too dangerous. Dr. Umanos was a part of the missions team that traveled up into the surrounding mountains to help those who couldn’t travel to the city. In 2010, he helped supervise a group of medical teams doing mission work in the mountains. You probably remember the last team in that group being gunned down by members of the Taliban. Dr. Umanos lost some good friends that day. Namely, Dr. Tom Little, a missionary Doctor for 40 to Afghanistan. And yet, he continued to go.

This past week, Dr. Umanos and two other doctors were working there at the hospital in Kabul, when a police man, serving as their security guard, opened fire on them, killing all three.

Transition: This begs the question: Why? Why does someone like Dr. Umanos continue to go when he knows how dangerous it is? When he has known others there with him have been killed?

We begin a new sermon series this morning:

The Lord’s Prayer (January)

The Lord’s Passion culminating in the Resurrection last week (February-April)

The Lord’s Purpose – We’ll see the reason he came and the great commission he’s given us.

Luke 19.10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

John 20.21: As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.

We begin our study of the Lord’s Purpose in John 20.11 with a look at Mary. I think we’ll find some of the answers we’re looking for in this story; rd v 11; Mary

  1. Her distraught at the loss of Christ. (11-15)
  2. Her joy at finding him. (16-17)
  3. Her obedience in his orders to go and tell. (18)

To begin with, I’d like to look at what we know about her.

–       Because of her name.

–       Because of her place in Scripture.

–       Some fallacies passed down through time.

Look 1st at Her Name, as a way of introduction to this passage: rd v 11a;

Defined – Mary – lit.: maria; a derivative of Miriam, the sister of Moses.

Shared – there are 7 different women who share the name Mary, unless two references are the same woman. Let me list them for you quickly. This list will be posted on the website in the morning. Just go to the tab “The Pastor’s Teaching” under “The Pastor’s Heart”

  1. Mary – the mother of Jesus
  2. Mary – the mother of James and Joseph, one of the group at the cross and amongst the women who followed Jesus
  3. Mary – the wife of Clopas. She is often understood to be the same Mary as the mother of James and Joseph. (Jn 19.25) I think it’s highly possible that #2 & #3 are the same Mary.
  4. Mary – the mother of John Mark, in whose home the church at Jerusalem met. Acts 12.12
  5. Mary – a woman mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans (16).
  6. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus; Mary of Bethany. John 11; She is often confused with Mary Madalene. Who is actually the 7th
  7. Mary Magdalene; What do we know about her?
    1. Magdalene refers to the village she was from; the town of Magdala which, according to the Talmud, lay about a twenty minutes’ walk from Tiberias on the west side of the Lake of Gennesaret, which we know as the Sea of Galilee. The city of Tiberias is actually mentioned 3x’s in John (6.1, 6.23; 21.1).
    2. She is listed 1st in every listing of the women disciples who followed Jesus (Matt. 27:55–56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40–41, 47; 16:1; Luke 8:2–3; 24:10). This gives her prominence amongst these ladies.

i.     We mostly only here about these women at the resurrection, but Luke lets us know that these women were with Christ throughout his ministry. Luke 8.1-3;

ii.     Jesus cast out 7 demons from Mary. Hence, her devotion to him.

iii.     Mary is listed among the women who supported Christ’s ministry out of their abundant means. So, she must have been wealthy.

  1. Question: Why the confusion between the two (Mary from Bethany & Mary from Magdala)?

i.     The related stories are from Luke 7.36-50 & John 12.1-7.

ii.     I think they’re two different stories.

  1. One is earlier in Jesus’ ministry and the other is in his last week.
  2. The woman, however, mentioned in Luke 7.36-50 isn’t given a name; She is probably mentioned in the subsequent chapter; 8.1-3; Mary of Bethany, according to John 12, performs a similar act of worship and devotion.
  3. The woman in Lk 7 is most probably known as a harlot. She finds forgiveness in this episode. Mary, on the hand, is acting out in a different manner.
  4. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala, not from Bethany.
  5. Summary:
    1. Two similar, and yet very different stories. These are not two different versions of the same story.
    2. Two different women, from different towns.
    3. Different reasons for their actions.
    4. Different Locations, Different times (early ministry/late ministry).
    5. It’s possible that Luke 7 represents a 3rd, unnamed woman, but the context of Luke 8, makes me think that Mary Magdalene is that woman. John, very clearly identifies the woman of John 12 as Martha and Lazarus’ sister.

Just a couple of other notes concerning Mary Magdalene:

  1. Mary is curiously absent from the rest of the NT:

i.     Even in Acts 1.14;

ii.     Of those who witnessed the resurrection in 1 Cor 15.

  1. Contrary to popular myth today, Mary was not married to Jesus. The Da Vinci Code and a recent ‘discovery’ of another gospel fragment implies that Jesus had a wife and at least one child. Simply put: that is heresy.

Let’s look at our text today and see what John tells us.

  1. Mary is distraught at the loss of Christ.

exp.: Rd Jn 20.11-15; Stop for a moment. Do you realize the state Mary is in? So distraught is she, that she is missing the angels and Christ standing before her. Here is a woman, who is once again so focused on her Lord that she’s not really seeing those around her – as spectacular as all of that is!

This has bothered me this week – this little part of the story has bothered me this week. It’s made me ask this question:

  1. Fred, what would you be like if someone took your Jesus away from you? Would you care? Would it turn your world upside down? I’m afraid of the real answer! I fear that there would be no difference.
  2. Can I ask you that question? What would you be like if someone took your Jesus away from you? Would you care? Would it turn your world upside down?
  3. Let me ask us another question: When was the last time you or I didn’t care what others thought about our devotion to Christ? For You: That your passion and your worship and your devotion was so great, that you’d risk everything to be at his feet? She thinks he’s dead – and still, the only place she wants to be is where he is! And here she is again, ready to pour out what she has on his dead body?
  4. When was the last time I was willing to be considered a fool for Christ? What happens to us ladies and gentlemen? Where does the reckless abandon go? A sinner in this world, someone who has been a harlot – scorned and made fun of in public, but used and abused in private – finds the forgiveness she’s needed. She doesn’t feel dirty anymore, because he’s considered her clean and pure. He doesn’t want her for selfish motives; Christ truly values her as a person. There’s something about a person who is first cleansed and saved! What happens to us, that we lose that? We get church broke and realize that we’re not supposed to act that way anymore! When was the last time I didn’t care what someone else thought of my foolishness for Christ? And when was the last time you didn’t care what others thought of your foolishness.
  1. Mary is overjoyed at finding Christ

exp.: Read v 16a; v 1 & v 11 are Μαρία; But v 16 is Μαριάμ! Rd v 16b; There he is! No one has taken him! He’s Alive! Rd v 17; Do not cling to me; 39x’s in the NT – almost all is the word touch. Sometimes, it is translated light – as in light a fire or light a lamp. In 1 Cor 7.1 – Now concerning marriage, this word is translated sexual relations. Paul uses the word touch or light a fire, a euphemism for the relationship between a man and a woman. At this moment, I think Jesus is saying to Mary – and to us, the relationship you’ve had with me as Master, Teacher, Rabboni and Disciple, learner, one who sits at my feet is going to be different from now on. Don’t cling to me… The relationship dynamic is changing. Christ has put into play a plan that includes the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He’s taught her and all of the disciples about this. We read of it in Jn 14-16; John 16.13 – Guide you in all truth. And then he gives her, her marching orders.

  1. Mary is obedient to the commission of Christ.

exp.: According to this passage and the 1st three Synoptic gospels, Mary is now…

  • The 1st commissioned evangelist. We see this specifically in v 18;

o   She went – the past tense of go; obedience; Matthew 28.10 Jesus tells her to ‘go’; she’s commissioned with a task; Go and tell;

o   She announced – ἀγγέλλω; This word appears only here in the NT; In the other scores of times it appears, it is usually in compound form; The most popular is Eu-angello; Good Message; The word from which we evangelism; The noun form of this word means ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’; Hense, the 1st evangelist;

o   What was her message? Rd v 18; This is what happened! He’s alive!

Transition: Mary’s commission has been no different than ours; Here we see three parts to our Great Commission:

1.  Go: we’ve been commanded to go. Mt 28.10 – go, v 19, having gone; ‘as you go’; You will be my witnesses

2.  Proclaim: Simply tell others what has happened to you. Tell them you met a man who changed your life!

3.  Responses: not only was she the 1st commissioned to go and tell, but Luke tells us that they thought it an idle tale, and they didn’t believe! Lk 24.10: Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 But… these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

– Rejection: Some will think your story is an idle tale.

– Acceptance: We see these folks eventually understood and believed. These people eventually did – once they had an opportunity to evaluate everything.

– The results are not up to you – only the going and telling part; only the obedience part.

Transition: Mary’s story is an incredible one. If she is the woman of Luke 7.36-50, then her story is one of beauty and forgiveness. Thank you Luke for sharing that part of the story. If not, we still know that Christ chose her to be the first one to see him and the first one to go and tell. All 4 gospels make that clear.

Conclusion:

Why did Christ pick Mary to be the 1st to fulfill his purpose? I wonder if it had anything to do with her personality – the part about not caring what others thought of her foolishness! I wonder if it was simply her love and devotion to him was so great, she’d risk everything?

It makes me think about Dr. Umanos, who died this past week in Afghanistan; who was risking it all, not caring about what others thought even 25 years ago. His passion and devotion for Christ moved his life.

 

So, what are some Observations & Implications:

  1. Sharing the Gospel is risky business. Here or around the world.
  2. Sharing the Gospel is not an option. It’s a command, in spite of the risks.
  3. Your life experience gives you a unique opportunity with certain people. Your testimony will connect with them. Mine won’t. That’s why you’ve been sent! How are you doing with that?
  4. What’s holding you back from, 1st – going and 2nd, sharing? You need to nail that down and repent of it this morning.
  5. When was the last time you were considered a fool for Christ? That your public behavior caused others to be uncomfortable? Maybe, just maybe, Christ chose Mary Magdalene to be his 1st evangelist because she was the one who more than anyone else, would take the risk! What are you and I willing to risk – not for them, for Christ – to tell them what they need to know?
  6. What are you waiting for?

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John 20.1-10

Title: What do you see?

Text: John 20.1-10

CIT: Mary, Peter and John saw the resurrection at different levels.

CIS: What level of ‘seeing’ do you observe Easter?

Introduction:

Psalm 22.1-18; This is simply amazing when one considers that it was written 1000 years before Christ and 300 years before crucifixion would be invented. This Crucifixion was…

  • An event that shook the world – literally, the earth shook. The veil of the Temple was torn in two and graves were opened. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Mt 27.51–54).
  • An event that shook the disciples. The last three years or more – gone, wasted with nothing to show for it. They sat in an upper room shamed and afraid, with nothing to think about but their desertion and denial.

Transition: and here is where we find them as the tomb is sealed and guarded. Here is where we find them as the lifeless body of Jesus lays on a cold slab in cave carved out of the rock. They are defeated and hopeless.

In John 20.1, John picks up the story. Rd 20.1; Mary appears to be the leader of these women who are followers of Christ. This current sermon series has been all about the characters we’ve met on the way to the Cross. And, I’ll follow up on that next week and in the weeks to come in May. However, today, I’d like to not focus so much on her story, but rather on this particular story: the story of the risen Christ.

The other gospels tell us of the other women who’ve come with her. It appears that John omits them, but not really; rd v 2; note the we. Surely he knew about them because he was familiar with the other gospels; they (the gospels) had been around for years – decades even.  There is Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mark tells us that Salome was also present. According to Matthew, she is the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. Luke also includes another woman named Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza (Xouzas), the manager of Herod’s household. We know this because Luke tells us in 8.1-3: Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Read John 20.1 again, while it was still dark. Very early in the morning, getting there while it’s dawn. She sees that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. This is the 1st of 4 times this word ‘saw’ will appear in our passage (1,5,6,8). What is interesting to note, is that it is a different word in the Greek 3 our 4 times: One word in English, three different words in the Greek. Here in v 1, the Gk word is βλέπω: and it means simple observation – seeing something. I share more on that later in this passage. Our focus for the moment is what these women saw: that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. The Gk word is αἴρω. In English, we use 5 words to translate it: had been taken away from. The English doesn’t do this word justice. We see this word used other times like in Matthew 4, where Jesus said:  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Or,  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Or, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Or, Mark tells us: And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. John uses this word in Chapter 11 when Jesus tells the people to ‘take’ away the stone. Verse 41 says: So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

αἴρω:Stone lifted up and away; This adds to the intrigue of the stone being ‘rolled away’! It was rolled up and away. It was lifted up! These women saw the stone lifted up and moved out of the way. Sure, it was early, but they could see there were no soldiers and the stone was rolled up and away from the entrance. So they take off in the direction of the where the disciples are hiding out. Rd v 2; same word here – αἴρω; you could translate it: they have carried away the Lord. Rd v 3-4; This makes sense because of their ages. Hughes says that Linebackers like Peter are only good for the first 50 yards! I think it might be something to do with their ages! Consider running from here to Fresh or Stuart’s. Tyler Sarna and I race. Who are you gonna put your money on? The young man! Rd v 5; He stops, He stoops, He sees something. This is the 2nd time we see the “Saw” in this passage. Mary saw the stone rolled up and away. John now sees the linen clothes lying there, but he doesn’t go in. Smart kid.

This word ‘saw’ is the same word used in v 2 to describe Mary’s action. βλέπω: saw – simple observation – simply seeing something.

Ill.: Let me demonstrate it this way: You ‘saw’ βλέπω, many sights on your way to church this morning: buildings, cars, signs. Let’s pick cars. My guess is you saw a lot of cars on your way in; However, you probably can’t list a single liscense plate on any of those cars, other than your own.

App.: Mary and John have made a simple observation with their eyes.

But now Peter shows up; rd v 6-7; this is the 3rd time we see this word ‘saw’; this word is different than the other two. It’s the word: θεωρέω: lit.: to be a spectator; This is the word from which we get theater. I’ll never forget our Youth intern for the Summer named Wayne. I asked him his major and he said: Theater. Not Thee-ahter. This word means a much closer observation – to be attentive to what your observing.

Ill.: if you were paying attention to some liscence plates on the way into worship this morning, you might have noticed a personalized plate. XLR8 or maybe DR. DAN.

App.: Mary saw the stone rolled away. No mention of missing soldiers or the evidence that they had been there for the last three days. John saw linen cloths, but no mention of the other details. Like with Peter. Look at some observations he makes: 1st, the linen clothes lying there; 2nd, he sees the head cloth folded neatly by itself; This probably needs a little explanation:

History has taught us that the Egyptians embalmed their dead. And the Greeks and Romans cremated their dead. Ever seen Troy? Or some other epic where the Greek or Roman tradition was to build a platform, place two coins over the eye sockets and set the platform on fire? Sometimes you’ll see them do all the same, but in a boat and send it out to sea… Anyway, the Jewish custom of burial was very different. The dead were wrapped with spices tightly around the body, with the head being exposed. A turban was then placed around the head. Rd 11.44; What’s interesting to me about the original language here is that in v 7, the word ‘folded up’ is a participle. A participle usually shows action. Run vs. Running. This is a perfect passive ptc. Meaning, it’s in a present state because of a past action. Rodger Fredrickson states it this way in the Preacher’s Commentary on John: “Still in the folds” is the Greek phrase. Even the head cloths are separated from the rest of the garments. It is as if the dead one had simply stepped out into life. So, the grave cloths just went flat, with their original folds all still in place. But for some reason, Jesus (or maybe an angel), folds the turban that had covered his head. I don’t know this, but I would wager a guess that there is something in the tradition being spoken to us by the folded head turban. I could be wrong, just guessing. There’s probably something in the traditions of men that we don’t know about.

Ill.: Like: I can’t remember where I was, but I was dining once. I’m pretty sure I was a guest. Whoever was with me told me to take my cloth napkin and place it in my lap. That was a signal for the server that I was ready for dinner to begin. When I was done, I was to place my napkin on the plate, indicating that I was done. That’s what this says to me.  You thought the grave was the end, but no, now that I’m risen, I’m officially done.

But wait, there is still another ‘saw’ I want you to see. Rd v 8;

  • Βλέπω – simply seeing something
  • Θεωρέω – observing something with more detail
  • εἶδον: to see and understand; To percieve something when seeing it; To see something and become aware of it. He εἶδον and he believed. He percieved the body was gone by sight and believed it was raised and alive. The only reason the stone was rolled away was so that they would know!

Hughes has a comical explanation of how he pretends this is played out between Peter and John. Peter observes the tomb and it’s state. John observes and comprehends what has taken place. “Peter, don’t you see it? No one has done anything with the body. It’s gone right through the grave clothes! Jesus is risen! He’s risen! He’s alive! The only reason the stone is gone is so we can see that Jesus is gone. Praise God! Let’s go! Last one home washes the feet!”

He then finishes this portion of his sermon with a wonderful illustration, that I’m going to steal, because it’s just so good: R. W. Dale’s biographer tells us that the great British Congregational minister had long been a distinguished leader in Christendom and was well on in life when one day, while writing an Easter sermon:

The thought of the risen Lord broke in upon him as it had never done before. “Christ is alive,” I said to myself; “alive!” and then I paused—“alive!” and then I paused again; “alive!” Can that really be true? Living as really as I myself am? I got up and walked about repeating “Christ is living!” “Christ is living!”… It was to me a new discovery. I thought that all along I had believed it; but not until that moment did I feel sure about it. I then said, “My people shall know it; I shall preach about it again and again until they believe it as I do now.”… Then began the custom of singing in Carr’s Lane on every Sunday morning an Easter hymn.

I wonder if that’s what hit John like a breeze unexpected, blowing his hair and thin beard back! Wham! He’s risen! He’s alive!

Transition: Ladies and Gentlemen, He is Alive! He’s not dead, He’s Alive! I know you’ve heard that before. I know you’ve sung that before. But I wonder if you’ve ever really comprehended it – ever wrapped your intellect around that truth.

Today, how do you ‘see’ the resurrection?

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord.

  1. Is your attendance here today just that – attendance? Do you see the resurrection through simple observation? Oh, wow, there’s an empty tomb.

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior, vainly the seal the dead, Jesus My Lord.

  1. Or, Is your perception, what you’re seeing of the resurrection more like you’re watching a Broadway play? You’re a spectator, taking in what you’re seeing?

Death cannot keeps it’s prey, Jesus my Savior, He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.

  1. Or, Do you see and truly understand that a man was killed upon a cross. His heart stopped beating. His lungs stopped breathing. His lifeless body stopped moving. He was hastily prepared for burial and placed in a tomb and sealed in there with a giant boulder. Then,

Up from the Grave he arose. With a mighty Triumph o’re his foes. He arose a victor from the Dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He Arose! Hallelujah Christ Arose!

Christ the Lord is Risen today.

Observations & Implications: It all has to do with perspective…

  1. In the light of our momentary problems, God is still on his throne.
  2. In one moment the disciples went from doom and gloom to a thrill of joy. And that moment came in what they saw and how they saw it. Perspective: It changes everything.

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John 19.38-42

Title: Joseph of Arimathea

Text: John 19.38-42

Introduction: This week Wendy Baker and Jamie Warren shared their dream of a ‘school’ to help kids with learning differences. There story is wonderful, and yet pained me because I was reminded of the many kids who are mistreated because of their difficulties. They’re different and so they’re demeaned and bullied.

John Ortberg: In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg tells of a young man named John Gilbert. At age five, John was diagnosed with Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy: a genetic, progressive, debilitating disease. At the age of 25, the disease finally claimed John’s life.

Every year John lost something. One year, he lost the ability to run, so he couldn’t play sports with the other kids. Another year he could no longer walk straight, so all he could do was watch others play. He lost the ability to do all the outward things that we think of that make us human. Eventually, he even lost the ability to speak.

John Gilbert suffered far more than what most of us can imagine during those years. Groups of students humiliated him because of his condition and because he had to bring a trained dog to school to help him. A bully used to torture him in the lunchroom where there were no supervising teachers. No one ever stood up for him; maybe they were afraid for themselves; who knows?

“What a silly species we are,” John writes. “We all need to feel accepted ourselves, but we constantly reject others.” (from PreachingToday.com)

Transition: Why is that? Why do we fear others or desire the acceptance of others? What are we afraid of? Today we look closely at a man who acted out of fear. That is, until at one moment, there was something greater than fear that motivated him.

Today we’ll simply read the text and deduce, as best we can from that text, what kind of man Joseph of Arimathea was.  We begin in v 38; Rd v 38a; After these things. Review: We’ve been studying different Characters on the way to the Cross: Judas, Peter, Annas, Caiaphas, The Sanhedrin, Pilate and Barabbas. All of these men have played a part in the story of our Savior’s death. Jesus was betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. Then, the Jews perpetrated two mock trials and a third trial they would consider as Legit. They wanted Christ to die a humiliating death. Stoning him wasn’t enough. It’s something to hate someone so much you want them dead. It’s another thing to hate them so much that you’d orchestrated a publicly humiliating death. His death was planned by God since the beginning – a plan to substitute the innocent for the guilty. Barabbas represents that person in us. His death was ours.

At this point, Jesus hangs dead on the cross. Much of the blood on his body has dried and crusted. But there is blood still dripping from his body because one of the soldiers took his javelin, his spear and thrust it into his side, pushing up to the heart. Jesus hangs alone. His disciples have fled – their worlds upended. All that they had dreamed of is gone. The Jews smile a crooked smile, turn and walk away. But there is one from among them – one from their own group whose face is distorted from pain. He makes his way back to the place where Christ was condemned – the governor’s palace. Who is this man? Rd 38b-c; After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus,

The only point I have this morning is this: Joseph of Arimathea was…

  1.  A Disciple of Christ (10-13)

exp.: So, what do we know about this disciple? Well, we know he was from

1.   Arimathea: a village we know absolutely nothing about. Some scholars think it was apparently situated on the Judean hills in the tribal area of Benjamin. From Arimathea, his plan is to be buried near his home now – Jerusalem. I wonder if his purchase of a tomb tells us he’s old or maybe widowed. Maybe he lost a child and needed a family sepulcher. We don’t know. 2ndly, we see his devotion is from a distance. Rd v 38;

2.   Secretly – I’ve pretty much always been taught that there are no secret admirers of Christ. But I’ve learned through the years that is not true.

ill.: Son of Hamas; Mosab Hassan Yousef; Met a British Missionary who shared Christ with him. He spent the next two years studying and gradually coming to a place of belief and trust. It would be 6 years before he would be baptized.

app.: I wonder if our ‘easy beliveism’ has made wimpy Christians in America? What would it be like for us if it costs us greatly – if we had to admire Christ secretly before publicly acknowledging Christ as Savior? So why the secrecy for Joseph? Rd 38c; for fear of the Jews

  • He was afraid: Fear – specifically, of the Jews. This was common for the people who wanted to follow Christ or simply learn more about him; 7.13; Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. And we see the disciples, in the hours and days after the crucifixion, while Jesus was in the grave and shortly after his resurrection, hiding for fear of the Jews; 20.19;

t.s.: I think there’s another reason for his secrecy;

  • He was wealthy: Matthew 27.57: When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. His wealth explains his ownership of this nice tomb, but it might indicate more about his secrecy. Following Jesus offends people. And, depending on what your goods are, people who are offended will often shop elsewhere.

–   Maybe they’re offended. They feel betrayed. To them, you’re now an apostate – an infidel. (Anger)

–   Maybe they just don’t want to see their old friend – it’s too awkward.

ill.: As a pastor, I’ve stopped shopping at businesses where former members work. It’s not that I want them to fail economically! It just hurts too bad to see them. (Hurt)

–   Maybe, they fear the Jews, too, and they know the consequences for supporting their old friend. (Fear)

t.s.: Mark gives us another clue to his secret discipleship: Mark 15.42-4342 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Secretly cont.:

–    He was a council member: That’s why I painted this picture in the beginning with one of the Sanhedrin, not smiling wily. No, I don’t know if he was really there or not. I’ve only imagined it for our story line. But, what we do know is that he hears about it somewhere, somehow.

–   He is a ‘respected’ council member: He not only holds a position of importance, but there is an air of prestige about this membership. Here’s a man who secretly has been a follower of Christ. Because of the secrecy, he’s given nothing to Christ publicly. What can he give now? What would you give a dead man?He gives him a tomb – which BTW: he’ll only need for a few days! Rd v 43

–     He is bold – lit.: he dared to ask. Most of the time this verse is translated dare. As in: No one dared ask him more questions. This verse tells us his secret is no longer important to him.

ill.: I think we put value on issues and plans and dreams and position and prestige. We act in compliance with that value. We act in compliance with that value until something else becomes more important. This happened to Joseph and he’s no longer concerned with his money, his position in the council, his prestige as a respected Jew. Now, Christ is more important.

app.: If you’re a public follower of Christ, then this has happened to you. Something happened to cause you to say that you don’t care what it costs you – you’re going to follow Jesus. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important to you than Jesus. You don’t care who knows and you don’t care anymore what they think.

Transition: We read in Scripture that he was from Arimathea, A disciple from a distance, and that he was

3.  Good and Righteous; and we get this from Luke (23.50) Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God.

1.   Proverbs 2.9 tells us that these two characteristics adorn the wise.

2.   Furthermore, the Scripture tells us that he did not consent to their decision, nor their action. Maybe he wasn’t there at 1st. Maybe he was and chose not to speak up. In any instance, he did not give consent to the decision, nor to their actions.

app.: I’m so glad we meet Joseph. It offers up hope that there were men who served as a part of the Sanhedrin who saw through the wicked actions of the leadership; men who were good men, righteous men in the actions and deeds. Indeed, in the following verse we meet Nicodemus, who appears to be a man cut from the same cloth as Joseph.

Conclusion:

Do you remember John Gilbert, the young man I mentioned in the intro? He had other moments in his life that weren’t so bad. Moments that were quite wonderful, actually. Once he was invited to a National Football League fundraising auction. When it began, one item in particular caught John’s eye: a basketball signed by the players of the Sacramento Kings professional team. John so desperately wanted that ball that when it came up for bid, he felt his hand raise up in the air. Not having the funds to participate, John’s mother quickly brought it back down.

They watched the bidding go up and up and up. It rose to an astounding amount compared to the value of the ball and especially compared to other items at the auction. Finally, a man made a bid that no one else could possibly match, and he won the prize.

The man walked to the front and claimed the basketball. But instead of going back to his seat, the man walked across the room and gently placed it into the thin, small hands of the boy who had desired it so strongly. The man put that ball into hands that would never dribble a ball down a court, never throw it to a teammate, never shoot a shot from the charity strip. But those hands would cherish that for as long as they lived.

John writes, “It took me a moment to realize what the man had done. I remember hearing gasps all around the room, then thunderous applause and weeping eyes. To this day I’m amazed. Have you ever been given a gift that you could have never gotten for yourself? Has anyone ever sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return except the joy of giving?”

A gift of great value, beyond what we could ever purchase for ourselves: that is what Jesus did when he died on a cross, was buried in Joseph’s tomb, and rose again on the 3rd day. He has given us the gift of eternal life. And he offers that gift to you.

Invitation: Do you want that gift? Do you want it so bad, you’d simply slip your hand into the air, like John did? I offer you Christ today, will you receive him?

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John 19.1-37

Title: The Soldiers of Pilate

Text: John 19.1-37

Introduction:

When my cousin Jeffery was murdered, I remember watching the news on the local stations. There was video and reporting – just like so many other homicides reported on. But this one was different. This one was someone I knew and loved. I told myself that I’d never forget that when I see a news report of someone being murdered or dying in some sort of accident; That was somebody’s son – husband, friend.

I guess, to be honest, as the years have passed, I’ve reverted back to the callousness that pads the emotions. Oh, it still effects me, but not like when I first experienced it. I wonder if we’ve grown calloused to the death of Christ. And, not just his death, but also the way he died. We forget the trials, the mistreatment. We forget the hours that passed. We forget the people involved. We become desensitized to the suffering of Christ.

I wonder if not only us, but those who were closest to the execution were calloused to the pain they were inflicting. I’m talking about the soldiers who were tasked with the responsibility of punishing and executing Christ.

I’ve been working my way through the gospel of John this year. I started in January with the Lord’s Prayer and have been looking at Christ’s suffering over the past two months. Really, I’m focusing on characters on the way to the cross. Today, we’ll focus on The Soldiers. In John 19, you’ll find them listed as not only the soldiers, but also with the pronoun: They.  3; 16; 18; 23; 24; 29; 33; 37.

 

Two notes about the soldiers.

–       Please understand, not every They is referring to the soldiers, so I’ll be careful to point that out.

–       These soldiers are not of the Temple Guard. These soldiers are Roman.

As we look at the soldiers, I’ve divided this message up into three parts:

  1.      Their Responsibility
  2.      Their Ridicule
  3.      Their Reaction

Transition: Let’s look first at their responsibilities

   1.   Their Responsibilities:The soldiers impose the punishment

exp.: rd v 1; Pilate rendered the verdict; the soldiers imposed the punishment.

  • They flogged him (1)

ill.: we spoke about this last week, so please bear with me a bit as we review for those who missed: to flog someone meant to discipline them; Heb 12.6: For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. Hughes tells us:Many died from it, and others went mad. Ancient authorities as diverse as Eusebius, Josephus, and Cicero relate that scourging normally meant a flaying to the bone. Eusebius tells of martyrs who “were torn by scourges down to deep-seated veins and arteries, so that the hidden contents of the recesses of their bodies, their entrails and organs were exposed to sight.”M.S. Mills in The Life of Christ: A study guide to the Gospel record says that there were 6 soldiers, each with a flagel or what is commonly called today A Cat of Nine Tails. Jesus would have been tied to either a column, with his hands above his head or to a stake, where he would have been down on his knees, his arms out in front of him. These six soldiers would have taken turns whipping Jesus, one swing at a time. This way the whipping would be applied to the back and the chest. The flagel’s tail would often strike the face, sometimes knocking out teeth and, on occasion, even an eye. The victim was invariably reduced to a bloody mass of quivering flesh, with virtually all strength drained from his body.

t.s.: so, we begin to see the number of soldiers involved. Maybe too many, because next we see them mocking Jesus.

   2.   Their Ridicule:The soldiers mock Jesus

exp.: rd v 2-3;

  •      Mt 27.27 & Mk 15.16: mocked him before a whole battalion

exp.: now, Pilate brings him out in the ‘mocked state’; rd v 4-5; I mentioned when we looked at Pilate that I don’t think Pilate was joining in on the mocking. I wonder if he was appealing to the compassion of the crowd. I wonder if he thought they’d agree with Pilate’s verdict of: I find no guilt in him. The soldiers have had their fun at Christ’s expense, but Pilate might be able to use this to gain compassion for Christ. That’s just my assumption.

app.: So we’ve read that they flogged him and they’ve mocked him, we even see him paraded around in this kingly outfit.

t.s.: We’ve looked at their responsibility to flog and scourge him and how they mocked and made fun of him. Now, we’ll return to their responsibilities. After Pilate tries to release Christ and is unable to do so, he turns Christ over to the soldiers to impose the punishment rendered in the verdict – crucify him.

  1.   Their Responsibilities:The soldiers impose the punishment

exp.: we’ve already seen their responsibility to carry out the punishment of flogging Christ. Now, as they continue their responsibilities,

  • They flogged him (1)
  • Rd v 16a; Pilate delivers him over to the soldiers – not the Jews. Rd 16b; lit.: They took charge of Jesus; They took him to the hill of Golgotha; the via dolorosa; he was marched through the streets out of the city; this would be humiliating, but this isn’t the soldiers mocking – this is them doing their job. Rd v 17; he left the governor’s quarters, and carried this large piece of wood on his back. Scholars believe it weighed as much as a hundred pounds. Barclay says that it was customary to parade the condemned throughout the streets, taking the longest way, so as to be seen by the most people. Somewhere along the way, we know Christ collapsed under the beneath the weight of all he’s endured. Mt, Mk & Lk tell us about this moment: 26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Mark tells us that he is the father of Rufus and Alexander. We read about Rufus in Paul’s letter to the Romans, which is where Peter mentored Mark. Once this processional arrived at the hill, these soldiers would have laid Jesus down on this large piece of wood and driven a large spike through each wrist and crucified him.
  • They crucified him (16-23a; 18; 23); v. 23 clarifies that it is the soldiers, not the Jews who crucify Christ. It is their responsibility. Hughes: At the place of execution Christ was laid upon the patibulum. Quickly spikes were driven through his hands or wrists, and then the crossbar was hoisted into place. His legs dangled until they were nailed, leaving only enough flex in the knees so he could begin the horrible up and down motion necessary to keep breathing.

ill.: we could spend some time now discussing the excruciating pain and suffering Christ endured. We could list the medical aspects of his misery. As we move each week toward Easter, I’d encourage you to study this. For now, we’ve seen enough and heard enough to know or at least be reminded of Christ’s suffering.

app.: So the soldiers have done their duty. They’re actually not done, but as the minutes pass into hours, they begin to act like their bored. Rd v 23-24;

t.s.: And so we come to another of their moments of ridicule…

   2.   Their Ridicule:The soldiers mock Jesus

exp.: So, we’ve seen them mock him, mistreat him before an entire battalion. Now, Let me paint this picture for you: as he hangs on the cross dying, in your minds eye, as your above the cross, you see Jesus. Back away with the camera of your mind down below and just to the side, there some soldiers are arguing over his clothes. Rd v 23-24.

  • They divided his garments; someone took his sandals, another his cloak; dividing what he had among the four soldiers. That makes sense, because it was four soldiers, one on each side that walked with him to Golgotha. Then, they cast lots for the one piece that they didn’t want to ruin (23-24). Their so calloused to the pain and suffering of Christ. Maybe they’ve done this before. Maybe so much so that it doesn’t even bother them anymore. Some hours pass and just before he dies, they mock him again. Rd v 28-30;
  • Mocked him further by offering him sour wine (28; Luke 23.36); you don’t notice this when you read v 28 – nor in a couple of the synoptics; but listen to DA Carson: The drink offered here is not to be confused with the ‘wine mixed with myrrh’ which some charitable people offered him on the way to the cross (Mk 15.23). That was a sedative designed to dull the agony and Jesus refused to drink it. He was fully resolved to drink, instead, the cup of suffering the Father had assigned him. The episode in John 19.29 finds its parallel rather in Mark 15.36. Far from being a sedative, it would prolong life and therefore prolong pain.

i.     So, their ridicule is to extend his pain and suffering. They could do this by putting the sponge on a stalk, kind of like a nest in some limbs that come together. Also,

ii.     Some believe these particular branches were weak and would bend and wave around. Even if Jesus wanted to drink, he wouldn’t be able to do so because the branch would bend away.

transition: even here, they’re still mocking Jesus. But, when the time comes for this to be over with, the soldiers are given the task of speeding up the process of death. We read about this in v 31-33

   1.   Their Responsibilities: The soldiers impose the punishment

exp.: they broke the legs of the two criminals, so that they could no longer rise up and get a breath. Basically, they suffocated. Not Jesus, though. He died up in v. 30; but, the soldiers must be sure their responsibilities have been fulfilled. So, rd v 34;

  •      They flogged him (1)
  •      They took him to the hill of Golgatha
  •      They crucified him (16-23a; 18; 23)
  •      They pierce his side with a spear

   3.   Their Reaction: The soldiers confirm his position (Matt 27.54)

exp.: 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Surely this was the son of God; Notice: they were filled with awe.

Conclusion: rd v 19.35; Invitation to come to Christ

 

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John 18.33-40

Title: Barabbas: Substitutionary Atonement

Text: John 18.33-40

Introduction: We’re in John 18; Matthew 27; Luke 23 this morning. While you are bookmarking them, let me tell you a story. Years ago, I was in an Easter Musical: We want Barnabas! Give us Barnabas! Well, today we’re going to talk about Barabbas. I may struggle from time to time with the wrong name! But that probably doesn’t surprise most of you…

I’ve been working my way to the cross each Sunday morning, looking at the different Characters who touched Christ’s life. Judas, Peter, Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and now, Barabbas. Barabbas is different than the others. We feel disdain toward Judas and his betrayal. We’re disappointed in Peter. Our anger wells up at the Sanhedrin and High priests. And Barabbas… well, we’re not sure how to feel toward Barabbas. Each person mentioned has wronged Christ in some way, but not Barabbas. It wasn’t his doing that got him off. It wasn’t his lawyers who helped him walk free. Guilty Barabbas. He’s guilty, but he is set free. He should have been mocked, mistreated and maligned. He is the one who deserves death, but he lives.

We pick up in 18.38, rd v 38; After Jesus is questioned by Pilate and Pilate renders his verdict: Not Guilty. Rd v 39-40a; What a wonderful set up; John doesn’t tell the whole story. Maybe because the synoptics do, or maybe because he thought his readers would already know – So, we’ll have to look to the other gospels for help; For now, note that John wants us to see that Jesus in not guilty of any crime deserving death, but instead wants to release him.

Transition: This morning’s message will be presented to you in the form of 3 questions. In our search to find out who Barabbas is, we’ll ask:

  1. Who is Barabbas?
  2. How does he compare to Christ?
  3. What does this mean for us?

Let’s begin with the 1st question:

  1. Who is Barabbas?
    1. A Robber (John 18.40); a popular word for a thief; This is what Jesus called the religious leaders who turned His Father’s house of prayer into a den of thieves; it is the word Jesus uses to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10); And, this is what Jesus calls those people who lead God’s people astray, when he says of those who enter not by the door, but over the fence – they are thieves and robbers; He is someone who steals that which is not his own (8th commandment: Thou shalt not steal); The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Christ comes to give life; Matthew 27 describes him as…
    2. A ‘Notorious Prisoner’; rd Matthew 27.15-16; simply meaning he is well-known; rd v 17; Why would Pilate do this? Rd 27.18-19;

i.     He discerned their motives

ii.     His wife had warned him – a woman’s intuition

iii.     Perhaps he thought the crowds of Jerusalem would never choose this notorious criminal, Barabbas, and their fondness for Jesus would set Jesus free.

t.s.: A Robber, A Notorious Prisoner and 3rd

                3.   An Insurrectionist and Murderer (Mark 15.7; Lk 23.18-19) – Insurrection: an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government. It appears that Barabbas was notorious because he had been leading a revolt against civil authority, against the Roman Govt. This would make him a zealot and popular with the people. Furthermore, it appears that during an uprising, Barabbas had killed someone or more than one. Who? We don’t know. Note the two crimes again: Murder & Rebellion.

Listen to Warren Wiersbe: It is ironical that Barabbas was apparently a member of the zealot party and, therefore, guilty of the very charge for which Jesus was condemned (cf. Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19, 25). Wiersbe seems to think that the Jewish authorities because of Barabbas’ notoriety easily swayed this crowd. He continues: This crowd apparently had been waiting there to support their local folk-hero. The Jewish authorities just took this opportunity to assure the condemnation of Jesus (cf. Mark 15:11). Now, I’ve been taught that this crowd is the same crowd that welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday. But, Kevin DeYoung says no… this is a different crowd, easily swayed. Just to be clear: the crowd on Palm Sunday welcoming Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” is by and large not the same crowd on Good Friday that demands his death with shouts of “Crucify!”

R.T. France summarizes: There is no warrant here for the preacher’s favorite comment on the fickleness of a crowd which could shout ‘Hosanna’ one day and ‘Crucify him’ a few days later. They are not the same crowd. The Galilean pilgrims shouted ‘Hosanna’ as they approached the city, the Jerusalem crowd shouted, ‘Crucify him.’

Same crowd, different crowd, I don’t know for sure; but this I know, the Jewish leaders were able to get this crowd of people to have Barabbas released.

Transition: So, He was set free, even though he was guilty: a robber, a notorious prisoner, a murder, a rebel – insurrectionist or in today’s terms: a terrorist. He didn’t suffer, he wasn’t punished, he wasn’t mistreated. Cut the ropes and walk! But not Jesus – let’s look at these two, side by side…

2.   How does Barabbas compare with Christ:

           1.  Barabbas was guilty vs. Jesus was innocent: Irony of Ironies: the Jews had accused Jesus of the very crimes Barabbas was found guilty of: Rebellion. And yet, they wanted Barabbas released. Rd Lk 23.2: Here are the charges And they began to accuse him, saying,

i.     “We found this man misleading our nation and

ii.     forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and

iii.     saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” Add v 4-5;

Not Guilty – cf.: John 18.38, 19.4-5; this is after Herod’s inquisition; Luke expresses it 9 different ways (23.4, 14, 15 [2x’s Herod & Pilate], 20, 22 [2x’s: not guilty & I will release him; 41; 47];

           2.  Barabbas was released vs. Jesus was punished:

i.     Jesus was Flogged – 7x’s; Heb 12.6; Maybe Pilate thought that he would be disciplined this way and the people would be moved to release him. You might be thinking: Really? Yeah! Listen to Hughes: Many died from it, and others went mad. Ancient authorities as diverse as Eusebius, Josephus, and Cicero relate that scourging normally meant a flaying to the bone. Eusebius tells of martyrs who “were torn by scourges down to deep-seated veins and arteries, so that the hidden contents of the recesses of their bodies, their entrails and organs were exposed to sight.” M.S. Mills in The Life of Christ: A study guide to the Gospel record describes scourging this way: A Roman scourging was a frightful punishment. The whip (or flagel) used was braided from leather thongs and interlaced with lead balls and metal and bone spikes. Six soldiers, lictors, wielded these flagels on the prisoner who was usually tied to a column or stake. The severity of the scourging was such that prisoners usually fainted and sometimes died under it. The whipping was applied to the back and chest. Each stroke cut into the quivering flesh until the veins and sometimes the entrails were laid bare; the flagel’s tail would often strike the face, sometimes knocking out teeth and, on occasion, even an eye. The victim was invariably reduced to a bloody mass of quivering flesh, with virtually all strength drained from his body. Not only was he punished in this fashion, but then he was mocked for their entertainment.

ii.     Jesus was Mocked – Jesus was mocked by the Jewish guards first. Later, Herod’s men would mock Jesus; 27.27-31; and that’s the final form of punishment…crucifixion.

iii.     Jesus was Crucified – He died Barabbas’ death; Barabbas should have been on that cross with his buddies on both sides; He should have died that criminal’s death; the execution had been planned for Barabbas because of his rebellion and murder. That’s why there was a cross ready to go.

 3.  What does this mean for us?

  • We identify with Barabbas when we acknowledge we have rebelled against God.Rev 12.10; Zech 3.1; Satan stands and accuses us. We’re more like Barabbas in that we’ve rebelled against God’s authority, and furthermore, have encouraged others to do the same. And so we stand here rightly accused with no defense on our own.
  • We identify with Barabbas when we comprehend the magnitude of our sin. Romans 6.23 says that our just punishment for our rebellion against God is death; Our great sin needs a great savior to rescue us.

But you may say: I’m not that bad. The Bible says you are. The Bible says you and I both are the one’s who deserve to be flogged, scourged, disciplined. It is our sin of rebellion against God that has determined our state. It is our anger toward our brothers that has made us murderers.

  • We identify with Christ when we understand that he died as our substitute. His death is our death. 2 Corinthians tells us For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. We’ve been released, even though we’re guilty, and someone else took our place of punishment.
  • We identify with Christ when we surrender our lives to him. Paul said, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. And, in Col 3.3: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Conclusion: Application?

A call to recognize you’re a sinner (rebellion), to repent of your sin and rebellion, to return your life to Him as King.

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John 18.28-32

Title: Pilate

Text: John 18.28-40

Introduction: Turn to Jn 18; Let me bring you up to speed – especially if you’re not familiar with where we are in our study and what I’m doing that’s different than, say, a typical message at Calvary.

I have chosen to finish out the book of John. I preached some years ago through to Chapter 12. Then, I did a short series from 12-16. I wanted to finish out the book and outlined it this way.

  1. The Lord’s Prayer – 17
  2. The Lord’s Passion – 18-20 – Characters on the way to the Cross
  3. The Lord’s Purpose – “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (20.21)

Today, as we continue in our study of the Lord’s Passion – that is, His suffering, we’ll look briefly at Pilate; We’ll look at three areas of his life: The Storied Relationship, The Reason they needed him to Kill Jesus, The Reality of the whole situation. rd v 28a-b; his name isn’t listed yet, but the governor mentioned here is Pilate.

Review the 1st three mock trials beginning with the arrest in the garden; Now Jesus is brought before the governor, Pilate – note, that it’s still early. Their third mock trial had already been composed. They had worked through the night to ensure their story was straight and everything was being done by the book. Rd v 28c; Hypocrisy at it’s worst – These guys are willing to break their own laws to get what they want, but explain it away so that they can celebrate this evening with their families, stuffing their faces and drinking their wine. It makes me wonder about us: When we’re willing to bend what we know is right in God’s Word, just enough to get what we want, but still keep a strict regimen to our traditions, especially when it comes to stuffing our faces and filling our stomachs. Isn’t it so human to satisfy our physical appetites, often in the name of Christian Celebration, but we fail to satisfy the hungering of the soul? Rd v 29; Was he just sitting down to breakfast? Had he even eaten yet? He knows they won’t come in. He’s been here now for a few years, had some struggles with them and he knows he’ll have to take this outside because of their ‘traditions’.

Notice the verbal sparring that takes place; rd v 30-31a; They just want a stamp of approval. No need to inquire, we’ve done all the work. He’s guilty. We’ve got God’s work we need to be doing and we can’t get our hands dirty. I think John wants us to see the enmity between these two – Pilate and the Jews. There is a history here – some info we get from the Bible and some that we’re not privy to in the Bible. Often times we see Pilate as this wimpy man, kowtowing to the pressure of the Jews. But he wasn’t really that way toward them. No, he was a pretty tough ruler.

Here’s what we get from History and extra-biblical material: Pilate: The Relationship with his people.

1.     Little to nothing is known about Pilate before 26 AD – that is his life before living in the holy land. He was appointed to this position as Perfect, Procurator, and Governor. Note these titles:

  • Perfect, a title found describing Pilate on an inscription found in 1961. Before that time, there was no archeological evidence of Pilate, though he is mentioned in extra-biblical literature such as Tacitus, Josephus and Philo.
  • Perfect & Procurator titles are used by Tacitus and Josephus and
  • Governor is used in Scripture (Mt 27; Lk 3). It appears that this was the last title he held.
  1. Little to nothing is known about Pilate before 26 AD
  2. His rule was plagued by conflict with those he governed:
  • Josephus identifies the problems with the Jews when Pilate tried to set up columns or standards bearing the image of the emperor in Jerusalem. The Jews raised up a public resistance, and in spite of death threats remained. They very publicly chose death over the display of what they deemed as idols. After a 6 day standoff, Pilate gave in and ordered the images back to Caesarea.
  • Josephus and Eusebius record another struggle Pilate had with the Jews over Temple money Pilate wanted to use to build an aqueduct. That all sounds nice, but come to find out, the spring from which this water would come was some 40K away! That’s a lot of money. Tens of thousands of Jews demonstrated publicly when Pilate showed up for the Festival in Jerusalem. Pilate then ordered his soldiers to infiltrate the crowd in disguise by wearing plain clothes. These men killed many in the crowd as they would yell out opposition and protest.
  • Some scholars believe this is the event recorded in Luke 13.1-2; Maybe this is a separate incident! That would only add to describing his character!
  • It is believed that Pilate also, by such a careless act of random killing, killed some of Herod’s subjects – thus alienating him. Luke 23.12 records their reconciliation.
  • Furthermore, Pilate minted small copper coins with images on them, a clear violation of the 2nd commandment as understood by the Jews. He only did this for three years (29-31 A.D.); This action caused Pilate a lot of heartache with the Jews. One such coin has been discovered through archaeological excavations. I have a picture here;
  • Pilate had trouble with the Samaritans when a group of these folks descended upon Mt. Gerizim. It was rumored that Moses had hidden the ark on Mt. Gerizim (which would have been impossible, because Moses never entered the Holy Land) and someone had sparked this great crowd of people to come and search for it. Pilate surrounded them with his men and captured them, executing their leaders. The Samaritans issued a formal complaint to the Emperor and Pilate was summoned to Rome to defend his actions. The emperor died while Pilate was in route and nothing is ever heard of Pilate again.

These stories give us some insight into (1) struggles Pilate dealt with, (2) his hatred for the people he governed and (3) his ruthlessness toward them. The Jews don’t want to come to Pilate – they have to, in order to rid themselves of this man Jesus. When I say ‘have to’ listen carefully to what that means; Rd v 31-32;

Pilate: the reason he was needed.

Here now, we see some foreshadowing of the role Pilate will play in the life of Christ: his death. This is important: The Jews could have killed Jesus without Pilate’s permission. John 8.59; 10.31-33; This was obvious even to his disciples, who in 11.8 are shocked that Jesus wants to return to Judea again. The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” I don’t want you to just see that they wanted to kill him – but that they could have killed him. It was fully in their power and authority. I’ve been mistaken in the past when I’ve said they needed Pilate to kill him. But I think I was wrong. If you turn to Acts 7-8 you’ll read the story of a man named Stephen who as stoned by the Jews for his blasphemy. It wasn’t just in Jerusalem, but we read through out Acts that the Jews, according to their own Law and Practice could put someone to death by stoning.

No, Caiaphas didn’t want to just kill Jesus. Caiaphas wanted Jesus to be made a public spectacle, put him on display to demonstrate that Jesus was cursed. Deuteronomy 21.22-23: 22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Multiple times in Acts, the disciples testify to this fact. And, Paul clarifies this for us in Gal. 3.13: 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Little did Caiaphas know, though he should have, that he was doing was exactly what Jesus had said would be done. That’s why John records these very important words: 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. Jn 12.32-33; Mt 20.19; 26.2; Mk 10.33; Lk 18.32; Jesus is in total control of this situation. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus is sovereign, even over his own death. They thought they were killing him, but really, he was giving his life. He was laying down his life for you and me.

These men, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, hold power and authority. But as it seems to do to most everyone who has it, power and authority corrupt men who think they’ve come to such a position of their own strength and wit and cunning. John 19.9-10, but Jesus clarifies for him just where power and authority come from: rd 19.11. παραδίδωμι appears here, 35, 36 & 19.11;

Pilate: The Reality of his position and power

Application: Each of these leaders, both religious and secular, thought that they were in control. The Jews thought they were controlling Pilate – controlling Jesus. Pilate stood before the Jews and the people and thought he was in control as their ruler. But really, this is all being played out as had been determined by God.

Contemplation: Let me ask you today, how is your life any different? Do you think you’re in control of your life? Does God seem to be distant and not really involved in your day-to-day activity? Think again! I understand this tension between the sovereignty of God’s will and the free will of man. I do.

Ill.: this week I was summoned to the hospital. A young man was in a car accident and broke his neck. From what I understand, this man will never walk again. This man, at this stage, cannot use his hands or even feel anything below his neck. I wrestle with this tension when I talk to his parents, his girlfriend. I wrestle with this tension when I pray for his healing.

  • Did God cause this?
  • Are we at the mercy of total chaos when our vehicles hit ice? Is not God strong enough, powerful enough, in charge enough to have prevented this?
  • Do accidents ‘just happen’?

I’m comfortable with God’s sovereignty. I like knowing God is fully in charge. I don’t like it when I suffer, because I feel like He’s picking on me. Mostly because, I think I don’t deserve whatever struggle I’m going through. I’m totally comfortable with God’s Sovereignty because I don’t like the idea of being subject to luck or the idea that I’m in control when the world is in such chaos.

Here’s what I know, according to Scripture: I’m not in control. Yes, I have freewill. Yes, I make decisions and I try to make good ones – most of the time. But, because I’m a sinner – living in a fallen state – I don’t always do that. I think about Pilate and his situation. He could have released Jesus and left it to the Jews. His wife warned him, telling him that she’d had a supernatural dream about this whole thing. But, in the end, Pilate, being Pilate, chose to put Jesus to death. He responded to this situation in keeping with his character. Taking it a step further, I believe Pilate acted totally within the will of God.

Chuck Swindoll, one of my all-time favorite preaches has said it so eloquently: Nothing touches me that doesn’t first pass through the hand of God. That’s a soft way of putting it. Isaiah was much more forceful: Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; Or Peter in Acts 2: 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

God, whose will it was to crush Christ for your sin and mine, also willed to raise Christ. Through it all and even before – centuries before, God had a plan for your redemption.

Invitation

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John 18.12-27

Title: Losing your awe: when Jesus threatens your religious traditions.

Text: John 18.12-27

Introduction: I’m in the midst of a sermon series on the characters we meet while on a journey to the Cross with Christ. As I was reviewing the previous two characters, Peter and Judas, I was overcome with emotion. I want to present these next two characters without the emotion that overcomes me. I can’t promise I won’t struggle, but I do promise to do my best to avoid being emotional. I just want to give you a heads up if I you sense me struggling.

I guess I’ve been emotional about it because it’s pretty overwhelming. The context of this passage is set in the final hours of our messiah’s life. Over the next several hours, Jesus will be betrayed into the hands of evil men, judged unfairly, he will be severely beaten, and then crucified. The time is in the late hours of the night. So late, that it’s probably after midnight. It’s probably the earliest of hours on the day of his death.

What will happen in the next several hours is that Jesus will stand in 6 mock trials. It will go like this: Jesus is arrested, he is bound and then carted off to stand before

  1. Annas, the High Priest
  2. Caiaphas, the High Priest – it is while he is with Caiaphas that the charges against him will be manufactured. Once that happens, they wait for the sun to come up and convene a formal gathering of the
  3. The Sanhedrin. They’ll be unable to kill Jesus, because the Roman govt. will forbid it by their laws. So, to get rid of him, they’ll need to take him before
  4. Pilate, will not find any fault in him and will send him off to
  5. Herod, who had jurisdiction over Galilee, the area of Nazareth. Herod will be entertained by meeting this popular man, Jesus. However, in the end, he will decide not to deal with Jesus and send him back to Pilate, where the Jews will pour on the pressure.
  6. Pilate will have to bend to the pressure he’s facing from the Jewish leaders. He will come up with a solution to have Jesus released, but it back fires on him. Extra biblical literature gives us some great insight into the many problems he had with the Jewish Leaders and he just couldn’t have them going over his head to complain again. We’ll look at that when we get to Pilate.

Transition: In week 1, I preached on Judas, Iscariot. He lost his awe. Then Peter, who, in some sense, lost his awe, too, when he denied Christ. He was in the courtyard near Jesus watching all of this transpire. Today, we’ll focus on Annas, Caiaphas and the men of the Sanhedrin. These are the religious leaders. How does one become a High Priest or any other important leader in the affairs of God and lose their awe of God? How can someone be so wrapped up in God’s Kingdom work and miss the very King in their midst? How does one become an expert in the Law, the Word of God and miss the living Word of God in their presence? Ladies and Gentlemen, may I propose to you this morning, that you and I are in the very same danger? You and I can become so focused on our religious traditions, on our power and prestige, on our position and popularity that we’ll lose our awe of God – that you and I can become so worried about facilities and programs that those things will actually become more important to us than Christ himself.

Today, We’ll look at the 1st three trials: Annas, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Now, to get all of this information, we have to go to all 4 gospels. Bookmark John 18.12; Matt 26.57; Luke 22.63; Mark 15.1. Each writer recorded what he thought was pertinent to his telling of the story. We pick up in verse 12, this morning, as a way of introduction. I’ve entitled this intro: Jesus is Arrested and Bound.

exp.: rd v 12; arrested, or seized; and bound; aorist active; aorist tense shows simple past.

app.: What does this have to do with the high priest? I think it shows us the kind of men they are. We begin to see a bit of their character. Let’s meet Annas first….

t.s.: rd v 13a

1.     Jesus is Questioned by Annas, the High Priest (13-14; 19-23)

exp.: So Jesus is arrested and then, he’s carted off to visit with Hannas. Who is Annas? Rd 13b; he is the father-in-law of Caiaphas. All cleared up? Verse 19 continues; rd v 19; Sounds like Caiaphas is there asking questions, but no. Read v 24; 2 High priests? Answer, simply is yes. Here’s what we know about Annas from the Bible and extra biblical literature.

Annas became the High Priest around 6/7 AD. He served until 14/15 AD. Afterward, his son took over. As a matter of fact, 5 of his sons eventually became high priest, and as you’ve just read here, so does his Son-in-law; How is this possible to have two High Priests?

  • Most likely, it was because the Romans appointed and deposed High Priests; Jews, however, felt the high priest position was served for life as a part of the Mosaic Covenant. Even though he was deposed by Rome, the Jews would continue to look to him as their official high priest. Luke 3.2: during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, that word, one word, high priesthood, is singular, with two names, Annas and Caiaphas.
  • There was a tradition of what we might call: High Priestly families. Once a man was high priest, his sons and their families would keep that title and that position within the family. Ill.: Aaron was high priest and his son, Eleazar to his place in Deut. 6.10; Josh 24.23, Eleazar died and his son Phineas became the High Priest. There is actually a place where a bunch of these men are mentioned: Acts 4.5-6; γένος – the generation, descendants of the high priest.
  • It might just be that his sons respected him, as did his son-in-law, and so out of courtesy, they asked his opinion before moving forward. Ill.: Pastor Lyle Skeels; His name isn’t listed in the records of the SBA or the SBTC, but I still refer to him as pastor.

So, what does Annas want to know? Rd v 19; which High Priest? Rd v 24; so, it’s still Annas; rd v 19 again;

  • His disciples
  • His teaching

This would be easy to overlook, but my understanding is that Annas is hinting that Jesus is planning a rebellion, a revolution. He’s got Judas, Simon, the Zealot, Matthew, the Tax Collector; maybe, just maybe he’s gathering around himself some men who are going to start a revolution. I don’t know if that’s true, but in order to carry out their plan to kill Jesus, they’ve got to have some strong evidence with witnesses. Or, Jesus could be convicted by his own testimony. So, Jesus answers him very simply; rd v 20-21; Look at the response; rd v 22; Wow! What was so offensive about the Messiah’s response? I wonder:

–  Jews; 5.1; 10*, 15, 16, 18;

–  Were there some present in this mock trial who had been present in the synagogues and in the Temple when Jesus had been teaching? Did he recognize any of them? Many times during the course of Christ’s ministry, we see the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, elders and members of the Sanhedrin coming to see him, and hear him and test his knowledge and theology. Maybe some of those very guys were standing there at that moment. Is v 21 a reference to them?

–  That just might be clarified in v 23; rd v 23; as if to say, if I’m lying or wrong, there are those here who can speak up now and prove me wrong! Obviously, someone could ‘bear witness’, testify to this fact if Jesus was indeed lying. This is interesting, because in the coming hours, these Jewish leaders will find some folks to ‘testify’ against Jesus

app.: Annas, doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Maybe he was just buying time until Caiaphas could get set up and have the other men, probably asleep, get to Caiaphas’ courtyard.

t.s.: So, Jesus is arrested, bound and spends some time before Annas, probably the most powerful religious man in Judaism. However, with the Roman appointed High Priest probably being the one with the power over religious matters, Caiaphas would need to weigh in. So, rd v 24;

2.     Jesus is Questioned by Caiaphas, the High Priest (24; Mt 26.57-68)

exp.: a couple of notes about the verbs in these passages; the word bound in v 24 is a pft passive; pft is a present state based on a past action. He was bound in the past and is still bound. Now, v 25-27 is about Peter, whom we look at last week, so we won’t rehash that. Just one note though: Luke tells us that roughly an hour passed between the 2nd denial and 3rd denial of Peter, when the rooster crowed (Lk 22.59). So, we get the idea from the Gk text that Jesus is already being physically mistreated. Rd v 28; What we’re not seeing here is two other mock trials not recorded by John. For some reason, John didn’t record the other events. Obviously, Jesus is escorted to the court of Caiaphas, but the particulars are not mentioned. He must have felt those details were covered by Matthew, Mark and Luke, and possibly other writers who had written about those events. So, let’s look at the synoptics for these other mock trials – turn to Matthew 26; rd v 57

  1. Caiaphas confronts Jesus; we read about this encounter in Matthew 26.57-68; rd 57-59;
  2. The ‘whole’ Sanhedrin “Council” (to sit with) has gathered for this encounter, many scribes and elders have gathered to observe this mock trial; well, it’s more than just observation; vs 59a tells us they’re looking for evidence. A 2nd note on these verbs: were seeking false testimony is an imperfect verb; the imperfect tense demonstrates continuous action in the past. In other words, this isn’t something they started doing when they were awakened in the past hour. They’ve been at this for weeks, months or even longer!
  3. Others have gathered, too, like Peter and John; the purpose of this gathering is to gather evidence; rd 59b-61; With Jesus not incriminating himself, they get false witnesses to testify against him. Mark tells us in 14.59: Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And, with the testimonies against him not being in agreement, they’re forced to try to get Jesus to incriminate himself again; rd 62-66; he deserves to die!

At this stage, they’re ready to convene and convict him. While he is being held, awaiting this 3rd mock trial, he is harshly mistreated. The synopitcs record the same account: Rd vs 67-68 shows how they mocked our Lord. He’s the Messiah? This one bound before us? How could someone so weak be the Messiah? So they spit upon him and mocked him. “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?

Rd Lk 22.63-65

app.: The real irony in it all, is that he knows who is hitting him. He not only knows the man’s name. He knows that man even better than that man knows himself. He knows his deepest thoughts and secrets – just like he knows our deepest thoughts and secrets.

t.s.: Now, you’d think that would be enough, but what they’ve been doing is trying to establish some evidence to present to themselves officially. You see, what they’ve been doing is against their own law. So, to make it legal, they’ve got to wait until the sun comes up. So, now they have the third trial; He’s been presented to Annas and Caiaphas, but now, they Sanhedrin gathers for an official judgment.

  • 3.     Jesus is given a mock trial before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27.1)

exp.: You’re in Luke 22? Rd v 66; when day came; 66-71; Skip over to Matthew 27.1; So, the Sanhedrin, as individuals have already been there, but as the sun rises, they need to officially convene to pass judgment on Christ. Rd Mt 27.1a; note they first convene when morning has officially come. Rd 27b; all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. This word “took counsel” is different than the word Sanhedrin. The difference in English is Council and Counsel; Counsel here means they met officially to press formal charges and render a judgment.

ill.: Listen to Craig Blomberg: (These) verses can stand alone as a short passage reflecting a brief daytime reenactment by the Sanhedrin of the nighttime proceedings. This hearing may have functioned like a ‘rubber stamp,” but at least it would have brought the proceedings more into conformity with the letter of the law.

Myron Augsberger agrees: The Sanhedrin held a second very brief meeting early in the morning. They had charged Jesus with blasphemy (26:65–66), but they needed a charge by which they could secure the death penalty by Pilate. Matthew doesn’t tell us what the additional charge was, but Luke gives us three elements of their charge before Pilate: (1) national subversive activity, (2) teaching against paying taxes to Rome, and (3) claiming to be a King, the Christ (Luke 23:2). This charge, according to Luke, followed their bringing Jesus out of the dungeon to Caiaphas’ court, and then bringing Him a second time before their council for questioning and mocking. They fabricated the charges, giving them political meaning to influence Pilate’s judgment, passed their own sentence on Him, and led Him away to Pilate.

app.: isn’t it funny, not funny, but ironic that they have this meeting, when they’ve already had two others? Isn’t it ironic because they want to be obedient to the law? In just a moment, they’ll take Jesus to Pilate; Go back to John 18.28; they are so legalistic, that they won’t enter into a Gentile’s quarters so as to not become unclean; and yet, they can justify their actions in murdering a man.

Transition: How does someone get there? How does someone get to a place where they’re legalistic about worship, but can murder someone?

The Preacher’s Commentary records: Studies have shown that the trial of Jesus was illegally conducted according to Jewish law. The Talmud says, “The Sanhedrin is to save, not to destroy life.” The illegalities in the trial of Jesus were:

(1) Capital crimes were to be tried during the daytime only.

(2) They were not to be tried during festival times.

(3) They were not to be dealt with at a single sitting of one day.

(4) They were not to be tried with immediate appearances of witnesses for the prosecution, for this was a breach of law.

(5) There was no precedent or a single evidence for a person claiming to be the Messiah being accused of blasphemy and being sentenced to death.

(6) If a man stood accused of blasphemy in relation to the name of God, Jewish authorities could have him stoned, but they must hand him over to the governor.

(7) The priests were to have judgment in the charge, but they presented Jesus to Pilate, making Him a political suspect in a strategy to rid themselves of the prophet of Nazareth. Yet they asked for the release of the political criminal Barabbas, who was guilty of the very thing they were attributing to Jesus.

(8) The temple guard could not act for the high priest in an arrest charging blasphemy unless they themselves were witnesses to the blasphemy. Finally,

(9) when witness breaks down, the accused could not be cross-examined by the judges.

app.: These guys didn’t just bend a law, they broke multiple laws to commit murder! Which by the way, is also against the law!

Conclusion: how does someone get here?

Observations & Implications:

  1. Religion had become their God. This is hard to observe because when religion becomes your God, you do many of the same things you do when you God is your God.
  2. They thought that doing was more important than being. Jesus called them white-washed tombs because on the outside (doing) they looked great. But, on the inside (being) they were dead spiritually. They didn’t understand when Jesus said clean out the inside of the cup. They looked like the crystal classes up on top of the china cabinet. Somewhere back in my life, I think it was in Cotulla, Lisa had some nice glasses up above a cabinet. I pulled one down once, I don’t remember why, I guess I was gonna use it. It had dust, dirt, spiderwebs and a couple of June bugs in it! It’s not the beauty or value of the outside that matters, but the cleanliness of the inside!
  3. Jesus threatened their way of practicing their religion. What do you do when your religious practices don’t jive with the word of God. I once was confronted by a deacon about a decision I had made. His goal was to get me to change my mind. I outlined for him what Scripture said. His response was: I don’t care what Scripture says, you’ve got to do the right thing. They had power; he threatened that. They had position; Jesus threatened that. They had prestige; Jesus threatened that, too. They didn’t want to give up anything they had. They didn’t want to give up all that they knew about their religion.

What’s truly scary, these men thought they were doing the right thing – all in the name of God.

What about us, today? Are we ever in danger of religion becoming our God? Are we in danger of worshiping our traditions over our God? Are we in danger of judging our people and ourselves by what we do and don’t do? Do we have ministries and projects that are more important to us than Jesus is to us?

And what about politics? Are we in danger of politicizing our religion? Do we sometimes confuse the two? Do we use politics when it’s in our favor and makes us comfortable with our religion, but moan and grumble and complain when it doesn’t? Litmus: How do you feel when you hear the term Gay Republicans? Or, a  democrat who is Southern Baptist? Be careful… you might be confusing the two!

And what about the inside of a person? What do we think about? What do we dream about? Power? Position? Prestige? Are we white-washed tombs? Beautiful on the outside; grass cut and trimmed, no weeds, all green; no bird poop on our polished, shinny, granite; and yet, filled with death, stench and decay? Inside are there are worms and maggots feasting on our spiritual carcass?

Today, only you plumb the depths of your soul. You know the darkness. You know the stench. You know your thoughts and secrets. No one else here does.

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