PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus; Find Me in Scripture

04/26 Obey Jesus: Find Me in the Scriptures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200426_find-me-in-scripture.mp3

This is the second Sunday after the resurrection. Acts 1 tells us Jesus

Acts 1:2 …had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

This is day 15 of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to his disciples. Before he ascended he charged his disciples to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples,

Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

So we are looking at what Jesus commanded his disciples. Last week we looked at Jesus’ appearance to doubting Thomas, where he presented him with the evidence and commanded:

John 20:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus commands us to come to him, to believe that he is the I AM, the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to rescue us. He requires that we turn from whatever else we are trusting in and depend on him alone, that we trust him completely.

The Emmaus Road

Today I want to look at Luke’s account of Jesus appearing to some disciples on the road to Emmaus that first resurrection Sunday.

Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Do you hear where these disciples are at? They are lost, confused. They had hoped that Jesus was the one they had hoped for, but then the Jewish leaders had him crucified. Now his body is missing, and there’s some crazy rumors that he is alive. We just don’t know what to believe.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Do you hear what Jesus says? He rebukes them for being slow of heart to believe the prophets. He says they should have known that the Christ must suffer these things before entering into his glory. He rebukes them for not knowing their Bibles better. Not just that they didn’t understand something they should have known, but that their hearts were slow to believe. They were slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets had spoken. They embraced some of it, but not all.

The Scriptures Fulfilled; It Is Written

If we look back early in Jesus’ ministry, in Luke 4

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah, and claims to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. Today, this has been fulfilled!

When Jesus was coming down with his three disciples from the transfiguration mountain in Mark 9, he charged them to tell no one until he was risen from the dead, and they were wondering what this ‘rising from the dead’ might mean. He said:

Mark 9:12 … And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

He just revealed to them his glory, and now he asks ‘how is it written that the Son of Man should suffer?’ He is pushing them to believe all of Scripture. It is not going to go the way you think. The Son of Man should suffer. What do you do with these Scriptures? Where do they fit?

At his last supper, when he predicted that he would be betrayed by one of them, he said:

Mark 14:21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him. When they went out to the Mount of Olives,

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 and says it is pointing to what is about to happen. Then, after Judas betrayed him with a kiss, and he was taken,

Mark 14:48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Let the Scriptures be fulfilled. The Scriptures must be fulfilled, and they were being fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for breaking the commandment and making void the word of God for the sake of their traditions (Mt.15:3,6). He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He came to accomplish every dot, every iota of the Law. He came to be the summation, the culmination, the end goal of all the Scriptures.

The Central Focus of the Scriptures

Notice the central focus of the Scripture according to Jesus is his suffering and death in place of sinners. His work as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is why he came and what it all was pointing to. Listen to what he said in Luke 18 on his way to Jerusalem.

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

It is the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection of the Messiah that is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.

To the disciples after his resurrection, on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24,

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Imagine being in on that Bible study! The risen Lord himself, the very Word incarnate, taking them through the word written, interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus taught that all the Scriptures were meant to point us to him.

Obeying Jesus about the Bible

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a learner, a follower of Jesus. We are looking at what it means to obey all that Jesus commands. We need to follow Jesus on what he teaches about the Bible, the word of God. Jesus commands us to find him in the Scriptures, to meet him there, the living Word in his word written. It is all about him, and to rightly use God’s word, we need to see Jesus there.

Spiritual Blindness and Inability

But we have a problem. We can’t. We can’t see Jesus. We are unable. We are blind to him. And it is a satanic blindness. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Remember, Jesus told his disciples plainly what was about to happen to him,

Luke 18:34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

The risen Lord walked with these two disciples on the road and gave them Bible study,

Luke 24:16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

When they arrived at the village of Emmaus, Jesus went in to stay with them. It says:

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?

Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Him!

These disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples,

Luke 24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Then Jesus appeared to the whole group gathered there in Jerusalem.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He opened their eyes to recognize him! We can’t, we can’t see Jesus in all of Scripture unless and until Jesus opens our blind minds. This is a sovereign creative act of God, illuminating our minds. Remember, God loves to give good gifts to those who ask. He loves to pour out his Spirit on all who ask him (Lk.11:9-13). If you are struggling to understand the Bible, ask! If it is confusing, a big book of rules and regulations, if it is heavy and oppressive, full of duty rather than delight, ask! Ask him to open your mind to see that it’s all about Jesus. That he came to do what you could not and to fulfill every command so that you could enjoy him in relationship. Ask that the promised Holy Spirit would show you Jesus (Jn.15:26). Ask God to do a supernatural creative act in your heart.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God is the one who gives this light, and you and I are blind without it, so ask!

How To Find Jesus in The Scriptures

In John 5, Jesus rebuked the Jews for missing the main point. He said:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Scriptures bear witness about me. They studied the Scriptures, but they failed to hear the voice of God. They memorized the Scriptures, but they failed to have God’s word abiding in them, because they failed to see that the Scriptures were meant to point to Jesus, to bear witness about Jesus. They failed to believe in Jesus. The point of the Scriptures was not to try to earn life by obeying all the Scriptures, but to come to the only one who could perfectly fulfill all the Scriptures. They refused to come to Jesus and find life in him.

So, be ready to believe in Jesus. Put your trust in him completely. Recognize that it is all about him, and seek to meet him in the pages of his word. And ask. Ask God to show you Jesus in all of Scriptures.

That is the most important instruction I can give you.

See Jesus in All of Scripture

Get to know Jesus in all of Scripture. Get to know him through the gospels. They are eyewitness accounts that invite you in to his life and teaching. Sit at his feet and listen to him. Learn from him. Watch him interact with real people, people like you, people with needs.

But Luke tells us that the story of Jesus doesn’t end with the ascension. In Luke volume 2 (or the Acts of the Apostles) he tells us that his gospel was about all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2). The book of Acts is about what Jesus continues to do and teach through his followers in his church. And the book of acts doesn’t end. It actually leaves us hanging in chapter 28 with Paul in prison in Rome awaiting trial and likely execution, for two whole years,

Acts 28:31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Like Mark’s gospel, the story is left hanging. And you are invited in. We, the church, are the continuation of the story of what Jesus began to do and teach.

The New Testament letters are instructions to the church on how to follow Jesus, what the gospel is, what is central, what to believe, and how to live life walking with Jesus, in step with the gospel.

But the New Testament also gives us a lens with which to read the Old Testament.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus was active in Creation with his Father. Throughout the narratives we see people like us, struggling to believe the promises, some turning their backs, some believing, and we see the consequences of those decisions. Paul tells us (1Cor.10:4) that the ever present life giving Rock in the wilderness that accompanied the wandering people of God was Christ. We see the Lord make extravagant promises to his people, and we learn that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus Christ (2Cor.1:20). We read laws we can’t keep, showing us our need for rescue, and creating a desperation for one who would keep them in our place. We see the tabernacle and temple, the one place people can meet with God, but only through the appropriate sacrifice. And we see that Jesus came to pitch his tent among us, came to be God with us, came to give his own life as the once for all sacrifice that would finally take away our sin and conquer death forever. We read poetry that expresses discontent with the way things are, longing for things to be made right, and we read poetry that expresses hope, a longing for the one who would come to set all things right, for God himself to come down. We read disconcerting things about a suffering servant who would bear our sins and be punished for what we deserve, (Is.53) and we hear him cry out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ (Ps.22:1). We read the prophets, rebuking the people for their hard hearts and wandering lusts, telling them to turn back to the Lord, telling them that one day he himself would come,

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

And we see in the final Revelation, that Jesus is coming back, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and we will join the angelic hosts through eternity worshiping,

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Believe in Me

04/19 Obey Jesus: Believe in Me; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200419_believe-in-me.mp3

Disciples who Make Disciples who Obey Everything Jesus Taught

After his resurrection and before he ascended to the right hand of his Father, Jesus told his followers to make disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples to the end of the age. He told them to make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We as followers of Jesus are to continue to make disciples who make disciples. Part of making disciples is immersing them in the name of the triune God. Another essential part of making disciples is teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We are to be disciples and make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught.

So what did Jesus teach? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What are some of the central things Jesus taught that we need to observe and pass on to others? While following Jesus is a lifetime commitment, I hope over the next several weeks to highlight some of the central commands that Jesus gave us, and my prayer is that this would be one useful piece in a lifetime characterized by following Jesus.

Discipleship is Relationship not Rightness

One thing you will notice as you get to know Jesus is that following him is so much more than believing things about him. Following Jesus is a relationship. It involves getting to know him, listening to him, and responding to him by doing what he says.

In teaching all that Jesus commanded, we are not aiming for a pharisaic rightness, knowing the right answers with the ability to sniff out those who do not have it quite right and critique and criticize. Rather, what we are after is a humble and steady quiet walking with Jesus. Notice, Jesus did not say ‘teach them everything.’ He said ‘teach them to observe or obey or keep all that I have commanded you’ That means that we are to walk it, and lead others in walking with Jesus. It is more than just knowing stuff; it is doing it, walking it, living it.

His Commands Are Not Burdensome

When you hear words like ‘command’ and ‘obey,’ something in you might naturally raise walls of resistance, thinking ‘the last thing I need right now is more duty, more obligation, more requirements and responsibilities, more things to check off my list.’ Before you go there, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus is inviting you in to rest. He is inviting you to learn from him, but he says that is where you will find rest for your soul. He is not riding behind you adding to your load, cracking the whip to keep you pulling. He wants us to walk along side him, in the yoke with him, doing life together with him. He is willing to share your burden, and thus make it lighter not heavier.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a weight to pull and that you won’t face difficulties along the way. But it does mean that you will never be alone in them. Jesus yokes himself together with you.

Believe that I Am Lord and God

I want to start today with one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, a week after his resurrection. His disciples were discouraged, confused, afraid, hiding behind closed doors. They were hearing rumors, some of them had claimed to have seen Jesus alive. That first Sunday evening, he appeared to the whole group of disciples, minus Thomas.

John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas refused to believe. In fact, he said ‘unless I have undeniable proof, I will never believe. John 20:26 says ‘eight days later’. Imagine, a full week of doubting, questioning, wondering. That following Sunday,

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus was offering the proof Thomas demanded. And he was commanding Thomas to believe. Believe what?

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Confronted with irrefutable evidence, Thomas grapples with the implications of a man who had clearly been executed and buried, who was now alive in the flesh, standing right in front of him, still retaining the wounds of his execution. Peter had earlier confessed Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Here Thomas worships Jesus as God. He calls him ‘my Lord.’ a connection with the Greek of the Old Testament YHWH, God’s name, the I AM. Thomas addresses Jesus with the language of prayer; ‘my Lord, my God’. He has come to believe in Jesus as the I AM of the Old Testament, the Sovereign One of Israel.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.

John gives the purpose of his writing. He is recording signs that offer evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; YHWH of the Old Testament; the Word who was with God and who was God, come in the flesh to save us. He writes so that we, his readers, would believe in Jesus. Jesus himself pronounces a blessing on us who believe in him now, not having seen him ourselves, but believing the testimony of the eye witnesses.

Believe and Be Born Again

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus ‘you must be born from above, born of the Spirit, born again’ (Jn.3:3-8), he reveals his identity to Nicodemus:

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave his only Son. Whoever believes in him has eternal life. You must be born again.

Jesus said in John 5 that John bore witness about me (33-35); the mighty works I have done bear witness about me (36); the Scriptures bear witness about me (39); and the Father himself bore witness about me (37); But he said

John 5:38 …you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Jesus commands us to believe in him, to come to him.

Come to Me and Drink

In John 7

John 7:37 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…

Jesus invites the thirsty to believe in him, to come to him and drink, to have their need satisfied. Those who come, the Spirit will produce new and overflowing life in their hearts.

Believe that I AM

In John 8, addressing the Pharisees who refused to believe in him, Jesus said:

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Unless you believe that I AM. This is the same phrase we find in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14, I AM Who I AM, the self-existent one. Jesus is demanding that they believe in him as the I AM, YHWH of the Scriptures. Jesus makes this explicit in verse 58, when he responds to their question:

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

The Jews understood what he was saying, and they considered it blasphemy for a man to claim to be the I AM of the Scriptures.

But this is exactly what Jesus was commanding them to believe. You must believe that I AM or you will die in your sins.

Believe in God and Also in Me

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

In John 16, Jesus tells his followers that the coming Spirit would

John 16:8 …will convict the world … 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

The sin that the world will be convicted of is unbelief toward Jesus. We are commanded to believe in Jesus, and to disobey this command means condemnation and death.

The Impossible Work of Believing

In John 6, people were pursuing Jesus, not because they believed in him, but because he was feeding them.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Jesus tells them to labor for eternal food, not temporary food.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

What must we do? What is the work God requires? To believe in Jesus. But these same people who had eaten the multiplied loaves, who were seeking Jesus because of the great signs he did, asked him for a sign.

John 6:30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

We scratch our heads, wondering at their unbelief. But Jesus was not surprised.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

All that the Father gives him are the ones who come to Jesus. Then he said:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

No one can come. Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Something we will see as we look at the commands of Jesus is that obeying Jesus is not something that is hard to do; it is not difficult; it is impossible. We can’t obey Jesus.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus responded:

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It was revealed to him by God.

In Mark 10, a man came running up to Jesus asking him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus showed his followers how difficult it is to trust him completely,

Mark 10:26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is not difficult to obey Jesus, to believe in him, to trust him; it is impossible. But not with God. It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all.

Just before this, in Mark 10, his disciples were rebuking those bringing children to him.

Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

We must come to Jesus as a child, expectant, eager to receive his gift; not trying to earn it or work for it.

Become like a child! Ask! Ask him to give you his Spirit. Ask him to give you the faith to let go of whatever else you are holding on to and trust him completely. ‘Everyone who asks receives!’ (Lk.11:10-13). So ask! Come as a child and ask. Ask him for the faith to believe in him.

Application; Believing in Jesus

The most important thing Jesus commands his followers is that we come to him, that we believe in him, that we take him at his word and believe that he is indeed who he claims to be, who he demonstrated himself to be. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Jn.3:18)

Believing is the way of life for the follower of Jesus. We are to walk by faith. So what does it mean to walk day by day believing Jesus? Believing Jesus is the I AM? Believing that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Not just knowing it to be true, but truly walking in the light of that truth, knowing that he is with us, that he will never leave or forsake us?

If you truly believe in Jesus, that he is the I AM, my Lord and my God, God become flesh to save you, and that he is with you always, to the end of the age, it will change everything. It will change what is most important to you. It will change what you are afraid of. It will change your attitude and your outlook. It will change how you love and serve others. His yoke is easy and his burden is light and when we walk beside him, believing in him, we find rest for our souls.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 26, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection; Boldness or Fear?

4/12 Resurrection Sunday; Boldness or Fear? The Short Ending of Mark; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200412_resurrection-sunday.mp3

Today is Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. And I have to warn you; if you are hoping for a message that will be uplifting, comforting, a little shot in the arm pep talk to encourage you to hang in there and everything will be all right, then you’d better sign out right now.

My prayer for today is that this will wreck you, shake you, challenge you, stir you up and make you uncomfortable. Today I want to invite you in to a choose your own adventure story – you know, one of those interactive stories where you play a part, a story that has decision points that you have to make, and what you choose affects how the story line unfolds.

We are going to look at Mark’s gospel. We’ll start with chapter 8, where Peter acknowledges Jesus as ‘the Christ’,

Mark 8:30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.

Jesus tells his closest followers that he is headed to the cross, and Peter doesn’t like that direction.

Mark 8:32 …And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter misunderstood the whole mission of Jesus. He thought the story would end a different way. But Jesus is taking it in a very different direction than Peter is comfortable with. Then Jesus,

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Here’s the key. Here’s what it means to follow Jesus. You have to risk everything. The goal in the choose your own adventure is to stay alive as long as possible, to survive. Here Jesus tells us that that is not the goal here. Success in Jesus’ context means following Jesus whatever the cost, losing your life for his sake and the gospel’s.

The Textual Problem

I want to look at Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus today. What I’m about to say might make some of you nervous or uncomfortable. This might seem like I’m airing dirty laundry; but I think it’s best to be open and honest with the evidence. And really it is no secret, so it’s best to deal with it head on rather than try to brush over it or just look the other way and pretend its not there. If you have almost any current translation of the Bible, you probably have a note after Mark 16:8 that reads something like this:

ESV note: [Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20]

What do you do with that? I believe that the Bible is God breathed, God’s very words, without error in the original manuscripts. But we don’t have the original manuscripts. We have copies. The fact is we have more copies than any other ancient document, more copies than we can keep on top of cataloging. And we have very early copies, copies closer to the date of writing than any other ancient document, and we have copies that are scattered over wide geographic areas. Manuscripts, which by definition are hand written, have mistakes. But with the sheer volume of manuscript evidence that we have access to, any errors are self-correcting. We can examine the evidence and see what kinds of mistakes were made in some of the copies, and why they were made, and what the original reading was.

The ending of Mark is one of the biggest textual problems we have, because it affects 12 whole verses. Here’s an overview of the issue: over 90% of the manuscripts in existence today contain verses 9-20, so it is clearly the majority; many of the early church fathers knew of these verses, and most of the early translations contain these verses.

But our two earliest and best manuscripts, Codex Siniaticus (aleph 01) and Codex Vaticanus (B 03) (4th cent.) both end at verse 8. In addition to this, the oldest of the translations into Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Sahidic Coptic end at v.8. As for the early church fathers, neither Origen (d.339) nor Clement of Alexandria (d.215) seem to know of this passage. Both Eusebius (265-339) and Jerome (347-419), who had access to extensive libraries state that the accurate copies and the majority of copies that they had access to ended with what we know as verse 8. Jerome mentions that almost all the Greek codices are without the passage. So although the majority of manuscripts that we have today include these verses, that was not always the case. A number of the Greek manuscripts and the translations that do include verses 9-20 have markings or notes that express doubts concerning the authenticity of these verses.

And we don’t have only two options here, we have five. There is the short ending, which simply ends with verse 8, and there is the longer ending that includes verses 9-20. But there is one manuscript that adds several lines between verses 14 and 15, and there are other manuscripts that contain an alternate intermediate length ending, which is clearly late. Some manuscripts have this intermediate ending followed by the longer ending. We see evidence with this of the scribal tradition, when in doubt, preserve everything.

[If you want to know more about this, I talked about the transmission of the New Testament and specifically about the ending of Mark’s gospel in the second session of our Foundations study, which is available online.]

So what do we do with this? The longer ending is very early, and it is included in the majority of manuscripts that we now have. But many even of those who think it should be retained recognize that grammatically and linguistically it doesn’t fit with Mark’s style. It is evidently tacked on later, and not very smoothly. It seems to be a patchwork compiled from pieces of Matthew, Luke/Acts, John and some of Paul’s writings. So if this longer reading is included, we don’t have anything added to God’s word, and if this is left out, we aren’t missing anything that we don’t already have elsewhere in the Bible.

So what should we do? When in doubt, preserve everything, as many scribes did, but be honest and include it with a note that warns the reader that the earliest and best manuscripts end at verse 8 and don’t include this addition.

It seems that many were uncomfortable with Mark’s gospel ending at verse 8, and so a more fitting ending was pieced together to make it more like the other gospel narratives, and more comfortable.

But I believe Mark intended to make us uncomfortable. Let’s look at what Mark is doing in his gospel.

Response of Fear and Failure

Mark is widely recognized as Peter’s gospel, assembled by Mark as he ministered alongside Peter and listened to his preaching. Peter would have been looked on in the early church as a hero. But the portrait painted of Peter here is anything but glamorous. We already looked at Peter’s greatest moment in Mark 8, acknowledging Jesus as ‘the Christ’ followed immediately by Peter’s rebuke of Jesus, for which he was called ‘Satan’ who has his mind set on the things of man, not the things of God.

When Jesus calmed the sea with a word in Mark 4, his disciples:

Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In Mark 6, when he came walking on the water in the storm,

Mark 6:49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

In Mark 9, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain

Mark 9:5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Later in chapter 9, Jesus was teaching his disciples that he would be killed and after three days he would rise,

Mark 9:32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

In chapter 10, Jesus, resolutely marching toward his death,

Mark 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,

Peter, after boldly arguing in the garden that even if all the rest of the disciples abandoned Jesus, he would follow him to death (14:27-31), could not even stay awake one hour (14:37, 40-41). And when Jesus was betrayed, ‘they all left him and fled’ (14:50). Then, having followed from a distance, when Peter was accused of being one of Jesus’ followers by a servant girl and then by the other bystanders (14:66-72)

Mark 14:71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Mark’s narrative paints the disciples as ignorant, arrogant, bumbling, misunderstanding; deeply flawed failures. They respond to supernatural events not with faith but with fear. Jesus’ greatest miracles evoke trembling and fear even in the crowds.

It seems that only the women (and John) were bold enough to watch the crucifixion even from a distance. (15:40), or to visit the tomb on Sunday morning.

Mark’s gospel is a chronicle of flawed followers, characterized by fear and failure.

Without Understanding

In Mark 4, when his disciples asked him privately about the parables,

Mark 4:11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Jesus was giving the secret of the kingdom to his disciples. He contrasts them with those outside, who would ‘see but not perceive’ ‘hear but not understand’ and would miss forgiveness.

Mark 4:13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

To them it had been given, and yet they were as outsiders, not understanding. When Jesus walked on water, they were terrified. After they took him into the boat and the wind ceased,

Mark 6:51 …they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

In Mark 7,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? …

In Mark 8,

Mark 8:17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, …Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? …21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

When Jesus’ disciples ought to have understood, they didn’t. He entrusted to them the secret, and they still missed it.

Keep it Secret Until…

That brings us to another theme that emerges when we look at Mark’s gospel. From chapter 1, when Jesus cast out demons who knew who he was, he commanded them to be silent; he would not permit them to speak (1:25, 34, 3:11).

In 1:43, after Jesus touched a leper and healed him,

Mark 1:43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Do you see what is happening here? Jesus is going to desolate places, praying alone, leaving town when everyone is looking for him. He commands silence to those he heals, but the healed disobey and instead talk freely and spread the news.

When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he did it privately,

Mark 5:43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this…

When he healed the deaf and mute man away from the crowd,

Mark 7:36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

When he healed the blind man outside the village,

Mark 8:26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, what was his response?

Mark 8:30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

When Peter, James and John were coming down from seeing Jesus transfigured, conversing with Moses and Elijah,

Mark 9:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

Keep it secret until… He charged them to tell no one until. Until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. And their response? What might ‘this rising from the dead’ mean? Again they don’t understand.

He Is Risen!

Jesus’ closest disciples see his greatest wonders and are filled with fear not faith. He reveals to them the secret of the kingdom and their hearts are hard and they are without understanding. Those Jesus heals are commanded to be silent, but they talk freely and spread the news about him everywhere. Even the demons are declaring who Jesus is. He reveals his identity to his closest followers and commands them to keep it quiet until… until he has risen from the dead.

With this background in mind, let’s look at how Mark ends his gospel. Joseph of Arimathea, a Pharisee, not one of the disciples, ‘took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus’ (15:43).

Mark 15:46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

The women go to the tomb to pay their last respects to the corpse of Jesus, doing what they didn’t have time to do earlier. But they didn’t think through how they would even get in. None of his male disciples were willing to come with them to move the stone.

Mark 16:4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

They see a robed young man, probably an angel, who tells them not to fear (as angels often do), who declares to them that the crucified and buried Jesus not in the tomb. He is risen. He is alive, just as he predicted he would be. Come see, then go tell. You will see him. He is alive! He is on the move!

Mark 16:8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Period. Full stop. The End. Now you see why people have been uncomfortable with that kind of ending? We scream out ‘No!’ You can’t leave it there! They’re supposed to go and tell! The restraining order has been lifted. He is risen! Now the disciples are free to tell everyone who Jesus really is!

A leper is commanded by Jesus not to say anything to anyone, and he goes out and ‘began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news’ so that everyone was coming to Jesus. And now these women who have heard the greatest news of history, that Jesus is risen, who are commanded to go and tell, they flee, afraid, they are seized with trembling, and they say nothing to anyone? Do the disciples ever find out? Does anyone go to Galilee to meet with their risen Lord? Does the message die with them? The disciples were clearly inclined to fear rather than faith, they were hard hearted and without understanding. But now do the women fail him too?

Mark’s style is to invite the reader into the story. It’s full of action. He ends abruptly with the witnesses to the resurrection not telling anyone, and the reader cries out ‘No! But you have to tell someone!’ and then the reader is forced to ask, who have I told?

The Beginning of the Gospel

Mark starts his gospel with these simple words:

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And Mark leaves us asking, how does it end? What is my part in advancing the gospel. How will I advance the story? Will I be filled with fear and say nothing to anyone? Or have I been so transformed by Jesus that I cannot be silent, but talk freely and spread the news everywhere?

And we know the rest of the story. We know that these women may have been silent and afraid for a moment, but they did go and tell, even though they were not immediately believed. We know that Jesus keeps his promises, even in spite of the flaws and failure of his followers. His gospel, the good news that he died in the place of sinners and rose from the grave, has reached even to us! This unstoppable message can’t even be frustrated by our fears and failures. Jesus is risen! Has he changed your life? Will you go and tell?

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 26, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Meaning of the Crucifixion

4/10 Good Friday; The Meaning of the Crucifixion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200410_good-friday.mp3

Readings:

Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 14-18

Isaiah 52:14; 53:2-3

Isaiah 53:4-6

Good Friday the Central Event of History

Good Friday remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The crucifixion of Jesus is the climactic event of history. From the entrance of sin and the curse into this world in the garden of Eden to the worship in Revelation of every created thing sung throughout eternity, everything in the biblical narrative points either forward or back to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Physical Horrors of Crucifixion

We have learned some of the graphic details of the Roman practice of scourging, and the horrors of crucifixion. There have been papers written from a medical perspective on what scourging and crucifixion does to the human body.

The imagery of crucifixion evokes powerful emotions. The passion, the sufferings of Christ have become the subject of much artistic expression, attempting to capture different aspects of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Simplicity of the Gospel Accounts

But we need to be careful here. The gospel narratives are startlingly sparse of details of the crucifixion;

Matthew’s gospel records Pilate releasing to the crowds Barabbas,

Matthew 27:26 …and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

The soldiers in the Praetorium stripped him, put a scarlet robe and crown of thorns on him, a reed in his right hand, and mocked him, spit on him and beat him, then put his own clothes back on him and led him away to crucify him (27-31). Verse 35 simply states ‘when they had crucified him…’

Mark records the same sequence of events, and says in 15:24 “and they crucified him…”

Luke records:

Luke 23:33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

It is striking the scarcity of details of the physical sufferings Jesus endured. We are given enough, enough to shake us, to horrify us. Crucifixion is where we get our word excruciating. But Jesus was not the only one to be crucified. Luke’s account tells us that there were at least 3 men crucified that day. History tells us that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people were executed in this way. The crucified victim could take days to expire, which is why the thieves legs were broken, and Jesus’ side was pierced, to verify that he was indeed dead.

The Meaning of Jesus’ Death

It was not the physical suffering of Jesus that made his death unique. The uniqueness of Jesus’ death comes from who he was and what he came to do. The eternal Word who was with God and who was himself God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45).

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus, being in very form God, equal with God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil.2:7-8).

Peter tells us “Christ… suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1Pet.3:18). Jesus died as a substitute. He, the only one righteous, suffered in place of me, the unrighteous. He did this so that I, a sinner, could be reconciled to a holy God. It was not the extend of his physical suffering that accomplished my redemption. The startling message of reconciliation is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For my sake, for my benefit, for my eternal good he (the Father) made him (his only Son Jesus Christ) to be sin. Peter tells us he ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24). Jesus took my sin, the guilt, the shame, the consequences; the sinless one was made to be sin for my sake. He took my place. He endured what I deserve.

This makes sense of his terrible cry from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk.15:34). Jesus experienced the hell of separation from his Father, in our place, so that we could be reconciled, brought near to God.

The crucifixion of Jesus is a graphic portrayal of my sin. It shows me what I deserve.

The crucifixion is a graphic portrayal of what real love looks like. We think of love as merely a sentimental feeling, often a feeling that shifts like the wind. But God’s love is a rock solid commitment to love us quite literally to death. God’s love is a giving love, a self-sacrificial lay down your life love, pursuing the good of the other. We all want to be loved, to be pursued. We want to be loved for who we really are, not for some false image we project or is projected on us. We don’t want to be loved for some trait or quality that may fade or change. We want to be loved authentically.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Beware a Natural Response

What do you see in the crucifixion?

Octavius Winslow, a pastor in America and England in 1864 wrote:

There must be a believing, spiritual apprehension of Christ, or sin cannot properly be seen, or seen only to plunge the observer into the depths of despair. The mere presentation of the cross to the natural eye will awaken no emotion, other than natural ones. That which is natural can only produce what is natural. Nature can never rise above itself: it invariably finds its own level. Thus, in a contemplation of the sufferings of Christ, there may in minds of deep natural sensibility, be emotion, the spectacle may affect the observer to tears – but it is nature only. ..My reader, beware of mistaking nature for grace – the emotions of a stirred sensibility – for the tears of a broken and a contrite heart.”

Do You Believe?

Beware of emotions stirred by the images of the sufferings of Christ. Beware of being moved only by the physical suffering, and missing the reason why Jesus became human. We must own ourselves sinners, fully deserving of the wrath of a just God for eternity. We must cry out ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ And that is exactly what the cross is for. That is why Jesus came, that he who is rich in mercy and love might show his mercy to sinners who trust in Jesus alone. Are you trusting in him?

Whoever believes in the Son’ escapes the wrath of God and ‘has eternal life’ (Jn.3:36). Do you believe?

Are you ready to own yourself a sinner, to cry out to him for mercy? He is ready to forgive all your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He has paid the price in full. Turn to him. Believe in him. Entrust yourself to him. Today!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 26, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast, Theology | , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday; Sin and Repentance

4/05 Palm Sunday; The Sinfulness of Sin; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200405_sin.mp3

Palm Sunday vs. Good Friday

This is Palm Sunday, 5 days before Good Friday, one week before Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we celebrate Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as king by the crowds who spread their cloaks and branches cut from the trees in the road before him, shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Mt.21:8-9).

But a few short days later, when the Roman governor offered to release to them the ‘King of the Jews’, the crowds shouted out “Crucify him!” When Pilate asked them “Why? What evil has he done?” …they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Mk.15:9-14).

What happened that the crowds who received Jesus with joy only a few days earlier were now shouting out demanding his execution? And how can we avoid the same tragic mistake?

Crowd Dynamics

One thing we see going on here is a crowd dynamic. When a crowd gathers, people join in and they don’t always know why. It says in Matthew 21,

Matthew 21:10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

There was a buzz in the air. Something significant was happening. And nobody fully understood what. They sense the excitement and ask, who is this? The prophet Jesus. That is true, Jesus spoke on behalf of God, he spoke God’s words; he was a prophet, but he was so much more. They didn’t fully understand who he really was. They didn’t understand that he was God come in the flesh to save us.

We see this same kind of crowd dynamic in Acts 19, where Demetrius, a silversmith, perceived his business was being hurt by Paul’s preaching against idolatry and gathered a group and stirred up a crowd. It says ‘the city was filled with confusion’ (19:29) and when they gathered in the theater, it says ‘the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together’ (19:32). This is often the case; enthusiasm without understanding.

There is a danger in the enthusiasm of the crowds, because enthusiastic responses to Jesus are often short lived. John records at the beginning of his gospel that in the large crowds in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast ‘many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people’ (Jn.2:23-24). Jesus was wary of the enthusiastic response of people. Jesus taught multitudes, but he also said hard things that challenged them to think, and even caused many to be offended and leave.

The excitement that caused the crowds to cry out ‘Hosanna’ can quickly turn to ‘Crucify him!’

Save… From What?

What the crowds said was true, but they failed to grasp the full meaning of what they said. Jesus was indeed the much anticipated promised Messiah, King of the Jews. They shouted out “Hosanna!” which means “Save Now!” and Jesus was indeed the one who had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk.19:10). But when the crowds cried Hosanna, what were they asking to be saved from?

Even Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood his mission. In Mark 10, on the way to Jerusalem, immediately after Jesus told his disciples clearly and graphically how he would be executed, James and John come with this request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They want seats of prominence in his kingdom. They weren’t listening.

They thought he was about to save them from Roman oppression, and rule as their Jewish king. Luke 19:11 says ‘they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’ Their hopes were temporary, earthly, physical. Save us from this oppression. Save us from the danger we can see. Save us from the enemy that is right there in front of us.

Saving the Lost

But Jesus was marching in battle toward a different enemy. Jesus was about to conquer a different foe. And this enemy is within. Jesus described his rescue this way:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said this in the context of a man who was lost in his greed, his pursuit of worldly possessions and pleasures. A tax collector, a Jew who had sold out to the Romans and was getting rich by extorting his own people. The people grumbled “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Lk.19:7). Zacchaeus wasn’t being oppressed by the Romans; he had sided with the Romans in oppressing his own people. What happened? This greedy man’s heart was changed by and encounter with Jesus. He became generous that day. Salvation came to his house. He was rescued, not from the Romans, but from himself.

On another occasion, eating with another tax collector,

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance. He described himself as a doctor. A good doctor doesn’t go around giving out medicine to healthy people. His rescue is not for righteous people, people who think they are righteous, who think they are OK.

Jesus came for sinners. He came for the lost. Hosanna; save now. So many have a superficial understanding of what they needed saving from. Many people call out to Jesus in times of crisis asking for his help. They are asking for rescue from a difficult situation. Heal my sick relative, help me get a better job, get me out of financial trouble, fix my relationship mess. Fix my circumstances.

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You see, Jesus is more concerned about fixing you than he is about fixing your circumstances. He may be using your difficult circumstances to get your attention, to show you that the real problem is you.

What Do You Mean I’m Lost?

You might be saying, what do you mean, I’m the real problem? You don’t know what I’m dealing with. People who know they are lost don’t take offense at someone offering directions, but in Jesus’ day, and today, people resent being told they are lost. If your defenses are rising up against what I am saying, it indicates that you have an even more serious problem. Not only are you lost, you don’t even know you are lost. Most people think they are OK. But are you OK with God? Are you OK according to his standards?

The Greatest Command

When the religious leaders asked Jesus:

Mark 12:28 … “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus said the greatest command is to love the one true God. Our greatest sin is distorting and misrepresenting God. We want to be able to define God, to say what he can and cannot do, what he can and cannot be like, what he can and cannot require of us. In our arrogance, we have the audacity to set the parameters for what God can require or do or even be like.

Jesus tells us that we must love the God who is, not the god we imagine to be. And we are to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. All our energy, all our thoughts, all our affections, our very existence is to be characterized by love for God. God is to have first place in every waking thought, he is to be desired above every other good, all our actions pursuing his pleasure.

And love neighbor as yourself; putting his needs at least equal to if not above your own.

So friend, how are you? The Rev. Edward Payson in the early 1800’s wrote:

Every moment of our waking existence in which we do not love God with all our hearts, we sin; for this constant and perfect love to God His Law requires. Every moment in which we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, we sin; for this also we are commanded to do. Every moment in which we do not exercise repentance, we sin; or repentance is one of the first duties required of us. Every moment in which we do not exercise faith in Christ, we sin; for the constant exercise of faith the gospel everywhere requires. When we do not set our affections on things above, we sin; for on these we are required to place them. When we are not constantly influenced by the fear of God, we sin; for we are commanded to be in the fear of the Lord all day long. When we do not rejoice in God, we sin; for the precept is, “rejoice in the Lord alway” (Phi 4:4). When the contents of God’s Word [do] not properly affect us, we sin; for this [lack] of feeling indicates hardness of heart – one of the worst of sins. When we do not forgive and love our enemies, we sin; for this Christ requires of us. [Rev. Edward Payson 1783-1827]

Be Appalled, O Heavens!

Listen to God’s opinion of his people.

Jeremiah 2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

We have God belittling God neglecting, God forsaking thoughts. This is something to be appalled at, to be shocked over. This is evil. God is the all satisfying source of all good. And we forsake him and turn away to empty worthless things that cannot satisfy.

We ought to look at our own hearts and be appalled and horrified at our tendency to seek satisfaction in things other than the true source of all good.

Listen to what John says:

1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Are you in the habit of ignoring God? John says ‘you are of the devil.’ The work of the devil is to undermine God, to defame God, to question his word, his goodness, his love, to cause us to turn away from God.

Paul says in Romans 7 that the purpose of the law, and my rebellion against it, is

Romans 7:13 …in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

As you look at your own heart, do you see your sin as sin, a rebellion against a good and loving God, is it to you sinful beyond measure?

Repentance

Jesus said:

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to save sick sinners. What does it mean to repent?

Jesus proclaimed the good news of God,

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus charged his disciples:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Paul was sent with his gospel both to Jews and Gentiles,

Acts 26:20 …that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind or heart. To repent is to have a change of heart and mind about your sin, to come to see it as God sees it. It is to be appalled, to see it as sinful beyond measure. To turn away from sin as abhorrent and turn to God in faith. Confession means to say the same thing. To confess your sin is to say the same thing about your sin as God says about it. Confession is the opposite of excusing. Our tendency is to make excuses, to make allowances for our sin.

Repent of dead works

But what are we to turn from, to have a change of mind and heart about? This may be a surprise, but Hebrews 6 lays the foundation.

Hebrews 6:1 …a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Repent of your dead works. When our works are dead works, they don’t please God, rather they defile us. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness and our deeds do not profit, they are offensive in God’s sight. (57:12; 64:6) When we do good things to impress God or earn his favor, we offend him. We must change our mind and see our human effort to please God as God sees it, as an offense against his grace.

Repentance is a Gift

What if we don’t feel this way about our sins? Naturally, I am pleased with myself and my good works. Naturally I am appalled at your sins, but I tend to make allowance for my sins. In fact, I take great pleasure in some of my sins. How do I change how I think and feel about my sins?

True repentance is a gift. In Acts 11, Peter described the gift of the Spirit poured out on the Gentiles, and

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 5:32; 2 Tim.2:25)

God is glorified because it is God’s gift. If you don’t feel the way God feels about your sin, ask God to give you his gift of repentance. God loves to give good gifts to all who ask. Ask God to allow you to see your sin as he sees it. Ask God to give you the faith to trust Jesus completely.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 5, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment