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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.”

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

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