Your mission . . .

Play video of MI tape recorder scene. The Mission Impossible TV shows or movies are about a group of spies that are part of an organization that doesn’t “exist” called the Impossible Mission Force. They are tasked with stopping enemy forces while also trying to prevent impending global disaster. They are given missions from a tape recorder that self-destructs five seconds after listening to it. They never turn down the impossible missions nor do they ever fail to complete the missions and save the world. But, of course, it is television. We can learn a couple of things from these missions. First, there is an importance to the mission. Normally, national security is at stake. Second, there is a cost to the mission. The cost could be captured by the enemy or to be killed, in which either case they would be disavowed. Third, there are resources for the mission. Their resources are the team they assemble to take on and complete the missions. They don’t work alone to get the missions done.

This reminds me of the many mission trips I have been on with Habitat for Humanity. The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to build affordable housing for families that need a home. The importance of those trips was to supply the labor and the money to make that happen. The cost of the mission trip was the money we raised for supplies, meals for the trip, and a donation to leave with the Habitat chapter we worked with. The resources of the mission were the tools and other supplies we took with us and, of course, the team of youth and adults that were assembled to do the work. I never went alone which was important because I know less than nothing about building a house or using a hammer. I always made sure I took people who understood all that foreign stuff. I spent many mission trips making lunches, picking up supplies or whatever else needed to be done besides construction. Also, Habitat for Humanity usually supplied a foreman on the worksite to teach us and guide us as to what needed to be done. Mission trips also take a lot of planning before they can happen. This is called the pre-mission stage which I will talk about later.

This morning we are going to see a group of people who were assembled to go on a mission trip. They have been in the pre-mission stage for the past three years. It may seem like an impossible mission to them but they do not turn the mission down and before their lives are over they will successfully complete the mission. There is an importance to their mission, a cost for their mission, and they are given resources for the mission. The reason we need to take notice to their mission is because it is also our mission, as Christians, today. What John wants us to understand from this passage is that our mission (should we decide to accept it) is of the utmost importance. That is our big idea and why the mission was so important for the disciples then and for us today is what we will learn from our passage this morning.

But before we open the scriptures let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning and glean your truth from it, we ask for the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts and minds to what you want us to know, learn and believe. Help us to use your word as a light for our path and as a sword to fight the world’s and Satan’s influence on our lives. Thank you for the privilege of studying your word and may we never take it for granted. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am going to continue to use the analogy of a mission trip as we look at this passage. There are two points, the pre-mission trip stage and the final countdown. The pre-mission trip is found in John chapter 20 verses 19 and 20. This is what God’s word says, 19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Before you embark on a mission trip there are certain things you need to do to get ready. Those things will vary depending on the type of mission trip you are going on. ​​ You might need to learn a new language or you might need to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of the people you will be serving. You will also need to plan for what you will be doing on your mission trip and gather the needed supplies for it.

A number of years ago, our church took a mission trip to Mississippi to work with the Choctaw Indians. The plan was to build a pavilion for the church and to provide a VBS for the children. The planning for this trip took more than six months. We worked on lessons for the VBS and we decided who was going to take the lead in certain roles and who would be helping them. Those who were going to be building the pavilion had to decide what tools were needed and how much to bring because of limited vehicle space. We had to plan meals for each day which included what we were going to eat, who was going to be in charge of making each meal and who was going to be cleaning up after each meal. Planning also went into what the evening devotions were going to be. We also needed to do fundraising for this mission trip. We needed to pay for our meals, gas and other things including the supplies to build the pavilion and supplies needed for the VBS. We all sent support letters to family and friends and had a fundraising meal. Many of you sitting here this morning or listening online helped support that mission trip and it would not have happened if not for your support. Mission trips take planning-months and even years of planning depending on where you are going, what you will be doing and how much support you need to raise.

It was no different for Jesus’ disciples. For them the pre-mission trip stage had taken three years of planning. Jesus had called them to follow him and had then spent that time teaching them and preparing them for this moment. But even after three years of planning they were still not prepared to leave. Partly because their leader, their Rabbi, their Lord had just been crucified and they were not thinking about all the training and preparation they had gone through. But there was still some preparation and teaching that needed to be done to get the disciples ready to go on their mission trip.

The first thing that the disciples needed was to see the risen Jesus. They had heard from Mary that he was alive but they had yet to see him personally. In our passage, we see that on the evening of resurrection day the disciples are gathered together with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. It doesn’t say exactly where they were but they may have been in the same place where the Last Supper was held before Jesus was crucified. All of a sudden Jesus was standing among them. He seemingly materialized right before their eyes and greeted them with “Peace be with you.” The disciples were probably not expecting this greeting from Jesus after abandoning him on Good Friday.

This greeting of “peace” or “shalom” was the common greeting of the day. It means more than the absence of stress, it means “well-being” or “may you be saved from trouble, may God give you every good thing.” When you say, “Peace be with you” to someone, you are wishing on them life at its best under the gracious hand of God. But what did Jesus mean here? Luke 24:36-37 says, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” I am sure that Jesus wanted to calm their fears but I think his greeting of “peace” had a deeper meaning, as well. Think about Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.” He had now completed what he came to earth to do. He became our sin so that we could be reconciled to God. There could now be peace between God and man. Peace is a gift of the kingdom of God and Jesus through his death and resurrection on the cross delivered that peace to the disciples. This was a promised peace as we see in John 14:27a, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Jesus promised to give them his peace and here he keeps his promise.

We also know from Luke that they were still frightened even after his greeting of peace. So Jesus showed them the physical proof of his resurrection so that they would believe that it was really him. Our passage says that Jesus shows them his hands and his side. John is the only one to mention the wound in his side. This would have been important in proving to the disciples that he was truly their resurrected Lord. Any other crucifixion victim could only have shown the wounds in their hands and feet. Jesus was unique in that he had the added wound in his side from the Roman soldiers’ spear. This demonstrates the sovereignty of God in that every little detail of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was taken care of by the Father.

After showing them his hands and side they believed that it was really him and were overjoyed. This was another fulfillment of a promise Jesus made to the disciples in John 16:22, which says, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Again Jesus kept his promise. They are overjoyed, because now like Mary they had an encounter with the living, risen Christ. They are almost ready to go on their mission trip to change the world and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Why are these verses important for us? Because before we can go on our mission trip to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, there are a few things that must happen. We must first have a personal relationship with Jesus. We must have daily encounters with the living, risen person of Jesus Christ. That is where our faith is born and where it develops and matures. Without daily encounters with the living, risen Christ we can’t begin to understand the Great Commission and what it truly means for us and every Christian in the world. I think sometimes, we as Christians (me included), walk through our days on this earth like zombies, getting up, going to school or to work, going back home and we never think about or pursue our purpose and mission on this earth. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and months turn to years and we are still in the pre-mission stage. Why is this? I believe it is because we don’t truly know and believe that Jesus is alive. We don’t believe that we have the same power in us that he had. We don’t live in that power because we have never experienced the resurrected, living, breathing Jesus Christ in our lives. Just like the disciples needed to know and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead before they could begin their mission, we need to know and believe that Jesus is alive and has the power to do anything and everything before we can ever go on the mission he has called us to. That brings us to our first next step which is to “know and believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and that we have the same power in us that Jesus has as we prepare to be on mission for him.”

Our second point this morning is the final countdown. As we come to T minus fifty days, Jesus commissions his disciples for the mission, empowers them for the mission and delegates his authority to them for the mission. We see this in verses 21-23, this is what God’s word says, 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Jesus repeats “shalom” to the disciples which shows them how important his peace is and will be as they embark on their mission trip. They will need his peace as he sends them out into an unfriendly world to spread the gospel. Just as with the first mention of peace, he wants them to know that his peace comes as a result of his death and resurrection. No matter what they will go through, they can have hope in his resurrection and have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to complete their mission.

Jesus now formally commissions his disciples just as he was commissioned by his Father. Just as Jesus was the Father’s hands and feet, the disciples are now Jesus’s hands and feet working in the world by being witnesses to the reality of God and the truth of Jesus’ words. This commission is given importance because it is linked to the mission of the Son. They are not Jesus’ replacement or substitute in the mission; their mission is the continuation of the same mission Jesus had on the earth. Westcott says, “The disciples were commissioned to carry on Christ’s work, and not to begin a new one.” Their mission proceeds from his and it is only now that Jesus has accomplished his part of the mission that the disciples are sent. Jesus’ mission continues and is effective in the ministry of the disciples. Their mission is of the utmost importance because it is the continuation of Jesus’ mission. (Big Idea)

This mission is stated in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As Christians, we are also commissioned and commanded to continue the mission started by Jesus and continued by the disciples. It is important because we continue the very work on this earth that Jesus did while he was here.

After Jesus commissions the disciples, he gives them an important resource they will need to fulfill their mission. He empowers them with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them. Jesus breathing on the disciples would have reminded them of the creation of mankind in Genesis 2 when God breathed into Adam and he became a living being. John wants us to see that this is the beginning of the new life of believers in the risen Lord. This is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the disciples at Pentecost. This giving of the Spirit does not result in the same power we see in Acts when the Spirit is given then. Here Jesus is giving them an indwelling of the Holy Spirit that would remain in their hearts and prepare them for that moment fifty days later when the Holy Spirit would come upon them and make them effective witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I like how Carson and Greene explain this. Greene says, “Jesus conferred on them light and knowledge of divine truth which up until then they had not possessed. They were ignorant concerning the necessity for his death and the surety of his resurrection. But when he breathed on them he bestowed on them the Spirit of knowledge and understanding.” And Carson says, “This is symbolic in that Jesus is teaching the disciples who the Spirit is. Until they understood who the Spirit was they were in no position to receive his outpouring. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was dependent upon this action by Jesus.” Nothing less than the power which brought Jesus through his death and resurrection to the right hand of God the Father is the power given to the disciples to fulfill their mission.

After Jesus commissions and empowers the disciples, he delegates his authority upon them. We see this is verse 23 where he talks about the forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins. Jesus is not giving the disciples the authority to forgive or not forgive people’s sins here. What he is saying is as they preach the good news of the gospel they have the privilege to let people know that Jesus has come to earth, died for their sins and can now be reconciled with God. The forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins is the result of how they react to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will either repent, be saved and their sins are forgiven or they will not accept the salvation of Jesus Christ freely given to them and their sins will not be forgiven. The passive voice implies it is God who is doing the acting and forgiving sins not the disciples.

As Christians we are all commissioned, empowered and delegated Jesus’ authority for the mission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. This is what he has called and commanded us to do. It is of the utmost importance because we continue Jesus’ mission on the earth, but it is also important because it’s not national security at stake but the eternal security of every person on the planet, including our families, our friends, our neighbors, etc. There is a cost to be on this mission. There was a cost for Jesus which was his death on the cross. There was a cost for his disciples which for most of them was a violent death or at the very least persecution. And there is a cost for all of us to be on this mission which may include the loss of our families, our friends, our comfort, our wills and yes, even our lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Luke 9:23 says, 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” And 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” To be a disciple of Jesus, going out into the world on mission, is like carrying a cross as Jesus did to Calvary. We must be willing to even die for his sake as we fulfill the mission that Jesus has called us to. Lastly, we have the same resource to continue the mission of Jesus and the disciples which is the Holy Spirit. We have been given the very breath of the living, risen Christ in us and we have the same power available to us that rose Jesus from the grave. Wait for the tape recorder to pop up.

So, your mission, should you decide to accept it is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples for Jesus Christ. The eternal security of everyone on the planet is at stake. You may be persecuted and may even lose your life for your faith but take courage because Jesus Christ has overcome the grave and you have the power of the living, risen Christ breathed into you which is the Holy Spirit. Your mission though will never self-destruct. It will always be waiting for those who call themselves Christ followers. But this life at some point will self-destruct, and then it may be too late, if you decide today to put your mission off until the future. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “accept the mission given to me by Jesus Christ to pursue, grow and multiply disciples.”

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the mission you have given to us and commanded us to live out. Help us to believe that you are truly risen and that we have the same power within us that raised you from the grave. Help us to accept your mission of pursuing, growing and multiplying disciples. Help us to not delay our mission any longer and help us to be on mission for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen. ​​ 

Believe

Changing Our Minds

(John 20:10-18)

 

INTRODUCTION

“In 1949, researchers asked a group of students at Ivy League schools to perform a simple task: identify playing cards. There were just two catches. First, these cards were shown very quickly. Second, the researchers were using a deck of four ordinary playing cards and six ‘trick cards’ with odd colors and suits (red spades, black hearts, and the like).

 

The researchers discovered that it took the students four times longer to identify a ‘trick card’ than a normal card. The students’ brains struggled to process something as out-of-the-ordinary as a red six of clubs. Even after they had seen two or three trick cards, it still took extra time for them to identify trick cards.

 

In many cases, the students tried to ‘compromise’ what they expected to see with what they actually saw. For instance, when they saw a red six of clubs they described it as ‘the six of clubs illuminated by red light.’ In other words, the participants often couldn't accept the facts of what they just saw because they didn't expect to see it.

 

The researchers called their study ‘The Perception of Incongruity,’ which simply means that when we encounter something that doesn't fit our worldview, we have a strong tendency to ignore it. Or we tend to compromise to make it fit into our assumptions about how we think the world should work. The researchers noted that even smart people (like Ivy League students) fall prey to the perception of incongruity.”

 

Adapted from Joe Heschmeyer, "Demons, Playing Cards, and Telescopes," Strange Notions blog (7-14-14).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2014/september/6092914.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Brain Age for Nintendo DS

        • When our boys bought their Nintendo DS gaming systems, I would buy a game or two for myself

        • One of the games I really enjoyed at the time was Brain Age

        • There were all kinds of games that helped to determine the age of your brain (stroop test, speed counting, word memory, connect maze, calculations x 20, and number cruncher)

        • The one I found challenging and fun was the Stroop Test

          • The game would display one of four words and colors: ​​ blue, black, yellow, and red

          • One of these words would appear on the screen, in a random color which may not match the color denoted by the word

          • I had to say the color of the word, rather than the word itself (e.g., if the word Yellow appears in blue letters, the correct answer is “blue”)

          • [show image of stroop test in Brain Age game]

 

  • WE

    • Group Stroop Test

        • Let’s test our brains this morning to see how old they are

        • When you see the next slide, we are going to say the color of the font and not the word, reading from left to right and top to bottom

        • Let’s give it a try

        • [show stroop test picture]

        • That can be pretty difficult when our brain wants to think about reading the word instead of saying the color of the word

 

As we’ll see today, Mary Magdalene was struggling with “The Perception of Incongruity.” ​​ She had in her mind what she should have found at Jesus’ tomb and was struggling to get past what she thought was reality – “they” had removed His body and put it some place that she didn’t know about. ​​ She was unable to see and understand that Jesus had come alive again. ​​ John wants us to change our minds about Jesus’ resurrection. ​​ He wants us to . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (John 20:10-18)

    • Where Jesus was (vv. 10-15)

        • The disciples went back to their homes

          • This is obviously referring to Peter and John who had run to the tomb, to see for themselves, that it was empty

          • It seems clear from what happens next that neither Peter or John shared with Mary what they concluded after seeing the linens that had been wrapped around Jesus body and the grave cloth that had been around His head

          • We know that John believed that Jesus had come alive again, but he hadn’t shared that belief with Mary

        • Mary remained at the tomb

          • Mary is crying

            • Mary is beside herself with concern for where Jesus’ body is

            • “Mary weeps, not because Jesus has died, but because his body has vanished; abuse of the dead was considered an abhorrent offense.” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 567]

            • I tend to believe that Mary was still mourning Jesus’ death and the disappearance of His body is adding to her grief and despair

            • Not only has the One, who set her free from demon possession, died, but now His body has been removed and placed somewhere else

            • Her desire is to be near Jesus’ physical body and to properly complete the burial process, but that is now impossible

            • As I mentioned last week, the concept of Jesus’ resurrection, wasn’t even a part of her thought process

            • She was so focused on where Jesus was that she couldn’t think about where He said He would be after three days

            • While Mary wept, she bent over and looked into the tomb

              • She had already been in the tomb with the other women

              • Perhaps she’s checking one more time to make sure the tomb is actually empty

              • How many of us would admit that when we lose something, we go to the same places again and again to make sure the item isn’t there and we missed it

              • If you’re like me, you go back to the places where you normally leave the item, hoping that I just overlooked it the 5-10 times I’ve already been there before

              • It’s not there, because I didn’t put it back where I normally keep it – it’s lost!

              • Mary knew that Joseph and Nicodemus had placed Jesus’ body in this tomb, because she had followed them there and watched them do it

            • When Mary looks inside this time, she sees two angels

          • Two angels

            • John’s description of Mary seeing two angels in the tomb, makes it sound like she isn’t affected by that at all

              • John doesn’t say that Mary gasped and was shocked to see two people in the tomb, when it was empty before

              • She’s so focused on where Jesus’ body is, that she doesn’t seem to be phased by anything else

                • Perhaps we’ve all experienced this ourselves or with family members

                • We try to talk with them, but they are so focused on . . . (the game, the video game, a book, the sales flyer, the television show, etc.) . . . that they are oblivious to everything else going on around them

              • The angel’s question

                • The two angels ask Mary why she is crying

                • She is aware enough to answer their question

                • Her answer proves that she is focused on where Jesus was, but isn’t any longer

                • She basically tells them the same thing she told Peter and John – “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

                • We see Mary’s wholehearted devotion to Jesus when she says “my” Lord

                  • Last week we talked about Mary’s wholehearted devotion to Jesus, that was evident through her early morning trip to the tomb

                  • Here we see it again, when she says the Jesus is “her” Lord

                  • She was completely committed to Him

                  • We can learn from her example, again

                  • Can and do you call Jesus your Lord, because you have deep, intimate, personal relationship with Him

                  • Or, are you content to just call Him Lord, because You recognize that He spoke with authority and did miraculous things while on earth, but you don’t have a personal relationship with Him

                • God’s power at work

                  • “They do not solve the riddle of Jesus’ disappearance but by their question (“Woman, why are you crying?”) they suggest that sorrow is not what the present moment requires. ​​ But it is their presence that is telling. ​​ It has not been robbers who removed the body. ​​ Rather, what has happened here stems from God’s power.” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 555]

                  • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is all-powerful!

                  • God’s power is revealed through the empty tomb

                  • Whether or not Mary is focusing her attention in the right direction doesn’t change this fact

            • Mary has laser beam focus as another character is introduced to her and asks her two questions

          • A gardener

            • Mary turns around and sees Jesus, but thinks He is the gardener

              • We’re not told why Mary doesn’t recognize Him

                • There are all kinds of ideas (she had experienced deep trauma; she couldn’t see clearly through her tears; it was still dark, because it was early morning; she was confused) [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 369]

                • I like a more simplistic explanation, that Jesus was in control of how and when He would reveal Himself to her

                • He did this with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) and with His closest disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:4)

              • In Mary’s mind the only person who would be at the tomb early in the morning during the Feast, would be the gardener – perhaps this was when he usually came to garden tomb to maintain it [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 300; Köstenberger, 568]

              • She was so consumed by the idea that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, where she thought it should have been, that resurrection never crossed her mind

              • That’s why she assumed the man standing behind her was the gardener

            • Jesus asks her two questions

              • “Why are you crying?”

                • This is the same question that the two angels had asked her

                • Again, Jesus is trying to get Mary to refocus her attention away from the empty tomb

                • She should not be sorrowful at this point, because the empty tomb means that Jesus has come alive again, just like He had said

                • Her response should be rejoicing

                • She should be focusing on the fact that Jesus is alive and right there with her, instead of lying dead in the tomb

              • “Who is it you are looking for?”

                • This question again should help to focus Mary

                • Jesus already knew, but wanted her to verbalize it

              • Mary’s response to the two questions

                • She thinks that Jesus is the gardener

                • Here is the irony, “The one whose body she is seeking is asked for a solution to the mystery of the empty tomb.” ​​ [Moloney cited by Köstenberger, 568]

                • She is asking everyone she comes in contact with, if they know where Jesus’ body is

                • She is even willing to follow them to the location and retrieve His body

                • Her words reveal her devotion. ​​ She never paused to consider how she would carry the corpse of a full-grown man or how she would explain her possession of it.” ​​ [Tenney quoted in Guzik’s commentary]

            • The concept of Jesus’ resurrection hasn’t even crossed her mind, because she is so focused on where Jesus was instead of where Jesus is

          • “Nothing that she has seen – not the stone rolled away from the tomb, not the sight of two angels in the tomb guarding an empty space, not even the sight of Jesus himself – has shaken her stubborn conclusion that he has been taken away and reburied.” ​​ [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 999]

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Preconceived ideas can blind us to the truth right in front of us

            • There are those in our culture today, who say that they won’t believe in Jesus until God reveals Himself to them in a miraculous or supernatural way

            • Mary’s story and the religious leaders that John has introduced us to previously are evidence that we can see the miraculous and still not believe

              • Jesus asks us to take the step of faith to believe in Him without having all of our questions answered and perhaps without seeing or experiencing the supernatural or miraculous

              • Faith is believing in something we cannot see

              • Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

              • John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

              • Salvation comes by believing in Jesus by grace through faith

              • Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

              • So, if you want God to reveal Himself to you, if you want to experience the supernatural and miraculous, then believe in Jesus by grace through faith

              • Take that step of faith today

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Take the step of faith to believe in Jesus for salvation.

            • Mary had been around Jesus and His teachings for probably a couple of years

            • She was no less aware, that He had mentioned multiple times, that He would be killed, buried, and come alive again on the third day

            • She should have been focusing on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was

        • At this point, Jesus reveals Himself to her

    • Where Jesus is (vv. 16-18)

        • Jesus uses Mary’s name

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ disciples know His voice, listen to His voice, and follow Him.

            • Jesus taught His disciples about this as John records it in 10:1-21 (Jesus is the Good Shepherd)

            • John 10:3-4, The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. ​​ He calls his own by name and leads them out. ​​ When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

            • This happened once before in John 11:43-44a, When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” ​​ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

            • Jesus called Mary by name and she knew His voice

            • Application

              • Jesus calls us by name, but do we know His voice, listen to His voice, and follow Him?

              • There are many things that can distract us from knowing and listening to the voice of Jesus and then following Him

              • Work; Technology (social media, video games, television, etc.); Family; Friends; School; Hobbies (hunting, fishing, shopping, camping, etc.); Sports

              • Different ring tones

                • With small computers in our pockets today (cell phones), we have the ability to customize our ringtones

                • We have a specific ringtone for our spouse, children, parents, boss, neighbor, and friends

                • When our phone goes off, we determine whether or not to answer, based on the ringtone

                • It would be interesting to see how each person here would respond if their cell phone rang during the service, based on a specific ringtone

                • For certain ringtones, we would fumble around to silence our phones, while for other ringtones, we would simply excuse ourselves, from the sanctuary, and answer the phone call

                • If Jesus called with His special ringtone how would you respond?

              • Three questions

                • Do you know Jesus’ voice?

                  • Yes! ​​ Then you have a personal relationship with Him and are one of His disciples

                  • No! ​​ Then you don’t have a personal relationship with Him and are not one of His disciples, which is why you don’t know His voice (what voice do you know? – science, philosophy, Google, friends, Satan?)

                • Are you listening to Jesus’ voice?

                  • As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you should be listening to His voice (we can hear Jesus’ voice through other believers, sermons, personal Bible study, small group Bible studies, Scripture memory, prayer, etc.)

                  • There are times in our lives when we don’t want to listen to the voice of Jesus (we may be anger, bitter, lonely, hurt, sad, anxious, depressed, and more)

                  • We know what the Bible says, but we decide not to listen to it and instead do our own thing

                • Are you following Jesus?

                  • If you know His voice and are listening to His voice, then you should be following what He is saying to you

                  • Most of us know what Jesus is asking us to do, but are we following Him – are we obeying Him

                  • Jesus may be asking you to follow Him into full-time ministry, into a volunteer ministry position, to share the Gospel with a coworker, to forgive a fellow believer, to forgive someone who has hurt you, to reconcile with a family member, etc.

                  • You know what He is asking you to follow!

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Listen to the voice of Jesus and obediently follow Him.

            • ​​ When Jesus said her name, Mary knew His voice and responded

          • Mary’s response

            • She turned her full attention to Jesus and no longer focused on where Jesus’ body was

              • She was able to focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was

              • He is alive and with her, right there at the garden tomb

            • She addresses Jesus as Teacher

            • Imagine the joy she must have felt as this point, seeing Jesus alive

            • She had found Jesus’ body, but not in the condition/state that she had previously thought she would

            • There was no need to complete the burial process

          • Perhaps in her excitement, she rushed forward to touch Jesus

        • Jesus gives Mary a job to do

          • Jesus tells her not to hold on to Him, because He had not yet returned to the Father

            • Jesus is not giving her a prohibition against touching Him physically, because we know that, with Thomas, He encouraged him to touch the nail marks in His wrists and to put his hand in the whole in His side from the spear

            • Rather, Jesus is helping her understand that she will see Him again, but also that He has to ascend to heaven so the Holy Spirit will come and He has a job for her to do as His messenger

          • Jesus’ message for His disciples

            • Progression of relationship between Jesus and His disciples

            • Servants: ​​ John 13:16, I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

            • Servants to Friends: ​​ John 15:15, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. ​​ Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

            • Friends to Brothers: ​​ This shows the level of intimacy increasing in their relationship as He prepares to return to the Father

              • They will be the ones who will continue to communicate God’s redemptive plan through the Gospel of Jesus Christ

              • We see this progression of relationship through Jesus message for His disciples

              • Jesus is returning to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God

          • Mary obediently stops holding on to Jesus and returns to where the disciples are

        • Mary obeys

          • She tells them that she has seen the Lord!

          • We’re not told if they believe her or not

          • She also tells them everything that Jesus had asked her to relay to them

 

  • YOU

    • Are you ready to take the step of faith to believe in Jesus for salvation?

    • Are you ready to listen to the voice of Jesus and obediently follow Him?

 

  • WE

    • Is our focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was?

 

CONCLUSION

“A friend of mine used to work as a denominational official in Minnesota. One of his jobs was to travel to little rural communities where they didn't have churches to do funerals. He would go out with an undertaker, and they would drive together in the undertaker's hearse. One time, they were on their way back from a funeral, and my friend, John, was feeling quite tired. He decided he would take a nap. Since they were in a hearse, he thought, Well, I'll just lie down in the back of the hearse.

 

Sounds like kind of a creepy thing to do, but this is a true story. The guy who was driving the hearse pulled into a service station, because he was running low on gas. The service station attendant was filling up the tank and he was kind of freaked out, because there was a body stretched out in the back. While he was filling the tank, John woke up, opened his eyes, knocked on the window and waved at the attendant. John said he never saw anybody run so fast in his whole life.”

 

John Ortberg, "The Empty Tomb: How Will You Respond?" Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/march/3031615.html].

10

 

Believe

I Get It!

(John 20:1-9)

 

INTRODUCTION

“After analyzing 600 pages’ worth of arguments for and against the historicity of Christ's resurrection, Dr. Michael R. Licona concludes that ‘a good critical scholar must account for the facts with integrity’ even when the facts are ‘in tension with [our] desired outcome.’ Then he uses the following example from American history:

 

Long before John Adams became the second U.S. President, in 1770 he was a respected lawyer in New England, where the Boston massacre had just occurred. No lawyers would defend the British soldiers involved for fear of the American public, which had now grown even stronger in its anti-British sentiments. But Adams believed that everyone was entitled to a fair trial. He took the case, the public turned against him, and he lost more than half of his clients.

 

In a courtroom that was described as crowded and ‘electrical,’ Adams argued that the soldiers were innocent …. He then added, ‘Facts are stubborn things and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.’

 

Dr. Licona concludes: ‘No matter how much one may loathe the idea that Jesus rose from the dead and fantasize about other outcomes, the historical bedrock remains the same …. Jesus’ resurrection is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical [evidence].’”

 

Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus (InterVarsity Press, 2010), pp. 609-610.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/april/3041811.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Packing the court

        • I try not to listen or watch too much news – it tends to stress me out

        • With the upcoming election and the open seat on the Supreme Court, I kept hearing the comment about “packing the court”

        • I didn’t understand what that meant for a couple of weeks, until it was explained to me

        • I guess there is a movement toward adding more Justices to the Supreme Court with the intent of adding Justices that would favor one side of the isle over the other

        • The packing of the court would either balance the court or give a majority to one side or the other

        • Once it was explained to me, then I understood what was being said

        • I got it!

 

  • WE

    • All of us probably have an idea of something we didn’t get at first, but eventually understood once it was explained to us

        • Perhaps it was a math problem or equation

        • Maybe it was some political concept

        • Some people eventually understand philosophical questions, but probably most of us don’t (“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”)

        • The physics of how a curveball works with a baseball

        • Which bowl game actually determines the National Champions for college football (I still don’t understand that, but I’m not a sports guy)

        • How the coronavirus is spread?

    • There are laws and facts that explain every one of these things, that we may not understand at first, but the facts and the laws should move us toward belief

 

John has been guiding us through Jesus’ passion as He was tried, condemned, crucified, and buried. ​​ Now John shares with us the one thing that sets Jesus apart from all others. ​​ He shares some facts about Jesus’ resurrection. ​​ These facts drove John to believe. ​​ John wants us to . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Follow the facts to faith.

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (John 20:1-9)

    • Mary’s belief (vv. 1-2)

        • First day of the week

          • By the time the Gospel writers are writing, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection has transformed how they refer to the day on which He came alive again

          • It was certainly the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, but it was also the first day of the week

          • “Although the death of Jesus was absolutely crucial for salvation and the forgiveness of sins . . . ‘the hinge point of Christianity’ is the resurrection. ​​ Indeed, on the basis of the resurrection Christians have established their day of worship and praise of God (John 20:19, 26; cf. Rev 1:10).” ​​ [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 291]

          • We call Sunday, the first day of the week, and it’s when we gather together to worship and praise God

        • Early, while it was still dark

          • Mary was not alone when she went to the tomb early in the morning

            • It would have been out of character for a woman to be walking outside the city walls, by herself, while it was still dark

            • We know from the other Gospel writers that Mary had other women with her

            • Mary’s statement to Peter and John in verse 2 also tell us there were a group of women that went together, because she uses the word “we”

            • Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1-2)

            • There may have been more than just these three women

          • They were up early, probably between 3-6 am, and headed to the tomb

            • There was some urgency on Friday to make sure that the bodies of Jesus and the other two criminals were removed from the crosses before the special Passover Sabbath began, which is why the order to break their legs was given

            • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus probably had to rush to prepare Jesus’ body for burial before sundown, and perhaps they didn’t finish it completely or didn’t do it as thoroughly as they would have liked

            • “On Friday Jesus was left of the burial preparation bench in the receiving room of the tomb chamber. ​​ No doubt the women thought they could return following the Sabbath, roll back the stone, and complete the burial, sliding Jesus’ body into one of the tomb’s burial niches.” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 553]

        • Mary Magdalene’s background

          • While John doesn’t mention any other women, that doesn’t set his Gospel in opposition to the other Gospels – he is simply focusing on one character

            • She is first mentioned in John’s Gospel at the cross (John 19:25)

            • She is from the Galilean village of Magdala on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee

            • She was the one whom Jesus freed from seven demons that possessed her

            • She was one of the women that followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb to see where Jesus would be buried

            • She is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection

            • Mary loved Jesus deeply

            • She was wholeheartedly devoted to Him

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Our wholehearted devotion to Jesus brings joy to God’s heart.

            • Mary’s life was transformed through her relationship with Jesus

            • The same can and should be true of us

            • We should be wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus, because of what He has done for us

              • He left the glory and majesty of heaven to come to earth as a baby

              • He experienced the same things we’ve experienced as human beings (love, joy, laughter, loss, pain, suffering, temptation, and so much more)

              • He willingly died on a cross, as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, so we could be part of God’s family and be found righteous in His sight

              • Because of His ultimate sacrifice, we should be wholeheartedly devoted to Him

              • Nothing else should capture or captivate our hearts and minds like Jesus

              • The majority of our time should be devoted to pursuing Him and accomplishing His mission in this world – the Gospel

              • If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are not wholeheartedly devoted to Him

              • There are many other things that capture and captivate our hearts and minds

              • Take a moment to think about the things that have a higher priority in our lives, than Jesus

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess and repent of the things in my life that have a higher priority than Jesus and His mission.

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to being wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus.

            • Mary’s relationship with Jesus had transformed her and she was wholeheartedly devoted to Him and because of that . . .

          • Mary was up early and at the tomb when she discovered that the stone had been rolled away

            • Luke tells us in his Gospel that the women found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:2-3)

            • John doesn’t mention that Mary enters the tomb, but it seems logical that she would have, because of what she tells Peter and John

          • John shares Mary’s reaction

        • Mary’s reaction to finding the stone rolled away

          • She runs to find Peter and John

            • Two beliefs

              • Some believe that she ran to Peter’s house first, and then together they ran to John’s house

              • Most believe that Peter was staying with John at his house

              • It’s not really important whether they were staying together or in two separate houses

            • Significance of going to Peter

              • We shouldn’t too quickly gloss over the fact that Mary Magdalene went to Peter to report what she found

              • “Even after his denial of Jesus, Peter is still the leading figure among his disciples.” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 562]

              • We know from Scripture that Jesus still considered Peter to be an important and vital part of His mission, because He restores him (John 21:15-17) and then uses him to preach the Gospel at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41)

            • After she finds Peter and John, she shares what she believes happened

          • She shares her belief

            • They have taken the Lord out of the tomb

              • To understand what Mary believes we have to understand the culture of the day and then determine who she is talking about when she says “they”

              • Grave robbing

                • It was not uncommon for people to rob graves

                • They were looking for valuables (i.e. – expensive linen wraps, spices, jewelry, etc.)

                • It became such a problem that eventually Emperor Claudius “order capital punishment to be meted out to those convicted of destroying tombs, removing bodies or even displacing the sealing stones.” ​​ [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 636]

                • The Jewish religious leaders were aware of the common practice of grave robbery

                  • Read Matthew 27:62-66

                  • Read Matthew 28:11-15

                • Mary believes that someone has taken Jesus’ body – grave robbery has happened! (resurrection has not even crossed her mind)

              • “They”

                • When Mary says “they” she is most likely referring to the Jews and/or Romans

                • She believes the religious leaders have taken Jesus’ body, while the religious leaders believe the disciples could take Jesus’ body as a way to say that Jesus came alive again

                • Both sides were wrong

              • Mary believes the Jews have taken Jesus’ body and put somewhere, but they don’t know where

            • We don’t know where they have put him!

              • The “we” helps us understand that Mary was with other women at the tomb

              • It also helps us know that Mary identified herself with the other women

        • We know what Mary believed about Jesus’ resurrection, but what did Peter and John believe?

    • Peter and John’s belief (vv. 3-9)

        • Tomb Run

          • How many of you remember this game [show picture of Temple Run]

          • I’d never heard of this one, but it fits in with what Peter and John were doing [show picture of Tomb Runner]

          • Peter and John weren’t collecting tiles or diamonds on their way to the tomb, but they were trying to get there as quickly as possible

          • John tells us that he outran Peter, but he waited to enter the tomb until Peter arrived

        • Progression of “seeing” (understanding)

          • John visibly saw

            • In the NIV they don’t provide the translation for “saw”

            • In the NASB and most other translations they translate “saw”

            • NASB – “and stooping and looking in, he [John] saw the linen wrappings lying there. . .

            • The word “saw” in the Greek is ble’-pō (bleh-poe), meaning “to look at, to see visibly

            • John visibly saw the linen wrappings lying in the tomb where Jesus had been buried

          • Peter studied more carefully what he saw

            • When Peter arrived, he didn’t hesitate to enter the tomb, but walked right in

            • Peter also saw the linen strips lying there and the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head, folded nicely, but separate from the linen strips

              • This burial cloth had probably been rolled and wrapped around Jesus’ face to keep His mouth shut

              • Now it was folded nicely and laying separate from the linen strips that had been wrapped around His body

            • The Greek word for “saw” here is different than in verse 5

              • the Greek word is the-ō-re’-ō (thay-o-ray-o) which means, “to study more carefully

              • We get our English word “theory” from this Greek word

              • So, Peter is formulating a theory about what happened to Jesus’ body

                • He probably realizes that Mary’s belief is incorrect, because of the facts in front of him

                • Grave robbers would not have taken the body and left the expensive linens and spices

                • They certainly wouldn’t have taken time to carefully fold up the facial burial cloth and meticulously wrap the spices back up in the shape of Jesus’ body before leaving

                • They would have gone in and grabbed Jesus’ body, linens and all

              • Peter knows that the Jews and/or the Romans have not taken Jesus’ body – he knows that even some random grave robbers have not taken Jesus’ body

              • So, what has happened to Jesus’ body

            • Peter is formulating his theory when John enters the tomb

          • John comprehended what he saw

            • The Greek word for “saw” in verse 8 is ā’-dō (eye-doe) and means, “to perceive with intelligent comprehension

            • We get our English word “idea” from this, so it can also mean “I get it”

            • John saw the grave clothes and the head cloth and he believed that Jesus had come alive again

            • We’re not told if Peter believed at this point, but it’s not hard to see that he did believe that Jesus had come alive again

            • Both Peter and John had followed the facts to faith.

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we see the empty tomb and believe that Jesus is alive.

            • There was a progression of “seeing” (understanding) for Peter and John as they examined the empty tomb

              • Where are you at in that progression?

              • Are you just seeing it for the first time, but not understanding?

              • Are you examining it more closely?

              • Are you at the “got it” stage, where you understand why Jesus had to come alive again?

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Follow the facts of Jesus’ resurrection and believe that He has risen from the dead.

              • Maybe you’re seeing it for the first time

              • You may be ready to study it more carefully for yourself (we’re here to help you with that)

              • Perhaps you’re ready to move to full comprehension (we’re here to help with that move also)

          • While they believed that Jesus had come alive again, they didn’t understand from the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead

        • Jesus had to rise from the dead

          • Do you understand from the Bible that Jesus had to rise from the dead?

            • This is an important truth of the Gospel

            • Many self-proclaimed prophets have died, but none have come back to life

            • Jesus wasn’t a prophet – He was the Son of God

            • God allowed Him to come alive again proving that Jesus’ perfect sacrifice was full payment for our sins

          • Prophecy had to be fulfilled

          • Redemption had to be accomplished

            • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4a, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: ​​ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

            • Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

          • We know the disciples eventually understood

            • Luke 24:6-8, He is not here; he has risen! ​​ Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” ​​ Then they remembered his words.

            • Luke 24:45-48, Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. ​​ He told them, “This is what is written: ​​ The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. ​​ You are witnesses of these things.

          • They definitely took the Gospel to all nations!

          • We are commanded to do the same thing

 

  • YOU

    • Are you wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus and His mission? ​​ If not, what do you need to confess and repent of in order to be fully devoted to Him?

    • Have you followed the facts of Jesus’ resurrection and believed in Him as a result? ​​ If not, what level of seeing are you at (visible, studying carefully, comprehending) and are you ready to take the next step?

 

  • WE

    • Are we (Idaville Church) ready to obediently follow Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to all nations? ​​ (this is why Jesus had to rise from the dead, so that redemptions plan could be completed and the mission of the church established)

 

CONCLUSION

“Charles Colson, convicted for his involvement in the Watergate scandal as an assistant to President Richard Nixon, writes:

 

When I am challenged on the resurrection, my answer is always that the disciples and 500 others gave eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. But then I'm asked, ‘How do you know they were telling the truth? Maybe they were perpetrating a hoax.’ My answer to that comes from an unlikely source: Watergate.

 

Watergate involved a conspiracy perpetuated by the closest aides to the president of the United States—the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state's evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, ‘to save his own skin’—and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on—two weeks! The cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all those around the president were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody's life was at stake.

 

But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don't you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did. Men will give their lives for something they believe to be true; they will never give their lives for something they know to be false.

 

The Watergate cover-up reveals the true nature of humanity. Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will, in the crunch, save their own necks, even at the expense of the ones they profess to serve so loyally. But the apostles could not deny Jesus, because they had seen him face to face, and they knew he had risen from the dead.

 

No, you can take it from an expert in cover-ups—I've lived through Watergate—that nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and is Lord. Two thousand years later, nothing less than the power of the risen Christ could inspire Christians around the world to remain faithful—despite prison, torture, and death. Jesus is Lord: That's the thrilling message of Easter. It's a historic fact, one convincingly established by the evidence—and one you can bet your life upon.”

 

Charles Colson, BreakPoint Online Commentaries (4-29-02); submitted by Cynthia Davenport-Herbst, Paris, Texas.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2006/march/14007.html].

10

 

Joe & Nick’s Excellent Adventure

The movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. It follows slacker friends Bill and Ted, who travel through time to assemble historical figures for their high school history presentation. Bill and Ted, are seemingly nondescript, unpopular, dim-witted high school students at San Demas High School. They have their own band called the Wyld Stallyns and even though they are not very good at playing, they dream one day of being a successful band. But they have a problem in that if they fail their history class project, Ted's father plans to ship Ted to a military academy in Alaska, which for all intents and purposes, would end their dream of being a band.

Unbeknownst to them, their success or failure in passing this history project has far-reaching consequences for the future. In the year 2688, humanity exists as a peaceful, utopian society due to the inspiration of the music and philosophy of Bill and Ted, seen and heard in their music performed as the band “Wyld Stallyns.” So, with a little help from Rufus from the future they are able to use a time traveling phone booth to accumulate historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Genghis Khan, Billy the Kid, Socrates and Napoleon, bringing them into the future, and passing their history project.

Doesn’t that plot remind you of the stories we find in the Bible. For instance, God’s people, the Israelites, are being held captive as slaves in Egypt for over hundreds of years. God uses Pharoah’s daughter to save a baby from the Nile River, uses her to raise and educate him in Pharoah’s household, so he can grow up and be the one to confront Pharoah as an adult to let God’s people go. Along the way, he murders an Egyptian, has to flee to the desert, where he meets God in a burning bush. He then spends years tending sheep before he returns to lead God’s people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. As they leave Egypt, God through the Ten Plagues, causes Pharaoh and the Egyptians, to not only beg them to leave, but to gift them all the gold and silver they can carry as they are leaving. It says “they plundered the Egyptians.”

We see God’s providence and sovereignty all through the Bible. We see time and time again how God can and has used anyone and everyone, from Pharoah, to Nebuchadnezzar, to Judas, to David, to Peter (and the list goes on), to fulfill his purposes. He can use those who believe in him and he can use those who don’t. He also can and will use us and probably already has. The first question for you this morning is not if God has used you but when in your life has he used you to fulfill his purposes. He may not have called you to start a band that will usher in world peace and a utopia, but I can bet he has called you and used you to fulfill his purposes somewhere along the way. Maybe he is using you right now to fulfill his purposes. Adults, it could be raising your kids or it might be in the job he has you in right now. Students, it might be with your classmates in school. I know God is using Christian students right now in our schools to spread hope and the gospel to those who don’t have it during this pandemic. Or maybe he is using you to reach out to your family and friends or maybe he is using you right now at Idaville Church to fulfill his purposes. The second question is have you noticed it? If so, what did you do? Did you ignore it or did you go all in? I believe it is important that we notice when God is using us and then follow him completely as he leads us in accomplishing his purposes for his kingdom.

In our scripture this morning we are going to see two people who also have an excellent adventure. For now, I will call them, Joe and Nick. They are seemingly insignificant, nondescript and unpopular among their peers. Joe is only mentioned in the Gospels and only in connection with one event. Nick is only mentioned in the Gospel of John and only on three separate occasions. They are wealthy men and part of an important and prominent group of Jews but they are also followers of Jesus. In fact we will learn that they are secret followers of Jesus while he is alive, but after Jesus’ death, God uses them to not only fulfill his purposes, but uses them to fulfill the scripture, as well.

That brings us to our big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is God can and will accomplish his purposes through anyone and everyone. He can use those who don’t believe in him, such as Pharoah and Pilate. He can use those who know the scriptures but don’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah, such as Judas and Caiaphas. He can even use those who are secret disciples. He can and will accomplish his purposes through anyone and everyone and that includes you and me.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I ask for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us this morning. I pray that we would have open hearts and minds to your Word and that it would seep deep down inside us. Use your Word to guide us, protect us, and correct us. And give us opportunities this week to share it with others who desperately need to hear it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I want to start by giving some background information on the two main characters in our adventure. I will start with Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph is found in all four Gospels but only in connection with this one event we will see this morning. Each of the Gospel writers gives us bits and pieces of the whole of what we know about Joseph. Matthew 27:57 says, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.” Verse 60 says, “and laid it (Jesus’ body) in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.” From these verses we learn that Joseph was a rich man, he had become a disciple of Jesus and that the tomb Jesus’ body was laid in was new and was Joseph’s own tomb.

Mark 15:43, says, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.” The council spoken of here is the Sanhedrin, which was a kind of Supreme Court of the Jewish people. Caiaphas, who sent Jesus to Pilate to have him arrested, was the leader of the Sanhedrin at this time. We also learn that Joseph had been waiting for the Kingdom of God.

Luke 23:50-51, says, “And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God;” In addition to what we already know we see that Joseph was a “good and righteous man.” We also learn that he had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s plan and action of having Jesus arrested and crucified.

Finally, one last piece of the Joseph puzzle is found in our scripture this morning in John 19:38, which says, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews.” He was a disciple of Jesus, but he was a secret disciple because he was probably afraid of losing his position, his prestige and his wealth.

That is all we know of Joseph of Arimethea from the Biblical text. The other main character in this adventure is probably more well known to us but we still have very little to go on. He is Nicodemus. We only find Nicodemus in the Book of John. He is not mentioned in the other Gospels as Joseph’s helper or even at all. John 3:1-2 says, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night.” From this we learn that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of Jews who were considered to know the Jewish law the best and who legalistically kept every letter of it. They often opposed Jesus throughout His ministry and Jesus often strongly denounced them for their legalism. It is probable that both Joseph and Nicodemus were part of the Sanhedrin. We also learn that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. In all probability, Nicodemus came at night so none of his fellow Pharisees would find out.

We also find Nicodemus in John 7:50-52, “Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them, meaning a Pharisee) said to them, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you?” Here we see the end of an incident where the chief priests and the Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus and had come back empty handed. Nicodemus seems to stand up for Jesus or at least stand up for due process of the law. He says they should hear Jesus out first before they arrest him. You can see from their reaction to Nicodemus that his words were not taken seriously. To “be from Galilee” meant you were insignificant, you were nothing.

That is all we know about these two men so far: they were part of the group that condemned Jesus to die and were secret disciples. But God was able to use them to fulfill scripture and to accomplish his purposes. Maybe, this morning, you are a follower of Jesus but realize that you are following him in secret like Joseph and Nicodemus. Maybe you are afraid of what your friends, family, fellow students or co-workers will say. Maybe you are afraid you will lose friends if you profess to be a Christian. In fact, if your friends, family, fellow students or co-workers don’t know you are a Christian, that’s a problem. If you are living as a Christ follower, they should not be surprised to find out you are a Christian. That brings us to our first next step this morning which is to stop living my life as a secret follower of Jesus and start living as a bold disciple of Jesus Christ. ​​ 

Now, let’s turn to our scripture this morning, which we find in John 19:38-42. This is what God’s Word says, 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. 39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Like Matthew, John tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but he goes on to say that he was a secret disciple because he was afraid of the Jews. We can assume that he was afraid of his position in the Sanhedrin, his possessions in that he was wealthy, and probably his prestige in being part of the ruling class of the Jews. But something happens between Jesus’ life and his death on the cross. Mark 15:43 tells us he boldly went before Pilate asking for Jesus’ body. Joseph finds a boldness that he didn’t have before. John makes it a point to tell us he was a secret disciple but he also presents him in a positive light in that he had the courage to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body when all the other disciples were hiding in the Upper Room. ​​ Now it is not written why Joseph asked for Jesus’ body but it could only have been for the purpose of burying it.

There are a number of important things we can learn from this. One, it was against Roman law to bury a crucified criminal. They would let them hang on the cross for the vultures, etc. to do their worst. It would have been a warning to others that this is what happens when you defy the Roman authority. Two, Joseph, by asking for Jesus’ body, could have easily been arrested for being a follower of a traitor to the Romans.

Three, we see the sovereignty of God in that Pilate granted Joseph’s request. This may have reflected his conviction that Jesus was innocent or he felt he was getting back at the Jewish leaders by allowing Jesus to be buried. No matter what he was thinking, God was in control, and Pilate granted Joseph’s request and Joseph goes to the cross and takes Jesus’ body.

In verse 39 we are introduced to the other character who joins Joseph in this adventure. That is Nicodemus. He is identified as the man who had earlier visited Jesus at night. He is also identified as Joseph’s helper in burying Jesus’ body. It says he brought about a hundred pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes, which they used to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. By today’s measurement the spices Nicodemus brought was more like sixty-five or seventy-five pounds but it was still a lot of spices. It seems like an extravagant amount to bury one body. In fact, that amount was normally only ever used to anoint the body of a king or a wealthy, prominent person for burial. This extravagance is reminiscent of the excessive wine leftover at the marriage feast in Cana. We also saw the same type of extravagance when Mary anointed Jesus feet with a pound of pure nard which was really expensive. These sixty-five to seventy-five pounds of spices might seem extravagant to us but John is making the kingship of Jesus clear. Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but the King of kings. He deserves this honor that is being shown to him.

The spices that Nicodemus supplied would have been used to bury Jesus’ body in the Jewish custom. The Jews didn’t embalm bodies like the Egyptians. They would wrap the body tightly with linen cloths adding the spices in and around the cloths as they wrapped it. They would then put more spices around and under the body after it was laid in the tomb. They used myrrh which was a fragrant, gummy resin which in powdered form was usually mixed with aloes, which was an aromatic powder made from sandalwood. The spices were to help with the smell as the body decayed.

From verse 41 we learn that in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden. John is the only Gospel writer to tell us that. We also learn that in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. We learned in Matthew 27:60 that this was Joseph’s tomb and that he was a wealthy person. This would have been a family tomb cut out from rock. It would have had shelves cut out inside to place multiple bodies of his family members. It would have also had a big stone that would have been rolled over the mouth to close the tomb. This is where Jesus’s body was being laid. Why would it have been important that Jesus’ tomb belonged to a wealthy person? The reason was because it fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah 53:9 says this, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” Seven hundred years before Jesus death, Isaiah wrote this about the Messiah being put to death with wicked men but being buried with the rich. Jesus was crucified between two thieves and as such should have been buried in a gravesite outside the city of Jerusalem with other criminals. Jesus’ family or disciples weren’t rich and could not have afforded a tomb like the one Joseph owned. Only by the providence and sovereignty of God was Isaiah’s words fulfilled.

Why would it have been important for Jesus to be buried in a new tomb where no one had ever been laid? The Jews would have felt that to bury a criminal in a family tomb would desecrate the other bodies in the tomb, but that is probably not why John wants us to notice the new tomb. Carson says, “More likely his purpose is to prepare for chapter 20: if on the third day the tomb is empty, only one body had disappeared, and only one person could have been resurrected.” God is sovereign and in control and he had it all worked out.

Again in verse 42 we see the providence and the sovereignty of God in that the tomb was close by where the crucifixion took place. The reason this was important was because it was the Jewish Day of preparation and the Sabbath, when all work had to cease, was due to start at sundown. Commentators believe that Jesus died around 3 PM and the Sabbath would start at 6 PM, which the Jews considered the end of the day and the start of the new one. There would have been 3 hours for Joseph to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body, to take his body down off the cross, for him and Nicodemus to prepare his body and then lay him in the tomb. We know from Mark’s Gospel, that when Joseph asked for Jesus’ body, Pilate had to make sure he was dead before allowing him to take it. Mark 15:44-45, says, “44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.” We don’t know how long that took, but I imagine it took some time to verify. The fact that the tomb was close by would have definitely helped as sundown was fast approaching.

But there was another reason why he needed to be buried before sundown on Friday. It was so Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40 would be fulfilled, which says, “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The Jews counted any part of a day as being a full day, so for Jesus to be considered in the ground for three days he needed to be laid to rest on Friday. In his burial as well as his death, Jesus orchestrated all the details to accomplish God’s already revealed purpose. Just think about how completely God looked after every detail of his plan.

It is fascinating to see the providence and the sovereignty of God at work. He is always working out his purposes in your life and in my life. When I think about his providence and sovereignty in my life I just stand in awe of who God is. The lesson we can learn from Pharoah, Caiaphas, Judas, Joseph and Nicodemus, is that God’s can and will accomplish his purposes through those who are opposed to Jesus or through those who are followers of Jesus. (Big Idea). It is important to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing in our lives and then get behind whatever he is looking to accomplish. That brings us to our second next step which is to be open to God’s purposes in my life and ask him to fulfill his purposes through me. As we know, God doesn’t need our permission in order to accomplish his purposes through us but imagine how much sweeter it would be if we were surrendered to his will.

Burge in his commentary talks about the contemporary significance of Jesus the King, the tomb and the cross and Joseph and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. I want to conclude with this. We see that Jesus is a king that deserves a king’s burial. Herod the Great, who was despised by the people at the end of his reign, had an elaborate and expensive burial. The funeral bier was gold and embroidered with precious stones, his body covered with purple linens, a gold crown on his head and gold scepter in his hand. The procession was 1500 meters long and 500 slaves carried aromatic oils and spices.

We can compare this to Jesus: his was not a pauper’s grave, the wealthy man’s tomb was among other wealthy people’s tombs, and a religious leader brought a tremendous amount of burial spices to Jesus’ grave. Jesus was buried in a king’s hoard of spices. Jesus was buried in a “garden” which is the same setting for Israel’s kings such as David. Remember Jerusalem had their own burial places for criminals and according to Acts 1 that was where Judas finally found his grave. But Jesus is buried in splendor, in beauty, in an unused tomb, as if it had been carved for him alone. To be buried in a new tomb would have been a special honor reserved for kings. John wants us to understand that Jesus is the King of kings.

When it comes to the tomb, John does not seem to employ it in the same way the Synoptic Gospels do. They seem to employ the tomb as a prelude from which we await the resurrection. The tomb is shut, a guard posted and we await the angels to arrive and an earthquake to break open the grave that cannot contain its occupant. The tomb is linked to Easter Sunday. But in John there are no guards or heavy stone rolled in front. The tomb is the resting place for the great King, the culmination of his work on the cross. For John, the tomb and the resurrection is another step along the way as Jesus moves from earth to heaven. The tomb is not a place of depressing defeat. It too like the cross, is a place of glory and victory. Just as the trial and the cross shows us the victorious King of kings so does the tomb.

Finally, what can we make of Joseph and Nicodemus? In John 12:32 Jesus predicted that when he was lifted up he would draw all men to himself and now that he has been lifted up Joseph and Nicodemus have been drawn. They step out from their ambivalent positions at tremendous risk and publicly acknowledge Jesus’ honor. They risked their personal honor by protecting Jesus’ honor. To bury him like they did was a statement noted undoubtedly by their peers throughout Jerusalem.

When we look at Jesus’ disciples such as Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael, we see the importance for the public visibility of faith among true disciples. As professionals with considerable social prestige, Joseph and Nicodemus were stepping into the circle of true discipleship, joining the community of the faithful. This is worthy of notice especially for those whom public visibility comes at some risk. John is setting before us a sterling example of two men who used their considerable resources to glorify Jesus and in doing so become genuine followers of Christ. ​​ I pray that you and I would be as bold in our Christian walk as we allow God to accomplish his purposes in our lives for his praise and his honor and his glory.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for its wisdom and its truth. Let us use your Word to show others of your love, your justice and your truth as we pursue, grow and multiply disciples. Now, as we leave this place of worship, we pray for protection from the evil one, for unity among our body, for your complete joy to be in us and for a desire for holiness as we live our lives for you. Help us to be bold disciples of Jesus Christ, in his name we pray, Amen

 

Back To Church Sunday

Stronger Together

(Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

 

INTRODUCTION

Good morning and welcome, everyone! It’s so good to see you all here this morning. It’s so good to be here together!

 

We’re honored that you’ve chosen to be here with us this morning. As you probably know, we are excited to be participating in and celebrating the national movement of Back to Church Sunday. All across the country, the body of Christ is gathering together to reflect on and to reclaim the true nature of the church as a place of Christ’s love and hope for ourselves, our friends, neighbors, communities, and world.

 

As a church, we are the collective hands and feet of Christ, who reflect Him and do His work in the world as we grow in our relationships with Him and with each other. That’s not just us as a group of friends and family within Idaville Church—it includes those who are gathering in the church up the road, down the road, and in the other small towns surrounding us, and virtually at home, and on the other side of our country, and around the world.

 

Sometimes we do a better job than at other times. And sometimes we’ve all done a lousy job of that calling to represent Christ. I know that everyone here today has a personal story and experience with the church—some good and life-giving; some bad and painful. For those of you whose experience with the church may have been painful, I’m sorry. I may not know each of your individual stories, but I do know how deep and how wide and how high and how pure God’s love is for each of you. And I am truly sorry for the pain you may have experienced when the actions of one or some of His followers fell short or contradicted His love for you.

 

But whatever path has led you here today, let me say that we are honored to welcome you and to get to know you. We are excited to be here together. This is a Sunday of belonging, and together is where we belong. We are stronger together!

 

If there was ever any doubt, or any sense of taking it for granted, the COVID-19 pandemic has sure reminded us how much we need each other. ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ may be a cliché, but it’s cliché because there’s truth in it. Having to distance ourselves from each other sure has provided a powerful reminder of the value and importance of our need for connection. We have all been living through the most tangible reminder in our collective lifetimes that we need each other, that we belong in community, and that we are much stronger together.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Hunting

        • For many years I hunted alone

        • I didn’t have a buddy to go hunting with

        • Those years were tough and I didn’t hunt as much as I wanted to, because it was lonely

        • I didn’t have someone to motivate me or that relied on me to be there for them

        • There wasn’t anyone to rejoice with in a successful hunt

        • God has provided a couple of guys that I get to hunt with now, and it is such a joy to be together with them and share stories

 

  • WE

    • Every one of us is probably part of a group that we cherish

        • I know we have some scrap bookers here

        • There’s also those of us who have our “shopping crew” for Black Friday

        • Maybe we’re thinking about our hunting, fishing, boating, golfing, disc golf, tennis, basketball, football, soccer, rock climbing, camping, hiking, kayaking, video game, genealogy crew (enter whatever activity you enjoy doing together with others

        • Think about those groups and what draws us together through them

 

In Ecclesiastes 4:7-12, the writer of Ecclesiastes mentions another thing, that he has observed in his life, that is meaningless. ​​ He talks about a man who is isolated and alone, without any one to help him. ​​ Then he contrasts that with the benefits of having at least one companion, but probably more. ​​ The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We were created for community.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

    • Background

        • Ecclesiastes is one of the Bible’s wisdom books. ​​ Its narrator is the Teacher or the Preacher, depending on the translation

        • Most scholars credit Solomon as the author or someone writing for Solomon (it is not mentioned in the writings)

        • Most of us are familiar with the book of Proverbs

          • Solomon is the author of that book and he has packed it full of wise sayings

          • There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so it’s easy to read one Proverb a day for most months (I’ve done that in past years)

          • So, I’ve read and reread Proverbs a lot, but I can’t say that about Ecclesiastes

          • Perhaps we’re all the same when it comes to Ecclesiastes

        • Ecclesiastes can be a little hard to read

          • It can sound downright bleak in spots as the writer explores the futilities and emptiness of life

          • The same saying is repeated throughout the book, “this too is meaningless.”

          • Ultimately, the book walks through the ironies and empty pursuits of life, pointing toward trusting God as the only absolute, and it offers many wise insights along the way

        • The Teacher begins with the negative and then turns to the positive – from the bleak to the hopeful

    • Isolation (vv. 7-8)

        • The Teacher begins this section by repeating the statement that He saw something that was meaningless

        • Alone

          • The man that the Teacher observed did not have a son or a brother as a companion

          • Nothing is said of a wife, daughters, or sisters

            • Perhaps he had one or all of those

            • As we see in the remainder of theses verses, it seems as though work is the primary focus

            • In the Ancient Near East, most of the time, the men would be tasked with working in the fields or at a trade, while the women would focus on the housework (there were exceptions to this depending on life circumstances; i.e. – a widow, orphan, etc.)

          • The man not only has to work alone, but he doesn’t have anyone to pass on his possessions or trade to – there is no male heir for his inheritance

          • Application

            • Some of us can relate to this man’s loneliness

            • We don’t have siblings or children that can work alongside of us or take over the family business when we retire

            • It can be very lonely and tasking

            • It can cause us pain as we think about having to sell the business that we’ve worked so hard to create and develop

            • Perhaps some of us are feeling the same way as this man – everything is meaningless

          • We may also be feeling burned out

        • No end to his work and no contentment

          • Because he is all alone with no one to share the work load, he recognizes that there is no end to his work

            • Those of us who own our businesses know exactly what this man is feeling

            • There are farmers and small business owners who have never taken a vacation – or have rarely taken time away from work (they understand that the buck stops with them)

            • When asked about a vacation, they will probably respond, “What is a vacation? ​​ I’m not familiar with that term.”

            • They know that to be successful they have to work and work hard

          • Contentment

            • Many times, these hard workers are not content with the wealth they have accumulated

            • Proverbs 27:20, Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.

            • The Apostle Paul gives us the key to contentment no matter what our circumstances may be right now

            • Philippians 4:11-13, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. ​​ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. ​​ I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. ​​ I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God for His strength, no matter what my circumstances are right now.

          • Since this man does not have an heir, he asks two questions

        • Two questions

          • Who am I working for?

            • Some of us would answer this question with, “I’m working for the man!” (talking about our boss)

            • And in some instances, we may even say, “I’m going to stick to the man!” (again referring to our boss)

            • Paul helps us to change our perspective on this question

              • In writing to the believers in Colossae he provides some rules for Christian households

              • In that section it talks about slaves obeying their earthly masters, which for us can relate to obeying our bosses

              • Colossians 3:22-25, Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. ​​ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. ​​ It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ​​ Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

              • No matter what job you have, as Christians, we are working for the Lord

              • Perhaps that little reminder will change our perspective as we prepare to face another work week

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Begin my work week by asking the Lord to help me remember that I’m working for Him.

            • The second question is just as important

          • Why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?

            • Those of us who are workaholics know that we have missed some important events in our family’s lives, because of work

              • I know a mother who missed her daughter’s preparation for her senior prom, because she felt like she needed to be at work

              • Illustration about Craig Groeschel from The Christian Atheist

              • I’ve known other people who have been reprimanded by their supervisor for prioritizing time with their children, for important events, instead of being at work

              • Others have been criticized for not participating in a work related event due to medical concerns with their spouse, child, or parent

              • I want to encourage everyone this morning to take time to enjoy life, especially with family

              • Let me paraphrase what Andy Stanley once said, there are hundreds or thousands of people who can do your job as good or better than you, but you are the only one who can be the husband/wife to your spouse and the father/mother to your children

              • That should change our perspective about being a workaholic and prioritizing our family

            • The man in this passage says that being a workaholic is meaningless

        • Toiling endlessly without a break is not how God designed us to function

        • We have to make time to be in community, because we were created for community

        • We are stronger together

        • That’s what the Teacher shares next

    • Community (vv. 9-12)

        • A few thoughts as we consider the importance of community

          • “The old aphorism applies: ‘I went out to look for a friend and they were nowhere. ​​ I went out to be a friend and they were everywhere.’” ​​ [Moore & Akin, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 58]

          • “Unfortunately, true community is not what people in many churches really want. ​​ What they really desire is either people meeting their needs on their terms or what some prominent sociologists have labeled ‘lifestyle enclaves’ (Bellah, et al., 71-75). ​​ Lifestyle enclaves are artificial communities. ​​ They are groups of people with the same socioeconomic background who exist solely to satisfy their individual and collective desires. ​​ This is not the biblical meaning of community.” ​​ [More & Akin, 58]

        • Work (v. 9)

          • The lonely man sees no end to his toil and doesn’t have any one to share his workload

          • The Teacher tells us that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work

          • Biblical examples

            • Genesis 2:18, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. ​​ I will make a helper suitable for him.”

            • Luke 10:1-2, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. ​​ He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. ​​ Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

            • Acts 13:1-3, In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. ​​ While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” ​​ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

            • Even after Barnabas and Saul/Paul parted ways over John Mark, Paul took Silas with him and picked up Timothy along the way (they were serving in ministry together)

          • Application

            • Pastor Marc and I have experienced this here at Idaville Church

            • We are a great team!

            • When either of us gets stuck with sermon preparation the other person is always ready and willing to listen and give ideas

            • When there are important decisions that need to be made, we are talking them through together

            • Pastor Marc knows I’m a verbal processor and is always willing to listen

            • I praise the Lord for Pastor Marc’s friendship and partnership in ministry

          • We’re not only stronger together when it comes to work, but also as it pertains to hurt

        • Hurt (v. 10)

          • Do you remember the catchphrase, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

            • In 1989 LifeCall began running commercials using this phrase [show picture of woman who has fallen in the bathroom]

            • This was probably new technology at that time, to have this pendant that was worn around the neck in case of an accident or emergency

            • All someone had to do was push the button on the pendant and it would alert a dispatch service

          • Importance of having a companion to help when we fall

            • It’s certainly important to have a friend and community who can be there to help us when we fall down physically

              • When our boys were small, I woke up one night in the middle of the night, with something in my eye that could not flush out

              • I needed to go to the emergency room, but knew that Judy would have to get all three boys up for her to be able to take me

              • I called my best friend, Dwane, and asked him to take me, which he willingly did

              • How many of you have experienced the love and generosity of the community here at Idaville Church when you have gotten hurt or had to recover from surgery or another illness?

              • When Jesus was teaching about the final judgment, in Matthew 25:31-46, He talked about taking care of those who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothing, sick, and in prison

              • Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

              • Galatians 6:9-10, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ​​ Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

            • It’s also important to have a friend and community that surrounds us when we fall down spiritually

              • Galatians 6:1-2, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. ​​ But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. ​​ Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

              • Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-20 what our responsibility is when a someone sins against us (one-on-one; one or two others with us; before the whole church; treat them as we would a pagan or tax collector)

            • Even in our hurt, we were created for community

          • There are times when we need each other just to survive

        • Survival (v. 11)

          • Literally

            • “The warmth of lying beside each other does not refer to sexual activity, nor are the two necessarily husband and wife. ​​ It is an image derived from that of travelers who must lie beside each other to stay warm on cold desert nights.” [Garrett, The New American Commentary, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 308]

            • This passage has been used during wedding ceremonies and can certainly pertain to a husband and wife (if you’re married, you understand sharing body heat to stay warm in the winter, especially when your wife’s feet are like ice cubes and she puts them on your legs to warm them up)

            • In the Ancient Near East, those who were traveling together needed the shared body heat of two people as they slept under the stars or in a tent

            • It was a survival technique

          • Metaphorically

            • Some scholars see this reference to staying warm as a metaphor for “emotional comfort against the coldness of the world.” ​​ [Garrett, 308]

            • 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. ​​ For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

            • Perhaps every one of us can remember a time when we have experienced the comfort of others who have gone through the same things we have

            • In God’s sovereignty, He provides the right people at the right time to comfort us

            • Maybe God is prompting someone here today to be a comfort to someone else

            • I encourage you to listen to that prompting, because we were created for community and we are stronger together

          • We need each other in work, when we’re hurt, for survival, and finally for protection

        • Protection (v. 12)

          • Standing our ground

            • It’s difficult to stand our ground when we are standing all alone

              • Most people are bolder and more outspoken when they have some friends standing with them

              • If those same people were alone, they may not speak out or stand up at all – they may just remain silent

            • Mark 3:23-26, So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? ​​ If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. ​​ If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ​​ And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

            • It’s a reminder of the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

            • We need each other to help with accountability

              • Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ​​ Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

              • Ephesians 6:12, For our struggling is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

              • We need to encourage each other to put on the full armor of God

            • “If one is bad, and two is good, how much better is three! ​​ In this regard note the Targum’s interpretation, ‘if two righteous people in a generation are useful, how much more useful are three righteous people in a generation!’” ​​ [Longman III, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Ecclesiastes, 143]

          • Cord of three strands

            • Rope

              • Most of us have used rope at some point in our lives

              • Have you ever taken rope apart? ​​ (it’s made up of different strands braided together)

              • Individually each of those strands might hold a little bit of weight, but it’s when those strands are woven together that their strength multiplies exponentially.

              • Examples

                • Would you rather water-ski behind a boat with a line of craft string or with a braided nylon tow-rope?

                • Would you rather rock climb on the thousand-foot rock faces of Yosemite attached to a long line of yarn? ​​ Or tied into a climbing rope?

                • Would you rather strap your harness to a tree in your tree stand with jute twine or a thick racket strap?

              • The important thing about rope is that it has always been made by twisting and weaving multiple strands or fibers together to make it stronger than one strand alone

            • Relationships

              • We are very much the same

                • We are like rope

                • We are stronger as we are woven together by and with Christ, and that happens when we are in community together

                • We were created for community

                • “The point of the image of the three-strand cord is rather that strength can be gained through human relationships.” ​​ [Longman III, 143-44]

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to being in community with other believers.

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to trust God for His strength for a situation in your life?

    • Who are you truly working for? (God or man?)

 

  • WE

    • We all need to remember that we were created for community and we are stronger together

 

CONCLUSION

“Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.

 

In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone—fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.

 

Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence, and severity. And such was Pachomius's early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.

 

How can you learn to love if no one else is around?

 

How can you learn humility living alone?

How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?

 

How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?

 

In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people—ordinary, ornery people. ‘To save souls,’ he said, ‘you must bring them together.’

 

Spiritual muscle isn't even learned among friends we have chosen. God's kind of love is best learned where we can't be selective about our associates. Perhaps this is why the two institutions established by God—the family and the church—are not joined by invitation only. We have no choice about who our parents or brothers or sisters will be; yet we are expected to love them. Neither can we choose who will or will not be in the family of God; any who confess Jesus as Lord must be welcomed. We learn agape love most effectively in our involuntary associations, away from the temptation of choosing to love only the attractive.

 

So Pachomius began an ascetic koinonia, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Instead of each person seeking God in his own way, with the dangers of idleness and eccentricity, Pachomius established a common life based on worship, work, and discipline.

 

In community with flawed, demanding, sometimes disagreeable people, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God's grace. Thus began genuine monastic life.

 

Pachomius, while largely forgotten in church history, points out to us that as attractive as solitary sanctification may seem, it is life amid people, busyness, and interruptions that develop many of the qualities God requires.”

 

Condensed from our sister publication Leadership journal, © 1993 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit Leadershipjournal.net.

 

Marshall Shelley, "Developing spiritual fruit requires being around people – ordinary, ornery people," Leadership journal (Spring 1993).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/january/4012808.html].

11

 

Believe

Truth Teller

(John 19:28-37)

 

INTRODUCTION

“David Greenglass was a World War II traitor. He gave atomic secrets to the Soviet Union and then fled to Mexico after the war. His conspirators arranged to help him by planning a meeting with the secretary of the Soviet ambassador in Mexico City. Proper identification for both parties became vital. Greenglass was to identify himself with six prearranged signs. These instructions had been given to both the secretary and Greenglass so there would be no possibility of making a mistake. The signs were: (1) once in Mexico City, Greenglass was to write a note to the secretary, signing his name as ‘I. Jackson’; (2) after three days he was to go to the Plaza de Colon in Mexico City, and (3) stand before the statue of Columbus, (4) with his middle finger placed in a guide book. In addition, (5) when he was approached, he was to say it was a magnificent statue and that he was from Oklahoma. (6) The secretary was to then give him a passport.

 

The six prearranged signs worked. Why? With six identifying characteristics, it was impossible for the secretary not to identify Greenglass as the proper contact. How true, then, it must be that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah if he had 456 identifying characteristics well in advance and fulfilled them all.”

 

John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Walter Kaiser Jr., "If Specific Prophecies Were Fulfilled by the Messiah, Does the Science of Probability Consider This Proof There Is a God?"; submitted by Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2005/may/15917.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Completing something

        • Puzzle

          • Several months ago I started a Thomas Kinkaid puzzle of DC Comic Superheroes

          • It took me quite a few evenings to complete it, but there was such excitement and satisfaction when I was done

          • I took a picture of it and sent it to our boys

          • I told Judy, “It is finished!”

        • Sermon

          • Every week, as I prepare God’s Word for Sunday, I’m excited when it’s done

          • Now, I don’t shout, “It is finished!” to Pastor Marc, but I still feel a sense of satisfaction and anticipation to share it on Thursday evening and Sunday morning

        • Master’s degree

          • Those two were short-term victories for me

          • Completing my Master’s degree was a long-term victory

          • It took me several years of late nights, reading, writing, and studying, to complete my degree

          • I was glad when I could say, “It is finished!”

 

  • WE

    • Completing something

        • What short-term things have you completed? (book, puzzle, exercise, laundry, lesson plans, lunch preparation, video game, etc.)

        • What long-term victories have you completed? (degree, job search, marriage, family, etc.)

 

Last week we saw Jesus hanging on the cross, but He had not yet died. ​​ Today we’ll see Jesus’ last words and deeds and His death on the cross. ​​ He was completing a long-term victory – redemption of humanity. ​​ There are three more prophecies fulfilled in these ten verses. ​​ In fact, there were twenty prophecies fulfilled during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 361]. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We can trust that God will always fulfill His Word.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (John 19:28-37)

    • Prophecy of the drink (vv. 28-30)

        • Completed

          • Last week we saw that Jesus completed His first-born male responsibility to make sure His mother would be taken care of, after His death

          • Later

            • The NIV translation of “later” makes it sound like an undetermined amount of time passes, from Jesus putting His mother in John’s care, and His statement about being thirsty

            • Most every other translation says, “after this”

            • John is simply letting us know that he is transitioning to another memory of Jesus’ crucifixion

          • Jesus had completed everything that God had given Him to do while on earth

            • He is obviously not referring to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension – those were still to come

            • “Others may unconsciously play their part in the divine plan of redemption (e.g. vv. 23-24; cf. Acts 13:29), but not Jesus . . . Jesus’ knowledge that all was now completed is the awareness that all the steps that had brought him to this point of pain and impending death were in the design of his heavenly Father, and death itself was imminent.” ​​ [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 618-19]

            • What Jesus completed

              • He had taught crowds of people about the Kingdom of God

              • He had prepared His disciples to carry on the Gospel mission to both Jews and Gentiles

              • He had prepared the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit

              • He had lovingly taken care of His mother’s future

            • It’s time for Jesus to return to the Father

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we obey Him completely.

            • Jesus modeled for us what it looks like to obey God completely

              • Jesus told His disciples and the religious leaders on multiple occasions that He was not doing or saying anything that was not from the Father

              • Philippians 2:8, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

              • Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything in order to obey God completely

            • Are we willing to sacrifice everything in order to obey God completely?

              • 1 Samuel 15:1-35 (The Lord Rejects Saul as King)

                • Samuel gives Saul a message from the Lord about completely destroying the Amalekites and all their possessions

                • Saul attacked the Amalekites and completely destroyed all the people, except Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good (1 Sam. 15:9)

                • When Samuel confronted Saul, he joyfully greeted him and told him he had carried out the Lord’s instructions

                • Samuel was confused, because he heard the bleating of sheep, and lowing of cattle

                • Saul had not completely destroyed the Amalekites and all their possessions

                • He did not completely obey the Lord, so the Lord rejected him as king of Israel

              • Mark 10:17-28 (The Rich Young Man)

                • The rich young man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life

                • Jesus reminds him of the ten commandments, which he says he has kept since his youth

                • Jesus then says this, “One thing you lack,” he said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. ​​ Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

                • The young man went away sad, because he had great wealth

              • In our western culture, we struggle to sacrifice everything in order to be completely obedient to God

                • Many times we want to hang on to a little of our past, instead of completely sacrificing it to the Lord, and then we wonder why God is not blessing us or answering our prayers

                • Sometimes we only obey the parts of the Bible we feel are easy to do and we ignore the other parts that are more difficult to do

                • We determine that we can’t afford to tithe, even though God has commanded us to give from the firstfruits of our labor

                • We are commanded not to gossip, but we “share” a prayer request about another person

                • We know we should forgive others and work towards reconciliation, but it’s so much easier to just leave and find another group of friends, another job, or another church

                • We know that looking at a woman with lust is just like committing adultery with her in our heart, but we justify it in our minds, because we haven’t actually done the physical act (Matt. 5:27-28)

                • We know that being angry with someone is just like murdering them in our heart, but we still allow ourselves to justify being angry with them (Matt. 5:21-22)

                • We know that we are supposed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we don’t (Matt. 5:43-44)

                • The list could go on and on

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Admit that I am not obeying God completely and ask Him to help me obey Him completely, each day.

                • Luke 9:23-25, Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ​​ For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. ​​ What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

                • We can trust that when we completely obey God, He will always fulfill His Word and keep His promises

          • We see the fulfillment of God’s Word in Jesus’ next statement

        • “I am thirsty”

          • Physically

            • We have already seen in verse 24 the connection to Psalm 22

              • Psalm 22:15, My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

              • Every one of us knows what it’s like to be really thirsty and to have a dry mouth, where our tongue sticks to the roof of our mouths

            • David, in Psalm 69, again references thirst and what was offered to quench thirst

              • Psalm 69:3, I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.

              • Psalm 69:21, They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

            • Jesus was certainly physically thirsty at this point

              • The beatings He’d endured, and having to carry His own cross to Golgotha resulted in dehydration

              • Jesus already knew what was coming next, so I believe He was preparing for His triumphant announcement – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves

            • Many scholars believe there is also a spiritual side to Jesus’ statement about being thirsty

          • Spiritually

            • Jesus knew that His departure from this world would usher in, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, on all His disciples

            • He was ready to return to heaven and see the ongoing fulfillment of the redemption story

            • Psalm 42:1-2, As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. ​​ My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. ​​ When can I go and meet with God?

            • Paul understood this desire to be with the Lord

            • 2 Corinthians 5:6-9, Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. ​​ We live by faith, not by sight. ​​ We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ​​ So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

            • We see then what the soldiers do in response to Jesus’ thirst

          • Relieving Jesus’ thirst

            • Wine vinegar

              • The soldiers would have had a jar of wine vinegar right there to keep themselves hydrated during the crucifixion

              • In most cases, it took days for the crucifixion to be completed

              • The wine vinegar was a cheap sour wine

              • It was different than the wine mixed with myrrh

                • John doesn’t mention this wine, but the Gospel writer, Mark, does

                • Mark 15:23, Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

                • As Jesus is being led through the city streets, there would have been charitable people, who had mixed this wine, to help those being crucified

                • It was considered a sedative and helped to dull the pain and agony of crucifixion [Carson, 620]

                • The wine vinegar would have helped to hydrate the individual, prolonging life, pain, and agony [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 550]

              • The soldier uses a sponge and a hyssop stalk to offer the wine vinegar to Jesus

            • Sponge and stalk of hyssop

              • Some people try to claim that Scripture is false, because of this reference to the use of a stalk of hyssop

                • Hyssop was a bush that could grow just about anywhere [show picture of hyssop]

                • It could grow from the crack in a stone wall

                • Its stalks/branches were very thin and flexible

                • So, how could a wine vinegar-soaked sponge be supported by a stalk of hyssop?

                • Two things to consider:

                  • Many of us think about the images we’ve seen in movies about the crucifixion [show first crucifixion picture] where the feet of the person being crucified is at head level with those on the ground

                  • More realistically, the individual’s feet were probably between 2-4 feet off the ground [show second crucifixion picture]

                  • The hyssop stalk would probably have been strong enough for the soldier to lift it just above his head to Jesus’ mouth

              • We weren’t there, so we don’t know exactly how it happened, but we can trust God’s Word – it is accurate and true

          • After Jesus has His thirst quenched, He makes a powerful proclamation

        • “It is finished”

          • Victory!

            • Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that after Jesus received the drink, He cried out in a loud voice

            • John is the only one who mentions that Jesus said, “It is finished!”

            • The drink enabled Him to loudly announce victory

            • “This confirms the sense we have seen throughout the Passion story that here Jesus is accomplishing what he intends. ​​ He is not a victim, but a servant doing God’s bidding. ​​ This is not a cry of desolation (‘At last it is over!’) but an announcement of triumph (‘It is accomplished!’).” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 529]

          • Handed over

            • “The verb ‘handed over’ comes as the last in a chain of occurrences of this verb. ​​ The devil through Judas Iscariot (13:2), ‘handed over’ Jesus to Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities (18:2), who ‘handed him over’ to Pilate (18:30), who ‘handed him over’ again to the Jews again for crucifixion (19:16). ​​ Now, Jesus himself ‘hands over’ himself – that is, his ‘Spirit’ – to someone, but to whom? . . . Quite clearly, Jesus ‘handed over the Spirit’ to the Father, just as in the other Gospels.” ​​ [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 965]

            • Jesus was not a victim, because He willingly laid down His life

            • God had given him the authority to do it

            • John 10:17-18, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. ​​ No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. ​​ I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. ​​ This command I received from my Father.”

          • Application

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus’ death is our victory!

            • Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross and His triumphant announcement, “It is finished!”, we are able to be saved from our sins

              • Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

              • Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

              • We can be healed from the scars of sin through Jesus Christ

              • We can be at peace with God, instead of rebellion against Him, through Jesus Christ

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Admit that I have turned to my own way, accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and be at peace with God.

          • Jesus’ death on the cross brings us victory over sin and death

          • God has promised us peace with him and healing from our sins when we turn to Jesus Christ

          • We can trust that God will always fulfill His Word.

        • The second fulfillment of prophecy is found in verses 31-33 and 36

    • Prophecy of the bones (vv. 31-33, 36)

        • Special Sabbath

          • The day of Preparation was just that, the Jews were preparing for the Sabbath

            • This is one positive aspect of the Jews, mixed in with their betrayal and rejection of Jesus

            • They were preparing for the Sabbath

            • Sabbath was on Saturday and actually began Friday evening at sunset

            • We should pay attention to this important practice of preparing for the Sabbath

              • Our preparation for Sunday worship should begin Saturday evening

              • For many years we practiced this with our boys and taught them about the importance of preparing for Sunday

              • We usually didn’t have friends over on Saturday evenings to spend the night, unless they were going to church with us on Sunday

              • We rarely scheduled parties or other activities on Saturday evenings, so that we could prepare for Sunday

              • We would go to bed at a reasonable hour, so we would be able to get up and go to church on Sunday

              • If you aren’t preparing the night before for Sunday worship, I want to encourage you to consider making it a priority in your life

              • It can make all the difference!

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to preparing on Saturday evening for church on Sunday.

          • This was a special Sabbath because it fell during Passover and they had the special sheath offering during this time

        • Request of Pilate

          • Background

            • Roman crucifixion

              • It most instances, death by crucifixion took days

              • The impact was greater when criminals were left on the cross for multiple days

              • In fact, many times wild animals and carrion birds would come and feed on the rotting bodies still hanging on the cross

              • If the Romans needed to speed up the dying process, they would smash the legs of the individual with an iron mallet, so they would not be able to push themselves up and take a breath (they would die from suffocation)

            • Jewish law

              • The Jews were asking Pilate to speed up the dying process, because they didn’t want the bodies hanging on the crosses during the Sabbath

              • Their desire for this comes from their own laws

              • Deuteronomy 21:22-23, If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. ​​ Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. ​​ You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

              • The Jews obviously didn’t want the land to be desecrated, especially on this special Passover Sabbath

              • The Jews were aware of the Roman practice of breaking the criminal’s legs to speed up death, so they request that it be done and the bodies be taken down before sunset

            • Pilate agrees to their request and informs the soldiers

          • Broken bones

            • They begin with the two criminals on either side of Jesus

            • Why did they work from the outside in and not in a row?

            • We don’t know why they did it in this order, other than the sovereignty of God

          • No broken bones

            • When they came to Jesus, they recognized that He was already dead

              • We know that He had bowed His head

              • His body would have been still and He would not have been making any noise, at this point

              • Perhaps the other two men were still moving around on the cross and crying out in pain

            • John tells us in verse 36 that the soldiers didn’t break Jesus’ legs, because it was a fulfillment of Scripture

              • It is the sovereignty of God at work once again

              • We can trust that God will always fulfill His Word.

              • Jesus was fulfilling and completing the sacrificial system that the Jews had lived under from the beginning

                • They were required to bring a perfect lamb, without blemish, as a sin offering (this only covered over their sins)

                • This lamb was not to have any broken bones and while they ate the sacrificial lamb, before the exodus, they were not to break any of its bones

                  • Exodus 12:46, “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. ​​ Do not break any of the bones.”

                  • Numbers 9:12, They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. ​​ When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.

                • Jesus is identified as the Passover Lamb by Paul and Peter, so it’s appropriate that none of His bones were broken

                  • 1 Corinthians 5:7, Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – ​​ as you really are. ​​ For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

                  • 1 Peter 1:19, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

                  • Jesus was the perfect lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)

                  • His sacrifice was once for all and it didn’t just cover over our sin, it took it away

              • We also see the fulfillment of Psalm 34:19-20

                • David is writing and explains that the Lord will protect the bones of a righteous man

                • Psalm 34:19-20, A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones.

                • Jesus was perfect, without sin (a righteous man) and the Lord protected His bones during the crucifixion

        • While two of the criminals had their legs broken, Jesus’ legs were not broken, which fulfilled Old Testament Scripture

        • Instead of breaking Jesus’ legs, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear

    • Prophecy of the piercing (vv. 34, 37)

        • When they pierced Jesus’ side blood and water came out

          • There are all kinds of speculation about the meaning of blood and water flowing from the spear wound

          • What did the spear actually pierce? ​​ (heart, lungs, etc.)

          • We know that it did not break any of the bones in His chest or side

          • Most scholars agree that John’s intention in mentioning blood and water flowing out, is to remove any doubt that Jesus was dead – He died a human death

          • Had He still been alive, only blood would have flowed out [Gangel, 354]

        • Fulfillment of Scripture

          • We see again that this act of piercing Jesus’ side happened to fulfill Scripture

          • God was in control of every circumstance surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection

          • We can trust that God will always fulfill His Word.

            • Past: ​​ Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. ​​ They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”

            • Future: ​​ Revelation 1:7, Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. ​​ So shall it be! ​​ Amen.

        • Jesus’ body being pierced instead of breaking His legs was a fulfillment of Scripture

        • John’s statement in verse 35 is really a fulfillment of Scripture too

    • Prophecy of the Gospel (v. 35)

        • Most scholars agree that John is the one who is being referred to here as the testimony giver

          • We already know that John was at the foot of the cross and had watched Jesus’ crucifixion and death

          • He was an eyewitness to the trial, flogging, crucifixion, and eventually resurrection and ascension

          • He would be the best person to give a testimony, as a first-hand observer/witness

        • John gives his testimony, so that those he is writing to will believe

          • The “you” in the Greek is plural

          • John is writing to us also – he is sharing his testimony of what he saw, so that we will believe in Jesus

        • PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s desire is that we testify about Jesus, so others may believe.

          • This is His Great Command and Commission for His disciples (that’s includes us!)

          • Mark 16:15-16, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. ​​ Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

          • Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ​​ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ​​ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

          • John was obediently fulfilling this command and commission and through that he was fulfilling the prophecy of the Gospel

          • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Testify about Jesus to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, so they may believe and be saved.

 

  • YOU

    • Are you obeying God completely?

    • Will you prepare on Saturday evening for Sunday morning?

 

  • WE

    • Are we making disciples?

 

CONCLUSION

“Frieda van Hessen was one of Holland’s foremost opera singers, but during the Nazi invasion she, as a Jew, was forced into hiding. ​​ In the providence of God, her life was spared. ​​ After the war someone told her she should convert from Judaism to Christianity, just in case something else was to happen. ​​ This suggestion nagged at her until she finally gave in and spoke to a minister. ​​ He set up a meeting for her with a Christian lady named Elizabeth who had converted from Judaism. ​​ Their Bible study turned into an argument. ​​ Frieda just couldn’t believe what she was reading from the Gospels. ​​ She accused Elizabeth of believing in fairy tales. ​​ After six weeks of fruitless arguments, they decided the next week would be their last meeting. ​​ Elizabeth asked Frieda to read two chapters from the Old Testament before their last meeting – Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. ​​ Frieda writes about that week:

 

Six days went by, and I could no longer procrastinate. ​​ I went to a small room in the house, closed the door, and opened up the Bible. . . . God, in His wisdom, had said to Elizabeth, ‘Tell her to read Psalm 22.’ ​​ . . . I found it, and what did I see: ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ ​​ I . . . remembered that in Bach’s ‘St. Matthew’s Passion,’ the basso, portraying the Lord, sings, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ ​​ Still in my rebellion, I said, ‘What do you know, they stole this from Bach!’

 

Oh, God is so wise! ​​ This finally got my attention. ​​ Now I wanted to continue reading to see what else had been ‘stolen’ from Bach! ​​ Then I came to verse 16, and read, ‘They pierced my hands and my feet.’ ​​ Almost in shock, I literally yelled out ‘That’s Jesus!’

 

I knew that Jesus died in that devastating way. ​​ The Jews stoned people to death but did not crucify them. ​​ Crucifixion was a Roman death penalty. ​​ Yet David wrote Psalm 22, prophesying this form of death hundreds of years before crucifixion was ever invented and practiced by the Romans.

 

Then I reread Isaiah 53, and clearly understood that it described the whole crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. ​​ Instantly, God had taken the blinders off my eyes and Satan was defeated! ​​ I called Elizabeth, who came over immediately, and together we read Isaiah 53. ​​ Then, all of it became very clear to me: ​​ how ‘He was despised and rejected of men,’ how He was a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,’ how ‘we hid our faces from Him,’ how ‘He had been afflicted and wounded for our transgressions,’ and how ‘with His stripes we are healed.’

 

I realized how ‘all of us, like sheep, have gone astray,’ and how ‘He died for our iniquities.’ ​​ Yes, for my sins too.

 

I reasoned that if David . . . and Isaiah . . . both knew Him, and Paul, a Pharisee, saw Him and knew Him, then I needed no further proof. ​​ I accepted Him too, as my Lord and Savior. ​​ (Roos-Van Hessen, Life, 190-92).

 

[Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 374-75].

13

 

Believe

King of Kings

(John 19:16b-27)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Richard Dawkins is the author of The God Delusion. He was formerly Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He once debated John Lennox who is Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University. They debated the existence of God. At one point Dawkins says of John Lennox:

 

He believes that the creator of the universe, the God who devised the laws of physics, the laws of mathematics, the physical constants … that this genius of mathematics and physical science could not think of a better way to rid the world of sin than to come to this little speck of cosmic dust and have himself tortured and executed so that he could forgive.

 

That, says Dawkins, is profoundly unscientific. Not only is it unscientific, but it doesn't do justice to the grandeur of the universe. Why would God bother entering into our small and broken planet? Dawkins chided Lennox and all Christians for believing in that kind of God.

 

God’s only and eternal Son on a Roman cross? Despised and rejected by men on this tiny planet. It’s like being blind-sided in the subway station on a Friday morning in Washington DC in a hurry to get to work and you pass by one of the most brilliant violinists in the world playing some of the most beautiful music in the world on one of the most expensive violins in the world. You don’t expect to see the master violinist performing in such a dirty, undignified place. But that is the very point. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners.”

 

Charles Price in his sermon: “God's Power in Unexpected Places,” PreachingToday.Com (March, 2014).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2019/march/gods-power-in-unexpected-places.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Confused by teenagers

        • I’ve been confused by teenagers and how and why they do things

        • What doesn’t make logical sense to me, makes perfect sense to them

          • They just ate, but now they have to run to a restaurant or convenience store to get more food, because they’re hungry

          • There’s perfectly good food in the house, but there’s nothing good to eat

          • They just left spending time with their boyfriend or girlfriend, but now they have to text them, Snapchat them, Instagram them, call them, etc.

          • They have friends over to hang out, but either play a one-player game on their game system or they all sit around spending time on their phones, not talking to each other

    • Confused in a conversation

        • There have been times when I’m confused in a conversation, because the person started the conversation in their mind and when they begin to verbalize the conversation they are part way through it

        • I always have to stop them and asked a few questions, to get caught up with the “private” part of the conversation

    • God’s sovereignty

        • There have been times in my life when I have been confused by God’s plan for my life

        • I entered college without knowing what I wanted to major in

        • I’ve left jobs, without knowing where God was leading

        • But what I’ve found is that while I may initially be confused by God’s leading and His plan, His sovereign will has always been what is right for me

 

  • WE

    • Perhaps we have all experienced at least one if not all three of these scenarios in our own lives

    • It can be frustrating, but God’s sovereignty is always best for us

 

As Jesus is led away to be crucified, we’ll see God’s sovereignty at work as Scripture is fulfilled again and again and as Pilate gives Jesus the correct title. ​​ Through this passage, John wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God is sovereign.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (John 19:16b-27)

    • Christ’s Cross (vv. 16b-18)

        • The Roman soldiers take charge of Jesus (NIV)

          • This makes the most sense as we continue to look at this passage

          • Most other translations simply say that “they” took charge of Jesus

          • As a condemned person of the Roman state, it would have been the task of the Roman soldiers to lead a prisoner through the city streets, making sure that everyone saw the sign that identified their crime(s)

          • Since crucifixion was the punishment, it was the responsibility of the Roman soldiers to take charge of Jesus

        • Jesus is carrying His own cross at this point

          • The soldiers and Jesus would have left the praetorium and started their journey through the city streets

            • After being beaten, the soldiers would parade the prisoner through the city streets, using the longest route possible, to the location of the crucifixion

            • This served two purposes:

              • It allowed for the largest number of people to see the charges of the accused

              • It would prolong and increase the suffering of the prisoner

            • The Roman soldiers perhaps found great satisfaction in causing the greatest amount of pain and suffering

          • Simon of Cyrene

            • While John doesn’t mention Simon of Cyrene, it doesn’t mean that John’s Gospel is in conflict with the Synoptic Gospels

            • John simply says that Jesus was carrying His own cross, which is true when they started out

            • At some point along the arduous route, the Roman soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to finish carrying Jesus’ cross

          • The cross

            • Most images of Jesus carrying His cross show the horizontal and vertical pieces together [show image]

            • It was most likely that Jesus was only carrying the cross beam (the horizontal part) [show image]

            • “The upright piece normally was stationed at the execution site, and the victim would then carry the heavy cross piece to which he would later be attached at the site. ​​ The cross piece with the victim attached to it would then be raised and fixed or dropped onto the upright pole through a slot in the cross piece.” ​​ [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 262]

          • Jesus is carrying his cross to a location just outside the city gates

        • The location

          • This would have been a high traffic area for people coming and going into the city

            • Choosing a high traffic area was intentional

            • The Roman officials wanted to make sure that as many people as possible would see what happens to those who disobey Roman law

            • It was designed as a visual deterrent for anyone thinking about rebelling or pursuing evil

          • Several names, same meaning

            • Primary – place of the Skull

            • Aramaic – gulgoltâ (Golgotha is an English transliteration of the Greek, which is a transliteration of the Aramaic) [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 609]

            • Latin – calvaria also means “skull” and is where we get our English word “Calvary” [Carson, 609]

          • John also tells us that Jesus was not crucified alone

        • Between two others

          • There were two other men who were crucified at the same time – one on either side of Jesus

          • “The ‘two others,’ identified more explicitly in Matthew (27:38) and in Mark (15:27) as ‘terrorists’ and in Luke (23:33) as ‘criminals,’ are introduced abruptly, with no explanation as to why they are being crucified . . .” ​​ [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 949]

          • Some believe that they were friends of Barabbas and had been arrested for being insurrectionists/rebels

          • Some see a fulfillment of the Isaiah and the Psalmist’s words

            • Isaiah 53:12, Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. ​​ For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

            • Psalm 22:16, Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. ​​ (it could also represent the soldiers)

          • If Isaiah and the Psalmist are speaking of the two criminals in these passages, then we see the sovereignty of God through the fulfilling of Scripture

          • God is sovereign!

        • John gives us an aside that helps us continue to understand God’s sovereignty in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus

    • Christ’s Crown (vv. 19-22)

        • Pilate’s notice

          • Pilate probably told the soldiers what to write about Jesus

            • It’s unlikely that Pilate wrote the notice himself

            • It was then attached to Jesus cross

          • Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews

            • The first part is the identification of the prisoner

              • They listed His name

              • They also listed where He was from

            • The second part was His crime

              • Pilate put down what the Jews had determined in their trial, but had refused to tell him

              • The Jews had determined that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, because He said He was equal with God

              • Matthew 26:63b-65, The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: ​​ Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” ​​ “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. ​​ “But I say to all of you: ​​ In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ​​ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! ​​ Why do we need any more witnesses? ​​ Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. ​​ What do you think?” ​​ “He is worthy of death,” they answered.

              • Pilate, through the sovereignty of God, makes Jesus equal with God – he exalts Him to the throne

              • While Jesus is certainly King of the Jews, He is far more than that – He is King of kings!

            • “This notice serves to indicate at least three things: (1) Jesus’ conviction on the charge of treason; (2) Pilate’s resentful exacting of a small measure of revenge upon the Jews; and (3) symbolism regarding Jesus being the Savior of the world (Carson 1991: 611).” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 544]

            • John tells us that many Jews read the sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city (again in a high traffic area, during Passover, with hundreds of thousands of people in Jerusalem)

          • Written in three languages

            • Common languages of the day

              • Pilate’s notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek

              • Aramaic was the language of religion (the Jews, Judea)

              • Latin was the language of government (the Romans)

              • Greek was the language of commerce (everyone spoke Greek)

              • Having the notice written in the three common languages of the day served to make sure that everyone knew the charges against the accused

              • No one could claim ignorance

            • Symbolism of the three languages

              • Many scholars see symbolism in the notice being written in the three common languages of the day

              • The symbolism is that while Jesus is accused of being King of the Jews, His kingdom, once established, would be for everyone!

              • We know this to be true even 2,000 years later

              • Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension made a way for all of humanity to be in a right relationship with God

                • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

                • 2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ​​ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. ​​ He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

                • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21, We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. ​​ God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Repent of my sins, believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross, and receive God’s eternal life.

          • While Pilate exalts Jesus to the throne, the Jewish religious leaders are not happy about it

        • The chief priests protest

          • The chief priests understood the significance of Pilate’s notice

            • It wasn’t lost on them that the notice was being read by thousands of people

            • They wanted Pilate to change it, so that everyone who read it would not associate Jesus of Nazareth with their religious beliefs and practices – He was not their king!

            • That was the whole purpose in why they wanted Him dead

            • They wanted Pilate to change the notice to read that Jesus said, “I am the King of the Jews.” (NASB, NLT, ESV)

            • It was a way of differentiating between Jesus and the Jewish religion

          • Pilate’s response

            • “No, I’m not going to change it.”

            • “What I have written, I have written.”

            • We see God’s sovereignty again!

              • With whatever intentions Pilate wrote the notice, God, in His sovereignty, used it to announce Jesus’ kingship, authority, and power

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is King of kings; no matter what others think or say.

                • Scripture tells us this

                  • Philippians 2:9, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name

                  • Ephesians 1:19b-21, That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

                  • Revelation 19:16, On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

                • Our culture

                  • Over the years, our educational system has tried to rewrite history, by taking God and religion out of the lives of our founding fathers and out of our textbooks

                  • They have also tried to take God and Jesus out of schools, by eliminating prayer and telling students they can’t bring their Bibles to school

                  • There are individuals who try to say that Jesus was a good person, a great teacher, a prophet (perhaps), but not the Son of God

                  • Unbelievers don’t want to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives

                  • But no matter what our culture thinks or says, it doesn’t change, eliminate, or remove the fact that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords

                • We can and should rejoice in this fact today

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Worship the sovereign God, who established Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

        • We saw the sovereignty of God through Pilate’s notice, but we also see it through the dividing of Jesus’ clothing

    • Christ’s Clothing (vv. 23-24)

        • God used a tradition that had probably been established for years in order to accomplish His sovereign will and plan

          • However this custom began, it was well established by the time of Jesus’ crucifixion

            • I can imagine that, initially, the pieces of clothing were probably discarded

            • Then one day, one of the soldiers realizes that an article of clothing from someone who was crucified was in better condition than the piece of clothing he owned

            • He decides to take the piece of clothing and before you know it, the other soldiers are looking at the condemned criminals in a different light (we need to make sure we flog them after we get that nice robe off)

            • Maybe they’re even talking about who is going to get which article of clothing as they’re parading the criminal through the streets of the city

            • All of this happens under the divine sovereignty of God Almighty

          • Jesus’ clothing

            • There were obviously five articles of clothing and four soldiers who were tasked with crucifying Jesus

            • The four articles of clothing that were divided were probably His head covering (turban?), a belt, possibly sandals, and an outer cloak [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 527]

            • The fifth piece of clothing would have been His tunic (“undergarment”)

              • John tells us that it was woven as one piece from top to bottom

              • There were no seams, because it was one piece

              • This was a common practice in the 1st Century

              • It also protected Jews from breaking Jewish law

                • Deuteronomy 22:11, Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

                • If the tunic was woven in one piece, with no seams, they could ensure that it would not break this law

            • Instead of cutting the tunic into four pieces, the soldiers decide to cast lots to see who would get the full tunic

          • Fulfillment of Scripture

            • The casting of lots for Jesus’ tunic happened to fulfill Old Testament Scripture

            • Psalm 22:18, They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

            • God is sovereign!

          • God’s sovereignty is still evident today

        • Application

          • What is God’s sovereignty?

            • Sovereignty is power and authority displayed by God

              • Sovereignty – God has the right to rule and He rules rightly

              • Sovereignty – God has the right to plan my life. ​​ He has the right to rule and make any decision He wants to. ​​ He has the right change things.

              • Psalm 22:28, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.

              • Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

            • Do you believe that God has the right plan for your life?

              • Perhaps you’re looking for a husband or a wife and you’re wondering if God is every going to bring the right person into your life

              • Maybe you’re trying to decide about college or entering the work force

              • You may be trying to figure out the next step in your career

              • Some of you may be trying to decide whether or not to move

              • Others of you are struggling with financial decisions

              • There may be someone here who is struggling with spiritual decisions (submitting to Jesus, determining where you should be going to church, trying to decide whether or not to go to church at all)

              • Everyone is probably struggling with how to act and react to COVID-19 and the civil unrest in our country

              • Our church is praying about the next step that God wants for us

            • In God’s sovereignty, He has the right plan for your life

              • Are you trusting Him for the right plan?

              • Are you asking Him to reveal to you His plan?

              • Are you sacrificing other things (food, recreation, etc.) in order to seek His face about His plan for you?

            • God’s sovereignty is always best for us!

          • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Seek God for His sovereign plan for me and then trust Him to fulfill it.

        • God fulfilled His sovereign plan of redemption through Pilate two criminals, and four soldiers, so He can fulfill His sovereign for you

        • In the final three verses, this morning, we see the beautiful fulfillment of a Son’s commitment to His mother

    • Christ’s Commitment (vv. 25-27)

        • Faithful followers

          • There are four women and one man who are at the place of the skull – they are right there with Jesus until the very end

          • Matthew and Mark state that there were more woman there, but John only mentions these four

          • Four woman

            • Jesus’ mother, Mary

            • Mary’s sister, perhaps Salome (James and Greater and John’s mother)

            • Mary the wife of Clopas (the mother of James the Less and Joses)

            • Mary Magdalene

          • One man

            • John doesn’t mention his own name, but uses the term that Jesus used for him – the disciple whom He loved

            • If Jesus’ mother’s sister is Salome, then John the Beloved would have been Jesus’ cousin

            • This would make Jesus’ next statement more understandable

          • Jesus was the first-born son of Mary and with that distinction came some responsibility

        • Fulfillment of first-born responsibility

          • Most scholars agree that Mary was probably widowed at this point, otherwise Joseph would have provided for her and taken care of her

          • Jesus’ half-brothers were not yet His disciples

          • “The traditional role of the oldest son in a Jewish family was to provide for the care of the mother when the husband or father of the house was no longer around to care for the mother. ​​ It seems clear that Jesus here fulfilled his family responsibility as a dutiful son.” ​​ [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 269]

          • Jesus completes His commitment as the first-born son and ensures that His mother will be taken care of after He is gone

        • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we honor our parents.

          • Jesus gave us a beautiful example of honoring His mother to the very end

          • Scripture support

            • Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

            • Ephesians 6:1-3, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ​​ “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

            • 1 Timothy 5:8, If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

          • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Honor my parents by taking care of them.

 

  • YOU

    • Have I accepted God’s sovereign of redemption?

    • Have I worshiped God for establishing Jesus as the King of kings?

    • Am I trusting God’s sovereign plan for my life?

    • Am I honoring my parents by taking care of them?

 

  • WE

    • God’s sovereign plan is always best for us, so will you commit to pray with the leadership of the church for His next step for us?

 

CONCLUSION

“In her book The God Who Hung on the Cross, journalist Ellen Vaughn retells a gripping story of how the Gospel came to a small village in Cambodia. In September 1999 Pastor Tuy Seng (not his real name) traveled to Kampong Thom Province in northern Cambodia. Throughout that isolated area, most villagers had cast their lot with Buddhism or spiritism. Christianity was virtually unheard of.

 

But much to Seng's surprise, when he arrived in one small, rural village the people warmly embraced him and his message about Jesus. When he asked the villagers about their openness to the gospel, an old woman shuffled forward, bowed, and grasped Seng's hands as she said, ‘We have been waiting for you for twenty years.’ And then she told him the story of the mysterious God who had hung on the cross.

 

In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge, the brutal, Communist-led regime, took over Cambodia, destroying everything in its path. When the soldiers finally descended on this rural, northern village in 1979, they immediately rounded up the villagers and forced them to start digging their own graves. After the villagers had finished digging, they prepared themselves to die. Some screamed to Buddha, others screamed to demon spirits or to their ancestors.

 

One of the women started to cry for help based on a childhood memory—a story her mother told her about a God who had hung on a cross. The woman prayed to that unknown God on a cross. Surely, if this God had known suffering, he would have compassion on their plight.

 

Suddenly, her solitary cry became one great wail as the entire village started praying to the God who had suffered and hung on a cross. As they continued facing their own graves, the wailing slowly turned to a quiet crying. There was an eerie silence in the muggy jungle air. Slowly, as they dared to turn around and face their captors, they discovered that the soldiers were gone.

 

As the old woman finished telling this story, she told Pastor Seng that ever since that humid day from 20 years ago the villagers had been waiting, waiting for someone to come and share the rest of the story about the God who had hung on a cross.”

 

Doris I. Rosser & Ellen Vaughn, The God Who Hung on the Cross (Zondervan, 2003), pp. 35-37.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/april/1041111.html].

 

God is sovereign!

12

 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We have a lot of word pictures in the English language to describe being in a predicament. We might say we’ve “painted ourselves into a corner,” or we are “in a pickle” or our backs are “up against the wall.” A least one person has defined a predicament as being , “A lawyer who specializes in suing doctors for medical malpractice finding himself in need of major surgery.” We might also say that we are caught “between a rock and a hard place.” Between a rock and hard place means you’re stuck in between two options, and neither one is desirable. These are the times when you’re confronted with your absolute weakness and inability to hurdle the obstacles in life.

More than a hundred years ago, a financial crisis occurred in the US that became known as the Bankers’ Panic of 1907. The financial crisis impacted many industries, as you can imagine, and the ripple effect of the financial upheaval was felt all the way out in Bisbee, Arizona. The lack of funding led to a dispute between the copper mining companies and the mineworkers there. They were underpaid, and their working conditions were terrible. So they organized into labor unions and approached the company management with a list of demands for better pay and conditions.

The company refused and retaliated – any mining worker who complained would be fired. So the mineworkers were faced with a dilemma, they had to either choose to continue to work at the rock face in quarry in terrible conditions or lose their job and make matters even worse. One of the workers coined the phrase, “we are stuck between a rock (the quarry wall) and a hard place (unemployment).” It wasn’t long before the phrase took root and by 1930, newspapers were using the phrase to describe any number of impossible situations.

Maybe you are between a “rock and a hard place” this morning. Maybe your current job is unbearable, but there are no other jobs available and you need the paycheck. Maybe the people you’re living with are crazy, but you don’t have the money to get your own place. I am not necessarily talking about your family. Maybe you need surgery, but you don’t have health insurance. Maybe you are a student and don’t like school but you have to go. You may or may not find yourself in these kind of predicaments right now, but at some point in your life, you will find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place.

When we’re caught between a rock and a hard place, we feel trapped, stuck, and tired of where we are. We don’t know what to do or where to turn. Honestly, it’s a lose-lose situation. If it were a clear win-lose situation, we would know how to choose and where to turn. We’re like the Israelites with Pharaoh on one side and the Red Sea on the other. Death seemed certain either way. But what do you do when there are no clear choices? Maybe you try to deny it, maybe you try to mask it, maybe you try to fake it or you might even try to ignore it. Sometimes you just take the option that will cause you the least trouble or stress. You are still going to lose but you will lose less.

This morning, we continue to look at Jesus’ time before Pilate, leading up to being sentenced to crucifixion. Last week we saw the Jews approach Pilate in the early morning but would not come into his palace because it would make them unclean and they would not be able to eat the Passover. They try to manipulate Pilate into bringing unfounded charges against Jesus. Pilate finds no reason to bring charges against Jesus and tries to find ways to set him free. He also has a conversation with Jesus. Jesus assures Pilate that he is not trying to usurp his authority or take over as emperor. He says his kingdom is not of this world and he tries to introduce truth to Pilate which he scoffs at. Through all this, Pilate is convinced that Jesus is innocent, but instead of doing the right thing, Pilate tries to compromise and both times it backfires on him.

In our scripture this morning, Pilate continues to compromise and with each compromise he continues down a road to a point of no return. Pilate may not have felt that he was between a rock and a hard place yet but he soon will. Pilate also has another conversation with Jesus. Imagine having a conversation with the Son of God and not being changed. Those conversations could have made all difference in the world for Pilate and the rest of his life but when he was caught between a rock and hard place, he tried to deny it, he tried to mask it, he tried to fake it and he tried to ignore it.

The truth is we are weak creatures. We are sinful, we fail. Being prone to sickness, we hurt; being mortal, we wear out; pressure weighs us down; anxiety gives us ulcers; people intimidate us; criticism offends us; difficulties hound us. What choice do we really have during those times when we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place? That brings us to our big idea this morning which is to: You can turn to Jesus when you have nowhere else to turn and feel you are caught between a rock and a hard place. In fact, why would you turn to anyone or anything else? Where else will you find the truth? Where else will you find hope? Who else can do the impossible? Only Jesus.

Let’s pray: Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn this morning. Imprint your words on our hearts and help us to use it to bring you praise and honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is “the rock” and the second is “the hard place.” We will start with “the rock” which for Pilate was knowing what the right thing to do was but not having the courage to do it no matter what. We see this in verses 1-11 of John chapter 19. This is what God’s word says, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” ​​ Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Pilate has tried to wiggle out of dealing with the Jews and Jesus. He has compromised over and over again instead of just doing the right thing and setting Jesus free. In verse 1, he continues his compromises by having Jesus scourged. In Luke 23:14b – 16, we get more insight into what Pilate was thinking here. That says, “I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” Pilate thought once they saw Jesus, bloody and beaten, he would be able to let Jesus go and this situation would be over.

Scourging or flogging was one of the cruelest punishments known to man. The criminal was bound to a post and beaten by several people in turn. They used a short-handled whip to which several leather thongs were tied. Each thong had jagged pieces of bone and metal attached to the ends. Jewish law set the maximum number of lashes at 40, but the Romans were not bound to that law so they would continue to beat the victim until they were exhausted, the commanding officer stopped them, or the victim died which often happened. This type of punishment tore a person’s body apart and was so horrible that Roman citizens could not legally be sentenced to it.

The Romans also had three different levels of scourging, one more severe than the last. The “fustigatio” was the least severe and was reserved for troublemakers who simply needed to be punished and warned. The third level was “verberatio” which was the most severe and served as part of the punishment for a capital offense, and in preparation for crucifixion. It seems Pilate chose to use the least severe form of scourging here to probably accomplish two things. One, to teach Jesus a lesson to be more careful in not upsetting the religious leaders in the future, and two, to satisfy the Jews who were demanding his death.

But the punishment and humiliation of Jesus wasn’t over yet. The Romans had made a sport of torture and the Roman soldiers continued to humiliate Jesus making fun of the accusation of Jesus being the “king of the Jews.” They twisted together a crown of thorns, probably made from the thorny date palm, whose thorns could exceed twelve inches and pressed it down on his head. It would have cut deeply into Jesus’ head increasing the pain and bleeding. They were mocking Jesus and the Jews, as it would have looked like Jesus had radiant beams coming from his head. They also put a purple robe on him, probably one of the soldiers’ robes, to finish the picture of Jesus as a king. The soldiers also mocked Jesus by going up to him again and again paying false homage to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews” as they would do before Caesar and hit him in the face. Matthew and Mark recount that they hit him with a reed which they had given him as a kind of scepter. It is interesting how much irony John uses in his gospel and we see it here. The Roman soldiers mock Jesus as a “king” not understanding that he is the King of kings and one day he would stand in judgment of those very soldiers who tortured and humiliated him.

The law now required a formal presentation of the criminal. Pilate comes out before the people and declares Jesus innocent of any charges that could be tried in a Roman court of law. He fully expected the Jews to be satisfied with the punishment already inflicted upon Jesus, so he brings him out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. He is beaten and bloody, face bruised and swollen, looking nothing like a king. He wanted to show the Jews how ludicrous it was to take their charges seriously. In his view, Jesus posed no threat to them or the Romans. Sarcastically he says, “Here is the man.” By introducing Jesus in this way, Pilate was mocking the Jews but also trying to elicit sympathy for Jesus so he can set him free. “Behold the man” probably meant “see this “poor” creature.” It would have been ridiculous to Pilate that they would want to crucify such a weak and humiliated person. Again, we see the irony John uses here in reminding us that Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” and that he is the Word made flesh and was displaying his glory as the Son of God in his disgrace, pain, and weakness.

But it backfires again. ​​ Instead of wanting him to free Jesus, the Jews shout and demand that Jesus be crucified. Now, I think Pilate may have been feeling the pressure of being caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows that Jesus is innocent of any wrongdoing. He probably has a sense that Jesus is not just any ordinary person. He knows what the right thing to do is but he lacks the courage to free Jesus, as was his right as the Roman governor. At this point, Pilate probably had enough of these Jews. They had brought Jesus to him in the first place but now would not accept his judgment. Seeing that his strategy to free Jesus has not worked, he mockingly and sarcastically tells them to take Jesus and crucify him themselves. This was another tactic to keep Jesus from being crucified because he knew they couldn’t carry that sentence out.

The Jews didn’t miss a beat though. It is interesting that they seem to have an answer for Pilate every time he tried to free Jesus. They had done their homework and knew what buttons to push. At no time did they seem to have to stop and think of what to do next. But Pilate almost seems unsettled at each turn and has to do a song and dance to keep ahead of the Jews agenda. In verse 7, the Jews change tactics. Their first tactic was to get Jesus charged as a political opponent to Rome which we saw last week. Now the Jews try to get Jesus charged as a religious opponent to Rome, saying that he claimed to be the “Son of God.” Taking this at face value, it should not have worked. What did Rome care for the religious views of the Jews? This is what Pilate was referring to back in verse 31 when he told them to take Jesus and judge him by their own law. He meant their own religious law. They tell Pilate that Jesus has already been judged according to that law, found guilty and deserving of death. The law they were talking about is found in Leviticus 24:16, which says, “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” The Jews demand that Pilate acknowledge their legal rights and order Jesus to be crucified, implying, that would keep the peace in the area. The Roman governor was responsible for keeping the peace and maintaining the local law. If he didn’t he would surely be replaced as governor if not taken out and killed.

This new tactic exposed their true motives as to why they wanted Jesus killed. They told Pilate that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and had to die according to their law. Interestingly, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God wasn’t sufficient to prove blasphemy. The anointed king of Israel, such as David or Solomon, was called the Son of God and the Messiah was to be the Son of God. What the Jews were upset about and why they hated Jesus so much was he claimed to be equal to God, himself. They knew they needed Pilate’s help to put Jesus to death but of course they weren’t going to be completely honest with him.

If the Jews were holding their breath to see how Pilate would react to them taking this religious angle, what Pilate did next probably gave them a great sense of relief. Instead of questioning the Jews about their motives, he becomes even more afraid and takes Jesus back inside the palace to have another conversation with him. Pilate like most Romans were superstitious. Every Roman of that day would have heard stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human form. The thought that Jesus might be a man with divine powers or a god in human form filled him with fear. Also, his superstition was probably fueled by a dream that his wife had about Jesus and warning him to have nothing to do with Jesus. We see this in Matthew 27:19 where it says, “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

Pilate takes Jesus back into the palace and asks him where he comes from. He already knew Jesus was from Galilee, but what he wanted to know was whether he was from earth or from the realm of the gods. Jesus is silent when questions by Pilate. Why? It may have been to fulfill prophecy from Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” Maybe Jesus is silent because he had already told Pilate he was not from this world or maybe he knew that Pilate couldn’t or wouldn’t understand any answer Jesus would give because Pilate had already shown he wasn’t concerned with truth.

Pilate is upset with Jesus that, of all people, he would not talk to him. He reminds Jesus he is the one who has the power to set him free or to have him crucified. This is ironic, in that he had spent all this time going back and forth with the Jews avoiding making a decision about Jesus but ultimately knew deep down that he could not avoid this responsibility. He may have had the power but he didn’t have the courage to do what was right. Jesus tells Pilate the only power he has over him is the power given to him from above. He did not have ultimate control over what happened to Jesus. Even the death of Jesus was under the sovereignty of God. Again, we see the irony in John’s gospel in that for all the power that Pilate felt he had he must have felt powerless before God’s plan in this hour.

Jesus tells Pilate there is someone guiltier than him. The one who handed Jesus over to Pilate was guilty of the greater sin. Jesus is probably not talking about Judas because he has disappeared from the story. It is probably not the Jews because Jesus seems to imply “one’ person. The best solution is the high priest Caiaphas. He was the catalyst for Jesus’ arrest and who had seemed to formulate the plan for Jesus to die. We see this in John 11:49-50, 53 which says, “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” Jesus wasn’t absolving Pilate of guilt for his actions, but Caiaphas was more guilty because he had seen the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew the scriptures, not Pilate. He should have accepted Jesus as his Messiah, not Pilate, who wasn’t even a Jew.

This was “the rock” that Pilate found himself between. He continues to find Jesus innocent of any crime. He knows the right thing to do is to release Jesus. Deep down he probably knows that what is going on is of the utmost importance but he still does not have the courage of his convictions. He doesn’t have the courage to do what is right and he continues to dig himself a deeper and deeper hole that he can never get out of. He is caught between a rock and a hard place. Which brings us to our first next step which is to make up my mind to always do the right thing no matter what. If you will choose the right thing every time your “rocks” will become smaller and not seem so impossible to overcome. Your stress and anxiety levels will be lower. The ability to choose to do the right thing comes easier when we turn to Jesus when things seem impossible and we have nowhere else to turn. (Big Idea)

Our second point this morning is “the hard place.” The “hard place” for Pilate was that he let the Jews pressure and bully him into crucifying Jesus. He let them back himself into a corner, ultimately sinning in making the wrong choice. We see this in verses 12-16. This is what God’s word says, “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Here’s where Pilate really starts to feel the pressure and we see how desperate he seems to get. After talking to Jesus about who really had the authority and power over Jesus, Pilate is even more convinced of his innocence and tries to set Jesus free. In fact, the verb is verse 12 means an ongoing action in that he kept trying to set Jesus free. We don’t know how many different things he tried. We don’t know how many other compromises he made. The ironic thing was it was in his legal authority to set Jesus free. He didn’t need the Jews to okay it or rubber stamp it. But he didn’t have the courage to do the right thing and next we see the Jews put the final nail in the coffin for Pilate. If Pilate didn’t feel he was between a rock and a hard place before, now he knew it was over and he had no choice but to give in to the Jewish leaders’ demands to crucify Jesus.

Even though they failed to convince Pilate of Jesus’ guilt the Jews don’t seem to be fazed. They reverse their tactics again playing the political ace up their sleeve putting Jesus in opposition to Caesar himself. ​​ They tell Pilate that if he releases Jesus he was no friend of Caesar because anyone who says they are king opposes Caesar. They were planting the thought in his mind that he would suffer if he doesn’t do what they want with Jesus. The idea of not being a friend of Caesar’s would have set off warning bells in Pilate’s head. The emperor at the time, Tiberius, was noted for his suspicious nature and his willingness to ruthlessly punish his subordinates. Pilate most definitely would have feared for his position, his possessions and his life. Pilate had already brought a lot of heartache on himself while being the Governor of Palestine. The Jews had already made complaints against him to Rome because he had treated their religion with contempt a number of times. He could not risk the Jews making another complaint to Rome about him. Plummer comments on the tactics of the Jewish leaders: “They knew their man: it is not a love of justice, but personal feeling which moves him to seek to release Jesus; and they will overcome one personal feeling by another still stronger.”

We see how far the Jewish leaders were willing to go to get Jesus crucified. We see their corruption and their hypocricy. The Jews hated the Romans rule over them and were most certainly themselves no friend of Caesar’s. Again John shows us the irony here that in order to have Jesus executed the Jewish authorities had to make themselves out to be more loyal subjects of Caesar than Pilate was. Now Pilate had to choose between either setting Jesus free or inciting the wrath of the Emperor against him. Their mention of Caesar sealed Jesus’ fate. There was no question about the choice Pilate was going to make. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, in between two impossible choices, and in the end he made the choice that brought the least amount of trouble for himself. It was the choice where he would lose less. Greene says, “He would no longer oppose the Jews because that would take self-sacrifice.” Pilate was not willing to make any sacrifice on his part to save Jesus.

Pilate doesn’t answer the Jews but immediately brings Jesus out before the people. He will now give the official sentence which will conclude the matter. Pilate sits down on the judge’s seat. John tells us this place was known as the Stone Pavement, called “Gabbatha” in Aramaic, meaning “platform” or “high place.” Pilate is now poised to speak with the voice of his office. Again, John show us the irony in that Pilate was going to pass judgment on the one whom God had granted the power of all judgment and who would one day pass judgment on Pilate and the rest of humanity. Next we see John carefully setting the scene for us. He says it was the sixth hour on the day of preparation for the Passover Week. The sixth hour was late morning approaching noontime. It was swiftly approaching the time when the sheep would have been slaughtered in the temple in preparation for Passover. John wants us to remember Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people.

Pilate, still agonizing over his decision, tries one more thing. Instead of sentencing Jesus right away, he pronounces Jesus as their king. For Pilate, Jesus was not a king, at least not in any sense he would understand. But for John the kingship of Jesus was real and he wants us to understand that Jesus was king even as he went to the cross for our salvation. By now the Jews only want blood, Jesus’ blood, and they respond again with “crucify him!” Pilate again tries one more time, and we can hear the sarcasm in his voice as he says, “Shall I crucify your king?” with emphasis on the word “king.” MacArthur says, “This was probably his way of mocking them that this beaten, bloody, helpless man was all the king they deserved.”

Pilate is not answered by the mob this time but by the chief priests who make it clear that they have no king but Caesar. Here is another example of irony in that they of all people, who claimed to be the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, who claimed to be God’s chosen people and claimed God as their king, would make that statement. They now express the real truth of what was in their hearts. It is interesting that by saying they have no king but Caesar they actually gave Caesar more power than the Romans did. Up to this point in history Caesar was never called a king. Also, it was a total rejection of God alone as Israel’s king. Even the kings of Israel such as David reigned by God’s divine appointment. By rejecting Jesus as king they have rejected God. Again, we see the irony in that the Jewish leaders were guilty of blasphemy themselves. Robinson says, “Writing as a Jew for other Jews, (John) is concerned from beginning to end to present the condemnation of Jesus, the true king of Israel, as the great betrayal of the nation by its own leadership.”  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

There was nothing more Pilate could do. If he released Jesus now he would be accused before Caesar of not doing his duty. He had enough trouble keeping the peace in Palestine without allowing that to happen. So, after all that it says Pilate finally handed him over to them to be crucified. Now it doesn’t mean he handed Jesus over to the Jews. He handed Jesus over to the Roman guards who would carry out the sentence of crucifixion. But John is telling us is that Pilate handed Jesus over to the will of the people. No matter who carried out the actual crucifixion, Jesus was being handed over to those who wanted him dead. They had manipulated and played Pilate like the proverbial fiddle and they got exactly what they wanted, a crucified Jesus, which ironically was God’s plan all along.

Pilate was caught between a rock and a hard place. He knew what was right but didn’t have the courage to do it and then he let the Jews pressure and bully him into making the wrong decision. He let them use him for their own evil purposes and they persuaded him into sinning against the Son of God sending him to his death on a cross. That brings us to our second next step which is to not let others pressure me into sinning but to stand up for what is right in God’s eyes and not man’s. The question Pilate failed to answer properly is found in Matthew 27:22, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” That is the same question we must all face. There are only two alternatives. One, reject him and face eternal damnation, or two, acknowledge him as Lord and Savior and be saved. Pilate’s futile attempts to evade the issue clearly reveals there is no middle ground. Matthew 12:30 says, He who is not with Me is against Me. That brings us to our third next step this morning which is to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and be saved. That is the most important decision you can ever make. Pilate no longer has the opportunity to make that decision but you and I do. I encourage everyone to have the courage to choose to do what is right and not let others pressure you into making the wrong choice when it comes to Jesus.

In closing, I want to read this illustration from Burge’s commentary. From Malchus, which means “my king”, who we saw in the garden to Jesus’ discussions with Pilate the word “king” occurs over a dozen times. Later even on the cross Pilate insists that Jesus be labeled “King of the Jews” instead of the compromising “This man said, I am the King of the Jews.” John’s story reads like a medieval drama about a king whose rightful rule has been overthrown temporarily. He moves about the masses unknown with no crown but only the clothes of a commoner. But we know the usurpers are doomed and the true king will win the day. Jesus is the true king, the hidden king, whose victory is about to be cheered.

John wants us to see the people stumbling in the darkness unable to see the true king in their midst, because he is challenging us with their predicament. If the kingship can be submerged in the politics of Jerusalem can the same happen today? Despite this darkness John assures us that God’s glory is still at work. This is “the hour” God planned from the beginning and Jesus is still in control. He asks the questions and makes the judgments. He alone has the power that comes from above. Despite how the world treats God and his son, God will prevail. God’s glory and power can’t be suppressed or be contained by the plots of human beings. No one can stop God’s glory if God intends his glory to be shown. God is in control of history even this hostile seemingly darkened chapter of history that offers little hope. If he is sovereign in places like this Passover during this particular year in Jerusalem, if he can manifest his glory and accomplish his purposes when to the observer everything seems like defeat and disaster, our history can be no different. If God can transform this “hour” with glory, than he can transform any hour. He can transform your hour. He can transform your “rocks” and your “hard places” if you will turn to him and rely on him when you feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, when the storms of this life seem to surround us and it seems impossible to get out of them, let us turn to you. You are the one who gives us hope, you are the one who gives us truth and you are the one who can do the impossible. Let us make our minds up to do what is right no matter what and not allow others to pressure us into sinning against you. In Jesus; name, Amen.

 

Believe

Choosing Sides

(John 18:28-40)

 

INTRODUCTION

“While serving as a missionary in Laos, I discovered an illustration of the kingdom of God. Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us: we live in the world, but as part of God's kingdom, we are to live according to his kingdom's standards and values.”

 

John Hess-Yoder, Portland, Oregon. Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1996/june/1498.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Calvinist or Arminian

        • When I first started working in ministry over 24 years ago, I was asked about my doctrinal beliefs

        • There are basically two main branches, Calvinism and Arminianism

        • I didn’t know how to answer, because I had never been taught what they were or their differences

        • So, I called my Dad, who had been my pastor for all of my life up to that point and asked him

        • He had never specifically taught us about those two doctrinal beliefs, but instead taught us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ

        • After spending time studying the two doctrinal beliefs, I can say with confidence that I am neither

        • I am simply what my Dad taught me growing up, a Christian!

        • I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, which is better than claiming either of the other two doctrinal belief systems

          • Here is why – Calvin and Arminius were both human beings, and as such, struggled as fallible sinners, just like me

          • Jesus is holy and perfect, without sin

          • That is why I am His disciple and adhere to His doctrine taught in His Word

        • When pressured to choose sides, I did, but it wasn’t in the way that the individuals thought I would

        • I chose truth, by choosing to obey and follow Jesus instead of man’s understanding

        • This statement is not original to me or the person who told it to me, but it’s powerful nonetheless – “I pray like a Calvinist, like it’s all up to God, and I work like an Arminianist like it’s all up to me.”

        • I think that covers it

 

  • WE

    • When was a time when you were forced to choose sides?

    • Perhaps it was a choice between truth and falsehood

    • What was the outcome?

 

The Jews and Pilate both have a choice to make when it came to Jesus. ​​ Pilate would have to choose whether or not to side with truth or be swayed by the crowd. ​​ The Jews would have to choose between innocence and guilt. ​​ John wants us to wrestle with the same thing. ​​ Will we choose truth or not?  ​​​​ Will we choose innocence or guilt? ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Obeying Jesus’ words shows we have chosen truth.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (John 18:28-40)

    • Charges (vv. 28-32)

        • Movements of Jesus

          • Trial with Caiaphas (v. 28a)

            • We saw last week that Annas sent Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:24)

            • John’s Gospel does not record the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, but Matthew (26:57-68) and Mark (14:53-65) do

            • Many scholars believe that Peter’s first denial came while Jesus was being questioned by Annas and the final two denials came while Jesus was being questioned by Caiaphas

              • It’s probable that the same courtyard serviced both Annas and Caiaphas’ residences

              • So, Peter would have been warming himself around the same fire, while Jesus would have been shifted from one residence to the next

          • Trial with Pilate

            • After Jesus agrees that He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One (Mark 14:61b), the Jews condemn Him as worthy of death as a blasphemer (Mark 14:64)

            • They transition Jesus from Caiaphas’ residence to the Roman governor’s palace

              • The Roman governor normally resided in the praetorium at Caesarea Maritima with the Roman soldiers on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea

              • He would come to Jerusalem during the high feast times to ensure peace

              • There are two potential locations for the governor’s palace or praetorium [show map]

                • Herod’s Royal Palace with its three great towers that helped with defense on the Western Gate [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 237]

                • This location would have been closer to the traditional site of Caiaphas’s house

                • The other, less likely, location would have been the Fortress of Antonia on the northwest corner of the Temple

          • John gives us a timestamp and an interesting ironic situation with the Jews

        • Religion over relationship (v. 28b)

          • It was early morning

            • While the Greek word for early morning is ambiguous, it is probable that Jesus was taken to Pilate before 6:00 am

            • The last watch of the night was called “early morning” or “dawning” and included the hours of 3:00 am to 6:00 am [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 588; Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 523-24]

            • This would not have been considered inappropriate or egregious to call on the Roman governor at this early hour, because many of the Roman officials would rise early and complete their work by 11:00 am or 12:00 pm

            • Pilate would probably have already been awake and perhaps working by this time

          • Choosing religion over relationship

            • The Jews were so concerned about the religious practice of remaining ceremonially clean, so they could eat the Passover, that they failed to see how condemning an innocent man to death would make them unclean before God

            • They were willing to use a Gentile governor to accomplish their goal, but would not set foot in his palace for fear of becoming unclean [Köstenberger, 524]

            • The irony should be striking to us – they were choosing religious practice over a relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ

              • I want to caution us not to be too harsh with the Jews, because God was using their rejection of Jesus, and focus on religion, to bring about salvation for all of humanity

              • This salvation would include Jews and Gentiles

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people choose relationship over religion.

              • We too can get caught up in choosing religion over relationship

              • It happens with our relationship with God and Jesus

                • We can focus so much on the disciplines associated with being a Christian that we neglect the relationship with God and Jesus

                • We can become legalistic about reading the Bible, praying, attending church, serving others, giving to the Lord, and so much more

                • “Receiving baptism (by whatever mode), taking communion (in whatever church), attending worship (with whatever regularity), offering prayers (of whatever length), giving money (of whatever amount), in themselves do not, have not, will not, and cannot save us from our sins and their inevitable judgment. ​​ ‘Religion’ cannot achieve redemption; ceremonies cannot save.” ​​ [Milne, The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of John, 264]

                • We can do these things with the wrong attitude and with the wrong intentions

                • We focus on the act instead of the reason for the act

                • Spiritual disciplines should be done not to be accepted by God, but because we love God and value our relationship with Him

                • Anytime we want to get to know someone, we spend time with them, we ask questions, we participate in things that they value and enjoy

                • The same should be true of our relationship with Jesus and God

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Practice spiritual disciplines out of love for God, instead of a desire to be accepted by God.

              • It can also happen with our relationships with other believers

                • We can become judgmental and critical of other believers who are not living out their faith like we are

                • In an attempt to “help” them we actually hurt the relationship, because we don’t confront in love

                • Confrontation is needed, but let me tell you, it’s hard to do, in love, with pure intentions

                • We are sinners, first and foremost, and those sinful desires, thoughts, feelings, and actions tend to surface before the godly, humble, and loving desires, thoughts, feelings, and actions

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Holy Spirit to help me, when I need to confront other believers, to do it with a godly, humble, and loving attitude, so they will know that I value the relationship over religion.

                • When we approach confrontation this way, we are obeying Jesus’ words and showing that we have chosen truth

          • While Pilate was not a Jew, he understood Jewish culture and their religious practices, so he came out to talk with the Jews

        • What charges? (vv. 29-32)

          • Pilate asked the Jews what charges they were bringing against Jesus

            • They could have listed at least seven [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 335]

              • He threatens to destroy the temple (Matt. 26:61)

              • He is an evildoer (Luke 23:2)

              • He perverts the nation (Luke 23:2)

              • He has forbidden the Jews to pay taxes (Luke 23:2)

              • He is a revolutionary agitator (Luke 23:2)

              • He makes himself king (Luke 23:2)

              • He claims to be the Son of God (John 19:7)

            • Instead they don’t list any of those charges

          • Their response says volumes

            • Notice that they don’t answer Pilate with any charges

            • They say they wouldn’t have handed Him over to him if weren’t a criminal

            • They’re hoping that Pilate will simply rubber-stamp the decision of the Sanhedrin, but he doesn’t

            • If you remember, the Sanhedrin had many false witnesses that came forward to testify against Jesus, but none of their testimonies matched

            • Even the two witnesses that testified that Jesus said He would destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it again in three days, did not agree

            • The high priest eventually asks Jesus, directly, if He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One

            • When Jesus answers affirmatively, they charge Him with blasphemy, which wasn’t a crime in a Roman court of law

          • Pilate sees through their smokescreen

            • He knows that Jesus has not broken any Roman law, so he challenges the Jews to judge Jesus by their own law

            • This wouldn’t work for two reasons

              • First, the Jews did not have the power to execute anyone

                • The right to execute someone was highly prized and protected by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century

                • It provided a level of power that no one else had

                • Certainly we see in the book of Acts that the Jews stoned Stephen

                  • Jews certainly killed people in the 1st Century for breaking Jewish law, but most of the time it came as a result of a mob mentality and not something organized and planned

                  • The Jews were given authority by Rome to kill anyone who violated the Temple area whether Jew or Gentile, whether a Roman citizen or not (there was no need for a trial, because justice was enacted immediately, probably by the Temple guards)

                  • The form of execution that was available to the Jews was stoning and not crucifixion on a cross

                  • The Old Testament outlined that stoning was the appropriate form of death for anyone who blasphemed

                • So, the Jews didn’t have the authority to execute Jesus, but there is a much greater reason why this wouldn’t work to judge Jesus by Jewish law

              • Second, the form of execution would not have fulfilled what Jesus had already said about how He would die

                • Jesus mentions multiple times throughout the Gospels about the fact that He would be lifted up

                  • This was a reference to the fact that He would be crucified

                  • Matthew 20:18-19, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. ​​ They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. ​​ On the third day he will be raised to life!”

                  • John 12:32-33, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” ​​ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

                • Both Jews and Gentiles were under Roman law, so when Jesus died the Roman death, crucifixion, He was dying for all of humanity and not just the Jews

            • Pilate knew the Jews intentions for bringing Jesus to him and he knew why they were being evasive when he asked them about the charges they were bringing against Jesus

              • In a far greater and more perfect way, God knows the intentions of our hearts

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – God knows the intentions of our hearts.

              • He knows when we are genuinely seeking a personal relationship with Him instead of doing spiritual disciplines for His approval

              • He knows our intentions when we confront other believers about their walk with the Lord – whether those intentions are selfish or selfless

              • He even knows our intentions for befriending someone, giving to an individual or organization, serving the poor, seeking riches, etc.

              • God is all-knowing, so nothing we think, say, or do is lost on Him

              • Perhaps we all can remember a situation where our intentions were not pure and genuine, but rather self-seeking

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to reveal if I am thinking, saying, or doing anything with selfish intentions and then confess that to Him.

        • John transitions the scene by telling us that Pilate went back inside the palace to question Jesus

    • Truth (vv. 33-38a)

        • Pilate was doing his due diligence instead of just taking the Jews word for it – he wanted to know for himself if Jesus was guilty of any crime against the empire

        • Pilate’s questions

          • Question 1 – “Are you the king of the Jews?”

            • Pilate and the Jews must have had an additional conversation about Jesus, for him to ask this question of Jesus

              • Where would Pilate get the idea of Jesus being king of the Jews”

              • Luke 23:2, And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. ​​ He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”

              • Pilate is trying to determine if Jesus is going to be a political threat to the Roman Empire [Köstenberger, 527]

              • “Are you a claimant-king challenging Rome?” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 500]

              • That would change everything – it would be Pilate’s problem and not a Jewish law issue at that point

            • Jesus’ response to the question

              • Did you come up with that question on your own?

              • Have you talked with others about me?

            • Pilate’s response

              • Pilate seems to be saying, “It’s obvious that I’ve spoken with others about you. ​​ I’m not Jewish, so how would I know if You are king of the Jews?”

              • Pilate reminds Jesus that it was His people and His chief priests who handed Him over to Pilate

                • This is an interesting statement

                • Pilate is simply saying that it was the Jews and their leaders who are accusing Jesus

                • Pilate realized that Jesus was also Jewish

            • Pilate then asks his second question

          • Question 2 – “What is it you have done?”

            • Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate’s question directly

              • Instead He continues to answer Pilate’s first question about being a king and kingdom

                • Jesus reassures Pilate that He is not starting a rebellion against the Roman Empire

                • He is not a political revolutionary agitator

                • Jesus lets Pilate know that if His intentions were political in nature that His servants would fight to prevent His arrest by the Jews

                  • Peter did attempt to fight for Jesus, but we learned that his power was misplaced

                  • Jesus quickly took care of Peter’s misplaced power by telling him to put his sword away

                  • That was not how Jesus was going to initiate and begin His kingdom

                  • His spiritual kingdom was going to be established in a way that was completely opposite of how the world established their kingdoms

                • Jesus’ kingdom is from another place, it is not of this world (both positive and negative)

                • Pilate could rest easy that Jesus was not gunning for His position or the emperor’s position

              • Pilate then makes the statement about Jesus being a king

                • Jesus affirms Pilate’s statement – “You’re right!”

                • The reason that Jesus was born and came into the world was to establish His spiritual kingdom in the hearts of humanity

                • He does this by testifying to the truth

                • Jesus then tells Pilate that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him

                • Obeying Jesus’ words shows we have chosen truth.

                  • This is key (the Jews have a choice, Pilate has a choice, we have a choice)

                  • Are we going to choose truth as Jesus has testified about it?

                  • We have His Words in Holy Scripture – we know what He said – we can and should listen to Him

                  • Have you chosen truth today?

                  • Have you chosen Jesus today?

                  • Jesus came into the world, so that we could choose truth and restore a right relationship with God

                • The Jews were not choosing Jesus’ truth, but rather their own version of truth

                • What would Pilate choose?

            • We don’t have to guess what his choice was

          • Question 3 – “What is truth?”

            • Pilate probably asks this question as he is turning to go back outside to address the Jews

            • He doesn’t wait for Jesus’ answer to his question

            • Perhaps he thought that truth was relative and there was no solid answer for that question

            • It seems as though Pilate is cynical about truth

        • Pilate still has a choice to make at his point – will he do what he knows is right or will he compromise?

    • Choice (vv. 38b-40)

        • Innocent

          • Pilate’s verdict, after questioning Jesus, is that He is innocent

          • Pilate can’t find any basis, in the Roman law, for a charge against Jesus

          • He isn’t going to try to judge Jesus based on Jewish law – that’s not his area of responsibility

          • He is trying to protect his position by avoiding any kind of riot or uprising from the Jews, so he offers what he believes is a compromise that will ensure Jesus’ release

        • Compromise

          • Pilate is willing to honor the custom of releasing one prisoner at the time of Passover

          • He recommends releasing “the king of the Jews,” Jesus

          • The crowd shouted back that they didn’t want Jesus released, but rather Barabbas

            • Barabbas was actually guilty of insurrection/rebellion against Rome

            • They wanted a guilty man to be released instead of an innocent one

          • Pilate’s hope of releasing Jesus through the custom had backfired on him

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – Doing what’s right is better than compromising.

            • Pilate realized that too late – he couldn’t back out now

            • He valued his position more than doing what was right

            • Application

              • We are just as guilty of doing the same thing

              • We may know what the right thing to do is, but out of fear of losing our position or status, we compromise and give in to the loudest voices

              • There are times when compromising actually backfires on us and we still can lose our position and status

              • We should always do what is right, even if it means sacrificing our position or status

              • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Choose to do what is right in every situation.

 

  • YOU

    • What’s the reason why you are practicing in spiritual disciplines?

    • Are you valuing relationships over religion?

    • Are there any selfish intentions that you need to confess to the Lord?

    • Will you choose to do what is right in every situation?

 

  • WE

    • We need to choose truth

 

CONCLUSION

“When Secretary of State during the Reagan administration, George Shultz kept a large globe in his office. When newly appointed ambassadors had an interview with him and when ambassadors returning from their posts for their first visit with him were leaving his office, Shultz would test them. He would say, ‘You have to go over the globe and prove to me that you can identify your country.’ They would go over, spin the globe, and put their finger on the country to which sent--unerringly.

 

When Shultz's old friend and former Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield was appointed ambassador to Japan, even he was put to the test. This time, however, Ambassador Mansfield spun the globe and put his hand on the United States. He said: ‘That's my country.’

 

On June 27, 1993, Shultz related this to Brian Lamb on C-Span's ‘Booknotes.’ Said the secretary: ‘I've told that story, subsequently, to all the ambassadors going out. ‘Never forget you're over there in that country, but your country is the United States. You're there to represent us. Take care of our interests and never forget it, and you're representing the best country in the world.’’”

Dr. Wallace Alcorn. From the files of Leadership.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/april/4514.html].

12