February 22, 2009

Time is Running Out - Feb 22, 2009


Our Epiphany time is running out.

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent and the end of Epiphany. During Epiphany we’ve considered how Jesus showed people that He was the Son of God. During Lent we’ll ponder the details concerning how Jesus obtained forgiveness and life for all sinners.

Today, Jesus helps us to see that it isn’t just Epiphany that is running out. Our time of living on this planet is running out too. We pray that the Holy Spirit would open our ears to hear Jesus’ voice and truly trust in Him, while there’s still time.


At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the people were curious about Him. He was a miracle worker. He taught with authority. But as time passed, the novelty of Jesus wore off. Those who didn’t believe He was the Christ began to oppose Him more sharply.

John tells us that Jesus stayed out of Judea (the southern part of Palestine around the city of Jerusalem) because He knew that the Jews there were plotting to murder Him.

For a while Jesus taught the people in the northern districts surrounding Galilee. But when the time came to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus could no longer stay away from Jerusalem.

The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering. It was a harvest festival, a thanksgiving of sorts. People coming to this religious festival lived in “tents” or “tabernacles” for the seven days of the festival. On the eighth day, a special worship service was held at the Temple.

It has been said that the Feast of the Tabernacles was the greatest of all Jewish festivals. Jerusalem was no doubt filled with “tents” and filled with worshippers.

Jesus could not stay away. He must go and hold out forgiveness and life to all who would receive it.

About halfway through the week, Jesus began teaching in the Temple courts. When the unbelieving Jews heard of it, they sent Temple guards to arrest Him. Perhaps those guards were nearby as Jesus spoke these words:

John 7:33-39 (NIV)

33Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.


In the book of Ecclesiastes it says,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).

Jesus told the Jews who didn’t trust in Him that now was the time for listening to His words. He wouldn’t be around forever.

Furthermore, Jesus told them that when He was gone, they would not be able to find him. In saying this He prophesied about His death and resurrection. In the days to come they would look for His dead body in the tomb where it had been laid. But they would not find Him there.

Lastly, Jesus told them that they could not follow Him to where He would be going. After He was crucified and raised back to life, Jesus was lifted bodily from the earth. He was taken up into heaven. As long as these people refused to accept Jesus as their Savior, they could not follow Him.

Jesus words are clear. To the unbelieving Jews He says, 1) Listen to me while I’m with you. 2) When I disappear and you can’t find me, remember that I predicted this very thing. 3) Know that so long as you push me away you cannot enter heaven. Believe in me instead, and live.

The crowd didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them. We hope that later some of them remembered Jesus’ words and seek out His disciples.

What Jesus says here reminds us that each person born into this world has a limited amount of time in which to know and trust in Jesus. We call this the “time of Grace”. The Bible says,

“…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).

There is no reincarnation. The Bible speaks of no after death opportunity to come to faith. This life is our time of Grace.

I once saw a sample hanging above someone’s kitchen sink that said, “Each day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present”. Each day is a precious gift. Hours and seconds for the faithful to praise God. Hours and seconds in which the faithless might come to trust in His promises.


In our sermon reading Jesus is talking to unbelievers. He speaks to them with a tone of urgent warning.

When Jesus later told His followers the same thing, He used a tone of hope and comfort instead. In the upper room, on the night that Jesus was finally arrested, Jesus said to His disciples…

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus says, “I’m going away – but I’m going away to get things ready for you!

When I’m gone, don’t search for me – I promise I’ll come back for you.

When I’m gone, don’t lose hope – you know the way to the place where I’m going. I am the way – to forgiveness and life and reunion with God.

For the unbeliever, time is almost up.

For the follower of Christ, the wait is nearly over.

Those are two very different things.

To the unbelieving, the time of grace is ticking away. May the Holy Spirit fill their hearts with fear, so that they might hear the Spirit’s plea and step off the tracks before the train of Judgment Day arrives.

To the followers of Christ, the time of sorrow is ticking away. Will all of us still be here in ten years? What about twenty, or thirty?

Our time is slipping away. But for the Christian who sees things through Spirit focused eyes, our exit from this life is nothing to be dreaded. Now we are separated from fully seeing and feeling God. Now we battle daily with sin. Now is our time of pain. Now our struggle with the spiritual powers that wish to tear us from Christ. Now is our time of sorrow.

But when our time here is up, then we live. Then we learn what a real party is like. Then we experience audibly, visually, completely what God has promised in His Word. Then we see Him, and see sin and guilt and suffering no longer.

Our time is almost up. Praise be to God.


Let’s look at Jesus’ last words in this section once more. Starting with verse 37 Jesus shows us that one more kind of time is running out. The time for quietness.

John 7:37-39 (NIV)

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The time for quiet teaching was over.

On the greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood up, perhaps in the middle of the great worship service , most definitely at the best time that He could stand up. With a loud voice He drew the attention of all to Himself.

Imagine if a person from our congregation were to stand up in the middle of our Easter worship service and say, “I’ve got all the answers! If anyone will come to be now, as the Bible says, miracles will happen through that person.”

Jesus was the only person who could stand up like this and have it not be blasphemy. He was the Son of God. The Hero sent from Heaven. The promised Christ come to destroy the devil’s work and free mankind from sin forever.

When Jesus had spoken to the woman at the well He had told her that as a person believes in Him, eternal life wells up in that person like an artesian spring.

Here Jesus says those who would trust in Him would have “streams of living water” flow out from this inner spring.

After Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit would caused Jesus’ followers to share the Good News of Jesus in languages they had never learned. This happened on the day of Pentecost. When crowds of worshippers were gathered in Jerusalem for another Jewish festival, streams of living water flowed out from the disciples of Jesus. They proclaimed the Good News that Jesus had suffered the sinner’s punishment and set us right with God through His willing death.

From city to city the same thing would take place among the small congregations of new Christians. The Holy Spirit would cause miracles to flow out from them, trumpeting to the world that this Jesus really was the Son of God.

Remember, these “streams of living” water, these gifts of the Spirit, were not just for show. They were used to communicate the message that Jesus took away the sins of the world when He died on the cross. These signs shouted, “Believe in Jesus and live!”

Yes, the time to stay away from Jerusalem had come to an end. The time to teach quietly in Galilee had run out. Now it was time for Jesus to speak with a loud voice before He would speak with the louder voice of His willing suffering and death.

In the years to come the time for the disciples of Christ to follow quietly would end too. They would take up the work of giving the Savior to the world. And the early church would do the same.

Our time to be quiet has come to an end also. The time for sitting back while the world goes to hell around us is over. What is it time for us to say? The same thing that Jesus’ church has always said. We’re damned sinners. He’s the all forgiving Savior. Trust in Him. Talk to Him. Live in Him.

Our message is the Law that reveals sin. Our message is the Gospel that reveals our Savior. Our message is every teaching that our Creator has laid out for our blessing in the pages of His Holy Word.

Take in the living water for yourself, and be prepared to distribute that water to others.

Your unbelieving neighbor will not live forever.

Time is running out.

Your work in this world may be done soon.

Time is running out.

Drink now, while the water’s here. Then you’ll be ready to speak.

PRAYER: Jesus, we believe You are God’s Son, our one and only, all sufficient, promise keeping Savior. May our best be done to Your glory. May our worst be lost in your love. May our lives be lived always in faith, counting on You. Give us life in this life, Jesus. Give others life through us, in You.

LENT WEDNESDAY WORSHIP: This Wednesday at 6pm we’ll be having a soup supper before worship at 7pm. Soup supper and midweek worship will be held for the next six weeks.

Please make the time to join us. Come ready to learn from God’s Word. Come ready to be equipped to tell of His love, by hearing of it for yourself. Come to praise Him with your time and your hearts.

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