March 29, 2009

The Royal Wedding Reception Invitation - Mar 29, 2009


You know, there’s a world of difference between reading an announcement, and getting an invitation. An announcement lets you know that something is going to happen. But with an invitation someone is saying, “I want you to be a part of this.”

In the parable of the Royal Wedding Banquet, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding reception – one that you and I have been INVITED to.

Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

When we interpret Jesus’ parables we want be careful not to miss the point. Most of the time, a parable teaches one main idea.

Jesus clearly states the main idea of this parable in verse fourteen. Concerning the Kingdom of Heaven,

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

Even though everyone is invited, not everyone will spend eternity in heaven. Some ignore God’s invitation. Some reject it violently. Some try to come, but are thrown out because they come dressed in sin.

As we examine this parable’s details, keep the main point in mind, “many are invited, but few are chosen”.

“The Invitation Ignored” – Value the King’s Invitation!

Jesus doesn’t specifically explain all the details of this parable, but the rest of the Bible helps us understand.

The king is God the Father.
The son is God the Son.
The wedding banquet is heaven.
The servants sent to gather the guests are God’s Old Testament prophets.
The first invited guests are the citizens of Israel.

In the Old Testament God records how He took one tribe from all the peoples of the world, and made them His own.

He took Abraham’s descendants from Egypt. Gave them their own land. Entrusted them with His written word. Gave them ceremonies and traditions to follow which pointed them to the Savior of the world. God also gave the Israelite nation the honor of sharing the message of the coming Savior with the world around them.

To communicate this amazing invitation to Israel, God sent many prophets to them. Men like Moses and Aaron. King David and Elijah. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and many others.

It is true than many Israelites joyfully accepted God’s invitation. They trusted in His guiding hand and in the Savior that He promised to send. But, over the years, most of the Israelites did not accept God’s invitation to be His people.

God did not give up easily. He sent many prophets to the people of Israel, calling them to come. Inviting them over and over to be His people of faith.

They continued to worship at the pagan altars or the neighboring nations. They ignored the invitation of God by their unbelief. And when they died, they were not ushered into Heaven.

In the parable, it says that when the servants of the king went out to tell the invited guests to come, they refused.

When the king sends more servants, they pay no attention to them either. They are more interested in their own affairs. More interested in the family farm, or the family business.

We too, have been invited by God, to an eternal celebration. We must not ignore this invitation. We must value the King’s invitation!

Think about it. It is a ROYAL banquet that we are invited to take part in. This isn’t a cheap sheet cake and a bunch of balloons that will be on the floor in the morning. This is the celebration of the ages. The joys of which are so far beyond our expectations that we can only imagine what it will be like.

And this isn’t a potluck. We don’t need to worry about bringing something or cleaning up afterward. The King has prepared everything already. The best of everything.

We are not invited to be waiters at this celebration, but to be enjoyers of it. God invites us to RELAX, have a glass of wine, eat our fill, and sing for joy His praises. We’re invited to enjoy this banquet for free.

Let’s hold tight to the invitation that God offers us. Let us continue to believe in the Son of God. Continue to trust in Him as the one who took our sins away. And let’s continue to look forward with great longing to the Wedding Banquet of Jesus.

“The Invitation Rejected” – Honor the King’s Messengers

In the parable, Jesus says that some of the invited guests did more than just ignore the servants of the king. They seized, mistreated and murdered them. With this detail Jesus was referring specifically to how Israel had treated God’s prophets.

When Jesus denounced the Scribes, the so-called Bible experts of His day He said,

“47“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all” (Luke 11:47-51 NIV).

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t kill the messenger”. But by killing God’s messengers a definite statement was made by Israel, “We hate the King who sent them. We reject His message altogether.”

And like in the parable, this lead to just retribution from the King. In the Old Testament, the people’s rejection of God lead to God’s destroying of the northern half of Israel. Later the southern half was enslaved. Israel only escaped complete annihilation because God had promised that the Savior would be born from the tribe of Judah, in the town of Bethlehem.

God still sends His messengers to us today. Not prophets that foretell the events of tomorrow, but prophets who faithfully speak the teachings of God as recorded in the Bible. Teachings of sin. Teachings of salvation through Jesus, through His perfect life and perfect sacrifice in our place.

We want to HONOR God’s messengers because in honoring them, we honor God. We want to respect the Holy Spirit who calls out to us from our own Bibles. We want to listen to Christians who rebuke us when we sin, remind us of God’s love and point us to His Word. This includes our called pastors and teachers, but it is certainly not limited to them.

Speaking to his fellow Christians, the apostle Peter said,

“…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV).

Honor your fellow Christians when they bring you God’s message. They are God’s priests and priestesses. And when they speak the things of God, it is the very voice of God that speaks through them.

Jesus said,

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16 NIV).

The highest form of honoring God is believing the message He brings us through His messengers. Let’s consider that message with care and believe it. When we do, we will not receive God’s just retribution, but His forgiveness, approval and protection.

“Your Place in at the Banquet Forfeited” – Come Dressed to Meet the King

In the parable, the guests who were invited did not care to come. They excluded themselves by their disregard for the King and His Son. So, the invitation was taken to others.

After Jesus took away the sinner’s punishment by suffering it on the cross, He sent His apostles out to share this Good News with the world. These messengers of God went to the Jews first to extend this invitation to faith, forgiveness and eternal life. But when the Jews rejected it still, they took it to the Gentiles.

Listen to Acts 13:44-48.

“44On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:44-48 NIV).

So the invitation to heaven went out to the Gentiles. And Churches dedicated to the Father’s Son sprung up everywhere the message went.

But still, we must come back to the main point of Jesus’ parable,

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

The invitation goes out to many, but the requirements for meeting the King remain the same. One must be dressed properly – in the faith-given garments of Christ’s sinless life.

Verse eleven:

11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:11-13 NIV).

Imagine, the scene for a moment. A wedding reception. A royal wedding reception, put on in the palace by the King in honor of the Prince and His new Bride. The room is packed with people there to celebrate and share in the joy of this day. But there in the middle of it is a man in his work clothes. His paint spattered shirt goes well with his hole riddled and thread-bare jeans. But this apparel is completely out of place here.

This attire is an insult to the King. It says, “I’m the important one here. I don’t need to dress up for you. What I feel like wearing is good enough.”

But the King will not have this kind of guest here. This guest cannot truly celebrate the Son’s wedding, for this guest has no love for the Son, as his lack of respect shows. He’s just here for the free meal. Or something. But he will not remain. Out he is cast, into the darkness.

When we appear before God, the King of all things, we dare not come in our own clothes. We dare not appear in the garments of our sinful life. A shirt dirtied with lies. Pants covered in the mud of selfishness.

With our sinful words and actions we clothe ourselves in filthiness. As Isaiah the prophet said,

“6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6a NIV)

The Holy God will not have His Son’s celebration tainted with even a single speck of sin. If we dare to enter eternity and God’s own presence in our own SIN CLOTHES, we will be cast out of God’s presence forever.

This would be a terrible mistake to make. And a hugely stupid one as well, since the SON Himself has provided SINLESS CLOTHES for us to wear. HIS CLOTHES. His righteous life lived for us. His lightning white perfection is draped over us when we trust in His sacrifice.

“…many are invited, but few are chosen” (v14)

ALL who by faith are covered in Christ’s righteousness are chosen. Trust in the Son, and prepare to celebrate.

This parable speaks about people invited to the wedding reception of a king’s son. But there is another image that God uses to show us how intimate this “invitation” really is. In the Bible, God calls the Church of genuine believers, Christ’s Bride. You are Christ’s Bride.

In Israel, marriage worked a little different than here in the states. The Bride and the Groom were legally married before the day of celebration. Though, they did not live together or share in the privileges of marriage yet.

When the special day came, the groom would take a special wedding walk with all his close friends, to his bride’s house. There she would join him and amid the shouts and songs and celebrating of all their friends, they would walk to their new home. And there the wedding banquet would commence. For days it would go on, for this was a thing to be celebrated. A new life was being born. Two made one.

You are the Bride of Christ. He has invited, no, proposed to you. He doesn’t just want you to know that the celebration is coming soon, He wants you to be part of it. His Bride, forever.

Don’t be distracted by the pathetic riches of this world. Don’t reject Him for the sinful and oh-so temporary! Trust in Jesus and the forgiveness that He won for you on the cross – and be His forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

March 25, 2009

I Was There: Simon of Cyrene - Mar 25, 2009

I Was There!
Mark 15:20-21

Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied unto you, Amen. This evening's brief text is found in the 15th chapter of Mark, verses 20 and 21:

And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. Here ends our text.

In the Name of Jesus, Who bids us "bear the cross," Dear Fellow Redeemed,

When the subject of conversion comes up - the experience of becoming a Christian - we're used to hearing stories of enthusiastic converts. People who heard the Gospel, believed it right away, and immediately dove body and soul into the work of the Lord. But history has also shown us a number of very reluctant converts, people for whom becoming a Christian was the last thing on their minds, people who had to be dragged kicking and screaming (as it were) into the kingdom of God. Saul of Tarsus comes to mind, as does St. Augustine and Martin Luther. I read the other day about a man who is now a pastor in the midlands of England

Two weeks ago we had a first-person discussion with the disciple who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot. Today we'll hear another voice of the Passion speak to us - this time, a very reluctant convert. In his own words he'll tell us his story. It's the story of how he met Jesus Christ, not in the pages of Scripture, but on a street in Jerusalem. His, too, is a story of reluctance and struggle -- a story all of us share, to a greater or lesser extent. This morning's theme:

A Conversation With
The Reluctant Convert

from -- I. A man reluctant to bear the cross,
he became -- II. A man who willingly embraced the cross.

My name is Simon of Cyrene, and I was there. I mean, I was there in Jerusalem when they crucified Jesus of Nazareth. I just happened to be walking down the same road as He was, and I literally ran into the most important Man in history, on the most important day of His life. That chance encounter changed my life forever.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. I'm called Simon of Cyrene because of my home town. Cyrene was a seaport on the northern coast of Africa, in the area you now call Libya. My family was part of a large colony of Jews who made their home in Cyrene. It was a thriving Jewish culture we had there. We had our own synagogue. We raised our children in the best Jewish tradition. But we never forgot that it was the blessed land of Israel, 800 miles to the east, which was our real, spiritual homeland. That's where we believed the Messiah, the great King of the Jews, would one day make His appearance.

Yes, as far as we were concerned Israel was the center of the world, and Jerusalem was the center of Israel. That's why those of us Cyrenean Jews who could afford it would make the yearly trip to Jerusalem for the most important of Jewish festivals, the Passover.

That's what brought me to the holy city, and that's how I ended up carrying Jesus' cross. -But there I go jumping ahead of myself again! Let me tell you how it all happened:

Jerusalem was filled to capacity for the festival. In the dusty streets could be heard the shouts of the vendors catering to the jostling mass of visitors. Naturally, with all the foreigners in town for the Passover, there were no rooms to be had in Jerusalem itself, so I'd found lodging out in the country. Anyway, it was Friday morning, about nine o'clock, and I was on my way into the city to worship at the Temple. I turned a corner, and to my surprise, I saw a big crowd headed toward me in the opposite direction! At first I was just annoyed, wondering how I was going to get past them in the cramped quarters of the narrow street.

But then I became curious. Why the Roman soldiers? Why the jeers and the hissing from the crowd? This was no parade, no religious procession -- Why, this was a death march! It finally dawned on me that these people were on their way to an execution. At the center of the group walked the condemned Man, beaten and bloody. He was staggering under the weight of a large, rough-hewn cross. I read the sign they were carrying in front of Him: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," it said. King of the Jews? I thought, They must be joking! That term referred to the promised Messiah, and this man, from the looks of things, had to be some kind of notorious criminal! I was indignant. If this was a joke, it wasn't very funny. In fact it bordered on outright blasphemy!

But I must admit my thoughts were a little confused at the moment, because while I was thinking this I was also frantically casting about for an escape route. I don't mind telling you, I just did not want to get involved. I saw this crowd of people headed toward me, and all I wanted to do was get out of the way. If only there were an alley I could run down, or a doorway I could duck into!

But it was too late. At that moment the condemned Man stumbled and fell. He was exhausted. Even the soldiers could tell immediately that the no cursing or whipping could make Him stagger on. And that's where I come in. Mark's Gospel records for history what happened next. Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. They didn't give me a choice, you see - they forced me to pick up the cross where Jesus had fallen under its weight. I didn't want to do it. To say I was reluctant to bear the cross is a gross understatement. I wanted nothing to do with Jesus. I just didn't want to be involved. But like it or not, I was involved now! Suddenly I found myself turned around 180 degrees. Instead of a quiet walk to the Temple, now I was part of the dreadful death-march of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yes, I was reluctant to bear the cross. And I've got plenty of modern counterparts in your 21st Century world: people who are confronted with Jesus Christ in their lives, but want nothing whatever to do with Him. A friend or a relative tries to tell them the Gospel - that salvation can be found just by trusting in Christ, but they don't want to hear it. To them it the story of the cross is foolish and naïve and offensive, and they'd simply rather have nothing to do with it. Just as the Scriptures say, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." 1 Cor 1:18. Like me, they'd rather not get involved.

And you! You're here today, listening to me, because you are a follower of Jesus. You will no doubt say that you have already committed yourself to being His disciple. But I wonder if you realize the true cost of being a disciple. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Mt 16:24. Are you really willing to "bear the cross," as Jesus says you must do -- or are you reluctant? Perhaps you've found that you're a lot better at indulging yourself than you are at denying yourself.

Are you willing to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from Christ -- or are you reluctant? Do you allow other activities to get in the way of your relationship with Him?

Are you willing to suffer the jeers and taunts of the unbelieving world because of your faith -- or are you reluctant? Do you hide your faith when you're with others? Do you conveniently forget your Christianity when it would be awkward to bring it up? -Maybe you too have attempted to duck down a few spiritual alleyways in your life. Well, I couldn't escape. They compelled me to bear the cross -- and I will be eternally grateful to God that they did!

By the time I delivered my grim burden to the top of Calvary, there were some questions to which I needed answers. I needed to know Who this bloody, beaten Man was. What terrible crime had He committed to deserve this cruel, hideous death? A fellow standing next to me volunteered the information. He sneered, "Why, this Man claims to the Christ - the promised Messiah!" But could it be true? Obviously, my neighbor didn't think so. "Just look at Him now," he said with contempt.

So I did. I took a good look at Jesus. A couple of things were obvious. From all I could gather, He was an innocent man, undeserving of any punishment, much less this terrible sentence. He was clearly suffering terrible pain. He was enduring the shameful jokes of the passersby, there beneath the cross. I heard something that stunned me - I heard this Jesus ask God to forgive these very people who were casting bitter curses in His teeth! No, this was something strange, and wonderful. And things became even stranger and more wonderful as the afternoon wore on. I stayed to witness the unearthly darkness that blanketed the land. I felt the ground heave and buckle in the earthquake which struck so suddenly. I heard Jesus' last strangled cry, "It is finished." I saw Him die.

And somehow I knew! Somehow the Lord revealed to me that the sign over Jesus' head was literally true - this was indeed the King of the Jews, the promised Redeemer! Here was the One we'd been waiting for for centuries! That Good Friday morning, the soldiers forced me to turn around and head in a different direction. But that same afternoon, when I saw Jesus die, the Holy Ghost made my life turn around and head in a different direction. He made in into a Christian!

And let me tell you, my life was never the same after that. From a man who was reluctant to bear the cross, I became a man who willingly embraced the cross. The Lord opened my eyes to see that the blood Jesus shed on that cross was shed for me. All my sins were atoned for on that cross of His. Sure, I carried the cross, but He's the One who really bore it's weight. He bore the sins of the world on His shoulders. He took upon Himself the weight of our many transgressions and offenses, and redeemed us from them all. As the Apostle Paul said, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Eph 1:7.

My fellow Christian: like me, you too have surrendered yourself to Jesus. Like me, there is no doubt much reluctance in your past - many failings, many lost opportunities, many sins. But by the power of the Spirit you too have embraced the cross of Christ. And Jesus, on that cross, made up for your every failing. He fulfilled God's Law perfectly for you, and He made perfect atonement for your every sin. How blessed and happy you and I are, as the redeemed of God! Just as the Psalmist says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered." Psa 32:1. Rejoice with me, believer!

In the Bible you can read the evidence of my conversion to the Christian faith. Alexander and Rufus, my sons, were later well-known to the early Church. Other passages give hints to my progress in the faith. However, you really won't hear a lot more about me in the Bible after this episode. But that's alright. It's alright if you just remember me as the reluctant convert who finally came to embrace the cross willingly. If you want to hear the rest of the story, I'll tell it to you myself one day. For you're going to meet me in the flesh one day - me, Simon of Cyrene - and together we'll praise our Savior's name forever. And maybe those of us who had to be compelled to come into the kingdom, maybe we'll be singing the loudest praises of all. For although we may have at times been reluctant to bear the cross for our Savior, it is His eternal glory that He had not the slightest reluctance in bearing the cross for us! May we ever offer praises to His glorious name, AMEN.

March 22, 2009

"The Shame and Sorrow of the Hypocrite" - Mar 22, 2009

During His ministry, Jesus healed many sick people. Once a group of men carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. When they couldn’t force their way through the crowd to the house where Jesus was, they climbed up onto the roof, and cutting their way through the ceiling they lowered their friend down right in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw this display of faith he said to the hopeful man at His feet,

“Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5 NIV).

Having declared his sins forgiven, Jesus then also healed his paralytic limbs so that the man was able to walk home on his own two legs, carrying the mat that he had so recently required to be carried on.

This is the Jesus that many people think of. The soft spoken, accepting, forgiving healer of body and soul. Indeed when we look to Jesus in faith, this is the Jesus we aught to think of.

But in our sermon text for today, Jesus is not soft spoken or accepting at all. His words are harsh and painful. He has no word of forgiveness for those He is addressing, but only rebuke.

His tone has changed so radically because the men He is addressing here are not humble and faithful. They are arrogant and godless. Jesus has no word of forgiveness for the hypocrite. For to comfort the hypocrite is itself hypocrisy. To the hypocrite Jesus has only a word of shame and sorrow.

Matthew 23:23-27 (NIV)

23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Instead of pronouncing blessings to the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus says, “Woe to you”. In other words, Jesus says, “Shame and sorrow” is yours. Why is shame and sorrow is their rightful inheritance? They are hypocrites.

In the Greek, the word “hypocrite” means “under decider”. Hidden under their reputation was a person with very different morals, convictions and beliefs. They were only pretending to be righteous followers of God.

Jesus first reveals the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees by pointing out their complete miss-ordering of priorities.

They would set aside ten percent of their income to give to God as an offering. But they didn’t stop there. They even tithed from their herb gardens.

We can imagine them carefully weighing out ten percent of their spices on little scales to take to the temple.

But after weighing out 30 grams of mint, they let the guilty criminal go free. After weighing out 20 grams of dill, they refused to have mercy on the neighbor who owed them money. After weighing 10 grams of cumin they passed their own traditions off as God’s commands.

They paid careful attention to the insignificant, and completely abandoned justice, mercy and faithfulness to God. There was nothing wrong with tithing from every little corner of their income. But they should not have done it at the expense of following God’s will as expressed in His Word.

In a phrase, the Scribe and Pharisees were “majoring in minors”.

Can you see a bit of Pharisee in yourself? Ask yourself: “When do I major in the minors? In what area of my life are my priorities completely backward? When do I expend my time and energy on things trivial at the expense of things spiritual?”

Jesus teaches us how to order our priorities when He says,

“…Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

And more than teaching us to order our priorities, Jesus plasters over all our sinful choices with His perfection. He gives us His life of perfect choices to cover our dismal failures.

As people who sin daily, it is very comforting to remember that Jesus not only died to take our sins away, He also lived to cover our sins with His holy life.

No doubt, the reason why the Scribes and Pharisees bagged their spices up was for an outward show of piety and goodness when they brought their offerings to the Temple.

In verse twenty-five, Jesus moves on to reveal the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees by pointing out their preoccupation with their image.

“25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26 NIV).

The Scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied with God’s laws. They added hundreds of laws and regulations His. They claimed that by setting up all these extra laws they were building a “hedge” around God’s laws so that they would not be broken.

Some of these extra laws concerned ceremonial washings. When the Pharisees came from the marketplace, they wouldn’t eat unless they first washed their hands in a ceremonial way. They might have unknowingly touched a Gentile, or something else that was unclean. They extended these “washing laws” to cups and dishes, pitchers and even to dining room furniture.

These washings weren’t done for sanitary purposes, but for religious reasons. But these washings weren’t commanded by God’s law. They were completely manmade traditions.

They took great care to follow these traditions of cleansing, but at the same time, their hearts were unclean. They were greedy men. Self-indulgent men. Men more concerned with appearances, keeping up the traditions of their fathers, than with maintaining a relationship with God.

Jesus compares them to a cup whose outside is carefully washed clean, but whose inside if caked with filth.

If they would have only taken care to actually BE devoted to God in their hearts, their lives would have reflected this devotion on the outside as well.

Do you see a bit of the “washing Pharisee” in yourself? Ask yourself: “When do I focus on my image before people, ignoring what I look like to God?”

Jesus points us to our inward filth also. He wants us to see our sinful hearts, and come to Him for cleansing. In the forgiveness that Jesus gives we are washed clean on the inside. Then the Holy Spirit also takes up the task of cleaning our reputation.

The apostle Paul spoke of this inner and outer cleansing when He said to the Corinthian congregation:

“9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV).

The Pharisees preoccupation with their image was deadly because it ignored the real problem. They may have seemed righteous to men, but to God they were dead in sin.

Jesus describes the essence of a hypocrite when He compares the Scribes and Pharisees to a shiny white tomb.

“27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).

Tombs can be magnificent on the outside. The Pyramids of Egypt are tombs. The tombs of many rich and powerful men and women are decorated with finely carved statues and ornate images. Caskets can be sanded and lacquered and polished to a high shine. But none of these things change the fact that inside lies nothing but dead, moldering, rotting remains.

In the same way, outward decoration and pristine reputation cannot change the reality of a heart that is sinful and dead to God. No matter how many people a hypocrite can fool, he can’t fool God, for God sees the inner heart. As it says in First Samuel,

“…Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b NIV).

We were all born into this world sinners, just like our parents before us, and their parents before them. We would have remained just like the Scribe and Pharisees, dead to God, if it were not for the life and love of Jesus. Through faith in Him, God breathes new life into our spirits and makes us dead in sin no more.

The hypocrite may not experience shame and sorrow in the eyes of his neighbors. But, before God he does. Now and in the judgment to come God will not be fooled by the elaborate words and deceptive actions of the pretender.

Let us pray.

Father, Your Son spoke a word of harsh rebuke to the Scribes and Pharisees who pretended faithfulness to You. Teach us through these words of Jesus not to be hypocrites. Because of Jesus’ genuine faithfulness and perfect sacrifice in our place, forgive us for the times we have acted as hypocrites. Cleansed by His blood, renew our faith in Your great love, and give us inner life and true devotion to You. We pray this in Your Son’s Name.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

March 18, 2009

"I Was There : Pontius Pilate" - Mar 18, 2009

Greetings, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The part of God’s message which we meditate on tonight comes from:

Matthew 27:24 (NIV)

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”


A Christian doctor by the name of Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name. At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel he says that he carefully investigated the events concerning Jesus that he was to write about. As part of his careful investigation Luke interviewed eye witnesses who were there.

Concerning Jesus’ final condemnation, it would be hard to find a better eyewitness than Pontius Pilate. He was the Roman governor who actually authorized Jesus’ crucifixion. He spoke privately with our Savior just hours before His death.

Tonight we imagine that later in his life, a close friend has written a letter to Pontius Pilate requesting to know what really happened to the Man called Christ. From our own careful examination of the Scriptures comes Pilate’s reply.

Pontius Pilate:

In answer to your question, yes, I was there in Jerusalem when Jesus was accused and condemned and crucified. I played a major role in the whole affair. Though, to you I can admit that I am not proud of that fact. I make no claim to be a religious man, and I don’t have a lot of room in my life for regret. But that was one time that I wish things had gone differently.

As you know, I obtained the governorship over Judea before Jesus came into prominence. And as you also know, I wasn’t exactly pleased with this appointment. There were plenty of other places I’d rather rule over than the dusty, Jew infested lands of Palestine. The Jews didn’t want me there, and I didn’t want them around either.

I spent a good deal of my time in the Mediterranean port city of Caesarea. It was the capital of Roman Judea, where the my troops were headquartered. But, whenever the Jews held a religious festival I was required to preside in Jerusalem. Which is where I was when I met Jesus.

It was the Jewish feast of the Passover that brought me to Jerusalem that time. The Passover was that festival where the Jews sacrificed healthy young lambs to remember how they had escaped from slavery in Egypt. Only this time, the Jews wanted more than a lamb to be sacrificed.

Jesus had been teaching around the country for a number of years now, and He had gained a following. But the religious leaders of Jerusalem were not among them. They hated Him. I just didn’t know how deeply their hatred went until they came asking for His blood.

It was early on a Friday morning that they came. They handed Jesus over to my men, and requested that I come out to meet with them.

As the Roman governor of this area, men usually come to me. But, they didn’t want to risk making themselves “ceremonially unclean” by entering the residence of a lowly Gentile.

To insult my sovereignty even more, when I asked them what charges they were brining against this man, they tried to avoid the question altogether.

“If he were not a criminal”, they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you” (John 18:30 NIV).

As if any Roman judge would just say, “Okay, how should I punish him then?” without proper procedure and evidence. Sure, I might have acted as judge and jury in my own interests, but I certainly wasn’t going to be the puppet of these hypocrites.

It had been made clear to me that these men wanted Jesus dead because they envied Him, not because of some crime He had committed (Matthew 27:18).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as governor, it’s not to get involved in petty squabbles that have no real impact on me or Rome’s policies. So, I smugly told these men to go judge Jesus themselves. The Sanhedrim still had some authority granted from Rome, let them use it.

But, like I said, they wanted Jesus’ blood. And execution was one thing they were not permitted do without my approval.

Finally they made a charge. They said that Jesus opposed the payment of taxes to Caesar and that He claimed to be a king. If this were the case, I’m sure I would have known about it already. But, I withdrew back into the Palace to question Him anyway.

It didn’t take many questions to ascertain that this Man was no leader of a rebellion. He did admit that He was a King, but the Kingdom He claimed to rule was a “spiritual kingdom”.

So, there it was. He was a religious teacher, teaching spiritual things. Rome couldn’t care less what this man was doing. Obviously He posed no threat to Rome’s rule over the province. So, I went back out and told them I found no basis for their charges against Jesus.

The growing mob below me was not about to accept this judgment. But, as they yelled out more accusations, I found out that Jesus was from the North country. From Galilee. That was Herod’s territory, so I tried to pass off this problem to him. “Send Jesus to Herod”, I told my men, “Let him judge the man”.

I hoped that this would be the end of the matter. But this was only the first of a number of failed attempts that I made to get Jesus released. This first time, I was just avoiding the bother of one more problem to tend to. But the reasons for my trying to release Jesus changes as the day marched on.

Jesus had been unusually quiet in my presence. He didn’t respond to the accusations that the Chief Priests were making at all. He made no attempt to defend Himself. Only when I pressed Him did He briefly speak to me. I was amazed at His complete control over himself, his silence and His lack of malice.

Apparently He wouldn’t talk to Herod at all, and after Herod and his men roughed Him up a bit they sent Him back.

So I tried again. I went out to the growing crowd and said,

“You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him” (Luke 23:14-17 NIV).

Sometimes we flog the criminals we’re going to crucify. When we want to elicit some information from them before they die, we load the thongs of the scourge with bits of lead, spikes or bone. It’s quite effective. Some have taken to calling scourging the “death before death”.

I had hoped that when the rabble saw a “punished” Jesus, a lacerated and bloody Jesus, they would consider it enough. Whatever grudges they held against this man, surely this humiliating torture would be sufficient revenge.

But when they saw Him torn raw, bruised and barely conscious they actually began chanting, “Crucify”.

I tried again to make them see what they were doing.

I came out before them and washed my hand in a ceremonial way. Surely they, with all their temple rituals would understand what I was doing. I told them,

“I am innocent of this man’s blood. …It is your responsibility” (Matthew 27:24 NIV).

Any rational jury would have recanted at this point. I was telling them that they were murdering an innocent man if they pressed on with this. But they would not listen. In fact, their response was,

“Let his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25 NIV).

This was madness.

Even when given the choice between a known murder and this timid teacher, they chose the murderer.

You see, we have an established custom at the Passover, us and the Jews. The people choose one of the death row inmates and we actually let him go free.

But they wouldn’t ask for Jesus, they had Barabbas released instead.

Like I said, this was madness. And to add to all the strangeness of this day, the Chief Priests demanded that Jesus MUST die because He had claimed to be the Son of God.

Like I said, I don’t consider myself a religious man. But this rattled me. I took Jesus back into the palace and questioned Him again.

“Where do you come from?” (John 19:9 NIV), I asked.

But to my frustration, He didn’t say a thing. I said to Him,

“Do you refuse to speak to me? …Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10 NIV).

The crowd was chanting wildly in the distance. I was unsettled and fearful. The air itself was charged like, before a lightning storm. But He just stood. Bleeding. Breathing. And then He replied,

“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” (John 19:11 NIV).

There He was again. Without fear. Fully confident. Pointing me back to His God. Back to sin and truth.

Like I said before, I know what truth is. And this man was genuine to the core. He wasn’t crazy like the crowd. He wasn’t uncertain like me. He believed every word He said, like it was prophecy with all of His God’s power behind it.

I know my wife thought that the power of God was with this man. It’s not a usual thing for my wife to send me a message while I’m sitting on the judgment seat in the middle of a matter. But on that Friday, she did. She had had a dream. She said it was because of this innocent man, and that I should have nothing to do with Him.

That’s part of the reason I was so rattled by His claim to be the Son of God.

After talking with Him that second time, my mind was made up. I was going to set Him free. I’d shed other Jewish blood if I had to. Something was going on here that was beyond me. Something I wanted no part of.

Stupidly, I tried again to reason with the crowd. I knew they would not listen to me. But I had made up my mind. He would go free.

And that’s when they hit the chink in my armor.

The Jews began shouting,

“If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12 NIV).

I might think myself important. I might live my life according to my own selfish interests. But to think that I was irreplaceable to Rome would have been the height of arrogance. I’d provoked the Jews enough times and made enough enemies that they just might be able to convince my superiors that there was some truth in their accusation. And I wasn’t ready to give up my way of life for a Jewish teacher that I had just met today, even if He was calm and collected in the face of His own death. Even if I knew He was innocent.

You see, truth doesn’t really matter. What matters is who has the power, and how they use it.

One last time I brought Him out to the crowd that was now at full roar. I knew what was coming. When I told them,

“Here is your king” (John 19:14 NIV), they screamed,
“Take him away! Crucify him!” (John 19:15 NIV).

I yelled back,

“Shall I crucify your king?” (John 19:15 NIV).

And the Chief Priests replied,

“We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15 NIV).

And then I let the hypocrites have Him. I told my men to crucify Him with the others.

Yeah, I was there in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.

Let it be known, that this man testified a good message before me. Nothing but the truth. He was the only one in the whole affair that was clearly innocent, and He was the one that I put on a cross.

Here ends Pilate’s letter.

What Pontius Pilate says is true. Jesus did speak a good message to him. Nothing but the truth. Indeed, Jesus was the only one in the whole course of human affairs that is without fault.

But Pilate was wrong about who put Jesus on the cross. It wasn’t just his fear and weakness that did it. It wasn’t just the mob of angry Jews. It wasn’t just the Chief Priests who brought the phony charges. It was us too.

You know it. Our sins made His suffering necessary. Because only through His blood are our hands washed clean for real and forever.

Pilate is a good eyewitness, but we know more than he did. We know that the King of Truth was silent – so that He would make it to the cross. We know that He laid Himself open to violence – because He was protecting us from hell.

For this complete self abandonment, for this love driven sacrifice, we are forgiven in the sight of the eternal God. And now we live, not like Pilate did, for all that is temporary. Now we live, not like Pilate did, to himself and for himself. Now we live to God, because of God’s Son, and to His everlasting glory. All praise be to the God of our Salvation.


March 15, 2009

Seeing Who's In the Crosshairs - Mar 15, 2009


On the Monday of Holy Week Jesus entered the Temple and cleared out all the merchants and moneychangers who were dishonoring God’s House of Prayer. While this upset the religious leaders who benefited from this nefarious selling of goods, they were too afraid to take aggressive action against Jesus. On Tuesday of Holy Week, they were not so timid.

When Jesus arrived at the Temple on Tuesday, He faced immediate opposition. Today we see some of the battle of words waged between Jesus and the hypocrites who wanted Him dead.


The purpose of Jesus’ birth, life and death is summed up in the words of 1 John 3:8:

“…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 NIV).

In our sermon meditation for today, we consider the words of:

Luke 20:20-26 (NIV)

20Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
25“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It’s a classic movie scenario. At the crucial moment the hero is in the crosshairs. The trigger is squeezed and the shot rings out. But wait! The character we thought was the bad guy wasn’t aiming a the hero at all! His target was the real enemy who was closing in on our hero from behind.

If we could have seen who was being targeted we would have known the truth.

As we meditate on God’s Word today, “Seeing Who’s in the Crosshairs” makes all the difference.

“The Savior in the Sights”

Our Savior is the first person we find in the crosshairs. In His teaching, Jesus had singled out the religious leaders of Jerusalem. They were not being faithful to God and His Word. But having their wicked behavior pointed out made them angry, not repentant. So they sent spies to catch Jesus in His own words.

This gives us a sobering glimpse into the hearts of the men who opposed Jesus. They were evil, and determined and unscrupulous.

First their spies buttered Jesus up with flattery. They said He was a good and godly teacher. They said He didn’t show favoritism to anyone, but spoke the truth. Then they asked their two-pronged question: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

If Jesus said that they SHOULD pay taxes to Caesar, the people, who hated Rome’s occupation of their country, would consider Jesus a traitor. No doubt many would stop listening to His teaching. The open ears of the people were on the line.

If Jesus said that they SHOULDN’T pay taxes to Caesar, then Rome’s governor would consider Jesus a rebel and deal with Him accordingly. Pontius Pilate was not afraid of shedding the people’s blood in order to make a point. The spies hoped that Pilate would do their killing for them. Then Rome could do the work and take the blame.

But it wasn’t just the possibility of political suicide and government execution that Jesus faced here. If He were to answer this question in a sinful way, all that He had worked for would fail. His needed to live His whole life without sin in order for the plan of salvation to work. He had to be a perfect sacrifice when He died on Calvary’s cross. In a very real way, OUR salvation depended on Jesus’ response.

This is something we should bear in mind whenever we meditate on the events of Jesus’ life. In baseball, you get three strikes. In the game of perfection, you get no strikes. Jesus lived His whole life with our eternal home on the line. One false step, one sin, and our hope of forgiveness would have been gone forever.

“Jesus’ Disciples: A Secondary Target”

When they were sent to target Jesus, the spies were being used by the religious leaders. And the religious leaders were being used by Satan. Later when the risen Jesus was out of the picture, Satan would turn His sights fully on Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus warned His disciples of this, saying:

“18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20a NIV).

Those whom Satan has tricked into following him continue to do his work today. They seek to catch Christians in their own words. They attempt to make Jesus’ followers look stupid or evil. They try to pass legislation that will hinder Christians or get them in trouble with the government. In some countries Christians are beaten and even killed for their work in Christ’s Name.

We live in an ungodly world, and an ungodly country. When we speak as Christ’s envoys, we shouldn’t be surprised by opposition, we should expect it. The apostle Paul wrote,

“12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:12-15 NIV).

You too are disciples of Jesus. Expect to be targeted. But like Paul encouraged Timothy, keep YOUR sights on God’s Word and God’s Savior.

“Keep Your Sights on God”

When Jesus answered the question about taxes to Caesar, He was encouraging the same thing as Paul did. With His answer to the spies, Jesus teaches us about obedience to the government while at the same time encouraging us to keep our sights on God.

Let’s read verses 22-26 once more to refresh our memory on His Words.

“22Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
25“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:22-26 NIV).

Part of keeping our sights on God is recognizing His activity in the real world.

The book of Romans reminds us that secular authorities are appointed by God. Not all they do is sanctioned by God, but we are obligated to respect them as God’s appointed leaders all the same.

In the Old Testament David gives us a good example to follow. Once, King Saul went out with an army of 3,000 men to hunt down and kill David. As they searched for him, Saul stopped to go to the bathroom in a cave. Deep in the darkness of that cavern David and his men were hiding. It would have been easy for David to kill Saul. The Bible tells us that David even crept close enough to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David even regretted this. In First Samuel it says,

“6He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way” (1 Samuel 24:6-7 NIV).

Our obligation to respect and obey government officials is not dependant on their skill or their worthiness or even their moral character. Even when they are incompetent or evil we do not have the right to rebel against them or bad-mouth them.

God does not tell us to respect only the ones that are worthy of respect. God does not tell us to obey only the laws that we think are well written. Only when those laws violate God’s law does He give us the right to disobey His appointed servants. And even then we are to do so respectfully.

There’s greater lesson that obedience to secular authority that is found here. When we focus our hearts on our Great God, the actions of those around us should not determine when we do right or wrong.

That’s the way of the world. The world tells us to do good to those who do good to us and to repay evil with evil.

But that’s keeping others in our crosshairs, instead of keeping God in our sights. May the Holy Spirit warm our hearts to His Word, and focus our eyes on our Great God, so that we live TO HIM. May the Holy Spirit purify our hearts through Christ Jesus, so that our behavior is not dependent on what others do, but on what we know is God’s good and Holy Will.

Ultimately, the religious leaders of Jerusalem succeeded in their plot against Jesus. Even though He clearly taught obedience to Rome, they accused Him of rebellion before Pontius Pilate. And even though Pilate knew He was innocent of such a charge, he condemned Jesus to die.

It appeared that Satan had Christ in the crosshairs and would finally take Him out. But sometimes being in the crosshairs doesn’t matter. When Satan put Christ on the cross, the gun backfired on Satan.

Because He died in our place, the death of Jesus destroyed the power of sin over us. We no longer fear God’s just anger over our past sins. We no longer fear the angry plotting of Satan. Because of Jesus, God has forgiven us.

So, for the rest of Lent, keep your eyes out for Jesus being targeted – for you.

Throughout the rest of life, keep your eyes out for Satan targeting you – and when he does rejoice, you must be speaking the Good News.

For life and eternity turn your line of sight on the Triune God. He is your Creator, your Savior and the one who continues to mold your heart to His ways, and your life to His joyful service. He is the one who daily forgives your sins because of what happened on Calvary.

Keep this God in your sights dear Christians.


March 8, 2009

Faith in a Great God - Mar 8, 2009


Last Sunday we took a look at the events of the first Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem as it’s great King and Savior. Today, we focus our thoughts on the Monday of Holy Week.

With Jerusalem’s spiritually bankrupt leaders in full view, Jesus used this day to teach His disciples about genuine faith and the characteristics of it. We pray that the Spirit of God would teach us the same through our meditation on His Holy Word today.


Grace and peace be to you from our Great God, and from the source of forgiveness, our Great Savior, Jesus Christ.

During Jesus’ ministry, He often taught the people by using parables. Parables are often described as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”. With His parables, Jesus used things that people understood well, to help them grasp deeper, more important, spiritual truths.

Not long before Holy Week Jesus had told a parable about a fig tree. He had said,

“…A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:5-9 NIV).

At that time Jesus did not explain His parable. But, it is not hard to grasp it’s meaning. Just as Isaiah had described faithless Israel as a vineyard that only produced bad fruit, Jesus now described Israel’s people as a fruitless fig tree.

As Jesus walked toward Jerusalem on Monday morning, He found and opportunity to express the final end of faithlessness in a striking and visible way.

Jesus was hungry, and seeing a leafy fig tree along the way, He approached it to find some food.

Being in a warm climate, the fig trees of Palestine sometimes produces three batches of fruit in a single year. Even if there were no new figs on this bushy fig tree, Jesus should have been able to find a few figs still hanging on from the last crop.

But He found nothing. The tree was barren. To help the disciples see the end of result of faithlessness, He cursed the tree.

In the morning His curse had taken effect. The leafy branches were now withered. The tree itself was withering from the bottom of it’s roots to the top of its crown.

Now to some, it seems that this is almost a childish reaction from Jesus. He doesn’t find breakfast, so He curses the fig tree in fit of frustration. But this was a calculated action on the part of the Creator of all things.

The Son of God was there when all things were made in the first six days. The Bible tells us that all things were created through the Son. And as Creator, He was also Master of His creation. He could do with it as He pleased.

Far from being an innocent bystander, if this fig tree could speak I have no doubt that it would express happiness to be an example that the disciples could learn from.

A much greater tragedy than a lost tree, were the lost souls of men and women who lived in close vicinity to the Word of God, and in the very days of the coming of the Savior!

Jesus’ withering of the fig tree was a solemn warning to the disciples, and to us, of the final result of unbelief. First the fruit of righteousness disappear, then when the last year of opportunity has passed, the fruitless plant is cut down and destroyed.

Faith in the Great God produces good fruit. Righteous words and actions in the lives of men and women of faith.

On this occasion, the hard-headedness of the disciples is once again displayed. Upon seeing that the fig-tree had withered from the roots, they seem to be more impressed with the miracle, than the lesson which the miracle illustrated.

Jesus would not let their amazement go to waste. The penultimate teacher uses their amazement to teach them a couple important lessons about faith. Let’s read again what Jesus said as the disciples stared at the withering fig tree.

Mark 11:21-25 (NIV)

20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

The first of the lessons about faith that Jesus taught here is that faith in the Great God produces great prayer.

And powerful prayer is free from doubt.

Earlier in His ministry, a man had brought his demon possessed son to Jesus to be healed. When Jesus asked the man how long his son had been possessed, the boy’s father replied,

““From childhood… It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:21-22 NIV).

Jesus responded by saying,

23“‘If you can’? …Everything is possible for him who believes.”
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV).

A prayer is like a balloon that rises up to the throne of God. Doubt is like a rock tied to the string of that balloon. Doubt hinders our prayers.

Our lack of trust in God can prevent us from praying at all. If we doubt that He is active in our daily life, we won’t pray. If we doubt that He actually cares, we won’t pray. If we doubt that He’ll actually do anything, we won’t pray.

Perhaps you’re found yourself offering a quick prayer about something, not so much trusting that God will help, but praying simply because you know that’s what a Christian is supposed to do. Certainly such prayer is grounded by our doubt as well.

In the letter of James it says,

“5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:5-8 NIV).

Doubt cripples prayer. It has no place in Christian prayer.

We need to learn to pray, “Father, I believe, help me to overcome any doubts that live in my heart.”

Now, one point needs to be made before we move on. There is a difference between being unsure of HOW God will answer a prayer and being unsure that God WILL answer your prayer. Remember how Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane?

“39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39 NIV).

In His prayer, Jesus expressed uncertainty as to HOW His Father would answer His prayer. He did NOT however, have any doubt that His Father WOULD answer His prayer.

It is the same in our prayers. We may be uncertain about the HOW and the WHEN, but we can be sure about the WILL. After all, Christian prayer is simply talking to God. It is as certain as God is powerful. As Jesus Himself describes it, doubtless prayer is unstoppable.

Christian prayer is fearless too. If our prayers are misdirected and sinful, we can be sure that God’s answer will be as perfect as God is wise. After all, prayer is not simply “mind over matter”. Christian prayer is speaking to GOD. His perfect mind will yield a precise and fitting answer.

Now, I said earlier that the disciples were more impressed with the miracle of the withering fig three than were by the lesson that the fig tree illustrated. Let’s make sure we don’t miss the point in the same way.

Jesus tells us prayer does the impossible. But don’t dwell on the levitating mountains. Look behind the miracle and answer the question: Why is prayer so powerful? Because of the Being to whom it is directed. It is GOD who has the power to move earth mountains. But, far more important to God are the mountains of sin that are removed by His Son’s cross.

Jesus points His disciples to this fact in verse 25. He said,

“25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV).

Faith in the Great God is accompanied by great forgiveness.

I like to picture faith as a cord that connects people to the true God. Through the “phone cord” of faith we hear God tell us that our sins have been blotted out and washed away because His Son died on the Cross in our place. Through the titanium cord of faith in Jesus, we are drawn through life on earth to life in heaven.

Jesus used a similar picture to describe faith. He said faith was being connected to Him like the branches of a grape plant are connected to the main vine. To His disciples, Jesus said,

“1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:1-8 NIV).

One of the “fruits” that is produced from a “branch” connected to Jesus is forgiveness. We believe that God forgives our sins because of what Jesus willingly suffered, on the cross, in our place. The forgiveness that HE earned and supplies flows to us, through us, and to the people we come into contact with. The Bible says,

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NIV).

It is the same with forgiveness. We forgive, because He forgives us.

The apostle Paul encouraged,

“13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV).

As forgiveness for our sins flows to us through our faith connection to Christ, that forgiveness must flow out to others. It must. When our sinful nature tries to prevent us from forgiving each other from the heart we must go to God and put that sinful nature down. We must approach His throne in prayer saying, “Forgive me Lord, I have been unforgiving. Cleanse me in Your mercy. Cleanse my by Jesus’ blood. Forgive me that I may forgive others.”

We must never forget how God’s unending store of forgiveness was filled up. The bottomless tank of God’s forgiveness was filled up because of the bottomless ocean of suffering that Jesus felt throughout His body and throughout His souls on the cross of Calvary. Only because God’s horrible anger over our sin was poured out on His Son, is it possible for God to pour out forgiveness on us.

And that’s where we must go to find the strength to forgive one another. To the cross. Other methods of moving our sinful human heart to forgive are not sufficient. Only in the light of His great sacrifice us can we find the power to forgive the thief, the murderer, the rapist, the adulterer and the child molester. Only at the foot of the cross are the tedious sins of our loved ones fully obliterated in forgiveness.

Through faith in the Son of God, and His cross, flows the unending torrent, the mile high tidal wave, the world-wide flood of great forgiveness.

Through faith in Christ, mountains of sin are displaced, diluted, and washed away for all eternity.

Be fruitful, my fellow Christians. Pray without ceasing, and without doubt. Forgive without condition and daily. And know that Your Father in Heaven, through His Son Jesus, daily forgives you in the same way.


March 4, 2009

"I Was There : Caiaphas" - Mar 4, 2009

Greetings, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The part of God’s message which we meditate on tonight comes from:

John 11:49-53 (NIV)

49Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53So from that day on they plotted to take his life.


To the children in the pews today: We’re going to do a little acting and imagining. I’m going to imagine that I’m Caiaphas, one of the evil men who helped to murder Jesus.

Through the details it records, the Bible tells us about what kind of man Caiaphas was. The things I’ll be saying are things that Caiaphas might have said. Remember, He didn’t believe the Bible and he didn’t trust in Jesus.

May the Holy Spirit help us to imagine the man Caiaphas, and may our great God bless us even by his words.


Shalom. I can see that you’re not from around Jerusalem, so you probably don’t recognize me. My name is Caiaphas. I’m the ruling High Priest in the Temple of the LORD, at least for now.

It seems that my time as High Priest is almost over, so I guess I don’t mind expressing some of my memories to you.

I suppose, being followers of Jesus, that what you really want to hear about is my experiences with him. Well, we’ll get to that soon enough. But lets get one thing straight right now, that so called prophet from Nazareth was a fool, all of you are fools for following him. Life is too short to hang on every word of some backwater son of a carpenter. You’d all be much better off joining up with someone who actually has a place of his own, and a plan. That’s what I did.

You don’t think it was just dumb luck that I happened to marry the daughter of the great High Priest Annas do you? Now there’s a man you could learn a few things from. I know I did. He was a big part of the reason I was chosen to be High Priest back in 18 AD. And truth be told, Annas never really stopped being the High Priest, even when Rome appointed me. Throughout my term he was always there, working with me and beside me.

We were like peas in a pod. Since we both treasured money and power, we put our hearts into getting it together. The richer Annas got, the richer I got.

But you don’t live near Jerusalem, do you? So let me clarify. If you come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, you’re probably going to bring an offering and some animal for a sacrifice. No worries, our associates in the court of the Gentiles can convert your money into Temple shekels and help you pick out the right animals for whatever type of offering you wish to give. Best of all, we provide all this needed service to God’s people for a very reasonable fee.

But where was I? Oh, yes, you want to hear about Jesus. Well, it was our sales in the Temple that first brought us into contact with him, or more accurately – conflict with him.

We’d have been somewhat content to let the man go about with his little band of followers doing his good deeds and teaching his naïve teachings. But he wasn’t content to remain in Galilee.

He actually came to the Temple one day, and made a mess of OUR money changers tables. He dumped them over, spilling all the money, and then he chased all the animal sellers away, saying that this was God’s house, and not a place to make a profit.

I guess in a way I admired his boldness, but when a man messes with your income, you don’t just look the other way.

He was wise enough to stay away from Judea for a time. But he kept on teaching, and his following grew. The common, uneducated masses gobbled up his every word. They were impressed by his so called miracles and his quaint teachings about loving God and loving people. They liked it when he called the religious leaders hypocrites and said that God wanted real worshipers, people who worshipped God from the heart, and not just with mindless motions and hollow worship.

For a while he taught and we watched. Carefully. Patiently. But then came the raising of Lazarus. Supposedly he raised the man after he had been dead for a number of days. The Pharisees might believe some nonsense like that, but every sensible Sadducee like myself knows that there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead. This life is it.

All the same, that “resurrection” was what really got all the Chief Priests and the rest of the leaders in a tizzy. This was too much. Jesus was convincing everyone that he was the Messiah sent from God, and that he had come to save the world from their “sins”.

The Chief Priests were all worries that he continued to teach, more and more people would believe that he was the King sent from God. And if the Romans heard about it, as they no doubt would, they would come down on us hard. “We’ll lose our jobs!”, the Chief priests worried, “and the Romans might even take our nation away.”

What a bunch of mindless fools. That’s when I had to speak up. Someone had to inject some common sense into the discussion. So I stood up in a meeting of the leaders and presented the solution that should have been obvious to everyone.

Jesus is the problem, so let’s just take care of the problem. The Elders should have remembered the old saying, “It is better one man should die, than the community perish.” But sometimes it take a bold man to make men see the obvious.

If there were any that didn’t agree with me then, they did soon.

When the week of the Passover came, Jesus went into the Temple and did it all again. It still makes my blood boil to think of it. He overturned the money-changers tables AGAIN and chased our merchants out once more!

We had no choice. Something had to be done. So, Annas and I gathered everyone for a meeting at my place. At the palace we discussed how we could trick, capture and kill Jesus.

We didn’t really think it was a good idea to try this during the Passover. It wouldn’t have taken many words from Jesus to make the mob turn on us, instead of on him.

But I for one, wasn’t really all that afraid of that happening. You see, that just wasn’t Jesus. He wasn’t a rabble rouser. He didn’t yell out in the street and stir the crowds of people into a frenzy.

In fact, the only times he ever seemed angry was when the Pharisees tried to poke holes in his character, which, by the way, didn’t work. I’ve been told that even then he wasn’t really upset with their attacks on him so much as their hypocrisy and their false teaching.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point. We didn’t think it was wise to kill him during the Passover feast, but an opportunity arose that we couldn’t refuse.

Not all of Jesus’ followers were complete morons after all. Judas had a few of his priorities straight. He seemed to understand that Jesus was going nowhere. He certainly wasn’t going to try and overthrow Rome and he had no concern for helping his inner circle fill their bank accounts.

Judas understood the value of a dollar and so he came and offered to sell Jesus to us. Perhaps I give Judas a bit too much credit. He was just a petty thief. In the end, we got Jesus for the mere price of a slave. Thirty silver coins for the teacher who had the leaders of the people quivering in their sandals.

Now, I suppose I look like pretty bad character to you right now. But, when it comes down to it, I’m sure you’re not all that different than me. Come on now. If I’m good enough to take my mask off, the least you can do is take off yours.

Let’s be honest here. Under that thin veneer of religiousness, you’ve got your wants and desires too. You’ve got your own dark sins that you keep hidden from most people, most of the time, just like I do. The problem with you is, you probably actually care about your sins. You probably think that God, wherever he is, cares about what we do here on earth.

I suppose, being Christians, you actually believe all that line that Jesus sold about repenting and confessing and trusting in him as your Savior. You probably believe that sins damn a person to hell don’t you? You probably believe that you can’t do anything to save yourself? And you probably believe that Jesus died to take away your sins.

Yeah, I can see it in your eyes. You’re actually waiting for him to return and retrieve you penitent believers. You actually believe that this world has nothing to offer that can match what’s in store for you when Jesus returns. You probably believe in angels too, don’t you?

Well, believe what you want. As far as I’m concerned, heaven can wait. I’m going to get mine now.

Okay, now for what you’ve been waiting for. My close encounter with Jesus.

Judas made it pretty easy. They collected Jesus without much trouble, and after Annas had a little chat with him, they brought him to me and the rest of the Chief Priests and Elders of the people.

We had arranged a little mock trial in the middle of the night, complete with coached witnesses. You’d think that would be easy, but oh, how frustrating it was. The stupid peasants couldn’t get their stories straight. It really wasn’t that hard. We just needed some witnesses to agree about some of the “horrible” things Jesus had done. But no, nobody could get it right. How come when you want something done you have to do it yourself? I had to stand up and questioned Jesus myself.

Up to this point he hadn’t exactly been helping us out. Usually when lies are being thrown around about a man right in front of his face, he’ll say something. And usually with a little twisting of the truth whatever a man says can be made to incriminate him. But not Jesus. He just stood there, silent like a sheep, looking at all the rest of the sheep sitting behind me.

That’s when I put him under oath by the name of his God. Then, he was legally obligated to answer. I asked him to tell us if he really was the Christ, the Son of God. And when he opened his mouth, I couldn’t have condemned him better. I mean, it was like he was the witness that had been coached. He said,

“…Yes, it is as you say… 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” (Matthew 26:64 NKJV).

Case closed. I ripped my tunic like this was the most blasphemous thing I’d ever heard and the council condemned him without a further witness. A little dramatic, I know, but sometimes you have to help things along.

It was odd though. The tone of his answer. It was authoritative, but not really angry – in any way. It actually seemed like he was trying to make us see that he really was the Son of Man that the Old Testament talks about. Even after all that we had done to him, he still was trying to help us.

Well, he did help us take care of one problem. Or so I thought at the time.

A few days after He was dead and in the ground, his body went missing. (Sigh). We should have asked for more guards. Ever since that time I’ve had to deal with his followers. They actually think that God raise him from the dead. I forgot who my audience is, YOU actually believe that God raise him from the dead, and because you trust in him you’ll be raised from the dead too. Come on people, resurrection is a fairy tale. Do what you want. Get what you can.

Well, that was my experience with Jesus. I wish I could say it was my last dealing with his people too, but I can’t. Ever since that “resurrection Sunday” we’ve had repeated problems in the Temple, and I’m not talking about the little mess that dark Friday earthquake made in the sanctuary. I’m talking about the disciples of Jesus. They’re relentless. Uneducated peasants and fishermen, but relentless.

First it was Peter and John teaching Jesus’ “Good News” in the Temple. Then it was the rest of the Apostles. We threw them in prison. We threatened them. We beat them. We commanded them to stop preaching Jesus’ message. But they didn’t listen. They only left Jerusalem after we stoned Stephen to death. (Sigh). Sometimes it feels like we’re actually fighting against God and not just a bunch of overzealous half-wits.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our time together tonight. And I hope that our little talk has an impact on you. I’ve tried not to pull any punches, for your own good of course.

Remember, only believe what you can see. If you want something, take it. Just don’t take it from me. And don’t run after that fool Jesus. If you do, you’ll just spend a lifetime of praising him, and not being praised by others. And if you walk through life always trusting that he’ll provide, you’ll just end up having what he has and going where he did.

And who in their right mind would want that. Good night, and Shalom.

March 1, 2009

Why Honor Jesus? - Mar 1, 2099


Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are the four Gospels. They record important events from the life of Jesus in order to show their readers that He is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners.

About one third of their pages are devoted to the events that took place in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, including His crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead.

During the next six Sundays, the Sundays of Lent, we’ll focus our meditation on this last week of Jesus’ ministry.

Today we consider the events that took place on the first Palm Sunday, the Sunday just five days previous to Jesus’ death on the Cross.


In Paris, France, there stands a stone doorway that is so huge that a man once flew a bi-plane through its opening. This “doorway” is called the “Arc de Triomphe”.

This free-standing archway is about 50 yards tall, 50 yards wide and 24 yards deep. As you can imagine, it took many years to build. In fact, the foundations alone took two years to complete.

Now, why in world would anyone build an archway this big? Well, the Arc de Triomphe is a memorial meant to honor those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic wars.

Ever since the days of ancient Rome impressive stone archways have been built to honor important people. Since they take a lot to build, the person or persons whom they are built for better be worthy of the honor!

This thought leads us to our sermon theme for today. Why honor Jesus?

Our text answers this question for us in three ways. We honor Jesus because…

1. He is the King of Peace
2. He is the King from God
3. He is the King of Love

Luke 19:37-44 (NIV)

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

“He is the King of Peace”
Carved inside the Arc de Triomphe there is a list of 558 generals who served France. Those who died in their service are underlined.

Memorial archways often commemorate wars, and the soldiers who have fought in them. Wars are fought for a variety of reasons. But the noblest reason, and some would say the only just reason, has always been to restore peace.

That’s the reason why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday: to restore peace. But He would not win this peace with generals and soldiers and drawn out battles. He was the one general. He was the one combatant. His one death would secure the peace He sought to obtain.

Jesus didn’t ride into Jerusalem to broker a ceasefire between countries, or settle a squabble to between tribes. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to establish peace between the God and man.

There was war between God and man because of man’s sin. God is perfect and holy, mankind, sinful and evil. Mankind’s sin put him in God’s cross-hairs. Jesus would end the conflict by stepping in and taking the bullet meant for us. He would suffer the punishment we deserved.

This is the first and primary reason why we honor Jesus. He has restored peace between us and God by suffering and dying for our sins.

“He is the King from God”

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, He didn’t ride through an archway that had been built in His honor. But that was okay. The disciples surrounding Him honored Him with their words and actions.

When Jesus crested the Mount of Olives, the city of Jerusalem and Great Temple of God burst into view. The disciples began praise God because they believed that Jesus was the Prophet and King that God had promised to send them.

They had seen so many miracles done by Him. There was no doubt that God’s approval and power were with Him. So they praised God for Jesus.

That’s when the Pharisees got mad. You see, the disciples were using Psalm verses to sing their praises. But they added one thing. If you look at Psalm 118:25-26 you’ll see that it says,

“25 Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD” (Psalm 118:25-26 NKJV).

The thing the disciples added was the word King. They said, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!” With these words they were saying that Jesus was the King and Savior sent from God! Jesus was coming with the authority of God!

But the Pharisees did not believe Jesus was the Savior, and they did not want the kind of King that He was. The disciples’ words made them angry enough to lash out at Jesus, demanding that He shut His disciples up!

But Jesus replied,

“40“I tell you… if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV).

In other words, Jesus said, “They’re right. I am the King sent from God. And if my disciples don’t sing my praises, my creation will. For I WILL be praised on this day.”

Archways are stones piles up in order to remember something important. On page seven of the bulletin there is a picture of the Arc de Triomphe. This grand archway commemorates the patriot sons of France, but it’s structure was inspired by another an earlier archway that has a more direct connection to our text. The Arc de Triomphe was inspired by the Arc of Titus.

The Arc of Titus was built in the first centurym, not to commemorate fallen patriots, but to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem which Titus accomplished in 70 AD. This was the very leveling of Jerusalem which Jesus predicted as He rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.

By His sad prophesy, Jesus offered another proof that He was from God. Jerusalem would be surrounded and leveled in the not so distant future, because its citizens rejected the King and Savior that God sent for them.

At the thought of the horrible siege of Jerusalem that was to come, Jesus wept bitterly. He hadn’t come to destroy the people of Jerusalem, He had come to save them. He said it Himself,

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).

But when a rescuer is pushed away, tragedy must follow.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus’ miracles of healing had shown that He loved the people. Now His tears over Jerusalem showed again that He is a loving King.

Imagine the scene once more. Here Jesus is, riding along on the little donkey. The road ahead is covered with palm branches and people’s clothing that has respectfully been spread out before Him like a giant red carpet.

Around Him His disciples are bustling and jostling for position at His side. Running back and forth to carpet the road ahead with more palms.

Then the Mount of Olives looms up ahead and they know the city is near. Just over the rise. As they begin to descend down the hill the city comes into view. The sun is gleaming off the golden Temple spires and the city is alive with pilgrim worshippers.

The disciples erupt in joyful praise to God! The disciples erupt in joyful praise of Jesus!

Jesus takes it all in. But, as Jesus sees the city He is filled not with joy like the crowd around Him. Instead Jesus is filled with deepest sorrow. His ragged sobs of grieve clash with the sounds of the happy crowd.

We might pass over the English translation at this point. It simply says,

“41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41 NIV).

But that word for “weeping” means more than tears. It is the Greek word for sobbing, or wailing aloud.

Jesus knew that Jerusalem did not love Him. But He was not crying because His feelings were hurt. He was crying because He knew the tragic consequences of this insult to God. Jesus could see past the events of this day, to the day when the city would be surrounded with soldiers instead of gathering worshipers.

Jesus knew why Jerusalem would be destroyed again. For the same reason that it had been destroyed in years past: Its people had turned away from God. They did not look in gratitude to the God of the Bible, nor did they look in hope for the Savior He would send.

All this Jesus saw as He looked at the city, now still whole. Still looking vibrant and alive, but for the most part, spiritually dead.

And yet, Jesus kept riding. Through the days of holy week. All the way to Good Friday and to the cross. For people who hated Him, He suffered and died. For many that would go to the grave still hating Him, never to receive the life and forgiveness that He offered them.

The King of Love, the God of Love, would do everything possible to bring faith and forgiveness to sinners who would be condemned to Hell without Him.

The stones of the Arc of Titus remind us of God’s judgment on faithless Jerusalem. But perhaps more striking is the tombstone which now stands where the Temple did in Jesus’ day.

If you walk the road that Jesus did. Up over the Mount of Olives, you will not see the Temple of God gleaming in the sun. Its every stone was thrown down to the ground by the forces of Titus. What you’d see today would be the gleaming golden roof of the Dome on the Rock. The Muslim shrine that now stands where the Temple once did. And on that shrine, rising up like a golden tombstone, is carved a passage from the Koran which clearly says that Jesus is not the Son of God.

The Dome of the Rock is a tombstone with the saddest of epitaphs: “Here lies dead Jerusalem, who did not know when God came to it.”

Our text ends on this same sad not. But we can’t end here. I’ve got to tell you about one more stone monument. If you ever go to Jerusalem, make sure you see this one.

To the north and west of the city is a little garden. And in that garden is a monument that is not significant because of its grand scale, but because of its simplicity. It’s just a hole carved in the sandstone hillside. It was once a tomb, but now it’s an arc of triumph. Through it stepped the King of Peace, raised back from the dead. Through it stepped the King sent from God, the King who came to love sinners until they loved Him back. This is the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be more accurate to call it a “life-stone” instead of a “tomb-stone”.

We started with the question: “Why Honor Jesus?”

Here we see one more reason.

He IS the King of Peace.
He IS the King from God.
He IS the King of Love.

And He lives. Though once crucified for you and me, now, He lives.

As the song writer says,

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King. Amen.