March 28, 2010

Daughter of an Eternal King - Mar 28, 2010

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Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II was an amazing king. Around three thousand years ago he became the ruler of Egypt, and his rule extended for 66 years. Remarkably, he outlived his 12 oldest sons. In addition to his own building projects in Egypt, he also commissioned the restoration of the great Pyramid at Giza, which is the only one of the seven ancient wonders of the world that still stands today.

Ramses was a great and mighty king, and he also had a great and mighty EGO. As one of the so called “god kings” he was worshipped by his citizens as a deity. His citizens could honor his image at any one of the 50 huge statues of Ramses that were scattered throughout the capital city.

Ramses took every opportunity to “enhance” his reputation. He claimed the building projects of previous Pharaohs by crossing their names out and signing his own. Any defeat his army happened to suffer was commemorated as crushing victory instead. (Ben Thompson)

In the 1800’s the crumbling remains of one of Ramses’ statues was transported to London. Upon hearing about this statue, the poet Percy Shelly wrote the following poem.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Shelley

The kingdoms of men may be glorious, but they always come to an end. The kings themselves may be great, but every human being is born with a debt we all must pay. All must die.

But throughout the Old Testament of the Bible, a very different King is spoken of. One who was foretold long before He was born. One whose Kingdom is said to never end.

For our Old Testament reading today I’d like to take you on a walk through some of these prophesies.

Four thousand years ago, God spoke to Abraham. He promised him that through one of his descendants ALL THE NATIONS of the world would be blessed (Genesis 22:18).

Three thousand years ago, God spoke to King David. God promised David that one of his descendants would rule over an eternal throne (2 Samuel 7:13).

Skip ahead 300 years. Through the prophet Isaiah, God revealed that the land of Galilee would see a great light. A child would be born that would be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Isaiah 9:7 reads…

“7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7 NIV).
Skip ahead 200 years. God gave the great Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar a vision. And God’s prophet Daniel interpreted that vision. In the vision, four kingdoms appeared. First was Babylon, then the Medo-Persian Empire, then Alexander the Great and Greece, then the Roman Empire. During the Romans Empire God said that He would establish a special Kingdom superior and different than the rest.

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44 NIV).
500 years later, an angel appeared in Nazareth, in the hill country of Galilee. This angel’s name was Gabriel, and he carried a message to a young virgin named Mary. He said,

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33 NIV).
About 33 years later, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the King that God had long promised. Turn to John 12, verse 12.

“12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:12-19 NIV).

Jesus came to win a great victory and establish His Kingdom forever. But His Kingdom would not be established through arrogance and force, but through humility and self sacrifice.

You see, through the cross, Jesus opened the door for us to be part of His Kingdom. His Kingdom is God’s Kingdom. We are sinners who could not be part of that Kingdom. Our sins separate us from the holy God. But when Jesus was on that cross, the punishment for all our sins was poured out on him. He received our punishment, thus earning us forgiveness. Whenever this Good News is preached the forgiveness He earned and the Kingdom He established is extended to all who hear.

That’s what Palm Sunday is all about. Jesus is the King that God foretold. The King who establishes His Kingdom and invites us into it through the cross.


Our scope has been pretty huge up to this point. We’ve been talking about events sprinkled throughout thousands of years. But for our sermon meditations today, I’d like to really tighten up our focus.

Every Kingdom has people and every King has loyal subjects. We’ve been brought into the Kingdom of God through the message of Jesus. We are confident in His gracious and powerful rule over our hearts and lives right now.

But we are not the first. And we can learn from the Christians who came before us. In fact, the Book of Hebrews says that the Christians who came before us are like a great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on. Turn to Hebrews 12, verse 1.

“1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:1-6 NIV).

To encourage us and build up our faith today, we look at one such witness of Christ. One daughter of the Eternal Kingdom. Mary of Bethany.

John 12:1-11 (NIV)

1Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

Mary of Bethany had shown herself to be a daughter of God’s Eternal Kingdom long before this day.

Mary lived with her sister Martha in the town of Bethany. Bethany was a couple miles east of Jerusalem. Just over the mount of Olives. It took about 55 minutes to walk the distance.

One time when Jesus was passing through, Martha invited Him to stay at their house. You remember the story, right? Martha was racing around getting things prepared for supper, putting out towels for Jesus and making beds. But MARY wasn’t doing squat! She was just sitting there listening to Jesus’ conversation.

Finally, Martha was fed up, and asked Jesus to TELL MARY to help her get things ready! I mean come on, how lazy can you get! But Jesus replied by saying:

“41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV).
Mary listened to her King. That’s part of being His. Christians honor Jesus by listening to what He says with care. He is priority number one. We know that everything else can wait, the King comes first. Like Jesus said,

“…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

But it wasn’t all roses and relaxation for this daughter of the Kingdom. Mary experienced hard times too. But when she did, she called out to Jesus.

Once, Mary’s brother Lazarus got real sick. It didn’t look good. There was nothing any of the doctors could do. But Mary knew that Jesus could help. She and Martha sent a messenger to Jesus telling Him Lazarus was sick.

Psalm 50:15 says,

“15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15 NIV).
Mary called, and then they waited for Jesus to come. And they waited. And waited. And Lazarus slipped away. By the time Jesus came, it was too late. Lazarus had been in the ground for four days.

Mary was devastated. Friends came from Jerusalem to comfort her, but nothing seemed to help. She trusted in God, but the grief still hung heavy around her neck.

And when Jesus came, she expressed both her grief and her trust in Him. In John 11, verse 28 we read…

“28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:28-33 NIV).

Mary came to her King and fell before His feet. She poured out her heart to Him, telling Him everything she was feeling. If He had only been there.

And here, Mary teaches us how to approach Jesus. With nothing hidden. With all our thoughts and troubles and anxieties held out in the open. Like it says in 1 Peter 5, verse 7…

“7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

And Jesus responded with deep compassion. He stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, His dearly loved friend. And Jesus wept.

But He did more than empathize and feel. Jesus called on the power that had been His from eternity. The Son of God commanded that Lazarus live again, and Lazarus came out of the tomb – ALIVE.

And so we come to the events of our sermon reading. It was just six days before the Passover Feast. The last week before Jesus was crucified.

In Bethany, where Jesus would stay for the duration of the feast, a party was being held in honor of Jesus. We’re told that it wasn’t at the house of Mary and Martha, but at the house of a man known as “Simon the Leper”. No doubt one of the many lepers whom Jesus had healed.

Throughout the house there were many guests. Among them sat a man who had recently lay dead and moldering in Bethany’s graveyard. Lazarus was there, though now, very much alive.

All the disciples were there as well, including Martha, who, of course was busy serving.

And there lay Jesus. Reclining on his left arm at the table. In the place of honor.

We can imagine the clamor of all these people talking. Speaking about their journeys here. Talking about the city. About the Passover. About the many relatives that they would soon see in the city.

Perhaps Mary was not noticed at first. Certainly Jesus and Lazarus were on center stage on this occasion.

Mary’s King was being honored. And that was good. But Mary’s heart was moved to honor Him further still. Who knows where she had come by this precious perfume. Perhaps she was rich. Perhaps it had been a gift from a friend when Lazarus had died. It was a kind of perfume that was used on the dead. To wrap them in a sweet smell before they were laid to rest.

Mary took this perfume she had. A whole pint of the stuff, valued at a whole year’s wages, and she approached Jesus. The conversations died away as she anointed her King’s head and then His feet, wiping those calloused travelers feet with her own hair.

He deserved this honor, she thought. It didn’t matter to her what others said of this “waste”. He deserved everything she had. Jesus had given Mary her brother back, from the dead. Jesus had given her hope for her own future. Hope that would never be disappointed. He was the King that God had promised. And she would honor Him.

It also didn’t matter one bit to her that this perfume was so precious. Sure, she could have sold it and used that money. But that thought unthinkable. It was the best she had to offer. And it was no waste.

The old Proverb was right.

“9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV).
What a silly thought indeed that any gift to this King could be a waste. In 2 Corinthians 9, verse 7 it says…

“7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV).
To say that Mary’s gift came from a “cheerful” heart sounds like a gross understatement. Mary’s gift came from a heart of faith.

And Mary’s act teach us, her fellow Christians. It teaches us that miracles are to be expected in the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t seem that Mary could have known, but her act was a prophesy of His death to come. Her act of thankful faith pointed to His death to come.

And Jesus told the murmuring crowd that they were to leave Mary alone. That this act, which they were seeing as sinful and wasteful, was instead beautiful. It could have been a waste, but not when it was given in faith, to honor the Eternal King and Suffering Savior that God had sent.

And Mary’s honoring of Jesus did one other thing. It brought her honor also. Clearly that wasn’t her intent. But you can’t be a daughter of the King and not have His honor rub off on you. Jesus said:

“9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9 NIV).
By faith, we stand as Jesus’ Subjects in the Kingdom of God, right beside Mary of Bethany.

May our lives mirror hers. May we think that hearing our Savior King’s Word is priority number 1. May we always call out to Him when in need. May our prayers be a dumping out of our heart and sins before Him in faith. And we worship Him with all that we are, unconcerned with the judging thoughts of others. Unconcerned with the things of this world that we spend to His glory. Unconcerned, because with Him as King, we have more than Ozymandias. More than this world could ever offer. We have been restored to our Holy Creator.


March 24, 2010

Two Romans - Mar 24, 2010

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May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

This Lent our theme has been, “Lenten Shadow and Light”. In this series of messages we’ve compared and contrasted different characters who played a part in Jesus’ crucifixion.

We’ve seen great darkness, and brilliant light. We’ve seen evil and goodness. Tonight we examine two more players in this drama. Two Romans: Pontius Pilate and the Centurion who stood guard at Jesus’ cross.
Luke 23:22-23, Matthew 27:54 (NIV)

22Then [Pontius Pilate] said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”
23But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.

54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Now, at first glance, we might identify Pilate as the shadow here, and the Centurion as the light. But that’s not quite right. Both of these were lights on that dark Friday. Both proclaimed that Jesus was a righteous man.

Let’s look at Pilate first.

Pilate was a high ranking Roman official. As the Governor of this part of Rome’s great empire, Pilate was very powerful. As he himself said, Pilate had the power to crucify Jesus or to let Him go.

Pilate saw a lot of darkness on that day. He saw the DARK HATRED of Jesus’ accusers. Pilate understood that the religions leaders wanted Jesus dead out of envy, not out of any sense of justice. Pilate heard many accusations made against Jesus. And he recognized them as lies.

Against this background of darkness, Pilate also saw Jesus. He was silent in the face off all accusations. When questioned by Pilate, Jesus radiated innocence.

Pilate didn’t have to depend on Jesus’ testimony alone. He also had the testimony of his wife, who was convinced that Jesus was innocent.

Pilate even had God’s testimony. For who else would have sent that strange dream to his wife? That dream that moved her to stand up for Jesus?

It was a dark day. But Jesus stood out in bright, white innocence.

And some of this innocence was reflected off of Pilate. For Pilate himself proclaimed Jesus innocent numerous times. He told the angry crowd below that he had examined this Man and had found no reason for death in Him.

Yet, Pilate’s testimony, though it was correct, didn’t go far enough. He grasped Jesus’ innocence and proclaimed it, but, Pilate didn’t believe that Jesus was God’s Son. If he had, he would have feared God more than that angry crowd, and would have let Jesus go.

Pilate was like kindling arranged in a fireplace, that never quite catches fire. He smoldered there in the presence of Jesus’ light, but ultimately, Pilate remained cold and dead towards God.

I’d guess that some of you have been to Mt. Rushmore. You COULD describe Mt. Rushmore by saying, “There’s a place in the Black Hills of South Dakota where a man carved some faces in some rocks.” That statement is true enough, but it doesn’t tell the whole truth.

That’s what Pilate’s confession about Jesus was like. For our Savior was much more than an innocent man condemned.

Let’s turn to our second Roman now. We don’t actually know this man’s name. What we do know is that he was a Centurion in the Roman army. He was a relatively low ranking officer, commanding somewhere around a hundred men. He was certainly nowhere near Pilate in authority.

Yet, he also proclaimed the truth about Jesus on that Good Friday. The Centurion saw a different kind of testimony than Pilate had. He saw the testimony of earth shaking events as well as the testimony of words.

The Centurion was in charge of carrying out Jesus’ crucifixion. We’re not sure about everything that the Centurion saw and heard, but since he was there he would have seen how Jesus suffered in silence. Perhaps he heard Jesus pray to God on behalf of the people who crucified Him. Maybe he even heard the exchange between Jesus and the criminal crucified beside Him. This criminal confessed himself a sinner and appealed to Jesus. Jesus assured him that he would be in paradise before the day was over.

While we assume that the Centurion heard these things. We know for CERTAIN that he saw the supernatural darkness that fell over the land from twelve to three. We know for SURE that the Centurion heard Jesus’ final words as He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” We KNOW that the Centurion felt the earthquake that shuddered through the ground when the Son of God gave up His life and died in the place of every sinner who ever walked the face of the earth.

In the darkness of all these things, Jesus’ last triumphant cry must have shone out like a bright light, burning it’s testimony into this man’s memory forever.

Crucifixion was meant to slowly extinguish a man’s strength until his light went out. But this Jesus had burned more brightly in the darkness of His crucifixion exploding with His last words like a star going supernova.

It was THEN that the Centurion, filled with fear, shone out with light himself. Seeing it all, taking it in and weighing it in his heart, the Centurion opened his mouth and declared to all who would hear that this Man surely was a righteous man - just as Pilate had declared Him to be. But the Centurion went further. He also declared that it was true, Jesus surely was the Son of God.

The Centurion recognized both Jesus’ INNOCENCE AND His IDENTITY as the divine Savior. With his words he praised God.

While Pilate’s fire never ignited, we have reason to believe the Centurion’s did. And we look forward to seeing Him in heaven when WE finally reach that glorious place.

Now, it must be said that BOTH of these men were in darkness before Christ blazed out in glory before them. Any light that sinners come to possess comes first from God as a gift. Jesus is the light of the world, our only Savior. He alone gets the credit for illuminating our dark, unbelieving hearts and making them hearts filled with His forgiveness, love and joy and peace.

We’ve examined our two Romans now, but I’d like to share one more bit of shadow and light with you tonight. One that is of great importance.

Turn to Mark 15, verse 42-46. This takes place after Jesus died on that Friday afternoon.
“42It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph” (Mark 15:42-45 NIV).
This final testimony from the Centurion colors the background utterly dark, so that the full light of Jesus’ resurrection might be comprehended.

Because Jesus truly died and was raised from the dead days later, our faith is sure. From this fact, we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior who He said He was. We know that our sins have truly been paid for. We know that we too shall be raised from the dead to eternal life. And, we know that the Bible is true, for the prophesy has been fulfilled. The Savior who was cut off from the land of the living has been brought back to see the light of life.

We close our meditations tonight with Isaiah’s prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Turn to Isaiah 53:8-11.
“8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:8-11 NIV).

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

March 21, 2010

The Huge Scale of Redemption - Mar 21, 2010

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A while ago, my sister in law, Erin, was in the hospital giving birth to her fifth child. Everything was going well. My brother Seth said they felt comfortable. With four kids already, they’d been in this situation before. The baby was experiencing a little stress during delivery. The heart rate was fluctuating up and down a bit. But, it didn’t seem like anything particularly unusual.

And then the moment came. One of the nurses looked up at the other medical technicians in the room and said, “This baby needs to come out NOW.”

And just like that they started unplugging everything. With everything unhooked, they quickly pushed the hospital bed out of the room and down the hall.

Nobody said anything to Seth. The only person saying anything to Seth was a helper of sorts who was eagerly asking him, “Do you have your baby book? Is this your baby book? Is this your sweatshirt yours? Do you have all your stuff?”

She didn’t know it, but this woman narrowly avoided being punched in the face. They had just wheeled his wife away, and Seth didn’t know what was happening.

He was told to wait outside the room where they had take her. What he didn’t know was that they were prepping Erin for an emergency C-section. When they were ready they let him into the room where he could sit by his exhausted, tearful and scared wife.

Seeing the football sized cut that had been made in his wife’s abdomen was a new experience for Seth. One that brought a whole flood of personal prayers.

It was one of those times when you stop taking things for granted. When you realize how powerless you are in this world. When see how much you really need God to be there. When you pray, “God, I know that whatever your will is, that will be what is right and good and best. But in case you’re wondering, this isn’t a good idea. I can’t raise this family without my wife.”

Everything turned out fine. Erin gave birth to a screaming, peeing, healthy little boy. They named him Drew. Mom and baby are just fine today.

Have you had an experience like this? Not just a scary birth experience, but something that made stop and reflect on your life. Something that made all the frivolous things fall away? Maybe a car accident that threatened to change everything, but didn’t. Maybe a cancer diagnosis that turned out wrong, or was treatable.

Sometimes God calls us to take a step back and see what really matters. Makes us appreciate the people who are most important to us in life. Helps us to see how blessed we really are. Blessed by Him.

During the season of Lent, we focus on how Jesus suffered and died. We examine the events that led up to the cross. We review the things that happened around it and on it. We do these things because the cross is for us, an epiphany moment. An experience that changes everything.

Today’s reading from First Peter calls us to take a step back from the cross and see where it is in the bigger picture.

1 Peter 1:17-25 (NIV)

17Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.

The apostle Peter wrote this letter to Christians who were scattered throughout Asia Minor. Asia Minor is a chunk of land that lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

But, the geography doesn’t matter much here. What’s important is that these people were followers of Jesus. They knew the Gospel. They understood that sins means hell for sinners. They understood that Jesus took our sins away when he suffered and died on the cross. They got it. They believed it.

In this section Peter holds up the cross to his fellow Christ followers and says, “Hey! You see this cross? This cross is our epiphany moment. This cross gives life a whole new meaning.”

The cross says that the Christian’s life is to be a life of fear.


Yeah, that’s what Peter says. Look at verse 17 again.

“17Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17 NIV).

The New International version translates it “reverent fear” because they don’t want you to get the idea that this is a life of terror. A life of cowering because we’re scared that God is going to judge us. As followers of Christ we know that Jesus suffered the punishment for ALL our sins. In Him we don’t have to fear God’s judgment anymore. We are forgiven.

Turn to Luke 5, verse 24. Jesus said…

“24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (Luke 5:24 NIV).

So what does it mean that we are to “live lives as strangers here in reverent fear”? What kind of fear is this?

Well, let me try to explain. A couple of years ago I flew down to San Francisco for pastoral conference. My friend Neil Radichel is pastor down there, and he decided he’d introduce me to rock climbing.

We drove out to a ridge of mountains that looks over the Silicon Valley.

The kind of rock climbing that Neil and I did was called top-roping. You go to the top of the route first, clip your rope in so it’s secure, and then you throw both ends of the rope down to the bottom.

Then you go down to the bottom and put on your harnesses. When the harnesses are put on properly, they’re impossible to get off, even if you were to fall upside down.

The harness of the climber is attached to a robe with a figure eight knot, and a safety knot above that. It’s not coming free. The other guy is called the belayer. He attaches a belay device to his harness and puts his end of the rope through this device.

As the climber climbs, the belayer takes up the slack rope keeping the rope tight, but not so tight that he pulls his buddy up the route.

If the climber loses his grasp, the belay device on his partner stops the rope and his fall. In top-roping you never fall more than a foot. Really you’re just falling as much as the rope stretches.

We also had helmets on. I’ve told you all this so you know what I knew. I was safe. Since we were doing this right, there wasn’t any way for me to fall.

If I thought I was in real danger, I wouldn’t have climbed at all. A hobby shouldn’t put your life in danger. And yet as I climbed up to the top of our last route, I was afraid.

On the last route you climbed up into a little cave shelf. Then to a second shelf. Then at the end of the route there was a bulge of rock that you had to climb out and over. It didn’t have any hand holds. You just had to kinda flatten yourself out and palm your way up the incline until you topped out.

If you looked back over your shoulder there was a beautiful view of the valley. Only birds and clouds and lot of sky. I was afraid. I knew I wasn’t in danger of falling. I wasn’t afraid of falling. But everything up here was HUGE.

It was exhilarating being there on that huge rock, with that huge drop below. My fear wasn’t a fear of terror, it was a fear of realizing the hugeness of everything around me.

This is the same kind of fear that Peter says we should have when we think about what Jesus did for us on the cross. This was what it took to redeem us from hell. It took a HUGE payment. It took the bloody death of God’s SINLESS Son.

Peter tells us that God’s plan to save us through His Son’s sacrifice had been arranged even before the creation of the world! That’s HUGE! It was all arranged before a single atom of the universe was made. And when the right moment of time came in the history of man, Jesus did it.

Peter reminds his Christian friends what the cross means fro their future. He reminds them that through Jesus’ cross they’ve been brought back into a good relationship with God. Their faith and hope rests in the God who created them.

Before they heard the message Christ, these people didn’t have this relationship with God. They were enemies of God. Their sins stood between them and God, making any relationship impossible. But Jesus changed that.

Peter says the life of a Christian is a life of fear. But not the fear of God’s judgment. We know Christ has us covered there. The fear we live in is a reverent fear. A realizing and a recognizing of how big this thing is that we’re involved in. How important it is, and how much it took for God to involve us. It took blood, sweat and death.

In the first half of our reading Peter holds up the cross and says, “Here’s what God did”. In the second half of our reading, Peter holds up the cross and says, now look what He’s doing now. Look at verse 22.

“22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25 NIV).

The message of the cross had already begun to change these Christians. They had begun to re-order the way their lives were lived. They had all sorts of sinful habits and attitudes just like you and me. But there were removing these things. Replacing them with the way God wanted them to live. The Holy Spirit was leading them in this direction.

Later in this letter Peter talks about how their friends didn’t understand these changes. Their old friends wondered why they didn’t come with them on Friday to get trashed anymore. Peter writes:

“3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Peter 4:3-4 NIV).

In our sermon reading Peter tells these Christians that they’ve already begun to purify their lives from their old ways of living. And he encourages them to continue. They love each other. Now, he says, take that love to a deeper level.

Peter says describes the change made in their life by the cross of Christ as being a new beginning. A re-birth. Through faith in Christ they’ve been born into the Family of God. Now they’re learning to LIVE in that Family.

On the day of our wedding, my wife and I got married. But today, nearly nine years later, our marriage is a lot different than when it began. We’ve grown together in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We’ve grown together in some ways we don’t even realize.

When Jesus brings people into God’s family it’s just the same. From the moment of faith, they’re God’s people. But faith in Jesus isn’t like a sticker that we put on any more than marriage is a sticker. Faith in Christ is a rebirth. And a new and different life follows this re-birth.

Unlike our earthly lives, this new life in Christ will never end. It was through the living and enduring Word of God that we have been re-born. And just as the Word of God stands forever, the life we receive through the Word will stand forever.

This is huge.

In the movies, people sometimes have an epiphany moment. They have some experience that shocks them, and changes them for good. That would be nice, but it’s a little unrealistic.

Those of us stuck in reality know that the things we learn during our “epiphany moments” are often lost or forgotten like new years’ resolutions. The resolve to be different can fade with time.

God reminds us here to fight this fading by looking to the cross of Jesus. By remembering the precious blood that washes our sins away.

God reminds us that when we came to faith in Jesus, we were reborn. Born into God’s family. And now we are to grow up in Christ. Now we practice for living forever in God’s Holy family.

Let’s close with prayer.

Prayer: Father, help us to recognize and appreciate the hugeness of all you’ve done to make us Your people. Jesus, thank You for spilling Your own blood to wash our sins away. Holy Spirit, thank you for the ways You’ve changed us so far. Stay with us, and continue to take out the old and put in the new. You have made us God’s children by faith. Make us Your children in all that we do. Amen.

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

March 17, 2010

Two Malefactors - Mar 17, 2010

Due to server issues, only the text version of the sermon is available today.


May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

The part of the Bible that we meditate on tonight takes place during Jesus’ crucifixion. Turn to Luke 23, verse 39.

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the Bible, God uses “darkness” as a symbol for a lot of different things. Ignorance is called darkness. Sorrow is darkness. Evil is darkness.

In our culture, we do the same thing. He’s in the dark concerning this matter. He’s ignorant. 9/11 was a dark day in American history. A day of sorrow. The heart of a murderer is full of darkness. Full of evil.

When “darkness” is used metaphorically we’re almost always talking about EVIL appearing in one form or another.

The Bible says that God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. He’s all goodness, love and justice. He’s not evil in any way.

On the other hand, the Bible says that beings who live their lives with no connection to God are living in darkness.

The Bible says that Satan and all the evil angels are reserved for judgment in darkness. In His parables, Jesus spoke about people who will be condemned in the final judgment. He said they would be cast out of God’s presence into the outer darkness. In this sense, darkness is separation from God.

This becomes particularly significant when we think about those last three hours that Jesus spent on the cross. The Bible tells us that the sun was darkened from noon to three. It was then that Jesus experienced separation from all the Father’s goodness. That indescribable hell was what we deserved because of our sins. Jesus was paying the price to set us free.

But tonight, we consider the darkness that came before that. As our Savior hung from the cross, darkness hovered at His side in the form of a mocking, crucified man.

This man was no mere sneak-thief, but a violent robber. He was a child of darkness whose own crimes had brought him to this shameful and terrible death. Rome had decreed that he would go from a dark life of sin, to the darkness of death -with a nice long interlude of excruciating pain in between.

On the cross, this robber continued his evil ways. He heard the religious leaders of the people below. They hadn’t gathered there at the foot of Jesus’ just to see Him die. A busy road passed by this place and Pilate had put a sign above Jesus’ head that said this was the king of the Jews. They had come there to convince the passers by that this wasn’t the Messiah.

They called out to Jesus, but really, they were talking to the travelers who passed by. “He said He was the Christ? Well then why doesn’t He have the power to get down off that cross? The Christ wouldn’t have gotten Himself crucified in the first place! He claimed to be God’s Chosen One? Well then why isn’t GOD doing something to save Him? We’d believe Him if He’d just climb down off that cross. We would! But He can’t.”

The robber heard all these words, and the darkness in his heart smiled. He would join them in this fun. And he did. He echoed their words right into Jesus’ ear. “Aren’t you the Christ! Save yourself and us!”

His sinfulness was a dark veil that covered his mind. Blind to the truth, he didn’t see that Jesus was innocent. Or perhaps he just ignored that fact, which would have been worse. In his ignorance he didn’t realize that he was screaming his insults at Son of God, who indeed was the Chosen Savior of the world. The Savior who was even NOW suffering to redeem him from HIS sins.

Satan must has smiled at this. He might have even chuckled to himself as this son of darkness railed at the light of the World. Satan had this man firmly in his grasp.

And not only this man. There was another robber hanging there on the other side of Jesus. And like a twin thundercloud he was thundering the same things at Jesus.

Let me make this clear: there was nothing good in this other man. He too was a child of darkness. His own crimes had brought him here as well. Rome had decreed the same fate for him. He too would go from a dark life of sin, to the darkness of death -with a nice long interlude of excruciating pain in between.

But somewhere along the way something changed.

And God was the one who changed it. The robber stationed to the other side of Jesus had a change of heart.

We aren’t told all the details that caused this change of heart. One moment he was spewing out insults, and the next moment he was rebuking the other robber.

Had this man grown up learning about God in the Temple? Had he studied the Bible in the Synagogue on Saturdays? Had he somewhere drifted away from the truth and into the darkness of unbelief?

What was it that brought him back? Was it something that Jesus said? Did he see how Jesus never returned evil for evil? Did he see the love that Jesus had for everyone around Him no matter what they were doing to Him? Did this robber notice the way Jesus prayed for the men as they slid shanks of iron through His wrists, attaching Him to the cross?

What was it that convinced Him that Jesus was innocent? What was it that convinced Him that Jesus really was the Messiah, the King of Israel? How could he be so confident that this Man who hung in the middle, looking so powerless, would later rule over the Kingdom of God?

I can’t tell you all the details, but I’m guessing the Holy Spirit had something to do with it. We know from the Bible that only the Spirit can turn the heart of sinful man around. Only the Spirit can show a person their sinfulness and their great need of God’s forgiveness. Only the Spirit of God can give the gift of faith, wrapping the fingers of that faith firmly around Jesus.

When the Holy Spirit got through to that robber, the darkness on that side of the cross was swallowed up in light.

Listen to these verses from Micah 7, verse 8.

“8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be my light.
9 Because I have sinned against him,
I will bear the LORD’S wrath,
until he pleads my case
and establishes my right.
He will bring me out into the light;
I will see his righteousness” (Micah 7:8-9 NIV).

That’s what God did for this robber. This robber recognized that the crimes he had committed had brought this end on him. He understood that his suffering was right. It was justice for all he’d done in life.

But then he saw Jesus. Not just with his eyes, but with his heart. And He knew that through this Man, He would be drawn out of the darkness of sorrow and suffering and judgment, into the light of righteousness. His sins would be forgiven through Jesus.

That’s the hope he expresses when he says to Jesus, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

During His ministry, Jesus once said,

“…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 NIV).

This robber had seen the light, and with Jesus He had the light of life.

Jesus had remained silent for so long that day. So few word had passed His lips. But He couldn’t remain mute in the face of one of His own faith-children. He strengthened this infant Christian’s faith with these words: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The apostle Paul once encouraged his fellow Christ followers by saying:

“…[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

I say the same to you tonight. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom WE have redemption, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

Just like the robber who came to trust in Jesus, we started as dark thunderclouds of sin. There was nothing special about us. Nothing good in us. In the estimation of other sinners we might have seemed like nice enough people, but in God’s eyes we were just as lost as every other sinner born into this world.

But the Spirit of God changed all that.

Through the Word in our Baptism, or through the Word shared by a friend, the Holy Spirit changed us. Brought the light of Jesus to burn in our hearts.

The apostle John said it like this:

“5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9 NIV).

The theme for our midweek messages has been, “Lenten Shadow and Light”. And this is a perfect title for this reading in Luke. That second robber was in the deepest shadows of sin when he was raised up on that cross next to Jesus. But before his lifeless corpse was taken down, the light of faith and forgiveness had overtaken him. He confessed his sin, He looked to Jesus, and Jesus assured him that he was forgiven. He would be with Jesus in Paradise before the sun set on that day.

When we come here on Sundays, let’s think of that. When we confess our sins together with the congregation, and hear God’s representative proclaim us forgiven, think of that cross to cross absolution. And thank God that His Spirit is so great, and so powerful and so gracious that he sought us out like He sought that robber.

And let’s not ONLY think of this on Sunday. Let’s live our lives in with this in mind. It’s as if the cross of Christ has opened up a hole in the clouds above. And through this hole God’s light shines on each of us. Following us wherever we go. Bathing us in forgiveness, and chasing the shadows of evil away.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, walk in the light of our God and Savior, with peace, confidence and joy.


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

March 14, 2010

Ugly Becomes Beautiful - Mar 14, 2010


Today’s worship is all about ugly becoming beautiful. It’s about things that we would cringe at, becoming things we cherish.


Our first reading from Isaiah was all about feet. There are plenty of vain people in the world. But there are few people who would pry off their shoes to show off their feet. Oooh, look at those beautiful toes. See how I got that little bit of fungus on that one. And I got some dry skin and some calluses there. Wow, these are beautiful feet.

Feet just aren’t pretty. And yet they become beautiful when those feet bring you what you need. When you’re starving, the feet that bring you food, THOSE FEET are gorgeous. When you child is missing, the feet that return her to you are precious.

In our New Testament reading we see ugliness turning to beauty also. We heard about a harsh letter that the apostle Paul had sent to the Corinthian Christians. A letter that rebuked them for their bad behavior.

Paul was sad to have to write such a letter. He didn’t enjoy pointing out his friends’ sin and making them feel remorse.

But Paul didn’t regret sending the letter either. When Paul showed them their sin, that led them to hate their sin. To turn away from that sin. To turn back to God, trusting in Him for forgiveness. Paul’s letter led them to repentance in the full sense. Sorrow over the sin that they had done, but also confidence that God forgave them because of Jesus. Their ugly sorrow was turned to joy.

In our sermon reading we’re going to see an ugly scene from the life of Jesus. It takes place on morning of His death. He has been brought to Pontius Pilate to be judged. It is one of the darkest, ugliest events that took place before His crucifixion.

We’ll see REASON AFTER REASON why they should have let this innocent man go free. We’ll see a PARADE OF OPPORTUNITIES to release Him, shunned.

Yet this ugliness becomes beautiful when we see that IT WAS JESUS who ignored each reason for His release . IT WAS JESUS who shunned each opportunity to escape.

He knew somebody was had to suffer for sin, and He didn’t want it to be you and me. He wanted us to live with Him and the Father and the Spirit - forever. THAT is what makes this ugliness beautiful. He experienced this for YOU and ME.

Matthew 27:15-31 (NIV)

15Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
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!”
25All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Roman Governor knew Jesus was innocent from the beginning. Pilate’s own intelligence sources told him that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead out of envy.

When Pilate personally interrogated Jesus, His innocence became more obvious. He simply wasn’t a robber, a murderer, or a revolutionary. The kingdom Jesus talked about was a spiritual one, which in Pilate’s estimation, didn’t constitute a threat to the Jewish people or to the Roman government.

Pilate also had the unusual testimony of his wife. There he was, sitting on the judgment seat for goodness sake, and a note comes from his wife? She told her husband not do anything he might regret, because this man was innocent.

Now, it’s my guess that the Governor’s wife didn’t frequently send notes to him telling him who was guilty and who was innocent. Yet, in this case she did. Even though this case was being considered unusually early in the morning, she did. This would have caught Pilate’s attention for sure.

And the REASON she believed Jesus to be innocent should have stopped Pilate dead in his tracks. It wasn’t because she was the close friend of Jesus, or one of His followers. It was because she had a painful dream. This was a supernatural warning, not to be ignored.

The testimony in Jesus’ favor was heavy. Their envy, Pilate’s interrogation, his wife’s testimony and the strange dream - all suggested this was an open and shut case. Jesus was innocent. That’s why throughout the proceeding we see Pilate attempting to get Jesus set free.

First, Pilate simply says, I don’t find this man worthy of the death penalty. But the angry crowd doesn’t accept his verdict. So, Pilate tries to force their hand.

There was an old tradition of letting some condemned criminal go during the Passover festival. The people usually got to pick, but Pilate figures he can get Jesus set free with a little trickery. He says, Okay, I’ll give you two choices, Jesus, you know the guy who’s been healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding the five thousand, casting out demons, etc. OR I’ll release a violent murdering robber. What do you say?

But that doesn’t work either. They actually pick the murderer. Numerous times. What’s really unusual here is the Pilate gives them chance after chance to do the right thing. This is out of character for Pilate.

This Roman governor didn’t like the Jews and they didn’t like him. He was routinely cruel and hurtful to them. History says that Pilate went out of his way to offend the Jews when he could. Eventually, that’s what got Pilate called away from Palestine. But here, he’s strangely kind. Well, kind when compared with his usual tactics. History tells us that Pilate would keep riots under control by dispersing armed, disguised soldiers throughout a crowds. If the blood of Jews had to be spilled in order to make an example – so be it, thought Pilate.

But here, Pilate is shaken. He’s not being a bully at all. And that’s strange especially since HE was being bullied by the religious leaders. You would think he’d respond to their manipulation with a lesson teaching flex of his military might. But instead Pilate tries to lobby the Jews into letting Jesus go. This should have gotten THEIR attention. Should have made them back up a step and examine again why they were pushing so hard for the brutal killing of one of their own.

Pilate’s hand washing is an moving example of how he was appealing to the Jews. This was a Jewish thing to do, a Jewish symbol, not a Roman one.

Turn to Deuteronomy 21. This is what the people of Israel were instructed to do if they found the body of a murdered person.

“1If a man is found slain, lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, 2your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. 3Then the elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke 4and lead her down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and where there is a flowing stream. There in the valley they are to break the heifer’s neck. 5The priests, the sons of Levi, shall step forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce blessings in the name of the LORD and to decide all cases of dispute and assault. 6Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. 8Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man.” And the bloodshed will be atoned for. 9So you will purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9 NIV).

And there are other places in the Psalms that speak of washing your hands in innocence. This wasn’t a typical Roman custom. Pilate was trying make them see they were murdering this man, through their own symbols. But they didn’t care. They said, Let His blood be on us, and on our children.

Pilate tried one more thing to get the crowd to release Jesus. He appealed to their compassion. This doesn’t come out so much in our reading from Luke. Luke ends by saying that Pilate had Jesus flogged and sent Him to be crucified. After that Luke records the details surrounding Jesus’ flogging, that the soldiers also mocked Him, dressing Him up as a pathetic king.

But this wasn’t merely one last act of cruelty done to pass the time while others prepared the needed implements for crucifixion. John’s Gospel informs us that Pilate had the soldiers do this so that he could show the crowd a broken man. A pitiable creature who had certainly endured enough.

Pilate pronounced Jesus “not guilty” one last time and then presented the scourged and bleeding Christ to the crowd saying, Behold the man.

And there He stood. Dripping blood. With a rough, castaway soldier’s cloak on His shoulders. A sharp crown of thorns pressed into His head. His face puffy and battered from numerous fists. There was a silly reed placed in His hand as a scepter. It was all meant to show them this was enough. It was one last opportunity, in a parade of opportunities, for the crowd to say, Fine, let this pathetic king go.

But their response was to yell, Crucify!

Finally, Pilate gave in. And still, here was ONE MORE opportunity for Jesus to escape. For all his manipulation and arguing and pronouncing and appealing, Pilate STILL had the power to release Jesus. And he should have, with all the evidence stacked on Jesus’ side. He should have, for that’s what judges are supposed to do! Let the innocent go free!

But Pilate turned to the soldiers and echoed the crowd saying, Crucify Him.

And still, there was one more person who could have ended this ridiculous abuse of justice. One other person who could have declared Jesus’ innocence and removed Him from danger.

Jesus Himself could have done this. He had walked safely through murderous crowds before. He had walked on water. He had still storms at sea. He could have escaped at any moment He chose. But He didn’t. And here is the beauty of this ugliness. He didn’t walk away. He didn’t abandon the HARD road to His HARD death because He loved sinners. All of them. You and me and everyone we know.

And through the ugliness of His deliberate suffering and death, we are made beautiful in God’s sight. In Christ’s blood our repulsive words and disgusting deeds are WASHED CLEAN. He was made ugly so that we might become beautiful. God the Father looks on all those cling to Christ, all of us scrabbling sinners, and what does He see? Precious, beautiful people, because they were bought by the death of His precious, sinless Son.

In 2002 pop star Christina Aguilera released the hit single, “Beautiful”. In the song Aguilera implies that beauty is found in our own self-perception. If we love who we are, than we are beautiful people no matter what anyone else might think or say.

Now, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but we don’t merely want to be beautiful in the eyes of other sinners. Nor merely beautiful in our own estimation. We want and need to be beautiful in the eyes of our Creator.

As we continue to look at Christ this Lent, we’re going to see more ugliness. We can’t escape it. Betrayal, crucifixion and death are hideous things. But let’s also see the beauty. This was done for our benefit. And through Jesus, because of Jesus, and only because of Him, we are beautiful.


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

March 12, 2010

Two Chance Acquaintances - Mar 10, 2010

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The two texts that we'll consider this evening both come from the 27th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The first is verse 26:

Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

The second text is verse 32:

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
Here end our texts.

In Christ Jesus, with Whom we wish to become better acquainted during this Passion Season, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,

One day a young gas-station attendant was driving his pickup down a lonely stretch of highway in the desert southwest. He came upon a dusty-looking man hitch-hiking by the side of the road. Being a friendly sort of guy, he stopped and gave the man a ride to the next town. He didn’t give the brief incident much thought. Not until later, that is -- when he found out that the stranger had died and left him an enormous amount of money. The stranger's name? Howard Hughes - the famous multi-billionaire!

You've probably heard a few stories like that. Stories about obscure small-town people who, by sheer chance, became acquainted with someone very important. Our text this morning is about two such people. Two men who would have been completely forgotten by the history books. -- except for the fact that chance circumstances tied them to the death of the most famous person in history - Jesus Christ! Return with me now to those hours of Jesus' passion, as we contrast --


I. - A guilty criminal who was set free
II. - An innocent bystander who carried the cross

We Americans are a people who love justice. Nothing seems to make us angrier than to see a guilty criminal go free. It’s fifteen years ago now that a famous athlete and movie star went on trial for murder in California. Police had conclusive forensic evidence that placed him at the scene of one of the most gruesome crimes in that state’s history. The evidence seemed overwhelming and conclusive. And yet, after just a short time spent deliberating, the jury came back with a verdict of acquittal. Many considered this verdict to be a terrible injustice - that such a man, clearly implicated in so savage a crime, should walk away scot free. But tonight I'd like you to consider a worse injustice. The case of the arch-criminal Barabbas!

The scene is the public square outside the Imperial Courtroom of Pontius Pilate. Although it's barely eight o'clock in the morning, the heat is beginning to build in the dusty square. An angry crowd has gathered, whipped into an emotional rage by the Jewish elders. They have blood-lust in their eyes, and only one thought in their minds - a thought put there by the elders - Jesus of Nazareth must die! Any charge will do, so Jesus is indicted on the trumped-up charge of rebellion against the government. It's all the same to the mob, as long as it gets them what they want. "Crucify Him!," they scream, over and over. "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"

Meanwhile, in a nearby prison building, a criminal lies in chains. His name is Barabbas, and he really is guilty of rebellion. Mark tells us, "And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow insurrectionists; they had committed murder in the insurrection." Mark 15:6. A very rough character, this Barabbas! He's a hardened criminal, who's used revolt against the Romans as an excuse for the worst crime of all - murder. He's already been tried and convicted. Everybody knows about Barabbas - he's as guilty as the day is long!

Back in the courtyard, Pilate is feeling the pressure. He knows Jesus is innocent, but he can't quiet the screaming crowd. So he tries a desperate gamble. "Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ'" Instead of letting them choose anyone, Pilate gives them a choice between two. Surely they wouldn't allow the terrible criminal Barabbas to go free. Given this choice, they simply had to let Jesus go! "The governor answered and said to them, 'Which of the two do you want me to release to you?' They said, 'Barabbas!' Pilate said to them, 'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said to him, 'Let Him be crucified!' …Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.'"

And so it happened. The height of injustice. The innocent Jesus is sentenced to death, and the guilty criminal Barabbas walks free! Imagine the scene as Barabbas sits in his cell, mulling over the death sentence that he so richly deserves. All of a sudden the guard appears, unlocks his chains and points him toward the door! Amazed, he wanders out into the sunlight, squinting against the glare. An incredulous smile begins to play at the corners of his lips - he's barely able to believe the good news! --He must have asked people why he had been released. He must have been curious about the innocent Man who was condemned in his place. I think Barabbas must have been drawn to Calvary. I can see him standing there, gazing in wonderment at the cross, staring open-mouthed at the Man who was taking the brunt of the punishment that should have been his!

Are we "gazing in wonderment at the cross" this Lenten Season? We should be - because we're just like Barabbas in many ways! For one thing, we were all death-row criminals. Yes we were! Because in God's book, any sin - the smallest sin - brings with it an automatic sentence of death. God says plainly, "Be ye perfect, for I the Lord thy God am perfect," and "The soul that sinneth, it shall die!" And you and I are guilty of many sins - not all of them small! We richly deserved to be bound in chains in everlasting darkness -- and yet, here we find ourselves walking free in the warm sunlight of God's favor. What happened to our death sentence? I’ll tell you what happened to it – it was transferred, from us to Jesus! Paul tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Rom 8:1. For Jesus’ sake, we’ve been set free! No further accusations can be brought against us. Even in our American legal system, a person can't be tried twice for the same crime. God's justice is far greater. Since He has declared us not guilty for Jesus’ sake, you and I are immune from further prosecution. Sin and Satan have lost their power! Paul says, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God." Rom 8:33-34.

And that brings us to our second example for the evening. Justice did a different kind of turnaround in the case of Simon of Cyrene. He was truly a "chance acquaintance" of Jesus. He had nothing to do with Jesus' trial, and he hadn't been part of that angry mob screaming for His blood. Simon was just an innocent bystander who was all of a sudden thrust into the middle of the most important event in history!

Cyrene was a city in northern Africa which had a large population of Jews. Those who could afford it would try to make the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the most important Jewish festival, the Passover. Simon was probably just such a pilgrim: a pious Jew, just minding his own business. He had probably found a place to stay somewhere outside the city (Jerusalem was very crowded at that time of year. It just so happened that he was on his way into town, just as the soldiers and the angry crowd were taking Jesus out. Mark tells us, "Now 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 the cross." They didn't give Simon a choice - they forced him to pick up the cross where the exhausted Jesus had stumbled under its weight. Simon was probably like a lot of people in our day - he didn't want to get involved! He had nothing to do with Jesus -- perhaps he never even heard of Him. But like it or not, he was involved now! Suddenly he found himself turned around 180 degrees. Instead of a quiet walk to the Temple, now he was part of the dreadful death-march of Jesus of Nazareth.

Well, Simon must have asked a few questions of his own. After he delivered his grim burden to the top of Calvary, he must have wanted to know Who this bloody, beaten Man was. What terrible crime had He committed to earn this awful death? Someone may have sneered to Simon, "Why, He claims to the Christ - the promised Messiah! But just look at Him now!" And Simon did get a good look at Jesus. An innocent man, suffering terrible pain, and the cruel jokes of the crowd, without a word of complaint. And then Simon's life really made a turn. There's good evidence in the Bible that Simon later came to faith in Jesus! Simon came to believe that that Man on the cross really was the promised Messiah, and that His suffering had a purpose - to free the world from the guilt of sin!

This chance acquaintance on a street of Jerusalem changed Simon's whole life. And the same kind of change is still happening in our world today. It's happened to you, and it's happened to me. When a person makes the acquaintance of Jesus Christ, things change! Sin isn't any longer the driving force in your life - God is!

Slavery has been abolished in this country for almost 150 years now. Or has it? The Bible tells us that every human being is a slave - either to sin or to God. Most of those around us are slaves to their own lust and greed and pride -- But you've become acquainted with Christ, by the grace of God, and that makes you a different kind of slave. Paul says, "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." Like Barabbas, God has freed you from the dark dungeon of sin. Like Simon, God has taken hold of your life and turned you around 180 degrees. Now you're going a different direction; now you're bearing the cross of Christ. Jesus Himself urges us, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." This is what freedom and life are all about! Freedom from the tyranny of sin, and the abundant life of faith. Plus, the promise of never-ending life at the end of the line. Truly, the turning to faith is a good turning, and the cross of Christ is an easy burden to bear!

Being “in the black” means different things to different people. I was a volunteer firefighter years ago, and I’ll never forget the advice I got at my first grass fire from an old veteran of the department. He said if you’re going to park the fire truck, always park it “in the black.” That is, in an area where the fire has already been. It’s a safety zone, because no matter how the wind shifts, the fire can never come back over a place that's already burnt. “Park it in the black.” My Christian friends, during this Lenten season, the best spiritual advice I can give you is to “park it in the black!” Park it at the cross of Jesus Christ, for that cross is our safety zone. There at the cross the judgement of God upon sin fell, once and for all. It fell upon our Savior, and it can never come again! Anyone who takes his stand at that cross can never be condemned, for he is in God's safety zone! God grant that, during this Lenten Season and throughout our lives, we may make our stand right there, under the cross of our Savior! In His blessed Name, AMEN.

March 7, 2010

Why are we here? - Mar 7, 2010

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


People go to church for a million different reasons. They’ve got a great choir and I like to sing. They really active in the community and I want to be part of that. I feel guilty cause I have gone for a while. It’s the church I grew up in, I know everyone there. I’d guess you could think of some other reasons to go to church too.

There are good reasons, and bad reasons to go to church.

People who work for churches do so for lots of different reasons too. And just like going to church, there are good reasons and bad reasons to work for a church.

Today’s reading from Luke has a lot to do with a group of men who were very involved with the church of Jesus’ day, but were involves for all the wrong reasons.

The events in our reading begin during the night before Jesus was crucified. Jesus had been arrested in the garden where He had come to pray. His disciples had been scattered like flock of frightened sheep.

Jesus was taken to the palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas, to appear before the Sanhedrin. On a normal day, the Sanhedrin was a gathering of 71 of the most important and influential religious leaders of Israel. It was basically the Jewish version of the Supreme Court. We don’t know how many of their number were present for this first “trial” of Jesus.

Matthew and Mark tell us about this first night meeting. Luke tells us about a second and final morning meeting.

Luke 22:63-71 (NIV)

63The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65And they said many other insulting things to him.
66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67“If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”
71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Why did the members of the Sanhedrin gather here? Well, it’s clear that they weren’t there to have a real inquiry into the matter of Jesus and His teachings. They certainly didn’t have real charges to consider against Jesus.

The Sanhedrin had meet before Jesus had come to Jerusalem this last time. Right after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. At that meeting they had decided the Jesus needed to go. They plotted how to have Jesus murdered.

The different groups of the Sanhedrin had their own reasons for wanting Jesus dead. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law hated him because He had pointed out their hypocrisy to the people. Their precious reputation as religious men had been severely damaged.

The chief priests hated Jesus because he had threatened their lucrative Temple sales. Twice Jesus had cleared their salesmen from the court of the Gentiles on the Temple grounds.

Some of these men were afraid that Jesus’ popularity was growing too rapidly. Turn to John 11, verse 47. This is right after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. There it says…

“47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation”” (John 11:47-48 NIV).

This is why the Sanhedrin had gathered one last time on the morning of Jesus’ murder. They had come to protect their prestige, their money and their power. And these happen also be the reasons that they were involved with the church in the first place.

Their meetings on this night and morning were supposed to look like an official inquiry, sort of. Even though they broke just about all the rules surrounding such an inquiry. In a capital case there was supposed to be two meeting with the space of a full day in between. That didn’t happen.

And there were all sorts of other things that make it perfectly clear they weren’t there to seek out justice. They paid Judas to betray Jesus. They coached witnesses to incriminate Jesus, though that didn’t work out the way they intended. During the night the men who kept Jesus under guard also kept Him under a hood, so they could mock the idea that He was a prophet and beat Him with thug-like brutality.

No, they had not come together for the good of the people. Not for justice. But to tack down some charges against Jesus that would make their murder more acceptable to the people, and some charges that would lead the Romans to do their dirty-work for them.

These were religious men, to be sure. But they were certainly not men of God.

The first charge that they finally settled on was this: Jesus claimed to be the Christ, who the Bible said would be a king. They hoped this charge would be enough to force the Roman governor to get involved.

The second charge was this: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which to the Jews meant He WAS claiming to actually BE God. Turn to John 5, verse 18. There it says…

“18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18 NIV).

Their hope was that by pointing this out they could claim Jesus was blaspheming, and the people would see that Jesus had to die for that.

The Sanhedrin’s trial of Jesus was a mock trial, and not a very well orchestrated one at that. And their personal devotion to God was also a mock devotion.

We’ve seen the reasons why these men were there. And why they were leaders in the church. There might have been other reasons too. Probably were. But one thing is clear, these men weren’t involved with the church to actually know the God of the Bible.

Some people of our time like to talk about how they don’t have time for “organized religion”. In fact that term “organized religion” has come to stand for all that’s not good in churches. But the problem isn’t “organized religion” The problem is when religion becomes “faithless religion”. Religion that isn’t about getting to know who the true God is and what He’s like. Religion that is just about business. Religion that is all about a show and a reputation. Religion whose purpose is to keep things arranged the way they have been.

The men of the Sanhedrin came together for all the wrong reasons. Let’s not follow their example here at Redemption. When you come here, come to know God. Come to grow.

Let me restate the two charges that the Sanhedrin came to cling to. 1) Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Savior chosen by God. 2) Jesus claimed to be God, God’s own Son.

In their mock trial, the Sanhedrin missed the point. They established that Jesus had definitely made these claims. Well, duh! The more compelling question is: were these claims TRUE? Because if they are, that means something big for you and me and everyone we know.

The members of the Sanhedrin sat in the outward church of God for all the wrong reasons. You and I come here for a different reason: because we believe Jesus’ claims. We believe He really is the Christ, who took the penalty for our sins away by suffering it in our place. He did that when He died on the cross having suffered hell at the hands of men, and hell at being separated from God the Father.

We also believe Jesus second claim: that He is the Son of God, through who we sinners have gained access to the Father. Turn to First John 2, verse 23.

“23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23 NKJV).

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here. I’m not tooting our horn. We’re not here today because we’re better people than the men who made up the Sanhedrin. If God hadn’t brought us the message of sins forgiven through Jesus, we wouldn’t KNOW it. If God’s Holy Spirit didn’t convince us that it’s true, we wouldn’t BELIEVE it. If not for God, we’d be here for all the wrong reasons too. We’re sinners for goodness sakes! We know all about doing things for the wrong reasons!

Ultimately we’re here because Jesus was true. After He died on the cross, God the Father raised Him from the dead. He had succeeded in His mission to provide salvation for sinners. Then, after forty final days of teaching His disciples how to carry this message to the world, Jesus returned to the Father’s side in Heaven. And from that highest place of authority and power, Jesus now orchestrates the people and events that lead other people to trust in Him as Savior and God.

That’s where Jesus is today. Yes, He’s also here with us invisibly. He promised that He’d never leave His followers right up to the end of history. But He’s also with the Father, directing and guiding His people’s sharing of the Good News with others.

You know, we’ve met people like the Sanhedrin crowd. And we’re going to meet more. People who are religious in some way, but who don’t know the true God.

They may be like the Pharisees, all wrapped up in thinking religion is about reputation. They may be like the guards of Jesus, violent toward everything Jesus stands for. They may be concerned that things are going to change for the worse if those Jesus people are allowed to continue.

But here’s what we need to do when we meet people like that. We need to be like our Savior. We need to speak the truth about His claims. He is the Chosen one of God, now here’s what that means… He is the Son of God, now here’s how I know that’s true…

We need to speak the truth like this because even the hardened enemies of God can be changed by the Spirit of God. By the message of Christ Jesus communicated in ways that our neighbors can understand.

If you think that people like those in the Sanhedrin can’t be changed, just open up your Bible. Crack open the second half of it - the New Testament. Chances are you’ll land in a book that was written by a man named Paul. At one time he was a Pharisee to the core, and a murderer of Christ followers. But that changed when he met Jesus.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m talking about SHARING Jesus. First we just need to BE WITH Jesus. So, when you come to this place, 20120 24th Avenue West, Lynnwood, WA, come here to meet with God, and for no other reason. I have no doubt that He’ll lead you from there.


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

March 3, 2010

Two Types of Sorrow - March 3, 2010

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

Sometimes laughter and crying can be nearly impossible to tell apart.

Perhaps you’ve approached someone with an inquisitive smile on your face, curious at what they found so funny, only to realize that the laughter that you thought you heard was actually sobbing.

Maybe you’ve experienced the opposite. Maybe you’ve rushed through the house to see what terrible thing had happened, only to find that one child was simply tickling the other.

Our message for tonight focuses on Two Types of Sorrow. Like laugher and crying these two sorrows might seem the same from the outside, but they are very different. Night and day different you might say.

One is like the evening darkness, which is followed by the blackest of nights. The other is like the morning darkness, which comes right before the dawn.

Luke 23:27-31 (NIV)

27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)

10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Plenty of people from the condemning mob followed Jesus as He plodded and staggered toward Calvary. But not everyone followed Him out of hatred. A group of women from Jerusalem followed Jesus out of pity.

These women knew where the soldiers were taking these men. They knew that there was no escape. While they could not free them, they could at least show them their sympathy. And so they followed with tears and loud crying attempting to lend some comfort before the excruciating end.

But, even though they meant well, Jesus did not want their tears. Their wailing expressed worldly sorrow. Sorrow that sees no hope.

He turned and told them to stop. Other men who walked this path did so because Rome forced them to. Jesus walked this path by choice. He would not have His march to the cross seem as if it had been forced upon Him.

It must have been shocking to hear Jesus’ words. Jesus told them that if they wanted to cry, they should instead cry for THEMSELVES and for their CHILDREN.

The Jewish people considered motherhood a great honor. They viewed the inability to have children a disgrace to a woman. Even a curse from God. But Jesus said that a horrific day was on its way when their world would be turned upside down.

In the days to come their thinking would be completely turned around. Instead of looking on the childless woman as disgraced and cursed, they would long to be her. A woman who carried her own sorrow only, what a blessing! What a blessing over the those who had their sorrow doubled by each child who lay starving, dead or dying.

Jesus spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the Roman army of Titus would surround the rebellious city and then settle in to wait them out.

At this time the prophesy would come true, “they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘cover us!’”. The inhabitants of Jerusalem would long for a quick end, but life would linger until it was no longer life, but living death.

This horror come upon Jerusalem as God’s judgment for rejecting the Messiah He had promised for so long, and had at last sent to take the people’s sin away.

When Jesus came it was the spring time of salvation. Life sprung up from His words of grace like green growth. Faith flowered in the hearts of many through His preaching. But in the height of this springtime Jerusalem murdered the Messiah.

The days to come would be like a drought to Jerusalem. And finally the fire would be sparked which would consume it altogether.

If there was something to cry about, it was not here on the road to Calvary. Worldly, hopeless sorrow did not belong anywhere near the Savior. That kind of dark sorrow dwells only on the road which leads away from Jesus.

But there is another kind of sorrow. One which Paul speaks of in Second Corinthians: Godly sorrow.

2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)

10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Worldly sorrow is like the evening shadows which lengthen into the blackest and longest night. But Godly sorrow is like the morning shadows which retreat and disappear in the light of the sun.

Godly sorrow is sorrow related to God. While worldly sorrow can come from thousands of sources, Godly sorrow comes from one place. From realizing that all our sins are really done against our Creator.

King David knew about Godly sorrow. He wrote about it in Psalm 51.

“1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:1-4 NIV).

Against you, you only have I sinned. David realized that every one of his sins was a double. It was done against some person, but also against God.

Godly sorrow is focused on God. But Godly sorrow is followed by a change of mind. What we sometimes call “repentance”. It is best described as “a turning around”.

Often this change of mind is revealed by an action that matches. The repentant liar finally tells the truth. The repentant thief returns what was stolen.

Where worldly sorrow leads only to hopeless despair, Godly sorrow leads to salvation. For Godly sorrow drives us to God, to trust in His promise of forgiveness. And through Jesus we are given that forgiveness.

Worldly sorrow may cause people to seek release like Judas did – through personal action. Making things right somehow. Judas sought to escape his sorrow over betraying Jesus by bringing the money back to the Chief Priests. But his action didn’t take his sorrow away because He didn’t look to Jesus for help. Worldly sorrow is a dead end because it doesn’t look to Jesus for help.

Godly sorrow is not a dead end, but a beginning. It brings the feeling of “I shouldn’t have done that” along with the feeling of “I don’t ever want to do that again”. It not only sees God as the one sinned against, but it also sees God’s Son as the one who takes all our sins away.

To the Christian, Godly sorrow is the only way to go. And like Paul says, Godly sorrow is never regretted. Godly sorrow is sadness sent from God to open our eyes. It leads us back to Jesus and to life. As Jesus Himself said,

“4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NIV).

In Jerusalem, you can still walk the path that Jesus did on the way to the cross. They call it the “via dolorosa” – the way of sorrow. Many visitors to Jerusalem do this, pausing at each of the stations to meditate on the events that happened there so long ago. Meditating on the sufferings of Jesus.

Sadly, some teach that pity for Christ’s pain gets you points with God the Father. What a sad thing. They’re doing the same thing that the women of Jerusalem did.

Jesus did not suffer and die to get your pity. He did not suffered and died so that we can dwell on His suffering and beat ourselves up about it. He carried our sorrows so that we don’t have to! He carried our guilt so that we don’t have to!

Look at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. They’re pretty short. They don’t linger on the gore of Christ’s crucifixion. They leave out the details and just tell us the simple fact – they crucified Him.

The brevity of the accounts of Christ’s crucifixion shows us that God wants us to know what happened, but He doesn’t want us to torture ourselves with our Savior’s suffering. Don’t make Lent YOUR time of suffering. It was HIS.

Luther said it like this:

“The fruit and use of the sufferings of Christ is this, that in them we have the forgiveness of sins”

Confess your sins to God, but don’t dwell on them long. They are forgiven. When sorrow of any kind takes hold of your heart, look to Christ and to nothing else for release. Drop your sins like the putrid things they are, and just look to Jesus your Savior as to the rising sun that breaks the darkness, and brings the green growth of spiritual life.


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