April 27, 2014

Living Lord, Powerful Peace - Apr 27, 2014

To  DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


Sometimes ordinary words become extraordinary. When the situation is right, a common phrase can become much more powerful than it usually is.  

Think of a child coming home from school. As soon as he opens the door, and sets his bag down, he calls out, “Hi mom, I’m home!” Such a simple phrase, and probably a common one as well. And yet it manages to bring a smile to many a mother’s face each and every day. That common phrase, “Hi mom, I’m home”, has a measure of power.

But imagine, for a moment, that this child lived during the American Civil War. Imagine that he had gone away from his home to serve in the army. Imagine that he had been gone for three long years. He had tried to send letters, but all but the first few had been lost along the way. Mom hadn’t heard from her son in a long time. She didn’t know if he was alright, or not.

Now imagine the weight those words would carry. The door creaking open. The familiar thump of a bag set on the floor. And the voice of a long lost child calling out gently, “Hi mom, I’m home.”

Sometimes ordinary words become extraordinary.
In our sermon reading for today, Jesus greets his disciples with a very common Jewish greeting. He says, “Shalom”, or in English, “Peace be with you.” But since Jesus uttered this phrase on Easter Sunday, his greeting takes on special weight. Coming from the recently crucified and now risen Jesus the phrase, “Peace be with you” carries profound meaning and great power.

John 20:19-31 (NASB)

  19   So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
  20   And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
  21   So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
  22   And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
  23   “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
  24   But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
  25   So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
  26   After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
  27   Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
  28   Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
  29   Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
  30   Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
  31   but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Early on this very day the women had gone to the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and others. All dear friends of Jesus. 

First, they had found the tomb broken open. Then they had seen a vision of angels. And then they had seen Jesus himself—in the flesh.

Sometime during the day the risen Jesus appeared to Peter also.

In the evening, two disciples hurried back to Jerusalem after Jesus had appeared to them in the little village of Emmaus.

And now they were gathered in this locked room. Ten apostles who had not yet seen Jesus. Peter who had. And the two disciples who just came from Emmaus with the latest Jesus sighting.

And they were afraid. John tells us they were afraid of the Jews. That is to say, they were afraid of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees who were Jesus’ enemies. These Jews had, after all, just recently gotten their master and friend crucified. These Jews had manipulated the Roman governor to execute a man that the governor himself had already declared innocent. You and I would have been afraid of the Jews too. Afraid of persecution, and afraid of death.

But when Jesus appeared to the disciples in this locked room, the very first thing he told them was not to be afraid. He didn’t say it in those words. He didn’t say, “Don’t be afraid” like the angels told the shepherds at his birth. Here in the upper room Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” But it amounts to the same thing.

Why should they be afraid of persecution or death? Jesus was standing there right in front of them—ALIVE! The nail prints in this hands, and the fatal wound in his side remained, but he was not suffering in the least. He obviously wasn’t subject to death anymore. So why should they, his followers, be afraid of death?

The short answer is—they shouldn’t!

And neither should we. Look at the last verse in our reading.  Verse 31 says…

but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31 NASB).

Jesus gives us peace with God by taking our sins away. He suffered our hell on the cross, and died in our place. All who believe in him, have life in His name. Life from God. Life that will not end on the day of our death.

A resurrection and ever living Jesus means we don’t have to fear death anymore. Our Savior lives, and he promises that we too shall rise—to eternal life at his side.

This is why these disciples, so fearful in this little locked room, later stood boldly before the Chief Priests and Pharisees and refused to stop preaching the message of sins forgiven through Jesus. This is why the apostle Paul jumped at the chance to share the Gospel Message, even with an angry mob! The apostles of Jesus weren’t afraid of death anymore, because their JESUS was stronger than death.

I pray that the risen Christ will fill us with the same peace, so that we never fear death, even the tiniest bit. 
After Jesus greeted the disciples, they rejoiced. It must have been a bit of a crazy scene. But Jesus moves right on to business. He’s got a mission for his followers, and he’s going to start preparing them to carry it out RIGHT NOW, on Easter Sunday evening. Verse 21 says…

21   So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
  22   And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
  23   “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained” (John 20:21-23 NASB).

Jesus was giving his followers a pretty heavy job here. They were to go out into the world and preach his Message. They would tell people about God, and sin, and sin’s consequences, and how God sent his Son Jesus to save them from hell.

When they came across people who were clearly NOT SORRY about their sins, they were bound by Christ’s command to tell them that their sins were still on them.

When they came across people who were clearly SORRY about their sins, they were bound by Christ’s command to tell them that because of Christ their sins were forgiven in full.

This authority, to forgive or retain sins, is sometimes called “The Office of the Keys.” You know, one key locks the door, and one key opens the door. This is a pretty serious responsibility that Christ gives to his followers here.

It is a heavy thing to tell a person, “You are obviously not sorry for sinning against God, and so your sin remains on you. You have no part in Christ.”

On the other hand it’s also a pretty amazing thing to tell a person, “I can see you’re sorry about what you’ve done, and that you trust in Christ as your Savior. So, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

To help his disciples with this great responsibility, Jesus gives then the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would go with them, and help them to use “The Office of the Keys” properly. To proclaim sins forgiven, or not forgiven, in the name of the Father. 
The disciples didn’t need to fear death, Jesus was risen.

The disciple didn’t need to fear the assignment he was giving them—the Holy Spirit would help them. And the same Holy Spirit will help us today.

Through the Holy Word of God, Jesus himself speaks to you and me today. And he says the same thing he said on Easter. He says, “Peace be with you. I’m alive. Peace be with you. I give you the Holy Spirit as your guide. Speak my Word. Use the keys. Don’t be afraid.”
But there was one disciples absent on that first Easter Sunday: Thomas. And he was given a special kind of peace when Christ appeared to him a week after Easter. Thomas had refused to believe his closest friends. He said that unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes, and touched those wounds with his own hands, Thomas just couldn’t believe it.

And so the gentle Savior granted Thomas’ request. When the disciples were gathered again. When the doors were shut. Jesus appeared before them again.

And instead of a harsh rebuke, Jesus had the same powerful greeting for Thomas. He said, “Peace be with you.” And then he invited Thomas to touch the wounds with his own fingers. He said, Go ahead, put your hand into my side. Stop doubting, and believe.

And Thomas found that he didn’t need to fear Jesus. For his risen and living Lord and God, was patient and loving. A God whom the Bible says desires that all people be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth (see 1 Timothy 2:4).
From that first Easter Sunday, and throughout their lives, the disciples of Jesus learned how deep and powerful that phrase really was coming from the mouth of Jesus, “Peace be with you.”

They found that a living Lord meant powerful peace. Peace beyond what the world could offer. Peace that goes beyond this life.

With Christ living, we don’t need to fear death. That’s peace.

With Christ living, we don’t need to fear anything God directs us to do. He’ll help us do it, through his powerful Word and his Holy Spirit.

With Christ living, we can depend on God’s patience. Thomas knew it. And we should too. After all, don’t we pray, “His mercy endures forever?” That’s patience. That’s our Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we’re afraid of death or something else that seems scary to us, remind us of your power, your love, and your patience. When we feel inadequate to carry out your mission to let the world know your love, remind us that we’re just a little part of the plan. And that the Holy Spirit will do the major lifting. And when we’re stubborn against some part of your Word, be patient with us. Soften our hearts and open our eyes. That just like Thomas we may finally look on the truth with eyes of faith. Give us your peace, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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

April 20, 2014

Tomb Empty, Faith Full - Apr 20, 2014

To  DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no accident. It was predicted in the Old Testament of the Bible, hundreds of years before it happened. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 contain detailed descriptions of the crucifixion even though Isaiah was written 700 years before the crucifixion, and Psalm 22 was written nearly 1000 years before.

Ancient though they are, these prophecies match up perfectly with what happened to Jesus: His hands and feet pierced, his silence acceptance of mockery, lots cast to divide up his remaining possessions. These ancients Scriptures even tell us that Christ was not suffering because of something he had done. He was suffering for the sins of others.

To many involved, the crucifixion was an unexpected turn of events. But not to Jesus. And not to his heavenly Father. To them, the crucifixion was the culmination of a great plan to rescue sinners from hell.
You see, the God who created the universe is a good God. A God of love, righteousness, and justice. As a just God, he must punish evil. And the penalty for sinning against the Almighty, is separation from him, and all his goodness—forever. In a word, the punishment for sin, is HELL.  This is what the Son of God suffered that Friday afternoon as he hung from on the cross. And he suffered this in your place, for your sins, to save you from hell.

No, the crucifixion was not an accident. It was foretold, and carried out, so that your sins now stand forgiven in Christ.
But today, our mediation does not focus on the cross. On Easter Sunday we focus on what came AFTER the cross: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS FROM THE DEAD.

Like the crucifixion, the resurrection was also, not an accident.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was foretold in the Old Testament. The resurrection was also expected by Jesus.

To many involved, the resurrection was an unexpected turn of events. But not to Jesus. And not to his heavenly Father. To them, the resurrection was a predicted, calculated event, meant to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything Jesus had said about himself was true.
To help us understand how important the resurrection is, today we’re going to read from a letter written by the apostle Paul. This letter was written to Christians gathering in the ancient city of Corinth.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reveals that there were some people at Corinth who were saying that any type of resurrection from the dead was a fiction, and impossibility. But that’s not what God’s Word says. And that’s not what Paul had been teaching. May the Holy Spirit help us, through his Word, to see how very important the resurrection of Jesus truly is.

1 Corinthians 15:13-23 (NASB)

  13   But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
  14   and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
  15   Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.
  16   For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;
  17   and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
  18   Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
  19   If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
  20   But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
  21   For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
  22   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
  23   But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
You remember that old Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” You know, the one that used to play over, and over, every Christmas? In the movie Stewart plays “George Bailey”, a businessman with a beautiful family. George becomes depressed and begins to despair thinking that his life hasn’t mattered at all. That the world would have been a better place without him. Then an angel steps in to help George see that his life has been very important to the people around him. The angel does this by showing George what the world would have been like if he had never existed.

The apostle Paul does something similar here. The apostle Paul helps the Christians in Corinth by showing them what life would be like if Christ Jesus had never been raised from the dead.
Paul says, Okay Corinthians, there are people among you teaching that resurrection from the dead isn’t possible? Don’t you realize what this would mean if it was true?

Let’s start with what this would mean for those who have gone out into the world to teach the Gospel. Do you realize what would this mean for them?

It would mean  that this message that they’ve been risking their lives to spread—is empty. That’s what that word “vain” means in the Greek. Empty. Without substance. Hollow. Nothing there.
And not only would their preaching be empty, it would be a blatant lie. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then all of the apostles who said they saw him alive after he had been dead—they were liars. And all those other people who claimed to have seen him, conversed with him, to have eaten with him, hundreds of people over the span of forty days—they were all liars too. And not just liars, they were guilty of lying about God.

That’s not a good idea to lie about God. We’re all going to stand before God one day and he’s going to judge our choices according to his standards. It’s not a good idea to lie about God.
Not only that. Paul says, Corinthians, do you realize what this would mean? Think about your friends. Your Christian friends who died trusting in Jesus as their Savior from sin. If Christ is not raised, then he can’t be the Savior. And so any who died trusting in him are lost forever.
And think about yourselves, Corinthians. If Christ is dead and rotting, then your faith is empty. Like I said, he can’t be the Savior if he wasn’t raised from the dead. And if Jesus isn’t the Savior, you don’t have a Savior, and your sins are still on you.

If Jesus is still in the tomb, then Christianity is a truly pathetic religion. I mean, think about it. Jesus never promised to give us good health in this life. He never promised to give us millions of dollars. He never even promised to give us good times in this life. In fact, he promised the opposite to his closest disciples. Jesus told them…

‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20 ESV).

Jesus promised his disciples persecution in this life. That’s what he promised. In another one of Paul’s letters he writes…

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV).

So, let me get this Christianity thing straight. There’s no promise of health, riches, or good times. And the one we trust in, depend upon, and put our hope in—is dead and rotting in a tomb somewhere? If that were the case, our faith is about the most pathetic religion in the entire world. It has NOTHING to offer.

Later in this same chapter Paul writes…

If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32 NASB).

That would make sense. Enjoy it while you can. If there is no resurrection from the dead. No judgment to come. No afterlife.

But that’s not the case.
Paul says, enough of this pretending. Enough of this “It’s a Wonderful Life” storyline. Let’s get back to the reality. Look at verse 20 again. Paul says…

20   But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
  21   For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
  22   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
  23   But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NASB).

I LOVE that first sentence there, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” There’s SO MUCH wrapped up there.

Now I know we’re not all farmers, but I think we can get the idea here. The “first fruits” are the FIRST…   …FRUITS. I mean that’s not hard to grasp! It’s the first stuff that comes out of the field. And that implies that there’s going to be…   …MORE!

Jesus wasn’t the first person in history to be raised from the dead. But he was the first one who never died again. When he was raised from the dead, the Father raised him to eternal life. His body was changed, glorified, so that he could walk around with that hole in his side that they could touch and feel, and these holes in his hands that they could see. And yet he wasn’t in pain. He only let those marks remain so he could show them it was really him. Really their Jesus, the one who had been crucified to death, but was now alive.

He was the first fruits of those who will rise, never to die again.
Paul says, Death came into the world through a man—Adam. Life and resurrection come through Jesus.

Picture two big circles. An Adam circle, and a Christ circle. We’re all in the Adam circle. We’re his descendants, part of the human race. As Adam’s descendants, we’re subject to death because of the sin he brought into the world.

Now think of the Christ circle. Not everyone is in the Christ circle. Only those who trust in him. But for those in Christ, he brings life. He brings forgiveness of sins, reunification with our Creator, and one day, bodily resurrection to eternal life. 

But each in his own order: Christ first, then those who are Christ’s, when he returns. Jesus is the first harvest. When he returns, he will harvest the rest. He will make alive, and bring with him, all who are in him by faith.

And Christ invites each one of us to be in that circle. He didn’t just die for some, he died for all. And he invites each one of us to rely on him. To be in that circle.
It all hinges on the resurrection. If Jesus had remained dead, and they had found him rotting in that tomb on Easter morning—then we’d know that everything Jesus claimed about himself was a lie.

But that’s not what they found. First they found and empty tomb, and then they met their risen Savior.

You know, it’s ironic. When the disciples of Jesus came to his tomb, they were all shocked and confused and full of fear because the tomb was empty! That was actually the best thing possible! If they had found the body of a dead Jesus, any faith in Jesus, would have been an empty faith.

Because his tomb was empty, our faith is full. Everything that Jesus said about himself is true:

He is the Son of God.
He died for our sins.
We stand forgiven.
The Bible can be trusted.
One day he will return, and if we have died by that time, he will raise us from the dead to eternal glory.

This is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means.
This is what Easter means.

Because his tomb was empty, our faith is full.

Full of God’s forgiveness.
Full of peace.
Full of joy.
Full of power.
Full of solid hope for the future.

He is risen.

And thank God that he is!


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

April 18, 2014

The Cross: A Confident Committal - Apr 18, 2014

To  DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


The Passion History According to the Four Gospels (NIV)

      At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
      When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
      Later knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
      Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
      With that, he bowed his head and gave up his life.
      At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks spilt. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
      When 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.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breast and went away.
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our self-sacrificing King, Jesus Christ.

Our meditation for this Good Friday focuses on the last words of our Savior. Knowing that his life was coming quickly to its end, Jesus spoke one final time from the cross.

What would you say if you knew your last breath was only seconds away? Some might use those precious final moments to say goodbye. To say, “I love you” one last time to some cherished person. Others would turn to God in prayer, calling on the Lord for mercy and forgiveness.
When Jesus spoke his final sentence from the cross, he spoke TO GOD, but he also spoke FOR US to hear. 

The Bible says,

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’” (Luke 23:46 NIV).

Crucifixion was an exhausting mode of execution. It usually  ended with a whimper, not a yell. After many, many hours of suffering, utterly exhausted, physically demolished, the crucified would fade away into death.

We might imagine a crucified man yelling out in agony and despair, but only at the beginning. Not at the moment of death. But Jesus’ final yell was not an expression of agony, or of despair. It was a confident cry of victory.

Jesus knew he didn’t have to speak loudly so his heavenly Father could hear him. Remember what Jesus said before he raised Lazarus from the dead? He prayed to his heavenly Father saying...

Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42 NIV).

Outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus spoke TO GOD, but FOR OTHERS to hear. When Jesus spoke his final words on the cross, he was also speaking TO GOD, but FOR US to hear. The people at the foot of the cross heard his yell. They marked his words, and recorded those words. And so, down through the centuries countless millions have heard that cry of victory reechoed in the pages of Scripture.
Companies today like to have tag lines.  A short phrase to put underneath their name that sums them up. If we were to put a tag line under Christ’s name, a good one would be, “Jesus Christ. A life lived to God, but a life lived for us.”

Jesus gave his life completely to his heavenly Father by living each minute in perfect sync with the Father’s will. He remained sinless from the cradle to the tomb.  

And when Jesus came to the cross, he gave not just the minutes of his life, he gave his actual life. He voluntarily died in the place of sinners.

As he hung suspended above the dusty soil of Palestine, Jesus felt the full and terrible weight of God’s hand come crashing down on his soul. He suffered hell on that cross, because hell was what our sins deserved. You’ve heard the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In that moment Jesus was experiencing the unthinkable terror of being separated completely from his heavenly Father. Jesus gave himself over to God’s wrath, so that you would never have to feel that unthinkable horror.

And when it was done, Jesus asked for something to drink. Something to wet his parched mouth so he could make an announcement to the world. Upon receiving that drink Jesus said, “It is finished.”

He wasn’t being polite. Oh, the drink is done. He was telling the world that the suffering for their sins at its end. He had LIVED his life TO GOD, FOR US. Now he would give his life TO GOD, FOR US, that we might live at peace with our Creator, forever. Jesus’ willing death was the final piece of the puzzle. The final step in our redemption.
Earlier I said that Jesus spoke TO GOD, but FOR US to hear. But it was more than that. Jesus didn’t just speak loudly so we would HEAR. He spoke loudly so we would hear and BELIEVE. He spoke with confidence TO GOD, so that we also might have confidence IN GOD.

Jesus knew that his death was immanent. Seconds from now he would experience the rending of body and spirit. But he doesn’t cry out in agony, or despair. He knows the mission has been successful. He has done it! The price for your sins, and my sins, and the sins of the world has been paid.

And so Jesus gladly lays his spirit in his Father’s hands for safekeeping. Those hands were now safe. The wrath had been spent. And Jesus was fully confident that in three days his Father would send his spirit back to his body. That he would be raised from the dead, and glorified to show the world that his sacrifice had been accepted.

And so those last words of Jesus, were a confident committal. A joyful and expectant final testimony.
And Jesus also spoke those words for us, so that we might take as our own confident committal.

Jesus taught his followers to pray to God by addressing him as “Our Father in heaven.” With his final words from the cross Jesus teaches us to rest our souls in the Father’s forgiving hands. Jesus has made those hands welcoming by his cross. Like it says in the book of Romans...

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1-2 NIV).

We may not be cognizant when we die. We may be sleeping, or in a coma, or unaware of our approaching end. But by faith in Christ, our hearts can even NOW say, “Father, in your hands I rest my spirit.”

This was Christ’s confident committal. Let it be ours now also. Let this be our confident committal today, tomorrow, each and every day—until we see the one who suffered the hell of the cross for us, in person.


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

April 13, 2014

Part of a Much Bigger Plan - Apr 13, 2014

To  DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


Do you remember who taught you how to read? Sadly, I don’t. I’m not sure if it was my mom teaching me at home, or if it was my kindergarten teacher at school. But, oddly enough, I do remember the moment when I understood how reading works. You mean you just put the letter sounds together, and that makes a word? That’s easy!

When we start teaching little kids to recognize letters, and the different sounds that they make, those kids can’t possibly  understand how important reading is going to be in their lives. How could they? Little eyes have a hard time seeing the big picture.
On the first Palm Sunday, the disciples of Jesus were like little children learning to read. They were seeing important things happening around them, but they didn’t understand. They saw the letters, but not the words. They knew their Savior, but they didn’t comprehend how big his mission really was.

Many of Jesus’ followers suspected that he was going up to Jerusalem to establish some kind of an earthly kingdom. But when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the way he arrived was part of a much bigger plan. In fact, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem was part of a plan so big that it touches every human being who has ever lived, or will ever live.

Matthew 21:1-11 (NASB)

    1   When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
    2   saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.
    3   “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
    4   This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
    5         “Say to the daughter of Zion,
Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
    6   The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,
    7   and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats.
    8   Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
    9   The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”
  10   When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”
  11   And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 
The city of Jerusalem is located on high plateau. To the east is the steep-sided Kidron Valley. Then the Mount of Olives rises up, and on the other side of the Mount of Olives is the tiny village of Bethany.

Bethany is where Jesus stayed during the final week before his crucifixion. Each day of holy week Jesus and his disciples would get up and take the 55 minute walk up over the Mount of Olives, down through the Kidron Valley, and up into Jerusalem.

But their first journey into the city that week, the one on Palm Sunday, that journey was unique.

Jesus had been staying away from Jerusalem lately because his enemies there were plotting to take his life. But now Jesus had deliberately come to Judea, and Jerusalem, one final time.

But he would not enter the city as he had many times before, on foot. No, today he would ride into Jerusalem. The disciples were probably surprised when Jesus  sent two of them to the next village to fetch a donkey and her colt. They listened well enough, but they didn’t really understand why Jesus made this request.

The Gospel of John also records the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. There it says…

These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him” (John 12:16 NASB).

Why did the master request to ride on a little donkey? On a colt, the foal of a donkey? Was this some new parable that the teacher was acting out? Was he simply tired? They didn’t know. Only later would they come to realize that Jesus had entered Jerusalem in this way to fulfill an ancient prophecy concerning the Messiah.

There are many prophecies about the Messiah found in the Old Testament. Some were written thousands of years before Jesus lived. Some of these prophecies were fulfilled because God the Father arranged time and circumstances in just the right way. Like when God put it in the head of Caesar Augustus to command a census be taken. A census which caused Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and not in Nazareth where his parents had grown up. Other prophesies, like the one about the donkey, Jesus himself consciously and deliberately fulfilled.

Whether by the Father’s hand, or the Son’s deliberate action, it was inevitable that the prophecies concerning the Savior of the world be fulfilled. One by one, Jesus fulfilled them, showing beyond a doubt that he was the divinely promised Savior.

The disciples couldn’t see the big picture. But Jesus did. And we can still trace the prophecy and fulfillment that proves him to be the Savior sent from God.
The people of Israel were just as clueless as the disciples when it came to prophecy and fulfillment. At least they were on Palm Sunday. But they had come to believe that Jesus was some sort of a great Savior. What exactly that meant to each person we don’t know. But we do know that they certainly welcomed him like a conquering king on that first Palm Sunday.

Bethany was somewhere around 2 miles from Jerusalem. The crowd of people that thronged around Jesus on that morning was busy. They carpeted the dusty path in front of Jesus with their coats. When that wasn’t enough, they resorted to cutting down palm branches and laying those in front of the little ambling donkey. Even Hollywood stars don’t get a two-mile-long red carpet treatment like Jesus did!

And it wasn’t just the path before Christ that they filled to honor him. They also filled the air with their praises. The fact that many of these people believed Jesus was the Messiah sent from God is obvious from the things they shouted.

They called him the “Son of David.” This didn’t just mean he was descendant of David. Many could claim that. When they called Jesus the “Son of David” they were referring to the fact that God had promised King David that one of his descendants would rule over an eternal kingdom (see 2 Samuel 7). This is what they meant when they called Jesus the “Son of David”. They meant, “Jesus, you are the eternal king we’ve been waiting for!”

This is why the Pharisees were so angry when they heard the crowds calling him the “Son of David”. The Pharisees asked Jesus,

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” (Matthew 21:16 NIV).

But Jesus knew very well what they were saying. And he didn’t stop them because what they said was true. Even if the crowds didn’t fully understand the mission of the Messiah—he was, and is, that King. He was that Messiah, and he accepted their praise as such.
We’re told that the crowds also shouted,

Blessed is He who comes in the name o f the Lord” (Matthew 21:9b NASB).

In other words, they recognized that Jesus was sent from God to proclaim God’s message to the people. In addition to being the eternal King, he was also God’s prophet.
Lastly, Matthew records that they people shouted,

“Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9c NASB).

In the Hebrew, the word “Hosanna” means “Save now!”
The people following Jesus, and those who met them from the city shouted these things joyfully. They believed him to be a King sent from God, with God’s words to say, one who would rescue Israel from Rome’s tyrannical rule!

How ironic it was. Jesus was these things: King, prophet, rescuer. But not in the little way the people thought. Jesus was not just a political leader. He was so much more than an earthly king. His coming to Jerusalem was part of a much bigger plan.

He was here to rescue the whole human race, not just the Jews. He was here to be king, that was for sure, just not the little king they wanted.
Look again at the prophecy that Matthew quotes from Zechariah. Look at verse 5

               “Say to the daughter of Zion,
Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:5 NASB).

This prophecy helps us to see what kind of a king Jesus came to be. A gentle king. A humble king—seated on a little donkey. This king doesn’t come on a war elephant like Hannibal. Nor on a swift war-horse like Alexander the Great. This king comes on a beast associated with bearing burdens. A beast whose primary occupation was carrying things for others. What a fitting emblem for our Savior. This is the king we have. A king who comes to serve, and to redeem the souls of the guilty sinners like you and me.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus could have used his power and wisdom to carve out quite an amazing empire if he had chosen to. Rome wouldn’t have stood a chance. No other nation either, for that matter. But his life was part of a much bigger plan. His kingdom would be a much bigger kingdom. His glory, more enduring than the stars. Literally.

In 1 Peter it says…

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:23-25 ESV).

And in 1 John 2, it says…

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2 NIV).

This was the bigger plan. The Son of God takes the sins of the world on himself, suffers hell, and dies. And sinners? We get forgiveness and eternal life, as a free gift from God.
It was inevitable that the prophecies would be fulfilled. God had said they would be.

It was inevitable that the people wouldn’t understand by themselves.

It was inevitable that the Messiah would triumph, giving sinners sure hope, peace, and joy—through the gift of cancelled sin.

That was Gods plan, and God never fails.
Maybe you’re in a place in your life right now where you can’t see the big picture. You can’t see why things are happening like they are. You don’t know what God it up to. Or what direction you’re supposed to go.

On this Palm Sunday, remember Jesus. Remember him riding into Jerusalem in glory. He did that for you. One more required prophesy fulfilled on the way to YOUR cross. One more step closer to suffering for YOUR sins, and dying YOUR death. One step closer to earning YOUR redemption.  

Whatever confusion or pain we might go through in this life, we can rest secure knowing that in Christ our debt of sin has been paid. And the same God who came up with that plan, he has a plan for our lives as well. We just have to open his Word to find it.  

PRAYER: Father in heaven, we’re so short-sighted and self-interested. Forgive us. Help us to see that we’ve been redeemed. Help us to see that this redemption came by Christ. Help us to really live our lives with the Gospel of peace as our greatest source of strength. Clear out the cobwebs of worries and anxiety—with a renewed prayer life. We’ve come to see our salvation, and that we are part of your bigger plan. Give us the wisdom through your word, to be strong and joyful followers of Jesus our Savior. Worthy servants of the King. Amen.