April 7, 2017

April 5, 2017 - John 19:1-5,14-16

Theme: Behold Jesus!
1.    The Man who carried your faults
2.    The King who wears your crown

Every now and then when I’m trying to explain something to Micah or Allie, I can tell that the message isn’t getting across. As a parent, you still say what needs to be said, hoping that something sticks. But, you can’t be too sure. Usually, in these kinds of circumstances, Gretchen and I will look at each other and roll our eyes. It’s frustrating knowing that the message is going in one ear and out the other just as quickly, but there’s nothing much you can do about it. That’s part of growing and learning. You hope that as you repeat what needs to be said enough, it will eventually find a home.

We see the same thing happen as we view Jesus. This entire Lenten season we have examined events upon His walk toward the cross. It’s easy to see, but do we understand? Is the overall message of the cross lost on us as a simple lesson is on a child? Sadly, all too often, yes. We get a sense of that very thing this evening in our text, as Pontius Pilate beckons the Jews to “Behold Jesus.” From John 19:1-5,14-16:

John 19:1-5 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands. 4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!"

John 19:14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" 15 But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.

With eyes of faith we ask the Holy Spirit to help us see and understand our Savior Jesus Christ, as the Man who carried our faults, and the King who bears our crown.

Part 1: The Man who carried your faults

In our verses, we see Pilate use the word “Behold” three times. “Behold, I am bringing Him out.” “Behold, the Man.” And “Behold your King!” What may be of use for our faith this evening is to understand that although these three words appear the same in our English translation, they are not all the same word in the Greek. In verses 4 and 14, the word “Behold” means to see something with your eyes and to understand what you are seeing. Think of it as seeing both with eyes and the mind. The observer recognizes what is being seen and the significance of the matter. This is probably the more common way of using the word “see” in English.

However, verse 5 uses a word that fits better with “Behold.” This is a type of seeing that is calling attention to something significant. It doesn’t mean to understand what is being seen but just to take note of it. We might think of saying “Pay attention” or “Hey, look at that!” The idea is to awaken someone up to what is going on.

Now, I can’t say for sure that the Holy Spirit intended something specific by using these two different words. We can only speculate. But, it does remind us of the importance of not just looking at Jesus, but truly see who He is and what He has done. In verse five Pilate called the appearance of Jesus to the Jew’s attention, but the meaning was lost. Here He was, arrayed in a purple robe, bloodied from the crown of thorns and bruised from the beatings. Did the peoples’ attention perk up? Certainly, but no one appreciated the significance of the moment, no one understood who Jesus was. He was simply a spectacle for grab their attention.   

They gave Jesus attention because He was an attraction. He was a sideshow upon which they placed their frustrations with the oppression of the Romans. Even Caiaphas had admitted earlier that is was good for one man to die for the people (John 11:50). Jesus carried this burden alone. He was the scapegoat upon which they threw their problems, and they both despised and marveled at this spectacle. So, Jesus was worth taking not of for a moment, but soon forgotten by the masses.

What was missed was that this Man carried much more than just their personal problems. Yes, Jesus ended up being the pressure relief valve for the tensions between Rome and Jerusalem but that division would remain. It would eventually end in the destruction of Jerusalem some 30+ years later. Pilate, too, was clearly trying to use Jesus for this purpose too. His final verdict was “innocent”, yet the mob persuaded him to go against his conscience. Pilate also didn’t want to be seen as an opponent of Caesar, better to err on the side of caution and give no cause for accusation.

But, the true problem was much deeper. The Jews actually were honest about this in verse seven, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." Here, in the midst of all this deceit and lying, we have a tiny moment of honesty. The festering sliver of the Jewish conscience was revealed. They hated Jesus because He claimed to be the Son of God. Remember what came along with this claim. It was more than just a statement about deity and divinity. It was a promise about deliverance and salvation. Jesus was God because He was the Messiah. When He claimed this status He was also claiming the power of forgiveness; the elusive right to righteousness as we studied on Sunday. This set Jesus apart from all the other teachers and religious leaders. And they were too busy feasting on their jealousy to give it a second thought.

As God and Messiah, Jesus carried sins that day too, even of those that rejected Him. It’s easy to see Him as the object of their scorn, as the One to bear their excuses, fears, and hatreds. They took the brunt of their frustrations out on Jesus. But, He also carried every other sin too; the secret ones that only the individual knows, the ignorant ones that are committed in foolishness, and the hardened ones that were never repented of. Even ours. Though Pilate determined He was innocent, Jesus was responsible for an enormous weight, it just wasn’t His own. No faults on His name, yet the sins of the whole world on His shoulders.

Part 2: The King who wears your crown

The Jews saw Jesus but did not perceive Him. They beheld this spectacle, but the attention soon wavered. But, not for lack of effort on Pilate’s part. He beckoned them twice to see by not just calling to attention but understanding with their eyes and mind. He said, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” One need look no further than the actual passage to see the intent. Pilate called them to “Behold” so that they would “know.” He wanted them to understand what was happening. He wanted them to know that Jesus was innocent. This was more than a mere grabbing of their attention for a minute. It was a call to knowledge. The same was said later when Pilate, at this point exasperating by the whole ordeal, called out, “Behold, your King!”

As much as Pilate showed his own cowardice by trying to cleanse himself of guilt in the matter, he certainly wasn’t afraid to stick it to the Jews. He had already mocked them somewhat when he asked about releasing Barabbas or Jesus. Matthew tells us that Pilate called Jesus “the Christ” and specifically measured Him up against the notorious Barabbas, because he knew they wanted Jesus killed out of envy. He wanted them to say it themselves, knowing full well the wickedness behind it all.

Here again, Pilate ‘trolls’ the Jews by calling Jesus their King. He knew how to get under their skin. But, he also wanted them to be fully aware of what they were asking. See it. Witness it. Understand it. Ah, once again the Jews were prophetic in their cries. Last week we heard how they said, “His blood be on us and on our children!” How true that was and it actually happened that way. Here, they cry, “We have no king but Caesar!” Again, they were correct, for although they hated Caesar in their hearts, they were more loyal to him than to Jesus. As the King of the Jews Jesus is the King of believers, of God’s true people. They could reject Him all they wanted as an earthly monarch, but it could never change the truth of the matter. Jesus was the King of the Jews in that He was the true God of God’s true people, believers.

To be a king, Jesus needed a crown. We think, of course, of the twisted crown of thorns. What we may not readily see is that He wore the crown that we deserve. The pressing into the head of sharp thorns is indeed excessive, but do we not deserve it? Think of how often someone has wronged you and you cannot wait to get back at them, with “How do you like it?” How many times have you wished that upon your enemy; even upon a loved one in a moment of heated anger? Isn’t it human nature, some might even say natural right, to return in kind to those who deserve it?

Can you imagine Jesus taking on that attitude? He was completely innocent; surely by human reason He would have just cause to press the thorns into our heads. Can’t you see Him saying, “How does it feel? How do you like it?” It almost sounds like the moment of vindication from an action movie, something the human flesh clamors for so intensely that we resound in our hearts with approval.

Yet, even against us Jesus “opened not his mouth” nor His divine fist. He willingly kept the crown of thorns on His head and chose a different crown for us. “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).”

By faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, we have the promise of a greater crown of righteousness. We didn’t deserve this crown, yet it is ours just as much as the crown of punishment. This promise is never in doubt. Our blessings in Christ abound day after day. The question we should ask ourselves is if we see Him. Do you need someone to call to you to “Behold” Jesus, to wake up from your spiritual slumber? Has the Gospel become so commonplace for our lives that we naturally gravitate toward something different? A wake-up call may indeed be proper and helpful.

Are we like children when it comes to the message of the cross, in one ear, and out the other? In humility we confess all too often, yes.

May we train our eyes to remain on Jesus. May we both see and understand by faith, with deep humility and appreciation, everything He has done for us. Just as there is much to be gained from Jesus, so equally there is much that can be lost. God grant His Holy Spirit to work in our hearts a confidence and faith to trust His Son; that is, to awake to what He has done for us and also to believe and understand what it means for our lives.

“Behold the Man,” alone and suffering on the cross; carrying your faults. “Behold, your King,” wearing your crown of punishment, giving you the crown of righteousness. Amen.

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

April 4, 2017

April 2, 2017 - Genesis 14:14-20

Theme: Righteousness Passes the Test
   1. In the blessings we receive from God
   2. In the gifts we give to Him

Genesis 14:14-20 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. 17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

The eye test. I’m not talking about getting a pair of glasses. I’m talking about knowing something when you see it. We talk about certain qualities that we can see in people, even if we don’t know them personally. The eye test is a big thing in evaluating talent. Oftentimes when someone can’t express exactly what they believe about someone else, they will revert to the eye test as proof. They say things like: “I don’t know what it is, but I can just tell they have what it takes.”

The eye test is the ultimate culmination of those who say, “seeing is believing.” A person’s gut reaction to seeing something can get them to ignore reality, or loads of other evidence. It becomes a problem when trust comes into play. It’s one thing for a person to believe something because they see something; but when they want me to believe it based on their evidence, it’s becomes a bigger issue. I may have a completely different set of criteria for what constitutes a successful eye test.

The eye test also doesn’t tell the whole story. If you were evaluating Olympic talent for a track team, the eye test of a sprinter may seem good. For one test run they might wow you by flying down the track. But, when you do your homework, if you find out that they are into performance enhancing drugs, or if they have a volatile temperament off the track, the eye test doesn’t mean as much. At least, in theory. There are many who are willing to ignore the facts because they are so compelled by their gut reaction.

What is your faith more like? Do you believe because it passes your personal “eye test?” Is seeing believing when it comes to God? Or is faith more of a gut reaction that ignores clear evidence? There are many opinions out there. God helps us focus in on the most important thing – righteousness. In reality, true faith is not all about the eyes, nor is it just a gut reaction. If you want faith, that is, the kind of faith that means anything before God, you need righteousness. You cannot be hampered by sin. You cannot be imperfect. You have to measure up to God Himself – never once going astray.

Well, that’s clearly not us, and yet we continue to talk about it because we do have hope. Christ gives us the proper righteousness. But, He doesn’t do away with the important difference that righteousness makes. We are not allowed to forget and ignore God’s Word simply because Christ redeems us. In contrast, Jesus reinforces the need of righteousness even more by His act of grace and forgiveness. Our text today gives us an example of that from the Old Testament in the life of Abram.

Part 1: In the blessings we receive from God

God taught Abram that Righteousness Passes the Test. First of all, in what we receive from God.

This text centers not so much on Abram, but on this mysterious individual named Melchizedek. We actually know more about Melchizedek from the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews takes this obscure story from the Old Testament, coupled with a reference to Melchizedek in Psalm 110, and expands on it for the New Testament believer. Much has been said about Melchizedek, most of which is purely speculation. But, what we can say for certain is that he was a picture of Christ in the Old Testament. How this man was both a king and a priest at the same time is a mystery. How he practiced an order of the priesthood before Aaron initiated the official line of the Levites is a mystery. In fact, how Melchizedek even knew the true God at this time of great spiritual ignorance around the world is a mystery.

But, one need look no further than to the man’s name to see his connection to Christ. Melchizedek is actually more of a title than a proper name. It is a combination of two Hebrew words – meaning King and Righteousness. It’s unlikely that a child was given this literal name, “King of Righteousness.” It’s more likely this particular king took this title, whatever his name may have been. Regardless, in addition to this title, there are some pretty interesting connections between Melchizedek and Jesus.

·       Melchizedek was king of Salem, meaning “Peace”. Jesus was called the “Prince of Peace” by Isaiah.
·       Salem would later become Jerusalem, the center of God’s people and place where Jesus was crucified.
·       Melchizedek was also a priest. Jesus was the greatest priest, both as the offering and offeror.
·       In our text, Melchizedek blesses Abram, and God, and Abram returns thanks with an offering. This mirrors the believer’s life with Christ.

All of these connections flow from our text and are fleshed out in the rest of Scripture. But as we look at Hebrews we see things that are even more direct. In chapter 7, the writer speaks, Now consider how great Melchizedek was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils … And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life (Hebrews 7:4,15-16).

Jesus and Melchizedek shared many similarities. Psalm 110 even tells us that Melchizedek was an Old Testament picture of Christ. But, ultimately, in the blessings that they gave, Jesus was much greater. Jesus was able to give an eternal blessing that removed sin forever. Melchizedek was simply another preacher and earthly intercessor of God. He could only work if the promise of Christ was in view. Jesus was a better Melchizedek, or more appropriately, a better King of Righteousness.

When it came to the blessings Jesus gave, righteousness was the difference maker. The eye test with Jesus certainly failed. Isaiah wrote, He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

If people aren’t careful, they will miss Jesus if they’re looking for the wrong thing. Those who want a Savior who sits on the sidelines of life and lets them live how they want don’t have Jesus. Those who want a Savior to help them stay comfortable in their sins, in pride, greed, lust, anger, hypocrisy; they don’t have Jesus. Those who want to confine Jesus to modern day stereotypes about heroes and social justice warriors, don’t have Jesus.

Jesus is all about righteousness, because that’s what passes the true test. It’s not pretty to the eyes. It’s not even observable to the human heart. But, it’s the very blessing that sinners need. We need a complete measure of God’s righteousness. Abram was blessed this way by Melchizedek, when he was reminded of the covenant promise God had already given. This was reaffirmed in Genesis 15 by a familiar passage - Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Abram’s faith opened the blessing of God’s righteousness – his future Messiah’s payment for sin on the cross. Don’t miss the importance of recognizing that this verse is quoted three times in the New Testament to confirm salvation by faith. That’s what Abram’s covenant from God was all about.

Part 2: In our gifts to God

I could see how one might think that Abram was just desperate for any gift from anyone at this point in his life. He was called by God to leave his homeland and travel across what must have seemed like the entire world. But, God had blessed him materially too, and Abram responded with a genuine thankfulness. And he wasn’t gullible for any gift either. Our text comes right after Abram’s great victory over the kings who kidnapped Lot. When the king of Sodom comes to Abram and wants Abram to take all the treasures of the victory, Abram says no. He would rather have Melchizedek’s spoken blessing from God than treasures at the request of a heathen king.

Abram chose the right path because he chose it by faith in Christ. He didn’t want to be aligned with a king who was responsible for the great wickedness and immorality of Sodom. Lot was free to choose his own path and he certainly chose poorly. This wouldn’t be the last time he relied upon Abram’s protection because he had chosen worldly priorities over Godliness. A few chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah would be on the receiving end of God’s judgment and once again, Abram would come to Lot’s rescue.

Again, the eye test failed and righteousness held the day. From the strictly physical perspective Abram was a fool for turning down the treasures and accepting a verbal blessing instead. The world looks at that and says what good will that do? What effect do words really have. I’d rather something I can hold. In his heart, Abram knew by faith what His Savior would later say, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26.)” "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).”

Think it’s unlikely that anyone would ignore the truth for the sake of their own eye test? You shouldn’t, it happens all the time, and especially with the greatest matters of life. People are more willing to stake their eternity on their own feelings, on what they deem as good enough, rather than trust God’s simple Word. Just as there is no beauty to the eyes in a crucified Savior on the cross, so also there is no beauty to blessings that are simply spoken and accepted by faith.

Melchizedek’s lasting lesson to the world is that the blessing of God is most important because it passes the test of righteousness. The righteousness we need to be declared innocent of our transgressions and the righteousness we need to serve God in our lives. Would you give that up for treasures of this world? Would you forsake that to follow your own feelings? Don’t be too quick to answer either way, for the solution is far more complicated than you might think, and many have failed both by unwillingness to accept the truth and by arrogance to ignore the danger.

Abram resisted the allure of the king of Sodom. Instead of immediate gratification, he chose the long-lasting and long-suffering spiritual reward through God’s Word. Recognize the ways in which your heart might try to “buy” its way into God’s favor, as the king tried to buy his way into Abram’s favor. Treasures involve more than silver and gold. Treasures can be time and talents too; motivations and beliefs. Remember Jesus, “where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” We could confess it in reverse too, “where your heart is, there your treasure is also.” If you seek God on you own accord, your treasure will be worldly, even if doesn’t come with a price tag. If you think you’re close to God, but you could care less about His Word, your treasure is not what you think it is.

Righteousness passes the test. It reveals the rotten hollowness of all the false treasures we create for ourselves, by showing us the glaring law of God. But, it also fills in the great need by lifting us up in the forgiveness of Christ. Abram followed the blessing by God’s Word, from Melchizedek, and it was credited to his heart as saving righteousness by God, through Christ. Let us follow the same path in our lives, not being hindered by the false blessings of treasures, whether in the world or in the heart, but heeding the Gospel word of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.

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

April 1, 2017

March 29, 2017 - Matthew 27:15-26

From Gabbatha to Golgotha - Part 4
Jesus or Barabbas? - Pastor Ben Libby


March 26, 2017 - Revelation 5:8-14

Theme: Worthiness Weighs on the Heart
1) A weight of sorrow from our sins
2) A weight of sufficiency from the Lamb

What’s your greatest fear? Maybe you’ll find some similarities with the rest of America. According to a 2015 poll, the top ten greatest fears that Americans hold are:
1) corruption of government officials,
2) cyber-terrorism,
3) corporate tracking of personal information,
4) terrorist attacks,
5) government tracking of personal information,
6) bio-warfare,
7) identity theft,
8) economic collapse,
9) running out of money in the future, and
10) credit card theft.

It’s interesting that each of these fears involves something outside of the individual, that is, something that the average person cannot control and does not contribute to.

I don’t argue with anything on this poll. I understand the legitimate fear of each of these things. But, I also don’t think this poll gives us the whole story. Very often, the deepest fears that a person has are in their own hearts. Those are the types of fears that people are reluctant to open up about. They don’t show up on a public poll precisely because part of the fear is having them come to light. We typically use the word insecurities to describe this type of fear. They involve an inward feeling that keeps us from confidence and assuredness.

One of the greatest insecurities we have is the fear of failure. A different study offers these questions as a determinant for whether or not you have a fear of failure:   

·       Do you ever put off doing something because you’re “not sure how it will turn out”?
·       Do you avoid situations where you will have to try something new in front of people?
·       Have you ever put off doing something you know will improve your life, even though you have “no good reason” not to do it?

No matter who you are, we have all had these types of fears in certain ways. These things grow in a culture like ours which is both highly competitive and filled with examples of success. In that setting, no one wants to fail. There is absolutely a great fear in not meeting expectations; that itself is part of the competitive situation that drives so many to success. But, in the back of each of mind, we know that not everyone succeeds in accomplishing their expectations.

What is really at stake is not so much failing, but fitting in. The reason we want to succeed is not only to accomplish what we want but to be accepted by others. To put it bluntly, we want to be worthy. Worthiness Weighs on the Heart. No one can escape that feeling. The same is at work in our lives with God. We have a weight on our hearts that lies heavy, and it’s all about being found worthy of eternal life. Consider the words of our text today, with those thoughts in mind, as we read part of John’s vision of heaven: 

Revelation 5:8-14 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" 14 Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

The chief virtue of this section is worthiness. John pictures that through the chief object of the section – the scroll. This scroll represents God’s activity for mankind. The one who is able to open the scroll is the one who can extend God’s blessings to people. Imagine knowing what the scroll was but not being able to open it. You get a sense why John tells us in verse 4 that he “wept greatly” at the prospect of no living creature being able to open the scroll. One translation says that he “cried and cried.”

What changed between that melancholy scene and the victorious praise at the end of the chapter? Christ came forward. John tells us what he saw, And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." As triumphant a scene as this was, in the end it was not the Lion of Judah who opened the scroll. Well, it was and it wasn’t at the same time.

In the very next verse, John saw something much different. A Lamb, slain, in the midst of the 24 elders rose and took the scroll from Him who sat on the throne. And at that point, the verses before us today begin. Let us not miss the significance of this powerful scene. The elder who commanded John to cease weeping did not lie. It was truly Jesus, the Lion of Judah, who went forth to claim the scroll. But, it was Jesus as the crucified and risen sacrifice, as the Lamb of God, once slain but now alive. Only through His death and resurrection could Jesus open the blessings of God for mankind. His status as the Lion of Judah remains, He is all-powerful. But, He was required by the Law of God to humble Himself to the point of death and the grave in order to be found worthy.

This is why the song of praise exalts the Lamb who was slain, not the Lion who was powerful. Only in Jesus could such a humble picture of a slain Lamb take precedent over the power of a Lion. Because only Jesus was worthy.

The word for worthy in our text literally means something that is weighed against something else. In the ancient world, things which were considered valuable were measured their weight. Worth was determined objectively in the balance of scales. This runs contrary to the measure of worth in our culture. So often, worthiness is determined subjectively today. What is valuable to one person may be trash to another. And so this change has had an effect on faith in Jesus too. Each individual becomes the sole judge and jury in determining worth. If that is the case, why not discard one teaching of God’s Word in favor of another? Why not exalt experience of faith over objective truth. Yet, in God’s Word, worthiness is an absolute measure that is true regardless of if we feel it or not. Either you have enough on the scale of righteousness, or you are found lacking.

What weight has God put on mankind? Acts 17:26-27, 30 "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.

As we think about the weights of life that rest on our shoulders, nothing is heavier than sin. But this is not a valuable heaviness before God. David wrote of this weight by saying how it caused his bones to grow old and his vitality to dry up like water in the scorching sun. Because of his sins, God’s hand was heavy upon David, and it was a burden he could not bear. Only when David confessed his sins to God was he restored with forgiveness (Psalm 32). Revelation pictures the same struggle and the same salvation as John saw it in a vision of the culmination of all history.

No matter what your greatest fear is, you can be sure it stems from sin. We might answer with things like: spiders, the dark, or even the government. But, the things we are most terrified of are the things we keep hidden. And being found worthy before God and one another is often kept in deep hiding. Sometimes it’s easy to hide our fear of being unworthy because life offers so many distractions. We can find plenty of things to consume our time and energies so that we can continually put off the more important aspects of life. If someone knew ahead time that Jesus would be visiting our church today in person, would they ignore it and go do something else? No one would miss that. Yet, His presence in Word and Sacrament often isn’t enough to prioritize above other weekend activities or worth rearranging the schedule for. 

Don’t be mistaken, I completely understand that great drop-off in hearing the Word of God though the filter of my presentation and being able to see Jesus Himself. But, at the end of the day, His Word is His Word no matter who speaks it. The weight of sin lies on the heart, and because of sin that weight means we are unworthy.

Part 2: A weight of sufficiency from the Lamb

Instead of concealing that sin, or trying to distract yourself from its eternal consequence, the Lamb offers to bear it for you. In fact, He’s gone one step further; He has carried it for you. Your sufficiency before the Father has been met. Your debt has been paid. The scale is balanced. You stand forgiven today. What joy there is in that sentiment! But, do you read this text and wonder, why doesn’t my worship feel like this?

Well, perhaps it’s because we don’t have the thousands of angels and the twenty-four elders among us each weekend. But, we are still just as forgiven and Christ’s blood was shed just as much for our sins. What was it about this worship that was so magnificent? You can sense the expressions of joy and power in phrases like “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood,” and “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Well, to answer, look no further than those words themselves. For those present, the joy of worship was all about Jesus. They had His blessings, so they were happy, and so they praised the Lord. It had nothing to do with all things that are so often associated with worship today. Feelings, atmosphere, music, Bible translation, cultural relevancy, or anything else. We aren’t even told that they had any music present. Yet, what a powerful demonstration of true worship.

Have you ever considered that perhaps we struggle in our worship lives because we focus on the wrong things? Maybe we’ve strayed too far from what is most important and that’s why we think we’re not getting anything out of it. For the four living creatures and the twenty four elders, which coincidently represented God’s angels and saints, respectively; the basis of joy was in the slain Lamb.

In Jesus, the Lamb, the weight of our sins is replaced by His weight of sufficiency. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).” We now carry His weight by faith, but that is not a burdensome task, it is a joyful blessing and honor. It is beautifully said this way in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-- 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 12).

Everyone carries something around. We all have a weight that leads us to certain actions, beliefs, and outcomes. The pressure of that weight shapes who we are, what we believe, and finally where we reside for eternity. The sorrow of our sins is a heavy weight. The desire for worthiness and the expectations that come along with that, can be over bearing. You don’t have to choose that weight, everyone has it because of sin. But you don’t have to carry it either.

But, on the distant horizon, at God’s throne, in His right hand is that scroll. All of His blessings and work for mankind, bound up and just waiting to be loosed. What sorrow there is in seeing the gift yet not having it within reach. Who will go for us? Who will take our place? The Lion and the Lamb – Jesus. He who once was dead, but now lives. He who was slain on account of our burdens. Do not weep for Him or for yourself. By faith, you carry His death and resurrection with you, every day. Not only has the scroll been opened, but you have access to it every day. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. May we always fall down with reverent humility and joy at His presence, and be thankful for the opportunity on each occasion. Amen. 

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

March 24, 2017

March 22, 2017 - Luke 23:5-12

The Greatest Abolitionist Movement
1) Christ Abolished the Hatred of Sin.
2) Christ Reconciled God and Men.

One of the greatest moments in American history occurred on the first day of 1863. On that day President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby declaring freedom for all slaves in the United States. This proclamation is rightfully lauded as one of the most significant and celebrated decisions in the history of the world. And it was a long time in coming too. For years prior to the proclamation, individuals called abolitionists struggled and fought to end slavery. They were aptly named such because they sought to abolish what was clearly a racial and corrupt system.

But, what most people forget today is that the Emancipation Proclamation, as sensible as it sounds, was actually quite fragile when first issued. The Civil War was still raging on. President Lincoln was not nearly as popular then as he is regarded in the history books. In order for this declaration of freedom to endure, a price needed to be paid. Many historians argue that President Lincoln never would have issued the Emancipation Proclamation if it hadn’t been for a monumental battle just a few months prior. In September 1862, Northern and Southern troops clashed in the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, near a tiny creek in Maryland called Antietam. After the great struggle, the Confederate troops retreated in defeat. If the battle had gone the other way, it’s quite possible that our country, and the world, would be a lot different today. And it’s almost a certainty that no Emancipation Proclamation would have been issued on January 1, 1863.

What do we learn about this? Well, it affirms one thing we know to be true, that freedom comes at a cost. But, we learn more this evening as we consider the word of God before us. We see that an abolitionist movement does not guarantee reconciliation. For long after the Emancipation Proclamation, the enmity of slavery continues to plague our nation and at times we seem further from true reconciliation than ever before. A special kind of leader and a special kind of victory is needed for true peace. We find that fulfillment in Jesus Christ, as we read from Luke 23:5-12:

But they were the more fierce, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place." 6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. 7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8 Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. 9 Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. 11 Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.

What does it take for reconciliation? First, perhaps we need to understand what reconciliation really means. In a simple way, it means to set on friendly terms again. To reconcile with someone is the opposite of continuing to hate them. The end result of reconciliation is peace. The first step toward peace is the defeat of hatred. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul described in detail how Jesus did this: “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near (Ephesians 2:15-17).”

Abolishing the hatred of sin doesn’t appear to make much sense to human reason. In order to defeat the hate, you must accept mistreatment. Paul tells us that Jesus abolished the enmity by taking it to the cross. In our Lenten series we’ve been tracing that very path from Gabbatha to Golgotha. Our text this evening tells us the specifics of what came along with abolishing the enmity. To accomplish that Jesus had to endure mistreatment. Luke lists three things. First, Jesus was falsely accused by the scribes. This was not just a random smattering of vain threats. Luke adds an adjective which tells us they were “vehement” accusations. Ever had someone publicly discredit your good name in front of others? It makes you angry doesn’t it? The scribes were doing that and more to Jesus. Not only were they trying to ruin His reputation publicly, they were trying to use those accusations to put Him to death. This was no game. This was a real, life and death situation.

The second thing we’re told is that Herod’s men treated Jesus with contempt. Another way of describing this act is that they were treating Jesus as worthless or despising His very existence. Essentially, the soldiers thought Jesus was a piece of dirt, that His rights or His value, meant nothing. This is really the opposite of Emancipation. The reason that slavery is abolished in America is that all peoples’ rights are considered valid. This was not the way it was for Jesus. His existence was despised.

The third act we’re told follows closely to the second. Luke adds that the soldiers also mocked Jesus. They had already discredited the person of Jesus, now they moved on to His work. They recognized the claim He made as the Son of God and King of the Jews. And so, with heavy sarcasm mixed with hatred, they ridiculed Him by arraying Him in a robe as if they believed Him. It’s certainly one thing to be rejected, but mocking takes things to the next level. At that point you’re not just showing disagreement, you’re openly harassing the target.

In all these things, we certainly see pure enmity. But, the question is, how did Jesus abolish it? You’d think that He could do it by force and power, and He would have a just reason for doing so. But, that was not His method, nor would it accomplish His end goal. Jesus abolished the hatred or by taking it on Himself, by assuming it. He answered them nothing, as Isaiah had prophesied of Jesus, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet, He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:3,7).”     

The battle for reconciliation did not come down to which side could fight most vehemently against the other. Jesus won by taking the sin on His own shoulders and not responding. That is what it takes to abolish enmity. Only Jesus could accomplish such a victory. The power of the cross in that respect is foreign to human governments and institutions. No one doubts that the Emancipation Proclamation was a moral and noble pursuit, but it wouldn’t have come to anything without the force of an army. And despite that great moment of history, the enmity continues to linger to this day. One cannot help but stand in awe and wonder at the work of Jesus on this path to the cross. By what seemed to be such nonsensical measures He was accomplishing eternal peace for the world. Even the many so-called nonviolent protests and movements of our modern day cannot hold a candle to the peace of Christ. Outward force and the use of armies may fade to background, but hateful thoughts and intentions in the heart still abound under the guise of nonviolence.  

This was the very purpose of our Savior’s Passion. He abolished the enmity of sin, a righteous punishment of God’s law on sinners. He took this punishment to the cross, on His own shoulders. He practiced true nonviolence, both in the heart and in action.

What does it take for reconciliation? We talk about being the bigger person. So often in conflicts, the first person to absorb the blows of the other and not react, ushers in the first steps toward peace. Hanging on to enmity makes the problem grow. This is certainly true of reconciliation between people. But, to have peace over sin, to have reconciliation with God, you need righteousness. One moment of sin allows enmity to have a place. As God warned Cain, so we should heed, “Sin crouches at the door, and its desire is for you.” In this regard, nothing has changed. We can boast all we want about worldly measures of peace and reconciliation, or how far we’ve progressed as people, but without complete righteousness it will not stand before God.

Jesus won on the cross, partly because He didn’t give into the accusations, mockings, and mistreatment. But, He also won because nothing they said against Him was true. He was perfect. He was righteous. No accusation stuck. The same is not true for us. All too often we practice our own versions of reconciliation, while allowing the enmity to exist. We should see this clearly for our lives because we have an example in our text.

How interesting it is that at the end Luke tells us that Pilate and Herod became friends, though they were once enemies. They were reconciled, but only in the way they wanted. The enmity still existed, it was simply covered up for a time. Pilate never sent Jesus to Herod because He trusted Herod as a friend. He did it to pass off the responsibility. Herod did not receive Jesus because he respected Pilate. He did it to gain some notoriety for himself and satisfy his ego. Pilate never respected Herod as a legitimate leader, Herod was a vassal ruler – a puppet king. Pilate and Herod really tried to play off of one another to get something they both wanted. Pilate wanted an excuse out of this trial. Herod wanted attention. They both won and so they became friends for a time.

Yet, if they had only set aside their petty desires for a moment, perhaps they would have seen true reconciliation through Christ. They were indeed close, having become friends through the common acquaintance of the Son of God. Yet, they were also worlds apart from the truth. Do you see yourself in their example or in Christ’s? Do you ever forgive someone, yet hang on to the enmity? Have you ever faked the handshake, the smile, or the hug of reconciliation, yet still seethed with anger in your heart? Are you willing to make excuses, to ignore Scripture, to block out your pastor or your trusted Christian friends just to hang onto the enmity? That’s not true reconciliation, it never leads to peace, and it’s not why Jesus died for you.

If we were on trial before Pilate and Herod, we would have no option but to plead guilty. It might be unkind for them to treat us the same way, with the various mistreatments, but eventually they would find something that against us that is absolutely true. Not so with Jesus. He endured it all – to the very point of the cross, up to His final breath on it, without blame. Because of that, nothing sticks to you anymore. You are reconciled. You have peace.

What does that look like?   

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? No One.

March 19, 2017 - John 2:13-25

Theme: Jesus Gets to the Footing of the Foundation
1) Of the Sinful Condition: Materialism and Mysticism
2) Of the True Temple: His Death and Resurrection

L. Ron Hubbard, a famous science fiction author once said that if anyone wanted to get rich they should start a religion. That idea proved prophetic for Hubbard, who eventually founded the religion of Scientology. Herein we see a sore spot on the area of religion. So often it is used for material gain. We’ve seen the story play out again and again. Leaders and teachers talk a big game. Some pastors ask their members to give and give and give, yet they have private jets and lavish mansions. They claim to care about the common person but end up being nothing more than cheap charlatans. Sadly, fringe religious movements have even led to things like: sexual abuse, financial ruin, and even mass murder, all in the name of a spiritual cause.

One time when I was down by the water front in Seattle, an individual who appeared to be monk of some Eastern religion approached me and wanted my attention. I figured it would at least be informative to see what he wanted or hear what he had to say. But, to my surprise, he skipped an introduction or explanation, grabbed my hand, put a notepad in my palm, and pointed to it. He may have been this direct because he didn’t seem to speak much English. But as I looked at the pad I saw that it was a pledge list. I was supposed to write down a certain amount of money to give in order to receive a blessing or prayer of some sort. I politely said “no thanks” and continued on my way but I certainly wasn’t short of any shock in how direct this guy was to peddle his religion for some money. I was amazed at the artificial feel of it all, but I probably shouldn’t have been. Religion has always been used by some for financial gain, and it always will be. 

Jesus had his own encounter with this sad reality, and in the Jewish temple of all places. Imagine that, the house of Jehovah, the place where Jesus was taken as a Child to be dedicated and where He received Simeon and Anna’s blessings, now become more of a circus attraction than anything else. Imagine the sacred Passover festival, more of a barnyard bonanza than a solemn occasion of repentance and forgiveness. It would be equivalent to having a wine bar in our narthex to help us prepare for the Lord’s Supper today.

John 2:13-25 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

Perhaps what was even more surprising was that Jesus cleansed the Temple in this way twice. Many think of the time right before His death, when it was once again the Passover. But the events of our text come from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Long before He as on the direct path to the cross, Jesus set the same theme much earlier. In fact, as we think about the Temple itself, Jesus was laying a foundation here in our text. He was telling people the very purpose of His coming. This was one of the first times Jesus spoke the Gospel message as He prophesied of His resurrection.

We talk about getting “off on the right foot” in a conversation or relationship. In a similar way, we also speak about the footing of a foundation, that is, the very beginning or the start. Jesus does both here. He begins a preaching relationship with the Jews and He firmly declares His intentions as the Messiah by getting at the footing of the foundation.

Part 1: Of the Sinful Condition: Materialism and Mysticism

Jesus began by describing the problem at hand. Well, He actually didn’t have to describe it so much because the Jews naturally revealed it. Jesus Himself chastised the Jews for turning His Father’s house into a place of merchandise. You see, there was more to the Temple complex than just the sanctuary proper. The Temple also had an outer courtyard where most activities took place. It was in this area that all this buying and selling took place. People would purchase an animal for sacrifice and then enter the Temple with it in order for the priest to offer it for their sins – or as was customary around the Passover time, as a remembrance of the Exodus.

I’m sure the merchants felt justified in their practices. After all, someone needed to make the animals available for sacrifice. It wasn’t the act of selling that incited Jesus’ wrath. Instead, it was the location. This buying and selling didn’t need to take place on Temple grounds, yet it did merely for the sake of convenience. This petty reason outweighed, in the peoples’ minds, the importance of keeping God’s house sacred.

Materialism in a place where it did not belong was offensive enough, but this was not the main problem the Jews had. The root of their sin comes out as the text moves along, and actually through their own words. After Jesus drives the merchants out the Jews ask Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" This very question shows how far the foundation of their faith had drifted away from the truth. Instead of asking for a basis of truth for Jesus’ actions, truth rooted in the Scriptures perhaps, the Jews demand a sign. Here we see again that struggle for physical power that the Jews so desperately desired, just as Paul elaborated on last weekend in our sermon text. 

They wanted Jesus to show them something miraculous as proof that He had the right to speak for God. But, because they had long discarded the Scriptures in place of their own traditions, they completely missed that Jesus wasn’t just speaking for God, He was God! This was His house that they had made a mockery. They had sinned directly against Jesus and now they were going to question Him about it.

By driving out the money-changers from the Temple Jesus exposed much more than just materialism. He exposed the improper foundation upon which the Jews had established their faith. Their materialism and greed were merely symptoms of the greater spiritual blight, namely that their faith was based in signs, and not Scripture.

John goes on to tell us that many ended up believing in Jesus because of signs He did, but this didn’t mean much to Jesus. John talks about this at the end of our text. It’s an interesting section because it’s the only time in the Bible that I know of which talks about God believing. Verse 24 literally says that Jesus did not believe, or trust, because He knew what men were like. Essentially, the strong number who believed in Jesus because of signs didn’t mean much. He knew how fickle experience-based faith can be. Faith founded on the footing of signs and miracles is like the seed of the sower that springs up quickly yet withers just as fast because has no root. It is not founded in the rich soil of the Gospel promise, but rather only grows to the extent that a person can see, observe, and experience the signs which they so strongly desire.

Part 2: Of the True Temple: His Death and Resurrection

The Jews were looking for the wrong thing in order to believe. Yet, Jesus accommodated their desire in order to do all He can to lead them to faith. If a sign was what they wanted, a sign was what they would get. He would give them the sign of the Resurrection. Jesus concealed this sign in symbolic language, likening His body to the Temple, because they were not ready to hear it directly yet. Jesus also employed a tactic that He used often in His ministry. He used an illustration and declared the truth indirectly so that the people would seek out more answers. It was meant to leave a persistent feeling of wonderment to drive them to the Word of God for answers. 

At first hearing the same thing we would probably conclude the same as the Jews. How would Jesus destroy the actual Temple and bring it back in three days? It helps to have John’s anecdotal explanation. But dig a bit deeper, investigate a little more, and what Jesus says not only makes sense, it builds and strengthens one’s faith and knowledge. Think about the single purpose of God’s Temple. In the simplest explanation, it was the place where God dwelt and interacted with people. This was the place. Not the king’s palace, not the marketplace, not the shepherd’s field, or any other location. The Temple was God’s dedicated dwelling place. It doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal Himself in other places, He certainly did. But, the Temple was set apart for that specific purpose.

Jesus took on that very role, in a literal way, when He was born. He was Immanuel, “God with us.” Jesus became the Temple of God in a way that could never be duplicated. He was the direct presence of God on earth, with men. Because of this, it was entirely appropriate for Jesus to compare Himself with the Temple in Jerusalem. What a massive blunder by the Jews to miss this! For generations and centuries, Temple worship was all about preparing God’s people to receive His Promised Messiah. Well, here He was, right in front of them, and all they could think about was the building. They were worried at Jesus’ words too. The Temple building was precious to them; who would dare think to destroy it? The Pharisees actually tried to use Jesus’ statement against Him later, by trying to make Jesus out as an insurrectionist who only wanted anarchy against Rome. But, no one would actually believe this lie.

Eyes and ears focused on Jesus’ words made the difference. John tells us that the disciples thought of this event after Jesus’ resurrection when they had seen His full work completed and explained. And what was the thing that kept the disciples attached to Jesus? The Scriptures. In contrast to asking for signs, John tells us that the disciples believed the words which Jesus spoke to them. Amazing, what happens when sinners actually listen to the Words of Christ. And don’t think the disciples were something special. Their examples in the Gospels are riddled with the same sign-based attitude that these Jews had. Why shouldn’t we naturally see that too? The disciples were raised in that same culture.

The difference was made by the Word of God. True enough that the twelve disciples actually saw the resurrected Jesus, but their faith was only strengthened when the Scriptures confirmed the signs. Remember Peter and John initially doubted the women’s Easter message. Thomas needed to see the nail prints and spear wound before he confessed, “My Lord and my God!”      

And so we ask the Holy Spirit to establish our faith in Jesus on the same, sure footing of His Word. We may not wrestle with merchants in our sanctuary, but we still have plenty of distractions and foes that could lead us away from the cross. A good place to start in examining your heart is the same place where Jesus started. Why are you in His temple? Certainly, not to make money as the Jews were. But, perhaps your reasons are less blatant but equally dangerous. Do you sometimes come to church not so much to hear the preached Word but because you’re worried about what others may think? If you’re absent for too long, then maybe you’ll be judged or looked down upon. I hope not, but it does happen.

Or maybe you come because this is your chance to visit and catch up with friends, acquaintances, or relatives? God’s sacred house becomes more about socializing than hearing and receiving grace. No one doubts the benefits of friendly visiting and building relationships with fellow Christians, but should it overshadow what is most important? Perhaps a person’s view of church is that it’s not really all that important. After all, it’s often boring and usually pretty much the same week to week. It’d be a lot easier if it was more exciting and entertaining. And yet, that feeds directly into the sinful flesh’s desire to make experience and entertainment most important.  

There are many ways for us to stumble into a sign-based footing as well. When God’s word rebukes you, do you typically have the same response the Jews did, “What will you show me God, so that I should listen to You?” That can happen more easily than we think and it can be a lot more dangerous than we think.

Jesus gives us the same sign He gave the Jews - His resurrection. He even did it twice, remember the sign of Jonah? Three days and three nights in the belly of the fish – just as the Son of Man was three days in the heart of the earth. But, even a sign of the resurrection is not enough. At the end of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, remember what Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced even if one rise from the dead (Luke 16:31).”

It was what the resurrection meant that made the difference. What beautiful depth there is to its meaning. Your sins are taken away. Death itself is sealed up in hell and conquered, Jesus Himself went there to declare it so. The meaning of the resurrection continues to strengthen and uphold you through trials and difficulties today, by telling you that each day you are one step closer to your true home in heaven. Let Satan rage all He will, you have eternal life through Jesus! The resurrection is not some mystical sign, it has depth and meaning; reality, but only through the Scriptures.

Only the Word of God is sufficient as a foundation for strong faith in Jesus. The Word is true and lasting, unchanging and unshifting. It means you don’t have to believe because you’ve seen it with your eyes, or because God has proven it enough for your liking. That kind of belief is one that demands. The Word is the only foundation for belief that trusts. Amen.

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