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.