Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

In this Resurrection Sunday message, we continue with Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians as he reminds them of the gospel he had previously preached to them. The gospel is *central* to our faith. It is foundational, it is factual, and it is transformational. Hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ!

The Gospel

Posted: April 4, 2021 in 1 Corinthians
Tags: , ,

1 Corinthians 15:1-11, “The Gospel”

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Today is Easter, the day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is the day that marks Christianity apart from every religion in the world, the day without which we would not have Christianity. Although Christmas gets far more press and cultural attention (even having a full month+ designated for shopping and special music), Easter has far more importance. After all, Christmas is only special because Jesus rose from the dead. If He didn’t, no one would have cared how He was born. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event of history, and it is the event that we celebrate this day and every Sunday.

What’s the big deal? The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is what makes the gospel the gospel. Without Jesus rising from the dead, there is no good news to share about Him. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no proof of His victory over death, no declaration of His deity, no eyewitness apostles, no reason for Paul to traipse around the Roman empire, nothing. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no news to share, much less good news. At that point, all we have is the reality of our sins against a holy God with no way of resolving them. We are left with hopelessness and judgment. We are left with the futile religions of men, trying to prove ourselves righteous and always failing. Those who try to earn their way into heaven are like trucks stuck in the mud, spinning their wheels wildly, getting only dirtier and deeper into the muck. We need a rescue and a Rescuer, and without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have none.

But praise God, Jesus is risen from the dead! Jesus is alive today, just as He has been alive for the nearly 2000 years since He first came out of the Jerusalem tomb. And because He is, we have good news to share and to believe. Not just “kind of” good news; the best news of all: the news of God’s salvation!

This was the news that Paul shared with the Corinthian church at the beginning of Chapter 15. Paul had just concluded his discussion of spiritual gifts, which came as a part of his longer discussion of orderly worship within the local church. On a broader scale, this was part of a section in the letter where Paul was answering some specific questions from Corinth – subjects he addressed after dealing with several issues of discipline. Paul had covered a full array of topics with this local congregation ranging from internal division to marriages to prophecy, and everything in-between.

At this point in the letter, Paul started to bring things to a close, and as he did, he addressed one more major subject – something that had been on his mind since the letter’s beginning. Back in Chapter 1, Paul wrote how the message of the cross was foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1:18). Some of the Christians in Corinth had begun to stumble on some of the basics of the gospel itself – something foundational to our faith, without which we cannot be saved. Now, with the other issues out of the way, Paul turned to that which was most important: the wisdom of God seen in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It quickly becomes apparent that the primary stumbling black of some in Corinth was the physical literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the ramifications that it held for the resurrections of those who believe. But before Paul can look at the details of the resurrection, he first needed to establish its place within the gospel message. This is what he does at the beginning of Chapter 15 as he reminds the Christians in Corinth about the centrality of the gospel to the Christian faith.

What a marvelous text to examine on Resurrection Sunday! The events that took place that glorious Sunday morning make it possible for us to be saved. The things that took place that day ensure that there is a gospel to share, that there is good news to tell. We have that good news and it is glorious! It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is essential to everything we have in God and it is all about Jesus.

Praise God this Resurrection Sunday for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

  • The gospel is foundational (1-2).

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, …

  1. What was the first thing Paul wrote about the gospel? He had already preached it once to Corinth. He was about to preach it to them all over again. One of the oldest strategies in public speaking is this: “Tell them what you’re about to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” Paul was in the “tell them what you told them” phase. He had already given them the gospel, so what he was about to write to them should seem very familiar. Why? Because it wasn’t going to change. What Paul had originally declared, that was what he was going to write.
    1. Why? Because the gospel does not change! No matter who the audience is, no matter what the preferences of our culture may be, the message of Jesus does not change. Certain methods of sharing the news might, but the message (i.e., the content) does not. How so? Today, we have technology of which Paul could not have imagined. His method of worldwide publishing was to write a letter by hand, have a bunch of people copy it, and then send the copies around the Roman empire individually, hand-carrying it from church to church as people walked to different cities. Today, all we need to do is click a button on Facebook or Twitter, etc., and it goes to a worldwide audience immediately. Paul preached to many cities, but he could only preach to one city at a time. For us, anyone with a cell phone can instantly post a global livestream. The methods are incredibly advanced. Even the media can vary. In addition to the spoken and written word is video, infographics, picture books, etc. Even things like puzzles and Rubik-cube like toys have been used to share the gospel. The news of Jesus goes out in a myriad of ways undreamt of by Paul or any of the original apostles.
    2. But the content does not change. The content must not change. The gospel is what the gospel is, and we have neither the right nor the authority to alter it. Some want to water it down, hoping to find a way to make it more palatable to the world, or at least not as offensive as it might be perceived. That is not our job! It is not our authority. We are stewards of this news; not the originators or owners of it. We cannot change what God has set forth.
    3. Beloved, beware that you do not change the message! Likewise, beware of any pastor, teacher, or evangelist who does change the message! In his letter to the Galatians, Paul put a warning in the strongest of terms: Galatians 1:8–9, “(8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” How important is it to keep the message of the gospel unchanged? So much so, that even if Paul changed it, he was under the curse of God! Let us beware and be careful to leave the gospel intact, as given us in the Scripture.
  2. That is a lot of talking around the message of the gospel. What is the message itself? Paul will get to the details in a moment, but for now, let us look at the big picture. The words “gospel” and “preached” come from the same root word in Greek. The noun is euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), in which you might hear the word “evangelism.” It is a compound word (or, at least a strengthened form of one word) placing a word for “good” in front of another word for “news / declaration.” In fact, that word is the same root from which we get our word “angel,” as an angel is nothing more than an heavenly being with a message from God. The angel brings divine news. So the eu-angel (~evangel) is the good declaration, the good news of God concerning Jesus Christ.
    1. Why does this matter? Because we tend to use the word “gospel” as an adjective for all sorts of things. There is gospel music, gospel literature, gospel action, gospel fill-in-the-blank, as if it is just another word in a Christian version of “Mad Libs.” And that is just the church; our culture uses the word in a different way, often as a synonym for “truth,” as if we might read a book that purports to be the gospel about politics, or sports, or other such things. This needs to stop. We need to understand this single point: the true gospel speaks only of Jesus Christ! If we are not referring to Jesus, we are not referring to the gospel at all. May we not allow this glorious word to be so easily diluted in our speech! Jesus is the gospel, the good news of God. Anything less is not the gospel at all.

…which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, …

  1. The Corinthians received the news of Jesus. They did not reject it, but believed it as Paul declared it. Likewise, they stood in the news of Jesus, having planted their feet in the truth that was preached, not moving from that spot of faith. And because of that, they were currently being saved through/via that same news of Jesus. The ESV brings out the present tense grammar in verse 2 as Paul wrote, “by which you are being saved.” More than a one-time act of forgiveness, the effect of the gospel of Jesus upon the Corinthian Christians was present and ongoing.
  2. The Bible speaks of salvation in three tenses: past, present, future. (1) We are saved from our sins of the past by being justified by Jesus. His death on the cross serves as the punishment for our sins and when we place our faith in Him, He justifies us, wiping out our debt against God. (2) We are presently being saved from our sinful nature in the process of sanctification. In this, Jesus frees us from the power that our sinful nature has on us, that we need not give in to the slavery of temptation. (3) We will be saved in the future in the day we are removed from the presence of sin through the act of glorification. One day, our bodies will be resurrected along with Jesus (which Paul addresses later in the chapter), and in that day we will live in Jesus’ kingdom altogether free from our sinful condition.
  3. Paul’s point for Corinth was that they already experienced the first two tenses. Because they received the gospel and stood in it, they were justified by Christ. They were truly forgiven of their sins and made new creations by the grace of God. And because of their ongoing faith, they were currently being saved, being continually sanctified by the grace of God as they were made more and more into the likeness of Christ. God had done a mighty work among them, in which they could rejoice!

Yet there was one disclaimer…

…if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

  1. The “if” stands out to us in a major way. All of what Paul wrote was true for Corinth, if they held fast to that gospel. It needs to be pointed out that the grammar used by Paul indicates that this was not a strong fear of his for the church. He was certain that this was indeed the belief for the Corinthians. Even so, their one guarantee of their salvation was to “hold fast” to the gospel preached to them, not being those who “believed in vain.” Make no mistake: there are some who believe in vain. There are some people who walk through the doors of a church, who know all the right words, and who can even recite some basic Biblical doctrine about Jesus (particularly on an Easter Sunday morning) yet who do not hold fast to the message. They do not themselves believe. For them, the words they know are empty words – the faith they pretend is a façade. There is a theological term for this person: a false convert. Maybe he raised his hand during a preacher’s invitation wanting to go to heaven, but he did not surrender himself to Jesus as his Lord. Maybe she was told she could fill the spiritual void in her heart, but she did not turn from her sins to follow Jesus, never truly believing upon Christ for who He is. Whatever their faith was in, it was not in the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for their sins and risen from the dead. They may have believed in something, but they did not believe the true gospel. All their other belief was in vain.
    1. Don’t let that be you! Especially on Easter, on Resurrection Sunday, take the time to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Take a hard look at your beliefs and determine if you hold fast to the gospel, the good news about Jesus. Only those who do have any assurance of their salvation. If your hope in heaven in based on anything other than Jesus, then you have no hope of heaven. At that point, you are not being saved. But you can Hold fast to the gospel of Christ!

You can’t get much more important than this! The gospel is foundational to our eternal salvation. It is the access we have to the promises of God. It is the assurance of our deliverance from sin and future in presence of God. It is essential to believe and to keep.

  • The gospel is factual (3-8).

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: …

  1. In verse 1, Paul already wrote how he preached the gospel to the church at Corinth, as this was the message he was going to deliver to them all over again. Guess what? It was a message that was delivered to Paul himself. Paul did not invent the message; he (like every other gospel preacher) was a messenger. It had been given to him; he passed it along to others.
  2. That Paul “received” this message confirms that it existed long before the writing of 1 Corinthians. Paul likely learned this formulation from the initial Christians he met in Damascus following his own conversion, some 20 years earlier. Considering that Paul wrote this letter around 54-55AD, having first ministered in the city around 51AD, we can place his conversion somewhere around 36AD. This means that a fully formed Christian creed (confession of faith) existed outside of Jerusalem within 3-5 years of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. – For all the skeptics who claim that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a myth that developed over time, the historical facts simply do not allow that as a possibility. It takes years and even decades for myths to develop. In this case, doctrine was being formulated and taught within only a couple of years from the event itself. Presidential terms last for a longer period of time than what it took for the gospel to be systematically taught to new believers! – It underscores the idea that the gospel is historical fact. This good news of God is not “too good to be true;” it is good because it is true.

…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

  1. Christ.” Note that Paul gives a title rather than a name. Not that anything is wrong with the name of Jesus. Far from it! The name “Jesus” encapsulates the gospel itself, meaning “YHWH is salvation,” or, the shortened form of “Yah saves.” This is the name specifically chosen by God during Mary’s pregnancy for His only begotten Son. It is the name that is above every other name. It is wonderful! But for Paul’s purposes here, it was also wonderfully common. “Jesus” is the anglicized Greek equivalent of “Joshua,” a name extremely common among the first century Jews. Imagine if Paul wrote that “Josh died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” While theologically correct, his readers might have asked, “Which one?” They may have known a dozen men named Joshua/Jesus, and they needed some distinction. Paul could have done this legitimately by writing “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was the name that Peter used in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22), but Paul didn’t. He wrote “Christ.” Why? Because this specific title has a specific meaning. The Christ is the Messiah, the Man anointed by God to be King of Israel and the Savior of the world. The Christ/Messiah is the Man to whom Scripture points as the fulfillment of the promises of God, stretching all the way back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. This is a Person of great importance – this is the Man upon whom rests the fate of the universe – this is the Man at the center of the good news of God. The gospel is about Christ.
    1. Don’t gloss over that! The gospel is not about life-fulfillment, good feelings, material riches, or anything that this world offers. The gospel is not even ultimately about eternal life in heaven. That is a benefit of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself. The gospel is about Christ. It is about the Lord Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah. It is about who He is and what He has done. The good news of God all about Him; not us.
    2. This gets us back to the warning against changing the gospel. If we make it all about us and what we can get out of God, we are no longer preaching/believing the gospel. If the preaching is all about seeing what we can gain (be it prosperity, physical healing, supernatural power, etc.), it is not gospel preaching because true gospel preaching is going to be about Jesus as the Christ. We dare not dilute nor diverge from that message. It is far too important!
  2. Christ “died.” Again, remember whom it is of which we speak. Christ the King, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the God-Man Himself died. The One who existed before time began, the 2nd Person of the Trinity who had no beginning, the One through whom God created the world – this Man died. That alone is a mind-blowing thought. How is it possible that the Christ could die? Without question, this was unthinkable in the minds of the 1st century Jews. They anticipated Messiah’s arrival, looking forward to a great military victory He would bring over the Romans and restore Israel to its kingdom and prominence. Certainly, this was on the minds of the original disciples, which was why they scattered so quickly when Jesus was arrested. It was why they hid themselves behind locked doors when Jesus died on the cross. Their hopes for Messianic reign had been dashed, so they thought. The Man whom they trusted was gone. He had been bruised, beaten, and nailed to the cross, and it was upon the cross that He died. The weight of this was crushing to them. Looking back 2000 years later, we might chastise them saying, “But Jesus warned them. They should have listened!” Yes, they should have…but they were humans just like us. They did not want to believe that Jesus could suffer and die on the cross, but He did, and they were devastated.
  3. But there was a reason for Jesus’ death, one which we dare not forget. This too is part of the gospel. Specifically, “Christ died for our sins.” This is what we remember on Good Friday, though we dare not limit it only to then. Jesus died as a sacrifice, as a substitution. And this is why it had to be Christ, and not just anyone. Because it was Jesus, because it was the Son of God incarnate as the Christ, the death that Jesus died served as a sufficient substitute for sinful people like you and me. Because we live in 21st century western culture (and a primarily Gentile one at that), we have a difficult time understanding the need for sacrifice. To us, “sacrifice” is something that we give to another. It might even be valuable, like the sacrifice of time or money. It might even be the sacrifice of the life of a soldier for the country which he loves. But it is a one-sided sacrifice – something without a correlating response. To the ancient Hebrews following the law of Moses, “sacrifice” was something far different. That kind of sacrifice required blood – it required the life of an animal that served as a judicial substitute for one’s own sins. You had sinned against God, and the wages of your sin was death. But you couldn’t personally pay that price, for obvious reasons. So, you put an animal in your place, and the death that you should have received was administered to that animal, and you knew the blood that came pouring out from its neck should have been yours. Of course, there was a problem: you kept sinning and you had to keep giving animal sacrifices. Moreover, the value of an animal never equals the value of a person. Thus, the sacrifice was always insufficient. – This is where the death of Christ comes in. His sacrifice is His death was given in place of your death. The punishment He received should have been your punishment. The blood that poured out His body should have been yours, but it was His – and because it was His, it serves not only as a sufficient payment for your sins, but an overwhelming payment. As the hymn says, “Jesus paid it all.”
  4. Christ was “buried.” This too, is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it is a reminder that Jesus was really dead. It is a reminder that even His initial disciples believed it was over. When Jesus died on the cross, it seemed as if all their hopes had died with Him. As the two men walking on the road to Emmaus on Sunday morning said to Jesus (before knowing it was Him), “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” (Lk 24:21). They hoped He was the Messiah, but in their minds, how could He be if He was dead? They needed a living Christ for the promises of God to be true. With Jesus dead, those hopes had died. Thus, they buried Him. Joseph of Arimathea gave his own unused tomb for the body of Jesus, and he and Nicodemus the Pharisee packed Jesus’ body with 100 pounds of spices, wrapped it according to Jewish custom, and rolled a massive stone in front of the door. They would have done none of it if they expected Jesus to rise. Moreover, there was no chance they would have done it if they had any suspicion that Jesus might still somehow be alive! Of course, the Roman centurion had already verified the death of Jesus by piercing Jesus’ side with his spear, but if neither the cross nor the spear had killed Jesus, surely the smothering of the all the spices and wrapping would have finished off the job! The point? Jesus was truly dead. The price was truly paid. Without the real and verified death of Jesus, we have no payment for our sins. But it was real, it was verified…to the point of His literal burial in a literal tomb.
  5. Christ “rose again.” This is where the good news becomes good! This is why the gospel is the gospel! On the third day after Jesus gave His life on the cross for our sins, Jesus rose again to new and glorious life. We remember the Biblical account, how the women who believed in Jesus still wanted to somehow attend to His body in devotion, even though they did not have the opportunity on the day He died. The sun had set and the Sabbath had begun, so the women had no choice but to wait until Sunday morning. They started out at their earliest opportunity, right as light was beginning to break, going to the tomb with their spices and material. How they were supposed to move the stone was a part of the puzzle they hadn’t yet figured out, but all they knew is that they needed to get to Jesus’ grave. As it turns out, the stone wasn’t a problem at all! An angel appeared, rolling back the stone, revealing that the tomb was already empty (Mt 28:2). Jesus had already departed the tomb, having been risen from the dead, an event unheard of in all history. Several people had been raised from the dead in the past (some by the hand of Jesus Himself), but none had ever risen from the dead by their own power. Jesus did. Just as Jesus willingly gave up His life, committing His spirit into the hands of God the Father, so did Jesus take up His life again on the third day!
    1. What does it show? Everything! It shows that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). It shows that Jesus truly is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It shows that Jesus is the One who will one day judge the world (Acts 17:30). Moreover, it shows that the price for sin has been paid that that we have the promise of new life in His name! The resurrection of Jesus is the Easter story and it is the reason that the gospel of Christ is good news.
    2. Is this the news you believe? This is the news by which we can be saved, but we will never be saved if we do not believe it. Think of it: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave nearly 2000 years ago in the past. His sacrifice has already been completed in full. The work has been done, but not everyone is saved. Why hasn’t everyone in the past 2000 years automatically been given the promise and assurance of heaven? Because not everyone believes. Jesus’ work has been done but it is only effectual for those who have faith. The apostle John put it this way: 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” You need to believe!
  6. Note: all of it was “according to the Scriptures.” Nothing that happened to Jesus was according to random chance; it was all according to the Scriptures. It was all according to the revealed plan of God. Which Scriptures? Paul does not list them here. And for good reason…there are far too many! There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of the earthly ministry of Jesus, ranging from His family line to the city of His birth to the events surrounding His death, and more. As to the specific Scriptures that speak of His death, burial, and resurrection, one need look no further than Isaiah 53. The entire chapter speaks of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus, but is also specific on these lines: Isaiah 53:9–10, “(9) And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” Jesus died, having been crucified next to two robbers (most likely terrorists). Jesus was buried, placed by the rich Joseph of Arimathea in his own tomb. Jesus rose again, having seen His “offspring” of the church and having His days prolonged. This was the plan of God regarding His Son and it came true to the letter!

This is the message regarding Jesus, the good news of the gospel. And it is good! But is it true? The best story in the world does nothing for us if it is just a fairy tale. How can we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead? That is what Paul goes on to describe. We can know this is true because Jesus was seen. His physical person was witnessed not just by one, but by many people.

5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

  1. That “Cephas” (Peter) is mentioned first among the apostles is not just a matter of historical record; it is a demonstration of great grace. We need to acknowledge that Peter was not the first person to see the risen Lord Jesus; that privilege was given to Mary Magdalene and the other women who steadfastly followed Him and believed in Him. But Paul isn’t writing here of every witness; he names the ones that the Christians in Corinth would have known. Considering they had a personal experience at some point with Peter/Cephas, it is only fitting that Paul begins the list of eyewitnesses with him. The issue of grace is important due to Peter’s last interaction with Jesus prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. After boasting how he would never leave Jesus, how all the other disciples might abandon Him but that Peter himself would never deny Him, Peter had a massive failure. The “mighty” Peter, the de facto leader of the apostles did deny Jesus in a major way. He crumbled at the questions of a little girl, along with others at a campfire within eyeshot of Jesus. Like so many of us, Peter temporarily turned his back on the Man he claimed as his Lord. Peter failed.
    1. The good news for Peter? His failure was not final! Jesus died for the sins of Peter, just like Jesus died for your sins and mine. When Jesus rose from the grave, He made special effort to ensure that Peter knew that Jesus was risen. Peter saw Jesus, and later even had a special meeting with the Lord restoring him to full ministry. Peter found forgiveness in the risen Lord Jesus, just like anyone can.
  2. It wasn’t only Peter who saw Jesus, it was all “the twelve.” Interestingly, the official “twelve” had dwindled to eleven after the betrayal by Judas Iscariot. That said, there were other men present, as acknowledged by Peter when Matthias was officially added to the number prior to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:26). But just as there was grace shown to Peter in Jesus’ resurrection, so was grace shown to all the apostles. Remember that although Peter denied Jesus in a particular way, all the apostles abandoned Jesus. Aside from a brief time when John came to stand at the foot of the cross, all the men who faithfully followed Jesus for three years were scattered like scared sheep. Even after Jesus’ death, they still feared for their lives, hiding behind locked doors. Yet locked doors are no problem for the risen Christ! Jesus appeared in their midst, showing them the wounds in His hands and side. And He did it not just once, but twice. Thomas was not initially with the disciples when Jesus first appeared and despite the glorious news told to him, he stubbornly refused to believe for a full week. Only then did Jesus once more appear specifically for Thomas, to which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
    1. Isn’t it good to know that the original apostles were not “perfect” Christians? They were men just like us. They had failings like every man and woman today. And Jesus gave them grace in His resurrection…just like Jesus offers us grace in His resurrection. This is the good news! How we need to believe!

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

  1. When did this meeting with “five hundred brethren” take place? Scripture does not directly tell us. Many scholars believe it to be the gathering in Galilee when Jesus gave the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). Paul was less interested in giving the details of the meeting than he was giving the Corinthians other references and eyewitness testimonies. He was basically telling them, “You don’t have to take my word for it, or even Peter’s word. Go ask folks from the crowd of 500. Most of them are still alive today. Go check it out for yourselves.” According to Hebrew law, it only took the agreement of 2-3 witnesses for a matter to be established as judicial fact. A man could even be put to death on the testimony of 2-3 witnesses (Dt 17:6). How many witnesses did Paul name thus far? 512 and counting! The amount of eyewitness testimony was overwhelming.
  2. Objection: “But it’s just eyewitness testimony. That doesn’t prove anything.” On the contrary, yes it does. There are two ways of establishing fact: scientific testing by which phenomenon can be reproduced, or judicial/historical testimony as in a court of law. Historical events, by definition, happened in the past and cannot be reproduced scientifically. There is no experiment one can set up to “prove” that Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. What we can do is look at the historical documents and the testimonies of the people who lived at the time. The same thing happens in criminal courts every day all over our nation. Evidence is presented to a judge, sometimes the only evidence being eyewitness testimony. The testimony of one person may not be afforded much credibility, but the more people who corroborate a story, the more likely it is true. — How much eyewitness testimony is available regarding the risen Jesus? An astounding amount! Literally hundreds of people saw Him alive, and at the time Paul wrote this letter, those testimonies could be verified.

7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

  1. The fact that “James” is mentioned is incredibly important. This is not either of the two apostles named James during Jesus’ earthly ministry; this was the James who was the half-brother of Jesus, who ended up being a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem. If there were anyone prone to be a skeptic of Jesus’ claims of deity as the Messiah, His siblings topped the list. Sure, they would have heard from Joseph and Mary that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, but it’s doubtful they would have believed too many of the stories. They certainly did not believe in Him during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Jn 7:5). Why would they? They were his brothers. They grew up next to Him, they played games with Him, they maybe even attempted to play pranks on Him. They would not have given Jesus more authority than absolutely necessary. No brother does. Yet something Something massive changed James’ mind to where he was convinced that his own half-brother was God and that James owed Jesus his worship. What could it be, other than the resurrection? Jesus “was seen by James” and it changed his life.
  2. Who were the other “apostles” mentioned here? We cannot say exactly. The official twelve were already mentioned by Paul. This second grouping surely included the twelve as well as other men like James and Jude (as the half-brothers of Jesus), Justus (as the other potential choice from Matthias), and perhaps some other men who had been with Jesus in His earthly ministry, thought not named with the twelve. The overall point is clear: the risen Jesus was seen by all kinds of people, and even the people who were most skeptical towards Him during His ministry believed. They were converted, being absolutely convinced that Jesus is the risen Messiah.

8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

  1. Finally, there was Paul. Paul’s own conversion is recorded three times in the book of Acts, as his personal testimony was something he often shared. And for good reason: it was powerful! (Something which he details in the next several verses.) But the point here was that Paul was apparently the final eyewitness of the risen Jesus. Paul was not part of the original group of disciples, nor was he included in the group of men and women who came to faith in Jesus in the earliest days of the church. On the contrary, as Saul of Tarsus, Paul was steadfastly against Jesus…yet Jesus still appeared to him. And like a baby being born unexpectedly, so was Paul reborn as an apostle of Jesus Christ, an eyewitness to the risen Lord. He could add his own voice to the chorus of testimonies surrounding Jesus.

Question: What about today? We are nearly 2000 years removed from Jesus’ resurrection. Any eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb is long-dead and buried. Sure, there are occasional stories of visions, of varying credibility. Some stories are plainly lies; others are perhaps grounded in truth. But as for anyone laying eyes on the physical resurrected person of Jesus of Nazareth? Those days are over. 

Yet it does not stop us from testifying of the risen Jesus. (1) We still have the eyewitness testimonies in the pages of the New Testament. The four gospel accounts are based on the testimonies of the men and women who were there. Paul’s own letters speak of his experience, as well as the book of Acts. The other epistles testify of the authors’ experiences with the risen Jesus. We may not have access to the 500 men and women mentioned by Paul to Corinth, but we do have the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles! (2) We have our own personal testimonies of Jesus Christ. No, we have not seen the risen person of Jesus, but we have experienced Him through faith. Every single born-again Christian has a real relationship with the real, resurrected Jesus Christ. It cannot be otherwise, if you are saved. If you do not believe in the risen Jesus, you are not born-again, period. That means we pray to the living God. That means we interact with the living God. It means we have been saved by the living God, known in the person of the risen Jesus. You can testify to someone else of Jesus because you know that Jesus is risen from the dead! (And if you don’t, you can know Him today!)

Jesus’ resurrection is a fact! This is not some myth based on the imaginations of deluded men. This is not invented dogma by a cultic group. This is historical, factual truth.

  • The gospel is transformational (9-11).

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

  1. Here is where Paul writes of the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on his own life. Yes, he was the last to be called by Jesus as an apostle and eyewitness, but it was a privilege to be called! Paul was “not worthy to be called,” but he was. Paul “persecuted the church of God,” but he was given grace. How much grace? An abundance! Three times in one verse, Paul writes of the grace of God that he received. Grace made Paul who he was as an apostles – the grace of God was effectual in Paul’s life, not being in vain – the grace of God enabled him to engage in ministry. Everything that the Corinthians knew of Paul was all due to the grace of God. Grace transformed Paul totally. It changed him from a persecutor to one who was often persecuted. It changed him from one who hunted the church to one who planted the church. The grace of God changed everything!
  2. How did this grace come? Through the gospel! How might we be transformed? Through the gospel! When we respond to the good news of Jesus Christ, we are showered with the grace of God. His grace forgives us of every sin, cleansing us from our past, making us who we now are as new creations. His grace enables us to live for His glory, empowering us by the Holy Spirit to do things we never thought possible. Who were we, other than wretched sinners? Who was I, other than a wretched sinner? And apart from the grace of Jesus, that is what I still am! But in Christ? I am saved! Because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, I am what I am, sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit that I might live to the glory of God. That is my testimony and it is the testimony of all who believe! 

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

  1. Paul brings it back to where he began. He gave this church the gospel and he could testify of the risen Jesus and the grace that Jesus provides. Even if Corinth heard it from someone else, it didn’t change the message. Jesus changes lives and eternal destinies because Christ died, was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. It happened with Paul, and it happened with Corinth.

It can happen with anyone. Why? Because the gospel is transformational.

Conclusion:

What better news to share on Resurrection Sunday than the good news? This is the central message of the Christian faith and it is all about Jesus. It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is what we celebrate not just one day per year, nor one day per week; it is to be celebrated every day of our lives! Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave, we are saved. That is something that ought to come out in our prayer and devotions every morning or evening, or whenever you spend time with the Lord. This is the news that ought to be on the tips of our tongues, ready to share with whomever the Lord puts in front of us. If this is the news that changed Paul – if this is the news that changed you – then this is the news that can change anyone.

Christian: hold fast to what you have heard! Do not underestimate the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let it be that to which you cling every morning and every evening. This is what we need to preach to ourselves, all day every day. Why? Because we sin all day every day! How many times do you and I fail even before breakfast in the morning, much less through the rest of the day? Our thoughts turn to selfishness, or we get upset at the news headlines, or we get irritated at traffic, or at the dog, or at a half-dozen other things before we even get to the office (or wherever). It is in those times we need to remember Christ came, Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again. Jesus did all of that according to the plan of God, that God would be glorified and that we might be bathed in His grace. It is in the truth of that message, by the work of that Person, that we are saved and assured. Hold fast! Hold to it like a life-preserver in the middle of an ocean, like the parachute to which you cling as you jump from the plane. However you do it, just do it! Hold fast to the gospel, clinging tightly to the risen Jesus. He is our only hope.

Some of you do not yet know that hope. You can. You should. Maybe you have been a false convert, showing up in church but believing in vain. Or maybe you know that you haven’t believed, thinking that it did not affect you. I implore you: cast yourself upon the mercies of Jesus today! You have heard the good news. Jesus is the Christ of God, crucified for your sins and risen from the dead. This is a historical fact and your lack of faith does not change that. One day you will stand before Jesus in all of His glory, and you will be judged for your life based on how you responded to the gospel. Once you’ve heard the truth you cannot “unhear” it. Today you know and you must respond. Respond in humility and faith! Respond with repentance and trust. Turn away from your sins and trust Christ today.

Which is the Blind One?

Posted: June 22, 2015 in John
Tags: ,

John 9:35-41, “Which is the Blind One?”

Introduction:
There’s nothing like a bit of irony.  Old kid’s poem: “One bright day in the middle of the night, two dead men got up to fight.  Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.  A deaf policeman heard the noise & came and arrested those two dead boys.  If you don’t believe this lie to be true, ask the blind man, he saw it too.” 

The Bible is full of ironic situations along the same line.  Jesus taught that it was the last who would be first & the first last.  He taught that it’s only by losing our lives that we can save them, etc.  In the gospel of John, the same thing is beautifully illustrated for us as it is a blind man who truly sees, while the supposed-seeing are really those who are blind.  A bit of paradox perhaps, but it certainly makes the point.  If the blind man sees the Messiah while the Pharisees cannot, which one is truly blind?  Which one would you rather be: the rejected outcast who comes to faith in Christ, or the prideful elite who cannot even see their need to be saved?  Spiritual blindness is the worst kind of blindness of all.  That’s a blindness that has an eternal consequence.

Our text comes at the end of what was likely a very long day for a formerly blind beggar.  We’re never told his name, but we’re privy to what was the best & worst & best (again) day of his life.  It had begun like every other day: begging on the streets of Jerusalem, waiting for someone to show a bit of compassion to him & give him money so that he could eat.  The man had been born blind, so this was all he knew his entire life.  He had no hope of ever changing, so it seemed to make no difference to him one particular day as Jesus stood before him & Jesus’ disciples started up a conversation with their Master.  The blind man was the subject (rudely being spoken of in the 3rd person as he’s sitting right there!), as the disciples openly questioned his sin or the sin of his parents as the cause of his lifelong blindness.  Jesus’ response was far more compassionate that the theoretical question of the disciples, as Jesus rightly saw the man’s blindness as an opportunity for God to be glorified (instead of questioning the cause).  Jesus proceeded to put mud on the man’s eyes & in a marvelous act as the God of Creation, gave the man his sight (which he received after washing in the pool of Siloam.

The miracle obviously generated a bit of attention, and the man was brought to the Pharisees for questioning.  They were already opposed to Jesus, and the fact that Jesus had done the miracle on a Sabbath really rankled them.  They repeatedly questioned the man, asking what Jesus did & how He went about it, looking for some reason to condemn Him as a Sabbath-breaker.  Although under immense pressure, the man refused to throw Jesus under the proverbial bus & even lost his patience with the Pharisees.  It ought to be obvious that Jesus was a Man of God, and when he said this to the learned-Pharisees, they were incensed that this (supposed) sinner had the gall to try to teach them anything.  They threw him out of the synagogue, never looking back.

To this point, the formerly blind man still hadn’t placed his faith in Jesus.  His physical sight had been given to him, but he still hadn’t yet fully received his spiritual sight…though he was on his way.  The Pharisees on the other hand, refused to see Jesus, and were offended by any possibility He might be the Messiah.  Which one was truly blind?  It’s a bit of irony – a bit of paradox – and the answer would certainly have been surprising to the Jews.

John 9:35–10:6
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

  1. Jesus “heard.” Once He heard what had happened to the formerly blind man, Jesus came to him.  Had Jesus heard through the grapevine?  Did He only find out about the man’s interrogation after the fact & come running to him, too late?  No.  Obviously the Bible doesn’t give us any further details than what is listed here, but from elsewhere in the Bible we know that Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient) – He didn’t need anyone to inform Him of anything.  He knew all things and had a purpose for all of His own actions. (He still does!)  So what was going on here?  Jesus surely knew the questioning & berating this man received from the Pharisees.  He knew how this man stood firmly on Jesus’ behalf even when the man’s own parents weren’t willing to stand with him.  Jesus wasn’t physically with the man while he stood in front of the Pharisees, but no doubt He was aware of it the whole time.  Yet Jesus came to him after He heard the man was cast out; not before.  Why?  What Jesus late in coming?  No.  Jesus came at the perfect time.  He came when there was a need.  He came when the man was ready.
  2. Objection: “Wasn’t there a need when he was being questioned by the Pharisees?  Didn’t the man need Jesus’ help then?”  Probably, but the man wasn’t yet ready to receive it.  Keep in mind that the greatest need in this man’s life wasn’t being protected from the harassment of the Pharisees, or having his place in the synagogue secured; it was salvation.  When arguing with the Pharisees, the man stood firm for Jesus, but he didn’t yet believe in Him.  This man was going through a lengthy process in coming to faith.  When first healed, he initially described his healer as “a Man called Jesus,” (9:11).  To the Pharisees, the man’s thoughts about Jesus had grown to the point he called Jesus “a prophet,” (9:17) and sent “from God,” (9:33) but that was it.  All of that is wonderful, but it falls short of saving faith.  Jesus is indeed a healer, a prophet, and sent by God, but He is infinitely more.  Without recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, no one is saved! (They still aren’t…)  This is why Jesus waited.  He came at the right time: the moment when the man was ready to come to faith and be saved.
    1. God knows what it will take for us to come to faith.  So many people pray for comfort and blessing (so-called), but during comfortable time they won’t be found looking to the Lord.  Many times it’s only when people get uncomfortable that they turn to God.  What did it take for you?  How many times did you say “no” to Jesus before you finally said “yes”? (Perhaps you still haven’t!)  For some people, it’s only after they’ve lost everything else in their life, just like this formerly blind man.  Jesus was ready when the man was – but Jesus wasn’t going to force Himself one minute too early.
      1. What will it take for you?
  3. Jesus “found.”  Not only had Jesus heard about the man, He was also the One who took the initiative to go to him.  The man was certainly ready to come to faith, but it was Jesus who went and “found him.”  This is true with the formerly blind man & with all of us.  God always takes the initiative.  God always takes the first step.  No one comes to faith in God because they woke up one day & all of a sudden decided ‘it’s time to get saved.’  No – God is the One working on us, preparing us, reaching out to us so that we will call upon Him in faith.  God takes the first step.
    1. Some people have a problem with this idea, wondering if it opens the door to Calvinism.  Be assured: this isn’t Calvinism – this is Christianity.  ALL orthodox Bible-believing Christians can affirm that God takes the first steps in our salvation, regardless where else we stand on Calvinism.  Jesus clearly taught that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws the person to Him (Jn 6:44).  Jesus taught that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work in the lives of unbelievers, preparing them for the message of the gospel by convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8).  All of this takes place before anyone puts his/her faith in Christ to be saved.  It does nothing to negate our free will, but it definitely does demonstrate the essential role of God in reaching out to us first.
    2. What does this mean for the believer?  It means God knows you & loves you & took the first steps in inviting you to love Him.  It is a grand demonstration of love from our wonderful Heavenly Father!  (Think about that on Father’s Day!)
  4. Jesus asked.  Once Jesus personally sought out the man, Jesus asked him an important question: “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  Many Bible translations word it a bit differently: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Without getting too much in the weeds, there is a bit of disagreement between the ancient manuscripts.  The oldest extant manuscripts say “Son of Man,” while the vast majority of manuscripts & Church Fathers say “Son of God.”  Both terms are Messianic titles, though with different backgrounds & emphasis.  Either way, the intended meaning of the question is the same. “Do you believe in the Messiah?”  Note Jesus did not ask, “Do you believe I am the Messiah?”  That is a much different question & a far more precise one.  Jesus is certainly leading to that point, but He first asks the man if he believes the promises of God.  Does he believe that God promised to send the Messiah?  Does he believe what the Scriptures say about the Messiah?  Does he believe that the Messiah could possibly be among them?  For months (or longer) prior to Jesus’ own ministry, John the Baptist had proclaimed the soon coming of Messiah.  He told the Jews of the Son of God who was coming & how He would set up the Kingdom of Heaven.  He prepared people to repent & prepare themselves for this coming King.  Had this man heeded the warning?  Did he believe God’s Scriptures & God’s prophet?
    1. Before any of us place our faith in Jesus, we each come from a similar generic starting point.  Do we believe in God?  Do we believe God’s word & His promises?  It’s impossible to ever place our faith in Jesus as the Son of God if we never believe in the existence of God in the first place.  That’s not to say atheists can never be saved – many former atheists come to a point they release their atheism & place their faith in Christ, but they have to make a conscious decision whether to remain in unbelief or to acknowledge the evidence in front of them.  As do all of us.  We have to admit there is a God before we can believe upon Jesus as His Son.  This might mean we can no longer deny that Jesus is anything but God, but at least that’s a starting point.
    2. That said, belief in God does not necessarily equal belief in Jesus.  Faith that God exists is not a guarantee of heaven.  It’s not enough to merely believe that God is real – even the demons know that.  It’s not enough to believe the Bible is a holy book (if we can use the term).  Carrying a Bible & believing in God won’t get anyone into heaven.  That may be a starting point, but Jesus calls us to a far more specific faith. (Which is what He’s leading to with this man.)
      1. What’s your starting point?  Do you believe in God & in His promises in the Bible?  Where has that led you?  Let it lead you to Christ!  Go beyond the starting line of faith all the way to the goal: faith in Jesus as the crucified & resurrected Son of God.  Believe in Him as the One True God, the Son of Man, the Messiah of God sent to save the world!

36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

  1. The man’s response to Jesus is wonderful!  He may not have answered the direct question of Jesus, but he sure get to the point Jesus wanted.  This man certainly would believe, if he only knew who the Messiah was.  Question: “Why didn’t the man already know?  After all, Jesus was the one who healed him.”  True, but remember that this man was still blind when Jesus put the mud on his eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  Up until this point, the man had never knowingly laid his eyes upon Jesus.  No doubt he knew Jesus’ voice, but he hadn’t known all of the circumstances that surrounded his healing.  With all that in mind, this man was definitely ready to believe in the Messiah – he just needed to be told who it was.
  2. How many people today are in a similar situation?  They’ve come to the starting point – they’ve been prepared by the past work of God in their lives – they’re fully ready to believe…all they need is to be told the name.  All they need is to be pointed in the right direction.  They’re ready to believe the gospel; they just need someone to share it with them. … That someone is you.  It is all of us within the church, but for the people in your life & sphere of influence, it is you specifically.  Romans 10:14–15, "(14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”"  Someone has to tell them – someone has to be sent to them.  That someone is you.  Objection: “But wait a second – I’m not a preacher!  No one has sent me or commissioned me to do this!”  Wrong.  While it may be true that you’re not a pastor or have the spiritual gift of evangelism, you have been sent.  You’ve been commissioned for the task; each of us were when we put our faith in Christ ourselves.  At that moment we were included in the Great Commission, as Jesus sent all of His followers into the world to make disciples of every nation (Mt 28:20).  He called all those who believed in Him to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) – and that includes you & me.  It includes every Christian – even the ones who think they could never lead someone to Christ!
  3. The fact that this man was so ready to believe ought to give us a lot of hope.  It can be discouraging to share your faith so many times & never see anyone respond.  Maybe you shared over & over again, and still haven’t seen anyone come to Christ.  That’s not necessarily a reflection on you; they just weren’t ready.  But some people are.  Eventually we’re going to come across someone who IS ready, and it’s for that person that WE need to always be ready to share our faith.  What if that one person was ready to hear, but we weren’t ready to speak?  God will still move, but He’ll use someone else to do it.  Be ready always!  Ask God to strengthen you, encourage you, and to bring you in contact with the ones He has prepared – with those who are ready.
    1. Some of you may be ready today.  Have you given it any thought?  Has God been preparing you for this moment?  Are you just waiting to be told of Jesus?  Your wait is over.  Vs. 37…

37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

  1. Jesus had known about the man, taken the initiative in coming to him, had prepared him for salvation, and this man was ready.  When the man asks about the Messiah, Jesus clearly identifies Himself in no uncertain terms.  There’s no ambiguity – there’s no (so-called) “Messianic secret” – there is only a clear, unapologetic identification as Jesus as the Son of God/Son of Man. (Both titles refer to the Messiah’s deity, BTW.)  Just as clearly as Jesus told the crowds of Jerusalem that He is the I AM (Jn 8:58) – just as clearly as Jesus told the Samaritan woman “I who speak to you am He,” (Jn 9:26) Jesus makes His identity known.
  2. Jesus does not hide Himself from those ready to come to faith.  To the skeptic, Jesus might obscure Himself, just as He did with the skeptics in His ministry.  This was one of the reasons He taught in parables (Mt 13:13).  They weren’t willing to humble themselves before God, so the Son of God was obscured from them even as He physically stood right in front of them.  But Jesus never hid Himself from the humble.  He never removed Himself from those ready to come to faith.  He always made Himself clearly available to them, truly inviting them to respond to Him.
    1. That’s what Jesus still does today!  That is what Jesus is doing right now!  Jesus makes Himself known to the humble.  Have you understood your need to be saved from your sin?  Have you understood the righteousness of God & your need for His forgiveness & grace?  You’re just wondering how to receive it?  This is how!  Go to Jesus & believe upon Him.  Cast your hope & trust upon Him, believing Him to be the Son of God, crucified for your sins & risen from the grave.  As you do, be assured of this: Jesus will save!  He promised never to cast aside anyone who came to Him in faith (Jn 6:37).  He WILL save, so ask!  (You don’t even have to wait until the end of the sermon…) J
  3. Christian: do you remember the moment Jesus revealed Himself to you?  Obviously, we didn’t have a physical encounter with the Lord, as did this formerly blind man.  But there was a moment that our eyes were opened to Jesus.  There was a moment that our faith moved beyond the theoretical & into reality.  We knew beyond a doubt that Jesus is really God & that we needed to trust Him.  What was it for you? [I remember what it was for me…]  Never forget that moment!  Never let it grow cold!  The moment we take that memory for granted is the moment our love for Jesus begins to dull, and our zeal to share the gospel begins to fade.  It was in that moment of salvation that our love for Christ burned brightest, and that’s not something we ever want to take for granted.
    1. BTW – if you consider yourself a Christian, but don’t have a moment like that of your own, you might need to reconsider.  Even for someone who perhaps has always known of Jesus from childhood has a moment (or series of moments) that their faith became real, that it matured into their own & not that of their parents.  If you can’t point to a time in your life that Jesus became far more than theory & history, then you can’t really point to a time that you became a Christian.  Just as Jesus spoke to the formerly blind man, He is in the present tense. “It is He who IS talking with you.”  Jesus IS God, and He IS the Living Lord of all who put their faith in Him.  He IS available to save.

38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

  1. Finally!  This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since Ch 9 began!  When Jesus first came upon this blind man, the man didn’t even care about Jesus’ reputation & seemingly had no hope of ever being healed (much less eternally saved).  Once healed, he became excited about the Man who intervened for him, and he was willing to go the mat with the Pharisees for Him, but he wasn’t yet willing to worship.  But now, after he lost his ability to go to the synagogue and worship God, he comes to faith in Jesus as the Son of God & finds a whole new opportunity to worship – this time in spirit & truth!  Even the meaning behind his words changed.  When the man asked about the Messiah in vs. 36, he used the term “Lord,” but likely meant it as a term of respect (like “Sir,” which was a common usage for the word).  But combined with his worship of Jesus in vs. 38, there’s no doubt of how the man used the word “Lord.”  This time, he sees Jesus as the Son of God, and worships Him as God.  The man truly came to faith, and his whole life & world just rocked and changed.  (Just as it does for all of us!)
  2. Notice how simple this is.  There’s no long prayer – there’s no walking to the front – there’s no action of any kind that looks to be religious in the slightest.  Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things…but none of those things are absolutely necessary for someone to be saved.  Someone might go through that in the process of responding to Jesus in salvation, but ultimately salvation is a work of faith.  It happens in the heart & is instantaneous.  What does it take to be saved?  Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  That’s it!  That’s all it takes: simple faith.  When your outward confession to others is also the inward confession of your heart – when you truly do believe that Jesus is the Risen Son of God, that’s it.  At that moment, a person moves from eternal death to eternal life & is saved.  There’s no other work that is necessary: no priestly blessing, no act of baptism, no rite or ritual of any kind.  We believe, and that’s it.  (We do get baptized, but baptism is given after we’re already saved; it’s not given in order for us to get saved.  BIG difference!)
    1. What’s stopping you?  You can believe right now, right where you are…
  3. What was the man’s response to his new faith in Jesus?  Worship.  The word means to fall at a person’s feet & kiss their feet, or the hem of their garment.  It was an act of complete humility and subservience – a surrendering of everything a person had in recognition of another.  And it’s the right response to Jesus as the Son of God.  We owe Him our worship.  We owe Him our everything.  When we believe upon Jesus to be saved, then we bow before Him, kiss His feet, and give Him all the adoration we can muster.  We no longer lift up ourselves, seeking to glorify ourselves – instead, we put all the attention on Jesus & give Him glory, honor, and worship. 
    1. That’s what all worship ought to be.  It’s not about us; it’s about HIM.  With the songs we sing, the lyrics ought to be focused on Jesus, the glory of God, His work, etc.  Too many songs are all about the Christian, and not about Christ.  Even the way we sing the songs need to be Christ-centered.  How many times are we more focused on how WE sound, rather the One to whom we’re supposed to be singing?  How aware are we of how we look to others, rather than simply pouring out our praise to God?  Obviously, we don’t want to be a distraction to someone else as we worship, but we don’t want our attention to be on ourselves, either.  ALL worship (be it in singing, private prayer, or whenever) ought to be about the glory and honor of God.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

  1. If there seems to be a change in the flow & narrative, that’s because there is. (You’re more perceptive than you thought! J)  Jesus had received the worship of the formerly blind man (which is one more act demonstrating that Jesus clearly proclaimed Himself to be God), and then makes a proclamation in regards to the man that wasn’t just about him, but about all who were listening.  Apparently the man’s coming to faith & worship of Jesus happened in a public setting, and Jesus used the time to teach others what was going on.  This blind man had been given sight, but there were others who believed they could see though they were really blind.  When Jesus came, He brought the truth with Him (because He IS the truth), and He would judge in truth.
  2. Question: Did Jesus really come for “judgment”?  Yes!  We don’t often think about it in those terms, but it’s true.  Yes, Jesus came to seek & to save the lost (Lk 19:10) – He came that those who believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16), but Jesus also came “for judgment.”  Keep in mind that judgment isn’t necessarily the same thing as condemnation.  The gospel of John already told us that Jesus’ mission wasn’t one of condemnation: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn 3:17)  This is no contradiction with what Jesus says here in 9:39.  Here, Jesus isn’t referring to eternal judgment and condemnation; He’s referring to the right judgment He exercised during His earthly ministry.  He’s talking about the revelation of truth, and how the hearts and motives of people were revealed through His message and ministry.  As people encountered Jesus, they were divided: there were those who rebelled against His message & there were others who humbled themselves in faith.  Jesus confirmed the choices these people made – He exercised His righteous judgment over them.
    1. People still divide over Jesus.  All kinds of folks can find common ground under a generic “God,” but when Jesus is revealed as He is revealed in the Bible, all of a sudden there isn’t much middle ground.  We’re either with Him, or against Him.  We either are given the sight we need to see Him as the Son of God, or we continue in our blindness, willfully shutting our eyes against the truth.
    2. Again, this is WHY Jesus came!  When Jesus came, people had to make a choice about Him.  Some would choose to remain blind; others would choose to humble themselves and be saved.  That division and judgment was necessary for anyone to be saved.  No one receives the forgiveness of God by sitting on the fence regarding Jesus.  We have to come to a point that we make a choice about Him.  (Which will you choose?)
  3. Jesus always revealed Himself to the humble, but not everyone was humble.  To those who were proud – to those who rebelled against God – Jesus was hidden from their sight.  He would judge them for their spiritual blindness.  The NKJV doesn’t have the best translation here.  ESV & NASB say “those who see may become blind.”  The difference is in the voice, and it’s important.  The NKJV implies a passive voice, as if God is the One blinding them.  The word is actually in the middle voice, which shows it as an action they do to themselves.  Apart from Jesus, everyone is already spiritually blind.  The question comes in whether or not we choose to confirm that blindness – whether or not we make the decision to remain blind.  When answering the disciples’ question as to why He taught in parables, Jesus said this: Matthew 13:11–13, "(11) He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (12) For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. (13) Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."  Some are unwilling to hear the message of the gospel.  Some are unwilling to recognize and respond to the truth of God.  To those, even the knowledge they DO have of God is taken from them.  They might double-down on their religion, or in their “spirituality,” but they remove themselves further & further away from the truth of Jesus.  They confirm their own blindness, and God confirms their confirmation.  Just as Pharaoh hardened his heart against God & the message preached by Moses & thus God later went on to harden Pharaoh’s heart further, so do the proud experience the same thing with God.  They’ve already hardened their heart to the message of the gospel, and that hardening is confirmed.
    1. The Pharisees were prime examples of this very thing…

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”

  1. Again, Jesus spoke this publicly, and there were some Pharisees among the crowd witnessing all of this.  They easily put 2+2 together and knew Jesus was referencing them in what He said.  The blind man was really the person who could see, and it was those who supposedly had all kinds of spiritual sight that really were blind.  The Pharisees were the spiritual leaders of the people – they were “Moses’ disciples,” (9:28) – they should have had the sight needed to lead the people, but they didn’t.  They had become false teachers (as Jesus will go on to insinuate in Ch 10).
  2. You can almost hear them sneering to Jesus!  The arrogance that was surely in their voice!  “Are WE blind, also?  Surely You can’t mean US.  We’re the educated ones; we’re the elite.  How can You imply that WE are the ones who are blind?”  The NASB & HSCB both bring this out by properly translating the negative way the Pharisees phrased the question: “We are not blind too, are we?”  They assume a negative answer – how dare this upstart rabbi imply anything different?  HE was the sinner; not them.  After all, Jesus was the one healing people on the Sabbath, of all things. 
  3. What a contrast between the formerly blind man & the Pharisees!  He had humbled himself before Jesus, asking to be shown the Messiah, ready to place his faith and trust in Him.  It was the blind man who truly desired to see the Son of God.  The Pharisees on the other hand, were bound up in their pride.  They couldn’t even see their need for salvation.  They didn’t recognize their own sin, nor the holiness of the One they confronted.  This is a perfect demonstration of what Jesus just said.  He would judge easily between them, how the man who was formerly both physically and spiritually blind had received sight in both areas, while the Pharisees who believed they were the only ones with spiritual sight were blind in reality. 
  4. Actually, it was worse than that.  See vs. 41…

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

  1. The Pharisees couldn’t even claim the excuse of spiritual blindness.  They claimed to be able to see, so their sin was even worse.  Jesus doesn’t so much agree with them that they weren’t blind (that was their claim; not Jesus’); He just uses their words to expose their lack of excuse.  If what they said was true, then they had even less hope than most.  The blind could at least come to Jesus to be saved.  Jesus had just gotten done demonstrating how He had the power to give physical and spiritual sight.  The invitation was open to anyone who would humble themselves and simply ask to be given sight, and know Jesus as the Messiah.  If the Pharisees refused to even acknowledge their need, they never even had the possibility of salvation.  A drowning man who refuses to grab hold of a life preserver will go down, even if he’s kicking & screaming the entire way.  Someone who never admits their need to be saved has no reason to call out to a Savior.  That was the position of the Pharisees, and that was their condemnation.
    1. There’s no small irony in the fact that the ones who claimed to value the words of Moses & the law given through him were the ones most in danger of being condemned by the law of Moses.  The law was never given make anyone righteous, or to somehow guarantee a person’s place in heaven; it doesn’t have the power to do that.  All the law can do is expose our sin, demonstrate our condemnation, and make us aware of our need for a Savior.  The law is supposed to be our tutor to bring us to Christ (Gal 3:24); not our excuse to refuse looking to Him.  The Pharisees used the law to claim they were sinless (which they weren’t), and they couldn’t even see their own desperate condition.
    2. How many people do the same thing today?  Instead of running to Christ for salvation, they find their confidence in all their attempts at good works.  “I give money to charity!  I’ve been nice to my neighbor!  I’ve tried to be a really good person!”  Good for you.  But none of that saves.  None of the good works we do ever erase all of the bad works we’ve done.  No one gets into heaven by letting our good works outweigh our bad.  (1) One doesn’t cancel out the other, (2) our works aren’t all that good anyway.  The point?  If this is what you’re trusting, you’re blind!  You’re just as blind as the Pharisees.  You cannot even see your need for the grace of God, and thus you’ll never ask for the grace of God – and (like the Pharisees) you will remain in your sin.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Open your eyes to reality!  Open your eyes to your need for Jesus.  If you can’t see it, ask for God’s help to do even that!  Ask Him to help you see yourself for how you truly are, so that you’ll know to ask for help, grace, and salvation.

Conclusion:
Just a bit of irony…just a bit of paradox: it was the blind man who saw, and the sighted who were blind.  The man who just hours earlier was a beggar blind from birth now saw Jesus in all His fullness.  He was more than a man, more than a prophet, more than one sent & empowered by God – He IS God, the Messiah Himself come to seek and save the lost.  Once the man had the opportunity to be saved, he seized it, both believing upon Jesus for salvation and worshipping Him as the God that He is. 

The Pharisees however, faced a far different fate.  They may have prided themselves on their spiritual insight, but they turned out not to know anything at all.  They blinded themselves to their spiritual condition & were unwilling to even acknowledge their need for forgiveness.  Their pride (once again) got in the way of their salvation, and they were left condemned in their sin.  They may have always enjoyed physical sight but they had always been spiritually blind & they had no excuse.

Each of us find ourselves in one of three places in regards to these people: We are either (1) truly seeking God in humility, having been sought out by Him, & we are ready to come to faith in Christ – (2) We have seen Jesus as He is, we’ve placed all of our hope in Him as Lord, and we’re worshipping Him as God, or (3) we’ve continued to blind ourselves to Jesus, having refused to acknowledge our need for a Savior.

Just like the Pharisees, those in the 3rd group have no excuse.  God has revealed Himself to all the world through His creation, and our conscience ought to awaken us to the reality of our sin.  Wake up!  See yourself as you truly are (as all of us are): a sinner in need of salvation! 

To those in the 2nd group, we have known Jesus as Lord & we worship Him as God – but do we worship Him with abandon?  Do we worship Him with zeal?  Do we seek to be used by Him to tell others of Jesus?  Remember that moment you first saw Jesus & allow that fervor to be kindled in you once again!

To those in the 1st group, know this: God has already taken the first steps.  He has prepared you & reached out to you.  All you need to do is respond.  Like a drowning man, simply grab hold of the life preserver that is offered to you.  Believe upon Jesus Christ to save you!  You need not wait any longer – you can respond to Him today & you can know that you know you are saved.

No Need to Doubt

Posted: October 5, 2014 in Mark
Tags: , ,

Mark 16:9-20, “No Need to Doubt”

When is good news not good?  When it’s not received.  You can be told the best news in all the world, but if you either do nothing about it, or you make the decision not to believe it, it does absolutely no good.  The disease of Ebola has been in the news lately as it made its way to the United States.  It is a horrendous virus causing massive internal bleeding, and it kills well over 50% of those infected.  (Pray for those who are ill & for those who medically care for them!)  Although a proven cure is not yet available, imagine if one was produced tomorrow, and taken to those infected in Dallas and even all the way in West Africa.  They are told, “We have a cure for your disease – all you need to do is swallow this pill & you’ll be healed.”  That would be incredibly good news!  But what would happen if they replied, “You must be kidding!  That’s too good to be true.  I’m not going to take it.”  At that point, life-saving news is nothing more than words in the air…used breath & nothing more.

Men & women, we face a far more ravaging disease than Ebola or AIDS.  We are “infected” with sin, and it carries a death rate of not just 50% or 75%, but 100%.  10 out of every 10 people die, and the root cause of it all is sin.  Once someone dies in their sin, they not only go to the grave, but they go to eternal death and separation from God in hell.  No disease upon the earth compares with the horror that is eternity apart from God.  Jesus described it as a place of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Yet…there is good news!  It would take a literal miracle to save us from such a fate, and that is exactly what God provided for us.  He sent His Son Jesus to die upon the cross for us, taking upon Himself the death that we deserved.  Jesus was buried, and then physically raised from the dead three days later.  Now He offers forgiveness and eternal life to any and all who believe upon Him as Lord.  Anyone can be saved!  All they need to do is respond to Jesus in repentance and faith, believing that He is the Living God risen from the dead.  That is gloriously good news!

But what happens if no one believes it?  What happens if someone says, “I know what you told me about Jesus – I know what the Bible says about Him, but it’s too good to be true.  I don’t believe, and I won’t do it.”  At that point, the good news is no less true, but it certainly does that person no good.  The news that was shared with them literally dissipates into thin air.  Good news must be believed to be effective.  If you don’t believe it, the gospel will not save you from death; it will only confirm your death sentence.

That’s true for everyone…including the original disciples of Jesus.  Three days after Jesus was crucified, He rose from the dead, and the news got back to the apostles.  The problem was that they didn’t believe.  We tend to think of the original followers of Jesus as massive giants of the faith – and indeed, they later turned out to be tremendous examples to all of us, and the doctrine of the apostles lays the foundation for what we still believe 2000 years later.  But they weren’t always so faith-filled.  They were just like anyone else.  They had their doubts – they struggled with unbelief – and unless they had their minds drastically changed, it would have cost them their eternal salvation. 

Thankfully, Jesus appeared to them personally and their minds DID change.  And once their minds changed about Jesus, so did everything else.  They believed; now they were to go help others believe.  Jesus sent them into the world with the good news, and He empowered them to help others receive it.  Their sending is our sending – their commission is our commission.  We need to ask ourselves two questions today: (1) Do we believe the gospel? (2) If so, what are we doing to do about it?

Background:
Before we actually get into the text today, we need to take just a few minutes to dig into a bit of the debate that surrounds this particular section of Scripture.  Normally, we wouldn’t engage in too much textual criticism (in that it’s too easy to miss the forest for the trees), but it’s virtually impossible to avoid with the ending of the book of Mark.

Most of your Bibles likely have some sort of marking on the page (either in the reference section or next to the verses themselves) stating something like this (quoting from the NKJV reference): “Vv. 9-20 are bracketed in NU as not in the original text.  They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other mss of Mark contain them.”  The NIV takes an even stronger position stating, “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.”  So what does that mean?  Does it mean that Mark 16:9-20 do not belong in our Bibles, and that it is a waste of time to study these verses?  Does it mean that our Bibles are untrustworthy on these verses?

No matter what position someone takes on the authorship of vss. 9-20, the answer to both of those questions is “no.”  No, it is not a waste of time to study these verses because what these verses state is taught elsewhere in the Scripture – there is no new doctrine here.  Secondly, it does not mean that our Bibles are untrustworthy on these verses.  What we read is what was written down, and what was unquestionably received by the early church.  The only real question is if Mark wrote them or not.

Let’s back up for a bit.  Obviously we do not have the original manuscripts of the books of the New Testament (or any book of the Bible) as penned by Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, etc.  It was likely in the wisdom of God that we don’t, because no doubt we would have elevated those writings to the point of idolatry.  Although those original writings are gone, there are multitudes of hand-written copies of them.  As these writings were passed from church to church, copies were made so that Christians everywhere would be able to learn of the earthly ministry of Jesus and the doctrine of the apostles.  In the days prior to the printing press (and copy machines or scanners!), mistakes could, and would happen easily.  When Mark and others originally wrote their books, their writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that same inspiration did not necessarily carry over to each individual time that the books were copied.  Thus manuscripts can have variations from time to time, and those variations could be passed along (much like the children’s game of “telephone”).  At first glance, that sounds like terrible news, because we’d have to ask ourselves how we could possibly know what was original. (?!)  It’s actually good news, in that because there were so many copies made, we can simply compare the copies together and see where minor variations may have been introduced.  In fact, there are over 25,000 copies of the NT (over 5000 in Greek alone) – more than any other book of antiquity.  It is no exaggeration to say we have more historical evidence that we have the NT as it was written, then we do of all of Roman history put together.

Now let’s put that with the ending to the book of Mark.  As our Bible translations note, there are two very important manuscripts of the New Testament that do not include vss. 9-20.  These two (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) are fully extant manuscripts…meaning that they’ve got full books of the NT included (rather than parts and pieces), and they are each very ancient – dating to the 4th century.  To find an early-dated fully extant manuscript is extremely rare, and it’s no wonder why scholars rely so heavily upon them.  Neither one of these manuscripts contain the ending to the book of Mark. And they are not alone – there are other manuscripts (of lesser value) that do not include the ending, and there are even some manuscripts that include a different ending altogether.

However, that’s not the end of the story.  The overwhelming majority of manuscripts DO include vss. 9-20 as found in our Bibles…it’s just that most of those manuscripts date later than the first two that many scholars rely upon.  That said, it is misleading to state that there are not early witnesses to vss. 9-20.  There may not be Biblical manuscripts, but there are most definitely Biblical quotes that reference them.  Several church fathers reference these verses (Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus), and they all write from much earlier dates in the 2nd century (between 160-184AD).  Even with the church fathers that explicitly said that they did not have the ending of Mark in their available manuscripts, they most certainly knew of the ending.  In fact, when we put all of the manuscript evidence together, there really is no question that the early church accepted Mark 16:9-20 as being totally legitimate.

Was it actually written by Mark?  Perhaps not – there is much evidence in the language and grammar that indicates otherwise.  But that’s not really the point.  The Bible isn’t the Bible because certain people wrote it; it’s the Bible because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit to be written.  Whether or not the Mark was the actual person that wrote it is irrelevant.  There are some theories that perhaps he lost the original ending, or even died prior to completion.  We’ll never know the answer to that question this side of heaven.  But we DO know that the early church recognized the end of Mark as being just as much inspired by the Holy Spirit as the rest of the book.  There is even precedent for Biblical books to be started by one person and completed by another (i.e. Deuteronomy written by Moses, but completed by Joshua after his death).  It’s quite possible the same thing happened here.

That’s a lot of background for a little text – but it’s important to know that we can trust our Bibles.  What we have been passed down is what was originally seen to be the inspired word of God, and we can know with certainty that God will ensure His word is preserved.

What is far more important than all the debate surrounding the text is the actual text itself.  Perhaps one of the reasons the text is so debated is because the apostles are not exactly see in the best light.  They were full of doubts, which makes them what?  Human, just like us.  They each had to make the choice to move from doubt to faith.  And then once they believed, they needed to do something with that belief.

Mark 16:9–20
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.

  1. Verse 9 actually brings out one of the questions as to whether or not these verses are authentic.  It speaks of “Mary Magdalene,” but then goes on to describe her as if she had not been mentioned before.  However, Mark writes of Mary Magdalene three other times – all very recently (15:40, 15:47, 16:1).  Why describe her now as someone “out of whom [Jesus] had cast seven demons”?  That seems rather awkward.  Why not mention that earlier?  Again, perhaps this is a different writer picking up where Mark left off – but setting all of that aside, there is very good reason for Mary’s background to be mentioned here and not earlier.  Think about it: Mary Magdalene is the very first physical eyewitness of the Risen Lord Jesus.  This is confirmed in each of the four gospel accounts (though sometimes she is mentioned with others).  From the world’s perspective, she would be an amazingly POOR choice for reliable testimony.  Not only was she a woman (a strike against her in the male-dominated culture), but she had a history of demon-possession.  She would have been viewed as formerly insane.  Obviously she did not have a mental illness caused by imbalanced hormones (which can be bad enough on its own), but she was legitimately demon possessed.  Not by one demon, but by seven.  The only other account in the gospels in which a single person had more than one demon was the Gadarene man who was indwelt by the “legion” of demons (Mk 5).  With all of that in mind, who among us would set Mary Magdalene in a courtroom as a character witness giving sworn testimony?  She would be our last choice to provide a reliable eyewitness.  Yet she was Jesus’ first choice.  The least likely was the most blessed.  The last shall be first, and the first shall be last…poignantly demonstrated in Mary Magdalene.
  2. BTW – the fact that Mary was indeed the first witness of the Risen Jesus is itself evidence of the truth of His resurrection.  After all, who would make something like that up?  If you were trying to invent a myth of someone rising from the dead as proof of his deity, would you use the testimony of a person with a history of clinical insanity?  Of course not!  We’d use the testimony of presidents or kings, or anyone who might be universally respected and beyond question.  In His divine wisdom, God goes the opposite route.  He picked someone who no one would choose, in order that it would be totally obvious that the resurrection simply must be true.  There would be no reason to record her testimony, otherwise.  This would be something to hide; not to proclaim.  Yet there is no way to preach of Jesus’ resurrection without preaching of Mary Magdalene.  God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.
    1. He still does that today through the Church.  WE are the foolish things of the world, and God chose us for His purposes and His glory. (1 Cor 1:27)
  3. Mary had been obedient to the commission given to her: “she went and told those who had been with Him.”  Be it just the 11 remaining disciples, or the larger group of believers, Mary went and told them what she had witnessed.  Their reaction comes in vs. 11, but notice what they were doing in vs. 10: mourning & weeping.  We might say, “Well of course they were weeping!  They had witnessed their Messiah die three days earlier!”  Right, but their Messiah was not STILL dead at the moment.  They had every expectation to mourn their King, but at that hour there was no need to do so.  The problem was, they just didn’t know it yet.  It wasn’t until someone told them about Jesus that they could stop weeping.  Of course, they not only needed to be informed; they needed to have faith…

11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

  1. Again, we can probably relate to the disciples.  After all, we might not be so ready to believe such an incredulous statement coming from the lips of a formerly-demon possessed woman.  Mary came in with her testimony, and they gave her no credence – no credibility.  They had no belief in her words, and they missed out on their opportunity for joy.
  2. Keep in mind that the truth did not hinge upon their belief (or lack thereof).  Jesus WAS risen from the dead at that very moment.  Whether or not they believed did not change what was true and factual.  What it did change was the effect of the truth upon their own lives.  Jesus was alive – exactly as Jesus had said He would be, but they were living as if He was still dead.  They were told the truth, and they could have been rejoicing, but instead they remained in their grief and weeping.
    1. Who do you hurt through your refusal to believe?  Yourself.  The time you waste is your own – the opportunity you miss is yours.  If you’ve been told the truth about Jesus, and you’ve not believed, then that is a choice you’ve made.  Your unbelief (like that of the apostles’) is an act of the will.  And the one you’re hurting is yourself.  Why continue like that?  Today, it can all change!
    2. BTW – that’s not just for the person who hasn’t yet committed his/her life to Christ.  How many Christians say with their mouths that Jesus is risen from the dead, but live practically as if He’s still in the grave? They sin and they are grieved, but instead of humbling themselves in prayer and confessing to Jesus in faith, they wallow in self-pity and guilt.  Soon it becomes a vicious cycle, and they do it over and over again.  But here’s the thing: no one HAS to do so.  Jesus is risen from the dead, and offers forgiveness to all who confess and repent – all we need to do is believe and appropriate His forgiveness.  People just haven’t done it yet.

12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.

  1. What is stated in one verse at the end of Mark takes 14 verses in the gospel of Luke.  This is most likely a summary of the famous road to Emmaus.  Two of Jesus’ followers (Cleopas, and one other unnamed) were walking from Jerusalem seven miles to the village of Emmaus, when they encountered the Risen Jesus along the way.  Luke writes that their eye were constrained, so that they were not able to recognize Jesus (Lk 24:16), and Mark’s gospel adds that Jesus was seemingly in “another form.”  His appearance had physically changed somehow, and although these two men were seemingly well-acquainted with Him, they certainly did not recognize Him at the time.  When they encountered Jesus on the road, Jesus had asked the men what they were talking about, and why they were sad.  They seemed amazed that this “stranger” had no idea of the events of the past few days, and they told them of their faith in Jesus, how He had been crucified, and how they had denied the testimonies of those who had actually seen Jesus risen from the dead.  At that point, Jesus chided their slowness of heart to believe, and taught them an overview of all the Old Testament showing them the different places in Scripture that spoke of Himself (presumably looking at His foretold death and resurrection).  Eventually, the three of them arrive in Emmaus, the two believers ask Jesus to stay for dinner, and their eyes were opened to the truth of Who was in their midst right as Jesus vanished from sight.  Needless to say, they didn’t stay the night in Emmaus, but rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others…

13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

  1. Cleopas and his friend gained no more belief than Mary Magdalene.  The other disciples had no faith in their testimony either.
  2. This is truly amazing.  To put the various gospel accounts together, the disciples have had the testimony of Mary Magdalene and other ladies who went with her – they had the testimony from Peter and John of the empty tomb, though they had not personally seen the Lord – and now they had the testimony of two more men, who apparently had the longest conversation yet with the Risen Jesus.  Though it shouldn’t matter, culturally speaking, the credibility of the witnesses kept on rising.  There was one woman (formerly possessed), there were multiple women, there were two apostles confirming at least the circumstances, and now there were two men confirming the resurrection itself.  The only thing that hadn’t happened was Jesus’ physical appearance to the apostles themselves.  The apostles had no reason not to believe, but they chose to remain in their unbelief.
  3. We tend to think of only one apostle with unbelief – we even know him by the label “Doubting Thomas.”  In reality, it was ALL of them.  The ones who had walked with Jesus for three years – the ones who had witnessed the miracles – the ones who heard more teachings from Jesus than could ever be put to pen and paper – the ones specifically named by Jesus to take His gospel to the world – THEY had doubts…every last one of them.
    1. Have you had doubts of your own?  You’re not alone.  It’s easy to look around at all of the various religions of the world and wonder if everyone isn’t nuts.  Why believe any of them?  Where’s the proof?  Answer: it’s the same place for you as it was for the 11 apostles.  It’s the resurrection of Jesus.  They had doubts, but they had no reason to doubt.  Think about it – what was the claim?  “Jesus rose from the dead.”  Obviously that is something that would be impossible to believe for anyone.  Anyone BUT the Son of God.  Isn’t that what they had confessed Jesus to be?  They had worshipped Jesus as God when He calmed the storms at sea and walked on water.  They had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God when Jesus asked them their belief.  They had seen Him perform miracles, and teach with authority unlike any other.  Someone rising from the dead is impossible, but it’s not impossible if that Someone is God.  They said they believed Jesus is God; now was the time to see if they really believed it.  The proof was right in front of them, but they had to choose to open their hearts and believe it.
    2. It’s natural to have doubts – everyone does.  But at some point, you need to make the choice to believe.  What do you choose?

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

  1. Finally the disciples receive the hard evidence they had been waiting for, but it came with a well-deserved rebuke.  Jesus appeared to them, but as He did He could not commend their faith (as He had for other women and Gentiles who had believed Him in the past).  He could not even comment on their “little” faith, as He had with Peter when Peter was the only disciple to get out of the boat and walk on water.  Instead, He has to rebuke their “unbelief” – their complete lack of faith, as if they had the same lack of faith as any Pharisee or Sadducee.  They would be going out into all the world to preach the Risen Jesus, and others would be expected to believe without seeing Jesus – but the apostles themselves had not done the same.
    1. Don’t you love the fact that the Bible does not pull any punches?  We can be so grateful for the apostles regarding their lives, doctrine, sacrifices, and examples…but be careful about putting them on pedestals from which they so easily fall.  They were normal guys, just like the rest of us.  They had their flaws and their failings…just like everyone else.  God called normal Joes to Himself, and used these men and women to turn the world upside-down.  If He did it with them, He might just do it with us, too.
  2. Again, this is one more reason to believe the truth of the gospel accounts.  If someone is going to invent a bunch of stories about Jesus rising from the dead, one of the last things they would do is to undermine their own credibility.  Normally, an author would write of himself as some sort of hero – the one who believed when no one else would…a giant of faith.  In contrast, the disciples are completely honest.  They didn’t believe at the first, and they certainly were not the leaders they turned out to be later on.
    1. BTW – what made the difference?  How could the apostles go from men who ran away at the arrival of soldiers, who trembled at the questions of little girls, who hid behind locked doors, who refused to believe multiple testimonies of Jesus’ resurrection – to those who would boldly stand before Jewish leaders and even kings to steadfastly proclaim the Lord Jesus?  What on earth could make THAT sort of change in someone?  Answer: nothing from earth at all.  That only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, completely transforming their lives and ministry.
    2. Have you felt powerless to live the Christian life?  Have you been weak and unsteady in faith?  Ask to be filled anew with the Holy Spirit.  He will utterly transform your life!
  3. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t only rebuke the apostles.  He didn’t fire them and start over.  On the contrary, He sent them out.  That in itself is an act of grace!  Vs. 15…

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

  1. Although we’re more familiar with Matthew’s version of the Great Commission, the basic idea here is the same.  Go preach the gospel!  The emphasis here is on “preaching” – the “going” is just the way the disciples were to do it.  After all, it doesn’t do any good to travel throughout the world if you don’t have anything to say.  It might make for a nice vacation, but it doesn’t save anyone’s soul.  No, Jesus told them to “preach the gospel,” or to put it another way, “proclaim the good news.”  He’s not telling the disciples that the only way to make disciples is to preach a whole bunch of sermons, but to go tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to every single person they meet.  Like ambassadors heralding the coming of their King, so were the disciples to proclaim King Jesus.
    1. This is the essence of evangelism.  Sometimes we have a tendency of making evangelism so complicated.  We think it’s all about memorizing certain methods, or having certain materials or answers to certain kinds of questions.  And because we don’t have these things memorized, or we’re not scholars, or we’re not people specially gifted by the Holy Spirit for evangelism, or whatever…we think we’re not capable of doing it.  After all, we’re not all pastors, and pastors are the only ones that preach, right?  Wrong.  It’s just simple proclamation.  If you can say “Jesus is Lord,” then you can preach.  If you can tell the person right next to you, “Jesus is Lord,” then you’ve already taken the first step in preaching the gospel to another creature.
    2. Not only is it something you CAN do, it’s something you SHOULD do.  Sometimes we look at the Commission of Jesus and think that it’s something He gave only to the 11 apostles, or at least those in “official” ministry, and not something for the rest of us.  As long as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and others are preaching the gospel, that’s enough…it’s not something other folks need to be concerned with.  Yes, Jesus told this to the 11, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think that the 11 were the only ones who were listening.  Besides, the whole point of making disciples is that those disciples would make other disciples.  WE are the ones who have inherited the commission that passed from the original apostles.  Every member of the body of Christ is an ambassador for Christ.  Every person who believes in Jesus is to proclaim Him to others.
    3. So how are you taking part in this?
  2. So what happens with those to whom we proclaim Jesus?  He said it in vs. 16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  There is salvation, or there is condemnation.  Pretty stark choice, isn’t it?  That’s not a choice a lot of people like, but that’s the choice that exists.  There is an existence beyond this one.  It is appointed to every human being once to die, and then face the judgment of God.  And when we face Him, we will either experience His salvation, or we will experience true eternal condemnation.  Why?  It all goes back to the disease of sin.  Every single one of us is infected by it, and the proof is in the fact that we all do it.  We all sin, some in more visible ways than others perhaps, but every single person is guilty of it.  No matter how “good” someone might appear to be, they have still sinned in some way in the past, and will undoubtedly sin again in the future.  That sin leaves us condemned before God.  He is perfectly righteous, and He must judge sin wherever it is found.  Sadly, it’s found in all of us.  There is only one Man in all of history who lived life without sin, and that man is Jesus.  The rest of us face the righteous condemnation of God.
  3. What is to be done?  God did it already when Jesus went to the cross.  John 3:16–17, "(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." []  That is exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave.  All that is left now is belief.  The very thing that the apostles were unwilling to do prior to having undeniable proof set before them is what every one of us is called to do now.  It’s not that we need more proof (the evidence is overwhelming); it’s that we must make a simple choice.  We must choose to believe, and act according to that belief (i.e., baptism).  That’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, and that is what He said here to the disciples.  Believe.  Trust.  Have faith.  Those things are not works of our hands – they are responses of the heart.  We must believe upon Jesus, giving ourselves to Him in full surrender.  Baptism is simply identifying ourselves with Christ, a demonstration that we have been “immersed” in His grace – fully belonging to Him.  It all begins with the choice to believe.
  4. Is Jesus saying baptism saves us?  No.  Notice that baptism is specifically associated with belief.  Baptism alone does nothing for anyone…it just gets them wet.  Baptism isn’t the primary issue in play here; belief is.  How can we know for sure?  Look at the opposite.  Those who believe and are baptized will be saved, but those who do not believe will be condemned.  If baptism was all that was necessary for salvation, then people could just immerse themselves in a bath to escape eternal condemnation.  It is unbelief that sends people to condemnation and hell; not a lack of any religious ritual.
  5. Don’t miss the import of what Jesus is saying to the apostles.  He’s not just telling them how THEY can be saved; He’s telling them how OTHERS can be saved.  Often we read these words and are comforted in our own salvation, as we remember how our eternity is based upon Jesus’ work and simple faith.  But that’s not the primary reason Jesus said these words.  He’s imparting to them the gravity of their task.  Look at it again: “Go preach the gospel.  People who believe will be saved from the result of their sin, but people who don’t will be eternally condemned in it.”  IOW, the disciples had the news that would save people’s lives.  Can you imagine having a cure to a deadly disease, but refusing to give it to people?  You’ve already partaken of the cure, and you are inoculated against the disease in the future, but you refuse to hand it out to anyone else.  That’s not just a “little” wrong; that’s downright criminal.  Beloved, with as much grace as can be mustered, please understand the importance of what it is we have been given.  The gospel is not a truth for us to sit on and feel good about; it’s something that needs to be given out.  It’s not just for us; it’s for others.  If we don’t hand it out, who will? 

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

  1. These verses have caused no little confusion or debate.  Quite honestly, there is no need.  Just a cursory read of the book of Acts shows everything Jesus proclaimed to be absolutely true.  The apostles did cast out demons, on multiple occasions.  Those who believed in Jesus did speak with new tongues.  Those who were sick were healed when the apostles laid their hands upon them…sometimes even when their shadows fell upon them.  Even Jesus’ mention of the snake proved to be true when Paul was bitten on the Island of Malta (Acts 28).
  2. Notice nothing that He said had anything to do with tempting the Lord by willfully handling rattlesnakes or purposefully drinking poison.  He did not give the disciples a list of party tricks to perform, nor did He give them a command to do anything deadly in some perverted form of worship.  The whole context is what God the Holy Spirit would do through those who both preach the gospel, and those who believe what was preached to them.  These were to be “signs” to give credence to the gospel message as people came to faith; not something done by the church in the comfort of their own homes and churches.

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

  1. Many other things took place between Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples and His later ascension, but the gospel accounts say little about them.  No doubt there will still be much to learn of Jesus in heaven.
  2. Luke tells us that the ascension occurred 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:3).  Although it’s not often remembered among evangelical Christians today, it’s actually a wonderful confirmation of the finished work of Jesus at the cross and resurrection.  Jesus died for us once – and once was enough.  No more death is needed – no more work needs to be done by Jesus.  Once He rose from the dead, He did not need to die once more to gain entrance to heaven; He could (and did) ascend there in the glory of God.  Today, Jesus is still in His ascended place in heaven, seated in victory and power at God’s right hand.  The ascension speaks of Jesus’ sufficiency – His victory – His glory – AND it is tied to the promise of His return.  Jesus will be coming back, and He will do so in a similar manner to which He rose.

20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

  1. The disciples went out, obedient to the commission of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit empowered them exactly as Jesus had said.  The book of Acts is the first evidence, and 2000 years of church history is the rest.  As you listen to this, you yourself are proof that the disciples did as instructed.  They preached, we believed, and now we are saved – brought into the family of God.  Hallelujah and amen!

Conclusion:
Regardless what someone concludes about who actually penned vss. 9-20 of Mark 16, there can be hardly any doubt that the Holy Spirit gave them to the church.  Jesus rose, and He revealed Himself to those who followed Him.  First, it was to the least likely, and then to the rest.  As a result, those who were in unbelief came to belief.  Their weeping eventually turned to joy…they had just stayed in their weeping far longer than necessary.

It’s not that they didn’t know the truth; it’s that they refused to believe.  Faith is a choice, and it’s a choice that everyone must make.  It doesn’t change the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, but it certainly changes the future of our eternity.  Make the choice to believe

Let us weep no more, but live in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection!  Let us believe the wonderfully good news that Jesus is alive!

And for those already do, let us do something about it.  We’ve been entrusted with the most glorious news in all the universe – the cure to the terrible disease of sin.  How can we not share it?  As with the other disciples, Jesus has sent us into the world that we might proclaim the gospel to others.  The task is not complicated, but we so often find it extremely difficult.  It doesn’t need to be that way.  Remember that we follow the living Lord Jesus.  Ask Him for help, and He will give it.  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you power and boldness to be a better witness of Jesus, and there’s no doubt that He will.

Resurrection Sunday 2014
“Hope in the Resurrection”

1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

What comes to mind when you think of “hope”?  Some people hope to lose weight – some hope to win the lottery – but all of those sorts of things are more of wishes or desire, rather than actual hope.  Hope is perhaps better thought of as an expectation for the future.  Someone might hope for a good report from their doctor as they await test results.  Parents have high hopes for their children, expecting the very best out of them in the future.

But what about spiritual matters?  What about eternity?  Can we have any real hope for those sorts of things?

Some would claim that we cannot truly know anything about eternity.  They think it is pointless to believe in God because no one can really know anything about God.  They think that no one can prove God’s existence, and that all religions basically teach the same thing anyway.  So just live your life, try to be nice to people, and don’t worry too much about all the rest…you can’t do anything about it anyway.

That may be a very popular line of through, but it’s wrong.  We CAN know things about eternity.  We CAN know God and spiritual matters.  When it comes to spiritual truth, we can have hope.  Real hope – living hope – confident hope – expectant/assured hope.

How so?  The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, that is what Easter is all about.  We’ve come to celebrate the reality that Jesus is risen from the dead.  We’ve come to celebrate the abundant mercy of God who would send His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and then resurrect Him from the grave in order that we might be reconciled unto Him.  The resurrection uniquely sets Biblical Christianity apart from other religions.  It’s because of the resurrection that we can know that we know that Biblical Christianity is true.  The resurrection is how know that we can have hope in Jesus.  We have hope because Jesus is risen.

The hopelessness of sin:
Before we get to the good news of the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection, we’ve got first understand the bad news.  There is a reason that Peter said that we have been begotten to a living hope through the “abundant mercy” of God.  Left to our own devices, apart from God’s mercy, we would have nothing.  There is indeed hope in the living Lord Jesus, but there is utter hopelessness without Him.

Many people don’t understand this.  They live without a care in the world and without a care for God.  They’re perfectly happy and content living their lives, doing the things they do, and they give no real thought to their eternal future.  They just think that if God truly does exist, He’ll let them into eternity because they’ve been mostly nice people.  That may be their belief, but that’s not the truth.  They may desire for it to be otherwise, but that isn’t the spiritual reality.  Here is the reality:

  • We’ve sinned, and sinned greatly.  The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and even those without faith in the Bible understand the truth of this.  After all, it’s a cliché to say “no one’s perfect.”  It’s a cliché, because it’s true!  We inherently understand that everyone messes up.  Everyone falls short.  What people might not understand is that what we call “messing up,” the Bible calls “sin.”  And that sin is nothing short of rebellion against God.  God created us to be in fellowship with Him, worshiping Him & giving Him glory.  Yet when we lift ourselves up in our ego & self-worship, then we’re taking what rightfully belongs to God.  When we dwell in our hatred of other people (all of whom are made in the image of God), then we’re committing murder in our hearts.  When we gaze upon others in lust, then we’re committing adultery in our hearts.  When we desire to call the shots in our own lives, rather than submitting ourselves into God, then we’re making ourselves our own king, when only God rightfully has that place.  One definition of sin is “to miss the mark,” and any time we come short of perfection, we miss the mark (be it intentionally or unintentionally).  That’s sin, and that’s a big problem.  Why?
  • We bear guilt because of our sin.  We might object & say “But everyone sins!”  And we’d be right.  But the problem with sin is that it carries a punishment: death.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and this was illustrated throughout the entire OT every time an animal was sacrificed upon the altar.  When someone sins, something has to die.  It was that way in the beginning, and it is that way today.  Even in our sins between one another, we see that there are always consequences to our actions.  If someone lies to us, trust dies.  If someone steals from us, security dies.  If someone speaks rumors about us, reputations die.  Now take it to an infinite level when our sin is against God.  When someone sins, that person bears guilt and something has to die.
  • There’s nothing we can do about it on our own.  We bear our guilt, but we can’t pay the price.  If the price is death, and the sin is infinite, then it means the price is really infinite (eternal) death.  We’d want to get past that, but how?  We can’t scrub ourselves clean – we cannot erase the past – we cannot try to “out-do” our bad with some good.  Even in a court of law, all the judge looks at is the crime.  It doesn’t matter how else we lived our lives if we broke the law of man.  It’s no different with God, and He is a Judge of a far higher standard: perfection. 
  • So put it together: we’ve all sinned against God, we’ve incurred guilt because of our sin, and we’re going to be judged for it because there is no way that we can pay the price.  That’s hopeless!

But that’s not where it has to end.  For many people, it does, as they choose to go to the grave and judgment under the delusion that God is something other than who He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture.  They will face the truth, even though they denied it their whole lives.

But it doesn’t HAVE to end that way.  It can go to HOPE, as we look at Jesus.  Because Jesus is risen, we have hope of something far better than judgment.  We do not despair in hopelessness.

The hope of the resurrection:
What hope to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus have?  What does His resurrection from the dead tell us in regards to our spiritual hope?  Many things!  We’ll look at three: (1) forgiveness, (2) freedom, (3) future.

  • Forgiveness

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for the forgiveness of our sins.  As Peter wrote, God has “begotten us again to a living hope.”  What does it mean that we have been begotten?  It means that we’ve been born!  It was this new spiritual birth that Jesus was speaking of when He told the Pharisee Nicodemus that unless someone is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3).  We NEED that birth!  And Jesus PROVIDES that birth because He went to the cross and rose from the grave.  It was in that same conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus said what has become some of the most famous verses in all of the Bible: John 3:16–17, "(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

All of the sin that we had committed – all of the guilt that we had incurred – it meant that we were doomed to perish.  But those who believe on Christ have a far different hope.  We have a confident assurance that we are saved!  We have a confident hope that our sins have been forgiven and that we have been born again, given everlasting life with God Almighty.  Think about that for a moment: forgiveness – new life.  Everything we’ve done in the past, wiped away and gone.  Every single sin we had committed against God – every single time we had elevated ourselves as our own god and king – all of it is done.  There are sins we’ve committed which we have a hard enough time forgiving ourselves.  We’ve carried that guilt for years on end.  Hear this & know it: Jesus forgives.  Those who believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord have forgiveness from sin!  The Bible tells us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us (Ps 103:12).  It tells us that though we once our sins made us stained as scarlet, God will make us white as snow (Isa 1:18).  This is what is available to every person in Christ Jesus!  The Bible promises that if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  This is what is available to everyone in Christ Jesus, because He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us the hope of forgiveness.

  • Freedom

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for freedom from the power that sin held upon us.  This is part of the “living hope” of which Peter wrote.  The hope we have in Jesus isn’t merely for our sins of the past (though the past is included) – it’s not only for the hope of the future (which is included, as we’ll see), but it’s also for the present time.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a wonderful freedom from the slavery of sin.  This is one of the things that is demonstrated through baptism: Romans 6:5–7, "(5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (7) For he who has died has been freed from sin."

Because Jesus lives, and because those who have faith in Jesus are IN Jesus, we are free!  Before Jesus saved us, we gave ourselves over to sin.  We were enslaved to it.  The only choice we exercised was whether we would sin a little, or a lot – but no doubt about it, we would be sinning.  But all that has changed in the resurrection.  Now we are new creations (2 Cor 5:18) – now we have been set free!  We are free to walk in Christ, to live in fellowship with God empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This is a freedom known only by believers in Christ, because it can only come through faith in Him and His resurrection.

Some people may object, saying, “But I don’t feel like a slave!  I can do whatever I want.”  You can do what YOU want, but apart from Jesus, you cannot do what GOD wants.  Because of that, apart from Jesus, we all abide in death.  We’re enslaved to it.  We can even do all the religious acts we can, and we will still be enslaved to sin and death, because that is what we are all originally born into.  The Jews of Jesus’ day had the same objection when Jesus told them that the truth could set them free.  They claimed that they were sons of Abraham’s & had never been anyone’s slaves. (Conveniently forgetting about 400 years in Egypt, among other things!)  John 8:34–36, "(34) Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

THAT is true freedom!  And that is what is available through Jesus’ resurrection.

  • Future

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for an eternal future with Jesus away from the very presence of sin.  This is primarily what Peter was referring to in vs. 4: 1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

There is an inheritance that awaits every believer in Christ.  There is a glorious future that can hardly be imagined in its scope.  This world is corrupt, without question.  All we need to do is pick up any random newspaper and read about the various tragedies that happen every day.  Be it the shooting in Ft. Hood, the sunken South Korean ferryboat, the missing Malaysian airplane, or any number of things that happen around the world.  We see ourselves or our loved ones battle disease like cancer, or struggle with chronic pain.  We see families ripped apart by divorce, and the list could go on.  This world is most definitely defiled!  But for the Christian, our inheritance is not!  We have an eternal future with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that we are joint heirs with Him because we have been made the children of God (Rom 8:17).  The book of Revelation famously describes eternity with God as a time when there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, because all of the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).  THAT is what awaits every believer in Jesus, and we have a confident assurance of receiving exactly that because our Jesus is risen from the dead!

Today you need to ask yourself if you have a confident hope in this future.  When we speak of heaven, we’re speaking of something far more than some distant dream…we’re speaking of literal eternity with God.  We go to great lengths to ensure our future on earth is taken care of.  We want to ensure that we have a place to sleep tonight (and tomorrow, and the next) – we want to ensure that our families are provided for – we want to take whatever preparations are necessary for our physical needs.  If that’s important to do here, how much more important is it for eternity?  That is a future that won’t just last 1 year, or 5 years, or even 50 years.  That’s a future that will last for billions of years – to the point that time itself is beyond measure.  Do you have a confident hope in THAT future?  You can.  Every person can know.

How can we know?
All of the promises we have in Jesus hinge upon His resurrection.  Without Jesus being raised from the dead, we have no assurance of any of these things.  1 Corinthians 15:17–19, "(17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (18) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."

Without a living Jesus, all we have is a false faith.  Without a living Jesus, there is no reason for anyone to become a Christian.  BUT if Jesus truly did rise from the grave, then we have every reason to put our faith in Christ.  If Jesus is alive, then turning away from Him would be the ultimate act of foolishness – equivalent to spiritual suicide.

Jesus IS risen from the dead, and we can KNOW that Jesus is alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is attested to by many people – some of whom we might not expect.

First: the apostles.  Obviously we would expect the apostles to testify of Jesus.  Of anyone, they had believed in Him from the start, even if they weren’t entirely certain what to believe when Jesus spoke of His suffering and death.  That being said, what reason would the disciples have to preach a risen Jesus, if in fact Jesus was still dead?  It was considered a crime to be associated with Jesus (as a potential Messiah King that would challenge Rome), and at the very least, it had been publicly stated that believers in Jesus would be cast out of the synagogues (Jn 9:22).  The disciples had nothing to gain by lying about Jesus’ resurrection.  In fact, it was the opposite: they had everything to lose by saying Jesus had risen from the dead.

And they knew it!  In the hours following Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter and the other disciples could not be found on the streets of Jerusalem.  They were hiding behind locked doors! (Jn 20:19)  Peter could not even admit his faith prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, and the only interrogator he faced at that time was a little girl.  They knew the danger that awaited them.

Yet this is not the same attitude that we find 50 days later on the day of Pentecost.  At that time, the apostles were amazingly bold in their faith, preaching the gospel to thousands.  It’s not that the threat of persecution was removed…after all, they were later repeatedly beaten and jailed.  Some even died torturous deaths as martyrs.  But their faith and proclamation never wavered.  What could have possibly have happened to make this kind of change?  Only one thing: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Second: the Romans. If the disciples testified that Jesus was risen from the dead, surely the Romans would say the opposite, right?  After all, it was a Roman who ordered Jesus’ execution, a Roman who verified Jesus’ death, and Romans who guarded Jesus’ tomb to ward off any potential grave-robbery from the disciples.  They had a vested interest in saying Jesus was still dead – they had overseen every aspect of it from beginning to burial!  Yet it is that same vested interest that testifies of Jesus’ resurrection.

If a Roman soldier failed in his duty because of negligence, it was a serious offense – something for which he could be killed.  Soldiers who fell asleep on the job would sometimes be pushed off a cliff.  This wasn’t something to take lightly!  With that in mind, think of the story that the Jewish elders told the Romans to spread about Jesus’ resurrection: Matthew 28:11–15, "(11) Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. (12) When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, (13) saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ (14) And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” (15) So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

The soldiers were to publicly state that they had fell asleep at their posts.  Not just one or two of them – all of them!  (And there would have been between 4-16 men.)  They were to claim that the whole lot of them were so tired that they took no notice of a group of Jesus’ disciples coming to the tomb, presumably stepping over their sleeping bodies rolling back a massively heavy stone in utmost silence, taking Jesus’ body out of the tomb, and walking out again…all without so much as causing a single soldier to stir from sleep.

Not only is the story ludicrous, it’s suicidal.  For the soldiers to claim this publicly, they would be admitting to massive failure and negligence, virtually guaranteeing their deaths.  Yet they didn’t die.  The Jewish elders promised to keep them protected & presumably they did just that.  Each soldier that told the tale of falling asleep thus becomes a walking testimony of Jesus’ resurrection – just by virtue of the fact that the soldier was still alive to spread the lie!

Along these lines, it’s interesting that there is no indication that Pilate and the other Romans did anything to dispute the story.  They didn’t argue the point in spite of Jewish objections, though during Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate had no problem doing things that the Jewish elders didn’t like (such as the sign he placed over Jesus’ head).  Perhaps this is an indication that they believed something about the true account of the resurrection themselves.  They did not promote the resurrection, but they didn’t argue against it, either.

Third, the Jews.  The Romans had made Jesus’ execution possible, but it was the Jews who asked for it to happen.  Despite the many proofs Jesus had given, the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as the Messiah, seeing Him as a threat to their own position, and outraged that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  Out of anyone, the Jewish leadership seemed to have paid the closest attention to Jesus when He said that He would rise from the dead.  The 12 disciples may not have believed it, but the Jewish Sanhedrin apparently did!  At least, they thought that the disciples would come and steal the body, to promote the rumor.  It was for this reason that they requested the Roman soldiers in the first place.  Yet all of a sudden, they found themselves paying off the soldiers, bribing them to publicly humiliate and potentially endanger themselves with a lie.

Beyond the bribery was something far more simple: any lack of evidence that would be contrary to Jesus’ resurrection.  Think of it: the Pharisees and Sadducees had all the power among the Jews.  When tales of Jesus’ resurrection started to spread, they could have quashed it all easily and simply.  All they needed to do was produce a body.  They could have easily marched to Jesus’ tomb, dragged out His corpse, and proven the disciples to be liars.  The disciples certainly did not have the wherewithal to hide Jesus’ body from the Jews.  They would not have been able to overpower the trained Roman soldiers in a fight, nor somehow sneak past them, despite the ridiculous rumor that had been spread.  The Jewish leadership held all the cards, and yet they still had zero evidence to contradict the disciples.  They had no body, no tomb, and a growing list of people who had physically seen the risen Lord Jesus.  (Not only the initial women – not only the 11 remaining disciples – Jesus had appeared to over 500 people at one time, prior to His ascension. 1 Cor 15:6)  It’s no wonder that 3000 Jews came to faith and were saved on the day of Pentecost.  They were utterly convinced that Jesus HAD risen from the dead!

Conclusion:
There can be no doubt that Jesus is alive!  The witnesses have multiplied in abundance since that first Resurrection Sunday, and there can be but one conclusion: the resurrection is real – Jesus truly rose from the grave.

Because we can know that, we can have hope.  There is glorious hope in the resurrection of Jesus – a glorious confident expectation of what Jesus has done for us. We have:

  • Hope for forgiveness
  • Hope for freedom
  • Hope for a future.

This is a hope in which we can rejoice on Easter Sunday/Resurrection Sunday – and this is a hope in which we can rejoice every day.

Beloved, do you have joy in the resurrection?  For those of us who believe upon Jesus as Lord, there is no greater day of the year than Resurrection Sunday.  This is the foundation upon which all our faith rests, and it is a historical fact.  We have the confidence of building our lives upon Jesus because He has proven Himself to be God, by virtue of the fact that He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us hope beyond hope – a hope that far exceeds whatever trials this current life throws at us.  This day is a day of worship for us.  It is a day of remembrance and joy.  It is a day that compels us to go share this same hope with everyone around us. 

Do you have that hope?  You can.  First, you need to come to grips with the bad news.  God may be perfect, but you’re not.  You’ve sinned against Him horribly and repeatedly, and you bear guilt because of that sin.  That guilt absolutely must be dealt with, and God WILL deal with it because He is perfectly righteous.  But that’s where the good news comes in.  You may be guilty, but Jesus took on your guilt for you.  He died in your place when He died upon the cross.  The punishment He received is the punishment that you & I deserved, and He did it willingly out of obedience to God, and out of amazing love for us.  He died on that cross, but He didn’t stay dead – He rose!  He came out of the grave, and we can know historically that He did it.  And because He did, now we can have hope.

So here’s the point: you’ve got to respond to that somehow.  You cannot go on living your life without a care in the world, now that you know the truth.  There is an eternal future that you must face, and you can either go into that eternity with God as your judge, or as your Savior.  Jesus offers to save you, so respond to Him!  Turn away from your sin in repentance, and turn to Jesus in faith today.  Ask Him to forgive you your sins, and ask Him to be your Lord & King forever. 

Great Expectations

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Luke 24:1-12, “Great Expectations”

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” (Luke 24:1–12, NKJV)

There are times that we have great expectations and great hopes.  We whole-heartedly believe a fantastic promise or potential, and we look forward with tremendous anticipation to the fulfillment of our hopes.

This was not one of those times.

For the women arriving at the tomb early Sunday morning, they had already had their hopes dashed on Friday afternoon.  They had stood witness to Jesus’ suffering and death, helpless to do anything but weep as their Messiah-King was tortured and killed before their eyes.  He had endured the hatred and scorn of the Jewish officials – He had zero justice in the Roman courtroom of Pilate – He had been beaten, whipped, and had His back ripped to shreds until finally they marched Jesus through town and nailed Him to the cross. 

There He hung in agony.  Every breath was painful.  Every hour passed slowly.  Even God the Father had seemingly turned away from His Son.  Finally, Jesus died there on Calvary’s hill.  The Roman soldiers pierced His heart with a spear, and Jesus’ death was confirmed.  His body was given over for burial, and the woman watched as their King was placed in a tomb.

The only expectation they had for Sunday morning was one of grisly service, continuing the rituals of Jewish burial.  They were in the midst of their own grief, surely uncertain of what the future held for them, now that Jesus was dead.

And in a moment, everything changed.

They had expected to anoint a dead body, and instead they found an empty tomb.  Even the stone had been rolled away, allowing the women to peer inside.  That in itself was unusual, but where was Jesus?  Where was His body?  For a group of people already in shock from the previous events of Friday, no doubt this new mystery sent them reeling.  It’s no wonder the Bible describes them as “perplexed.

That’s when the two men (angels) show themselves and ask a question obvious to themselves, but to no one else: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Objection…wait: shouldn’t that be reversed?  They had come to a graveyard because they had seen Jesus die with their own eyes.  They had personally witnessed His burial.  How could He possibly be described as “living”?  And of course, there is only one way: if He wasn’t dead – if Jesus rose from the grave.

The angels never claimed that Jesus hadn’t died.  They simply testified to the fact that Jesus was no longer dead.  He had risen!  He is alive!

This is what Jesus said would happen; people just didn’t believe Him.  It’s not that the disciples and believing women didn’t have faith in Christ; they did.  They believed (and testified) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – they just didn’t believe Jesus’ teaching about what would happen to the Christ.  They couldn’t bring themselves to believe that Jesus would actually be delivered into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and then rise on the third day.  They believed IN Jesus, but they didn’t BELIEVE Jesus (at least on the subject of His death and resurrection).  And because of that, all of their expectations were wrong.

The 11 disciples understood no more than the women at the tomb, and the Bible shows us that they were also left in amazement, seemingly unsure what to believe or think.   They had so little hope in Jesus’ earlier prophecy of resurrection that they initially believed that the women were making up stories.  They might not have thought that the women were lying, but perhaps they were delusional in their grief.  Even as Peter saw the evidence for himself with his own eyes, he was still unsure what to believe.  Jesus would eventually have to show Himself to all of them for them to fully come to faith (and the Bible tells us that is exactly what He did).

How their expectations changed!  And quickly!

  • Not a dead body, but a living Jesus
  • Not a defeated (false) prophet, but a victorious King
  • Not a despairing future, but a steadfast hope of eternity

The empty tomb changes all kinds of expectations! 

When you think about the empty tomb of Jesus, discovered early Sunday morning, what are your expectations?  Some people don’t expect much from Him.

  • To some, Jesus is just another religious or moral teacher…but not according to the resurrection.  He’s vastly more!  Moral teachers do not have this kind of power, but God does.  People liked Ghandi for what his moral teachings about passivism, but Ghandi is still dead.  Name your religious teacher or moral guru – there have been many who inspired many followers, but the ones who have died are still dead to this day.  Not even leaders of religious movements (like Mohammed or Buddha) were able to rise from the dead.  Only Jesus.
  • To some, Jesus is a fraud…but not according to the resurrection.  It proves that He is true!  It is the proof of Jesus’ ordination of God to be the One through whom all the world is judged (Acts 17:31).  All questions and doubts about the Person of Jesus ought to be put to rest in light of the empty tomb.  After all, He rose from the dead under His own power, exactly as He said He would, in exactly the timeframe that He said He would.  Those are not the actions of a liar or a fraud; those are the actions of Almighty God! 

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead ought to change ALL of our expectations about Him.  Because of the empty tomb, we can expect:

  • He is the Lord God in the flesh, come according to promise and prophecy. Romans 1:3–4, "(3) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, (4) and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." [] 
  • He offers forgiveness from sin, demonstrated in that He not only died at the cross, but also rose from the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:16–17, "(16) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"  []  IF Jesus had not risen, we would not be forgiven – but because Jesus HAS risen, we can KNOW we are forgiven!
  • He offers the hope of eternal life.  Because Jesus is risen, those who trust Jesus as Lord can know that we will rise as well.  1 Corinthians 15:20–21, "(20) But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (21) For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead." []
  • He is coming back again.  If Jesus can rise from the grave exactly as He said He would, then we ought to pay close attention to His words when He spoke of His future return.  Jesus is faithful to every promise!  John 14:1–3, "(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." []

All of this is bound up in Jesus’ resurrection.  Because He is risen, it validates everything else Jesus said and did.  That speaks to vastly more than our forgiveness of sin & eternal life (as wonderful as that is!).  That also speaks to the abundant life that God desires for us right now.  Because Jesus is risen, our expectations change for how we currently live.  We don’t have to wonder if God hears our prayers, we know He does.  Why?  Because Jesus is risen from the dead (Heb 4:16).  We need not worry that God won’t forgive us for the times we occasionally sin.  Why?  Because Jesus is risen from the dead (1 Jn 1:9).  We don’t need to be afraid that we’re ever alone in this world.  Jesus has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20) – and we know that He will because He is risen from the dead.  We can expect the empowerment of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:8).  We can expect God to glorify Himself through our sufferings because of Jesus’ resurrection (Rom 8:28).  We can expect spiritual gifts, abiding joy, and even miracles when God desires to give them…all because Jesus is raised from the dead!

The tomb is empty, and our joy is made full!  Jesus is risen, and it changes every expectation.  Before Jesus rose, the only expectation we had was our own suffering and death, as we were enslaved to sin, and doomed to judgment.  But Jesus is risen, and it changes everything!  Glory be to God!  Thank the Lord that our Jesus is alive!

Is your hope in Jesus?  Do you expect Him to do as He said?  If so, you can celebrate and worship.  Today is a day of remembrance and joy for you.  It’s a day that you can not only thank Jesus for His past work, but you can gloriously hope in Him for His future promises.  You have the grandest expectation of any creature that God has made: eternity in the joyful presence of your Creator.  THAT is your great expectation because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. 

If not, today is the day that you can know Jesus personally.  Let the reality of Jesus’ resurrection change your expectations about Him.  See Him as He truly is: not a mere teacher – not a fraud – but the Lord God Himself.  And as you do, turn away from your sins and place your trust in Jesus, asking for His forgiveness.  Surrender your life to Him as the God that He has proven Himself to be.  What a glorious expectation anyone can have in Jesus…and you can have it today.

Matthew 28:11-20, “The King’s Command”

Every soldier knows the importance of following orders.  All commands are important, but who gives the command makes a huge difference.  It’s one thing for our fellow colleague to tell us something – it’s another thing for a superior – and something entirely different when it’s the Commander-in-Chief.  When he speaks, he outranks everyone else & what he says matters on a whole different level.

Our Commander-in-Chief has spoken.  Our King has given us a command.  In what has become known as “The Great Commission,” our King has given us final orders to make disciples of all the world, and He’s told us how to do it.  When King Jesus stood on the mountain that day, He was not speaking only to the 11 disciples, but to all the Church.  Their orders are our orders.  Our King has given us a command, and we have the wonderful privilege of obeying.

The fact that Jesus was giving a commission at all is reason for joy!  After all, just days earlier He had been crucified and buried.  We are now in the short conclusion of Matthew’s gospel account, showing the resurrected living Lord Jesus.  Jesus had died, but now He’s alive.  The women at the tomb had been amazed, and sent to tell the disciples the news of Jesus’ victory over death.  Of course, that news was not welcome news to everyone…especially the Romans & Jewish priests.  They had their own ways of dealing with it.  They were going to go spread a lie, but Jesus commissioned His disciples to go spread the truth.

What was the truth?  Jesus is the King, and all the world can follow Him as His disciples.  How were people to know?  By the current disciples going out and telling them.

Matthew 28:11–20
11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.

  • While WHO “were going”?  The ladies mentioned in the preceding verses.  Think of this as a “meanwhile…” as in an old TV show or mystery novel.  Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome had gone to tell the disciples what they had seen at the tomb.  First the angel had commanded them to tell the disciples what had happened, and then Jesus physically appeared to them and gave them the same command.  They were overjoyed, bewildered, and still obedient and were off to do what the Lord Jesus had said.  But remember that they were not the only ones at the tomb who had seen the angel.  The Roman soldiers guarding the tomb had been first-hand witnesses of the angel (though not likely of Jesus).  They had responded at first with paralyzing fear – they became as dead men (which would have taken a lot for these battle-hardened soldiers of Rome!).  Now they did the only thing they could do, and that was to go back and tell the priests.
  • Question: why did the Roman soldiers talk to the priests & not to Pilate?  Although they had been hired out by the request of the priests, they did not report to the priests.  The Jewish priests had their own temple police for which they used on all sorts of occasions, but they hadn’t used the temple police this time, which is apparent from the text.  After all, there was no reason for the priests to ask permission of Pilate to use their own temple police, and the word used to describe the guards is a word transliterated back into Greek from Latin.  There’s little doubt that these were indeed Roman soldiers.  So why did they go to the Jewish chief priests?
    • They had witnessed the supernatural – something that Pilate nor any of their superior officer would have been able to explain.  They would have known (as all the city knew) that Jesus was crucified for being the King of the Jews and capable of all sorts of supernatural miracles.  It would only make sense for them to go to the people most capable of explaining this sort of event after what they just experienced.
    • They knew they were in deep trouble.  Rome did not take failure lightly.  This was supposed to have been an easy assignment.  After all, how hard is it to guard the tomb of a dead man?  Even if the disciples had come to steal the body, the Romans were trained warriors – 11 fishermen and tax collectors would not have been any trouble at all for them.  The reason the soldiers had failed was due to a supernatural explanation, so they go to the only people they can think of with the answers for how to deal with the situation.  It was the priests’ fault that they had been given the assignment; it was the priests to whom they went for answers.
  • This tells us something about the chief priests: like the 11 disciples, they also knew on Sunday morning that Jesus had risen from the grave.  They had no excuse NOT to believe.  They also had been witness to Jesus’ miracles, His teachings, and His prophecy.  They knew that Jesus had promised to rise the third day after His crucifixion, and He did.  There was no way that these educated scholars in the Scripture could not put 2 & 2 together, and come up with the conclusion that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  If nothing else, His resurrection is the definitive proof of that (Rom 1:4).  At this point, the Jewish chief priests were willfully closing their eyes against Jesus.

12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”

  • Matthew doesn’t tell us what was said, but he does tell us that the response of the priests was not repentance; it was a conference.  They recognized what had happened – they realized what the response of the people would be – they knew that they needed to have their own “spin” to the story to try to head things off before it got too far among the people.  At this point, the chief priests and elders were by no means interested in the truth; they were deep into damage-control.
  • Their solution?  A plot, a payoff, and protection.  They plotted a lie.  The idea would be totally illogical and improbable, but it’s what they decided to go with in their deception.  They were supposed to claim that they fell asleep, but yet that they knew it was the disciples who came to steal the body.  How exactly would they know who stole the body if they were asleep?  And how would the disciples not disturb the soldiers as they slept there?  Rolling back the stone would have made quite a bit of noise.  Were the 11 disciples who had not been able to do more damage than lopping off the ear of a slave supposed to somehow intimidate the Roman soldiers?  Even only 4 soldiers would have been more than enough to dispatch the disciples, and there were likely 16 of them.  The Romans would have outnumbered the 11 disciples, and yet somehow the disciples snuck past them?  Nothing about this story makes any logical sense at all, and yet it was what the priests chose to go with.
  • The payoff was a bribe.  We’re not told the amount of the money offered to the soldiers, but it seemed to be a sufficient amount of silver to offset any fear of retribution from Pilate, or embarrassment to their reputations.  Considering the consequences that normally awaited a Roman soldier who neglected his duties, the amount offered was surely huge!  Typically, soldiers who fell asleep on the job would be pushed off a cliff to their deaths.  This wasn’t something Rome took lightly!  And of course their entire future career would be tarnished by the story that a bunch of untrained fishermen outsmarted these Roman soldiers while they slept.  No doubt the bribe was quite massive to make it worth their while.
    • Interestingly, the priests’ opposition to Jesus keeps getting more & more expensive.  At first, it was a minor 30 pieces of silver to Judas.  Now it’s a bribe to the Roman guards.  Later it will be their own version of the inquisition as they send out people like Saul (Paul) to persecute the church wherever it was found.  Then it will be ongoing trials against Paul that last for years, etc.
  • The promise of protection was likely the thing that sealed the deal.  In the eyes of Rome, the guards had already failed in their duty.  After all, even if they hadn’t lied about the events, they would have still had to go back to Pilate with the story that an angel of God had scared them away from keeping the tomb of Jesus sealed.  (THAT probably would not have gone over very well!)  They were facing severe punishment, and likely death, no matter what they said.  For the soldiers to receive a promise of personal protection from the high priests would have been very welcome news.  The priests said that they’d be the ones to speak up on their behalf to Pilate & cause their lives to be saved.
  • Why go through all this trouble?  The Sanhedrin couldn’t have a resurrected Jesus!  A resurrected Jesus changes everything.  A resurrected Jesus proves that He is right, and they were wrong.  A resurrected Jesus demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God with all authority and the power to forgive sin.  And although one would think that this would normally be wonderful news to the world, it was terrible news to the Jewish leadership of the chief priests and elders.  If Jesus really is the Messiah King, that means they owed Him their allegiance.  It means that they had plotted against, arrested, beaten, and sent the Son of God to His death.  It meant that they were sinful rebels in the eyes of God, fully deserving of His wrath, and to be removed from their position of honor among the Jewish people.  That was inconceivable to the priests in their pride.  They couldn’t possibly be wrong. They were always the ones who spoke for God; they certainly could not have been that wrong about the Son of God. And yet of course, they were.
    • Pride had caused them to reject Jesus prior to the cross, and pride was causing them to reject Jesus after the cross and resurrection.  Their pride was going to send them to hell.

15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

  • The soldiers agreed to the plot & started spreading the rumor.  Apparently the rumor had some staying power & was one of the common stories “among the Jews” even at the time of Matthew’s writing.
  • BTW – the fact that at least some Jews believed the rumor points to at least one very important fact: they knew the tomb was empty.  Undisturbed graves filled with corpses don’t require any lies or explanations regarding the body.  The whole city had known that Jesus had been killed – they knew that He had been buried – and by this point they also knew that Jesus’ body was no longer there.  There had to be some explanation for the empty tomb, and this was the story these Jews chose to believe.
    • The empty tomb MUST be explained & the only logical explanation is the resurrection.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.

  • This was obedience on behalf of the disciples.  Jesus had told them back at the Last Supper that He would meet them in Galilee (26:32), and He (and the angel) had instructed the women at the tomb to repeat the command to the apostles (28:7,10).
  • The fact that Jesus desired to meet them in Galilee nicely mirrors His earthly ministry.  The bulk of His ministry had taken place north in Galilee; not in Jerusalem.  It only makes sense that Jesus would have post-resurrection appearances in Galilee as well.
  • All that said, there are two issues here. (1) When did this take place? (2) Who all went to Galilee?
    • The “then” is not the precise word for “then” in the Greek, but a simple conjunction that could be translated a number of ways (“and,” “now,” “but,” etc.).  There is definitely a progression of events here, but Matthew is not providing us a specific timeline.  IOW, there’s no reason to believe that the 11 disciples heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday morning following Passover, and then immediately headed north to Galilee.  In fact, from the other gospels we know this is not the case.  The disciples remained in Jerusalem all day long on Sunday, and at least for one full week following (as seen in the post-resurrection appearance to Thomas – Jn 20:26).  We don’t know exactly when they went to Galilee, but apparently they did so according to instruction, not delaying any longer than necessary.
    • We know the 11 disciples went to Galilee, for Matthew explicitly tells us this.  What we’re not told is if ONLY the 11 disciples travelled north to Galilee, or if ONLY the 11 disciples saw Jesus upon the mountain.  Perhaps only the 11 travelled together from Jerusalem, but there were others who met them on the mountain when they arrived.  Paul writes of a time on which the resurrected Lord appeared to over 500 witnesses at one time (1 Cor 15:6).  Considering the other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus have seemed to be somewhat private affairs (the women at the tomb, the disciples’ upper room in Jerusalem, the road to Emmaus, the fishing by the Lake of Tiberias), this event on the mountain seems to be the most logical time for this mass meeting & appearance.
      • The significance of this becomes apparent in vs. 17…
  • The location itself is interesting.  Matthew doesn’t specify the exact mountain for us, but we are told it was indeed a mountain upon which Jesus met them.  It was from a mountain that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount.  It was on a mountain that Jesus was transfigured in glory.  It was on a mountain that Jesus taught the Olivet Discourse about the end-times.  It was on a mountain that He was crucified (Mt. Calvary).  Mountains are significant in the gospel of Matthew!  Mountains have designated crucial moments in Jesus’ ministry, and yet another one is taking place here: the Great Commission.  What are the parting words of the King to His people?  He’s taken them to a mountain to tell them.

17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

  • Upon the mountain, there are two responses to Jesus: worship & doubt.  The worship we understand, but doubt?  Really?!  How could the 11 disciples doubt Jesus at this point?  Actually, this is one of the arguments that makes the 500 witnesses likely for this event on the mountain.  The 11 disciples had already seen the Lord Jesus with their own eyes at least 1-2 times prior to this event, and even the doubt of Thomas had been dealt with.  No longer did Thomas doubt, but even Thomas was believing & declared Jesus to be his Lord & his God (Jn 20:28).  Some scholars believe that the word “doubt” could refer more to “hesitation,” but the word is used only one other time in Matthew (and in the NT as a whole) when Peter had started to sink after walking on water (Mt 14:31), and the clear context there is doubting.  The word itself actually comes from a root that refers to the number 2, and means “to duplicate.”  In the context of the mind, it would mean to waver between two opinions, or more simply, “to doubt.”
  • With that in mind, the question is: how could anyone doubt the Risen Lord Jesus when they saw Him with their own eyes?  Even if the “some” refers to some among 500 witnesses rather than the 11 apostles, these 500 witnesses were surely followers of Jesus already.  They had been predisposed to believe Jesus to be the Messiah.  One would think that Jesus’ resurrection would only serve to further prove that belief, rather than cause them to doubt.  Yet “some doubted.
    • Aren’t you glad that the Bible doesn’t give pat answers regarding things like doubt?  It doesn’t sugar-coat the issue, and pretend that every believer in Christ always has every answer all the time.  There are some things that are difficult to comprehend, and occasionally Christians suffer through seasons of doubt.  Apparently people who loved Jesus experienced doubt even at the time that Jesus was standing right in front of them!  If it happened with them, surely it can happen with us, too.
    • That said, there was no reason for them to doubt.  Jesus was THERE.  Jesus does not condemn them for their doubt, but their all-too-natural wavering of faith was completely unnecessary.  God had given them all that they needed right before their very eyes.
  • The far better response?  Worship.  Bowing before Jesus, and giving Him the praise and adoration He so richly deserves as God.  For a moment, think upon who Jesus is – think about what Jesus has done for you.  That cannot help but drive you to worship!  If it doesn’t, something’s wrong.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

  • Jesus was there!  He “came and spoke to them.”  It would seem to be minor, but no post-resurrection appearance of Jesus is “minor.”  This is the same Jesus who had been tortured and killed upon the cross.  This was the same Jesus who had been dead until the third day.  THIS Jesus came and spoke to the disciples.  THIS Jesus cannot be held by death.  He doesn’t even seem to be weakened at this point, as if He’s recovering from His wounds.  Everything associated with the cross is in the past, and though the scars remain, there is nothing that holds Jesus down.  He comes to them as the Victorious King to give a parting command to His troops.
  • And He is the King!  Jesus has “all authority.”  There are 4 “all’s” in the Great Commission – here is the first.  Jesus has “all authority” –  it had been “given” to Him by God the Father.  That’s not to say that Jesus did not have authority previously to this in His earthly ministry.  As God the Son, Jesus is the Creator of the world, and there had never been a point that He did not have authority.  Jesus repeatedly demonstrated His authority over demons, sickness, and death during His earthly ministry.  Yet even all of that was during a time of humility and submission.  Jesus had authority, but He laid much of His kingly prerogative aside as He same to serve – He came to seek and to save the lost.  He symbolized this when He disrobed Himself at the last supper and washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13) – He showed it when He submitted Himself to the death of the cross.  But now in His resurrection, all of that is done.  That part of His ministry is complete.  Jesus never has to go to the cross again – He never has to be re-crucified.  Once was enough, and the work was finished.  Afterwards, Jesus could once again receive the universal authority that that had always been rightly His.  During His wilderness temptation, the devil offered Jesus power over all the earth – in His resurrection, God the Father gave Jesus infinitely more!
  • Seems to be purposefully reminiscent of Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man: Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed." []  Daniel was seeing the 2nd coming of Christ, but its prelude is this very moment!  Jesus has already been given all authority in heaven and earth, and He will exercise that authority when He comes in glory to rule and reign during His Millennial Kingdom. 
    • We have the privilege of serving this King today!  He is not a weakened Savior – He is not a Babe in a manger, nor a dead bleeding victim on a tree.  He is the all-powerful, all-authoritative King of the Universe!

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

  • Although the word “go” comes first in both English & Greek, we make a mistake when we put too much emphasis on “going.”  “Go” is a participle that modifies the verb of making disciples.  Going is simply part of how the other things are done.  It’s important to go, but we have to do more than just “go”; we need to DO something when we arrive!
  • What is it we are to DO?  “Make disciples of all the nations.”  We’ll look at how Jesus says to do this in a moment, but first we need to ask ourselves two basic questions: (1) What exactly is a disciple?  (2) Who should be made disciples?
    • We tend to throw the word around a lot, but we might not understand what a disciple actually is.  A disciple is a student, but more than just a student.  A disciple certainly learns, but a disciple does more than just learn intellectual facts from a teacher.  Jesus did not say to go make pupils of all the nation, and equip them to be able to answer Bible multiple-choice tests.  He said to “make disciples.”  What is a disciple?  A disciple is more apprentice than student.  He learns from his master, but he also expects to follow in his master’s footsteps.  A disciple’s life is shaped by his personal attachment to his master.  There is a devotion – a life-long commitment that is present, which goes far beyond the relationship between a teacher and a student.  Jesus said to “make disciples.”  Actually, He uses the word as a verb: literally “disciple all the nations.”  What Jesus had done with the 11, they were to turn around and go to the rest of the world, who then would do the same & on & on.  The disciples are commanded to go disciple others, thus disciples are making disciples…basic multiplication.  As those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus with our lives devoted unto Him, we are to go and help others be as we are.
    • Who should be made disciples? “All the nations.” This is the 2nd “all,” and it gives us a universal scope. “All the nations” means exactly that: ALL the nations of the world.  The word for “nations” could technically be translated “Gentiles,” but “Gentiles” is actually an interpretation of the word that is highly based on the context.  Generally speaking, the word should normally be translated “nations,” as it is here.  After all, surely Israel is not exempt from the Great Commission.  Jesus has spent almost His entire ministry among the Jews – His disciples are almost entirely comprised of Jews – Jesus spoke of how He would be coming back to the Jews.  The Jews definitely need to hear the gospel & be made disciples!  That said, the mission wasn’t to stay only with the Jews.  The entire world needs to hear.  Jesus wants discipling to take place in every nation.  This includes nations easy & hard.  Those for which we know the culture & those for which we don’t.  Those to where we can walk, and those to which we need to travel great distances.  We need to disciple the current nation in which we live, and we need to disciple the nation on the other side of the planet.  We as disciples (all of us – not just missionaries) are to have a worldwide focus.
      • As a local congregation, we’ve supported international missions from the very beginning.  This command from Jesus is something we take seriously, in that not only is ALL the Church supposed to make disciples of all the nations, but EVERY church is supposed to engage in the same.  This is what Jesus told His disciples to do in making more disciples, so it’s something all Christians need to be mindful of, both corporately & individually.  As a local congregation, we are involved in making disciples in Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ireland, India, Sudan, and of course in the United States. Some of you individually reach out to many more.  Praise God for the opportunity – and there is much more to be done.  How will you be involved?  Pray – Give – Go…
  • How does Jesus say to make disciples?  Three parts: (1) By going, (2) by baptizing, (3) by teaching.  The first part is to “go.”  We mentioned “going” already, but we need to emphasize it a bit.  After all, if the disciples are going to make other disciples of all the world, the original disciples need to purpose to actually GO to these other nations and tell them about Jesus. A household of unbelievers ready to hear about the love of Jesus could have lived next door to Peter & the other 11, and still have gone to their death without faith if the disciples never bothered to open their mouths and say something.  God could have chosen to tell the news of Jesus by neon writing in the sky – but God chose to use His people, instead.  The very written Scriptures themselves are evidence of God’s people being willing to be used to go and spread the message of Jesus…they are the first evangelistic tracts in the history of the Church.  The idea of “going” was so important to Jesus, that He actually told the disciples how they would go & in what order.  Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." []  He knew that the disciples would be hesitant to go out, so the very first thing He did was promise supernatural power through the filling of the Holy Spirit, and then He started them out in their own neighborhoods & sent them out from there, gradually expanding to the ends of the earth.
    • That same model is available to us, as well.  Jesus promises power to us when we are baptized & filled with the Holy Spirit (all we need do is ask!), and He will give us the strength we need to be witnesses on our block, in our town, among our region, and onward.  Understand there wasn’t anything special about the 1st 11 disciples that equipped them for this task any more than us.  They were just normal fishermen & tax-collectors.  They didn’t have any special qualifications, or life-long training for the job at hand.  They all had the call, because ALL disciples are called to go make other disciples.  The only question was when & where they would do it.  Apart from that, they only had two things: much time spent with Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit…and those same things are available to each of us, as well.
    • How willing are we to go?  What’s stopping us?  If we don’t go, how will people hear?  Romans 10:14–15, "(14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”" []
  • The second part of making disciples is by “baptizing.” Baptism refers to conversion, but again, it’s more than only conversion.  People need to come to faith in Jesus, but they are also commanded to be identified with Jesus, and this is what happens with baptism.  It’s been often said that NT does not know unbaptized believers in Jesus Christ, and it’s very true, with one possible exception (the robber on the cross next to Jesus).  Baptism was something that took place as soon as possible after someone came to faith.  Why?  It’s not that physical water needed to be added to Jesus’ work of salvation in order for someone to be truly saved (Jesus’ words to the robber demonstrate that much); it’s because baptism identified someone with Jesus’ work in His death and resurrection.  It is a public declaration of someone’s faith, and an act of worship unto God showing that we stand with Jesus because of Jesus.
    • There are many Christians who seem to want to put off baptism, and it’s always so bewildering why they would want to.  After all, Jesus was extraordinarily public in His saving work for you.  Why wouldn’t we be public in return?  If you don’t want people to know about your faith in Jesus – if you don’t want to be publically associated & identified with Jesus – you might need to examine yourself to see if you truly have faith IN Jesus. (BTW – if you need to be baptized, whether you’ve just come to faith or you’ve never been baptized for whatever reason, come talk to me!  All we need is 1 week’s notice.)
  • How are the disciples to be baptized? “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Notice the singular “name.”  There is only one name of God because there is only one God.  That God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus does two things here (closely related): (1) He gives the Trinitarian formula for baptism, and (2) He firmly declares His own deity.  The Trinity is mostly a mystery to us, in that it’s truly difficult for our finite minds to comprehend.  We come up with all sorts of analogies, but every analogy falls short in some way.  Either it separates the Persons of the Godhead too much, or it mixes them up too much.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are all three separate Persons within the Godhead, but there is only one God.  The Father did not die for us upon the cross, nor does Jesus have headship of the Trinity – but the Father, Son, and Spirit each have equal claim to being the One God.  Thus when we come to faith in Jesus, we are baptized into the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are identified not only with Jesus the Son, but we are identified with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  We are not only followers of the Lord Jesus, but in baptism we are shown to be the very people of God – His holy nation & His royal priesthood. (1 Pet 2:9)
  • The third part of making disciples is “teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus commanded.  This is the 3rd “all.”  Whatever Jesus taught was what the disciples were to teach others as they made more disciples.  Teaching is important in discipleship.  Right doctrine matters to God.  It’s not by accident that so much of the later letters of the NT come from the apostles exhorting the Church to maintain right doctrine & to recognize false teachers that have crept in among them.  The apostles had a personal command from Jesus to teach what Jesus taught them, and they wanted to ensure that it was passed on to others accurately.  Where this all comes to play in discipleship is that we have a 1-2 punch on what it means to be made a disciple.  A disciple of Jesus is preached the gospel, and converted to faith in Jesus (and baptized), but that’s not where a disciple remains.  A disciple goes on to learn what Jesus taught & applies it.  Converts are not yet disciples.  Someone who prays a sinner’s prayer coming to faith in Jesus is not yet a disciple unless they also begin to learn and obey what Jesus taught.  A problem among American Evangelicalism today is that too often there is a focus on conversion, and none on doctrine (which goes hand-in-hand with obedience).  Massive amounts of time, money, and energy are used to get people to pray a prayer, with little to no emphasis of following anything up with right teaching.  That’s not making disciples.  Disciples learn what the Master has taught, and do it.
    • This is where Bible study is so important!  You’ve come to faith in Christ?  Praise God!  Now learn what He’s said.  That would seem to be impossible for a people who live 2000 years after Jesus walked the face of the earth.  How could we possibly know what Jesus taught?  God already took care of that: He had it written down for us. J  The Holy Spirit took great care to have the Scripture written and kept for us through the ages, and we can know exactly what Jesus wanted taught for us because it is recorded in the pages of the Bible.  Not one Christian (especially an American!) has an excuse for not knowing what Jesus has taught.
    • This is also why we study the whole counsel of the word of God.  What Jesus commanded is not only found in the red letters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, so ALL Scripture is commanded by God, and thus ALL Scripture is to be taught and observed within its proper context.
  • That’s a pretty big responsibility!  Here the Lord Jesus is telling the disciples (and all His followers) to make disciples of all the nations.  That would mean going into lands that were far off – among people who were dangerous and hostile.  That would mean diligence to teach and to study the Scriptures.  That would mean the willingness to identify with Jesus not only in His glory, but in His suffering.  How could this be done?  Who would be up for the task?  Left to ourselves, we would be doomed to fail.  The command of our Resurrected King would undone.  Yet Jesus wasn’t done talking. J  He gave an important command, but He also gave a powerful promise.  “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Lord Jesus would be with us for all days and all time (the 4th “all”).  We have the promise of His presence!  Yes, Jesus would physically ascend to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, but Jesus would never leave us forsaken.  He is always available to us in prayer, and the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in every individual believer in Jesus Christ.  We have the presence of the Living God among us right now.  Everywhere you go, you are always in the presence of God.  And along with His presence is His support.  Jesus does not leave us to this task alone.  He does not send us out as sheep among wolves, just waiting for us to be slaughtered.  Jesus goes with us – He continually intercedes for us – He hears us when we cry – He gives us access to the grace of God the Father, and more.  And He does it always.  We never have to wonder if Jesus will let us go – He won’t!  We never have to wonder if Jesus will cast us away – He won’t!  We have His very promise on the matter, and He is faithful!  He will always be with us, and one day we will see Him & always be with Him. 

Conclusion:
Jesus has risen from the dead, attested to by even the lies of Rome and the Jewish priests.  They could not keep Him in the tomb, and they could not keep the testimony of His resurrection hidden.  And now this Risen Jesus has given His parting command to His disciples.  The One who had been given all authority in all the universe speaks with that authority in the Great Commission: disciple the nations.

  • Go everywhere to all peoples
  • Baptize people when they come to faith
  • Teach what Jesus taught

 

And in the process, remember that our Lord Jesus is always with us.  He equips us for the task not only by sending us out in His authority, but by empowering us through God the Holy Spirit.

God could have chosen any number of ways to make disciples of Jesus, ways that did not include us.  Yet God in His infinite wisdom chose to use us.  He wants us included in this task.  What a marvelous invitation & privilege!  You have been brought in on the close counsels of the King in His desire to bring the message of salvation to all the world.  Incredible!

So how are you participating in this?  If you are a disciple of Jesus, this command is to you.  None of us are on the sidelines.  The Great Commission is not something given to “professional” ministers, evangelists, and missionaries…it’s given to the Church.  To be sure, we all have different ways of going about it & the Holy Spirit has gifted us with different spiritual gifts in order to do the work – but none of us are exempt.  We’ve been given a direct order from our King, and we dare not ignore Him.

Especially in this day & age!  Our time is increasingly short as we live in the last days.  The time that Daniel foresaw is at hand.  Jesus will soon be coming back in power and glory.  There will come a time in which the Church will be removed, and we will no longer have the opportunity to preach to the lost, because we will be with Jesus.  Take advantage of the opportunity you have today!  Let us not waste one day!

The Agenda of the King

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Matthew
Tags: , ,

Matthew 21:1-11, “The Agenda of the King”

When was the last time you felt really disappointed?  Perhaps it’s been in the last few days, or even the last few months.  Usually disappointments are due to missed expectations.  We had been expecting something really great, and then when it didn’t happen, there as a huge let-down. 

This happens often in our relationships with other people, as folks don’t seem to meet the expectations that we set for them – and it happens often in our relationship with God.  We have certain plans and ideas for how we think things ought to go, and God has the unmitigated gall to have His own agenda. 🙂  We tend to forget that God is God, we’re not – and His plan and agenda always trumps our own.

That seems to be what goes on with the people of Judea as Jesus enters Jerusalem on what has become known as Palm Sunday.  This is the grand Triumphal Entry of Christ – people see Him as their great and glorious King, and they give Him the praise that He deserves as their King, Savior, and God.  Everything looks great at the beginning of Matthew 21, and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that less than a week later, the equivalent of this morning until this coming Thursday, the people in Jerusalem experience a massive shift in attitude towards Jesus.  The Man that they had extolled as King, and sang the praises of God is the same Man for whom they cry out ought to be crucified along with the worst criminals of the city.  The change happens in a matter of days (not weeks), and it is incredible.

What happened?  How did it all take place?  Matthew 21 tells us how it all began.  It starts with the grand triumphal entry, and it ends with missed expectations and grand disappointment.  The people had certain expectations for Jesus as their Messiah King, and God had His own agenda.  God had His purposes working out exactly according to prophecy, and not a thing was going to sway Him from it.  What should the people have done in response?  Instead of imposing their agenda upon God, they should have submitted themselves to God’s plan for them.

[Context] Jesus has been drawing closer and closer to Jerusalem.  Things are coming to a climax, and now Jesus prepares to enter the city that will be the focus of His ministry and life.  What takes place over the course of a few short days is going to take up the remaining 8 chapters of the book of Matthew.  This is the reason Jesus came, and the gospel writer doesn’t want us to miss a moment of it!

Matthew 21:1–11
1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

  1. Where? This event is the only mention of Bethphage in the NT (and it’s mentioned in all 3 synoptic gospels).  It was a village on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives from Bethany.  Bethany was the city in which Lazarus and his sisters lived, and Jesus had spent some time with them on the day prior. (John 12:1)  If we were to go the Mount of Olives, it wouldn’t look like much of a mountain, but it was considered a Mount to those in Judea.  Some believe this is the place where Jesus ascended to heaven after He had risen from the dead, and Luke might affirm that in his gospel account & the book of Acts (Acts 1:12).  Obviously none of that is in mind for the disciples at the time, but none of that would have escaped the attention of Jesus.
  2. This is a prophetic place.  The Mount of Olives is itself a significant location.  It is a famous burial ground outside of Jerusalem, and prophecy.  This is the location that God is expected to come on the Day of Judgment.  Zechariah 14:3–4, "(3) Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. (4) And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south." []  On the long awaited “day of the LORD,” all of the nations and armies (who the book of Revelation tells us will be serving Antichrist) will be coming against God. At the climax of it all, after God has already demonstrated His incredible power, Zechariah tells us “the LORD will go forth…and His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives…”  God physically appears incarnate (thus we must be speaking of Jesus Christ), and He comes in incredible power and glory.  In Revelation, Jesus comes upon a white horse with a sword coming from His mouth – apparently He gets off the horse and stands upon the Mount of Olives…starting an earthquake in the process.  That will be an incredible day!  (And we will be witness to it as we accompany Jesus as part of His army!)
  3. But that’s all to come later.  What is Jesus preparing to do now?  He’s going to present Himself to the Jewish nation at Jerusalem (as will be made clear in the following verses).  So put it together: at the very location which the Messiah will come in power and glory is the same location in which Jesus presents Himself to the nation as their King.  God has an incredible way of not only fulfilling prophecy to the exact specification, but of highlighting it in all sorts of ways!  The nation was long awaiting their Messiah King – Jesus is reminding them (not so subtly) that their King is not just any man, but the God-Man.  He comes not only in the authority of God, but AS God Himself.

2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

  1. What did Jesus tell them? (1)  Go to the village (most likely Bethany), (2) find a particular donkey and its colt, (3) bring them, and (4) have an answer for these who ask.  There are several things we need to see here.
  2. The village. Question: why did Jesus need them to go to the next village?  He’s God.  He could have easily had a donkey wander up to where they stood, or had one materialize out of thin air.  Jesus could have had a local family in the present town lend Him their donkey.  He did none of these things.  He chose to send a couple of His disciples to the next town over (not far away) and go seek out a donkey & colt there.  There was participation and obedience involved.  These two disciples (unnamed) were invited to participate in the details of the grand presentation of Messiah, and they would need to be obedient in order to do so.
    1. Isn’t that the way Jesus still works with us within the Church?  God doesn’t need us to accomplish His work.  In fact, He would get His will accomplished far more efficiently if He did NOT use us!  Yet He chooses to use us – He invites us to participate.  When we read the Great Commission, we read of Jesus’ command to all of His followers to go out into the world and continue making disciples of all the nations.  We are invited to participate in the grand work of God.  The two disciples on this day were invited to help present Messiah to Jerusalem; we are invited to help present Messiah to the world!  What a grand privilege!  What incredible grace given to us that we would be included in such a thing!  Yet to take part, we must be obedient.  Just like the disciples would actually have to go into the next village, we have to actually go into all the world and be about the business of making disciples.
  3. The donkey and colt.  Interestingly, Jesus had a particular donkey in mind.  He did not tell the disciples to go find the first donkey they encountered, but to look for a specific one that had been tied.  Beyond that, there could have been several donkeys that were leashed up…this one had a colt with her.  Jesus had this donkey in mind, and He commanded the two disciples bring this pair to Him.  There was purpose involved.  Jesus is fully in control of the situation.  As vss. 4-5 make clear, Jesus’ actions were done exactly according to prophecy – Jesus was purposefully going about the process of making this happen.  The Messiah had to be formally presented to the nation of Israel before He was rejected; Jesus ensures that this will happen.  Jesus is not being dragged into Jerusalem kicking & screaming.  Jesus is not being surprised by an arrest through a sting operation.  Jesus is not shirking from the mission set before Him.  He purposefully goes through the needed process to ensure He goes into Jerusalem according to the plan of God.  There is not a single detail that falls through the cracks when we see Jesus fulfilling prophecy – every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed.
  4. Bring them.  This might have been viewed as rather brazen by the disciples.  After all, they were to bring a stranger’s livestock to Jesus.  We can imagine the scene: two guys walk into town, go to a specific house, untie the animals and start walking away.  Even if the owner of the animals had been known by Jesus and the disciples (of which we’re told nothing), it would have looked unusual.  Most likely it would have looked like theft!  Of course Jesus is not asking the disciples to steal a single thing – the animals will be willingly lent out, and all of this is done according to the command of the Lord & not the sinful will of man.  Yet there is no doubt this would have been an unusual request to fulfill.  There was trust involved.
    1. There is always trust involved when we obey God.  Obviously Jesus is not telling us to go take our neighbor’s donkey (or car, as it might be), but much of what God tells us through His word often seems unusual to our ears.  God tells us to be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6).  "What?!  Doesn’t God know my bills & health concerns?"  God tells us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44).  "What?!  Doesn’t God know how much that person hurt me?"  God tells us to be of good cheer when we are persecuted. (Jn 16:33)  "Come on now, that’s just crazy talk!"  There is always trust involved as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Jesus is our Lord, it means that Jesus is our Master & King.  To be sure, He is our friend & He is even our bridegroom – but He is still invested with authority, and we need to obey Him.  That means we need to trust Him.  It’s far easier to obey someone you trust than someone you do not.  Trust God!  God knows what He’s doing.  God is purposeful in His plans, which means that His commands have a reason.  We can trust how God is going to work things out to our good and His glory.
  5. Have an answer.  The objection is anticipated (which was recorded by Mark 11:5), but the answer is given in advance by Jesus. People would (rightly) be suspicious of these two strangers untying the animals and taking them away, and the disciples were to answer “The Lord has need of them,” and that answer would be enough to satisfy any questions.  Interestingly enough, the answer itself is a testimony that the Lord (the Master – God) was among them, and the answer would not be questioned by those who were present.  Jesus not only anticipated the question, but He also prepared the hearts of those who would ask it.  They would gladly see the Lord’s work accomplished.  Jesus was simply preparing His disciples how to do what it is that He needed done.  There was instruction involved.  Jesus is able to know both the objection and how to handle it.  He knows exactly how to instruct the disciples to equip them to do the will of God.
    1. Christian: Jesus instructs us on how to walk according to His will.  The Holy Spirit equips us to do the same.  There ought to be no doubt how to live as a believer and servant of Jesus Christ because He has given us His written word on the matter.  There ought to be no excuse not to do it, because He has given us the promise of His Holy Spirit to continually empower us along the way.  Jesus has already given us an answer to every objection – we simply need to walk in faith and appropriate it!  (How so?  Read the Book!  Ask God for the understanding, and ask the Spirit to fill you with power…)

4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

  1. Notice how Matthew introduces the prophecy in vs. 4.  This is the first use of the phrase since way back in Ch 13.  When Matthew began his gospel account, he showed time and time again how Jesus is the expected King of Israel, when he appealed to the prophets.  The constant appeals to prophetic fulfillment took a back seat for a while through much of Jesus’ ministry, and now comes out again as the ministry starts to come to a climax. 
  2. Matthew is pointing out a prophetic method.  Everything Jesus had instructed the disciples to do was done according to prophecy.  Zechariah 9:9–10, "(9) “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. (10) I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’" []  Contextually, the prophet Zechariah had taken up a prophecy against Syria, showing how they would be destroyed by a future army (most likely Alexander the Great).  Why?  The Syrians had oppressed the people of Jerusalem, and God would not ignore their crimes.  It was at that point that Zechariah saw something far greater than the judgment of Syria: he saw the future King of Israel!  He would come in peace towards Jerusalem, and His victorious hand would spread all over the world.  During the days of the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus’ rule will be characterized by peace, and all of the nations of the world will bow down in worship of Him.  To be sure, when He first arrives, there will be a massive military and spiritual victory over the armies of the enemies, but after that moment there will be 1000 years of incredible peace and joy.  What Zechariah did not write down in his prophecy was the several thousand year gap between verse 9 & verse 10.  Verse 9 was fulfilled the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, and it looked forward to His eventual reign (as we still look forward to it today).
  3. The whole scene speaks of the humility of the King.  This isn’t the way people would expect a king to arrive.  To come riding in on a massive stallion…to come in a golden chariot…that would be the normal expectation.  Sure, there were past judges and kings who rode donkeys on the past, but after Solomon it just wasn’t something that a king would do.  Kings are too good for donkeys; royalty needs a more dignified mode of transportation.  But that’s not what Jesus did.  He came in on a donkey, and not even a fully grown one at that.  He rode in on the donkey’s colt.  How humble (“lowly”) is this?  Luke tells us that this was a colt on which no one had ever sat (Lk 19:30), so this would have been an extremely young donkey.  (The first rider this young donkey ever carried was the Creator of the Universe.  How great is that!) No doubt Jesus’ feet almost drug the ground as He rode.  This is not the glorious ride into Jerusalem as a victorious warrior; this is the humble ride in on a child’s plaything.  Like an adult sitting on one of those motorized horses at the front of the mall…
    1. What a simple picture of the incarnation of Jesus!  Almighty GOD became flesh and humbled Himself to dwell among us.  Like a grown man sitting on a rocking horse to spend time with his children, so our God descended to dwell among us.

6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

  1. The disciples were obedient.  Whatever was going through their minds, they trusted the Lord enough to walk in obedience and do what He commanded.  What they found was that everything was exactly according to what Jesus said would be.  They did indeed find a mother donkey with her colt – they were questioned regarding why they were taking it – they had no problem with the answer they gave – and they brought the animals to Jesus.  This is what Jesus had said, and this is what the disciples experienced.
    1. Goes back to the issue of trust.  God is worthy to be trusted because God is always right.  We can know that what God says will happen, WILL happen!
  2. There was no saddle for the king, so what did the disciples do?  They gave Jesus their own clothes to sit upon.  That’s not to say that the disciples were walking around in their undergarments; simply that they had clothes on which Jesus could sit.  At the same time, there is humility involved.  The humble king is served in humility.  They give up what is theirs in order to serve their Lord.  Just as Jesus gave up His own prerogative in order to serve God the Father, so we give up our own prerogatives to serve Him.  It seems that the disciples are finally learning to be humble – which is a tough lesson for any of us to learn.
  3. Prophetic timing.  One aspect that doesn’t really come out so much in Matthew’s account is when all of this took place.  Most scholars agree this happened the weekend prior to Passover in the year 33AD.  What makes that significant is how this relates to earlier prophecy centuries earlier regarding the timing of the Messiah, as related to Daniel.  Daniel 9:25, "(25) “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times." []  In context, the “week” that Daniel was told of referred to a 7-year period, counting the year as 360 days (according to the Hebrew calendar).  Thus Daniel was told that there would be 69 “weeks” (7-year periods) from the time of the command to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince would appear to them, or 173,880 days.  Historically, we know exactly when the command to rebuild was given: the month of Nisan, during the 20th year of King Artaxerxes of Persiah (Neh 2:1), which was in 445BC.  That takes us to the exact timeframe that Jesus entered Jerusalem (and according to some calculations, the precise day!).
  4. Start to put some of this together: Jesus came to a prophetic place, in a prophetic method, at a prophetic time.  This underscores a couple of things for us: (1) Jesus perfectly fulfills prophecy…  (2) God had a plan in motion…

8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

  1. The disciples had laid their clothes on the donkey as a saddle for Jesus; the people laid out their clothes upon the road.  This is again an act of humility, and one particularly associated with submission to a king.  The people did this with Jehu, after he was anointed king. (2 Kings 9:13)  Jehu is particularly interesting in this case in that although he wasn’t the best of kings, when he was first raised to power, he brought the judgment of God from Jerusalem to the evil kings in the north.  God used Jehu to take vengeance upon the house of Ahab.  It’s quite possible that the people had this in mind when they looked at Jesus.  They saw Him (rightly) as the King who would bring judgment upon those who had done evil in the sight of the Lord, and against the people of God.
  2. They laid out palm branches for 2 reasons. (1) It was a celebration of the Lord.  In the instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles, the people are commanded to take palm branches to form their temporary tents (lean-to’s).  This was not just for shelter, but as a way to rejoice before the Lord (Lev 23:40).  We also see palm branches used to celebrate God in the book of Revelation, when the great multitude from the Tribulation give glory of God the Father and Jesus (Rev 7:9) (2) It was a celebration or proclamation of a military victory.  Seen in the inter-testamental historical account of the Maccabees. (1 Mac 13:50, 2 Mac 10:6-7, 14:3-4.)  These are not inspired Scriptural accounts, but they are historical resources that show us what was going on culturally among the Jews.  Less than two hundred years prior to Jesus, the Jews were celebrating victory over oppressing armies with palm branches.  Culturally speaking, this wasn’t only an homage to God, this was a celebration of a coming military victory and freedom for the Jews.  This was close to the equivalent of the Jews waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in front of the Romans.  They were welcoming their king, and anticipating their coming freedom.
  3. God may have had His plan for Jesus, but the people had an agenda of their own.  God had promised to send them their King, and they were looking for Him.  What they didn’t expect was that the mission of the King was vastly different than what they had planned.  The Old Testament was very clear that the Messiah was coming to rule in power and victory over all the nations.  It was clear that the Messiah would proclaim peace and the nation of Israel would experience a time of prosperity like they had never known.  (Some of that is shown in the prophecies we’ve seen today.)  At the same time, the Old Testament is also very clear that the Messiah needed to suffer for the sins of the people.  These two ideas were so different that some Jewish scholars thought that there might be two different Messiahs spoken of in Scripture: a Messiah ben Joseph (who would suffer as Joseph did when he was sold by his brothers into slavery), and a Messiah ben David (who would reign as king in glory).  In time, the Jewish scholars thought that they as a people had suffered enough, so they must be the fulfillment of the “ben Joseph” prophecies, and that they would only await the Messiah who would reign in glory.  What’s the problem with all of that?  It doesn’t fulfill God’s prophecy to the letter.  God’s prophecy is always fulfilled exactly – and their expectations didn’t do it.
    1. It’s no wonder they turned so quickly upon Jesus when He was arrested.  In the 5 days Jesus had been in Jerusalem, He did nothing to upset the Romans, and the only people He seemed to condemn were the Jewish priests and ruling class.  He wasn’t the king they were looking for.  He didn’t meet their own expectations and agenda, and thus they turned on Jesus at the first opportunity.
    2. Do we impose our own agenda upon God?  We have our plan for our own lives, and when things don’t go as we want, we tend to get upset and mad with God.  The problem isn’t God; it’s what we imposed upon Him with our own agenda.  The problem is a missed expectation.  We expected one thing, and we experienced something else.  Part of surrendering ourselves to Jesus in following Him as Lord is to allow Him to set His own agenda for our lives.  We surrendered our will to His when we asked Him to save us.  We need to trust that God knows what He’s doing.
  4. Why the Jews thought this way regarding the Messiah is easy to understand.  People like a victory.  People like the finished glory.  It’s easy to skip over the prophecies of suffering and go directly to the glory.  Yet one had to precede the other.  If Jesus had not suffered for the sins of humanity, there would be no humans left to recognize Him as the reigning King of glory!  Our sin had to be dealt with.  Our sin had rebelled against the holy goodness and justice of God, and that had to be made right before we would be allowed any relationship with Him.  We could not pay the price for our sin (no one could, be they Jew or Gentile).  The price for our sin is death – to experience the fullness of the wrath of God.  We could never fully pay our debt, thus we would never be allowed into the Kingdom of God as His people.  So our King paid our debt for us.  He suffered on our behalf in order that we could become His people.  If Jesus had not suffered first, none of us would be able to enjoy Him in His glory.

9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

  1. Multitudes surrounded Jesus.  Vs. 8 had described “a very great multitude,” and vs. 9 describes multitudes (plural) in front of Jesus, as well as behind Jesus. We’re not given an exact count, but this was a lot of people!  Many of them had already been on the road traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. They were already on a pilgrimage to the city, and when they encountered Jesus along the way, they were excited to join with Him.  Others seemingly followed Him all the way down from Galilee.  The crowds were growing rapidly, and the time seemed to be at hand.  Even the Passover celebration contributed to the urgency.  Remember what Passover was: a remembrance of how God freed the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery.  God had miraculously intervened on behalf of His people (through a deliverer in Moses) to destroy their enemy and give them their freedom.  Now Jesus is on the scene – He has shown Himself to be empowered by God – He’s demonstrated that He teaches with the authority of God – and He’s coming from Mt. Olives to an occupied Jerusalem on the eve of Passover.  No doubt there was a heightened expectation of freedom from oppression.  The people thought they were on the verge of something great happening – and they were!  (Just not according to their expectations.)
  2. "Hosanna" = "save now". Seen as an appeal to the kings during times of trouble, and a prayer in the Psalms…specifically in the psalm they referenced as Jesus rode into the city. Psalm 118:25–26, "(25) Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. (26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD." [] Psalm 118 was typically sung during the Passover, and they naturally apply the lyrics directly to the One they see as their Deliverer.  Of course at this point, the people don’t seem to be appealing to Jesus so much as extolling Him.  Over time, the phrase seems to have become more of a declaration of praise.  Both ideas are extremely appropriate to Jesus.  We do appeal to Him to save, and He is most definitely worthy of praise!
  3. Proclaiming Jesus to be the king.  As with the formerly blind Bartimaeus, they describe Jesus as the Son of David. This is a direct identification of Jesus as the Messiah.  He is not a simple descendent of David; He is the royal son of David with the right to rule as King over all Israel.  In this, they were absolutely correct.
  4. The humble king is deserving of the highest praise! He is worthy of all the praise of which we can give.  He has created us (praise Him!) – He has suffered for us (praise Him!) – He has saved us (praise Him!) – He loves us (praise Him!) – He’s called us and forgiven us (praise Him!) – He has promised us a future (praise Him!).  Give unto your King the praise that He so richly deserves!
    1. So often we forget to give Him praise.  We pray to Him in earnest – we ask for His mercies – we ask for His healing…and when He gives it, we forget to say “thank you.”  Or the time we spend time at His feet in simple adoration is so rare.  Every day is a new opportunity to give God praise.  TODAY is a day in which you can give Jesus praise…give it to Him!

10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

  1. The commotion surrounding Jesus caught the attention of the entire city.  No doubt it was have been a spectacle!  Can you imagine gazing over the wall of Jerusalem to see a massive throng of people surrounding this Man on a tiny young donkey?  Everyone is shouting praises and singing psalms – people are throwing branches in the air & their clothes on the ground.  Jerusalem was usually hectic around Passover, but this would have been totally unique – something unseen for a few hundred years was taking place.
  2. The interesting thing was that Jerusalem didn’t really understand what was going on or who was at the center of it all.  The gospel of Matthew doesn’t show Jesus in Jerusalem much, though the other gospel accounts (particularly John) show Jesus in the city occasionally for the feasts.  He had healed a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, and had stopped a woman from being stoned to death for adultery near the Mount of Olives. The question, then, doesn’t seem to be asking for identification.  The people of Jerusalem likely knew who Jesus was.  It seems to be one of incredulity.  As in, "Who is this guy, that He can be center of all this attention?  He wasn’t raised in Jerusalem.  He didn’t go to an Ivy League school or sit at the feet of famous Jerusalem rabbis.  Why is He worth all of this attention?"  Jesus had been in Jerusalem, but although He had healed some people there, most of His major miracles had not been done in the city. In fact, most of them had not been performed around Jerusalem at all, but north in the Galilean region.  The closest major miracle would have been a few miles away in Bethany when Lazarus was raised from the dead, some time prior.  Jesus did not go to the major metropolitan area to prove Himself.  Most of what He did was for the "unimportant" people…the back water areas.  Is this really where the Messiah could originate?  Yes!  Jesus came to seek and save the lost, wherever they may be found.  He came not only for those who were seen as the elite, but especially for those who were forgotten by the rest of the world.  He came to save foolish things (like us!). 
  3. The multitudes do not hesitate to claim Jesus as their own.  He is from “Nazareth of Galilee.”  That may have been viewed as unimportant by people of Jerusalem (“fly-over country”), but it was important enough to Jesus to have been His primary base of ministry.
  4. Interestingly, they call Him a prophet; not the Messiah.  Obviously they had demonstrated they thought He was the king…were they shrinking back from it now?  Not necessarily.  They could have simply been justifying the reason for His praise as the Messiah King.  He was known all over the land as a great prophet, and so they repeat that here to the citizens of Jerusalem.  There’s also another possibility in that they could be referring to a specific prophet uniquely associated with Messianic expectation: the coming prophet who would be like Moses.  Deuteronomy 18:15–16, "(15) The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. (16) This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”" []  The people had been so terrified of the voice of God at Mt. Sinai (Horeb) when He gave the 10 Commandments, that they specifically requested that Moses always intercede on their behalf.  The promise is that there would be another intercessor – another prophet – who would always speak as God to the people.  There had been rumors before that Jesus was the fulfillment of that role, and the people might be referencing it again here.  And Jesus DOES fulfill that role.  He perfectly speaks to us the word of God because He is God, and He is our constant intercessor and the one mediator between God and man.  Again, the people seem to get the general idea right, but they have the wrong timing in mind because of a false expectation.

Conclusion:
Jesus showed Himself to be the humble King.  The crowd saw Him as the Messianic King.  The crowd saw Him as a prophet unique from all others.  All of that was absolutely correct!  So what happened to change everything in the next coming days?  The missed expectation of the multitudes.  The multitudes wanted the Messiah, but they wanted the Messiah in their time and in their way.  They wanted the Messiah according to their agenda.  They wanted their Messiah, but they wanted to be the ones calling the shots.  They wanted their King, but they wanted the King to follow their own wants and desires.  And of course it doesn’t work that way.

God had His own agenda at work.  Jesus came to just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right way, to just the right people.  Jesus was perfectly in control of everything that was taking place – which underlines the fact that Jesus was perfectly in control of everything that would yet take place that would lead Him to the cross.  He went there willingly & by His own design – specifically to fulfill the eternal plan of God, and out of love and compassion for you.

If Jesus perfectly fulfilled that, what else could possibly be outside of His plan and design?  We fret about the state of our culture and nation, but Jesus is not taken by surprise by it.  We worry about when the end will be, but God has things all in His time.  We fret about all sorts of things, thinking that they are spinning out of control – but in reality our God is sovereign.  There is not a single thing happening around the world in general or in our lives specifically of which God is not aware, and He does not have ability to handle.  Oh how the people of God need to trust our God!  How we need to remember the plan of God at work, and (1) trust that Jesus will see things through, and (2) be willing to surrender our will unto Him and His will.  Instead of seeing our plans and prerogatives done (and being frustrated along the way), we need to see God’s will done – take Him up on His grand invitation in grace to participate in His kingdom work, and watch Him work along the way.