The other day something earth shattering happened. My computer got a virus. The thing is my computer wasn’t running slow. It wasn’t struggling to run Microsoft Office. It wasn’t flickering on and off whenever I tried to turn it out.
Nope, I found out that the new computer I received for Christmas had a virus on it from a website I visited. A “pop up” ad appeared. It had a big warning on it: “You have thousands of viruses on your computer. Click here to download our software now which is the only way to ensure that you’ll get rid of it.”
Do you download things by clicking the “x” in the upper right hand corner? Cause that’s what I did.
Sometimes people tell us things are urgent that aren’t all that urgent.
What about Jesus? How urgent is the message of Jesus?
I. …Not on Our Time.
For King Herod the message of Jesus was not very urgent. He had heard it from John the Baptist and he had kind of liked what he heard at first. He liked that John was helping to “clean up the city” and calling out various people for their immoral sins. Herod wouldn’t have had a problem with that. It made his job easier as ruler easier. (Mark 6:20)
That is until John accused Herod of sin. John told him it was sinful because Herod was living with and sleeping with his own brother’s wife. Not his. He wasn’t married. That was sinful.
Herod didn’t listen. He didn’t find that message very urgent. Instead, Herod had John arrested. He put him in prison. He decided he would much rather continue in his sinful lifestyle. (v.17-18)
As much as Herod didn’t want to listen to John – his woman – desired to listen even more. So when Herod promised to his “fling’s” daughter that he would give her whatever she wanted up to half his kingdom, Herod’s mistress took advantage of this foolishness.
“Ask Herod for the head of John the Baptist,” she said.
Her daughter asked.
John was killed.
No one had to listen to John anymore.
No one had to listen to God.
Now, I imagine that many of you reading this haven't just been accused of beheading someone. (If so, we need to talk.) But isn't it possible that you have done the same thing as John did? Not cutting off John's head, but cutting off God's Word?
It's easy to do. It's easy to tell God's Word to take a back seat. It's easy to say "I'll follow God...later..
· ...when they come out with a Bible that doesn’t mention the sin I struggle with.
· …when I’ve had the chance to experience life.
· …when I’m older.
· …when I’m less tired.
· …when I’m settled down.
· …when my friends think it’s cool.
· …when I get a special calling.
· …when I own my own house.
· …when that person that I don’t like that much isn’t at church anymore.
…when I am married.
· …when I have children.
· …when the children leave the house.
· …when I go to the retirement home.
Or, if we're being entirely honest about all of these reasons...
· …WHEN I WANT TO.
Is that how it works? Can you ignore God until you are good and ready? Does God work on your time? Is God cool when you give him a raincheck?
There is nothing worse than hearing your alarm go off in the morning. I was having trouble getting up really early to work out. So not that long ago I downloaded the “I Can’t Wake Up” Alarm. It plays an obnoxiously loud song and it doesn’t turn off until you complete an array of mental tasks: Answering addition questions, solving word problems, putting a puzzle together. It was working really well too.
Until I discovered a brand new way to turn it off. Take the battery out.
Guess what? That doesn’t stop time from coming. It doesn’t stop the sun from rising. It doesn’t stop the day from happening. The same is true with Jesus. If you ignore God’s message to stop your sin, follow him, and study his Word – that doesn’t stop it from being true.
Bottom line – your unbelief and your sinful lifestyle will not slow down God’s coming!
It’s coming all the same.
II... On God’s Time.
Look at the words from our Mark 1:15. That verse alone gives us three reasons to listen to Jesus right now!
1. “The Time has come.” Jesus doesn’t say, “The time is coming,” “the time will come eventually,” or even “Don’t worry you have years until it will be important for you to listen!” It’s a perfect tense. For the people who heard Jesus, the time had come for them to listen.
That was 2000 some years ago. What does that tell you about the importance of listening now?
2. The Kingdom is near. Literally for the people Jesus talked to the kingdom was very near them. Jesus himself is the one who rules the kingdom of God. Thus – he was literally feet away from them. It was time for them to listen.
Jesus speaks to us today in his Word. Where’s the closest Bible to you now? Listening to this in church? It’s about a foot in front of you. Are you a Christian? Listen to Jesus because Jesus is in you. It doesn’t get much closer to you than that!
3. “Repent” and “Believe.” These are imperative directives of Jesus. He doesn’t say “repent” later. He doesn’t say “believe” later. He implores you to repent and believe right now!
Why wait? Do you really want to continue going on a path farther away from God? Do you really want to continue feeling guilt associated with sin? Do you really want to stay away from the peace, the joy, and the confidence of God’s love that come with the knowledge of sins forgiven?
In another part of Scripture Jesus tells the parable of a very rich man. He was so rich that he didn’t have time for God. He was too busy buying fancy suits and investing his dividends to make even more money. In fact, he was so rich that he decided to build himself a huge barn in his backyard. It was like his own bank in which he’d store all the riches that he had collected.
When he finished, it he partied! It was done. His “urgent work” of collecting things and stuff” was done.
Then God came to the party. “You fool!” he said, “This very night your life will be demanded of you.”
Do you understand the urgency? Repent. Believe. The time has come. The kingdom of heaven is near!
III. …God’s Time…is the Best Time for You!
Now maybe you’re wondering. Why does God care so much? Why does God want me to follow him now? Why can’t he wait for a time that’s better for me? I don't go around sticking my nose in my neighbor's business and telling them there's a better way to spend his time than playing video games all the time -- so why should God care about what I do? It's my business.
The answer is simple. God cares for you. And following God on God's time is the best thing for you!
Take a look at verse 15 again. Jesus went about preaching the good news.
Do you know what the good news is? The good news is…
….that when you were too distracted by the urgency of worldly things to follow God, Jesus was not.
…that as death was sneaking up on you to take you to hell, he urgently confronted it to take you to heaven.
…that as the bodies of all humans rested without any urgency in the grave, Jesus came back to life early in the morning – to urgently spread his message that in him I have life!
I’ll tell you the truth – the urgency God expresses is for YOUR Benefit! Not God’s. Here are three reasons why believing on God's Time (right now) is of great benefit!
1. God Loves You Urgently! This is why he came to earth. It's why he keeps calling out to you. It's because he knows the struggles that life brings when you depend on things and people that don't even have you on their priority list.
But God placed you as number one. He died for you! Come and revel in that love.
2. God Wants You to Punch your Ticket to Heaven...before it's too Late! Scripture says the the end of time will come like a thief in the night. God doesn't want you to miss it. The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
I don't know any stats on how often people die in this world, but I do know that it always seems like, "it could never happen to me." How foolish! Repent and believe now for the confidence of heaven.
3. God Wants You to have Peace Now. Why wait? Why wait to hear that God loves you? Why wait to know that you are forgiven? Why go through life nervous and frightened that God is against you?
Repent and believe in Jesus – God will not be slow in responding. God says to all who turn from their sin: “You are forgiven!” He rushes to say “You are mine.” He quickens his Spirit to speak to all believers “You will be in heaven!”
It’s very interesting that in direct contrast to the actions of Herod, chapter 1 tells us about a few fishermen. Guys who found their livelihood in hard work. Men who needed to find fish, clean fish, and sell fish so that their families could eat.
Look at verse 17 Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Their response? Verse 18 At once, they left their nets and followed Jesus.
Then Jesus meets some others. Verse 20 Without delay, he called them.
Their response? They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Their urgency in following Jesus is impressive. They realized Jesus was greater than work. They realized Jesus was greater than money. They realized Jesus was greater than their family!
God is calling you to abandon work, money or family. These things are not bad. In fact, they can be very good. But God is calling you to place Jesus as the highest priority. To order your life and make him Number One!
Will you delay? Or will you follow without hesitation? All it takes is the next step.
Because if these disciples were serious about following Jesus, they couldn't just say, "I'm following you." They had to literally put one foot front of the other and follow him from town to town.
They needed to take the next step.
What's your next step? For all of us it's different. Maybe your next step is contacting me by email to talk more about Jesus. Maybe you are ready to be baptized into his name. Maybe you come to church once in a while and now is the time to make it an every week affair. Maybe you are ready to join our church. Maybe you are ready to get involved in Bible class. Maybe you need to leave behind that sin that has been gnawing as your souls.
Everyone's steps are different, but everyone's step is the same. Follow Jesus!
The time has. The Kingdom is near. Believe and follow Him. Amen.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus didn’t look like much.
As he approached the crowd gathered at the Jordan River, he looked like an ordinary human being. He wore ordinary Jewish clothing. He had the traditional Hebrew beard. He travelled by foot like so many ordinary people. He didn’t look all that powerful. Yes, as a carpenter, he probably had the power to swing a hammer – or saw through a piece of olive wood – but…to save? To be this long promised, powerful, Lord and Messiah?
Jesus entered the water with John. It looked like every other baptism John had performed. He spoke God’s Word. He used water. Droplets trickled down Jesus’ beard. A few drops hit the surface of the gently flowing waters of the Jordan.
…a rumble. An incredible sight as the heavens split in half. A schism takes place within the clouds and a bright shining light appears with its aim directly over Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a dove. Glowing with awesomeness. Hovering and glistening with the ethereal mysteries of the ages. The Holy Spirit himself appears and lands on Jesus – harnessed by Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a voice from heaven. For all to hear. Booming. With the bone quaking power of the Almighty Creator Himself. The Words of the Divine enter air. Divine syllables echoing throughout the air unlike any human voice ever heard before. THAT’S POWER.
… “This is my Son.” Divine. Jesus too was from heaven. The Only One for whom God ever made such a powerful appearance and gave such a powerful voice of approval too was Jesus. He was God’s one and Only Son. He too had God’s incredible, eternal, almighty power – power to walk on water, rebuke storms with mere words, feed thousands with only smidgens of bread, drive out demons, and reach past the icy grip of death to return loved ones to one another. THAT’S POWER!
… “With Him I am well pleased.” Perhaps the most powerful truth of all. Jesus had the power to please God Almighty. A power that human beings – dead in sin – do not have the power to do. A thing that humans only have the power to imagine that they have the power to. Jesus had the power to refuse he advances of sexy woman, to withstand the allure of lust, to refuse the mind numbing drink, to rebuke the group of gossipers, and not engage in the sinful pride that comes with defeating sin. If you are a sinner who has ever been tempted by temptation, then you know THAT’S POWER TOO!
Make no mistake about it this morning. Jesus’ baptism was filled with POWER! It was unlike any baptism ever seen before or after. No matter how many fireworks hey have going in the background, special effects added with video editing software. Jesus baptism was POWERFUL and UNIQUE.
And yet…I dare say it wasn’t the most powerful baptism ever. In fact, I’m not even sure it was in the top couples of thousands.
Picture your traditional baptism. A pastor in an ordinary robe. A font filed with water. A woman approaches the front. Some words are spoken. The congregation looks on in anticipation. It looks pretty ordinary. Water is poured on her head. She uses a towel to dry off. Pastor leads in prayer.
It doesn’t look like much.
But Scripture says there is so much. In His Word, God gives us a glimpse at the powerful and incredible things that happen in Baptism. That happened at your baptism. That will happen at your baptism.
Take a look at three very powerful things:
1) Washing Away of Sins.
There was a man named Saul who had a lot of sins. He had taken it upon himself to attack and destroy the Christian church in its early stages. He had falsely accused. Thrown into prison and murdered the church of God. Then, he met Jesus.
Shortly after he met Jesus, a disciple of Jesus came to Saul. He assured of him of forgiveness and said the words of Acts 22:16 says, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.”
Talk about incredible power! Baptism wiped out the repeated, awful, persecution sins of the Apostle Paul.
Similarly Acts 2:38 was spoken to people who had literally and actually been involved in the killing of Jesus. They killed the Messiah talk about an awful. Sin.
But listen to what Peter says would happen in their baptism, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins!” Did you catch that? Their sins would be destroyed. The incredible amount of guilt they had before their Almighty Father above would be obliterated. They would be forgiven.
Baptism is the most powerful stain fighting agent around. It doesn’t just get rid of grass stains, spaghetti stains, or Nacho Cheese Doritos stains. It gets rid of the guilt and consequence of sin. It washes your soul of the messy, grimy disgusting sins you’ve committed before the eyes of your heavenly Father.
2) Saving from Punishment.
This makes sense. God hates sin. He punishes sin. He’s entirely good so He cannot excuse sin in the slightest, but He must punish it in all of his wrath.
But what does it mean when Baptism washes away your sins? When, in God’s eyes, you don’t have an ounce of sin on you?
1 Peter 3:20 states it so matter of factly “Baptism now saves you not removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.” It saves you because it pledges that your sins are forgiven. It gives you confidence to stand before God and say; “I have been baptized. I have been washed. God, there are no sins on me!”
This confidence comes from God. It comes from his blessing of baptism. It comes from faith in what Jesus gives us in baptism.
Look at Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Saved from what? Saved from God’s wrath! He will not punish you, bcause you no longer have sins.
It’s like you changed sides. I think back to my grade school C team basketball days. Once we played an opposing team with only 6 players. Then, two of them got hurt. But we didn’t quit! Our coach simply took one of us every two minutes and subbed us in and onto the other team. We put on their jersey. We were on the other side.
Baptism is like that. It changes our sides. It puts us on God’s side. We no longer deal with his wrath, but with his love!
3) Give Eternal Life.
Ponce de Leon. That’s the name of a 16th century explore who was convinced that he could find water that would allow him to live forever. A fountain of youth. He sailed down to Florida, St. Augustine area and looked for something to save him from death.
Ponce de Leon is dead. He didn’t find the fountain of youth.
Too bad. It was nearer him than he thought. The fountain of youth.
The water of life is nearer you too. It’s Baptism. Look at Romans 6: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
Baptism gives us eternal life! It’s Jesus’ personal promise to you that you’ll live?
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Now we get the crux of the matter. How is this possible? You got some kind of special formula for water? Does your church have it’s water mailed in from the Holy Land? Do you give the water some kind of special blessing? I know there’s such a thing as Vitamin Water, but what is this? Spiritual Vitamin Water!?!
There are a few misnomers to watch out for. A few ways the devil tries to divert our attention – when we think of where the power for Baptism comes from.
*Some say, “The amount of water. If you don’t go totally under, then it didn’t really count. You might have missed some sin in the upper left corner of your split ends!”
*Some say, “Your age. If you believe when you are older and more mature, then it counts more. When you are young, it doesn’t matter. You are too young to mean it.”
*Some say, “Your commitment. You need to be totally committed. If you sin afterwards, then you weren’t committed and you need to do it again. Then, again. And again. And again.”
*Some say, “Your experience. Then, you think you are saved because you had a good experience until you hear someone come along and describe experiencing sin ooze out of their body in Baptism! Suddenly, you aren’t so sure.”
If we think the power in Baptism comes from us, our dedication, and our confession then what happens when those things are weakened? Suddenly, Baptism has no power!?!
But Look at where God’s Word says the power in Baptism comes from:
Acts 2:38 “Be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.”
Romans 6:13 "Don’t you know that…(we were) baptized into Christ?”
1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism…now saves you. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.”
Baptism is not just mere water. It is water connected with God’s Word. It is water connected to Jesus.
The very same Jesus who showed us his power in the Gospel. The same Jesus who had the heavens open up for him at his Baptism. The same Jesus who is connected to and working with the Holy Spirit. The same Jesus who had God the Father’s Almighty approval. The same Jesus who is divine…who is God’s Son!
This is the same Jesus who speaks at Baptism. It is his power that obliterates sin. It is his strength that defeats the devil. It is He alone who has conquered death and he alone is the reason that we based our assurance in Baptism upon!
To clean an old stain, I’ve heard you need more than plain water. You need lemon juice or nail polish…or maybe some tomato juice.
To clean sin you need more than water. You need water connected with God’s Word and united with his Promise. The promise of Jesus our Savior!
This isn’t an either or. This isn’t a grace or works thing. Scripture plainly says that baptism and belief go together. That is something mirrored in Mark 16:15 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
If you believe, be baptized. Trust that God will do a powerful and awesome thing for you.
If you have been baptized, believe. Believe that God has done powerful and awesome things for you.
If you have kids and believe, have them baptized. Because think of the truthful things you will be able to say to them:
Jesus’ Baptism was pretty powerful isn’t it? Then again, God has done a lot of powerful things with water. Destroyed the world. Split a river in half. Walked upon it.
But there is nothing more powerful than what he did in your Baptism. He slayed Satan’s power. He destroyed sin. He obliterated your guilt. He opened the gates of eternal life to all who believe.
This is most certainly true. Amen.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Hero, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12
What’s the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?
4 hours to Charleston? 8 hours to New York City? A day and a half to the Grand Canyon?
If you take a long trip, there’s should be a good reason. There needs to be! The goal is what gets you through endless cornfields, static radio, countless Capri Sun spills, Dramamine induced headaches, flat tires, and that wonderful sounds from the back seat: “Are we there yet?”
Some good reasons for a long road trip: To see family. To attend a wedding or a funeral. To visit a national landmark. To ride the Teacups at Disney.
What about visiting an infant that you’ve never met before from a family you’ve never met before that is definitely not expecting your arrival in the slightest?
This is the trip that the magi took. A trip over thousands of miles. A trip that took over a year. A trip on the back of a beast of burden. A trip without DVD players, cruise control, or Trivia Crack to entertain you on the ride.
Why would the Magi take such a trip?
Magi in the Greek refers to an astronomer. An ancient stargazer. Men like this were very scientific and used the latest technological advances to track star movements in the sky. Recently, the magi in question, had noticed a strange thing. A new star. A special star. A bright star. One that appeared to the West toward the land of Judah.
They packed their bags. They began their long journey. If they were riding on camels, I’m sure whenever they stopped at an oasis they bobbed up and down as they felt like they were still riding between humps. Why go on such a trip?
They came to Jerusalem and explained their visit. “Where is the one who was born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him!”
Doesn’t that still seem a little strange? King of the Jews. Why would they travel so far to meet a king from a different nation? To pay respects to their on king, sure…but to travel across the continent to visit a new king from a different country?
Do you know the name of the current Prime Minister of Canada? The leader of Australia? How about the governor of South Carolina? (Isn’t it someone from American Idol?) The truth is that we don’t usually care about government and governors unless they directly affect us!
The Magi must have been convinced that this king directly affected them. It didn’t matter that he was “King of the Jews.” It didn’t matter that the prophecy from Malachi said, “Bethlehem…out of you will come one who will be ruler over Israel!” It didn’t matter that seemingly an ‘earthly rule’ of this king wouldn’t come close to affecting their day to day lives. They were convinced that this baby born countries away from them would be their king?
1) MYTH: The Messiah is the Savior the Jews Only!
This idea flew in the face of a very popular myth at that time. The Messiah is the Savior of the Jews only. It’s easy to see why they might have gotten that sense from Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, God operated though the Israelites. He did miracles in and among the Israelites. He made promises to the Israelites. Very easily the devil would get a hold of Israelite hearts and lead them to believe – God hated the other nations. God wanted nothing to do with the other nations. God was not the God of the Gentiles.
This is a big deal. Because Gentile means “someone who isn’t Jewish.” If you aren’t Jewish (and this would be true), then Jesus would not have come to save you!
What was it then that convinced these Gentile men to travel a long distance to visit a king of a country that seemed to be opposed to their very existence?
Simple. They saw the birth announcement.
It wasn’t on Facebook. It wasn’t Tweeted to them. They didn’t receive a postcard with a blue bubble gum cigar in the mail.
It was a star.
And how many people do you know that can create stars? We’ve got smart phones, smart TVs, and robotic limbs, but still not the technology to create stars in the sky – BOOM – just like that. Yes, if you pay thousands of dollars, you can buy the right to name a star, but humans cannot create stars.
Only ONE has the ability to create a star in the sky. Only one could be behind the intergalactic birth announcement. God himself.
This is huge. Because it was God who announced to these foreigners, these Gentiles, these strangers to the land of Israel, that their Savior had been born. It means God wanted them to know about this Savior. It means this Savior was their Savior. The God of the Jews, yes, but also the God of the Gentiles.
The book of Galatians talks a lot about this. In chapter 3 Paul wrote the following beginning at verse 7, “Understand then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham--the father of the Jews. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advent to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” This means the Magi. This means you.
Later on in verse 26, Paul describes what this inclusive Jesus means for you, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus! If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise!”
Jesus is inclusive! He came for all people. He didn’t come just for the Jews; he came for the Gentiles. He came for you.
Of course, once you grasp and believe this awesome truth, it isn't long before the devil starts to trick you into believing a brand new myth about how Jesus includes in his love:
MYTH #2: The Messiah is the Savior of my people only.
My people could mean a lot of things. The people who like the same style of worship as I do. The people who like the same football team as I do. The people who go to the same church as I do. The people who have the same taste in clothes as I do.
The people who are of the same race as I am.
One sad thing we learned in 2014 was that racism is still very much alive in America. If it wasn’t from the big events themselves, then the bickering in the media, on TV, and in the comment section of blog posts revealed some very sad disconnects between races. Selfishness and even hatred.
But I don’t believe the saddest thing has even been covered…When this racism leaks its way into the eternal, saving message of Jesus.
Does it leak into your message of Jesus? If not verbally, subconsciously?
Brothers and sisters, hear my heart: There is no worse racism than withholding the saving message of Jesus from someone, simply because they look different from you! If that is us, when that is us, we need to REPENT! Repent and turn to our Jesus who really is his own race: a divine race, a sinless race, a perfect race – he’s God himself and all people came from his creation. Asian, African, Hispanic, Native American, White…whoever from wherever, God created them, loved them, and died for them.
What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world. The World. THE WORLD!!! That he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him, whoever, whoever, whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life!”
Jesus is inclusive. He is the Savior of all people. He wants us to reflect that.
MYTH #3: Someone Else Will Tell Others of this Inclusive Jesus.
Think about what told the Magi about their Savior. It was a star. Brilliant and bright. It was obvious to these men that this was a special star. God was shining that star so brightly that people from very far away knew that God had a very special message for them.
That star is no longer in existence. But…that doesn’t mean the light has gone out.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” He was talking to his disciples He was talking to you. Previously he used starts to point people toward Jesus. Now he wants to use you.
To continue Jesus says, “You don’t light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” That would be foolish. Similarly, you don’t learn about Jesus and then…not tell anyone! That’s foolish and you can’t expect others to learn about Jesus this way.
Shine. Shine in your actions. A smile. A hug. A gift card. A listening ear. These are things that speak through languages. These are things that speak to people - even if they are of a different race: YOU ARE LOVED!
That needs to be a goal of our this 2015. As a church we will to think of ways to reflect that truth – to speak to people with our words, our worship, and our actions – this is a church for you. You are included in his message of Jesus!
Shine in your words. Tell others about Jesus in your interactions. As Raleigh becomes more and more global, teach these global neighbors about the Savior you have in common.
You know those mission videos that show parts of Africa or Russia and how they need to hear about Jesus. Those are in our backyard. You can be a part of this! You can be a part of this now!
Take a look at your Connection Cards. On the back are some ways we are reaching out in 2015. Can you be a part of this? Some are simple. Some take some courage. All of them will be backed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same God who put the star in the sky to guide the wise men, has put you on this earth to guide your neighbors.
Brothers and sisters, shine! Shine to tell of your Savior. Shine to tell of the Savior of the World. Shine together!
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and seen one star peeking out? One star gives a little light, but it’s not enough to see much without street lamps and flashlights. But if you head out into the country on a clear night – stars are everywhere! Many stars light the way easily.
That's us. Together we will light the way to Jesus. With our actions and words pointing people to the inclusive love of Jesus.
He came into the wedding a nobody.
A happenstance invite. Nowhere near the head table. A thirty minute wait to get to the buffet. Jesus wasn’t much more than a nobody at the Wedding in Cana.
Until they ran out of wine.
The servants approached him. “Your mother said you might be able to help us. Do you know a store open close by?” Jesus shook his head. “My time has not yet come.” Then, he told them to retrieve some large jars, fill those jars with water, and serve that water to the guests. The servants left. The jugs were filled. The water was served.
But water was not tasted.
Somehow. In an amazing change of events, Jesus had changed the water into wine. The best wine! It was a miracle. Though it wasn’t his last. Slowly Jesus began to do more miracles coupled authoritative preaching and wise teaching.
Suddenly, people everywhere were asking this question:
Who was this nobody?
Who was this Jesus?
Today we’re going to start our series on Who Is Jesus? By examining a the thoughts of many people of the time. Take a look at John 7:40-43:
40 On hearing Jesus’ words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him.
For some, it was simple. Jesus was the Messiah. But it wasn't so simple for others. In their opinion, Jesus was too Unlikely. Let's examine why.
1. Jesus Did Things Unlike What Humans Thought the Savior Would Do.
Some (v.40) called Jesus “The Prophet.” This was a reference to the Deuteronomy passage we read in our Old Testament lesson. These people recognized that Jesus was something special, but they didn’t quite want to call him “THE” Messiah.
Why? Because what he was doing too unlike their own idea of what the Savior might do. They wanted him to hold political rallies against Caesar. They wanted him to train an army. They wanted him to lead a rebellion and free them from Roman power. They wanted him to hang out at swanky Pharisee parties, eating swanky Pharisee food, and talking about how great these swanky Pharisee parties are.
But Jesus? He only talked about sin. He cared more about their relationship with God then anything. And he hung out with the lowly and dregs and society.
This wasn’t how the people wanted Jesus to act and because of his actions, they were respectful, but dismissed him as unimportant. They called him “the Prophet,” but not the Messiah.
But the truth is that Scripture never says that the “prophet like Moses” was going to be a different person than God’s Anointed Savior. Nor does Scripture ever describe the Savior as bending to your every whim and will. The people would have seen that, if they would have looked at what God said the Messiah would do, rather than what they would like the Messiah to do.
This is still a problem today. People think about Jesus more in terms of what they would like him to do, rather than what God’s Word says he would do. The temptation is to dismiss him when he doesn’t follow through. It happens like this:
It sounds a lot like the Genie from Aladdin doesn’t it? “Jesus I have three wishes. If you fulfill these three wishes, then you will be a real Genie…I mean Savior…and then I’ll believe in you.”
This isn’t good. God isn’t a Genie and he doesn’t bow to your wishes.
2. Jesus is Unlike Human Assumptions about Who the Messiah Would Be
Others found a different reason ignore Jesus. Check out verse 41: “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”
This seems like such a good assessment. Yes, Scripture did say that the Savior would come from Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) Yes, Scripture also said that the Savior would come from David’s line. (Jeremiah 33:15) They were correct.
But…Jesus also fulfilled both of these prophecies completely.
So what was the disconnect? Why weren’t the people getting it? Because Jesus was too unlike their own assumptions about who the Messiah would be.
For instance, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This was a disconnect. These people people thought “from Bethlehem” meant more that he would have grown up in Bethlehem and grown his power and influence there. (Like a local politician making his way into state politics.) Their mistrust of God’s Word was subtle, yes, but it shows their faith was in their assumptions more than God’s Word.
Similarly Scripture said Jesus would come from David’s Line. Jesus was the Son of Joseph a descendant of David…but also a lowly carpenter. These people would have liked him to be born of a fancy royal family.
In short, the people were looking for someone who looked the part a bit better. More money, a more impressive stature, even a handsomer appearance.
Jesus was a carpenter. (Mk. 6:3) He wasn’t all that pretty. (Is. 53:2) He looked like a normal guy. (Lk. 4:22) He died on the cross!
In our modern era, we might expect the Messiah to have bulging muscles, a veiny heart tattoo, a thick accent, and an affinity for smoking cigarettes. Then, he would have a looked like he belonged in The Avengers.
This is one of the reasons we struggle with putting our trust in Jesus. We put up our posters of Superman and download episode after episode of The Flash, but that guy Jesus – dying on the cross. Who has time for him?
This is not good. God isn’t a superhero imagined up by a sinful human’s invention.
III. Jesus Said Things Unlike What We Might Expect the Messiah to Say
Take a look at the last reaction to Jesus. In verse 43, "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him.” Later on we learn more about why the people were so angry with Jesus. They had expect Jesus to say things much differently than what he did. They expected Jesus to say, “You guys are so awesome. I’m so glad I can be your friends. You are so much holier than the other people here.”
But he didn’t.
He called them sinners.
He warned them to flee from God’s wrath.
He told them that they need Him to be their Savior.
They were so upset by hearing this that they literally plotted to kill him.
Again – how is this so far off today’s reaction to Jesus? Some people are cool with Jesus as long as they don’t actually read the Bible and hear what he actually said. As soon as they do that, they drop Jesus like a bad habit.
Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts…such as sexual immorality.” (Mt. 15:19)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Like sexual relations outside of marriage is a sin? That’s wrong Jesus. Everyone is doing it. Stop being so judgy…or I’ll stop believing in you.”
Jesus said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…”
Modern American Society human reacts, “That sounds a pretty intolerant definition of marriage Jesus. Unless you stop thinking so archaically, I’m not going to tolerate you as My Messiah anymore.”
Jesus said, “Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Mt. 5:48)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Perfect? Lighten up Jesus. Some Messiah you are. Unless you meant “be the best you can be,” you are not my best choice for Savior."
Jesus said, “I am the Way…no one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Whoa…Jesus. A cool Messiah wouldn’t care if people belived in Him or not. Are you really going to talk about hell for all unbelievers? If so, you can’t be my Messiah. Maybe, I’ll look into Buddhism.”
Is Jesus a paper doll? You follow the outline and get a general perception of what he’s like. But then you can add whatever you like. A sprinkle of glittery “helps you get lots of money” here. A few buttons of “that sin that you deal with isn’t really a sin” there. Color it in with whatever level of holiness fits your own lifestyle and DONE. There’s the real Messiah.
This is terrible thinking. God isn’t a paper doll that you can cut and shape how you like.
IV. The Real Messiah
The problem with all three of these bogus perceptions of Jesus is that they are all based on human ideas of the Messiah. Humans are flawed. We are flawed. Therefore human perceptions of the Messiah will be flawed. In other words: THEY ARE WRONG.
God, on the other hand, is never wrong. It’s what makes him God. Repent, therefore. Ask God for forgiveness. Stop looking to your own wants and desires for a definition of the Savior and start looking to the Bible.
Ever heard the story of the blind men and the elephant? I’ve heard it in about 7 different sermons so I have no problems rehashing it here today. Four blind men approach an elephant. Each one touches a different part of the elephant and comes to a different conclusion of what the elephant is.
One touches his trunk and proclaims, “This is a snake!”
One touches his legs and proclaims, “This is a tree!”
One bumped into his side and said “This is a wall!”
One was poked by his tusk and said, “This is a spear!”
The point? Just as the elephant is too big for those men to identify it after one experience, so God is too big for us to come up with one experienced.
That story is nice, but it’s a bit lacking. There should really be one earth shattering, incredible realization about this elephant.
So God talks. He is too big and too large for you to ever experience enough of him to understand him, so he tells you about himself – in the Bible! Why walk around in blindness anymore? Why be satisfied to listen to your own sinful logic about who God might be, when his Holy Perfect Word declares to you who He is and what He has done to save you: That he lived perfectly, died innocently and rose triumphantly as your Savior!
What you will find in the Word is glorious. It’s what some blessed souls found. Look at verse 41: Some said, “He is the Messiah.” They knew that Jesus was the One God had promised them. He was the One selected by God for a rescue mission. Jesus was the One who would save them from sin, from death, and an eternity of punishment in hell!
This was revealed to them by the Word. Both the Old Testament Word and the Living Word himself – Jesus Christ.
The Word said, “He would strengthen the feeble hands.” Jesus went from town to town restoring the strength of incurable, leprous hands with nothing more than the words of his mouth.
The Word said when the Messiah came, “the eyes of the blind would be opened.” Jesus had covered blinds eyes only to restore their sight in an instant.
The Word said, “The lame would leap like a deer.” Jesus grabbed the hands of the 30 year crippled and helped them take their first steps.
The Word said, “The mute tongue would shout for joy.” There were formerly mute tongues throughout Israel giving praise to Jesus for their newfound ability to sing! (Isaiah 35:3-6)
The Word said, “The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem…of the line of David” (Malachi 5 & Jeremiah 33) Both of these things happened to Jesus…and many more that were all predicted in the Old Testament.
Including, but not limited to the most amazing, “God’s Holy One…would no see decay.” (Psalm 16:10) Which is what happened to Jesus. He died, but he rose.
God is so unlike human perceptions of a Messiah. But that’s not a bad thing:
Thank God for our unlikely Savior.