Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
Was it something that Roman soldiers commonly did?
They drew Jesus body into the holding cell. A blood stained line trailed where his feet dragged. His flesh was raw due to the horrific flogging he had just endured. Sweat covered his body. Tears rolled down his cheeks over the purple imprint that a fist had left.
He was broken.
But the soldiers weren’t done with him.
“This fella claimed to be the King of the Jews! Absurd, isn’t it? A carpenter becomes a king?”
Another soldier turned his attention to Jesus: “Well mister King sir. I didn’t realize we were in the presence of royalty. Allow me to get our things.”
They needed a crown. One fetched a branch of a nearby thornbush. Using his hardened, strong hands he shaped it into a circle. Then, he pressed it firmly onto Jesus’ skull. The thorns acting as some sort of attachment to keep it from falling off. (Jn. 19:2a)
They needed a robe. One went to the nearby room and found a dirty outer cloak lying in the corner. It’s former royal red of the Roman army had faded to purple. Maybe it was the sweat. Maybe it was the dirt. Maybe it was the blood. The soldier came and threw it around Jesus’ shoulders. (Jn. 19:2b)
They needed a rod. One grabbed an old walking stick from a nearby cripple. He laughed. “Here you go your majesty. May this rod serve you well as you dish out justice over the land.” (Mt. 27:29)
Then, two of them lifted him to his feet. The others stood in line to receive him. “Hail, King of the Jews!” they shouted. The first leaned in like he would kiss him. Instead, salive came out.
The rest followed suit. They laughed. They ridiculed. They mocked.
To them, he didn’t look like a king.
I. He Didn’t Look like Any Other King on Earth.
They were right. Jesus did not look like a king.
King come from royal families. Jesus was a carpenter’s son. (Mk 6:3)
Kings come from royal cities. Jesus came from lowly Bethlehem (Lk. 2:4) and grew up in the insignificant city of Nazareth. (Mt. 2:23)
Kings are wealthy. Jesus didn’t even keep the money bag for his rag tag group of followers. (Jn. 13:29)
Kings lived in palaces. Jesus walked around with “no place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20)
Kings surround themselves with warriors and nobles. Jesus angered the nobles – and his followers were fishermen (Mt. 4:18), tax collectors (Mt. 9:10), and political activists (Mt. 10:4)!
Besides that his own people didn’t respect him. The Jewish people were the ones who had arrested him. They were the ones who had accused him or crime. They were the ones who wanted to kill him. They were the ones who had rejected him.
He had let them. Usually kings stand up and fight. You are nervous around them. They are warriors.
Jesus? He had gone quietly. He hadn’t spoken at his trial. He quietly took the beating they had just given him.
King of the Jews? Not at all. If he was a king, he was unlike any other king on earth.
They didn’t realize how right they were.
II. He Wasn’t Like Any Other King on Earth.
Countries are different. The rulers of these different countries have different things that they ‘in a sense’ rule over. Things their countries becomes known for. In the Middle East, they control oil. In China, they control the clothing trade.
Jesus controlled things too. Things that were much different than any other king on earth.
· He ruled over the wind and the waves commanding them to stand still at attention—which they did.
· He ruled over the tiniest of germs ordering them to leave—which they did.
· He ruled over palsied limbs and broken legs imposing on them that they return to doing their job—which they did.
· He ruled over death demanding that it release those he had taken captive – a little girl, a young man, a dear friend –which death did…without so much as a defiant look.
Jesus had control unlike any other king on earth.
Earlier on that very day, the governing official of that Roman province had questioned Jesus. He had gotten to the point and asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus response was telling: “You are right in saying I am a king…but my kingdom is not of all this world.” (Jn. 18:36)
Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t a fortified city in the Roman Empire. It wasn’t as far as the eye could see from the palace. It wasn’t a tropical island paradise. It wasn’t a blizzard chilled icy empire.
Jesus ruled in hearts. He shared God’s law to cause people like you and me to cower at our sins. He then shared God’s Gospel to bring you and I to faith in his power to forgive.
It’s why he didn’t care about setting up a palace or gathering a political following. All he cared about what bringing people back to God.
III. Jesus had a kingdom unlike any other.
1,355, 692, 576 people live in China. 1,236, 334, 662 people lie in India. 318,892, 103 people live in the United States.
That’s a lot of people. The rulers of each of those countries cannot and will not ever possibly know everyone they rule over personally. That’s impossible. They might be able to get a good idea of you when needed to scour through internet collected data via the CIA, but still. They don’t know you.
Jesus has even more subjects than that, yet knows all of them on a personal level.
He knows you on a personal level.
He knows your struggles. He knows your fears. He knows your sin. He knows your guilt. He knows your shame.
In fact, that’s the very reason he was standing, a bloody mess before those Roman soldiers. He knew your sin and he knew how to save you from it. He knew that his death would free you from the rule of sin. He knew that his death would free you from the consequences of having sin as your ruler. He knew that his death – would gain you access into his forever kingdom—a place not of this world—heaven.
IV. Jesus has a personal connection to his subjects unlike any other.
Recently President Obama has issued a few executive orders. These orders change the laws of the land. They are commands that the whole country listen to.
Jesus also has issued executive orders. But they have less to do with illegal immigration and health care. Jesus spoke about your spiritual health. He issued awesome truths about your soul:
"My sacrifice works for the forgiveness of your sins."
"Through faith in me you are forgiven."
"Whoever believes in me will not perish, but have eternal life."
The soldiers were right. They had a king standing before them. But if they didn’t know it then, one day they will realize it. Philippians 2 tells us, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
It is my prayer that you do not join these soldiers in rejecting Jesus. It is my prayer that you see him for who he truly is, a king unlike any other. The king of the Universe. Your king. Amen.
Do you remember the Presidential Physical Fitness test? It was a test for Middle schoolers to see how physically fit they were. You'd be tested on how many pushups you could do, how many situps you could do, and how fast you could run the mile.
I thought I was going to get the highest level of fitness for sure. I was tall and good at basketball. No problem testing to the top, right?
Then...the V-Sit and Reach.
Basically you had to sit with your legs in a v shape (no more than a foot apart) and reach 6 inches past your toes.
I couldn't even get to my knees.
That's what tests do though. They measure where you are at. They tell you if you really are where you think you are. They let you know if you need to improve.
Over the Lenten season there is alot of spiritual exercising going on. In confession we turn to the LORD for forgiveness and ask for strength to fight against sin.
It's the perfect time for a test! A faith test.
Over the next weeks we will look at Old Testament believers whose faith was put to the test. As you hear about them, please consider your own life. How is your faith? Strong as it needs to be? Does it need to be stronger? How does God say that our faith is strengthened?
I. The Test for Abraham: “Give Up…
Take a look at the test God had for Abraham. This is from Genesis 22. God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Sacrifices and burnt offerings might seem strange to 21st century America, but these were very common in that Ancient farming culture. Think of it like God asking you for money today. It’s why we call it an offering – it’s not easy to part with. Back then it wasn’t easy to part with an animal or the fresh crop of corn, but it wasn’t unheard of either. Burning some of your food was a way of saying – “I am thankful God has provided this for me and I know He will provide more for me.”
God’s request of Abraham was not ordinary. God’s Words to Abraham emphasize just how difficult this would be:
· Your Son. It wasn’t his grain offering. It wasn’t some vegetables. It wasn’t a goat. It wasn’t a lamb. It wasn’t even the fattened calf. It was a person. His own son. His own flesh and blood. Abraham would be sacrificing his own DNA: his blue eyes, his jutted chin, his round nose! This was the one he was supposed to be protecting.
· Your Only. Abraham and his wife Sarah had been waiting for children for years. Genesis 12 first records Abraham’s longing at 75 years old. That was when God first promised him and his wife a Son. It wasn’t until he was 100 years old when Isaac was finally born to Him. Can you imagine the joy Abraham felt? Can you imagine what he felt when God asked him to give it all up?
· Whom You Love. As you might expect, Abraham didn’t tolerate Isaac. He didn’t like him. He wasn’t simply ok with him. Abraham loved him.
· Your Son --Isaac. When God said his name, it became very personal. God wasn’t asking for some nameless goat. He wasn’t asking for an inanimate bag of wheat. He was asking for Isaac – his personality, his voice, his being. God was asking him to give up his farming protege, his friend to play a game of catch with, and a pupil to lead through life.
Over this past week there was a lot of Snow Days here in NC. That sounds like a lot of fun time with your kids. Time as a family. Time together.
Did you feel the same way when it was done? Waking up to the sounds of arguing over the iPad? The constant clanging of Superman action figures? The marathon of the Frozen soundtrack in the background?
As trying as your kids can be on your patience, what would it be like if you lost them?
If you get that, then you get how hard this test was for Abraham.
II. Abraham’s Response
How do you think Abraham might react to God’s difficult request?
For starters, he could waste some time. He could put it at the end of his to do list and get to it when and if he ever has time. He could keep Isaac around until after the next harvest – get some final work out of him. He could even wait one more day just to spend some quality time with his son.
Would you fault him? Probably not. We have a hard time doing what God asks – and he hasn’t even asked us to do anything that difficult.
· “OK. I hear you God. You want me to join a church and get involved on a weekly basis. But I’m busy with my career now. I’ll have to t to it later on.”
· “God, can you take a rain check on getting that sin out of my life? I’m just not feeling ready to live without it just yet.”
· “God, I’ll get to working on my addiction. I promise! Just let me have one more puff, one more drink, one more scouring of the internet for pictures. When that’s done, then I’ll get rid of it.”
We might expect Abraham to waste time, delay, and put off God’s request. It’s what we do on a daily basis with sin – things we should get rid of for our own good!
Abraham did none of that. 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
Did you catch that? There were no delays. There was no distraction. There was no putting it off. Abraham got up, got ready, and got going on what God wanted him to do.
That’s trust. Trust with No Hesitations.
Even if Abraham was following God without hesitation, we still might expect him to complain about – to mutters they journeyed to the mountain, to have a mind racing with Hebrew expletives against God for making him do this, to tell his servants – “Don’t think bad of me, this is all God’s fault.”
Again – would you be upset with him if he did? This is another common human practice when God asks us to do something hard.
· “The only reason I’m not joining you guys for way too many drinks is because of my religion. Jesus can be kind of a bummer sometimes.”
· “I stopped watching that TV-MA show because church keeps making me feel guilty about it. That’s what church does. Makes you feel guilty.”
· “Fine. I’ll go to church. I know that I’ll get my faith strengthened, I’ll be encouraged, and get to eat some donuts, but I won’t be happy about it. Even though it’s three hours later than when I have to wake up during the week – God I’m not happy about it. I could be sleeping!”
· “Another email from Pastor about inviting people to church! He even quoted a Bible passage telling us to do it. Ugh! Put it in the SPAM folder.”
Abraham could have done that. That would be understandable. We complain about things God tells us are good for us: going to church and leaving sin.
But Abraham didn’t complain. Check out how he describes his task to the servants with him: He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Amazing, right? Abraham doesn’t define this task as a joke, annoying, or worthless. He doesn’t even consider it a terrible task from a terrible God. He calls it worship.
That’s trust. Trust with No Complaints!
Then, as Abraham is getting closer to the mountaintop, Isaac speaks: “Father?...The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Wow. That’s hard. Isaac’s voice is calling to him. What are you doing? What’s going on here?
Whether Isaac meant to or not –and who could blame him if he did mean to – Abraham’s actions are questioned.
Are you doing what’s right?
Are you sure you want to go on without Isaac?
Is this the God you really want to serve?
If there was ever a time for Abraham to turn, back now would be it!
That too is something that is common amongst humans. We make plans to follow God. We are excited to listen to him. Then, just when it’s about to happen – someone gets in our head. Another person. Our own desires. The devil himself. These voices get in our head and cause us to turn back:
· “I was planning on moving out from my live in boyfriend and wait until marriage to have sex, but…he told me he really loves me. I trust him more than you God.”
· “I was in the middle of installing the Internet filter on my computer, but then…I thought of all the fun that porn gives me. I don’t want to give that up.”
· “I was planning on reading my Bible during Lent, but then I’d have to give up the marathon I set up on Netflix! I just can’t do it.”
Woe to us human. We love to turn back from our plans to TRUST and follow God.
But Abraham? Listen to his answer. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
Simply amazing. We struggle to say no to the sinful voices that sinfully tempt us to sin – which is bad. Abraham hears the innocent voice of his son – who maybe – just doesn’t want to die and Abraham trust God. There is NO TURNING BACK!
III. God Provided
Then, we reach the climax. It’s time to see if Abraham will go through with it. Time to see if he really trusts God. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. Abraham was going to go through with it.
But God wasn’t.
The angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham!...Do not lay a hand on the boy, do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
It doesn’t say it, but I bet Abraham sighed and then gave Isaac a big hug. He had passed the test.
But perhaps you are wondering about the how? How did Abraham pass the sacrifice his son test?
Hebrews 11:17-19: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
Do you see how Abraham did it? He held to the promise that God provided. God had promised that Abraham would have grandkids through Isaac. Isaac hadn’t had any kids yet. Therefore, Abraham figured God couldn’t be done with him. He had promised otherwise. So…if Isaac died, then God would just bring him back to life.
That’s pretty amazing faith. But it only happened because God has provided the promise.
But God wasn’t done. Read verse 13. "13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”
Can you imagine the rejoicing? Abraham because his son was alive. Isaac because he was alive. Both of them because God was good.
Do you want a faith like Abraham’s?
“I don’t see how I could do that pastor. That faith is just too incredible.”
But remember Abraham’s faith was only strong because of what God provided. God has provided for you too the exact same things he provided Abraham.
First of all, God provided a substitute for you in a very similar way to the way he provided a substitute to take Isaac’s place.
True, it wasn’t on Mt. Moriah, but on Mt. Calvary.
True, it wasn’t tangled up in thorns, only his head was covered in thorns.
True, your substitute wasn’t a ram; it was a close, domesticated cousin – a lamb – the Lamb of God.
Just as the ram in the bush was Isaac’s substitute so he wouldn’t die, so Jesus was your substitute so you wouldn’t die eternally for your sins.
For all the times you hesitated to trust God, you should have died – Jesus died in your place.
For all the times you complained while obeying his will—Jesus died in your place.
For all the times you have turned back from doing what God wants you to – Jesus died your place.
Jesus was your substitute.
Secondly, God also provided promises to you. The reason Abraham had such a strong faith was that he had such strong promises from God.
You have similar promises. And…better than Abraham…you don’t have to just remember them from way back when God spoke it. Someone wrote them down for you! In a book. A book that we have plenty of copies of. A book that we study every Sunday at church!
Think about some of these promises. They will help you do the tough things:
· When your friends threaten to unfriend you won’t join them in their sinful activities, REMEMBER: God has promised he will never leave you.
· When you are tempted to choose sin, REMEMBER: God has promised that His way is better.
· When you are overwhelmed and feel like there is no time for God, REMEMBER: God has promised to bless all who spend time with him.
· When you are tempted to stay away from church, because you did something bad and God couldn’t possibly love you REMEMBER God has promised that his love for you is eternal…a love he proved on the cross.
· When something is hard or difficult REMEMBER: God is stronger. God is with you. God’s strength will not leave you.
Before Abraham and Isaac left that mountain, Abraham gave it a new name. Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. Whenever he started to have doubts, he could remember that mountain. Remember that the Lord would provide…and do anything God asked.
May the same be true for you. When your faith is being attacked, when your trust is being tempted, when you have doubts –anytime you have doubts— head to the Mountain. Head to your mountain. See God provide a substitute. See God provde you promises. TRUST: The LORD will provide. Amen.
During midweek Lenten services we will be having some guest speakers come and visit. What would you do if I told you that next Wednesday Stephen Hawking – professed atheist and extreme evolutionist were leading worship here. Then, a week later the highest ranking ISIS officer we could get a hold of would be preaching. Finally, to wrap up our series Ozzy Osbourne – the self professed “Prince of Darkness” would come to challenge your minds.
Some of you are shaking your head. The people I just mentioned are enemies of Christianity. They are enemies of Jesus. They don’t agree with his theology. They don’t believe in him. They don’t want his message to succeed. An enemy of Jesus would make for a bad sermon…
Over these coming weeks we will have guest speakers and they will not be enemies of Jesus. They will be fellow Christian pastors. However in our sermons we will be examining a few key statements of Jesus’ enemies. Statements that unwittingly and unbeknownst to them made for some great sermons in Jesus’ favor.
The first sermon we’ll look at took place in bad guy headquarters. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and all the Teachers of the law – a collection of men who hated Jesus -- had gathered together to plan evil things. They were like the Secret Society of Supervillains that used to fight against Superman, Batman, and the Justice League.
Now these groups of people didn’t normally get along. The Pharisees believed in a resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not. Often they would quarrel about who was right.
Not on this day. On this particular day they gathered together with one express purpose. They only had one item on the agenda –Jesus.
Jesus had been significantly weakening their religious status. The people were listening to Him and not them. Each one of their groups saw less and less people gathering for their Thursday night Rabbinical studies.
But it was more than that. Jesus had been embarrassing them. He had embarrassed them with his knowledge of the Sabbath. He had pointed out where they were wrong in Scripture. He had called them sinners –perish the thought – and then went to spend time with dirty thieves and prostitutes. Real “sinners.”
Jesus had been making them look bad. But that wasn’t what bothered them the most. Take a look at John 10:47-48 “The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Do you see the problem? It wasn’t just that Jesus was speaking a message opposed to the message that they promoted. They had dealt with that before. It was that Jesus’ message was accompanied by signs.
A man with a shriveled hand had it restored to full health by Jesus.
A man who couldn’t see had his sight restored by Jesus.
Most recently a man who had died – Lazarus – had his life restored by Jesus.
Note this – these leaders don’t question whether these miracles happened. They don’t gather together to send out a task force investigating whether these were real or not. They believed they were. They believed the miracles had happened. They knew Lazarus had died and they had heard solid evidence that he was alive again.
They didn’t disbelieve the miracles. They just didn’t believe in Jesus.
“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
It was becoming chaotic in the room. Sniveling. Whining. Anger. Everyone talking at once. Everyone offering their concerns. No one knew what to do? How could they stop this Jesus!
Then, one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up.
Caiaphas was not your run of the mill temple officials. He garnered respect. He had earned respect. His position as high priest warranted respect. When he spoke, picture the whole room quieting down. He had something important to say:
“You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Everyone quieted down. Everyone nodded. They agreed.
From that time on they plotted to kill him.
But the other teachers weren’t the only ones who agreed with what Caiaphas had to say. Take a look at these Old Testament passages:
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter…He was cut off from the land of the living…He was assigned a grave with the wicked. He poured out his life.” (Isaiah 53)
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced…" (Zechariah 12:10)
"(The Messiah will be) poured out like water, and all (his) bones are out of joined….God lays (him) in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:14-15)
Caiaphas, who taught Old Testament, didn’t believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, was now agreeing with the Old Testament about Jesus’ death on earth?
It wasn’t just the Old Testament that agreed with Caiaphas. Jesus himself had spoken similarly.
1 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
Jesus was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:31)
33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” Jesus said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34)
Caiaphas, who hated Jesus, was now in complete agreement with Jesus on what should happen to Jesus next.
But it wasn’t just Jesus.
Remember what the Jewish people referred to the Old Testament as. They called it the Word of God. Remember what God the Father had spoken from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased!”
If God the Father was the ultimate author of the Old Testament and He had spoken from the cloud approval with Jesus, then it was his plan too. It was God the Father’s plan that Jesus would die in place of many people!
But while Caiaphas was in agreement that one man should die for the people. His reasoning was much different than God’s reasoning. Caiaphas thought they needed to kill Jesus to keep him from stirring up the people more. If they got too stirred up, the Roman government which was in control at the time would certainly put a stop to his rebellion. They would send soldiers. They would send more soldiers. They would slaughter the rebellious Jews. Caiaphas wanted Jesus dead before that could happen.
But God the Father wanted Jesus to die for an altogether different reason:
Scripture says this:
“The Wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
“The one who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
God wasn’t concerned with the Romans killing the Jews. God was concerned with sin killing them. Eternally.
God wasn’t just concerned with the Jews either. God was concerned with all people. He was concerned for you and me.
God wasn’t just concerned about a physical death. But an eternal death. A forever death in hell.
So God planned it as Caiaphas said it, “It is better…that one man die for the people…”
If you had a chance to go back in time and kill Hitler as a young man, would you do it? You’d probably save hundreds of thousands of lives. How about Osama bin Laden? What if you could prevent 9/11?
Do you understand God’s reasoning for killing Jesus? This is exactly what John explains about Caiaphas’ statement. 51 "He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”
It wasn’t as if Jesus was an enemy who would kill me. It wasn’t as if Jesus needed to die because he was bad.
Jesus needed to die because he was good. He was the only one who was good. He was the only one who didn’t earn a punishment in death and therefore was the only one who could be a substitute in death.
· Jesus died as a ransom to set them free from sins. (Hebrews 9:17)
· God made (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
· He died for sins once for all. (Hebrews 7:27)
God’s plan worked. God’s plan was better.
Do you question it?
If it wasn’t for God’s plan and Jesus’ death, then what?
You’d gather to confess your sins tonight and I’d say, “Too bad.”
You’d pray to God for forgiveness and search the Bible only to find, “God hates you. There’s nothing you can do.”
You’d turn to me in counseling, confess a sin, and I’d say, “Here’s a bottle of Scotch. I don’t know what else might make you feel better about your impending doom.”
But Jesus did die.
He did die for your sins.
You gather to confess your sins tonight and God says, “You’re forgiven.”
You pray to God for forgiveness and find in the Bible, “You are my child.”
You turn for help from a Christian friend and hear, “Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven. You will not die, but live.”
That’s better. Better by far.
Thanks be to Jesus for making it so. Amen.
Jesus is God
“You’re the Christ! The Son of the Living God!” (Mt. 16:16)
The others stood around in shock. Yes. They had been thinking the same thing. The voice at his Baptism. The urgency in his preaching. The casting out of the demons. The healing of the sick. Jesus. was not an ordinary teacher, but none of them were bold like Peter to make that statement.
Jesus stood up. They looked on with anticipation and tension. Had Peter just spoken blasphemy?
But Jesus warmly smiled. “Blessed are you…this has been revealed to you by God!” (Mt. 16:17)
Then, Jesus sat down. He began to explain to all of this what this meant. He explained that he needed to head to go Jerusalem. While he was there, he would be arrested, he would suffer at the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the law, and then he would be crucified. He, the Son of God, would die.
Peter spoke again: “Never! You won’t die. You’re God’s Son. I won’t let it happen.” Surely, the other disciples nodded in approval. They just discovered and understood this awesome truth. They didn’t want to forfeit it away. Surely, Jesus would understand.
But Jesus got angry.
“Away from me Satan,” he said to Peter, “You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (16:14)
Interesting isn’t it? The disciples had just identified Jesus as God. Then, they question his judgment. Had they already forgotten?
8 days later Jesus give them proof that he is God. Proof they wouldn’t forget.
I. On the Mountain
Mark 9 say this: Jesus led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them
Back when I was shopping for an engagement ring for Julianna – it turns out -- there are many things about diamonds that I just did not know. They come in 8 different shapes, clarity can have many imperfections or even be FLAWLESS with ZERO imperfections. I learned that a carat is a weight, not simply a vegetable, and that each diamond has a different color. (They aren’t just diamond colored.)
There are lots of things to look for in a diamond! But perhaps the best thing to look for in a diamond is the “WOW” factor. Look for something that will take the breath of away of the one who takes your breath away.
When Jesus was transfigured, He took away his disciple’s breath – he did it in an otherworldly way. He declard himself as God.
It started with his clothes. Verse six says that, “his clothes became dazzling white.” That’s a pretty awesome Greek word. It means “shimmering’ and “shiny.” Elsa and Anna would be jealous!
But his clothes weren’t just white. They were “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Whiter than White out white. Whiter than Clorox white. Whiter than OxiClean white. Whiter than Sherwin Williams’ Absolute White or Pure White.
Ask yourself: Who alone can invent a new color? One long before the 64 pack of Crayola crayons? And never duplicated in today’s modern art? Why not the one who created color and the eyes that see color?
Jesus is God.
Matthew’s account tells us that Jesus’ face shone like he sun. Have you ever had that problem? Woke up in the morning only to be blinded by the radiance of your own face? I’ve had a zit here or there, but a blinding, otherworldly radiance of light?
Try as I might I can’t get it to happen. The only ones who can do so with CGI animation on IMAX theater movie screens – not on skin and bones.
Ask yourself: Who alone can cause skin to light up like the sun? Perhaps it is the one who created skin and sun?
Jesus is God.
Next a few friends join Jesus. Verse 4 says, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” Which, at first glance, seems amazing in the fact that these two weren’t there before and now they suddenly appeared. A vaporation!?!
It wasn’t just any vaporation. These two men were very famous -- It would be like having dinner with President Obama and Michael Jordan. These were two very famous men. Moses had delivered the law that they read in their synagogues and posted on their doorways. He had given the Ten Commandments. Elijah was a very fiery prophets. He had defeated hundreds of prophets of Baal with the help of the Lord.
Moses stood for the Law and Elijah for Prophecy. What kind of money would it have taken to get these two there?
But the miracle is greater than just surprising the disciples with the appearance of two very famous men. Because Moses and Elijah were both hundreds of years old. Neither had been alive for hundreds of years. They had been in heaven.
Ask yourself: Who can have conversations with those in heaven? Who can take people out of heaven? Isn’t it the one who owns the gates of heaven Himself?
Jesus is God!
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud – not from a loudspeaker, not from a microphone, not from a megaphone. It wasn’t even their friend Thomas hiding in the bushes, cupping his hands, and doing his best God voice.
This was the voice of the Father. Listen to what he says: “This is my Son, whom I love.” Which if you have been carefully following this sermon series is the exact same thing the Father’s voice from heaven spoke at Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus was his Son. He loved Jesus.
This is a big deal. It means Jesus was still succeeding in his mission. He still pleased the Father in every aspect of his life. He was still holy in his living. He still didn’t have any sin. He still had never done anything – not even a smidgens of something – that would make his Father say, “I am no longer proud of you.”
Remember God is Holy! If Jesus would have sinned, he would not have been proud. He would have condemned Jesus.
The fact that He still speaks so glowingly means that Jesus had lived up to God the Father’s standards. He had lived perfectly.
Ask yourself: How could Jesus do that if he was born a sinful human being like the rest of us? How could He live a holy life, if He wasn’t in fact holy himself? And how could He be Holy unless Jesus was…
Jesus is GOD HIMSELF!!!
We’re halfway through the sermon. What’s the application for you? What are you to learn? Jesus is God himself. He is not just a good teacher. He’s not just a shifty salesman. He’s not a good magician. He’s no myth. He’s no bedtime story. He’s no comic book hero. He’s no politician, money maker, or rebel rouser.
He is the Divine Lord of Heaven and earth and…he should…be listened to. He should be listened to where his words have been recorded for him to speak to our hearts:
II. …In His Word
Pay careful attention to what the voice of the Father from the cloud says next. He says, “This is my Son; whom I love. Listen to him!”
Do you think it made Peter tremble just a tad? A week earlier he had rebuked Jesus. “No, what you are saying is wrong. You will not be arrested. You will not die. You will not be a sacrifice.” At the time – that seemed like a good idea. Like he was stopping his friend from having a very bad idea.
Now in the presence of the blinding heavenly light, surrounded by men from heaven, and listening to the booming voice of the Divine Father – maybe – Peter was wishing he had been quiet.
He should have listened.
What about you? Do you listen to God? Or do you like to have knee jerk, Peter like reactions?
· Jesus, I hear you, but I think I know more about my life than you do.
· Jesus, you think that’s a sin? Haven’t you been on Twitter recently? Our society thinks it’s ok now.
· Jesus, I understand you’re point –as Lord of heaven and all, but I gotta make my own decisions.
· Jesus, thanks for the advice. I’ll take it into consideration.
Careful. If you ignore Jesus’ words, then you ignore his authority. If you ignore Jesus’ authority, then you ignore God’s authority. If you ignore God’s authority, then…well…BAD IDEA.
And if you ignore God’s Words in favor of doing what you want, then who are you really listening to? Who are you giving authority? Who are you setting up as God? Whether it’s subconscious or consciously aren’t you making yourself and your ideas into the ideas of God himself?!?
GUEST WHAT: The Transfiguration is not about the revelation that you are God. But it is about the revelation that JESUS IS GOD. Heed the Father’s advice. Listen to Him!
If you have ever ignored God, if you have ever rejected the Bible, if you have ever refused to listen to what Jesus says in Scripture, then maybe you feel like Peter, James, and John. Perhaps you feel like falling to your knees, face first, and pleading with God -- HAVE MERCY!
You need to listen to what Jesus would do shortly after this Mt. of Transfiguration. It’s what he had told his disciples he would do and what Peter had rejected: Mark 8: 32 -- Then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed…
Don’t look at this from the perspective of the suffering human being that the world saw in those first Lenten days. Instead, look deeper. Look at Him from the Mount! See that this is the Holy One – God Himself suffering for you. It his plan. It is his good plan. It is His Divine God plan for saving you. He would suffer for all of the times you have not listened to God.
Amazing isn’t it? God, whom you needed to listen to (and haven’t listened to), listened to you. He heard you cry for mercy from eternity. He heard your cry for help. He stepped out of his Heavenly throne to answer your call to save you.
But it was more than just a death. Take a look at the tagline at the end of verse 32 after three days Jesus would rise again.
Impossible, right? How could Jesus do that?
How about the same reason that he could turn his clothes heavenly white, shine his face like the sun, talk with two heavenly souls, and have the Father speak pleasure with his holy living?
JESUS IS GOD!
This is exactly what happened. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because it couldn’t hold God. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because Jesus was God and nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)
So…Listen to Jesus! Even when it seems impossible.
When he says, “Take heart. You’re forgiven.” Listen to him, He’s God.
When he says, “Peace be with you.” Listen to Him, He’s God.
When He says, “I know theplans I have for you.” Listen to him. He’s God. (Jr. 29:11)
When He says, “I’m always with you.” Listen to Him. He’s God. (Mt. 28:21)
When he says, “Whoever believes in me, will not perish, but have eternal life.” Listen to him. He’s God.
When he says, “I have a room in heaven for you.” Listen to him. He’s God.
Once you hear him speaking on the impossible, listen to him in the more mundane things of day to day life.
Listen to him when he tells you to abandon your sin. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to hear his Word. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to be baptized. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to sing his praise. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to pray. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to gather at church. He’s God.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This may have been the most difficult thing for the disciples to listen to. Think about what they had just seen. Think of the glory they had just seen.
But nowhere is it recorded that they told anyone about this until after he had risen from the dead. As hard as it was to do, they remembered who it was that was speaking to them. God himself.
Whatever God is asking you to do. Whatever God is asking you to believe. May you be like the disciples. Remember who it is that is asking you. See that Jesus is God.
Tragedy in the Triangle
I don't know any other word. This past week in Chapel hill three young Muslim students were killed over a parking spot.
This was tragic for so many people and so many reasons.
Tragic for those students. They had so much promise and a full life ahead of them.
Tragic for their families. Their hearts will be broken and struggling to heal for years.
Tragic for our community. Fear, racism, and anger continue to divide us.
Tragic for our country. Politicians and the media will use this death to confuse issues, meet agendas, and make campaigns successful.
But you know who this was most tragic for?
Take a look at the following Bible passage:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Do you see what God did? God loved these three so much that he came to earth to live perfectly for them when they couldn’t. He died innocently for them the death they deserved. He rose triumphantly for them to proclaim that heaven is theirs as his gift. He has been calling out for them to believe that his Son did this!
They were Muslims. Their faith didn't believe this.
And someone ripped them away from this world before they could.
That’s an eternal tragedy.
But there is more at stake than that.
Our world was already filled with enough hatred, misunderstanding, racism, and mistrust. This tragedy will only heighten all of that ugliness. It will segregate, dissect, and separate our society even farther. Conversations will be harder. Dialogue will be tougher. Sharing the message of Jesus will be all that much more difficult.
As God’s spokespeople – as Christians – we might be tempted to give up:
“It’s too dangerous out there.”
“No one will trust me.”
Our world is very dark right now. Bu do not hide in the darkness.
As God’s spokespeople – as Christians – we might be tempted to give in:
“I’m not responsible.”
“I’m being blamed?”
“Who cares then!”
Our world is very dark right now. But do not become a part of the darkness.
Jesus said this. I think it's as important now as it was when he spoke it:
“You are the light of the world…People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:14-16)
As God's spokespeople --as Christians -- we might be tempted to give up or give in, but we must do neither. We must give out.
The Bible records another dark time.
It was evening. Jesus was in a lonely garden. A band of men came to arrest him. Torches, swords, and anger surrounded him. He was handcuffed, slapped and arrested.
Then it was night. He went to a dimly lit courtroom. Still dark. He was blindfolded. Even darker. He was punched. “Who hit you!?!” He was hated.
Then it was morning. It was bright for a moment. Then, he was whipped. Then scourged. The pain from his back beckoned for him to black out.
Then it was noon. He was nailed to a cross. The cross was jammed into the ground. The sky turned to darkness. Jesus’ eyelids grew heavy. The light was slipping.
Then it was afternoon. He shouted. He sighed. Then….he was silent.
The light was gone.
But three days later, the light returned. Jesus burst forth from the tomb. He had conquered the darkness of death. He had defeated the darkness of sin. He had destroyed the sad darkness of this gloomy earth.
He had a new message. A message centered in the light of forgiveness. A message surrounded in the love of God. A message promising the eternal light of God’s presence to all who believe!
Then he left.
But before he left he made this command and promise. “Go and make disciples of all nations…and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28)
The point? The light never left. The light is in you. The light is with you. Let HIM shine!
Be kinder than you’ve ever been.
Care more than you've ever cared.
Prayer more vigorously than you've ever prayed.
Tell others about the hope you have in Jesus more confidently, more lovingly, and more often than you ever have before.
Let your light shine brighter than ever!
*Over the past couple of months, we've seen some creative hash-tags used to draw attention to different struggles:
God doesn't have a Twitter account. But if he did, I think he’d have his own spin on this:
May this heart of God be our heart as well.
Join me in saying prayers for the families of all involved with this tragedy.
Join me in staying calm and patient in the midst of heated anger.
Join me in bringing love to every person we encounter in the Triangle.
Join me in shining brightly in the darkest of times.
Jesus is Compassionate
It was incredible.
While Jesus was teaching, a man possessed by a demon had interrupted him. He had shouted at Jesus. He had challenged him to show his power. Jesus did just that. With mere words, he defeated he demon. The man was released by the demon. He was healed.
As Peter watched this, something cliicked in his mind. A question. A thought.
Could Jesus do the same thing with a fever?
Granted a fever is not the same as a demon. A fever is an inanimate virus. You can’t just speak it away. You need medicine. But Jesus certainly had incredible power. His mother-in-law had been sick at home. Her fever was bad enough that she had missed today’s activities by being in bed. They could go the herbals and medicine route, fill her with water and wait. Or...since Jesus was powerful enough, maybe he'd be compassionate enough too...
“Hey Jesus! You busy tonight?”
I. Compassionate…To Close Friends
29 As soon as they left the synagogue they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.
Jesus doesn’t make excuse. He doesn’t mention that he’s off the clock. He doesn’t say that he needs to get home. He doesn’t get annoyed that he’s been asked to do another miracle. He doesn’t refuse because there’s not a large crowd there to watch.
31 Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Notice what he uses to heal her. It isn’t Nyquil, Dayquil, Robitussin, Theraflu, Tylenol Cold & Flu, Advil Cold & Flu, or even a bowl of good old fashioned chicken soup.
Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up.
This isn’t just coincidence. She had been in bed before this. She was tired. Her body was probably achy. Her knees shaking. Her hands were probably doing that things where they were sweating from within, but cold and clammy to the touch. She was in no condition to do much of anything.
But as soon as Jesus touched her that changed. She began doing things just like many other loving mother-in-lawn who expect company. She waited on them! Maybe she fixed her hair, cleaned up in the corner of the room, delivered everyone some appetizers, set the table, and put a pot on the stove for a meal.
You know--things you don’t do, when you have a fever.
This is amazing. Another incredible miracle of Jesus. One that wasn’t so life or death. Yet – one that he performed. It shows his COMPASSION. Compassion for his friends.
What about you? If you are Jesus' friend there is reason to be encouraged. He is loving and compassionate to his friend.
But what if you aren’t sure if you are a friend of Jesus? What if you haven't treated him much like a friend lately? What if you barely spend any time with him (at church), never speak to him (in prayer), and list him at the bottom of your priority list (below work friends, Hulu friends, and just about anything else.)
Even if you think you have been a good friend, certainly you'd agree that you aren't at the same level as Jesus' disciples were. You weren’t in his inner circle. You weren’t invited to intimate meals with him. You didn’t stay up late telling stories with him. You weren’t one of Jesus’ closest friends.
Why then would Jesus help you? Is he compassionate to those who aren't his friends? Or is he like other humans who kindly bring their friends a lemon tea when they are sick, but complain to the boss that your 'non-friend' co-worker is "pretending" to be sick!
Think Jesus is like that?
II. Compassionate…To All Who Seek Him
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Can you imagine what that night was like? (Good thing Peter’s mother-in-law was up and ready to serve.) Disease after disease. Sickness after sickness was knocking at the door.
“Is Jesus here? I ran back to my house after what happened at the temple today because…well…here is my daughter. She isn’t feeling well. Can you help?"
“Hey Jesus, this is my grandma. She has cancer. Can you help?”
“Hi Jesus. My great uncle Mordecai is back there. He didn’t come to the door because he has leprosy. Can you help?”
“Hey Jesus. *Cough *Cough* I have a cold. Can you help?”
Some who came to that door were probably deathly sick. Others maybe not so much. But it didn’t matter. Jesus had compassion. He healed them. He had compassion and healed all who sought him.
He never stopped and said, “No not you. I don’t like you.” Or “I will heal you, you, and you…but not you because you like the Tarheels.” NEVER! Jesus had compassion on all who sought him. No matter who they were!
No matter who you are. No matter what is wrong. Jesus has compassion for you.
Keep that in mind. There is zero reason for any of you to feel like Jesus won’t help you! We just saw it. He listens to all who approach him. He has compassion for all! He has compassion for you.
Maybe you know this, but do you practice it? When you are sick, what do you do? Look up your symptoms on WebMD? Head to Walgreens? Ask around for a good doctor?
Those are all fine. But did you notice what was missing? Why not do what the crowd does first of all? Why not ask Jesus for compassion!?!
You don't even have to go to Simon Peter's house to find him.
Feeling bad at work? Go to him in prayer.
Sneezing in the car? Go to him in prayer.
Headache keeping you in bed? Go to him in prayer.
He is compassionate to all who seek him!
III. Compassionate…By Doing Nothing!?!
Now. Perhaps you are thinking. "Fine. But why doesn’t he help me? Why doesn’t he listen to my prayers? Why hasn’t my financial situation gotten easier? I've had arthritis for years. I"ve prayed for it to get better. It hasn't. It has gotten worse!?! Why hasn’t my friend gotten better? Why aren’t I in better health? Why did my dear friend have to die? Why does Jesus continue to help me by doing nothing!?!"
"Maybe he's uncompassionate after all."
The mood has changed. So has the narrative:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
It’s easy to understand why Jesus went off by himself. He needed a little bit of a break. He needed a rest. A time to reflect on yesterday and a time to get guidance for the coming day. He needed some quiet time with God. (Something that…if you don’t take time to do, I highly recommend it. God loves to hear from you and speak to you in his Word. Grab a bible. Grab a coffee. Start off your day with God.)
But then the disciples come after him. A little groggy-eyed, but moving quickly. As soon as light had hit people started showing up at the house. Peter’s mother-in-law was entertaining again. The disciples were saying things like “I’m sure he’ll be back any moment.” Maybe – Matthew had stayed back at the house to entertain the visitors with the best Tax Collector jokes that he knew. But these people needed Jesus. They wanted his compassion.
We’d expect Jesus to give it to them. He is compassionate after all. In fact, there’s another instance in the Bible when a very similar situation happens and Jesus goes out to the people out of compassion.
This is why his response is so surprising.
38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Does that seem unfair to you? Does that seem like Jesus doesn't have any compassion? Maybe he's tired. Maybe he's selfish. Maybe he's annoyed. But not compassionate.
Are you sure? Listen to him explain himself: “Let us go…so I can preach. That is why I have come.”
A couple of weeks back we heard a sermon that said JESUS IS URGENT. In that sermon Scripture recorded that Jesus began his ministry by preaching. He preached, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near."
This is what Jesus came to do.
In our text, Jesus could have returned. He could have healed people. He could have helped them all day long with their physical desires an their physical health. Once he got rid of all the serious stuff he could have moved on to less serious stuff. He could have helped people lose weight. He could have given people 20/20 vision. He could have made money appear magicaly in people’s pockets.
But he didn’t. He didn't because there was a much more serious matter to address.
If all he did was play pro bono doctor all day long, then he wouldn’t have gotten around to preaching God’s Word. He never would have gotten around to healing what really mattered. The sin sick heart. A problem that results in guilt, shame, death, and eternity in hell!
If Jesus would have ignored this problem, then he’d be like the doctor who sees the cancer on the MRI, but only prescribes a Band Aid and some Neosporin to get rid of the hangnail.
Jesus knew better. It’s why he said no. It’s why he moved on. It’s why he had to preach. It’s why He was compassionate by doing nothing!
Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe that’s the answer for you.
Are you sick? Do you hurt? Have you been going to Jesus in prayer because of arthritis? Have you been calling on him to heal your terminally ill relative? Have you been praying every morning, afternoon, and evening for his compassion and help?
Good. Keep doing that. He hears you.
But perhaps he won’t respond as you like. This isn’t because he isn’t compassionate. It isn’t because he isn’t compassionate for you. We just saw that in today’s lesson.
But perhaps it is because He is compassionate. Because he does love you. Because he loves you more than you can imagine.
Thinks of what happens during sickness. You are more connected to Him than ever. It’s the sad truth of the human spirit. God wants that for you. God wants you connected to Him. He wants you to believe in Him, to trust in Him, to grow in his Word, to come and hear the Gospel about Him, because Jesus is the only one who can save you from an eternity in hell. He is the only one who can save you from your sins!
So understand this: Jesus has compassion for you. This is truth! Even when he does nothing, he has compassion for you. He has compassion for your body, yes. But he is most passionate about showing compassion for your souls.
He died to heal you from the guilt of your terrible sins with God’s forgiveness.
He longs to heal you from the shame of your past actions with God’s love.
He desires to heal your nervousness of God's approvals with the promise of His peace.
He wants so very badly to heal your loneliness with his eternal presence.
In Jesus he does just that.
More than preach about it, Jesus accomplished the message of his preaching. He lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul. This isn’t something you deserve. This isn’t something you could do on your own. This is something he did out of his compassion for you.
I was having a spiritual conversation with a fried recently. She was very sad. She had a lot of guilt on her shoulders. She had lost her job. She admitted it was mostly her fault. Her child had suffered because of it. There wasn’t enough clothing. There wasn’t enough food. There wasn’t always a good place to live.
Now she realized it. It ate away at her. She was heartbroken.
But then…God. Colossians 2:13 is what did it.
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
Now the tears were different.
Now they were tears of thanksgiving.
Now they were tears that had experienced compassion.
An otherworldly compassion. Jesus’ incredible compassion.
May his healing compassion be with you always! Amen.
Ever notice how children’s books always paint Jesus with a smile?
He holds the kids. He smiles at the kids. He feeds them Gogurts. He’s always happy.
Jesus certainly is kind like that. There are plenty of occasions that is true. But is Jesus always like that? Is he just an ancient Mr. Rogers?
I don't know. You tell me:
No? Not even if Trolley the Train called him a bad name?
These are things that Jesus did. He isn't always so warm and fuzzy. He isn't a pushover.
Jesus is COMBATIVE.
I. Whose Side Does He Fight On?
Take our text for this morning from Mark 1 to see Jesus show his combative side:
Jesus went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-- the Holy One of God!"
Notice what it says in our text. Jesus was in the temple preaching. Things were going well. People were impressed by the authority with which he preached. When along comes a man who was possessed by an evil spirit!
What do we know about evil spirits? To put it simply: Evil spirits are evil. This isn’t just because they have the word “evil” in their name either. A few Scripture sections describe to us how evil spirits came to be:
Now look at the words of the evil spirit when he sees Jesus. He doesn’t give Jesus a high five. He doesn’t say, “Long time no see bud.” He doesn’t offer to buy Jesus a drink.
He’s terrified. He knows what it means to see Jesus – and Jesus is not one of his buds. Look at verse 24. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The evil spirit sees Jesus and assumes – a fight is coming. They are not on the same side.
So what does all of this mean when it comes to determining whose side Jesus is on? Think about it: If evil spirits are evil and Jesus is against evil spirit, then Jesus is good.
That’s exactly what the evil spirit calls him, “the Holy One of God!”
Now don’t misinterpret that phrase. I fear that the definition has been lost and changed in Modern Society. Kinda like how the Word “organic.” It used to mean “absolutely zero chemicals or pesticides of any kind in use.” Now it means “we paid a fee to tell people that we don’t’ use a lot of pesticides.” Holy, in God’s Word” means “zero bad.” It doesn’t mean “relatively good in comparison to others.” It doesn’t mean “a smidgens of evil.” It doesn’t mean “99.9% good.”
Holy means completely, utterly, 100%, certified, grade A good! That’s Jesus. Completely, utterly, 100%, certified, grade A good!
II. Which Side is More Powerful?
Jesus and this demon are on opposite sides then. It sounds kind of scary too. There’s bound to be a fight. Because this demon was powerful. Look at what it says about the man, “the man was possessed by an evil spirit.” Possession means that the spirit had taken over. He took over his body. He took over his intellect. This evil spirit was in complete control of this man.
Think of how scary that is. The man had no control over what he said. The man couldn’t feed himself when he wanted. In extreme Biblical cases, the demon would cause the man to harm himself without any provocation or convincing. If you’ve ever seen a demon possession movie, know this: the real thing is REAL and twice as scary. If you haven’t seen those movies, don’t go watching them. There’s no reason for you to be influenced by such powerfully evil stuff.
Demons are obviously more powerful than humans. Even in today’s society – when possession is thankfully less common – demons work to tempt us into sin after sin.
Jesus is more powerful than your average human. But as this demon possessed man approaches, one might expect a UFC like showdown. Punches. Swords. Divine headlocks!
Not so much.
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” (v.25)
The demon? He doesn’t have a snappy comeback. The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (v.26)
Did you see how amazing that was? Jesus didn’t pull out a sword. He didn’t shoot fireballs at the demon. He didn’t evil call on any of his disciples for help. He simply spoke and the demon was defeated. The crowd is impressed too. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” (v.27)
This whole approach of mere words winning a fight probably won’t work later today at the Super Bowl. As impressive as Tom Brady can be, if all he did was step out on the field and say, “Leave you Seahawks,” I’m thinking it doesn’t’ have the same effect. Same thing in boxing. Imagine the great Muhammad Ali, who had a lot to say, stepping into a boxing ring, taking off his gloves, not throwing a punch, and simply saying, “KNOCKOUT!” It probably wouldn’t be long before he was on the floor.
This is the awesome power of Jesus. Jesus is all powerful. He is more powerful than any evil spirit. He defeats them with mere words.
What Does this Mean for you?
You might be thinking. This is nice. It sounds kinda like my son’s Spiderman comic book. Good beats evil. Great. But what does this have to do with my everyday life.
More than you think.
Here are three take home points to remember from this lesson:
1. What Jesus says is GOOD.
It is so very common in our American society to call Jesus out and label him evil because some of Jesus’ ideas don’t fit into today’s society. I was reading an article on the Huffington Post the other day. It was all about how to spot subliminal hate speech. The claim was that saying “homosexuality is sinful” is downright evil. But even using phrases such as “traditional marriage” is hateful. It implies that homosexual marriage isn’t real marriage. The article was purporting that such kind of speech not be tolerated and stopped because it was so evil.
Hmmm. Churches didn’t get this from themselves. Jesus himself was a proponent of marriage. He said, “For this reason a man leaves his father and mothers and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” (Mt. 19:5-6)
IS that hate speech? IS that evil?
This isn’t the only accusation against Jesus. The world will claim:
Do you see why this lesson is important? There’s no doubt that Jesus and modern society clash. That’s not in question. The big question is who is right? Who is on the side of good and who is on the side of evil?
Let’s talk elementary for a moment:
What sound does a cow make? A cow moos. It makes cow sounds. How about a dog? A dog barks. Simple enough. Dogs say dog things and cows say cow things. A cat cannot not cluck and a chicken cannot meow. That’s not who they are.
Jesus is Good. Holy. 100% all the time good. What he says is good. 100% all the time good.
Therefore, when it comes to the case of Jesus versus modern society who’s right? Who’s good and who’s evil? Scripture says this in 2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan masquerades as an angel of light,” which means that sometimes things that look good, nice, and not very harmful – are terrible wrong and harmful.
Who do you trust? The ones who follow demons or the one who drives them out?
This leads to an important question. Why is there such a disconnect? Why do Jesus and society not mesh? Why are there passages in the Bible that you read and disagree with? Whose fault is it?
Remember: It can’t be Jesus. He is always good. Therefore, if you disagree…if you think differently…if you do differently,…if you say differently than Jesus, who’s wrong? (CLUE: It’s not Jesus.)
BOTTOM LINE: If You are Doing, Saying or Thinking Something that’s against what Jesus says – You’re Wrong! It can’t be Jesus. It must be you!
Do you realize the plight of our situation? Do you realize the sad state that our sin filled souls are in? Join me in pleading with the apostle Paul: “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Hear Jesus’ call in these words: “Repent. Turn from evil. Turn back to God.”
3. Jesus is Your Help against Evil.
Evil is the very reason Jesus came to earth in the first place. He came down to earth to eradicate the world of the evil that the devil had brought into it back at the garden of Eden. There wasn’t a day of Jesus’ life that there wasn’t a battle. Demons, temptations, and the devil were surrounding him. But Jesus never fell. He never lost. He was undefeated in every temptation battle he entered. He’s the undisputed champion of eternity.
Even when it looked like he lost as he hung on the cross, things weren’t as they seemed. On that cross, Jesus won the final victory. He defeated the devil. He crushed evil. Three days later, he demolished death.
Then, with the same powerful voice that he used to run the demon out of the temple, Jesus speaks: “You are forgiven. You are my brother. You are a soldier in the army of the LORD! Come and fight with me.”
So…fight! Fight evil. Fight temptation. Fight your demons.
Thankfully demons aren’t manifesting like they did back at Jesus’ time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t demons you have to face. Alcohol. Drug addiction. Pornography. Sexual temptation with your girlfriend. Going too far with your boyfriend. Hatred and anger all over social media. The temptation to be cool and abandon God.
There’s so many temptation demons around it’s scary!
But you aren’t alone. Jesus – the One who hates evil and who is vehemently stronger than it – is with you. Call on him. Pray for his blessing. Use his Word to banish temptation. Call on a Christian friend for support. Head to church to strengthen your spiritual fighting muscles.
And look forward to The Day—the day when all this fighting is over, the day when weary spiritual soldiers rest their feet, the day where you stop fighting, the day when God takes you home to be with Him and celebrate his Gospel victory party. Amen.