Last we left Exodus, Moses and Aaron had travelled to Egypt and met with the elders of Israel. In this meeting, they described God’s plan to free them from slavery and showed them miraculous signs to prove it:
Moses’ staff turned into a snake and back into a staff.
Moses’ hand turned leprous and healthy again.
The elders were pumped:
You got this, Moses!
Mop the floor with Pharaoh, Aaron!
God’s got your back!
Our suffering is about to end!
I. Suffering Increases
With the elder’s approval, Moses and Aaron went to visit Pharaoh.
They said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. Let my people go so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness.” (5:1)
You’ll notice that this is not a request for full freedom. It is much simpler. They ask for time off for a festival.
It’s as if Moses and Aaron were requesting off for vacations days at work. Only for all the employees….
…All at once.
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should listen to his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I certainly will not let Israel go.” (v.2)
This is probably the first time that Pharaoh had heard the LORD’s name. In this Scripture, God’s name is written in all capital letters. This means the name that Moses and Aaron used to introduce God to Pharaoh was the same name that God had used to introduce himself to Moses: “I AM.” A name, by the way, that Moses himself first heard a few weeks earlier.
No wonder Pharaoh hadn’t heard of him.
In fact, when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, Moses asked a very similar question:
Who are you?
Only Moses seemed to ask for clarification.
Pharaoh asked because he wanted to know what puny “god” was daring to mess with him.
They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a 3-day journey into the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to the Lord, our God, so that he does not strike us with plague or sword.” (v.3)
I’ve seen his power.
He has done some amazing things!
I don’t want him to turn his power against us.
Nor should you want him to turn his power against you.
Pharaoh is not so concerned.
“…Why are you taking the people away from their work? Get back to your forced labor!” (v.4)
After Moses and Aaron leave, Pharaoh isn’t done with the conversation.
Can you believe those guys?
Who do they think they are?
Who do they think their “god” is?
Don’t they know there is no “god” in Egyptian except me.
I’m not some statue.
I’m not some sarcophagus.
I’m not some name etched in hieroglyph.
It’s time I taught this to the Hebrew people.
And to their puny Hebrew “god.”
In Egypt, I’m the only “god” that matters.
Pharaoh called a business meeting.
“Do not give the people straw for making bricks anymore. Let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as they made before. Do not reduce it. You see, they are lazy. That is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they do their work and do not pay attention to lying words.” (v.6-9)
I don’t think Pharaoh had his M.B.A.
Minus the resources?
Plus twice the amount of work?
Does not equal the same amount of production.
The people scattered all over the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters kept insisting, “Fulfill your daily quota just as you did when straw was provided!” The overseers, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had placed over the Israelites, were beaten.” (v.11-14)
Then, I imagine the taskmasters would walk…
Limp to their people.
“Why have you not fulfilled your quota yesterday and today, as you did previously?” (v.14)
I know it’s impossible.
But please go faster.
I don’t want to suffer anymore.
The elders that had been cheering Moses and Aaron?
Were doing so no longer.
God had promised to end the suffering of the Israelites.
It got worse.
II. Identifying the Source
We’re pausing there in the story to think about the issue of suffering. Where does suffering come from?
To find the Biblical answer, we need to go to the only book before Exodus.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
Did you hear what God called the world that he made?
Understand – God isn’t like you and me.
When I say very good about my outfit, I tend to think, “Yep. I’m wearing clothes.”
It’s good enough for sinful me.
God is perfect.
When he says, “Very good” he means, “Eternally, divinely, perfectly good.”
Suffering was not ORIGNALLY in our world.
…Nobody got uncomfortably sweaty in the sun.
…Nobody was forced into slave labor.
…Nobody had to make bricks, because the elements weren’t harsh enough to warrant a brick shelter.
…Nobody had to wear masks.
…Nobody had to social distance.
…Nobody worried about whether they could get enough gas for their gas tank.
Suffering was not a part of God’s original plan for earth.
God placed a tree in this suffering free garden.
God asked them not to eat from the tree or suffering would enter the world.
But God gave them plenty of other food to eat so that they would never suffer from hunger or thirst or even a late night craving for a milkshake.
And these humans?
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Can you imagine the next morning?
The man woke up and, “Ugh, I have this strange pain in my back. Did I sleep the wrong way? I didn’t know there was a wrong way. Hey honey, wake up. My back doesn’t feel…good.”
His wife said, “Quiet down. I have a bit of ugh… Something going on with my head. It aches. My head aches. What do you call it when your head aches?”
As a result of that sin in the garden, suffering is a part of our world.
Although sin works this suffering in a few different ways:
Suffering is the result of SINFUL WORLD.
The other Tuesday I was raking my front yard.
The next day, I noticed something:
The top of my head hurt.
Sunburn on my thinning hairline.
Sunburn wasn’t a part of the God’s original earth.
The sun didn’t originally have harmful UV-Rays.
Skin didn’t react by getting burned.
But we don’t live in that perfect world anymore.
We live in a sinful world.
Viruses that lead to a worldwide pandemic.
Are all a result of living in the sinful world.
Suffering is the result of SIN in OTHERS
This is what happened to the Israelites.
Sinful Pharaoh didn’t want to suffer from low production, so he decrees suffering for his workers.
The sinful overseers didn’t want to suffer Pharaoh’s wrath, so they whip suffering into the taskmasters.
The sinful taskmasters don’t want to suffer whipping, so they enforce impossible demands on the people.
Suffering is STILL the result of sin in others.
Your boss makes you work late hours.
Your coworker leaves you high and dry.
Your kids scream for hours on end.
Suffering often comes from sin in others.
If I suffer from the sins of others…
And all people in the world are sinful…
That also means that…
Suffering is the result of SIN in Me.
The other day, Daniela got very angry.
She was upset that I didn’t let her throw her dirty diaper away.
(I know…bad dad).
So, what did she did?
She yelled so loudly and violently that.
She fell off the potty.
And bonked her head.
Sometimes suffering is the result of sin in OURSELVES.
This headache? Because I drank too much last night.
This sluggish start to the day? Because I ate too much last night.
This scary medical situation? Because I abused my body over the years.
This relationship suffering? Because I was a jerk to my wife.
The suffering of gossip from others? Because I was unfaithful to my husband.
The fear and terror I deal with on a daily basis? Because I haven’t been faithfully in God’s Word.
Suffering comes from sin.
And sometimes in all three forms!
Take the gas crisis!
The colonial pipeline breaks – sinful world.
People panic and buy way more than they should – sinful others.
I rant on Facebook about how awful people are – and suffer he loss of a few Facebook friends.
Our world is filled with suffering.
Because our world is filled with sin.
Eventually the Israelite leadership banded together and approached Pharaoh:
“Why are you doing this to your servants? No straw is given to your servants, yet they tell us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look, your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” (v.15-16)
They have correctly identified sinful Pharaoh as the source of their suffering. But sinful Pharaoh misdirects them;
He said, “Lazy! You are lazy! That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now go! Get to work! Straw will not be provided to you, but you will deliver the same quota of bricks!” (v.17-18)
Did you catch that?
Pharaoh refuses to accept blame for their suffering.
They Israelites leaders said to Moses and Aaron, “May the Lord look at you and judge you, because you have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword into their hand to kill us.” (v.20-22)
As if Moses and Aaron’ real meeting with Pharaoh had included a 57-slide PowerPoint on why the Pharaoh should increase the Israelite’s suffering.
Sinful Pharaoh wouldn’t accept responsibility.
So the sinful Israelites pass the blame onto Moses and Aaron.
What do you think sinful Moses and Aaron do with the blame?
“Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (v.22-23)
God, this is suffering is YOUR fault.
Sin BLAMES suffering it causes on GOD
This is what Adam did in the garden.
It’s what the people did to Moses.
It’s what Moses said to God.
Maybe…It’s what you’ve been doing too.
IV. God & Suffering
We shouldn’t let that be the end to the study of suffering.
The LORD should be allowed to respond.
He does so in the next chapter:
“You will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country…Tell them: I will free you from being slaves…, I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (6:1-6)
Did you catch?
God wasn’t the one driving suffering on the people.
God was the one who would drive it out.
God DRIVES OUT suffering.
God said he would do it with his outstretched arm and Mighty Hand.
The same arm he stretched out to transform a wooden stick into a venomous serpent, He would stretch out to transform the venomous Pharaoh into a whimpering coward.
The mighty hand he used to drive out the leprosy from the hand of Moses, he would use to drive out his people from slavery.
But that’s not it. God would do it again.
He would stretch out his arms and wrap them around your sin.
He would take his mighty hand and grip your guilt.
He would stretch out his arms onto a plank of bloody wood.
He would take his mighty hand and nail it to the cross.
He would stretch out his arms to roll away his tomb stone.
He would move his mighty hand to feel the doorway to the tomb.
He would drive out sin.
He would drive out guilt.
He would drive out shame.
To drive out suffering.
Jesus is your Savior!
That truth drives out your deepest suffering.
…Suffering from guilt. You are forgiven.
…Suffering from shame. You are redeemed.
…Suffering from loneliness. God is with you.
…Suffering from fear. I am powerfully with you.
If God is more powerful than suffering, why allow it at all?
“I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (v.7)
Did you follow?
God has allowed suffering amongst the Israelite people for a time.
A time when all eyes are directed on him.
If God had ended it in an unceremonious manner, what do you suppose the people would have said?
That Pharaoh is so nice.
Those overseers are so bad once you get to know them.
We really did a great job in getting our suffering to end.
All credit would have went to sinful people.
None of whom were responsible to ending the suffering.
None of whom could bring an end to all suffering.
God WORKS THROUGH suffering to put eyes HIM!
Over this pandemic, that’s happened.
People have searched for him.
People have been looking for hope.
People have been turning to their LORD.
When all hope is lost and we turn to our God, it becomes apparent that God is God.
We put our faith in him.
We have the promise that…
God will bring suffering to an END.
The last thing that God told Moses was this:
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…I will bring you to the land I swore to your forefathers…I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” (6:9-10)
Not to spoil it, but….
God frees the people of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh.
They never again have to make bricks without straw.
They are free from that suffering.
Not to spoil it, but…
He will put an end to all suffering.
He will put an end to your suffering.
He will one day bring you home to heaven.
A place where there is no suffering.
A place where they’ve never heard of suffering.
A place where there isn’t even a word for suffering.
Our suffering is about to end.
Last week, God called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
If you’re wondering…
Moses left the mountain to begin to his new calling as leader of Israel.
But before he begins, God prepares him for his calling.
Friends, if you are a called into God’s kingdom…
And if you are a believer, you are called into his kingdom…
Then, you are also called to serve in his kingdom.
This sermon on how God prepares people to serve in his kingdom is for you.
I. The Importance of Family
Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” (v.18)
Put yourself in the place of Jethro.
This was his employee!
The shepherd of his flock.
A well-trained employee who had been on the job for 40 years.
If he leaves, how will your sheep react to a new shepherd?
Where will Jethro find such reliable shepherding?
Is there some kind of 15 century B.C. version of LinkedIn?
Perhaps more important, Moses was his son-in-law.
He’s been with Jethro for 40 years.
Jethro loves him.
Worse! If he leaves, he will be taking his wife.
And his grandkids.
How do you think Jethro will react?
Over my dead body?
Jethro said, “Go and I wish you well.”. (v.1)
That’s not the only family member that Moses needed to convince.
He still had to talk to his lovely wife Zipporah.
Hi honey! Great to see you.
What’s that? How was my day?
I led the sheep to pasture.
One of them got caught in a thicket.
I took a nap under an oak.
I talked to a burning bush.
Actually, it was the LORD.
He turned my stick into a snake.
And made my hand leprous.
You can’t see any of it now.
It looks pretty normal.
God wants me to go hundreds of miles to Egypt.
Leave our nice life here.
Switch our kids’ school.
Upend you from your family.
Notice Zipporah’s response:
Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. (v.20)
At least, no recorded fighting.
Just helping her husband to follow God’s call.
And what about his kids?
There’s no account of them throwing a fit.
There’s no account of one of them running away.
There’s no account of one of them starting a Snap Story entitled, “Why my dad Moses is the worst.”
They simply support their dad in his new calling.
God gives us “FAMILIES” for support.
Talk about a truth for Mother’s Day weekend.
God gave Moses a supportive father-in-law.
God gave Moses supportive children.
God gave Moses a supportive mother of those children.
For his trip into his new calling.
God did the same for me!
It’s Mother’s Day, so let me talk about my mom.
She taught me so much.
My impeccable fashion sense.
To have good table manners.
To eat some vegetable with your Doritos.
To keep a clean home.
To cherish time with family.
To work hard.
She taught me about my Savior.
She taught me that Jesus loved me.
She taught me the importance of surrounding yourself with people that would teach you that.
When I was in high school and I said to my mom, “I think I want to be a pastor. Go to school far away from you. And then, take a call to pastor somewhere…well…wherever God sends me.”
She encouraged me.
Part of the reason I am here is because of my mom and her support.
Thank you, mom.
Thank you, God.
And you’ll notice that in this truth, I put the word “family” into quotation marks.
Because the reality is that some people called to lead don’t have excellent family lives.
You might not know your mom.
Your dad might have been abusive.
You might be single.
You might be estranged.
God sends you “family”.
A caring aunt.
A God-fearing uncle.
If you have supportive family of any variety, praise God!
If you are that supportive church family, thank God!
You know the old saying:
Blood is thicker than water?
But Jesus’ blood is the eternally thickest.
So, support your family.
Call mom today and maybe tomorrow.
Give your kids a hug.
Call up a church friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Text someone that has acted as your family to say thanks.
Support one another.
Because “family is a gift God gives to support each other.
II. A Powerful Weapon
Moses and his family take off.
They begin their journey.
Immediately, one of Moses’ kids asks, “Are we there yet?”
But then God has something to say to Moses.
The Lord said, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (v.21)
That’s a scary verse in Scripture.
We’ll spend an entire sermon on that in later in this series.
For now, it’s important to know that Pharoah’s heart was not originally hardened.
After hearing God’s Word, Pharoah would choose to harden it.
And only then, would God harden it.
But after his heart was God-hardened and it would look like Pharoah would never budge on releasing the Israelite slaves…
…say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” (v.21-23)
I will eventually perform a final, terrifying miracle.
I will get Pharoah back for all his bloodshed.
And shed the blood of his firstborn son.
Then, he will listen.
Once my Word has hardened his heart,
The only thing that will unharden his heart hardened
…is my Word.
God arms us with his WORD.
There is no more powerful weapon than God’s Word.
God’s Word describes itself as:
“Sharper than any double-edged sword...”
“Penetrating even to soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” (Hebrews 4:12)
“The rain and snow coming down from heaven…watering the earth and not returning empty.” (Is. 55:10-11)
“…the full armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11)
God’s Word is powerful.
Arm yourself with it.
If you’re an elder calling up church friend you haven’t seen in a while, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a teacher trying to set your kids on God’s path, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a mom about to tuck your kid into bed, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a dad with a teenager who’s struggling with their identity, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a girlfriend trying to lead your boyfriend to Jesus, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a husband trying to uplift your exhausted wife, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a grandson about to video call your dying grandpa, arm yourself with God’s Word.
And if you’re feeling nervous, consider this…
The way that God told Moses about how he would use his powerful Word against Pharoah.
Was by using his Word.
Arming Moses with confidence in the process.
Use God’s Word.
God is with you.
III. The Strange Part
The next part is the strange part.
But God’s Word is powerful.
Bear with me.
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (v.24-26)
Here’s my best take.
Moses begins his journey for the LORD.
He stops to rest.
God almost kills him.
I don’t know if God appeared to Moses in some way.
Or if Moses just got super sick.
But it became apparent that God was going to kill him.
Why would God do that after he had just gone through the trouble of calling Moses to do this task?
It centers around circumcision. Circumcision wasn’t very common in the Ancient world. But in Genesis 17, God had appeared to the patriarch of Israelite society (a guy named Abraham) and commanded him to circumcise himself and all males in his family.
It was meant to be a sign of God’s covenant to be with the Israelites.
God was so serious about this that he threatened, “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14)
This word of God was orally passed down.
Likely, Moses would have been circumcised by his Hebrew mother as a baby.
Likely, Moses knew this covenant.
But apparently Moses hadn’t done it for one of his sons.
So God threatened to cut him off.
If it wasn’t for his wife Zipporah, who completes the task, maybe even angrily (the word “touched” can also mean “threw”; as in she “threw the foreskin at his feet”), Moses would have died.
What’s the point of all this?
Moses would be the leader of the Israelites. Since the Israelites were in covenant with God, it was imperative that Moses keep that covenant himself.
Since Moses hadn’t, God rebuked him.
Now God does not demand New Testament Christians to follow this Old Testament covenant.
That’s not the WHAT NOW.
We have a new covenant in the Gospel of Jesus.
But a truth can still be gleaned from this strange Old Testament account.
God REBUKES Us.
That isn’t a negative.
Because those God rebukes, he loves.
Just like when a mother rebukes her kids and tells them…
Stop watching so much YouTube. It’ll rot your brain.
You have to eat more than Doritos. It’s not healthy.
Look both ways when you cross the street so you don’t get smushed!
Rebuking is a loving thing.
And God rebukes his people.
Out of love.
Maybe it’s through a family member.
A personal Bible reading.
God rebukes his people because he loves them.
Has God been rebuking you?
Maybe you did a sin for the 10th time and felt a tinge of guilt from what you remember the Bible saying about that sin.
Then, you watched a devotional on the sin.
Then, you read a Facebook post on that sin.
Then, a friend who brought up that sin up.
Finally, the sermon kinda, sorta touched on the sin.
How does the pastor know?
Be like Zipporah.
Turn from your sins.
Return to God’s covenant.
Because it is, literally, a matter of life or death.
And the amazing part?
Upon repentance…You live.
Because God forgives.
He lived perfectly.
He died innocently.
He rose triumphantly.
Jesus was cut off from his heavenly Father that you might not be cut off from him.
Jesus brings forgiveness for whatever that sin he is rebuking you for.
Accept the rebuke.
And thank God for it.
One more way God prepared Moses.
The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mount of God and kissed him. Then Moses told him everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform. (v.27-28)
If you remember, this is what God had promised Moses when he was nervous. God had said that his brother Aaron would meet with him and help him with his calling.
In this verse, Aaron arrives and, unlike Moses, Aaron does not complain about the job.
And upon seeing Aaron, Moses didn’t even complain either. “
What do they do instead?
Go to work.
Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed.” (v.29-30)
God sends us CO-LABORERS.
For Moses it was Aaron.
And God’s a good boss.
He doesn’t just hire 16 guys who are good at the deep frier.
He hires one guy to work register.
A lady to flip the burgers.
And someone who is an excellent manager.
So it is with God.
Aaron was the perfect complement to Moses.
He did the speaking.
Moses did the stoic miracle performing.
Friends, God has made us to complement each other.
Perfectly put together by our Savior.
I realized the other day that I am about to get to the 10th year of being here in Raleigh.
Some of you I have known all of those 10 years.
Others I have known for 10 months.
Others for 10 days.
Regardless, you are my co-laborer.
If there’s anything I’ve learned over this year.
It’s that there’s plenty of work left to do.
People are scared.
People are lonely.
People are depressed.
People feel sad.
People feel terrified.
People feel guilty.
We have the One who helps with all of those things.
Friends, God has been preparing us.
God is preparing us.
Friends, let’s go to work. Amen.
Last week’s sermon was like an edition of CSI: Egypt.
Moses encountered an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew slave.
Moses killed the Egyptian.
Moses buried his body in the sand.
Pharaoh found out about it.
And Moses ran away to the hill country of Midian.
I. A Fiery Bush
40 years later…
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law…and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (v.1)
This was Moses’ life now.
He worked for his father-in-law as a shepherd.
From the decadent palace of royalty.
To the dirty life of a shepherd.
But it was ok.
He had escaped Pharaoh.
He had escaped punishment.
He had escaped his past.
One day, Moses saw …a bush was on fire. (v.2a)
No big deal.
That’s common in desert climates.
A lack of water dries out a bush and the hot sun sets it ablaze.
Moses need only take note of where it was in relation to the sheep.
But the bush was not burning up. (v.2b)
Not in 5 minutes…
Not in 10 minutes…
Still not in 15…
Usually by that time the dry branches had given way and the bush would have collapsed on itself.
This bush was still standing.
But not burning.
So he said, “I will go over and look at this amazing sight—to find out why the bush is not burning up.” (v.3)
He got closer.
The twigs hadn’t broken.
The branches weren’t charred.
The leaves were still…
But as strange as it was that the bush didn’t burn up …
It was nothing compared to what happened next.
God called to Moses from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses!” (v.4)
Moses took a piece of cloth he usually used to clean up the sheep.
Stuck it into his ear.
There must be something in his ear.
“Moses!” the voice repeated.
“I’m here.” Moses looked around to see where the voice was coming from.
Was it Jethro?
One of the other hired hands?
That guy from the local café who always likes to pull his leg?
“Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (v.5)
Moses looked down at his feet.
What he mean, “holy ground?”
This wasn’t a temple.
This wasn’t a sanctuary.
There wasn’t marble on the floor.
Or some kind of tile like design.
The voice continued, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (v.6)
Moses whipped off his sandals and fell to the ground.
This is it.
I’m done for.
All those years hiding.
God finally found me.
The jig is up.
I’m done for.
II. A Fiery Calling
But the Lord had something different in mind.
The Lord said, “I have certainly seen the misery of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry for help because of their slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…Come now, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (v.7-10)
Moses must have been in shock.
He touched his body.
It wasn’t burnt to a crisp.
But the bad news?
God wanted him to go back to Egypt.
Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11)
Maybe Moses thought…
I’m too old, God. 80 years old. Pushing 81. My knees don’t work the way a liberator’s knees should.
I’m too poor, God. I’m a shepherd now. Do you see my simple clothing and dirty hands? Why would royalty listen to me?
I’m too sinful, God. You remember…don’t you…if you don’t, I don’t need to tell you, but…what I did, right?
God, who am I to do such a calling?
God said, “I will certainly be with you.” (v.12)
But this led Moses to his next question:
“If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I say to them?” (v.13)
Because there are a lot of ‘gods’ in Egypt.
There’s the god of the sun, called Ra.
There’s the god that looks like an eagle.
The god that looks like a beetle.
These people even think cats are gods.
Cats think they are gods, too, but…
I’m not sure how seriously they will take me if I said, “I was sent here by a cat.”
God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. You will say this to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.” (v.14)
Because I always was.
And forever will be.
I am the reason for life.
I am the reason for breath.
I am the reason for you.
I am the God of Abraham who promised him descendants as many as the stars.
I amt he God of Isaac who delivered him from a sacrifice on a mountain.
I am the God of Jacob who appeared to him in a dream with angels upon angels ascending and descending a ladder.
I am the one the Israelites have been praying to.
I am the one who heard my people in Egypt.
I am the one who will bring them out of slavery.
I am the one who will take them to the Promised land.
I am the one the elders will listen to.
I am the one that Pharaoh will not listen to.
I am the one who will perform miracles to force Pharaoh’s hand.
I am the one who will set my people free.
I am the one who will work through you.
Woah, Moses thought. That name gave him chills. Still…
What if they don’t believe me and don’t listen me, but instead say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’?” (4:1)
So the Lord said, “Throw your stick on the ground.” (v.2)
To Moses, this seemed like a strange request, But he obliged. When he did so, instead of it making the normal thud that sticks make when they hit the ground…
The stick had become a serpent.
The Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and take it by the tail.” (v.4)
I imagine the next couple of moments involved Moses carefully and timidly dancing around the snake, avoiding its fangs while grabbing it by the tale.
It immediately became a staff again.
The Lord also said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” (v.6a)
Moses was a bit nervous.
Was there going to be a scorpion in it when he took it out?
He put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. (v.6b)
Moses’ face went almost as white.
Leprosy was contagious.
Leprosy was painful.
Leprosy was fatal.
The Lord said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. (v.7)
The Lord said, “If they do not believe you or do not respond to the first sign, they might believe because of the second sign. If they do not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you are to take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry land.” (v.8-9)
Moses believed God.
He was also thankful that God didn’t demonstrate the water into blood thing.
His needed a break from the excitement.
Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, either in the past or more recently or even since you started speaking to your servant, for my mouth and tongue are slow and clumsy.” (v.10)
I stutter a lot.
I uh…have…uh…these….uh…awkward pauses.
I have like, this bad like habit like or saying like “like” like all the time.
You don’t want me, God!
So the Lord said to him, “Who made a mouth for people? Or who makes someone mute or deaf, able to see or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (v.11)
And didn’t I make your mouth Moses?
And haven’t I still chosen you?
I know what I’m doing in selecting you.
And at this point, God made some good points.
Moses was out of excuses.
Finally, Moses said what was on his heart, “Please, Lord, send someone else.” (v.13)
Cause I don’t wanna…
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses. (v.14)
I will send someone else.
I will send your brother Aaron…
But he will go with you.
Because you’re still going…
In fact, I already anticipated this and he’s on his way.
He can do most of the talking.
You will still go.
And I will be with you both.
I will be with Aaron’s words.
I will be with your words.
I will be with you in this calling.
After this reply, Moses simply said…
III. The Doctrine of Calling
That’s Moses’ origin story.
God calls Moses.
But instead of being honored to accept the job,
Moses made excuses.
Moses had some great misunderstandings about this call from God.
Since all believers have been called by God.
And all believers are human.
It’s worth examining these misconceptions in the light of the truth about calling.
The CALLER Validates the CALL.
For example, if you have a phone and you’d like someone to call you.
It doesn’t matter how much you want that phone to ring…
That phone won’t call you unless someone else dials your number.
The caller validates the call.
Or if you get a phone call from a strange number.
And you say, “Who is this?”
And they say, “Aunt Zelda.”
And you say, “Prove it.”
And they say, “I remember your four-year-old birthday when you cried because you got frosting up your nose.”
The caller validates the call.
This is important, because for Moses it seems that he, the called, was the one validating the call.
It’s why his first question after he receives the call from God is about HIS VALUE, not about GOD’S VALUE.
I wonder what would have happen if Moses thought himself worthy of such a call.
Maybe he would have said YES.
Even if it wasn’t God inside that burning bush.
Friends, you have a call.
Because all believers have a call.
A call to believe.
A call to follow Jesus.
A call to be in God’s kingdom.
A call to serve in his kingdom.
That call is valid.
Because it came from God.
Even if it didn’t come through a fiery bush.
But your call to believe is valid even if it came in some other way.
Whether it came through a pastor.
Through a Bible reading.
Through a YouTube devotion.
Through your dad.
Through your mom.
Through your grandma.
Through your grandpa.
Through your child.
If God is the caller, he validates the call.
Not the way you were called.
God’s CALL Validates the CALLED.
Do you ever feel like Moses?
Do you ever feel unworthy?
Do you ever feel unable?
Do you ever feel worthless?
Do you ever feel like you shouldn’t be part of God’s kingdom because of your past?
Or you shouldn’t be part of God’s kingdom because of your shame?
Or you shouldn’t be serving in God’s kingdom because of your low level of intelligence?
If so, you’ve got it wrong.
You don’t have to validate yourself.
God’s call validates you.
Jesus lived perfectly for you.
Jesus died innocently for you.
Jesus rose triumphantly for you.
And then, God called you through this message of Jesus to have you serve in this calling as his child!
And if you aren’t sure if God has ever called you before, then here it is right now.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus rose for you.
Be part of his kingdom.
This call is not a mistake!
It wasn’t a pocket dial.
He didn’t mean to call someone else.
God has called and is calling…
God CALLS Each Believer to Unique CALLINGS.
This is why God called Moses.
He was uniquely Egyptian and Hebrew.
And even if he didn’t think he had the speaking skills,
God had his brother Aaron already on his way to take over that unique calling.
God knows which unique believer to use for which unique calling.
It’s like eating soup.
If you were going to have a bowl of soup, what would you use to eat?
A fork? You’d probably dribble a lot.
A whisk? Nope. Not very useful.
How about a meat tenderizer? Only if you want to make a mess.
If you want to eat soup, you know to use a spoon.
If God wanted to lead his people out of Exodus, he knew to use Moses.
And if God has a specific YOU task, he knows to use YOU.
For what unique purpose has God called you?
Part of the music ministry?
Teacher at Precious Lambs?
Part of the Durham start up?
Do you serve in technology?
Do you serve in social media?
Do you serve in old school phone calls?
Do you have a family? Serve them.
Do you have friends? Serve them.
Do you have a mom? Serve her.
Do you have a dad? Serve him.
These are all unique callings that God has given to you.
God has given you the faith and the skill to serve in them.
God is with the CALLED throughout the CALLING.
Do you remember Moses’ first excuse?
He said, “Who am I?”
God never really answered that question.
Because that wasn’t the important part Moses’ calling.
The important part was what God responded with:
God said, “I will certainly be with you.” (v.12)
And who is God?
He’s a God who transforms sticks into deadly vipers.
He’s a God who infects with and heals from fatal diseases with a snap of his fingers.
He’s a God who transforms water into blood.
He’s a God who transforms unworthy into worthy.
He’s a God who turns the uncalled into called.
A god who turns you into his.
That’s the God that went with Moses.
That’s the God that goes with you.
Last we left the book of Exodus, the Egyptian king had issued a murderous edict that every baby Hebrew boy should be thrown into the river. One particular mother didn’t listen. She kept her child safe until she couldn’t anymore. She placed him into a papyrus basket (or rather – into God’s hands) and put him in the shallows of the Nile river.
There he was found by the Egyptian princess who decided to adopt him into her Egyptian family, but also to allow the Hebrew mother to serve as caretaker for his early childhood years.
She nursed him in her Hebrew home.
She fed him Hebrew baby food of mashed potatoes.
She spoke to him in the Hebrew language.
But when he was old enough, she brought him to the palace of the Egyptian king.
Life changed for Moses.
There he ate the finest Egyptian steaks.
He was clothes in the finest Egyptian artisanal headdresses.
A servant would come and fan him with a palm branch as he ate his royal chicken nuggets.
This upbringing for Moses presented unique challenges.
He was part of both the Jewish and Egyptian culture.
Yet not fully a part of either culture.
In Egyptian School: “You can’t be part of our group project. You aren’t Egyptian enough. Sure, you dress like us. But you don’t look like us. You look like a Hebrew – that is to say – you look like scum.”
On the Hebrew playground: “Get out of here Moses. You aren’t Hebrew. Not like us. You’re Egyptian—go back to your side of town with the fancy marble swing set and the jewel-encrusted teeter totter. You stuck up jerk!”
In the Egyptian classroom: “And that, dear students, is why Hebrews are inferior to the Egyptians. Be sure to get it right for the test.”
At a Hebrew holiday: “And remember, God hates the terrible Egyptians, because they are terrible in every way. Just as terrible any Hebrew who is associated with them.”
Moses undoubtedly suffered pressure on both sides.
Where did Moses fit in?
I. Egyptian Street Justice
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. (v.11)
Maybe with a whip.
Maybe with a club.
Maybe with his own fists.
Whatever Moses saw, it set something off inside of him.
He was raised an Egyptian.
But he was genetically all Hebrew.
This wasn’t right.
This was wrong.
There needed to be justice.
Since he was Hebrew.
Perhaps he saw himself as the perfect individual.
Looking this way and looking that way and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (v.12)
He began digging.
No one saw.
He kept digging.
I hope no one saw.
He used the Egyptians club to dig some more.
No one saw…right?
He smoothed out the sand when he was done.
He patted it with his hands.
He stomped with his feet.
It looked alright.
He went away.
He came right back.
No it didn’t.
He dropped a few palm branches on top of the spot.
Just to make it less suspicious.
He went away again.
He looked back.
Adjusted the palm branches.
He sprinted without looking back.
He got home.
He ran past his Egyptian mother.
What did you do today Moses?
Sorry. I’m tired, I need to go to bed.
He went to bed.
Or tried to go to bed.
All night -staying awake – as he replayed his own murderous actions.
The next morning, he got up.
He had slept on it.
And had managed to remove the guilt simply by focusing on the awful thing that had been happening.
(And completely ignoring the awful thing he had done.)
He marched back to the slave camp.
He was their hero.
A vigilante and defender of justice.
He…saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” (v.13)
Friend, God doesn’t want us to be violent.
Friend, use your words.
Friend, be kind.
Friend, violence is wrong.
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v.14)
His mind began racing.
I thought no one saw me.
I thought no one knew.
He ran from the Hebrews and sprinted to the scene of the crime.
It still looked intact.
The dirt still looked like dirt.
No trace of evidence.
They must have seen.
Did others see?
Would others seek justice?
He wasn’t wrong.
When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. (v.15)
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was definitely not the just defender of justice.
He was just…
II. Lessons on Injustice
This is a hard lesson.
It was a hard lesson that Moses needed to learn that would shape him for being a leader in the future.
I think it’s filled with some hard lessons for us on the topic of justice that will shape us to serve our community.
It is UNJUST to see only SOME injustice.
Because notice when Moses decides to take action.
If you notice, it isn’t when he goes down to watch the unjust slave labor.
It was only when the slave driver started to physically abuse a slave that Moses decided it was worthy of action.
Either he didn’t see the forced slave labor as unjust.
Or, at least, he didn’t think it was a big enough injustice to do anything about it.
This is so 21st century American.
We love to call out injustice.
But we often do it at the expense of another injustice.
This person says: That law is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, law riot is unjust; not this one.
This person says: that political party is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this political party is unjust, but not that one.
This person says: That news station is unjust, but not this one.
That person says: Nope, this news station is unjust, but not that one.
It’s as if we think we only have a label maker that we used to label things as wrong.
But we only have one label left.
And we think we can only label one thing wrong.
So we can only use it to describe what we deem to be most wrong.
And we can’t label anything else as wrong, because we might have to remove that wrong label from the thing that we really want to be wrong, put it on another thing and label that thing as wrong, and now there won’t be any wrong labels on the thing that we really want to be wrong.
But that’s not how it works.
There can be more than one wrong.
In a sinful world.
There’s often way more than one wrong.
I would suggest…
If you are labeling one thing injustice.
At the expense of ignoring another injustice.
People will often see you as unjust.
Because that’s unjust.
It is UNJUST to take justice into YOUR HANDS.
Because Moses knows it’s wrong.
“He looked to the right and to the left” before committing the crime.
That’s not something you do when you’re about to do something upright.
You’re not checking to the right and then to the left to ensure that no one is looking to see you fold the laundry.
And then! Moses hides the evidence.
Again – you got the internet explorer to delete your explicit search history, not the fact that you were watching a documentary on How Buttons are Made.
Moses knew that justice wasn’t up to him.
But he did it anyway.
And immediately did something deemed by Pharaoh as unjust.
If you think it’s unjust that your coworker has been spreading lies about you. (It is.)
And you take it into your own hands by punching them in the face.
It’s no longer an issue of unjust gossip.
But it’s now an issue of unjust face punching.
You aren’t Batman.
Stop taking justice into your own hands.
It is UNJUST to want justice against OTHERS, but not YOURSELF.
Because maybe Moses felt like he was being so very just.
Like he was a hero of justice.
Like he was a member of the Justice League.
But if he really loved justice so much…
Why did he run away?
He had killed someone.
Why not stick around for trial?
Because he didn’t love justice as much as he said.
He only loved justice against others.
The other day I was taking a left turn from Six Forks Rd onto Newton Rd. At the stoplight there are two lanes that allow you to turn left. The first lets you turn left and keep straight. The second turns left and then quickly becomes a right hand turn lane for the shopping center.
I was in the left lane. Ready to stay straight and head to church.
But after turning, someone from the right lane cut me off and entered the left land in order to stay going straight.
I was mad.
You knucklehead. You should get a ticket. That’d be just.
A few days later, same situation. This time I was in the right land turning left. As I approached the end of the land, I needed to enter into the left lane in order to stay straight.
I cut the person off behind me.
They started honking and I thought.
Couldn’t they see I needed to change lanes.
This is unfair.
They’re being the knucklehead.
And the same person was a knucklehead in both.
Humans want justice.
But only against others.
Which just proves how unjust human justice really is.
If you really love justice, you will want justice against the wrongdoer, even if the wrongdoer is you.
If you don’t want justice against you when you do wrongdoer, then…
You just aren’t just.
III. The Only Just God
No human is truly just.
Sin makes it impossible.
But there is one who is truly just.
Thankfully, he is the one in charge of ultimate, eternal justice.
God is JUST.
As is often the case with God, when an adjective is applied to him, he embodies every aspect of that adjective.
We get our definition of power from him.
We get our definition of mercy from him.
We get out definition of goodness from him.
And we get our definition of justice…from him.
Psalm 30:6 says, “God is a God of justice.”
He sees to it that all wrong is punished.
He sees to it that all evil is penalized.
He sees to it that all sin receives its repercussions.
God is just.
He is never unfair.
He is always final.
He is always right.
And there is no need for a jury trial.
God saw the whole thing.
He saw the action.
He heard the words.
He read the thoughts.
He knew the heart.
God always declares a right verdict.
What’s the verdict with you?
How do you think a just God will sentence unjust you?
And the only justice for the eternal injustice of sin?
That would be eternal justice.
IV. The Only Just God
If you’ve done wrong and you get caught…
It’s not totally lost.
It’s like those DUI commercials, “Did you have too much to drink? No worries. Give us money. We’ll schmooze the judge. We’ll work the system. We’ll get you an innocent verdict.”
And it must work.
Cause they keep airing the commercials.
But remember – the judge they are trying to convince in that scenario?
He’s a sinner too.
His justice will always be tainted with injustice of sin within.
But how does one convince an eternally just God whose justice is not tainted with sin?
Circumstantial evidence doesn’t work.
You can’t blame it on your parents.
You can’t point to others in society as worse.
You can’t offer him a bribe.
I would suggest that the only lawyer that can possibly get you out of the justice of God…
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement…so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
Do you see Jesus’ defense?
This injustice that you are trying my client for.
You have incorrectly identified the perpetrator.
The actual culprit is me.
I did it.
I unjustly gossiped about my coworker.
I unjustly shouted at my spouse.
I unjustly spoke racist terms at my neighbor.
I did it.
And, if you remember, I was already sentenced.
On a cross.
Why are we here?
That word is a courtroom term. It means to declare innocent.
To declare right.
To declare not guilty.
Because Jesus suffered punishment for your injustice, you have been justified.
You have been declared right.
You have been declared not guilty.
Which isn’t fair!
But it’s so awesome.
It means we are forgiven.
It means we aren’t headed towards hell.
It means we will have eternal life.
V. What Now?
How do we, the justified, in justice? A few notes…
1) Act Justly
“Act Justly.” (Micah 6:8)
That’s what God wants.
He doesn’t want you to be unfair.
He doesn’t want you to show favorites.
He doesn’t want you to comment on one sin over another sin.
A just God wants his justified people to act justly.
Even when others aren’t.
2) Let God Do the Avenging
Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Did you hear that?
God says, “I’m in charge of getting justice.
Not you, Moses.
Not you, person sitting in Gethsemane church.
Not you, person watching online.
God is in charge.
That means the next time someone does you wrong.
Here’s what you do…
Ready for it?
Because if you take revenge, you aren’t getting even for God.
If you take revenge, you are stealing God’s job.
And you’ve committed your own wrong.
That God must avenge.
Trust God to do God’s job.
God is just.
And mercifully, God justifies.
Which calls into question the ending of this story…
Do you know what happens next with Moses?
He goes to Midian.
He meets a woman.
He marries her.
He is accepted into her society.
He doesn’t die.
It’s not because God isn’t just.
Years later, God would get justice for the Egyptian that Moses killed by punishing Jesus on the cross.
This means that from God’s eternal view…
Moses was no longer guilty.
He was no longer Hebrew.
He was no longer Egyptian.
He was first and foremost…
Because of Jesus.
And because of Jesus.
You are no longer guilty.
You are forgiven too.
Which is just.
Last week we started our journey through Exodus. We learned about how the family of Israel had moved to Egypt and had grown so large that they had become the People of Israel.
In turn, a new Pharoah came to power. He was very afraid of what might happen if these people grew too populous. He hatched a plan to oppressed them by making them into slaves, He also delivered a horrific edict for the Egyptian midwives to kill every newborn baby Hebrew boy.
But the midwives…
Do you remember their names?
(If you don’t, that’s kinda the point…)
Their names were Shiprah and Puah.
…refused to follow through on the Pharaoh’s murder orders and saved the baby boys.
God worked through these insignificant seeming ladies to accomplished his eternally significant plan.
What happened next? Look at the end of chapter one:
Because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (v.21)
For the first time, the midwives needed midwives of their own.
I wonder if they took turns midwifing for each other.
Think of their joy!
A son that they didn’t have to return to his family after delivery.
A baby girl that they could keep in their arms.
God was their God and God gave them good gifts.
To be fair, the same thing happened to Pharoah.
Pharoah’s god gave him a gift.
Of course, Pharoah’s god was fear.
Fear can only gift…
Pharaoh, however, commanded all his people, “Every son who is born you shall throw into the Nile…” (v.22)
Pharoah couldn’t get the midwives to kill the baby boys.
So, he enlisted the help of others…
People who weren’t afraid to get their hands bloody.
I. A Bundle of Joy & Terror
Now a man from the house of Levi went and took a Levite woman as a wife. The woman became pregnant and bore a son. When she saw that he was a special child, she hid him for three months. (v.1-2)
Levi is the name of one of the Twelve sons of Israel. People from the house of Levi would have been descendants of that Levi and full-blooded members of the Hebrew nation.
And this fully Hebrew family was going to have a fully Hebrew baby boy.
Babies are blessings! The news that you are going to have one is usually met with excitement! Huge and high fives and kisses and baby showers.
But when this family was registering.
Besides choosing their favorite little outfit and the cutest little baby toy.
They also needed to put on their registry.
Because Hebrew baby boys had been ruled “illegal” by the king.
Can you imagine what that moment would have been like for his parents?
Joy! “I have a son!”
Terror! “I have a son.”
Joy! “Look at this beautiful life.”
Terror! “Hide him quickly before Pharoah puts him to death.”
They hid him.
They didn’t celebrate with family.
They didn’t celebrate with friends.
Maybe the mom even pretended to be sad and despondent.
As if she lost the child.
All while snuggling her little bundle behind closed doors.
Finally, she was no longer able to hide him. She decided to make an arts and craft project.
She got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. (v.3b)
Papyrus was a long and broad-leaved plant that grow by the Nile. It floated.
Tar and pitch filled the holes and gaps. (It connected the leaves together and prevented water leakage.)
The end result was a Basket. Most likely rectangular shape. In fact, the word used here for basket is the same word used in Genesis 6 for Noah’s “ark”.
Which sounds cute.
A nice toy for the child during tub time, right?
She put the child into it and placed it in the reeds along the bank of the Nile. (v.3)
She had determined there was no other choice.
If she kept the child in her own hands, she would be putting him at risk.
She would love her baby.
She could hold her baby.
She could snuggle her baby.
She could sing lullabies to her baby.
She could experience motherhood with the baby.
If she kept the child in her hands, she could experience motherhood.
She could also be sentencing her son to death.
Because if the Egyptians came, she could not protect him.
They would overpower her.
They would kill him.
She could not keep him in her own hands.
She needed to put him in God’s hands.
The mother took the basket to the river.
She placed her child into it.
She looked into his eyes one last time.
Then shut the cover.
She motioned to her older daughter to take her position.
Then, ran away in tears.
COMPASSION is more powerful than FEAR.
Because when Pharoah couldn’t get what he wanted, he turned to inciting terror.
But it didn’t work.
Compassion overpowered the fearful edict.
Compassion led the mother to keep her baby alive.
Compassion led the mother to build a tiny boat.
Compassion led the mother to place him in a river, turn around, and leave him under his teenage sister’s eyes.
Compassion is more powerful than fear.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
Compassion is godly.
And since God is strong.
Compassion is strong.
If you don’t want to be compassionate, but you’d rather work through fear…
God can work like that to.
Because the God who says, “Be compassionate…”
Also says, “Be afraid of the One who can destroy body and soul in hell.”
That’s really what hell is, isn’t it?
It’s a place for those who don’t like to operate with compassion.
Because there is no compassion there.
II. A New Mom
Back to the Nile.
You could hear the frogs croaking.
The crickets chirping.
If you listened closely enough, the cooing of a Hebrew baby boy.
Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the Nile, and her attendants were walking along the bank of the Nile. (v.5a)
This seems to be a normal occurrence in Egyptian culture. The Nile river was believed to be restorative. Many believed that bathing in its waters brought life and beauty and youth.
Maybe not this kind of youth.
Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant girl to get it. (v.5b)
What do you think it is?
An abandoned picnic lunch?
Maybe it’s flowers from that one prince!?! (I knew he had a crush on you.)
She opened it and saw the child…a boy, and he was crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.”
Because Pharoah’s daughter knew her dad’s decree.
She knew it was unlawful to keep a Hebrew baby boy alive.
She knew it was law that any Egyptian citizen help in killing such a child.
She knew that law applied even to Egyptian princesses.
But she also knew this baby needed help.
She felt sorry for him.
She had compassion on him.
She picked him up into her arms.
Then the baby boy’s sister appeared from the side of the Nile. She said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a wet nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” (v.7)
The princess agreed.
And the grade schooler went running.
Out of the Niles
Past the reeds.
Through her street.
Into the door to her own home.
“Mom! Mom! Mom, where are you?”
The girl’s mother walked out from the backroom.
Her eyes bloodshot and tear-stained.
“Mom! It worked. The princess found brother and she is in need of someone to care for him. I told her you could! You don’t have to cry anymore.
Together they ran out the door.
Through the street.
Past the reeds.
Into the Nile.
Together with the princess they arranged for the baby’s care.
Not only would the baby be safe, but his own mother would care for him.
And get paid for it!
And the mom took her baby into her arms.
Wait! The princess said, I need to name him.
Hmmm… What do I know about him.
He’s a Hebrew baby.
I drew him out of the water.
“Hey! Dear Hebrew friend. What is the Hebrew word for “Draw out of water?”
I’ll call him “Moses.”
Because I drew him out of the deadly water.
That’s what God called him too.
Because He had drawn Moses out of the deadly water.
GOD’S COMPASSION is more powerful than ALL fear.
God’s compassion conquered our greatest fear.
Namely be written out of eternal life.
Being judged harshly for our sins.
Being placed out of heaven.
Even if you haven’t been compassionate.
Even if you’ve been a cold hearted.
Even if you’re drowning in the revenge you’ve sought.
God had compassion on you.
God’s compassion brought him to earth.
God’s compassion sent him to the cross.
God’s compassion took you out of the murky depths of sin and brought you on the shores of eternal life.
He drew you out of eternal death.
He drew you into eternal life.
He drew you into his arms.
If you are afraid….
Of the virus.
Of your guilt.
Of your shame.
Of your finances.
Of your family dynamic.
Remember God’s compassion.
III. What Now?
What response is God looking for to his compassion?
1) Trust God’s Compassion
This is what the mother did.
She knew Pharoah’s hand was violent.
His threat was terrifying.
Her own compassion wouldn’t be enough.
Eventually – someone would find out that the child was alive.
Be motivated by the fear induced by Pharoah.
And do evil.
But when the mom placed that baby in a basket.
She wasn’t really placing that baby in a basket.
She placed him in God’s compassionate hands.
Is there something that’s beyond your control?
Something that that you can’t bear on your own?
Something that is scary?
Something that is out of your hands?
As we get out of COVID, there will be things outside your control.
What other people do…
What other people wear…
What other people think about what you do and wear…
Where the germs might be…
How quickly you can regrow your business…
Whether somebody hires you…
Whether you can rekindle that relationship…
Goodness, even whether you fall into the 90+% of vaccine effectiveness.
You can’t control it all.
And I wouldn’t trust people to be compassionate.
They are sinners.
But God is always compassionate.
He has been compassionate towards you.
He is compassionate towards you.
He will be compassionate towards you.
2) Show God’s Compassion
Because compassion isn’t meant to be just a God thing.
But a God’s people thing.
Look at what God says to his people:
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”
Colossians 3:12 says, “As God’s holy people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.”
1 Peter 3:8-9, “All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.”
What does that mean in 2021?
A time when people love to use fear to accomplish their goals?
It means that YOU, dear believer, don’t.
You, dear believer, show compassion.
It means wearing a mask, even though you’re vaccinated – just to ease other’s fears.
It means handing over a couple of dollars in your pocket to help the guy on the street.
It means staying calm, kind, and gentle even when your spouse, your kids, your parents aren’t.
It means listening to your friend from a different culture speak of the racism they’ve experienced –without assuming you know more about what they’ve experienced than they do.
Compassion means kindness.
Compassion means gentleness.
Compassion means caring.
Maybe this doesn’t seem hard to you.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to your baby.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to your kid.
Maybe you enjoy showing compassion to people in need.
But pay close attention to that what now.
It says, “Show GOD’S compassion.”
The other day I found Daniela on the porch.
She was squatting down.
Moving her hands in a gentle petting motion.
Soothingly saying, “Hola.”
The animal she was being so compassionate to?
My first thought is “Get away! It’s a bee. It’ll hurt you.”
Daniela’s thought? “I will show you compassion.”
I still moved her away from the bee.
Who’s more in line with God?
“Don’t show compassion, you might get hurt.”
“I’m showing compassion no matter what.”
God calls us to show compassion even if it may hurt.
Especially when it may hurt.
Even to the ones who are out to hurt us.
Because he showed compassion to us when it hurt.
That’s the compassion God wants you to have.
Not just for the people that have had compassion on you.
Not just for the people that you like.
Not just for the people that can get you back.
For people who can never pay you back.
For people that haven’t done anything likable.
For people that can might even hurt you.
In fact, Isn’t that what God did in today’s account?
On the one hand, this story is about God’s compassion to Moses.
But, on the other hand, it is about God’s compassion to Pharoah.
Think about it:
That baby becomes the mother of Moses.
That Moses becomes the leader of the people of Israel to safety.
That people of Israel become the bearers of the promised Savior.
That Savior was our Savior.
That Savior, get this, was Pharoah’s Savior.
God kept Moses safe from Pharaoh’s hand that…
God might keep Pharaoh safe from His hand.
We just finished up Easter. It was awesome!
Over 1000 Easter eggs.
The power of the Gospel.
It’s like we came out of the grave of quarantine.
Just like Jesus came out of the grave.
To celebrate how Jesus came out the grave.
But now we are following up by going to the book of Exodus. Exodus is not too difficult to find in your Bible. Go to the beginning. Page through Genesis until you get to the end of it. Then, you will find Exodus. The second book in the Bible.
Exodus’ date is not totally certain. The most commonly accepted theory has it occurring in 1446 B.C. That means its events happened 3477 years ago.
It was a different time.
It was a different place.
It was a different people.
Did you know the word “EXODUS” literally means “a mass departure of people?” In the book, the people of Israel make a mass departure from the oppression and death of their Egyptian overlords.
We aren’t out of it yet.
But COVID numbers are improving.
The Exodus from COVID is beginning.
How do we do it?
What do we keep in mind as God provides us with Exodus?
As we study the OG Exodus, may God guide our hearts in truth, understanding, and hope. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our eyes to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Background
The story begins with the Israelite people under oppression. A bit more about how that happened:
In the book of Genesis, we are introduced to a guy named Israel. Israel had 12 sons. Their names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar and Zebulun; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher, Benjamin and Joseph.
That last one, Joseph, is probably the most famous of all. The family originally resided in Canaan and Joseph is the first one to “move” to Egypt.
Maybe “move” isn’t the right term.
Forcibly bloodied, sold into slavery, falsely accused, left to rot in prison, and miraculously saved by God’s grace is more accurate.
But that’s another sermon series for another time.
The main point is that Joseph eventually became the second in command of the Pharaoh of Egypt. He was placed in charge of food stored in preparation for a seven-year famine and, then, rationing the food during the famine.
Joseph did a great job and saved many lives.
The Egyptian people were thankful. The king even invited Joseph’s family to come to Egypt and live with them.
This is where Exodus picks up:
They who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. (v.1-5)
How do you get to 70? Each of those 12 brothers had their own family. If you’re really into Bible trivia, you can find a full accounting of these families in Genesis 46. What’s interesting to me is how sin and sadness was already a part of their family:
Reuben had a wife and four kids.
Simeon had five children with one woman and another child with a second woman.
Judah had five children, but two of had died at a young age.
Asher had four boys and a girl.
Gad had seven kids.
And Dan had a single child.
The Israelite family was accepted into Egyptian society.
They were given a place to live.
They were given food to eat.
Their kids were invited on play dates.
And the dad’s got to join in whatever the ancient Egyptian equivalent of the local bowling teams were.
The family of Israel was the family of Joseph.
And Joseph was a savior to the Egyptian people.
But then some things started to change. These things are only a few verses long, but they represent some years of attitudinal changes that reshape the role of the Israelite family in Egyptian society.
The family of Israel became the People of Israel.
Verse six says it this way, “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. (v.6-7)
Wanna do some math?
There were 70 men in the Israelite family according to Genesis 46:29. Of those 70, 12 of them were in Joseph’s generation.
That means 58 boys grew up and got themselves wives for a total of 116 in their family.
If each those couples each had an average of 3 children, that would be 116 aunt and uncles plus 290 children.
If you did that same math with the next generation, you’d get…
Carry the 1.
Multiply the square root.
And count to it…
Very quickly this was becoming more than just a singular immigrant family in Egypt.
Very quickly they were becoming an entire minority culture.
And at least one person didn’t like it.
Unfortunately, he was a very important person.
A NEW Pharaoh rose to Power.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. (v.8)
I don’t know why this happened.
Maybe he didn’t pay attention in history class.
Maybe his uncle didn’t buy him any Joseph action figures.
Maybe history just gets lost sometimes because people don’t care to talk about it.
I don’t know.
But this new Pharoah didn’t know the incredible blessings Joseph’s family brought to Israel.
He only knew…
That he didn’t like them.
“Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” (v.8-10)
It sounds almost like a rallying cry of sorts, doesn’t it?
These people are the reason for our problems.
These Israelites are the reason that the economy is shrinking.
These foreigners are the reason that gas prices have risen.
We need to need to stop them.
I’ve got a plan.
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor… (v.12)
They mocked the Israelites.
They developed derogatory racial terms for the Israelites.
They made the Israelites eat at their own restaurants.
They whipped them.
They beat them.
But despite all these negative changes, there is one thing that didn’t change.
…the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread… (v.13)
Because they were God’s people.
And God wanted his people to be blessed.
And if God wants his people to be blessed…
There’s nothing an angry, xenophobic king can do about it.
Even when OPPRESSED, God’s people are BLESSED.
This has been true about the pandemic.
At the end of 2020, there was a GALLUP poll that asked questions about American’s mental health.
Across the board, every group of people ranked themselves as having a dip in mental health.
Every group except one.
Do you know what that group was?
Not the rich.
Not even Super Bowl victors.
Those who have remained connected to their church.
It’s more than just emotional health.
God’s Word has become more easily available than every before.
Social media is flooded with church services, sermons, and songs every weekend.
God’s people have doubled down to meet with each other via ZOOM, even if they had to get their kids to bed.
People have spent more time in God’s Word.
People have spent more time in prayer.
People have spent more time just simply depending on their Savior Jesus.
Which is a blessing.
A blessing delivered during the oppression of the pandemic.
And even if none of that were true, God’s people are still blessed.
We are still loved by Jesus.
We are still saved by his grace.
We are still redeemed.
We are still sanctified.
We are still forgiven.
III. The Decree
When people are oppressed, God’s people are still blessed. This is truth.
But there’s another unfortunate truth that can run alongside.
When others see how God’s people are still blessed when their oppressed…
They bring more oppression.
…so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. (v.13-14)
I don’t care that it’s hot; get the straw.
I don’t care that you’re tired; put the mud in the brick forms.
I don’t care that it’s your birthday; I’ve got a whip and I give his daddy welts as a present.
All of this comes to a head in verse 15, The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (v.15)
Being a 15th-century B.C. midwife couldn’t have been a very glamorous job.
There are long hours.
Need to be ready at a moment’s notice.
People are emotional.
People are rude.
So, I don’t know…
I imagine these two women finishing up with a family.
Their clothing soaked with sweat.
They started taking off their shoes.
Oh my aching feet…
PHAROAH WANTS TO SEE YOU BOTH NOW!
And Pharoah was someone to listen to!
Someone to fear!
His palace was impressive.
You pass countless armed guards to get to him.
There are paintings in the wall describing the number of people that Pharoah’s grand army has defeated!
Or – decapitated.
They enter his throne room.
He sits so high above them.
They are forced onto their knees.
His perfectly trimmed Egyptian goatee screams a message of dominance.
Maybe these midwives did fear him.
Just not as much as someone else.
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. (v.17)
Because while their earthly king said, “Murder.”
Their heavenly king said, “Do not murder.”
So, they don’t listen.
And when the king caught wind of this and called them into his courtroom to question their disobedience, they just blamed it on the strength of Hebrew women. “They are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” (v.19)
Which isn’t totally untrue.
Hebrew women were strong.
Because they had an all-powerful God on their side.
And it was this same powerful God that worked through these two lowly midwives to save his people.
God works through UNLIKELY people to accomplish His INCREDIBLE work.
Cause two midwives is probably not who you’d expect to do God’s Work.
A super soldier?
A techy billionaire?
Or an assassin who turned over a new leaf?
But this isn’t the Avengers.
This is God.
God often chooses the people that look weak.
The people that seem unimpressive.
The people that are unsung…
To do his incredible work.
Is that you?
Do you feel weak?
Are you unimpressive?
Are you unsung?
You are exactly whom God is looking for.
Even during this year.
Even during a pandemic.
Even if you aren’t labelled essential by government edicts.
Even if you aren’t labelled essential by others in society.
Even if you don’t label YOU essential.
Scripture says this, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Because it’s all about God.
And the more that the world thinks you are unimpressive.
The more the world feels that you are week.
The more unsung YOU are.
The more SUNG God will be.
Which is the point.
Because he alone is the Savior.
And he is directed people to be saved through YOU.
IV. What Now?
How do you do unsung work for our Savior God?
1) Fear God
That was the driving force for Shiprah and Puah.
They feared the eternal God more than they feared the temporal king.
They feared the being who breathes eternal hellfire rather than the man whose body would be burned with regular fire.
Fear in Hebrew has two senses.
The first is terror.
To fear something because it is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than you.
But there’s a second aspect of the Hebrew definition.
An aspect that encompasses respect.
Our God saved us.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly to assure you of your forgiveness.
Because of God, you are forgiven.
You are in his kingdom.
You have peace.
Nobody else can offer that to you.
And nobody else should cause enough “awe” to inform your day-to-day decisions.
No one else.
Not a friend.
Not a family member.
Not a coworker.
Not a C.E.O.
Not a Twitter trendsetter.
Not a President.
Fear him more than anyone.
And fear him more than anyone.
2) Obey God in Whatever You Do
Maybe you don’t have a high-ranking job.
That doesn’t mean God can’t work through you.
I remember when I was a dishwasher.
I was in charge of scrubbing pots.
I was in charge of cleaning pans.
I was in charge of dumping out the stinky pot of used grease from the fryer.
It was lowly.
I also remember a certain waitress, older than me, who was having boyfriend issues.
He had fathered her child and since left her.
She felt alone.
She felt sad.
She felt abused.
And after one particularly, abusive phone call, she was in tears.
The cooks laughed it off.
The boss said, “Suck it up.”
The other waitresses began to gossip.
When it was quiet…
And she handed me a plate filled with fish fry grease.
She said, “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough day.
For whatever the reason….
I’m still sure why…
I was able to say:
“I’m sorry he said that. It must be hard to be alone. But I know that you aren’t. Can I tell you about Jesus?”
To his glory.
Jesus brought comfort to her that night.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Do you do dishwashing? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you do newspaper delivery? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you post on social media for 13 followers? Do it for God’s glory.
Do you teach 1-year-olds? Do it for God’s glory.
Because when you do.
You are an unsung hero.
Understand that’s only in the world’s eyes.
Because God sang about you as he knit you together.
God crooned with joy as he gave you life.
God added a new stanza to the song of salvation that’s all about you.
And God brings the beautiful melody of the Gospel to others through you.
I guess what I’m saying is…
You might be unsung to the world.
But to God?
Because you’re sung.
I. The Story
Perhaps it happened something like this….
Mary took the steaming kettle off the fireplace.
She poured it over the coffee grounds and into her mug.
Then, added a little milk.
There wasn’t time to wait for it to cool.
She needed to be awake, functioning, and on the road before the sun was up.
And she was exhausted.
The last few days were rough.
Staying up late.
Lots of crying.
She missed her friend.
He had been forcefully taken before she could say good-bye.
He had been shoved in a dark room.
In a sense, it was like he was quarantined.
No one could get in.
No one could get out.
But unlike a quarantine, there wasn’t going to be an end to this darkness.
He was dead.
Her mind kept replaying what she had seen. (Mark 15:40)
Jesus had been taken by a mob of soldiers.
Jesus had been condemned by a group of priests, church elders, and lay people.
Jesus had been nailed – hand and foot to a cross.
Jesus had been locked in a tomb never to be heard from again.
She missed him….
The tears might have begun flowing again had it not been for the interruption.
Mary! We’re here. Are you ready?
It was her friends.
Salome and another Mary. They called her Magdalene.
Mary grabbed the heavy cloak of her son James, wrapped it around herself, and walked out.
Do you have what we need?
Yesterday they had bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. (Mk. 16:1)
I still can’t believe the deal we got…
Normally it’s one bottle for a kopek.
But Mary did such a good job haggling with that vendor…We got two bottles for one kopek
And have you ever seen balsam at such a good deal?
Mary shot her a look.
Now wasn’t the time...
They approached the garden quietly, remembering where they had seen them lay his body. (Mark 15:47)
Turn at the olive tree.
Over the little hill
Past the rose bushes.
As they approached the final turn, the conversation turned practical:
“Who will roll the sone away from the entrance of the tomb? (Mk. 16:3)
It was rather large.
Big enough to cover a doorway.
Big enough that you couldn’t just move it.
Big enough that no one person could move it.
Perhaps they could convince the Roman soldiers.
Mary, you could practice your haggling skills once more!
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (Mk. 16:4)
At this, Mary Magdalene screamed!
How could they do this?
They must have stolen his body!
They just wanted to add insult to injury.
They probably took it out and are going to display it on a pole somewhere for everyone to see.
It’s too much.
I can’t handle it.
I’ve gotta tell the disciples!
She turned and ran away. (John 20:1-2)
But the other Mary grabbed the hand of Salome.
She squeezed it.
Together they walked forward to investigate.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (Mk. 16:5)
Mostly because nicely dressed young men aren’t usually sitting inside a tomb.
Usually, they are wearing strips of linen cloth within a burial site.
And usually, the person inside the tomb isn’t sitting.
Because they’re dead.
Don’t be alarmed, he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mk. 16:6)
They women’s eyes followed his gesture to the rock where his body was supposed to have been.
Just the linen cloths.
Their eyes darted around the room.
There was no sign of forced entry.
No sign of a footsteps.
No indication that grave robbers had been there.
There was nobody.
“Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mk. 16:7)
The women looked at one another could it be true.
Each of them was trembling. (v.8)
Could it be?
Did he do it?
Was Jesus alive?
The women hurried away from the tomb…
They ran past the rose bushes.
They sprinted up the hill.
They darted past the olive tree.
They went as fast as they could.
They were afraid yet filled with joy. (Mt. 28:8)
Because Jesus was no longer dead.
Jesus was alive.
II. Facing Death
The Easter story is more than just good news for the women.
The Easter story is good news for us.
And you can find that good news within the angel’s words.
TRUTH: Jesus was crucified.
Did you know this past year that over 2.81 million people died from COVID alone?
And so far this year, the running total for all known deaths worldwide, is above 14.4 million? (Worldometer.com)
That’s a lot of death.
But consider the numbers of those affected by death.
People who have lost loved ones.
Who stayed up late crying over an old photo album.
Who broke into tears any time a favorite song played.
Who lost sleep trying to figure out what to do next.
Who lost a mom, a dad, or a child.
Maybe you know that firsthand.
Jesus knew it too.
He knew your pain too.
This why Jesus came to earth.
He saw your pain.
He saw your hurt.
He saw your fear.
All of it caused by death.
And he wanted to do something about it.
By taking on death.
That’s exactly what he did!
These women are the witnesses of this.
They saw the blood dripping from his right hand.
They saw the blood dripping from his left hand.
They saw the blood coming from his feet.
They saw the crown of thorns mangled against his brow.
They saw his eyes - bloodshot and tired.
They saw sweat covering his abdomen.
They saw him laboring to breathe.
They saw his body start to tremble.
They saw him breathe his last.
And then, they saw his body taken into the grave.
Just like so many others.
Just like all others.
Jesus was dead.
III. …and Coming Out Alive
But I want to draw your attention to angel’s words one more time. He said, “You are looking for Jesus who was crucified.”
That’s an imperfect verb.
It describes an action that took place in the past…
With occurring results in the past…
That are no longer true in the present.
Last night, I was eating a Reece’s chocolate egg.
I could taste it at the time.
But I can’t taste it anymore.
It isn’t in mouth.
As you can see.
Or another example…
I was seated on the couch last night.
It was comfy.
My dog joined me.
But currently, I am standing.
No couch in sight.
Jesus was crucified.
He was dead.
But no longer.
Jesus has RISEN.
He did what no one else could do.
What no warrior could do.
What no king could do.
What no president could do.
What no athlete could do.
What no celebrity could do.
What no social media advocate could do.
What no scientist could do.
What no doctor could do.
What no vaccine could even do.
He entered death and came out alive!
And so will you.
Not on your own.
On your own death will defeat you.
But by faith in Jesus…
Remember -- we confessed it earlier in this service, the “wages of sin is death.” The whole reason that death was in this world in the first place was sin. Our sin.
But Jesus took our sin to the cross.
He killed it.
And he left it in the grave.
He came out alive.
But your sin did not.
In Jesus, you will not die.
In Jesus, you will live.
One more verb tense. Look at the next verb that the angel uses:
He IS not here.
That’s present tense.
As in, “Presently, right now, this moment as I talk to you women. Jesus lives.”
Why would he be?
If he were alive, and he is, why would he be inside a place for dead people? (He isn’t.)
Jesus is NOT in the tomb.
He wasn’t at the time the women spoke to the angel.
He wasn’t the time this was written down.
And is not in the tomb now.
Jesus is alive.
Jesus is taking care of his people.
Jesus is taking care of you.
He’s with you while you face the pandemic.
He’s with you while you face job loss.
He’s with you while you face relationship struggles.
He’s with you while you face death.
He’ll be with you after death….
IV. What Now?
Because one of the scariest things in this world is death.
A while earlier, I was talking to someone who had COVID.
They were older.
They had preexisting health issues.
They were in need of medical care.
‘Pastor,’ they said, ‘I’m tired. I’m sick. I’m anxious for my kids.”
But, “Pastor,” they said, “I’m not scared.”
Because if I die…
When I die…
I know that I will live.
Because I know that Jesus lives.
They were right.
Jesus said this, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. And whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” (John 10:25-26)
I don’t know if you’ll get COVID.
I don’t know if or when you’ll die.
But I do know this.
You will live.
There’s no doubt.
It might’ve gone like this…
The disciple patted the donkey on the snout.
“I know we’re not your owners, but you have a very important job today. You will be carrying the Messiah through the streets of Jerusalem.”
The donkey snorted.
“That’s his way of saying, ‘Yes!’” His companion joked as he motioned to the right. “Here we go. This way to Jesus. I remember this olive tree from when we left.”
They continued a little farther past the olive tree, over the hill’s pinnacle, to the boulder where Jesus and the other disciples were resting.
Jesus smiled when he saw them approach:
Just like I asked. Thank you.”
One disciple took off his cloak.
“Here Jesus. Use this as a saddle. It should keep the ride from getting too rough.”
A few of the other did the same.
Then, Jesus thanked them, steadied the burro, and swung his legs over its haunches.
Together the crew began the afternoon journey to Jerusalem.
It was a bit quiet.
Some of the disciples had knots in their stomach.
There were people in Jerusalem who didn’t like Jesus.
People who were out to get Jesus.
In fact, Jesus had told them (repeatedly now) that when they got to Jerusalem, he would be falsely accused, arrested, and…killed.
A few of the disciples could be seen stretching their muscles.
Just in case they ran into a mob.
If only we can enter quietly.
If only we don’t cause a scene.
If only we enter, quietly…
THERE HE IS! I SEE HIM. IT’S JESUS.
The disciples were caught off guard.
But they weren’t hostile.
There at the entrance was a group of people.
Hands in the air.
Palm branches in the air.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
The donkey almost stumbled.
The people had strewn their coats.
Their outer garments.
A variety of large leafy palm branches onto the road.
A way to welcome their hero.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
The farther the group went into the city, the more people joined the celebration.
A group of many were seeing who could shout louder to the right.
A group of kids were having fun waving the palm branches on the left.
A senior citizen was grinning ear to ear as he struggled past his arthritis to join the celebration.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Suddenly, the group was in the thick of the city.
More and more people had gathered to join the parade.
It wasn’t just a small group anymore.
It was a straight up crowd.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
The disciples shook their heads.
This was no longer a quiet entry.
This was no longer just ‘slipping in.’
This was a scene.
This was a commotion.
Was a parade!
I. The Victory Parade
This is Palm Sunday.
A day we celebrate how Jesus paraded his saving authority into Jerusalem.
It would be neat to celebrate with a parade.
To wave a palm branch.
To throw our coats on the ground.
To shout Hosanna with the people of Jerusalem.
But I don’t have that many palm branches.
I didn’t wear a coat.
And I’m fresh out of donkeys.
Because to parade the message of Jesus…
We have all we really need.
Because to parade the message of Jesus…
All we really need is you.
The lesson comes from 2 Corinthians 2. It describes a different kind of parade, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
“Triumphal Procession,” refers to the type of parade that occurs after a military victory.
The musicians would march the streets.
The king would ride in on a stallion.
The solders would carry the victory spoils of the war.
Arms full of jewelry.
Carts carrying golden statues.
Cages carrying the occasional Bengal tiger.
But by far….
For a king…
The greatest victory spoils of all.
Or fine jewels.
People who were no longer a part of the warring nation.
People who now served the king.
We are Jesus’ VICTORY SPOILS!
Jesus won us.
He went to battle for us.
He went to war for us.
He went to bloody war on the cross for us!
He defeated sin to win us.
He defeated shame to win us.
He defeated guilt…
He defeated hatred…
He defeated evil to win us.
He defeated death itself to win us to himself!
Speaking of death, that’s what the battle cost him.
He was a king on the front lines..
Battling to death for us.
That’s uncommon to see a king do that.
But do you know what’s uncommon.
Seeing a king give up his life for his people…
And then coming back to life three days later.
Friends, Jesus won.
You have already been set free.
You are a part of his kingdom.
You belong to Jesus.
You are his victory spoils.
II. The Importance of Parade Smells
So how do you do parade for Jesus?
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ… (v.15)
I love it! Paul sticks with the parade theme by discussing parade smells.
What kind of smells do you usually associated with a parade?
Gasoline from that replica roadster.
The sweat of the trombone player.
The hot dog from that guy sitting a couple of sidewalk squares over from you.
Paul says, We believers are to be the AROMA of Christ!
It’s like walking into a restaurant and you immediately smell delicious oven baked pizza.
Your mouth starts watering.
Your tummy starts grumbling.
Your wallet starts opening.
All because the smell made you think of that delicious people.
God wants you to be like that.
That you live your life in such away, it makes people think of Jesus.
Which leads to a very intriguing question…
Can others smell Christ on you?
Do those around you know that you follow Jesus?
Can others smell Christ on you?
Or do you give off a different kind of fragrance?
Maybe you reek of your politics.
Or your opinions about the virus.
You smell like your ETSY store.
Or your latest health kick.
Of your self-promotion.
Or your sexual promiscuity.
Or your vehement anger.
Maybe your own spouse can’t even smell Jesus on you!
If that’s the case, your smell isn’t pleasing to God.
You smell of the world.
God hates the smell of the world
Because the world stinks of sin.
Good news? Look at the passage again. It says, “We are the pleasing aroma of Christ.” (v.15)
Notice the tense.
It doesn’t say, “We were.”
Or we “might be.”
Confronted by the stink of my own life decisions, I ask:
When we are confronted by our own stinky deeds, how can that be?
There was this Febreze commercial where the room was covered in stink.
Pet hair everywhere.
Old banana peels.
It looked like it stunk.
But…the host took a bottle of Febreze.
They sprayed it a few times into the air.
And then, led a blindfolded person into the room to see what they smelled.
“It smells like fresh linens. Am I in a laundry room?”
Jesus covered your stench of sin.
He covered your stench of sin.
It’s a powerful scent too.
You are covered with the fragrance of forgiveness.
The perfume of peace.
The scent of your Savior.
Friends, God has covered you in the smell of his righteousness.
Make sure others catch a whiff.
III. Different Smells
But that means we have to discuss one more very important point. It’s found in verses 15-16:
We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.
Because people react differently to the same smell.
My grandpa was a farmer. Sometimes when we are driving out in the country and catch a whiff of the cows, it generates pleasing memories of grandpa’s farm. I breathe it in. “Smells refreshing.”
Julianna on the other hand? She’ll be plugging her nose.
People react differently to the same smell.
People react differently to Jesus.
Some find the scent of Jesus OFFENSIVE.
This was true for Jesus!
Some people hated his message – that’s the whole point of Holy Week. The scheme to kill him does!
Was the problem Jesus?
Was he saying the wrong thing?
The problem was in their selfishly sinful sense of smell.
They loved the stench of sinful pride.
Jesus was threatening to overpower it.
They were angry.
This will be true for you.
Some people won’t like it.
They will tell you to keep your Jesus to yourself.
They will tell you to stop inviting them to Easter.
They will tell you to be quiet.
But do not quit sharing Jesus.
Because while some hate the fragrance of the Gospel…
Some find the scent of Jesus GLORIOUS.
Think of the crowd chanting Jesus’ name! Many of them saw him as their Savior!
When he entered Jerusalem they thought, “Mmmm…Here is that sweet smell of salvation.
That fragrance of forgiveness.
That powerful perfume of peace.
And some of the people you interact with are just waiting for you for the message that your Savior brings.
Sometimes it isn’t who you expect.
Judy was a nurse down at a local retirement home. I used to visit this home every Friday and deliver a message that was tailored very specifically to the people of that community.
For example, I’d focus a lot on end of life issues.
And I’d drop any references to Twitter and Facebook.
The message was tailored to the senior residents.
But Judy came in to give out some medication.
Judy sat down and listened to the message.
Judy started crying.
Afterwards Judy revealed to me that she was just diagnosed with cancer. She was afraid. She was a sinner. And felt far apart from God, but…this message seemed just for her.
She was right.
Who will God bring the Gospel to through you?
IV. The Parade Route
Where is this parade going?
What is the parade route?
I remember in the small town I grew up.
People were always trying to get to the Zweig’s grill parking lot.
It was the best spot in town to watch the parade.
People would setup their chairs for the 4th of July parade the night before it happened.
It’s like waiting outside the Apple store for the new iPhone.
Only, instead of waiting for the latest technology.
You’re waiting for a couple of stale Brach’s peppermints.
Paul thought he knew where his parade should go.
He’s the guy who wrote the lesson from 1 Corinthians.
He had been on a mission journey and had made his plans to go and share the message of Jesus in Troas.
Paul probably had big plans for Troas.
Starting on church in the suburbs.
Doing some urban ministry.
Maybe even an Early Learning Center.
Before he could enter, something happened…
Paul went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:8-9)
Did you catch that?
God sent Paul a different direction.
He re-routed the parade.
And…What did Paul do?
God, I really think the parade should go through Troas. The streets are wider and more people will see it!
After Paul had seen the vision, he got ready at once to leave for Macedonia…”
Paul trusted God’s plan for the parade.
If God closed off one street…
It was with good reason.
Time to go the direction that God opened.
When the planned parade ROUTE closes, God opens ANOTHER.
I think about that a lot as I reflect on 2020.
At the beginning of the year, we had big plans.
A full-fledged sanctuary update.
A possible 3rd option for jam packed in-person worship.
A doubled down focus on ministry in North Raleigh.
God had other plans.
Instead of the sanctuary update, we got a technology update.
Instead of a jam-packed 3rd service, we got a 3rd service out of necessity.
Instead of keeping our focus here, we moved forward with plans for a 2nd site in Durham.
When God closes one route, he opens another.
Is YOUR LIFE where you thought you’d be?
In the right career?
With the right amount of money?
Enjoying the friendships, you planned to enjoy?
After 2020, probably not.
But guess what.
Even if you aren’t where you thought you’d be.
You are where God thought you’d be.
And he has good reason.
He wants you to parade HIS Glory through the streets of your life.
In front of the people that are in your life right now!
That neighbor you see as you work from home in your backyard.
That Amazon delivery driver who frequents your house.
That guy on social media who you’ve never even met in real life.
They are the parade route.
That’s where God wants you to parade HIS glory.
V. What Now?
Because there’s nothing worse than a parade that doesn’t start on time.
Ask any mom of three who’s had to calm down her cranky toddlers waiting in the cold for the first fire truck to show up.
It’s the same thing with this parade!
It’s time to get it going.
Consider this the initial fire engine.
It’s Palm Sunday, 2021.
It’s time to display Jesus’ glory in your life.
Don’t take a nap.
Don’t fall asleep.
Don’t take this year off.
Don’t chalk it up to COVID.
Don’t be quiet.
Don’t be silent.
Don’t be subtle!
Ride the little scooter thing that they do in parades.
Whatever it is God has given you to do.
Wherever it is God has given you to do.
For whomever it is God has given you to do it.
Parade Christ’s glory!
Shout it with me: Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest!
We are on Day Eight of quarantine.
I don’t know if any of you have gone through this at all. But…
Quarantining when others aren’t?
It makes you feel like an outcast.
Sometimes I just look out my front window and think:
“Oh, dog walkers. Wish I could be included in your dog walk.”
“Oh, pizza deliver guy. You don’t know how good you have it.”
“Oh, Amazon delivery person, you lead such an exotic life. You’re probably doing something amazing and exciting…
…like delivering Baking Soda.
Must be nice.
But if I had it bad, I think Julianna has had it worse.
She’s been quarantining from us.
Not able to touch Daniela.
Not able to hug her.
Not able to just sit and enjoy a meal with the family.
When she comes to the door to request some water, we back up.
Go back to your bedroom, outcast.
Maybe you understand.
COVID has a lot of us feeling like outcasts.
But to be fair…
Feeling like an outcast was a thing long before COVID.
Today we are going to see how Jesus deals with outcasts. Before we do, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your word is the truth. Open our eyes to see how you want us to see, to hear how you want us to hear, to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Outcast
The true account starts in Mark 10:46, “As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road begging.”
It notes that Jesus and his disciples are in Jericho. It’s a fairly large city in the ancient world. Jesus has gathered a fairly large crowd from this very large city.
I bet that crowd was made up of lots of people.
Merchants and farmers.
Scribes and teachers.
Mothers and fathers.
People who live on the North side.
And people who live on the South side.
But there is one person who was not a part of the crowd.
His name literally means, “Son of Timaeus.” It’s like the Ancient Jewish way of saying, “Junior” or “Timaeus the Second.”
I don’t know what Bartimaeus’ dad Timaeus was like.
But dads are part of the genes, so they tend to pass things on to their kids.
Maybe, Timaeus passed on his blue eyes.
Maybe, Timaeus passed on his love of corn bread.
Maybe, Timaeus passed on his receding hair line.
But there is one thing that Timaeus passed on in his genetic code.
Whether Timaeus himself dealt with it or not.
Bartimaeus couldn’t see.
As a result, he was an outcast. You can see it highlighted in the text.
He was an outcast by LOCATION. Notice that verse 46 starts with Jesus entering Jericho. Then, a crowd develops around him in Jericho. Then, Jesus and the crowd leave Jericho.
It isn’t until the crowd is leaving that Jesus crosses Bartimaeus’ path.
That means Bartimaeus was outside the city.
By the gate.
At the city.
But not in the city.
He was an outcast by OCCUPATION. As verse 46 notes, he was a beggar. That was his job.
And begging is a unique occupation.
Because when you are begging, you don’t offer a good or a service in return.
In fact, this mentions that Bartimaeus was sitting.
He wasn’t on his feet pretending to be a robot.
He didn’t offer anyone some candy at a discount price.
He wasn’t playing on his violin with a donation hat on the ground in front of him.
He wasn’t doing anything.
Because he didn’t have anything to offer.
Other than the offer to leave you alone, if you only gave him a dollar.
He was an outcast by IDENTITY.
Because did you notice what comes first in verse 46?
Not his name.
I’m sure that’s how people knew him.
“Did you see that blind guy on the side of the road?
“Yep, the blind guy asked for money.”
“Man, I’m sick of the blind guy asking for money.”
He had a name.
But I wonder how many people used it.
II. The In Crowd
When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus…, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v.47)
I wonder how Bartimaeus realized it was Jesus.
It doesn’t seem like anyone reached out to tell him on purpose.
I doubt anyone ran to get him.
I doubt anyone shouted out to him.
I know that nobody texted him: “Hey Jesus is here. Where are you?”
He probably heard some noise.
More noise than usual.
A crowd full of noise.
He started asking, “Hey! What’s that noise? What’s going on? Somebody tell me?”
And it wasn’t until he almost bumped into a member of the crowd that he heard, “Get out of my way. I’m trying to follow to Jesus.”
Bartimaeus quickly responded:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
David was a legendary Old Testament figure. He’s the kid who killed Goliath, the king that secured Israel’s prosperity, and the poet that wrote more than half the book of Psalms.
He also was prophesied to be the great, great, great, great, many times over, grandfather of the Messiah:
I will raise up for David a righteous Branch…In his days Judah will be saved…This is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6)
Bartimaeus knew this prophecy.
Bartimaeus knew of Jesus.
And Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, knew that Jesus, the son of David, was the Messiah.
He’s shouting, because he’s confident!
Unfortunately, the crowd is just as confident… that he is being a nuisance: Many told him to be quiet. (v.48a)
Quiet. He’s busy with his crowd.
You don’t belong with him.
Stop bothering him, will ya.
But he kept shouting all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v.48)
Jesus heard him.
And Jesus said, “Call him.” (v.48b)
Bartimaeus got up.
He couldn’t see, but he was going to let that stop him from getting to Jesus.
He threw his cloak down.
He bumped into person after person.
Jesus wants to speak with me!
Finally, he reached Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
“Rabbi, I want to see again.” (v.51)
And did you know….
Those were the last words that blind Bartimaeus ever spoke?
Because when he spoke again, he was no longer blind Bartimaeus.
Jesus told him, “Go. Your faith has made you well.” And immediately, he received his sight. (v.51-52)
III. Authority that Cares about Outcasts
This account is more than just a nice story for Bartimaeus. It is filled with important lessons for outcasts and former outcasts.
(1) While Others MOVE ON, Jesus STOPS.
In his lifetime, I wonder how many people had simply passed Bartimaeus by?
Sorry, no money.
Sorry, I don’t carry cash.
Sorry, I gave my last dollar to the other beggar.
I say that because I wonder in my own lifetime how many beggar I’ve passed by.
Sorry, I’m busy.
Sorry, got pastor things to do.
Sorry, no cash – at least easily accessible.
But not Jesus.
Verse 48 said, “Jesus stopped.”
Do you feel like an outcast?
Maybe it’s cause of COVID.
You had it.
You have it.
You’re sequestered because of it.
Maybe it’s depression.
Or a disability.
Or a lack of funding.
Or your background.
Or the color of your skin.
Or because you struggle with a sin that, in your opinion, most don’t struggle with.
What do most do when they see your struggle?
They move on!
They minimize it.
They get back to their lives….and leave you behind!
But not Jesus.
Actually… Jesus is stopping.
He is speaking through this lesson, through these words, through this message:
Jesus cares about you.
(2) While Others REBUKE, Jesus Shows MERCY
I was downtown back when going downtown was a thing.
I remember that on Fayetteville street, there was a beggar sitting on the side of the road.
He was asking people for money as they walked by.
I was a couple 100 feet back, but watch this unfold:
As the beggar asked for money, another pedestrian got in his face.
“Listen buddy. You better back off. Get out of our way. Leave us alone. And get a job.”
Thank goodness Jesus didn’t do that.
He didn’t do it for Bartimaeus in our story.
He had mercy.
He healed him.
And he didn’t do it for us.
He had mercy.
And healed use.
Because the truth is that Jesus saw you.
He saw you in your loneliness.
He saw you in your sadness.
He saw you in your guilt and shame – an outcast - far apart from his kingdom.
And Jesus showed mercy.
He showed mercy to outcasts by becoming an outcast.
He became an outcast from heaven as he walked this earth.
He became an outcast on this earth as he was hung on a cross.
He became an outcast from his Heavenly Father as he took on your sin.
He became an outcast from the living when he died.
He became an outcast from that too.
Because Jesus did that, you are no longer an outcast.
Because Jesus became an outcast, you are no longer out.
Because Jesus became an outcast, you are in.
(3) Jesus Brings the Outcast IN
That’s what he does for Bartimaeus. Did you catch this?
Because look at what happens after he heals Bartimaeus.
Immediately, Bartimaeus received his sight and began to follow Jesus. (v.52)
He was in.
He was in the crowd.
He was in the group of disciples.
He was in God’s kingdom.
Friends, because of Jesus you are in.
By faith in your Savior..,
You are IN his kingdom.
You are IN his family.
You are IN his church.
You are IN his graces.
You are IN his forgiveness.
You are IN his crowd.
You are IN his disciples.
You are IN eternal life.
And because of Jesus,
You will be IN heaven.
IV. What Now?
Let’s shift gears then.
We are IN God’s kingdom.
We are IN God’s family.
Jesus, the head of this family, is obviously concerned about bringing outcasts into his family.
Shouldn’t we be that concerned about it too?
Like this Easter, we should have more than just concern to get that one pleasant looking church friend of ours into church.
To be fair, we want that pleasant lady. Absolutely.
But we also want the outcast.
Here’s some ideas from the text on how to do it:
(1) See the Person
Because our world loves labels. We insert labels onto people and think we know everything about them because of that label.
This is the same thing so many did with Bartimaeus.
They just called him “blind guy.”
He saw a soul.
He saw Bartimaeus.
See the soul too.
Don’t see the homeless guy; see your brother.
Don’t see the single mom; see your sister.
Don’t see the foreigner; see God’s child.
Don’t see the drug addict; see someone else Jesus loves.
See the soul, that Jesus saw…
And died for….
And wants in his family…
And might work through you to bring into his family.
Because life is busy.
We’ve gotta get the vaccine, get the kids online, get on the ZOOM call, get the email sent, get the Doordash order in, get caught up on and get to bed, only to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
But there was hustle and bustle for Jesus too.
He was surrounded by a crowd.
In the middle of teaching.
On the road to die for our sins.
Yet he stopped to help Bartimaeus.
There’s two weeks until Easter. Ready for the challenge?
Stop to talk to the one without a home.
Stop to encourage the refugee from another country.
Stop to help the man on the side of the road.
Stop to listen to the person with language difficulties.
Stop to hug the one with special needs.
Stop to converse with physically needy.
Like Jesus stopped.
(3) Take Action
That’s what Jesus did.
He didn’t just care about Bartimaeus.
He took action that showed he cared.
You aren’t Jesus.
You might not be able to fix things in that exact moment the way that Jesus fixed things for Bartimaeus.
But Jesus works through even the smallest faith filled actions.
Buy someone a lunch.
Give ‘em coffee.
Drop off some Easter candy.
Invite them to Easter worship.
Get their number, text them, and check in on them.
In order to accomplish Jesus’ mission, we need to reach those who are out…
In order to reach those who are out, we need to do some outreach…
Which leads to the final point…
(4) Make Gethsemane a Place for Outcasts
Because church is our community’s connection to Jesus.
Like it or not, they see Jesus through US.
Are we ready to show them a Jesus that WELCOMES outcasts?
It’s been difficult to make church feel welcoming during COVID.
A lot of things we do during COVID are things that we would have made a very lousy outreach plan prior.
If you aren’t on the list, you can’t get it.
If you aren’t wearing a mask, you can’t get in.
If you’re temperature check out, you can’t get in.
If you were near certain people, you’d better not even come to the door.
We need to go out of our way to make people feel welcome at a time when many will naturally not.
If you see someone at church, you haven’t seen before…
Say “Good morning”
Smile, (if it’s behind a mask) smile with your eyes!
Welcome them to church.
Show them to the coffee mugs.
Communicate to them that they belong.
Before they do.
Did you catch that part in the story?
Jesus told the man, “Go. Your faith has made you well…
Before he made the man well.
Jesus saw past his problem.
Jesus saw past his blindness.
Jesus saw past what made him an outcast.
Jesus already saw him as healed.
He saw HIM as part of the crowd…
Before HE was.
Just like he saw YOU as part of the crowd…
Before YOU were.
I. The Rich Man’s Error
Our lesson comes from Mark 10.
The same account is also found in Matthew 19.
In the Matthew version, a person described as a Rich Young Man approaches Jesus.
Perhaps not pridefully.
A steady look in his eyes.
Chest puffed out.
His fancy, new, “rich people” robe crisply tucked into his diamond studded, limited edition leather belt.
The people recognized him.
He was a local success story.
The kind of guy with a large following on social media.
With a YouTube Channel that had thousands of subscribers.
Who had a car strategically parked on the corner with his smiling mug plastered on the side, “Ask me about Low Real Estate rates.”
He noticed everyone looking in his direction.
And flashed a grin.
But the man had business to do.
And, as was often the case when he did business, he got straight to the point:
He asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.17)
Build an orphanage?
Donate a month’s salary to the homeless?
Build an expansion onto the temple?
(I’m ahead of you. I drew up some plans on a napkin yesterday.)
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. You know the commandments. ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’” (v.18-20)
The man looked at Jesus.
Brushed off his shoulder.
The man replied, “Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a child.”
Is there anything else?
Like university level stuff?
The trigonometry of holiness?
Let me know.
I can do it.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. He said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v.21)
I picture him with his notepad:
SELL? Sure. Check. I can get a good return on my money.
GIVE? As in…take a hit?
Leave my stuff behind?
Who will take of my business?
What will become of my net worth?
I’ve done a lot, Jesus.
Most things aren’t hard for me to do.
I can’t do that.
He looked sad and went away grieving, because he had great wealth. (v.23)
Let’s pause the account right there and start dissecting the story.
Particularly, look back at verse 21. It’s key to understanding what’s going on here.
It says, “Jesus looked at the man and loved him.”
Did you see that?
This is important.
Jesus wasn’t trying to make the rich guy look like a fool.
Jesus wasn’t trying to win one for the poor people.
Jesus wasn’t trying to win a comment section political debate.
He was loving him.
It was because he loved the man that he gave him such an impossible task to do to earn eternal life.
Because the young man believed a lie.
A lie that could keep him forever out of eternal life.
The Law is Something I CAN Do for Eternal Life
That’s the whole point of his initial question to Jesus. He asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.17)
He viewed eternal life as a To Do List.
Maybe you do too.
In fact, I have a ToDoList App on my phone.
When I check off a task, it disappears.
Today I made a list of things to do to earn eternal life as Jesus said.
Don’t kill anyone.
Don’t sleep with the next-door neighbor’s wife.
Don’t steal an apple from Food Lion.
Don’t punch a guy in the parking lot of Food Lion and steal his apple.
Never tell a lie in a courtroom.
Go to bed when mom and dad tell you – most of the time.
I did everything.
Look – the app even celebrates by shooting off confetti.
But how does Jesus respond?
“Go. Sell everything. Give it to the poor. And follow me.”
You want to DO eternal life?
Sell your stuff.
Not just the stuff you don’t want.
ALL your stuff.
The comfy couch.
The shiny shoes.
The Playstation 5.
Put it on Facebook Marketplace.
You can even use your phone to take some photos of it.
Before you sell your phone.
Before you give it away, do us a favor, and send us a screen shot of the total amount in your bank account.
Then, send me another screen shot when that bank account is empty.
Cause you gave it all away.
And you are now homeless.
Nothing but a Bible.
Can’t do it?
Then, you can’t have eternal life.
Which is the point.
Because for a sinner, like you, me or that rich young man,
Eternal life isn’t something you do.
The Law is Something I CAN’T do for Eternal Life
II. The Disciple’s Assumption
Which is why the disciples started to panic.
Jesus, wait, are you telling me that guy can’t get in?
He’s done a lot of things.
His name is on billboards and stuff.
If he can’t do enough to enter eternal life.
Then, I doubt I can!
Jesus saw their stress.
And decided to help.
He pointed at a camel tied up outside a nearby house.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (v.24-25)
The disciples looked at the camel.
It was seven or eight feet tall.
Four or five feet wide.
Over a thousand pounds.
Do you know why it was tied up outside?
Because it wouldn’t fit through the front door!
Let alone the millimeter sized eye of a needle.
It’s impossible then!
Impossible for camel to go through the needle.
Impossible for the rich man to do eternal life.
And impossible for us to do eternal life?
Who then can be saved? (v.26)
Jesus looked at them.
For people, it is impossible, but not for God, because all things are possible for God.” (v.28)
Again, Jesus exposes another LIE. This time it was one that the disciples believed.
The Law is Something HUMANS are able to Do
That’s a terrible lie to believe.
Because these human hands are weak.
Have you ever done a Farmer’s Carry?
That’s where you take a dumbbell (try a 15 pounder) and you hold it in your hands while you walk.
At first, it’s not terribly hard.
But as you continue to hold the dumbbell, do you know what happens?
Your wrists start to burn.
Your shoulders start to shake.
Your palms start to sweat.
You drop it.
4 and a half minutes.
If human hands can’t even hold up a 15-pound dumbbell, how do you think we will hold up God’s holy law?
If we try and try and try and try and try because we think that it’s up to these human hands to earn eternal life…
We get tired.
We get downcast.
We get depressed just like Jesus’ disciples.
But Jesus didn’t let them stay depressed for long.
Because while Eternal Life isn’t something that HUMANS do;
The Law is Something only GOD Does
And he’s really good at it!
It’s kinda like a six-foot tall rollercoaster tycoon who puts up a sign that says, “You must be four and half feet tall to ride.”
He always qualifies.
Because “over four and a half feet tall” is who he is.
God is HOLY.
When the Law says, “Be holy.”
That’s not hard for him to do.
He is LOVING.
So when the Law says, “Be loving.”
He already is.
God has no problem doing good.
Because he is good.
III. The Opening Lie
Which reminds me…
We missed a lie.
Before Jesus exposes the disciple’s lie…
Before Jesus exposes the young man’s lie…
Jesus exposes a lie in the way the young man addressed him.
The young man said, “Good teacher…”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. (v.17-18)
Maybe that seems a bit harsh.
He was just trying to compliment you Jesus.
But Jesus speaks with a purpose.
He never actually denies being a good teacher.
He simply points out that the only one who is good is God.
If Jesus is good, then…he is God.
The lie young man believed in his address was that Jesus was just a human.
The truth is that Jesus was God.
The Law is something JESUS DID.
Because nothing is impossible with God.
And nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did drive out a demon in the synagogue.
He did heal Peter’s mother-in-law from fever.
He did save a boy from a lifetime of seizures.
He did make his face to shine, his clothing to gleam, and heavenly saints to appear.
Nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did honor his mom and dad.
He did not kill.
He did keep himself pure.
He did not steal.
He did not tell lies.
He did not cover.
Nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did take your disobedience on himself.
He did give his obedience to you.
He did die in your place.
He did die for your sins.
He did rise triumphantly on day three.
He did declare you righteousness.
He did win you forgiveness.
He did win for you your eternal life.
In fact, do you remember Jesus’ challenge to the rich young man?
Sell everything and give to the poor.
That’s what Jesus did.
He gave up all he owned –
His throne, his eternal riches, the golden streets of him.
Even his life.
And he gave to the poor.
Friends, that’s what Jesus wants you to do.
Not all your things.
Not all your stuff.
But give up the notion that you need to do The Law to win eternal life.
Give up the stress.
Give up the guilt.
Give up the shame.
Because he has Authority over the Law,
He did what you haven’t been able to do.
He did what you aren’t able to do.
And he will do what you’ll never be able to do.
He did eternal life.