It came down to a coin flip.
Did you hear? People were so confused about who to vote in the Iowa caucus that certain districts decided their vote via coin flip. The same completely random device that decides whether I should have ham or turkey was used to decide who the next leader of the free world would be.
I can understand why they did this. The political landscape is confusing right now. It's confusing enough that people on the Democratic side voted within .1% of the lead candidates. On the Republican side, there is still a crowd of people left to vote for. The inundation of information has certainly fogged my brain. Vote for this guy because this. Don’t for this guy because this. Vote for this guy and you're this. Vote for that guy and you're that.
As confusing as the political landscape is, religion can seem just as confusing. The same inundation of information is readily available on the internet. Information that says Jesus is the Savior; next to websites that say Buddha spoke the truth; besides articles that say Allah is God; scoffed at in the comment section by a scientist who links to an article “proving” that the world evolved billions of years ago without any god at all.
They all seem like nice people.
They all make interesting points.
There plenty of people believing all of them.
How then do you cut through the confusion and get to a moment of clarity? How do you figure out what's right?
Listen to whichever answer makes you feel good?
Ask that know-it-all at work?
Close your eyes and point?
Or maybe now is where we flip the coin?
Today Jesus will help you out as we take a look at the final sermon in our series: Jesus’ First and only Transfiguration. His goal is to clear away the clutter and make it very clear to us who your Savior is.
I. The First Century Confusion
Check out Mark 9:28-36. That’s about halfway through the book of Mark (and about halfway through Jesus’ ministry). At the time, there was a hubbub surrounding Jesus. People came from far and wide to see him. They had heard of his miracles. They had heard of his wise teachings. They had even heard rumors that he might be the Messiah. Amazing if it were true, but blasphemy if it wasn’t.
People were confused --- Who was this Jesus?
Simon felt the same way. To be fair – he had a moment of clarity a few days ago. Jesus had asked all of them, “Who you think that I am?” Peter had tensed up. He had looked around to see who was listening. He had taken a deep breath.
“You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus’ reply made him smile. “Blessed are you…This has been revealed to you by God!”
Peter was pretty proud. He had gotten it. Lots of other people didn’t get it, but he did. He was impressed with himself. The other disciples were impressed with him. Jesus was even so impressed with him – he had changed his name to Peter – which means “rock,” as in “That was a solid rock of a confession of truth.”
But then Jesus started talking about something strange. He mentioned that he would go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, arrested, falsely tried, sentenced to death, and crucified.
Peter was quick to speak up. “Never Lord! That’s a terrible idea. It won’t happen because I won’t let it.”
Peter stood there. Arms at his side. Anticipating the adulation of the Lord that was undoubtedly on his way. “Well done Peter. You’re so smart Peter. I’m going to change your name to Super Peter – Defender of All Things God."
But he didn’t get that nickname:
Get behind me Satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of humans.
Peter sat down faster than he stood up. He stared at his sandals.
That was embarrassing. But it didn’t make any sense? If Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t he want to ride into Jerusalem and conquer? Why wasn’t he building up an army of soldiers? Why did he did he want to go to Jerusalem and die? That was an awful plan for a Messiah to have.
Maybe…he wasn’t the Messiah.
II. The Transfiguration Cuts through Confusion
These kinds of thoughts had been swirling in his head for days. As he stood at the top of a mountain, he yawned – one of those three seconds yawns. Here’s something that wasn’t confusing. It had been a long journey to top. He was mentally exhausted and physically drained. Jesus was over saying a prayer.
Shutting his eyes for a few moments wasn’t a bad idea.
Then…a light. A bright light.
At first, it seemed like a part of some strange dream, but then his eyelids felt the unmistakable coolness of the evening air. He looked over at his disciples friends. Their eyes met his and they nodded in astonishment.
He was definitely awake.
The light wasn’t coming from a dream. It was coming from Jesus’ own face. It was bright – like the sun – like staring up to the sun on a morning day. He had to glance down and blink a few times.
When he looked up again, he noticed that Jesus' clothing was different too. It was a brilliant white. Not just any white. Peter had a white robe that was stained brown from the sand and had that fish guts stain on the back which his wife had scrubbed repeatedly to try and get it out. That was white–ish.
But the clothing on Jesus – it was whiter than white. It was whiter than the bleachiest, bleach white. It was whiter than humanly possible. It shined too. Like lightning.
Is that what had happened? Had Jesus been struck by lightning?
No. No, he was still standing. He was fine. In fact, he was talking to two others men. Peter listened carefully. Jesus called one “Moses” and the other “Elijah.” Peter looked at John and mouthed the words, “Are you serious?” These two were legends in the Jewish world.
Moses had been responsible for the first five books of the Bible. He had led the Israelites out of Egypt. God had split the Red Sea through Him and given the Ten Commandments to him.
Elijah had been a prophet of God during the time of rampant apostasy in Israel. He had opposed the false prophets of Baal in a fiery showdown. He had been fed by ravens. He raised the dead. He had heard the whisper of God with his own ears.
Elijah & Moses. Before his very eyes. It was amazing. It was incredible. It was…impossible.
Moses and Elijah had both been dead for thousands of years.
But as he watched their conversation unfold before his very eyes and as his two friends witnessed the same things besides him (and as he confirmed that electricity with the power to pull off such a swoon wouldn’t be invented for another 1800 years), Peter realized something.
This was real. It was real… real. It was real and it was one of the most incredible things He had ever seen in his life. His faith was surging. “Lord!” he shouted, “It is good for us to be here. Let me set up three shelters. One for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
As his words hung in the air, they were enveloped by a cloud. A thick cloud. A cloud that covered up Jesus. A cloud that covered up Moses and Elijah. A cloud that covered up Peter himself.
Then…he heard a voice. A booming voice. “This is my Son; whom I love. Listen to Him.”
With that, the cloud subsided. Moses was gone. Elijah was gone. The blinding light was gone. Only Jesus remained.
But something was different. While Jesus had changed back, something had changed within Peter. He could see clearly – not just because there was no longer any cloud or blinding light. Peter could see clearly that Jesus was the Messiah.
Do you remember your first Transfiguration?
Does your mom tell you, “Honey, you’re face was so cute. It was shining just like the sun.” Does your Grandpa hike up his shorts and say, “I remember the booming voice of God just like it was yesterday.” Do you have a few photographs that are nothing more than a brilliant white light with the faintest trace of your facial outline? (At least, you think).
Probably not. I don’t remember my first Transfiguration because I didn’t have a Transfiguration. You don’t remember your Transfiguration because you didn’t have a Transfiguration.
Neither did Buddha. Neither did Joseph Smith. Neither did Mohammed. Neither did Charles Darwin.
Jesus’ Transfiguration is one of a kind. It proves that He is one of a kind. It makes it clear that He is the Savior.
Jesus said this, “Believe me when I say that I in the Father and the Father is in me; at least believe me based on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” Transfiguration fits right up there at the top! A brilliant shining face? Whiter than white clothes? Talking to two guys who have been in heaven for thousands of years?
Do you remember the Spin Doctors? They sang the song, "One, two, princes kneel before you. That's what I said, now, Princes, Princes who adore you." Do you remember them? No? I once met their bass guitarist and their roadie. That’s the extent of famous people I’ve met.
Jesus is rubbing shoulders with Moses and Elijah! Years after they were dead. This is incredible! Then, the voice. The booming voice of God Almighty. A voice that had been heard before --- in the Garden of Eden – “I will send someone to crush the devil’s head;” – on Mt. Sinai – “Here are commands, if you break them you will need a Savior.” – at Jesus’ Baptism – “Here is that Savior. It’s my Son. Jesus.”
Listen to God.
Your Savior is Jesus!
Forgiveness comes from Jesus.
Heaven comes from Jesus.
There is no one else. Only him. PERIOD.
III. A Clear Directive
Listen to God and listen to his clear directive at the end. “Listen to Him.”
There is a lot of application here. There are a lot of questions in the world that have a lot of different answers depending on who it is you talk to:
Is homosexuality a sin?
Should I live with my boyfriend before marriage?
Should I really be giving money to the church?
Should I even be going to church?
Is salvation really by grace or should I get to work on doing good things?
What are good things?
Is every religion really just the same religion which all end up leading to heaven anyways!?!
When you’re looking for the answer, it doesn’t have to be confusing! Don’t listen to Facebook. Don’t listen to Twitter. Don’t listen to Instagram, Wikipedia, or your College professor with his fancy, hipster goatee.
Listen to Jesus.
It doesn’t have to be confusing! It can become confusing when we make it confusing. We do that when, like Peter, we don’t like the answer.
Think about it. He had already identified Jesus as the Messiah prior to the Transfiguration. But it was after He called Jesus the Messiah that he turned around and told his confessed Messiah that his plan – to die on the cross – was foolish! He didn’t like it so he wasn’t going to listen to him.
But on the mountain – it was abundantly clear that Jesus was the Messiah – he, Peter, was not. He needed to listen to Jesus, not the other way around.
Can I tell you something? Jesus is smarter than you. Please don’t be hurt by that. (He’s smarter than me too.) I’m not just talking about Math facts and science facts. I’m not just talking about Jeopardy trivia either. (Although I’m sure Jesus would be buzzing in answers before Alex Trebek even asked the questions.)
Jesus is smarter than you when it comes to what’s bad for you. He’s smarter when it comes to what’s good for you. He says sin is bad for you. He, your Savior, is good for you.
Listen to Him.
AND THANK GOD that Jesus didn't listen to Peter. If he would have, we would still be in our sins. (Even as believers.) We would be destined for eternal damnation in hell. Our lives would be one fatalistic train ticket to destruction.
But Jesus didn't listen. He went to Jerusalem. He held out his hands to be arrested. He listened to his death sentence. He waited as nails were driven into his hands. He died.
He died and completed God's perfect Messiah plan for salvation. He saved you from sin. He saved you from from death. He saved you from the devil.
LISTEN TO HIM!
But that wasn’t it. Jesus didn’t stop there. He went to the next phase in the plan. The phase that Peter had totally ignored when he rebuked Jesus. Take a look at it:
On the third Day, I will rise again from the dead.
Yeah, I’m listening to that guy.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t let your eternity come down to a coin flip. God has made a clear to you. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the Life.
Listen to Him. Listen to your Messiah. Amen.
According to Luke 4:22-30
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been looking at some of Jesus’ FIRSTS. His first Outreach Program; his first miracle and just last week his first sermon – which was a pretty awesome sermon. Jesus revealed that He would open the eyes of the blind, that he would free the oppressed from the guilt of their sins, that he would release people from Satan’s power and that he would bring to the poor the riches of eternal life.
It’s sounds great, right? You’d expect people to start giving each other high fives. You’d expect a few “Hallelujahs!” from the back of the room. You’d expect some people to get up and start dancing and teens to start texting, #NazarethRules #TheMessiahIsHere! #ImSaved
Nope. None of that. (And not just cause SmartPhones weren’t invented back then.)
The reaction of the Nazarites was far less receptive and yet eerily familiar.
I. Familiarity Breeds Rejection
Take a look at Luke 4:22. It says, “All were spoke well about him and all were amazed at his words of grace. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they said.
Those English words are kind of deceptive. The Greek text there simply means that they began “talking about him.” More neutral than positive or negative. You can understand why – He had just claimed to be the Messiah -- something that no one else had done before…ever!
The phrase “all were amazed” has a positive English connotation. Like “I was amazed at the singer on American Idol.” But the Greek word doesn’t have that positivity. Again – it’s neutral amazement – almost shock. As in, “Donald Trump just what?”
Look at their reason for being shocked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Isn’t this the kid who used to go to Ms. Mertz’s Saturday school? Didn’t he have the lead in the annual Passover pageant a few years back? Wasn’t he a part of the teen choir? Didn’t I pay him a few dollars to come and help rebuild my wooden parlor table?
He’s familiar. He’s too familiar.
To help grasp what the Nazarites were going through. Imagine this. Imagine that you were scrolling through Facebook and you came across an friend from high school that you haven’t seen for years. You click on his profile and immediately you get an eery feeling. His last post says, “Trust in me and you will be saved from eternal hell.” His profile picture has some fuzzy cloud effect and the phrase “Trust in me” in front of it. Then, under his profile it says that he’s from HEAVEN, that his age is infinite and that his dad – is God himself.
Sound a bit crazy?
Jesus sensed that tension. Look at his response: Surely you will quote me this proverb: Physician heal yourself! Which is an interesting proverb. Imagine walking into a doctor’s office. You’re sitting on the cold, metallic stool. The doctor enters his face engrossed, not in your patient notes, but a handkerchief. He looks pale. He’s sweating. He’s sneezing. When he listens to your heartbeat you can’t tell if the icy cold is coming from the metallic end of the stethoscope or his sickly fingers.
Don’t worry about me, doc. Heal yourself!
Jesus was revealing what these people’s hearts were saying. “Jesus, heal yourself!” Bub, stop talking to us about sin and our need for a Savior. Don’t tell us you’re the Messiah. Don’t tell us you will lead us to heaven. In fact, don’t tell us anything else. Just do some of your magic tricks so we can all go home.
Then, Jesus drops some truth on them: 24 No prophet is accepted in his hometown. His hometown is too familiar with him. They refuse to see the prophet as the prophet. They can only see him as the familiar little boy, as a going-through-puberty teenager, as a not-the-Messiah-just-an-ordinary man.
Familiarity breeds Rejection.
Can we take this as a warning? Especially if you’ve been a part of this church/a Christian for a long time. (Myself included). Familiarity breeds rejection.
Careful: Familiarity Breeds rejection.
II. Rejection isn’t good
You might be thinking, so what? I might have done that. I might not always listen to Jesus. I haven’t really acted like he’s all that important. I guess I kinda rejected him…but so what? It’s no big deal.
NO BIG DEAL!?! I’ll let Jesus handle this one:
25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Did you catch that? It was a drought. No rain in all of Israel and the surrounding areas for three and a half years. 1277 days. No irrigation. No bottled water. Crops dying. Food scarce. There were all kinds of people who needed help. All kinds of Israelites. All kinds of long time, familiar with God, people!
26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. God told Elijah to tell her to go back to her flour jar…to make some bread…to use all she needed…ONLY to come back the next day and find it filled with flour all over again. A miracle for the foreigner.
To those who were too familiar with God to care? NOTHING.
27a And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet. Leprosy was a horrible disease. It was highly contagious. It flaked off your skin. It rotted your cartilage. It caused your finger tips and ear cartilage to fall off. It was fatal. There were all kinds of people who had this disease. All kind of long time, familiar with God, people!
27b Yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. God told Elisha to tell him to go to a river…to wash once…to wash twice…to wash seven times…to look down at his skin in astonishment: HE WAS HEALED. A miracle of God. A miracle for the foreigner.
To those who were too familiar with God to care? NOTHING.
REJECTION IS A BIG DEAL! If you rejected Jesus, you are rejecting your salvation.
Imagine if someone invented a cure for cancer. If the doctor offered it to you and you said, "No," then,(get this) you won't be cured from cancer! With Jesus it is the same thing. Jesus is the cure for sin. Jesus is the cure for death. Jesus is the cure for hell.
If you reject him...
...it's a big deal.
Repent. If you’ve been away from God for a long time, if you haven’t cared, if you’ve let God become too familiar for you to care, repent! Turn around. Turn back to the LORD!
Because you can’t stop him. They couldn’t stop back then. Look at verse 28. 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this and they got up and drove him out of the town. They took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.
They didn’t want to listen to his warnings. They didn’t want to hear him talk about sin. They were tired of this carpenter’s son – who was a Nazarene just like them – telling them that they needed saving! The best way to shut him up was murder. Plain and simple! And they had the numbers; a synagogue full of people. Hundreds. He only had a few, measly disciples. They could bull rush him. They could take up to the cliff. All it would take was one push and they’d never have to hear from him ever again.
Except….except….30 he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
You can’t stop Jesus.
And can we point out this is one of those hidden miracles in Scripture. One of those times you might not see it the first time. He’s surrounded by people who are blood thirsty and ready to kill him. He walks “RIGHT THROUGH THEM.” It doesn’t say he went around them. He didn’t throw a smoke bomb and ninja out of there. He walked right through them.
Because you can’t stop Jesus.
Even though they tried again. Much later many people would try to stop Jesus again. They had him arrested; they had him imprisoned; then they sentenced him to die and instead of risking the chance that he might walk off again, they made sure he would stay.
They nailed him to two large pieces of wood and watched as he died.
But three days later, death couldn’t stop him.
The giant rock in front of his standing tomb couldn’t stop him.
The locked door that his disciples were hiding behind couldn’t stop him.
Jesus defeated sin, death, and hell. He did everything the sermon claimed he would. He made the poor rich by bringing eternal life. He made the blind to see as he showed himself the truth Savior. He released the prisoners from the guilt of their minds and the oppressed from the pangs of their sins. He proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor!
Nothing could stop Jesus.
That’s still true. When you come to Jesus in faith, your past sins will not stop him from saying, “I forgive you.” Your past rejections will not hold him back from saying, “You are forgiven for your rejection.”
No matter what you have in your past, it will not stop Jesus from saying, “You are mine.”
And with Jesus on your side? Nothing can stop you!
The struggles you are having with finances? They won’t stop you, because you've got him.
The troubles in relationships? They can’t stop you, because you've got Jesus.
The terrors of this world? The scares of declining health? The torments of the devil? They won’t stop you because you are connected to Jesus – and nothing stops him!
It's simple. Don’t reject Jesus.
Connect with Him.
He won’t reject you. Amen.
Let me set the scene.
It was 7:30am on a Tuesday morning. Our Seminary classroom was in the basement. It was the only room without windows. But what it lacked in light, it made up for in warmth.
Dim, cozy, & early.
Sounds like the perfect place to preach a sermon right?
I started speaking. “Umm…uh…this is about…Jesus.” (My Professor, who had one of those moustaches that screamed “I’m a scholar” slowly shifted his pen and began scribbling into his notebook in back.)
I started sweating. I took a deep breath I continued.
Thirty some minutes later I was, thankfully, done. All in all…I wouldn’t say my first sermon was very memorable. The only thing that was memorable about it was the AMEN (which woke up a few classmates from their slumber.)
Today we’re taking a look at Jesus’ first recorded sermon. In contrast to my work, his first sermon is very memorable.
I. Jesus Preached In Church
Take a look at Luke 4:14-15. It says, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”
Since we left Jesus last time, his ministry has kicked off. After changing water into wine, he went to be baptized by John the Baptist and as he did so the heavens opened up, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and God the Father’s voice said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Would you be interested in hearing from the one who changed water into wine AND about whom a booming voice from heaven spoke in person?
It worked exactly how God wanted. These signs perked people’s interest so that they would come to see Jesus. And did they ever come. Scripture says that people came to see Jesus in all kinds of places. At the beach. On a hillside. In the streets.
But there was one place that seemed tailor made for listening to Jesus teach: THE SYNAGOGUE.
The synagogue was the Ancient Jewish version of church. People would gather together daily to read and discuss God’s Word. They would hear God’s law and they would discuss theological things. It was the place to be if you were in any way interested in learning about God.
But there was one synagogue Jesus hadn't been invited to just yet. It was one that was near and dear to his heart.
Take a look at verse 16: Jesus went to Nazareth where he had been brought up. This was his home synagogue. It was where he went to Sunday School. (To be fair, Jews worshipped on Saturdays, so Saturday School would have been more like it.) His neighbors went there. His relatives went there. He had sung in the choir there.
But it's not as if they even had specially requested Jesus to come and speak. Look at it again. Jesus went to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. Zero in on that last phrase. “As was his custom.” Think about that. Jesus wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary when he went to this church.
It was his custom. It’s what he did.
Have you seen those new GEICO Commercials? They’ve got one where everything is going wrong in the peanut butter factory. Jars on the ground; wrappers flying through the area; peanut butter mushed everywhere. When the manager asks, “Who’s responsible for this?” the workers point at the goat.
The ad says, “If you’re a scapegoat, you get blamed for things. It’s what you do. If you want to save money, you switch to GEICO. It’s what you do.”
If you’re God’s Son, you go to God’s house. It’s what you do.
By faith in Jesus, we’re God’s children, too. Isn’t it a little strange then that we don’t take invitations to our Father’s house quite as seriously?
· I believe. I just don’t go to church. I don’t need to. Church is unnecessary.
· My church? It’s in the field on Sunday morning.
· I can go to church online. That should be good enough.
Think about this: the Divine, Universe creating, God’s Word sending, author of life itself – Jesus Christ--- went to church! As God, he already knew all there was to know about the Scriptures (He inspired them after all) yet he went to church.
You? Are you better than Jesus?
If you aren't, perhaps you should be going to church.
In fact, Scripture calls it a necessity. A necessity for salvation? No. Necessity for strengthening faith, connecting to God, rebuking your sins, reminding of salvation, encouraging with prayers and serving others? Absolutely.
Granted. Church can happen at times other than Sunday morning at 10:30am. It happens during midweek Bible studies. It happens at Chick-fil-A with the Young Adult Group. It happens down at Elmcroft Retirement home for a Bible study. Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my mind, there I am with them.” That’s church, too. Gathering together with Christians to hear God’s Word – that’s church.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a Christian, you do church. However you do church, you do church, because you are the church. It’s what you do.
II. Jesus Preached From Scripture
But one thing you might not have to do is to get up and give a sermon. Can you imagine if that became our practice? "If you are sitting in Pew 7 seat B, come up front—it’s your turn to do the sermon."
That’s exactly what happened with Jesus. Scriptures says, "He stood up and read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it was written."
Did you notice something very interesting? Jesus is the Son of God. He knows all things.
Yet – he didn’t just speak off the cuff. He read from the Bible.
Granted back then the Bible looked a bit different. Instead of books, they had scrolls. Generally, these were long pieces of parchment that had been rolled up. As you scrolled, you would roll the ends of it to get to the next page and the next words. There also wasn’t any New Testament yet. Jesus was busy living the New Testament.
Still, there's something to learn here. Jesus had a deep respect for the Old Testament. He had a love for the Bible. His sermon was based on God's Word.
Take this away from this section: Good sermons are based on God's Word.
This is key. Preachers should preach on God’s Word.
Not on last night’s debate.
Not on their political parties' latest agenda.
Not on the latest article in Time Magazine.
Not on some Facebook post.
Preaching, good preaching, is Biblical. It is based on the Bible.
Pastor, what does this have to do with me?
True. You might not be asked to preach in front of a congregation of people in a church building anytime soon. But that doesn't mean you won't preach.
You might get a chance to talk to your kids about some moral issue.
You might get to tell your coworkers about what you believe.
You might get to show your spouse how important Jesus is by going to church.
When you preach, use God's Word. Don't base your words and actions on what you want or what you feel. Base them on God's Word.
III. Jesus Preached About the Messiah
Now take a look at what part of the Bible that Jesus read from, it’s Isaiah 61. He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Sounds awesome right? Most of the people knew who this Scripture was talking about. It was talking about the Messiah. The Anointed One. The One promised by God to save them.
Think again about what the Messiah had to offer them AND has to offer you:
Good News for the Poor. If you receive bad news after bad news. Late fee after late bill after late fee. The power just got turned off because you’re too far behind. You don’t have enough money for gas to get your kids to school – and they’ll be expelled because you can’t get them there.
The Messiah is good news. The golden studded, eternal riches of God.
Healing for the Brokenhearted. If you’re brokenhearted. If the man you loved cheated on you. Broke your heart. Left you behind. Dumped you…alone, by yourself, with nothing but pain. “Why did I give so much of myself to him?”
The Messiah is good news. He will be faithful and will not leave you.
Freedom to the Captives. If you’ve been to jail. If you’ve been behind bars. If you’re now behind the bars of your own guilt and shame – unable to escape what you’ve done. Reminded of it at every job interview and every government application...
The Messiah is good news. He frees you from guilt. He releases you from your chains.
Recovery of sight to the Blind. If you are losing your sight…if you’ve lost your way. If you remember God, but you can’t see how he is in your life. If you can’t see the right path and everything looks…dark.
The Messiah is good news. He is the Light. He is the Way.
Deliverance for the Oppressed. If you are oppressed by your own thoughts. If the devil tells you that you are worthless, that God hates you, that God wants nothing to do with you, that you can never be saved - and these thoughts filter through your brain throughout the day. Each day. Especially in the quiet moments --- revealing a tumult inside your soul.
The Messiah is good news. He says, “You’re mine. I love you. I died for you.”
The congregation of people smiled. It was nice to be reminded of what the Messiah would do. Here in this Roman dominated culture, they felt oppressed and poor. They couldn’t wait for a Messiah to lead them back to glory.
I imagine that as Jesus closed the scroll, the people nodded with approval. Ms. Mertz who he used to help carry groceries in winked at him. Uncle Karl gave him a big thumbs up. They knew what was coming next. “The Messiah will come. Israel will be restored to glory.” It would be nice to hear this young man who had grown up from their own congregation preaching that same message.
Jesus returned to the center of the front. He looked at them. He sighed. He spoke.
Their jaws dropped.
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Do you understand what Jesus was saying? His sermon theme and parts were simple.
PART ONE: You need a Messiah.
PART TWO: I am the Messiah.
He was saying that the portion from Isaiah that he read was talking about Him! Listen to Jesus:
I AM good news for the poor.
I AM healing for the broken-hearted.
I AM freedom for the captives.
I AM recovery of sight.
I AM Deliverance from oppression.
I AM the Messiah.
This wasn’t political either. This wasn’t his version of Trump’s “Make America great again.”
This was spiritual. It was eternal. He would be the Savior from Sin.
And…that’s it. He doesn’t say anymore. It’s short. (Even our fast paced, YouTube generation minds can pay attention that long). Jesus wants you to have one simple YET incredible takeaway.
HE IS YOUR SAVIOR.
Brothers and sisters, that’s still the main point today. Jesus is your Savior. If you never got anything out of sermons than that, so be it! That’s all that matters. YOU NEED A SAVIOR and JESUS IS THE SAVIOR!
As a church, this needs to be the central point too. When you new members come up here in a bit, that’s what you’ll confess…faith in Jesus as your Savior. After that we’ll have the Lord’s Supper, where we receive the true body and blood of Jesus our Savior. At the Voter’s assembly, we’ll talk about what the church is up to…keeping in mind our main reason for existing: PREACHING JESUS AS THE SAVIOR!
May it be the same in your life too. As you preach your sermons, make Jesus the center. Make him the center of your relationships, your church life, your quiet mornings, your work day, your conversation with friends, brushing your teeth, saying your prayers and going to bed.
In short, make Jesus the center of your life. It's all about Him. He is...the Savior. Amen.
Social Media is filled with them.
It wasn’t so easy to do when I was a child, otherwise I'm sure I could be embarrassed by them for years to come. Now all it takes is a cell phone and a semi, steady hand and viola – videos clips of your child’s first.
We record all kinds of first. First words. First crawl. First steps. First attempt at eating a pickle. First birthday. First day of school. First bike ride. First basketball game. First time ever watching Star Wars. Of course, nobody every records and posts a video of “my child’s first not wanting to eat broccoli tantrum,” but I digress.
Firsts are important for us. They showcase maturity and growth. And sometimes…they showcase something more.
Today we’re taking a look at another first of Jesus. But it isn’t something that's normal. In fact, it is by definition something abnormal. We are going to take a look at Jesus’ first miracle – an event unexplained by the laws of nature; supernatural; from God.
I. He Cares
Take a look at John 2:1. It says, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.”
The setting is a wedding. Jesus had been invited to a wedding. So…stop for a moment and think about the last wedding you were at. You’ve got an idea of the setting. Beautiful flowers, friends and family, delicious food – all in all a joyous occasion.
But back then weddings were celebrated a bit differently from the way they are celebrated today. The reception lasted longer than a night. It appears that the party would go on for a few days.
At first, that sounds like a good idea. A week long party. But think about what that might be like. The bridesmaid that you made a fool of yourself while dancing now has to see you the next day. The usher that was flirting with you the night before – the one you weren’t interested in at all — has another shot to impress you. Uncle Ted, who you got into an argument about politics with, has a second chance to win the argument the next day. The cups, streamers, and dying flowers don’t look quite as beautiful the next day.
Of course – one of the big perks that probably kept people around and prevented them from returning home to work – FREE FOOD & FREE DRINKS. Think about it how nice that would be. Chicken Cordon Bleu for lunch. A butter lobster for dinner. Late night oven baked pizza snack. Prime rib for breakfast. Prime rib for lunch. Prime rib for dinner.
But at this particular wedding, something disappointing happened. The mother of the groom didn’t object to the marriage. The bride didn’t abandon the groom at the altar. The officiant didn’t even mess up the couple’s last night.
It was much worse: They had run out of wine!
I say it like that because it doesn’t appear to be all that big of a deal. Now granted – there were probably only two drinks available at the wedding – water and wine. The wine, more popular, because it had been fermented and filtered. To lose that as an option was at the very least a social embarrassment. At most – it was the breaking of a social contract. “I travelled through three cities to get here and they can’t even provide me with proper nourishment. How rude!”
Still – you’d think, with the exception of Uncle Karl, everyone would get over it. This isn’t someone who had gotten very sick. It isn’t someone who couldn’t walk. It isn’t someone who couldn’t talk or hear or see.
Mary sighed. She knew the couple and she knew the family. She didn’t like how embarrassed they looked. But…what could she do? On a carpenter’s salary, she didn’t have enough money to go and pick up a jar. Besides – Cana wasn’t her hometown. Where would she get the wine? What would be open at this hour?
There’s nothing she could do to help. Except…
Her son. Jesus. There was something extraordinary about him. She had treasured it in her heart. She reflected: An angel had announced his conception. She had given birth without having had sex. Shepherds came to worship him that night. Time after time, people had swept him up from her arms to praise God for his birth. Men from far in the east had visited them and given extravagant gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. King Herod – had tried to kill him.
Now granted – He hadn’t done anything miraculous yet. He was a model boy. A perfect boy, but that didn't mean he could fix this.
Yet, there was something special about him. Something incredible. Something magnificent. Something divine.
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
He looked at her.
He smiled. “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary looked down. He’s right. Why would this be the time? Why would this be the first miracle? Why would, if he was the Savior of the World, have time to care about saving this couple’s reputation?
And yet. Maybe.
She motioned for the boy that was pouring a glass of water close by. She followed him back to where the other servants had gathered. She hushed her voice. She pointed at Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you.”
Have you ever felt like that? Have you felt that maybe your problems are just too unimportant for Jesus to care? Too small for him to “do a miracle?”
· I’ve got a big test coming up, but…it only makes up 15% of my grade. I’m in this alone. God’s got bigger things to do.
· I have a tough schedule this week – 50 hours of work, plus taking my kids to swim lessons and I’m meeting with my manager. But none of that’s spiritual, so…God bless my soul?
· I’d love to have God’s blessings. I’m meeting the realtor this week. But we’re aren’t able to afford anything over $300,000 and that’s pretty small for a hefty God. I think he’ll only be helping me if the house was over a million!
· What does God care about me? I’m not movie star. I’m no athlete. I’m no politician. I’m just me. Normal. Lactose intolerant. Kinda shy. God doesn’t care about me. He couldn’t.
Take a look at Jesus’ reaction to this minor problem. 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”
Take note. Jesus didn’t avoid Mary for the rest of the night. He didn’t say his goodbyes and get to the local motel. He didn’t give his disciples a few dollars and say, “You guys take care of it.”
He cared too much.
The same is true about you. He cares too much to ignore event the smallest of your requests for help. Take a look at what Jesus said here. He said, “29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Sparrows are tiny birds. They’re common and not all that impressive. Case in point: When’s the last time you went to the zoo and your kid said, “Mommy, when do we get to see the sparrow exhibit?” The toucan or the flamingo, sure…but sparrow? Probably not.
Yet God cares about one of them. He cares about what they are doing. He cares about the worms they eat, the twigs they need for their nests and the branches they rest on.
You are way more important than a sparrow. Jesus didn’t die for sparrows. He died to save you. He cares about you.
He even cares about your hair. Isn’t that amazing? God has a count of how many hairs you have on your head. Some of you are thinking – that’s not really that impressive. But think about what he’s saying. Yet God knows. God knows and God cares about you. He cares even about your hair count – something that there’s isn’t even an app for yet!
It means he cares about little ol’ you and he cares about the little ol’ things that go on in your life.
He cares about you. Every part of you. Even the seemingly less significant parts.
In fact, after seeing what Scripture says, the only way we can say, “God doesn’t care,” is if we listen to ourselves rather than him. Isn’t that the truth? When we think God doesn’t care, it’s because we don’t think it’s significant enough.
That’s tantamount to telling God – the things He cares about (you) – isn't important!
Stop that. Repent. Turn to your God who cares so much about you and receive his forgiveness.
II. He Can
Of course, maybe you’re thinking. That’s nice, but caring isn’t enough. It’s nice to hear he cares, but if you can’t help, then what’s the point?
It’d be like the Green Bay Packers last night. Did I care if they won? Absolutely. Did I wish I could help? Absolutely. Is there anything I could acutally do to help? Well…in spite of my superstition that as long as I stand with a bag of Doritos in my hand – NO!!!
What good is it if you care, but you can’t do anything!?!
Nearby Jesus were six big stone jars. They each held about thirty gallons of water. They were placed by the entrance to the wedding hall as an old fashioned faucet. Before indoor plumbing, this was key for washing hands – especially so in the Jewish culture which called for a ceremonial washing of the hands before they ate.
Jesus said to his servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’
The servants looked at each other. That was it? This woman had talked to them so confidently – This guy will fix the problem. – But all he wanted was more water. They could have come up with that. It didn’t solve the problem of wine – it just provided a less tasty consolation.
But they said they would, so they did. They went outside. The drew some water form the well. They filled each jar up to the brim. Then, they lugged them back – with sweat dripping down their foreheads.
Then, Jesus told them, “draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
Did you want him to confirm that it was water? Were you hoping that the master had had too much to drink and wouldn’t notice the different? C’mon guy. This won’t work. This is going to bring even more embarrassment than not having any wine at all.
But…they had promised. So, they took the ladle. They poured it into a nearby chalice. They took the cup to the master of the banquet. And they were totally ready to tell him, “It was that guys’ idea.”
The master took a sip. He swished it in his mouth. He swallowed. He leaned down and sniffed it. He smiled.
He called the bridegroom – who had been totally unaware of everything that just happened and he said to him, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Can you imagine what was going through the servant's’ mind? Wait. What happened? We filled that glass from the ladle. The ladle had been dipped in the jar of water. The water was from the well. The reason we did that was because Jesus….
Jesus! He must have done something. But…what? We were with the water the whole time. And how would he smuggle in 180 gallons of wine anyway? This was impossible. This was incredible. This was….
How do you normally make wine? First you plant the grapes. Then you grow the grapes. A process that takes a couple months. Then, you harvest the grapes. Then, follow the chart, you sanitize, combine, pitch, aerate, ferment, rack, stabilize, degas, clarify, fill, clear, rake, age, rack again, bottle, cork and condition.
Granted – Jesus could have skipped the first couple of steps – but still do you get the point? Wine making takes hundreds of hours of work, months of waiting, and lots of equipment.
Jesus made wine in seconds, with no waiting, and without nothing but water!
It’s a miracle.
Look at John’s conclusion to this section: “This was the first sign that Jesus did which revealed his glory.”
It’s like I’m sure Michael Jordan’s mom can remember the first basketball game that she thought, “He might be something special,” or Leonardo Da Vinci’s parents saw a painting and thought, “He might have some special artistic talent.”
The disciples saw Jesus do his very first God thing and got to thinking – he might be something special. He might be something divine.
This is where your mind needs to be too! Because this isn’t the only sign that Jesus does. He continues to show his incredible, God-power throughout his life. He makes the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the mute to talk, the sick to be healthy, the water to be walked on, the storm to be quiet, the demons to leave, the skies to open up and a voice to proclaim, “This is my Son, whom I love with him I am well pleased,” the dead to come back to life…himself to die and come back to life.
Jesus did God things. Things that no one else could do, can do, or ever will do.
It means HE IS GOD!
The fact that he changed water into wine – reminds us that he really did change something else.
He changed your spiritual status.
He changed your guilt into forgiveness.
He changed your status of condemned into innocence.
He changed your death into life eternal.
Of course, apart from Jesus – the water would have still been water. Apart from your Savior, on your own, you will still be guilty. You will still be condemned. You will still be sentenced to eternal death in hell.
But with him – a miracle. A chance. Forgiveness. Innocence. Eternal life. And with that: peace, joy, and confidence.
Confidence that God cares and confidence that God can. Amen.
It’s 2016. The beginning of a New Year. And, here's a behind the scenes note, usually at the beginning of the year it is a time for the church leadership to assess the state of the church and make plans for the coming year. The same is here at Gethsemane. We talk about worship. We talk about in reach. We talk about what flavor coffee tastes best in the hallway. We talk about a lot of things and make plans for the New Year.
But one of the key things that we talk about in the church is something called OUTREACH. Outreach is "reaching out." But not just for a high five. It's reaching out with the life saving message of Jesus.
Think about it. Somebody reached out to you. It might have been your mom. Maybe a pastor. Maybe a friend. Maybe a Facebook post OR a coworker's invite. Whoever it was someone reached out to you and said, "Come and hear about your Savior. "
That's why Outreach is in the DNA of a Christian. In Jesus, we know forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, and victory over the devil. We desire for others to know that as well.
Today we’re starting our first sermon in our Firsts sermon series of 2016. We’re going to take a look at a few key firsts in the life of Jesus. I want to look at one of the very first OUTREACH Programs.
I. The Program's Goal
We’re going to look at Matthew 2. Take a look at it. This takes place somewhere around 1-2 years after Jesus’ birth. It says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
It says that "magi" came to investigate Jesus' birth. Magi appear to have been some kind of astronomers, hence the term "wise" men. They had been observing the skies and recording the shapes of constellation patterns and star movements throughout their lives.
Why did they suddenly drop what they were doing and embark on a long journey across the desert? They noticed a different kind of star. Something new. Something peculiar. A star so divine in it's presence that it was obvious there was something amazing at the end.
A star that God had put there.
Think about how badly God wanted to do this outreach and get this news of Jesus' birth to them. He didn't send an email. He didn't call them on the telephone. He didn't even send a text message. He didn't even boost a post on Instagram!
HE MADE A GIANT BALL OF GAS EXPLODE INTO THE SKY.
It's kind of like one of those big spot lights that businesses might shine up in the sky at a grand opening. It can lead to a car dealership or a casino or a brand new mall. I saw one in the sky once and decided to followed it. The spotlight led to a small Minnesota country town's grand opening of a local gas station.
God's spotlight directs the world to a much bigger prize than a 2 for 1 slushie sale. God's spotlight directs the magi to the Son of God. The Savior. The Messiah. A Messiah that God desperately desired for these men to learn about.
That's the first thing about God's first outreach program. God had a DIVINE DESIRE for it's message to be shared. This must be our desire too. To tell the coworker who has been cheated on by her husband - that there is a God who is faithful and just and will never leave her. To tell our friend who has hated God -- that God took his best insults and went to the cross for him, to die for him. To tell the man who has struggled with drug abuse -- there is hope. It's your Savior. It's Jesus.
II. The Program's Reach
Now some of you might be saying, "What about the shepherds? Didn't God reach out to them with this message as well?" That's true. He did. On the night of Jesus' birth, the skies lit up with their message.
But the shepherds were only a couple of hills away from Jesus. They were of the people Israel. That means they should have been familiar with the promise of the Messiah, because the promise of the Messiah had been made to the Jewish people, was recorded by the Jewish people, and passed on by the Jewish people.
it's not so much outreach, but inreach.
But this divine star outreach, God doesn't stop within the borders of Israel. These Magi were "from the east." Scholarly study suggests that they must have known about the prophesies of a Messiah from Scripture. Scripture would have made its way east in the Babylonian captivity -- which segued into the reign of the Persian Empire. An empire in which Daniel (of Daniel and the Lion's Den fame) became a key part.
That would place these men in Ancient Persia -- Modern Day Iraq. That's hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem.
That's real outreach.
It's proof that a godly outreach program isn't just for people that like Mary and Joseph. It's for people from the East. It's for people from the West. It's for people from the North and the South ...and 2000 years in the future across the atlantic ocean just south of I-540 in the triangle!
Its' for us!
But it isnt' just for people like us. We can't just be concerned with looking for Christians who move down to the area and need a church. (Don't get me wrong those people need a church home. I'm happy to provide it and I hope they'll take up the outreach message with us.)
But if that's all we're doing, we aren't doing what God has called us to do. Check out the Great Commission. It says, "God and make disciples of all nations!" Not "of all the Midwesterners already a part of your Synod that look just like you." Nope. He says, "Go into all the nations."
We've got that opportunity here in Raleigh. We've got people from all over. I've met people from Russia and Nigeria, Congo and Korea, China and Chinatown, Mexico and Canada, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, New York, Bew Nampshire, New Guinea, Florida, Panama and Ecuador. I've met people who speak Spanish> People who speak French. People who speak with an accent. People from all over!
And they all need to hear about our Savior. They all need to be a focus of our outreach.
III. The Program's Message
But what do we tell them? "Come. We've got good coffee." "Come hear how you should vote in the next election." Come, eat some delicious cookies." Come, Hang out. Pastor's cool. Kind of?"
Listen to the message that the magi had heard. "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews. We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
They came looking for a King. They came looking for one who ruled over sin. They came looking for one who ruled over the devil. They came looking for one who ruled over death. They came looking for one who would release them from the bondage of sin. One who would crusht eh power of death, One who would defeat the enemy -- Satan himself.
They came looking for one who would issue in a time of peace -- with God and an era of joy -- in salvation.
This was the message of the star. The King has come. It's Jesus.
That is our Message as well. Our message is beautiful in its simplicity. It's a message that our youngest members know very well. "What's that?" A cross. "Who was on it?" Jesus. "What happened to him?" He died." Why?" To take away our sins.
You know it too. Our message isn't, "Hey-- everything's cool-- no worries mon." It's "You have a savior from Sin death and hell. His name is Jesus!"
This has to be what our Sunday School teaches. It has to be what our Adult Bible classes teach. it has to be what our Facebook posts lead people to. it has to be what you tell otehrs when you invite them to church. Come and hear about the Savior!
IV. The Program's Success Rate
"But Pastor," you might be thinking, "How will this work? I've got this one friend who hates chruch and this other friend I invite all the time and they don't seem to care at all. There's no way this is gonna work. It's impossible.
Tell that to the Magi.
They were from the East. They saw a change in the stars. They packed their bags. they left their homes. They travelled by animal across the desert. They followed a star. They came to a home over which the star shone. They knocked on the door.
And they saw...a toddler.
This can't be right. We're looking for a king. Where is the giant muscles? Where is the palace? Where is the golden crown? Were we supposed to take a right at the sycamore tree?
But, then again, the Star. The Scritpures. The hand of God.
They approached the child. They knelt down on their knees. They bowed down and worshipped him.
Then, they opened up their bags and delviered him gifts for a king gold, frankincense and myrrfh. There weren't any shopkins in sight!
These men travelled hundreds of miles. They followed a star They bowed to a toddler. They gave him gifts for a king.
The Outreach Program worked.
God is behind the same outreach program today. He works through his Word. he works faith in the hearts of people. Keep that in mind. Our task isn't that impossible, because we have an impossible doing God behind it! He made a star appear out of nowhere. He can make faith appear in a person's heart out of nowhere. He will be behind our outreach in 2016!
V. The Program's Tool
Of course, there is one key difference in God's outreach program now as opposed to the plan in Matthew 2. Then, he used a star.
Now? Last I looked outside I didn't see a star shining down upon Gethsemane's steeple. we did get a nice new lamp that shines ont eh words "Gethsemane Lutehran" on the side of the building, but you can't see that unless you're on Newton Road.
What are we supposed to use?
Take a look at Jesus' words in Matthew 5: "You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men."
We don't depend on a star. We depend on us.
This is humbling. God could use another exploding ball of gas to bring people to the Savior. Intead, he chooses you. He chooses me. He chooses a bunch of sinful, failing, mistake making human beings to carry his message.
God has chosen Christians to be his light. He has chosen you and I to reflect his love. He has chosen you and I to pass on the message of the Savior!
This isn't just a pastor's job. You are a part of this. That "you" is plural. It encompasses us all. It encompasses you. You are so important in this.
Think about it. If only one of us invites a person to church, that means we have one light shining. One person coming. It's addition.
But if two people invite one person. That's 2 times 1. If ten people do it, that's ten times 1. If 100 people do it -- invite and bring just 1 person in the month of January -- that's not addition anymore.
Do you see why you are key in all of this? Whether you are young or old, male or female, long term Chrsitian or just come to faith, you are a key part in this outreach!
May God bless your outreach. Amen.