Today we are looking at the final sermon in our EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS sermon series. It is based on the final time Jesus appeared to his group of disciples.
Have you counted up the appearances so far?
How many are there?
The other women.
The Emmaus Disciples.
The group of disciples on Easter.
The group of disciples - plus Thomas – one week later.
The group of disciples on the fishing trip.
That’s six accounts so far.
But that’s not all of them.
There’s another time that Jesus saw Peter – one-on-one. (1 Cor. 15:5)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to a guy called James – either the disciple or Jesus’ half-brother. (1 Cor. 15:7)
There’s a time where Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-21)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples all at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
There’s even a time when Jesus appears to a guy named Saul who was hell-bent on destroying Christianity, but Jesus’ appearance transforms his heart into a guy named Paul who goes on 4 missionary journeys, starts 20 churches, and writes 13 books of the Bible (Acts 9).
If you were counting – that’s 11 different appearances to over 500 different people.
The resurrection is not made up.
It is REAL.
But if so…maybe you still struggle with this.
Because would it be so much easier if you could SEE Jesus?
If you could take a trip to the Holy Land and get a selfie with him?
If you could check out his Twitter handle for his perspective on any cultural situation?
If you could text him every time you had a question on a Bible passage…
Why did Jesus leave?
Why did he disappear?
Today’s EYEWITNESS account is the 12th recorded account in Scripture. It is the last one that occurs before he physically disappears. Today we want to learn (1) where Jesus went (2) why he disappeared (3) and what he wants us to do in the meantime. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The “Disappearance”
The lesson we are looking at to begin with comes from Luke 24:50-51: When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Timeline wise this is the 40th day after Easter. We find that out from Acts 1 – which is an expanded version of this same exact account.
Note that this final appearance starts with Jesus leading his disciples. That’s appropriate. He had led his disciples for 3 years. He had led him the last 40 days. He would lead them up until his last day on earth. In fact, that’s literally what disciple means: “follower.”
And he led them to Bethany. Bethany is a small town just to the east of Jerusalem. The city is the place where Jesus commandeered the donkey for his entrance into Jerusalem. In this instance, they are just outside of Bethany where a few hills are located.
And as they get to the top of the hill…
He disciples his disciples just like he had done so many times before.
Unlike so many times before…
His feet go up.
They lift off the ground.
And his body begins floating.
And he goes up.
And up. Until…
A cloud hid him from their sight.
Do any of you know who Criss Angel is? He’s like a tattooed, goth version of David Copperfield. He is famous for street magic.
One of the tricks that he did was he began to levitate in the air. Mind you – this is on the sidewalk, in the street, apart from a magician’s stage.
I thought that was amazing.
There’s a YouTube video of him explaining the trick. Essentially, he is wearing a special pair of pants that (1) break away in the front (2) have a mannequin’s foot attached to the back of it. This enables him to plant his real foot on the ground, balance, and go into a squat that makes it look like he is beginning to float parallel to the ground. The rest is misdirection and camera positioning.
And voila! Magic.
Jesus’ ascension is not a magic trick.
He isn’t floating on a false leg.
There isn’t camera misdirection.
He doesn’t hitch a ride on a hot air balloon, a jet pack or even a drone.
He goes all the way up to the sky
Without any strings attached.
Until he is hidden by a cloud.
This is a miracle!
This is Jesus’ ascension.
Jesus didn’t disappear; he ASCENDED into heaven.
This is a really important distinction.
Because if Jesus disappeared – we’re left confused and frightened.
But Jesus didn’t just disappear.
He ascended to heaven.
That word is really important. If any of you watched Game of Thrones – and I haven’t – but I think I can reveal this without giving a spoiler. I heard that at the end someone conquers all of the other people and ascended to the throne. He wins the Game of Thrones. He ascended to his position of power.
He did it because the struggle was over!
Jesus ascended because He conquered sin.
Jesus ascended because He conquered guilt.
Jesus ascended because He conquered shame.
Jesus ascended because He conquered death.
Jesus ascended because the work of salvation was completed.
That’s so important to remember!
Because Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to defeat all of our spiritual enemies.
If he ascended to heaven? That’s because his work is done.
Remember that – it’s really easy to think:
I’ve got more to do.
I’ve got to become the perfect mom.
Jesus weakened sin, guilt and shame – but I have to finish them.
There’s even churches out there that preach – you’ve got more to do!
You’ve gotta get to perfection.
You’ve gotta improve.
You’ve gotta do some things to complete Jesus’ work for him.
Jesus doesn’t leave tasks unfinished.
Jesus always completes.
And Jesus completed completely conquering your sin.
If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have left!
Jesus ascended where he rules over all.
Ephesians says this: “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (1:20-21)
Did you hear that?
The one who loves you more than you could ever dream is in control of all things.
He’s ruler over cities, counties, and states.
He’s ruler over kings, despots, and presidents.
He’s ruler over wind, waves, and the hot temperature outside right now!
He’s is ruler over all things!
Nothing’s more powerful.
Nothing can defeat him.
There’s one more place that he would love to rule:
I went to McDonald's the other day with a coupon for a free meal that someone had given me. After I ordered Value Meal number seven, I handed them the card and the person said: “Just a second. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her coworker who looked at the card and said: “We need a manager to authorize this.”
She called over a shift manager who looked at the card and said: “I’m sorry. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her manager who looked at the card, entered the code and authorized it.
It’s the same thing with life.
We want peace.
We want joy.
We want courage.
And we try to find it from all the things that don’t have the authority to give it:
Things like lust.
Things like greed.
Things like money, fame, career…a desire to be perfect!
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15)
Because Christ is God.
Christ is the one true ruler.
Christ offers true peace.
And Christ also offers us direction.
II. Our Mission
Because if the boss leaves and you don’t know what to do, it can be stressful:
Should we finish the reports?
Should we work on new clients?
Should we try to recover old ones?
UGH! Maybe we should just drink all of the coffee.
Christ didn’t leave us unclear with what to do. Look at what he told his disciples before his ascension:
Jesus told his disciples, “This is what is written (that’s a reference to Old Testament prophecy.) The Messiah will suffer (Jesus suffered) and rise from the dead on the third day (Jesus did), and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”(That hadn’t happened yet…)
But then look at what Jesus says next:
“You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk. 24:46-48)
Do you get it?
The final part of God’s plan is bringing the message of forgiveness to everyone.
And while all the other parts happened through Jesus…
This is the part that happens through you:
Before being UPLIFTED, Jesus commanded us to UPLIFT.
You don’t need to be confused about your task on this earth.
You see a coworker who is down? Approach them, listen to them, and share the message of Jesus.
Tucking your kids in for the night? Tuck them in, kiss their forehead, and share the message of Jesus.
Have a spouse who doesn’t believe? Go home, give them a hug, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in ministry here at school? Do the lesson plans, cut out the art project, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in leadership here at church? Think about funding, consider maintenance, but don’t forget our goal is to SHARE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS!
But don’t think you have to do it alone.
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” More specifically in Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….” (1:8)
Ten days later.
The disciples are in Jerusalem just like Jesus told them to be.
There’s the sound of a hurricane like wind without the wind coming from within the room they are staying.
They look around and they see tongues of fire appear on the top of each other’s heads.
They are able to speak fluently in languages that they have never even studied.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And they immediately find courage. Because they go out that day and do some sidewalk preaching – in the middle of downtown Jerusalem – with the end result that over 3,000 people are baptized and believe.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And the Holy Spirit is with you.
Jesus left you with the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT.
By faith, the Holy Spirit is with you and he does the impossible.
He made fire appear on the heads of disciples.
He made them speak in language they never learned.
He made the sound of a hurricane occur without any hurricane winds.
He does the incredible!
The seemingly impossible.
Working through you.
To bring others to faith!
But that’s not all.
Look at verses 49-50 of Luke 24:
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them.
Throughout Scripture, whenever Jesus’ hands are involved, there are some amazing blessings:
In Luke 13 he lays his hands on a woman who had never been able to straighten her back…and instantly she did.
In Mark 7, he lays his hands on a man who is deaf and mute and…instantly he hears and speaks.
In Mark 8, he lays his hands on a blind man’s eyes and…instantly he sees.
In Mark 6, it simply says, “He laid his hands on…sick people and healed them.” (v.5)
Talk about blessings.
And then, there’s the final blessing that pours from his hands.
He heads to a cross.
They take his hands and nails them.
And then blood flows forth.
But not just blood.
Jesus left, but left us with BLESSINGS pouring from his HANDS.
Even though you can’t see his hands.
Even though you can’t touch them.
The truth is no less true.
The blessings are no less real.
It’s one of the reasons that pastors for centuries have continued this tradition. Using the words of Scripture – God’s Word – they lift up their hands. They communicate God’s blessings on the congregation. They say: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
This is more than just wishful thinking.
This is God’s real blessing given to you.
III. What Now?
I think that if you were a passerby and saw the aftermath of the Ascension, you might have laughed.
Because there were 20 some dudes.
Eyes lifted upwards.
Staring into the cloud.
Gazing into the sky.
Mouths dropped wide open.
And this continued…
A tap on the shoulder:
“The angel said, ‘Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus who left you…will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:10)
In other words:
You have a job to do.
Stop looking into heaven.
And start looking around.
Don’t you see…?
There are souls who need this message.
Souls in your office.
Souls at the garage.
Souls in your neighborhood.
Souls in your kid’s room.
Souls in your kitchen.
Souls in the easy chair across from you while watching Netflix tonight.
Everywhere you look there is work that needs to be done!
What a privilege God wants to work through YOU!
Keep your eyes on the task that Jesus has given you
Be a WITNESS of the EYEWITNESS truth of your Risen Savior. Amen.
Do you know someone rallies around this cry? Or maybe the more modern YOLO – You Only Live Once? Or going way back to classic Latin carpe diem? Seize the day! Whichever one it is, it’s a call to live life to the fullest, to get the most out of it, and never shrink from an opportunity that you might regret missing out on later.
Maybe you know that person, maybe you try to do it yourself. Today, as we continue our series on The Kingdom of God is Like, we’re going to look at some people who lived that way.
First, a little bit of recap and context. Maybe you’re aware, maybe you’re not, but this is our third week in what we call the End Times season of the church year. It’s a time when we focus on what the end of this world will be like, what we’re looking forward to, and where our ultimate confidence is.
Last week was the Sunday of Final Judgment, and appropriately enough we looked at the parable of the net. We saw how the angels would gather up all the people at the end of the age and separate them, good from bad – judging them, as it were. And we heard pretty clearly what would happen to those bad fish.
Today, we look more at the outcome for those good fish in the Sunday we call Saints Triumphant. This day celebrates the end that awaits the holy people of God, the triumphant celebration in the kingdom of heaven after this is all over. And our parable today, again appropriately, revolves around a great banquet being held. So, let’s take a look at the start of that story Jesus tells:
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ ”
Let’s pause there. What do we have so far? A man, with apparently significant resources, prepares a grand banquet. Out of the blue, no apparent reason, just to celebrate. And he sends invitations out to all his friends, to all the movers and shakers and well-to-do people of the area. To anyone worth inviting. To this grand feast. Let’s think about that part first. Now, maybe you’re like me and you just love food and good times with friends. The idea of this could appeal to you a lot. But let’s try to put it more into our context. A dinner party today is, hey that’s great, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of our lifestyles. It was perhaps a bigger deal at that time. So maybe translate that into something that really speaks to you. A Caribbean cruise? A wilderness retreat? A Disney vacation package? A massive party in an airplane hangar?
Think about it, whatever comes to mind as the best kind of time you can think of having. Think about that grand time and then think about getting a card in the mail inviting you to it. It’s from someone you trust, it’s not a prank or a scam, it’s real. Imagine the excitement of holding that invite in your hand. Someone else is going to the trouble of getting this all set up, taking care of all the arrangements, the travel, the catering, the cost, the guest list, whatever it is. All you have to do is show up.
Now imagine… what on earth could possibly stop you from being there at the appointed time?
Okay, maybe there’s a few things. A sudden death in the family or severe illness. Natural disaster getting in your way. Some stuff that’s not really in your control. But that’s not what happens here. The call goes out, the banquet is ready. Just show up and enjoy it! And the servant sent to gather the guests gets… excuses.
And I mean, it’s not like they’re terrible excuses. They all have something to do that is more important to them than enjoying a nice banquet. One wants to check out a new purchase of land. Another needs to field-test his new oxen. Still another has a wife he needs to take care of. Seems reasonable. But on the other hand, would an evening out of their lives to attend the banquet really have ruined these other things? You could kind of see it going either way, right?
See, here’s the problem with the “No Regrets” lifestyle. You can’t do everything. Every day you’re faced with choices of doing one thing over another. And we all value activities differently. Maybe for you living life to its fullest means going out and being social every evening. Maybe for me it means eating a whole bag of Oreos and reading comic books all night. But at every juncture, at every decision point – how do you know which one you won’t regret?
You can’t. You just can’t for any earthly activity. But we’re not really talking about earthly activities, are we? Remember a parable is an earthly story that teaches us about the Kingdom of God. So this banquet is not a banquet, it’s God inviting us to best celebration there ever is and ever will be. The triumph of heaven.
Last week we talked about the uncomfortable reality that hell is real. But just as real is heaven. It’s better than you or I could imagine. It’s better than the best cruise where you don’t get seasick, better than the best camping trip with no mosquitoes, better than a Disney vacation without any lost luggage or crying children and better than the biggest celebration without the awkward relative who drinks too much. Better than any and all of that put together. It’s utterly peaceful, utterly joyful, completely exciting, and without any pain, ache, or fatigue. It’s a grand celebration that never gets boring or tiresome. It is, quite plainly, the best.
Now imagine… what on earth could possibly stop you from being there?
So why do we make excuses all the time? Because we think we don’t want to regret missing things that come up here and now. Some of them are utterly mundane and trivial. “I’ll get to God later, for now I need to try out this new Xbox game.” Those should be easy to spot. Some…like the excuses in our parable, well they seem more reasonable. “I’ll get to God later, but right now I have to sort out our finances.” “I’ll get to God soon, but right now I have to get the shopping for Christmas done.” “I’ll get to God, but this new relationship needs attention first.” “I’d like to have time for God, but my family needs me to do so much for them.”
We think we’ll regret it if we don’t do these things we “should” or “have to” do. Switch your perspective on regrets. We said before there’s no way to know which earthly activity you might regret missing. Sure. But I can tell you this for a fact: When your end comes, when the banquet is ready, you will regret it if you’re not there. I can also promise you this: when you’re there, you will not regret a single thing you missed here.
Think that over a second time. Let it sink in. You will not be in heaven saying to yourself, “You know this sure is a great time, but I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the Grand Canyon before I got here.” How absurd! Replace that with whatever you want. There is nothing you can miss here that will somehow regret in heaven. But whenever we put something ahead of time with God, whenever we cut him out of our lives because we’re afraid of missing out on something else, that’s exactly what we’re doing! Day by day, inch by inch, God gets squeezed out of our lives because we fear missing out on something else here.
Now, perhaps I’ve got you thinking, just like I’ve got me thinking, about all the times I’ve turned down God’s invitation in order to do something utterly trivial in comparison. That’s not a great feeling. Might have you feeling a little worthless overall from that behavior. If that’s how I treat his invitation, why should God even bother to invite me?
If so, take a look at what happens next.
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”
The choice guests don’t come. They all think they have better things to do. But the meal’s prepared, the celebration is ready, it can’t just go to waste! So, the master sends his servant back out. Go and get anyone you can find. Get those that have nothing better in their lives, those that would never turn down such an invitation. I don’t care that they can’t pay me back, if I get no favors or a return invitation someday. Gather everyone who’s worth nothing to anyone.
They do. But there’s still room. So, he sends his servant back out. Go even further out. In fact, there’s an interesting connotation in the original language here. The places the servant is sent the second time are places that robbers and highwaymen were known to lurk. In other words, you’ve got all the worthless people in here? Go and gather the criminals as well! I don’t care who they are or what they’ve done – I don’t want a single space to be wasted.
My brothers, my sisters, it doesn’t matter that you have nothing good to offer God for a place at the banquet. It doesn’t matter if you’re not worth inviting. None of us are. But Jesus himself has prepared this feast. He is the one who ensured there were more than enough places to go around. And God the Father wants none to be wasted.
Here’s the plain facts: Jesus died and rose for all. Because he is God, his death on the cross is valuable enough to pay the price for every person who has ever and will ever live. Heaven can never run out of room. Everyone is invited. You are invited. The only people who will not be there are those that turned away because they had something “better” to do. Anyone who looks to Jesus, who actually shows up is welcome to come in.
And it doesn’t matter what you’re worth to God. He’s God. He doesn’t need anything, there was never a chance that you could bring him something he didn’t already have. More than that, even if you’re a criminal, if you’ve fought against him in the past, he still wants you there. He wants everyone to enjoy the banquet prepared by his Son.
Being there in the end is all that matters. That banquet celebration in heaven is the only thing you’ll regret missing out on. It is the only important thing in your life. A hundred, a thousand other things will scream for your attention demanding that they be dealt with before the most important one, but don’t mistake urgent for important.
Your relationship with God will almost never seem urgent. So, you have to make it the priority. You have to make sure God gets time on your calendar and the best of your gifts first, every time. Make that happen first, because it is the most important, it is the one thing you will regret if you don’t. Then, after you’ve given God your first and best, then you can continue dealing with the other urgent matters in your life.
The kingdom of heaven is like the grandest banquet you can think of, it is the best party, the best vacation, the best experience you can imagine multiplied by more than you can imagine. And you’re invited. Jesus bought you a place. Don’t meander towards that end, run towards it. Don’t ever think for a moment you’ll regret spending time with him, in his word, doing his work over something else in this life. Nothing here even comes close.
Live with that banquet feast in mind. Live for God. No regrets.
Today we are continuing our sermon series on Isaiah’s Christmas prophecies. Last week we learned how the virgin birth makes the Messiah unmistakable. Jesus is THE Messiah, THE Anointed One. THE Savior.
And maybe you took that truth home and thought, “Cool! What does that do for me? My bank account is still low. My job still stinks. My family life is NOT awesome. And to be honest – some pretty awful stuff happened to me this week.”
Today we are taking a look at a prophecy that talks less about who the Messiah is, but what the Messiah has to offer. Before we do that, join me in 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 ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Darkness that Was
The lesson for this morning is from Isaiah 9. A bit of context: The year is 733 B.C. and after years of warnings, years of rebukes, and years of trying to call the people of Israel back to faith…God has just brought judgment.
Armies have overtaken Israel.
War has overrun the land.
Most cities have been destroyed.
People are dead.
Houses are burned.
Families have been broken apart.
In short, things weren’t very merry and bright.
But now that destruction has come, Isaiah doesn’t respond with “I told you so.” Not at all. Chapter 9 is not about gloom. Look at what Isaiah prophesies: “There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations.” (9:1)
Take a look at Zebulon and Naphtali on an Old Testament map. They are on the north east side of Israel. They have the wonderful blessing of being located right next to the Sea of Galilee, being located right near some great fishing and having some very fertile farm land. But they also had the less the wonderful blessing of being the very first bit of land that invading countries from the East would attack.
And attack they did. This land was known for being the sight of some gruesome battles and some terrible Israelite losses. Hence: “In the past God humbled the land of Zebulon and Naphtali.”
But in the future. “In the future he will honor Galilee of the nations.”
Fast forward 770 years. Same area of Galilee, only there isn’t war going on anymore. It’s the Pax Romana – the peace of Rome. There aren’t any battles. There aren’t any sword fights. There isn’t any bloodshed.
But to one man – there’s still war.
Meet John the Baptist.
He’s a soldier, but not the traditional kind.
Instead of armor, he wears camel skin.
Instead of MREs, he eats bugs.
Instead of a sword, he wields the law of God.
Because he’s not battling the Assyrians.
He’s battling sin.
John looks around at the crowds. Sin is everywhere.
Sin is what is ruining that family’s relationships. She yells at him; he yells at her and the kids yell at each other because they can’t deal with the anger.
Sin is what ruined that booze smelling guy in the corner – he did a horrible sin and he can’t deal with it; so, he drinks and drinks and piles up more sins and more sadness.
Sin is what ruined that lady’s life. The one by herself. She cheated on her husband. She cheated with her best friends’ husband. Now? She’s been ostracized.
Sin is even what ruined those nice, churchy looking guys – Their failures and their inadequacies are too much for them to admit; so they wear fancy robes and drip oil into their beards – just so their outward appearance can distract them from the inward awful.
Sin is the real reason for darkness.
So, John fights.
Repent every last one of you.
Repent of sin.
Repent of trespassing.
Repent of vileness.
Repent of harassing.
Repent of hatred.
Repent of lust.
Repent of gossip.
Repent of sloth.
Repent of addiction.
Repent of pride.
Repent of racism.
Repent of lies.
Repent of sin.
Put up a fight.
Come out of the darkness.
Come into the light.
And people listen. They repent.
“Now what? We can stop doing the sin…maybe… but our guilt is still there. There is no way to get rid of it. There’s no way to make up for it. I can quit doing the sin, but the guilt of what I’ve done. That’ll stay with me. It’ll overpower me. It’ll overcome me. Like a cloud of gloom, it will consume me.”
And John can’t help. At least not personally. Because you see when John looks at sinners, he also sees himself.
Unable to help.
As he stands on the banks of the Jordan River, in the land of Galilee, in the very spot that Isaiah prophesied about, at the very spot where John had seen sinner after sinner after sinner, John sees someone else.
John sees someone different.
John sees the Light.
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:3)
Galilee is where Jesus began his preaching ministry. It’s where he did all sorts of miracles. It’s where he battled the darkness of sin with the precious words of the light.
And that’s good news.
II. The End of Darkness
Have you ever been to a harvest party? I’m not just talking about the modern, city slicker equivalent where we drink pumpkin spiced lattes and wear flannel – but a real harvest party! Where after weeks of tilling, planting, irrigating, weeding, hoping for rain during drought and praying for a break during flood season, harvest comes, and you celebrate! You eat some corn dipped in butter. You drink some wine. You play toss the hay bale because there’s nothing to worry about anymore!
Or have you ever been to a plunder party? After years of fighting, years of sweating, years of sleeping in the dirt and cuddling in the mud, finally you conquer the city! Then, the spoils – the gold, the silver, the comfy chair, the fancy robes, the giant legs of ham and bags of delicious Doritos that were theirs are now yours!
Or have you ever been to a “I’m-not-wearing-a-yoke-and-puling-a-heavy-cart-anymore” party? Because a yoke is that big old wooden thing that they put on oxen so that they can’t go anywhere without pulling the giant load behind them. It’s tiring. It’s annoying. It’s awful. But when that is released, and you are finally free!
But none of that compares to what Jesus did for us.
After years of toiling in sin and guilt and shame, Jesus provides a harvest of righteousness.
After years of fighting and losing to temptation, Jesus provides the plunder of eternal life us.
After years of being burdened by guilt and shame and impossible demands of God’s law, Jesus removes that yoke. And sets us free.
6 For to us a child is born. (of a virgin – we’ve identified him) It’s Jesus.
To us a son is given. As in a gift. As in he came for us! As in his life is for us. As in his death is for us.
And the government will be on his shoulders. He’ll be in control after he comes.
Not whatever awful thing it is that scares you.
The One who is control is the One who loves you.
The One in control is the One who died for you.
The One in control is the One who conquered sin and death for you.
Darkness is not in control.
The One who conquered the darkness is in control.
III. The Reign of Light
And what’s the kingdom like under his control? What’s it like to live under the king of Light? Isaiah gives the answer in verse 6-7 by giving this king some Divine Titles. Let’s examine each:
(1) Wonderful Counselor
When you hear the word counselor, there’s really two definitions that you might think of. (1) The Counselor who sits in a chair and strokes his beard and says, “That’s interesting.” (2) an advisor in the king’s court who tells the king when to attack, when to defend, and when to hold a fancy party. This is the definition that we’re dealing with.
Which is very interesting. Because Jesus has already been identified as king and now he’s been identified as counselor too. He’s being identified as his own right-hand man.
Humans would do well to take note. Because we tend to think of ourselves as God’s right-hand men and women. As if we’re Jesus’ own spiritual advisors:
Jesus, I know you have everything under control, but you should probably give me a bigger Christmas bonus then everything will be fine.
Jesus, if you really knew what was best, you’d heal Aunt Clara in time for the holidays.
Jesus, if you really wanted to make a righteous judgment, you’d give that guy a lump of coal.
You don’t give counsel to the Wonderful Counselor.
You take counsel.
Because no one knows better than the one who knew enough to Creator this incredible world.
No one knows better than the one who knew exactly what it took to save it.
No one knows better than to guide your life than the one who knows where it will end up.
(2) Mighty God
I was at my gym the other day for a competition. There was a section of the competition (in which I didn’t compete at all) where people did powerlifts. Where they lifted barbells loaded with weight over their heads.
And when I got there, there was a barbell that had three 45-pound plates on each side of the bar. 90, 180, 270 plus the 45-pound bar = 305 pounds. And I thought – that’s a bit too much. Who’s going to lift that? Who’s going to be able to power clean that? Is this a mistake?
Nope. Some guys walks over, takes a breath and throws it into the air!
Jesus is MIGHTY GOD. That means he’s a lot like a powerlifter. In fact, he’s THE Powerlifter.
No matter how big your sin is.
No matter how big your sin was.
No matter how much it has weighed you down.
No matter how much it is weighing you down.
Jesus can lift it. And he did. In fact, he lifted it up and dragged it through the streets of Jerusalem and carried it to the cross.
And if you think your problems are too heavy for him to deal with?
Think again. He’s MIGHTY GOD!
(3) Everlasting Father
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the batteries in this microphone were getting a bit old. But when I went to the closet to check for batteries we didn’t have any. So, we bought some new ones and switched brands. Good idea. The last brand that we had would last for about one Sunday of preaching – or 2 services. The new set? It’s still going strong.
Jesus is like that. He’s still going strong. He keeps going and going and going and going…and always will go.
And remember he’ll be going for you! Because look at the second part. The word Father does not point to a Trinitarian, theological controversy, but to the reality that believers are God’s children.
And he’s not a Father that runs off.
He isn’t tainted by sin.
He doesn’t get drunk.
He doesn’t slap mom around.
He doesn’t hurt or harm you in any way.
He loves you.
He cares for you.
He disciplines you – sure – but He does so with your eternal interests in mind – aka—that one day you’ll come home.
(4) Prince of Peace
Because unlike how a lot of royalty are portrayed in current shows like REIGN and GAME OF THRONES, Jesus isn’t about violence. He isn’t about blood, violence, political gain and power – not even dragons rampaging the village.
Jesus is different. He doesn’t break peace to bring war.
He brought war to bring peace.
He fought sin. Beat sin. Violently beat it on the cross. And rose triumphantly in order to bring you peace with God.
You don’t have to worry that your God is going to enact divine judgment on you.
Not when you believe in Him as your Savior.
Because then you have peace.
“Repent!” That’s John the Baptist’s cry. That’s the cry of Scripture. That’s what God, our King is imploring you.
Don’t just hear it today. Take a moment. Meditate. Turn from sin!
Because what we tend to do is choose a sin that we don’t struggle with and repent: “I repent of getting together with a group of teenagers to gossip!” That’s not repentance.
Look at your life. What do you struggle with? Where do you lose the battle? Where have you given up fighting? Where is there darkness?
Cry out to God for help.
And trust Him.
Because REPENT is a 180. It’s not a 90 degree turn from sin to another sin. But from sin to trust in your Savior. Trust in the Messiah. Trust in the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
And when you trust, well:
You walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On you living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
“Hail to the king!”
Jesus looked up - focusing with the one eye that wasn’t bruised and bloodied shut.
Before him stood of group of men – faces filled with mockery and sheer vileness.
He heard a raucous laughter coming from behind him.
“What a fool! Can you believe this guy thinks he’s a king? Why did his own subjects hand him over then? Why do they want him dead? And why don’t they stop me from doing this?”
His question was followed by a heavy THUD as he brought his make-shift wooden scepter down upon the back of Jesus’ shoulder.
It caused the Messiah to fall into the ground.
After a moment, his arms pushed to hold him up as he wallowed in blood and dirt.
To be fair – the soldiers were right: He didn’t look like much of a king.
The crown he was wearing wasn’t of gold, but of old, dried up thorns – penetrating the circumference of his head.
The robe he was wearing wasn’t made of expensive purple dyes, but a muted blood red from a rag that had soaked up the last prisoner’s wounds.
The scepter – it wasn’t a scepter, but an old stick.
And it wasn’t in his hands – but (THUD)…
…the make shift-scepter came into contact with his body once more.
This was the King of the Jews?
The was the Monarch of Millenia?
This was the ruler of all eternity?
You better believe it was.
Today we’re finishing up our 500 series by looking at an important truth that was reinvigorated through the work of Martin Luther. At a time when political infighting led to various rulers and influences throughout Europe, a time when the Pope claimed ultimate authority in church matters, a time when the people prayed to Mary and Barnabas and Ignatius and all kinds of dead people for help controlling their lives -- Luther rediscovered one precious truth:
There is no king but Jesus.
Today we learn why Jesus is the real king and how subjecting yourself to him is a blessing in our temporal and eternal lives. Before we dig in, join me in 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 ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The King of Life
Take a look with me at 1 Corinthians 15. It’s a letter written by one of the apostles, a pastor named Paul – who actually saw Jesus in a much more glorious light than we talked about before. He saw Jesus after he died and came back to life. He saw him in his resurrected glory. Listen to how he describes Jesus’ kingship in verse 20:
…Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the ﬁrstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
A couple of notes:
First it says Christ has been raised from the dead. Two implications: (1) Jesus was dead. That’s something that those soldiers we heard about earlier ensured and (2) he had come back to life. Something that over 500 people witnessed and saw in real life – including, but not limited to the guy who wrote these words down.
And if Christ ahs been raised from the dead, then implication (3) Nothing can keep him down…because death tends to take down even the greatest kings in history.
Julius Caesar? Killed by conspirators. Stayed dead.
Alexander the Great? He caught typhoid fever. Died and Stayed dead.
Genghis Khan? He fell off a horse. Died and stayed dead.
Jesus? He died on a cross, but then three days later he came back to life.
But Jesus won’t be the only one to conquer death. The next part says that Jesus is the ﬁrstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
“Firstfruits” is a harvest term. It refers to the very first of the crop that appears at harvest time. So – from a Thanksgiving perspective – it’d be like the very first piece of pumpkin pie that appears at the table. Granted – even if that first pie piece goes to Uncle Herb – at least you know that there’s pumpkin pie. The sight of it is good news.
Jesus’ resurrection was the first fruit resurrection. He was the first to brought forth from the ground – alive. He won’t be the last. He promises that all who believe in him will be raised as well. In fact, Scripture continues: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the ﬁrstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Adam, the first human, is like the king of death. He sinned and passed on sin to his children. We are sinners, too.
And since the wages of sin is death, he died and every human after Adam has died. We will die, too.
Unless…we follow a different King.
Unless we follow Jesus.
Because He is the king of Life – not death.
That’s why when he died – he came back to life.
He will bring all who believe in him out of death to life in heaven.
You get this picture of a king riding his white stallion out of a dark valley and into a beautiful field of light.
If you’re following Jesus, that will be you too. Your king will lead you out of death.
He will lead you out of cancer.
He will lead you out of old age.
He will lead you out of any death including thing in this world.
He will lead you out of death to life! Because Jesus is the king of life.
II. The King of Conquering
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
Remember – the pronoun hasn’t changed. It’s still talking about Jesus. And essentially the next point is pretty logical.
If human kings and authorities are more powerful than the humans they rule over…
And death is more powerful than any human king or authority…
And Jesus is more powerful than death, then…
Human authorities versus Jesus isn’t even a match up really…
It’s a blowout.
That’s why the Bible says a time will come when Jesus will destroy all dominion, authority and power.
No matter how evil.
No matter how powerful.
He’ll overpower terrorism.
He’ll overpower racism.
He’ll overpower nuclear weapons.
He’ll overpower chemical weapons.
He’ll overpower suicide bombers, bomb vests and mass shootings.
Jesus will conquer all of this evil –
because He is the king of conquering.
In fact, he won’t have finished his reign until he defeats all authority. The next verse says this: he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Who are His enemies?
The things that threaten to separate you from Him eternally.
But Jesus beat sin on the cross.
He already defeated death on Easter.
He overpowered and shackled the devil by his victory.
One day – on the last day – he will conquer death – once and fall all.
Which…hopefully isn’t you.
Because sin is nothing more than a rebellion against your King.
If have sinned this past week, you’ve rebelled against the undisputed King.
You’ve done what his enemies do.
If you keep it up, He will conquer you.
But if you lay down your weapons…
If you stop fighting your King…
If you humble yourself at the feet to the Undisputed Champion...
If you follow Jesus, He will fight for you.
That temptation that you can’t seem to beat? Jesus will conquer it.
That guilt that keeps you up at night? Jesus will destroy it.
That fear of death that you have will be punched square in the face and knocked out cold.
III. The King of Humility
How do you know that the Undisputed King will share victory with you?
Most kings are too powerful to care about the common man.
But not Jesus. Jesus humbled himself.
In fat that’s exactly how this section finishes via some very theological language. Read with me: For he “has put everything under his feet.” That’s talking about Jesus taking complete control at the end of the world. Then it continues: Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, (aka God the Father) because God the Father put everything under Christ. Meaning Jesus is the ultimate authority, but he doesn’t hold authority over God the Father.
He’s not like some evil prince who can’t wait to use his authority to throw his Father, the King out to pasture.
Jesus, who has all authority, submits his authority to the Authority of the Father.
He humbles himself.
In fact, look at what will happen next on Judgment Day:
When he has done this, then the Son himself (again…that’s Jesus) will be made subject to him who put everything under him (That is The Father), so that God may be all in all.
God the Father humbly gives up his authority to Jesus.
Jesus, the Son humbly subjects himself to the Father.
That’s the same kind of humility that Jesus showed in our opening scene.
Because if he had the ability to conquer death, to conquer sin, to conquer the devil, to drive out thousands of demons, stop storms, and walk on water – make the lame man walk, the blind man sea and drive out the deadly disease of leprosy –
You’d think a couple of Roman soldiers would be no big deal.
And they weren’t.
But Jesus humbled himself.
He completed God’s plan.
He did this to save you.
Even as the King of Life itself.
Even as the King of all Conquering.
Even as the Undisputed Champion with authority…
He humbled himself to your needs.
He humbled himself that you might be with Him.
He humbled himself that He might call you brother.
He humbled himself that He might call you sister.
He humbled himself that he might call you FORGIVEN.
To be fair – that’s how politicians tend to be elected. They make all kinds of promises to the common people.
They promise to lower taxes.
They promise to make life better.
They promise to protect them.
And they deliver on about 3% of these promises.
Jesus delivered on 100% of His promises.
He promised immense blessings for you.
He won immense blessings for you.
Even if it took his own death to accomplish it, Jesus would not be deterred.
He loved you – that much.
IV. WHAT NOW?
Follow the ONLY King
One simple truth this week - Subject yourself to your King!
Here’s a few simple truths:
Jesus is the King of life.
If you prefer eternal death, keep following your own sinful desires. That’s where you will end up.
If you prefer eternal life, stop following yourself – follow the King of Life.
Jesus is the Undisputed Conqueror.
If you prefer to be conquered, go ahead and keep challenging him. He will have no problem destroying you.
If you prefer to have your spiritual enemies defeated, follow Jesus – follow the Conqueror.
Jesus is the King of humility.
If you prefer to be humiliated, continue to seek glory for yourself on this earth.
If you prefer to be glorified, humble yourself – follow, trust, and subject yourself to Him.
This is easier said than done.
For instance, Martin Luther…he certainly had plenty of reason to think of himself as king.
He had a growing movement of thousands of Protestants behind him.
He had rejected the authority of the Pope.
People were looking to him for the next steps it the Reformation.
In fact, people began to identify themselves as Lutherans.
Luther could have let this go to his head.
He didn’t. Instead:
I ask that my name be left silent and people not call themselves Lutheran, but rather Christians. Who is Luther? The doctrine is not mine. I have been crucified for no one. St. Paul in 1 Cor. 3:4-5 would not suffer that the Christians should call themselves of Paul or of Peter, but Christian. How should I, a poor stinking bag of worms, become so that the children of Christ are named with my unholy name? It should not be dear friends. Let us extinguish all factious names and be called Christians…
That’s a good reminder.
Because we are Lutherans, we remember we are Christian first.
Because Christ alone is king.
Christ alone is our Savior.
To Jesus be the glory! Amen.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
Was it something that Roman soldiers commonly did?
They drew Jesus body into the holding cell. A blood stained line trailed where his feet dragged. His flesh was raw due to the horrific flogging he had just endured. Sweat covered his body. Tears rolled down his cheeks over the purple imprint that a fist had left.
He was broken.
But the soldiers weren’t done with him.
“This fella claimed to be the King of the Jews! Absurd, isn’t it? A carpenter becomes a king?”
Another soldier turned his attention to Jesus: “Well mister King sir. I didn’t realize we were in the presence of royalty. Allow me to get our things.”
They needed a crown. One fetched a branch of a nearby thornbush. Using his hardened, strong hands he shaped it into a circle. Then, he pressed it firmly onto Jesus’ skull. The thorns acting as some sort of attachment to keep it from falling off. (Jn. 19:2a)
They needed a robe. One went to the nearby room and found a dirty outer cloak lying in the corner. It’s former royal red of the Roman army had faded to purple. Maybe it was the sweat. Maybe it was the dirt. Maybe it was the blood. The soldier came and threw it around Jesus’ shoulders. (Jn. 19:2b)
They needed a rod. One grabbed an old walking stick from a nearby cripple. He laughed. “Here you go your majesty. May this rod serve you well as you dish out justice over the land.” (Mt. 27:29)
Then, two of them lifted him to his feet. The others stood in line to receive him. “Hail, King of the Jews!” they shouted. The first leaned in like he would kiss him. Instead, salive came out.
The rest followed suit. They laughed. They ridiculed. They mocked.
To them, he didn’t look like a king.
I. He Didn’t Look like Any Other King on Earth.
They were right. Jesus did not look like a king.
King come from royal families. Jesus was a carpenter’s son. (Mk 6:3)
Kings come from royal cities. Jesus came from lowly Bethlehem (Lk. 2:4) and grew up in the insignificant city of Nazareth. (Mt. 2:23)
Kings are wealthy. Jesus didn’t even keep the money bag for his rag tag group of followers. (Jn. 13:29)
Kings lived in palaces. Jesus walked around with “no place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20)
Kings surround themselves with warriors and nobles. Jesus angered the nobles – and his followers were fishermen (Mt. 4:18), tax collectors (Mt. 9:10), and political activists (Mt. 10:4)!
Besides that his own people didn’t respect him. The Jewish people were the ones who had arrested him. They were the ones who had accused him or crime. They were the ones who wanted to kill him. They were the ones who had rejected him.
He had let them. Usually kings stand up and fight. You are nervous around them. They are warriors.
Jesus? He had gone quietly. He hadn’t spoken at his trial. He quietly took the beating they had just given him.
King of the Jews? Not at all. If he was a king, he was unlike any other king on earth.
They didn’t realize how right they were.
II. He Wasn’t Like Any Other King on Earth.
Countries are different. The rulers of these different countries have different things that they ‘in a sense’ rule over. Things their countries becomes known for. In the Middle East, they control oil. In China, they control the clothing trade.
Jesus controlled things too. Things that were much different than any other king on earth.
· He ruled over the wind and the waves commanding them to stand still at attention—which they did.
· He ruled over the tiniest of germs ordering them to leave—which they did.
· He ruled over palsied limbs and broken legs imposing on them that they return to doing their job—which they did.
· He ruled over death demanding that it release those he had taken captive – a little girl, a young man, a dear friend –which death did…without so much as a defiant look.
Jesus had control unlike any other king on earth.
Earlier on that very day, the governing official of that Roman province had questioned Jesus. He had gotten to the point and asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus response was telling: “You are right in saying I am a king…but my kingdom is not of all this world.” (Jn. 18:36)
Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t a fortified city in the Roman Empire. It wasn’t as far as the eye could see from the palace. It wasn’t a tropical island paradise. It wasn’t a blizzard chilled icy empire.
Jesus ruled in hearts. He shared God’s law to cause people like you and me to cower at our sins. He then shared God’s Gospel to bring you and I to faith in his power to forgive.
It’s why he didn’t care about setting up a palace or gathering a political following. All he cared about what bringing people back to God.
III. Jesus had a kingdom unlike any other.
1,355, 692, 576 people live in China. 1,236, 334, 662 people lie in India. 318,892, 103 people live in the United States.
That’s a lot of people. The rulers of each of those countries cannot and will not ever possibly know everyone they rule over personally. That’s impossible. They might be able to get a good idea of you when needed to scour through internet collected data via the CIA, but still. They don’t know you.
Jesus has even more subjects than that, yet knows all of them on a personal level.
He knows you on a personal level.
He knows your struggles. He knows your fears. He knows your sin. He knows your guilt. He knows your shame.
In fact, that’s the very reason he was standing, a bloody mess before those Roman soldiers. He knew your sin and he knew how to save you from it. He knew that his death would free you from the rule of sin. He knew that his death would free you from the consequences of having sin as your ruler. He knew that his death – would gain you access into his forever kingdom—a place not of this world—heaven.
IV. Jesus has a personal connection to his subjects unlike any other.
Recently President Obama has issued a few executive orders. These orders change the laws of the land. They are commands that the whole country listen to.
Jesus also has issued executive orders. But they have less to do with illegal immigration and health care. Jesus spoke about your spiritual health. He issued awesome truths about your soul:
"My sacrifice works for the forgiveness of your sins."
"Through faith in me you are forgiven."
"Whoever believes in me will not perish, but have eternal life."
The soldiers were right. They had a king standing before them. But if they didn’t know it then, one day they will realize it. Philippians 2 tells us, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
It is my prayer that you do not join these soldiers in rejecting Jesus. It is my prayer that you see him for who he truly is, a king unlike any other. The king of the Universe. Your king. Amen.