Archive for the ‘ Sermon ’ Category

The Church Next Door Sunrise Service – April 17, 2022

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Our elder, Bill Swenson, delivered the Sunrise Sermon this year. Enjoy.

Easter Sunrise Sermon

Why do we celebrate Easter/Resurrection Sunday?

Because Jesus was raised from the dead?
Jesus was not the only one to rise from the dead.

Old Testament:

  1. Elijah raised a widows son. 1 Kings 17
  2. Elisha raised a Shunamite’s son. 2 Kings 4
  3. A man was thrown into Elisha’s bones. 2 Kings 13:21 

New Testament:

  1. Peter raised Tabitha aka Dorcas. Acts 9
  2. Paul raised Eutychus. Acts 20
  3. Jesus raised a widows son. Luke 7
  4. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter. Luke 8
  5. Jesus raised Lazarus. John 11
  6. God raised Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15
  7. Saints raised with Jesus. Matt 21

What made Jesus special?

  1. He prophesied it. Matt. 12:38-40
    1. This is why guards were placed at the tomb. Matt 27:62-64
  2. He was raised immortal. Romans 6:9
    1. With a physical form though a spiritual body. 1 cor 15:44, John 20:27

Why does it matter? Or as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:16-19

What is to be pitied about being a Christian?

  • Look at Paul’s life 2 Cor. 11:24-27
  • Trouble is promised to us. John 15:20, 16:33

Why do Christians endure this? Why sign up for it?

Past

  1. Rom 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
  2. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  3. Colossians 2:14 “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Present

  1. 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
  2. 1 Cor 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  3. Phil 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Future

  1. Rev 20:15. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
  2. Rom 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. Matt 6:19-21. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  4. Persecution breeds reward. Matt 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


Rev 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Because Jesus was raised, our sins are forgiven.

Because Jesus was raised, we are a new creation.
Because Jesus was raised, we will dwell eternally with God!

Hallelujah! He is Risen!

Easter Service

Sermon: The Story of a Girl – Ruth 3

I preached again!

Thr little book of Ruth always gets me emotional, and I did struggle through this message.

Below are my notes, and remember that they are just notes. I add stuff as I preach!

The Story of a Girl – Ruth 3

Romance Stories

Hollywood and book publishers love telling us about love.
We get stories about how boy and girl find each other, they fall in love, often they sleep together, then they decide they want to be together forever.

In other words, “Yeah, relationships are great, but let us tell you how it’s done, even if it gets a little spicy, and especially if it helps you get over your old-fashioned, out-dated morals.”

The majority of TV shows and movies not only suggest but even promote “test driving” before marrying – if marriage is even necessary.

[Personal story]

But what of a truly good romance?

The story of a girl

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

Ruth 3:1-5, ESV

The relationship these two women have is wonderful.

[Personal story]

Would Naomi have truly slipped into full bitterness without her daughter-in-law? “What else do I have to live for? I am too old to have more children. God has forsaken me. I have nothing.

Maybe you have felt this way, like nothing right happens in your life, whether for a season or your whole life. Maybe you get stuck seeing the bad more than you see the good, like when the president you didn’t vote for is elected or it looks like World War III could happen. Is there any good left in the world? Does anything good ever happen?

You need a faithful friend, one who can remind you of the good and help you find your way back home.

After all, Ruth means “compassionate friend.”

For now, Naomi has a focus: find a way to continue her husband’s lineage, help Ruth find a husband.

And it sounds like the advice she gives is scandalous: privately go to him and lay down near him at night. But we know we are dealing with honorable people.

A girl before a boy … er … man

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

Ruth 3:6-13, ESV

It is likely the end of the barley harvest, so the men are celebrating. It might even be close to Passover – this is the time of the barley harvest, after all. The women who have gleaned may have been invited, as well, not making it strange for a woman to be present.

Regardless, after a festive evening, Boaz lays down near a pile of barley. The farmer protects his investment, sleeping at the harvest field until the goods are stored.
Ruth does as she was told and finds him, uncovers his feet, an lays down. Many times in the Bible “feet” are an allusion to … the reproductive organs. But, like said, these are honorable, God-fearing people. It just means feet! She folds back the hem of his robe that he is using as a blanket.

This is not a modern romance story.

Maybe it was uncovering his feet, or laying down a little too noisily, or maybe one of his workers suddenly snored a little too loudly, but Boaz awakes at midnight to find Ruth laying at his feet.

She takes the posture of a servant – property, someone not worthy of his attention. Humble. Contrite.

Yet, she is bold. She asks for his protection. Not just a safe place to glean some food, but “cover me with your own clothes, feed me with your own plate. Only you can elevate me from nothing to something.”

I think of a woman over 1200 years later. A woman who does not try to cover herself with the hem of a robe, but she merely tries to touch the hem of a robe. A different Redeemer. One whose hem not only protects, but heals. (Luke 8:43-48)

I think of a story that Redeemer shares, of two men: one a Pharisee who brags to God about how righteous he is, and a tax collector who humbly laments his sin and knows of only One who can elevate him from despair to salvation. (Luke 18:9-14)

Just like these two with Jesus, Boaz shows grace and kindness, calling her daughter and blessing her.

We see here he admits to being older. As a redeemer, he would have to be a brother to the deceased (which obviously, he is not Ruth’s brother-in-law), a cousin, or even an uncle. It is likely that he is either an uncle or older cousin, and the other redeemer is a closer cousin. Perhaps he was Elimilech’s cousin, and this other man is Elimilech’s nephew or even brother. Regardless, Boaz is not that young, at least as old as Naomi. Ruth is probably 16-25 (remember that Naomi and her sons lived in Moab for 10 years!) Boaz could be as old as 80 (tradition holds that died soon after Obed was born.)

It reminds me of a Redeemer who is called our Everlasting Father.

We also see that this kindness is greater than the first. Which first kindness?

Probably that a young woman forsake her home for her mother-in-law. A young woman who worked hard to take care of someone she was barely related to. A young woman who could have looked for a “young stud” who could take care of all of her needs.

But she’s still thinking of her mother-in-law as well as her own needs.
But he promises to make sure she is taken care of, even if it could potentially look like some impropriety may have happened (but tries to minimize that appearance.)

Which reminds me of a man who tried to look out for a girl who claimed God gave her a child.

Which reminds me of a Man who made sure His mother was cared for, even as He died on a cross for crimes He did not commit.

But Boaz is not done yet.

A story of hope for a girl

So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Ruth 3:14-18, ESV

Boaz means “swiftness”.

He makes sure they are awake before dawn. He provides food for her to take home. This is both a sign to Naomi that he will handle this situation – “Don’t worry, Naomi” – while also ensuring both women are cared for.

Then, as we see in the next chapter, he goes straight out, finds ten men to witness, and finds the other redeemer to get it settled … swiftly.

The Story. Of a Girl.

In the beginning, was a girl. She was tempted with evil, and her husband did not protect her as he should.

There was a girl, whose husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all died, but she found a man who would protect and care for her.

There was a girl, who found a man, and gave birth to the Son of Man.

There is a girl. She felt abandoned. She also abandoned. But her Redeemer came for her. Provided for her. Saved her.

This girl is the Church. She is all the redeemed. She is all of the saints of God who humbly … boldly approach the Redeemer, knowing they are unworthy of attention, not even worthy to be a slave, but seek His mercy, His grace.

As we approach this Passover, this Resurrection Sunday, may we faithfully glean from the sown Word of God – sown by the faithful writers and fellow servants, sown by the our very Redeemer. May we seek the favor of our Redeemer, knowing He has been faithful and has redeemed us.

All we need do is ask.

This life may be hard. We may face our struggles, our hurts, our disappointments. We may fail, feel abandoned or lost.

But we have a Redeemer. One who provides for us and protects us.

We, the Church, are His Bride. He longs to be with us.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19:6-8, ESV

He has given us work to do. We glean from His Word and carry it home, and to our neighbors, sharing His bounty with those around us.

How do we say it around here? What is the vision, the mission statement of The Church Next Door?

Live a full life in Jesus and bring others along for the ride.

As the Bible puts it in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

This is the greatest love story.

Ruth and Boaz were just a picture of it, a vision of a simple story of a girl.

We are a part of the Greatest Story: The Story of the Redeemed in Christ.

Sermon: De-Contexting Jesus – John 11:11-16

I preached again! And once again, I was covering for Brother Paul in Paulden, AZ.

There is no video this time (unless you are okay looking up my nose most of the time!), but I did upload the audio recording.

I also joined in the solidarity day with Canadian churches by taking some time to discuss biblical sexuality (and understanding biblical context) in response to the nee Canadian law, Bill C-4 – Conversion Therapy ban.


De-Contexting Jesus: John 11:11-16

Waking the Dead

Know how parents or the cranky neighbor next door (or you?) complain about loud kids, “Their being so loud they could wake the dead?”

I have been thinking about so many people – churches, preachers, even people who have nothing to do with Christianity – who make bold claims about what Scripture says, about how Christians should act.

Tend to be the liberal-minded – “We understand better what was really meant back then: Jesus never spoke about homosexuality! People don’t really come back from the dead! We find new spiritual life and change, even in our bodies, if we were born the wrong way!”

Or even, like people like Bart Ehrman (author of Misquoting Jesus and other works attempting to tear down Christianity), they say we don’t understand what Jesus really meant, and it was exaggerated, anyway.

I have been thinking about so many people – churches, preachers, so-called prophets and apostles – who make bold claims about what Scripture says, about what Christians should be able to do.

Tend to be liberally-minded – “We understand more what was really meant back then: Jesus raised the dead, so we should be doing it even more! Jesus was sinless, and we are too! Jesus did amazing things, and we can do more!”

Or even, like people like “Pastors” Kenneth Copeland and Bill Johnson, we are Christs (anointed ones), we are little gods.

What does this have to do with today’s message?

Misquoting Jesus

[John 11:11-16]

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

“Lord, if he’s fallen asleep …”

Oh, Lazarus wasn’t that sick. He is resting and getting better.

The disciples misunderstood Jesus, even though He said something plain and in a context that should have made it plain. And how many times do people today take something Jesus said without looking at the context?

“Do not judge … See! Jesus said don’t judge, you evil hypocrite!”

“You will do greater things … See! We should all be raising the dead and performing signs and wonders!”

“This is my body … See! Jesus said!” Do the elements of communion literally become His body and blood? Catholics certainly say so. But so many others say “He spoke in euphemisms and metaphors. He was just a good teacher!”

It is so easy to rip things out of context to fit our needs.

Yet, “Lazarus has died.” Okay, “Lets die with him!”

They started to get the context: vv. 7-8 – “We’re going to Jerusalem.” “But, teacher! The Jews are trying to kill you!”

“Oh! We might be martyred!”

Now, we know that Thomas was right. All of the apostles and disciples were persecuted, and most of the apostles were indeed martyred. But in this moment, he probably is still thinking of his own glory more than the glory of Jesus.

Thomas and the disciples are trying to do good by Jesus, but they keep missing the greatest meaning. This happens even now.

In terms of the more liberal thinkers, they are following evolutionary thinking: we are later in time, so we understand better. Jesus did not really talk about these things, but even if He did, times have changed. The loving thing is to let people live how they believe they should!

As an example, today is a day that pastors across North America (maybe farther) are standing in solidarity with Canadian churches to preach about biblical sexuality. This is my little addition to that.

Canada just began enforcing a new law this past week, “Bill C-4: Conversion Therapy.” This bill makes conversion therapy illegal, defining conversion therapy as:

a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth; repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior; repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth

Essentially, the way it is worded, in Canada, it is illegal to even call homosexuality, transgenderism, and any sex outside of marriage sin. How do we know this is not merely “slippery slope logic” and hyperbole?

The UK, New York, California, New Jersey, and Nevada have passed similar laws. Preachers and evangelists in the UK and New York, that I know of, have been arrested for hate speech and disrupting the peace for calling homosexuality a sin.

We hear people – pastors, theologians, politicians, everyday people – saying the New Testament never explicitly condemns homosexuality, it was just an OT law that was abolished.

Firstly, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we read:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

“neither the pornoi” – sexually immoral, the root of our word “pornography”

“nor malakoi” – soft, effeminate men “who catch” – “nor arsenokoitai” – males who penetrate men and boys.

Both of these terms are combined into our English translations to the word “homosexual.” So, yes, the NT talks about it, and in a few other places condemns all sorts of sexual and sensual acts outside of marriage.

And as for Jesus never having spoken on it, that means they do not believe truly is God – the Logos, the Word – the One who worked through Moses and the Prophets to write the OT. In effect, Jesus spoke on these through the OT, and He does not change (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 7:21, James 1:17).

And Paul continued,

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, it is possible to change, in Christ. It is not merely trying to “pray the gay away.” It is conforming to Christ. (So, some conversion therapy is indeed not that good!)

Yet, clearly these are not the only ones.

Back to Context

Many who [claim to (have)] follow(ed) Christ, twist His words, as well.

Many people have “deconstructed their faith” in recent years, being seen as brave and open-minded by many in our world.

Really, most have de-contextualized Jesus or listened to those who have. Maybe they were in liberal churches or churches that shy away from biblical truth to be seen as hip and with it, to be “seeker sensitive”, even though Romans 3:11 reminds us that “no one understands; no one seeks for God” unless the Father (by the Holy Spirit) draws them in (John 6:44).

Many “pastors, prophets, and apostles” today claim special knowledge and new understanding about God and His Word.

Really, most have de-contextualized Jesus or listened to those who have. They claim passages about Him or said by Him as for themselves, even if the greater context completely contradicts their understanding.

Case in point, Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

So many people claim this verse as a life verse, even if they have had an easy life. The context is God telling Israel, “I am about to punish you for 70 years for disobeying me. I am disciplining you, but it is okay.” As many take it as, “God only wants good things for me!”

Normal people are not really the problem. It is the big names, the ones who continue to spread mis-truths and should know better.

Remember earlier I asked about complaining about people “being so loud they could wake the dead?

Like Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 13, these people are like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. They distract and make enough noise to raise the dead! (Or claim they can, anyway.)

Jesus warned us these people would come before the end, and Paul repeated it in his letters to Timothy, such as in his encouragement in 2 Timothy 2:15 when he says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

So what about everyone else?

Re-Contexting

In a world of deconstructing and de-contexting, we should be people who re-context.

We know in our passage today that Jesus had let Lazarus die so that Jesus and His Father could be glorified.

His disciples did not yet understand, and they spoke rashly, like we often do, too.

Firstly, Jesus reminds us that when we die, it is not the end. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.” We know that Jesus has defeated death through His death and resurrection. We know that, unlike woke culture that seeks to separate and shame, Jesus awakens us out of our sin and shame into unity with God.

We may misunderstand and take things out of context, but His grace is enough. His love is enough. Wake up to the truth of Christ, the Faithful One who shows us that He is the context of love, grace, and truth.

Secondly, we are reminded of our duty. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Christ has told us that we are to take up our cross and die to ourselves.

Is Christ more important than our own lives? Do we trust that He has overcome death and the grave? “If God is for me, what can flesh do to me?”

Is sharing the gospel something we are willing to lay our lives down for? Though others turn away, deconstruct, and de-contextualize, do we truly believe that these are the words of eternal life (John 6:66-68)?

We serve the God of the Universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Great I Am. Do we fear Him or those who twist His words? If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

Yes, we get it wrong sometimes. But we turn to the only righteous one, and we follow Him into the battle, even if we must die.

And die we must. Die to our fleshly desires and selfish wants.

We may never see anyone raised from the dead in this life, but we know the One who defeated death and came back. He may come in the next moment. He may not come for 10,000 years.

But Jesus has proven Himself faithful and trustworthy.

Come, let us go also, that we may die with Him.

For He has shown His light to awaken us to eternal life. Forget the sins of the past, and grab hold of the nail-scarred hands that lift us from the pit.

Let us all do our best to present ourselves to God as those approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) Let us re-context Christ to this world and hasten His return.

Prayer

Lord, we have come before you a people who have misunderstood, misapplied, and misused your Word. We confess it to you now. We thank you and give you praise that have forgiven us through the cross of Christ.

Open our minds by Your Holy Spirit to understand Your Word. Give us a passion for the Scriptures, to read and study the Bible.

Embolden our hearts and spirits to proclaim Your Truth to this world. Give us a desire to share the gospel, to be ready in all seasons to give an answer to those who ask for a reason for the hope that is in us.

Give us peace and wisdom as we go into this world with all of its problems and challenges, dangers and attacks.

Help us to remain focused on You and Your Truth. Guide us in all wisdom and truth.

Help us to seek You and Your Kingdom first.

For you are worthy of all glory and honor and praise, and we declare our need for You. Show us Your glory, fill us with Your love, and guide us by Your Spirit. Conform us to the image of Your Son.

In the name of that Faithful Son, Jesus Christ, we pray.

Amen.

Sermon: Going Forward – John 21:15-22

I preached again!

It is an end-of-the-year message, that deals with Christmas, our past, our present, and moving toward the future.

As usual, here are my notes. Remember that I do not necessarily stick strictly to the notes.

Going Forward

John 21:15-22

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

A Christmas Carol

One of my favorite stories of all time (after the Bible) is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.Every year we watch through many iterations, and I make sure to re-read the short story.

It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man whose business partner has been dead for years, his estranged nephew still tries to invite him over for Christmas, but Christmas and everything about it is “humbug.”

Is it strange that I like a story about a man who talks with charity collectors about the poor going to work in workhouses or in prison? That when prompted with “many would rather die,” ol’ Scrooge replies, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Why do I love this story so?

Because, Scrooge is visited by three spirits – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet-To-Come – who remind him of his more jolly past, how he has affected people in his present, and the future he faces if he does not change. And they do it all in a single night, before the morning of Christmas.At the end, he pleads with the final spirit: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”And what about after that? “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

But Christmas has passed for us. What is Christmas about?

Jesus!

We know that Jesus came into the world, and we celebrate His first coming at Christmas time.

And how much like Scrooge can we be? How much do we focus on our wants and needs in this life without looking after those around us? Hating others and wanting what they have rather than wanting the best for them?

Where else do we see such pettiness?

Peter

In our passage, we see a man talking with His Lord who is no mere spirit or ghost. This is Jesus who barely a month earlier was crucified for our sins, yet He is alive!

And what does Jesus have to say to Peter?

  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?

Why does Jesus ask Peter this three times?

We remember before the crucifixion that it was Peter who denied His Lord three times:

  • I am not His disciple.
  • I don’t know the Man!
  • I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Here is a man who was more concerned for his own well being than actively looking after his friend.

So, since Peter denied Him three times, Jesus asks three times to reinstate him, “Do you love me?”

What is love?

But notice that Peter is hurt by the third asking. Why?

First, Jesus asks, “Simon” – not Peter, for he lost that right by denying the truth he proclaimed earlier – “Simon, son of John, do you agape me …” Does Simon love Jesus enough to sacrifice everything for Him?

Remember that this is the Simon who said in John 13:37 “I will lay down my life for you.” Or in Mark 14:29 “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Both instances we read of Jesus telling him he would deny him and fall away.

And he did. But Jesus’ question finishes, “Do you agape me more than these?”

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than your possessions?” Possibly, but I don’t think so.

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than you love these other people?” More probable, but I think it goes deeper.

“Do you love me more than these others love me?” This is essentially the claim Simon Peter had made before.

In truth, it is a combination of all three implied meanings, but most importantly, “Do you love me more than anything and anyone so that no one can tear you out of my hand?”

“Then feed my sheep.” Give them the nourishment of the Bread of Life, the Word of God.

But a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape me?”

Both of these times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He knows that Jesus can see into our hearts. Jesus stops comparing Simon to others in the second question, bringing it squarely home.

“Then tend my sheep.” Help the others grow closer to me, defend them from hunger and thirst and false teachings and fear of the world.

Yet Simon has been saying, “Yes, Lord”. He acknowledges that he loves Jesus unconditionally, but he finishes with “you know that I phileo you.” You know that I love you like a friend.

And then the third question. “Simon, son of John …” not agape, not will you sacrifice and obey, but “do you phileo me?”

Why is Simon Peter grieved? The questions go from, “do you love me so much it hurts, that you will do anything for me,” to “Simon, are you my friend?”

Imagine what it sounds like: “Are you sure you’re my friend? Do you really love me as your friend?”

And how does it play out?

“You know everything. You know I love you like a friend.”

“Then YOU follow me. Act like a grown up, because you will have times that you will be treated like a child.” And Jesus alludes to Peter’s death.

And Simon holds on just a moment longer as the child: “But what about him? Why don’t you ask that disciple the same questions? How is he gonna die?”

“I. Said. Follow. Me. Stop worrying about others. Follow me. As I feed and tend to my sheep.”

What about us?

What does it all mean for us.

Firstly, to deal with any possible rumors, yes, A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, even though Scrooge meets his long-dead business partner. Even though the only time we see that sort of thing in the Bible is when a wicked king (Saul) seeks a witch to talk to his dead friend (who rebukes him. It really was a Christmas-Carol-esque story.)

For the sake of the story, I am okay with some wiggle-room of what is okay. Especially if you read a recent sequel, Jacob T. Marley, that shows a “why” the dead business partner returns. And for the Spirits of Christmases, we could easily argue they are ministering spirits, a.k.a. angels.

But like Scrooge, Peter was one who turned from those he loved. Like Peter, we often do our own thing to avoid pain.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his past, all of the hurts, the boasts, the selfishness, and the loss.

  • Maybe 2021 has been a hard year for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    It won’t necessarily make all the pain go away, but Jesus can lead you through and out of the pain.
    Maybe 2021 was great for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    You might lose everything you’ve gained, you might keep it all, but your focus should be on the one who gave up everything to save you.
    Maybe you made mistakes, lied about things, turned on your loved ones. Maybe you’ve denied your Savior.
    Follow Jesus. The only faithful one.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his present.

  • Maybe you’re finishing 2021 holding on to your past.
    Follow Jesus.
    Maybe you’re currently struggling with something.
    Follow Jesus.
    Let Him tend to your needs. Trust others to tend to your needs as they are following Jesus. Tend to others as you follow Jesus.
    Follow Jesus, now. Don’t wait. Follow Jesus. Now.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to face the future and his death.

  • And it is scary.
    Maybe you’re afraid of what 2022 holds. Maybe the finances of this year mean next year will be tough. Maybe you wonder where this church will be meeting next month. Maybe those in power in the government have you worried for one reason or another.
    Follow Jesus.
    Don’t worry about what others are doing. Don’t worry about their walk with Jesus or lack thereof.
    Don’t ignore others or the happenings in this world, but don’t worry.
    Just follow Jesus for yourself. Trust Him. He is the God who saves, the One who holds all things together. It may not be easy in this life, but we know we can trust in the One who is guiding history and has overcome death and the grave.

Go Forward

In Christ.

What does it look like to keep Christmas in your heart all the year, and keep it well, like the renewed Ebenezer Scrooge?

It is seeking the Kingdom of God first.

We realize our need to read and memorize Scripture. We seek to live out the commands to love God and love others, as Christ lives in us by His Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

It is seeking the Bread of Life.We realize our need for spiritual nourishment through Bible study and encouraging each other to become more Christ-like.

Taken outside the church just before preaching!

It is bowing before Immanuel – God with us.

We realize The Father sent the Son to cleanse us and restore us, and they sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us until Christ’s return. We acknowledge His authority and power.

And we follow.

We don’t get stuck in the same old rut or in our past mistakes and sins or in our worries and concerns or our own lusts and wants or in our own glory. We go forward toward the future glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

The true Spirit of Christmas is the same Spirit that overshadowed a young woman to bring forth a Savior; a Savior who would die for our sins and rose again; a Savior who is one day returning to make all things new.

And He is with us always until He comes.

Like Scrooge – like Peter – we seek to spread the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Spirit of Christ who indwells us. (Galatians 5:22-23)

All through the year.

So go forward. Follow Jesus.

Prayer

Our gracious heavenly Father, You who has been denied by us through our actions, our words, and our thoughts; You who have been pushed away by our own sinful desires, we praise you and worship you.

You could have left us in our misery. You could have wiped us out, like with the Flood. Instead, You became one of us.

We were stuck wallowing in our past, unable and unwilling to let go of the hurts, the glories of youth, the fame, and the fear.

We were stuck wallowing in our current pains and fears, our own glories and strengths, unwilling to help our neighbors, either because we felt we lacked the ability or because they deserve what they get or because “they should help themselves.”

We were stuck wallowing in our future, afraid of what may come or hoping for what we cannot get for ourselves or think we can get for ourselves.

You could have left us in our misery or removed far more than the surplus population.

But You came to us.

We praise you, because we could not get to You, but You made a way for us. We deserved death, but you offered us life. We have feared the world and death more than we feared You, and we confess it to you now.

Because You see our past, You change us in the present, and You give us a hope for the future, through Your Son – The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Help us to seek You every moment of everyday. Help us to help each other seek You and grow in You everyday. Help us to become more loving and kind – more like Jesus. By the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Help us follow Jesus.

In His Name.

Sermon: Mark 15:16-32 – Missing the Point

I did NOT preach again, but my friend and fellow elder Bill did preach.

It was pretty cool.

You should be able to watch below.

Mark 15:16-32, ESV

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Sermon: John 7:37-53 – Divided by Water

I preached again! Once again, I was at Paulden Christian Fellowship to help out brother Paul while he is out of town.

As usual, these are my notes, not necessarily everything I said. (But I mostly stuck to it this time. )

John 7:37-53 – Divided by Water

Unexpected Divisions

Before beginning: What would you do if you heard that people were preaching passages that were never in the Bible? What if someone told you that there are parts of the Bible that never should have made it into our Bibles?
Worried?
Doubt?
Fear?
7:53-8:11 – Apparently these verses do not show up in the earliest Greek manuscripts of John. Does this mean Jesus never stopped the stoning of the adulterous woman? Did He never write in the sand and turn away murderous teachers trying to catch Jesus in His words and have Him arrested?
Sometimes this passage shows up earlier in chapter 7, or at the end of John, or even in Luke, when we look at the earliest manuscripts.
Should it not be there? Should we not preach it?
Apparently, Ambrose and Augustine (in the late 300’s into the 400’s) talked about people who removed it for making it look like Jesus condoned adultery. The earliest it is found in manuscripts though is at least 100 years after those men.
Short answer: no one is 100% sure about its origins, but most people use it. There are even indications it was a story about Jesus being told during the Apostles’ lives. It does not contradict anything in Scripture or about Christ’s character.
Yet, it causes divisions amongst those who are called Christians.
Likewise, Jesus caused similar divisions during His ministry on Earth.

Living Water

John 7:37-39 (ESV):
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The last day of the feast of Booths/Tabernacles/Tents
(And the final day actually starts tomorrow night! Sept. 27-28, by our reckoning, so we are discussing this at about the same time it happened 2000 years ago!)

Jesus wanted as many people in Jerusalem as possible to go home hearing one final thought: that they need Him. So He shouted over the crowds.
This was a feast to remind the people of Israel of God rescuing their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and the 40 years in the wilderness.
Clearly, He is reminding everyone present of the two times Moses called water out of rocks. The Israelites complained about their thirst and need for water, so God sent them water flowing out of rocks.
“Living water” is a euphemism for flowing water. We are not as accustomed to thinking about it in our age of indoor plumbing, where we can go into our kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms with sinks and washing machines and … other things with running water, and make water move.
Jesus is telling the people, “If you believe I am the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world, then faucet of God the Holy Spirit will turn on inside of you and flow through you.”
Sorry. Not just a faucet. I used to use the analogy that faith is like a stick of dynamite in a school toilet. It blows all the [crud] away and lets the water burst forth with gusto.
But what does Jesus say? It is a river. So, faith should be like Verde River flowing out of you. During a strong monsoon season. It SHOULD be overflowing and affecting everything around you.
And, naturally, this gets reactions from people.

Division

John 7:40-44 (ESV):
“When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.”

“Is this the Prophet?”

Deuteronomy 18:15-19, ESV
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

They are already thinking of what Moses has done with water, so is this the One he said was coming?
But they get confused because they know a Messiah, a Christ, is coming. They know of the promise to David that his Descendant would rule forever. They know from Micah 6:8 that He would come from Bethlehem.
But do any of them know Jesus was born there?
We also know that many (if not most) people expected a Prophet – one who would restore proper worship – and a King – one who would rule with righteousness and expel those who do not properly worship. Two separate people.
They have plenty of examples. The two biggest: There was a king and a high priest throughout the time of the kingdom(s); Ezra and Nehemiah were a builder & defender and a priest, two who made sure everything was rebuilt and proper worship were restored.
They also may think of Moses who ruled over them (so to speak), yet his brother Aaron led the worship.
But we also know that Moses did both, Aaron serving more as a mouthpiece for his brother.
So, what do the people do? This is not the Messiah they expected. Some were obviously ready to follow, but some thought Jesus should be arrested and tried for leading people astray from God.
But no one touched Him. Instead, they are divided over their perceived expectations of their Lord.

Divisions Even in the Leadership

John 7:45-52:
“The officers (the Temple police, usually Levites who guarded the Temple gates and enforced Temple rules/laws – so usually priests who would know these) then came to the chief priests and Pharisees (the Sanhedrin – those who led the nation of Israel. Chief priests usually were related to the High Priest, which at this time meant the Roman-sympathetic Sadducees who denied the afterlife, as opposed to the Pharisees), who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.””

Now, maybe you remember from before (Pastor Paul’s message) the hypocrisy of the leadership. How do we see it here?
The Temple guards admit this Man has authority, but “have any of the Sanhedrin [authorities and Pharisees] believed?” Well, yes. There is Nicodemus there with them, whom along with chapter 3 we are told is a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee. And he attempts to defend Christ by the very Law the others are saying none of the crowd understands.
You know: that crowd that was asking if this is the Prophet from the Law or the promised Messiah that is mentioned throughout “the Prophets” (the rest of the OT).
And their response: Think of Nathanael in chapter 1: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” In other words, “Are you one of those miscreants, too? Nothing came from Galilee!”
Except, the Pharisees should know that at least Jonah came from there. Possibly Elijah and Nahum, too. But just one is enough to prove them wrong.
They are purposefully dividing the people over their own expectations.
They are also probably divided over whether to let someone who could bring the wrath of Rome on them.
Which means they are dividing over who to be faithful to.

How the Water Divides

John 7:53:
“They went each to his own house.”

Everyone left at the end of the feast having heard and divided over Jesus’ words.
How has anything changed in the roughly 1500 years between Moses and Jesus?
“This Jesus could bring down the wrath of Rome on us! We should get rid of Him to stay where we are in relative comfort and safety.” Compared to …
“Why has Moses brought us out here to die. We should go back to the relative comfort and safety of Egypt!”
Deuteronomy 18:15: ““The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—”

Romans 1:21-22: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,”

What happened to the Egyptians after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea? They were drowned in the sea.
What happened to all the people who refused to listen to Noah when he built the Ark? They were drowned in the flood.
Do we believe God’s Word? Do we trust the Bible, or is it “just a book made by men?”
Do we believe that God’s Word, the Light that shines in the darkness, that is the the life and light of men, became flesh and dwelt among us; or was He “just a good teacher?”
Do we believe Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, God come in the flesh to save us from our sins, or was He “just some dead dude?”
Do we believe in Him? Do we obey all He has commanded? Or are we content to do whatever we want?
Ancient Israel did the same thing. (Most repeated phrase in Judges: “They did what was right in their own eyes.” They did whatever they wanted.)
Are we wise in our own eyes? Or do we turn to the Wisdom of God who takes away the sins of the world?
We do the same thing today. 1500 years. 2000 years. 6000 years.
“There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
We still assume we know better than God. We still squabble over what He really said.
“Did God really say …” (Genesis 3:1)
We divide over what we think God said instead of turning to Him first.

John 14:23-26:
“Jesus [said], “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

In Him, by the Holy Spirit, we know we have God’s love flowing in us. And the Holy Spirit, as He flows through us, reminds us the other things Jesus said: starting with obeying His commands.

What are His commands?

Matthew 22:37-39:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And

John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And how do we love God, love others, and love each other, the Church?
We find the fruit of the Spirit flowing through us:

Galatians 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” which pushes us to point others to Christ.
For,

John 16:13-15: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

And as Matthew 5 reminds us, when we point others to Christ – when we point out their sin, according to God’s standard as found in the Bible, the words inspired by the Holy Spirit – it will divide them into those who glorify God (put their faith in Him) and those who revile Him and attack us.
The Holy Spirit is the water that divides. He divides us into the sheep and the goats, the faithful and faithless.
Many will claim to know truth, but if it does not align with God’s Word, it only divides us from God.
Many will claim to know truth, but if they deny the Words of Truth, it only divides us from God.
The Living Water – the Holy Spirit – divides us by forcing us to choose Christ or this world, to choose to share Truth or to compromise, to choose loving Him and this world through His Word and grace and love or loving ourselves more.
And choosing Him leads to such a desire to go deeper, to know more, to love more, that it can’t be stopped.
Sure, we’ll have times of trouble and even near-despair. He promised as much (John14:27), but also that He will help us:

2 Corinthians 4:8-15:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

We cannot help but share Christ with the world, for His Spirit overflows from us as we seek Him daily.

Unity! Press on!

Do we come to church each weekend, hear some words said, and then go “each to his own house” without coming to a decision?
Or do we come to church, get invigorated with the Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and then carry that Word not only to our homes but to everyone else?

This is not a message to drag us down.

If you feel guilty, give that guilt to God. He has taken it on the cross!

Press on! Move forward!

Philippians 3:8-15: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way”.

Philippians 4:4-9: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do not divide over what God has said. Unite, in Christ, together, encouraging each other, and all the more as we see the Day of His return drawing near.

Sermon: Remember: A Love Note from God – Mark 14:12-31

I preached again!

It was my turn in our usual rotation (pushed back a week due to Pastor Scott getting sick and throwing the rotation off), and it was also Communion week. (I am more a fan of Communion happening every week, but it is not something I will break fellowship over!)

What makes it extra special that it was Communion week is that I got to preach on the Passover meal (Last Supper) which includes the institution of the Lord’s Supper – Communion.

As usual, here are my notes. Remember that I do not necessarily stick strictly to the notes. In fact, I added quite a bit this time (I tried making adjustments on my iPad, but it did not want to let me), and I switched a couple parts around slightly.

(And the audio for our official church video was messed up, so here is the recording I made from my phone! I almost lost it a few times while preaching, so there will be some moments of silence … and maybe you’ll want to cry too.)

Remember: The Love Note from God  —  Mark 14:12-31

INTRO:

In all of my preaching classes I was told over and over that we need a good introduction that ties in with the whole message. Something that we can refer back to throughout the message, even in the conclusion.

In conversations, I tend to be pretty good about that: making connections throughout to things we’ve said before. I even connect a lot of it to the Bible.

For some reason, I often am not that great at it when preaching. And here is a great example.

This intro has almost nothing to do with the rest of the message, but I like the connection I can see in my mind. I cannot suggest everyone see this PG-13 movie, because there is a decent amount of vulgar language and violence (much like a video game) throughout, so do not take this as an official endorsement or suggestion to see it.

That being said, I got to see Free Guy (with Ryan Reynolds) this week. It really is a fun movie, especially if you enjoy quite a bit of nerd-culture (comic books, video games, YouTube, movies, etc.). Many, if not most, of my friends said one of the best scenes in the movie is one jampacked with references to recent popular movies, and it indeed is hilarious.

My favorite scene, though, comes a few minutes after this. When two of the other main characters are talking, and this line is said,

“I’m just a love letter to you. The real question is who is the writer?”

Today, we talk about God’s love letter to us. Technically, yeah, it’s the Bible. More specifically, it’s the Person of Jesus Christ. Most specifically, it’s about how much God loves us, that He came for us, died for us, and welcomes us in. All for His glory and our benefit. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

And the love note we get to enjoy “as often as we drink it, in remembrance of” Him.

MESSAGE:

[vv. 12-16:]
Firstly, what is the Feast of Unleavened Bread? The celebration of Passover. Remember way back, about 1500 years earlier, Israel was enslaved by Egypt, and Moses came to free God’s people.  After nine plagues, came the 10th: the death of the firstborn. This is the inauguration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because, as Exodus 12 reminds us, the Lord struck down all the firstborn children in Egypt (including animals), except for in the homes where a lamb was slaughtered and its blood painted over the doors. This was the sign for the Spirit to Pass Over their houses.

But why is it called Unleavened Bread? Because the Israelites did not have time to let dough rise for bread. This serves as a reminder that the Lord can take us at any time, like He did with the Egyptian firstborn. The entire week-long feast is done with unleavened bread, to remind the people of the time they were redeemed by God, and quickly. (It is possible this can point to the Rapture, as well.)

Now, Jesus and His disciples (specifically the Twelve … possibly with some others, as we note that some disciples prepared the Passover before Jesus arrived with the Twelve, and this meal was usually held with family present) were going to eat the meal together, but they needed a place. Remember that none of the various groups of this time were completely correct on what the Messiah would be like and do, but the group that came the closes was the Essenes.

Who were the Essenes? A group expecting the soon coming of Messiah who secluded themselves from the rest of society (something Jesus/the NT actually warned not to do) to live purely and to copy the Hebrew texts (not just books we find in our Bibles nor only in Hebrew/Aramaic), and only men could become priests. (They were basically their day’s version of a Roman Catholic hippie commune.) They were the closest to understanding the Messiah.

But they also kept at least one house in nearby cities, to be cared for by priests and for getting supplies as needed.

Why is this important?  Because in these days, only women carried water jars around. Unless they were of the Essene priesthood and maintaining the city-home. And, therefore, it is very possible that Jesus was working with the local Essenes to have a place ready for His final meal with His disciples. (He also could have miraculously known who would let Him use a place with a large room for the dinner!)

[And notice, again, the use of water. The earth was formed out of water by God, destroyed again by water by God. Through water Israel was saved. By water we are baptized as our Lord was. His first miracle was turning water into wine. Now, water is the sign that will lead the disciples to the Last Supper – where the sign of the new covenant is given.]

We also know from Luke that Peter and John were the two who prepared everything. And it was probably Thursday that much of this took place, with the meal beginning in the evening, as prescribed by Exodus 12. This would have put the dinner, arrest, and crucifixion all on Friday by Jewish time-telling.

[vv. 17:]
We see that meal does not even begin until the evening. We remember from the other Gospels that they arrive, and Jesus washes their feet. A major sign of humility, even shaming the one who was seated in the lowest place (probably Peter, actually) who was usually the one (without servants) to wash everyone else’s feet.

I think it is also good to jump around a little in our passage today, because Jesus has just washed their feet and is getting ready to enjoy the meal with them. But how hard was this time for Him?

Why?

[vv. 18-21:]
We remember from last time that Judas has already made an agreement with the Jewish leadership to betray Jesus, so we are not surprised by this.

Neither is Jesus. The other gospels help us to see that they have been eating together for a time, and Jesus even calls out Judas (quietly, implying the two seats of honor at the table are taken by John – who leaned on Jesus during the meal – and Judas – who could be secretly talked with during the meal!) The other disciples just think that He leaves to take care of the business needed for the feast, which helps to imply that he was not actually there when the Lord’s Supper was instituted.

So, Jesus goes into this meal thinking about the man who will betray Him to death. Someone who has been with Him for over three years and been considered a friend.

A friend who not only turns his back but also (almost literally) stabs Him in the back. How must that have felt?

Have you wondered how about Jesus’ words here? “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Maybe, like me, you have wrestled with the idea of a sovereign God who would create someone just to be destroyed. How could He?

But we also know God created us with free will. Judas chose to betray his friend, and our God – who is sovereign – works this man’s evil intents into His plan for our salvation.

And Jesus laments that His friend is choosing not only to reject a friend but God Himself. He has seen God face to face, and now he must face eternity having rejected Him.

But there is more. After they leave the meal, on their way to Gethsemane …

[vv. 26-31:]
Jesus tells His disciples – especially Peter – about their and his denial. First there is the backstabbing friend He knows about. Now we see He knows one of his closest friends is going to leave Him hanging (pun intended) in His darkest moment.

Jesus is having dinner with his closest friends, knowing that He is on His way to the cross, knowing that one of His friends is sending Him there and all of His friends, including one of His best friends, will abandon Him.

So what do we learn?

What have we called this series in Mark? Power Serve. What does it look like to serve others with the power of God? Humility in the face of hatred. Grace in the middle of greed. Love in the light (and in spite) of loss.

We are not really given permission to hide ourselves away when painful circumstances come our way. The example our Lord and Savior has given us is that when we know no one is there for us, when people abandon us, when we are at our darkest moments, that is the exact moment we need to rely on the Father to guide us through and show the most humility, grace, and love. We serve others with the Good News of Jesus Christ, in His power and love, by His grace, humbly and without complaint.

Because that is what He did.

Think about it. What, really, was His example?

This is a Passover meal. They probably discussed how God spared Israel when all of the firstborn were slain. And Jesus – the Firstborn of God, fully God and fully Man – has come to be the only firstborn whose blood is shed to save all other people who call on His Name.

Instead of a year-old lamb, Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Instead of the blood being painted over the door of our homes, The Door poured out His blood.

Instead of death coming for us, He defeated death through taking away our sin by becoming sin on the cross and then rising from the grave.

In other words, Instead of unleavened bread, we have the Bread of Life who was broken for us and rose again to Life.


He became a friend when His friends abandoned Him.

And He gave us a reminder to celebrate it. A love note to remind us “as often as [we] drink of it”.

[vv. 22-25:]
So, we take communion to remember that He has done all the work. It is not so much our story. We are a part of His story. All of this – literally everything – is about Jesus.

We take communion to remember His humility and sacrifice for His friends.
For those who abandon and ignore Him.
For those who put Him on a cross to suffer.
For those who mistreat Him, mock Him, and turned away from Him.

But we have this hope: that He has forgiven us by His blood, and we will one day enjoy a meal with Him again.

But until then, we proclaim His life, death, and resurrection. So, join me in partaking in communion.

RESPONSE:

1 Corinthians 11:23-25:
the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance
of me.”

Sermon: Mark 10:32-52

I preached again. On Father’s Day of all days.

I might need a new computer, because it, again, took a few days (better than last time, though!) to get this uploaded due to some technical issues.

As usual, my rough notes are below, just remember that they are rough notes and not necessarily everything I said.

Mark 10:32-52

MESSAGE:

vv. 32:
Why were people amazed and afraid?

Possibly thinking about Jesus having just discussed how impossible it is to be saved unless God does it. (vv. 23-31)

Possibly seeing how resolutely Jesus is heading toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51[-62?]).

Possibly because of what He said next:

vv. 33-34:
Jesus explains His arrest, beating, and death, as well as His resurrection.
Is it possible the disciples were amazed at the news, while others merely heard that He would die?

No one knows for sure. We see there are two groups: The 12 and others “who followed”.

Probably a combination of all of this: it is difficult (yet oh-so-easy) to be saved, Jesus looks determined to get to Jerusalem, and Jesus just predicted problems in Jerusalem. “Is the Messiah about to start the war that drives out the pagans and restores true worship?”

Honestly, none of them could see what was coming, even with Jesus explaining it in such detail. We know for two reasons: two Apostles making their request and the immediate healing of a man.

First, how the Apostles did not see clearly:

vv. 35-45:
James and John (and their mom, as seen in Matthew 20) are clearly expecting Jesus to triumph and reign in Jerusalem, so they ask to sit at His right and left hand. They expect a quick and decisive victory. (Which definitely happened at the cross, but they can’t see that yet.)

The other Ten became “indignant” at their audacity. But at least they were looking towards Jesus’ ultimate glory. They knew and expected Jesus to be in glory, and they wanted to be with Jesus in glory! Shouldn’t we?!

We can see they are not seeing the whole picture, though. They each know they can “drink from the same cup” as Jesus, but, as usual, Jesus takes it deeper: “Indeed, you will,” but it is not as rulers as the world understands ruling. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. So, too, we as Christ followers are to serve each other.

How?

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to offer His life as a ransom for many.”

We must [READ Philippians 2:3-5] “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.
How do we know the Apostles were not seeing things this way? (At least not yet?)

vv. 46-52:
Here is a blind man, crying out for the promised Messiah, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” A crowd – including the Apostles – are trying to quiet Him down and shoo him away. “The Teacher has no time for someone like you. Quiet!”

But this man can see who is nearby. This BLIND MAN can clearly see the Son of God is walking by. He cries out louder, more urgently, knowing this is his only chance to be healed. They are still getting indignant at the audacity of others wanting to be near Christ.

And notice the change in everyone when Jesus finally speaks “Call him”: “Oh, hey, friend, come see Jesus,” they sweetly say to this poor helpless man. We see that the APOSTLES OF JESUS are still missing the point that “the Son of man came not be served but to serve”.

And notice how Jesus heals.

Remember a couple chapters ago when Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida? He spits in the man’s eyes and covers them with his hands. This time, He merely speaks, “your faith has made you well.” (Reminds me of Moses and water from the rocks: First he tapped a rock with his staff, the second time he was supposed to only speak to it. A reminder that a greater Prophet than Moses has finally come.)

Quick Mini-Lesson:

Quick lesson on literary/biblical terms:
One of Caitlin’s favorites: Pericope – an excerpt from a text that forms a complete thought. We had three pericopes today: Jesus predicting His crucifixion, James and John requesting a place of honor, and the healing of Bartimaeus.

Chiastic structure – a poetic writing style that flows (often in a circular way or in an arc) so that themes are repeated in reverse order. As an example (from Genesis 9:6):

A – Whoever sheds
     B – the blood
          C – of man,
          C’ – by man
     B’ – shall his blood
A’ – be shed

Sometimes, there is a hinge that it all swings around. For example, Proverbs 31:10-31 extols the virtues of a godly woman, following a long chiastic structure, with a “hinge” in verse 23 about her husband: “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”

The greatest chiasmus is the entire Bible:

A – Creation of Paradise
     B – The Fall into sin
          C – The spread of sin
               D – Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection
          C’ – The spread of the Gospel
     B’ – Christ’s return and final redemption from sin
A’ – Restored Paradise

Our big chiasmus from Mark:

A – 8:22-26 – Blind man healed
     B – 8:27-30 – Peter’s Confession of Christ
          C – 8:31-9:1 – Christ’s 1st Foretelling and Peter’s “tempting” Jesus with rebuke
               D – 9:2-13 – Christ’s Transfiguration into glory as God’s true Son
                    E – 9:14-30 – Christ is greater than spirits by healing a child
                         F – 9:30-32 – Christ’s 2nd Foretelling of His Crucifixion & Resurrection
                    E’ – 9:33-37 – Disciples argue who is greater, Christ’s call to childlikeness
               D’ – 9:38-10:31 – Those who tempt others to sin and turn from God’s truth,
                         instead accepting His glory
          C’ – 10:32-34 – Christ’s 3rd Foretelling
     B’ – 10:35-45 – Apostles acknowledge Christ and His glory
A’ – 10:46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus healed


So what?

Mark is pointing out to us how blind we are to God’s truth. We need God to reveal Himself to us, because we tend to think we know better … or that truth can’t be known or is relative or up to each person.

No, Mark is showing us through these pericopes that Jesus came to work, to serve other people. We start with the Son of God showing us He is our Creator and Healer by healing a blind man. We can easily confess Christ as the Son of God while still not seeing Who He really is. And then Jesus predicts His death and resurrection.

Then after the failure of the Apostles to catch on, He predicts it again, that hinge of these stories, reminding us to innocently believe in Him and not distract others.

He predicts it again and drives the point home how blind we are to truth by healing another blind man WITH ONLY HIS WORDS.

Blindness. Revelation. We mess up. Revelation. We mess up. Revelation. Blindness.

We foresee Christ’s passion in the midst of our pride and persistence to think we have it figured out. Fortunately, He is more persistent than we are, and motivates us to be more persistent.

It can be awesome and intimidating to think about the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe coming after us, but it is all because of His love for us and for the Father’s glory.

RESPONSE:

We cannot begin to understand God and His ways (Isaiah 55:8), but we can let Him open our eyes to what He is doing.

We can look to our Savior and see that our Maker and Savior came to us to set the example of how to serve others with sacrificial love and compassion.

For all people.

We can see that He is the God who heals. He may not physically heal us in this life, but by His resurrection we have the hope of eternity free from pain, suffering, and fear.

We should be zealous for a God who saw us in our pride and misunderstandings yet loved us enough to come die for us, to open our eyes to truth and forgive us.

APPLICATION:

How then should we live?

How do we treat people? How do we treat God?!

It can be so easy to get upset with others when we think they are wrong. We can get indignant with their seemingly overblown sense of passion for something, or that they are interfering with important matters.

Do we remember that sometimes (many times?) we each can be the seemingly overblown, interfering person?

We need to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything. But we know the One who does and sees each person, their circumstances, and their lives.

We need to ask Him to open our eyes to what He is doing in their lives … and our own.

We need to ask Him to reveal our own blindness toward others, ourselves, and His glory.

We need to be passionate about the things of God, to want to do the Father’s work in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And how?

We read His Word. We get into the Bible: individually, with others, and when we meet as the Church. We must be learning what He has revealed through Scripture and listening to those who have put in the time and training to be teachers and pastors, but always comparing what they say (and write) with the Bible. (Like the Bereans in Acts 17) And we need to be telling others the truth of Christ. It shows we truly believe He is the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God who takes away the sin world. This is how we acknowledge His glory. We should be passionate about sharing Christ with others, unable and unwilling to be told to be quiet about our Great Healer God.!

Sermon: John 4:1-26 – Re-Up, or The God Who Comes to the Unworthy

I preached again! This time, I was covering for a dear brother who could not be at his little rural church to be at his son’s wedding.

So, I picked up where he left off going through John, wrote a sermon, and took my wife to little Paulden, AZ.

(Just like the last sermon, technical issues slowed sharing this for over a week.)

As usual, my notes below were rough notes and not necessarily everything I said.

The video was on Facebook Live, so it is not the greatest quality.

https://DanielMKlem.sermon.net/21799323

John 4:1-26 – Re-Up, or The God Who Comes to the Unworthy

[INTRO] 

Paul talked about Jesus being in Jerusalem for Passover – the great passage about God sending His son into the world. 

He then shared about Jesus and His disciples going into the countryside where John the Baptist was baptizing, and John explained that Christ must increase while he decreased. And we see that Christ is truly God who is above all things and has received all things from the Father. 

In other words, God is truth. 

[READ JOHN 4:1-26, ESV] 

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Part 1: The set-up 

vv. 1-8 give us the set-up. 

  1. Jesus had been probably a few miles NE of Jerusalem with JtB – heard Pharisees were coming 
  1. Knowing it was not time to be confronted he needed to leave immediately. 
  1. Safest route for a Jew: cross the Jordan, travel through Gentile lands, and probably bump into Pharisees on the road. 
  1. Cut travel time in half by heading north through Samaria – He took the expedient route. 
  1. The Father obviously has a plan, too! 
  1. Sychar (near Shechem), it says, is where Jacob’s Well is, in the area Jacob gave to Joseph (which went to Ephraim) 
  1. Now, take a step back to look at the Samaritans: 
  1. These are largely the people that are from the 10 tribes that abandoned the Davidic line and fell into idolatry. The rest could be descendants of the families that had intermarried with pagans and were sent away from Jerusalem (Ezra 10, Nehemiah 13). 
  1. Separated when Rehoboam (anointed king in Shechem) was a horrible slave driver, and Jeroboam offered an alternative. [“So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day …” 1 Kings 12:19] Jeroboam built altars to golden calves. Later, after Assyria and Babylon took the Northern Tribes, the remnant intermarried with Gentiles or were the sent-away pagan families of Jews after the Exile. 
  1. Jews saw Samaritans of unworthy of their time and attention, and vice versa. 
  1. Jesus has probably walked for a day and a half at this point. 

In all honesty, He probably sent the disciples away based on what we know about them wanting to keep people away from Him! He wanted a chance to talk with this woman without their meddling. 

Part 2: The lead-up 

vv. 8-15 is the lead-up to truth revealed. 

Jesus uses the need for water to bridge the gap between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. It is like us finding a common ground with others who are not Christians. 

Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1, the gospel “is folly those who are perishing” (v.18), “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (v. 22). And here is a Samaritan, a person who is a mix of both. 

So, she appeals to Jacob, one of the Forefathers/Patriarchs, “Are you greater than him?!” She does not realize that this is the One who wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32! 

But He starts pushing her toward the truth in His lead-up to the big reveal. This water is temporary, but Jesus offers the water of the Holy Spirit who leads to eternal life. 

Now, she is interested. 

Part 3: The lift up 

vv. 16-26 is the lift up – what looks like a teardown of a person is lifting her eyes to truth. 

“Go, call your husband.” “You are right … you have had five, and you are not married to the man you currently live with.” 

See, this sounds a bit harsh. Hear modern people saying, “See, Jesus didn’t tell her to stop living with the man!” But Jesus is pointing out her sin and using it to reveal her need for a Savior. 

She misunderstood Jesus’ reference to living water, so He draws her in deeper with a hard truth. “You claim to obey the Torah, but even you have not lived up to it.” It was a less-than-gentle rebuke. 

“Look, you have been unfaithful.” 

But they continue, “I see you are a prophet, but our fathers worshiped on this mountain while you say Jerusalem is the place to worship.” 

She is probably thinking of the Patriarchs worshiping in this area, or even that after the Exile Samaritan priests said true worship was on Mt. Gerazim.  

[READ DEUTERONOMY 27:11-13, ending with “And the Levites shall declare blessings and curses”] 

They fail to realize how they claim to worship on the mountain of blessing, but they honor the mountain of the curse. 

And Jesus does it again: “You do not even understand what you are worshiping! Salvation comes from the Jews!” 

[READ VV. 23-24] 

She speaks from misunderstanding, and He sets her straight: You’re wrong, but we will all worship by the Holy Spirit in the Name of Truth. 

And she replies, “Yes, the Messiah is coming, and he will tell us all things.” 

Jesus says, “I who speak to you am he.” In other words, “I am that Truth. I am revealing all things to you.” 

Jesus is the Son of God – fully man, fully God – who lifted a sinful woman’s eyes up to worship God rightly. 

But what does this teach us? 

I have recently had people claim I am not Christian for working during a church service. I found out they do not even believe Jesus is God and/or question the validity of the cross. 

I had to tell them that they are not a Christian. “How dare you? Who do you think you are?” they challenged. 

Here it is, in black and white (or red, black, and white!) This book reveals that Jesus is God. 

I have heard some teach that this passage shows us that God will make us go to places we do not expect or even want to go, and this can be true. 

But the real message is this: 

Jesus calls all people to Himself. The Great Commission says to make disciples of all nations, and in Acts 1 He says the gospel would go in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Here He is, before this command, demonstrating it. He avoided the hypocritical religious leaders to reach out to someone His own people said was not worthy. 

Some of us have committed adultery. Some have stolen. Some have lied, cheated, blasphemed, and sought refuge in things not God. We have denied the deity of Christ, the goodness of God. We have done drugs, been drunk, and slept around. We have been the outcast and worthless sinner. 

Yet the Father reaches out to us through the Holy Spirit to turn to the Son, and says, “Yes. You have done horrible things, and you deserve death. But see my forgiveness. See my grace. See my love, poured out on the cross. 

None are unworthy at the foot of the cross. Yet, we are only made worthy when we kneel at the foot of the cross, accepting our sinful nature, and turning to our only salvation: the Son of God killed on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins, making us washed and made new, quenched by His goodness and grace, clothed in His worthiness and righteousness. 

How can we not want to tell others of how much He has done? How He has saved wretches like us. 

We may not share the Gospel perfectly, and we may even want our friends around to help sometimes, but we worship the God who saves, even when we misunderstand and twist scriptures for our own needs and try and show our own goodness apart from Him. 

Sermon: Completely: Bartholomew and the One Who Sighs – Mark 8:1-21

I preached again. And I had some fun doing it. (And technical issues slowed me from sharing this for over a month! This was preached on April 25, 2021.) (The full service can be seen at The Church Next Door’s YouTube channel right here.)

Please read Mark 8:1-21:

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Mark 8:1‭-‬21 ESV

SERMON: MARK 8:1-21 – COMPLETELY: BARTHOLOMEW AND THE ONE WHO SIGHS

Bartholomew

Greetings, brothers and sisters. May the grace and shalom of our Lord be with you all.
You may have heard of me. I am Bartholomew, or some of you may know me as Nathanael. I am one of the Lord’s disciples, and I want to tell you about one of our travels with Jesus.

Remembering before:

We had come from Tyre and Sidon where the woman’s daughter was healed, stopped in Capernaum to get Peter’s boat, and headed to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. (South of where the 5,000 men were fed. More into the area where Gentiles live.) This is where Jesus healed the deaf man.

Jesus had been doing so much healing and teaching, and a great crowd came asking Jesus to touch their children and sick. Jesus spent much of the time teaching as He had in other places.

Feeding another crowd.

After three days, the crowd had swelled: 4,000 men and many of their families. Everyone was out of food. Jesus showed His compassion: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. Some of them have come from far away.” (Mark 8:2-3)

We talked amongst ourselves, “Sure, he fed the 5,000, but should we expect Him to do it again?” Then we asked, “How can one feed these people with bread way out here in the middle of nowhere?” (Mark 8:4)

Jesus sighed (like a parent who has asked their child to sit down for the fifth time) with a chuckle. “How many loaves do you have?” (8:5) “Seven,” we said.

We were ashamed of ourselves, but we also knew what to do this time. Like with the 5,000, we had them all sit in large groups while Jesus thanked the Father as He broke the bread into pieces and separated some fish. We took the pieces to the people who could each eat their fill. And we had 7 basketfuls at the end, keeping a couple loaves.

The Pharisees’ demand

We then walked back to the sea to ride across to the western shore. The plan was for Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Philip to catch some fish and get it preserved in the Dalmanutha region, and the rest of us would by some bread. This way we could have more provisions for the next area.

Instead, when we arrived, it seems the Pharisees and Sadducees had been watching for us. We were barely on shore when they came to Jesus. We had never seen them quite so confrontational. They had attacked us before, and some of his teaching, sure, but this time they wanted absolute proof of Jesus’ claims. “Give us a mighty sign from heaven! Prove to us you are a great prophet!”

The sigh Jesus gave. It reminded me of the sigh when a tax collector would take all of a father’s income, or when Simon discussed spending a long night fishing with nothing to show for it. It was wearied sigh. A sigh of pain and sorrow.

Jesus seemed to rant. How can they know what the weather can be like by looking at the sky in the evening or morning, but they overlook the obvious? These people would get no sign, except that Jesus would be like Jonah – buried for three days to come back again.

Then we got right back in the boat.

Our own blindness

We soon realized we were distracted by the Pharisees and Sadducees. None of us had done as planned to get more food. We only had one loaf of bread between any of us. We were quietly bickering about not doing our jobs.
Jesus suddenly said, “Watch out. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians.”
Once again ashamed, we started talking about how upset He must be with us for forgetting to buy bread, being more interested in the conversation He had back on shore.
And then he sighed again. Another deep sigh. He had our attention.

“Why are you still talking about how much bread you have? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts still so hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you get?”
Looking down we all sheepishly answered Him, “12.”
“And the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full did you pick up?”
“7.”
“Do you not yet understand?”

Getting it

We see it now.
The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees are so focused on retaining their power through laws and tradition. If it doesn’t fit their expectations, they refuse to see it.
How have we been any better? Even after two years, we were still looking for a General King to drive out the Romans and restore true worship in the Temple. Why couldn’t we pay attention to our own ideas and expectations getting in the way. We were still seeing Jesus as the Messiah we dreamed up.

What was Jesus showing us?

He is in control of all things. He controls nature. He heals what medicine and doctors can’t. He divides and multiplies things in impossible ways.

And he loves. He shows compassion on the people focusing on their own desires and fears. He takes time to listen, to touch, to hold, and to feed. He may have gotten tired in His frail human body, but He is the inexhaustible God who loves us even through our sin and conceit.

And what has Jesus shown us?

Remember the twelve baskets of bread? I don’t know how we missed it. At the consecration of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Moses received the offerings from the leaders of the Twelve Tribes. There were animal sacrifices, yes, but they also brought silver bowls full of the grain offerings to God. Grain offerings that fed the priests tending the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle that was the temporary place of worship of God until a permanent Temple could be built hundreds of years later.

Jesus showed us that He – God – provided the offering for consecration of His Temple. We saw them as bread in baskets. God was consecrating His Temple, the Church, by showing He has provided for all of Israel – the Twelve Tribes – and pointed toward the Church, the true Temple of God.

Remember the seven baskets of bread? Jesus showed us His compassion, His provision, His power is complete. Not just for Israel. The Syrophoenician woman helped show that. Now, feeding people on the edge of Gentile lands, we see that God’s love extends to all people.

Completely.

Jesus has come to those who reject Him, those who misunderstand Him, those who have refused Him, and He shows us the truth of who He is.

He is God. He loves His creation, and He provides for His creation. He has established His living Temple on the Earth to bring that good news. And the cornerstone of that Temple?

Himself. The Giver of bread is our Bread of Life, who was broken for our sinful rebellion, rejection, and refusals. He gave Himself up to die on a cross as that sacrifice needed to consecrate His living Temple. His blood was sprinkled to cleanse us of our sins and consecrate our lives.

Completely.

And He was the first stone to be laid. And now we go into this world and lay our lives down for the same reason: to show this world God has provided for us, has compassion for us, and has made a way into eternal life for us.

Completely.

And we invite others to come in with that same compassion and love.

So, we may sigh in the pains of this life with its struggles, pains, and [dealing with other people], but in Christ we can find that sigh of relief. He has taken compassion on us and taken the burden of sin and death from us.

It does not mean He takes all the pain away in this life, but we have hope for the life to come. Where there is no more pain, no more struggle, no more tears.

He has given us everything, if we only take it.