Posts Tagged ‘ The Church Next Door AZ ’

Sermon: Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

I preached again!

While Pastor Scott is out of town, I was given the privilege of preaching on the passage about the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit.

I am sure I never to too controversial … (I mention false teachers and current political drama …)

As a reminder, these are sermon notes, so they may not necessarily have everything I actually said. (Especially seeing as, as I said at the beginning of the message, a bunch of my notes digitally disappeared! I put much of what I said in here.)

Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

Intro

Be thankful.

54 weeks ago, I preached in Mark 10 and gave a mini-seminary lesson on chiastic structures in literature, especially the Bible. A chiasm, as a reminder, is when ideas flow, like a door on a hinge, such that there is a Thought A, a Thought B, and a Thought C (possibly a similar Thought C’), that then connects with similar Thought B’ and concluding with a similar Thought A’.

I could go deeper, but I will spare you a full repeat of that lesson.

I wanted to explain possibly dozens of chiasms in this little book of Galatians, and that in Galatians 5:15-26 I found a possible four chiasms! Oh, how I wanted to point out similarities between the various thoughts and how God used Paul to connect our own infighting and envy, getting over ourselves, and the goodness of God; how certain works of the flesh correlate with each other!

Instead, I will not gratify my own desires and nerdiness for language and grammar. I will leave you in the freedom of not being lectured on the intricacies of such things … so that you do not slip into sinful rage against my boring interests.

No, I will just focus on stepping on everyone’s toes, pointing out how sinful our world is and we ourselves can be! I even admit that looking at the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5, I see too much of myself … in all 15 things and things like these.

And, hopefully, as we go through Galatians 5:16-26, you also find the encouragement and freedom we have in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit against our own sinfulness and in His grace.

Who are we gratifying?

​Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.There are many things that we want to do. There are many things that feel good. Maybe they are not in and of themselves bad, but are they necessarily the things we should be doing.

If we are in church – or even listening online or later – we are probably seeking to live good and godly lives. A good church – good pastors and leaders – will point out that even as Christians we often fail to perfectly live good lives.

How do I know?

I look at my own life! I am sure most if not all of you would be willing to admit that you know where, when, and how often you fall short.

Hamartia – the Greek word for sin that literally means “falling short of the target.”

But we do get encouragement from God’s Word, when Paul reminds us in Romans 7 that he, too, fell short:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25, ESV

We are content to live our lives assuming we are living well, but then God’s Law shows us that we consistently fall short. And before anyone can assume they are doing okay, we are also reminded in Romans 2 that God has written His Law on our hearts. Our own consciences betray us, knowing what we should or should not do and doing the opposite.

In other words, we are enslaved to our own sinful desires when left to our own devices. We would rather gratify our sinful, fleshly desires than seek God.

Now, as pastors Scott and Aaron have reminded us the past two weeks, when we are found in Christ we are set free from the confines of the Law. We are free to choose to please God rather than our own desires.

Paul has now told us twice – in Romans 7 and back here in Galatians 5 – that our flesh keeps us from wanting to obey God, but in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to fight back, to cast off the yoke of slavery to sin to willingly take the yoke of Christ. The Law reminds us we can’t measure up, but when our faith is in the So n of God, the Father sees the Son’s faithfulness and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to walk in the same righteous faithfulness of Christ.

But there are many who teach a twisted form of this truth.

The “Gospel” of the Flesh

​ Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some quick definitions and explanations:

  • Sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality:
  1. Sexual immorality is our translation of the Greek “porneia” – denotes sex outside of marriage, where we get our word for “pornography”. And as Jesus informed us in the Sermon on the Mount, even lusting is adulterous, so not merely the physical but also the emotional and imagination.
  2. Impurity comes straight out of this, that we taint the marriage bed by pursuing fantasies, personal gratification, or non-husband-and-wife relationships that interfere with marital relationships.
  3. Sensuality also comes out of this, by being tempting to others, dressing for attention (both male and female!) especially in a sexy way, pushing boundaries (“How far is too far?”).
  • Idolatry and Sorcery, sorcery being the Greek word “pharmakeia”, where we get our word for “pharmacy” – it can mean medicinal research (so not all bad), but it carries the implication of using drugs or magical manipulation to alter reality or our perception of it, i.e. trying to play God by creating new things from nothing or by illicitly combining elements of things. In other words, putting things before God or playing God, including addictions and trying to do things apart from Him, including seeking eternal life and personal happiness.
  • Enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy:
  1. Enmity and strife are making people enemies by purposefully spreading lies or gossip with the intent of causing harm, thus …
  2. Rivalries, dissensions, and divisions – purposefully and malevolently seeking to harm others to selfishly get ahead. “We’re better than they are because …” The Greek word for divisions is “hairesis” or “heresies”. People who make up new meanings and teachings to help themselves.
  3. Fits of anger and envy are slipping into rage and desiring harm to others, thinking others have it better off because of special privilege or advantage and therefore need to be taken down a peg.
  • Drunkenness and orgies go together, as the implication of drunkenness (Greek “methai” – which sounds a lot like our drugs Meth, but while that is merely coincidence it should serve as a good reminder) is one who lives in a perpetual state of being drunk, i.e. an alcoholic or addict, and the word translated “orgies” implies alcohol fueled parties in which anything goes and often does.

When I look at this list and compare my life 16 years ago, I remember thinking reading this in 2007 that my life (as a Christian!) had become all but two things on this list – sorcery/witchcraft and orgies. Yet, knowing the deeper meanings today, I can see that many of the parties I attended the previous two years fell into this, because we would have hookah mixed with other things or the crazy drink concoctions (sorcery) while having mass make-out sessions (included in the understanding of orgies). All of this is one of the reasons I understand and appreciate the Parable of the Prodigal Son and God’s grace so much more!

But let’s work through these works in light of what others may teach today:

People like to point out all of the accounts of abuse in churches, thinking it proves the Church is merely another religion of men trying to control other people.

While a few of those caught in abusive scandals in recent years do look like orthodox preachers who did horrible things, we must realize that a) non-Christians and even the irreligious are at least as guilty as people found doing such things in the Christian churches and b) the vast majority have been caught teaching heresies, man-made doctrines, and/or twisted gospels. It is an expected sign that people teaching/promoting heresies and such are later caught in abusive behaviors, be they controlling others (often through emotional and spiritual abuse) and/or sexual sins and/or addictive behaviors.

The Hillsong scandals of the past two years: a church that promotes the prosperity gospel and has been associated with known false teachers. I specifically mean those in the New Apostolic Reformation full of false prophets and apostles, such as the Bethel Church of Redding, CA, group, and the International House of Prayer out of Kansas City. Why do I mention them? Sure, they occasionally get a prophecy right and typically have good sounding statements of faith (if they have one), but the vast majority of their prophecies have been wrong. According Scripture (Deuteronomy 13 and 18, as well as smatterings throughout the Hebrew Bible), it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.

These people and even some historically sound teachers argue that it merely means they attempted to prophecy in their own power, not that they’re false prophets. This is definitely a heresy (division in our list today), and it is definitely a blasphemy. They have attributed falsehood to God, what Jesus (in Matthew and Luke 12) calls blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is people who teach we need to be doing certain things – performing signs and wonders or loving a certain way – to be saved or to prove we are saved or to finish our salvation by doing works or making reparations for our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

It is the so-called pastors who twist Scripture to justify their own teachings and lifestyles, saying things like “Jesus never said anything about gay marriage” or “words like homosexuality were added in the past 120 years” or “they were writing to the cultural context of their day only.” If the changes in society govern how we should interpret Scripture, it would mean it is not the eternal Word of God that it claims to be, that God – who the same Scriptures say does not change – changes with the times, too.

Our fruit, they say, is to admit that love is love and that we need to be tolerant of each others’ personal truths. Embrace your fruitiness, come out of the closet, and don’t judge! Jesus said don’t judge, so stop being hypocrites and celebrate our diversity and inclusivity!

Yet, these are the very people who show their fruit by demanding their rights over the rights of others.

These are the people who say they don’t care what God’s Law says, they have their own personal freedom to do what they want when they want. They may think it is good to have out-of-control protests and riots.

These are the people who say “my body, my choice,” and then attack others – verbally and physically – such as demanding we forfeit our religious rights for their preferences, or deface and damage businesses and non-profits that they disagree with, taking away the choice of others. (Yes, I am referring to the news of the past week (and two months) of Roe v. Wade being overturned as well, as Pride Month.)

All of these are different gospels, things they those who profess them think are “good news”, but like Paul reminded us (and Pastor Scott in his messages has reiterated) these are no gospels at all. They are false gospels from false teachers. They think they have freedom, but they are still slaves to their sinful desires.

I know. I am being a bit confrontational. Science and Scripture are actually on our side.

And I can hear some of the rebuttals:

  • “But aren’t you being divisive with these words?”
  • “What happened to loving your neighbor?”
  • “Aren’t you told not to use your freedom in Christ to hurt others?”

And technically these are true, but this is using the same tactics of the serpent in the Garden.

  • “Did God really say …?” – “Why are you going against God’s Word?” (While they twist it themselves.)
  • “You will not surely die …” – “God didn’t really mean what He said.”
  • “You will be like God …” – “We have freedom, too! You are the ones not obeying!”

“Those people” are the ones misunderstanding. Jesus commanded us to judge rightly, not hypocritically, in Matthew 7, using God’s Word to examine ourselves and each other.

And how do we love others?

By revealing God’s truth, even when it hurts. No one likes hearing they are deplorable sinners, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t like hearing we have spit in the face of God, slapped Him, beat Him, killed Him by our own sin.

We all have broken His righteous Law.

We all are guilty of abusing His words and His grace.

We all are guilty of putting Jesus on the cross.

Yet, it is Jesus who told people we do not take sin seriously enough, that getting rageful (from our list) is tantamount to murder, that lusting is tantamount to adultery.

It is Jesus who said to go and sin no more.

It is Jesus who said no one comes to the Father except by Me, that only those who deny themselves and believe in the Son will be saved from God’s wrath an inherit eternal life.

It is Jesus who willingly went to the cross to pay for our rebellion, our sexual immorality and impurity, our rage and jealousy and strife and division against God.

So, how do we respond?

Knowing we are just as guilty as everyone raging against the Church and God’s Word and recent Supreme Court decisions …

How do we respond?

Galatians 5:21–26 (ESV)

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

One of the things that blew my mind as a young Christian was when my pastor (also a Pastor Scott) pointed out that the word for fruit is singular. These are not nine different fruits that we may show at different times. We are looking at one tree (one vine!), and it produces a single fruit comprised of various parts.

How do we respond?

Those outside of Christ are still in the yoke of bondage to sin. They do not have the freedom they think they do.

We who belong to Christ have crucified our flesh, our desires, our passions, that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. Dying to ourselves does not sound like freedom, but as Pastor Aaron said last week, it is just like being invited into a construction site to write scriptures and prayers on the hidden structure, being told there are limits to where we can go, but for the love of those working and the officials (of the school) freely choose to stay within those limits.

And that is what we see: love (for God and others), joy (that is difficult to explain), peace (that is difficult to understand), patience (to deal with limitations on ourselves and from others), kindness (reflecting the kindness our Lord has shown us when being mocked and beaten), goodness (in the midst of evil), faithfulness (when the easy thing is to compromise and settle), gentleness (controlled strength, not reacting to attacks but from love), and self-control (when we want to give in.)

How do we respond?

We freely choose the gospel over retribution or even our own rights. We do not concede to evil, but we stand up in the midst of it, showing love and grace with a faithfulness to truth and God.

We show patience and kindness towards those who disagree with us, showing gentleness (“forgive them, for they know not what they do”) as our all-powerful God was with us who crucified His Son.

When they lose control, mocking us, getting violent, destroying property and lives, we show self-control, not getting overly angry or spiteful toward them.

We take the time to listen, to hear their hurting hearts, their fears, even their hatred. We do not relent in truth, but we stand in the truth.

It is too easy for us to give in to the passion of the moment, desiring retribution and our chance to be heard. Instead, we are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live but Christ in us. We walk in the Spirit, knowing that in Christ we died to our selves. We await our renewed bodies, but we walk in the renewal of our minds in the Holy Spirit. We lay down our rights to be heard and to be “right” in every argument.

But we hold to the truth.

We do not force truth on others, mocking their arguments and actions while wishing people listened to us as much as they listen to “the woke left” or even the conservative right or anyone in between.

No, we rest in the truth of God’s Word, telling others the truth in love.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
1 Peter 3:13-18, ESV

Yes, we have the truth on our side, but we do not make others listen. We speak God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts.

Yes, we do work toward making our world a better place and standing for truth, but …

though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV

Why do we do this?

We remember that we are no different. We are just as guilty of sin and rebellion.

But Christ has saved us who believe.

So we are patient and kind and self-controlled and loving, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it.

This is why we continue meeting together: to (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV

We devote ourselves to biblical teachings and the fellowship of the saints, to the breaking of bread and prayers in the awe of God.

We are in the world but not of it, so we join with God to bring heaven to Earth – patiently, kindly, and lovingly, with God’s goodness, joy, and peace which surpasses understanding.

I know I see myself too well in the works of the flesh, but I strive to enter through the narrow door, to enter the freedom of God’s rest that I may not enter into the same disobedience, for peace with everyone, for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord.

I strive for the freedom from sinfulness and bitterness that Christ offers.

I trust in Christ to change me to change the world.

I strive to live a full life in Jesus and bring others along for the ride.

Will you join me as I seek Jesus?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are the Holy One, the righteous Judge, our loving Savior. We know we have chosen to pursue our own sinful desires, to chase down our own passions, to rebel against You and each other.

We ask again for your forgiveness for all those times we fall short, when we give in to the fear of this world over the fear of the Lord, when we act self-righteous over trusting in Your righteousness, when we fight and rage against each other over seeking Your peace, when we seek our own gratification over the fullness of the Spirit.

By Your Spirit, guide us in all truth and love, that we may carry your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our own lives and to our violent, impure, rebellious world. Make Your light shine through us, helping us to trust You more and more, sharing the hope of Your yet future return, that others may come to glorify Your Name in all the Earth.

Help us to be faithful in all things, with all gifts.

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: 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: 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.