Tag Archives: Jesus

Through the Cross

The following is a sermon I preached three years ago on Palm Sunday. it came to mind this morning as I was walking and praying. I trust it will bless you this Easter!

In the 5th century BC, the Greeks started some games at Mount Olympus.  An olive branch was twisted as a crown, and onlookers waved palms for the victor.  Palm branches were a symbol of victory. Olympic medals still have palms on them today!

There was excitement in the city.  Jesus was coming.  They had heard of his miracles, of people healed, of demons cast out, of his run-ins with the Pharisees.  The discussion about the coin with Caesars image on it and whether we should pay taxes or not.  The story of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son.  Lazarus had been raised from the dead just days prior.  And now he was coming to Jerusalem!

He was really coming.  He was the King, the Messiah, in their minds.  They believed he was coming as a victor to bring His kingdom to reality.  They saw victory over the Romans coming to pass so they gave Him a victor’s welcome.  They waved the palm branches and laid them down at His feet in victory.  They even laid their overcoats down in homage to Him.  They praised the one who came riding in on a donkey, just as the prophecies said He would. Of course, the religious leaders were aghast!  They derided Him for accepting the praise of the people.  But He told them the rocks would cry out if the people did not.  They were incredulous, I am sure

Then he walked into the temple and saw the money changers there, cheating the people and lying to them.   They would take a lamb from one family, saying it was not clean enough, and they would sell that same family a lamb that had been taken from another family, supposedly because it was not clean enough.  There weights were not accurate and they cheated the people one after another.  Jesus came in, and as He had done before, he started dumping the tables over, causing a huge commotion in the entry of the temple.  Once again, the religious leaders were furious and said this man has got to go.

The next two days he spent time in Jerusalem, teaching the people with stories about ten virgins and ten talents.  He pronounced woes on the Pharisees in a tone none had seen from Him before.  He told of the end times, and what they would be seeing at the end of the age.  He talked about the value of a widow’s mite, and His feet were anointed with very costly oil by Mary. He told Peter he would betray Him three times.  A lot happened on those two days that we rarely read about.

But then Thursday came.  He sent His disciples into the city to prepare for the Passover, telling them to take someone’s donkey and tell them the Master had need of it.  The disciples went and prepared the feast, and as soon as they were all there, Jesus washed their feet.  The Master washing His followers’ feet – quite a sign of servanthood.  He told them one of them would betray Him, and sent Judas away on His mission.  He told them the bread was His broken body, and the cup was His blood spilled for them.  They were trying to figure out what he was talking about.  I am sure the atmosphere was solemn and sobering.  Not a typical Passover fest, which were usually joyous and celebratory.

Around midnight, they took a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He told them he was going to prepare a place for them, that he was giving them His peace and would send the comforter to teach them.  He told them he was the vine and they were the branches, and they were to be fruitful.  He said the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment.  He told them to pray in His name, and he pronounced a blessing on the disciples, all during that short walk.  Those words can be talked about forever.

When they got to the Garden, He took Peter, James and John a little further in and asked them to pray with Him as he went aside.  But they fell asleep, not once, not twice, but three times.  He told His Father that he was ready to do the Fathers will, and not His own.  He would face the cross.  Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss and the soldiers took Him away in the middle of the night.  A mock court awaited Him. It didn’t take long for them to convict Him as peter was outside betraying Him.  Pilate listened to the case and washed His hands of the whole thing after the crowd cried crucify Him.  He was beaten, bruised, spit on, scourged, given a crown of thorns and made to carry His cross.  He fell under the weight, weakened by the loss of blood.  A man helped Him carry the cross the rest of the way.  They laid Him on it and put the nails through His hands and feet.  Then they raised the cross and dropped it in the hole with a thud.  The pain in His body must have been immense, the sight of Him almost grotesque. 

Then He asked the Father to forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.  He put John in His place to care for His mother.  He asked for a drink and got vinegar.  Then he cried it is finished and His life left Him at three in the afternoon.  He gave it up, they did not take it.  All of a sudden there was an earthquake.  The veil of the temple ripped from top to bottom.  People came up out of their graves and walked in the streets of Jerusalem.  It was an incredible series of events.  They took His body down and laid it in a borrowed tomb, wrapped in a cloth.  They out a huge stone at the entry of the tomb, sealed it with a Roman seal and placed a guard at the door so no one would steal the body.

Saturday was quiet.  The people mourned His death.  They seemed hopeless because they had such high hopes.  Now He was gone, and their dreams of a Messiah were gone with them.  The disciples were in hiding, afraid of the Romans, who thought they might steal the body so they could claim he rose again as He said He would.  I can’t imagine the tears that were shed that day.

Then Sunday came.  Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body, but when she got there the Roman guard was asleep and the stone was rolled away!  She went into the tomb and Jesus was gone.  She wondered where he was, and Jesus appeared to her, telling her He had risen just like He said He would.  Se ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.  They were amazed, and suddenly Jesus came into the room and talked with them.  The victory had been won.

You see, the cross was necessary.  Jesus had to win the victory by going through the cross.  And we win the victory by going through the cross as well.  We don’t ant to stay on the front side of the cross, and see the agone and defeat that is there.  We need to get to the back side of the cross and see the victory that Christ won for us.

On the front of the cross is agony on the back of the cross is peace

On the front of the cross is sorrow on the back of the cross is joy

On  the front of the cross is weakness on the back of the cross is strength

On the front of the cross is doubt on the back of the cross is faith

On the front of the cross is pain on the back of the cross is healing

On the front of the cross is deceit on the back of the cross is honesty

On the front of the cross are lies on the back of the cross is truth

On the front of the cross is bondage on the back of the cross is freedom

On the front of the cross is darkness on the back of the cross is light

On the back of the cross we are lost on the back of the cross we find the way

On the front of the cross is sin on the back of the cross is forgiveness

On the front of the cross we are stained with sin

on the back of the cross we are white as snow

On the front of the cross is defeat on the back of the cross is victory

On the front of the cross is death on the back of the cross is eternal life

If we stay on the front of the cross, hell will be our destination

When we go through the cross, and come to the back, our destination is heaven

All is only achieved if we go through the cross.  Have you seen Him on the front of the cross, blood stained, nailed, in agony? Have you accepted Him as your sacrifice for your sin? If you have, then come through the Cross for victory.  Come to the back of the cross and realize all God has for you.

The Third Night

A question was posed to me a few weeks ago that I have been pondering ever since.  Do you ever have those biblical questions that you just want to sit on for a while and contemplate, wondering what it really means.  You think you know, but you are not sure, so you seek the Holy Spirit to guide you to an answer because it is He that will guide you into all truth.  You ask God for wisdom and your faith doesn’t waver so you know He will give you the wisdom you asked for.  This was one of those questions.  I gave my friend a quick thought, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the Holy Spirit spoke tome in an instant and gave me those words I shared with him.

In Matthew 12:38 the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask Him to show them a sign.  I found this a little funny, since he has already been ministering for over a year, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk and the dumb to speak. Certainly they had heard of these deeds and maybe, upon giving them the benefit of the doubt, they had never been present to witness one of these miracles.  They wanted to see for themselves, much like Thomas did the night of His return from the dead.  After all, it would be much easier to believe Him if they could see and actual sign!

Jesus knows their hearts though. He tells them an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.  WOAH!  Wait a minute!  How often do we seek signs?  How often do we need a miracle to happen in our lives in order for us to believe he is the good and merciful God we have heard about?  I hear a lot of people praying to God for miracles all the time and when they don’t get them, they question God.  They wonder if He really hears their prayers, if He really cares about them.  Even though His word tells us He does, they still question.  Does that make us an evil and adulterous generation?  We should worship God for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  There is a huge difference there, and we should make sure we are praising Him for the right reasons.  That way our praise can be unceasing and our love will never die.  But that is not the point I am writing this about.

The next thing Jesus says is even more intriguing.  In Matthew 12:40, He says:

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Let me check my math here.  Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, right? Friday, Saturday, Sunday – that’s three days.  But Friday night and Saturday night are only two nights, right?  He says three nights.  My friend misquoted the verse by saying Jesus was three days in the heart of the ground.  But it says earth here.  So, what happened to the third night?

I think Thursday night was the third night – the night of the Last Supper and the Garden, the several trials also.  It was then that He gave Himself up, that he was no longer a man of this earth.  How could any earthly man endure the suffering he went through?  How could anyone not want to atop Jonas from leaving the upper room and betraying Him?  How could any man not call upon all the power He had to dispel the Roman guards that came to take Him away?  How could He face the Sanhedrin and Pilate without defending Himself before the sun even came up?  My thought is that no living human could.  Only a person who had fully died to himself could go through this chain of events that happened Thursday night into Friday morning.  For all intents and purposes, Jesus really died Thursday night.  His power, His anointed preaching, His ability to call on His Father – all gone.  From that moment on, nothing could kill Him because he had already consigned himself to death.  Three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can learn a valuable lesson from this.  This world is going to come at Christians more and more in these last days.  We are seeing it now and will continue to see the persecution rise.  It started back in the 70’s, with the Bible and prayer being taken out of our schools.  But today it is so much worse.  Today, there is an all-out assault on the church by the LGBTQ+ coalition.  They are splitting churches wide open and are perverting the scriptures with their misinterpretation.  They are winning even the dearest of saints over to their side and indoctrinating our children even as young as kindergarten age.  Free speech will be next as they seek to stop us from reading certain parts of the Bible.  Oppression will hit us all eventually, and we must be prepared.

In my mind, the only way to be prepared is to die to ourselves.  We are supposed to crucify this flesh, let it die, so the Spirit can live within us in this world.  We are supposed to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  If my body can be offended and made weak by the attack of the enemy, what good will I be to the Kingdom of God?  We cannot allow ourselves to be offended, but rather to stand on the word of God when the enemy comes roaring in like a lion.  And he will come, you can depend on that.  He came against Jesus!  He certainly has no fear coming against us.  If we react in the flesh, we are doomed.  But if we react in the Spirit, as Jesus did, we will be victorious every time.  Jesus trusted God in the middle of the assault, and we should as well.   The third night shows us that.  It was in the third night, which actually came first, that all the enemy’s arsenal was used against Jesus.  He did not flinch.  He did not get offended. He did not complain.  He just did what God called Him to do.  And we should do the same!

How Do You Want to be Treated?

Matthew 7:12

7 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this fulfills the law and the prophets

We all know it. The “Golden Rule” it is called. It is known by cultures around the world, by Christian and non-Christian, by rich and poor, by big and small, by any race, sex or creed. This rule has been heard over and over again. Why is it that we have so much trouble understanding it?

Well, I can think of several reasons which I will share in this post. I’ll bet you can some up with a few more on your own. As I look at my own life and what I have witnessed and done myself, I can see so many ways that I fall flat on my face when it comes to this simple statement. It’s not on purpose, mind you. It’s a slip of the mental capacities, or it’s human nature, to just do what is best for me, not necessarily what is best for the other. I challenge you to see if you fit any of these patterns I am going to share.

The first is the “me first” or privileged society we live in today. It’s what I want ahead of all else. It’s my morality that matters. It’s my needs that trump yours. I must do what I have set out to do, and I’m not concerned whether you can fit into my plans or not. Have you heard that? I just heard it yesterday from one of my daughters! I hear it a lot. Once we have set course in a certain direction, we are not going to turn back and try and help someone else. This rule says to do what you would want someone to do for you, not what you want to do for them, or not for them.

We have one of our granddaughters living with us right now. Her cousins came down for Christmas this weekend. They spent the first night with us and had a blast. The last night they were staying in another city about 40 miles away so they could swim and head home in the morning. Our granddaughter wanted to go up swimming with them and needed a ride home if she did because I am not able to drive right now and my wife was working at a restaurant that night. But they had made their plans ahead and were not willing to drive her home. My lovely wife, who will do anything for her grandkids, drove up after work and picked her up. I rode with her and as always was amazed with her grace.

Would my daughter have liked us to bring her daughter home if a similar situation arose? We would have gladly done it. We would have figured out a way or altered our plans slightly to make it happen. But we would have done it, not because we would want the same, but because it is the right thing to do. Help someone else out if they ask, even if I have to go out of my way. Isn’t that what this rule says?

In our world today, we see this often. People will not go out of their way to help someone else out. They are stuck in their own little routines and heaven forbid someone should ask them to go out of their way to help. They forget that they might need that favor returned someday. When that day comes, they get mad because the other person won’t do what they would not do earlier.

The next thing is a simple thing called getting even. Well, they did this to me, so I’m going to do it right back! They gossiped about me, so I’m telling about them! They didn’t help me out at work, so I won’t help them! They didn’t wave at me so I’m going to snub my nose at them. How many times have we heard this, or been guilty of this? This is actually the exact opposite of the Golden Rule. It is saying they did it to me, so I’m going to do it to them because I did not like it! How backwards can it get? Yet our society seems to run on this sentiment.

This was me just the other day. I confess – I am guilty. I had ordered some things from a local gal who does a masterful job at couponing. She sells stuff out of her home that she has bought for pennies on the dollar and she is well below store prices. She was out of town when I sent in my order and hadn’t seen it, so I sent it again. She said she would get back with a price so I could write a check. She did not, so I prompted her. I got the price and asked her when I could come pick them up or could she deliver them. No response, for days. I asked again, three weeks after the order was placed, I still did not have the goods so I bought them at a local store.

My wife works with this gal at night, and she came home after I had bought them and said the gal was going to bring some stuff over because she felt bad. I told her that I had already bought it and didn’t need it. Then I said I would not order from her again. Yes, this is poor customer service, and in the eyes of the world, I would be justified in not purchasing from her again. But is this right? Is this the way I would want to be treated, or am I working the reverse of the rule?

According to this verse, the right thing to do is forgive her and give her another chance. I would want another chance if I messed up this bad! I have been in sales for over 30 years and know what it is to make mistakes and be given another chance. To be honest, it’s rare. But it’s the right thing to do. Remember our lesson on forgiveness? That applies so strongly in this verse. I would want to be forgiven my negligence. I should certainly forgive hers.

Then there is revenge. Christians should never take revenge into their own hands, but so often we want it so badly that we forget God told us vengeance was His, He would repay (Deuteronomy 32:3). We forget that God says to not avenge ourselves but leave room for God’s wrath (Romans 12:19). We want an immediate judgment! We want that matter settled now, and we will do it ourselves. After all, we are the ones who were wronged!

I can’t say I can give a good example of this one right off the top of my head, but you can all relate, I am sure. Someone does something bad to us, so we repay by doing something bad back. Or someone says something hurtful and we fire right back. My wife and I used to get into some of those types of arguments and no one ever wins. One party or the other gets deeply hurt and in our case it was always my wife. I can’t tell you how many times I fired back some off the cuff remark that I did not intend to say because she stirred my pot a bit. I’ve become a lot better at avoiding this, but it still creeps up every so often. I just don’t want to hurt her with my words anymore, so I am so careful. Revenge is never a good thing when we take it into our own hands. My wife always says “They will reap what they sow” and this is so true!

The last thing that I will mention is pride, I know I mention this a lot, but it is the major fault that keeps us going against the principles of God. Pride will want to make us stay on top, stay ahead, get even, get revenge and get our way. Pride will keep us from yielding to someone else’s need or to acknowledge someone made a mistake. Pride will keep us from forgiving someone and give them another chance. Pride needs to go and humility needs to rule and reign in our lives.

One last thought on this verse. Have you ever thought about the fact that you can take this verse and turn it a little around to show how powerful it really is? Do you realize that when you are gossiping about your neighbor, you are saying in effect it is alright if they gossip about you, according to this rule? After all, whatever I want done for me, I do for them, right? If I don’t give them a ride when they need one, I am telling them they don’t need to give me a ride when I need one, right? If I don’t help them, I don’t expect they should help me! What we do for or to others is what we want done for or to us is another way of looking at this verse.

Do you want others to take revenge on you? Take revenge on them! Do you want others to not help you out? Don’t help them out! Do you want others to put you down behind your back? Put them down behind their back! Do you want others to steal your joy? Steal their joy! Do you want others to be angry with you? Be angry with them!

Or, Do you want others to forgive you? Forgive them! Do you want others to be at peace with you? Be at peace with them! Do you want others to speak gently to you? Speak gently to them! Do you want others to help you? Help them! Do you want others to love you? Love them! Love them even if they don’t love you back. Forgive them even if they don’t forgive you back. Be at peace with them even if that peace is not returned.

Do to them as you want them to do to you. So simple, yet so profound!

Pearls & Swine

Matthew 7:6

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The placement of this verse has always baffled me. Right after Jesus admonishes the people not to judge others and not to concentrate on the faults of others He proceeds to tell them that they need to be able to discern who the dogs and swine are. It’s really quite an extraordinary verse that I must admit I need an extra helping of the Holy Spirit to put this teaching into my own words.

While Jesus is not talking about actual food or pearls given to these animals. He uses “that which is holy” and “pearls” to signify the things of God. They are holy and precious as pearls or even gold for that matter. After describing the beauty of the Lords statutes in Psalm 19, David writes His laws are more to be desired than fine gold in verse 10. These precious things of the Lord are for His saints, for His children. They are not for the “dogs and swine”

The question has to be on our minds of who Jesus is talking about when He says dogs. The first thing that comes to my mind is that dogs are scavengers and will take anything you give them. They just sit at your feet and wait for something to drop. I have learned a lot about persistent prayer by watching my dog’s persistence and hopefulness that I will drop something when working in the kitchen. He will be thrilled with any small dropping that I might leave there on the floor. These were the words of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28. Jesus told her that He was sent to the lost people of Israel and said the things of God are not for the dogs. When the Canaanite women told Him that even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Masters table, Jesus looked at her and told her she had great faith, and He granted her request. We can learn a lot about the first part of this verse from that exchange.

Jesus called this woman a dog because she was not an Israelite. She was not a child of Abraham and those are the ones Jesus was sent for. The Canaanites were believers in many Gods (Wikipedia lists over 20 gods they worshiped). The one true God was a heresy to them and they scoffed at the idea. They lived in the land that Israel came in and conquered when they came out of Egypt. Therefor God told them to destroy all the Canaanites, but Israel did not do that. The Canaanites remained in the land and were a thorn in the flesh for Israel for centuries.

So this women was indeed a heretic. The description of her as a dog shows us that Jesus does not want to give the precious word of God to someone who is defiant against the gospel message. He does not want the Light that He is offering to go to some one who will merely scoff at it and rebuke Him for His beliefs. While it is true that He gave the word to the Pharisees who also mocked Him, they were of the tribe of Israel. They were the sons of Abraham.

The lesson for us about not giving holy things to the dogs is that we should not waste our time to bring the gospel to someone who is obviously hostile toward the words we will share. With this type of person we need to befriend them and let the light that is within us show through in our lifestyle. Giving them the gospel straight up will not do any good. Becoming a part of their life and allowing them to see the joy and peace that Christ puts in our lives may!

Then there is the part about casting our pearls before swine. Remember that pigs were unclean to Israelites. They stayed away from swine completely. They did not eat the meat (No bacon!!!), nor did they raise pigs. The looked on swine as the lowest of the low. Swine love mud holes. They love to wallow in them. In hot weather a pig will cover himself with mud to keep cool. They are dirty animals. If you would cast a pearl in front of a swine he would just push it down in the dirt and not understand it’s worth. That pearl, that seed is worthless to them.

In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price that a merchant will sell everything to get. Why? Because the kingdom, like the pearl, comes to us through agony and pain from the one providing it. The oyster that produces the pearl dies while forming that pearl. Jesus died to bring the kingdom of heaven to us. The gospel is of great value!

What Jesus is saying is that we should refrain from giving the precious gospel to someone we know will just yell and scream at us for the words we say, We should not give it to someone who is obviously dead set against it. Dropping seeds is one thing. Presenting the gospel is another. We must plant seeds in people’s lives, but the best seeds are sown by our lifestyle not our words. The seeds of our lifestyles cannot be ignored while the words of our lips will not only be ignored but we will be ridiculed for them. These pigs are beyond listening to what God has to say.

Again, some are called to take the gospel to people who will mock them, ridicule them, and kill them for the words they speak. These are selected vessels that God will lead in their witness. They have given all for the gospel and are willing to lose their lives if need be. If you are called to such a mission field, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. Your task is monumental.

We all have an obligation to share the gospel if we are followers of Christ. We are to sow seed wherever we go. Some will fall on hard ground, some on rocky ground, some on weed-filled ground and some on fertile ground that will produce fruit. Most of the time we do not know where a person is on the ground spectrum. We just share what God puts in our heart. But if we know that they fall under the category of dog or swine, we must tread carefully and listen to the words of Jesus in this verse. Save that seed for someone who will benefit from it, and try to befriend the dog or the swine. That’s the way we will win them!

This is the Day

In our church we often sing a chorus that goes like this:

This is the day.  This is the day.
That the Lord has made.  That the Lord has made.
I will rejoice.  I will rejoice.
And be glad in it.  And be glad in it
This is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day.  This is the day.
That the Lord has made

It’s a joyful song of celebration and thanking God for one more day that He has given us to live in this beautiful world.  We sing it with gladness and excitement for His precious gift of another day.

How much more should we sing such a song on this Christmas Day!  For it was on this day, so many years ago, that God said enough to sin.  he said enough to our shame.  he said enough to our guilt.  He said enough to our disobedience.  He said enough to our sickness and disease.  He said enough to our sorrow and hurt.  He said enough to our misery and hopelessness.  He said enough is enough.

The last time God said enough he sent a flood tom destroy all mankind except a few chosen ones.  That flood covered the whole earth, wiping away the sinfulness of mankind and starting new again.  God sent judgment to a sinful world. That flood was 4,000 years ago.

But this time was different.  This time God sent love.  This time God sent forgiveness.  This time God sent His Son, His only Son, as a  baby in  a manger.  This time the whole world, all of mankind, would have a chance to be saved.  That baby on a manger did not come to be cute, or to be a carpenter for the rest of His life.  He came to die. He came to atone for our sins.   He came to suffer for our disobedience.  He came as a sacrifice on the altar of God.  He came to reconcile you to God.

This Christmas, remember why we give presents and love at this time of year.  We do this because God gave on this day, 2,000 years ago.  He gave us life!

 

Marry Christmas!