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This document is a six part series covering encounters with Jesus.
Encountering Jesus Jesus Encounters John the Baptist By Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church
Text: Matthew 3:1-12 Outline: 1. Baptism marked a fresh start with God. 2. Baptism is an invitation for God to work in your life. 3. Baptism was an ancient rite that Jesus adopted for his followers. • Jesus used something known and meaning ful to people. 4. Baptism was so significant to Jesus that he refused to skip it. • God blesses you when you are faithful in the little things. 5. Baptism is something that Jesus incorporated into what it means to follow him. Question: What is it that Jesus has asked you to do that you’ve been ignoring?
Message This summer we are looking at encounters with Jesus. Pastor Kyle looked at the man that was brought to Jesus by his four friends. Dave Johnson looked at Peter’s encounter with Jesus after Peter had denied him three times. Today I want to look at the encounter that Jesus had with John the Baptist. I’m purposefully looking at this story because we have another baptism coming up on August 5th and I want to see what we can learn about baptism from this encounter. Pull out your notes. In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near... People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Matthew 3:1-6 Throughout the history of Israel the prophets predicted a day when God would set up his kingdom on earth. It was called The Day of the Lord. John’s message was that the Day of the Lord was now upon them. If they were ever going to get serious about God then NOW was the time because “this ship” was about to sail. That’s why there was such a big response. No one wanted to miss out on God’s kingdom. To mark their desire to enter this kingdom John baptized people. That means he basically dunked them in the Jordan River to symbolize being washed of their sins and entering this new kingdom.
Now, baptism wasn’t a new idea. Baptism was common practice for Jews whenever they wanted to turn over a new leaf for God. This is what one writer said about Jewish baptism. Immersion (baptism) was so important that it occurred before the high Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement, before the regular priests participated in the Temple service, before each person entered the Temple complex, before a scribe wrote the name of God, as well as several other occasions. The Mishnah attributes to Ezra a decree that each male should immerse himself before praying or studying. There were several Jewish groups that observed ritual immersion every day to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah. Bebaptized.org/jewishroots So baptism wasn’t new but John’s baptism was unique because it announced The Day of the Lord and prepared people to live a new life. It introduced a new era. If you look in your notes I put that Baptism marked a fresh start with God. So that’s the simplest meaning for baptism. Now, of course whenever you talk about a religious ritual there will always be people who aren’t sincere. They just do it thinking they’ll get brownie points with God. And that’s what we see here. John doesn’t hesitate to call those people out... But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:7,8 Do you see that? He’s saying...baptism doesn’t impress God if you don’t change your life. Keep reading... ...do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:9-12 He’s saying, Look guys...baptism doesn’t save you...If you aren’t serious about living for God then baptism is meaningless. So baptism, all by itself, means nothing if it’s not lived out. Baptism is an invitation for God to work in your life. I bet some of you want to give God that invitation. You want God in your life. Baptism is that invitation. Baptism tells God that you are “all in”. Look at what John said here... I baptize you with water for repentance. But... Repentance means that you’ve decided to turn your life to God. John says...baptism is something we do to communicate our desire to make that change. But when we get baptized that triggers a response from God... BUT...he [God] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:10-12
Farmers used to shake out the chaff from their wheat. Then they’d burn the chaff. John says that’s what God wants to do with us. He wants to shake the chaff out of us and burn it up. That might sound a little scary but I if you think about it, it’s a good thing. Aren’t you tired of the chaff in your life? Aren’t you tired of dealing with it? Managing it? Cleaning it up and storing it up but never being able to get rid of it? We manage chaff. God burns it up. It’s like you are saying…God, I’m immersing myself in water to show my full commitment. But I expect you to immerse me in your Spirit to cleanse me and empower me to live out this life. That’s a little background on John and his ministry of baptism. Now Jesus enters the story. Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. Matthew 3:13-15 John responded like any one of us would respond. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Jesus...what are you doing? You are the Lord in the phrase The Day of the Lord! My job is to baptize sinners. Why are you doing this? This is very awkward. I tried to come up with an analogy for this. The only one I could think of is this: Imagine a new president of the United States. On the day before the inauguration he/she shows up at the White House and asks if they can clean the bathrooms, vacuum, cook the food and wash the dishes. The help goes – what are you doing? We are here to serve you. You shouldn’t be doing this. And the president says; I realize that I don’t have to do it but I want you to know how important these jobs are and that no job is too small. So, in the same way, I think Jesus would tell John, I realize I’m the Lord. I realize that I don’t have to be baptized. But I want to show you how important baptism is. I’m not above doing this. I want to embrace this ritual because everyone enters the kingdom of God the same way…through water. Just read through the Bible. God’s creation came through water. Noah was saved through water. The Israelites escaped Egypt through water. And they entered the Promised Land through water. That’s what kingdom people do. There are a couple of things I want to show you here. First, Baptism was an ancient rite that Jesus adopted for his followers. Jesus used something known and meaningful to people. When I was a young Christian I assumed that Jesus wouldn’t use any tradition from the Jewish religion. I was surprised to learn that Jews had been baptizing people for years. Jesus just took what they were already doing and gave it new meaning. My point is: Jesus didn’t have anything against traditions or rituals…as long as they meant something. The second thing I want you to see here is…Baptism was so significant to Jesus that he refused to skip it. Do you see what he said here? ...it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness
The word “fulfill” means to fill up to the top. To complete. To not leave anything lacking. In other words, Jesus didn’t want to cut any corners spiritually. He wasn’t willing to say that 80% of righteousness was “good enough”. He didn’t want to leave anything undone. Some people might say that Jesus went overboard. They might even accuse him of being legalistic. But I think he was showing us something important about what it means to follow God. It’s important to obey God and do what the community of faith does and not be some kind of Lone Ranger. You know, I have to admit, sometimes I’m a Lone Ranger. When I see everyone headed in one direction I tend to go the opposite direction. I’m a contrarian by nature. Sometimes that’s good. It makes me a pioneer and I do things like start new churches. But other times being a Lone Ranger is about pride and arrogance and thinking you’re special. That’s not a good thing. Jesus didn’t do that. Now, imagine yourself being John the Baptist. How do you think this experience with Jesus would impact you? There’s not a great exchange of words here. There’s not a lot of dialogue to examine. So you have to tap into the feeling and your imagination. What would you feel? What would you think? If I was John Jesus would cause me to rethink what it means to be a leader. So often we see leaders as being above it all. In fact, some people want to be leaders because they think they get special privileges. They don’t have to do what other people do. But Jesus painted a different picture of leadership. For Jesus, leadership wasn’t about escaping responsibility or living separate from people. Leadership was about identifying with the people…doing what they did and more. So if I was John the Baptist I’d be rethinking leadership. But I’d also think about some of the things God asked me to do that I ignored. Jesus said it was important to fulfill all righteousness. In other words...he wasn’t going to just focus on the big spiritual things and let everything else slide. He was committed to doing it all. I think we have a tendency to ignore some things that don’t seem that important to us. We get lazy and settle for good enough. We say things like, “I can be a Christian and not go to church” or, “I don’t have to get baptized to be a good Christian” or on something even bigger, “I don’t have to get married to please God. God still loves me even if I live with my partner.” “If other people feel the need to do those things that’s fine but it doesn’t apply to me. I can do my own thing.” And yes...there’s some truth in all of those statements. But there are lies laced with the truth. If Jesus didn’t want to cut corners why do we give ourselves that kind of freedom? You see, we often look to other people for our example. We point to people we know and say, “Well, they call themselves a Christian and they don’t go to church” or “They have never been baptized” or “They live together”. But other people aren’t our model. Jesus is.
You know, there is an attitude in our Christian culture today that says anything goes. And if anyone lays down an expectation they are accused of being legalistic. But we need to be careful that we don’t abuse the idea of grace. Grace is God’s loving acceptance of broken people but grace is also God’s power for those same broken people to live a new life We need to be careful that we don’t use grace as an excuse for our sin. My guess is that we all have something that we know God wants us to do but we haven’t done it because we don’t think it’s that big of a deal. But Jesus said he thought it was important to fulfill all righteousness. That means obeying him in the little things. The good thing is that Jesus promised that we’d be blessed for being faithful in the little things Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, …. Luke 16:10 Well, the story ends like this… As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16,17 Jesus didn’t have to be baptized yet he chose to be baptized and God honored him for it. It’s what launched Jesus into his ministry. Baptism wasn’t just something that he did himself. It’s something that he incorporated into what it meant to follow him. It became a rite of passage for followers of Jesus. Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19,20 Do you see that?…teaching them to observe ALL that I commanded you. He didn’t say MOST things…or SOME things…or just the IMPORTANT things. He said ALL things. I’m not trying to get legalistic on you today. I just want us to follow Jesus. Jesus entered the kingdom through water. That’s how we all should do it. Prayer: Father, I thank you for Jesus’ example to us. He wasn’t above doing anything. Yet sometimes we act like we are. Rather than embrace traditions and being a part of the community we distance ourselves. We set ourselves apart. Please forgive us for ignoring what you’ve asked us to do. Show us those little things that you are asking us to be faithful to. Might we set things right and fulfill all righteousness for your name’s sake.
Going Deeper Use the following questions for personal reflection or to discuss with family, friends or small group. 1. Have you been baptized? If so, was it as a child or adult? What does it mean to you? 2. Read Matthew 3:1-12. What stands out to you about John’s encounter with the people wanting to be baptized? What appears to be the meaning of baptism? 3. See Matthew 3:6-9. Contrast the true meaning of baptism with how some people come with the wrong reason. 4. Read Romans 6:1-14. Paul compares baptism to the death and resurrection of Jesus. What does this mean as it relates to your life? What does baptism represent in your life? 5. Read Matthew 3:12-14. Imagine that you are John. How would you feel if Jesus came to be baptized by you? 6. Read Matthew 3:15. Why was getting baptized so important to Jesus? 7. Read John 3:1-7. Some people believe that “water and spirit” is in reference to the baptism experience. What do you think? Discuss. 8. Jesus was concerned about “fulfilling all righteousness”, in other words, not taking any shortcuts in his spiritual life. What are some areas that you sense God has called you to but you have tried to tell yourself “It’s no big deal”. Could it be time to obey?
Encountering Jesus Jesus Encounters the Samaritans By Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church
Text: Luke 9:51-10:35
Outline: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Samaria was the land of religious misfits. Jesus wasn’t afraid to rub shoulders with spiritual misfits. Jesus spoke to Samaritans in non-religious terms. Jesus wasn’t quick to give up on the Samaritans. He believed they had potential. You are more spiritual than you think you are. The Samaritan was a spiritual hero for helping someone in need.
This church is interesting because it’s so different than other churches that I’ve been at. In past churches there was always a large number of people who had gone to church for years, knew their way around the Bible and felt comfortable with prayer. Because of these things they considered themselves very spiritual. At Cedarbrook, people often come here who don’t have that background. They haven’t gone to church a lot. They don’t know their Bible well and prayer is often new to them. These people often tell me that they aren’t very spiritual. Now, I never like it when people tell me they aren’t spiritual for two reasons. The first reason is because it’s a negative way to look at things. If I tell you that I’m not very athletic I’m really telling myself not to venture into sports. If I tell you that I’m not good at remembering names then I’m excusing myself from ever having to remember a name. So if you tell me that you aren’t very spiritual you are really doing the same. You are telling me and God not to expect much from you spiritually. The other reason I don’t like to hear people tell me that they aren’t very spiritual is because they mistake what they do with who they are. Just because someone doesn’t do a lot of spiritual things doesn’t mean they aren’t a spiritual person. Everyone is spiritual. I want to explore this idea today and see what Jesus thinks about being spiritual.
This summer we are looking at a variety of stories that talk about encountering Jesus. Today we are in the book of Luke, chapter 9. Pull out your notes. Note: No point three. At the heart of Luke’s book is a ten chapter section where Jesus encounters a number of people as he travels from Galilee to Jerusalem. (map) As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; Luke 9:51,52 What makes this journey interesting is that Jesus travels through Samaria...Samaria is what I call the land of religious misfits. Let me explain what I mean by that by giving you a little history lesson. Israel was made up of 12 tribes. There was a civil war that separated ten tribes from the other two. The ten tribes took the name Israel while the southern tribes took the name Judea. Then in 722 BC the Assyrians overthrew Israel. The Assyrians flooded the country with their people and culture. Samaria became their capital and the entire region became known as Samaria. The Samaritans incorporated some of the Assyrian religion into their faith. When they did that, the Jews considered the Samaritans spiritual half-breeds. They accused them of blasphemy and abandoning the faith. And of course the Samaritans were insulted by that. The feud got so bad that during one of the Jewish Passover festivals a bunch of Samaritans came down to the temple in Jerusalem and dumped human bones all around the courtyard. Not exactly a good way to win friends and influence people! Jews returned the favor by destroying the Samaritan temple. The Jews hated the Samaritans so much that one historian writes… The Samaritans…were publicly cursed in the Jewish synagogues; and a petition was daily offered up praying to God that the Samaritans might not be partakers of eternal life. Through Peasants Eyes, p. 48 There’s a first century historian by the name of Josephus. He told about Samaritans attacking Jewish travelers that came through Samaria. Jews retaliated by attacking Samaritan villages. It was guerilla warfare. You get the picture. Samaria was hostile country for Jews…not the kind of place you wanted to take your family on a vacation. The wise Jewish traveler went around Samaria. But in our story here, Jesus didn’t do that. He walked right through Samaria. I like that about Jesus. He wasn’t afraid to do messy. He wasn’t afraid to rub shoulders with spiritual misfits. That’s good news for us because that’s who many of us are today. Misfits. But I don’t mean misfit like oddballs. I mean misfit like we are people who don’t fit spiritually. We don’t feel like we fit with other people or religion institutions.
What I mean is that many people today have very spotty spiritual pasts. They may have attended church when they were a kid, left church for a number of years…experimented with other religions a little bit…come back to the church. Quit. Tried another church or two. Plus, along the way their theology became a hodgepodge of beliefs: a little bit of this and that. It’s a little bit Bible, a little bit Buddhism and a little bit Oprah Winfrey! They aren’t quite sure what they believe. Everything is negotiable. That’s very much what it was like with the Samaritan’s. The Jews had their theology all mapped out. Not the Samaritan’s. But Jesus didn’t care. He purposefully chose to walk through their cities on his way to Jerusalem. Aren’t you glad that Jesus is willing to associate with people even though their theology might be bad or their spiritual practices might be questionable? So Jesus heads into Samaria but it’s not without incident… And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. Luke 9:52,53 When the Samaritans heard that they were going to worship in Jerusalem suddenly their motels all had “no vacancy” signs. I can just hear the disciples telling Jesus, “I told you so”. “I told you we should go around Samaria, Jesus. Those guys hate us and we hate them.” Listen to what James and John said. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Luke 9:54 We need to just pause and let that soak in. Here were Jesus’ closest followers…they had walked with him for three years. They had heard him preach countless sermons and questioned him on all kinds of spiritual topics yet they wanted to destroy these people. That’s very scary. If they felt that way…how much more us? You see, people often doubt the faith of people who act cruelly. “And they say they are Christians!” Well, these guys were Christians. They were just a clueless. That’s true for a lot of us and that explains why Christians are caught doing very unchristian things. These guys hated Samaritans. They were just looking for an excuse to attack them. They made signs that read, “God hates Samaritans”. “Samaritans will burn in Hell”. They are so smug and self-righteous. They really think Jesus is going to let them destroy the Samaritans. That’s about as toxic as faith gets. A lot of religion is like that. Isn’t that what’s behind “jihad” or what the muslims call “holy war”? But it’s not unique to muslims. It’s unique to religious humans. What do you think Jesus said to them? But He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. Luke 9:55,56 Don’t you wish you knew what Jesus said when he rebuked them? Well, we might actually know. Look at this. Some Bibles add this extra verse.
But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:55,56 Most manuscripts don’t have this extra verse but some do. That means one of two things. Jesus really said this and someone added this verse. Or, Jesus didn’t say it but it was added to help people understand the context better. Either way..This is what we call a “teachable moment”. I bet James and John never forgot this moment. They must have felt like fools. “What were we thinking? Calling down fire from heaven! We are such idiots!” Yeah…they were idiots. Hopefully they learned their lesson. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians make the same mistake but don’t learn the lesson. They use God and the Bible to justify their own hatred. Jesus rebuked them. He said…you don’t know what spirit you are of. This was a great opportunity for Jesus to correct their thinking. He said, “Guys. We’re not about destroying people. We are about rescuing people. We aren’t about excluding people. We are about including them. If these people don’t want to be rescued we’ll just go find some people that do. But we don’t destroy people just because they reject us.” The rest of this trip through Samaria was about Jesus teaching his disciples what spirit they should have. You see, Jesus wasn’t willing to give up so easily on the Samaritans. He believed they were better than this one encounter. So he gave his disciples a lecture on grace and then took them to another village. After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:1-2 Now I’ve read this story before but I never realized that it took place in Samaria. Jesus unleashed a mass evangelism campaign canvassing every town in Samaria along his route back to Jerusalem. I always thought this happed in Judea where there were just Jews. But Jesus does that because he sees Samaria like a field ready for harvest spiritually. What do you think the disciples thought about this plan? I bet they were rolling their eyes, like, what a waste of time. These people could care less about God or Jesus. Jesus doesn’t know what he’s doing. Are there any people or groups of people who you don’t think have any interest in God; maybe at school or at work or in your family? I bet you’d be surprised who is ready to hear about God. I bet we all know people that are just sick of their life but they are running fast and lose because they don’t have anything more interesting to do. If you look beneath the surface you’d find a spiritual person.
You see, that’s what I like about Jesus. He gives us all a lot more credit for being spiritual than we do. We all have a concept of what we think a spiritual person looks like. My guess is it probably is some kind of mild mannered, polite person that never does anything wrong or… never does anything fun for that matter. We think they would make a good candidate for Jesus. We say, “Oh, there’s boring Bob. He’s got nothing better to do. Maybe he’d be interested in Jesus.” Hello! I think we’d all be shocked to meet the twelve disciples. These guys were fishermen. Fishermen aren’t known for being mild mannered. Go down to the Galilee docks on a Saturday night and these guys were beer drinking, women chasing, party animals looking for a fight. But when Jesus went down to the docks he wasn’t offended. He saw spiritual men who were potential followers. You might say, What? I thought you said they are party animals? Yes. But they still had spiritual potential. One doesn’t negate the other. Peter and Andrew were two of them. Back in Jesus’ day every rabbi had a small group of disciples that followed them around. Disciples were nerdy Jewish boys who liked to sit around read the Bible all day and discuss deep spiritual truths. They would seek out a rabbi to learn more about the Bible. But Jesus didn’t wait for disciples to come to him. He went out and chose his own disciples. He walked right past the good students on his way to the docks. Or how about Matthew? Matthew was a tax collector. Every Jew hated tax collectors. They were considered the scum of the earth. The Roman government hired lowlifes to collect taxes from their own people but they were known for overcharging just to pad their pockets. Jesus looks at Matthew and goes, yep...perfect spiritual candidate. He’ll fit right in with Peter and Andrew. I mentioned earlier that I’ve had so many people tell me that they aren’t very spiritual. What people probably mean by that is that they aren’t very religious. They don’t go to church or talk about God or read the Bible. But do you think Jesus cared about that? Do you think he surveyed the fishermen to see who was reading their Bible before he picked them? Jesus just wanted people interested in hanging with him and learning how…to live a new life. You see, everyone is spiritual. We can’t help it. We were born that way. Being spiritual just means you have the ability to connect with God. Some people access that part of themselves and others don’t. But everyone is spiritual. I don’t care who you are today or what you’ve done or not done. You are spiritual. God made you that way. God made you with a capacity to connect to him spiritually. Now, look what happens when the disciples come back from their ministry trips… The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:17,18
The disciples were shocked and thrilled at the same time. God moved among the Samaritans just like he moved among the Jews. They couldn’t believe it. The Samaritans were a lot more open to spiritual things than anyone thought. Everyone is spiritual and no one is more spiritual than anyone else. Sometimes people think I’m a pastor because I’m more spiritual than others. Those are people that don’t know me. People that know me are surprised that I’m a pastor because I’m too normal. But both groups of people are wrong. They are under the misunderstanding that pastors are super spiritual. No. No one is more spiritual than anyone else. Some people just make use of their spiritual side more than others. Do you see what I’m saying? Give yourself more credit spiritually. That’s what Jesus was teaching his disciples about the Samaritans. He took them through Samaria to teach them that everyone is spiritual, even Samaritans. In fact, just to drive home his point Jesus told a story about two very spiritual people; a priest and a temple worker. You’ve probably heard the story. A man was beaten by robbers and left for dead. A priest walked by without helping him. Then a temple worker walked by without helping him. So the big question is…will the man die or will someone save him. If religious people don’t save him then who will? Here’s the punch line… But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:33,34 Jesus told this story to a Jewish man in a crowd of Samaritans. Imagine how it impacted people. It was dripping with irony. The Samaritan was the hero and religious Jews were the losers. Jesus’ final words to the Jewish man were...go and do likewise. In other words…don’t do what the religious people did. Do what the unreligious person did. Can you understand how shocking and insulting it was for Jesus to say this to a Jew? Jesus was saying that being spiritual has nothing to do with being a Jew. Jews don’t have the corner on that market. Neither do Christians for that matter. Being spiritual has nothing to do with being a minister or having knowledge of the Bible or right doctrine. Being spiritual has more to do with how you treat strangers. That’s why Jesus said that anyone can love their friends. True spirituality is shown when we love our enemies. You see, the Samaritans did a lot of things wrong. They had bad doctrine. They had the wrong temple. They had the wrong traditions and heroes. But when it came down to who showed compassion the Samaritan was the hero in Jesus’ eyes. The Samaritan got the credit. I would have loved to see the faces of the disciples and the other Jews in the crowd. Their jaws must have all dropped. And I would have loved to have seen the faces of the Samaritans. They must have been just as shocked to hear a Jewish rabbi give them spiritual credit.
Imagine being James or John at the end of the day…laying in bed thinking about their encounter with Jesus. They started the day hoping to call down fire on the Samaritans and they ended the day with Jesus telling them to act like a Samaritan. Talk about mind bending. If you are here today and not feeling very spiritual – I’ve got good news. Jesus thinks you are spiritual. He wants to hang out with you. So don’t let other people intimidate you. And if you are here today feeling spiritual…that’s great. But just be sure to include others in your circle. Be gracious with your faith and not hurtful. Don’t use your faith to beat people up but to lift them up. Prayer: Father, teach us what it means to be spiritual. For those of us who think we are spiritual, teach us what spirit we are of. Show us how we so often want to destroy people that disagree with us rather than help them. And for those of us who don’t think we are spiritual, show us how spiritual we are. Show us that we don’t have to work up to being spiritual. We created us to be spiritual.
Going Deeper Use the following questions for self-reflection and to discuss with family, friends and your small group. 1. Describe what kind of area Samaria was for Jews. 2. What are some similar areas in your life, that is, spiritually hostile environments...places where you don’t think your faith is welcome. Why is that? 3. Read Luke 9:51-56. James and John were quick to condemn the Samaritans. Have you been quick to condemn a certain group of people? Based on Jesus’ response to James and John what do you think Jesus’ response would be to your attitude? 4. Read Luke 9:57-62. Remy noted that Jesus used less religious terminology with Samaritans than he did Jews. Did Jesus soften his message to reach the Samaritans? 5. Read Luke 10:8-16. The three towns Jesus mentions are near the Sea of Galilee. Why does he speak judgment against Jewish towns when he is preaching in Samaria? 6. Read Luke 10:17-20. Have you ever seen God move in the life of someone whom you never thought it was even possible? Describe. 7. Read Luke 10:25-29. The Jews had narrowed down the idea of “neighbor” to “other Jews”. If they weren’t Jews then they felt no moral obligation to help others. Are there people in your life, past or present, that you felt the same way? For example, how apt are you to help people at work or school or church if you don’t know them? 8. Remy said that we are all equally spiritual. Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you consider yourself less spiritual than others? Why is that? How can that opinion inhibit your spiritually? 9. Do people with more spiritual knowledge or experience you intimidate you? 10. Close by asking God to give you eyes to see people and need and the courage to help them.
Bonus material. Following is my “point three” from the outline but I never addressed it above. Too much information. But I pass it on for your review. What’s notable about this section in Luke is that Luke doesn’t capture Jesus teaching doctrine or preaching to crowds but having conversations with ordinary people. Rather than preaching lessons Jesus tells the Samaritan stories or what we call parables. And what’s also notable is that Jesus doesn’t explicitly refer to God a lot. It’s like he tells a story and then expects people to connect the dots. In other words, he doesn’t talk to Samaritans like he talks to religious Jews. I can relate to this. I teach a spirituality class over at Arbor Place. My job is to help people see how God might help them in overcoming their addiction. But not everyone there believes in God. So I can’t go in there and teach the Bible. It would be inappropriate. In fact, I don’t always even talk about God. I often talk about the problems that we all face as people. I talk about issues like shame and anger. I talk about how messed up we are as people. And then somewhere along the line I mention that God can help us. I never mention Jesus or the Bible. But it’s amazing how many people have come to faith over the years even with my indirect teaching. I think that’s how Jesus taught the Samaritans. Eugene Peterson makes the observation of Jesus’ parables that the closer they get to the conclusion of the story the less Jesus refers to God. He contrasts that with how we often talk. He said that when we learn spiritual principles we often relate them to other people in increasingly religious terms. You often notice this in new converts who have been going to church for a while. Their language changes in the way they talk about God. They start using church words or Bible words like salvation and redemption or sanctification. When they do that they lose touch with the people they are trying to talk to. I’m sure I did this with my friends and family when I first came to faith. It’s like I started speaking a foreign language. Instead of helping people understand God better I probably pushed people away. But Jesus did just the opposite. With people far from God Jesus spoke in less religious terms and used more stories and analogies.
Encountering Jesus Jesus Teaches His Disciples to Pray By F. Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church
Text: Luke 11:1-13
Outline: Prayer is 1. Brief 2. Personal 3. About Perspective 4. Specific 5. Persistent 6. Effective 7. Spirit-centered
Message This summer we are taking a look at different encounters that people had with Jesus. Last week we learned what it meant to be spiritual from Jesus’ perspective. I think it probably surprised some people. Be sure to go back and listen to it. Today we are going to take another look at what it means to be spiritual. We are going to look at what Jesus had to say about prayer. You can turn to Luke, chapter 11. I know prayer intimidates a lot of people. A lot of people are afraid that they are doing it wrong. So this should help us today. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." The disciples have been with Jesus for three years by now and they still had questions about prayer. That’s good to hear because I still have questions about prayer! If Jesus were here today I’d ask him this: Jesus…help me out here. Prayer seems to be pretty simple. But other people make it sound so complex that I just wonder if I’m missing something or doing something wrong. Or you might say…you know, other people always talk about God answering prayer but when I pray nothing happens so I must be doing something wrong.
And so Jesus responds…not with a sermon. Not with a teaching… but with a prayer. When you pray, say: " 'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. Luke 11:2-4 I’ve got seven words that help us understand what prayer is about. First, we learn that…prayer can be brief. This is the model prayer that Jesus gives them. There are less than forty words here and you can say them in twenty seconds. If I was one of the disciples I’d be like…wait, you are kidding right? This is a joke. That’s your entire teaching on prayer? Are you kidding me? That’s all you’ve got? John the Baptist had way more! I had my laptop out ready to fill a gigabyte with insights. I booked a room for the weekend. I thought this was going to be a three day seminar. So please tell me this is a joke. Nope. No joke. Prayer was never meant to be complicated. Prayer is just talking to God. Jesus lays out a simple model…nothing complex. If prayer is for everyone, young and old, intelligent and challenged, then it’s got to be simple, right? Everyone on the planet has to be able to access God through prayer so it has to be simple. Jesus’ prayer asks for five things. Each sentence contains an imperative verb. This means the person is adamantly telling God what needs to happen. 1. That God’s name will be made holy 2. That the kingdom will come on earth 3. That they will have food to eat. (This is a reference to manna in the Wilderness. God give us food every day just like He did in the Wilderness.) 4. That they will be forgiven 5. That they will stand against temptation That’s it. Now, this prayer is expandable. You can add things in each category. You can tell God all the different ways you want help in these five areas. That’s fine. God’s got the time if you do. But what I take away from this is to keep prayer simple. Whenever I feel guilty because I don’t pray long enough or insightful enough or detailed enough I remind myself that Jesus never asked for that. I tell myself, Remy…just keep it simple. Second, prayer is personal. Jesus calls God “Father” here. That seems normal to us because that’s what we are used to. But that wasn’t normal in that day. People approached God very formally much like they would approach a king. For example, this is how Caesar referred to himself in the fourth century… The emperor Caesar Galarius, Villiniois Maximanous, Invictous Augusts, Pontificus Maximus, Germanics Maximus, Egypticus Maximus, Phobecus Maximus twice, Carpticnes Maximus eight times, Armenicus Maximus, Medicus Maximus, Adeabendicis Maximus, Holder of Tribunal Authority for the twentieth time, Emperor for the nineteenth, Counsel for the eighth Pater Patrea Pro Counsel...
If this is how Caesear referred to himself it’s easy to see how he would require people to address him in the same way. You didn’t just waltz into the king’s court and start talking. You had to preface your entry by giving glory to the king to earn you the right to speak. In the same way, this is the attitude that many people had about God. Even today Muslims would never refer to God as Father. That’s too familiar. They only address God with adjectives describing him. There are 99 adjectives. This is how one Muslim replied to the question, “Do Muslims call God, father?” God is not a father or a mother or a grandfather whether in a literal or in a symbolic sense. He is Allāh, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. He is Allāh, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allāh above whatever they associate with Him. He is Allāh, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner; to Him belong the best names. Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. Calling Allah "father" is outright disbelief. I liked reading this until the very end. Each descriptor gave God glory. But to deny that God is our Father diminishes a major aspect of his character. Jesus wanted to cut through all of this formality. In fact, the word Jesus used was even more informal than the word Father. It was more like papa. We’ve got a lot of young parents here. Imagine if your child carefully approached you, stood up straight and said; most excellent, all-knowing wise one who is the provider of all good things and cares for my every need including four trips to the ball field each week and they continue on for a few minutes until they sense that you are satisfied. You don’t want you kids to do that, right? Well, I suppose it does have a certain ring to it. Some of you might prefer that! But after a while you’d realize that your child lives in fear of you and they stop coming to you. There’s no true connection. Jesus understood that so he said, Forget the formality. Call God, dad. You might say, I don’t like that name. The word dad or father isn’t a positive one. My dad abused me and it stirs up images of abuse. That’s fine. Then call God, friend. Call God with whatever metaphor speaks to you of a loving provider. The point is that God is personal. We don’t approach God with a magic formula or incantation to get his attention. We get his attention simply because he loves us. Third, this prayer is perspective. That means it tells us a lot about life. It tells us our purpose…to make God’s name holy and to bring his kingdom to earth. It tells us to look to God for what we need…to make sure our relationships are healthy and we aren’t giving into temptation. I mean, if you just prayed that every day and then lived it out…you’d be way ahead of the game. Why? Because it gives you the right perspective on life.
If we were honest about our prayer, we often pray that OUR NAME will be made great or OUR KINGDOM would come. We aren’t asking God to lead us from temptation. We just want him to clean up our mess. Sometimes I catch myself asking God for this or for that and then I’ll just stop myself and say, God, forget what I just said. Just do what you want. May YOUR kingdom come. YOUR will be done. That’s what I mean by getting perspective. Prayer helps me orient my life around God instead of asking God to orient himself around me. Fourth, prayer is specific. I already listed them out but there are five requests. Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, Lead us not into temptation. These aren’t vague. They are all very specific. What I find interesting in these requests is how much they depend on us. This prayer is not passive. You aren’t sitting back and asking God to do all the work. It assumes your engagement with God. Look at the first request; Hallowed be your name or Make your name holy. How is God’s name made holy on earth? In us. When we honor God his name is made holy…people look at God’s work in us and say, “Wow…God is incredible.” Or how does God’s kingdom come on earth? Through us. When we live out his teaching by loving others, being compassionate, being generous. When we pray for bread we expect to work for it, right? We don’t expect food to appear on our table supernaturally. When we pray for forgiveness we understand it’s contingent on our willingness to offer the same forgiveness to others. We don’t presume to ask for God’s favor and not be willing to offer it to other people. When we pray to be kept from temptation it’s assumed that we won’t go looking for it either. I see this prayer almost like a contract. We are telling God that we will gladly make his name holy and bring his kingdom if He will feed us, forgive us and strengthen us. But sometimes we just pray for food, forgiveness and strength and forget about God’s name and his kingdom. Fifth, prayer should be persistent. This is where Jesus adds his own commentary.
Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10 Jesus gives us the green light to keep asking God for the things that we think are important. But the implication is we don’t always get what we want as fast as we want it. Many people give up on God because they weren’t willing to wait for what they prayed for. And that leads to the sixth word…effective. Prayer is effective. Jesus tells us to keep on praying because God hears and he answers. I’ve always liked what God told Moses at the burning bush. The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have HEARD them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am CONCERNED about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--… Exodus 3:7-8 Jesus’ prayer reminds us that God hears our prayers and he takes action on our behalf. But just a little reality check…God’s people were in Egypt for a few generations. So prayer doesn’t bring instant results. Sorry.
The last word or phrase is Spirit-centered. Prayer is Spirit-centered. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:11-13 This text has always confused me. It’s like Jesus throws a curve at the last second. You expect him to say, “If your son asks for food…how much more will your Father in heaven give FOOD to those that ask him. He doesn’t say that. He refers to God giving the Holy Spirit. I think what he’s telling us is that it’s good to ask for bread but for some of us…there may be days when there is no bread but there will always be the Holy Spirit. Maybe God is saying, “You may not always have bread (or whatever it is you need) but you will always have me.” That makes sense because there are people who suffer hunger. They do go without bread…sometimes for days. But Jesus says that they never have to go without God. God always sends his spirit in our situations. We are never alone.
It’s like what Jesus said to Satan during his 40 day fast? Satan was tempting Jesus to serve him in exchange for bread. But Jesus said, Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that flows from the mouth of God. There is a deep truth here. There is a space in God where he satisfies us even when our physical needs aren’t met. Some of you may find that hard to believe. You may have been praying for finances, for a relationship, for health or a variety of things you feel are vital but your prayer has gone unanswered. You may even feel abandoned by God. But Jesus tells us that’s not true. God always sends his Spirit to us to comfort us. As I read this prayer and listen to what Jesus said, it makes me wonder how it landed on the disciples. My guess is that it was radical to them in many ways. I wonder if it helped them to pray. But my bigger concern is for us today. I wonder if this prayer will help any of us to pray more. Just remember…keep it brief. Keep it personal. Be specific. Let it give you perspective. Don’t give up…expect God to answer you. And keep it God centered. Prayer- Father, teach us to pray. Help us to come to you on a regular basis with our hopes and concerns. And might we hear from you as well. Form us into people that are interested in making your name holy, bringing your kingdom and being filled with your Spirit. Amen.
Going Deeper Use the following questions for personal reflection and/or to discuss with family, friends and small group. 1. Look at the seven words that describe prayer. Which words describe your prayer? Which ones don’t? 2. What do you find the most difficult about prayer? 3. Jesus’ example of prayer is short yet the Bible tells us that he often spent the night in prayer. What might be the reason for that? Read Ecclesiastes 5:2 and Psalm 46:10 to see if they shed any light on this matter. 4. Some people don’t pray because they are afraid they aren’t doing it the right way. They see prayer as a method or formula that has to be carefully followed. Have you ever felt that way (or feel that way now)? Is there anything about this prayer that helps with that attitude? 5. How does this prayer help bring perspective? 6. Read Exodus 16:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34. How do both of these passages relate to Jesus’ prayer? 7. Compare Exodus 3:7-9 with Luke 11:5-10. What is a key point in both passages?
Encountering Jesus Jesus Encounters Satan Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church 8.12.12
This summer we are looking at different encounters that Jesus had with people in the Bible. Today is a little different because we are looking at an encounter between Jesus and Satan. You can open in your Bible to Matthew 4. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 I like to listen to podcasts from Timothy Keller. Timothy is a Presbyterian pastor and author from New York. His congregation is made up of the very wealthy, the ultra sophisticated and the over-educated which means he has an above average number of skeptics every week. He was speaking about the devil the other day and he speculated that most people in New York don’t believe there is a devil. He said most New Yorkers probably think that people who believe in the devil are simplistic, narrow minded and naive. Maybe there are some people here who believe the same thing. Then he said “But you know…Jesus believed in the devil. I don’t think he was naive”. And he said, “Almost everyone in the third world believes in the devil. And so, it might be worth considering for a moment the possibility that the average New Yorker is the one who is simplistic, narrow minded and naive. Maybe life is more complex than you think it is.” I mention this because you don’t have to be a New Yorker to be a skeptic. We all have our moments of skepticism and doubt…even if we are poor, under-educated and unsophisticated. It’s hard enough believing in an invisible God let alone an invisible devil. But that’s one of the reasons Jesus came to earth; to help us see into the unseen world. So let’s put our skepticism aside for the next few minutes and see what we can learn here from Jesus. This story is rich with meaning. It starts off in a way that gets the attention of Jewish readers because it mirrors what happened with Moses and Israel in the Wilderness. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. Matthew 4:1 The book of Deuteronomy says this... God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Deuteronomy 8:2
Do see the similarity? I bolded the words that are the same. The word for temptation in the Matthew text is literally “tested”. Jesus was led in the wilderness to be tested by the devil. The word for testing carries with it the idea of proving the strength of something. So what we are going to see here is how Jesus passes the test. He proves to the world that he is indeed the Messiah. Matthew led into this story with words that Jews would recognize. It was like he was waving a flag and saying...PAY ATTENTION. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Everyone leaned forward to see what they could learn from this encounter between Jesus and Satan and how it differed from Israel’s testing in the wilderness. There are many things here but I want to focus on two; What we can learn about temptation and what we can learn about God’s kingdom. Let’s look first at the nature of temptation.
The Nature of Temptation
The first thing I see here is that the devil comes at you when you are at your weakest. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Matthew 4:2,3 The devil didn’t come to Jesus on the third day of the fast...or the tenth or twentieth. He came on the fortieth day...just before his fast is over and he’s at his weakest. The devil knows when to tempt you and how. A leader in our church denomination asked me once what day of the week I take off and I said Friday. And he said, Good. That’s what we recommend. And I’m like, you recommend a certain day of the week. Why? And he said, A lot of pastors take Monday off but there was a study done that said most pastors that have some kind of moral failure do it on Monday. The assumption is that Monday is a bad day to take off for a few reasons. If you think of it, it makes sense. Pastors are tired after working all week and preaching on Sunday. They feel bad because their sermon bombed. They’ve got a long list of people to see and problems to solve. Then the devil comes to them in their weakness and says, “I can make you happy” and some of them take the bait. The second thing I see here is that the devil doesn’t tempt Jesus to be immoral. The devil tempts Jesus to stray from God’s will for his life. I’m going to read the whole encounter so listen for the temptations. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so
that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' " Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me (hypago), Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:4-11 Satan wasn’t dumb enough to tempt Jesus to be immoral. That would be too obvious. Satan doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t care about what we do as long as it’s not God’s will. You can be the most religious and moral person in the world and Satan doesn’t care...as long as you don’t do God’s will. The temptations that Satan threw at Jesus had to do with impatience. Satan tempted Jesus to take the fast-track to the kingdom. He says to Jesus, Look, if you really are the Son of God then why mess around? Why take so long teaching and developing followers and suffering? Why not turn these stones into bread. In this economy, that would get you some followers. In fact, isn’t that what God did in the Wilderness? He gave his people bread. So Jesus, do that...turn these stones into bread. It’s even biblical. How can you go wrong? Or he says...if you really are the son of God then dazzle the people. Throw yourself off the temple and let God’s angels save you like some kind of celestial trapeze act. That will catch some headlines. That will fill the seats. No one will doubt you are the Messiah then! Or he says...why wait for God to give you the world after the cross? I’ll give it to you now with no cross. You know...in a moment of weakness...these things probably sounded pretty good. • Jesus could speed up his ministry. • He could help people by feeding them. • He could convince them he was Messiah with an amazing miracle. • And best of all…he could gain the whole world without facing the cross. A few years ago a large denomination wanted to start a new church in Eau Claire. They heard of our success at starting a church and so the young pastor came to me for advice. He said they had $250,000 to get started. Just for a frame of reference, we got started with $7000 and a sound system. So they had a quarter of a million dollars! His plan was to hire another full time minister and a secretary, buy a sound system and then send out postcards. I warned him that it wasn’t that easy...that if God wasn’t in it that it would fail no matter how much money they threw at it. But he was confident it would work. A year later they folded. And the devil smiled. They believed the lie that there is a short-cut to spiritual success. But we are all tempted in our weakness to look for a short-cut. Few of us have patience when someone is dangling a quick fix in front of us. It might be financial; you see all of your problems
evaporating if you’ll just lie a little here or cheat a little there or invest in something with borrowed money thinking you’ll get a big payback. Or the temptation might be physical; you have a sexual craving or a food craving or a drug or alcohol craving. A simple “yes” will bring you instant gratification. With a simple “yes” you can kill the pain or take control or feel loved or solve a problem right NOW..this minute, no waiting...oh, man, that is sooooo tempting. But here’s the thing. Every time you give into temptation you become a little smaller. With each relapse your world is reduced to that sin. All you think about is your next drink or that new porn website or thinking about the next lie to cover your tracks. Everything else in life becomes dim as you increasingly focus on your pet sin. Like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of stew, you trade away what COULD BE for WHAT IS and it’s never a fair exchange. You are always the loser. And you get smaller, and smaller and smaller. I know someone that became so small that he lost everything; his marriage, his family, his career and all his possessions. He became so consumed with his sin that he lost sight of what’s important. I was talking to someone about this yesterday and they said, “I realize that all these years I’ve been settling for less when God wanted so much more for me.” Exactly. Jesus wasn’t willing to settle for less. Jesus understood that the kingdom of God doesn’t come quickly. He refused to cut corners and take shortcuts. So, even though he was at his weakest he refused the offer of instant gratification. He was willing to suffer. I don’t know if you noticed…but Jesus answered every temptation with a Bible verse. His flesh was weak but the Word of God was strong. It is written...Man doesn’t live by bread alone. It is written...Don’t tempt God. It is written...Worship God alone God’s word sheds light on temptation and exposes the lies. God’s word puts everything in perspective and helps you resist the temptation. The devil was defenseless against it. So, this story pulls back the curtain on the devil’s devices; how he plays on our greed and impatience. But it also gives us a glimpse of who Jesus is and the nature of his kingdom.
The Nature of the Kingdom
God’s kingdom doesn’t come with magic or sizzle or by cutting deals. God’s kingdom comes slowly... and with suffering. Jesus knew this and told people all the time. One time he said to a crowd…
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:32,33 What was he saying? There are no shortcuts. In order for people to follow me I must first suffer. When people were quick to follow him he said… Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Matthew 8:20 Jesus cautioned anyone that would seek to follow him. It’s as if he were saying… Following me is no get-rich-quick scheme. It’s no easy way out. No “Get out of jail free” pass for your troubles. In fact, it is just the opposite. Following me is the way of suffering. Philip Yancey wrote a book called, The Jesus I Never Knew. He said Satan offered Jesus a speeded up version of the kingdom. No hardship and all glory. Another writer said that Satan offered Jesus the Kingdom without the cross. That’s probably the most concise phrase to sum up this story...the kingdom without the cross. When Satan failed to derail Jesus he tried other methods like speaking through people. Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get (Gk: hypago) behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23 It’s interesting that Jesus called Peter “Satan”. It’s like Jesus recognized Satan’s voice in Peter’s words, like WAIT A MINUTE. I’ve heard that voice before. But look how he says this...after calling him Satan you’d think Jesus would accuse Peter of thinking like Satan. “STOP THINKING LIKE SATAN!” But instead Jesus says that Peter thinks like a human... …you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns. He tells Peter that thinking like a human is exactly what Satan wants. If Satan can just keep us thinking like humans and not see things from God’s point of view then he’s happy. Jesus expected more of his followers than that. Thinking like a human was not good enough. The prophet Isaiah told us thousands of years ago what kind of life his Messiah would live to save the world. It was no mystery... Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering… he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. After he has suffered,he will see the light of life and be satisfied; Isaiah 53
When will he be satisfied?...after he suffers. The way of the kingdom comes by deferring gratification. But Satan said just the opposite. He would satisfy Jesus without suffering at all! Every time we yield to temptation we agree with the devil that there’s no need to suffer. There is no reason to wait for what we want or for what we think is right. We see no downside to that kind of self-centered thinking. But Jesus would say to us, Away from me Satan. Rather, Jesus called his followers to deny themselves... Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Matthew 16:24-26 Have you seen that obnoxious ad on TV where a company offers to give you cash in exchange for waiting for a cash settlement? People lean out their window and say, It’s my money and I want it now! What they don’t tell you in the ad is how much it costs to get your money now. You can get your cash now but it will cost 20 or 30 percent of your settlement. The devil works the same way. He’s more than happy to give you what you want now...but there’s always a price. You are always the loser. People often think that suffering makes you smaller. But it’s just the opposite. When you defer gratification and suffer for God’s kingdom you gain. You become larger as a person...a deeper soul. The apostle Paul says this in the book of Romans... We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame... Romans 5:3-5 Suffering produces. Do you see that? It doesn’t diminish. It produces. Instant gratification causes you to become smaller which leads to shame. But delayed gratification develops your character which makes you bigger. And that brings hope which does not put you to shame. After Jesus refused the devil’s temptations it says... Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:11 The devil leaves everyone when he realizes that he can’t get a foothold in them. So...do you have any footholds? Some people complain that the devil is always chasing them and causing problems. But I don’t think that’s true unless you give him footholds. So what can you do to eliminate your footholds? Prayer. Father, thank you for the model that Jesus gave us. He was tempted in every way yet without sin. He chose to honor you rather than gratify himself. I pray for us that we would do the same. Show us the footholds we’ve given the devil. And help us do everything we can to eliminate them. Help us to embrace the suffering that your kingdom brings us. And as Jesus taught us to pray...lead us from temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.
Encountering Jesus Jesus Encounters a Desperate Mother By Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church 8.19.12
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Outline: 1. A Canaanite woman from Tyre and Sidon was considered the lowest of the low. 2. Not only is the daughter suffering but the mother. 3. Jesus welcomes the cultural tension as a teachable moment. 4. The disciples voiced the mind of the culture not the mind of God. Do we? 5. Jesus puts the woman to the test to draw out her best. 6. The woman's confidence in God's character caused her to persist. 7. A Canaanite woman from Tyre and Sidon shockingly became a faith hero.
Message: One night we were sitting around at camp and we all seemed to have a story about when we lost one of our kids in a store. How many parents here have lost your child? It’s the worst feeling in the world. You are never so desperate as when something goes wrong with your kids. This morning we are going to look at a desperate mother. This summer we have been looking at different encounters with Jesus. Open up to Matthew 15. This is a short story but I’m going to slow it way down so makes an impact on us. I think one of the reasons the Bible doesn’t impact us is we read too much and read it too fast. It’s a case of “less is more”. We need to read less and think more about what we read. So that’s what we are going to do today. Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Matthew 15:21 Let’s take a look at a map. Jesus is beyond even marginal Jewish territory. He’s way north of where he grew up in Nazareth. We don’t know what brought him up here. Maybe it was just to meet with this woman. Let me give you a little history on this region. Tyre was a known for their trade and commerce. It was where all the cedar trees came from for the temple. The king of Tyre was a friend of Israel at the time but as the years wore on they stopped being a friend of Israel and took advantage of them.
Prophecy against Tyre...Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned... Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. ..By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. Ezekiel 28:15-28 Prophecy against Sidon... No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Ezekiel 28 About Tyre...she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood... Amos 1:9 Tyre sold-out the Israelites and were not on good terms with them. So Jesus entered into unfriendly territory. Then it says... A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him... Matthew 15:22 Canaanites were the people who lived in Israel before God’s people. They were a people who worshipped false gods and sacrificed their children in worship. So this woman has two strikes against her. She’s from Tyre and she’s a Canaanite. Plus, of course, she was a woman. It wasn’t appropriate for a woman to approach a rabbi. And she was probably a widow. It doesn’t say but since she was the one approaching Jesus and not her husband she probably didn’t have a husband. Widows were seen as being a drain on society since they were dependent on the generosity of others. Now...Matthew wrote his book for Jews. So let’s think like a Jew for a minute. A Jewish reader would be asking the question...What right does this woman think she has to ask anything of a Jewish rabbi? They’d be offended at the very thought of a woman doing this, especially a Canaanite woman. And don’t think she didn’t know that and feel that. But it was a risk that she had to take because she was desperate. She was willing to break any social barrier she needed to break to get what she needed. We’ll find out what that is in just a minute. So this woman comes to Jesus and it says that she was... ...crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! This makes sense based on what I just said. She begged for mercy because she didn’t believe that she had any right to be in Jesus’ presence. She didn’t feel worthy. There was no reason Jesus should help her out. She was just hoping she could catch him on a good day and he’d take pity on her. Then she tells Jesus why she is so desperate, hoping that will get his attention. My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly. We aren’t told how she is suffering. Is she sick? Is she having seizures? Is she hearing voices? We don’t know but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is it’s got this mother scared to death. She’s convinced that she’s going to lose her daughter if Jesus doesn’t help. So really, it’s not just
the daughter who is suffering but the mother too. Every parent knows what that’s like. When your children hurt you hurt worse. So we have a desperate woman here. What will Jesus say to her? Jesus did not answer a word. Matthew 15:23 I bet you didn’t see that coming. You probably thought Jesus would give her a hug and comfort her and tell her that everything was going to be okay. No. He said nothing. This story messes with people. They don’t get it. I shared a short version of this up at camp and someone told me this story has always bothered them because Jesus seemed so uncaring. But it helps to know the culture. Men didn’t speak to women in public...especially rabbis. Rabbis didn’t even speak to women in their own family. As you probably know, women weren’t typically given much value other than as wives and mothers. They were seen as either a bother or a temptation. So it was best to avoid women if at all possible. Sadly, this attitude is still with us today. Let me encourage us that this attitude should not be in us. Men, we should always give women the same respect and dignity that we give other men. One of the wisdom authors of the first century B.C. (not from the Bible) wrote this about women... A man’s wickedness is preferable to a woman’s kindness; Women give rise to shame and reproach (Sir 42:14) This was a commonly accepted attitude. So, to have this woman come up to Jesus was like, “Lady, what are you doing? Get out of here.” This woman probably wasn’t shocked at Jesus’ lack of response but disappointed. From what she heard about Jesus she hoped he was different than other rabbis. But my guess is there was another reason Jesus said nothing. He said nothing because saying nothing forced the woman to think this through at a deeper level. Silence does that. Parents know this. If you always give your kids what they want they never think things through at a deeper level. I read about a rabbi who was raised in silence. I’m not recommending this. I’m sure his mother spoke to him but his father only spoke to him when he taught him the Bible. But it was interesting to hear his father’s reasoning for raising him in silence. He said he could see at an early age that his son was bright but lacked character. So he raised him in silence to force him to look within himself for life’s answers. The son said this about his upbringing... He taught me with silence. He taught me to look into myself, to find my own strength, to walk around inside myself in company with my own soul. Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, page 150 I think God does that at times with us. He teaches us with silence. Sometimes we don’t hear from God because God wants us to walk in our pain and learn from it before he fixes it. We don’t like it. But pain and silence are great teachers.
Just to be clean, I think it’s good to bring everything to God right away...but if you don’t get an immediate answer then let God speak to you through your problem. Let it reveal your heart to you. There’s a good chance that you will see something about the problem or yourself that you never would have seen if God solved the problem right away. Now the disciples enter the discussion. They always bring spiritual wisdom to any encounter, right? I mean, those of you who were here a few weeks ago...remember what happened when the Samaritan people didn’t receive Jesus into their town. What did they say? Let’s call down fire from heaven Lord! You gotta love the disciples. These guys were spiritual giants! Full of wisdom and compassion. We see that again here. Matthew tells us... So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." Now, the disciples play an important role in this story. Jesus uses this encounter with the woman as a teachable moment. But not just for the woman but for the disciples too. They voice the cultural norm…that Canaanite women from Tyre had no value. And their solution was to get rid of her. That seemed to be their pattern. They got rid of people who didn’t fit in their religious mold. Do you remember what happened when children came to Jesus? They wanted to send them away. But Jesus said, No. Let them come to me because that’s the kind of people that enter the kingdom. So there’s this tension between the disciples and the woman. She wants help. The disciples want to get rid of her. What will Jesus do? How will he handle the tension? Now if I was Jesus I’d know just what to do. I’d be quick to take action. I’d break the tension. I’d correct the disciples and comfort the woman. That’s the obvious thing to do. But Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t lecture or rebuke the disciples. And he didn’t comfort the woman. Jesus is comfortable in the tension. He doesn’t mind making everyone feel awkward. He wasn’t quick to resolve the tension. He plays this out a bit to get maximum benefit from the moment. Then Jesus finally breaks his silence… He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." Matthew 21:24 It still seems pretty cold. But, this is true. Jesus came to the Jew first. He’s the Jew’s messiah. I’m sure the disciples were thinking...Good. I’m glad he set her straight. Maybe now she’ll get a clue and leave us alone. But Jesus’ response didn’t scare the mother away. It just made her more desperate and willing to risk even more. It made her more resolute and caused her to dig deeper in order to get what she came for.
We all know what that’s like. You have a big problem and you’ve explored all your options but one. You are holding out hope that your last option will be the answer so you tell yourself to not freak out. But when that last option falls through...you lose it. I mentioned that we were trading parenting horror stories up at camp. I’ll tell you mine. I took my two year old daughter, Nicole, grocery shopping in Minneapolis. I stopped in an aisle to get something and when I turned around she was gone. I called out her name but she didn’t answer. I ran up and down the aisles but no Nicole. So I ran to customer service and got the store manager. He helped me looked. Still no Nicole. I ran out to the parking lot and by that time I was convinced that she was gone. I remember thinking...my life will never be the same and Lisa doesn’t even know it yet. About five minutes later the manager found her. She was playing hide and seek, hiding behind the diapers. But before we found her, trust me, I was desperate. I was at my wits end and that’s exactly how this woman felt. So, get the picture. She’s freaking out. Jesus was her last hope and Jesus turned her down. It would be like going to the Emergency Room with your dying child and having a CLOSED sign on the door. If she walks away her daughter is toast. So she’s got nothing to lose. She doesn’t care what happens. With her eyes filled with terror... The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. Matthew 15:25 She was saying...You are all I’ve got. You are my only hope. You’ve got to do something...NOW. But even in this moment Jesus didn’t break the tension. If you were there watching this interaction this was high drama. Jesus presses her even more, he increases the tension…pushing her to near the breaking point. You see, he’s testing her to bring out the best in her. He’s really paying her a very high complement. He’s doing what rabbis did...he engaged her in a theological debate. He challenged her to prove him wrong. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." Matthew 15:26 This isn’t as offensive as it might sound. Jesus is just building on his previous statement. He is saying...Just like it’s the job of a parent to feed their children and not their pets...my purpose is to feed my children...the Jews...and not others. No offense...you just aren’t a part of my mission. Most people would leave at this point. She gave it her best shot. No one would blame her for giving up. She went toe to toe with a rabbi. That’s more than anyone would expect of her. But this was no ordinary woman. "Yes it is, Lord," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Matthew 15:27 I love her answer for three reasons. First because it shows that she instinctively understood the character of God. She wouldn’t let the circumstances dictate to her what appeared to be God’s
will. She insisted on what she knew to be true about God in spite Jesus giving her the cold shoulder. Like a dog can smell hamburger in a refrigerator she knew God was compassionate and she wasn’t willing to walk away until she got some of it for herself. It’s as if she said...Yes, God’s messiah came for the Jews. I know that. I accept that. But God has always shown kindness to non-Jews. I am fully within my right to ask for help. Second, I love her answer because it’s so wise. Women were seen as fools. But this woman engaged the smartest rabbi on the planet in debate and won. She found a hole in his argument and wasn’t afraid to expose it. She turned his words back on himself in a brilliant checkmate move. The third reason I like her answer is because she persisted. She did exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do in prayer... Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9,10 I think Jesus must have smiled at that point...like, Well done. Well played. I knew you had it in you and I’m so pleased that you didn’t back down. Jesus tested her and she passed the test. Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matthew 15:28 Jesus saw something in her from the very beginning and he wanted to draw it out of her. He wanted her to reason this through on her own. He could have simply healed her daughter but it wouldn’t have meant as much to her. This way she sparred verbally with Jesus and learned a greater lesson. She walked away with not only a healing for her daughter but convinced of God’s goodness and with a new sense of dignity as a woman. Plus, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson about who is worthy of God’s kingdom. This woman had four strikes against her. She was a womn, a widow, a Canaanite, and from Tyre. Jesus went out of his way geographically, spiritually, ethnically and socially to reach this woman. Do you think Jesus was trying to make a point? You bet he was. I can think of two: • There are no barriers between you and God • Anyone can be a faith hero. No matter how far removed you think you are from God you are never outside of Jesus’ reach. Whatever barrier you think keeps you from God today, I want you to know…Jesus will break every barrier to reach you. No one is too far off. Like Isaiah said... Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Isaiah 59:1 Prayer- father, this story is so rich because it teaches us so much about you. Many of us are struggling with your silence today. We don’t know what it means. So please touch our ears to hear you in the silence. And then heal our eyes to see what it is you want us to know about
ourselves. Thank you that your arm is not too short to save us. There is no barrier that can keep us from you.
Going Deeper Use the following questions for personal reflection or to discuss with family, friends or your small group. 1. 2. 3. 4. Think of a time when you were desperate for a problem to be solved. How quick were you to go to God with your problem? Did you feel that God was interested in hearing your problem? Why or why not? Gospel stories often mirror stories in the Old Testament. Read the story of Elijah healing a woman's son in the same region. Read 1 Kings 17:9,17-24. The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus meeting the needs of "unspiritual" people. Consider these. a. Luke 18:35-45 b. John 5:1-8 c. Matthew 19:13-15 Jesus didn't always give people easy answers. He often made them work for it. Why do you think that was? Consider these stories: a. Luke 18:18-30 b. John 3:1-8ff Consider/discuss a time of hardship where you didn't get what you want yet you grew from the experience. The woman persisted in her desperation. Are there other people in the Bible that needed to persist to get what they wanted? Read Luke 11:5-13. How would you have felt if you were a disciple of Jesus watching his encounter with this woman? What can you apply to your own life after observing this encounter?
6. 7. 8. 9.
Encountering Jesus Jesus Encounters Detractors By Remy Diederich Cedarbrook Church 8.26.12
I want you to think about a time when you experienced an injustice. We all have them. Maybe your parents falsely accused you. Or a teacher or coach.. Or you got fired from a job for no good reason. Maybe you were hit with a fine or a tax that was excessive or maybe someone stole from you. Or maybe it was a simple comment that you didn’t feel was fair... someone didn’t like your haircut. Or it could be as serious as a betrayal. Here’s my question. How did you respond? Or, to put in broader terms...how do you respond to injustice? There are a variety of ways to respond. Some aren’t so pretty. You can throw a tantrum and demand you get your way. You can complain to everyone you know and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can go the other extreme and quietly resent the people who hurt you. On the outside you look calm but on the inside you are seething. Today I want to look at how Jesus handled injustice. Let’s see what we can learn from him and see if we can find a better way to respond. This summer we’ve been looking at different encounters that Jesus had with people. This morning we find Jesus in court facing his accusers. He had been arrested for blasphemy – claiming to be God. Matthew tells us... Jesus stood before the governor…When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. Matthew 27:12-14 I think everyone who reads this story is amazed at Jesus’ silence. I know it used to bother me when I was a new believer. I mean, in this day and age we’d hire a high powered attorney and get Jesus off the hook. There’s no reason for him to be treated this way. I didn’t understand why he’d allow himself to be treated this way. So why was Jesus silent? Why didn’t he defend himself? Jesus was silent for a couple reasons. First, Jesus didn’t have a self-image problem like some of us do. He knew exactly who he was. So he felt no need to defend himself or explain himself or justify himself to Pilate. He didn’t need people to say nice things about him to feel good about himself. I was listening to Steven Furtick the other day on a podcast. Steven is an exciting young pastor out East and he gave a good analogy. He said that whenever he is invited over to someone’s house for supper he doesn’t like to take any chances that he won’t get enough food or he won’t like the food.
So just to make sure he doesn’t go hungry he eats something before he leaves his house. Can any of you guys relate to that? Just a little back up insurance, right? Steven said when he eats before he goes then it doesn’t matter what people feed him. If it’s good then that’s bonus. He’s always got room for good food. If the food is no good, no problem. He eats just enough to be polite. If there’s not enough food, he’s covered. No matter what happens he’s happy because he came full. He’s not dependent on what they serve. Then he said...that’s what we need to do in regard to our self worth. We need to fill our hearts with what God says in the morning so when we leave the house and people tear us down we can say, No problem, I ate before I came. God filled me up this morning. I don’t care what you say to me. I don’t need you to pump me up. God’s already done that. Isn’t that great advice? That’s one reason why Jesus didn’t saying anything. He didn’t need the approval of other people because he already had the approval of God and that’s all he needed. But the other reason Jesus didn’t say anything here was because he knew God’s will for his life involved suffering. He knew it was time to suffer and he chose to embrace it and not fight it. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that our response to injustice should always be silence. We shouldn’t always roll over and offer no resistance. Sometimes we need to fight injustice. I’ll talk about that in a minute. Just don’t get ahead of me on this. Right now I want to look at what Jesus did. In the book of John, Jesus talks about his upcoming death... The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. John 12:23 That alone is an interesting way to talk about his death. To be glorified means to show your greatness. Most people don’t talk about dying as a way to show their greatness. Dying is typically where we show our utter weakness. But Jesus knew that his death wouldn’t be the end of him. His death would reveal his greatness. He expands on this by saying... ... unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24 Circle the word “produces” in your Bible. Everyone thinks that death and suffering subtracts something from our lives. But Jesus said it adds something. It actually multiplies; one seed leads to many seeds. Jesus knew that at that moment in time suffering was the best thing…the needed thing. Sometimes suffering is what’s needed in our lives but Many of us don’t understand this and miss the moment. We don’t appreciate it...especially in this country. People in other countries suffer on a daily basis. They understand suffering.
We see it as the exception to our lives. It’s an interruption...an inconvenience and we don’t always know how to handle it. We tend to fight it or get on Facebook and complain to the world about it. But spiritual people understand the wisdom of silence in the face of suffering. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19 Those who have knowledge use words with restraint, and those who have understanding are even-tempered. Proverbs 17:27 That’s why Jesus was silent. Wisdom told him that it was best to say nothing in the face of his suffering. Some of us are facing an injustice right now. God is telling some of you to fight the injustice, because, you know, sometimes that’s the right thing to do. I think this is especially true for people that have lived under abuse of some kind.…people that have lived under the thumb of someone else. I think God wants to empower the weak to fight injustice. On the other hand, God is probably telling others here to be quiet in the face of injustice. Don’t complain. Don’t react. Just absorb it and move on. This is what God has asked me to do throughout my life. I’ve faced some injustice in my life that I wanted to confront. Sadly, most of it was in the church. I wanted to show people how wrong they were and have them make things right. But as I prayed about each event I felt that God didn’t want me to do that. He wanted me to walk away. And I’m like, no God, you don’t understand...I can do this...I can make this happen. I think if I just get in their face and turn up the volume that this will work. I’ll get the response I’m looking for. But I felt like God was saying...yeah, I know you can make it happen. That’s the problem. When you make it happen you get the credit. I want you to walk away and let it fall apart so I can come in and bring beauty out of the ashes. That way I get the credit. Maybe it’s a personality thing. If you have trouble standing up for yourself then maybe God wants you to learn how to fight for what’s right. He wants to empower you so when you overcome the injustice, you know it’s his power working in your life. But if you are quick to fight for your rights, like I am, then maybe God wants you to learn how to be quiet and walk away. The principle working here is that either way...in both people...God works his power in weakness...whether the person is weak by nature or the person is powerful and chooses to humble themselves. Now, many bad things were said and done to Jesus after he met with Pilate. And Jesus continued to say nothing. But there were seven things recorded of him speaking on the cross. Flip over to Luke 23. I want to look at just one thing he said.
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals— one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive (Grk: aphiemi) them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:32-34 When Jesus finally did speak he spoke words of forgiveness. He wasn’t quietly resentful all this time. He was actively forgiving the people that hurt him. You see, some of us are quiet but our silence is just hiding our bitterness. Jesus took all the energy that some people spend in complaining and retaliation and put it into forgiving people. I think that’s a good idea, don’t you? Let’s put our energy into something positive...something that honors God. Now, let’s look at that prayer. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Do you think that prayer was answered ...that everyone would be forgiven? What do you think? Well, let me ask this....Can Jesus pray a prayer that the Father wouldn’t answer? What do you think? Some people think that Jesus wanted to forgive people but God knew better. It’s like God would say, Thanks Jesus for the kind thought but no-can-do. I need to judge these people. But that doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus said that he and the Father were one. They were one being. They didn’t have differing opinions. So when Jesus asks for God to forgive everyone we can be confident that God did. He forgave Pilate, the guards, the Jewish officials, the criminals, Judas, Peter, etc. Everyone was forgiven. Now, that always confuses people. How can everyone be forgiven? If everyone is forgiven then why does the Bible talk about hell? If everyone is forgiven then why should we follow Jesus? Well, here’s the answer is; not everyone that is forgiven wants to be forgiven. We follow Jesus to show that we’ve received his forgiveness. But not everyone receives it. Here’s a simple example... I mentioned last week that every summer our church camp invites pastors and their staff to come for a free week. I’m all about free. So we took our staff up there last year and last week. We had a blast. And it was free. We didn’t have to pay a penny. But the surprising thing to me was that very few pastors took advantage of the offer. We had the camp to ourselves, pretty much. I don’t know if they are too busy or don’t like free or what. You see, just because something is free doesn’t mean that everyone will take advantage of it. It’s the same with forgiveness. God offers it to everyone. But not everyone wants it. Not everyone receives it and therefore not everyone benefits from being forgiven. And that seemed to be the case with the two criminals crucified with Jesus. Both were forgiven but one mocked
Jesus and the other showed Jesus mercy and humbly asked to be remembered when Jesus entered his kingdom.1 Now, I think it’s significant that – after all the evil done to Jesus in his final hours – that Jesus’ last words aren’t for justice but forgiveness. Jesus could have just as easily asked for justice. Justice is a big part of who God is. The Old Testament prophet cried out, I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. .. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts... Let justice roll down like a river...Amos 5:12,15,24 Justice means not only freeing the oppressed but punishing the wicked. So, justice is a good thing. But in the end, Jesus didn’t demand justice. He offered mercy. Jesus told a little parable once that might help us here... A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone (Grk: aphiemi) Okay, here’s that word again. The Greek word used here for “leave it alone” is the same word that Jesus used on the cross when he asked God to forgive people. So...the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 11:6-9 The wise gardener says, Let’s not be so quick to give up. Let’s give it more time. Or you might say...let’s forgive it for not producing and give it another chance. But notice that forgiveness doesn’t preclude or eliminate the idea of judgment. It simply allows more time before judgment comes. I just wonder if there’s someone in your life right now that God is asking you to leave alone...to forgive them. Give them more time and see if they don’t come around. Maybe God not only wants to give them more time to improve but He wants to give you more time to learn to be gracious. If they don’t change, okay, fine. Maybe then it’s time to draw a strong line and distance yourself. But for now, maybe you need to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know. I can’t say. That’s something you need to seek God about. Maybe you’ve already given your offender enough time. But I hope you’ll pray about it and not just do what feels good in the moment. Silence and forgiveness. They are both hard in the face of injustice. But maybe God is asking you to follow Jesus’ example in the injustice you face right now. Let’s pray.
James words seem like they might apply to the criminal who mocked Jesus... judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. 2:13
Prayer – Father, thank you for Jesus’ example. It’s a challenge. We are so insecure. And to be honest, we are so selfish. So entitled. We don’t like to suffer or forgive. We often don’t see the value in either. But you said that it’s only when we are willing to die that we can truly live. I pray especially that you will Give us wisdom to know whether you are calling us to fight injustice or absorb it. And might we not try to do either on our own efforts but with the power of your Spirit. Amen. Going Deeper Use the following questions for personal reflection and/or to discuss with family, friends and small group. 1. When you go through a hard time do you complain more or become more reflective? Why do you think that is? How has your response to hard times impacted your situation? Read Matthew 27:32-44. Jesus could have easily defended himself. Why didn’t he? When is it important to defend yourself and when is it wise to stay silent? Few people cut Jesus any slack in his final hours. Why did people “pile on” like that (hit him when he was down, so to speak)? Even the disciples were harsh and quick to reject people throughout the ministry of Jesus. How are you like that...quick to reject people who don’t fit your mold? In contrast, Jesus gave people the benefit of the doubt...even forgiving those in the end who crucified him. Why did mercy win out over justice in the end? How do you feel about that? Read James 2:13 and 3:17. Read Luke 23:39-43. Both criminals spoke to Jesus. Jesus only replied to one of them. Why was that? What stands out to you from these encounters with Jesus in his final hours?
2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Bonus thoughts...edited out text from the message above... I’ve always liked what John said about Jesus just before he washed the feet of his disciples... Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, ...[and washed their feet.] John 13:3-5 John tells us that Jesus knew something about himself that ...enabled him to wash feet without feeling humiliated. He knew that God put everything under his power. That means that Jesus didn’t have to submit to anyone. He told Peter that he could have called a thousand angels to help him if he wanted to. In other words...No one took his look life. Jesus gave his life. John also said that Jesus knew that he came from God. That means that his identity was wrapped up in what God thought of him Not with what people thought of him.
And John said he knew that he was returning to God. That means that Jesus knew he wasn’t going to die and be eaten by worms. He knew that he’d rise from the dead and accomplish his purpose. You see, when you know who you are..that you came from God and are returning to God...then it really doesn’t matter what happens to you on earth. Nothing can take value away from you. No injustice, no unkind words, no loss of job or divorce, no failure. Whatever it is that temporarily defeats you can’t define you because Your identity doesn’t come from what you do but WHO YOU ARE.
Next, Jesus spoke to one of the criminals. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” – notice that Jesus didn’t have anything to say to him. Jesus didn’t answer critics. He knew better. You never win a fight with a critic. 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23 This answers a question that a lot of people have. What happens when you die? Where do you go? It’s not clear what happened to the criminal who mocked Jesus. It doesn’t say. So we are left to speculate about him. But it is clear where the other man goes. Jesus tells us three things: the man will be... with Jesus In heaven Today And why was that? Because he had perfect church attendance? No. Because he was a good person? No. Because he was baptized? No. Because he prayed the sinners prayer? No. This guy’s story pretty much blows up what everyone says about how to get to heaven. As far as I can tell he did two things; He recognized Jesus as being sent from God. He trusted in Jesus to save him I think this is good to hear...especially for those of us who tend to overcomplicate things. Hopefully you won’t wait until the last hour to turn to Jesus. Hopefully you turn to him long before you die so you can live your life to the fullest and let God use you to bless other people.