Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who's without sin? - John 8:1-11

Who's without sin? - John 8:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 26, 2015

Self-righteousness can express itself in many different forms. We often think of it as the overtly bigoted religious persona depicted by the media, movies, or television. However it can take the form of someone who thinks they are spiritually okay when in fact they know next to nothing about God, his Son, or the Bible. They self-righteously equate their good intentions, actions, or attitudes as more that good enough for God. And in fact, their intent becomes God's for them. They do not see themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior. This is the millennial mindset of much of America today. It is not new.

We discover that even the hyper-religious bureaucrats of Jesus' day fell into this self-inflicted trap, thinking they were far better off spiritually than the common man or in this case woman. Here in John we find an interesting account of Jesus rescuing a sinful woman from her wrongful accusers. In doing so we discover some wonderful things concerning Jesus; let's discover what they are…

READ: John 8:1-11

A self-righteous attitude does not think one needs to consider their own sin-condition; they are perfectly fine where they are. The Pharisees and the priests had dispersed and now another group decided to test Jesus' sincerity. True spiritual humility always asks, "Am I walking with God or not?" Those who held a strict application of Mosaic Law to life brought a woman to Jesus and we find…

I. Jesus would not be caught in their sin! (Vv. 1-6)

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

  1. We find that Jesus was doing what he often did while in Jerusalem, he camped on the Mount of Olives at night and went to the temple area to teach during the day. Luke relates, "Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. (Luke 21:37-38 NIV)" John relates, "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts; where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (John 8:1-2 NIV)" Some suggest that Jesus did not care for crowds and loved fresh air but this reasoning does not fit the facts we know concerning Jesus. While I am sure he did not necessarily like the press of the crowds, he did not mind them and often his greatest teaching came when he was in the midst of or speaking directly to the crowds. Whatever the reason we discover that the Pharisees were about what they regularly were: trying to entrap Jesus in some way, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery." And, in an attempt to try and shame her, "They made her stand before the group." Immediately they ask Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" It was an "I gotcha" moment. If Jesus did not condemn her, he would be disagreeing with the Law of Moses and if he did condemn her he would lose the respect of the crowd. John tells us that "They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him." I believe, Jesus already was well aware of their intent. Where was the man involved, according to the law he should have been tried as well. Instead of being sucked into their ungodly use of the law, "Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger." Jesus would not be caught in their sin!

  EXAMPLE: Many over the centuries have tried to guess what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day. Like slivers from the cross or the myriad of nails and other supposed artifacts, I am surprised we don't have some charlatans trying to sell plaster castings of his tracings! There are those who suggest Jesus wrote the sins of the woman's accusers, while others think that perhaps he wrote the words "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. (Exodus 23:1 NIV)” Maybe Jesus simply traced his finger in the dust while preparing to respond. It is all a guess really, because what Jesus wrote is not as important as to how he responded. Jesus would not be caught in their sin!

Growing up in the faith practice I did, I was often reminded of just how pathetic I was and how I could never measure up to the high standards of Jesus. We find other religions saying they are the true worshippers of holy God by how they torture, murder, and slaughter the innocent. There are those who would rather rewrite the gospel narrative than discover its truth for their lives. This is why when I finally came to faith in Christ, I was ecstatic to learn the beautiful truth that…

II. Jesus never condemns us for our sin! (Vv. 7-11)

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

  1. Notice that like children bullying their own, "they kept on questioning him." Jesus responds both quietly and compassionately, "he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'" You would think these self-righteous snobs would have taken him up on his offer, but his demeanor and his response both surprised and shocked them. And then, "Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground." There is something kind of humorous in Jesus' actions. Those who wanted to test him and to also condemn another to make them feel more important and noble were chaffing at the bit, while the one they want to entrap calmly draws in the dirt! Kind of makes one wonder what the woman was thinking at this moment. All the other men there were angry with her except Jesus. All the others were intent on getting their pound of flesh, except Jesus. They had dragged her through the streets in humiliation, while the one whose feet they finally toss her simply and quietly bent down and traced his finger in the dust of the road! This is the attitude of one who understands the love of God and the sin we so often find ourselves. At this simple act we find "those who heard began to go away one at a time, the old ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there!" Perhaps the older ones understood first the wisdom of Jesus' words, while the anger of youth took a little more time, but whatever the reason, each man drops his stone and wanders quietly away -- humbled. Here is where we have to smile, here is where the joy and love of God is displayed, "Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'" Surely you can see the twinkle in Jesus eyes as he speaks to her, certainly you can sense the compassion he expresses with each word. She is confused, as we are so often when God openly and lovingly forgives us. "No one, sir," she replies. You see no one can condemn us for our sins, although we often do. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus responds. And lastly, he tells her what he always tells those he finds and forgives, "Go now and leave your life of sin." How wonderful to know and discover that Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

  EXAMPLE: Joe South, an old hard rocker from the sixties sang a song that went, "Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes. Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes!" Then he sings about karma and how our lives are not perfect. I always kind of hated that expression, "Walk a mile in my shoes." The reason is because it is so often misused. Most think that unless you do what they do, you have no right to criticize their lives. This is not what Jesus was teaching as he wrote in the dust of the street and forgave the sins of the woman. Jesus always rebuked sin in the lives of people, but he never condemned the person. Jesus would ultimately die for the sins of those he never met. How could the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world condemn us when he willingly would die for us? We discover while Jesus does not condone our sin, Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

Conclusion:
Jesus would not be caught in their sin! Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Living Water! - John 7:37-53

The Living Water! - John 7:37-53
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 19, 2015

I was reading an old western the other day by Louis L'Amour. In it the hero was trekking across the Southwestern desert without water when he comes to a small watering hole. He figures out that the water is no good; it is poisoned and would kill him if he drank it, and since there is no other water for miles he has to do something about it before he can drink it. This little piece of the short story I was reading made me begin to wonder how in the world do folks in our day and age know, when they are dying of thirst, if the water they are drinking is poisoned or not?

Folks can be poisoned by a lot of things: What they read, what they are taught, by the example given them from their peers or parents, or what they watch in movie or TV. Everything from our spirituality to our worldview can be slowly poisoned and we never realize it until we have to pay the ultimate price. The common folks of Jesus' day were slowing being fed intellectual and spiritual poison, they needed clean, clear, and "living water" to drink from. Jesus offered them an undiluted view of God without any spiritual arsenic mixed in; he was the living water. Let's discover what he teaches us about the living water…

READ: John 7:37-53

Political correctness has corrupted and poisoned how many think in our day and age. So much so that logical thinking is almost a lost art. And sadly there are those who are desperately looking for the truth but are slowly being poisoned. It was true in Jesus' day as well. In fact we discover that…

I. The Living Water brings spiritual understanding! (Vv. 37-39)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

  1. This section of John is interesting because the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated with certain festival rituals. One was a solemn procession each day from the temple to the Gijon Spring. A priest filled a gold pitcher with water while the choir would sing, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 NIV)" They would then return to the altar and pour out the water. This ritual reminded them of the water from the rock during the wilderness wanderings. It also spoke prophetically of the coming days of Messiah, "On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. (Zechariah 14:8 NIV)" Here is the one who would bring about the Living Water of God for anyone who would place their faith and trust in him, standing in the temple courts crying out in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." This was a wondrous and serious announcement. Jesus is telling them that the Living Water, the Spirit, would flow freely if anyone would come freely to him! The choice is ours just as it was theirs. They would receive the gift of God and he would freely flow from within the person! Because "By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." It is hard for us to imagine because we live after the fact. We enjoy the gift of God readily when we trust Jesus with our lives. John explains why when he writes, "Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." Jesus has now been glorified and because of that we know that the Living Water brings spiritual understanding!

  EXAMPLE: My brother Ed had read the Bible before and like many before him who have, but who do not know Jesus personally as Savior and Lord, he did not fully understand its truth. He came to Denise and me in utter humility after giving his life to Christ. He readily confessed that what he had thought he had once understood before was nothing like what he now knew to be true. What was the difference? The power and presence of the Holy Spirit in his life! In fact, the promise that Jesus made to his disciples is for all believers, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV)" This is why Jesus told his followers, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63 NIV)" The Living Water brings spiritual understanding!

Dead water is that which is stagnant, murky, or full of unseen dangers. The Israelites understood the concept and distinction between living free flowing cool spring water and dead water that was stagnant, muddy, and foul. Their spirituality had become the latter, dead and stagnant. They needed to experience the living water of God brought about by the presence of the Holy Spirit. In their confusion they needed to learn that…

II. The Messiah brings the Living Water! (Vv. 40-44)

On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

  1. John shows us that some things never change and here we see that just as in our day and age where people argue as to whether Jesus is the Messiah or just a good man and wise teacher. Muslims believe he is a wise man and prophet, the world believes Jesus is a good man who taught good things, but the testimony of Scripture, of those who walked with him and lived with him and watched him die, and experienced the empty tomb (after he was glorified) and ate with him and spoke with him say otherwise. They testify to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah! So, we discover "On hearing his words, some of the people said, 'Surely this man is the Prophet.' Others said, 'He is the Christ (Messiah).' Still others asked, 'How can the Christ (Messiah) come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ (Messiah) will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?'" And in fact Jesus did because he was born in Bethlehem, the town where David's family came from! The prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus! Jesus was and is the Prophet Moses spoke about, but more than that he is the Messiah from whom the Living Water of God flows. Afterwards, "the people were divided because of Jesus" and "some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him" because it was not yet his time to be ultimately rejected by them, falsely accused by their mouths, murdered by their schemes, handed over to others to murder and be crucified by their own enemies. It was not God's timing. And no matter how much people try to intellectually dismiss Jesus, rewrite the history of Jesus, or pervert who he was we discover only the Messiah brings the Living Water!

  EXAMPLE: What we fail to understand is the fact that we are all spiritually dead until we give our lives to Christ. We may think we understand deep spiritual truth, but what we think we understand is like the skim on top of a deep pool of water. All we see is the skim on top and not the deep pool below. It is unknowable to us. This why Paul would testify, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory! (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV)" And this is why Paul would rejoice, "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (Ephesians 3:8-9 NIV)" Only the Messiah brings the Living Water!

Even today there is confusion concerning the Holy Spirit. Some falsely teach he is a power, like electricity, unknowable and impersonal. Others think of him as an "it' without substance. None of this is true. The Holy Spirit is personal, a person, and part of the godhead -- the Trinity. Father God, Jesus God, and Spirit God working in complete unity, function, and purpose. Each a personality and presence of God doing a specific intent and because of these we learn that…

III. The Living Water causes division! (Vv. 45-53)

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?" "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law -- there is a curse on them." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." [Then each went to his own home.

  1. It is kind of humorous but we find the befuddled "temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees." They honestly do not know what to do with Jesus after trying to seize him and failing. Angered, by the temple guards returning without Jesus they ask, "Why didn't you bring him in?" The guards could only offer, "No one ever spoke the way this man does!" Matthew relates that "When Jesus had finished saying these things; the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29 NIV)" They had heard the same tired old teachings of the temple priests and the Pharisees. Jesus taught with fresh new insights and with the power and authority of God! Incredulous the priests and Pharisees respond, "You mean he has deceived you also?" Meaning that Jesus must have bewitched them in some way, which was not true. Then they offer up a false caveat by retorting, "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob knows nothing of the law -- there is a curse on them!" None of what they said was true, but this is often the case with those who cannot argue from facts or logic; they often resort to innuendos, lies, or distortion in order to gain an audience. Like the Christophobes of our day and age; they resort to name-calling, half-truths, and straw dog arguments. As if to counter their very words, John offers up proof that indeed some of the Pharisees and rulers did begin to believe Jesus was the Messiah because "Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 'Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?'" Nicodemus was both part of the ruling council and a Pharisee. In fact God had instructed the Israelites, "Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it. (Deuteronomy 1:17 NIV)" Nicodemus offers up this very law in which they were to follow as an example, yet their ungodly reply is both bigoted and racist, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." Their prejudice and hatred against Jesus was already strong enough to overthrow reason. The now accused Nicodemus of being as ignorant as they thought Galileans, country hicks, were! The Living Water causes division!

  EXAMPLE: What causes the division among folks concerning God is due to whether the concerned parties have the presence and power of God in their lives or not! There are those who try to manufacture spirituality through meditation, diet, or personal restriction or empowerment. These fail miserably because it is man trying desperately to obtain that which they never can -- the mind of God. Paul would write, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:11-14 NIV)" This is why the Living Water causes division!

Conclusion:

The Living Water brings Spiritual understanding! The Messiah brings the Living Water! The Living Water causes division!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Are you listening?

Are you listening?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2015

I like listening in on conversations. Yes, I suppose you could call me an eavesdropper, but really this carries with it so many nasty connotations. I prefer to be known as an observer of people and listening to them is part of the character of someone like me. Why just the other day I was listening to my grandson and wife talking together. He had climbed onto her lap and was enjoying a book with her. She exclaimed, "I like it when you climb into my lap and snuggle with me." Then I heard him giggle in response and reply, "I like snuggling with you too grandma." Now, how in the world could anyone not want to overhear that!

I am a fulltime pastor and a part time "recess teacher" during the week at a local elementary school. I have learned by listening in on conversations how many of the children there are neglected, loved, pampered, or encouraged. I have discovered that in fact many of these children who suffer the most in their home-lives do so because no one listens to their conversation; how utterly sad. I have now made it a duty when I am there interacting with them by listening. I have learned lots of important things from them as I do. I have learned of incarcerated parents, drug-addicted siblings, grandparents becoming parents again, childish wishes, inspiring dreams, the wonderful language of play, angry words, and loving acceptance. I have heard a lot while kneeling down to tie shoelaces, putting a Band-Aid on a scrape, or encouraging a newly found monkey-bar skill.

In a world where we text far more than we write letters and even where emails are now "old-fashioned" I have discovered listening again. There is something sweet and wonderful about doing so. While at a local grocery store I listened in as a young couple interacted over what they would buy for dinner that night. It was to be a celebration with her parents over her pregnancy. Heads together as they both pushed their shopping cart down the aisle their conversation was one of joy.

You know, our prayer is to be like that as well. I believe we are to listen far more than we are to talk with God. I think we have forgotten how and what that means. Prayer is not just speaking at God; it is actually pausing and listening to what he wants to say to us as well. Far too often we meander on and on about things we already know the answer to and just keep babbling because we cannot shut up and listen. Perhaps we are afraid of what God might tell us! Jesus told his disciples, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." (Matthew 6:6-7 NIV) The idea here is one of conversation and listening.

There is an art to listening. This is what my uncle used to tell me. Then he would pat my shoulder and remark, "It means Art should be quite and listen!" (Of course he meant me.) My mother used to ask us over and over, "Are you listening to me?" or "You haven’t heard a single word I've said!" She knew listening was important too. Not that everything everyone says is important because it surely is not, but I learned when my mother spoke, you listened.

Yes we should actively listen to others, but we should also listen to God more importantly. Psalm 81 is all about how we should listen to God more, which is kind of interesting because we read in many of the Psalms how the writer is often crying out for God to listen to him! Doesn’t God already hear us and know about our circumstance? I guess we are like children who want attention fast and we think we get it quickest by crying out as loud as we can! Jesus told his followers, "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." (Luke 8:17-18 NIV) In fact Jesus would later respond that "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:21 NIV) I guess listening to God is very important indeed. This is why he would teach, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27 NIV) And like James, Jesus' brother, I believe "everyone should be quick to listen" and "slow to speak"!

Now, did you hear what I just told you?

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Of Potlucks, Power Rangers and People

Of Potlucks, Power Rangers and People
by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2015

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 NIV)

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. (Jude 1:12 NIV)

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ… But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? ... The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18-19, 21, 26-27 NIV)

Potlucks are a strange and wonderful occurrence in the church and I am sad because I am missing one right now. They are sacred in a sense. I have noticed that other groups have tried to emulate them, hoping to gain the same kind of experience the church does, but while they are enjoyable, they never obtain the same comradeship and connection that a church potluck does. Why is that? I believe it goes back to the very foundation of who Jesus was and how he brought together tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, Pharisees, priests, soldiers, businessmen, and others to follow him. To become his church, his body in the world doing his work and will. His disciples were a cornucopia of folks united in him. This is why when after his ascension the church was instructed to be together until he provided the empowerment and proof they needed in order to be his church. The God house-keeping seal of approval, the Holy Spirit!

After Pentecost, the early church saw the spiritual and sacredness of the body of Christ being together, untied and sharing that which was most intimate and important for sustaining life, a common meal. The breaking of bread is not just an offhanded reference to the Lord's Supper, but we sense it is more, they ate together. They shared a common meal that everyone participated in by bringing something and eating together. In fact, these meals were known as "love feasts" by the early church because it showed the love of Jesus toward each member of his local church. Each believer shared what they could and everyone ate. In fact when the Corinthian church perverted the common meals and the remembrance of the Lord's Supper, Paul resoundingly scolded them! (1 Corinthians 11:18-33)

I realized the other day while my grandson was watching the old children's TV show The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers that this is a good illustration of what a potluck, and therefore the church, is supposed to be. (You knew I had to bring them into this.) Each Ranger has gifts and is pretty awesome alone and can face a lot of evil bad guys, but when they become overwhelmed they seek each other out and then form one mighty Power Ranger. This machine made up of all the Rangers cannot work without all of them coming together as a unit, just like the church.

The church's one focus is to be Jesus. We are his body, his church. When we come together to worship, to minister, and to eat together there is a sacredness and empowerment we cannot enjoy without one another. Eating a meal is an intimate affair and when we enjoy a meal together we are setting aside ourselves and sharing that which is most basic to our existence. This is why I love eating at the table with my family, but even more so when we come together as a church, the body of Christ and break bread together!

Potlucks are more than tuna casseroles, bread rolls, and homemade pies; they are the essence, the foundation of that which the church is meant to be. People intimately sharing themselves, what they have, with one another in Jesus to worship and serve him. When we eat together we share more than just food we have bought or made, we share ourselves. Far too many churches now depend on desperately trying to build intimacy in sixty minutes or more on Sunday without any actual fellowship occurring. It cannot happen. You have to break bread together because this sharing empowers us to be the body of Christ we are meant to be. As we eat together we talk together. We get to know and understand one another better. Our strengths and yes our weaknesses as well. We become a church family. This is extremely important and something a mega church cannot do if it only meets in manufactured worship once a week on Sundays. Afterwards when we have to work, minister, or go forth into the ungodly world we know there are others whom we have ate with and actually know right there with us who have our back, and are part of the grand body of believers the church. Therefore do not disdain neglect or not participate in your church's next potluck, enjoy it, bring something, and benefit from the fellowship that it evokes. I believe this is what Jesus would want you to do, beside you can get a lot of great recipes as well!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Victory! - Mark 16:1-14

The Victory! - Mark 16:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 5, 2015

Victory can come in many forms in our lives. It could be getting good grades, making a promotion at work, or retiring in comfort and contentment. Parents see victories in their children all the time. Perhaps one of the greatest victories that were totally unexpected happened during the 1980 Winter Olympics when the USA hockey team beat Russia at Lake Placid, New York. It was called "The Miracle on Ice" for a reason because no one expected it to happen since Team USA had been badly beaten by the Russians earlier in the year.

Today's verses in Mark show us a different kind of victory. It is one that does not give out gold medals, good grades, or future monetary compensation. It is the victory that gives anyone who believes in it the power over death and the newness of a whole new relationship with Almighty God. It was a victory that few expected that morning after experiencing and seeing what they already had. They expected something quite different. Let's discover this morning the victory!

READ: Mark 16:1-14

When a dove hit the living room window my mother did not expect it to suddenly come alive and start flying around the house. It seemed dead to us and my mother, in a moment of compassion, brought the bird into the house. She laid it on some newspapers and went to get a garden trowel in order to bury it. It surprised us all by suddenly getting up and flying around the room! A mad and confused chase occurred, resulting in a lot of shouting, furniture being knocked over, and finally the bird flying out the open patio doors. Curiously, the unexpected came true for the women who went to the tomb of Jesus that Sunday morning so long ago…


I. They expected death and a closed tomb! (Vv. 1-3)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

  1. Jesus was not only merely dead, he was quire sincerely dead! When you die, you are dead -- right? At least this was what was on the minds of the women who went to the tomb that morning. The Sabbath, Saturday, concluded at sunset and the new Jewish day, Sunday, began. That evening after sunset the women who had witnessed Jesus’ death and burial bought spices, aromatic oils, to anoint Jesus’ body the next morning. This indicates they did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. Spices were poured over a dead body not to embalm it but rather to counteract the odor of decay and as a symbolic expression of loving devotion. Embalming was not a Jewish custom. "Very early on the first day of the week just after sunrise the women went to the tomb." They left home, with their preparations, while it was still dark (John 20:1) thinking they were going to anoint further Jesus' corpse and they got to the tomb shortly after sunrise. They knew Jesus was dead and buried. They had watched him die on the cross. In fact they were pondering how they would remove the entrance stone. Only Mark recorded their concern over the practical problem of getting it rolled back. Evidently they were not aware of the official sealing of the tomb or the posting of a guard. (Matthew 27:62-66) As these women walk to the tomb, they expected death and a closed tomb.

I never expected my future brother-in-law to walk through the door of our home. He was in the Navy and far away at sea. Yet, there he stood in his dress whites dragging his duffel bag behind him. He surprised us by coming home early! We know certain things in life are not expected. That is just the way life works. No one expects a tomb with a dead body in it to be empty -- it is impossible! Yet, after following Jesus for three and a half years they should have had the motto "expect the unexpected!" they were looking for a tomb with a body, but…

II. What they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection! (Vv. 4-7)

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

  1. When the women arrived on the scene, they looked up toward the tomb and immediately noticed that the stone… had been removed, for it was very large and thus easily seen. As the women entered the tomb’s outer room that led to the inner burial chamber, they were startled to see a young man sitting to their right probably in front of the burial chamber. The unique circumstances, the accompanying description, and the revelatory message indicate that Mark viewed him as a messenger sent from God. The white robe pictured his heavenly origin and splendor. Luke (Luke 24:3-4) and John (John 20:12) both mention the presence of two angels, the number necessary for a valid witness (Deut.17:6); but Matthew (Matthew 28:5) and Mark referred to only one, presumably the spokesman. The women were alarmed, shocked, taken aback, when they encounter the divine messenger. This compound verb is one of strong emotion (used only by Mark in the NT), expresses overwhelming distress. God's messenger immediately tries to put the women at ease. He tells them, "Don't be alarmed" and then begins to tell them, "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here." and then has them look for themselves, "See the place where they laid him." They are given a task to "go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" These women were the first to witness Jesus' resurrection, but would not be taken as credible witness under Jewish law. We know that they eventually go and tell the other disciples, and Peter and John rush to the tomb to see for themselves. They expected death and a closed tomb, but what they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection!

After I married Denise there began a process that I never expected in my life-- I changed. I became more mature in my thinking, more attentive in my listening, and developed a growing love I never expected. True love will do that. In fact, any relationship that is deep and abiding will. Christians are expected to grow in maturity, devotion, and their relationship with Jesus as well. After the women went to that tomb on Sunday morning, every one of their lives would change. In fact we discover…

III. The awe of victory resulted in changed lives! (Vv. 8-14)

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. [When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

  1. Verse 8 is the actual ending for the Gospel of Mark. We know this to be true because of the testimony of early church fathers, two of the earliest and best reliable manuscripts end Mark here, many of those who add the extra verse place marking to show they were additions or have notations stating such. Verse 8 ends for us in our Western thinking in a stilted position. Why would Mark end his Gospel with the women being afraid? Yet the word here is not necessarily one of fear, as it is one of awe. The Greek phobeo can mean fear, as in being afraid, but it is often used as meaning being in awe. Not understanding, yet knowing that something has occurred that one simply cannot explain. this is the context, I believe. But their fear, their awe, of what just occurred turns to joy afterwards. They are told to go and remind Peter and the others to meet Jesus back in Galilee. Verses 9-14 explain what occurs afterwards. These verses explain for the reader how a person's life is changed forever after coming to the knowledge of the empty tomb and Jesus' resurrection! The disciples and all of Jesus' followers would be changed after the resurrection! They had a new task themselves to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had driven seven demons, her life was changed as was the weeping and mourning of the disciples! At first they did not believe Jesus had risen, but after seeing the empty tomb for themselves, they believed! We discover, because a copyist inserts his own commentary, that "Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen" and in so doing we discover the awe of victory resulted in changed lives!

Conclusion:

They expected death and a closed tomb, what they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection! The awe of victory resulted in changed lives!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.