Saturday, January 30, 2016

Before Pilate - John 18:28-40

Before Pilate - John 18:28-40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 31, 2016

I hated it when my mother would drag us around to our relatives and then want us to show something off to them just so she could brag about it. I know she did it because she was proud of us but as a child it seem kind of, well, exploitive. No one likes to be used as a trophy or as a means to an end, whatever that may be.

How would like to be dragged from one place to another simply to be put on display and illegally tried? We are all angered when we find out that someone has been tried, held captive, or used as a human guinea pig. Few of us would like these prospects yet Jesus suffered these indignities. And now we find him dragged before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in charge of the occupation of his nation and people. Sadly, it was his own people who were using him as a means to an end, as a scapegoat for their own problems. Let's find out what happens when Jesus is brought before Pilate…

READ: John 18:28-40

None of us like to be used as puppets at the whim of others. This is what is happening to Jesus as he appears before Pilate. In fact, we discover…

I. The hypocrisy of manmade plans! (Vv. 28-32)

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

  1. John does not give us any details like Mark does. Mark's account is fuller perhaps because he is writing it at the request of Peter who watched Jesus as he was being tried. (Mark 14:55-65) While Peter denied him, an officer had hit him, the high priest had examined him, and they thought they had enough out of his own mouth to condemn him; they, the chief priests, elders, Scribes, and the whole ungodly group, led him bound from Caiaphas' house to the hall of judgment and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. John explains that "By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." Mindful of themselves becoming unclean by entering a "gentile's" house, and wanting to maintain their phony public piety, they willingly give Jesus to Pilate. In fact Pilate has to come out of the Palace where he was staying for the Passover and come to them! It is the interplay of corrupt politics. "So Pilate came out to them and asked, 'What charges are you bringing against this man?'" They curtly respond, "If he were not a criminal we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate was hated by them for his harshness and the fact that he was a Gentile ruling over them. And make no mistake Pilate despised them. He saw their hypocrisy for what it was. Believe it or not Romans valued truth and honesty. He knew what was going on and so he twists their hypocrisy back on them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jewish leadership wanted Jesus to be more than stoned, which they could have easily done, but if he were tried for a capital crime against Rome, well then Jesus would be executed by them as an ungodly criminal. They would be free from any involvement and keep their integrity intact to the unwashed masses. This is why they whine, "But we have no right to execute anyone!" Yet little did either party know that "This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled." We see for ourselves the hypocrisy of manmade plans!

  EXAMPLE: Ah the best laid plans of mice and men, right? Someone once quipped, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I would say that life is what happens to you while you are busy making stupid plans! There are those who make horrible plans but chose to ignore the fact anyway. Here we find the Jewish leadership desperately working toward their own goals and never asking themselves if this was truly a good plan or not. It is like us many times when we scheme and think our plans are so relevant and blessed by God when in fact we have not even clue nor even inquired of him if they have any part of his plan at all! Here in John's gospel as Jesus is before Pilate we discover the hypocrisy of manmade plans!

I believe Pilate realizes that the Jewish leadership was trying to use him for their own means; it is how much of politics has worked for centuries. We discover that when Jesus comes before Pilate that…

II. The kingdom of man doesn't recognize the kingdom of God! (Vv. 33-37)

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

  1. Pilate desired to hear from Jesus' own lips if he were truly guilty of proclaiming himself king over Caesar. "Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'" Luke writes that "they began to accuse [Jesus], saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.'" (Luke 23:2 NIV) This was a twisted lie. When in fact Jesus told them to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Luke 20:25 NIV) Yes, he had overturned the tax tables in the temple, but those were the Jewish leadership's and not Rome's. His declaring he was the Messiah had nothing to do with political subversion against Caesar and they knew it. They also knew that if they could falsely pin on Jesus his desire to overthrow Rome rule, then he could be crucified by them as an insurrectionist! Terrorism was not held kindly even in Jesus' day. Jesus' desire was that everyone would understand who he was and so he asks Pilate, "Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?" However, Pilate was not interested in Jewish theological discussions; his concern was keeping the peace of Rome. "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" Some have wondered why Jesus did not plead his case here and thereby rescue himself with the facts. However, that was not the plan of God and so Jesus answers, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." One kingdom meets the other and yet Pilate incorrectly surmises, "You are a king, then!" I believe, and it is my own speculation, that Jesus sadly looks at Pilate sighs and responds, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." Neither the corrupt Jewish leadership nor the worldly Roman governor recognized the truth because the kingdom of man doesn't recognize the kingdom of God!

  EXAMPLE: Make no mistake this ungodliness lies squarely on the Jewish nation whose leadership refused to recognize Jesus as their Messiah, when in fact they suspected he was. The ingrained greed of their leadership and the corrupt nature of their power influenced them far more than the Law of Moses. Jesus told them, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" and he would rhetorically ask, "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" (John 5:46-47; 7:19 NIV) The same is true for our political realm as well. Make no mistake the kingdom principles are not adhered to by anyone in our differing political spectrum today. Believers are to be salt and light, seasoning and guides in a tasteless sin-darkened world. It is a dangerous thing to trust that the world understands kingdom principles. We see that the kingdom of man doesn't recognize the kingdom of God!

All of us want the truth told to us but not all of us are willing to do what the truth tells us to do. And for some of us the truth is relative; meaning it is only applicable if it suits our needs, wants, or desires for the moment. Here we discover that when Jesus comes before Pilate that…

III. We can listen and never hear the truth at all! (Vv. 38-40)

"What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?" They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

  1. I find Pilate's response to Jesus spiritually chilling. It is the same response we receive not only from many in our political realm but from the world at large today. Paul correctly hits the nail on the head when he wrote, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools"! (Romans 1:21-22 NIV) In fact Paul starkly observes the "wise" world "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator"! (Romans 1:25 NIV) This is where Pilate was in his thinking. This is where much of the world remains. And so he responds, "What is truth?" There are those who consider themselves rational thinkers of sorts who are hung up on this shallow notion of absurd intellectuality. There can only be one truth. And so with this mistaken idea of what truth might be or could be, Pilate "went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?" Here is where the wisdom of God shines through the stupidity of mankind. Paul would assert that "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NIV) This is the proper time. The truth of the situation and the corrupt nature of the process is physically heard by the paid off crowd as they shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" And who was this paragon of virtue, this noble character they want to welcome back into their national bosom? Well, "Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion." He was a true insurrectionist unlike Jesus. Do you think Pilate missed the irony of the situation? After all, what is truth? We learn that we can listen and never hear the truth at all!

  EXAMPLE: Other gospel narratives share that Pilate could find no fault with Jesus and could not in good conscious convict him of the crimes the Jews desired. Later he will wash his hands of the whole situation, signifying to himself and the rule of Roman law of his unbiased decision. Yet one wonders if later in his life if he did not wonder if the truth stood right in front of him all along that day. His wife had warned him, we learn, after all. Even today, we can listen and never hear the truth at all!

Conclusion:

We discovered the hypocrisy of manmade plans! We see that the kingdom of man doesn't recognize the kingdom of God! We learned that we can listen and never hear the truth at all!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, January 24, 2016

Peter and the Denial - John 18:17, 25-27

Peter and the Denial - John 18:17, 25-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 24, 2016

Betrayal by a friend is a horrible thing to go through and so is desertion of one's companions as well. Jesus experienced both. And both are seen in our day and age as not just offensive but something whereby the guilty party can be imprisoned for life or even given the death penalty if it involves the betrayal of country or king. As awful as Judas' betrayal was, Peter's was in some ways far more personal and thereby worse. What can we learn from Peter and his denial this morning? Let's find out…

Before James, Jesus' brother said, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." he related that the believer should "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19-20, 22 NIV) Peter was one to quickly jump into whatever situation he was in with both feet. He needed to learn to think before he leapt. He betrayed Jesus because God understood Peter needed to learn a lesson. Let's discover what lessons we can learn from Peter and the denial…

READ: John 18:17, 25-27

"You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not… As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it, saying, "I am not." One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:17, 25-27 NIV)

Peter was asked twice, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" however not by the same servant girl. Luke indicates it was a man who questioned Peter a second time. Whatever the case they were certain he was one of Jesus' disciples because he was dressed like someone from that area, perhaps his speech patterns gave him away, or how he kept glancing towards what was going on in the courtyard. Mark says that the servant girl told Peter, "You also were with that Nazarene!" (Mark 14:67 NIV) Whatever the circumstance Peter was given an opportunity to take a stand with Jesus and refused, not just once or twice but three times. Just as Jesus had told him he would do. In fact Peter’s betrayal is reported in all four Gospels, which indicates something of the importance the Gospel writers saw in his defection. What does this tell us about Peter and what does this tell us about ourselves for that matter?

  1) First we discover it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it. While Peter was quick in the garden to grab his sword and cut off the ear of a defenseless servant, it was a whole other matter to stand tall when in the enemy's camp and confronted. We forget that every day we live in the camp of the enemy. It is easy to become complacent when rubbing shoulders with those who are actively destroying our relationship with God. Paul would write, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2 NIV) Peter was relying on himself and he would need to learn to rely on his faith instead if he was going to serve Jesus in the future. It is easy for us to begin to think that if we can do it, then God must be in it. This is a dangerous position. The believer's strength to stand when confronted by the world comes not from themselves, but from their steadfast stand in Jesus Christ! Jesus had told him, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1 NIV) That truth rings true for us as well. Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it!

  EXAMPLE: I can't remember the first day I ever had chocolate but I know ever since then it has become easier and easier to eat it; the same thing was true with pie -- good homemade pie. It became easier and easier to say "yes" to each piece. When we betray Jesus we may not have even meant to do so, but with each betrayal it became easier. In our day and age with all of life's distractions, the ingrained selfishness of society, and the pull of being accepted it has become easier and easier to betray Jesus. Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it!

  2) Second, we discover that we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in. There is not a day in our life whereby we are not confronted in some way to decide whether to follow Jesus or not. What we say, who we associate with, watch on TV or the movies, or what we read. We know ahead of time we will be confronted. It will happen. Peter knew ahead of time he would betray Jesus yet he was totally unprepared when the time came. Peter would write, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV) Perhaps he was thinking of how he had conformed. Jesus warned Peter ahead of time so Peter would not be caught off guard. Peter did not yet enjoy the same kind of relationship we enjoy with Jesus. We have the presence and power of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit because of our faith. Yet we can learn from Peter to be prepared. It is more than a Boy Scout motto; it is our marching orders for an empowered life in Jesus! Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in!

  EXAMPLE: The term "stand and deliver" was a phrase used by bandits of 18th century. They were called highwaymen. These highwaymen were often little more than what we would now call muggers, although some highwaymen did fit into the 'gentleman of the road' persona that dramatists later portrayed. It literally meant for you to stop and give up all your goods, everything you had on your person or be shot to death. Just in case people didn't get the idea, from the 1750s onward the "stand and deliver" command was extended to include "your money or your life". Later, it meant for the one challenged to give an answer to what they believed. What would you say if you were challenged to "stand and deliver" concerning your faith? Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in!

  3) Third, each of us must ask ourselves if we are Jesus' disciple or not. If God is speaking to you today, you must be willing to go with him. Paul reminds us that "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV) Perhaps he is choosing you now? Luke tells us that after Peter had denied Jesus for the third time, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:60-62 NIV) Peter had remorse because he knew who he should have remained true to. He had forgotten who had chosen him in the first place. Hebrews reminds us that "It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" (Hebrews 4:6-7 NIV) and Paul would write, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV) Later Peter would understand, later Peter would be forgiven, and later he would decide to trust Jesus with his life. Therefore today do not harden your heart to Jesus. You must ask yourself if you are Jesus' disciple or not!

  EXAMPLE: Kurt Russell starred in a 1998 campy film called "Soldiers". It is about a group of men grown from birth to be the ultimate soldier for fighting wars that is until they are replaced by more advanced genetically engineered ones. He is dumped on a waste disposal planet and lives among a community of crash survivors on the planet and takes it upon himself to defend his new home when the genetic engineered soldiers are ordered to eliminate the crash survivors. What he thought was true and what he was taught to believe about himself is challenged. Now what if I told you the same is true for each of us this morning. What we may think is true about our life is not true at all. You must ask yourself if you are Jesus' disciple or not!

Conclusion:

Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it! Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in! You must ask yourself if you are Jesus' disciple or not!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, January 17, 2016

Before Annas - John 18:14-24

Before Annas - John 18:14-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 17, 2016

Politics for some is just another dirty word. The saying goes never discuss religion or politics with someone else if you want to be on good terms with them. Nothing under the sun is new and we discover that the stench of politics and its intrigue was just as perverse during Jesus' day as it is today. And we find that so was personal betrayal.

Have you ever had someone come to you and say they are speaking for someone else? I have. Here in John's gospel we find Jesus being dragged from one person to the next and the first one he is forced to come before was "Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year." Make no mistake, Annas was still the power behind the scenes. Let's discover what happened and what it means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 18:14-24

Throughout history and throughout Scripture we discover that things do not change much at the heart of the human condition. Sure we have better ways to do things, including sin. And as we look at what is occurring here in John's gospel as Jesus is drug before Caiaphas, we realize that…

I. We think sin is sometimes expedient! (Vv. 12-14)

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.

  1. Things are rapidly coming to their conclusion in Jesus' life. Jesus' disciples had fallen asleep when asked to stay awake and pray, Judas has scurried off and found his reward and brought his betrayal back to Gethsemane, and now a contingent of temple guards and Jewish officials arrest Jesus: "Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus." A long day had just ended with betrayal and arrest. Now Jesus is bound and in the hands of his enemies. His followers were scattered. Jesus' religious trial begins, and when they brought Him first to Annas John gives us information not given in the other gospels: "They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year." We know by history that Annas had been appointed high priest by Quirinius, governor of Syria, in a.d. 6 and remained until he was deposed by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea, in a.d. 15. According to the Jewish law the high priestly office was for life, but the Romans did not like the concentration of power in one person so they frequently changed high priests. Annas was succeeded by five of his sons and by his son-in-law Caiaphas. (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Make no mistake; Annas remained the power behind the throne. However, John tells us, "Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people." He said this during a heated discussion as to what to do with Jesus as his followers grew in number. Caiaphas had determined it would be better if Jesus died than for them to lose their position. Caiaphas shows us that we often can justify our sin and in fact, we think sin is sometimes expedient!

  EXAMPLE: The Jewish leaders did not want to know the truth, they had seen it for themselves and they could not handle the truth! Kind of like anyone who is caught in sin who knows they are sinning but they want to justify their ungodly behavior. It goes back to who we place first in our lives, God or ourselves. When we place ourselves first it is easy to reason sin's outcome. And we can even begin to not only justify our sin; we can come up with some pretty good excuses as to why it is okay for us to do so! After all, don’t the ends justify the means? We think sin is sometimes expedient!

Like dominoes that are put into a line, when one falls they all begin to topple. One after another each sin begins to topple another one and each one often become worse than the previous one. Like Pharaoh before Moses or Saul before David our hearts begin to stiffen with each sin committed and here we learn that…

II. Sin's deceitfulness hardens our hearts! (Vv. 15-18)

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not." It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

  1. After they run away from Gethsemane, two of the disciples, Peter and more than likely John, had come back and "were following Jesus" and the others. Interestingly we discover that "Because this disciple (John) was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door." John must have had family members or someone he knew who was a member of the Sanhedrin because as is explained John knew the high priest. This could also explain why John ran away at first; he may not have wanted to be discovered and have his family find out. John explains his influence during this crisis, "The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in." The girl on duty was more than likely a servant who was in charge of doorway. She would wash feet, announce who was coming in, and she would know intimately who she should let in or not. Interestingly the one who said he would die for and follow Jesus anywhere is now lurking in the background shadows watching as his master is falsely accused before an illegal court at night. Peter's fears of being found out come to fruition when the girl at the doorway rhetorically asks, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" She had a good idea Peter was. Peter's reply, "I am not!" is as cold in its personal betrayal as the night air. Matthew Henry writes that "It is a devilish rule to cover a sin with a sin." We can be "hardened by sin's deceitfulness". (Hebrews 3:13) Sadly, we learn, "It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself."  While his master is being abused, Peter is denying him by their fire. Sin's deceitfulness hardens our hearts!

  EXAMPLE: Peter had tried to defend Jesus, but in doing so had almost brought down on all the disciples their deaths. Only Jesus' calm certainty and miraculous display had saved them. Then, like the others, Peter had fled. John had found him and now they were near Jesus again. Only now he hides by the fire's warmth as Jesus is coldly tried. In one swift denial in order to protect himself Peter begins the process of the one sin following after another until he hears the crowing of a rooster. Like a junkie under the influence of drugs or an alcoholic needing one more drink, Peter is caught up in his sin. Sin's deceitfulness hardens our hearts!

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Like a candle in the darkness or a lighthouse during a storm, light pierces the blackest darkness. That is also how it is with sin. No matter how you try to hide it or cover it up…

III. The truth always shines in the darkness of sin! (Vv. 19-24)


Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said." When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded. "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

  1. Meanwhile while Peter is trying not to draw attention, "the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching." Jesus is not afraid to speak the truth no matter what the circumstances. While we may be quick like Peter to shift our loyalties, Jesus remains steadfast. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said." Whether on open hillsides, the temple courtyards, or in the synagogues of the region, Jesus taught openly. They had their spies there, they knew. And Jesus knew they knew it to be true. He was innocent unless proven guilty. Therefore they should produce witnesses if they had something substantial against Him. Many who are confronted with the truth of their own deception respond in anger, so "When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face." The preliminary hearing had several illegalities and this was one of them. It was improper to try to induce self-incrimination and it was wrong to hit the person being questioned. He now tries to justify his cruelty by demanding, "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" It is easier to evade the truth or to silence the one who speaks the truth than to admit the truth. Kind of like those today who try to silence Christians who take a stand against gay marriage or the destructive nature of Islam. "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" Do they respond? No, instead, "Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest." Jesus exposed their hypocrisy as he does to anyone who tries to justify their sin. Yet often, our response is to try and send Jesus away. The truth always shines in the darkness of sin!

  EXAMPLE: One can stand before a Congress or a Sanhedrin and try to justify their actions to a nation or people, but the truth has a way of coming through. Just because you think something is true or you desperately want it to be true does not make it the truth, no matter what rainbow color you paint it or how you try to prop it up with political correctness. You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig. The truth always shines in the darkness of sin!

Conclusion:

We think sin is sometimes expedient! Sin's deceitfulness hardens our hearts! The truth always shines in the darkness of sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, January 10, 2016

Setting aside! - 2 Corinthians 4:5-7; Philippians 2:1-11

Setting aside! - 2 Corinthians 4:5-7; Philippians 2:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 10, 2016

Paul shared with his friend and mentor Timothy what he expected of those who wanted to become leaders within the church by telling him that they "must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap." (1 Timothy 3:2-7 NIV) All of these were in the present tense meaning that this is how they were to be at the moment of their consideration; it did not refer to their past.

We set aside those things that are precious to us or that we want to keep for later. We set aside folks for the gospel ministry because we see in them certain spiritual characteristics that show us that they are serious about serving the Lord. And when we look at Andrew's life we see these very characteristics. However we would do well in reminding ourselves and Andrew what it means for us to set him aside. Let's discover what it means as he serves…

READ: 2 Corinthians 4:5-7

Just as Jesus was the focus of Paul's life it is to so with the life of anyone we set aside for the gospel ministry. We discover therefore that…

I. Jesus is to be our focus! (v. 5)


For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

  1. Notice what Paul says here about the gospel ministry he was called and set apart for: "we do not preach ourselves". So much that is preached from the pulpits of churches in our day and age is not the Gospel message and has little or nothing to do with Jesus. Paul made sure his ministry, his calling, was about presenting "Jesus Christ as Lord". This literally means that he saw Jesus as his master. In fact, we read elsewhere that Paul understood his relationship with Jesus quite well, something that many today have forgotten. It gets in the way of their selfish natures that demands everything be about them. He would address his letters by stating, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God". (Romans 1:1 NIV) For Paul "to live is Christ", so he never preached what he thought; he lived his life "and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus!

  EXAMPLE: "keep your eye on the ball!" my hitting coach would say. "Stay focused" we would remind the Little League Team I coached; it was easy for children to get excited, depressed, or lose their focus on the field. Like when we would go and watch Clark County Youth Football there would be at least one or more players who would run the wrong way. While we are serving the Lord we can often lose track of the one we are to follow and begin to place emphasis on ourselves. When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus!

Why is it important for us to keep our focus when we are set aside for the Lord? Paul relates that…

II. The light of God is the only answer to the world's darkness! (V. 6)

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

  1. Never forget that the most beautiful sunset, cutest newborn, or a glorious starry sky is tainted by the decay if sin. Paul would remind us: "For this world in its present form is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:31 NIV) Everything that exists is tainted. In fact, Paul had just written that "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) This is why Paul wrote that it was "God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." Since we have that light within us we are to share it with those around us who are caught in the darkness of sin. We are reminded that "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12 NIV) Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV) The light of God is the only answer to the world's darkness!

  EXAMPLE: Without artificial light the world could not do much of what it does. When the storms blow or folks get caught in a cave or pile of rubble, they always talk about the number caught in darkness, the hours spent in darkness, or how the darkness felt. We value the light. Yet far too few value the true light that gives illumination to all mankind. "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:5 NIV) The light of God is the only answer to the world's darkness!

If the one we set aside forgets to keep the main thing, the main thing they forget what their calling is to be about. Jesus is not about them; in fact, Paul relates…

III. Our ministry is about the power of God! (v. 7)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

  1. Paul never forgot where he came from. He often reminded his readers and listeners of his past life. However, he never wallowed in his past mistakes. He knew it was useless and spiritually defeating to do so. Paul could boldly state, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV) The ministry Paul was called to never was about himself. The ministry we are called to is not about ourselves either -- it is totally about Jesus! Paul viewed his life as one being emptied out like a water jar made of clay. Our physical form is made by the hand of God like a pot in the hands of a potter our lives are molded and to be used for God's purposes, not ours. Paul would write, "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." (Philippians 2:17-18 NIV) Our ministry is about the power of God!

  EXAMPLE: We lose focus in life when we begin to think that what we do is about us and not about Jesus. It is not about the accolades, the money, or any momentary fame. Too much of ministry is done today in the light of personal accomplishment and not the calling of God. If we can do it on our own then it isn't the power of God being displayed. Ministry is not about how much better you can do something that someone else, how clever you are, how good an author you are, or how hip your ministry is -- our ministry is about the power of God!

Conclusion:

Let me finish by reminding all of this morning how Paul viewed his calling and the calling of others. He wrote, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV) When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus! The light of God is the only answer to the world's darkness! Our ministry is about the power of God!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, January 03, 2016

The betrayal! - John 18:1-13

The betrayal! - John 18:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 3, 2015

Did you know that Guy Fawkes (the namesake of the Guy Fawkes mask you see at every odd ball protest these days) was a traitor and betrayed his protestant homeland of England? He joined with Spanish Catholics in a miserably failed plot to assassinate King James and reinstate a Catholic king of England. He has since become a cultural figure of anarchy. He was and is no hero as some would have you think and in fact is a traitor and betrayer.

Have you ever had someone you considered a friend betray you? It is a hard thing to live through. One of the men whom Jesus personally picked to follow him betrays Jesus to the Jewish authorities perhaps thinking he can force Jesus' hand in becoming a Messianic leader who would overthrow the Romans and the corruption. Instead greed gets the better of Judas and he receives 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal of Jesus. Here in John's gospel Jesus finishes his personal prayer and they head to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed. Let's discover what this means for us this morning…

READ: John 18:1-13

Our excuses for sinning never really do not change nor have the excuses changed from generation to generation. The excuses Adam and Eve used in the Garden are the exact same ones we use, our children use, and our grand children use. We veil our sin and blame others, our parents, society, or God for our ungodly behavior. And when folks are disloyal to us and others, we find that…

I. Betrayal often hides behind others! (Vv. 1-3)

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

  1. I like John's gospel because he inserts for us a lot of intimate detail the other gospel accounts do not always provide. And here we find that "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley." This is a valley that extended between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives all the way to the Dead Sea. Interestingly King David took this route after being betrayed by his friend Ahithophel. It was a place Jesus and his band of disciples often used. Luke relates that "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…" (Luke 21:37 NIV) John also relates that "Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples." John tells us that they had a regular place there they went to: "On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it." Judas knew the place as well. He knew where Jesus and the rest of the disciples would be and he used this knowledge for his benefit. Paul would relate that "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV) Judas was such a person. While later he would regret his decision, now Judas is caught up in his sin, "So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees." Jesus who never carried a weapon, who taught his disciples to "turn the other cheek" when faced with those intent on evil was now being confronted by an armed force made up of temple guards and teachers of the law, lawyers. "They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons." Betrayal often hides behind others!

  EXAMPLE: You've heard the expression, "Misery loves company." Well so does just about any sin. We will justify our bad behavior by trying to blame it on others, that it isn't our fault, or that someone else made us do it; but in reality we are the ones to make the choice or not. There is a reason why Paul wrote "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV) and that Peter would teach, "Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." (2 Peter 2:2-3 NIV) It is never the fault of the one who does the betraying; in fact they will blame the one they betray! I am sure Judas felt justified in his course of action and here we discover that betrayal often hides behind others!

We know we should not be with certain people, but we justify our actions telling ourselves they aren't so bad, they are good for me, or that they are my true friends. But we know they aren't. We know we should not be involved in the destructive behavior we willingly have placed ourselves in but we justify it by saying this is what I need right now, this will make me happy, they deserve what is coming to them, or I know better. And when we are disloyal to God we do the same thing because…

II. Betrayal does not care who it betrays! (Vv. 4-9)

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

  1. Hind sight is always 20/20. And here John writes that afterwards he understood that "Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'" Jesus willingly faces those who betray him and who would destroy him. Lest we forget, Jesus was not someone easily duped nor was he taken by surprise by Judas' deception and betrayal. Jesus knew God's plan and was following it to its conclusion. He knew whom they wanted, but he desired they, especially Judas and his other disciples, would understand what was occurring. Though unarmed, Jesus was in command. Make no mistake, they knew who they wanted, "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. Jesus calmly responds, "I am he," Sadly, John relates, "And Judas the traitor was standing there with them." What a friend we have in Jesus until he doesn’t do what we want him to do, then we willingly join those who would destroy him. Interestingly, "When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground." There has been speculation over the centuries what occurred, but they were probably struck by the force of Jesus' declaration of identifying himself. "I am he!" While some of the disciples relied on swords, Jesus knew that "the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) The word made flesh was confronting the flesh of the world! John tells us that "Again he asked them, 'Who is it you want?' And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.'" Jesus does this to protect the others. I know this because John writes that Jesus responds by telling his captors, "I told you that I am he if you are looking for me, then let these men go." As the Good Shepherd, Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus' protection of his followers was a perfect illustration of his atonement. He died not only for them but instead of them. John reminds us that "This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have not lost one of those you gave me.'" (John 6:39) Betrayal does not care who it betrays!

  EXAMPLE: Can you imagine betraying the Messiah? Here your entire culture, religion, and nation has been praying for, waiting for, and desiring that the Messiah would come, and you have seen him, heard him teach, and walked with him daily. You ate with him, celebrated with him, and were commissioned by him to heal the sick and tell the good news of his coming. In fact, you were one of the ones who rejoiced at how you were able to expel demons and heal others in his name! And now you are standing in the dim light of torches, hiding behind soldiers and lawyers to betray the Messiah for thirty pieces of silver. Wow. Yet, we often betray Jesus for far less. We betray him because we think we deserve to sin, we betray him because we lust after someone or something other than his presence, or we betray him for the gaudy baubles the world offers. And in this we discover for ourselves that betrayal does not care who it betrays!

When we sin we do not care who we hurt. We do not care if our relationship with God is compromised, we do not care if others are saddened by it, and we do not care how it affects others. Because of we did, we would not sin so easily. Face it, when we sin, we do not care in the moment who it affects and here we discover that…

III. Betrayal often affects the innocent! (Vv. 10-13)

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

  1. Often times we want to strike back at those who betray us, but this is not the way a believer is to respond. In fact when we respond the way the world does those who may be innocent can be hurt. This occurs when Jesus is betrayed. We discover that "Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)" In Luke's account we find that the disciples had told Jesus earlier, "'See, Lord, here are two swords.' 'That is enough,' he replied." (Luke 22:38 NIV) and later "When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, 'Lord, should we strike with our swords?" (Luke 22:49 NIV) The disciples' focus was haywire. Instead of trying to protect Jesus from harm physically they should have stayed awake and prayed with him for strength for the trials to come. Jesus had asked them to stay awake but they had fallen asleep and when he finds them, wakes them up, they fall back to sleep again! Luke related that Jesus asks them, "Why are you sleeping?" and then tells them to "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." (Luke 22:46 NIV) Like many of us who instead of praying for Jesus to strengthen us, we resort to sleeping like the disciples did or overreacting when we are betrayed. "Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'" Jesus remains focused. They had forgotten Jesus had taught them, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39 NIV) Jesus is not telling us to not protect our families or selves from harm; rather he is teaching us to not respond in the same evil anger. "Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year." Betrayal often affects the innocent!

  EXAMPLE: Can you imagine Jesus standing in the garden and when he is confronted by his betrayer and the soldiers whining, "It's not fair!" You know, kind of like Anakin Skywalker, in the Star Wars movie Attack of the Clones. He is supposed to be the ultimate Jedi warrior full of more "force" than anyone else ever and he whines to his girlfriend, "It's not fair!" When I watched this for the first time, I laughed out loud in the movie theater. Here is an adult acting like a mere child. Yet, there are those of us who do the very same thing. Instead of staying focused on Jesus when we are betrayed we lash out sometimes at those around us and blame others. Betrayal often affects the innocent!

Conclusion:

Betrayal often hides behind others! Betrayal does not care who it betrays! Betrayal often affects the innocent!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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.