Saturday, February 27, 2016

The attitude of Christ - Philippians 2:1-13

The attitude of Christ - Philippians 2:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 28, 2016

Mentorship is important in life and whether we like it or not we tend to emulate those who raised us or had the greatest influence on our life. In today's world far too often believers have allowed society to dictate how they are to live their lives instead of their faith in Christ. My father taught me that how you treat others and what you do when you are alone says a lot about your character. He would remind us that whether we were at home or away we should remain consistent in our lives and whatever we did would reflect on our entire family, and especially how we were raised.

What does your actions whether in church or away from other believers say about your faith in Jesus? Faith is not just how you feel about yourself, it is the reflection of Jesus you mirror for the world around you and how you influence and impact it. The Bible makes very clear as Christians, followers of Jesus we should influence the world around them. We are to live as Christ. Peter wrote that we as believers should live "as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV) Paul would say we should have the attitude of Christ. Let's see what this means…

READ: Philippians 2:1-13

Again, how we live our lives says a lot about what we believe. If we live inconsistent lives that reflect self-centeredness then we are telling others we are hypocritical about our faith. In fact…

I. The encouragement of Jesus should compel us to care for others! (Vv. 1-4)

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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.

  1. What many believers in our day and age have forgotten is exactly what Paul was encouraging first century believers to do, namely, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27 NIV) We are to live as Jesus, period! What others dictate to us, the world's proclivities, or the latest societal fad should never compel us to live our lives in any other way except the way Jesus would. So Paul continues by telling us, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Of course we do have these encouragements, comforts, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion! Paul's joy and ours as well is made complete by being "like-minded" with Jesus! When we are we share the fellowship of the Holy Spirit living in each of us as believers! Paul was imprisoned and faced his immediate death and he knew that every believer has to face trials in their lives as well; therefore he desired that above all else that they live their lives for Jesus! Nothing else mattered in life. Nothing should. We often forget while living our lives that Jesus indeed matters and that not only has it "been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him", but we are "also to suffer for him"! (v. 1:29) Our spiritual unity is possible because of the reality of the four qualities mentioned by Paul: encouragement, comfort, fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and tender compassion. Our "joy [is made] complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Therefore, Paul relates we should "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." The encouragement of Jesus should compel us to care for others!

  EXAMPLE: My mother grabbed me because I was smaller and held up an arm and leg to stop my brother from attacking me again; and after she had gotten us separated, calmed down, and in our separate corners she began to ask us "what in the world did we think we were doing". Of course we declared our complete and total innocence and that it was "his fault". Mom told us that we were to treat one another as brothers should treat one another; which of course is what we thought we were doing. She patiently explained that brothers should care and love one another and some day, hopefully, we would understand this better. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ the encouragement of Jesus should compel us to care for others!

John Donne the poet wrote the familiar words, "Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." He also wrote, "No man is an island", meaning that we each should realize that we belong to one another. Sadly we often put ourselves first and yet Paul reminds us that…

II. We should consider ourselves as nothing! (Vv. 5-8)

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!

  1. In a society where most of us live our every waking moment in order to please ourselves, sacrifice is a foreign word. Our culture does everything it possibly can in order to promote, encourage, and glorify selfishness. It has made us not only skeptical of everyone and everything; it has made us into self-centered narcissists. Young or old, rich or poor, or any ethnicity "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."  Paul meant we should be "like-minded". If the Creator of the entire universe was more than willing to sacrifice his "equality" with God, his very God-nature, and make himself nothing, shouldn't we? If God himself can become a human being and willingly become one of us, shouldn't we be willing to set our selfishness and self-centeredness aside? One would think so, but how often do we struggle with this? Paul understood this concept and tells fellow believers "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV) In fact all the disciples understood this concept and Peter would remind us that "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21 NIV) And John wrote, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6 NIV) How could we as believers in Jesus forget the very fact that Jesus "being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross" for us!" Nothing compares to that, nothing! And therefore, because of all this, we should consider ourselves as nothing!

  EXAMPLE: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a punk rock cover band formed in 1995. The band is named after a children's book of the same name. It reflects the childish attitude of selfishness and how we are to share. For some this is a difficult concept. At school I brought out a brand new basketball and when I did, an impish fifth grade girl immediately asked for it and of course a fifth grade boy was mad she got to use it first. My solution was that they "share". Of course this went over like a lead balloon because both of them wanted to use it their way and not the way the other one wanted to. So I solved the problem by giving it to a third child and neither one of them got to use it first. Paul taught that whatever we did in life we should do it to glorify God. He taught, "I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." (1 Corinthians 10:33 NIV) In our lives we should consider ourselves as nothing!

How can we do this? For us it is difficult thing to do because our very natures tell us every waking moment to protect ourselves, live for ourselves, and do everything in life for ourselves. However the very nature of Christ is in conflict with this old nature and its habits, therefore…

III. In everything we do we should give Jesus first place! (Vv. 9-13) 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

  1. Interestingly the first five verses we looked at deal with the attributes of the Holy Spirit, the second section of four verses deal with Jesus the Son, and these next three verses (9-11) deal with God the Father. And here in this transitional statement Paul begins to qualify exactly who Jesus is and why he did what he did for us. This is why Paul writes "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Make no mistake, Jesus is God. It is important to understand that when Paul wrote that Jesus in considering his "very nature [as] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped" he did not mean something Jesus wanted to achieved or that it was something Jesus to hold on to but rather something Jesus willingly let go of. He gladly let go of his nature as God to be born a man and in doing so he was exalted as Lord to the glory of God! Because of Jesus' willingness Paul writes, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling". We do not earn God's favor nor do we earn brownie points for being the Christians we are supposed be, rather we willingly "work out" our "salvation with fear and trembling" as we live for Jesus! Again, as Paul reminds us, "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." In everything we do we should give Jesus first place!

  EXAMPLE: We all like to be first; first in line, first to be served, first place in sports, or considered first for promotion or acceptance. Yet we find Jesus teaching us that, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35 NIV) In fact if we desire to live in Jesus we must be willing to humble ourselves, and when we do God "gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" This is why James would write, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you." (James 4:6-8 NIV) God is nearest to us when we willingly give him all of us! In everything we do we should give Jesus first place!

Conclusion:

The encouragement of Jesus should compel us to care for others! We should consider ourselves as nothing! In everything we do we should give Jesus first place!

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, February 21, 2016

Dead is dead! - John 19:31-42

Dead is dead! - John 19:31-42
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 21, 2016

History, science, and personal experience tell us that when someone dies they are dead. The dead do not come back to life. I learned about this for the first time when I was younger and my brother Ed and I learned how to make live traps in order to catch the chipmunks around our granduncle's cabin. We caught several of the cute little fuzz creatures only to watch them curl up in a comatose ball and die from fright. It was crushing to say the least and there was nothing we could do to bring them back to life. Dead is dead.

John now relates to us that Jesus was indeed dead. Jesus' death is important to the Gospel narrative and all the Gospels relate that Jesus died. However, what does this mean for us this morning? Let's discuss just what Jesus death means and why dead is dead...

READ: John 19:31-42

My mother was 93 years old when she died. And while her health was pretty good she did suffer from dementia and diabetes. We also knew she would die but it was unexpected when it occurred. Here in John's Gospel we discover that...

I. No matter how hard we try we are never truly ready for death! (Vv. 31-37)

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

  1. If you were a good Hebrew you wanted to participate in the Passover and the Sabbath before the Passover was a very big deal. And we discover that "Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath." This special Sabbath was the day in which all Jews appeared and presented themselves before the Lord in the temple, and the sheaf of the first fruits was offered up. We also learn that in their piety "the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down." Breaking the bones of those hanging on crosses caused their death more quickly because they would drown from the fluid that formed in their lungs. They would not be able to push themselves up to get a breath. In fact, archaeological find of a crucifixion, which came to light in 1968, the skeletal remains revealed that the lower legs had been shattered by a single blow. This was in accordance with the law which stated, "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 21:22-23 NIV) "The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs." Jesus was already dead so the Jewish leadership's plans to mark Jesus as a true criminal even in his dying were thwarted. "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." Breaking the lower leg bones was called in Latin the crurifragium and without this procedure a person could live for many hours or even days. Not breaking Jesus' legs and piercing his side with a spear was witnessed by John himself, "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe." This was important for John because "These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken,' and, as another scripture says, 'They will look on the one they have pierced.'" (Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10) While Preparation Day was coming, nothing could have prepared John for Jesus' death. No matter how hard we try we are never truly ready for death!

  EXAMPLE: A lot of folks never give a thought to their own deaths let alone the death of others. Yet this is a fact of life; death is certain. We are often shocked by the deaths of those who are young, those who are famous, or those taken from us by surprising means. In 620 BC, Draco, an Athenian law-maker, was smothered to death by the gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theater! In 1567 Hans Steininger, the burgomaster of Braunau (now Austria), died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard which he usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch! In 2010 Jimi Heselden was a British entrepreneur, who bought Segway Inc., maker of the Segway personal transport system. Heselden died in from injuries sustained falling from a cliff while riding his own Segway! No matter how hard we try we are never truly ready for death!

We are never truly prepared for death no matter how much we know that it might occur. However, we learn that there we certainly can prepare ourselves for entering eternity. John the Baptist related, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36 NIV) The fact remains…

II. We should prepare ourselves for death! (Vv. 38-42)

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

  1. Not having the time to prepare Jesus' body we find that "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus." Who were these men that they cared enough to want to bury Jesus properly? Joseph of Arimathea, which was about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem, was a wealthy man. How do we know this to be true? Matthew relates that "As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus." (Matthew 27:57 NIV) And Mark related, "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body." (Mark 15:43 NIV) We also learn from Luke that he "had not consented to their [Sanhedrin's] decision and action". (Luke 23:51) John tells us that "Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews." The Romans would leave bodies hanging to rot, be eaten by wild animals or birds of prey. Some would be thrown into Gehenna, a deep, narrow gulch to the south of Jerusalem, where the idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech. During Jesus' day it was a huge dump where dead bodies of animals and criminals and other refuse were thrown. However, "With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night." We know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and "a member of the Jewish ruling council." (John 3:1) Nicodemus was the one Jesus told that "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15 NIV) Perhaps Nicodemus had a change of heart and wondered about Jesus had told him that night. Lovingly "Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs." Men hardly ever did this task of preparing the dead; it usually was a woman's duty. We learn that "At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid." Matthew relates that it was Joseph's "own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock." (Matthew 27:60) Joseph and Nicodemus had to work quickly "Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." We are never truly ready for death; however, we should prepare ourselves for death!

  EXAMPLE: If you have not done a will, you should do one whether you are young or old, if you are working and living on your own and especially if you are married -- you need a will. Life insurance is another thing many ignore, but believe me if you are the loved one left behind when someone dies without it, you could be stuck with all kinds of costs you cannot afford. Term life insurance is cheap and a must. A living Will is another thing that is sometimes forgotten by us as well. A living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. It must be in written form, witnessed, and made available to your family, physician, care giver, or hospital. You cannot simply tell someone your wishes and expect them to be followed. Then finally there is planning for your burial. Far too many folks leave this to those left behind to do and it can become horrendous. There are cheap insurance plans for this as well. There is a free service called Medcure where you donate you remains to research and they will then cremate them and give them back to your loved ones or dispose of them if you want them to. While we are never prepared for one's death, we should prepare ourselves for death!

Conclusion:

In our society today we are not prepared for death. We ignore it, try to do everything we can to stop it, and yet it still comes for us. There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Hebrews teaches us: "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:27-28 NIV) No matter how hard we try we are never truly ready for death! However, we should prepare ourselves for death! Jesus died that we might live.

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, February 14, 2016

The love of God! - John 19:23-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 14, 2016

What is love? Poets, songwriters, novelists, psychologists, and philosophers have all tried to answer what love is all about. It is more than being hooked on a feeling and high on believing. Some sing that they want to know what love is but then they get confused that it is a feeling or a sex act, so they want to say they're sorry 'cause he's "missing more than [her] body." Wow, do you think they misunderstand what love is all about?

Here in John's gospel we discover not only what love is all about but how it was manifested for all time. It is the kind of love where Paul would write that "love is patient, kind, doesn't envy, boast, or is proud. It isn't rude, self-seeking, easily angered, and it never keeps a record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and John would later write, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:8-10 NIV) He was speaking of the love of God and here we see it manifested for us, so this morning let's discover just what the love of God is all about…

READ: John 19:23-30

In a world where the individual comes first it is sometimes difficult to define what love is. Kind of like when we try to define what marriage is in our day and age. Marriage is more than a feeling, a piece of paper, or legality. It is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Marriage should express the final outcome of two people's willingness to set aside their wants, desires, and needs and sacrifice them for another. And here in John's gospel we discover that…

I. The love of God sacrifices! (Vv. 23-24)

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

  1. There is not much one could do when you are hanging nailed on a cruel cross. You would be stripped of all you clothing so that your shame would be total. You and your crime and punishment would be laid bare for the entire world to see; and as I have stated before this duty of crucifixion had been done many times by the Roman soldiers. It was a job and they were very good at it and so "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining." This is often how these men who were given this ugly duty earned extra money for themselves and their families. They would divide up any possessions the condemned might have. We learn that they find Jesus was also wearing an undergarment. This was not what we would think of as underwear but rather like a long shirt that extended down to one's feet. Cloth was expensive and this garment was special because it "was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom." Rather than fight over it or divide it into several shares they come to a mutual understanding. "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This was not the lots the Hebrews played where they used differing colored stones, but it was more like our dice of today. People have loved to gamble for thousands of years and some of the oldest games discovered involve games of chance. And so as the destined hang dying, the Roman soldiers kneel down at the foot of the crosses and gamble for the clothes of the condemned Jesus. However, unbeknown to them this was fulfilling God's plan and John relates, "This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, 'They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.'" (Psalm 22:18) With simplicity John writes, "So this is what the soldiers did." Here we find not just Jesus giving himself as a sacrifice but everything he owned as well. He had nothing left to claim. Jesus gave his all. The love of God sacrifices!

  EXAMPLE: Selfishness is propagated by pathetic politicians who promise to take care of us from the womb to the tomb. Selfishness is seen in the commercialism where hamburgers are bigger than our heads and where every intimate detail of our lives is constantly displayed electronically for all to see whether they want to or not. Therefore is it often hard for our society to understand what sacrifice means. Before, at the time of Moses and on, one took his most prized lamb and sacrificed it to show the cost involved because of one's sin. Today we think sin should be our right and we do not need to sacrifice anything because of it or anyone or anything else! But this attitude brings death. How glorious to know then that "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10 NIV) The love of God sacrifices!

What could a condemned criminal give? What could a young man unfairly fated for death give his family, his friends, or those who did not know him? Jesus gave himself and in this offering made all of repentant sinful mankind clean before the judgment seat of God. And in this moment we find a wonderful thing happening. We look upon Jesus and discover his mother there at the cross. John writes that…

II. The love of God provides! (Vv. 25-27)

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

  1. I cannot imagine watching my innocent child being slowly killed in the cruel way Jesus was. Can you imagine a mother's horror? I cannot. Here is her mother's desire, her first born, right before her eyes being flayed by uncaring guards nailed to the beams of a cross and hosted into place so he could slowly die in the heat of the day. Yet we discover in this horrendous moment a tender thing, a beautifully poignant moment whereby "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." They did not want him to die alone without those he loved near him. Interestingly some of these same women who stand watching Jesus die would be the first ones to discover his empty tomb. But here is Mary, the mother, standing by her son's cross weeping struck by the awful nature of what her son is going through. However, even now as he is dying and finishing the work and plan of God he looks through the confusion and fog of pain and death and sees his mother. The one who swaddled him at his birth, clothed him as a child, kissed his cheek, fed him, comforted him to sleep and provided for his safety and care and John writes, "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'" Jesus asks the one closest to him of the twelve, the one whom he loved, and his friend to provide for the woman who bore him into the world. The concern and care of Christ on the cross! The provision of God knows no boundaries. The Son of God provides. It is a tender and moving moment in time. Perhaps Mary remembered the words of the elderly prophet Simon, who she and Joseph met so long ago when taking Jesus to be consecrated to the Lord. When joyfully holding Jesus he told her that "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:34-35 NIV) Whatever occurred we do know that "From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." The love of God provides!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus would ask, "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:37 NIV) We find in plays, TV, and the movies the theme that people actually believe they can bargain either God or Satan for their souls and in return get something. This is not only complete theological nonsense, but Satan cannot bargain for anything he was never given by God. He is a created being and destined to an eternal death because of his rebellion. Life is not some kind of lottery where some hit it big and others are doomed because of the whims of God. Our choices in life are our own and we suffer or enjoy the consequences of our choices. Bad things happen to the good and bad because we live in a sin-fallen world. Yet in this life, God provides for us a way to him and the answer for our lives: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18 NIV) The love of God provides!

In the movie The Jerk, Steve Martin is goofy rhythmically challenged white boy who was adopted by black sharecroppers. He becomes rich through an invention but loses his wife and all of his money because of a class action lawsuit. Destitute he begins to grab what he can from what was thrown in the street and laments, "I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need 'you'. I don't need anything. Except the ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... and this lamp." Sadly, it is a short commentary on how a lot of folk's lives are lived. How wonderful to know then that…

III. The love of God is complete! (Vv. 28-30)

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

  1. Paul would wonder that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6 NIV) Here in John's gospel we find that the right time had come. In every life there is a season, a time for everything. There is a time to be born and a time to die as Ecclesiastes 3:2 tries to teach us. Why did Jesus have to die in this way? Couldn't the plan of God have been different? Paul gives us the reason: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." (Titus 3:4-5 NIV) It was the love of God! His mercy and nothing we have done or could do! Notice that in that moment as Jesus was dying the normal functions of life continued for just a bit and we find that "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'" Death is close and Jesus has provided for his immediate family and now he is getting ready for his final moments in this life. It is interesting what folks remember when they are witnesses to someone's death and we discover John remembers that by the cross "A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." Roman justice demanded its pound of flesh and they wanted those condemned to die not just in an unworthy fashion but also in as long of time as there could possibly take in order to discourage any further resistance from the local populace. Psalm 22 prophetically states, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death." (Psalms 22:15 NIV) The one who thirsts would soon provide living water for those truly parched in life. And remember, Jesus had told them, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (John 10:18 NIV) So "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." The love of God is complete!

  EXAMPLE: Humans are such self-conscious and insecure creatures. We often see things in relationships that do not exist and wonder why we aren't loved as we think we should be when we give nothing of ourselves. In our insecurities we often torpedo our relationships by our own actions or lack thereof. I began this sermon by asking the question, "What is love?" I am so glad then to learn that true love is manifested in the final work of Jesus and is not dependent upon anything I do at all except to accept what he did! Just as I cannot add one day to my life, I cannot do anything to earn the love of God. He already gave me everything I need through Jesus' death on the cross! God's plan for all mankind was finished and fulfilled. The love of God is complete!

Conclusion:

In Jesus' death on the cross we discover that the love of God sacrifices! The love of God provides! The love of God is complete! Do you know the love 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, February 07, 2016

The cross! - John 19:1-22

The cross! - John 19:1-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 7, 2016

What signifies a horrendous death in our culture today? The wanton and greedy dismemberment of the unborn by abortionists; the thoughtless alcoholic induced daze of a drunken driver smashing into an unsuspecting family; or perhaps the self-aggrandized gang bang to enforce a self-indulgent pseudo machismo? History would point to concentration camps, atomic weapons, firebombing, or torture machines. Yet in the midst of all these horrific deaths there is one that pierces the heart and soul of mankind as nothing else; the innocent torture and crucifixion of the Son of God.

Far too many in our day and age willingly wear crosses on their clothing or around their necks without giving a thought to the horrendous torture and death they represent. Tattoo artists and biker gangs have used the symbol for their own purposes without a thought to the real pain and suffering it symbolizes. And here in John's gospel we discover anew just what this meant.

READ: John 19:1-22

In this scene that John describes for us we soon discover that…

I. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent! (Vv. 1-6)

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."

  1. With simplicity John states, "Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged." He knew his readers would understand what this meant. A whip, small in length with pieces of iron tied to four to eight lengths of leather strips. Those in charge of Jesus' flogging had seen many men tried by Roman justice. They had carried out their duty many times. It was a hard task and the mind, emotions, and will become numb to the suffering and pain and in this sinful man looks for sport in a horrible situation to pass the time. So, "The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they struck him in the face." According to the other gospel narratives Pilate had sent Jesus back to Herod and he could not find anything to accuse Jesus of so Pilate announced, "Therefore, I will punish him and then release him." (Luke 23:16 NIV) It was another attempt at compromise. He hoped the crowd would be satisfied with a little blood. Matthew relates, "For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him." (Matthew 27:18 NIV) And so after the bloody flogging where flesh was ripped from Jesus' body and his body scarred we find that, "Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, 'Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.'" Pilate did not suspect nor did the crowd realize Jesus' fate was the plan of God. Therefore, "When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, 'Here is the man!'" the crowd did not care. They wanted Rome to do their dirty work and they knew the outcome would be crucifixion. "As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, 'Crucify! Crucify!' But Pilate answered, 'You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.'" It is ironic that those who had no vested interest at the time in Jesus or his outcome were the ones willing to let an innocent man go free, but the angry crowd would have none of it. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent!

  EXAMPLE: Crowds have not changed over the centuries. Even those made up of kindergartners. They will rush to a scene of carnage where one of their own is laying on the playground writhing in pain and ask, "Is he bleeding?" If one gets accidentally pushed by another they will demand "justice" for their perceived harm. In fact, I like to see just where their compassion lies and so sometimes I will ask the one offended, "What do you think I should do?" to the "guilty" party. Sometimes they want their pound of flesh and will demand that the accused lose an entire recess. I had one little girl look up at me with her cute little face and declare, "Spank him!" Of course we cannot do such a thing, but it shows where some folk's compassion lies even if they are only five year olds. Often they do not care if it was an accident they want the "guilty" punished. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent!

It is startling for us today because we have hindsight, but we soon learn from John that…

II. The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah! (Vv.7-13)

The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God." When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. "Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).

  1. Superstition ran deep like a rivulet within the Roman heart and they were not adverse in adopting whatever culture they had conquered religious curiosities. So much so it was not unusual to find in Roman homes statues to all kinds of deities from differing pagan customs. And so it was "While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat his wife sent him this message: 'Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.'" (Matthew 27:19 NIV) However, the "Jews insisted, 'We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.' When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. 'Where do you come from?' he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer." Was Jesus someone important, perhaps this Messiah? So Pilate continues to question him, desiring Jesus give him the answer he seeks. "Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Yet again we are reminded of the plan of God, "Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'" While Pilate might be guilty of taking innocent blood, those who wantonly desired Jesus' crucifixion were far guiltier! Pilate had the earthly power of life or death, but Jesus had his life's mission to complete. Interestingly, "From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, 'If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.'" Ah, there's the rub. Pilate was in fact a friend and acquaintance of Caesar's and he knew who buttered his bread. "When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha)." And so we find that the cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah!

  EXAMPLE: Folks use the term "Christ" as a swear word more often than they use it as a title for Jesus. It literally means "Anointed One" which hardly means anything in our day and age. It is the Greek translation for Messiah. Yet in this one term, this one moniker, this one designation we find the hope on an entire people; but not just the Jewish nation but the entire human race. For even the Jews had lost the importance of this word Messiah or Christ for the world. It had become a legend, a myth, and means by which they could complain about their national and personal situation and yet not truly believe it would happen. Certainly in the backwoods and countryside those who were the rabble still thought their daughters might become the mother of the one who would rescue them. But this would be a warrior like Samson or a king like David, not a gentle teacher who would willingly die for their sins. And so they crowd, the rabble, the unsuspecting man on the street was quite willing that day to have this one who claimed to be Messiah crucified. The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah!

The finality of the situation is brought home to us by John's final words here in this section of his gospel; in reading them we realize that…

III. The cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it! (Vv. 14-22)

It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

  1. Life goes on; the Jewish festival would be celebrated by thousands who were unaware of what was dramatically taking place in the city. "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour." It was time for the midday meal. Venders would be selling a lot of food that day because of the hungry crowds. Yet in the trial of a itinerate rabbi we find the reluctant Roman governor playing his final jab at the Jewish leadership. "'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews." Pilate did not believe Jesus was their King, but to spite the Jews he called Jesus that. The paid off mob aware of Pilate's ploy and "they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'" So Pilate goads them on by asking, "Shall I crucify your king?" And the ironic response of the chief priests is "We have no king but Caesar!"  The deed is done, the trial is over, the sentence pronounced and now all that is left is for Rome to do its duty. "Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus." Luke's narrative reminds us that Jesus was lead out with "two criminals" (Luke 23:32) to be crucified and so "Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)." To this day no one is absolutely sure where this place was. Yes, they built a church over a spot, but fittingly history is silent as to the exact location. And so it was "Here they crucified him, and with him two others [criminals] -- one on each side and Jesus in the middle." Yet Pilate was not done with rubbing the Jewish leadership's noses in it and so "Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS." The crucifixion was outside of the city gates where everyone entering could see for themselves those crucified. It was a reminder of Roman power. Therefore, "Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek." Of course "The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, 'Do not write "The King of the Jews," but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.'" Pilate, in one last act of defiance to those pompous Hebrews arrogantly answered, "What I have written, I have written." And as Jesus suffered, bleed, and died we find that the cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it!

  EXAMPLE: You know that much of the world was unconcerned what had occurred on December 7th in 1941. Pearl Harbor was their least concern; for many were dying in concentration camps, on battle fields, and going about their everyday lives even though it was "a day that will live in infamy". And whether we like it or not, the same was true for September 11th, 2001 when terrorism came home to America or on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger "slipped the surly bonds of earth” to "touch the face of God." Some people were far too busy with everyday living. Although in a day of instant access these were announced far quicker to entire world than the death of one innocent man on a cruel cross several thousand years ago. The Jewish leadership was unconcerned that Jesus might be the Messiah; they had to protect their income. The Roman governor was momentarily bothered by his superstitious wife and he had a final stick to poke in the eyes of these backwoods yokels; but he would soon go back to his luxury in Caesarea on the coast. The mob would find other amusements. Yet now as the day drug on three men hung nailed by their hands and feet on wooden crosses; exposed to the world around them and dying. However important the one lone man in the middle was, in this final moment we discover that the cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it!

Conclusion:

You may not care about the cross either. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent! The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah! The cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it! However, it is because of this uncaring cross we are saved from our sins. You should care.

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.