Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 5)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Comfort the Suffering!” (Part 2)

Key Verses:  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Crucifixion Narrative: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 19

Written and delivered by Pastor Jerry Ingalls from the building of the First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana through an on-line service to the Church of Jesus Christ.

 

Today is Palm Sunday. On this day we enter “Holy Week” or the “Passion Week”. It is a week normally filled with times set apart for silence & solitude, prayer & reflection, special gatherings and times in remembrance of Jesus and His Passion. During this unique time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are doing our best to both protect you by keeping you home and not inviting you into a situation that is potentially harmful to you and dangerous for your neighbor, while still bringing to you special services online (Holy Thursday & Good Friday at 6:30 pm) and times to take communion in your own home during the Holy Thursday Service at 6:30 pm and Resurrection Sunday Service at 10:30 am this Easter Sunday.

 

Let’s talk briefly about the opportunity for you to take communion in your home twice this coming week. As your pastor, this is a “seize the moment” opportunity. For me, it is beautiful and empowering, to invite you to the Table this Thursday night and next Sunday morning, for each of your households to learn how to participate in the common cup of Jesus Christ in your own home. I discern that this is an important step for many of us: to bring communion home and to empower parents and grandparents to be the spiritual leaders of their own households. For you to see your home as sacred and yourself as a spiritual leader to your family. God has called you to this and has already empowered you with His presence. So, when you go pick up your eggs and milk this week, pick up some grape juice and bread. Nothing costly or fancy is required. Have them ready for Thursday night at 6:30 and Sunday morning at 10:30. Call the church office or click on the contact us button on the webpage if you can’t shop right now or have questions.

 

On a personal note: I do miss our gatherings, there is something significantly missing in our lives when we can’t gather together on a regular basis. This grieves me more than you know: We lose so much of what God calls us to be as the community of God’s family when we think we can do church in our own homes, not physically with our brothers and sisters, but there is no other right or reasonable way to face these difficult days, so we must make do and make the best use of technology. I ask you though to allow yourself to anticipate our coming back together, to let the hope of our physical proximity one day to cause you to realize the importance of our weekly gatherings as a significant part of your future life, on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until then, please remain home and live in agreement with all efforts for community well-being.

 

Many of us are praying and hoping we can be together soon, Lord willing in May. I love you and miss you! Your pastors, elders, and leaders honestly hope the daily phone messages, the weekly emails, and the online services through our webpage, FB Live, and YouTube are helping each of you. That the www.rightnowmedia.org resources are helping you grow in Christ. Please also utilize the new google spreadsheet, that we have sent out twice, to ensure every person in our congregation is being connected with personally. I can sincerely say that we are doing our best in these difficult days to communicate with you and to help keep people personally connected. These are difficult times for all of us. Please pray for us, as we pray for you.

 

In today’s teaching, we are going to continue to learn what I introduced to you last week: Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; therefore, let us comfort those who are suffering! Our primary scripture for this lesson is from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 3-5,

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

 

I hope you took time to read through the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 26-27, this week If so, you saw that Jesus was “social distanced”, to the max! In Matthew 26-27 Jesus was:

  • Abandoned by people: Matthew 26:69-75;
  • Betrayed by people: Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25, 47-56;
  • Condemned by people: Matthew 27:1-5; 24-26;

and then Jesus

  • Died on the Cross for all people: Matthew 27:32-66

 

This is the extravagant love and amazing grace of our God for the world! Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; therefore, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

We are now going to focus on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As I prepared for this sermon, I studied not just the Matthew 27 account of Jesus’ death, but also Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. During this Holy Week, I encourage you to saturate yourself in these four accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and the immediate events that led up to the Cross of Calvary. Once again, you will find those accounts in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. Please read them and allow the extent of Jesus’ suffering for us to pierce your own heart and mind.

 

Listen to what the finished work on the Cross of Calvary has made possible for you. Paul’s words from Romans 8:1-4,

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ: There is no condemnation for those who belong to God in a relationship with Jesus! On the Cross, Jesus faced the horror of taking on Himself all of humanity’s sin even though He never sinned Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21) and in doing so Jesus experienced becoming the curse—He was cut off from God (Galatians 3:13), becoming the forsaken of God in our place (Matthew 27:46, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me”). Jesus took the punishment for sin; so that, we can have God’s favor and protection in our lives—the blessing of never having to face God’s wrath and condemnation (John 3:18, 36).

 

Jesus came into this broken world to heal it! In fact, Jesus gave Himself over to death so that we can have life, not just eternally with Him, but also abundantly (John 10:10). The abundant life means our lives are filled with God’s peace and power through His presence in us. The abundant life includes an invitation to join with Jesus in the work of healing by how we respond to our own and other’s suffering: the grief, pain, anger, isolation, and loneliness of these dark days.

 

Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; therefore, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

Are you willing to share with Jesus in His suffering, so that you can share with Him in bringing comfort to others? How are you reaching out to people during the coronavirus pandemic?

 

Jesus knows your suffering and can sympathize with you. You are not alone in your loneliness, isolation, or suffering and in fact, the God of peace is with you. God knows how to care for your needs. I invite you to “be still” and listen to God in this time. Truly listen. Set apart a space in your home and prioritize time every day to stop for 10 minutes to simply “be still”.

 

Please guard your mind against the lies of the world and your heart from the heavy loads of people’s brokenness and despair. You are not the sum total of your own or other people’s choices—do not be a slave to fear, because you are a beloved child of God!

 

A friend said to me about this truth,

 

When circumstances around us change, whether due to our decisions, the decisions of others that affect us tangibly, or things that are legitimately out of our control, it is easy to become defensive, embarrassed, or withdrawn when we can no longer present that image of “The American Dream” or whatever standard we feel we are expected to achieve. But, if our aim is to place our identity as a child of God in the forefront of our minds, then just maybe “the things of Earth will grow strangely dim.”

 

When we stop and listen for God through His Word and through prayer, He changes our perspective, but we must learn to “be still”—to quiet all the other voices and focus on our minds on God’s promises and God’s ways. We don’t know the ‘why’ of this present darkness, but we can know the ‘how’ of our response to dark days: to live by faith today, with hope for tomorrow! Shine the Light of the Word for all to see the glory of God in and through us (Matthew 5:14-16).

 

How do we shine brightly like stars in this dark night?

 

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul teaches us how to live the hope given to us through Jesus Christ:

 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty [proud/arrogant], but associate with the lowly [humble/meek]. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; therefore, let us comfort those who are suffering! Your days are in His hands and His hands were spread as the East is to the West on the Cross of Calvary so that you can overcome evil with good, here and now, today. This is the work of the Cross for you, in you, and through you!

 

Remember, God is not surprised by COVID-19. Never forget, that His Church is His Plan A to bring comfort to those who are suffering in this world! You and me! Bring the comfort that Jesus Christ has given you to the world that so desperately needs comfort in the midst of such horrific suffering.

 

Don’t let the hurts of this life determine the way you live your life. Here is a testimony from a friend in our church, “This is a thought I have to remind myself of almost daily. Sometimes I truly feel personally victimized by my own life… The nights we have laid in bed and said to the other person ‘did today even really happen?’ But I find resilience in Christ. Not in a trite, cross-stitched platitude kind of way, but in the sense that I wrestle with Jesus about what on Earth He is doing in my life and why things are allowed to happen and what their larger purpose can possibly be; without exception, these times of seeking understanding have driven me closer to Christ and never further away.”

 

There is a lot of suffering, here and now, and if the predictions of medical experts are accurate, we are going to see much more suffering through April and into May. But Christ never promised us we wouldn’t suffer. We are suffering as co-heirs with Christ.

 

In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples to expect suffering and not lose focus, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

Praise God for the finished work of the Cross!

 

Jesus is our Comforter and He can commiserate with us because he has suffered greatly! His suffering gives our suffering perspective! His actions for us gives our actions direction and focus!

 

I pray for all who are in Christ Jesus: May the Holy Spirit who lives in you activate in your heart and mind the promises of God and cause you to live with faith, hope, and love. May the Comforter lead you as you pray for God’s daily direction through this time of suffering.

 

Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; therefore, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 
 
 
 

 

 


Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 4)

2020 Sermon Series #2:

“Comfort the Suffering!”   [Part 1 of 2]

Key Verses:  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Passion Narrative: Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25, 47-56, 69-75; 27:1-5, 24-26, 32-66

 

Written and delivered by Pastor Jerry Ingalls from the building of the First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana through an on-line service to the Church of Jesus Christ during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

I heard a person say recently, “I wasn’t planning on giving up this much for Lent this year.” I laughed and then I thought to myself, “I challenged our church to fast from impatience this year.” Then, I literally, got emotional by this thought: “O LORD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?????” I was taught, wrongly I might add, to never pray for patience…  Then, I got a grip and repented because I am just not that powerful. My prayer for us to be a more patient people is not going to cause a world-wide pandemic. Lord, have mercy on us, bring good out of the dark days of living in such a fallen and broken world. Lord, please show your love, grace, and mercy, in and through your people—the Church of Jesus Christ. Please Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.  

 

Today, we enter back into our series of messages on the Passion of Jesus Christ. Here is the big point of today’s sermon: Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; so, let us comfort those who are suffering! Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5,

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

 

We think of Jesus’ suffering as primarily on the Cross of Calvary, but can you imagine the agony Jesus faced as He was abandoned by all of His closest friends, betrayed by one of them which led to incredible suffering at level of His human experience, and condemned to death by both the religious and political courts of His day. Jesus suffered all this so that, through putting our faith in Jesus Christ, we will never be abandoned, betrayed, or condemned by God. Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; so, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

I want you to realize how much God loves you and to what cost He demonstrated His love for you—not as a theoretical idea, but as a visceral reality—and how much security you have in your relationship with God. When we realize this, our faith response is to comfort those who are suffering—to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that needs the saving love of the God. A world filled with people who are very obviously experiencing our fallen nature and who are living in the effects of a very broken world—death, loneliness, suffering… the list is too long.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century church martyr who stood up against evil and would not let the gates of hell prevail, said in his most famous of works, Cost of Discipleship,

 

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “[you] were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.[1]

 

God is with us through this because He has already poured out His wrath on Jesus as the propitiation for not only our sins, but “of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, 4:10) and He is now working to draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). The Church must seize this moment to lift up Jesus Christ and be the hands and feet of Christ to a world that God is redeeming and will one day make His home with us, in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21—22)!

 

As you read through the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 26-27, you see that Jesus was “social distanced”, too. To the max! As I read through Matthew 26—27 Jesus was:

  • Abandoned by people: Matthew 26:69-75;
  • Betrayed by people: Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25, 47-56;
  • Condemned by people: Matthew 27:1-5; 24-26;

and then Jesus

  • Died on the Cross for all people: Matthew 27:32-66.

 

What love! What grace! Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; so, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

I proclaim that “God is with us” because of the Passion of Jesus Christ, His finished work on the Cross, and His resurrection! The author of Hebrews teaches us in Hebrews 4:14-16,

 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Because of what Jesus Christ has done and His finished work, you can hang on tightly to the following promises of God:

 

  • In John 10:27-30, Jesus explains, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
  • In Romans 8:38-39, Paul declares, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Paul proclaims, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
  • In Hebrews 13:5-6, the author commands, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

 

Apart from the vicarious suffering and death of Jesus Christ, none of these promises could be yours. Through a faith response to Jesus Christ, all of these promises are yours.

 

What will you do with all that God has blessed you with through His suffering?

 

Right now, with the ongoing onslaught of the novel COVID-19 pandemic, people are scared and we are experiencing “social distancing,” which is increasing the enemy’s tactics of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and fear. States are closing up, travel restrictions are tightening, colleges, schools, and churches have gone on-line, non-essential businesses have closed their buildings, including community gathering places such as churches, local restaurants and businesses, and social organizations like the YMCA. People are rightly taking robust steps of precaution to preserve their lives and the lives of their communities, such as not gathering in groups larger than 10 and keeping social distances over 6 feet.

 

While this has felt like a military siege operation by an invisible enemy, we as a church are inviting you to seize the moment: We are asking you to pray and to ask God for everyday opportunities to bring faith, hope, and love to our communities and the world. That is what my daily phone calls are attempting to do: To encourage you to seize the moment and to be on mission as more than a congregation who meets in a building once a week, but as the Church.

 

Our congregational community and our congregational work cannot be closed because WE ARE THE CHURCH! Our building may be closed, but we are not! In fact, I am seeing evidence that says FBC is healthier, more vibrant, and making a larger impact than ever!! We are not only going to survive the COVID-19 crisis, we are going to get healthier as we learn to be the Church in new, unconventional (if not untraditional) ways! Like every living organism, we are changing to survive and to thrive in our new environment!

 

Are you joining with us in this effort personally or are you just praying for Jesus to return and sticking your head in the sand hoping it can all go back to the way it was soon?  I, too, want this to end sooner than later, but things will never go back to the way they used to be; they can’t!

 

I want to share with you a very important quote from a recent article that will illuminate how we can make a difference, right hear and right now:
 

As with so much else in the coronavirus pandemic, the response here will depend on the level of social solidarity we feel, and the degree to which we’re willing to look out for each other. Social isolation and loneliness among older, sicker populations isn’t something caused by the coronavirus, but it will be worsened by it. The question is whether the intensity of the problem will force us to see, and respond, to pain we typically ignore. “A lot of my work is premised on the idea that extreme situations like the one we’re in now allow us to see conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive,” Klinenberg says. “We’re going to learn a lot about who we are and what we value in the next few months.”[2] (emphasis added)

 

There is a prophetic call to the Church in that last sentence. Not just to the institutions that have been called churches, but to you personally: You are the Church of Jesus Christ. Here it is: “We’re going to learn a lot about who we are and what we value in the next few months.” It is for a time such as this that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to respond to the Passion of Jesus Christ by being willing to decrease the suffering of people in our world today!

 

Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; so, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

We are called to respond in faith! Don’t let people’s fear and rejection get into your heart. Don’t take it personal when people move away from you, whether physically or socially or emotionally. People are scared and when we are scared we make decisions that hurt others. This has more to say about the fallen world we live in, than about you or me and how we feel. There is much to lament in our world situation; that is real and undeniable.

 

Please don’t give into despair! Hang onto hope because God is with us! Remember the sufferings of Christ and to what end He was willing to go for our salvation. Let us conduct ourselves, in remembrance of Him with a certain hope for the New Heaven and New Earth.

 

God’s peace and presence, all of His promises, are ours because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and can’t be shaken by these dark days of suffering or taken away by even death itself.

 

It is by how we conduct ourselves during this coronavirus pandemic that the world will determine the Truth of the Gospel.

 

Will the world see the Suffering Servant of humanity, the Crucified Savior of the world, through our practical words and actions of faith, hope, and love?

 

This is our time to shine, people of God. The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine!

 

Jesus suffered so that we can be comforted; so, let us comfort those who are suffering!

 

You can listen to this message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: SCM Press Ltd, 1959), 45.

[2] https://www.vox.com/2020/3/12/21173938/coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing-elderly-epidemic-isolation-quarantine [accessed March 12, 2020].

 
 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Keep Journeying Together!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 21:12-13

Our goal for all of 2020 is to do one thing: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

 

The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion!

 

Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.[1]

 

The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but in how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are walking toward the Cross in order to hear personally, from the Spirit, how each of us is invited to respond to Jesus’ Passion.

 

Today, we are going to learn: As the Body of Christ, members of Jesus’ Church, we must keep journeying together, even when we experience disappointment in fellow members of the Body. Jesus experienced deep disappointment through His ministry, with His followers, the clamoring crowds, the religious establishment, the political authorities, His own hometown and family. Even so, Jesus did not let His disappointment or pain stop him from journeying with them and for their good—to the Cross! In the same way, we can’t let our disappointment or pain with one another stop us from journeying together because we are the Body of Christ.[2]

 

Paul states in Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

 

Jesus experienced significant disappointment during His earthly ministry, but He still gave His body to the Passion so that we can be His Body to proclaim His love! Love is when we keep journeying together even when we face significant disappointments with one another and in the church as a whole—that is a part of our sharing in the fellowship of His suffering that conforms us to His death (Philippians 3:10).

 

That is why we can’t forsake the gathering (Hebrews 10:24-25)—it short circuits God’s plan to reach the nations: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

 

If you didn’t know this—there is no Plan B—we are Plan A of God’s plan to show the world His love! I bet that sounds pretty crazy to you. But no crazier than the whole Gospel story and that the way God decided to save humanity was through the Passion of Jesus Christ!

 

If Jesus had to pay such a high cost for our salvation, what cost is His body willing to pay to carry on the work of God in the world?  Reflect on things in your life that are not pleasing to God or are not working in agreement with His Plan A for your life and invite the Holy Spirit into that place. Are you willing to let God work in you and through you?

 

Honestly, going by what I see in how easily and how quickly people jump ship from the Body of Christ, or remain ineffective because they habitually forsake the gathering of the saints or are unwilling to let anyone do any kind of “stirring up” in their lives, people are not willing to suffer at all for the privilege of being a member of the Body of Christ, nevertheless, doing the necessary work to fulfill God’s plan to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).[3]

 

Most people I know are too distracted by the world and when they do get involved with the church, they are too preoccupied with their own comfort and preferences to join with Jesus in His Passion as a member of His Body. And I know mostly church people…

 

You are a member of Jesus’ Body and His Body is God’s chosen vehicle of salvation to the world…for the lost of our community and every community. We must return to a high view of Jesus’ Church.

 

Allow me a personal illustration. After decades of not doing it or not enjoying it like I did before my military days, I am back to enjoying running. I was a runner a long time ago and I’m back at it. Funny thing though is that one of my toes does not consider itself a runner and it has a black toenail to prove it. Every time I go running, it lets me know that it’s not a runner. Not too loud, but loud enough for me to question whether or not it is really committed to the fellowship of the body. I have not yet gotten to the place of questioning whether or not I should cut it off… J Really, it’s a part of me, a member of the body, even if it’s not quite on board with this whole running thing. Do you know what I do with this toe? I give it more attention. I use my wife’s fancy little stone to rub down the ever-growing callous at the end of it and I make sure my blackened toenail is hanging in there… It must feel beaten and battered, but I keep telling it that it’s doing it to itself if it would just get with the program like the other 90% of my toes. J

 

That reminds me of Paul’s teaching about the Church—the Body of Christ—in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Listen to Paul talk about my toe, hidden to you, but trying to take over my whole body:

 

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

 

Jesus’ Passion gives us the motive to stay together as the body of Christ, whether we are that “toe” or find ourselves disappointed in it because it likes to let us know it’s still there from time to time. Maybe, that toe thinks it’s calling in life is to keep everyone patient and graceful.

 

Jesus had some “toe-pain” over 3 years of journeying with His disciples for 3 years. We think that the only suffering Jesus had was during His Passion. To capture this, I walked through the Gospel of Matthew, just took my Bible out during my morning quiet time, and read through it seeing the places Jesus experienced moments with people who are the people Jesus was inviting to become members of His body and instead might have felt some “toe-pain”:

 

  • But what about how painfully disappointing the whole state of affairs were with the Jewish religious leaders: Matthew 9:3, 11; 12:2, 14, 24; 15:12; 19:3; 21:12-19 and throughout the rest of His time in Jerusalem until He is crucified He is in constant conflict with the religious elite. Talking about toe-pain! I’m sure I would have cut these people off, but Jesus didn’t. On the Cross He forgave them (Luke 23:34). What an example!
  • How painfully disappointing His chosen followers—the future church leaders—were: Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8, 23; 18:1 and that is just through His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and doesn’t cover their abandonment and betrayals up to His crucifixion. But upon His resurrection, He spends 40 days with them and forgives them. Empowering them at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit to be His Church—the Body of Christ.
  • He experienced disappointment and pain with the crowds: Matthew 8:34; 9:24; 17:17; 19:23-24. With the cities and the generation as a whole: Matthew 11:16-24; 12:38-39; 16:1-4, 5-6, 11-12.
  • Maybe most acutely, He experienced “toe-pain” with His hometown: Matthew 13:55-58.

 

So often, in the life of Christ, we are called to love people who have been hurt by so many others. And you have heard me say it: “hurt people hurt people!” It’s true! Part of responding to the Passion of Jesus is being a healing person in those hurt people’s lives, not adding church hurt to an already long list of offenders.

 

A pastor once said to me, there are people in the church who are EGRs—Extra Grace Required! They are in every church and if you leave a church because of them, you will just find them eventually in your next church. And if you don’t know who the EGR is, then you are probably the one and everyone else knows it! I laughed… I cried… I am the EGR…

 

Jesus was constantly surrounded by EGRs! I guess, when we view it from His point of view on the Cross, we are all extra grace required folks. Starting with me…

 

Do your daily behaviors reflect and point to Jesus? Are we pausing in difficult decisions? When dealing with difficult people are we submitting our emotions to the Lord and waiting on the Lord to guide us? Love flows out of patience and meekness…

 

Do we love others as God first loved us? As Paul taught in Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Hurt people may hurt people, but Forgiven people forgive people!

 

Which are you? Have you been forgiven?

 

Do we know that our love for one another is a primary way we lift up the Name of Jesus as His disciples (John 13:34-35)? Are we willing to suffer with the members of the Body so that we may persevere in belonging to the Body?

 

To practically know how to do this, read Romans 12:9-21.

 

 

We are God’s Plan A! There is no other plan to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus.

 

What’s your Plan A?

 

My plan, although I still need to get over myself from time to time (alright, all the time!), is to not only not cut my toe off because it disappoints me from time to time, or hurts me, but to give it some special attention so that it knows it belongs. Love it even more. And the rest of my body is going to be happy with that, because you know the old saying: Happy Toe, Happy Body!
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] For a short article that explains the technical usage of “Passion” in Biblical Studies, please check out:  https://www.gotquestions.org/passion-of-Christ.html (accessed February 20, 2020).

 

[2] A colleague wrote back to me in response to this paragraph, “This really puts into perspective of how long-term care for people is so hard. Addictions, rebellious lifestyles etc.…  The fleshly reaction is to cut that person out of your life, so you don’t have to deal with their brokenness. Please help me Jesus to love others and see others how you see them with Kingdom eyes not worldly eyes.”

[3] A friend who read this sermon earlier this week wrote about this point, “The truth of this whole paragraph really highlights how much the world’s culture affects church culture. There are generational and geographical examples I can think of. Generationally, 60-70 years ago, we lived in a world where neighbors coordinated what they planted in their gardens so they could share, and everyone knew and cared for each other’s children because it was what they did. Church attendance at that time was also considered much less “optional”. Now, we live in a “every man for himself” culture. If you begin to feel threatened, you bail. End of story. You have to have a meet and greet with other kids parents before you even think about maybe letting your kid spend time at a friend’s house. You certainly can’t trust people who want to give you something. They have an ulterior motive. And people generally feel the same mistrust about church and therefore do not commit. But, geographically, particularly in countries where being a Christ-follower is illegal or heavily policed, church congregations still gather every day of the week! They spend nearly every evening together. They are desperate to preserve the gathering of the saints!”
 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Rest in Meekness!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 21:1-11
 
Our goal for all of 2020 is to do one thing: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
 
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion!
 
Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.1 As I will teach today, I believe the suffering of Jesus began, with intentionality, well before the Garden scene when it was first put on public display.
 
The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but in how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are walking toward the Cross in order to hear personally, from the Spirit, how each of us is invited to respond to Jesus’ Passion.
 
Today, we are going to learn: We are invited to rest in meekness because it was the meekness of Jesus that marked His every step to the Cross!
 
Allow me to define “meekness” for you and give you a short overview of its usage in the Bible: The word “meek” in the Bible has a rich history in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament it was used to describe Moses in Numbers 12:3,
 
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
 
And every great person in the Bible, after Moses, is compared to Moses with this being his most exalted characteristic. Just see how the Bible addresses those who are the opposite of meek: those who are proud!
 
This Hebrew word is found 25 times and its range of meaning is “poor, afflicted, humble, weak, needy. [It] can mean either ‘humble, afflicted’ as a general condition or ‘humble’ as a virtue.”2
Here is one more: Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
 
That might spark a memory, something Jesus said in the third Beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:5,
 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
 
Jesus uses the same word to describe Himself in Matthew 11:29,
 
“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
 
We’ll get back to this later in the sermon.
 
Meekness is to live with humility towards God and towards others. Specifically, it is when you have the right or the power to do something but you don’t do it (you cease, you stop, you refrain from acting) for the benefit of someone else.
 
Meekness is power in reserve! Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace does not come by claiming our rights or exerting the fulness of our personalities to get our way or utilizing all the limited resources at our disposal (the work of our own hands) to fulfill our ambitions. This leads to disobedience to God at so many levels, and it doesn’t lead to a deeper trust in God!
 
Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace comes by trusting God’s will and patiently waiting on Him to act when every ounce of your being is screaming for control and reaction, to take the bulls by the horn and fix it your way. Meekness is trusting that God’s hand is mightier than your own, that His judgement is wiser than your own.
 
Meekness is Psalm 46:10 in action,
 
“Cease striving and know that I am God!”
 
Meekness is Proverbs 3: 5-6 in action,
 
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
 
I know many of you have memorized these promises of God, but I wonder how many of you are living by them!?! Meekness is the life that believes God for His promises!
 
If we are going to experience the Passion of Jesus beyond the historical story or as an abstract concept, then we must become meek as Jesus was meek—Jesus believed all of His Father’s promises for humanity and submitted His life fully to fulfill them. We must learn from His example as the Meek King—the One who emptied Himself of all of His rights as God to take on sin as a human to become our Passover Lamb (Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
 
To explore this thought, let’s read our text for today, Matthew 21:1-11. While this story is classically read on Palm Sunday, we are doing it today as we enter into the Lenten season.
 
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
 
This is a commonly taught passage, but today I simply want to bring out one specific point of this story and to a Jewish listener, the point of this historical event. Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 which states,
 
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble [meek], and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
 
Jesus fulfills this prophecy, not just in His triumphal entry as the humble one, but in how He goes about His ministry. The Jewish audience would not have missed this—Jesus was the Meek King in the line of King David—the Anointed One of Israel, the Messiah.
 
Listen to another passage to demonstrate meekness in action. It comes at the time of Jesus’ betrayal, right after the famous Garden of Gethsemane prayer scene of Matthew 26:36-46 when Jesus prays in great meekness to God,
 
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (39).
 
Verses 47-56 show Judas Iscariot bringing a great crowd with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. When one of those people laid hands on Jesus and seized him, Peter attacked with his sword. Peter was keeping his promise to not forsake Jesus. Jesus responded with meekness to the plan of God in verses 52-56:
 
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
 
Had Jesus claimed His rights, exerted the fulness of His potential or used all resources at His disposal He would have rescued Himself from His Passion and we would have been left dead in our sins. God’s will would have been thwarted had Jesus not exhibited meekness.
 
To start pulling it all together for our lives, Jesus calls people into Christian discipleship—to become like Him and to take on His lifestyle. We hear this in Matthew 11:28-30,
 
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 
Resting in God’s promises only happens when we habitually take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ and in doing so become like Him at the center of our beings: gentle, humble, lowly, meek. Submissive to God and His will.
 
Here is a spiritual reality: If you are not humble of heart, meek at the core of your being (heart, Prov 4:23), then you won’t act this way under pressure or when put in a situation where you need to choose between exerting all of your personal power versus trusting in all of God’s power.
 
If we are not being trained in the easy yoke of Jesus I can predict how we will act—powerless to the knee jerk reactions and quick-tongued responses of our flesh, and not in meekness to the Holy Spirit. That is the reality of the human condition, which means that for all of us, there is a need for discipline in our relationship with Jesus Christ—a training in righteousness that goes well beyond the well intentioned “What would Jesus do?” A joining with Jesus in His Passion!
 
The following verses illustrate this for us:
James 1:21-22: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
 
James 3:13-16: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
 
1 Peter 3:14-17: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness [meekness in KJV] and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
 
Jesus invites us to become meek by taking on His life—carrying His cross (His Passion) from morning to night and learning how to live in the abundance of God’s peace by walking with the God of peace in a personal growing relationship.
 
Interested that it is in embracing Jesus’ Passion that we will find peace when our culture teaches us to spend a majority of our time and money avoiding discomfort/suffering at all costs. Yet, our culture is also without peace of mind or heart at personal and community levels. The cost of not being meek (being proud, self-sufficient, arrogant) is the greatest felt need of our culture!
 
The church has the answer and it is embracing the person of Jesus Christ and His life of Passion. This is learned behavior, a rhythm or pattern of life that becomes yours from the inside out as you take on the yoke of Jesus. As Paul promised in Philippians 4:9,
 
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
 
This is the promise of God from the Old and New Testaments for the meek.
I invite you to join with Jesus on His Journey. It is a journey of patience and trust—of meekness so that you can join with Jesus in not just praying as He taught the disciples, but in living as He modeled for all of us:
 
“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9-13).
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 1)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus stayed on Mission!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

 

The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion, by which we are saved!

 

Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.[1] As I will teach today, I believe the suffering of Jesus began, with intentionality, well before the Garden scene when it was first put on public display.

 

Throughout this series, here is my overarching teaching goal: The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. During this Lenten season, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are going to walk toward the Cross and learn together how we are invited to respond to the Passion of Jesus.

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus stayed on mission by long-suffering with His followers, not just suffering for them! The mission of Jesus to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) is not a one-time event of saving a soul, just like Jesus’s Passion was more than one week of events. The mission of Jesus was, and still is, a long slow obedience in the same direction of seeing people transformed by the love of God. This requires long-suffering with people!

 

Did you know the word for patience in the KJV is “long-suffering”? Long-suffering means patiently enduring lasting offense or suffering, especially those caused by other people. As a friend said to me recently, “Committing to having patience isn’t just agreeing to passively wait without worrying or complaining, but rather it is a commitment to be willing to suffer at the hands of others.”

 

There are three passages we are going to look at this morning as we start our journey towards the Cross of Calvary and Jesus’ vicarious death and victorious resurrection. Along the way we are going to study the Passion of Jesus and how we are invited to respond.

 

The first time Jesus clearly and explicitly states the plan of God to His disciples is found in Matthew 16:21-23:

 

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

Peter is the voice we hear, but it’s very plausible that Peter’s voice represents the community voice of all Jewish people’s expectations of their Messiah: the anointed one of Israel would not die at the hands of Roman imperialism, but He would be the right hand of God to rescue God’s people from all foreign oppression, once and for all.

 

A real part of Jesus’ suffering was how much He was misunderstood—throughout His ministry. Even those who knew and believed He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God misunderstood His actions, because they did not know the plan of God.

 

Jesus responded to His disciple Peter the same way He did to Satan in the temptations in Matthew 4:8-10,
 
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ’ ”

 

Both were attempting to thwart Jesus from the plan of God—the devil maliciously with evil intent and Peter ignorantly with ethnocentric intent.

 

The Passion of the Christ, which we have typically focused on as a Holy Week reality, was for Jesus a ministry reality. As we see in three allusions to His crucifixion before this first overt announcement of His coming death: Matthew 9:15; 10:38; and 12:40.

 

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (9:15).

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (10:38).

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (12:40).

 

The followers of Jesus did not/could not/would not hear it at the time.

Jesus told them again, for a second time, in Matthew 17:22-23:
 
“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed.”

 

This time, instead of being a stumbling block to Jesus, they were “greatly distressed” by Jesus’ insistence that betrayal, suffering, and death was coming His way. They most likely never heard Jesus mention being raised on the third day and if they did, they did not understand Him.

 

How is that possible? Have you ever received really hard news? Once the person dropped the diagnosis or bad news on you, did you hear much of anything after that? Nope… The disciples of Jesus are in a state of shock, disbelieving shock…

 

The third and last time Jesus tells His disciples is in Matthew 20:17-19,

 

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

 

Jesus tells them in the greatest detail of any of the three times. He is forecasting what is coming. Clearly demonstrating a firm grasp of what He must do to fulfill God’s plan for His life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is also expressing His willingness to submit to His Father’s will in order to fulfill God’s plan.

 

As one commentator wrote, “It is the Son of Man, the Son of David, the divine Son of God, who would voluntarily undergo such treatment to save others. His humility would contrast starkly with the arrogance of the sons of Zebedee in the following section.”[2]

 

Jesus’ pronouncement is contrasted vividly by Matthew 20:20-28 when we see the followers of Jesus jockeying for power positions in the coming kingdom. Clearly, they still don’t get it after three years with Jesus, after three clear articulations of His coming Passion. Jesus responds with abounding grace and honest truth to His followers,

 

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

I say, “UGGHHH!!!! Frustrating people!!!” Jesus says, “Grace Abounds! These are My people!”

 

Why? Because Jesus was passionate about making disciples (a.k.a. training apprentices)—passionate about taking people who believe in Him on the Journey of being transformed from what they were in the world to what God intended them to be in His Kingdom!

 

Jesus was about to pay the ultimate price and hand this entire operation over to His apprentices after training them 24/7/365 for 3 years. Can you imagine His internal suffering at their thick-headed insistence to not understand Him or His mission? Can you imagine the amount of passion Jesus must have had for these disciples for Him to keep on keeping on with them?

 

It couldn’t be that He was stuck with them—they were chosen by God to be His Apostles! Jesus didn’t tolerate them being in His life, He loved them. They were His mission and the reason for His Passion! Do you see people this way? Do you tolerate difficult people or love them with long-suffering? Is this even possible apart from the Holy Spirit?

 

Jesus’ journey to the Cross demonstrates the entirety of His Passion! But, it wasn’t just the Passion Week where we most clearly saw Jesus’ transformative act of love for all sinners. Jesus was passionate about making something out of these ragamuffins—of walking with them and loving them through their doubts, uncertainties, and stubborn refusals to change their minds on preconceived notions. He’s still doing the same today, with us!

 

He is still patiently loving those who have been chosen by God to be His followers!

 

Time after time, situation after situation: Grace Abounded! Jesus kept showing His followers the way to be on mission, even though they did not fully understand Jesus’ mission.

 

Jesus’s journey to the Cross was a long, slow obedience in the same direction! It was a Passion Journey and on His journey we see Jesus on mission the way we are to go on mission: with a persevering and transforming love for others, starting here, but going out beyond the borders… out of our comfort zones!

 

Jesus long-suffered (showed patience) with His slow-to-get-it followers, soon-to-be-called the Church. Their transformation did not happen because of one moment (the Cross) alone! It happened because of three years of Jesus’ long slow obedience in the same direction of love that lead to the Cross, but did not end there!

 

Jesus’ mission carries on today, after the Cross, after the Resurrection, after the Ascension, because of those 3 years of Jesus’ long slow obedience in the same direction of love! These men may not have gotten it until after all these major events happened, but it was the love of Jesus on the Journey that led them to carry on the mission of Jesus to a new generation.

 

Let me say it this way: it took 1,095 days of persistent love for that one triumphant day to make sense. But, then only in hindsight after 3 long days apart from that love, followed by 40 glorious days of experiencing Jesus’ resurrection and redeeming love for them to finally get it, and now for an eternity without a day apart from God’s love living in us through the Holy Spirit.

 

Don’t bail before the blessing! God is with you and He has a better plan for your life than you currently have for your own life. God is in you…patiently loving you to work in you His love and through you His love to the world. Be patient with others as God is patient with you!

 

This is our mission, so be like Jesus in His Passion and be long-suffering with people on the journey, just as God is still being patient with you on the journey.  Go as Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

 

As you go, may grace abound in you, for you, and through you! May your long-suffering with others lead them to respond to the Passion of Jesus Christ. Be patient with them and yourself…
 

You can listen to the message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] For a short article that explains the technical usage of “Passion” in Biblical Studies, please check out:  https://www.gotquestions.org/passion-of-Christ.html (accessed February 20, 2020).

[2] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Matthew,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1490.


Read more...
^