Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:13-25 – Jesus in Our Place

Grace For The Journey

I often ask myself if I am a receiver or reproducer of God’s Word.  Let me illustrate the difference.  Imagine being in Sudan.  You walk into a thatched hut with a small group of Sudanese church leaders, and you sit down to teach them God’s Word.  As soon as you start, you lose eye contact with all of them.  No one is looking at you, and you hardly see their eyes the rest of the time.  The reason is because they are writing down every word you say.  They come up to you afterward and say, “Teacher, we are going to take everything we have learned from God’s Word, translate it into our languages, and teach it in our tribes.”

They were not

Listening to receive

But to reproduce.

Now journey with me to a contemporary worship service in the United States.  As the pastor begins his sermon, some people have their Bibles open, while others do not have a Bible with them.  A few people are taking notes, but for the most part they are passively sitting in the audience.  While some are probably disengaged, others are intently focused on what the preacher is saying, listening to God’s Word to hear how it applies to their lives.  But the reality is . . .

Few are listening to reproduce.  

We are, by nature, receivers.

Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, “What can I get out of this?”  But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity.  

What if we changed the question

Whenever we gathered

To learn God’s Word?

What if we began to think . . .

“How can I listen to His Word

So that I am

Equipped to teach

This Word to others?”

This changes everything.

We left off last week at verse 12, so we will pick up today at verse 13.  You will remember from last time that the Jewish leaders had brought Jesus before two rulers for the purpose of having Him condemned.  They had never been on-board with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and they did not believe Him to be the Messiah.  They brought Him before these two rulers: the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, and the Tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas.  Both rulers had found Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, let alone anything deserving death.  Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate and we pick up at verse 13 with what happens next.

In reading this passage I nearly always find myself identifying with Barabbas.  Barabbas, who is guilty and condemned to die, is set free by the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.  Jesus who is innocent of any wrongdoing is condemned to die.  One could even say that Jesus died in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus died as the substitute for Barabbas.  Jesus died in my place.  Jesus died in our place.  Jesus died as our substitute.

That word “substitute” is generally used “to designate the replacing of one thing for something of lesser or equal value.”  We go to the restaurant and ask if we can substitute one item for another, can we substitute a salad for the grilled vegetables.  Or, in the case of your children, you can we substitute French fries for the grilled vegetables.  We exchange one thing with another of lesser or equal value.

In my High School, a substitute teacher was usually regarded by the class–unfortunately – as a person of lesser value than the regular teacher.  If we walked into class and found a substitute teacher present, we thought we would have a day off – no offense to substitute teachers – I have done a little of that; this is just how many in our school seemed to operate.

The word “substitute” generally designates the replacing of one thing for another thing of lesser or equal value. You can never “trade up,” so to speak.  You cannot go into a restaurant and ask to substitute your grilled vegetables for another slab of ribs or expect to substitute your garden salad for a gourmet dessert – at least I am not aware one can do that.  If you know a restaurant that will do that, help a brother out and let me know!

If you will allow the rough and un-sanctified analogy . . .

There is a substitution

That takes place

In the Gospel

That allows

One to

“Trade up!”

The Gospel message gives us that perspective . . .

In the place of a condemned criminal

Stands a Substitute; not another criminal,

Nor even a person of equal worth and merit. 

But One of far greater worth and

One of inestimable honor,

A Substitute like no other.  

Jesus dies in our place.

I want us to go through this text and then afterward share some thoughts about what this means that Jesus is our substitute, what it means that Jesus is in our place.

First, let’s ground our study in the context of God’s Word.  Look at your Bible . . .

In verses 13 to 15, Pilate is calling court to order.  These verses say, “Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people (He’s convening the court case against Jesus), and said to them, ‘You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people.  And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.” 

Luke’s main point in giving his account of the details is that Jesus is innocent of any wrongdoing.  This is his main emphasis.  

What is true of Jesus historically

In this criminal trial is also true

Of Jesus theologically in His Person.

He is innocent of any wrongdoing.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:19 that Jesus is, “a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  On this basis He is a fitting sacrifice, a fitting Substitute, a fitting Lamb who, as John 1:29 puts it, “takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

This is the greater story,

The meta-narrative,

Going on here.

But Pilate does not know this greater story.  He simply finds Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, but he also feels the pressure of having to do something to satisfy the anger of the Jewish leaders.

Verse 16 tells us what he decides to do, I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.”  I know it is easy to find ourselves trying to feel some sort of compassion for Pilate, but we should resist that notion.  Pilate cares far more for how this situation plays out politically than he cares about doing the right thing.  Note the irony of verse 16 – Pilate finds Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, but what does he say he will do in verse 16?  “I will therefore chastise Him – punish Him – and release Him.”  This was like throwing a bone to a dog.  

Pilate did not care for Jesus

As much

As he cared for himself,

For his political success,

For his legacy.

He reasons to himself, “Maybe this will satisfy these rabid Jewish leaders who are bloodthirsty for this innocent man’s death.  I will just have the man beaten.  Surely, that will do the trick.”

Verse 17 says, “(For it was necessary for him to release one of them at the feast).”  Some translations do not have verse 17.   In the older Greek manuscripts that statement is not present, and some feel the reason it is included in many newer manuscripts of Luke is simply because the scribes wanted Luke’s readers to know this fact about releasing a prisoner during the Passover.  The other Gospel writers report this tradition of releasing a prisoner during Passover.  Admittedly, it helps explain why the crowd replies as they do in verse 18, “And they all cried out at once, saying, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas’”there is this tradition, apparently a means by which the Roman authorities desired to show a bit of mercy by allowing the crowd to determine which prisoner may be released during their Feast of the Passover.  Pilate thinks they will be pleased with his releasing Jesus, but they cry out, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.”

Luke tells us what Barabbas had done to get locked up in verses 19-22, “Who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.  Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them.  But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”  Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”

Again, remember that Luke is stressing the innocence of Jesus.  Three times, in verses 4, 14, and 22, Pilate says something like, “I find not fault in this man.”  Verse 23 says, But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.”  The other Gospel writers tell us that the Jewish leaders actually stirred up the crowd in order to get their way.  They told the crowd what to say and so there was this large noise of people crying out to Pilate, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”  The people shouted Pilate down, yelling their demand that Jesus should be crucified, and their shouting won the day (Luke 23:23-24).

Verse 24 tells us, “So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.”  Pilate caves-in to their request.  Sermons and Bible studies that deal with the failed leadership of Pilate and how important it is for leaders to not cave-in and to not compromise and so forth are sermons and Bible studies that miss the mark of Luke’s intended purpose here.  

This is not a lesson on leadership.  

This is a lesson on the death of Christ.

Verse 25 says, “And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.”  Rather than releasing the innocent One, Pilate releases the guilty one.  Jesus stays.  Barabbas goes free.

I wonder what that scene looked like when the jailer told Barabbas he could go.  He had been found guilty of leading a riot in the city and for killing someone.  He had been sentenced to die and yet the jailer comes to his cell and tells him, “Hey, Barabbas. You are free to go.”  The jailer opens the cell door and motions for Barabbas to exit.  And I do not think for a moment that Barabbas hesitated or said something like, “Well, there must be some mistake.”  He is a criminal!  I think he got up as quickly as he could and ran out of that jail cell, out of that building, and out onto the streets, laughing all the way.

Yet, Jesus had died in his place.  What happened to Barabbas is symbolic of what has happened to every Christian?  The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:19a, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”  Jesus in our place” means the just has died for us, that He might bring us to God.  

Jesus died as our Substitute

. . . Jesus died in our place.

This is the heart of the Gospel, summarized succinctly in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus died in our place,

Paid the debt we owe,

And

Fulfilled the law

We broke.

Jesus in our place.

I want to share some important implications of “Jesus in our place.”  What does this mean?

Number one . . .

1. Jesus In Our Place Means God Loves Us.

A phrase is often used in the contemporary church without any theological underpinnings.   So many preachers, teachers, and Christians of all stripes believe if we just say, “God loves you” that people will somehow “get it” and “be moved” and change the world.  Maybe if we just keep saying it, people will feel it: “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.”  Well, what does that mean?  How does God love me?

The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  How does God demonstrate His own love for us?

While we were sinners,

Christ died FOR us,

Died as our Substitute,

Died in our place.

The Bible says in Romans 5:6. 9-10, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ dies for the ungodly . . . Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

There Is The Depth Of God’s Love!

I am guilty of sin . . . I am a law-breaker . . . I have broken God’s perfect law . . .

  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:21-22, You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,’” and I say to myself, ‘I am guilty of murder.’”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:27-28, You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’   But I say to you that ‘whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,’” and I say to myself, ‘I am guilty of adultery.’”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:44, “’Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,’ and I say to myself, “You do not do what you are supposed to do, Terry. I am a law-breaker.”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:20, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”   

And I think, “How will I ever get in?!  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “The wages of sin is death.”  I deserve death, judgment, and hell for my sin, God help me! 

The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Christ, who is innocent,

Is reckoned guilty

So that we, who

Are guilty, may be

Reckoned innocent.

This is the truth symbolized the weekend Jesus died on the cross in Passover, a holy day celebrated for hundreds upon hundreds of years as God’s people offered a lamb without spot or blemish as a substitute for their sin.  Every Passover lamb pointed forward to a more perfect sacrifice, a more perfect Substitute for our sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.

This is the theology undergirding the phrase, “God loves you.”  This is the theology that anchors the truth of John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son–gave to die–that whoever believes in Him should not die, but should live forever.”   How is that possible?  

Jesus in my place.

Jesus took my sin

Upon Himself,

Bore my punishment,

Bore God’s wrath, Died for me that

I might be saved.

He takes what belongs to me

– Sin –

And gives what belongs

to Him – righteousness.

This is the theology behind the phrase, “God loves you.”

It is important to think about what we mean when we tell people, “God loves you.”  Let’s be sure we are talking about a God who demonstrates His love toward us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  That is a love I can understand.  You just say to me over and over again, “God loves you,” that does not really mean much to me.  But . . .

When you explain to me

That I receive His love

Even though I am a guilty

Transgressor, sinner, lawbreaker,

Murderer, and rebel against Him,

Well now I begin to sense

How great His love is.

And . . .

When you tell me

That I deserve death

Because of my transgressions,

Sins, lawbreaking, murdering, & rebellion,

But that God takes my place on the cross

For my transgressions, sins, and rebellion,

I am overwhelmed by that kind of love!

Jesus in our place gives meaning to the phrase,

Secondly . . .

II. Jesus in our Place Makes Possible God’s Acceptance of Us.

If I trust Christ and receive Him as my Lord and Savior, it means that I will always and forever be found “in Christ Jesus.”  I am in Christ.  This means God always sees me “in Christ.”  This means God looks upon me and sees my sin covered by the righteousness of Christ.  This means . . .

I am accepted by God

Not on the basis of

My personal performance,

But on the basis of

The infinitely perfect

Righteousness of Christ.

Pilate found no fault in Him.  He is, as the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:19, “a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Because there is no fault in Him, then we who are “in Him” are faultless too.  There is no fault in Christ and therefore God looks upon us who are “in Christ” and says, “I find no fault in you.”

The Bible says in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”  He died for our sins and was raised that we may be justified, declared righteous, declared “not guilty” of sin, accepted by God.

We are accepted by God forever.  We are always and forever acceptable in God’s sight. We can do nothing to lose this acceptance, nor can we do anything extra to make us more acceptable.  Our acceptance is found in Christ alone.  Again, “I am accepted by God not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely prefect righteousness of Christ.”

God’s love for me is a love that pours through His perfect love for His Son Jesus and what Jesus Christ did on the cross as my substitute.  When I sin, God does not love me any less, because His love is a perfect love that pours through His Son Jesus.  When I sin God does not love me any less and when I do well, God does not love me any more. Watch that tendency to legalism!  Our performance does not increase God’s acceptance of us!  God’s love is perfectly constant because it is a love bound up in His Son Jesus Christ, our Substitute.

What a joy to know that when we are “in Christ” we are forever accepted by God!  The devil wants us to doubt that acceptance.

Some of you struggle constantly with guilt and shame.  Guilt is the feeling we have that says, “I have done a bad thing.”  Shame is the feeling, “I am bad person.”  Jesus died and made us acceptable before God for both guilt and shame.

But some of you hear Satan whisper in your ear, “You are a bad person.  You are an unfit mother, you are a bad father.  You are a teenage failure.”  It is at these moments, Christian, you must look to the cross and see Jesus there who is your perfect Substitute, the Perfect One in your place who made an end of all your sin and made you acceptable to God forever.

As the hymn-writer puts it:

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free.

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

Jesus in our place makes possible God’s acceptance of us.

Thirdly . . .

III. Jesus In Our Place Is The Content Of Our Gospel Witness.

This is the message of the Gospel.  This is what we are to share with our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.  When we share the Gospel in order to make known God’s glory from the community to the continents, we must tell the story of Jesus in our place.

It is not enough to . . .

Tell our neighbors

God loves them

Or

Even that God

radically changed

Our lives.

We must tell them more than that if we are going to tell the Gospel story . . .  

We must tell them about

Jesus in our place.

This is the content of our Gospel witness.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This verse is the climactical conclusion

Of Paul’s teaching about

Sharing our Gospel witness.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Do you hear that?  

This is the message we share with the lost.

It is the message of Jesus in our place.

It is not, “God just loves you and wants you to be happy,” it is, “God is doing something He does not have to do.  As people accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, He is reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them which is what they deserve, but reconciling lost sinners to Himself through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, Jesus who never sinned, Jesus who was made to be sin for us – in our place as our Substitute – that we might become in Him the righteousness of God.”

Jesus in our place is the content of our Gospel witness.

It is hard to read Luke 23 and not wonder what happened to Barabbas after he fled that jail cell.  Did he find his way back into the mob, the crowd that cried out, “Crucify Him?” Did he follow the crowd as they followed Jesus, carrying His cross, condemned to die? Did he watch from a distance as they drove the spikes into Christ’s hands and feet and crucified Jesus?  Did he wonder, “He died in my place?”

Have you seen Jesus there on Calvary’s cross?  Have you come to the cross as a guilty sinner and affirmed the truth of, “Jesus in My Place?”  Trust Him this very moment.

Pray a prayer like this, Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.  I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment, and offering forgiveness.  I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:1-12 – Treating Christ with Contempt

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  This is the best way to preach, teach, and learn the Word of God.  One of the reasons verse-by-verse expository preaching and teaching through books of the Bible is the best way to preach and teach is that it allows God to determine the topic of each sermon.  Rather than a preacher assuming he knows his congregation’s needs and then coming up with a topic and looking through the Bible for verses that go with it, we just turn to God’s Word and read through the Books He has given us and verse-by-verse God hits us where we need hitting.

Last time we were in Luke we were reading about, “Jesus on Trial.”  Jesus Christ is on trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Council of 71 leaders – for proclaiming to be God.  In our passage today the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before the Roman leader Pontius Pilate and the ruler Herod Antipas.  Both will find Jesus innocent of any wrong-doing.  As we look at these verses today, we will note that while Jesus is found innocent He is nonetheless treated with contempt.

The last chapters of Luke show that God is on trial in the person of Christ.  While Jesus is the one on trial, it is others who may be found guilty of treating Christ with contempt, ridicule, and scorn.  

  • The Sanhedrin were guilty,
  • Pilate is guilty,
  • Herod is guilty.

They are all guilty of treating Christ with contempt.  But what about you?  What about me?  Are we ever guilty of treating Christ with contempt?  Are we ever guilty of disregarding the words of Christ or showing some lack of respect for who He is?  I do not want to answer those questions for you so much as I want to help . . .

You to always read

The Scripture

In such a way as

To see yourself,

To see your sin,

And to see your Savior.

It is too easy to read the Bible and note only how evil everyone else is.  What about you and what about me?  Are we, too, guilty of treating Christ with contempt?

Let’s think about that as we study the passage this morning, a passage I have divided in two halves, both of which stress the innocence of Jesus Christ.  This seems to be Luke’s main purpose in the way he reports the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Luke is not as wordy here as other Gospel writers.  His economy of words lays stress on the fact that this Lamb of God led away to slaughter is an innocent Lamb of God.

I. See Christ’s Innocence Before Pilate – Verses 1-5.

Verse 1 tells us, “Then the whole multitude of them [i.e., the Sanhedrin]arose and led Him to Pilate.”  If you look back at the end of the previous chapter, you be reminded that the Sanhedrin had their own little trial of Jesus. They found Him guilty of blasphemy. Remember this from last time?  Jesus proclaims to be of God and from God.  He refers to Himself as “Christ,” “Son of Man,” and “Son of God.”  All three titles underscore His deity, that He is of God and from God.  The Jewish leaders believe Jesus is guilty of blasphemy and therefore worthy of death.  They wanted to kill Him.

The problem is that they could not hand down a death sentence.  Only Rome could impose the sentence of capital punishment (See John 18:31), and so the Sanhedrin now bring Jesus to Pilate.  Pilate has the authority to impose the death sentence.  Normally Pilate would be in Caesarea, that was his home office, but because of the Passover, Pilate is in town at a satellite office in Jerusalem.  He is there because it seems half the world is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

Pilate didn’t care much for the Jews.  He had stolen a bunch of their money, taking it from their temple treasury and using it to build an aqueduct to bring water into the city of Jerusalem.  An aqueduct is not a bad idea but stealing money from others to build it is another story.  It would be like our mayor coming to First Baptist and taking money out of our church bank account and using it for whatever he wished. So, Pilate is a bad emperor and he does not care much for the Jews.

The Jewish leaders had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and they want to have Jesus killed, but here is the problem:

Pilate will not care.  

He is not interested

In Jewish squabbles.

He is not into their religion.

So, the Jews spin the charges in a way that is less religious and more political.  They have entered the “spin zone.” They know Pilate will not care about their religious squabbles so they drum up some political charges, believing Pilate will listen to them now.  They present three political charges that are mentioned verse 2, And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’”  How does Pilate respond?  Verse 3 tells us, Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Pilate ignores the first two political charges.  Pilate is a shrewd politician.  He knows how the spin works.  These charges are baseless.  You and I know that.  Is Jesus really guilty of “perverting the nation,” trying to get people to rebel against Rome?

  • Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27-31)?  
  • Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your neighbor” (Luke 10:27)?

The second charge in verse 2 is that Jesus forbade people to pay taxes to Caesar. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?”  This charge is also baseless.  But Pilate picks up on the last charge.  He is interested in this one as verse 3 tells us, Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’”  Pilate is something of a king himself.  He had a lot of authority and served directly under the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar.  He is interested in this charge: “Are You the King of the Jews?”  The word “You” is first in the original.  It probably went something like this, “YOU, King of the Jews?!”  Verse 3 goes on to tell us how Jesus responded, “… He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” 

Jesus is not being evasive here. 

Rather He is trying to avoid

Being misunderstood.  

He has forever

Been concerned

That His kingdom

Not be misunderstood.

Yes, He is king.  Everyone knew Jesus had proclaimed to be king of the Jews. That is why that very title was written above His head in three different languages at His crucifixion (John 19:20).  In Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the title read, “King of the Jews.”

Verse 4 says, So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man.’”  John 18 helps us understand why Pilate is not concerned.  In John 18:36, John provides a little more detail.  Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”  Pilate only cares about Jesus’ declaring Himself to be king if he is talking about it in a political sense.  Pilate is checking to see if Jesus is a political rebel, whether He has designs for overthrowing the Roman Empire.  So long as Jesus is not threatening to take over Pilate’s job or trying to overthrow Caesar, for all Pilate cares Jesus can call Himself “King of the Universe” if He likes; just as long as He does not try to take over their kingdom in Rome.  So, Pilate says, “I find no fault in this Man.”  He sees Jesus as not being a threat.

Verses 5 to 7 tell us of the third charge that they bring against Jesus, “But they were the more fierce, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.’  When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean.  And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.”  This is a classic case of “passing the buck.”  Pilate is thinking, “What am I going to do with this guy?”  He hears the Jews angrily bringing another charge which he knows to be false, but when he hears the angry Jewish mob cry, “Galilee,” he is like, “Is this Jesus from Galilee?  Well then send Him over to Herod” and he wipes his hands of the situation – at least, for now.

Luke tells us at the end of verse 7 that Herod “was also in Jerusalem at that time.” Remember, it is the Passover.  So, Herod the tetrarch over Galilee is in Jerusalem and the Jews drag Jesus before Him.  Luke has shown us Christ’s innocence before Pilate, now, secondly . . .

II. See Christ’s Innocence Before Herod – Verses 8-12.

Verse 8 says, “Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”  Remember Herod?  This is Herod Antipas.  Herod was, among many things, an adulterer.  Herod was married and started messing around with another woman, a woman who was married to his half-brother. Herod eventually persuaded this woman to leave her husband and so Herod marries his sister-in-law.  This is to say nothing of the fact that this woman he marries was also the daughter of one of Herod’s half-brothers, which would mean that Herod is also marrying his niece.  I mean this is just made for reality TV, right?  But, as if his dysfunctional family were not enough, Herod, of course, is also the one who had beheaded John the Baptist.

Luke writes in verse 8 that Herod “had desired for along time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”  Someone said, “We should pity great men.”  But is that true?  Many men are like Herod: rich, having nice things, being fawned over by self-seeking flatters and “yes men.”  Herod sees Jesus as someone who can entertain him someone who can do something for him.  Men who seem to have everything, but men who are empty inside, lost men, men yearning for meaning and significance.  

Verse 9 tells us, “Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.”  The early church later saw Christ’s silence as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  Had Jesus spoken, do we really believe Herod would have believed?  He had heard the truth before from John the Baptist and eventually had him beheaded.  Jesus is responding exactly as He should.

J. C. Ryle says . . .

“What Herod [lacked] was not more knowledge,

But a heart and a will to act upon what he knew.”

Verse 10 says, “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.”  Yet . . .

Jesus is innocent.  

He would be crucified

As a lamb without

Spot or blemish.  

It is important that

We understand that.

This seems to be Luke’s primary point in reporting the events the way he is reporting them.  Jesus Christ is innocent of wrongdoing.  Later, in verse 15, we read that Herod found Jesus innocent of wrongdoing, innocent of anything deserving death.  Yet, in spite of His innocence, what does Herod do?  Verses 11 and 12 tell us, “Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe [to make sport of His being a king], and sent Him back to Pilate.  That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.”  Isn’t that remarkable?  Two wicked people can unite together against an enemy.  In fact, may we be convicted at the irony: two wicked people can unite together against an enemy yet two Christians will divide over a friendship. 

What may we learn from this passage?  Let me give two action principles that surface from our study of this text.  First . . .

1. Stay Strong When Suffering Trials.

We were introduced to this principle last time we were in Luke.  Remember our reflection upon 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”  Luke tells us in this passage that Jesus is treated with contempt.  If you are a follower of Christ, you will also at times be treated with contempt.  If you are a follower of Christ, be prepared to be hated as Christ was hated.  Jesus says in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Some of you were told that, if you followed Christ, it would be like heaven on earth, but you have found it to be otherwise.  Some of you struggle with ridicule, hurt, and scorn for following Christ.  Some of you have family who are not “on board” with your decision to follow Christ.  Others of you face persecution for your faith.  Because you are a Christian, someone no longer wants to hang out with you or talk to you.  Some of you have people in your life who are doing their best to make you miserable.

Remember a couple things . . .

(1) Never Forget That We Live In A World That Is Not As It Should Be.

We live in a post-Genesis 3 world, a world in which sin reigns.  Christ will return, and when He does, He will straighten out what needs straightening out and set everything right.  

But also . . .

(2) Remember That When You Suffer You Are In Good Company.  

The Bible tells us that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”  Listen again to J. C. Ryle, “The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord.  When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered, who can expect to escape?  “If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call them of his household?” (Matthew 10:25) . . . the most blameless character will not secure us against false tongues.  We must bear the trial patiently.  It is a part of the cross of Christ . . . We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail.”

Can you do that?  Are you surrender to Christ enough to trust in the Lord and believe that truth will prevail?

The Bible says in Psalm 37:5-7, “Trust [in the Lord] … He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday [i.e., you can bank on it]. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”  Can you do that?  Are you surrendered enough to trust in the Lord?  Stay strong when suffering trials.

Remember that it is from a Roman prison that Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Learn from Jesus and stay strong when suffering trials.

The second action principle from this passage is . . .

2. Stay Sensitive To Spiritual Truth.

What I mean is, “Keep your conscience tender.”  Think about King Herod for just a moment. There was a time when Herod listened to the truth. There was a time in Herod’s life when He liked listening to preaching.  There was a time Herod enjoyed listening to the preaching of John the Baptist.  The Bible tells us in Mark 6:20, “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him.  And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”

Quite a different picture of Herod in the earlier days when he first listened to spiritual truth.  He enjoyed hearing the preaching.  Herod was in awe of John.  He was convinced that John was a holy man, and he gave him special treatment.  Whenever he listened to him, he was miserable with guilt – and yet he could not stay away.  Something in John’s message kept pulling him back.  Or put another way, Herod used to listen to him and be profoundly disturbed, and yet he enjoyed hearing him.

In other words . . .

Herod heard the truth

And was convicted,

But

Never followed through.

And because he

Never followed through,

He hardened his heart.

His heart became tough

Calloused, and insensitive

To spiritual truth.

You get a callous on your hand, using a hammer or a shovel every day and tough skin forms around your fingers. You can stick a pin into that callous and feel nothing.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 95:7-8, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.”  That is what happened to Herod.  He once had a soft heart, a sensitive heart to spiritual truth, but he allowed his heart to become calloused and eventually had John the Baptist beheaded.  Herod grows to be a hardened man who makes sport of the very one for whom John the Baptist had been a forerunner.

Some of you listen to preaching and teaching of the Word of God every week.  Do you follow through on what you hear?  The key to the Christian life is that it should lead us to obedience to God’s Word.  Herod enjoyed John’s preaching, but Herod was lost. Hear again what the Bible says in Psalm 95, “Today if you hear God’s voice: do not harden your heart.”  Was your heart once soft to spiritual truth?  Was your conscience once sensitive and tender to the Bible’s teachings (teachings about sexual purity, faithfulness in marriage, love for enemies, forgiveness to those who hurt you, teachings about trusting in the Lord with all of your heart, teachings about walking by faith and not by sight, teachings about not worrying, tithing, sharing your faith, reaching the nations).

Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.  Stay sensitive to spiritual truth.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:65-71 – Jesus On Trial, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

Verse 65 shows us where our sinful nature will lead us, “And any other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.”  These religious leaders not only mocked, beat, blindfolded, struck Jesus, they also “blasphemed Him.”  Was any of this a surprise to Jesus?  700 years before this trial of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would receive this sort of treatment as God’s Suffering Servant.  The Bible says in Isaiah 50:6, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and in Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Jesus was not surprised by the actions of these temple police.  The very fact that He submitted Himself to their actions shows the depth of His love for callous sinners.  Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus did this, “for the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame.”

They mocked, beat, blindfolded, struck, and blasphemed Him that night.  That was some trial that evening, wasn’t it?  So next morning what happens?  Verse 66 says, “As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying.”  The Sanhedrin – and again this is the Jewish Council of 70 leaders.  The term in verse 66, “elders of the people” is a synonym for the Sanhedrin.  They came together and led Jesus into their council.  It was against Jewish Law to convict a man in the evening so here they are now in the morning to continue the case of “God on Trial.”  In this passage . . .

There are things we may learn about Jesus

And things we can learn from Jesus.

I. What We May Learn About Jesus.

We have already seen He is on trial for claiming to be God.  I want you to notice the three titles for Jesus in these verses, all of which mean basically the same thing, that Jesus is God.  Three titles for the same person: He is the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God.  First . . .

1) He Is The Christ – Verses 67-68.

“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name.  It is a title.  It occurs some 25 times in Luke’s Gospel.   It is a Greek word that means “Messiah.”  It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term, “Messiah,” and it means “the Anointed One.”  It is a title.  That is why we often read it in the Bible as “the” Christ.  Like in verse 67: “If you are the Christ, tell us.”

We read in verses 67 and 68 the Jewish leaders ask, “’If You are the Christ, tell us.’  But He said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will by no means believe.  And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.’”  Jesus is not being evasive here.  He is simply saying, “You guys have already made up your minds not to believe.  I am not going to dignify your question with the answer you seek.”  Of course, He is the Christ.

Luke has made this clear from the very beginning of his Gospel.  

  • Jesus is born and the angel appears to the trembling shepherds and says, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 
  • Simeon met Jesus in the temple when Jesus was just 8 days old because the Holy Spirit had told him, “He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26).” 
  • When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).

Christ is the title for the One who is “of God”

And comes “from God” to be man’s Savior. 

There is another title Jesus takes that refers to His being of God and from God . . .

2) He Is The Son Of Man – Verse 69.

Son of Man is the way Jesus most often refers to Himself.  It is used over 80 times in the Gospels mostly by Jesus referring to Himself.  Rather than saying, “I,” Jesus often said, “the Son of Man.”  In fact, verse 69 is the last time in Luke’s Gospel where He will do this, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  Jesus is referring to Himself as “the Son of Man.” 

This title comes from Daniel, chapter 7.  It is a great title referring to the Messiah, the One who is “of God” and “from God.”  700 years before Christ. Daniel prophesies about the Messiah.  He writes in Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days [the Heavenly Father], and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

This is Jesus!  He is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.  He is the Christ, the Son of Man, referred to in Daniel 7. 

The third title is . . .

3) He Is The Son of God – Verses 70-71.

Verse 70 says, “Then they all said, ‘Are You then the Son of God?’  So He said to them, ‘You rightly say that I am.’”  Here is the third title of Jesus that also means He is “of God” and “from God.”  Perhaps it is the most obvious: Son of God.  If there was any doubt that Jesus was more than mere man, more than a Jewish Messiah who was simply human, that incorrect notion is removed here.

They ask Jesus, “Are You then the Son of God?”  Jesus’ answer wisely deflects responsibility back upon His questioners.  He answers by saying, “You rightly say that I am.”  This is so wise.  Mark, in his Gospel, just has Jesus responding, “I am” (Mark 14:62), but Luke gives the added detail here that Jesus deflects responsibility back upon those questioning Him.  He says, “You rightly say that I am.”  In essence, Jesus is saying, “You are using the right title, a title you must believe to be true, a title you will one day give an account before your Creator as to what you did with Me.  You rightly say that I am the Son of God.  What are you going to do now with this knowledge?  Now I am on trial, but one day you will be on trial.  You are using the correct title.  Do you believe it?”  Classic.

Of course, Jesus is the Son of God. 

  • At His baptism the heavens opened and the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). 
  • At His transfiguration the voice of the Heavenly Father “came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35).

He is the Son of God.  The Jewish leaders were blind to this truth.  But they understood clearly that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God which is why they respond as they do in verse 71, “And they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.’”  Jesus’ reply in the previous verse is understood as an affirmation of His being “of God” and “from God.”  The Jewish leaders had long desired to “catch Jesus” in something He might say (Luke 11:54; Luke 20:20, 26), so now they have got what they wanted.  They are ready now to condemn Him and to kill Him.  And they will kill Him, on the basis of His claiming to be “of God” and “from God.”

This is the doctrine of the Trinity: Jesus is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons joined together in One Divine Being.  One in essence, three in Person.  Other religions wrongly claim Jesus is not God. 

  • The Mormons do not believe Jesus is God the way orthodox Christianity does.  They believe Jesus “became a god.”  They believe Jesus was a created being, the brother of the devil and of all people.  Not the same Jesus of the Bible. 
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses also wrongly believe Jesus was a created being – that He was Micael the archangel who became a man. 
  •  Muslims also wrongly believe Jesus was a created being, a prophet, but not God.

But in the Bible, Jesus Christ is “of God” and “from God.”  Referring to Jesus as “the Word,” the Bible says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  The name “Immanuel” is the name an angel gives to Jesus when announcing His coming to Joseph (Matthew 1:23), which is a title for the Messiah in Isaiah 7:14.   This is why the Jewish leaders moved to condemn and kill Jesus as verse 71 indicates.  Jesus is the Christ; the Son of Man, and the Son of God. 

That is what we may learn about Jesus. 

II. What We May Learn From Jesus.

There are three things I want to draw from these truths that should have a great impact on our daily lives . . .

1) When Worried, Remember Jesus Is In Charge.

Because He is God, He knows all things.  Nothing happens that takes God by surprise.   We noted that earlier when we talked about whether or not Jesus was surprised by the way He was treated by these temple police.  He knew this was coming.  That is why He told His disciples this would happen.  Remember His “passion predictions?”  Three times He had said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed, beaten, and delivered over to death, and He will rise on the third day” (see: Luke 9:22, Luke 17:25, and Luke 18:32-33).

He knew this was going to happen because He is God.  He knows the future and He has complete control over all things.  He could have stopped the arrest, the trial, and the crucifixion because He is God.  In John 10:18 He says, “No one takes it [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”  He could have stopped this whole thing, but He does not because He has come to die.  He has come to save us.  He is not surprised by the events.  He is not worried because He is in charge.

If He is not worried and He is in control of your life then you do not need to worry.   Remember Jesus is in charge.  He is God.  He knows all things and He always does what is right.  He is in control of your situation.

What worries you?  Your family?  Your bill?  Your health?  Will you face anything worse than what Jesus faced?  Mocked, beaten, blindfolded, struck, and blasphemed.  And all of this mysteriously in keeping with God’s perfect plan.   Whatever you are facing now, There is a freedom that comes when you can say, “God is on this.  He is not surprised so I will NOT freak out.  It is going to be okay, because God loves me, He has a plan for me, and He always does what is right.”

When worried, remember Jesus is in charge. 

Here’s something else we can learn from Jesus . . .

2) When Mistreated, Remember Jesus Is Your Example.

Some of you have been hurt by others, assaulted by others, and abused by others.  The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15 that, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”  In Jesus we have someone who knows what it is like to be hurt, assaulted, and abused.  We have a God who knows what we are going through and can sympathize with our hurts.

How did Jesus respond to that mistreatment?  He just “took it,” didn’t He?  Because God is in control and always does what is right, even mistreatment at the hands of others is somehow in keeping with His perfect, sovereign, ways.  The Bible puts it this way in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

What are we to do you do when people mistreat us?  The Bible says look to Jesus for your example.  He did not return insult for insult but rather, “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  In other words, Jesus took His mistreatment and turned it over to the sovereign care of the Heavenly Father.  We are to do the same.  When people mistreat you, remember that God is on His throne, and He will judge those who spoke ill of you, mistreated you, or ridiculed you.

When worried, remember Jesus is in charge.  When mistreated, remember Jesus is your example.  Thirdly . . .

3) When Weak, Remember Jesus Is Your Strength. 

Verse 69 is powerful.  After telling the Jewish leaders that He is not going to dignify their question about His being the Messiah with the answer they seek, Jesus makes this powerful statement in verse 69, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  In other words, in just a short while – referring to His death, resurrection, and then ascension to the right hand of the Father – hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.  He is seated at the right hand of the power of God!  No matter what you face, Jesus is your strength.  He is at the right hand of the power of God, and He will grant you His strength and power to get through it all.

What joy to remember where we are headed when this life is over!  Jesus says, “Hereafter.”  Like Jesus, we may go through difficulties and dangers here, but hereafter we share in the glory of the One who sits at the right hand of the power of God.

Here, we endure hardships; hereafter we enter heaven.

Here, we receive ridicule; hereafter we receive reward.

Here, we suffer death; hereafter we enter into eternal life.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.

In this passage Jesus was put on trial.  He is still put on trial today.  People mock Jesus today in secular university, in the media, and in homes across your city.  Every time you complain about God’s way you are prosecuting God.  You are mocking Him and ridiculing Him.  But one day it will be we who are on trial.  You will be on trial.  I will be on trial.  Will you be ready to face Him?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:62-64 – Jesus On Trial

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke and our study today begins in verse 62, where Peter was weeping for having denied Jesus.  Jesus has been arrested in the cover of darkness and taken away by the Jewish leaders and Luke continues telling us about what happened to Jesus that evening.    

Our study today is called, “God on Trial.”  That is what is going on here in this passage.  Jesus Christ is on trial for claiming to be more than a man.  Some of you have been lied to and you have been told that Jesus never claimed to be more than a man.  You have been told Jesus never claimed to be God.  Well . . .

  • He was not crucified for being a good person. 
  • He was not crucified for doing good things. 
  • He was not crucified for teaching love, peace, and forgiveness. 

He was crucified for claiming to be God.  In this short passage Luke combines two meetings of the Jewish Sanhedrin Council (Mark 14:53-65; Mark 15:1) and gives us the essence of what happened in that trial.

In verses 63-64 we are told, “Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him.  And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?’”  Note the verbs: they mocked Him, beat Him, blindfolded Him, and struck Him.  These are the “men who held Jesus.”  These are the leaders of the temple police, the guys who are like police officers for the Jewish Sanhedrin, that council of 70 elitist Jews of the Sadducees and Pharisees.  These temple police officers mocked, beat, blindfolded, and struck Jesus.

I think is important to take some time to learn what the Bible teaches about the deeply corrupted state of human nature.  There is much debate today on the question, “Are humans good or evil?”  A simple, straight-forward answer from the Bible to that question is found in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, they have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.” 

English writer G.K. Chesterton, known for his wit as well as his insight, once wrote, “The word ‘good’ has many meanings.  For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”  His words strike at the heart of a question theologians, philosophers, artists, and many others have debated for millennia: Are people good or evil?  Is man’s nature on the side of the angels or the demons?  Are we beings of light or darkness?  Why do otherwise good people do evil things?”

People are split on the subject.  A few years ago, Debate.org, a website devoted to arguing such questions and polling the public on them, asked, “Is human nature good or evil?”  Their results, which are not scientific, show 49% of respondents answering that it is good and 51% saying that it is evil.

Some Christian churches teach a doctrine of total depravity.  Theopedia defines this doctrine in this way: “. . . as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”  This belief does not mean that mankind is utterly evil, that is, that people are totally incapable of good.  It means that, while not all of human nature is depraved, all human nature is totally affected by depravity.  Even the goodness that we do, then, is tainted by our sinful nature.  This agrees with God’s description of the tree from which Adam and Eve partook in Genesis 3: It was a tree that allowed them to know good and evil (Genesis 2:17; 3:22).  Human goodness is insufficient to satisfy the righteous requirements of God.

It is somewhat surprising that more people, especially Christians, do not know the basic nature of mankind.  It should be evident from the lives of men and women throughout history.  For Christians, who should know their Bibles, a cursory survey of Scripture brings out many plain statements that show what God thinks of human nature.  No philosophizing or critical thinking, even by the greatest of human minds, will change God’s view into something else.

God Sets The Record Straight

In Genesis 6:5, God Describes The State Of Mankind In Stark Terms.

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  His response was to send the Flood to wipe mankind almost completely from the planet.  He would start again with Noah’s family, his sons, and their wives.

Immediately after the waters receded and the ark was emptied, Noah makes a sacrifice to God for their deliverance.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 8:21, “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’”  Did the Flood change anything?  Millions of people died, billions of animals died, uncounted trees and other plants died.  But the human heart did not change; it remains “evil from his youth.”

The Human Heart Did Not Change After God Gave His People The Covenant And His Commandments.

While they were still in the wilderness, God commanded them to wear tassels with a blue thread on their garments.  The tassels were to hang down below any other garment so they would always be in sight.  Why did God require this?  He explains in Numbers 15:39, And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined.”  “Harlotry” here is a metaphor for idolatry.  Their hearts and their eyes were inclined to worship something other than God, just as every other human being is inclined to do.

The Psalms Contain Direct And Unambiguous Statements On What Man’s Nature Is Really Like.  Let’s just look at three . . .

The Bible says in Psalms 14:1-3, (which Paul quotes in Romans 3:10-12), “The fool has said in his heart, ‘(There is) no God.’  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

We are all corrupt.  No one – “not one” – is good.  The only thing that saves us is the blood of Christ.  The Bible concludes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  This is just another way of saying that man’s nature is “only evil continually.”

In Psalms 51:5, which appears in David’s prayer of repentance,, is an interesting one.  This verse says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”   Those who believe in original sin believe that David is saying that he was born a sinful person. However, that is a misinterpretation.  The truth is a bit simpler.  He means that he was born into a sinful world, and even his mother, whom he probably loved more than anyone else other than God, was a sinner.  Put another way, David is saying his mother was a sinner when he was conceived, and when he was born, he was born a sinner too.  Sin and sinful people had surrounded him his whole life.  A baby is born a fairly blank slate, certainly having done no sin, but the influence of one’s sinful nature, other sinners, along with his fleshly nature invariably get the better of him, and before long, he sins.  In his way, David is telling God, “Because I was born with a sinful nature, and with all the sin around me, it is not surprising that I sinned too.”

In the next verse, Psalm 51:6, he declares that God “desires truth in the inward parts.” In other words, God wants people to change their natures, which only He can do, as the last half of the verse explains, And in the hidden parts You will make me to know wisdom.” David is essentially repeating what God said in Genesis 8:21, “, “. . . man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  But he wanted his nature changed from evil to good, from dirty to clean, from lies to truth.  Only repentance and a renewed relationship with God would enable that to occur.  And, truth be told, it will never be completely changed until the resurrection from the dead.

More Old Testament Assertions

Other Old Testament Wisdom And Prophecy Books Concur With The Earlier Statements About Human Nature.  

In fact, the entire Bible speaks with a single voice on the matter.  It is impossible to brush aside the reality of sin and the tendency of all people toward sinfulness, selfishness and self-interest . . .

Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  What Solomon is saying here may at first not seem to be relevant.  Solomon is telling us that even the deeds we think are right are sinful, for if they were not sinful, they would not end in death.  Death is the result of sin (Romans 6:23).  Even the “good” things that we do without God are ultimately sinful because they arise from a corrupted nature.

In Ecclesiastes 7:20, Solomon makes another statement to back this up, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”  Notice that he is speaking of “a just man,” not an evil man or a corrupt man.  The best citizens among us, those we raise to judgeships and listen to in church, have their own sins, and even in their doing of good, they cannot keep out the taint of sin.

The Preacher doubles down in Ecclesiastes 9:3, “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”  People’s entire lives are full of sin, evil, madness – and then they die.  Not even good and just men, as others think of them, are truly good and just.  Like all the other “sons of men,” their hearts are full of sin.

Israel 1:4-6 describes Israel at its most corrupt, but it is typical of all mankind – “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters!  They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.  Why should you be stricken again?  You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores . . .”  God describes Israel as totally cancerous with sin – and Israel was His chosen people!  If the Israelites, to whom God had revealed Himself (Amos 3:2), were this corrupt, how sinful is the rest of the world without God’s revelation?

Of course, we cannot exclude Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Our hearts are unfathomably corrupt and deceptive. Trying to feel good about ourselves, we lie to ourselves about how selfish and self-serving we are.  So, God asks, “Who can know it?”  We do not recognize the depths of our own sinfulness.

Proof From The New Testament

In Matthew 7:11, Jesus does not mince words, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  He calls the people in His audience – His own disciples (Matthew 5:1) – “evil.”  It cannot be any plainer – right from the mouth of our Savior!

Mark 7:22-23 appears in a passage that many think Jesus spoke only to dispose of the law against eating unclean meats, another misinterpretation.  He was making a far larger point concerning the nature of humanity – “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

So, in the Judgment, we cannot say, “The Devil made me do it” or “The world was so corrupt, I did not have a chance.”  Despite outside influences, each of us makes the choice to sin or not.  Our choices reveal what is in our hearts, and too often we choose these wicked activities and others beside.  We cannot foist the blame onto others because our sins come from within.

The Bible explains the state of individuals before conversion in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

We were always influenced by Satan, the prince of the power of the air.  We all walked according to the sinful course of the world.  We all fulfilled our lusts.  All of us were children of wrath, that is, we were under judgment because of sin. Our nature is corrupt to the core.

Finally, the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:3, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”  He could have named a hundred more sins, but the point remains . . .

We were all like the unconverted people in the world.  

We were all cut off from God and living in sin, just like

All the rest of humanity from the time of Adam and Eve.  

There have been no exceptions apart from Jesus Christ.

What Can Be Done?

It is overwhelmingly clear that human nature, fashioned by the influence of Satan, this world, and our innate selfishness, is not good but evil.  God lets us know many times and from many different angles that this is the reality of mankind.  We are sinful creatures. 

What can we do about this state of human nature?  

How should we conduct ourselves, knowing that we

Though God has called us, still have this nature within us?

The Bible gives us the answer in Titus 3:1-7, “Remind [the brethren] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.  For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

By the grace of God, we have been given a rare and wonderful opportunity to rise above the rest of humanity.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are now heirs of God, possessors of the hope of eternal life and of the knowledge of God’s purpose.  We are, as Jesus said, to be lights shining in the darkness of this evil age.  The Bible says, it is our responsibility as God’s children in this world to fight the evil human nature within us through God’s power and instead to surrender to God so that we display His nature in all of our actions – toward the world and toward one another – as we prepare for our ultimate work in His Kingdom.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.  He is seated at the right hand of the power of God!  No matter what you face, Jesus is your strength.  He is at the right hand of the power of God and He will grant you His strength and power to get through it all.

What joy to remember where we are headed when this life is over!  He says, “Hereafter,” yes, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  Like Jesus, we may go through difficulties and dangers here, but hereafter we share in the glory of the One who sits at the right hand of the power of God.

Here, we endure hardships; hereafter we enter heaven.

Here, we receive ridicule; hereafter we receive reward.

Here, we suffer death; hereafter we enter into eternal life.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.

We will conclude our study of the rest of the verses next time.  In this passage Jesus was put on trial.  He is still put on trial today.  People mock Jesus today in secular universities, in the media, and in homes across the world.  Every time you complain about God’s way you are prosecuting God.  You are mocking Him and ridiculing Him.  But one day it will be we who are on trial.  You will be on trial.  I will be on trial.  Will you be ready to face Him?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:54-62 – Courage, Cowardice, and Compassion

Grace For The Journey

Today we will be continuing our study in the Gospel of Luke. We are in chapter 22 beginning with verse 54.  Before we look at the verses we have for today, I want to share with you the stories of two men.  Both men lived around the turn of the twentieth century.  Both were Englishmen.  Both led lives closely tied to the sea.  However, both men were very different.  One man was known as a man of courage and the other will forever be remembered as a coward. 

The story of a man of courage goes likes this: In 1914 Sir Earnest Shackleton made plans to be the first person to conquer one of the last great frontiers.  He determined to be the first person to cross the continent of Antarctica.!  He chose 56 men to accompany him on this adventure – 28 in each of two ships that would approach the continent from opposite sides.  Shackleton and his 27 shipmates (and one stow away) would approach from one side while the other ship would approach from the other side and lay supply depots across the second half of the continent. 

Before the expedition could officially begin Shackleton’s ship The Endurance became trapped in the ice and after 8 long months of being stuck in the ice the ship began to break apart from the pressure and Shackleton gave the order to abandon the ship onto the ice.  After 6 months on the ice Shackleton ordered the men into the small boats that had been salvaged before Endurance sank. They took to the sea and 5 days later landed on an inhospitable rock known as Elephant Island. This was the first time they had stood on solid ground in 497 days!  Later that same month (now April 1916) Shackleton and 4 of his men took to one of the small boats and braved the open and icy ocean to reach South Georgia Island (the closest inhabited land) 800 miles away.  Sixteen days later, after enduring a storm that sank a 500-ton steamer also bound for South Georgia Island, Shackleton and his men landed on the south shore of the Island and after climbing the icy mountain range to the North shore Shackleton reached help for his men.  Shackleton made numerous attempts to reach his men on Elephant Island in the following months and was stopped by Ice until he finally reached his men on the fourth attempt 4 months after leaving them behind. 

One of the aspects of the story of Earnest Shackleton was his dependence on God throughout the entire ordeal.  He made a point of taking his Bible with him when he abandoned ship.  He led his men in the reading of that Bible daily while they were camped on the ice.  He even tore out a few Psalms to keep close to him and read to others when they were forced to abandon all but food and provisions when they boarded the small boats to reach Elephant Island.

Why do I tell you this story?  Because it is a story of courage.  During 3 years of dangerous and hopeless situations, Shackleton never lost courage which allowed him to keep all of his men alive in freezing weather and in the face of sure starvation.

The second story is one of cowardice, the story of J. Bruce Ismay.  Ismay, like Shackleton, was British and lived a life connected to the sea but he was not a sailor or an explorer.  Ismay was a business man – a man of great self-importance.  Upon inheriting his father’s position as the chairman of the White Star Ship Line he commissioned the building of the largest, most luxurious, and most efficient ships ever built.  The second of these ships to hit the open ocean was to become the most famous ship ever, RMS Titanic. 

Ismay often accompanied his new ships on their maiden voyage and Titanic’s first voyage in 1912 was no exception.  As the story goes, Ismay walked the decks of Titanic making it known that he was in charge of the ship and that even the captain answered to him.  It is even rumored that the ship continued its dangerous speed through a known ice field at his command.  One would think a man of such commanding confidence and presence would have been graceful under the pressure of the disaster he had played a part in.  But as it happens Ismay, found himself not standing with the captain as his ship went down but in one of the life boats with his back turned to the ship so he would not have to see his ship go down along with the 1500 people (women and children included) that did not have the good fortune of being in one of the few lifeboats on the ship.

Today we are going to be looking at a passage that tells the story of a man that could be placed in the camps of both Shackleton and Ismay.  We are looking at a man that displayed great courage one moment and great cowardice the next.  Yet, we are also looking at a man that learned a valuable lesson that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life.  A lesson on courage, cowardice, and compassion.

Before we jump into the text let’s remember where we were last week.  Last week we watched as Jesus was betrayed and arrested. We watched as everyone around Jesus betrayed Him through sin and we saw how our sin makes us guilty of the same betrayal. But remember the setting.  It was night.  A band of soldiers had come to arrest Jesus and Peter (even though we know it was misguided) made a courageous effort to protect Jesus from being arrested.  Remember how he drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of those there to assist with Jesus’ arrest?

Even though it was not what Jesus had in mind and He had to fix the mess Peter made, Peter showed what I would say was pretty impressive courage as he wielded one of the two swords the disciples had in the face of a full detachment of the temple guard.

That brings us to the beginning of our passage today and to our first point . . .

I. Believers Can Be Courageous.

Verses 54-55 tells us, “Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house.  But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.”  It says “having arrested Him” – that is Jesus.  They brought Jesus into the house of the high priest.  This mob of people that were not fans of Jesus arrest Him and then lead Him to the place where those who are most threatened by Him and those who want to get rid of Him live. They take him into the proverbial “lion’s den.”

Look what it says about Peter.  It says, “Peter followed at a distance.”  Some of us might be tempted to throw a stone or two at Peter even at this point and say something like, “why was he following at a distance?” “Why wasn’t he right beside Jesus, after all he said he was willing to die with Him?”  But I do not think I would throw that stone.  Why?  Because my question is “Where are the rest of the disciples? Where are the rest of the people who just a couple of days earlier had been cheering Christ on as he entered Jerusalem?”  When Jesus was arrested they had run for the hills.  Maybe some of them were already back in the upper room where Jesus would find them hiding after His resurrection.

I think it was pretty courageous of Peter to be one of only two disciples that stayed even within sight of Jesus.  I think it took even greater courage when he saw that they were taking Jesus into the house of the high priest that he went in and actually sat down among those who had just arrested Jesus.  Think about it, he was a follower of the one who was arrested sitting in the middle of those who had done the arresting. I think that showed some real backbone.

Why do you think he was able to have such courage?  I think he had some good godly reasons and I think he had some very human reasons . . .

  • He Was Drawn By His Own Curious, Need To Know Nature.

We know Peter was never one to be quiet or to do well with being in the dark on a subject.  This would be one of the reasons that he stumbled in his thinking and actions many times.

  • He Had Been Emboldened By Jesus Himself.

Jesus was in command of the situation when He was arrested.  He rebuked everyone for their betrayal (including Peter).  He had said that this arrest must be permitted, and according to John’s Gospel even those who were there to do the arresting fell down before Jesus at one point. 

  • He Had Witnessed Jesus Perform Yet Another Miracle.  

He had healed the servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off.  Peter was no doubt strengthened in his courage because of the strength of the one he followed.

I think we too can have courage for these reasons as well.  We can have courage in the face of difficulty, ridicule, sickness, uncertainty, and fear if we remember the power and control of the One we serve. If we will remember that nothing will happen to us that is outside the power, knowledge and plan of God we will have the courage to face any hardship and the courage to follow Him even when it may be a little scary or difficult to do so.  If we stay close to Him we can be counted in the camp of the courageous.  However, we are human, we are fallen, and we are sinners as Peter was. Which means we can easily go from the camp of the courageous into the camp of the cowards.

We can see from the Scripture that not only can believers be courageous but . . .

II. Believers Can Be Cowards.

This is a very important thing for us to remember and I think the Bible bears that out.  I believe that is why all four of the Gospels relate to us the account of Peter’s denials.  The reason we need to be aware of our own cowardice as believers is because until we face our weaknesses, fears, and sins we cannot come to Christ for His grace, forgiveness, strength, compassion, and grace.

In verses 56-60 we see Peter’s cowardice and see what message it might have for us, “And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.  But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’  Why do you think Peter suddenly went from courageous to cowardly?  Why do you think he suddenly denied Jesus when this servant girl confronted him?  Do you think maybe because it was the easy thing to do?  Don’t we often fall into sin and even denial of Christ because it is the easy way out?  Think about it.  Here is this lowly servant girl asking him about himself, what is it going to hurt to just tell her a little lie just to get her off his back.  I mean after all she is really just a nobody.  He will probably never see her again after this night.  What is the harm?

The harm is that it is not what

He was called to do as

A follower of Christ.

He was expected to follow Christ’s example.  He was expected to do his best to bring glory to the Lord.  Telling a lie about himself is not the way to do that.  What is worse, denying in his lie that he even knows Christ is not the way to do that. 

I know that none of us are likely to go that far, or at least I hope we would not, but in a sense, we deny Christ every time we do something in front of others that would make them wonder if we indeed follow Christ as we say we do. 

  • Every time we lose our temper.
  • Every time we are unkind.
  • Every time we speak in a way to tear someone else down.  

We deny Christ because it is the easy thing to do.  It is much more difficult and takes much more courage to keep our cool when we want to fly off the handle in anger.  It is much more difficult and takes much more courage to be kind when we are tempted to treat someone the way we may feel they deserve.  Or maybe we go along with the ways of the world because it is easier than standing up for our beliefs.  Oftentimes we lament how much more worldly things are today than they were a few years ago.  TV is increasingly more vulgar and violent.  School and athletic organizations are increasingly callous toward those who would prefer to be at church on Sunday’s and Wednesdays.  But do we do anything other than complain?  No, we simply take the easy way out and do as everyone else and continue watching TV and allowing our schedules to be planned away from church without ever speaking up.  t takes courage to do things that are not easy. 

Peter also denied Christ and was a coward because he was afraid.  Verse 58 tells us, “And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them.’  But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’  Peter’s simple denial had not worked.  The easy way out had not removed the suspicion that surrounded him.  The rumor was spreading that one of Jesus’ followers was among them and another individual persists in accusing Peter.  At this point Peter is starting to fear for his own safety, so having already denied knowing Christ he now denies even who he is.  He says he is not one of Christ’s followers so he will not have to answer any questions or put himself on the line. 

Do we ever deny Christ out of fear?  Maybe not with words the way Peter did but perhaps without actions.  Have you ever been in the presence of someone whom you knew was not a Christian and fearfully chose not to share Christ with them?  Maybe you were afraid they would be angry with you.  Maybe you were afraid they would reject you.  Maybe you were afraid that they might ask a question you could not answer.  Maybe you were afraid you would just make things worse and drive them further from Christ.  Whatever the fear, it drove you to deny who you are by keeping silent about the one you serve.  Taking the easy way out is the way of the coward, fear can rob us of our courage and so can frustration.

Look at verses 59-60, “Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’  Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.”  This time someone confidently pointed to him as one who followed Jesus.  They even gave supporting evidence to give validity to their accusation.  John, in his Gospel, even says it is a family member of the one whose ear Peter cut off.  Look how Peter responds, “I do not know what you are saying!” with the implication that the man does not know what he is talking about either.  In Matthew the Bible even tells us that Peter began to curse and swear with an oath that he was not a follower of Jesus.  As the night wore on Peter’s nerves were tested.  He became increasingly anxious and now in his great frustration because he has not been able to get them to leave him alone, he explodes.

Does frustration ever cause us to explode and become cowards?  Absolutely.  When we are frustrated. we become cowardly dads and husbands that yell at or belittle our families rather than leading them in the way God has called us to do.  Rather than teaching our children to obey and patiently guiding them we ignore them until we cannot ignore any longer and then like a coward explode on those we should be loving.  When you become frustrated moms and wives you may be tempted to go silent and be inwardly angry instead of courageously encouraging you husband to lead or teaching your children by example to honor God.

Frustration is a cowardly denial

Of the power of Christ in our lives.

It will rob us of our courage every time.  It quickly causes us to feel as if we have not only hurt those around us but it will also quickly cause us to see that we have ceased to rely on God for strength and courage.  This is where Peter finds himself.  As soon as he has exhausted himself in his cursing and frustration and denied Jesus for the third time he hears the rooster crow.  At this he remembers what Jesus had said to him less than 24 hours earlier, “You will deny Me three times before the rooster crows.”

We might ask why he didn’t remember this during the night when he was denying he even knew Jesus.  The answer could be any number of things: fear, excitement, adrenaline, fatigue.  But it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that he went from courageous to cowardly and recognized it.  The good news is, that this is not where we end with Peter.  He does not stay forever in the camp of the cowardly.  Why?  

Because . . .

III. Believers Receive Compassion.

We receive the compassion and grace of Christ and His forgiveness!  Verse 61 says, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’” It says Jesus turned and looked at Peter.  Folks, this was not a look of I told you so. This was not a look of anger. This was not a look of disappointment. It was a look that said “Peter, I knew you would deny Me and still I love you and I forgive you.” It was only this kind of look that could have caused Peter to react the way he did.  We see that in verse 62, “So Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter did not feel he had been reprimanded, he did not feel he had been rejected, he did not feel he had been accused.  He felt like he had received a look of love and compassion when he did not deserve it.  He experienced the grace of God.  He was given love and forgiveness that he had not earned.  And it caused him to weep bitterly.

It caused him to draw closer to the God and Savior he loved and served.  It caused him to enter back into the camp of the courageous where he ran to the tomb of Jesus, where he listened to his risen Savior, where he spoke boldly of Jesus when he was threatened not to do so, where he even died a martyr’s death, as he from that day forward courageously served the Lord.

That is the kind of change we should long for . . .

That is the kind of encounter we should long for . . .

The compassion and grace from the Lord that brings confession and courage in our hearts and lives. A courage that causes us to say Jesus and the grace He gives is worth any difficult or dangerous thing that comes our way.

The compassion of Christ is something that we should value in such a way that we would have the courage of Krishna Pal.  Pal was one of the first four Hindu Bengalis that William Carey led to the Lord after 7 years of mission work in Burma.  Krishna Pal, his wife, his sister-in-law, and a friend were to be baptized but were threatened numerous times by other villagers.  After the threats, only Pal was willing to follow through with his baptism because he believed their threats, bribes, and false gods were “a trifling in comparison to the riches of Christ and his grace.” 

That is the courage we should strive for.  But we should take heart in Peter.  Knowing that if we have failed or should we fail in our courage for Christ in the future He will look upon us with His compassion and grace.  And that will cause us to regain our courage in Him and follow faithfully in His strength.

So this today, if you find yourself in need of His compassion.  If you find yourself in the cowardly camp of denial, fear, or frustration reach out to Jesus.  Receive his compassion, weep bitterly at your failure, and stand tall and courageous in His grace and forgiveness.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:39-46 – Praying During Life’s Encounters

Grace For The Journey

The passage this morning begins with, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39).  Luke is telling us that after spending a considerable amount of time indoors, inside the upper room where Jesus and the disciples ate the “Last Supper” together and where Jesus did some important teaching, that they are now going outdoors and outside to a favorite gathering place, the Garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives.

It was about a 15-minute walk from the house with the upper room in Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane.  That word “Gethsemane,” means “olive press.”  There were and still are a number of olive trees scattered around Gethsemane and there are actually trees there today that date to the time of Jesus.  Trees that are 2,000 years old!  You could visit Jerusalem today and lean against an olive tree there that, perhaps, Jesus Himself leaned against 2,000 years ago.  The Bible teaches that Jesus and the disciples gathered there frequently and spent the evenings outside there under the sky, maybe because of the overcrowding in Jerusalem that week as it was Passover Week.

That is a little background before we study this passage.  It is important to remember the context of Jesus’ recent teaching.  Jesus tells Simon that Satan plans to shake up the disciples, to “sift them as wheat” (Luke 22:31).  Jesus tells Simon in particular that He has prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  This is what every Christian should do, to pray that our faith would not fail.  Jesus had taught earlier back in chapter 11 that we should pray regularly, “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4).

Now what we read in our passage this morning is a failure on the part of the disciples to pray.  And – do not miss this – their lack of prayer helps us understand why they stumbled in the coming hours, why Peter denied the Lord three times and why the remaining disciples would all run away when the going got tough. 

It is pretty clear this passage is about praying.  The word “pray” occurs in some form nearly half a dozen times in this short passage.  The passage begins with Jesus telling the disciples to pray and ends with Jesus telling the disciples to pray; then in the middle you have Jesus Himself praying.  When someone starts talking about prayer, preaching about it or teaching about it, we often find ourselves a little uneasy.  It is easier to talk about prayer than to actually pray, so it is helpful to remember that . . .

Prayer is not so much a discipline

To be worked into a routine,

But rather a means by

Which we talk to God,

To commune with God.

The Bible is God talking to us, prayer is our talking to God.  The Bible is God talking to you and your prayer is your talking to God.  It is not really important how “perfect” those words come out of our mouths.  Someone has said, “God can pick sense out of a confused prayer.” 

Of course, it is wise to begin each day talking to God in prayer.  John Bunyan wrote, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  I read where early African converts to Christianity were especially disciplined to have a regular time of prayer.  Each one would find a private place in the thicket where he would pour out his heart in prayer.  So frequently would these men and women find their place of private devotion each day that the grass would be worn away from the path they took to their daily spot of prayer.  You can imagine that when one of these brothers became negligent in his daily prayer that it would be readily apparent to the others as the path lost that well-worn look.  When this happened, one of the other Christians would find him and kindly say, “Brother, the grass grows on your path,” and this was a way of saying, “You have neglected to do the most important thing each day, to pray.”

But prayer is not only what we do

At the beginning of a day

Or at night before bedtime,

But prayer is something we do

Frequently throughout the day.

Remember that prayer is our talking to God, so there are many times we should talk to Him when facing different challenges and difficulties.  From this passage we will see three different times we should pray to God.  First:

1) Pray When You Are Tempted: Verses 39-40,46.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.  When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  There it is, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  That is the same phrase Jesus uses again at the end of this passage.  In verse 46 is says, “Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep?  Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.’”

Pray when you are tempted.  What was the temptation the disciples faced?   The immediate temptation was the temptation to sleep rather than stay awake and be an encouragement and help to Jesus.  But the temptation also included challenges and difficulties they would face in the coming hours.  Jesus would soon be arrested and led away to the cross and they would be tempted to deny Him and to flee from Him.  The temptation to abandon Jesus in times of difficulty is one reason Jesus teaches in Luke 11:4, “…And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  We may also be tempted to abandon Jesus when we were are tempted to sin in some matter of personal holiness, tempted to speak hatefully to someone, tempted to sexual impurity, lust, tempted to do something we shouldn’t, tempted to take something that isn’t ours, tempted to complain, to be bitter, to not forgive.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

J. C. Ryle said, “To be assaulted by temptation is one thing, but to enter into it quite another.”  Throughout the day we should pray regularly when we are tempted.  Let me give you an example.  Most of you know 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith …”  That is God talking to you.  Now when you are tempted, you talk to God.  You say, “God, I am tempted to do something I know is wrong.  Your Word says, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because my adversary the devil is going about like a roaring lion trying to devour me.’  God, help me to resist him and to stand fast in the faith.’”

Can you do that?  That is pretty easy, really.  Praying when tempted is not difficult.  The problem is that we do not do it.  And if we do not do it, we will find ourselves in sin.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”  Try that out this week.  Whatever temptation you find yourself facing, do this: Stop . . . Bow your head . . . And talk to God.  Watch how just the doing of that helps you re-focus on truth and to avoid the lies of the adversary, the devil.  Pray when you are tempted.

2) Pray When You Are Troubled: Verses 41-44.

This is prayer during times of agony and stress; intense moments where you feel like you and your world are coming apart.  How many of you have been there?  Some tragedy you are facing, or a crisis, or a sudden turn of events, or you are very concerned about someone else, a friend, a family member, or you are troubled in your spirit.  It happened to Jesus – Verse 41 tells us, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.”

Before we move on, note the posture of Jesus in prayer.  Prayer can take any form and the usual form of prayer in Jesus’ day was to pray standing up, but here Jesus kneels.   Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us Jesus eventually got down and prostrated Himself (Matthew 26:39.  This how most of us find ourselves when we are troubled in spirit?  You can pray in any number of postures.  You can pray standing, or sitting, or lying down.  You can pray with your eyes open or shut, head bowed or remaining upright.    When it comes to prayer . . .

It is not so much

The position of the body

As it is

The attitude of the heart.

There are times, when you are troubled, that you find yourself kneeling down and eventually prostrate on the ground pouring out your heart to God.

I remember hearing Adrian Rogers preach a sermon once where he was talking about a time he was making sure he was truly saved.  He was either a senior in high school or beginning college and he was by himself one evening on a baseball field.  And he said he got down on the ground to pray and he did not feel that was down low enough so he lay down on the ground with his face to the ground and that did not seem low enough.  So he said he dug a little hole in the dirt there for his face and placed his face down into that hole and he prayed.  I have felt that way, at times, haven’t you?  It is easy to prayer when we are troubled.  But how should we pray is the important thing. 

Listen to the content of Jesus’ prayer in verse 42, “Saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’”  Jesus says, “If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.”  That “cup” to which Jesus is referring is not a literal cup, but a metaphorical way of speaking of someone’s portion, of something given to him.  For example, how many of you know Psalm 23?  Remember the part where David says, “My [what?] runneth over?”  My cup.  The psalmist is like, “God, You have given me this and that and my cup is more than I can drink in!”  Similarly, the cup to which Jesus is referring is a cup that He must drink, a portion given to Him, but unlike the cup in Psalm 23, which was a cup filled with God’s blessing, this cup is a cup filled with God’s wrath.  It is a cup that Jesus must drink in order to die for our sins.

In John’s Gospel when Peter takes out his sword in the Garden and slices off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).  The imagery is seen throughout the Old Testament, just a couple of references here:

  • Psalm 75:8, where the Bible says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.”
  • Isaiah 51:17, where the Bible says, “Awake, awake!  Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.”

This cup is a cup of God’s wrath poured out because of sin.  Jesus, in drinking that cup, is taking upon Himself the punishment we all deserve for our sin.  He takes that upon Himself.  If you can imagine that cup sitting before God from all eternity and imagine that every time a person sins, the wrath of God for that sin goes into the cup.  Every single time you sin, you deposit into that cup something that needs to be punished.   Every single time.  Imagine just from those who are members of your church if you passed around a cup and each one present envisioned every single sin they had ever committed or would commit in the future, every single sin going into that cup.  That cup has is filled from the very first sin by Adam and Eve until the Lord comes.  Adam and Eve’ sin was the first ones to go into the cup.  And every sin throughout history goes into the cup.  Each one of those sins requires judgment, requires punishment.

The Bible in these verses that Jesus will willingly drink that cup of God’s wrath to take upon Himself the punishment we all deserved.  Someone said it is like . . .

A dam of water breaking,

And the water begins to rush

Out violently forward to destroy

Everything in its path and

Jesus stands in front

Of all the water like a wall

To absorb, to “drink in,” all of the fury

So that we are protected and saved.

As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might In Him become the righteousness of God.”  The Bible also says in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.“  And in 1 John 2:2, the Bible says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

The part of the prayer of Jesus where He says in verse 42, “Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me,” is Jesus’s way of saying, “If there is any other way, please allow another way.”  Why does He ask for this?  Well again, imagine taking upon yourself the wrath of God poured out for every sin committed by every person throughout history!  So here is Jesus, the God-Man, two natures in one person, two natures that cannot be divided but can be distinguished.  In His human nature, Jesus seeks some other way.  But in His divine nature He says, “Your will be done.”

By the way, praying, “Not my will but Your will be done” is an excellent way to pray, isn’t it?  It is a great prayer of faith.  It is not a cop-out.  It is asking for what you desire, but then saying, “God, I trust You as the One who always does what is right.  So while I am asking for this or that, I am trusting You to know me better than myself.  Let Your will be done.”

Jesus says, “If there’s some other way …”  But there is no other way.  Jesus must drink the cup of God’s wrath if we are to be forgiven of our sin.  He must become our substitute.  This is the only way God can at once be both just and the One who justifies (Romans 3:26).

love Jesus shows for us by dying is a death for us, a substitutionary death.  It is more like we are both in the water and you are drowning and I take off my life preserver and throw it to you and I die and you live.  That is the kind of love Jesus shows for us by drinking the cup of God’s wrath, taking our sins upon Himself, dying for us that we may live and go free.

Jesus is agonizing in the garden and what happens next?  Verse 43 tells us, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”  Note that the angel does not remove the suffering!  Modern notions of angels coming and fixing our hurts and sending us happily on our way are not helpful.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  Sometimes our prayers are not answered the way we would like.

A little boy’s father was a pastor.  The little boy noted every Sunday that as his dad stood in the pulpit, just before preaching his dad would bow his head for a moment.  The little boy asked him, “Why do you do that?”  His dad said, “I am praying the Lord will help me preach well.”  The boy said, “Well, why doesn’t He answer your prayers?!”  Sometimes God does not answer our prayers the way we would like.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  But God will also see that we are strengthened during the time of trouble: “An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”

Verse 44 says, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  Imagine bearing the burden of the entire world’s imputed sin, all of the sin of every person throughout the ages imputed – or placed upon – Jesus.  The strain of this is so great, the idea of bearing this burden so weighty, that Jesus is literally “agonizing” over us, praying more earnestly, so much so, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Some see the word “like” here as Luke’s way of saying that Jesus did not literally sweat blood, but more that He sweat in such a way that His sweat dropped like blood drops from a body.  On the other hand, there are accounts both modern and ancient, of people sweating blood when undergoing extreme anguish or pain.  Blood vessels burst causing a person to both sweat and bleed at the same time.  The point is that Jesus is agonizing over the matter of dying for our sins.  It was a time of intense trauma and difficulty.

Jesus prayed when facing trouble.  How much more should you and I pray when troubled?  God says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 

That’s what Joseph Scriven wrote in 1855:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Thirdly:

3) Pray When You Are Tired: Verse 45).

There are times when you are so emotionally drained, so thoroughly exhausted because of grief and sorrow that you just feel like you can sleep forever.  Someone you love has passed away, or something has happened, and you are down and depressed, and just plain tired.  How many of you have been there?  It is natural.  It happened to the disciples.  Verse 45 tells us, “When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.”  The other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus finds them this way three times.  Three times He comes and finds them sleeping.  Luke, in his compassion, provides this detail that Jesus found them “sleeping from sorrow.”  Why were they sleeping from sorrow?  Evidently the words Jesus had been sharing with them about His future suffering and death are beginning to sink in.  It is remarkable, really.  Not too long before they were ready to take up swords and battle the enemy.  Peter had said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).  Here they are now asleep.

There’s so much grace here in our Lord.  He does not go over and kick them and berate them for sleeping.  “Hey! I thought you guys were ready to go to battle for Me, what’s the deal?!”  Rather, He lovingly says, “Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray so you don’t enter into temptation.”  Such love, such compassion, and such grace!

The best thing you can do when you are in sorrow and pain is to pray.  Talk to God.  When you are hurting this week, talk to God in prayer.  Say to Him something like,  “Lord, You have said in 1 Peter 5:7 that we are to cast all our care and anxiety upon You because You care for us.  So right now I am coming to You and I am saying that I do not understand why this happened and I hurt and I am in sorrow, but I am trusting in You.  Comfort me with the assurance of Your power and presence.”

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Pray when you’re tired.

Prayer is what makes the difference in the Christian’s life.  Prayer is what brings peace.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God will take care of you, Christian.  God will never be arrested for child neglect.  He will take care of you.

So, pray when you are tempted . . . Pray when you are troubled . . . Pray when you are tired.  And experience the peace of God.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:24-38 – Greatness of the One Among Us

Grace For The Journey

Text

Description automatically generated with low confidence  As we prepare to study Luke 22, recall that we are in a section of material called “The Upper Room Discourse.”  It is called that because Jesus and the 12 are in an upper room of a house where they are partaking of the Last Supper and listening to Jesus as He teaches them about some things to take place in the future.  Jesus has just talked to them about His coming death, shedding His blood, the blood of the New Covenant, and He has told them He will be betrayed by one of them.  At this point, the Bible says the 12 then questioned among themselves who the betrayer might be and then, remarkably, the 12 begin to have an argument among themselves, and what they are arguing about is surprising given what Jesus has just said about His own selfless, giving of His life, in the coming hours. 

Funny how certain memories stick in our minds with unique clarity.  I can remember back to 1975 a popular song was written and played a lot on the radio.  It was a song about the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali.  The chorus of that song included these words . . .  

Muhammad,

Muhammad Ali:

Floats like a butterfly

Stings like a bee

Those lyrics were taken from Ali’s own words.  That is how he described his unorthodox boxing stye: “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

Ali was a gifted boxer.  He fought 61 times and won all but 5 of those fights, 37 of them by knockout.  The three of those matches were against Joe Frazier and one was against George Foreman.  Those fights are still popular discussion topics in boxing circles today.  But another thing known and remembered about Ali was nearly everything he said about himself.  He always engaged in a lot of pre-match hype where he would “trash talk” his opponents, often in self-written rhymes.

Before fighting George Foreman, Ali said, “[I] float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”  He also said, “I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won!”  Nearly everybody knew Ali’s most popular nickname: “The Greatest.”  It was a self-designated nickname.  He spoke often of his own greatness.   He was quoted once as saying, “I said [I am the greatest] even before I knew I was.”  Another time he said, “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest.  Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.”  And he said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.”

The way he spoke of himself is legend and his continual self-designation as “the greatest” was part of his entertaining routine.  At the same time, however, his calling himself “the greatest” resonated with many people because people naturally aspire to greatness.  Greatness, in and of itself, is not a sin.  It really depends on what we are valuing as great or calling great.  For example, it was Missionary William Carey who said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” 

Greatness is only wrong when it is located in ourselves. 

And greatness is always right when it is located in God.

This teaching however, goes totally against the natural current of contemporary culture, not just today, but 2,000 years ago, as well.  Jesus asks His disciples in verse 27, “Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet, I am among you as the One who serves.” 

Today we are going to study the actions of Jesus Christ in these verses and learn how we share in these actions.  Three things to know about Jesus . . .

I. Know that Christ Serves – Verses 24-30.

This character quality of Jesus, as one who serves, surfaces from this dispute among the disciples in verse 24, “as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”  I always have to smile when I read this passage because Jesus has just been talking about going to the cross to die, arguably the greatest example of the humble giving of one’s self, and it is like the disciples are not even listening.

Remember they are sitting around a table.  I do not know if they are arguing over the seating arrangement here.  That was probably part of the problem, but remember these guys had been arguing about this sort of thing before (See Luke 9:46-48).  They were continually jockeying for a position of advantage, asserting themselves before one another.  So Jesus says in verse 25, “Look, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them,” okay?  That’s how the unbelievers live, guys.”  And then Jesus says, “And those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors,’” which was a term used to describe heroes and gods.  Jesus says in verse 26, “But not so among you.”  That is, “You’re not to be that way, to live that way.  Not so among you.”  He adds in verse 26, “On the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”  The youngest in Jesus’ day would be the person who had the least claim for “ruling over” someone else.  Jesus is saying, “I want you to live totally opposite of how the world lives, exchange places in your thinking.”  The truly great person humbles himself and is willing to put others first.  Live as one who “serves.”

The Greek word for “serves” is diakonwvn, the word from which we “deacon.”  A deacon is one who serves.  In the New Testament the words serve, servant, and service occur over ninety times.  This is an important teaching.  Jesus asks in verse 27, “For who is greater [and He means from the standpoint of the world, popular culture, who is greater], he who sits at the table, or he who serves?”  According to popular culture in both the disciples’ day 2,000 years ago and our day today, the one who is greater is the one sitting at the table, of course!  Some people even act this way today in restaurants, treating waiters and waitresses like they are hired servants. 

Jesus says it was the same way back in His day, too.  He says in verse 27 that it is the one who “sits at the table” who is considered greater.  Yet, note this now, Jesus says, “I am among you as the One who serves.”  Note the irony.  Jesus says popular culture identifies the greater one with the guy sitting at the table, but Jesus says, “I am One who serves.”  But Jesus, is greater than anyone else!  True greatness is found not in sitting at a table demanding everybody look at you and fawn over you; true greatness is found in selflessness, humility, and service.

True greatness is totally reverse of what the world thinks.  In God’s kingdom greatness is diametrically opposed to the kingdom of this world.  Jesus stresses the difference in the next three verses (verses 28 through 30), when He says, “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.  And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Jesus is contrasting His kingdom with the kingdom of this world.  He is calling for us to swim against the popular tide and flow of this world.  As Christ-followers we are to live for Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom that identifies true greatness with the action of service.  We are not to fall in love with this kingdom, the kingdom of this world, eating and drinking at the table of popular American culture.  Rather, we are to live for the kingdom of God, Christ’s kingdom, eating and drinking at His table, doing His things, living for Him.  After all, we will one day share in the benefits of His rule.

This is the meaning behind the last phrase of verse 30, “sitting on thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  The idea is not that believers will sit on thrones and pass sentences of judgment, but rather that believers will one day share in the benefits of Christ’s rule and reign.  In the consummated kingdom, Jesus will share with His followers the blessings of the kingdom.

If you want to be truly great

You will not seek greatness

So much as you will seek

Jesus Christ and His kingdom.

That is the idea here.  True greatness is found only by falling in love with Jesus Christ, surrendering to Him, living for Him, and following Him daily.  If one loves Jesus and follows Jesus he or she will be living for His kingdom, living as Jesus lives, loving as Jesus loves, and serving as Jesus serves.

Know that Jesus serves and those who follow Jesus serve, also.  Husbands and wives, serve one another.  Children are to be taught to serve others.  We are to be known in the workplace as one who serves.  We should treat others with respect and dignity.    Rather than demanding things from your waiter or waitress, bless them as one who is familiar with service.

In the church, we are to serve one another.  Paul echoes our Lord’s teachings in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

Know that Christ Serves.  Secondly . . .

II. Know That Christ Strengthens: Verses 31-34.

Verse 31 says, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.’”  That phrase, “that he may sift you as wheat,” means, “that he may really shake you, or unsettle you.”  Who is Simon?  What is the name Jesus gave Simon that He has been using since He gave it to him?  It is “Peter,” which means “Rock.”  Jesus addresses Peter here as Simon, using his “pre-Christian” name.  Why?  For one, I am sure it got his attention, just as a parent uses a son’s middle name to get the attention when speaking a warning or rebuke.  Jesus is saying to Simon Peter that his name means unshakable like a rock, but he will for a time revert to his pre-Christian ways.”  Ever do that?  We all have at one time or another.

In fact, the pronoun “you” there in verse 31 is plural.  It actually reads, “you all.” Jesus is telling Simon that Satan has asked for you all that he may sift you all like as wheat, shaking you up the way a farmer shakes up grain to sift it.  Satan wants to unsettle the disciples in order to turn them away from following Christ.  That is what he does.  Peter would write later in 1 Peter 5:8 under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Do note here that Satan can do nothing without the permission of God.  It is much like what we read in the book of Job.  A puritan wrote, “Satan always works in chains.”  He is always bound to God’s perfect will.  God may allow Satan to unsettle us, but it is for good reason, to strengthen us in our faith.  Listen to how Jesus strengthens Peter in verse 32, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail[I’m praying for your strength to be faithful]; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  The pronoun here, the “you” here, is singular.  Jesus goes from addressing the believers in general to addressing Peter in particular.  And Jesus says, “Look Peter, I am praying for you.  I am praying that you will remain faithful to me.  You will stumble, you will fall.”  Jesus is talking about when Peter will deny three times that he knew Christ.  “You will stumble Peter, but I have prayed for you so when you have returned,” note that: when, not if.  “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Peter will deny Christ, but Peter will repent and return to Christ.  Why?  Because Jesus’ prayer trumps Satan’s plans.  The prayer works.  Yes, Peter will stumble, but he will not ultimately turn his back upon Christ and abandon Him.  True believers never abandon Christ, they persevere in their faith.  Someone said, “Peter’s true faith and perseverance would be revealed in his repentance, not in his sinfulness.”  Jesus prayed for Peter.  Remember that Jesus prays for every Christian.  The Bible says that Jesus always lives to intercede for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  Because Christ lives true Christians will remain faithful.

Now what is Peter to do when he returns to Christ?  Jesus strengthens Peter so that Peter may strengthen whom?  Last part of verse 32 tells us, “Strengthen your brethren.”  Peter will be used by God to help others grow in Christian faith (See Acts 18:23; Romans 1:11; 16:15, 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Peter1:12).  One of God’s purposes in allowing temporary failure is not only that we should be strengthened in our faith, but that we should then use our experience to strengthen others.

J. C. Ryle addressed this when he said, “Have we ever fallen, and by Christ’s mercy been raised to newness of life?  Then surely we are just the men who ought to deal gently with our brethren.  We should tell them from our own experience what an evil and bitter thing is sin.  We should caution them against trifling with temptation.  We should warn them against pride, and presumption, and neglect of prayer.  We should tell them of Christ’s grace and compassion, if they have fallen.  Above all, we should deal with them humbly and meekly, remembering what we ourselves have gone through.”

Be a blessing to another Christian this week by speaking wisdom into his or her life.   Share from your experience how you were strengthened by turning back to Christ and how they, too, should turn back to Christ.

Notice Peter’s response in verse 33 says, “But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.’”  Peter does not understand how he is going to deny Christ.  He is like, “But I’m a Rock, Man!  I’m not going to deny You.”  Our tendency here is to laugh at Peter, but remember that Satan had asked Jesus for the permission to sift Peter as wheat. I have a question . . .

“Has your Christian commitment ever posed

Such a threat to Satan that your name came up

In a conversation between Satan and Christ?”

How many of us are no threat to Satan?  How many of us live not for the kingdom of God, but for the kingdom of self, or the kingdom of the world, the kingdom over which Satan is Prince?  Has your Christian commitment unsettled Satan, so that he seeks to unsettle you?  If so, why, or why not?

Verse 34 tells us how Jesus responds, “Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.’”  Like Old Testament prophets, Jesus foretold exactly what would take place in the future.  But how is Jesus unlike an Old Testament prophet? 

An Old Testament prophet speaks for God. 

A prophet gets his message about the future

From God and then speaks for God. 

Jesus Christ is God. 

He speaks about the future without having

To wait on a message from above, because

He is from above, He is God.

We will be reading of Peter’s denial later in chapter 22.  For now, just know that although Peter would stumble in his faith, he would turn back to Christ because he was a true follower of Christ and true followers of Christ always turn back because they serve a living Savior who ever lives to intercede for them, to pray for them, to strengthen them. 

Know that Christ Serves, Know that Christ Strengthens.  Thirdly . . .

III.  Know That Christ Suffers: Verses 35-38.

Verses 35 to 36 say, “And He said to them, When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’  Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’”  Jesus is speaking figuratively and He is contrasting an earlier mission of the disciples in Luke 9:1-6, a time when they were to depend on the hospitality of others, with a different time that is about to take place.  In the past, they could hang out in the homes of people and enjoy one another’s company.  Now, Jesus says, “I am talking a bit a different kind of time you are getting ready to face.  This is a time where you must be prepared to suffer.”  Rather than hospitality, you will face hostility.  Rather than being on the receiving end of pleasantries, you will be on the receiving end of persecution.

Jesus continues in verse 37 by saying, “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.’”  Jesus is quoting here from Isaiah 53.  He is talking about the suffering He will soon face on the cross at Calvary.  Note how the disciples totally miss the figurative way in which Jesus is speaking about preparing for spiritual battle by speaking metaphorically about taking up swords in verse 38, “So they said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’”  This is actually kind of funny.  Jesus is not talking about taking up literal weapons as though they were going to battle the opposition in a sword fight.  The disciples, however, thought that is what they were going to have to do.  They are like, “Lord, check it out: we’ve got not just one sword, but two!”

Obviously Jesus did not mean for the disciples to take Him literally here as though He were calling for a literal battle against the Romans.  Do you think that two measly swords really be “enough” to battle the mighty legions of the Roman Empire?  Hardly!  We will read later about Peter’s cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest later on in this chapter.  After Peter cuts off the guy’s ear, Jesus is like, “No, I’m not talking about that kind of sword fighting,” and He heals the guy’s ear.  Jesus is saying, “Look, the time is coming when you will suffer for your faith.  It is a spiritual battle I am talking about.”  The sword is understood metaphorically as being spiritually armed and prepared to do spiritual battle.  It is so important to be spiritually prepared that one should be willing to sell costly things in order to prepare himself.

That is why I think this is kind of funny.  In verse 38, the disciples said, “Lord, look, check out these swords!  What is Jesus’ reply?  “It is enough.”  I think it is like He goes (hands to the air), “Enough.  I’m not talking about that, you guys!”  It is kind of like in John 4:32-33 where Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman and the disciples go into town to get some food and they come back and find Him talking with the woman.  The disciples are like, “Jesus, we have sandwiches from Kohen’s Bakery!”  And He says, “I have got food to eat you guys know nothing about.”  And they are like, “Where did He get food?  We didn’t see Him in town!”  But Jesus was speaking figuratively of food, spiritually of food, the blessing of doing the Father’s will.  It is like that here, “Look, Jesus.  Here are two swords.”  He shakes His head and says, “Enough of this foolish sword talk.”

His point is that suffering is coming.  Be prepared to suffer persecution for your faith in Christ.  Jesus has taught the He Serves, He Strengthens, and He Suffers.  In verse 37 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53.  This is the only place in the Gospels were Isaiah 53 is actually quoted.  His words in verse 37 are from Isaiah 53:12, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”  We will be reading about that fulfillment in chapter 23 when Jesus is crucified between two transgressors, two criminals.  Isaiah goes on to say in verse 12, “And He bore the sin of many.” 

When Jesus suffered on the cross, He “bore the sin of many.”  He died for the sins of those who would believe in Him by grace through faith in His name.  He died in my place to take my punishment.  At Calvary’s cross Jesus died in your place to take your punishment.  He suffered and died so that you might live.  Can you say with the hymn-writer,

 Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;

Pardon there was multiplied to me;

There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

Know that in the life of Christ, the greatness One was among us.  He serves . . . He strengthens . . . He suffers.

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:7-20 – Lest We Forget

Grace For The Journey

The Lord’s Supper service is all about remembering and honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, lest we forget the significance of what Jesus has done for us and what the Lord’s Supper service means to us, we need to spend some time looking into the wonder of this great event.

A WORD ABOUT THE BACKGROUND

It Is Important To Consider The Context Of The Passage. 

Jesus used the backdrop of the Passover observance as a canvas upon which He painted the truth of the new covenant.

Passover (“Pesach” in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival celebrating the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ freedom from slavery to the Egyptians.  The Feast of Passover, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was the first of the festivals to be commanded by God for Israel to observe (see Exodus 12).  Commemorations today involve a special meal called the Seder, featuring unleavened bread and other food items symbolic of various aspects of the exodus.

Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays.  Along with Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), Passover is one of the three “pilgrimage” festivals in Scripture, during which the Jews were commanded to travel to Jerusalem and observe the feasts together. Passover takes place in the spring, during the Hebrew month of Nisan.  In Western countries, Passover is celebrated in early-to mid-April and is always close to Easter.

The Book of Exodus tells of the origin of Passover.  God promised to redeem His people from the bondage of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:6).  God sent Moses to the Egyptian king with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1).  When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plaques on the land of Egypt.  The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.

The night of the first Passover was the night of the tenth plague.  On that fateful night, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doorposts and lintels with its blood (Exodus 12:21-22).  Then, when the Lord passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood (verse 23).  In a very real way, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from death, as it kept the destroyer from entering their homes.  The Israelites were saved from the plague, and their firstborn children stayed alive.  From then on, every firstborn son of the Israelites belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Exodus 13:1-2, 12; cf. Luke 2:22-24).

The children of Israel in Egypt followed God’s command and kept the first Passover. However, none of the Egyptians did so.  All through Egypt, behind the unmarked, bloodless doorways of the Egyptians, the firstborn children died at midnight (Exodus 12:21-29).  Verse 30 tells us, “There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”  This dire judgment finally changed the Egyptian king’s heart, and he released the Israelite slaves (verses 31–32).

Along with the instruction to apply the Passover lamb’s blood to their doorposts and lintels, God instituted a commemorative meal: fire-roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8).  The Lord told the Israelites to “And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and yours sons forever.” (Exodus 12:24), even when in a foreign land.

To this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to this command.  Passover and the story of the exodus have great significance for Christians also, as Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, including the symbolism of the Passover (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:12).  He was killed at Passover time, and the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Luke 22:7-8).  By spiritually applying His blood to our lives by faith, we trust Christ to save us from death. The Israelites who, in faith, applied the blood of the Paschal lamb to their homes become a model for us.  It was not the Israelites’ ancestry or good standing or amiable nature that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb that made them exempt from death (see John 1:29 and Revelation 5:9-10).

In this passage, we are given the details necessary to understand all we need to know about this event we know as the Lord’s Supper, of the Communion.

This Passage Shows Us The Purpose Of The Lord’s Supper – Verses 19-20.

Verses 19 and 20 say, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying ‘This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  The Lord’s Supper is different than a typical memorial service that we have today!  Memorial services are held for those who are dead.  The Lord’s Supper is exactly what the Lord says it is right here, and that is it is a “time of remembrance.”  

  • It is a time for the church to call to mind the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It is to be a time of reverence, yet at the same time it should be a time of extreme celebration.
  • Above all, it must be a time of worship and of focus upon the Person work of Jesus, alone.

Every other thought should be stricken from the mind, and He should be allowed to be the centerpiece of the Lord’s Supper celebration.

This is the way things ought to be.  In the beginning of the church, we find the believers observing the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis (See Acts 2:42).  Unfortunately, not many years passed until the Lord’s Supper became corrupted by the church.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 what happened in the early church.  Even though these things happened nearly 2,000 years ago, there is still the danger that we might permit some of the same errors in our day.  Therefore, let’s I want to take a few minutes to look at the events in Corinth and how they speak to us today.

This passage Shows Us The Problems Surrounding The Celebration In The Early Church.

Notice Paul’s tone as he addresses the Corinthians, verse 17.  He uses the word “declare”.  This word means “command.” Paul comes to them in power and tells them that he is about to set the record straight.  I can almost feel the wrath of the great Apostle as he writes these words.

Notice the abuses that were present in the church and in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in particular.  Please note that there is always the danger that we will fall into the same trap into which the Corinthians fell.  There are 4 abuses catalogued here that need to be mentioned this morning.

Verses 18-19 There Were Cliques And Divisions In The Church.

When divisions, cliques, factions, and parties exist in any church, then there is disorder in that church. I t always means that there is pain, anger, disturbance, rumors, gossip, pride, selfishness, misunderstanding and misrepresentation in the church.  The bottom line is that minds are not fixed on Jesus as they should be.  There is no peace with God, or with one another. (Note: Why does God allow cliques and divisions?  So that genuine believers might shine more brightly.  You see, when there are divisive and cliquish people in the church it proves that they are not genuine believers, verse 19.  When the false believers act as they do, it causes the true Christians to be more visible.)

Verse 20 Tells Us There Was Self Deception.

When they came together in this divisive and cliquish atmosphere, they thought they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  In truth, they weren’t “remembering and honoring” the Lord, they were putting self on display.  Everything they did was for their own benefit.  That spirit is also evident today!  Many just go to church and go through the motions to be seen of men.  Sadly, this is the same spirit in which they approach the Lord’s Supper.

Verse 21 Tells Us There Was Selfishness And Neglect Of Others.

When the Corinthian believers gathered for the Lord’s Supper, there was no sense of fellowship or communal celebration.  The church broke apart along its internal fault lines.  It became a case of every man for himself.  God help the church that ever loses sight of one another.

Verse 22 Tells Us They Abused The Sanctity Of The Church And Shamed The Poor.

There was a bad spirit surrounding the entire meal.  There was no sense of community and brotherly love on a horizontal level, and there was no genuine worship of God on a vertical level.  The church had degenerated into nothing more than a social club.  That must never be allowed to happen in any local body of believers.

This Passages Shows Us The Penalty Associated With Partaking Of The Lord’s Supper Unworthily – Verses 27-30.

What Does It Mean To Partake “Unworthily?”  Paul was addressing the Corinthian church about their sins.  It was their sins which caused them to partake of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner.  What were their sins?

1. Division – Verse 18.

2. Heresy – Verse 19.

3. Self-deception – Verse 20.

4. Selfishness and indulgence – Verses 21.

5. Drunkenness – Verse 21.

6. Neglect of the poor – Verse 21.

7. Irreverence and carelessness in protecting the sanctity of the church – Verse 22.

In summary, there was a general spirit of irreverence and thoughtless surrounding their entire approach to the Lord’s Supper.  The bottom line is this, it would appear that having sin in one’s heart and life is what is meant by partaking unworthily.  The Bible tells us in Psalms 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”

How Then Can Anyone Be Counted Worthy? – Since our only worthiness can be found in the Lord Jesus, it is only when we are counted worthy by Him that we are found worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper. There are 3 basic necessities for being counted worthy . . . :

1. That we walk in constant confession.

2. That we walk in consistent obedience.

3. That we walk in continuous praise and thankfulness of Christ’s Person, His    

    grace and His work!

What Are The Consequences Of Partaking Unworthily?

Verse 22 tells us that we become guilty of the Lord’s death.  That is, we are held accountable for His death.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily, we are guilty of 5 terrible sins . . .

a. We insult Christ.

b. We offend Christ.

c. We trample Christ under foot.

d. We treat the death of Christ as a meaningless thing.

e. We shame the name of Christ.

Verses 28 and 29 tell us that such action causes us to condemn ourselves.  When we fail to examine ourselves, we bring damnation on our lives. This does not mean that we will go to Hell, it does mean that we will open our lives up to the chastisement and the judgment of God.  When we do this, it is evidence that we do not have a proper respect for the seriousness and holiness of the Lord’s Supper service.  God takes the Lord’s Supper very seriously, even if we do not!

Verse 30 teaches us that we will also face the chastisement and judgment of God – When the Lord’s Supper is abused to the level witnessed at Corinth, God will step in with chastisement.  This verse plainly tells us that sickness and death are the results of abusing the Lord’s Supper service.

Verse 31 address the procedure for dealing with our sins as individuals and as a church.  This verse tells us that self-examination is the only remedy for sin.  When we examine ourselves against the Word of God, we will see our shortcomings.  Then, we can confess them, forsake them, and receive immediate cleansing from the Lord, 1 John 1:9.

A WORD ABOUT THE BREAD

  • It Refers To A Symbol.  Jesus took bread and used it to symbolize His body. When we take the bread, we do not eat flesh, but should see only a symbol.
  • It Refers To A Sacrifice.  The broken body of our Lord calls to mind the terrible price He paid for our redemption on the cross at Calvary.  There, He endured all the brutality, humiliation, and degradation the human race could dish out.  Notice some of what He endured for you and me.
  • He was Beaten – Luke 22:63-64.
  • He Was Scourged – Matthew 27:6; Psalm 129:3.
  • He was Spit Upon – Matthew 27:30.
  • He was Mocked – Matthew 27:26-29.
  • His beard was Plucked Out – Isaiah 50:6.
  • He was Stripped Naked – Matthew 27:35.
  • He was Nailed to the Cross and Crucified – Matthew 27:38; John 20:25.

(Note: All of this was done for one reason – YOU!  The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  That is the gift that we celebrate when we observe the Lord’s Supper.  When you take the bread that symbolizes the broken body of the Lord Jesus take the time to “stir up your minds by way of remembrance and actively meditate” upon suffered for you.

A WORD ABOUT THE BLOOD.

Like the bread, the juice is also symbolic in nature . . .

The Blood Speaks Of A New Covenant.  In the Old Testament, the sinner approached God through the blood of a slain animal.  Under the new covenant, the one which Jesus inaugurated, men must come to God through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us that in Hebrews 9:11-15 and 22, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse you conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called my receive the promise of the eternal inheritance … “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

The Blood Speaks Of A New Cleansing.  We just read that in Hebrews 9:22.  It takes blood to save the soul and . . .  

The only blood that possesses

The power to save the soul

Is the precious

Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that  you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Under the new covenant, only the blood of Jesus can make the lost sinner clean and prepare him for a heavenly home.  It is simple faith in the shed blood of Jesus that saves the soul!.

The Blood Speaks Of A Priceless Compassion.  In our passage today (Luke 22:20) Jesus reminds us that His blood was poured out for us.  He did not die for Himself!  He did not go to the cross to liberate Himself, but to liberate you and me!  He died to set us free!  When you take the cup as you participate in the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the shed blood of the Lord Jesus, allow your mind to actively meditate on the glory and the power of Hid precious blood which was shed for you.

According to 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”  When we participate in the Lord’s Supper as a congregation, we preach a sermon about the death, the resurrection, and the return of the Lord Jesus.  If we carry out this observance in the right spirit, then we celebrate our Lord’s death and we center our minds on Him.  As a result, we are brought closer to Him through worship.  Also, we have delivered the Gospel to the lost and they will now have the opportunity to come to the Lord for salvation.  If you need Jesus in your life, I invite you to come to Him right now and let Jesus save your soul. Will you do that?

May we Christians, who have the privilege to meditated on the Lord and His glorious gift of salvation through the Lord’s Supper, and be reminded of His greatness, glory, and grace and of all He has done for us.  May we come before Him with a spirit of praise and worship.  How we ought to thank Him for giving His life and being alive today!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:1-6 – Three Cautions Of The Christ-Follower

Grace For The Journey

We are in the last three chapters of Luke.  There is a certain order in the last three chapters of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that makes it easy to remember where to locate a few things.  Chapters 22, 23, 24 of the Gospel of Luke are, respectively: the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s crucifixion, and His resurrection.  It is the same in Mark 14, 15, 16 and Matthew 26, 27, 28.  These last three chapters of Luke’s Gospel focus primarily upon Christ’s death.  Only two Gospels give us details of Christ’s birth, but all four Gospels give us many and careful details about Christ’s death because Christ’s death and resurrection is the integral part of God’s crowning work of redemption.  Today’s study takes us to the first six verses of chapter 22.

Judas is something of a scary character in the Gospel narrative.  He is a striking illustration of what we mean when we speak of the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.”  This doctrine teaches that all true believers persevere in their faith to the end. A simple definition of this truth is, “All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved.  They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.”

Some of you are familiar with the classic Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Dads, get a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and read it to your family, a chapter an evening.  It is a great story that illustrates what it means to live the Christian life.  Bunyan tells of a dream he had of a man named Christian and he perseveres in his faith along with his friend Hopeful.  And when the two reach the gate of the celestial city at the end of their lives, the symbolism continues as they present “certificates” which stand for the saving grace they had received when they trusted Christ indicating that they belonged to God.  Christian and Hopeful are then escorted through the gate into heaven.  Then Bunyan says in his dream he then saw that there was someone else trying to make it through the gate of heaven.  His name was Ignorance.  He writes: “Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and I saw Ignorance come up to the river” . . . “When he arrived at the gate” . . . “he began to knock, assuming that he would quickly gain entrance.  But the men who looked over the top of the gate asked, “’Where did you come from?’ and ‘What do you want?’ He answered, ‘I have eaten and have drunk in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets.’  Then they asked him for his certificate, so that they might show it to the King; so he fumbled in his coat for one, and found none.  Then they said, ‘Have you none?’  And the man answered not a word.  So they told the King, but He would not come down to see the man. Instead, He commanded the two Shining Ones, who had conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and bind Ignorance hand and foot and take him away.”  Then Bunyan adds, “Then I realized that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven.”

Now that is an extraordinary statement, isn’t it?  Bunyan warns that not all those who refer to themselves as Christians are truly Christians.  Not everyone who uses religious language or does Christian work is necessarily a true believer.  In the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  Such was the case of Judas Iscariot.  If we can learn anything from Judas, we had better learn to examine ourselves as to whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We may also learn from Judas how we too may be guilty of betraying Christ in a number of different ways.  Let’s consider that possibility as we study these verses a little more closely and then I will leave you with three cautionary considerations. 

Verse 1 tells us, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.”  The very fact that Luke tells is that the Feast of Unleavened Bread “is called Passover” is another reason we know Luke, himself a Gentile, was writing primarily to Gentiles – non-Jews.  If he were writing to Jews – like Matthew was in his Gospel – then he would not have explained that this was called Passover, because his audience would be familiar with it.  You might not be that familiar with it.  What is the Passover?  The Passover was the “opening-day feast” beginning the seven-day “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”  The Passover was a Jewish festival to be observed just once a year, a special time when the Jews would recall their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.  You will remember from reading through Exodus that the final plague sent by God to Pharaoh was the death of the firstborn.  The Jews protected themselves from the plague by smearing the blood of a sacrificial lamb upon their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes.  Unleavened bread was eaten to remind the people of their haste in fleeing Egypt, the bread did not have time to rise.  By the New Testament times thousands upon thousands of people would enter into Jerusalem for this annual feast. 

Verse 2 says, “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.”  This is not the first time we have read of the envy and anger of the religious leaders towards Jesus (Luke 19:47, Luke 20:19).  They have now made their minds up that Jesus must go.  He must be killed.  The chief priests and the scribes, however, “feared the people.”  Remember this is Passover and there are a lot of people in town.  The Jewish historian Josephus estimates there may have been as many as 1-2 million people in Jerusalem.  And Jesus has grown in popularity.  They are looking for some way to kill Him without creating a riot (Mark 14:2).  Matthew and Mark, in their Gospels, underscore the conniving nature of these religious leaders, both of them writing about it (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1).  Who could have guessed that the answer to their dilemma would come from the very inner circle of Jesus’ followers? 

Verse 3 tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”  Judas was numbered among the 12!  He was one of the 12.  It is not by accident that he is always listed last in order when you read the lists of the 12 disciples in the Gospels.  In fact, in their references to Judas the Gospel writers often append the statement, “Judas – who was to betray Christ.”

Judas had never really believed that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus knew this ahead of time.  John is led by the Holy Spirit to write, “There are some of you who do not believe.” John adds, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.”  He also tells us in John 6:70-71 that Jesus answered a question of the disciples by saying, “… ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.”  Of course, the other disciples did not know this about Judas. 

Verse 3 begins with the words, “Then Satan entered Judas.”  Remember Satan had left Jesus back in Luke 4, the time of the temptations in the wilderness.  Remember Luke had written, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).”  Now is that opportune time.  He is back.  Satan entered Judas, finding a comfortable place there as Judas’ sinful heart made him welcome.  Satan influences Judas to go to the religious leaders and agree to betray Jesus.  John tells us that Satan will “enter Judas” again at the time of the Last Supper (John 13:27). 

Verse 4 says, “So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.”  Judas “went his way.”  It is not as though Judas is an unwilling pawn in a chess game played by God, a robot with no decision in the matter.  Judas welcomed Satan’s entering into his heart.  We never once read anywhere in the Scriptures that Judas had no control over his actions.  He made a willful choice.

Yes, there is a mystery here.  God has a plan and is working it out.  He is sovereign. Jesus Christ had to die, but Judas did not have to be the one to make it happen.  He did not have to be the traitor.  Because he willingly chose to be the traitor, he opened the door and Satan came in.  His sinful heart made a welcome invitation for Satan to enter in.  Judas had already been under the influence of Satan.  Now he would be under an even greater influence of Satan.

Verse 5 tells us, “And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.”  Judas and the religious leaders negotiated a sum of money for Judas’ betraying Christ into their hands.  Matthew puts it this way in Matthew 26:14-15, “Then Judas” … “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’  And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”  And, incidentally, this account fulfills the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 11:12 as noted by Matthew. 

Verse 6 says, “So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.”  We will read, of course, that the “opportunity” will come in the cover of darkness (Luke 22:53).  It is nearly always easier to sin in the dark.  So Judas seeks an opportunity to betray Christ and we can imagine Jesus quoting from Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

What are we to make of these six verses?  Are they preserved by God in Scripture only to serve as introductory remarks about the imminent death of Christ, or is there more here for our profit?  One of the benefits of going verse-by-verse through books of the Bible is that by doing so God provides for us not only easy sayings, but hard sayings, good and bad, fun and not-so fun.  Sometimes God’s Word comforts us, other times it convicts us.  Sometimes it challenges us and other times it cautions us.  We have here in this passage some cautionary principles that surface from this passage.   

Three Cautions for Christ-Followers:

1)  Beware Of The Danger Of Religion.

Look at all the characters in these six verses.  You have the chief priests and the scribes on the one hand and Judas on the other.  All of them are religious.  None of them is a true believer.  Do not you find that remarkable?  Is that not a caution to us today?  You can be really close to Christ and be lost.  The chief priests and scribes new a lot of Scripture, they knew religious language, but were lost.  Judas was one of the 12 disciples and sat under Christ’s teaching and was involved in His ministry, but he was lost.

We often say that Christianity is not a “religion,” but a “relationship.” 

Christianity is about receiving Jesus Christ into our lives,

Believing He died on the cross for our sins,

Bearing the punishment we deserved,

Rising the third day so we may be declared

Righteous, justified by faith and therefore at peace with God.

Christian faith is not so much a religion, but a relationship – a living, vibrant, day-by-day relationship with God through faith in Christ.

Beware of the danger of religion.  Second caution for Christ-followers . . .

2)  Beware Of The Danger Of Satan.

Never underestimate the influence of the one who “entered Judas.”  I am afraid we are often guilty of too quickly dismissing what happened to Judas as “demon possession,” something that can come only to an unbeliever and that is the end of our discussion.  But whether Judas was “demon possessed” in the technical sense of that term misses a greater point and blinds us to the very real possibility that when your heart is bent toward evil, evil will find you.

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:27, “Evil comes to him who searches for it.”  This is the way we ought to think of Judas.  It is not, “Poor, old Judas,” as though Judas had no choice in the matter and Satan came along and entered in and took him over against his will.  No, Judas’ heart was bent toward evil.

It is not unlike what we read in Genesis 4 with Cain killing Abel.  How many of you think Cain made a choice when he killed his brother Abel?  Me, too.  In fact, the warning from God in Genesis 4:7 is, “Sin is crouching at your door (lying at your door).  Sin desires to rule over you, Cain, but you must rule over it.”  Sin was crouching at the door and Cain opened the door.  He sinned.  He sinned willingly.

Peter does not underestimate the danger of Satan.  He writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Sin crouches at your door.  If your heart is inclined to sin, Satan will do his level best to come to you and pave for you a lovely road for you to walk down.  Beware.

Sin crouches at our door all the time.  Sin crouches at our door, men, in the form of lust and internet pornography.  You make a decision whether to open the door when you decide whether to click that link.  Ladies, sin crouches at your door when you look at that man who is not your husband and you are looking for the wrong reason.  Sin crouches at your door, young people, when you are tempted to cheat on that exam.  Sin crouches at your door when you envy another person’s stuff, another person’s position, another person’s popularity – this can happen in ministry and often does – seeking the approval of others, forever expecting others to applaud your efforts.  Just in case you feel you would never stoop as low as Judas, the Bible warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

 Beware of the danger of religion, beware of the danger of Satan, thirdly . . .

3)  Beware Of The Danger Of Money.

How frequently we have read in Luke’s Gospel the warnings about money and the lure of riches.  Most recently we read the Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and  the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25).  Judas seems obsessed with money.  In John’s Gospel we have the account where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil.  Judas complains, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?”  That sounds real spiritual, but remember John adds, “He said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was a thief and kept the money box and stole from it as he had need.” (John 12:4-6).

The 30 pieces of silver he agreed to receive in order to betray Christ was worth only about 4 months wages.  That is not really much when you consider who Christ is.  But it is an awful lot to a person who is greedy and counts every penny.  Judas loved money.  The love for money ensnared him, proving true the Bible’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:9-10: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Judas is one such example, an example of a person who “strayed from the faith in his greediness and pierced himself through with many sorrows.”  Yes, it is possible to have money without loving it, but it is equally possible to love money without having it.  Both rich and poor alike may be ensnared by money.

The problem is love placed on the wrong thing.  Being a true Christ-follower means we love Him more than anyone or anything.  He must be number one, the love of our lives!  The desires of your heart are to be like pieces of metal drawn like a magnet to the Lord Jesus.  Anything less is idolatry.  Beware Christ-followers, beware of the danger of money.

Those are the warnings.  And how fitting that they should come in this passage in the context of the Passover, the annual event where a lamb was sacrificed as a reminder of God’s salvation.  Each lamb sacrificed at the Passover pointed forward to another Lamb, the one John the Baptist called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Lamb of God slain for the nations, the One the Bible refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover (who) was sacrificed for us.”

Christ’s death was the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover.  Like the blood of the lamb which saved God’s people from death in Egypt, Jesus Christ shed His blood to save us from spiritual death.  Have you received Him by faith into your life?  Is He your “Number One Love?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 21:5-38 – What Does the Future Hold?

Grace For The Journey

I remember in the 70s hearing a song from the 50s that was sung by Doris Day entitled, “Que Sera, Sera,” which means “Whatever will be, will be.”  It was a song about the future . . .

When I was just a little boy

I asked my mother, what will I be

Will I be handsome, will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me:

Que Sera, Sera,

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours, to see

Que Sera, Sera

What will be, will be.

We have in our study today a passage of Scripture that is often referred to as the “Olivet Discourse,” a passage that takes place while Jesus and His disciples are on the Mount of Olives, a mountain rising some 150 feet above Jerusalem, affording a breathtaking view of the Jewish Temple.  It is at this moment some of the disciples speak of the splendor and grandeur of the temple.  As they admire the scene before them, the disciples ask questions about the future and Jesus’ answer is quite different than “the future’s not ours to see,” but quite the contrary . . .

He tells them of two events that will

Most certainly occur in the future.

Since the time Jesus spoke those words one of the events has taken place just as Jesus said it would.  The other event awaits fulfillment and may take place during our lifetime.  Jesus speaks here in chapter 21 of the future.

Let’s take a walk together through this passage and then I will leave you with a few actions to take from it in response to the teaching of Jesus.

Verse 5 tells us that some of the disciples were simply awestruck by the beauty of the Jewish temple.  The temple was impressive; 46 years in the making (John 2:20), it would not be completed until AD 63, just three years before the future Emperor Titus and the Roman legions began surrounding it before ultimately destroying it in AD 70.  It was double the size of the Acropolis in Athens and the perimeter of the temple was a mile long and took up a space equivalent to one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem.  It was impressive.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes, “The exterior of the building lacked nothing that could astound either mind or eye” … “Covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes…it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white.”

But Jesus says in verse 6 that the whole thing will be destroyed, “The days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another,” a general way of saying one day the whole thing will come toppling down.  This leads the disciples to ask a question in verse 7, “So they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?’”  The disciples had heard before about future events and they ask Jesus about the specifics of the future.  The disciples seem to think the destruction of the temple will coincide with another future event, the end of time when God comes and fixes everything that is wrong.

I just want to note parenthetically that Jesus, while answering this question, does not give them specific dates, unlike the prophecy guys with their color-coded maps, charts, and diagrams.  Why?  Probably because He wants us to be ready and watching.

The disciples seem to think the destruction of the temple will occur at the same time as the Messiah’s second coming.  Jesus, in answering their question, teaches that these are two events occurring at different times.  Jesus teaches here about two future events: 1) the destruction of the Jewish Temple; and, 2) the Second Coming of Christ.   There are two future events . . .

An “immediate future”

And

A “distant future.”

The destruction of the temple serves as a type or foreshadow of the future coming judgment at the Second Coming of Christ.  The nearer event – the destruction of the temple – serves as a preview of the more distant event, the Second Coming.

Verses 8-19 tell what will happen before the destruction of the Jewish temple and verses 20-24 tell about the destruction itself.

Verse 8 tells us, “And He said: ‘Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.’”  Jesus warns that there will be future pretenders, but they are not the Christ.  You may recall Luke 17:23 that Jesus said, “And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’  Do not go after them or follow them.”  There will always be future false Messiahs. 

In verse 9 Jesus says,“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”  These things will happen until Christ returns to redeem all of creation.

In verses 10-11 the Bible tells us, “Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.”  History tells us that the first century saw a number of wars, earthquakes, and famines throughout the Roman Empire.  The historian Will Durant, writing in the 1960s in his book, The Lessons of History, observes that “in the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.”  He goes to state that there have “only been 268 years of peace out of over 3,000 years.”

Jesus goes on to say in verses 12 and 13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.  But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”  While the disciples would face persecution in the next few decades, it would give them an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

In verses 14 through 18 Jesus says, “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.  You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death (cf Luke 12:53, Luke 14:26, Luke 18:29).  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But not a hair of your head shall be lost.”

This means that while some of God’s children will suffer physical death, none of God’s children will suffer eternal death.

In verse 19 Jesus concludes this section by saying, “By your patience possess your souls.”  Put another way: Jesus is telling His disciples, and us, “to persevere, endure suffering, stay committed to Him.”

Verses 8-19 describe what will occur before the destruction of Jerusalem, now we look at the destruction itself in verses 20-24.

In verse 21 Jesus says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (cf Luke 19:43-44)This happened in AD 70 when Titus, acting under his father, Roman Emperor Vespasian, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and ultimately the city.  Jesus predicted this event and said what to do when it happens in verses 21-23, “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”

A time of joy becomes a time of sorrow.  Josephus says that a million people died, and 100,000 prisoners taken.  The fact that Josephus, who was not a Christian, underscores the horror of the destruction.

This is confirmed in verse 24 where Jesus also says,“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  Jerusalem’s being “trampled by the Gentiles” is a way of saying that non-Jews will conquer and dominate Jerusalem and the Jewish people until a future time when God puts an end to it.  This “trampling of the Gentiles” continues beyond AD 70.  The Romans, Persians, Franks, Turks, and the British have all “trampled” on Jerusalem.  Even today, where Jesus had been teaching (earlier in chapter 21) on that very spot is yet another fulfillment of verse 24.  Today the temple has been replaced by the huge mosque known as “The Dome of the Rock.”

The time of the Gentiles seems to suggest a time during which the Jewish people face persecution, a time that will not end until Christ returns (cf Romans 11:11-32).

Beginning in verse 25 and following, Jesus foretells the coming of the Son of Man, the Second Coming, the future event coinciding with the end of time.  By the way, if Jesus predicted the first event – the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and the first event occurred as prophesied, then you and I can be equally certain that what Jesus says will happen in verses 25 and following will happen exactly as prophesied.  It is a guarantee!

In verses 25 through 28 Jesus says, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Note the two different reactions in verses 26-28. 

  • Some men’s hearts will “fail them.”
  • And others will “look up and lift up their heads” because their “redemption draws near” (is coming to completion). 

At Christ’s second coming, will you be fearful or grateful? 

Verses 29 through 33 tell us, “Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.  So you also, when you see these things happening (these signs in the sun and moon, etc.), know that the kingdom of God is near.  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place(this generation of people living on earth when the signs occur in the sky)Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Jesus says these events will happen!  We have already on record that which He prophesied would take place in AD 70.  If Jesus got that one right, we can rest assured He will get this one right, too. 

In verse Jesus says,“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”  Jesus is telling us to be ready.  Do not let that day catch us in self-indulgence or allow ourselves to be swept away by the things of this present, fallen world, including the daily pressures caused by worry and anxiety.

He goes on to say in verses 35-36, “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Then Luke tells us, “And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet.  Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.”

In light of these truths, here is the question . . .

How shall we face the future?

Because the Bible does not give us information about the future just to fill our heads or so that we will pull out the maps, and charts, and diagrams to be able to plot various points of interest and sell our books. 

The Bible gives us information

About the future to teach us

How to live in the present.

Note these practical guidelines . . .  

1) BE WITNESSING – Verses 12-15.

Remember verse 13?  Jesus told the disciples that the future difficulties they faced would give them an opportunity to bear witness to Christ.  He said in verse 13, “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”  This takes us back to what Jesus had said earlier in Luke 12:11-12: “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

We are to live our lives as witnesses to Christ.  Luke records this truth again in his second volume, the Book of Acts.  He records what Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses …”  In the context here of Luke 21, Jesus tells us that we are to witness to Christ when facing future difficulties. 

What a powerful witness to not

Fall away because of persecution,

But to draw nearer to Christ.

People are watching you when you face persecution.  How will you respond when the going gets tough?  Adrian Rogers used to say, “If you want to see what a man is made of shake him up really good and see what comes out.”  When you are shaken what comes out?  Dads, what do your children see when you face fire?  Moms, how do you handle adversity?  Young people, who will you witness to for Christ this week at school?

Jesus reminds us not to worry about what we will say. 

If we will live for Christ,

He will guide our words.

Verse 15 says, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”  Trust in the Lord and you will witness for His glory.

How do we face the future?  How do we live this week?  Be witnessing.  Secondly . . .

2) BE WARNED!  Verses 34-35.

Remember the two different reactions to Christ’s Second Coming back in verses 26-28?  Jesus says some men’s hearts will “fail them” and others will “lift up their heads because their redemption” is coming to completion.  That idea is repeated in verses 34 and 35 – Jesus says, do not allow yourselves to be “weighed down with carousing, drunkness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”  Take heed how you live!

Here is a question: To whom is Jesus speaking here?  He is not speaking to religious, closed hearted Pharisees or Sadducees or a special group of Christians who will avoid all this by being whisked away to some vacation spot in the sky.  He is talking to His disciples.  “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

On that day, there will be those who greet Jesus as Savior and those who meet Jesus as Judge.”  Which will it be for you?  At Christ’s Second Coming, will you be fearful or grateful?

How do we face the future?  How do we live this week?  Be witnessing.  Be warned.  Thirdly . . .

3) BE WATCHING!  Verse 36.

Jesus says in verse 36, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Don’t miss what Jesus is saying here – We are to watch and pray “that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things,” all what things?  What Jesus has said in the preceding verses – verses 34 and 35 – that Christ’s coming not catch us by surprise because our hearts were weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, living for this world only.

It is not always easy living the Christian life.  Sometimes we face persecution and great difficulties.  But remember that Jesus says, “Not a hair of our head will be lost” (verse 18).  I like that!  Remember what the Bible says in Romans 8:38-39, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you face difficulties and trials and tribulation, watch and pray.  Look up to Jesus and ask for help:

Live by the truth of Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Maybe this causes you to think about the words of the song,  

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Most of you have heard of Chuck Colson.  He was the founder of Prison Fellowship and the former so-called political “Hatchet Man” for Richard Nixon and one of the major players in the Watergate scandal.  A friend of his, Tom Phillips, shortly after Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign in 1972, said Chuck had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.  He described how it happened.  Church called Tom and said he wanted to talk to him.  During their meeting Phillips read the section on pride from CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  Colson left despite Tom’s wanting him to stay and talk more.  It was his pride that made him leave, but God was breaking-through the pride.

Colson wrote about it later in his autobiographical book, Born Again: “As I drove out of Tom’s driveway, the tears were flowing uncontrollably.  There were no street lights, no moonlight. The car headlights were flooding illumination before my eyes, but I was crying so hard it was like trying to swim underwater.  I pulled to the side of the road not more than a hundred yards from the entrance to Tom’s driveway … I remember hoping that Tom and (his wife) wouldn’t hear my sobbing, the only sound other than the chirping of crickets penetrating the still of the night.  With my face cupped in my hands, head leaning forward against the wheel, I forgot about machismo, about pretenses, about fears of being weak.  And as I did, I began to experience a wonderful feeling of being released … And then I prayed my first real prayer. ‘God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try! I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to You.’ I didn’t know how to say more, so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.

I had not ‘accepted’ Christ – I still didn’t know who he was. My mind told me it was important to find that out first, to be sure that I knew what I was doing, that I meant it and would stay with it. Only, that night, something inside me was urging me to surrender – to what or to whom I did not know.

I stayed there in the car, wet-eyed, praying, thinking, for perhaps half an hour, perhaps longer, alone in the quiet of the dark night.  Yet for the first time in my life I was not alone at all.”  (p.116-117)

When Christ returns, will you greet Him as Savior or meet Him as Judge?  Tell Him today, “Take me.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”