Forgiveness! – John 21:15-25

Forgiveness! – John 21:15-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 1, 2016

My father asked us what we should tell our mother when had not come home right away when she called. I grew up in a day and age when mothers would stand outside of their front doors and holler down the street for their children to “come home, it’s dinner!” The only phones we had were the rotary dial kind and most children actually played outside and walked home by themselves! We both automatically responded, “Sorry.” My Dad remarked, “Being sorry is not good enough, you need to apologize to your mother.” Saying your “sorry” is totally different than being remorseful or repentant. The first is more of a response in order to deflect any consequences for our wrong doing or ungodly behavior, while repentance comes from being inwardly broken and open confession. Forgiveness cannot happen without repentance.

Impulsive Peter had vehemently said he would never deny Jesus and of course he did, three times. Afterwards he was remorseful and saddened by his cowardly actions, but he had not asked Jesus’ forgiveness for his betrayal. We may wonder why the other disciples, who had ran away and deserted Jesus during his greatest need, did not have to ask for his forgiveness like Peter. Do not forget Peter’s insistence he would never betray Jesus even if everyone else fell away and his impulsive nature that needed to be calmed. Let’s take a fresh look at what forgiveness is…

READ: John 21:15-25

I have heard all kinds of excuses for not accepting Jesus: “When I get older.” “I’m not good enough.” “I do not know the Bible well.” But the one that often is the real reason why folks are unwilling to accept Jesus is that they misunderstand what Jesus is all about. He is not about accusing them of one of their shortcomings, their lack of knowledge, nor is he concerned about their age. What they need to do is to come to the truth like Peter did, namely that…

I. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love! (Vv. 15-19)

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

1. The disciples had headed to Galilee; they had fished together, experienced another of Jesus’ miracles, and eaten together. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'” Peter like the rest of us innately understood that Jesus loves him, but he failed to understand what that means! When Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved him “more than these”, he was referring to the disciples. Peter needed to understand what repentance was all about, it was more than feeling sorry. His willingness to follow Jesus would strain all of his worldly relationships. Peter had declared, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33 NIV) He was placing himself about his friends and was he truly willing to do that? “‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.'” But Jesus does not stop there, he continues. John relates, “Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.'” In Jesus’ three questions of love (agapas, agapas, and phileis) and Jesus’ three commands of duty (boske, “tend”; poimaine, “herd, lead to pasture”; boske) various Greek synonyms are used. Jesus was not only reminding Peter of the three times he had denied him, but Jesus was also teaching Peter about forgiveness. It is not about how we feel, our emotional state, nor our physical condition; Jesus’ forgiveness is all about his love for us! “‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me!'” When we grow old we often lose the abilities we once enjoyed when we were younger. John wrote his gospel way before Peter’s martyrdom in Rome where he was crucified upside down. John had no way of knowing how Peter would die, but Jesus did. Peter needed to understand the extent of following Jesus. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes in Our Daily Bread that “A meaningful apology can be the first step toward forgiveness. Colleen O’Connor writes in The Denver Post: “The successful apology dissolves anger and humiliation. It shows respect, builds trust, and helps prevent further misunderstanding. A sincere apology makes it much easier to forgive. And author Barbara Engel says that a true apology depends on the three Rs: regret, responsibility, and remedy… As Christians, we have a responsibility to repent and sincerely say ‘I’m sorry’ whenever we wrong another person. In a spirit of humility and love, we can help those who need to forgive us by offering a genuine apology.” Peter needed to fully understand the depth of Jesus’ forgiveness. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love!

John’s gospel tells us over and over again of Jesus’ love. John understood this and Peter needed to firmly understand as well. We learn that…

II. Forgiveness follows Jesus! (Vv. 20-25)

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

1. John wanted his readers to know that he was there and that he saw and heard everything he was writing about. He tells us that “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'” It was none of Peter’s concern what happened to John, he needed to follow Jesus. Jesus’ admonishment is in the form of a command. Evidently John was personally hurt by Peter’s remark because it caused the rest of the disciples to speculate about John, “Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'” John wanted folks to understand fully what Jesus meant. And Jesus did not mean John would stay alive until Jesus’ second coming, but rather that it wasn’t Peter’s concern. John’s account is full of little personal items that even the other gospel narratives do not contain; this is why it is often one of the favorites of most people. John makes it very plain that he is indeed the one who witnessed and wrote about what he had seen and heard. “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down”, he writes. And then continues by relating, “We know that his testimony is true.” The idea of “know” here is one of experiential knowledge. John was certain and gave testimony, as in a courtroom, of what he experienced himself. This was no secondhand knowledge but a personal witness! And John did not lie about what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus! John ends his gospel, his testimony, concerning Jesus with this caveat: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” What were these things? Who knows, however, what we do know is the fact that forgiveness follows Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Haddon Robertson reminds us that, “God is highly dangerous. We are sinful and He is holy. Sin can no more exist in the presence of God than darkness can exist in the presence of light. To stand before Him in self-righteousness would be to invite our destruction. The psalmist wrote, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). In a cemetery not far from New York City is a headstone engraved with a single word: Forgiven. The message is simple and unembellished. There is no date of birth, no date of death, no epitaph. There is only a name and the solitary word forgiven. But that is the greatest word that could ever be applied to any man or woman, or that could be written on any gravestone… God is honored and worshiped because He alone can clear our record. If God could not forgive us, we could only flee from Him in terror. Yet the God whose holiness threatens us is the God who through Christ redeems us. This dangerous God offers forgiveness for all our sins. We only need to ask Him. Are you forgiven?” Forgiveness follows Jesus!

Conclusion:

Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love! Forgiveness follows Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The fishing trip! – John 21:1-14

The fishing trip! – John 21:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 24, 2016

There are a few things I really like to do that I do not get the time I would like in order to be able to do them. I like to shoot, draw, take photographs, hike, and I love to fish. Fishing is extremely relaxing for me, and whether I catch anything or not, it does not matter because I like the art of it and the ability to forget about everything else and just fish. Two guys can fish for hours and not say anything. I just love to fish.

For most of the disciples fishing was a way of life. It was not just a way to earn money but it was a way to feed their families as well. Fishing was a matter of life or death and these men knew how to fish. As we finish out John’s Gospel we discover that the disciples had returned to Galilee and while waiting for Jesus there they decide to go fishing. Let’s take a look at the fishing trip.

READ: John 21:1-14

There is a story told of an old Irish gentleman who was fishing in the rain in a puddle outside of a local pub. A passerby took pity on him and offered to buy him a drink inside so he could warm up and dry off. As they were sitting inside the man asked the elderly Irishman, “How many fish did you catch in that puddle outside?” He smiled and looked at him and replied, “You make the fourth one today!” In fishing, I have learned that…

I. You can’t catch fish until you cast your net! (Vv. 1-6)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

1. After Jesus had confronted Thomas and he had believed and after they followed his instruction to go to Galilee where he would meet them, “Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.” For John it is a matter of fact and he is relating these things that he experienced to his readers. The Sea of Tiberias was another name for the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesaret. John explains, “It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.” Jesus brought the disciples together for specific reasons and here we discover that not all of them were evidently there at this time; only about seven of them including John the narrator. Is this important for us to speculate on? Probably not, however, Peter being impulsive and probably bored waiting for Jesus to come tells the others, “I’m going out to fish.” Peter knew how to fish he was after all a fisherman and had been one before Jesus had called him to be his disciple. The others, having nothing better to do, readily reply, “We’ll go with you.” Guys hate to be left out of a good fishing trip! “So they went out and got into the boat”. It turned out to be not very fruitful. This is interesting because both Peter and the Sons of Zebedee had been fishermen with their own boats. They knew the Lake well, when and where to fish on it. Their lives had depended upon knowing the best conditions to fish, “but that night they caught nothing.” It was not unusual for them to fish at night with lanterns to attract the fish. Yet, “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” Busy about their task they did not realize who stood on shore. “He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'” This is Jesus. I can imagine him smiling as he makes his suggestion to these longtime fishermen. Perhaps they thought that since they hadn’t caught any fish yet, any suggestion was good as another or maybe the stranger on shore saw something they did not. However, “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish!” You can’t catch fish until you cast your net!

EXAMPLE: Believe me there is nothing more sacred than fishing for a guy. And there is nothing worse than someone trying to tell someone else who knows how to fish, how to fish! But if you know the water you are fishing and have fished it many times, then you can impart some personal knowledge to the novice in the boat with you. And if they are wise they will at least listen to your advice even if they do not use it. The problem with far to many believers in our day and age is that they have not only never attempted to fish, but they refuse to take any advice from those who know the waters and have done so. Of course I am speaking of witnessing. If you have not caught any fish, unbelievers, as a Christian, perhaps you need to take some simple advice: You can’t catch fish until you cast your net!

“This is how you cast your line” my father told me for the hundredth time. At least that’s what it seemed like. I complained, “Papa, you’ve told me over and over how to cast my line! Why do you keep telling me how to do it?” He replied, “Yes, and the fish are still waiting. Keep practicing.” In fishing, I have learned that…

II. Jesus already has fish prepared for you! (Vv. 7-9)

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

1. An impulsive nature can either be enduring or tiring depending on one is being affected by it. Peter was sometimes tiring and sometimes enduring. Here he is more enduring than tiring. John relates a typical Peter moment: “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” Perhaps Peter had learned that the unexpected was what one was to expect where Jesus is concerned. Kind of like a child who hears the word ice cream truck, Peter hears that it is indeed Jesus! His reaction is just as impulsive but here it is more to the way Jesus desires all of his followers respond to his presence; immediately and without hesitation. When we do we will discover all the things God already has for us. Interestingly, “The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” Here we discover the others were left to do the heavy lifting however Jesus already had enough fish cooking for them to eat! Where did he get the fish, how did he get the fish, and when did he get the fish are not really important as the fact that Jesus had fish! John relates that “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” Perhaps the disciples had to learn that the things of God only come when one is willing to go out and prepare them for service. They had spent the night fishing, then they were told where they could find fish, and finally they got more than they imagined! Yet what I believe is the final teaching here is the fact that Jesus already knows where and when you can fish but also that he has already prepared them for you! Jesus already has fish prepared for you!

EXAMPLE: As we looked out on the big lake and the dark green smooth water it seemed as if we were the only ones fishing. And I wondered just how many fish were out there for me to catch. Of course there are always fish out there but they are not always caught. It can depend on the weather, the water, the bait, the fisherman, and the contrary nature of the fish. However there is one other important thing concerning fishing, the right equipment. I have learned over the decades that if you use cheap hooks, lousy line, or a poor pole your chances of consistently landing a fish are greatly reduced. In fishing for men using the Gospel we already have the best message, the greatest means, and the right equipment. Sometimes, rather often really, we need to rely on the fact that Jesus already has fish prepared for you!

I was surprised at first and then delighted to learn that you had to kill the fish, clean the fish, and then cook the fish after you caught them. In fishing, I have learned that…

III. You have to share what is caught! (Vv. 10-14)

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

1. Here we see again John’s adherence to detail which helps us understand that this is truly an eyewitness account. After coming to shore, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.'” John is there and knows what Jesus said, but for us today it is important because the Lord tells us the very same thing. Here’s what I mean: We are to bring the fish, the unsaved, we have caught by the message of the Gospel to him. We are his fishermen and women. We are to be about catching fish and bringing them to Jesus. Now it is important for us to understand what this truly means. I used to think and was often taught that it was our job to be evangelical and annoying witnesses wherever we went. This is simply not true. Notice how John describes the fish that were caught that day. And yes, I know they were real fish and not men, but John describes them as “large fish” and that there were “153” of them. He was concerned for each one because fishermen in those days would bring their catch in and everyone on the boat got an equal share of the catch. So numbers were important. And numbers are important to Jesus as we bring the fish we have caught to him. I am not talking about the many false and phony baptisms and conversions I have seen in my day that some are willing to do. I am talking about the actual fish themselves; the actual people who one has shared the good news with. And notice what Jesus does with those fish, he offers them as sustenance. We are to offer the ones we bring to Jesus as a sweet aroma to the Lord. A sacrifice of our time, our busy lives, our willingness to take a moment along the way and share the good news with another we bring to Jesus. “Come and have breakfast” he tells them. It is in this sweet fellowship of sharing that the disciples enjoy Jesus’ company. John relates, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” You have to share what is caught!

EXAMPLE: It was the biggest six inch trout I had ever seen in my life because I caught it! And imagine my frustration when I had to share it with my brother! None of my “but Dad” would sway my father’s mind, I had to share what I had caught. The same is true with those we bring to the Lord. It is our duty to bring them into the fellowship of sharing them with Jesus. We do this as we bring them to church, as we bring them to Bible Study or Sunday school, and we do this as we disciple them in the teachings of Jesus! You have to share what is caught!

Conclusion:

You can’t catch fish until you cast your net! Jesus already has fish prepared for you! You have to share what is caught!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Thomas the doubter! – John 20:19-31

Thomas the doubter! – John 20:19-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 17, 2016

No doubt about it there are some things that I just cannot believe in: Alien abduction, ghosts, lake monsters, or Sasquatch. Nope, sorry I just do not believe in them. Now least you think I am a total skeptic you need to know I was raised by a mother who completely believed in each of these things. In fact, she would drag us as children to haunted houses, buy hundreds of books on UFOs (which she read to us like bedtime stories), and walk the woods in hopes of finding Big Foot. None of which changed my opinion of any of it.

In John’s Gospel we are introduced to the disciple some call The Doubter, but of course he was not the only one who did. From the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and other disciples we have discovered over the past several months that there were many who doubted Jesus was the Messiah. Let’s see what Thomas the doubter can teach us this morning…

READ: John 20:19-31

Thomas was not the only doubter, in fact right here we discover that…

I. The disciples were skeptical! (Vv. 19-23)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

1. It is fascinating to me to find out that far from the heroes or the stalwart upstanding men the disciples are often portrayed to be, they in fact were just like us! They had problems, they had fears, and they had their doubts about Jesus. I know this to be true because we discover from John that “On the evening of that first day of the week… the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews”! It is still Sunday the evening of the resurrection and where do we find the disciples? Are they out telling everyone about the empty tomb? Do they believe Jesus has indeed risen? No way! They let their fears get to them instead of their faith! However, in the midst of their doubts and fears, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'” That’s what God always does when we are fearful or in doubt of the outcome; he gives us his peace. And just to make sure they get the full idea and can trust what their eyes are seeing, Jesus gives them something to hold on to as well because “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” Physical proof is what they needed at the moment and Jesus gives it to the room full of skeptics who now “were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” But Jesus is there for more than just to sooth their fears; he is there to give them a lifelong task. And so, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'” He is sending them into the world. Plus Jesus is not sending them out alone and so “with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'” Jesus was sending them as his representatives and giving them the knowledge, the Spirit, they needed at that moment. This is not some priestly commission whereby Jesus mystically gives his followers the personal right as he has to forgive sins; rather it is dependent upon the Gospel’s terms: If one believes in Jesus, then a Christian has the right to announce his forgiveness, if they do not believe they are not forgiven! The disciples were skeptical but now they believed!

EXAMPLE: A skeptic is one who is inclined to doubt. If such a person is honestly seeking to know the truth, his doubting may be the first step toward finding the truth. Not all skepticism is wrong, however, there can be barriers that help create our skepticism. The Radio Bible Class relates, “The first barrier, surprisingly, isn’t an unwillingness to believe that God exists; instead some doubt that they’re important enough for God’s attention. Second, some believe they are unworthy of His forgiveness. People are often their own harshest judges. The third hurdle? They wonder why God is not communicating with them if he is out there.” There can be a forth reason as well, a person’s upbringing or how one is raised. The disciples were raised as pious Jews and therefore believed in God, but because of their upbringing they had a hard time God would be a man, die, and then rise from the dead. The disciples were skeptical!

We found out that the disciples had their skepticism and now we find out more about how…

II. Thomas was a doubter! (Vv. 24-29)

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

1. There is always one in the crowd and Thomas was the one. John relates that “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'” Not seeing the empty tomb nor being with the disciples when Jesus had first appeared to them, he still could not believe. He was the original man from Missouri the Show Me State! Hey, do not be too hard on Thomas because wouldn’t you agree that chocolate chip cookies are better eaten than described! And so we find out that “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'” Jesus is ready and able to show Thomas exactly what he needed to experience for himself! Jesus miraculously stands among his men! And lest they be frightened, like that night on the lake when he walked to them on the water, he tells them “Peace be with you!” again. In the midst of all that is happening, Jesus is there for a specific purpose and person. Jesus is there for Thomas challenges him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” God loves doubters and is more than willing to answer their toughest questions if they will only listen and are willing to respond. Jesus had Thomas’ full attention. We are not told if Thomas actually did what Jesus requested, but I tend to think he did because Thomas’ response is completely changed from doubt to “My Lord and my God!” And Jesus is so totally Jesus here in this moment. This is what I mean; Jesus uses every moment to teach and tells Thomas this wonderful glorious truth: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!” That’s us folks! That’s all of us who are willing to come to Jesus without being able to actually see him! Thomas was a doubter but now he too was a believer!

EXAMPLE: Joanie Yoder wrote, “Many true believers in Christ are plagued with doubt about their salvation. Even though they have come in repentance and faith to Jesus as their Savior, they still wonder, ‘Will I really go to heaven?'” I remember being left behind asleep on the hood of our Oldsmobile in downtown Wenatchee when I was three-years-old. I started to cry and a nearby policeman came over to comfort me. Shortly my Mom and Dad followed by my brother and sister came rushing around the corner. It had only been moments, but waking up alone, I thought I was left behind. There are those in our day and age who believe in Jesus but cling to ungodly biblical teaching thinking that God would leave them behind. He never leaves us nor forsakes us! Thomas doubted because he had not experienced the risen Lord, then he did and his doubting disappeared. Dear believer stop doubting God would ever leave you behind and learn from Thomas who was a doubter!

You know what, God does not mind if we doubt or are skeptical because of he did none of the disciples or most of us would be saved! In fact, John reminds us that…

III. The proof is in the pudding! (Vv. 30-31)

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

1. The idea that the proof was in the pudding is a shortened version of “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” One had to eat the pudding in order to know what was in it. In olden days during some holidays they would cook a surprise in a pudding, not necessarily like the sweet pudding we are used to, but you had to eat it in order to discover what was in it! And here John ends his narrative with more proof than we as readers could handle! He tells us, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” Evidently John had witnessed more than he could relate to us. Rather than wonder at what we might have missed, instead we should rejoice with John concerning Jesus! And we learn that John had a very specific purpose for making sure we could read his testimony concerning Jesus, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The proof is in the pudding!

EXAMPLE: The Radio Bible Class relates that “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most well-established events in history. Paul cited as irrefutable evidence the more than 500 eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after he arose. Just as certain is the fact that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary fully paid the penalty for the sin of all mankind, so that everyone who trusts Him as Savior receives forgiveness. And it is Christ’s resurrection that guarantees this. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ; Fred John Meldau underscores the significance of Jesus’ resurrection by describing Israel’s annual Day of Atonement ritual. Meldau writes, ‘If [the High Priest] offered correctly, he came forth in due time; but . . . if he failed to offer correctly, he died there behind the veil. In like manner, the coming forth of Jesus the Christ, in His resurrection, after His atonement for our sins on the cross, shows that His offering was accepted. The empty tomb is God’s ‘Amen’ to Christ’s ‘It is finished.’ When Christ emerged from the tomb, our sin was completely paid for. His resurrection was proof positive!” The proof is in the pudding!

Conclusion:

The disciples were skeptical! Thomas was a doubter! The proof is in the pudding!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Mary Magdalene the witness! – John 20:10-18

Mary Magdalene the witness! – John 20:10-18

By Pastor Lee Hemen

April 3, 2016

We may at some time in our lives be asked to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God”, but what does this mean? It means we are to relate the truth as we have witnessed it or experienced it and therefore it can differ from another’s perspective of what they saw, heard, or experienced during the same event. This is in fact why we get some minor variations from the different Gospel perspectives of the same events, including the resurrection of Jesus.

Simon Peter and John had headed home after witnessing the empty tomb for themselves and now we find Mary still there. What she sees and experiences gives us a fuller picture of what took place that Easter morning so long ago when the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Let look again at what occurred and discover for ourselves what it means for us this morning as discover more about Mary Magdalene the witness!

READ: John 20:10-18

When someone who is very close to you dies it seems as if your world comes crashing in on you. And if you watched them die a tragic death it can be traumatizing to say the least. Here we find Mary alone at the tomb and as we follow what occurred we discover that…

I. Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! (Vv. 10-14)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:10-14 NIV)

1. When John writes back in verse 8 that he saw and believed, did he mean he saw the empty tomb and believed Mary that Jesus’ body was gone or that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Folks have speculated about this because we learned from verse 9 that evidently the disciples did not yet understand from Scripture Jesus’ resurrection. Perhaps John had not yet told Mary that he suspected Jesus’ resurrection or that he too was shocked and still puzzled over the empty tomb. Whatever the reason, we learn that the disciples “went back to their homes” while “Mary stood outside the tomb crying.” However, Mary was soon to be the witness and participant of something extraordinary. “As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.” Where once there was just an empty sepulcher now there were heavenly visitors! While in visions angels may appear as multi-winged creatures with lots of eyes all over their bodies, but when they appear before men here on earth they often take on human form. No halos or wings ever. How did John know these were heavenly beings? He is writing after the fact and the word for angel (angelos) literally means messenger. So John relates that there were two heavenly messengers who ask Mary, “Woman, why are you crying?” Mary’s grief causes her spiritual blindness and sets the stage for perhaps one of the greatest reveals in all of history. She responds thinking the body is still stolen, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” And here is one of history’s poignant moments because sensing perhaps someone else was in the tomb as well “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” The message of the angels is to set the stage for the Messiah. With tear-stained eyes and blurred vision Mary does not at first recognize Jesus and so it is here in this moment that along with Mary we hear the message of heaven!

EXAMPLE: There have been times in history where important messages have been misunderstood. Robert Frost wrote a now famous line in one of his poems: “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It’s not about being brave and taking the road less traveled! Far from it in fact and Frost himself admitted that he was actually mocking the idea that single decisions would change your life, and specifically making fun of a friend of his who had a tendency to over-think things that really weren’t that big a deal. Or the song “Every Breath You Take” by the Police seems like a wonderfully sweet love song. However, Sting wrote the song about his bitter divorce, and the lyrics explain how the experience made him obsessive and controlling! From text and Tweeter messages to Facebook posts others can misunderstand what we are trying to convey. And here in John’s Gospel we find the same thing happening, yet, if we allow ourselves to we can experience what she did and along with Mary we can hear the message of heaven!

What occurred to Mary she never ever expected it to happen in her entire life. How could she? As we are involved with this grief-stricken lady we discover that…

II. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord! (Vv. 15-18)

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:15-18 NIV)

1. As she talks with her Master Mary does not realize at first who she is speaking with. Some suggest Jesus kept this from her as he did with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) or that Jesus’ appearance had changed or it was her grief that kept her from recognizing Jesus. Far too often in our own self-centered world we do not recognize our Master’s voice either nor do we see him actively working in our lives. Yet he is always speaking to us and at work. John writes that Jesus’ conversation is the same question as that of the angels, “Woman, why are you crying?” Yet Jesus goes further than mere sympathy he pushes her to face her grief by immediately by asking, “Who is it you are looking for?” Jesus is literally asking Mary, “Who do you truly desire?” or “Who do you really worship?” Did she want her grief over a dead person or did she desire a living Jesus! It is the question we must ask today. Who do you truly desire, Jesus or yourself? Mary’s grief still blinds her, “Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.'” What is blinding you this morning in accepting the risen Lord? God is merciful and kind, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.'” He uses her personal name and in this she recognizes her Master’s voice. “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!'” (teacher). As the Good Shepherd he calls his sheep by name and they recognize his voice. (John 10:3-4) She may have hugged him or grabbed a hold of him in her enthusiasm however Jesus tells her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” The “touch me not” of the KJV is way too harsh of a translation and the NIV actually got it right. Jesus was not untouchable in any way; rather the idea is that she should not hold on to him physically because there is now a new relationship. He would always be with her through the church and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And to Mary’s credit her reaction is to go “to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.” Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

EXAMPLE: What you experience and what I experience during the same event might differ greatly depending upon what we think we see, hear, or even our likes and dislikes. A birthday party might have been the greatest thing in the world for you, but not for me. I was raised very poor, often shared birthdays with my brother who was two years older and only a week apart from my birthday. Birthdays became no big deal. Yet here in John’s gospel we discover that the witness of Mary is so genuine and real because it places us right there with her in her grief. And I cannot help myself because when Mary finally realizes who it is speaking to her, I am experiencing it right there with her. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

Conclusion:

Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 27, 2016

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection! (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Hosanna! – Matthew 21:1-11

Hosanna! – Matthew 21:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 20, 2016

We all get excited about different things. For some it is sporting events where the crowd is worked up over the home team; for others it is rock concerts, musicals or plays while still others get excited about a newly released movie and campout overnight just to be the first in line to purchase a ticket. Whatever the reason we can get excited over different things. But what if you had heard that someone was coming to your town that had the ability to cure disease, raise the dead, walk on water, or turn that water into the finest wine? What if you had heard that this man could be the answer to all your prayers and the fulfillment of prophecy and thousands of years of longing? (And no it is not Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders!) What would your anticipation be like then?

Jesus has reached the final days of his earthly ministry and everything from this point on builds to a final crescendo like the final movement of a symphony where each group is playing their part of the musical score, or in this case, the plan of God. As Jesus enters into Jerusalem the crowd goes wild and exclaims, “Hosanna!” Let’s discover what this means for us this morning…

READ: Matthew 21:1-11

While Robert Burns wrote a little ditty to a field mouse lamenting that the best laid plans of mice and men often go “a-gley”, meaning wrong, we can rejoice because…

I. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God! (Vv. 1-3)

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

1. The time had come and the final acts of the grand theater of Jesus’ life were coming to a quick ending. Now he and his disciples head toward Jerusalem, now they are on the road to his final destination, and now he is accomplishing the plan he set forth since the creation of the world. Matthew relates “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples” on ahead of him for a specific task. Jesus had told them over and over what would occur and why, yet they still did not comprehend their part. They did not understand that the plan of God would be fulfilled no matter what and they were to be a part of its climax. Jesus and the disciples were approaching Jerusalem from the east as they came up the road from Jericho. They come through the town of Bethphage on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives and though all four Gospels share about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, only Matthew mentioned a donkey’s colt. Jesus tells them their part is to “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Interestingly we discover that there are those whose names we never hear about who had minor roles in the plan of God as well. Who owned the donkey and its colt and who were those who spoke to the disciples? We are never told. Yet, all of these folks were part of the final act of God’s perfect plan! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God!

EXAMPLE: During this time of political prognostication there are those who plot and plan and scheme in order to garner our votes. They promise the moon, a fence, or free college education but what they truly want is the power and recognition of the position they seek. They try to buy our votes with a promise and a prayer of hope. They would take from those who have something and give it to those who did not work for it. They would hope to abuse our good nature and our desire for answers to further their own agendas. How totally different then is the Son of God as he rides into the city of Jerusalem. The Prince of Peace wanting to bring the peace of God to all who would accept him as savior and Lord. The schemes of man cannot compete with the plan of God! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God!

If we are told what we are to receive as a present beforehand, it kind of spoils the surprise. Here we read that the Israelites were told over and over what God had planned all along and still they were surprised when it occurred. Matthew reminds us that…

II. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets! (Vv. 4-7)

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.

1. Matthew, in hindsight, knew why it happened the way it did: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” It was from Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV) This was not the normal manner in which conquering kings arrived, for usually they came in riding on horses or in chariots. A little colt was a symbol of peace. The phrase having salvation denotes that he would come as a Deliverer, as the one to give salvation to his people. Jesus’ peaceful entrance was fulfilled when he presented himself to Israel in triumph as he entered Jerusalem just as the prophet foretold! Perhaps some of the disciples at the time understood the significance of this gesture of Jesus; however we find that they were still kind of clueless as to why Jesus had come and why he came in peace. Luke describes how even after Jesus’ resurrection and right before his ascension they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NIV) He came to bring the peace between mankind and God, not between men and men. He tells them, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Matthew 24:6 NIV) Whatever was going through their minds at the time no one knows, but we see that “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.” Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets!

EXAMPLE: “I will come home”, he had told his family. Over and over as he prepared for his tour of duty he reminded them that he would come home — after all, he promised. However a promise is not a promise kept until it is fulfilled. His wife knew and his children sensed that this might be one promise he could not keep. It was dependent upon so many factors: The violence of war, the uncertainty of life, and the hatred of mankind toward one another. And yet, months later, almost a year had gone by, and a dark-colored car pulled up outside of their home and out of the vehicle stepped their father and husband just as he had promised! As he hugged their necks and kissed their cheeks he exclaimed to them, “Didn’t I promise you I would come home?” And he did just as he promised. Since the time of Adam and Eve God had promised to send mankind the answer to their sin condition. And now he had. Unlike the uncertainties of a manmade promise, God’s promises are always sure. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets!

Hope against hope the folks had longed for an answer from God for their condition. But what they needed and what they wanted were two different things. God saw their need, not their want. In this we discover that…

III. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people! (Vv. 8-11)

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

1. As I said before, when something exciting happens a large crowd often forms and gets excited about what is going to occur. People talk and gossip spreads like wildfire. It was the biggest festival of the Hebrew calendar in their holy city of Jerusalem and now the one who claimed to be the coming Messiah was headed into Jerusalem! And not in some sneaky backhanded way, he was riding in on the foal of a donkey! Was he the coming king? Was he the Messiah? Who knew, but no one wanted to miss the spectacle! So we discover that “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” The disciples brought the animals, threw their garments on them to make simple saddles, and people in the large crowd spread their cloaks and tree branches on the road! So caught up were the people that “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!'” It literally means “Save (us), we pray!” Interestingly it is from the Psalms, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”(Psalms 118:22-27 NIV) So, in light of the crowds and excitement they brought with them; “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee!'” They were not sure who Jesus was but they were hopeful of who he might be! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

EXAMPLE: It looked like a bicycle from the way it was wrapped and she thought it might be a bicycle because she had been asking and asking for one for such a long longtime. Could it be, was it a bike just for her? In anticipation she unwrapped her gift, she threw aside the wrapping paper, the pretty bow and ribbon, and there before her eyes was a bicycle! Her hopes and dreams were fulfilled. While the shouting crowd did not fully understand the significance of this event, they seemed to be acknowledging that this Jesus is the promise of the prophets who had come to grant them salvation. Both their actions and words display their hopes for this one coming into the city presenting himself publicly as their King. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

Conclusion:

Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The life of Christ – Philippians 3:7-17

The life of Christ – Philippians 3:7-17

By Pastor Lee Hemen

March 13, 2016

The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life because the game board was set up like a checker board. The Game of Life was America’s first popular parlor game. The game simulates a person’s travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. You spun a six-sided top; dice were seen as gambling, to move to your space. Two to six players could participate in one game. The modern game was introduced in 1960 and consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. You collect a spouse, kids, jobs and cash as you head around the board.

Of course the real “game of life” which one lives is a lot more complicated. However God has given us a way to live our lives in Jesus. As easy as it sounds it is a whole lot more difficult than we often imagine because good and bad things still happen to those who live in this sin-fallen world. Faith in Christ does not do away with the day-by-day effects of sin in creation. Paul describes for us how believers can live the life of Christ. Let’s discover what this means for each of this morning…

READ: Philippians 3:7-17

Human beings can become so captivated by their successes in life that they lose sight of what life is all about. Paul brings us back to earth, so-to-speak when he teaches us about our life in Christ. Paul teaches us that…


I. A life in Christ begins with faith! (Vv. 7-9)

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

1. Paul, as a believer in Christ, was not only a pragmatist he was also a faithful realist. He knew whom he followed and why his life had been changed so dramatically. This is why he wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul did not dwell on his past life. This is good advice for all believers. Far too many of us stay spiritually stunted because we either stay focused on our past flaws or think we should elevate our past life in order to elicit some kind of spiritual notoriety. Shame on us! Paul reinforced this by stating “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” When we come to Jesus we sacrifice ourselves, all that we are past, present, and future. “Everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Now that Jesus is our master and king everything in our life is to be considered “rubbish”, literally human waste, that we “may gain Christ and be found in him”. This is extremely important. We often forget who and what our focus in life is to be and it isn’t to be ourselves. Why, because when we focus on ourselves, what we gain, what’s in it for us; we become self-centered and myopic in our lives. Everything begins to revolve around us and our happiness and it becomes a shallow reflection of what we are to be as God’s children. We are “not to have a righteousness of [our] own” that comes from following a set of rules or regulations, like “the law” but rather “that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” A life in Christ begins with faith!

EXAMPLE: What is faith? Is it a wish I may, a wish I might? Some in our world today think so and equate it with wishing upon a star or believing in fairies, but this is not the case. The Christian’s faith is squarely placed in the facts of history and the assurance of who Jesus was and is. Jesus is not some made up person nor a myth based speculation or supposition; his life, death, and resurrection were seen by hundreds of folks, testified to by his enemies and friends alike, and written about by those who followed him and those who wrote about the contemporary history of his day. This is why those who walked with him, saw him, and were changed by him can say with absolute certainty, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 11:1; 12:2 NIV) Where is your faith is placed this morning? A life in Christ begins with faith!

Shinning like stars in a sin-darkened world is impossible if we are trying to do so through our own effort or resolve. We will fail. Paul understood that…

II. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! (Vv 10-14)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul’s answer was that “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” We all want the “power of his resurrection” but few of us desire the “fellowship of sharing in his suffering”. This is understandable; few folks want that kind of suffering in life. Yet, God came as a man to experience our hardships himself and to suffer and die for us. In this we know God now intimately understands our sufferings in this life. Peter would remind us that “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21 NIV) We obtain our resurrection through our faith as we live our lives for him who saved us. Paul was well aware that in this life we are often weak in our will to totally follow Jesus, so he confesses, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” While his life in Jesus was imperfect, he knew he was perfect in Jesus and he could therefore “press on to take hold of that which” God had called him to in this life in Christ. It was a daily effort for Paul like that of running a race: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We can only press on as we forget what was in our past. What Paul meant here is that like a runner we do not concern ourselves with what was behind us, we look forward to the obstacles and rewards ahead. God knew we could never forget our sufferings, but do not have to dwell there with them in the past. We have a new life in Jesus that encourages us to move forward. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God!

EXAMPLE: A life without a goal is a life blowing in the wind of circumstances; it is blown away by whatever comes along. I often ask the fifth graders what their goal in life is. Some do not have a clue, while others already have a plan they are willing to follow. The Christian’s goal in life is to be like Jesus. Paul would bluntly write, “We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:7-9 NIV) A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! What is your goal this morning?

As we run life’s course with Jesus we focus on what is ahead. And as we do we soon realize that there is one running ahead of us encouraging us onward to the goal of God. Paul knew that…

III. A life in Christ follows him! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul was desperately trying to get these new believers to focus on their new lives in Jesus and not their old lives nor the things they would face as they followed Christ. He writes that in fact “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” Interestingly, Paul’s salvation experience had taken place about 30 years before he wrote these words. He had won many spiritual skirmishes. Paul had matured spiritually in those years, but he candidly confessed he was not a perfect disciple of Jesus. He also knew there would be those who while in the trenches of a spiritual battle would be at odds with what Paul was teaching them. Saying is one thing, doing is another. And so, he writes that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Paul trusted God to make it clear to those who doubted Paul as long as they followed Jesus. The greatest need among believers is to live up to what they already have in Christ. James, Jesus’ brother, would write, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV) This is why Paul tells the Philippians, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Paul would also write the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV) Believers are to be examples to others in the world and to those we walk with in Jesus. We are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example… and [we are] take note of those who live according to the pattern” Paul and others who are mature in Jesus gave us! A life in Christ follows him!

EXAMPLE: I have often told the story of how when I was little, like a lot of small children, I would walk in my father’s footsteps. Here’s what I mean: When we would walk in deep snow or on the beach in the soft sand, I would follow my dad and try to take the same stride as he did and try as hard as I could to walk in his footprints. Later, when he became crippled and walked with a cane, I learned that while he could not take the same strides he used to, he was still the same person that I would often try to live up to. John would write, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) Who do you follow this morning? A life in Christ follows him!

Conclusion:

A life in Christ begins with faith! A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! A life in Christ follows him!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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