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Encountering God at the Cross – A Sermon for the Sunday of Christ’s Passion

 

Encounter God
at the Cross

John 12:20-36

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear people when they want to meet Jesus!

An Odd Question

I have a question for you, one I wish I you were to here to answer.  Message me your answers, no cheating.

Did the Greek visitors to Jerusalem in the gospel reading meet Jesus that day?

Yes or no?  (Pause)

Come on, no cheating! No cheating!

Well, if you said yes, or if you said no, you have done what most people do – they give their opinion on what they think the Bible teachers, without really knowing.  The answer is simple – we do not know.

We know that Phillip, not knowing what to do, went to Andrew, who didn’t know what to do, who went to ask Jesus… but that is where the story transitions to Jesus teaching.

So did the Greeks get to see Jesus that day?

I don’t know, but they would before the week was out.

Which Jesus did they want to see? (Miracle guy, Great Teacher, The Amusement)

Which Jesus did they want to see, anyway?

There were a ton of rumors floating around. This was the greatest speaker ever, this was the guy who does all the miracles, this was the guy who was going to kick out the Romans or maybe they heard the rumor out of Bethany, that there was this guy with two sisters… who died.. and was buried for half a week – and he’s walking around town now.
For these foreigners, here to experience this Passover thing, this was one of the things on their vacation list.  This was a curiosity, and attraction, something special they may have thought, but they had no clue.

The Jesus they saw..

They had no idea they would see him, just a few days from now…beaten and bruised, with spikes that shattered bone and ripped though flesh into the hard wood of the cross.

Jesus had pointed this out, as He said,

 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33  He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

My friends, He knew….

These Greeks showing up simply confirmed it, he was drawing everyone to himself.

To forgive them

To save them,

To have them dance with God the Father….to be swept up in His arms the way the prodigal’s dad did.

It’s not what they expected, it was shocking, but it was amazing.

Be His voice

An abrupt change of direction here….one appropriate for the day Jesus was praised but not for why He should have been praised.

There are people all around us, that need to know they are loved by God.

They are looking for hope, even while they are stuck in their homes. But like the Greeks, and often like us, they are looking for someone to save them, to change the brokenness of life which crushes them.

Which crushes us.

These days we need to encounter God just as the Greeks wanted to so desperately.

But why do we want to see Him? Do we want to see the miracles?  Do we really want to hear what He wants to teach us? Do we want to see Him raise people from the dead?

Why are we seeking Him out?

Just like the Greeks, it doesn’t matter why we are going to seek Him, what matters is that we see Him revealed to us in all His glory, as the love is seen in the harsh light of the cross.

God brings us all there, to the cross – to not just encounter Christ, but to join Him.

To not just see us die with Him, but to raise us, free of all the brokenness, free of all the sin, free of the idolatry, where we decide to play God and control Him.

You can’t do that at the cross… it is not possible.

You can’t control the God who dies there

who dies there… to embrace you… and give you life,

We want to see Jesus – but we need to see Jesus crucified for us…

As do our Greeks visiting us.

That is the Jesus they need to see.. these visitors.

Yes – you want to see Jesus, it doesn’t matter why – Here he is.

He loves you…

Just let that wash over you, comfort you, cleanse you, heal you.

Then when someone needs to meet Him.. introduce the one who loved you from the cross you cling to.

AMEN!

Walking With Jesus from Trials to the Triump: Part VI Finding Hope on the Walk

church at communion 2

Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Finding Hope on the Walk
Zechariah 9:9-12

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!

 The Steps of the journey

Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem.  Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey.  As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,

Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,

He does miracles, incredible miracles.  He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.

He’s coming!  Everything is going to change!

It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.

The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.

Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,

First – He is coming

As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.

He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.

Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.

But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.

And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people.  Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….

Second  – He’s here… working

The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting.  Hear it again

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.

The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?

Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves.  We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.

God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.

We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times.  Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.

Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right.  Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous.  He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right.   That is His role, as He is our king,

Third Step, He frees us.

He describes that here, in verse 11:

11  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.

This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,

He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle.  Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.

For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.

This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day.  But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ.  This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,

That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

AMEN!!

 

We Cry our Hosanna (save us!) Because our World is Upside Down!

We Cry Out, Hosanna

Featured imageBecause Our World Is Upside Down!
Zechariah 9:9-12

IHS

As we adjust from living in a world that is upside down, may the grace of God turn our world right side up, and help us be at peace with the change!

Discomfort and the Poseidon Adventure
Vicar Mark made a comment in Bible Study the other night that made so much sense.  Talking about Palm Sunday, (aka the Sunday of the Passion) he compared it to an old movie, the Poseidon Adventure.

He indicated that Palm Sunday is like the few hours after the people on the upside down ship were rescued.  When they were still so disoriented because what had been upside down, was now right side up. Where what had sadly become normal, was not normal any longer.

It is like trying to adjust to the sermon being the very first thing in the service.

It’s odd, and we aren’t comfortable with it.

Yet when God comes into our lives, it is to put everything back the way it should be.

We have to get used to it as well! Even as we have to get used the paradox of this being both Palm Sunday, and the first day of Holy Week; also known as Sunday of Christ’s passion.

The world shifts back to normal, but will we recognize it?  Will we adjust to God making everything right?

Our Discomfort with the Meek Ruler

When in a few minutes, you hear the words of Zechariah read, I want you to think through the words, 

Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.

That was why the people of Jerusalem were so happy, this was the King, their King that was entering Jerusalem, the one to whom they cried out Hosanna. By the way, that isn’t just a cry of victory, it is a cry asking for it, a cry of despair, a cry for Jesus to go out and win.

Even as they recognized and cried out to Jesus, knowing this, they didn’t see what the salvation they cried for entailed.

For instance, instead of coming on the White Warhorse, proud and ready to lead, he comes on donkey’s foal – a young ass barely able to carry him.

That’s not what we want as our leader, we want someone strong, ready to take on everything, ready to go to war, ready to conquer everything.  The kind of King we can follow in triumph.

But that Is upside down thinking.  If our God is God and nothing can stand against Him, then Jesus doesn’t have to come decked out for war, He can come humbly and peacefully.  He can come in a way that is relaxed, in a way everyone can reach out to Him.

That is how it would be, if sin didn’t rule over people.  Jesus knew why He came, and the kind of kingdom He would establish.  Confident of the Father’s love, and their plan to set everything right side up, He comes with that in mind.

Our discomfort with the Peace He Brings!

We see the same disorientation, when you start to think about the peace this prophecy about Jesus’ promises.  Usually we think of creating peace by disarming the enemy, making them submit to us.

Look at the verse again.. and hear this when it is read later,

10  I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

The prophecy wasn’t about God disarming the world, it was about God disarming Israel!   That doesn’t sound quite right! It sounds quite upside down in fact!  At least from the perspective of living in a broken, sinful world, we want a country well armed!  After all, isn’t It the world against us?  Shouldn’t we make it submit to us?

As God moves to set make everything right, Jesus shows us the greatest victory through dropping the defenses, and loving and serving those who would be our enemy.  His example isn’t from forcing them to obey, but by giving us the confidence to obey.

A confidence that realizes that we don’t have to be offensive in dealing with our enemies, for Jesus will provide them a level of peace, even as His kingdom spreads throughout the world.

As Israel, under the watchful eye of the Roman military as well as the religious authorities calls out for Jesus to save them, Zechariah’s prophecy should point them to the paradox of the cross, where Jesus brings the Father glory, where He wins us the victory, by disarming himself.

They never saw it coming.  They couldn’t see it right, for their world was upside down.  The question is will we see it here.. And now?

Or has sin disoriented us too much?

He is our answer, our place of Safety.

Zechariah saw it coming.  Perhaps it is a better to say the Holy Spirit inspired His perception, and led Zechariah to write this prophecy.

Here some more of it,

11Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the Vicar and an Elder process this morning, you will note that the procession moves towards the altar, toward the place where you will be given Christ’s body and blood this morning, the place where you cry of Hosanna – God save us! Is answered.

Before a cross, remembering that it was at the cross where the blood of the covenant was poured out, even as the wine and blood will be poured out this morning.

Everything turned upside down. A Kingdom won by surrender, peace gained by allowing violence, leadership found in humility, Life created in death, freedom found in submission. Saints found as sinners are revealed to be in Christ.

A life lived in safety and security, for eternity.

Because of God’s passion, because of the peace He came to bring, riding on a donkey.

So we celebrate that Christ, the one who flips everything, making it right, making life the way it was supposed to be.  We celebrate Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the strength to deal with the disorientation is revealed to be something need to know – the peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

Cross or Crucifix, Palms or Passion

Česky: Kříže - symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a ...

Česky: Kříže – symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a jeho ukřižování (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day… as we prepare for Holy Week:

 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT)

Over the years, I have had a number of people who ask me why I, a “protestan” pastor (which I do not consider myself to be – but that’s another conversation) wear a crucifix more often than I wear a cross.  Its the same reason the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – the celebration of the depth of His love, is so much more than Palm Sunday…

My answer is simple – it is where my hope is founded, it is what makes a difference in my life, it is what sustains me, as I face the crap of this world, the sin and trauma that just can rip your heart apart, and the sin and trauma that is my own, which then crushes that heart, with the force a sledgehammer.

It is why the drama of Palm Sunday, when the masses are crying out Hallelujah – and Hosanna, and Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,  is so ironic, and in a way painful.  I can’t but hear under the praises, the same voices starting their other cry, the one that will call for this same man to be crucified, to be tortured and killed.  There is great irony in that, in the second cry, as it is heard and acted upon, they will realize the glorious nature of God’s love.

It is why I would rather cling to an old rugged crucifix, than just an old rugger cross.  For in baptism – I am joined to Christ there as Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Colossians,  It is there at the cross – that a circuimcision of my heart takes place, as God separates my sin and all unrighteousness from me, as He signs adoption papers, as He declares me justified, as I receive the most incredible gift, as I enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Why do I wear a crucifix more than I wear a cross?

Simple – I desperately need to remember He died for me… and as I share in His death, so too I share in His new life.

That He has had mercy on us,,,, despite the cross.

 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)

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