Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

The King's Speech

Celebration, 24 April 2011, Easter

I was once looking at a book on world religions. It talked about Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism and other faiths and I was curious what it had to say about Christianity. It began by stating that Christianity is an historical religion. It did not begin with a philosophy or dream or vision. In fact, we are here today not even because Jesus was a wise teacher and healed people. It’s all about the resurrection. Period.

Few people argue that Jesus lived. Most acknowledge that He was crucified. Everything about our faith rises and falls on the resurrection. If Jesus is dead, we are wasting our time this morning. In fact, if Jesus is dead, we are wasting our lives!

The Account (Matthew 28)

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
- Matthew 28:1-4

The stone was like a giant wagon wheel. This particular stone is inside a track. What was the purpose of the stone?

  • contain the smell
  • contain the body

This was not an ordinary burial, though. Let’s go back a few verses to the previous chapter:

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. - Matthew 27:57-61

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” - Matthew 27:62-64

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. - Matthew 27:65-66

So Jesus’ dead body was placed in the tomb, the tomb was covered with a stone, the stone had a seal, and a guard was posted.

I’ve always found it fascinating that the chief priests heard Jesus say He would rise again after three days, yet His followers were clueless.

Back to the story...

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” - Matthew 28:5-7

They entered the tomb. They saw where Jesus lay, yet He was not there!

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” -
Matthew 28:8-10

Why were the women afraid?

The first thing Jesus says is “fear not.” This is the most common command in the Bible, given to us 366 times, one for every day of the year, including leap year! Fear not. Why? We’ll see in a moment.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. - Matthew 28:11-15

Matthew tells us why some would not believe in the resurrection. A plan was devised to turn it into a myth.

For two thousand years people have been devising ways to explain away the resurrection. Maybe His body was stolen. One of my favorites is that maybe Jesus never died and just walked away (if you’ve ever seen “The Passion of the Christ” you know that was impossible, to say nothing of His heart being pierced and blood and water flowing out).

There’s one huge problem with anything that explains away the reality of the resurrection—hundreds of eyewitnesses with identical accounts. Some people have said it was just a hallucination on the part of His followers, but remember one thing: many of these people died for their belief in the resurrection. It’s one thing to make up a story or experience a vivid dream, but people don’t become martyrs over fairy tales.

Friends, the resurrection is not merely an important part of our faith. Everything rises and falls on it!

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. - 1 Corinthians 15:14

Finishing our story, it says

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20

We recently looked at this passage as we talked about Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations. Remember He told the women to fear not? Here’s why—I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

So what?

Some of you are Christ-followers. Without the resurrection there is no Easter, no Christianity, no church, no eternal life, no heaven, no hope, no joy, and no peace. Everything depends upon the resurrection. If we serve a dead God, our faith is no different than any other religion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions

There’s only one tomb that is empty!

If you are truly a follower of Jesus, He tells us two things—go and fear not. We are on a mission that as we are going through life, we are to make disciples. We are to let others know about the incredible life that Jesus offers.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Tomorrow is the beginning of the E.A.C.H. campaign at 2WordStory.com. I hope you are ready to share your story...and His!

Some of you are not Christ-followers. I urge you to seriously consider Jesus. This is not about His teachings or miracles, it’s about His With all due respect to other religions, only Jesus died for you. Only Jesus demonstrated His love to you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

Only Jesus conquered sin and death and the grave. Only Jesus’ tomb is empty.

Jesus said to Martha

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
- John 11:25-26

Jesus said

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10

He said

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6

He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Celebration!

Today is a day of celebration. On Friday we remembered the murder of an innocent man who was also God, Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate His resurrection. Today we celebrate life—His and ours. The word celebration means to make public and that’s what Jesus told us to do. He didn’t tell His followers to keep His life and resurrection a secret. He told them to go! He told them to go public! We celebrate in this building today, but the real celebration begins as we leave this place to go public. That’s what 2WordStory is about. That’s what Scio is about. That’s what the Church is about—letting the whole world know that Jesus is alive!

You can listen to the podcast here.

Crowds & Critics, 17 April 2011

Big Idea

Jesus had crowds of followers...and critics. The critics had no idea who Jesus was. It was the children who understood. May we be like little children, praising our great God.

Crowds

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.

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.’” - Matthew 21:1-5

This prophecy was quite unusual since kings normally arrived as conquerors riding on horses. Even then people thought it mattered what they drove!

A colt was a symbol of peace. It was a demonstration of humility. Imagine President Obama coming to Ann Arbor in a 1999 minivan rather than a 2011 Cadillac limo!

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. - Matthew 21:6

This might be one of the most important verses in the Bible. They obeyed! When is the last time you blindly obeyed God, even if the request seemed unusual?

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. - Matthew 21:8

This was an act of homage to royalty in their culture.


A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
- Matthew 21:9

Most of the people in the crowd were not from Jerusalem like the ones that yelled “Crucify Him” days later, but pilgrims from Galilee in town to celebrate the Passover. Some were probably in Jesus’ fan club that had observed His miracles in Galilee. They were singing, but also shouting

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

Even children joined in the action. What were they shouting? It was from another Old Testament passage.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. - Psalm 118:26

Hosanna means, “save us, now.”

The previous verse in Psalm 118 says

O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. - Psalm 118:25

So the shouts were both praises and a petition. The crowd knew Jesus was special, and they wanted Him to save them from the oppression of the Romans. They were excited to be with Him, but they wanted more than an autograph or a photo. They wanted physical salvation from their government. They wanted Him to overthrow the rulers and be their king.

This was a celebration of King Jesus, one of the few moments in the Gospels where Jesus’ glory is recognized on earth.

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. - Matthew 21:10-11

Who is Jesus? This is maybe the most important question in the world. Literally.

The people announced to the city inhabitants that Jesus is the prophet, the One promised by Moses (Deut. 18:15). This event was the moment in which Jesus was presented to the nation of Israel as the rightful Son of David.

Critics

The crowds are singing and shouting praises and petitions to Jesus, but crowds can be fickle. Just ask any politician! Public opinion can change so quickly. One minute you are elected into office and the next people are demanding your resignation.

Multitudes often seem to approve the gospel, but few become consistent disciples. The next verses in Matthew 21 detail an event that likely occurred the next day.

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” - Matthew 21:12-13

This was not the first time Jesus cleared the Temple. John 2:13-25 records a similar yet different incident that occurred three years earlier.

Jesus shows emotion. He is not nice. He is not Mr. Rogers. He demonstrates righteous anger. He kicks booty!

Jesus didn’t throw them out to be mean, but to restore it. He didn’t just say the right things, He did it. He only drove out those that were selling and buying. He made room for those who wanted to worship God.

You would think that this upheaval would anger the greedy, ungodly religious leaders that were making money off of the Jewish system, but notice what it says next.

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. - Matthew 21:14-15

It wasn’t just His disruption that bothered the religious leaders, but the “wonderful things He did and the children shouting.”

The outcasts of society—the blind and lame—came to Jesus for healing. They were not usually welcome at the temple.

It was the “wonderful things” Jesus did and the sound of the children that caused the religious leaders to become indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. ¶ “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” - Matthew 21:16

Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2.

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise...- Psalm 8:2

Who is Jesus? That’s the crucial question for you and me and our world. That’s the basis for our 2WordStory.

The critics had no idea who Jesus was. It was the children who understood. May we be like little children, praising our great God.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Coronation, 3 April 2011

Big Idea

Who is God? Who is Jesus? This passage beautifully reveals the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus at the beginning of HIs ministry.

Text (Matthew 3:13-17)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Context

Before we can appreciate the text, we must set the scene. This account is one of the few accounts that is found in all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark (1:9-11), Luke (3:21-22) and John (1:29-34).

Baptism

The word “baptism” sparks different thoughts in our minds. You may think of an infant being baptized or a public confession of faith by a believer.

The Greek word for baptism is “baptizo” which means “immersion.” This was not a sprinkling or a pouring or a squirt gun fight but people getting dunked in the water.

What was the purpose of John baptizing people? Mark 1:4 says

Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

People would come to John and ask to be baptized for the remission of their sins. As we said a few weeks ago, repentance is agreeing that we have sinned against God (and often others) and turning away from our sins to live a new life.

“But Jesus had no sins (Hebrews 4:15)” you might say. That’s what John said, too!

But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

So why would Jesus insist on getting baptized? He came to do the will of the Father and to “fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, Jesus was baptized in obedience to the Father.

The entire third chapter of Matthew is the fulfillment of prophecy from the Italian prophet, Malachi!

Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

Malachi 4:5-6 See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Obedience

Sometimes God calls us to do things that don’t make sense. That’s where trust comes in. Imagine being Abraham and God telling you to grab your knife and start cutting foreskins. God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. He told Moses to speak to a rock and expect water to flow out.

Ultimately it’s a trust issue.

God is good. All the time.
God is sovereign and in control. All the time.

He can be trusted, even when it might not make sense at the moment.

John didn’t understand why Jesus would seek baptism, but God had a purpose that was revealed in the following verses.

The Coronation

There is tremendous fanfare and festivities that surround the coronation of a king or queen. The closest thing we know of in our country is a presidential inauguration. Did any of you see President Obama’s inauguration? It cost donors and our government more than $170 million for the weekend...all to formally acknowledge a new leader.

Jesus, our great King, had no such pageantry and spectacle. He had something far greater, however.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

I’d call that a pronouncement! What does the Father say?

  • this is His Son
  • He loves His Son
  • He is well pleased with His Son

It kind of reminds me of a story Jesus told about three men given sums of money to invest (Matthew 25; Luke 19). At the end of the story, the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I live for two words—well done. That’s it. Although it seems crazy, I long for my heavenly Father to announce someday

  • I am His Son
  • He loves me
  • He is well pleased with me

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I am anything like Jesus. In fact, only by dying to myself and letting Jesus live through me do I even have a chance!

The Trinity

One of the most radical distinctions between orthodox Christianity and other religions is the Trinity. The Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 proclaims

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Our one LORD exists in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, admittedly, is a mystery that analogies fail to adequately express, but we worship one “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity” as the great hymn announces.

Church father Tertullian (155-220 ad) was one of the first to use the term ‘Trinity” and it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in 325 that the doctrine became firmly established within orthodoxy.

To say that God exists as a Trinity is to say that there is one God with a unified essence who exists in three equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By person it is meant that God thinks, feels, acts and speaks. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes the doctrine by saying, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”

There are some Christians who deny the Trinity. They believe that God is a single Person who reveals Himself in three different modes or forms, but that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.

Do you see a problem with this passage for the modalist?

We don’t have time to even begin a full treatment of Trinitarianism, but suffice it to say that our text today is one of several that reveal our one God existing simultaneously in three Persons.

Have You Been Baptized?

While we are on the subject, have you been baptized? It’s not only something He experienced, it’s something He commanded. Last week we saw His final words to His followers:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

- Matthew 28:18-20

Oh, did you notice the Trinity there?

Conclusion

To summarize, this text reveals Jesus’ submission and obedience to the Father. His baptism is Christ’s coronation as He begins His ministry. The Trinity is in full view, showing one God existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s also a reminder that each of us—unlike Jesus—is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, something only available through Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. Finally, it underscore the need for all Christ-followers to follow Him in baptism, publicly declaring their faith, dying to their old life, and becoming resurrected with Jesus in new life as a new creation.

You can listen to the podcast
here.

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