Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Life of the Prophet Samuel, the coming of King Saul

Last week we talked about the faith of Ruth and Naomi. They lived in the time of the judges, if you recall. And Israel had often been caught in the repeating cycle of sin and repentance. Before that we saw Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and Joshua later led them into the promised land. It’s all one, big story.

So this week we see the time of the judges coming to an end. And instead we have God’s speaking and leading the Israelites through a prophet.

But what is a prophet? A prophet is one who hears from God, and then speaks what God says to them to the people of Israel. Even today, in the church we have people with the gift of being a prophet, where they speak things that God tells them. I wonder if anyone here has that gifting? God will reveal it to you, if you do.

You can turn in your Bibles to 1st Samuel, chapter 1.

So this journey, of God’s prophet, who would help guide Israel, began with a woman named Hannah. She was married, but unable to have children. Isn’t it interesting that God works through people who have such difficulties? God likes to work through people who have serious problems. But Hannah goes to the temple, and prays to God, asking for a son. And there is a man there named Eli, who overhears Hannah praying. So Eli said to her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

God then allows Hannah to give birth to a son, and she names him Samuel. She had vowed that if God would give her a son, she would give him over to the service of the Lord. So this blessed child, Samuel, would be raised in the temple, under the care of Eli, and would grow up to be the first great prophet of God.

But during this time it was very rare for anyone to hear a word from the Lord. One night Samuel heard someone call his name. He thought it was Eli so he went to Eli, several times asking him what he wanted. But Eli said he didn’t call him. But the 3rd time Eli realized he was hearing the Lord call his name. So he told Samuel to listen for the Lord.

And God gave Samuel a prophecy about Eli’s family. That his children were corrupt and his house would be cursed. So Samuel, young guy at this point is afraid to tell Eli the prophecy, because it’s obviously not a good word, its judgment. But Eli insists to know. And so Samuel speaks it to him.

Meanwhile during this time Israel was again fighting against the Philistines, an enemy nation. And they are not doing well. So they bring out the ark of the covenant, that contains the ten commandments, the two tablets. And they bring it out with their army, because they’re hoping if they have the ark with them, then they’ll be sure to win the battle. But God is not amused with this. They aren’t obeying God, they’re just trying to use the ark as a tool to win the battle. So they lose the battle, and the philistines end up capturing the ark of the covenant. This is a nightmare really. The enemy has captured this holy ark, where God resided with the people. And it’s gone. The enemy has it.

Eli is so shocked that he falls out of his chair and breaks his neck and dies. Eli had led Israel for 40 years.

So then Samuel takes over as prophet of the Lord. And he calls the people to repentance once again saying, ““If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

And Israel did repent again and turned to the Lord. So the Lord granted Israel victory against the Philistines, and they were driven back and defeated.

Samuel served the Lord faithfully many, many years. But eventually as Samuel grew older in age, he planned for who would replace him.

It says in 1st Samuel 8:1-22, “When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So the people demand a king to rule over them. And the Lord is not pleased with this. Because they are basically rejecting God as their king and wanting a human ruler. But God allows them to have a king over them. But warns them of what it will mean.

In any case Samuel seeks the Lord and the Lord reveals to him, he will meet the man soon.

1st Samuel 9:15-17 "Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

So Samuel runs into Saul, and reveals to him that he is the chosen one who will become king. There are no coincidences. God ensures that we find ourselves at the right time in the right moment for His will to be done, as long as we are following Him.

1st Samuel 10:1-8 says, "Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

3 “Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

5 “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Then it says this in 1st Samuel chapter 10:9-27: "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.”

In chapter 11 we see that Saul leads a battle against the Ammonites, a rival nation who attack Israel and besiege the city of Jabesh. The Lord is with King Saul, and he gathers an army of 330,000 men. Saul breaks them into 3 groups and they attack the ammonites during the night, and they totally defeat them.

So the haters who didn’t want Saul as king are proven wrong. And it says this in 1st Samuel 11:12-15, “The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.”

In 1st Samuel 12, we see Samuel’s final speech to the Israelites before he retires from being the prophet. He says a great deal to Israel and really calls out Israel for the evil of asking for a king. And how bad that was to do. Because it was really rejecting God and asking for a human ruler. The people confess their sin and ask Samuel to pray for them.

This is how he responded:

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

The point here, is that even if we mess up, I mean mess up big time. The best thing to do is to turn again to the Lord, with all your heart. That’s key, our whole heart, focus in on God once again. God is pleased to make us his own. That’s the whole point is for God to bring us back to himself. Lots of great advice from Samuel. Fear the Lord. Serve Him faithfully. Think about things he’s done in your life in the past. But there’s also a warning here, verse 25, if you persist in evil, you will perish. Same thing today, if we persist in evil, we’ll get further and further from God, until we lose everything.

So now Saul is King, and he attacks the Philistines once again. He assembles two small forces, one led by him one led by his son Jonathan. And they attack. But this angers the philistines. We aren’t really sure, but it seems like Saul impulsively attacked the philistines with small forces. And then it says, “5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.””

So for many years King Saul is constantly at war with the philistines, and it’s bitter and brutal fighting. Finally, they do win a great victory, with the help of his son Jonathan. But Saul disobeys God again, when God said to destroy the Amalekites and their king, and don’t take any of their produce or cattle or sheep, instead Saul did the opposite, sparing their king and taking their produce and cattle for his troops. So again, Samuel comes and rebukes Saul. And Saul is very upset and argues with Samuel.

Samuel goes before the Lord, and the Lord says that he regrets having put Saul as king, and indicates that another will have to replace Saul as king eventually.

This is an important reminder that we ought to always obey God. If he’s calling us to do something, or lead something, or be part of something, we ought to simply obey God. The worst place to be is outside God’s will for your life and the best place in the universe to be is at the center of God’s will for your life. I know this from experience.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Spiritual Journey: The Journey Home

A quote from business insider newspaper, “At approximately 9:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was hijacked by four al Qaeda terrorists. After the terrorists had stabbed the pilot and a flight attendant, the passengers were told that a bomb was onboard and the plane was heading back to the airport.

But this was after two planes had already hit the World Trade Center, and the passengers on United 93 — huddled in the back of the plane — were beginning to find out what the real plan was. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., several passengers made phone calls to their loved ones.

"Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast," Deena Burnett told her husband Tom, a passenger on United 93, in a cell phone call at 9:34 a.m. "They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They've already hit both towers of the World Trade Center." In another phone call, Tom learned from his wife that another plane had hit the Pentagon.

"We have to do something," Burnett told his wife at 9:45 a.m. "I'm putting a plan together." Other passengers, including Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Todd Beamer, were learning similar details in their own phone calls, as the plane was barreling towards Washington, DC.

The passengers voted on whether to fight back against the hijackers. Led by the four man group, the passengers then rushed the cockpit, with Beamer rallying them in his last words: "You ready? Okay, let's roll."”

So, a pastor and a homosexual man united a group of passengers to retake the plane. Interesting isn’t it? When we stop fighting each other, and unite together, we can do great things. All 44 passengers lost their lives that day. That was the end of their journey. But they did something special by stopping a terrorist hijacked plane that was headed for the united states capitol.

And today, we’re talking about the end of the journey. We’ve gone through our spiritual journey series, and eventually, yes, the journey does come to an end, at least, in this world.

The heroes journey which we’ve been examining breaks the journey into three parts, departure, initiation, and return. Today we go through the various subjects of the 3rd part, the return.

We’ve gone through the road of trials, the union with the lover, the temptation, atonement with the father, apotheosis, and the ultimate blessing. Now, the return home from the journey.

Refusal of the Return – we don’t want to return to our old life or our old ways. We embrace the new calling, as part of the body of Christ, in the army of God. We never return to the old ways.

Rescue from Without – We continue to face our battles in the Christian life, and more and more we continue to realize God swoops in and rescues us, time and again, to do in us what we can’t do ourselves.

The Magic Flight – Time and again we find ourselves in the magic flight, under attack and in persecution as Christians, and time and again, God delivers us on the magic carpet, the flight at night, among the stars, and we rest, realizing God is doing it in us,.

Master of the Two Worlds – We come to the point where we’ve mastered both worlds. You might call this “entire sanctification” we come to the point where we truly have come to understand the spiritual realm. And we’ve learned to apply the spiritual truths of the Bible to the real world. So our life in this world is fully transformed. Thus we are master of two worlds, the spiritual realm in prayer and time with God, and the physical world, how we live as Christians in this gritty real world.

Freedom to Live – Then we come to the Freedom to live. Having come to master the two worlds, we have the knowledge we need, so we learn to share the message of Christ with the world. We share with people we mentor, we share it with strangers and friends, and we become teachers, when we used to be only learners. Now we are teachers of the truth.

Crossing of the Return Threshold – Eventually, as we grow old, we come to the end of the journey, and we die. We pass on to the next world. That is the true conclusion of the journey.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (ERV)12 Remember your Creator while you are young, before the bad times come—before the years come when you say, “I have wasted my life.” 2 Remember your Creator while you are young, before the time comes when the sun and the moon and the stars become dark to you—before problems come again and again like one storm after another.

3 At that time your arms will lose their strength. Your legs will become weak and bent. Your teeth will fall out, and you will not be able to chew your food. Your eyes will not see clearly. 4 You will become hard of hearing. You will not hear the noise in the streets. Even the stone grinding your grain will seem quiet to you. You will not be able to hear the women singing. But even the sound of a bird singing will wake you early in the morning because you will not be able to sleep.

5 You will be afraid of high places. You will be afraid of tripping over every small thing in your path. Your hair will become white like the flowers on an almond tree. You will drag yourself along like a grasshopper when you walk. You will lose your desire,[b] and then you will go to your eternal home. The mourners will gather in the streets as they carry your body to the grave.

Remember your Creator while you are young, before the silver rope snaps and the golden bowl is crushed like a jar broken at the well, like a stone cover on a well that breaks and falls in. Your body came from the earth. And when you die, it will return to the earth. But your spirit came from God, and when you die, it will return to him.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Surprising Pro-Life Message of The Mandalorian

Have you seen the Mandalorian? It's a surprisingly successful television show given the failure of the Disney Star Wars movies to tell a coherent compelling story. Why is the Mandalorian so successful? One could point to many factors, strong story, mystery, action, familiar locales, and so on. But one element I'd like to point you toward is a strong pro-life message in the hit show.

Mando is a no-nonsense bounty hunter, and we see his ruthlessness displayed. He has a somewhat transcendent worldview, in his connection to the Mandalorian way. But his means to that end is defined by dispassionate pursuit of bounties against individuals, often evil in nature. 

But then Mando encounters someone special, the child. 

The child, is a baby. And despite Mando's dogged dedication to emotionless service to wealth acquisition, he encounters something that is sacred, something in the child that he recognizes as a transcendent value that must be preserved: innocence.  

The child is innocent, unable to protect itself.  So Mando launches his rescue mission, to save the child, giving up everything, becoming a target to all his former associates, and a target to the imperial remnant.

The child is a mystery, slowly being unfolded. The child is special. The child is beautiful in a way. Mando makes it his mission to protect the child. 

I can't help but see an incredibly strong pro-life message unfolding here. The child floats around in a cocoon of sorts, along with Mando wherever he goes.  The cocoon carrying pod reminds me of an unborn child carried in the womb of a mother. 

The unborn child is considered garbage to modern society. It is not protected.  It's life is forfeit.  And Mando begins by following that same ethic, turning the child in to the authorities, who proceed to begin experimenting on it, attempting to study it and gain medical insight from it. Watching these scenes I couldn't help but think of Planned Parenthood's underground sales of baby body parts, on a black market of sorts. They carve up the aborted fetus, study it, and many companies even include fetal cells in their products, like vaccines and such.  The unborn baby is seen as medical meat, to be carved up, studied, and sold on the market.  Much seems to be the same for the child in the Mandalorian.  He is regarded as a commodity. 

But Mando as he considers this reality, is moved to action. He realizes, even if no one else will protect the child, he must protect the child. Why? Because there is something sacred and special, about the innocence of a child.  The child is special, unique, worthy of life, and ought to be protected. So he makes it his new mission in life to protect the child.  The child, who floats around in a large pod, not so dissimilar from the unborn child floating in the womb of the pregnant mother.

The man, Mando, the strong male character, again another surprise from a Disney that has promoted an agenda of displaying strong female characters recently, is urged toward morality, toward sacredness, toward a transcendence, in regard to life. And this gives the character meaning. It gives the character a hill to die on.  And it inevitability begins to characterize the entire life of Mando. He is now defined in a new way, simply by recognizing a reality many of us deny, that all life is sacred, and even and especially, helpless, innocent life, the life of a child. 

And so all of us join in with Mando in his primal, basic realization, that a helpless baby is worth protecting, even if we don't know that baby by name. It doesn't matter if we're related to that baby or not, by family or by blood, the life of the child still matters infinitely. And must be protected. And as an audience we fall in love with this mission. The bounty hunter story is appealing. But it lacks transcendence. It lacks that something special that stirs the best in us. But marry the bounty hunter with protecting the child, and we find something very special indeed.  It's something we've all lacked in our lives: True meaning. It's something we all long for deep within: To believe there is something special in the universe.

Many of us have slowly died inside, listening to the skeptics and the modern philosophers who tell us nothing has any meaning, even an unborn child.  But never-the-less our hearts still ache for that cause to live for. We long to believe.  We are all the empty, miserable bounty hunter, lonely, serving wealth and status, and power. And we all long for that moment when something deep within us in stirred by the sacredness of the life of a child, that sets us on a mission to live differently. We come alive. We believe again. And we rise above our old lives, to stand for something right, something pure, something good. It changes our entire lives.  The baby is special. The baby is sacred. The unborn life truly does matter. 

So, we all ought to declare with Mando, the simple phrase, "Protect the child, this is the way." 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Mysteries of the Crucifixion: The 7 Sayings of Christ on the Cross

The day that Jesus was crucified was one might call a nightmare day. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a nightmare day. But it began with Jesus sharing the Passover feast with his disciples in the upper room. That night Jesus prayed at the garden of gethsemane in great anguish and sorrow, because he knew what the cross meant. That night Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities, and Jesus was arrested. He was awake all night being questioned by the Pharisees. And the next day he went before the roman officials, was beaten, scourged, and forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, where he would be crucified.

Jesus did this freely for us. No one took his life from him. He gave it up willingly. But why? To receive the punishment, we deserved for our sins.

Does it penetrate to the deepest recesses of your being, your soul, and your understanding of the world? Do we really understand the significance of the cross?

Let us consider the state of reality. Did you know that the way things are right now are not as they were intended to be? It’s true. These lives we live today are a struggle, often broken, filled with chaos and strife.

We as a species we're destined for paradise. But paradise was lost, through a string of events we call the fall of man. Today we live in the fall. But as Christians our ultimate destiny is paradise. It’s paradise regained, thanks to Jesus.

We live here 80 to 90 years. We’ll spend forever in paradise. Millions and millions of years are just the beginning of eternity with Christ. But today, right now, really matters. Because the door stands cracked open. And soon it will be shut forever. That is the door to salvation. That is the door to eternal life. Who is the door? Jesus. But once Jesus returns and sets all things right on Earth, that door will close. Many people will be very surprised, and the fate that awaits them is terrible indeed.

Every person we see, every single one is made in the image of God. Every person we see, our coworkers, our friends, family, strangers and gas station attendants. Their souls hang in the balance, today. They die for lack of knowledge. Everything is at stake right now. Right now is when we can make a difference.

Paradise was lost, but it has been regained and we are destined for that eternal city, the New City of God. This place is where I want to be! John wrote of the city when he said:

“It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” -Revelation Chapter 20

We have access to this glorious future, to eternal life, to eternal joy, to paradise itself! We know why:

Two thousand years ago Jesus willingly went to the cross, voluntarily. He was there for hours, suffering. Today as we consider reaching those in our community, I’d like to draw your attention to the 7 sayings of Jesus while he was nailed to the cross.

Our savior is nailed to the wooden cross beams, and lifted up and the cross base is dropped into a hole in the ground. And as Jesus is there, slowly dying, having been whipped and beaten, he makes several statements. Let’s take a look at these statements and see what they teach us about the mysteries of the cross.

The roman soldiers were debating over who would get Jesus’ robe. This was right after Jesus had been hoisted upon the cross. And this is when Jesus made his first statement:

Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

So often in our world violence begets violence, hatred is met by hatred. The Jews and the Islamic nations have fought back and forth for hundreds of years. Family disputes go on and on. They hurt us, so we hurt them. Back and forth, back and forth. When hate was thrown upon Jesus, when violence was thrown upon Jesus, it did not bounce back, it stopped with Jesus. At the cross, Jesus returned the hatred of his enemies with love, and He absorbed the sin of the world, ending it. Next…

The criminal on the cross says to Jesus, “If you’re really the son of God get us down from here.” Then the second criminal says, “We are punished justly, we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Luke 23:43: “Truly, I say to you on this day, you will be with me in paradise.”

At that moment, the criminal confessed his own sinfulness, and declared that Jesus Christ was the king who would come into his kingdom. And by his humility, his willingness to see the truth, that he was guilty, and Jesus was innocent, did he receive eternal life. He repented, and said that Jesus was pure, and he was justly deserving judgment. So he received grace.

Mary the mother of Jesus and John the disciple of Jesus were there when Jesus was on the cross. So after Jesus’ words with the criminal, he turns his head towards mom and says, “Mom, this is your son” gesturing toward John. And then to his dear friend John he said, “Son, this is your mother.”

This reminds of us the importance of relationships, and family.

In Matthew chapter 27 it says “42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At this moment it is believed, that for three hours the presence of God the Father left Jesus Christ utterly alone on the cross. At this moment Jesus atoned for the sins of the world, in total darkness. An eclipse of the sun occurred, and it was completely dark.

Jesus saved others, but he did not spar himself. He went to the cross, suffered the condemnation for the sins of the world. Jesus became sin, in so doing, God the Father could not look upon God the son, but turned his being away from Him and left him alone. That is the punishment we deserved, and Jesus took it for us. What a terribly high cost.

Jesus declares forgiveness, he declares grace to those who slaughter him, but he does not spare himself the great suffering, the great passion of being utterly left alone, to have all the sin of the world poured upon him like a great river of filth and darkness descended.

Three hours, total darkness. And after three long hours Jesus cried out “Father, father, why have you forsaken me?”

He’s suffering, and he’s crying out in sadness that he has been left so incredibly alone, left condemned with the worst sinners.

Jesus’ then utters the phrase: “I thirst.” And many consider this a declaration of his extreme suffering. He is in the most intense state of suffering. He is offered the sour wine but does not receive it. He accepts no consolation.

Shortly after these words Jesus declared victory when he said, “It is finished.” He had atoned for the sins of the world, and it had been fully accomplished. Jesus was victorious to the very end, just as he is victorious in our lives today.

Then finally Luke 23:46 Jesus is reunited with God the Father, when He says “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And then Jesus died.

Jesus cried out one last time (Matthew 27:50) and he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:51 then says “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open.”

Jesus’s victory on the cross had torn away the veil between God and people. Jesus opened the door to relationship between God and man through his mediation. He shook the world, defeated Satan, and opened up the tombs, in that he had defeated death, and declared eternal life open to all who would believe in Him.

These things are true! And real! This all really happened. It’s recorded by eye witnesses in the gospels. Jesus Christ is alive. He is resurrected, and he has defeated sin and death. Think of the weight, value, and importance of what Jesus has done. Eternal life is open to all who would believe in Jesus. It’s open today.

Friends we are so blessed in this church, to come here every week and celebrate our glorious Jesus. But friends, there are so many out there today who don’t have that opportunity. They know nothing of Jesus. And we have to reach them. It’s easy to sit here on Sunday and worship God. It’s a lot scarier to leave our comfort zone, to step out into the community and minister to someone we don’t know much about.

Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And he said, “go forth and preach the gospel to everyone.”

We know everything hangs in the balance. The stakes are so high. Today I invite you to go into your communities; to visit with someone who needs Jesus, develop a relationship with them, and bring them into the family of believers.

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