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Jesus, in the cleansing of the Temple, revealed God’s fiery heart for genuine worship and complete purity in the hearts of his people. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles to Mark 11 as we continue our movement through this incredible Gospel of Mark. In today's account we're going to see a very surprising, perhaps even a shocking, side of Jesus. We're going to see in him a holy violence symbolized by the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. In my mind, these two actions go together. They should be seen effectively as one and the same work by Christ. They reveal God's fiery heart for genuine worship and complete purity in the hearts of his people, and they stand as an eternal rebuke to our own lifeless, listless, loveless hearts. Hearts that should burn with love for God, but instead are often polluted by idols and mechanical in our patterns of worship to God. Today we feel the sting of Jesus's rebuke and the sting of his lash in our hearts, hopefully resulting in genuine passion for God's glory and genuine purity from all idols. Revelation 5 depicts Jesus as both lion and lamb, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and also the Lamb of God who was slain to take away the sins of the world. These are radically different views of our Savior, a lion of 600 pounds of ferocious power whose roar can instill terror in man and animals for a dozen miles all around. On the other hand, a lamb who is frail and weak, defenseless and meek, easily led to the slaughter, humble and lowly. The last time as we were looking at the Gospel of Mark, we considered the triumphal entry. We see Jesus depicted there, meek and lowly, humble riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. We considered also at that time his deep sorrow over the sins of his people. As he wept over Jerusalem, we see him meek and lowly. But today, we see Jesus in his lion-like ferocity, taking on the most powerful and corrupt men of his nation, overturning tables, taking a whip to the animals, cleansing a temple defiled by human greed. You see fire in his eyes, you see burning zeal in his heart. Strangely in Mark's account, this dramatic story begins with the only destructive miracle of Jesus's ministry, the cursing of the fig tree. I want to say the full lessons of the fig tree and how Jesus uses it to instruct his disciples on the power of faith-filled prayer, so the withering of the fig tree and its example must wait till the next time that I preach on the Gospel of Mark. Let's begin with the hunger of Jesus as it reflects the hunger of God. Look at verses 12-14, "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again,' and his disciples heard him say it." The next day it says they left Bethany. His evening of reflection and preparation is over. Remember, Jesus had the day before entered the city in a wave of triumph, the triumphal entry, the people celebrating the kingdom they anticipated He was ushering in immediately. They cheered him with cries of “Son of David” and “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The salvation that they were anticipating was essentially military and political, physical. The triumph of the power of the Son of David reigning on the throne of David in Jerusalem, reigning over the Gentiles to the ends of the Earth, especially over the hated Romans. That's what they anticipated. But instead of leading immediately an armed revolution as they expected, Jesus went into the temple, quietly looked around, took stock of what was happening there, but did nothing, said nothing, and because it was late in the day, He went out of the city and went to Bethany for the night. That was it. As I mentioned last time, somewhat of an anticlimactic end to the triumphal entry. The significance of that though, especially given what happened the next day, was Jesus was preparing himself. He was getting ready thoughtfully to do the very thing He was about to do. We should therefore not see the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple as a fit of rage, a tempestuous overreaction. Like many of us, our anger is so frequently sinful and corrupt, Jesus' anger is pure and premeditated and carefully reasoned out. This is the result of a careful deliberation on Jesus' part and soul preparation in Bethany, so early in the morning He sets out, and He comes to this fig tree. "Our anger is so frequently sinful and corrupt, Jesus' anger is pure and premeditated and carefully reasoned out. This is the result of a careful deliberation on Jesus' part and soul preparation." As I've mentioned, this encounter with the fig tree is one of the strangest moments in Jesus' whole ministry. As we've seen time and time again, Jesus uses his miracle-working power to bring life, to bring, effectively, restoration, to restore God's original purpose, the full purpose of God that sin has marred, that sin has stolen, especially his healings to make blind eyes see, because God did not create the eye so that it would be blind, to make deaf ears here because God did not create an ear to be deaf. It's restoration to God's original purpose and to therefore reverse the curse that Adam's sin had brought on the earth and on his descendants. Specifically when it comes to this issue of fruitfulness, we know that the ground was cursed because of Adam's sin. Genesis 3, God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil, you'll eat of it all the days of your life and it will produce thorns and thistles for you." That's the cursing of the Earth and of the crops of the Earth because of Adam's sin. However, when the work of salvation is finished, the world will be restored and even super abundantly restored to a lavish fruitfulness. These images are given again and again in the Old Testament prophets. For example, Ezekiel 34:26-27, God says, "I will send down showers in season. There will be showers of blessing and the trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops." That's a picture of abundant fruitfulness through the grace of God. Why then this cursing of the fig tree? It is destructive, as I've mentioned, using supernatural power to bring forth death, and it is a little strange because Mark's account tells us that it was not the season for figs anyway. Look at verse 13, "Seeing in the distance fig tree in leaf, he went to it to find out if it had any fruit and when he reached it, he found nothing but leaves because it was not the season for figs." Let me tell you something, Jesus knows the rhythm of the seasons better than we do. He understands horticulture better than we do. He, with his Father, invented it. He knew very well that it was not the season for figs, so what's going on there? It's clear He is acting as a prophet. It's a symbolic prophetic action. The Old Testament prophets did these kind of symbolic actions all the time, and Jesus is the perfect and ultimately final prophet. It's clear that from the context that this fruitless fig tree represents more than just Jesus's disappointment at not getting breakfast. That's not what's going on here. Instead, it's clearly symbolic. Jesus was truly physically hungry, but He was also a prophet and his actions were prophetic. He was hungry for spiritual fruit from his people and they had produced nothing but an appearance of life without any genuine fruit behind it. The leaves represent that appearance of spirituality, but the lack of fruit represents the lack of what God really was seeking from his people. There was an outward show of religion, of religiosity, but there was no real fruit. Again and again the Old Testament prophets used this image of fruit as a picture of what God wanted from his people, Israel. A very good example of this is in Isaiah 5:1-7. There the prophet, Isaiah, sings a song for the one he loves, for God, a love song for God. “'My loved one,’ he said, ‘had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up, cleared it of stones, planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it, cut out a wine press as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. Now, I will tell you what I'm going to do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, its briars and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.’" Then he says, Isaiah 5:7, "The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. He looked for justice but saw bloodshed. He looked for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” I. The Hunger of Jesus and the Hunger of God That's God hungry for that kind of spiritual fruit in his people and finding nothing. He says, "I'm going to destroy that vineyard. I'm going to curse it. I'm going to take away its protection. I'm going to command the clouds not to rain on it. I'm going to give it over to the beasts to trample it." In the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy and other places, again and again, this kind of judgment is enacted by Gentile armies that invade Israel and destroy it, again and again, whether the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Greeks, Romans. That's how the judgment would happen generally, invading armies. This is the language of judgment. It's important for us to ask then prophetically and in this text, what is the fruit that God is hungry for? What does He wants? Again and again, I come in my own heart to the two great commandments. It's the start and the end of everything for me. What are they? That we would love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, with all of our strength, and that we would love each other as we love ourselves. That's the fruit that God wants in us, in his people, and He's hungry for it. He's hungry for a world of love. First and foremost, love for himself, the creator and sustainer of all things. For in him we live and move and have our being, and every good and perfect gift we have ever gotten has come from God. God deserves to be thanked and praised for them all. That vertical aspect, the fruit of lips that confesses his name and of hearts that are filled with thankfulness to him, God was hungry for that, hungry for that kind of worship. He deeply yearns for his people to love him passionately and truly and deeply. II. The Corruption and Coldness of the Temple Instead, the religion of Israel was corrupt and cold, the corruption and coldness of the temple. So, we come out of the temple, what is it, this structure, this building, this house, the house of God? Jesus says in verse 17, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers." My house, the temple was God's house. Jesus calls it, “my house.” It is the focal point of the nation of Israel. God had given his laws to Israel at Mount Sinai and central to that old covenant that He made with them at Mount Sinai, central to it was the animal sacrificial system and the tabernacle immovable tent that He set up there in Exodus describing in great detail that tabernacle, what it was to look like, et cetera. That tabernacle was the center of Israel's life, of Israel's religious life. It was literally, physically in the center of all the tribes as they moved through the desert, the tabernacle. It was designed to be an earthly shadow of a heavenly reality of that very throne that we talked about earlier from Revelation 4, the centrality of God. It's central to everything, an earthly place where the Jewish nation could meet with God and worship him. God told the Jews that once they had entered the promised land, God would choose a location from among the 12 tribes and put his name there. He would choose it out and that would be the place to which the nation would be called to go three times a year with their sacrifices and offer sacrifices at that central location. That place in the course of time was Jerusalem, called the City of David, because David conquered it from the Jebusites. The City of David was that place that God had chosen. Now in the course of time, King David, with a heart of love for God, wanted to replace the movable tent that had been around for centuries, the tabernacle, with a permanent structure with foundations called the temple. This was in his heart. Nathan, the prophet, told him that God would actually build a house for him, marvelous prophecy to David, but he also said, "You are not the one to build a temple for me, but it'll be a son coming from your own body because you're a man of blood." That was Solomon, so Solomon built the temple and there all Israel went to offer their sacrifices. God was symbolically dwelling there. That was his dwelling place. Jesus calls it, “my house.” Jesus said it was intended to be a place of prayer for all nations, a place where prayers could be offered on behalf of all nations, but indeed, where all nations could feel comfortable to come and offer prayers to God based on God's dwelling there in Israel, a place of confession of sin, of thanksgiving, intercessions, prayers that God's name be exalted among the nations of the earth. That was what was intended. The Jewish nation therefore would be a kingdom of priests and they would minister the glory of God to the ends of the earth. That was the intention, but instead, we have corruption, the corruption of the temple. First and foremost in the Old Testament, we see very plainly it's corrupted by the cold, lifeless machinery of religion, just the machinery of the Jewish religion just went on and on and on without any heart connection to God. This is a danger for all of us, that we get into a rhythm of religion, week after week coming to church on Sunday and then living the rest of our lives as though we hadn't been to church. There's a machinery that just runs, a mindless machinery, and God is greatly dishonored by it, greatly displeased by it, but the Jews were doing it, too, in the animal sacrificial system. Isaiah 1 talks about it.In Isaiah 1:11-13, God says, "'The multitude of your sacrifices, what are they to me?' says the Lord, I have more than enough of burnt offerings of rams and of the fat of fattened animals. I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” That's the machinery of religion. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me, your New Moons, Sabbath and convocations. I cannot bear your evil assemblies.” That's Isaiah 1. That's that lifeless machinery religion that the prophet Isaiah talked about later that Jesus cited and quoted about the Jews of his own day, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain," Isaiah 29:13. That's the primary problem, the coldness of the hearts of the people toward God, the machinery of religion with their hearts distant from God. But beyond that, we've got the idolatry of money, of covetousness, of greed. In verse 17, He says, "Is it not written? My house would be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it," what does he call it, "a den of thieves." Robbers, thieves, they're using religion to make money. Religion's always been a big moneymaker, still even to this very day, and people seek to make money off of people's religious instincts. So it was in that day, and back then the villain was a man named Annas, the true high priest there. Annas was the high priest. He had been deposed from that position by the Romans who didn't want just one man controlling it, but he still controlled the office. They let him designate his successors. He should have been high priest till he died. That was the law, but the Romans interfered said, too much power for one man, but you can choose who else it will be. All of the high priests around that time were members of Annas’ family. Caiaphas who was high priest that year, we're told in John's Gospel, was Annas’ son-in-law, definitely under Annas’ thumb. Annas and Caiaphas were running this whole thing. Now, as I've said, the Jewish men had to appear three times a year at that location in Jerusalem and offer the sacrifices. No Israelite man could appear empty-handed and they would bring required sacrifices, but there was some practical wisdom set up for this whole thing in the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 14:24-26, it says, "But if that place that I choose is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God, and you cannot carry your tithe because the place where the Lord will choose to put his name is so far away, then exchange your tithe for silver and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Then use the silver to buy whatever you like, cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink or anything you wish and make an offering to the Lord," so that whole thing was set up. It was very wise and practical, but for Annas that right there is a moneymaking opportunity. The Temple concession based on animal sacrifice was an opportunity to make money. One scholar puts it this way, "When people came to make their sacrifices, they first entered the outer court of the Temple called the Court of the Gentiles. In this court, concession booths had been set up for the exchange of money, because the people had to pay a temple tax and anyone who possessed foreign currency had to have it exchanged. Have you ever traveled? Have you ever heard of the exchange rate? At the Temple there was an exchange rate, five to one, a moneymaking opportunity for Annas and Caiaphas. To continue the quote, "Annas also had a monopoly on the sale of sacrificial animals, because the Old Testament law required that any sacrifice be without spot or blemish.” A man would leave his field, go to the Passover, bringing his own sacrifice. Maybe he chose to carry his lamb under his arm and he would go there. But Annas had stationed inspectors of sacrifices at the Court of the Gentiles and each sacrifice had to pass inspection. Let me ask you a question. What percentage of those lambs that were brought actually passed inspection? I would think there's a business model here where you want about 10% to pass and the rest not. I think you also could confiscate some of those animals and sell them again tomorrow. The whole thing was designed to make money. It's disgusting when you think about it. To continue the quote, "As a result, the suggestion was made to obtain approved sacrifice for sale at a certain booth in the Court of the Gentiles, and it also would be sold at five times its actual value." Annas had a real good thing going, as history has intended to us, around the Passover time in Jesus' time, you're talking about a quarter of a million Passover lambs. You realize, that's every year, the kind of money that was rolling into the coffers. Also, as the scholar wrote, "The Jews hated Annas." The Talmud says of Annas, "Woe to the house of Annas. Woe to their serpent's hiss. They are High Priests. Their sons are keepers of the treasury. Their sons-in-law are guardians of the temple and their servants beat the people with staves." They had a monopoly on this Temple concession system and they were making huge money. This is the den of thieves that Jesus is speaking of. They had turned this sacrificial system into a huge machine for making vast amounts of money. Both of those problems, the religious machinery where the people aren't even involved in the covetousness, but they're just coming to do the religion, but their hearts are distant from God, and then Annas and Caiaphas and all them and their covetousness and greed, both of them miss the point of the sacrificial system, and that is that our sin deserves our death. The wages of sin is death. We deserve to die for our sins, and the animal sacrificial system was set up to teach us that, that all sin deserves the death penalty. That should be our blood that is shed. But instead, God has arranged whereby a sacrifice, a substitute, may stand in the way and the guilt can be transferred to the substitute and the substitute die in our place. But the whole thing is symbolic. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. It was waiting for the true Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world and that was Jesus. It was pointing ahead to Christ. But in that Old Testament era, they should have come with brokenness over their sin, with sorrow and grief over their sins, not some cold-hearted religious machinery or a moneymaking opportunity. III. The Fiery Zeal of Jesus: Passion & Purity So, in comes Jesus. We see the zeal, the fiery zeal of Jesus, what I call passion and purity. Look at verses 15 and 16, "On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who are buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves, and he would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts." I believe proper reading of the New Testament, this is the second time that Jesus has cleansed the temple. I think He did it at the beginning of his ministry as recorded in John 2 very early in his ministry right after changing the water into wine, which is said to be his first miraculous sign. The next thing He does, He goes to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple. To some degree Jesus's powerful, vigorous cleansing of the Temple was the alpha and the omega of his public ministry to Israel. It's the beginning and the end of what He did there. In John 2 we're told Jesus sat down at that point and made a whip. Again, that shows this was not impetuousness on his part. It took time for him to make that whip and then He used it on the animals. It was not a thoughtless action or losing of his temper there like it is for us. Also here, He took that night in Bethany to think, to reflect, and then come back the next day and do it. At that time in John's Gospel, there was a statement made about Jesus's zeal, John 2:17, "His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house has consumed me,'" [Quotation of Psalm 69]. Zeal for your house, what is zeal? It's fire and it literally has devoured him. Zeal for your house has eaten him up. It's like a fire burns in Jesus' heart for God's holiness and his temple to be pure and holy. Zeal is burning in his heart. I think it's a perfect fulfillment of what the prophet Malachi predicted concerning the coming of the messenger of the covenant, Jesus. Malachi 3:2-3, "But who can endure the day of his coming? The messenger of the covenant will come suddenly to his temple. He will come to his temple, but who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or like a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites." Did you hear that? He'll purify the Levites, the tribe entrusted with the sacrificial system. He's going to purify them like fire and He’s going to refine them like gold and silver. "Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness." Let me just tell you the end of this sermon. When Christ is done with us, we will be a kingdom of priests with hearts every bit is zealous for the holiness of God as He had. Isn't that good news? When we are in heaven, we'll be offering sacrifices of praise to God from pure hearts forever. Amen. Hallelujah. That's the happy ending of this sermon. But there's a hard journey to travel in between now and then. Here we see Jesus' actions. Now, at the human level, I believe this was literally fulfilled. We can put it this way, zeal for your house has destroyed me. Zeal for your house has killed me. "When Christ is done with us, we will be a kingdom of priests with hearts every bit is zealous for the holiness of God as He had." Why is that? Because what do you think motivated Annas and Caiaphas to be so determined to have Jesus killed? There are a lot of reasons we could have said, He was a blasphemer, violated, but what did they really care about? Think about it. Picture them like the Mafia. Picture Annas like the godfather. Somebody cuts in on your business, you're going to take that person out. Really, it was this action that started the mechanism, that and the triumphal entry where the Romans are not going to put up with that kind of display and they don't want to lose their position of power and money, and so they're going to move out. Zeal, this zeal for God's house will literally, physically result in the machinations and the plots and plans by Annas and Caiaphas to have Jesus killed. But at a deeper level, it is zeal for the true spiritual house of God that led to Jesus' death on the cross, is it not? It is so that sinners like you and me can be purified of our sins by the shedding of his blood that we would be pure. Zeal for the house of God has consumed him. He's saying, "I'm willing to die an infinitely painful death on the cross that God's house might be pure forever from sin." Sin is the great defiler of God's universe, the great defiler of God's land, the great defiler of God's city, the great defiler of God's house, and especially the great defiler of God's people. You cannot measure the fire that burns within Christ's heart for holiness, total purity from defilement. He would pour out his lifeblood to achieve it. Now this work here, this action, is extremely physical. I mean, it's physical. It's like Samson with the jawbone of a donkey. This is a physical thing. This is a massive undertaking. He's driving people out, possibly again with a whip like John 2. He's overturning heavy tables covered with boxes and bags of silver and gold coins. He's throwing them on the ground. He's driving out animals. He's opening up cages with pigeons and doves and they're fluttering away. Interestingly, only in Mark's Gospel we have this one statement in verse 16, "He stopped the flow of traffic across the court. He wouldn't let anyone carry any merchandise across." It was a shortcut to the bazaar, to the market. He's like, "Not today, it's not, not today." It's the kind of detail that just gives you a sense of the truthfulness of this account. This is something that is unusual. He's like, "You will not carry that merchandise through here." How did He get away with it? Do you wonder that? Why didn't someone stop him? But I think they're all stunned, so no one stopped him. This is a picture of God's zeal, God's hatred for sin. The Bible says in Deuteronomy multiple times, and then in the book of Hebrews 12, "Our God is a consuming fire. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." God's not lukewarm about sin. He hates it. Taking another passage from Psalm, Psalm 18:7-8, it says of God, "The earth trembled and quaked and the foundations of the mountains shook. They trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils, consuming fire came from his mouth and burning coals blazed out of it." Now we should not imagine there's the slightest hint of a shade of difference between God the Father and God the Son on holiness. Jesus is every bit as holy and zealous as his father. This action, this cleansing of the temple, is a picture of what He will finally do in AD 70 through the Romans. It's the Romans that will destroy Jerusalem and leave not one stone left on another in that temple. Jesus said that would happen. But ultimately it was almighty God through his son orchestrating the Romans to do this and bring an end to the animal sacrificial system and an end to this temple worship. In Mark 11, this is what I would call a surgical strike. God is slow to anger and very careful, I mean, laser precise about his displays of anger. Think about Elijah and the prophets of Baal, how the fire came down just on the sacrifice. It's a surgical strike. Jesus comes in here and no human being is hurt. As far as I know, no animal is hurt. I guess some of the doves had their freedom. All right, they're gone, but I'm sure the beasts were all recollected for the next day, I don't really know. But there's no one hurt here. The tables are overturned, the coins are everywhere. But I can picture the money changers like lizards on the ground scrambling for rolling coins. Nobody's hurt here, but there's a vigorous display of holiness here. Then He gives his reason, verse 17, “He taught them, ‘Is it not written? My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.’" As I said, the Jewish nation was to have been a priest nation, a nation of priests in a darkened world. They were to be a light shining in a dark place. They were to be a city on a hill. The Temple was to be the pinnacle of that display of holiness and of the goodness of God in a darkened world. It should have been a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah's vision for the future of the Temple of God is laid out in Isaiah 56:7, "Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord in a covenant," of them, it says, "I will bring them to my holy mountain and I will give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." That's the vision of where we're heading. You can read about it all also in the streaming of the nations in Isaiah 2, the streaming uphill, all these nations streaming to Jerusalem spiritually through the preaching of the gospel. Solomon, when he dedicated the temple, said it would be a place of prayer even by Gentiles. 1 Kings 8, it says, "As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel, but who has come from a distant land because of your name, for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this temple, then God, hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you as do your own people, Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name." Solomon had a vision for missions, basically, through the building of that Temple, all nations would come. But instead, the Temple had become a place of religious machinery, cold, distant worship and the idolatry of money. Jesus' zeal here is for true worship. God desires his people to have his passion and his purity, zealous for God and pure from idols. God sent his Son into the world. He tells the Samaritan woman, "God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. For these, they are the kind of the Father seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." IV. The Deadly Determination of the Priests The account ends with the deadly determination of the priests, verses 18 and 19, "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” His zeal, as I said, put him right in Annas's crosshairs. Top priorities were to take this guy out. But they're afraid of the people, of course, because Jesus is popular. They're afraid of mob rule. But from now on they're going to do anything and everything they can to kill Jesus. It ends rather anticlimactically in verse 19, "When evening came, they went out of the city.” V. Lessons: Let His Temple Be Purified What are some lessons we can take from this account today? Fundamentally, let his temple be purified. Let me begin by saying to you as the people of God, repent of any cold machinery you have in your religion, in your walk with God. Don't just show up here on Sunday morning. Don't just show up for church. Prepare your hearts for worship. Prepare even the day before. Get your heart ready to meet with God. Expect to meet with him in the Word of God. Expect to meet with him in the songs that we sing. God doesn't want songs that are not sung from hearts, filled with praise. I know that sin makes us distant and cold and lifeless, but God has made provision for that. Be honest with God. Say, "Lord, my heart is distant from you. My sins have left me cold. Forgive me my sins. Cleanse me." “If we confess our sins, he's faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and” what, “purify us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus doesn't have to use a whip in us to purify us. It's enough for him to be the pure Son of God standing radiantly within our hearts by the spirit. But allow him to search you and know you and show you your wickedness and cleanse your heart and get rid of that cold, lifeless worship because God doesn't need it. I've said before He has a hundred million professional worshipers up there in heaven. They do a great job up there. We're kind of single-A ball, not even like, we're like the developmental league baseball here. We are at the lowest level. But God loves us, because any father loves the rudimentary artwork of his kids. I have a drawer full of it. God loves our rudimentary worship. He knows that someday we're going to worship far better. Let's say, out with cold, lifeless, mechanical worship. We don't want anything to do with that. Then secondly, watch out for greed. We are a wealthy people. I worry about the wealth of our church. We're a wealthy church. We do well year after year financially, because God's lavishly blessed us. But read carefully the injunctions given to rich Christians in 1 Timothy 5-6 and follow them. Be generous with your money. Give to the poor and needy. Give to the work of the church. Give to missions. Don't accumulate for your own pleasures. Be careful concerning materialism. Don't say, "I thank you, God, that I'm not like Annas and Caiaphas. I would never do that kind of thing." Don't be like that. Say, "God, show me where there is materialism and covetousness and greed in my heart." Fundamentally, this text is about Christ's zeal for holiness. Let the blood of Jesus purify you from sin. Perhaps you came here today outside of faith in Christ. You're not a Christian. You were invited here today. Well, let me tell you, Jesus shed his blood on the cross. He died for us. It says in Titus 2:13-14, "Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross. He shed his blood for us to redeem us from all our wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Doesn't that kind of sum it all up? He was zealous for our holiness, though we will be zealous to do good in his name. Trust in him, repent of your sins and trust in Christ. Then all of us, let's stand in the fiery zeal of Jesus for his own glory. There's a fire inside Jesus in this text. Stand inside it. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, "Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." Finally, if you are in a pattern of sin, habitual sin, you don't seem to be able to break out of it, but you're a child of God, thank God that He won't just give you over to your sins, accept his discipline. It may be that in some sense He's going to take a whip to you, to your life. It talks about it, the beating that God gives to his sons and daughters. In Hebrews 12:4-6 it says, "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood and you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons. My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor be weary when he reproves you, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and he chastens everyone, every son whom he receives." If you need that say, "Lord, do it to me. Purify my life of sins that I seem to be unable to defeat myself." Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for this challenging passage. It's a picture of Jesus that could initially be off-putting as He curses a fig tree and it withered immediately. Then He went into the Temple and threw around furniture and drove out animals and stopped people from carrying things. God, we see the perfect holiness of Christ's zeal for your house. I pray that that same fire would be in us and that we would yearn to be pure as He is pure. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Jesus exposed Israel's superficial worship through his triumphal entry, his actions on that last week in Jerusalem, and his ultimate trial and crucifixion. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT- Turn to your Bibles to Mark 11 as we continue our study in Mark's gospel. One of the greatest truths of the Bible is the revelation of the true purpose of the human race. We were created by God in the image of God with staggering levels of complexity. David said in Psalm 139, "I praise you because I'm fearfully and wonderfully made." Then his next statement was, "Your works are wonderful. I know that full well." This points to the reason for our existence that we would know God and worship him as God. God has given us amazing brains, the ability to study the universe around us and marvel at it, but behind all of the manifestations of the works of God as God himself, and God is infinitely greater than all of his creative works combined. We human beings were created in his image with special abilities that we may know God and glorify him as God. Westminster Shorter Catechism said famously, the chief end or purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Tragically, sin entered the world and has darkened our minds and our hearts. It has blinded us so that we cannot see the glory of God in creation and the infinite greatness of God as creator. Instead, we become idolaters, worshiping and serving the creature, the created things, rather than the creator. Now, the ultimate work of Jesus the Redeemer is to heal our minds and our hearts so that we will perceive the truth about God and we will worship God truly and rightly. Jesus described his mission on behalf of his Heavenly Father in this way in John 4:23-24, “Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, ‘A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit. And those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’" God is seeking worshipers who will worship him in Spirit and truth. What does that mean? Start with truth. Truth is to know God as He truly is, his attributes truly, his nature truly, his mind and his will and his purposes truly, his loves and his hates truly, and knowing the true God and all these trues about God, then to worship him with our spirits that is with our whole hearts, passionately and intentionally, indirect proportion to his infinite worth. That's what we were made for. Worship is worth-ship, passionately ascribing to God what He's worth, his worthiness. Jesus came into the world on behalf of Almighty God to achieve this mission, to seek and to save, to win eternal worship for God in Spirit and truth from people who were sinners, darkened in their minds and their hearts, who were idolaters, worshiping and serving created things rather than the creator. In today's account, we see the Jewish people lining the road as Jesus was riding a donkey up to the city of Jerusalem. They are passionate. They are passionately celebrating Jesus, and they seem to be worshiping him, but it is to some degree superficial. It is to some degree, ignorant and self-serving. Jesus wants their worship. He came to win their worship, but not ultimately like that, not superficial, not surface, not self-serving. When I was a college student, I worked up in the Boston area at a number of high-tech jobs. One summer I worked as a technician for a company that made semiconductors, tiny electronic components, and one of the ways they did this was something called wet metalization. By the way, these are the kind of illustrations you get from me as a pastor, so bear with it. They would put materials in a bath filled with a liquid that contained, in that case, gold atoms floating around and the process would coat the materials in the gold. One day the scientist there asked if I had any jewelry I wanted gold-plated. I thought, great opportunity. I actually had a cross made of some cheap metal and I gave it to him, brought it to him, and he put it in this bubbling, sizzling bath for about five minutes. It came out shining. It was completely gold-plated. I was amazed. That cross was shining and radiant, and I put it on a chain and wore it around my neck. Two days later, I looked at it and almost all of the gold was gone. Just rubbing against my skin or against the fabric of my shirt had taken the gold covering completely off. To me, this is a picture of shallow superficial worship, the worship we see of these people in Jerusalem that they gave Jesus that day as he rode his donkey into the holy city. It was shiny, but it was superficial. And within a short time, it was all gone. But Jesus came to work in us deeply, not superficially. He came to make us genuine, true eternal worshipers of God, people who will worship God in Spirit and truth intelligently, knowingly, deeply, and passionately. The triumphal entry of Christ is one of the most ironic passages in the Bible. Here is the incarnate son of God, He is in fact infinitely worthy of praise. He's entering Jerusalem, the city of David. He is being praised by his people, but not one of them really understands who He is. Each of them will in some degree, I think, be stunned by his actions that week and certainly by the outcome of him being crucified by the Romans. We don't know this for a fact, but there may well be some people who shout “Hosanna” on the one day and several days later are shouting “Crucify, crucify.” We don't know if it's the same people. The city of Jerusalem was filled with millions of people, and according to Matthew 21:10, most of the people didn't even know who it was that was riding into the city. They asked, "Who is this?" But one of the most remarkable parts about this passage and this time and the synoptic passages as well is, Jesus defends the worship. He accepts the worship, and that's part of the mystery. We're going to walk through all of this today. "The triumphal entry of Christ is one of the most ironic passages in the Bible. Here is the incarnate son of God, He is in fact infinitely worthy of praise. He's entering Jerusalem, the city of David. He is being praised by his people, but not one of them really understands who He is." I. The Specifics of the Triumphal Entry Let's talk about the specifics of the triumphal entry. This is the final week of Jesus' life. We have four Gospel records of Jesus' life, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As you add up all of the chapters, all of the verses in the four gospels, more than half of the words in the four gospels concentrate on the events of the final week of his life. It's a tremendously significant period of Jesus' life, and the triumphal entry is the beginning of that final journey. It's the time of the Passover feast, one of the three times in a year that every Jewish male was required to go up to Jerusalem. The Passover celebrated the momentous events of the Exodus, millennia and a half before that, culminating in the 10th, the dreadful 10th plague, the plague on the firstborn in which the blood of the Passover lamb was spilled and the blood applied to the doorposts and the lentils. The angel of the Lord saw the blood of the Passover lamb and passed over and did not kill the firstborn in those Jewish homes. That's Passover, a yearly celebration. All of the Jewish people assembled for it. Huge crowds thus were flowing, multitudes flowing into the city. Based on a census taken a short time after Jesus' life, the number of lambs slaughtered during the Passover was 260,000 Passover lambs. According to Jewish custom, one lamb could be offered for up to 10 people. That gives you a picture of well over two million pilgrims flooding into the city for this time. The Roman authorities and Roman soldiers would've been on high alert, careful to avoid any incident or riot that might endanger Roman lives or Roman rule. Our story begins at a small place called Bethphage near Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus, putting all the gospel accounts together, has just healed the two blind men, one of them named Bartimaeus, who we looked at last week. He was now following Jesus along the road. He had also just converted Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, that account in Luke, most powerfully of all. Just a few days before that, He had raised Lazarus from the dead after he'd been dead four days. The most spectacular and significant miracle of Jesus' life, a man dead four days raised up out of the grave. Huge crowds had gone from Jerusalem to Bethany to see Lazarus and to see Jesus. The whole region was in some sense electrified by Jesus' miracles and his ministry. He enters Bethphage near Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Other than these facts, nothing is known about Bethphage. Bethany, the home of his good friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, was a place of regular refuge and renewal for Jesus. John's Gospel, chapter 12: 1-3, tells us Jesus visited the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and Bethany six days before the Passover. Thus, this was probably a Sabbath day, a Saturday. During that visit, Mary anointed Jesus' feet with a large lavish amount of costly perfume called nard. All four Gospel accounts link that costly gift, worth a year's wages, to Judas' motivation to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus directly links Mary's lavish gift with his own death. He said in John 12:7-8, "Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." Jesus is intensely thinking about his own imminent death. There's no doubt about that. The chronology, the visit of this large crowd to Bethany probably occurred on the day after the Sabbath of Sunday. Therefore, the triumphal entry was a Monday. So much for your Palm Sunday and mine. I grew up in the Catholic Church. I remember the palm branches. Look at Jesus' command as the account begins. Mark 11:1-3, “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you. And just as you enter it, you will find a colt there, tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, why are you doing this, tell him the Lord needs it and he will send it back here shortly.’” With all these events swirling around, it is amazing to me, as you look in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the four accounts of the final week of Jesus' life, how serenely and confidently and powerfully Jesus carries himself through all of it. It's really quite beautiful. It's powerful. The final week of his life, He knows full well what's going to happen to him. Look at him, He's in charge. He's orchestrating things. He commands this, He commands that. He gets things ready, orchestrates everything. This crushes that false view that we've mentioned before of Jesus being caught up in a swirl of events that were beyond his control, and next thing you know, He's arrested and He dies. What a great tragedy. None of that is true. Nothing ever got beyond Jesus' control. Nothing ever does. Jesus is in control of everything. Notice also Jesus' astonishing, meticulous foreknowledge. “Go to the village ahead of you. And just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.” He knows exactly what they're going to find, the whole circumstance, all of that. He also deals with the concern that they might have saying, "We're just going to walk away with someone's colt?" “If anyone asks you anything about it, tell him the following thing, the Lord needs it, and he'll let it go.” I find that interesting. Try that this week, driving someone's car, “the Lord needs it.” Make sure that it's true. But it's a clear display of Jesus' divine meticulous foreknowledge. We're going to see it even more in Mark 14 when Jesus prepares the upper room for the Last Supper. Jesus will clearly predict to the two disciples being sent ahead of them for that moment, that just as they're entering the city, a man carrying a jar of water will be going into the city, follow him, et cetera. We'll get to all that, but that's Jesus' meticulous foreknowledge. In all of this, we see Jesus' knowledge and also the fulfillment of prophecy, and that this is going to be a significant event in the last week of Jesus' life. Many of the prophecies tied to the Messiah, tied to Christ, are fulfilled, zeroed in on and fulfilled in this final week, including, of course, his death and his resurrection. Most of them, as a matter of fact. This particular one is the fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah. Matthew tells that the clearest in Matthew 21:4-5, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Two overriding concerns in Jesus' mind always is, number one, obey the Father. Do everything the Father has told me to do. Number two, fulfill the prophecies. How would the scriptures be fulfilled, say it must happen in this way? These two things are in his mind and they're really one and the same thing. The Father's will has been written out in prophecies and now Jesus is living them out. Many of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled would've been beyond his direct control. Think, for example, of the jar of wine vinegar that was put at the base of the cross that fulfilled a prophecy. Jesus couldn't have orchestrated that, or that the Roman soldiers would gamble for his clothing in fulfillment of Psalm 22. He couldn't make them do that. This one may be a little different. Jesus could have set this whole thing up intentionally, said, "Okay, we got to do the donkey ride into the city based on Zechariah." He could have gone ahead of time. This individual said, "Hey, look, at a certain time, I'm going to come. I'm going to need a colt. Make sure it's never been ridden on, if you would set it up." All of that could have been orchestrated maybe, maybe not. There is also the timing of the Passover itself in fulfillment of prophecy, as we'll see in a moment. The disciples obey, verses 4-6, “They went and found a colt outside in the street tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to and let people let them go.” They obeyed. Everything was exactly as Jesus had said. Now, there is a detail in Matthew's account that's worth mentioning. I, from time to time, go over and try to solve some problems that come into people's minds as they read the Synoptics. Matthew is problematic to some people in that there were actually two animals involved in this whole triumphal entry, a donkey and a colt, two animals. Some unbelieving commentators say that Matthew failed to understand Hebrew parallelism in the Zechariah prophecy, saying, “We all know that there's only one animal. He's just saying the same thing in two different words, and Matthew didn't understand that. But we, 20th century and 21st century commentators, do.” Do you see the arrogance in all that? Assuming that we know Hebrew parallelism better than Matthew, a first century Jew? That we know the prophecies better than a gospel writer? There is such arrogance in all that. If Matthew says there were two animals, there were two animals. I urge you not to try to picture Jesus riding two animals at the same time. I don't think that's what Matthew said, but he just brought them and he brought the donkey and the colt, and Jesus sat on the colt. Though the disciples obeyed precisely what Jesus commanded, John's Gospel tells us they didn't really understand any of this. They didn't understand what was going on. As a matter of fact, none of the disciples did. John 12:16, “At first, his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” Later Jesus said this would happen. The Holy Spirit will come and guide you into all truth, then the lights will go on of the significance. It was with a triumphal entry. Now we get the crowd. Let's understand the crowd, the crowd's shallow, self-serving worship, verses 8-10, “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those that went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David. Hosanna in the highest.’" These are the crowds. Again, this is just a small grouping of people. It's a crowd, but there's a massive group of people in Jerusalem. Matthew 21:10 says many of the people didn't even know who this was that was riding in. Who is this? Oh, it's Jesus the prophet from Nazareth [Matthew 21:11]. But this is a group that did know who Jesus was. They're following him along the road. They've maybe been there for some of the miracles, and they're there and they're very, very excited about this. They spread their cloaks on the road. This is a humble display or display of humble submission to Jesus' kingly power, kingly majesty. They're willing to take the garments from their back that they might sleep in and lay them on the road for his donkey to ride over. It also says they cut branches from trees and spread them on the road. If they didn't have cloaks or there's more road to cover, they spread these branches. John 12:13 tells us they were palm branches, hence, Palm Sunday. It's beautiful how in Revelation 7:9 that multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation that come as a result of the gospel ministry are wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands and celebrating the salvation that Christ has won for them. But they're doing it there in spirit and in truth. How beautiful is that? We have that same image of the palm branches. They're shouting things. They're shouting “Hosanna,” which means, “Oh, save” or “Save now.” They're shouting a prophecy, Psalm 118, verse 26, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." It's a very important statement that Jesus himself quotes in Matthew 23, “You will not see me again until you, the nation of Israel, says, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord the Messiah.’" It's a welcoming for the Messiah, but they're shouting it. They're saying now is the time. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David. This is obviously an open cry for the Messianic kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophecies made to David and to his household that God would build a house for David forever, that someone would reign on David's throne forever. They're crying for that. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David, and that would include the destruction of all Jewish enemies by the Son of David ruling on David's powerful throne, causing his enemies to lick the dust from his feet, extending his sovereign reign from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. That's what they're expecting. These cries are actually based on actual prophecies of Scripture, a coming Messianic kingdom that would crush all opposition. More on that in a moment. But they were also superficial. They underestimated the real issues going on. They underestimated what really had to happen there. At the end of the account in verse 11, we have a very anti-climactic end. Look at verse 11, “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” That was it. We know the next thing that's going to happen is, the next day, the cleansing of the temple. Jesus is there a bit on a scouting mission. He just looks around. He sees the wickedness and the sin going on, but He doesn't do anything about it at that point. It's late, but the next day He's going to take care of that, and He's going to begin the process that's going to lead directly to his death.There is work to be done and they're expecting the kingdom to come. But Jesus knows the real work is the corruption, the wickedness, the sin in the hearts of the people, and He's got to address that. That's how the account ends. II. Eternal Layers of Significance Now, let's go back and look at eternal layers of significance in all this, a very significant account. First of all, Jesus seizes control of the timetable here. As I said, there's millions of Jews there. The Romans are in heightened alert. They're going to be looking for anything, any demonstration, any riot, any big thing happening. This is a big thing happening. It's not like Jesus isn't politically savvy and doesn't know what the Romans are fearing and what the Jewish authorities were concerned about. He knew full well. He also knew his enemies were plotting. It says in Mark 14:1-2, “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away and the chief priest and the teacher of the law were looking for, listen to this, some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him, but not during the feast they said, or the people may riot.” They're afraid with the riot, they, the Jewish leaders, will lose their position of power. The Romans will topple them and put in another puppet government. Not during the feast, his enemy said. Jesus said during the feast. You see that? He is controlling the timetable. He seizes control. It's part of Jesus' plan at the human level to raise the heat under the pot leading to his own death. It's very intentional on Jesus' part. Several times in the Gospel accounts, the crowds had wanted to seize control of the timetable even years early, a couple of year or a year or two early. In John 6:15, they, after the feeding of the 5,000, wanted to take him by force and make him king, but Jesus has hid himself from them. He actually regularly slips away, hides himself, gets away from the crowd, because it was not his hour.His time had not yet come. You see that again and again, but not this time, not this time, because his time has come. His time has come. He seizes control of the timetable. He provokes it by riding on this donkey in fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy. He provokes it. Jesus is not some victim passively, kind of like a twig on a whitewater just carried over the waterfall. That's not Jesus. He is orchestrating these events and He's doing it to fulfill a timetable, ordained by his Heavenly Father before the foundation of the world. Jesus therefore would not react to his enemies. They're going to react to him. They're reacting to his initiative. In all of this, Jesus is fulfilling prophecy, as I mentioned. First of all, the manner of his entry, Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout, daughter of Jerusalem. Behold your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." This symbolism of Jesus riding on a donkey was not in any way lost to the Jews. They were aware of these prophecies. Jesus is intentionally identifying himself with the Zechariah 9 prophecy. But there is a deeper issue, the rest of the prophecy. We'll come back to that in a moment. Along with this is the prophecy concerning the timing of his death. Jesus is the Passover lamb. He's the fulfillment of that prophetic image. One thing we learn about God, He loves symbolism. He goes deep into symbolism. A lot of prophecies are types and symbols fulfilled, and timing matters. It's not an accident, this timing, lined up with the Passover. Jesus would be entering the city at exactly the time that the law of Moses specified for the Jewish people to choose out a lamb for their family to be the Passover lamb, a lamb without blemish or defect. The lamb was to be with the family for four days and then sacrificed at twilight on the fourth day. The timing is exactly right. Monday was the exact time then for Jesus to be chosen as the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Thursday evening, He'll be taken away, led away to be slaughtered. Jesus accepts this worship, this prophesy. All of these things, this heightened prophetic expectations stimulate worship on the part of the people. The thing that's amazing to me, marvelous to me, is He accepts it, even defends it. He delighted in this worship, while in no way delusional about its nature. In Matthew 21:15-16, it says, “When the chief priest and the teacher 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. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ They asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus.” I love that. Just pause right there. Yes, I hear what the children are saying. Have you never read, from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise? He defends it. In Luke 19:39-40, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ 'I tell you,’ He replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will cry out.’" He defends the worship. Why? It's not because He's delusional about it. It's not because He thinks, hey, this is just what I wanted. Not at all. But because it is a foretaste, like a symbol, of what it is He's come to get in the end, of what we will be doing for all eternity. In this way, it's very much like two other things that happened around this time. One of them was Caiaphas' statement, “It is better for one man to die than the nation perish.” John's Gospel tells us he did not understand or say this out of his own faith, but as high priest that year, he prophesied concerning the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The statement's made, and it's ultimately infinitely true, but it's not fully understood. Then also Pontius Pilate putting a notification over Jesus' head saying, "This is Jesus, King of the Jews." Jesus' enemies were angry. You should have written this man claimed to be King of the Jews, not he is King of the Jews. Pilate said, "What I have written I have written." Is Pilate worshiping him as the true King of the Jews? No, but God knows exactly what He's doing, and so it is with this worship. He accepts it because that's where we're all heading. That's where we're going to end up truly worshiping the Messiah in the New Jerusalem. He accepts it. Jesus exposes Israel's unbelief in this. Israel expected an immediate deliverance from Roman rule. The prophecy predicted that the Messiah's reign would bring an extension of Jewish authority to the ends of the earth and a total end to war. His coming would bring in a golden age of Jewish domination worldwide. Zechariah 9:8, the verse before Zechariah 9:9, says this, "But I'll defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people. For now I am keeping watch." It's the end of all military conquests and oppression for his people. Then the verse, after Zechariah 9:10, "I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations and his rule will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth." That's where we're heading, a reign of eternal peace in which there'll be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. That's where we're going. It was for this very reason the crowds were celebrating so much. They thought that Jesus was at that moment going to restore the kingdom in Israel and make it greater than it had ever been before. Imagine what Jesus could do just as a healer. He raised Lazarus from the dead after four days. Imagine a big battle between the Jewish zealots and the Roman legions, and Jesus keeps raising dead Jewish soldiers from the dead. You just killed this guy and now you got to fight him again. I mean, that'll wear you down. Just as a healer, Jesus could have won a military victory, but that's not all He was. He controlled the winds and the waves. He spoke to the winds and the waves and they obeyed him. This man could win a military conquest of the Romans. There is no doubt in their mind. The possibilities were endless. But Jesus is going to behave radically differently that week, and He would lose their passionate support because He's not going to do what they want him to do. He had an entirely different vision of salvation, a definition of salvation of the kingdom and of the future. When it become clear that Jesus was not going to defeat Rome and even worse, that Rome would, in some sense, defeat him seemingly, the Jewish people turned on him and rejected him. Within one week, they would cry out representing the city of Jerusalem, "Crucify him." Jesus exposed their unbelief by his triumphal entry and his actions that week in Jerusalem. “It's not what you think I'm doing.” And because of all this, Jesus in Luke's gospel wept over Jerusalem. They're going to get destroyed by their enemies. That Zechariah 9:8 and 9:10 is not going to happen yet. Their enemy is going to come and destroy this city. He said it, not one stone will be left on another. "When it became clear that Jesus was not going to defeat Rome …the Jewish people turned on him and rejected him. Within one week, they would cry out representing the city of Jerusalem, "Crucify him." Jesus exposed their unbelief..." III. Working True Salvation The real issue here is this word “hosanna”. What does it mean? It means “save now” or “oh, save”. Save from what? That's where Jesus differed from the people. What was the real threat to his people? They didn't understand. They thought they were slaves to Rome and they said, "We should never be slaves. Abraham wasn't a slave. We are not slaves. We should not be under the yoke of Rome. The Messiah will throw off that yoke." But they didn't understand their true slavery. Jesus said in John 8 what their true slavery was. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Hebrews 2:15 speaks of people who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Is that you? Are you afraid to die? People are enslaved by their fear of death, enslaved by sin, enslaved by fear of death. It says in Romans 5:21, sin reigned in death like a tyrant. That's the real enslavement. They didn't understand their true danger. True danger wasn't Roman swords. Matthew 10:28. "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who has the power to destroy both soul and body in hell." Yes, I tell you, fear him. That's a threat, to die and go to hell, to spend eternity in the lake of fire burning for your sins. That's the threat and that's how Jesus interpreted Hosanna, save now. What good would it be to have some earthly messianic reign if when you die, you got condemned for your sins? Rightly condemned. Jesus' death on the cross would be their true salvation and their true freedom from bondage and slavery. We see in all this the glories of Christ revealed. IV. The Glories of Christ Revealed True worship is based on the knowledge of God's glories. Christ's final week will put those glories on display for all eternity. We've already seen his omniscience. He knew exactly what the two disciples would find when they got to Bethphage. He knew exactly what the two disciples would find as they entered Jerusalem to prepare the upper room. He knows everything. Divine omniscience and sovereign control, ruling over the timetable, orchestrating it indeed, controlling the circumstances of his death. Every detail, every single day by the great power of his sovereign rule, and then by the power of his blood in a single day atoning for the sins of a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe, language, people, and nation, from every generation of history in a single day atoning for all of our sins. That's power. How about his humility and his gentleness? Jesus' willingness to ride on a donkey shows astounding meekness and lowliness, and that's even what Zechariah the prophet talks about. “Your king comes to you gentle and meek, lowly riding on a donkey." Donkey, physically low, right? If you had come up to Jesus and you're of average height, you would've been able to talk to him while he was riding on the donkey face to face. Conquering kings don't ride donkeys into battle. I mean, seriously, picture Napoleon riding into Waterloo on a donkey. Picture Alexander the Great instead of on his massive horse that he rode to conquer the world, riding on a donkey. It's impossible. The donkey that Jesus rode was no well-bred animal, but specifically a beast of burden. It'd be much lower to the ground and slower than some Arabian charger. Not much use in a battle. Therefore, it's a symbol of peace and humility. Jesus, the prince of peace, is symbolized by that humility and the way he rode into Jerusalem in his first coming. Let me tell you something, the Second Coming will be very different, very different. Read about it in Revelation 19, “I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called faithful and true. With justice, he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on them that no one knows, but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is the word of God.” That's the Second Coming. He's not coming to save. He's coming to slaughter his enemies at that point and to rescue his remnant who have been waiting for him. But humility and gentleness is appropriate in his first coming, in which He seeks to woo sinners by a gentle call, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for, what, I am gentle and humble and heart." Do you not see that pictured here? "I'm gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." That's the call of the first coming, Jesus the Lamb; and our heavenly future, unending praise. The passage prefigures the day when we will spend eternity praising Christ forever in the New Jerusalem, in the new heavens and new earth. Jonathan Edwards in a sermon entitled “Praise: the Chief Employment of Heaven” said this, "Saints in heaven will not be idle, but extremely active. The greatest part of their activity consists in passionately and knowingly praising Christ their redeemer." We're going to get it right, brothers and sisters. We're going to get it right in heaven. We're going to know his glory and praise him with all of our hearts. The first and greatest commandment will be fulfilled in us. We will love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength in heaven, and we will worship the savior properly and perfectly. Now, think about it again, Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb. They were wearing white robes and they were holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne into the lamb." V. Lessons As I finish up, let's just take some lessons from this. First of all, understand all of you, we're all sinners. We're no better than the people in this account. We should not read this and say, "I'm glad I'm not like those people." We're all shallow and superficial in our understanding of God and his glory. Do you know yourself to be a sinner who can only be saved by faith in the blood of Christ? Have you trusted in Christ? Have you accepted his invitation, come unto me, all you are weary and burdened? Have you been drawn by his gentle call? Find salvation in him and praise him. Understand that Christ graciously accepts our worship. Isn't that kind of him? We come here week after week and we do our best. We do our best. But we don't really understand what we're talking about do, do we? We don't really fully understand his glories and his perfection. Christ covers our worship with his grace and accepts it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do better. "These people honor me with their lips," Jesus said, "but their hearts are far from me." Is that you? Don't let that be you. Is your heart distant from him because of besetting sin, because of habitual sin, secret sin? Don't let that be you. Confess, renounce it, so that next week you can praise him better than ever before. Dig into the Word. Find out from the Scriptures the glories of God and of Christ and be able to give him more fit worship than ever before. Though He's gracious with our worship, let's do better. Let's worship better. Watch out for false expectations that Jesus dashes, like they had false expectations of the kingdom. There are some things you're hoping God will do for you in this world, and it's easy to get disappointed if they don't come. It might have to do with your health,it might have to do with finances, it might have to do with human circumstances. Don't let disappointments dissuade you from Jesus' kingdom. Trust in him. Finally, anticipate heaven with great eagerness. We're going to worship him beautifully there. Now, we're about to partake in the Lord's Supper, which is itself a symbol, a type, a picture of heavenly feasting and worship, while we also look back at the death of Christ on the cross, giving of his body and his blood for us. We're going to partake. You are free to partake if you have genuinely trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior and testify to that by water baptism. If not, we ask you to refrain, but we're going to have a time now. I'm going to close this time of preaching and prayer, and then we'll draw near for the ordinance. Father, thank you for the ministry of the word today. We thank you for Mark's gospel and what it teaches us. And now as we turn to the Lord's Supper, help us, oh Lord, to worship you in spirit and truth through the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Help us to do it genuinely by the power of the Spirit and understand the depth of meaning that's there in Jesus' body and blood. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
We need to learn to listen to Jesus when He asks what we want and to pray in faith as an answer. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bible as we continue our study in Mark's Gospel, in Mark 10:46-52. The author to the Book of Hebrews says the Bible, the Scripture is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. The Word of God is living and active. The Gospel of Mark is alive. Jesus is the word incarnate, and in this text today, I see him beckoning to us, calling to us, drawing us. He’s standing in front of us in the text saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" Calling us to a deeper, more persistent, more detailed, more comprehensive prayer life. That's what I get out of this text and that's what I'm going to see today. This is a beautiful account. This is the last account in Mark's Gospel of one of Jesus's healings. All of the accounts in Mark's Gospel of Jesus's healings are given to us for one reason and that is to bring us, as the readers of Mark's Gospel, to a saving faith in Jesus as the Son of God. From Mark 1:1, the theme of the entire Gospel of Mark is established, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it says at the end of John chapter 20, the purpose of all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all have the same purpose: that based on the miracles that are written in these gospel accounts, we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and find salvation through faith in his name. How do we obtain that salvation? How does it become ours, personally? This account of Bartimaeus gives us a beautiful picture of that, a lived out picture of how we obtain it. Paul says in Romans 10:9, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." What does that mean to call on the name of the Lord so that we might be saved? This account gives us a beautiful picture of that. Jesus said at the beginning of the Sermon in the Mount, some of the most significant words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," literally the spiritual beggars, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You want the kingdom of heaven, you want to spend eternity in the kingdom of heaven? You have to be a spiritual beggar. What does that mean to be a spiritual beggar? This account gives us a beautiful picture of that. Jesus told in another place, a parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector teaching us about prayer. One was a pridefully arrogant, self-righteous, individual who thought his righteousness was amply sufficient to make himself pleasing to God, and he stood and prayed about himself in that regard. But then there was the tax collector beating his breast, refusing to even look up to God but pleading with God, "Be merciful to me, a sinner." Jesus said that man went home justified. The other one didn't. This account gives us a beautiful picture of that as well. So in this beautiful passage, Jesus stands in front of a blind man who has nothing to offer and says these words, "What do you want me to do for you?” That question represents one of the key moments there is in our relationship with Jesus the Savior. He holds in his hand every blessing you could ever want, should ever want.Every blessing on earth or in heaven is in his sovereign hands. He wants to teach us to seek those blessings from him and only from him and to ask humbly and in faith. He wants to open his hands and satisfy your desires with all of those blessings. Jesus, in the text today, stands in front of you individually, all of you, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" Now, many people foolishly answer, "Nothing. I don't want anything from Jesus." They're lost. That's the essence of their losses. They don't think about Jesus at all. He never crosses their mind, so they would just say, "I don't want anything from Jesus.” Now, some sinners recognize their dire circumstances and they beg Jesus for salvation, "Save me from my sins, Lord,” and they receive, having sought that blessing by faith, they receive that gift of forgiveness of sins. But most Christians underestimate how much more Jesus could do for us, how many more blessings we should still be seeking from him, so we don't pray very much. We don't pray about many things. We just live our independent lives, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just like everybody else, and we just do our own things. So we need Jesus to stand in the text and call out to us and say, "I'm here. What do you want me to do for you today, now? What do you want me to do for you about the problem that's pressing in on your life? You haven't asked me about it at all. You haven't prayed about it at all." Prayerlessness. "What do you want me to do for you?" Some people answer this question in a very worldly way. "Jesus, I want to be healthy and, Jesus, I want to be wealthy. I want worldly health, worldly success. “I want my best life now," as one put it. "That's what I want. I want my best life now." So they ask, but don't receive because they ask that they might spend what they get on their carnal pleasures. Others realize the only thing of value is pleasing the Lord so they would say something like this, "Jesus, what I want from you is that you would work in me what is pleasing to you." Yet even those people, all of us, need to learn how to expand our concept of prayer. To expand it, to pray for far more things than we do. To pray with far more persistence than we do. To pray with far more biblical knowledge than we do. To pray for the right things, the things that God wants us to pray for more than we do. To pray for others, to take on their burdens as though they were our own and pray for them. That's what this text is saying to me. One of my favorite hymns, those of you that know me, you know how often I think about this hymn. It's very easy actually for me to get emotional about this hymn. It's well known, but I think it was many, many years of my Christian life before I really felt the weight of the truth of the lyrics in the hymn, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” It focuses repeatedly on this, the blessing of learning to take it to the Lord in prayer, take everything to the Lord in prayer. "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear." All our sins and griefs to bear. "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." In other words, you're forfeiting peace right now because you haven't prayed about something and you're carrying burdens right now that you could be giving to him, casting upon him. The next stanza: "Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?" This phrase captures me. I've debated it with people. Is it true? I don't know if it's a hundred percent true, but I feel like it's mostly true. "We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer.”Are you discouraged today, dear brother, dear sister? Could it be that you haven't taken it to the Lord in prayer? Could it be the Jesus is standing in front of you in this text saying, "What do you want me to do for you?” and you haven't asked him and therefore you're discouraged? Take it to the Lord in prayer. "Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer." That's what I'm getting out of this text. That's where we're going. So let's walk through it. "Could it be the Jesus is standing in front of you in this text saying, "What do you want me to do for you?” and you haven't asked him and therefore you're discouraged? Take it to the Lord in prayer." I. The Context: Through Jericho to Jerusalem Let’s begin with the context, going through Jericho onto Jerusalem.Look at verse 46, "Then they came to Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, that is the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside, begging." This is the end of Jesus's public ministry. As I've said already, the entire purpose of the Gospel of Mark and everything in it, is to bring us, the readers, the hearers of this beautiful gospel, to faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the beginning of the gospel about Jesus, the Son of God. The word “gospel” is “good news" and the good news is Jesus. He is the good news. Jesus is the gospel. Now every aspect of the Gospel of Mark has been putting Jesus, the Son of God, on display. As with all four Gospels, the component parts are always Jesus's mighty works in Jesus's mighty words, a combination of his miracles and his incredibly wise and perfect teachings. Those two together are the evidence, all the evidence we need for saving faith in Jesus. As I mentioned, this is the last healing miracle in the Gospel of Mark. There is one more miracle yet to come, but it's not a healing miracle. It's a very unusual miracle. It's the cursing of the fig tree in which Jesus cursed the fig tree, and it instantly withers. It's a very unusual miracle and God willing we'll get to that in due time. But that's a miracle of judgment, not of mercy. It's not a miracle of healing. It's a depiction of judgment on Israel for its fruitlessness. We'll get to that in due time. So they're in transition now. Jesus is going up to Jerusalem, it's Passover time. Thousands of Jewish pilgrims are going up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. On Jesus's mind, intensely on his mind, is his imminent death. He's going up to Jerusalem to die and He's thinking about it constantly. He's talking about it constantly. He's reminding his disciples of it. Look back at verse 32 of the same chapter. Mark 1032-34, "They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again He took the twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 'We are going up to Jerusalem,' He said. 'And the Son of Man will be betrayed and will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. The will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later He will rise.’” Also, James and John, after that statement, made their request and they came in front of Jesus and He asked the same question, “'What do you want me to do for you?’ Now they had answered, ‘Let one of us sit at your right hand, the other at your left in your kingdom.’" We saw that that was as we perceive, a selfish worldly type of request, understanding the kingdom wrongly and wanting to position themselves for power and glory. Jesus has to adjust their thinking about the kingdom and service in the kingdom as we saw last time. But even then, Jesus brought their minds back to his own imminent death, “for even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [verse 45] So that's right before the texts we're looking at today. They're in Jericho. Jericho is a beautiful and a historic city. The Jericho of Jesus's day lay somewhat south of the ruins of the famous Jericho that was destroyed, the walls crumbling in the time of Joshua. So it was close but not the exact same location. Jericho was located 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was built on a set of mountains and was 3,300 feet higher in altitude than Jericho. So we have Jesus going up to Jerusalem. In the parable, the Good Samaritan, the individual who was mugged, who was assaulted by the highway robbers, was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. So Jesus is going the other direction, going up. Herod the Great, and later Archelaus, had strengthened and beautified the city of Jericho, giving it an amphitheater, some villas, a public bath. It was like a little paradise with an oasis of fresh water, palm trees, rose gardens, lavish crops of figs, citrus and other fruits. andSo it's a beautiful place. Its winter climate was delightful. Josephus said that when it was snowy in Jerusalem, Jericho was warm and pleasant, thus Herod built a winter palace there. So that's Jericho. Jesus himself had gone out from that spot three years earlier to be tempted in the desert by Satan at the beginning of his ministry. Now, as we look at the account of the healing of this blind man who we know in Mark's Gospel as Bartimaeus, we have what we call some synoptic problems. The Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They're called that way because they see the perspective of Jesus's life kind of the same whereas the Gospel of John reads differently. So Matthew, Mark and Luke all have this account, but they're written differently, and it's hard sometimes to harmonize how they wrote. I don't want to spend a lot of time on these issues, but I just always want to give you confidence of the perfection of Matthew, the perfection of Mark and the perfection of Luke and how those difficulties are harmonizing.I don't want to spend a lot of time on it, but Matthew, for example, mentions two blind men, not one. Matthew says that Jesus was entering Jericho while Mark says that Jesus was leaving. Luke says He was passing through, so kind of on average entering, passing through and leaving. It was at this time as Jesus was leaving Jericho that He saw Zacchaeus the tax collector in the sycamore fig tree and went back into the city to dine at his house. So some scholars surmised that Jesus was in that sense both leaving and then going back into Jericho. That's one way you could harmonize him. None of these problems are particularly difficult. Look, if Matthew says there were two blind men, there were two blind men. If Mark chooses to focus on one of them and give us his name, so be it. It doesn't mean that there weren't two, it just he's zeroing in on this one individual and I think that tends to individualize the gospel. Every individual has to deal with Jesus personally and this man had a name probably because as, by the end of the account today, he's a follower of Jesus. He was literally, physically, following him along the road and we're going to see in the text he was wasn't just physically healed, but he was saved. So probably, Mark gives us his name because in his community that he lived in, everybody knew Bartimaeus and this is that Bartimaeus that we all know, so he gave him his name. So that's harmonizing these three accounts. II. A Blind Beggar’s Call Let's look at the blind beggar’s call. "They came to Jericho and as Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, that is the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.'" I think it's hard for us who are physically normal when it comes to sight, to realize the intense suffering of blindness, what it would be like to be blind. I think we could imagine it. Some people actually rate blindness as one of their greatest earthly fears. Polls have been done and people say of all the things that could happen to you on earth, blindness would be one of the worst they imagined. Jesus himself spoke of the significance of physical sight. Jesus said, "If the eyes are the lamp of the body, if your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." So it is very significant to be blind. How was this man, Bartimaeus blind? We don't know. It is possible that he was blind from birth like the blind man in John chapter 9. It doesn't say. Could be he became blind through an injury or a disease somewhere along the way in his life. Blindness was actually very common in the Middle East in Jesus's day. Many were blind through the birth process. They got a disease from their mother while they were being born. Other infants became blind through trachoma, which is a virulent form of conjunctivitis. There were a lot of problems with blindness. Religiously, spiritually, in the Jewish community, blindness was considered a curse from God. Blind people were seen to be cursed by God for their personal sin, hence the question in John 9, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Did he sin in the womb? How did that work? But you can see the mentality. If you're blind, it's because of sin. You're being cursed by God for sin.Therefore, the blind man would've been viewed as a spiritual outcast under a curse from God, only a little better than a leper just because blindness wasn't contagious, so there wasn't that terror of being around a blind person, but they were considered to be effectively, spiritual lepers, outcasts. You can see the attitude of the crowd toward him. They hate him. They're very negative toward him, yelling at him. And he was begging. Obviously, because of his blindness, he couldn't work in the normal fashion. In order to survive he was reduced to begging and surrounded by a hostile community who considered his condition a just punishment from God for his sin. Generally they wouldn't give him anything but some would and he was therefore very persistent and bold. He had to be in order just to survive. He had to fight for everything. So we see this persistent urgency as a beggar, and we see it then directed toward Jesus. He's urgently crying out to Jesus. Bartimaeus is sitting there begging. There's a huge crowd passing by, he wants to know what's going on. He asked what caused the crowd. He was told the answer was Jesus of Nazareth. That's a basic identification of Jesus. No honorific titles, nothing, just Jesus who comes from Nazareth. However, it's pretty clear that Bartimaeus had heard of this man and had heard of all of the healings that he had done, and so he was moved by faith to cry out. He had heard that there was nothing he could not do. There was no sickness he could not heal. He had almost certainly already heard of the healing of other blind people and so he had hope, he had faith and he begins to cry out. He also, beyond that, understands some theology of Jesus's claim. Putting it all together from Matthew's account and Luke's account, and as well as this one, it's something like this: "Jesus, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me." All of these titles flowing out of this man, Bartimaeus. Matthew tells us he called him Lord, describing exalted status to Jesus. Now, we don't necessarily think that he understood the deity of Christ at that point, but he does call him Lord.Both accounts say that he called him Son of David, meaning he was the fulfillment of the promise that God would take a son of David and put him on a throne forever [2 Samuel 7]. Many prophets come along and predict that David or the son of David will reign on a throne forever. Jeremiah 23:5-6, “'The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When I'll raise up to David a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he'll be called the Lord our righteousness. The Son of David, a branch from David will reign on a throne of righteousness forever.’" So this blind man, Bartimaeus, is calling him Son of David, the Messiah, the long-awaited Messiah by the Jewish people. We know from John chapter 9 that by this time Jesus's enemies, the religious authorities, had decided that if anyone claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David, they would be put out of the synagogue, basically evicted from Jewish society. Do you sense this blind man doesn't care about that at all? He's already evicted. What did he have to lose? He had no fear of them. They hated him anyway. They thought he was cursed by God already and so he has no problem crying out, "Son of David.”The Greek actually says he's crying out emphatically or repeatedly, loudly begging for mercy. And look at the crowd's heartless reaction. They disdained and despised this blind beggar. Now they try to shout him down and demand that he'd be quiet. Verse 48, "Many rebuked him and told them to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.'" If you come to faith in Christ in your adult years, you have to go over obstacles that people who know you put in front of you. The crowd trying to prevent you from coming to Jesus, the crowd trying to shout you down or rebuke you. That's what this man has to face. Now he's crying out for mercy. Mercy. Mercy's a central attribute of almighty God. In this context, mercy has to do with the alleviation of suffering, alleviation of suffering. I generally tend to think of grace as having to do with the issues of sin and judgment. By God's grace we're forgiven and by his mercy our suffering is alleviated. They're very close. But here we got the alleviation of suffering. That is what mercy is. You think about Exodus chapter 2 where the Lord says He hears the cries of Israel and bondage in Egypt and He looked down and was concerned about their suffering. That is the mercy of God. He hears from heaven and He's merciful. When He moved in front of Moses when Moses said, "Show me your glory," He pronounced his name. He said, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God. Slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." This is the mercy of God. He's compassion, He's merciful, and Jesus is God's mercy incarnate. He wants to alleviate our suffering. He wants to bring us into a world where there'll be no more death, mourning, crying or pain. All of these healings that display a foretaste of mercy are just a part of that work. He is bringing his people by his blood into a world where there'll be no more need for mercy, no more death, mourning, crying or pain. And that's what he's crying for. He's asking for mercy. III. Our Savior’s Compassion and Power Now we see our savior's compassion and power, verse 49-51, “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up. On your feet. He's calling you.’ Or, ‘Take heart, get up. He's calling you’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’" This is an amazing moment for me. Jesus is a king. He's a passing king. He's going by and He stops for an obscure beggar who cries out to him. I mean, that doesn't happen, friends. The last time that I preached on Mark, we saw Jesus talk about the rulers of the Gentiles who lorded over them and their high officials exercise authority. You can see them going in palanquins or in great entourages surrounded by purple silk and all that. They're not going to stop for a beggar in the field. And the beggar in the field crying out to the passing king, if he gets obnoxious enough, one of the henchmen might go over and relieve him of his head. In medieval Japan, that's what the Samurai would do. If you're a peasant, you're groveling on the ground and you're not lifting your head. If you lift your head, they will take your head from your shoulders quickly and they have the right to do it. But you see what happens here. Here's a beggar with nothing to offer, and we've got the great, the King of kings passing by. He hears him cry and He stops in humility and wants to deal with him. It's the kindness of Jesus. I think about this moment, just to highlight what I'm saying, when Saul was pursuing David out in the desert and wanted to kill him. Abner was his right-hand man, his military leader. David in 1 Samuel 26:14, called out to the army into Abner and said, "Aren't you going to answer me, Abner?" He calls across a valley or something like that. What did Abner said, "Who are you who calls to the king?" Who are you who calls to the king? What's Abner's attitude there? “We don't need to answer you. You're nothing. You have no right to call to the king.” That's Abner's attitude. It is not Jesus's attitude. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We have a picture of that, don't we? Isn't that beautiful? Jesus is the humble king who comes to serve his people.Mark 10:43-45, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be a servant. And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Not just to heal this man of his blindness, but to die for this man's sins. That's our servant king. That's who He is. He's filled with compassion. Indeed, it is compassion that moved him to heal Bartimaeus, according to Matthew's account in Matthew 20:33. He's filled with compassion for this man. He feels what we feel. Jesus calls for the beggar to come and the crowd tells him to cheer up. What's with this crowd? I'm not a big fan of the crowd here.They change. "Oh, cheer up. He wants you." Once they find out that Jesus is interested in talking to him. "Cheer up! On your feet! Be of good courage, be happy, be energetic. Good luck to you," this kind of thing. So He calls to us, but I think it's a good word for us. Just look at verse 49, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Didn't I begin the sermon saying that that's what's happening in this text? Jesus is calling you. He's calling you from the text. So cheer up, take heart, get up on your feet and bring your problems to Jesus. That's what I get out of that, even though the crowd's messed up. When Jesus summons you into his presence, rejoice. So energetically this man leaps up, drops the cloak behind. That reminds me of the Samaritan woman at the well who leaves her water jar there. She is not thinking about that anymore. He's not thinking about his cloak. He's going to Jesus. Perhaps someone in the crowd did him a good service of leading this blind man into the presence of Jesus. We come to the key question, which I chose as the sermon title: "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. Now, depending how you look at it, this may be one of the stranger moments in the encounter. I mean, just think about it. This is one of those times where you're like, "Really Jesus?" It's like the time that huge crowd is pressing in on him. He said, "Who touched me?" The disciples are like, "Huh, interesting question." Was there anyone in that crowd who didn't know what the blind man wanted? I mean, do you have any idea what he might want from Jesus? Any thought at all of what he might want from Jesus? Friends, Jesus is not obtuse. He's not stupid. He's not dense. He's not having no idea what's going on. He knows exactly what this man wants. Then why does he ask this question? Now, that's an important question for us, isn't it? He wants you to articulate your need to him, speak it, tell him what you want, take it to the Lord in prayer. That's what this text is about. "What do you want me to do for you?" This is the one who had said to another man, "Everything is possible for him who believes. There's nothing I cannot do." Jesus represents God in prayer, and He knows what this blind man needs better than what the blind man knows. God, the Father, Jesus said, knows what you need before you ask him. And yet for all of that, He still wants us to ask, to put it into words and make our request known to the Lord. So the blind man gives a simple and reasonable request. Verse 51, "The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'" This is unlike James and John's worldly selfish carnal request. This is just a desire to see. He just wants to be like everyone else. Everyone there around can see. Perhaps at one time he had been able to see, you don't know, but he wants to be able to see the blue sky. He wants to be able to see the white wispy clouds. He wants to be able to see the sunset over the sea. See those beautiful palm trees swaying in the breeze there in Jericho. He wants to be able to see the face of his family or friends. He just wants to be able to see the world. The whole earth is full of God's glory. He wants to be able to see that, this world of light and color. He just want to be able to see. IV. The Beggar’s Faith Saves Him Notice he calls Jesus “Rabbi”. It's title of respect, meaning master, and he makes his request known in plain words. He has no doubt in his mind that Jesus can do it. There's no doubt. The beggar's faith saves him. Verse 52, “‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road." Like all of Jesus's healings, effortless, instantaneous, completely effective, totally free financially. So completely free, effortless, perfect, instantaneous, and the ability to see, it's a stunning marvel. It's one of the most complex and amazing processes of the human body. It's only recently that there have been eye surgeons who can do many of the things that are now done routinely, retinal surgery, other aspects working on the eye that's relatively new in the history of medical science. Jesus, like we're already told in Mark 7, has done everything well. There's nothing He cannot do. He heals blind people differently, like with the blind man in John 9. He spits on the ground and makes mud and smears it on the man. The man goes away and washes, and he can see. In Mark earlier, He spit directly on the man's eyes, and then the man saw men like trees walking around. Then He touches them the second time, and he can see everything clearly. He does healings differently here. He just touches him. He does it with a touch of his hands. He just touches his eyes and they're healed. But it's interesting here, the Greek here is that Jesus said, "Your faith..." not has healed you, "but your faith has saved you." There's a Greek word for healed, He doesn't use that here. “Your faith has saved you.” It's pretty obvious. This man has been transformed, he is a new man. Not every physical healing in the Gospel accounts results in individual salvation of the healed person. A very good example of this is in John chapter 5, the man who's by the pool. Remember that Jesus heals and He circles back, and then Jesus says, "Behold you're well again, stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." Then the man goes and turns Jesus into the temple police. It's pretty clear that guy in John 5 wasn't saved, but this man, Bartimaeus is, and he's transformed. He follows Jesus along the road. The next thing in the gospel is the triumphal entry, and I think Bartimaeus was right there, part of the entourage. His faith has saved him. Sins are forgiven by faith in no other way. This man is the very picture of what we call a pre-cross conversion, pre-cross salvation. Just that encounter with Jesus, a physical healing, and his faith saves him. He is beyond just the physical healing. He's now a follower of Jesus. All of us, our greatest need is not physical sight, the ability to walk, any of those physical processes, all of those are going to be taken from us at death. Our greatest need is the forgiveness of sins, the forgiveness of sins, and is by the same mechanism here, our faith in Christ that saves us from our sins. V. Timeless Lessons What do you want Jesus to do for you? We need to start with the basic healing here. All of us apart from Christ starts out spiritually blind, spiritually dead. All of Jesus's salvation works are works of healing. Jesus said, "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Jesus has come to heal all of us of our spiritual blindness fundamentally that we don't see the glory of God and we don't see ourselves and our sins properly. What we need is for Jesus to give us spiritual sight to see the glory of God and to see our sins. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and to repent of our sins and define in the bloody death of Jesus, our only hope is salvation. It's a sure and certain hope that through faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven. That's where it all starts here. Nothing else matters. If you don't have that, you have nothing. “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and loses his own soul?” So start there. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asks. “I want to see you. I want to see the glory of God and the face of Christ, and I want to be justified by my faith in Christ. That's what I want.” Starts there. But now, you all are Christians. You did that a long time ago. Is there anything else? Is there anything else you might want Jesus to do for you? That's how I began this sermon, and that's what I want to ask you now. What do you want Jesus to do for you? This morning, as I was thinking about this sermon, my mind was brought to Revelation 22:1-2.There’s a picture of heaven, the eternal state, and there's a picture of the throne of God and of the lamb and the river of the water of life flowing from the throne through the center of the street of the city. The tree of life is on either side of that river that flows from that throne, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. The tree bears crops every month. You get this picture of healing and fruitfulness and life flowing from the throne. I want you to picture that. Every blessing there is in heaven or on earth flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. All of them. Seek your blessings from Christ. All of them. Ask God to bless you. Something you don't have, but you need, ask him for it. Something that's in your life that shouldn't be, a sin, a wicked habit, ask him to take it away, and extend it beyond yourself to people around you. Seek blessings from God out of his hand. "What do you want me to do for you?" Get the blessings from him. "Every blessing there is in heaven or on earth flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. All of them. Seek your blessings from Christ. All of them. Ask God to bless you." We have a mistaken view sometimes of prayer. Prayer works like this. You go to pray and you give God a good idea of something that He didn't have. He agrees with you that it's a good idea, and He changes course a bit because of your prayer, and now does what you tell him to do. Some of you are laughing because that's utterly ridiculous. You can't teach God anything. God already has a meticulous plan for every single moment of redemptive history. He's inviting you into what He's doing. Let me give you a very good example of this. Jesus is our main example of prayer. I was reading this a few days ago, John 14:16, “Jesus said, ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive.’" Now, think about that. Jesus goes to heaven and He says, "Father, I have an idea." He says, "Well, what is it my Son?" "Why don't we send the third person of the Trinity? Why don't we send the Holy Spirit?" And the Father says, "That's a great idea. Let's do that." Do you have any sense at all that was worked out before the foundation of the world, the Father sending the Holy Spirit on the church to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth once Jesus had finished his work? I'm telling you, it had already been worked out. Then why does He say, "I will ask the Father and he will send the counselor"? It's because Jesus knows better than we do, everything comes from God in answer to prayer. And Jesus, our mediator goes to the throne and asks him for the blessings we need. It's the very thing we see in Psalm 2. The psalmist says, "I will proclaim the decree of the Lord." Picture Jesus saying the words of Psalm 2. "The Lord said to me, 'I am your Father. Today I've begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.'" Again, that's not some new idea. That was the whole point. Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, but He has to ask the Father for the nations. What I want you to do is, I want you to see every blessing you could ever want in your life and in the lives of people you care about in the hands of God, and you go to him and ask for them. All of them. Little things, big things, all of them. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." In the text today, Jesus stands before us and says, "What do you want me to do for you?" What is your answer? Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time that we've had today in this text. We thank you for its power. We thank you for Jesus's effortless healing and actual physical healing of a blind man, years ago. We know that Jesus can still do anything. We know that our needs are greater than just physical eyesight. Lord, would you please work in us, the salvation you intended, that you would transform us little by little into the image of your Son, that you would make us holy, that you would make us pure, free from sin? And Lord, would you help us to use our prayers for the salvation of others, that we would see our coworkers and neighbors and lost relatives, people around us who are in darkness, that we would ask on their behalf, that they would believe the gospel and be saved. God give us robust, detailed, powerful prayer lives. Help us to understand what happens here when Jesus says, "What do you want me to do for you?" In Jesus' name, Amen.
Places of honor are won by those who suffer for the kingdom; a cup of suffering is necessary for all who would be honored in the Kingdom of God. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn your Bibles to Mark chapter 10. We continue to make our way through Mark's gospel. We come to this vital passage today. Thirty-five years ago this week, I watched one of the most exciting basketball games I've ever seen in my life. Some of you are sports fans, some of you aren't. So I'm going to bore some of you for the next minute or so and others will be really excited, but that's okay. But I want to talk about this just because of something that was said. It was actually a Celtics NBA basketball game, a playoff game, game seven between the Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. It was the last time that Larry Bird was really just amazing and dominant as he and the Atlanta Hawks star, Dominique Wilkins, went back and forth trading baskets, one shot after another. Each one seemed to be more spectacular than the last. It was really almost like a man to man duel between the two of them with the season hanging the balance for one or the other team. During the game, the announcer, Brent Musburger, said something that has been played again and again since then, and it stuck with me even if they hadn't played it. After Larry Bird made a particularly remarkable shot, he said, "You are watching what true greatness is all about." I thought, "Hmmm." I like basketball, but I'm a Christian and that is not what true greatness is all about. I mean, I'm glad the Celtics won that day, don't get me wrong, but you know what? I've seen pictures of Larry Bird and he's old now. The Boston Garden they played in doesn't even exist anymore. It's been torn down, it's gone. I think about what Isaiah 40 says when it says, "All flesh is grass and all their glory is like the flower of the field." Friends, that is not what true greatness is all about. No sports is. What is true greatness all about? The text brings us right to that topic. It's something that captivates our minds. People are interested in greatness. I was at a graduation yesterday for my son at UNC-Charlotte. As they have at graduations, they honor different students for academic achievement. They do it with this Latin phrase, cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude, which means with praise, with great praise, with the greatest or highest praise. So greatness. We're interested in that hierarchy of good, better, and best. We're always analyzing what is good, what is better, what is the greatest. Remember for me, as somebody who loves history, at the end of the 20th century, Time Magazine listed the top 100 greatest individuals from the century that had just been completed, the 20th century. They walked through different individuals that they felt should be on the list, 100 greatest people of the 20th century. They're inventors like the Wright Brothers who invented the airplane, and there was Robert Goddard who invented liquid fueled rockets that enabled eventually space travel and landing men on the moon. There was Tim Burners-Lee who invented the internet; William Shockley, who invented the transistor, ushering us into the digital age. Enrico Fermi was on the list who split the atom, and then of course, Albert Einstein who gave us the theory of relativity. All those scientists and inventors were on the list. Of course, they were influential political leaders from the 20th century like Winston Churchill and FDR and Nelson Mandela. Other leaders of movements like Martin Luther King Jr. were on the list. They're even entertainers and film stars and rock stars and authors, poets, actors, fashion icons, business leaders. So Coco Chanel, Lucille Ball, Bob Dylan, Charlie Chaplin, Sam Walton, all these folks are on the list. However, Time Magazine, the list there was not seeking to identify if any of these people were actually great people, just really that they'd had a great impact, so Adolf Hitler was on the list; Joseph Stalin was on the list; Mao Zedong was on the list. These are mass murderers, tens of millions killed because of their policies, but they're great on the list. They're mixed in together with people that most secular individuals felt were good people such as Billy Graham or Mahatma Gandhi, just all of them mixed together on the list. There was no filter for basic human goodness. In our passage today, we have two disciples, James and John, seeking positions of greatness in the kingdom of God. Jesus has therefore the opportunity to address the topic of greatness, both great power and also great character in one key moment. This lesson on the nature of true greatness stands over all human beings for all history as both the goal to strive for and the standard by which we are going to be judged on Judgment Day. Ultimately, it doesn't matter at all who the world thinks is great. The only thing that will matter on that day is, "What does God think?" What does God think? Who does God think is great? Here in the text today, we have the standard. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all for, even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. To Jesus Christ then, true greatness came down to this, humble suffering servanthood, the humble suffering servant. Whoever's willing to pay the most, lay down his or her life to benefit to bless others will be called greatest in the kingdom of God. Now, the standard is simple. We can understand it, yet it may be one of the most difficult lessons that any of us ever learn. I. The Perversion of Greatness: Self-Promotion So let's walk through the text and let's begin with the perversion of greatness. The perversion of greatness which is self-promotion. It's very common these days. Putting yourself forward, espousing all of your best attributes, in effect, selling yourself. It's been going on a long time. James and John are practicing it with Jesus to some degree in this text, twenty centuries ago. Secular kingdoms have been dominated by this self-promotion and politicking throughout history. In the Roman Empire, counselors to the Caesars would orchestrate political scandals for one another to knock off their rivals by shame. That failing, they might just have them poisoned. Cicero, the leading order of the Roman Republic, was an expert at dirty politics, smearing an opponent with rhetoric and with innuendo of immorality; he's very good at it, Cicero. In the European courts of the Middle Ages, lords and nobles would fight joust with each other to show their courage or loyalty or military prowess. They would jockey for position. Others would go on great quests, military quests to achieve some dramatic goal in order to secure the undying affection of the king and garner position of power in his kingdom. Now, in the modern era, in our era, people use social media often to position themselves for greatness and to cancel their rivals, so to speak, using smear tactics, finding some damning incident from that person's youth or earlier in their history to damage their career, to damage their reputation in the cyber community. As it said, the internet never forgets. There's no escaping those past moments. Now, the same thing happens in the secular, the corporate world as well. Young ladder climbers use power techniques. I came across a book some time ago entitled and I'm not commending this book, but this is the title, 21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win At Office Politics. So you heard me say, I'm not commending this. I'm just telling you what's in the book. Techniques like stealing credit for someone else's success, trapping someone in a compromising situation and then blackmailing them, using flattery to gain someone's confidence and then at the right time backstabbing them at a key board meeting, et cetera, et cetera. These are the ugly tactics used for self-promotion to gain position in the corporate environment. I don't think James and John were at that level, but they're jockeying for position in the kingdom. It's been going on a long time, advancement by self-promotion. They come forward and make this selfish request. I want you to notice the context. Those of you here last week, you remember what I preached on as Jesus predicted again what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. He was going to go up to Jerusalem and He was going to die on the cross. They were going to spit on him. They were going to beat him. They were going to crucify him. This is what's going to happen. Then James and John come and say, "Hey, let us sit at your right and left side." The timing's terrible, the selfishness. Do you see? It's just really shocking as they come angling for this position, but that's how they do. They come in and they ask effectively for a blank check from Jesus. Look at the text 35-37, “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’" Interesting. I liked this answer, “What do you want me to do for you?” Notice that. That's a key moment right there like in the theology of prayer. It does matter what you ask. It needs to line up with my purposes. “What do you want me to do for you?” “They replied, ‘Let us sit one of us at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.'" We want you to do whatever we ask. Jesus says, "You got to tell me what you want.” They want to be effectively the second and third most powerful men on earth. That's what they're asking for. They want to sit at Jesus's right and his left in his glory, in his kingdom glory, his place of access to power and of personal prestige and exaltation. In Matthew's account, this request comes through their mother, “Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and kneeling down asked a favor of them.” One thing you learn with the synoptic gospels, whenever any one of them adds some information, that's true. If the other one doesn't have it, they're just simplifying the account and leaving things out. All of the gospels leave things out, but this is what happened. Ultimately, Jesus knows who put the mother up. It was coming from James and John, but they're going with mom, kneeling down to ask a favor of them. “'What is it you want?’, He asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'" Some of you moms will know exactly what's going on here. This is a big moment for her. Indications are from the studies and the New Testament that this woman, James and John's mother was named Salome and was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so is therefore Jesus' aunt and that would make James and John Jesus' cousins. Friends, this is nepotism. That's what this is. This is family ties. This is an old, old trick here. Napoleon places brothers on thrones all around Europe. This is what people do. Jesus wants to expose this perversion of greatness here, verse 42, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are rulers, regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them and their high officials exercise authority over them.’" This is the perversion of these positions of power having obtained them through self-promotion. The Gentiles use them for selfish purposes. They dominate others and they stoke their egos with their positions of power, with displays of grandeur. They're these outward displays of power and prestige, trumpet sounding at the approach of the Roman governor, regal purple banners fluttering in the air, a manner of superiority in their speech, haughty air like the famous statement made by Maria Antoinette about the poor in France, "Let them eat cake." There's that dismissive attitude toward the poor. These rulers and officials love the places of honor and the most important seats and the lofty greetings and the words of praise, the trappings of power. This is the way it always is with the rulers of the Gentiles. It's what they do. You think about the Sun King, Louis the 14th of France built the Palace of Versailles with the most elaborate displays of wealth, golden frameworks around mirrors, embedded jewels in fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, a whole hall of mirrors to give visiting dignitaries from other nations as well as his own people a sense of their own smallness and inferiority compared to him, the Sun King, Louis the 14th. Ultimately, worldly rulers use their positions to fatten themselves with luxurious living. Sadly, it seems some of this was on James and John's mind too. That's why Jesus mentions it. They're hiding behind their mother. They're using family connections. They’re angling for top positions in Jesus' kingdom. Now, keep in mind, the disciples' errant view of what was about to happen was effectively a secular kingdom of power and prestige, just like Jesus is talking about here. That's what they thought was about to happen. Jesus is going to use his supernatural power to defeat the Romans, defeat all Gentile enemies and establish a Jewish empire from sea to sea ruling over the entire earth with Jesus as the king, and them, second and third in power. That's what they thought was about to happen. Jesus has to expose how faulty that view of power really is. II. The Price of Greatness: Suffering Secondly, we see the price of greatness which is suffering. “'You do not understand what you're asking,’” verse 38, “Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with?’” Again, the context. As I said, the very last thing that happened is Jesus, in detail, predicted the sufferings He was about to go through. He's bringing their minds to this again and again. They did not expect the crucifixion. They weren't thinking it was going to happen. It did not factor in. You don't understand what you're asking, He says. He has to educate them. He has to strip their presumptions bear. Like all the other disciples, their understanding of the kingdom and its glory is woefully inadequate. Jesus has to educate them about the nature of the kingdom and the positions of power within it. Now, note something very important. Jesus does not deny that there are such positions of power, there are. There will be individuals sitting at his right and his left in his glory. It's actually going to happen. The Book of Revelation pictures 24 elders seated on 24 glorious thrones, encircling the throne of God. Jesus said the twelve would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Matthew 19:28], but they definitely don't understand the price of all of that. They don't understand the cross. The blood of Jesus essential that must be shed for their sins to qualify them to be in heaven at all and the suffering needed to build his worldwide kingdom, they didn't understand any of that. So no, they don't understand what they're asking and neither do we really, but Jesus is ready in this text through the Holy Spirit to educate all of us. The price of glory is suffering. Verse 38, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with?” What is the cup? What is the cup Jesus is going to drink? In Gethsemane, we're going to see him shrinking back from the cup. God reveals the cup to him, I believe at a far deeper level than even Jesus had ever seen before, and it literally will knock him to the ground and cause blood to come out of his pores as He contemplates the cup. He says in Mark 14:36, "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." What is a cup that could knock Jesus to the ground but the cup of God's infinite wrath against sin? Jesus will have to drink it to save us from that wrath. That's the cup. It's a cup of suffering that He's going to pay. As always, Jesus brings their naive and immature conceptions again to the cross because they just can't seem to understand it. The baptism, what is that? It's just a different way of saying the same thing, I believe. The cup is the baptism, which is different ways of talking about it. Baptism means “immersion”. That's what the word means, and Jesus is going to be plunged into a sea of sorrow, plunged into a sea of the wrath of God, plunged into a sea of sin as our sin bearer, as our substitute. Jesus says in Luke 12:50, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished?" Literally in the KJV of that verse, Luke 12:50, He says, "How straightened." I am straightened as if constrained in a straight jacket. I'm like in a straight jacket until I finally die on the cross. Jesus lived his whole life under the cloud of the cross, under the pressing crush of that weight. He's always thinking about it and they make a typically glib answer. “You don't know what you're asking. Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with?” "We can," they answered. Jesus had already said, "You don't understand what you're asking." He could say it again, you don't understand what you're talking about. They had no real conception of this cup, no real conception of the baptism, and so they lightly said it. They overestimate just like Peter will do, “Even if all fall away, I never will," overestimating. We're going to spend eternity studying the infinite dimensions of that cup and that baptism. We'll spend eternity plumbing its infinite depths. They don't even have the first small inkling of what they're talking about. James and John thought they could handle anything that came their way or was required for the seeds of honor and the kingdom, but then Jesus made a prophecy about their future. In verse 39, He says, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with." They would share in Christ's sufferings. There would be bitter drops that would come from Jesus' cup. They would not drink the cup, but they would drink from the cup. They would drink an aspect of it. "Baptism means 'immersion'. That's what the word means, and Jesus is going to be plunged into a sea of sorrow, plunged into a sea of the wrath of God, plunged into a sea of sin as our sin bearer, as our substitute." James would be the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred as the account gives us in Acts chapter 12. King Herod had him beheaded, executed. John, his brother, would die in exile on the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, having suffered for the kingdom of God and the testimony of Jesus, he said. Now neither of them would truly drink the cup, the wrath of God for sins. That's something Jesus had to do alone. He had to do it alone. He's the only one that could do it, but they would drink some of this. So fundamentally, the lesson here is places of honor are won by suffering for the kingdom. They have a high price tag. There is a cup of suffering necessary for all who would be honored by the kingdom. III. The Plan of Greatness: Sovereignty Thirdly, the plan of greatness, and that is sovereignty. They were forgetting the plan of almighty God. Ultimately, all places of honor have already been earmarked. They've already been tabbed by almighty God. God's not wondering who's going to be sitting in those seats. He knows exactly who's sitting in those seats. Look at verse 40, “To sit at my right or my left is not for me to grant. Those places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Jesus is pointing to the sovereign plan of almighty God. Everything has been planned out down to the tiniest detail. Nothing has been left to chance. God the Father has planned all of human history, planned it before the world began. All the days ordained for all of us were written in God's book before one of them happened. It says in Ephesians 1:11, "In him, we're also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything after the council of his will." How much is everything? Everything, friends, is everything. So no, it's not an accident who's going to sit at the right or the left in Jesus' eternal kingdom. Those places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father. How does that work? The place of honor prepared by God's plan before the foundation of the world, the fullness of time and the right time, individuals are born into certain circumstances. God shapes them and crafts them for a role in the kingdom, and He prepares good works in advance that they should walk in them, [Ephesians 2:10], and then He prepares them to walk in those good works, gets them ready to do it, and then He empowers them to do those good works which they could never have done apart from Jesus. “I am the vine. You're the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” So abiding in Jesus by the power of Jesus, they do amazing good works even to the point of martyrdom, even to the point of laying down their lies for the kingdom. They do those good works. Specific servants suffer specific miseries and pains and dangers for the kingdom, and they receive corresponding honors because of them. Paul mentions in Philippians 2, a man named Epaphroditus. He says in Philippians 2:29-30, "Honor men like him because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me." Honor men like him because he risked his life for the gospel. Or again, we have the great hall of faith. Hebrews 11:36-38 says, "Some faced jeers and flogging. Still others were chained, put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were put to death with the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goat skins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground." The price of greatness is suffering and the honors and the thrones and all that are proportional to that. Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with? Ultimately, even those great servants of God who do great things for Christ will understand in heaven how they don't deserve to be there. Their sins were paid for by the blood of Jesus. All of the good works they did, they did by the power of Christ. So like the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4, they're going to be continually getting down off their thrones of glory and casting their crowns before the throne of God forever, but there are their thrones and there are their crowns to cast because they belong to them. All positions of power and honor come from God's sovereign plan. John the Baptist himself said this, John 3:27, "A man can receive only what has given him from heaven." Again, Psalm 75:6 and 7, "No one from the East or the West or from the desert can exalt a man, but it is God who judges. He brings one down and he exalts another." It's the plan of God. IV. The Path of Greatness: Servanthood Fourth, the path of greatness is servanthood. The ten were indignant when they heard this. Look at verse 4. This is so human, isn't it? Aren't you glad? I'm not glad for sin, but I'm glad that the Bible's honest. Listen to this, “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.” They're pridefully angered. They're annoyed. They're irritated. Pride was corrupting their relationships already. The lust for power was in them. The precise thing that brought Satan down from his glory, a lust for power, was in their hearts too. Deep roots in human natures, deeply in these twelve. Jesus has to deal with this again and again and again with these men. He dealt with it in Mark 9. We already saw when they're arguing, remember, about which of them was the greatest. He has to take a little child and have the child stand among them. He's going to have to deal with it right to the end, the last supper. As they go in there, they're arguing about which of them is the greatest. If I can just stop the narrative right there and say “none of them.” In our text today, it says, "Whoever wants to become great..." He's showing a pathway to greatness. How can we become great because we're not great yet? What had these guys done? They went out on a mission trip and drove out some demons by the power of Jesus and then they came back. Other than that, what did they do? They did what we read about them doing in the gospels, which isn't much. So you want to become great? That's what we're talking about. How can I become a great man or woman of God? Here's the path. He highlights the contrast between his kingdom and the world’s, as we've seen. Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are guarded as rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them and their high officials exercised authority over them, not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom from many." So Jesus' kingdom, his whole approach is radically different than the world's. He's going to say to Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But as it is, my kingdom's of another place." He has a whole different way of doing kingdom here. It's a whole different approach. So they lord it over. They do all these places of honor. Jesus is going to go to a deeper level. Those kingdoms are built by prideful plunder, aren't they? Isn't that the history of the world? Bloodshed. People become powerful militarily, they see what their neighbors have. They figure they can take them in a fight, and they do. They sweep in into their walled villages and they take their stuff, their livestock, their gold and silver. They kill and plunder and they add them to their kingdom. That's how empires have always been built. Read about it in Habakkuk chapter 2, “Woe to him, who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime.” That's world history, friends. That's why Daniel 7 pictures these empires as beasts coming up out of an ocean. They're ravenous. That's how the kingdoms of this world are built, but Jesus' kingdom isn't built that way, not by those who are willing to go kill, but by those who are willing to go die. "Jesus' kingdom isn't built …by those who are willing to go kill, but by those who are willing to go die." It's a whole different approach as He cites his whole strategy in John 12:24, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” That's how the kingdom is built. That's what we're talking about here. The pathway to greatness is fall to the ground and die. Serve, serve others, die to yourself. Again, ambition for kingdom and glory is not a bad thing. You want to be great? Good. I want you to be great. I want you to want to be great. Let me tell you how to become great. You should be ambitious to become great. Be great like this. Be a servant. Humble yourself now. Stop living for yourself. Stop living for your earthly advantages. Stop living for your earthly pleasures. Stop thinking, "What's the best way I want to spend my time? How should I spend my money on myself? How can I advance my interest?” Stop all that. Deny yourself daily. Make yourself nothing and find out how you can meet the temporal needs of others? How can you bless someone else today? When you have achieved a beginning level of servanthood, become an even more servant. Go even lower. Just keep going down. Now, what more can I do? Go even lower. You want to become great? Be a servant. But if you want to be greatest, first of all, be the lowest of all. The low person was a “diákonos” from which we get the word “deacon”, a house servant, almost like a paid employee who did certain levels of tasks, but could leave the estate if he wanted to, a table waiter kind of thing. That's a “diákonos”. You want to be great, be like that. But you want to be the first of all, be a “doulos”, a bond slave. The lowest of the low. Go from “diákonos” to a “doulos”. You see the dissent right here. You want to become great? Serve. First of all, be everybody's slave. That's a downward journey. The downward journey Jesus is describing is the very one He went on and is on himself. We see the paradigm of greatness, our savior. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus left heaven's glory and went down and then down some more and then down to the lowest place. First of all, He left a throne of glory that we can scarcely imagine and took on a human form. He was born in a stable to a poverty-stricken, obscure Jewish couple. He lived a humble life as a carpenter's son. He learned the trade from his father, Joseph. He took orders from customers for how they wanted the tables and chairs made and then did them. Let me think about the humility of that. It's like, "Do you know who I am?" “I don't care who you are. I want my tables and chairs by next Wednesday.” But Jesus wouldn't have said, "Do you know who I am?" He would've taken the order. Having learned how to be a carpenter, He would've made the tables and chairs. When the time came when He was about 30 years old, He'd began his public ministry. All it was every day was a life of servanthood of people. Think what it's like, the healing ministry He did, which He seemed to do effectively one at a time with a touch, with a word, one person after another. No one was turned away, He never was too busy for anyone. He touched lepers. He drove demons out. He went with Jarius to heal his sick daughter. On route, He found out she was dead, and He went on and raised her from the dead. That's who He was. Being found in appearance as a man He humbled himself and became obedient to his father, serving others day after day. He never refused anyone, but the ultimate picture, of course, is the cross. His substitutionary death on the cross was the greatest act of humble servanthood in history. That was the consummation of his downward journey, to lay down his life willingly. He was despised and rejected, humiliated, beaten, mocked, spat upon, condemned, and crucified. Here Jesus asserts that He ended the world primarily to lay down his life as a substitutionary ransom for many. He came to serve to the uttermost, to lay down his life in the place of sinners. Now, here, we get to the theology. We get to the core of our Christian faith. This is the central core doctrine of Christianity. This is how sinners like you and I will be able to stand before God on judgment day, blameless and unafraid, because Jesus laid down his life in our place. The word “ransom" here means the “payment of a price”, money, let's say, to rescue a slave from bondage or a kidnapped victim from their captors. It's the payment of a price to rescue people from danger. That's what a ransom is. The Greek word “anti” is inserted here in the place of, so a substitute ransom. That's the theology of our atonement. Jesus laid down his life, He shed his blood as a substitute ransom for our sins. Some medieval theologians misunderstood this ransom idea and came up with a thought of the ransom to the devil theory. Have you ever heard something so stupid as that, as though God and the devil are equal bargaining partners? Not at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. In C.S. Lewis's classic work, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, we see Aslan the lion making the payment of his life for Edmund's liberation in response to the White Witch's demands. It's a powerful scene. But if we draw the line too directly, we could make a devastating theological mistake. Aslan clearly represents Christ in the story. The witch represents our accuser, Satan, all that's true, but Satan is not God's equal. Satan's not the one receiving the ransom. Satan is going to be cast into the lake of fire for his transgressions. The ransom is paid to God and to the justice of God. The clearest verse on this is First Timothy 2: 5-6, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” There's your ransom. Jesus is the mediator to go between, not between us and Satan or between God and Satan, but between us and God, Jesus the mediator. He pays his life as a ransom to God on our behalf. Why is that? Because the wages of sin is death. It was established in the Garden of Eden. The death penalty for sin is Ezekiel 18:4, “the soul who sins will die.” We deserve to die for our sins, not just the physical death, but eternal death in hell. Jesus came to pay that debt, to give his life as a ransom for many. As Isaiah 53 says, "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. By his wounds, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him [our substitute ransom], the iniquity of us all.” The reward of Jesus' infinite servanthood is the highest position in the universe. “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth that every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus has the place of greatest honor and greatest glory in the kingdom because He went the furthest down, but this is the same path that's open for us, suffering service for the benefit of others, for the advancement of the kingdom. V. Lessons What lessons can we take from this? First of all, the most important lesson of all, trust in Christ for the payment of your sins. You cannot pay them yourself. It's either trust Jesus or suffer eternal death in hell. Those are the choices. Jesus is willing to drink the cup of God's wrath in your place. Trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life for you if you'll trust in him. Beyond that, be alert to your pride. Don't say anything like, "Well, I thank you, God, that I'm nothing like James and John.” That would be a mistake. Say, "Lord, show me how I'm just like James and John, how I want a comfortable life, a powerful life, a prosperous life, an easy life. Just show me how I'm like that because I know I must be," and then be willing to drink Jesus' cup. We are positioned here in Durham to share the gospel with lost people. Most of them have already heard the gospel and rejected it. They're not going to welcome you with open arms. If you are going to share the gospel in the workplace or in the neighborhood or as you meet, you're probably going to have to take some heat. You're going to have to take some fire. I don't think it's likely that you're going to have one of the highest positions in the kingdom, but I don't know who I'm talking to. Who knows? When I read church history and I always read what some of our brothers and sisters were willing to pay to spread the gospel, I know I'm way low on the list. All I know is their honors will be my honors and I'm going to be celebrating with them just far from the center, but whatever God has for you to do is going to require suffering on your part. Be willing to suffer for the kingdom. Be willing to pay the price to share the gospel with lost people. Be willing to suffer. Understand that there will be positions of honor in the kingdom. It's true. There will be people sitting at Jesus' right and left and on down, but just know this. When one part of the body of Christ is honored, the whole body will be honored with it. We won't be jealous at all in heaven. Not at all. So let's celebrate that. Let me say a word briefly to mothers. Today's Mother's Day. This morning, I was meditating on one verse that really captured me. It relates to this text, and it's in the NIV's translation of Psalm 18:35. There, David is celebrating God's activity in his life to make him a victorious warrior. God had worked in him so that he could bend a bow of bronze with his arms. Here's the verse in that translation, Psalm 18:35, “You stoop down to make me great.” Isn't that a great verse for a Christian mother? You lower yourself. You get down to the child's level, the infant's level, the toddler's level, the preschooler's level, all that to make them great. How do you make them great? Lead them to Christ. Teach them these themes. Teach them what God thinks is greatness. It's something that Christian mothers can do. So I praise God for your ministry, sisters in Christ. I praise God. Stoop down, lower yourself like Jesus calls on us to do, to make your children great in the kingdom. Finally, realize someday we're going to see Christ in his glory, and we're going to see the extent of his infinite greatness, what He was willing to do to get you to heaven. You're going to be like those twenty-four elders. You're going to be on your face. Whatever crowns you have to cast, you're going to be casting them. Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the beauty of this text. Thank you for the greatness of Jesus. Thank you for the truth and what it teaches us about his kingdom. I pray, Lord, that you would enable each of us to be willing to suffer for the kingdom, to be willing to pay the price to see the Triangle area, Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, reached with the gospel. We thank you that you've enabled us, positioned us to be a light shining in a dark place. Lord, thank you for how the Bible teaches us the truth about our pride and about true humility and true greatness. By the Spirit, help us to drink in the truth of this word, to know that Jesus shed his blood, that we would not have to bear the price for our sins, and that we have a role to play in the kingdom. Help us to play it. In Jesus' name, amen.
To prepare the Twelve Apostles for what was to come, Jesus instructed them in detail what was about to happen to him. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Let's turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 10. As we continue our marvelous journey through this gospel, the Gospel of Mark, we are looking today at Mark 10:32-34. One of the most pernicious lies told about Jesus of Nazareth by unbelieving scholars is that his death came about because Jesus miscalculated the reaction to his message, got in over his head, and was arrested against his will. Surprised by it, in fact. He was swept along by political forces beyond his control and tragically killed, thus ending his dreams of a better world. In such a wicked revision of history, these scholars make Jesus out to be well-meaning, but politically naive, like a beautiful cut flower that's thrown into a raging river at flood stage. Whitewater seizing it and causing it to churn and tumble around despite its beauty, hurdling it to a massive waterfall and then over. It was pulled irrevocably to its own destruction. Nice Jesus, naive Jesus, overwhelmed Jesus, dead Jesus. Well, dear friends, nothing could be further from the truth. The central message of this marvelous Gospel of Mark comes right from the beginning. Mark 1:1, the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This gospel was written to give clear evidence of the deity of Christ that by reading it we might have faith in Christ for the salvation of our souls. But the betrayal, the rest, the various trials, the condemnation, the mocking, scourging, and death of Jesus was a severe trial to the faith of his disciples. Jesus looked anything but like almighty God in his weakness, humiliation, torture and death. Jesus knew that his disciples needed special preparation for these terrible events. He wanted them to understand a central fact that He declared in John's Gospel, John 10:18, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it back up again.This command I received from my father." Jesus was never a victim. He willingly laid down his life for us, for his people, to save us from God's just wrath against us for our sins. In order to establish this fact all the more, He predicted his death in detail ahead of time. In fact, He did it over and over again. "Jesus was never a victim. He willingly laid down his life for us, for his people, to save us from God's just wrath against us for our sins" Now the obvious question that must come to us is this, why did He do it? And beyond that, we could ask how could Jesus precisely know what would come to pass concerning himself? The fact of the matter is no one really knows the future, but God alone; the book of James makes this plain. James 4:14 says, "You do not even know what will happen tomorrow." But Jesus is unique in human history. His entire life was lived under the shadow of the cross. Being God in the flesh, He had detailed knowledge of his immediate future as well as his eternal future. He had a unique role to play in the history of the world, to suffer and die on the cross as the savior of the world. From the moment He was born into that stable in Bethlehem, He lived under the shadow of the cross. His mother Mary had been prophetically warned by a man named Simeon at the time of his birth that a sword would pierce her soul also. Also? Yes, in addition to Jesus. By the time Jesus was 12 years old, a 12-year-old boy, He understood his special identity as the Son of God, that He had been sent into the world by God, his father, to do his will. You remember when his parents were anxiously searching for him in the city of Jerusalem and found him, and Jesus said to them in Luke 2:49, "Did you not know that I had to be in that of my father?" Is what the Greek says. In other words, "Immersed in my father's plan, immersed in my father's work and my father's will, didn't you know that that's what I had to do?" Certainly by the time He began his public ministry, being about 30 years old, He understood completely what He had come to do. So when John the Baptist pointed at him and said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," we can't imagine that John the forerunner knew more of Jesus's mission than Jesus did. Jesus knew very well what He had come to do. Therefore Jesus walked every step of his life under the shadow of the cross. What amazing love and what supernatural courage. I. God’s Zeal to Fulfill His Word We're going to walk through that today, and I'm going to begin in this sermon with God's zeal to fulfill his word, God's zeal to fulfill his word. It is by the word of God that the universe was made. Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth." God's word precedes the reality, God speaks and it is. God says, “let there be light” and then there's light. The word precedes the reality. Romans 4:17 says, "God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were." There is creative power to his word. God, therefore highly exalts his word. Psalm 138:2, "You have exalted above all things your name and your word." God is therefore zealous to uphold his word, his predictive words. He is zealous. He says to the prophet, Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:12, "I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled." Three times in Ezekiel He says the same thing, Ezekiel 17:24, "I, the Lord have spoken and I will do it.” Ezekiel 22:14, "I, the Lord have spoken and I will do it." Ezekiel 36:36, "I, the Lord has spoken and I will do it." The people in the times of the prophets tended to disparage the prophetic word. In Ezekiel 12:22 -25 it says, "What is this proverb you have in the land of Israel? The days go by and every vision comes to nothing. Say to them, this is what the sovereign Lord says, I'm going to put an end to that proverb, but I the Lord will speak what I will and it shall be fulfilled without delay. … For in your days you rebellious house I will fulfill whatever I say declares the sovereign Lord." That's God's zeal to fulfill his prophetic word. Now, why is that? Why is God so zealous concerning his Word? He knows and He has ordained that it is by faith in the Word of God that his people will be forgiven of their sins. Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ." We are justified by faith in the Word, the Word of God. There is a perfect and absolute and a mystical link between the Word of God and Jesus, the savior of the world. Is it a strong link so much so that the Apostle John begins his Gospel with the Word, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Verse 14, "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Jesus is called the Word. That's the strong link there is between the written word and Jesus at his first coming. Then at his Second Coming as stated in Revelation 19:11-13, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called faithful and true. He is dressed in a robe, dipped in blood and his name is the word of God." His name is the Word of God, and at that point, all of the prophetic visions will be fulfilled. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” But why do I say all this? Because Jesus wants his disciples and every generation to trust his words perfectly, especially those words that focus on his death on the cross and his resurrection, especially those words. So He predicts it in detail. Look at the texts we're walking through today. Verse 32, "They were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way and the disciples were astonished while those who followed were afraid. Again, He took the twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 'We're going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'And the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priest and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.' Three days later he will rise." Let's understand the text. They're on their way to Jerusalem, up to Jerusalem having crossed the Jordan River near Jericho. They're moving now through Judea, ascending, going higher because Jerusalem's built up on Mount Zion up to Jerusalem. Jesus is leading the way. He's always surrounded by tons of people, but He's out in front of the entourage here, and we see the astonishing courage of Jesus. The whole point of this sermon is that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem, and yet there He is strongly, powerfully striding ahead of the whole crowd toward the death He describes in these verses. Jesus was willingly laying down his life even by making that journey up to Jerusalem. He was not trapped, He was not a naive victim who got in over his head and didn't know what was coming. Not at all. He was carrying out his father's eternal plan to save his people. The twelve were amazed, and the rest of the people were afraid. They were amazed at Jesus's determination to immerse himself in a seething cauldron of hatred and murder, amazed. The twelve by now had heard again and again from Jesus what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. They had seen the visible rage on the face of his enemies. Multiple times they wanted to kill him, sometimes picking up stones ready to stone him right there. There was no doubt in their minds that He has bitter enemies. As a matter of fact, Thomas, typical of doubting Thomas, spoke all of their fears in John 11:16, "Let us also go with him that we may die with him.” He knew exactly what was going to happen. To prepare the twelve apostles for what was to come Jesus then took them aside and instructed them in detail what was about to happen to him. II. Why Jesus Predicted His Sufferings Why did Jesus predicted his sufferings? First of all, to establish his office as a prophet, to establish him in his office as prophet. In the Old Testament, Moses opened up the office of prophet, “God will raise up a prophet like me,” and so it was an office, it was a series of prophets. The question would come, how can we know if an individual who comes is a prophet or not, a true or false prophet? How can we know? Deuteronomy 18:21-22, “You may say to yourselves, how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet claims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.The ability to predict the future and have it come true validates a prophet. Only a true mouthpiece of God can do that, can know the future. Secondly, Jesus has predicted his sufferings to establish, as I've said, his own power over death. Here again, John 10:17-18, "The reason my father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again, this command I receive from the Father. I have absolute power over life and death." After his resurrection from the dead, He appeared in glory to the apostle John on the island of Patmos. In Revelation 1:18, He said, "I am the living one. I was dead and behold, I'm alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades." What does that mean, “I hold the keys?” I'm in charge. I'm in charge of death in the grave. I triumphed over them. He predicted his sufferings. Thirdly, to protect the faith of his disciples, to protect their faith. This was going to be a massive trial. Jesus says in John 13:19 and again in 14:29, connected to other details but always having to do with suffering and things you didn't want to have happen. He said this, "I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that I am he or I am.” In other words, to protect your faith, I'm giving you warnings ahead of time of these things that are happening. Fourthly, to establish the faith of subsequent generations. That's where we come in. To establish our faith because the Holy Spirit knew that He'd be writing all this down in Mark's Gospel and other passages as well. It was written down for us who would come later and read these things and have our own faith strengthened. Jesus always had in mind subsequent generations. He prayed for us in John 17:20-21, "My prayer is not for them alone. I also pray for those who will believe in me through their word that all of them may be one." Jesus wanted to protect our faith as well and give us reasons to believe. Now fundamental to our salvation is faith in the cross of Christ, in Jesus's bloody death on the cross. It says in Romans 3:23-25, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." God presented him as a propitiation or a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. By faith in the blood of Jesus are our sins forgiven. Every individual sinner needs to see Christ as the willing substitute before the justice of God on their behalf for their sin. So that Jesus' death on the cross was God's plan for our individual salvation. And not ours only, but for the sins of the world. We need to see that. Therefore, you cannot believe that Jesus was naively trapped into death and be saved. You can't think he was naively sucked in by Jewish Roman politics, in over his head, overpowered against his will and died, not by his own choice but by the plan of God. You have to have faith in the blood of Jesus shed on your behalf intentionally by God as part of his plan. As Peter preached in his great Pentecost sermon. Acts chapter 2:22-24, "Men of Israel, listen to this, Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge. And you, with the help of wicked men put him to death, nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Now, that's the preaching of the gospel right there, and at the center of it is Jesus was handed over by God's set purpose and foreknowledge known from the foundation of the world. Therefore, in our texts, we must see Jesus boldly, knowingly, intentionally, willingly, courageously walking up to Jerusalem to die as the fulfillment of the plan God had made from before the creation of the world for our salvation. Jesus was not trapped. He's not naive. "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself." So Jesus told them exactly what would happen to him. "We must see Jesus boldly, knowingly, intentionally, willingly, courageously walking up to Jerusalem to die as the fulfillment of the plan God had made from before the creation of the world for our salvation." III. How Jesus Knew About His Sufferings: Prophetic Scripture How did He know? Fundamentally, two answers. First of all, He knew it by prophetic scripture. And second of all, he knew it because He was God, divine foreknowledge. First of all, prophetic scripture. Long before Jesus was born, God progressively revealed his plan through the prophets. The Bible reveals very plainly God knows the future, He decrees the future, He predicts the future, and then He makes his predictions come true. That's what we know about God. Before Jesus was ever born, God had laid out the plan in the 39 books of the Old Testament. Romans 16:25-27 puts it this way, "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God so that all nations might believe and obey him. To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ." In other words, God had a mystery hidden up in himself and then He paid it out progressively in the prophetic writings, little by little, now fulfilled in Jesus, Paul writes in Romans 16. It is a clear statement by Christ. He says this again and again. Luke 18:31-33, "Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written by the prophets about the son of man will be fulfilled.’" This is even before He goes up, He's saying, "Look, all this thing is, it's all predicted, prophesied, and it's going to be fulfilled.” He'll be handed over to the Gentiles, they'll mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day, He'll rise again. Now, after his arrest in Gethsemane, after He prays in Gethsemane, He goes out and gives himself up to those that are there to arrest him. At that moment, Peter thought it best to fight for Jesus. Remember that whole thing? I mean, what's up with Peter? I mean, he’s just missing this whole thing. He pulls out his little fisherman dagger thing, and he is going to take on 600 Roman soldiers. What a moment in redemptive history. Thank God he failed. Imagine if he'd enabled Jesus to get away. I mean, what was he thinking? He just wasn't listening. But Jesus deals with Peter. You remember how Peter swung wildly and cut off Malchus's ear, the high priest servant's ear. He told them, "Put your sword away for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my father and he would at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" I tell you, no human being in history has ever had a higher view of scripture than Jesus. Effectively, He says that He would rather die than let the prophetic scriptures not be fulfilled. He also said at that point in Mark 14:48-49, “'Am I leading a rebellion,’ said, Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you teaching in the temple courts and you did not arrest me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled.’” After his resurrection, however, Jesus was even more zealous to point his overwhelmed and somewhat unbelieving disciples to the fulfillment of scripture. First, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Remember, they were all depressed, “we had hoped he was going to be the one.” Remember that? They're so depressed, so downcast, so Jesus deals with them. “'How foolish you are,’he said, ‘And how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not that Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ And then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.” Again, that same day in the upper room to the eleven apostles. He said to them, “'This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me and the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.’" Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.” He told them, "This is what is written, that Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." So it is obvious that Jesus knew the details of his suffering and his death from prophetic scriptures. Well, what scriptures are we talking about? From the very beginning of the fall, God began predicting the coming of Christ. You remember the curse on the serpent? He said, "I'll put enmity between you and the woman. Between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you'll strike his heel." The prediction of the death of Christ by which Satan's kingdom will be crushed. Then right away the establishment of the animal sacrificial system. Remember how they had covered themselves with fig leaves, where God killed some animals and covered them with animal skins? Then in the very next chapter, we've got Abel offering a blood sacrifice, an animal sacrifice. Cane inventing his own religion and God rebuking him saying, "If you do what is right, will you not prosper?" So animal sacrifice, Noah comes off the ark and offers clean animals as a burn offering to God. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all did animal sacrifice. Abraham was stopped from killing his son, own son Isaac, and a substitute was provided. "God," he said, "God will provide the lamb." As substitute, the ram in a thicket was caught. Animal sacrifice was essential to that religion that God would provide eventually to that land. Then Moses taught the Israelites animal sacrifice and made animal sacrifice the centerpiece of their religion, the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the Levitical priesthood, all of that set up. They had already seen it in the tenth plague, the Passover land, the blood of the lamb shed, and the blood painted on the doorpost and lintels with the angel of the Lord passing over when he saw the blood. In the old covenant ,animal sacrifices were at the center. But all of those animal sacrifices were just a type and a shadow of Christ, not the reality. The details got ready for substitutionary atonement. Leviticus 17:11 says, "The life of a creature is in the blood. And I've given it to you, the blood to you make atonement for yourselves on the altar. It is the blood that makes atonement for your life." It’s very clear. Essential to that is the transfer of guilt without which we cannot be saved. If guilt cannot be transferred to a substitute, we cannot be saved. We're still guilty. In Leviticus 16, we have this gesture of a priest laying hands on the scapegoat and confessing the sins of the people and putting them on the head of the animal, transferring guilt onto the head of the animal. That's what that symbol means, the putting of the hands on the animal, the transfer of guilt. This is how we have the lessons therefore of the animal sacrificial system. All sin deserves the death penalty. The death penalty can be paid by a substitute, but the substitute cannot be an animal. It's just symbolic. The book of Hebrews makes all this plain. The whole thing was just a type and a shadow of the reality. The reality is in Christ. And why is this? Because the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins. It's just a picture, a type, and a shadow. Hebrews 8:5 says, "They serve at a sanctuary as a copy and a shadow of what is in heaven." The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves. Those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins because the blood of animals can never take away sin. Then we have Isaiah's clear prophecy of substitutionary atonement. Isaiah 53, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. And by his wounds, we are healed." Four straight statements of substitutionary atonement, the clearest in the entire Bible. “We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Nowhere in the whole Bible is it clearer why Jesus had to die than Isaiah 53. Then Psalm 22, the actual manner of his death predicted; He had to die a Gentile death, a death at the hands of the Gentiles. The Jews stoned to death, Romans crucified. Crucifixion was predicted in Psalm 22, 1000 years before Jesus was born. It begins famously with the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But then it says, "I am a worm and not a man scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me. They hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say. ‘Let the Lord rescue him. Let him delight him since he or deliver him since he delights in him.’” And then he describes crucifixion clearly, "I am poured out like water. All my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax.It has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me. A band of evil men has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and my feet." Stop right there. What is that talking about? A death by which your hands and feet are pierced? “I can count all my bones. People stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” But then in that same Psalm, not just the sufferings of the Christ, but the subsequent glories, the glories that would come in the same Psalm. Psalm 22:27, "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of nations will bow down before him. The spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth." Right there in Psalm 22, a thousand years before Jesus was born. Then there's the bronze serpent, which Jesus alluded to in the most famous verse in the whole Bible. People I think misunderstand it. Go back one verse you get the whole context. John 3:14-16,"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the son of man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The bronze serpent lifted up for in the same way God loved the world, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." All these prophecies together speak of a death in which Jesus is lifted up and his hands and feet pierced. His blood is poured out and the message is preached to the ends of the earth for the forgiveness of sins.That's how he knew what was going to happen to him. IV. How Jesus Knew About His Sufferings: Divine Omniscience Secondly, Jesus knew what would happen to him because of his divine omniscience. He's God, He's the son of God. He knows things that we don't know. He had supernatural insight in ways that we don't. He knew peoples’ character. In John 1, He looks at Nathaniel and says, "Here is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile. 'How do you know me?' Nathaniel asked, 'I saw you while you are under the fig tree, while you're, I looked at you and I know your heart.'" Or again, in Mark 2, remember the friends who are lowering the man down through the roof by the ropes? “Jesus saw their faith and said, ’Your sins are forgiven.’" The people were thinking in their minds, "That's blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Mark 2:8, "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts. And he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?'" He could read people's minds and hearts. He knew remote events, things that were happening somewhere else. Remember the driving out of the demon of the Syrophoenician woman's daughter? He told her, “'For such a reply, you may go, the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found the daughter lying in bed, the demon gone.” How did he know? He knows. He just knows. He knows future events. He predicted the destruction of the temple that wouldn't happen until 70 AD. "Not one stone will be left on another, every one will be thrown down." A massive, massive temple totally destroyed by the Romans, Jesus predicted it. He also knew specific immediate events of his own life. Mark 11:1-6, "As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, Jesus has sent two of his disciples saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you'll find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, what are you doing? Tell them the Lord needs it and we'll send it back here shortly.' They went and found the colt outside in the street, tied up at the doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there ask, 'What are you doing untying that colt?' They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go." That's amazing. But even more amazing as this one is Mark 14:12-16, “Jesus disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples telling them, ‘Go into the city.’”This is my favorite one of all. “'A man carrying a jar of water will meet you.’" There’s got to be 300,000 people in the city. "Go to New York and there'll be an orange car driving on exit 139B that pulls off to the side with it's hazards on. Pull over and talk to that person.” It's like, what in the world? The guy carrying the jar of water, follow him. He's going to enter a house, talk to the owner of the house. That's the place. Go up there and prepare. He'll have an upper room ready for you. The guy carrying the jar of water. How does he know? Because he knows everything. Detailed, meticulous foreknowledge. So Jesus knew the exact circumstances of his death. Again, that's what makes his bold, courageous march up to Jerusalem even more amazing. V. Lessons What lessons can we take from this? First of all, understand the centerpiece of this sermon. Jesus was not an unwitting unwilling victim. He willingly laid down his life for sinners like you and me. "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely." This is a measure of his love. Greater love is no one than this, that he laid down his life for his friends. "You are my friends, if you do what I command you." Or again, John 10:14-15, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep.” It's not an accident. So therefore, put your trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." I have given you a river of evidence of the truth of the gospel here today. You have everything you need for the simple faith that it will take for the forgiveness of your sins. Trust in him. Why would you walk out of this place still guilty before God for your sins? Just trust in him like the bronze serpent. All you have to do is look, just look to Christ with the look of faith and you'll be forgiven. See the power of prophecy. See how God makes certain his Word gets fulfilled. Jeremiah 1:12, "I am watching to be certain my word is fulfilled." That's how zealous God is concerning his Word. So fulfilled prophecies is one of the greatest evidences of the truth, not just of Jesus, but of the Bible generally. This is not just any book. This book is a literal miracle because of its predictive prophecies. There's no other book like this in the world. So see that, and the more you study prophecy, the more powerful apologetic you can give to your unbelieving pagan coworkers. When they ask you, "Why are you a Christian?" Say, "Fulfilled prophecy." They'll be intrigued, but then you need to know what to say. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, start there. There's many others, but those are some of the keys. Rely therefore on this word. God's Word is a solid foundation on which you can build your life. I thank you for Ian's testimony at his baptism, reminded me of what Jesus said at the end of the Sermon of the Mount. Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall because it had its foundation on something that will never move, and that's the Word of God. Then finally, like Jesus, be willing to suffer for the salvation of other people. We're not the savior, but Jesus said, we have to be willing to lay down our lives like He laid down his life, a similar pattern. John 12, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The man who loves his life will lose it. While the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me. And where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me." Friends, we're called on to reach this region with the gospel. Unbelievers are pouring in here at record numbers. Most of them are unchurched, most of those folks that are pouring in are unchurched. It is our task to reach them with the gospel. I guarantee we cannot do it unless we're willing to suffer, unless we're willing to be courageous. Let's follow Jesus in that kind of boldness that He displayed here in Mark 10. Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time we've had today to gather for worship, to sing together, pray together, to watch two young men be baptized and testify to their faith in Christ. We thank you Lord for the experience of new member candidates that want to partner with us. And we thank you more than anything for the display of Jesus's knowledge and courage in going to the cross. Help us, oh Lord, to be strengthened in our faith, to be faithful as we run the race with endurance. And to be bold in our proclamation, even this week of the gospel. In Jesus' name, amen.
A call to set our hope fully on the future Kingdom of Christ, desiring deeply the honors and rewards He will give at that time. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - I. “What’s In It For Me?” Turn in your Bibles to Mark 10: 280-31. You might also want to refer over to Matthew 19: 27-30, the parallel passage. This is a very unusual week for me. Yesterday as I was thinking about the sermon, I felt that I had swung and missed the text, so I did what a lot of pastors do, but I never want to do, which is write Sunday’s sermon on Saturday. I know that that's a common thing, but it's just not... So I don't work well under that kind of stress, but I wanted to go a different direction, but some of the points would be similar. A week ago, my daughter Jenny sent me a text. She asked if I'd be willing to bring a pack and play to church. That's a portable crib so that they could use it this week. So I texted her and said, "What's in it for me?” Now, my kids know I do this kind of thing from time to time, my wife will ask me a favor and I'll say that, "What's in it for me?" I just like playing with that a little bit. She texted back something like this, "Not much. I'll owe you a small favor within reason." So she gave me a kind of a coupon I can turn in, but nothing big. That's how that went. If you look at Matthew's version of Peter's question, you can hear a kind of an echo there. In Matthew 19:27, Peter answered Jesus, "We have left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us?" Or putting it more personally, “what's in it for me?” That's the name of my new sermon, “What's in it for me?” It is a little bit shocking because it seems so selfish, so worldly, so mercenary. We feel like we should be at a higher moral level doing everything we do for Jesus without any thought whatsoever of personal benefit, without any thoughts of rewards. Soldiers who fight ardently for love of country are patriots, but soldiers who fight for money are mercenaries. We feel like we're called to a higher level in terms of virtue in our service to Christ, a more perfect standard. As I was reflecting on this, it brought me strongly back into one of the most significant insights of the Christian life I've ever had, that I've ever received from another teacher, another pastor in the word of God or a book that I've ever read. The kind of insight that has the power to change your entire ethic, your entire approach to life. It has been for me that insight has to do with the combination of my desire, my relentless desire for personal blessedness, personal happiness, something to come to me to make me happy and, as clearly revealed in the scripture, God's relentless desire to be glorified, to be central, to be above all things. The author of this insight, of course, is John Piper book, Desiring God. Peter's desire for reward and Jesus' response in Mark 10 and in Matthew 19 for me was, I don't mean to be facetious, but kind of a portal into Piper. It kind of went through a warm hole as I was riding my bike yesterday back into those themes and what Piper calls Christian hedonism. Let me walk through the calculus of Christian hedonism. “What's in it for me” reminds me of things I've said often about the flesh, the essence of the flesh, which begins from infancy. Some of you have newborns. I've heard how it's going for you and you are well aware of what I've called that fanatical commitment to self-interest that we see at 3:00 in the morning in an infant that isn't really used to being alive yet and isn't enjoying it. It’s a fanatical commitment to self-interest, and that seems directly contrasted with the call of Christian discipleship. Christianity seems at least at one level to be all about self-denial. We follow a savior who left the comforts of heaven to come to a cursed planet, to live a life of poverty and sorrow. Who lived every moment to bless other people, then willingly lay down his life even on a cross, even with that exquisite physical suffering and the infinite eternal spiritual suffering of being our substitute, continually saying no to himself. Did He ever ask in any sense “what's in it for me?”? No. In fact, He called on his disciples, as we've already seen in Mark's gospel, to a life of self denial. Mark 8:34, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross. Follow me for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life from me and the gospel will save it." At the end of this same chapter, Mark 10, Jesus says, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." That doesn't seem like a life of “what's in it for me”, but Jesus gives a rather perplexing answer. It is perplexing at a lot of levels, but right away just the fact that He doesn't rebuke Peter at all. I mean, you think it'd be an opportunity to say “you're thinking all wrong here. What kind of question is that? You shouldn't be thinking about rewards. You should be willing to serve. Leave everything for me and not worry about what's in it for you.” Actually He goes into detail about what the apostles will get having left everything both in this age and in the age to come. Mark 10: 29-30, “'I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields from me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children in fields, with them persecutions and in the age to come eternal, life.’" It's even more developed in Matthew's account. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father, children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." How do we harmonize this? How can we understand this yearning for rewards? What's in it for me? What do I get? A desire, a strong desire for personal blessedness, something to come back to us in the Christian life. John Piper has sought to harmonize these things in Desiring God, indeed in his whole ministry. He puts it this way. There are two irrepressible forces in the universe as we study scripture. First, God's desire for his own glory in all of his creation and in all of his creatures. Second, our desire to be happy. The standard evangelical appeal pits the one against the other as if only one of those two can be fulfilled. It's either we're going to live for the glory of God or we will live for our own happiness, our own blessedness, and we have to make a choice., and pray God, it's the right choice. Either God gets the glory or I get the joy. Not both. The normal evangelical appeal is will you surrender to God's will for your life? Are you going to keep pursuing your own personal happiness? Then there are subthemes in the same kind of approach like Christian worship, like we should all come here on Sunday and say, “Lord, we want you to know this is all about you today. We're here for you. We want to make you central. We want to put you first. It's not about us. We want you to be glorified in my worship today, I don't want anything out of this.” It seems so holy and then also Christian service. When you serve other people, don't ever think what's in it for you. The point is their happiness not yours. You are not the point. Their needs are the point. Our selfish joy and service should never be our goal. Rather, it's an accidental byproduct of a life well lived for Christ. Kind of bump into happiness along the way as you're serving others. Piper exposed the fundamental flaw in this. It's deeply flawed actually, and he drew out quotes to help establish it. First of all, on the second desire, the repressible force that we all have to be happy. It's just a fact. We're wired this way. Blase Pascal put it this way, "All men see seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend toward this end. The cause of some going to war and of others avoiding it is the same desire in both attended with different views. The will never takes the least step, but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves." He's not saying it’s good or bad, he's just saying it is. It just is what is. CS Lewis in his powerful sermon, “The Weight of Glory” said, "If you asked 20 good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, 19 of them would reply unselfishness. But if you ask almost any of the great Christians of old, well, he would've replied love." You see what's happened, a negative term has been substituted for a positive. The negative ideal of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves as if our abstinence and not their happiness is the important point. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit this notion has crept in from Kant in the stoics which is no part of the Christian religion. In other words, it's like true virtue is making sure you personally derive no pleasure whatsoever from an act. An action is moral only if it's done from effectively sheer duty, disinterested benevolence, disinterest meaning I don't get anything out of it. Benevolence is something good done not for you, but he other person. If you seek, if you desire, or if you should happen to receive any blessing from it, it's actually morally ruined to some degree. Rubbish says John Piper, that's complete rubbish. It's not Christianity. Yes, it is true that God has a relentless desire to be glorified in all his creation and by all his creatures. God created all things for the praise of his glory, and when redemption is finished, the entire universe, the new heaven, new earth, the new Jerusalem are going to be radiating with the glory of God. But our desire for personal delight and happiness is not an enemy to that. Not at all. Actually God created it for that. He created that drive for personal fulfillment and pleasure and happiness and satisfaction to find its residence in God. So Piper adjusted the Westminster Shorter Catechism in “What is the chief end of man?” The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. God is most glorified in us when we're most satisfied in him. That's his well-known slogan. The more we say to God, I want you, I want as much of you as I can get. I'm hungry for you. The more God's glorified, especially in worship, the better. I know that sounds all holy and all that, but imagine coming to God and saying, “God, I want you to know I don't really personally have any needs today, but you apparently are kind of needy. You need my worship, so I'm here to give you my worship. Hope you're satisfied with it.” I can see God saying, “Can I just tell you something about what's going on up here in heaven? First of all, before anything was made, I was fine, perfectly blessed within the Trinity. Secondly, I'm made out of fullness, not out of emptiness. I don't need any of my angels or people that praise me, but I just want you to know I got 100 million angels up here who doing a phenomenal job. You guys are pathetic. I don't need you to worship me. You need me and you need to worship me, so come hungry and I'll feed you.” That's what true worship is. It's seeking our pleasure vertically in worship is what it's all about. It's saying to God, “You are what I want. You're what I need.” Then horizontally the same thing. It's like, can you imagine serving another person and saying, “I want you to know I get nothing out of this exchange. Hope you're blessed by it.” Piper likens it to an anniversary, like giving your wife flowers and saying that to her, “I want you to know I'm not enjoying this moment at all. I'm not getting anything out of this horizontally. I hope you enjoy the flowers I bought you.” What he calls dutiful roses. That's corrupt. Love is where I find my blessedness in your blessedness, right? I find my happiness in making you happy. It makes me happy to make you happy. It makes me blessed to bless you. That's why I'm a cheerful giver, because I'm excited about blessing you. Vertical and horizontal. That's what we're talking about here. Rather than being shocked by Peter's question- “We've left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us?” - we should delight in Christ's stunning promises or rewards, both in this life and in eternity. We should yearn for him. We should be yearning for him. We should want as much as He wants to give us in that next world. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “the New Testament does have lots to say about self-denial but not self-denial as an end to itself. We are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ and find our lives in him.” It says it right there in that passage and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire for us. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We're far too easily pleased with what? What are we far too easily pleased with? The answer in the Bible is always the same, idols, creatures, created things going after them as our ultimate purpose in life. That does not satisfy. That's what the rich young ruler was doing. So that's the context. II. Peter’s Question In Context Let's look at Peter’s question in context. Remember last week, the rich young ruler, seemingly the perfect seeker coming, but he was fundamentally a flawed man. “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him, fell on his knees before him and said, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good except God alone." Then Jesus uses the law of God to expose his need for a savior. “You know the commandments. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false testimony. Do not defraud. Honor your father mother.”Unfortunately, the man thinks he passed all that test. He's basically a good person just needing a little bit more to get him over the hump. "Teacher," he declared, "All these I have kept since I was a boy." Then Jesus probes his soul, searches him. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One things you lacked, he said. ’Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’" Based on my introduction of the sermon, that's an appeal to what Piper called Christian hedonism. Give up what cannot satisfy you. Give up what you cannot hold onto to gain something that will bring you eternal happiness. That's the invitation here, but the man can't take it. He's shattered. He leaves. “His face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.” Jesus then seizes the opportunity to teach about the eternal dangers of wealth. Jesus looked around, said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples are amazed at his words, but Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples are doubly stunned by this. They're wiped out by this. It goes against their theology of wealth and blessedness. They wonder about salvation. The disciples were even more amazed and said to each other, “Who then can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said with man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.” Now Peter steps up and connects the dots. I think he's picking up on the treasure in heaven phrase, the treasure in heaven. He says, "Well, what about us? We've left everything to follow you." Mark just has that simple statement, he doesn't have the rest. “We have left everything to follow,” but there's an implied question, “are we in on that treasure in heaven thing?” Matthew's version is broader. He openly says it. "We have left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us?" Let's remember how the apostles had in fact left everything for Jesus. He doesn't deny that at all and how significant it was. Remember back in Mark chapter 1, “As Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake for their fishermen. ‘Come follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘And I'll make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. When He had gone a little farther, He saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him." It's a big deal walking away from your livelihood, stepping out in faith to follow Jesus like that. And Matthew, the tax collector in Matthew 9:9, "As Jesus just went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him. And Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew walked away from his lucrative tax booth. That took courage and sacrifice. Matthew 8, "A teacher of the law came up to him and said, ‘Teacher, I'll follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus said, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nest. The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” “I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight. I don't know how we're going to eat." Remember how his disciples were walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath and picking heads of grain and rubbing them together in their hands to eat them? Why? Because they were poor. It was a big deal what they did. III. Jesus’ Promise of Earthly Rewards . . and Earthly Suffering All right, so we've left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us? Jesus promises earthly rewards first, and He asserts this with a solemn oath. "Truly, truly. I say to you." He says this a lot, but whenever he says this, it's serious. It's a very serious statement. I'm making a vow to you. Or you can take this to the bank, heaven and earth will pass away, but this promise will never pass away. You can take this to the heavenly bank promising this to you. Think of an illustration. Imagine the royal prince during a war. He's captured, but he manages to escape and he's being chased. He's a fugitive, making his way through a territory. He comes to a farmhouse where there's a simple peasant who lives with his family. He reveals who he is and asks if he can borrow the family's one horse to ride on and get away from his pursuers. Then he writes the man a note and he signs it and he seals it with his signet ring using wax from the candle on the man's table. He promises not only the return of the family horse, but 20 gold pieces, a change of clothing for everyone in the family, and the permanent status as friend to the royal household. All of that written out, signed with a signet. Jesus also in his humiliation is speaking of a future time when He will sit on a throne of glory. “I won't look then what like I look now and I'm promising you, and you can take it to the bank.” Mark focuses on earthly rewards initially. "I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields from me in the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age." In this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. Why does He list that? He’s telling them that what they give up, they’re going to get back and 100 fold. This is a promise made to the apostles who have left their home base and have ventured out in faith to serve Jesus and the gospel. And not just them, but 20 centuries of missionaries, of traveling evangelists and servants of the gospel who have physically left places to go. There's a spiritual leaving that I want to talk about at the end of the sermon, but they physically left. I read years ago about John Patton, the missionary from Scotland to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. In my opinion, he traveled oversea farther than any missionaries ever traveled from his home to his mission site, 13,000 nautical miles. It was a long journey. The parting scene between him and his father is just gut wrenching. His father was an incredibly godly man who deeply loved his children, and his children deeply loved him, and his father walked with him to a point where they had to part and say goodbye. This is the account. It says, "My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are still fresh in my heart as if they had been but yesterday. But tears are on my cheeks as freely now as they were then. Whenever memory steals me away to that scene. For the last half mile or so, we walked together in almost unbroken silence. My father as often was his custom as carrying his hat in his hand while his long flowing yellow hair was yellow then, but later years white as snow streamed like a girl's down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me and his tears fell fast, when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain. We halted on reaching the appointed parting place. He grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence and then solemnly and affectionately said, 'God bless you, my son, your father's God prosper you and keep you from all evil.' Unable to say anymore, his lips kept moving in silent prayer, as tears flowing. We embraced and parted. I ran off as fast as I could and when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him gazing after me, waving my hat in a due. I was around the corner and out of sight in an instant, but my heart was too full and too sore to carry me further. So I darted to the side of the road and wept for a time. Then rising up cautiously, I climbed the to dike if he yet stood where I'd left him. Just at that moment, I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike looking out for me, but he did not see me. And after he had gazed eagerly in my direction for a while, he got down and then set his face toward home and began to return there. His head's still uncovered and his heart I felt sure still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears till his form faded from my gaze, then hastening on my way, vowed deeply and offed by the help of my God to live and act, so I was never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.” I mean, how do you say goodbye like that to go to a mission site? He never saw his father again. That was like a funeral. So what then will there be for us if we do that? If we leave, what will there be for us? If you look at Jesus's promise for the earthly part, it's you will get what you need to do your mission. I think that's what He's saying. You'll get what you need. This is not prosperity gospel stuff. This is not health and wealth, this is not Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now. We're not going that direction. He's not saying you'll permanently own other people's homes. Instead, it's Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret. God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. That's what it is. God's going to give you what you need and He's going to give you encouragement along the way that you're part of a vast family of God and that family is going to take you in and care for you and meet your needs and you will not be at a loss. That's what He's promising. No one who has left homes or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, He says. This relates I think to the practical promises and preparations made in Matthew 10 when Jesus first sent the apostles out on the first missionary journey. Remember how He said, “Don't take any bag for your journey. Take no tunic or extra sandals or a staff or any bag of gold or silver because the worker's worth is keep. And whenever you go to someplace, find some home there and stay there at that home until you leave. And then at the end of that, he promises rewards for the host family. “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a profit's reward. Anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, he'll never lose his reward.” So any help given to the traveling missionary and the traveling servant of God gets eternally rewarded. We have clear examples of this in the Book of Acts. Think about Peter. Remember how Peter had that vision of a sheet let down with all kinds of animals when the messengers were going from Cornelius's house and that was the beginning of the ministry to the Gentiles. Well, he was staying at somebody else's house. Simon the Tanner at Joppa, that wasn't his home. He was up on the roof and he got hungry and they were making him lunch. That was really nice of Simon, the Tanner's wife, to make Peter lunch. That's an example of the very thing we're talking about here, isn't it? Or about Paul? How many times has it happened with Paul, the resources for the ongoing mission are in the mission field itself. Paul goes over to Philippi and there's a rich woman there named Lydia. She hears the gospel. The Lord opens her heart, she comes to faith, and then she invites Paul and his missionary team to stay with her at her estate. Acts 16:15, "When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. If you consider me a believer in the Lord, please come and stay at my home. And she persuaded us, stay there." That's one of the hundred homes or more, right? It's provision for those that are traveling out doing the gospel work. Or again, Paul in Romans 16:23 says, “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy sends, you his greetings." Who's Gaius? I don't know, a host person. It also extends to family relationship. You leave your mother, you'll get a hundred mothers. You're like, I don't know if I want a hundred mothers or a hundred fathers or a hundred brothers. It doesn't matter. You're going to get them. He says here, Romans 16:13, "Greet Rufus chosen in the Lord and his mother, who's been a mother to me too." So Rufus' mother, Paul's adopted mother. I just picture her making him chicken soup. Rufus' mother, Jesus said, "You'll get a hundred times as much in this present age." I've seen this in my life. My wife and I sold almost everything we owned and went to Japan. And when we got there, we were greeted by Japanese Christians and host people who cared for us. I've seen it in China, I've seen it in Kenya, South Africa, Germany, Poland, Macedonia, Greece, England. That's my story. I've been in so many host families. They've fed me. They've given me their guest room. They've let me use their car. I've seen the promises. In India I stayed at the home of dear Christian family there. Now this is general benefit for all Christians. We're part of a universal church, aren't we? We're part of a big family of God. We've got brothers and sisters all over the world. You haven't even met them yet. As soon as you meet them, you're going to find out that they love the same Jesus you do. They read the same Bible you do. You're part of a vast family of God. That's what he's talking about here. Now he also added, and with them persecutions, let's be honest, it's not going to be easy for you as you travel around. With them persecutions, you're going to suffer. You're going to go through very, very difficult times. IV. Jesus’ Promise of Eternal Rewards In Matthew’s Gospel, He promises more clearly eternal rewards. In Mark’s gospel He says, “and in the age to come, eternal life.” Let's not minimize that. How could we? What is eternal life? “This is eternal life,” said Jesus, “that they may know you the only true God in Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” You're going to be lavishly blessed in your relationship with God for all eternity. That's what you get. But what else? Stop right there. That's enough. That's God. Remember what God said to Abraham in Genesis 15:1, "Fear not Abraham. I am your shield and your very great reward.” What do I get, God? You get me." Oh, that's enough. And I'll give you some other things too. But the other things aren't the point. You get me in the age to come, eternal life.” He does get specific in Matthew's Gospel, in some interesting ways. He says there will be the renewal of all things when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne. The renewal of all things, it's an interesting Greek word, only used twice. A new genesis, a new creation, a new heaven, a new earth. He talks about it in terms of the soul. He washed us with the rebirth and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. That's the conversion [Titus 3]. But here we've got this. "And at the renewal of all things, when the new heaven and new earth comes in and I sit on my glorious throne, then you who have followed me, the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." What does that mean? I don't know. I'm not preaching on Matthew; I'm just alluding to Matthew today. But I don't know, it's just some kind of... Some people think it's millennial kingdom, some people, it's just positions of honor, positions of authority, positions of glory. That's what you get far beyond anything you ever gave up. This is part of Jesus's regular pattern of promising rewards. He doesn't just do it once or twice. He does it again and again and again. "Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad." Why? "Because great is your reward in heaven." Wow. I mean, He goes down to our personal disciplines and our benevolence. When you give to the needy, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Don't announce it with trumpets. Don't seek horizontal acknowledgement in this world. Don't go after that. But your father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you pray, don't announce it and make everyone see how holy you are. Go into your room, close the door and pray to your father's unseen, and your father sees what is done in secret. What does He say? He'll reward you. The same thing with fasting. He'll reward you. He talks about rewards all the time. He says at the end of the Bible, Revelation 22:12, "Behold, I'm coming soon. My reward is with me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." If we're not supposed to think about rewards, why does He talk about them so much? He talks about them a lot. He says, "I am coming soon and I'm bringing a huge bag of eternal rewards and I'm going to reward each of you according to how you've lived your life according to your service to me." V. Earnestly Desire All Rewards I think we should earnestly desire them. You should say, well, I don't know. Should I be saying what's in it for me? I'm not recommending that you say that, except as a joke, but there's nothing wrong with thinking I am interested, Jesus, in what you have to give me for my life of service. I'm interested in it. Actually, I don't just think it's not like some guilty pleasure. I think it's actually imperative to the way we think about God. Hebrews 11:6 says so. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek him or earnestly seek him.” So you have to believe in a rewarding God. But look at the verse in Hebrews 11:6. "He rewards those who seek him." He doesn't reward them with something other than himself. He rewards them with himself. We must believe that. Therefore, desiring rewards is only mercenary if it's somehow disconnected from the thing itself. C.S. Lewis put it this way, "A woman who marries for money is mercenary because money is not the natural reward of love. But a woman who marries because she expects that the man who will become her husband will make her happy and bring her lasting joy in multiple experiences of love is not mercenary. That's the essence of why you get married." In fact, it is actually wrong to serve Christ and say, “I don't care what you give me" when He has made these promises of lavish reward, that's actually wrong. Just as it is wrong for a person about to get married to say to their prospective spouse, I want you to know I don't care if you make me happy in our future marriage. That doesn't matter to me. Even if I knew that our marriage would make me miserable for the rest of my life, I would go ahead and marry you. I'd be like, what's wrong with you? That's twisted. I'm not going to say that to Jesus. “I don't care, Jesus, if you make me happy, if I follow you, I don't care if I'm eternally unhappy. I'm still going to follow you.” That doesn't make any sense. It's not the way the New Testament's written. Not at all. So we therefore should want the reward. We should actually store up as much of the reward as we possibly can. “Do not store up treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieve break in and steal, but store up treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in steal. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You're supposed to store up treasure and you're supposed to have your heart there and think about it. What are the rewards? There are three Cs - crowns, commendation, and capacity. I’m just going to go over this quickly. First of all, crowns. It's like you’re getting a crown? Maybe, I don't know. I don't know about each of you individually. If any of you individually comes to me and says, “Do you think I'm getting a crown?” I will say, I don't know. But there are crowns and what are they? Emblems of honor for faithful and courageous service to Christ. Like in Revelation 4:4, "Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their head." So there they are, crowns, emblems of honor, connected in some way to them, to their person. Or again, Paul in First Thessalonians 2 said, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? You are my crown,” he said to the Thessalonians. He led them to Christ. He planted that church. "You are my glory and my joy." He said the same thing to the Philippians. "Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown." That is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. The people you lead to Christ, they are your crown. The people you serve. You help plant a church, that's a crown. Pastors, elders. Peter says, who've served faithfully as under shepherds, under the good shepherd, the chief shepherd. It says, when the chief shepherd appears, First Peter 5:4, "You'll receive a crown of glory that will never fade away." "What are the rewards? There are three Cs, crowns, commendation, and capacity." Peter wrote that to motivate elders and pastors to serve faithfully because they're going to get a crown of glory that'll never fade away if they do. I know that those 24 elders were casting their crowns down constantly before the throne of God and of Christ. That's their way of saying, everything I have received and achieved came ultimately from you and by your grace for your glory. All of my crowns are a subset of your glory. That's how it's married together. It's not a separate thing, but crowns. And then commendation. What's that? Praise from God that God would speak well of what you did in your life. Most famously, in Matthew 25, his master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You've been faithful with a few things. I'll put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master. Well done, good and faithful servant." That's commendation from almighty God. Or 1 Corinthians 4:5, says, "Judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait till the Lord comes. At that time, the secret motives of men's hearts. All of that will be revealed and at that time, each will receive his praise from God." Those three words, “praise from God.” I know heaven's all about praise for God. And well it should be. We're going to praise God, but there is praise from God should you want that. I'm asking brothers and sisters, should you want God to praise you? You actually should. You should want him to say, well done, good and faithful servant. You should want him to honor you. You should want him to praise you because He won't do it amiss. He won't do it lightly. It will be so meaningful to you to have your Father express pleasure in how you lived your life. Praise from God. That's commendation. "Should you want God to praise you? You actually should. You should want him to say, well done, good and faithful servant." Then finally, capacity. This is the hardest to understand, but I think it's true. God is infinitely glorious. No creature can fully take him in. But the more faithful you serve in this life, the more of his heavenly glory you will be able to understand and take in. How do I think this way? I think of God's glory as an infinite ocean. All of us are like vessels or various volumes, like a thimble, a cup, a bowl, a bucket, a vat, a super oil tanker, different volumes, but the ocean's infinitely greater than any of them. All of them 100% full, But they just have different capacities. So when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you've been faithful with a few things. Now I'm going to put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” What He's saying is, “share my joy together. I want you to feel my joy of the service you've rendered. I want you to come into me and experience my joy and my delight." In Luke 6:38 it says, "Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, press down, shaken together, running overly poured into your lap. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you."That's where I get the different volumes. What's poured into our lap? What is the reward? It's God. You get more of God and He always has more to give you. So how much of God do you want in heaven? That's the question. There's going to be some judgment day surprises. Look at verse 31, "Many who are first will be last and last, first." People we thought were great, maybe weren't as great as we thought they were, and some obscure brothers and sisters are going to be elevated like the widow that gave the copper coins. Jesus said what? She put in more than anyone. Many who are first will be last and last, first. Therefore, Paul says in First Corinthians 4:5, "Judge nothing until the appointed time.” Wait till the day, and at that point, we'll find out. George Whitfield, one of the greatest preachers of all time, wanted this to be his epitaph on his tomb. He said, "Here lies George Whitfield. What sort of man he was the great day will discover." That's pretty simple. In other words, here lies George Whitfield, what he was like you'll find out on Judgment Day. That's the point, the final day will reveal how we actually serve the Lord. VI. Lessons First and foremost, if you're an unbeliever, you walked in here as an unbeliever, it's not for you to be storing up treasure. The Bible actually reveals if you're not yet a Christian, you're storing up wrath every day, so come to Christ, trust in him. Trust in his precious blood. This is what He says to you in John 6. When you come and ask him, what must we do to work the works of God? This is the work of God: to believe in the One He has sent. Believe in Jesus. Then you can start storing up treasure in heaven. For you Christians, I would just say in your own way, say “what's in it for me? Help me to understand heavenly rewards and store them up. Help me to store up as many as possibly can.” I want to speak specifically about the dynamic here of leaving things for Jesus. Some of you will be called, and you don't even know it right now, to leave your home, your country, your family, your friends, and go somewhere overseas, some other place to serve Christ. You're going to be called to do something you never thought you could do. Drink in the promises here. God will take care of you. He will meet your needs. Do not be afraid, but step out in faith to go do great things for God. He will provide for you. God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. He will take care of you. Most of us are not going to be called on to leave our familiar surroundings, but we are to live lives of aliens and strangers in this world, to venture out by faith in serving him. Some of us, some in this church are going to leave this church in the next year to go church-plant. You're going to join our church-planting effort. You're going to stop coming here on Sunday mornings and go to another place. It's not because I hope you don't like us, it's because God's calling you to do a work, to venture out. Be willing to do hard things, be willing to venture out, be willing to risk things in your service to Christ. Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the time we've had to walk through this deep, powerful, complex topic. I thank you for the truth of the word of God. Help us, Lord, to seek your glory, to seek you as hungry and thirsty. You are our God. Earnestly, we seek you. We desire you as in a dry and weary land. You are all we need, all we want, and that we would go after you. Fill us, oh Lord, with a yearning to store up treasure in heaven. Treasure being intimacy and closeness with God and with Christ. Help us to be willing to risk things or be willing to go places we never thought we could go and do things we never thought we could do to serve you. In Jesus name. Amen.
A sermon to encourage parents of little children in their important responsibility to evangelize and disciple them from the first moment. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles to Mark 10, as we continue our study in the Gospel of Mark. The central work of the Bible is to bring readers to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It does this by presenting the infinite glories of Christ on the one hand and the infinite neediness of us sinners on the other. This morning we're studying a passage of scripture which presents Jesus's zeal for little children. He's eager for little children to come to Him, and He's angry at anyone who would hinder them from coming. Beyond that He wants to help all prideful sinners to become, in some sense, like little children themselves so they can find salvation in Christ. Concerning the infinite glories of Christ, this passage fits into a theme that I've delighted in many times before, which is the amazing combination of Jesus as infinitely majestic, awesome, powerful, lofty, and glorious on the one hand, and also, infinitely lowly, meek, humble, accessible, and gentle on the other. This fits in with last week's Easter sermon, which I preached on Jesus' stunning, amazing, majestic ascension to heaven. Lifted up from the surface of the earth, higher and higher through the atmosphere until at last the cloud hid Him from the unblinking gaze of the apostles, who were craning their neck to see Him. Then as the Book of Hebrews and the Book of Ephesians reveal, the journey continues as Jesus passed through the Heavenly realms, presented once for all His blood in the Heavenly temple. He then took His seat, the seat of majestic glory at the right hand of God, far above all creatures to rule over all things. That was last week. This week I think we can picture Jesus using our imaginations on the ground, smiling, laughing with little kids, crawling all over Him, hugging Him, kissing His face, and Him touching their little Heads. Him speaking tender words to them, and they're drinking it up. They're attracted to Him like a magnet. They can't stay away. This is Jesus at His meekest, His gentlest, His lowliest, with time enough for any little child. This theme of Jesus's infinite majesty on the one hand combined with His infinite lowliness of heart on the other, has long captivated me. When I was a teen in a public school in Massachusetts, I was in a Roman Catholic Church. I wasn't converted yet. But someone had given me a picture of Jesus holding a little lamb in His arms, and I had it in my high school locker. I saw it every day as I opened my locker and looked at it. I was always attracted to the person of Jesus, though I wasn't yet converted. It wasn't until later in my life I found the Bible verse that that best pictured. It was Isaiah 40:11, “He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads those that have young.” It's a picture of Jesus in His infinite condescension, His gentleness with little children. But the very next verse in Isaiah 40, verse 12, says this, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand or with the breath of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales or the hills in a balance?” This is the infinite greatness of Almighty God, the creator, who created the universe and rules it with awesome power meticulously. Before whom the nations are like a drop from the bucket and like dust on the scales. Side by side, Isaiah 40:11 and 12, consecutive verses. Jesus in His incarnation pictures both aspects, both aspects. Just the same as the Apostle John found Jesus infinitely accessible, tenderhearted, when He pillowed His Head on Jesus's chest at the Last Supper, but then later, on the island of Patmos, saw Jesus in His resurrection glory and fell at His feet as one dead. Jonathan Edward zeroed in on this concept in the greatest sermon I ever read that He preached, for me anyway. Based on Revelation 5, that passage, as you know, where Jesus takes the scroll out of the right hand of almighty God. Jonathan Edwards zeroes in on Jesus, who's portrayed in that passage as the lion of the tribe of Judah who has triumphed. Edwards talks about the attributes of a lion. It's majestic roar, it's power, it's domination, but then John sees a lamb looking as if it had been slain. Edward zeroes in on a lamb, in general, just weak and lowly and meek. This is particularly so because it's a lamb looking as if it had been slain. This what Edwards wrote in that sermon, "Christ, as He is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, higher than the highest angels of heavens. So great is He, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before Him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and as the light dust in the scales; yeah, and angels themselves are as nothing before Him. He is so high, that He is infinitely above any need of ours; infinitely above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to Him at all; and above our conceptions that we cannot comprehend Him. Christ is the creator, the great possessor of Heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe and does whatever pleases Him. His knowledge is without boundary. His wisdom is perfect and none can circumvent it. His power is infinite and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awe-inspiring. And yet He is one of infinite condescension. There's not a single person who is so low or inferior, but Christ's condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling Himself to behold the things that are done in the heavens, but He also condescends to such poor creatures as are men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those who are of the lowest rank and degree the poorest of the world. Even the lowest most humble person on the face of the earth, Christ does not despise. He welcomes little children to sit on His lap. He extends His hands to horribly disfigured lepers and notorious outcast sinners. He speaks to a rejected Samaritan woman and a hated Jewish tax collector. And He does more than just speak to such people. He desires to join Himself with them forever in a perfect spiritual marriage so that He is perfectly one with them." Now, I could keep going with the Edwards sermon, it would be a great sermon, but it wouldn't be my sermon. But do you not see the infinite majesty of Christ as a lion and the infinite condescension of Him as lamb looking as if it had been slain? This morning as we come to this sermon, Mark 10:13-16, we see that side of Jesus. He's inviting little children, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Mark the author, He's inviting little children in every generation, in every nation on earth that reads this account to come to Him, and He will tenderly receive them. In so doing, He also encourages all caregivers of children, especially parents, to bring their children to Jesus while they're young. To not despise them but to take full advantage of their tender hearts to pour the gospel into them. He invites all older hardened sinners, that's the rest of us, older veteran sinners, to become like little children constantly, so that they can find salvation through faith in Christ. That's what's in front of us with this text. "[Jesus] encourages all caregivers of children, especially parents, to bring their children to Jesus while they're young. To not despise them but to take full advantage of their tender hearts to pour the gospel into them." Listen again to the words, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God, like a little child, will never enter it.’ And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.” I. The Actors in this Drama: Parents, Children, Disciples, Jesus Let's look at the actors in this drama. You got the parents, you got the children, you got the disciples, and you've got Jesus. Let's walk through them. First the parents, now the text just says, "They," they were bringing children, so probably not all of them were necessarily parents of the children, caregivers of some sort. It could be grandparents, it could be aunt or uncles, it could be friends, but I would say the norm would be parents. The parents are bringing children, for the most part. They cherish their children and they desire them to be blessed. They want to do them good. Mark and Luke use the Greek imperfect tense, implying this was a continual process. They were bringing their children again and again. This was regular. This wasn't just a one-off, this was happening all the time. Having heard about Christ's ministry, still short of understanding who He really is, still they want Him to bless them. In the Talmud, which is Jewish instruction based on the law of Moses, it teaches Jewish parents to bring their children to prominent rabbis for this kind of ritual, a hands-on blessing. The more prominent the rabbi, the conception would be the greater the blessing. Jesus, obviously well-known, has done miracles. Ordinarily, a Jewish father would bring His children to the rabbi at the synagogue, and they would put their hands on them and bless them. But with Jesus being so prominent, there was an attraction there. Parents were bringing children from all around to Jesus for Him to do this, to touch them, bless them, and pray for them. Matthew adds the prayer aspect [Matthew 19:13]. So that's the parents. Let's talk about the children. The Greek word is “paideía,” it implies very young children like toddlers. Luke actually expands it in Luke 18:15, people were bringing babies, infants to Him. Even the most tiny human being at the very, very beginning of life, barely able to open his or her eyes is precious to Jesus. He would not despise that moment, but would take that infant in His arms to bless them. We need to understand Jesus does not have some sentimental view of children. "Oh, they're little angels sent from heaven." Sounds like someone who never had one of those angels sent from heaven. They don't always act like little angels sent from heaven. Jesus has no such sentimental conceptions of children. He knows that they’re children of Adam. He knows that they come into the world fanatically committed to self-interest. He knows that as soon as they understand the law, they will sin, because of that inbred sin nature. But He also understands that children have a unique inbred desire to know God, and a yieldedness to obeying Him, though they cannot see Him. So that's the children. Let's understand the disciples. Verse 13, the disciples rebuked the people that were bringing the children. How many times do you read the gospel and say, "What were the disciples thinking?” But aren't we thankful that we have true accounts of the things they actually did? Why did they rebuke the parents? We don't know, but we could imagine that they're frustrated by the interruption. Children can feel wrongly to us, feel like an interruption. You had plans, children come, and now you're interrupted. It shows how selfish we can be. But perhaps they felt the children were an interruption. Perhaps the children were crying or making noises. In any case, I think their attitude is the teacher's time is too important for children, too important a waste on little children. Oftentimes, you'll see some great figure in society, a political leader, CEO of a company, an athlete, a musician, a movie star with a coterie, a kind of a band around him or her and you can't get close to that person. Their bodyguards are putting the hands up. You're not going to get close. Especially those important people, great men, great women have no time for anyone who cannot further their agenda. They don't have time to waste. They're people of focus, people of achievement. They're going places. They don't have time for anybody that's not going to further their agenda. This the kind of mentality. Little children, they often think, sadly, are a complete waste of time. They don't want children themselves. They take steps that they won't have children. If they do, they frequently don't spend much time with them. Sadly, I was reading about royal families in Europe in the 19th century and how little time those children spent with their king and queen parents. Very tragic, very sad stories, like for example, King George and Queen Mary in England spent less than 30 minutes a day with their growing children, 30 minutes a day. They were completely cared for by nannies. When the children would come in the presence of their parents, they were terrified of them and shrank back and wanted to be with the nannies. It's very sad. Many people look on children as an unwelcome intrusion from the vastly important business of their lives. Perhaps, the disciples felt the same way when they rebuked the parents for bringing the little ones. "Our master's too busy, saving the world to hug your children" kind of thing. Now, if Jesus doesn't check this attitude on their part, it's going to lead to significant problems in the future of the church, because of God's plans. God intended to make up His church mostly of people who are not wise, influential, of noble birth, the lowliest of the low are for the most part going to make up the church. We read about it in First Corinthians 1. If they're going to have this attitude toward children, they're probably going to extend it to anybody who can't further their own powerful agenda. You know how the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over others, and they're tempted in the same ways. "God chose the lowly things and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are," Paul tells us, First Corinthians 1:30. Jesus has to deal with this or they're going to have an arrogant, lofty attitude toward anyone that they despise that they don't think is worth their time, beginning when children. He has to address this attitude. Let's look at Jesus. Jesus's reaction here is amazing. He's mildly angry with them. This is one of the emotional times of Jesus. Jesus had a rich, full emotional life, and this is one of the times He got righteously angry. Look at verse 14, “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.” Some of the translations say indignant, the Greek could go over to vex, annoyed, irritated like a rock in the shoe kind of thing. "You're rubbing me the wrong way." You get that feeling with Jesus, "This is really annoying me," talking about the apostles. One of the most incredible things about Jesus to me, practically, is a combination of how important His mission was and how brief a time He had to do it, perhaps three years, and yet, how unbelievably interruptable He was. How in the world do you harmonize those things, to be amazingly effective, efficient, and also constantly interruptable? But again and again, not just children, but people with various needs, He just stops for them all the time. It's incredible. He was never rushed. He lingered over people, listened to them fully, dealt with them individually. This includes the children here. He cherished them, He was not annoyed with them. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” II. The Rich Invitation: “Let the Little children Come to Me” Let's walk through what He says. Let's begin with the rich invitation. "Let the little children come to me." As I mentioned, mysteriously, the God-given bent of a little child is God-ward more than at any other time in their lives. One commentator put it with great tenderness talking about this passage, "As the flower in the garden stretches toward the light of the sun, so there is in the child, a mysterious inclination toward the eternal light.” Have you ever noticed this mysterious thing that when you tell the smallest child about God, s(he) never asks with strangeness and wonder, what is God? who is God?, I've never seen Him? But listens with shining face to the words as though they were soft loving sounds from the land of home. Or when you teach a child to fold its little hands in prayer, it does this as though or a matter of course, as though there were opening for it, that world of which they'd been dreaming with longing in anticipation. Or tell them, these little ones, the stories of the Savior, show them the pictures with scenes and personages of the Bible and see how their pure eyes shine, how their little hearts beat." It's beautiful. So what does “Come to me” mean? "Let the little children come to me," what does that mean? I think it means to come to Him for salvation. Jesus said, as we sang earlier this morning, Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." I mean it's clearest in John 6:35 where you have a Hebrew parallelism, where Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." There it is. To come to Jesus equals to believe in Him. It's what it means to come to Jesus, to believe in Him. Or as He says in John 7:37, on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink." You're coming to Jesus to feed spiritually, to drink spiritually. You're coming to Him to receive mercy and to receive forgiveness of sins. That's what it means to come to Jesus. So let the little children come to me for all that. Let them come. What does that mean? Encourage their God-ward bent. Encourage their God-given desire to be near Christ. Feed their spiritual appetites. Let them do what their little heart wants to do, before the world, the flesh, and the devil hardens them. You could imagine some soft yielded wet clay left out on a hot rock, and after a while it's just dried up and hard. That's what happens to all of us, the world, the flesh, and the devil harden us. But they haven't had that yet. There's a softness, a yieldedness to their hearts. Let them come near to Christ for eternal life to know Him and to love Him. Feed their spiritual appetites, and while they're doing it, feed your own. Little child yearns to come to Christ. Let them do so. They have an inbred longing for spiritual things. We have to feed that appetite. We can't feed it too much. Parents are constantly worried about too much with their kids, and they should be. Parenting's hard. I'm not going to be able to cover every aspect of parenting. I guarantee some of you parents will wonder at the end of this sermon, "Why didn't He talk about X?" So come and ask me that question. "Why didn't you talk about X?",and I will ask you, "How long do you want this sermon to be?" I'm focusing on salvation, bringing your children to Christ for salvation. But there's a concern for too much: too much sleep, too much food, too much sugar, too much screen time, too much, too much. There is no such thing as too much Jesus. There's no such thing as too much God. It's impossible. Therefore, as parents of young children, we ought to be, number one, eagerly pursuing Christ ourselves, because there's no such thing as too much Christ for us either. Putting our love for Jesus on clear display in front of our children. Secondly, we ought to be fanning their own love for Christ into a flame more and more. There is no danger of too much Christ. "As parents of young children, we ought to be, number one, eagerly pursuing Christ ourselves, … Secondly, we ought to be fanning their own love for Christ into a flame more and more. There is no danger of too much Christ." III. The Strong Warning: “Do Not Hinder Them” Then it says, "Do not hinder them," a strong warning, a prohibition. He's talking to His disciples initially right there in context. He's telling His misguided disciples, "Stop doing that. Stop hindering those people. Stop stopping the parents or rebuking them. Don't do that anymore." The Greek word can mean forbid, but it can also mean hinder, making it difficult, putting stumbling blocks before the children. "Don't do that. Don't hinder them." How do we do that? How do we hinder children from coming to Christ? First and foremost, nothing's more significant than this, we hinder them from coming to Christ by not preaching the gospel to them, by not telling them about Jesus. No one is born in the world knowing anything about Jesus. Faith comes by hearing the word through the word of Christ [Romans 10:17]. So the biggest way a Christian parent can hinder a child from coming to Christ is by not taking full advantage of the access you have to that little human being, the constant daily access, and pouring the gospel into their hearts. They'll sit for hours to listen to you during that early phase of their lives. You'll get tired of talking to them about Bible stories before they get tired of asking you to do so, at that early age. Also, at that early age, they are very able to memorize scripture. My brain is old and tired and it's getting older and tireder with every passing year. You guys know what I'm talking about, some of you older people. Kids, they drink it up. They can memorize, don't waste it. Have them memorize key scriptures, so that they're key truths that are imprinted in their minds. Parents can hinder their children by stifling their emotion for Christ. You should be fanning their affections into a flame. You should make much of the pictures they draw during worship or when they're studying the Bible, just celebrate them. We hinder them by quenching the spirit. The spirit might be moving. They're asking questions, things that seem out from left field to you, but that's exactly where the child is at that moment. You hinder by not taking that moment seriously and addressing what the spirit's doing in their hearts. We hinder by exasperating them in discipline. It says in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children or provoke them to wrath, instead, bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That's what we're told to do as parents. So harsh or unfair or erratic discipline can hinder a child from coming to Christ. We hinder it by being skeptical or negative toward their budding spirituality, by doubting that anything's really happening with them spiritually. We hinder by curtly cutting off their childish questions or worship or enthusiasm which can crush a little child's heart. So do not hinder them. IV. The Nature of the Kingdom: “Of Such is the Kingdom of God” Then He says, "For of such is the kingdom of God." This is the nature of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is the focal point of the Gospel of Mark, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. That's the good news. Then a few verses later, as Jesus begins as public preaching ministry, Mark 1:15, He says, "The time is at hand, the kingdom of God is near Repent and believe the good news." People must enter the kingdom of God by repentance and faith. Jesus says, "Of such is the kingdom of God." This means the kingdom of God is made up of those who are infants or little children in God's sight. He sees them that way. First, the infants themselves. Let's talk about that. John MacArthur said this, "It's not that small children are regenerative and then later lose their salvation if they don't receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. No, it's rather that His atoning death is applied on their behalf if they die before they're able to choose on their own. It may be that infant mortality rate is so high in many countries where the gospel has not yet penetrated, because the Lord is taking those little ones to Himself before they can grow up in a culture and in a religion where it's so difficult to encounter the gospel and believe." For myself, I don't believe in infant damnation, rather infant salvation. I think there are a lot of reasons why. However, there are no proof texts on it. I think the Lord is basically telling us, "Trust me on this. Trust me on this." There aren't any verses I can show you. But I do point you to Judgment Day. The depictions of Judgment Day are always, the court is seated, the book is open, and the judge. People are judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. It's a public vindication of the justice of God. Therefore, I think that's the one silver lining in infant mortality around the world. So the infants themselves, but beyond that, older people, including younger children and moving up, who are like children in God's sight, who make themselves like little children in order to be saved. John Calvin says, "The passage broadens to give kingdom citizenship to both children and those who are like them." So he means a childlike faith, a childlike yieldedness to Christ. Humble, lowly, faith-filled people enter the kingdom of God, arrogant people do not. Jesus taught that repentance and faith was becoming like a little child. Matthew 18:3, "I tell you the truth, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Years ago I met the president, at that time, of Child Evangelism Fellowship, CEF, his name was Reese Kauffman. He said this interesting thing which stuck with me. He said, "We spend so much of our efforts in evangelism of adults trying to get them to a humble, childlike state necessary for them to find salvation in Jesus.The children are already there. Use it. With adults, we have to cut through years of hardness and pride and sin habits to get them to see their need for a savior.” V. Jesus Touches Them, and Blesses Them, and Prays for Them Then Jesus touches them, blesses them, and prays for them. Verse 16, “He took the children in their arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” As I said, Matthew 19:13, He prayed for them. Here we have that beautiful picture, the power of the incarnation. Jesus frequently touched people to heal them. He loved to touch people, to heal them. He reaches out here and touches these little babies. That was part of His desire to bless them. In an ancient Jewish ritual, patriarchs would touch their children. Do you remember the touching scene of Jacob with Manasseh and Ephraim, where He put His hands on their head and blessed them and spoke prophetic blessings over them? It's that kind of idea of a touching and a patriarchal blessing. But how much more Jesus, the Son of God... How many of you parents would love to have Jesus physically touch your children and pray for them and bless them? I've read stories about orphanages in other countries where the babies are never held. It’s tragic. I mean, they're fed physically, but they're never picked up. They're never held. The Ukraine, sub-Saharan Africa, some of the AIDS clinics, China, I mean there's tragic stories about these orphanages. They're just underfunded, they don't have enough people, and the babies are just never held. Children need to be physically touched, and that touch can be a form of pre-evangelism. I want to commend a verse for you that I had studied and it's fascinating, Psalm 22:9, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But in the middle of it David says this, "Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother's breast." What's interesting is the Hebrew doesn't have the “in you.” It is true that David is speaking to God, "You made me trust," but it just says, "You made me trust at my mother's breast." The baby wasn't trusting in God. The baby didn't know the word trust, just feeling his or her needs being met. Feeling warm, love and protection without knowing the word love, protection, it’s just an experience, but that was a form of pre-evangelism that then later gets transferred over to Almighty God, who loves you better than your mother did. See? That physical touch and care is a form of shaping their world and preparing them later to come to Christ. VI. Applications What applications can we take from this? How do we put this command into practice? First I want to just say a word to all you older veteran sinners, that's all of us. Become like a little child and come to Jesus. Humble yourself. See your need for a savior. See your need for forgiveness. Don't be haughty. Don't be arrogant. Become like a child and Jesus will save you. Unless you're converted and become like a little child, you'll never enter the kingdom of God. You have to be converted into a childlike state to be saved. But then even if that's happened for you years ago, you have to keep doing that. You have to keep humbling yourself like a little child. This is an ongoing part of our Christian faith. The Holy Spirit inside you cries out, "Abba Father," which means daddy. There are times that we're so physically hurting, like through a disease, or crushed by some circumstance that you need your daddy, your spiritual Father to care for you. Charles Spurgeon was beset with gout, and it was like an electric shock. He was crawling on the ground in agony, weeping for the pain. He cried out, "Abba Father, if I had a child," he said in his prayer, "who was hurting like I am right now and I could take away the pain. I would do it. Daddy, would you heal me?" That's how bad the pain was. He basically couldn't be articulate. That's how much He was hurting. There are going to be times in your life when you're going to be like that. You cry out, "Abba Father." Look at Jesus's interaction. Remember the woman with the bleeding problem? She'd been bleeding for 12 years. She touched the hem of His garment, her bleeding stop, she was healed. Then Jesus said, "Who touched me?" At the end of that whole encounter, do you remember what He said to her? "Take heart, daughter, your faith has saved you." He called her daughter. She'd been bleeding for 12 years. Jesus was in His early 30s. They're probably peers, age-wise, but they're not peers, were they? Because Jesus is the ancient of days. He called her daughter. The paralyzed man that was lowered down, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven." There is that sense in which we are going to be like little children before Him. One famous theologian was asked to sum up his theology. He was nearing the end of his life. He said, "I'll sum it all up in this. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong." When you're on your deathbed, you're going to be like that. So become like a little child, and He will save you. That's all of us. Now to caregivers of children, especially parents, but also others. FBC, I don't know if you've noticed, but we’ve been blessed with lots of children. Like on Sunday mornings, have you noticed? Some of you have noticed. It's a lavish blessing. Thank God for it. Thank God that we have lots of little kids to raise in the gospel. How many of the baptisms have we had begin with this testimony, "I was raised in a good Christian home."? I would say probably 80% of them, maybe more. We all would like more of the other type. Those are good. I wasn't raised in a good evangelical home, although I did know about Jesus from an early age, I didn't know the gospel. But my kids all, and I baptized all five of them, they all said, "I was raised in a good Christian home." Thank you. Yes, yes, you were. That's the number one way around the world. I would say probably three quarters of the people who are genuinely born again walking the face of the earth had at least one Christian parent pouring the gospel into them from an early age. That's anecdotal, I don't know, but I think that's probably right. So let's let the little children come -and let's not hinder them for the kingdom of God. We should be continually bringing our children. How do we do this? Let me speak this quickly to your parents. First of all, receive your children thankfully. Thank God for your children. Be thankful for them constantly. Realize that your children are infinitely more His than they are yours. Don't idolize them. You have a stewardship role toward them. There’s nothing wrong with saying, "My son," "My daughter," but don't think wrongly, they're more God’s than they are yours. Don't think God ever did you wrong by taking them away if He should. God has that right. Don't be idolatrous and charge Him with wrongdoing for taking back to Himself what was His all along. Be thankful. Be thankful to God for your children. Love them deeply. Let your heart frequently melt for your children. Be willing to make sacrifices for them cheerfully. Deeply, yearn the best for them, especially in eternity through the gospel. Understand them positively and negatively. Positively, they're in the image of God. They have immense potential and they have those soft yielded hearts. A window of opportunity, positively. But then negatively, they are sinners. They're fanatically committed to self-interest. They have the seeds of rebellion in their own hearts. Don't romanticize them. They're childish. “When I was a child, I thought like a child,” they're going to say childish things. Understand them. Then teach your children constantly. Deuteronomy 6, "These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Saturate their minds in the word of God. Saturate them, especially with the gospel, God, man, Christ response. God, the creator, the lawgiver, the judge, the sustainer. We, created His image. We, human beings, made to have a relationship with Him. But we're sinners. We violate God's laws. Christ came. Who is Jesus? He was born and lived a sinless life. The miracle stories. Tell them these stories. Pour the gospel into them, and then say they need to repent and believe. Be Christ-centered daily. Make Christ the center of your talk, as a father or mother. Talk about Jesus. Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. Talk about Him. Discipline your children. The rod of reproof, Proverbs talks about it. Whatever that means, literal, physical, just you need to deal with their sin nature. The hardest part for me about Christian parenting is the mixture of old covenant and new covenant principles you got to do all the time. There's got to be blessings and curses, blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. You've got to have laws and rules in your home, and they have to follow them. But then you've got to tell them the gospel, that the law's not going to save them, and that they need to find mercy and grace through faith in Christ. Just wisely mix those together. Pray for your children daily. Charles Spurgeon said this, "How can we bring children to Jesus Christ to be blessed? We can't do it in a physical sense. For Jesus is not here, He's risen. But we can bring our children in a true, real spiritual sense. We take them up in the arms of prayer. We daily cry, ‘Oh, that he or she might live before thee, Lord.’" We cry out and pray. Model Christ for your children. Involve them in church early. You're bringing your children here, keep doing that. You can't calculate the value of just 18 years of weekly preaching and singing and Christian fellowship. Bring them to church and encourage them along the way. "Model Christ for your children. Involve them in church early. … You can't calculate the value of just 18 years of weekly preaching and singing and Christian fellowship." I just want to say, finally, a word to workers here, children workers at our church. Thank you for your service. Thank you for what you do. Many hands makes light work, so ask if the Lord would have you involved in children ministry. It's a vital ministry. Thank you for what you do. Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the time that we've had in the word of God today. Thank you for the truth that Jesus gave us here so plainly, that we have to be converted to become little children and the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God is made of such as these. Thank you for the great privilege of Christian parenting. And thank you for the truth of the word of God. We thank you that Jesus shed His blood so that we who are little children, can find forgiveness and find acceptance in His arms. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Christ’s glorious ascension to heaven is Almighty God’s final vindication of his incarnate Son on earth in his earthly mission. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - I. The Father Raises His Son and Glorifies Him It’s Resurrection Sunday, in case you didn't know. All over the world, Christians are assembling to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, Christ's resurrection, the greatest moment in human history. The greatest moment in human history, for it addresses, indeed conquers, all of our greatest enemies, and it feeds all of our greatest hopes. Our greatest enemies have been vanquished by Christ's death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory, death itself, what the scripture calls the last or the final enemy, an enemy that remains undefeated except by Christ, and will continue to do so. It does not matter how much brilliance is shown even in this region by pharmaceutical researchers or medical procedure researchers, death will still stand over all of their efforts. We know that death comes unexpectedly to anyone in any walk of life. It does not matter, their socioeconomic background, their age, their apparent health, death stands overall as the final enemy, but Christ has defeated death on our behalf. We have also the terrors of God's judgment, His written record against us for our sins that Colossians tells us stood opposed to us, and that Christ has completely addressed those by His bloodshed on the cross. That long record of our sins, through faith in Christ, will not triumph over us and condemn us to hell. Then, there's Satan, the accuser who would stand before God and accuse us accurately of those very sins I just mentioned. He has been destroyed. He has been defeated by Christ, as the author of Hebrews tells us. All of our enemies have been addressed, and all of our greatest hopes are wrapped up in Christ's resurrection body. The best is yet to come, brothers and sisters. It doesn't matter how high a high you achieve today, emotionally. All of us are less than we should, because for us in Christ, our best things are all yet to come. We are being brought to a world in which there will be no more death, mourn, crying, or pain. Jesus made this one promise in John 14:19, which is why we Christians celebrate, "Because I live, you also will live." Hallelujah. He gives us the spoils of His victory. We should celebrate. It's right for us to be filled with hope and to sing praise. In the book of Revelation, they sang praise. Revelation 5:12, "Worthy is the lamb who is slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." That's heavenly worship, hymns of praise sung by the angels and by the saints in heaven. Here on earth, we have hymns, focused, many of which we sung today. My favorite is Charles Wesley's “Christ The Lord is Risen Today”: “Christ The Lord is risen today, hallelujah. Sons of men and angels say, ‘Hallelujah.’ Raise your joys and triumphs high. Hallelujah, sing ye heaven’s and earth’s reply, hallelujah. Love's redeeming work is done. Fought the fight, the battle won. Death in vain forbids Him rise.” Isn't that good? Death tried, but failed. Christ has opened paradise. So, it is right that we should celebrate Christ's awesome resurrection victory. So, why in the world am I preaching today on Christ's ascension? Some of you know it's because I've been here 25 years and I've run out of ideas. The internet never forgets, so I can't do the old stuff. And no, that's not it. It was just that the Holy Spirit pressed this theme on my heart. I saw the logical extension of the exaltation of the Father in reference to the Son. There is theological richness in this topic, the Ascension of Christ. All of my friends around me in ministry, they told me they've never heard a sermon on it. Actually, I haven't thought much about it. It's just maybe a theological detail that people don't think much about. They generally skip it, but they shouldn't. I hope that after today's sermon you'll see how rich and powerful this concept is, this final, visible, powerful, exaltation, vindication of the Son by the Father. The Father's vindication of the Son is completed in His ascension to heaven. It's absolutely needed because the death of Christ on the cross was a picture of humiliation, of total rejection by His own people, of in some sense complete rejection by God himself. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The cross and agonizing death, the cruelest form of torturous death that the vicious people like the Romans could devise and utilize. The victim was held up to utter scorn and humiliation, then died slowly in exquisite pain, surrounded by onlooking mockers and haters. But infinitely worse than the human shame and physical pain was the spiritual dimension. Anyone who hung on a tree was under the curse of God. Since Jesus was bearing our sins for us in our place, He was completely cursed, infinitely cursed, bearing the white-hot wrath of God as our substitute. That's why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" His enemies on looking, thought He was dying for His own sins of the blasphemer. Isaiah predicted that that's what they would think. Isaiah 53:4, "We considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted." But Isaiah also in that same passage told us why, Jesus died in our place as our substitute. “He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him. And by His wounds, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to His own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” But that truth, that message, could only be established in history if God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus. He proved it by the vindication of His Son, that His bloody sacrifice was acceptable to God on our behalf. The only possible way that could be was by His resurrection victory, His resurrection from the dead. But I believe, as you study the ascension, that resurrection victory, God thought it insufficient for the total vindication of His Son. There was more vindication yet to come. God intended to exalt Jesus to the highest place, completing His return journey, as He descended from heaven to earth and then went from earth back up to heaven. From heaven to earth, choosing to accept a human body, being born of a woman, entering the womb of a woman, and from the manger then to a life of humble self-denying sacrificial service to everyone and to God, day after day, perfectly living out the two great commandments, to love God with all of His heart, to love His neighbors himself, a life of humble servanthood. Then, to the cross, that ignominious, scandalous, ugly, shameful death on the cross. So, we see down, down, down, traced out in Philippians 2, that dissent from heaven to even to death on a cross, and then the reverse journey, then God raising Him up, up, and even higher up in His resurrection and ascension and seating Him on His throne in heaven. This is the very thing that Jesus had demanded of His father in His prayer in John 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." That's what He asked for. It's what He deserved. "Give me my glory back." The fact that it was the Father doing this to Jesus, ascending Him, is clear from the consistent passive voice used in scripture concerning the ascension. Luke 24:51, "And it came to pass that while He blessed them, He was parted from them and was carried up into heaven." The passive voice means action was enacted on him, a force came on him. The ascension was something done to Jesus by the Father. Again, Acts 1:9, our text this morning, "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes. And a cloud hid Him from their sight." All the other references to the ascension, they're all passive. It's something that was done to Jesus. And by who? By God the Father. God did it to vindicate His son. It is immeasurably more significant and important than we think it is. Why do I say that? Luke wrote two books in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He ends the Gospel of Luke with it and begins the book of Acts with it. The ending of the Gospel of Luke, "When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them, and was taken up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they stayed continually at the temple praising God," the end of the Gospel of Luke. Then, again in Acts 1:1-12, the reading you heard this morning, that’s how He begins. The story of the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria and the beginning of the journey to the ends of the earth, which is continued to this present day. It starts with the ascension, so it must be significant. Without the ascension, the mission of Jesus would've been incomplete. "The ascension was something done to Jesus by the Father. …It's something that was done to Jesus. And by who? By God the Father. God did it to vindicate His son." Jesus descended from heaven to earth to bring us to God. To bring us to God, that's why He came. And He Himself must precede and ascend back into heaven to open the way for us. "I'm going there to prepare a place for you," as He prays in John 17:24, "Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you love me from the creation of the world." He wants us to see His glory. So, by faith this morning we're going to try to do that. We're going to try to see the glory of Christ descended. Someday we'll see it with our own eyes, or as Charles Wesley put it in the next stands of that beautiful Easter hymn, "Soar, we now where Christ has led, following our exalted head. Made like Him, like Him, we rise. Ours, the cross, the grave, the skies." That's what today's message is about. II. The Facts of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven Let's talk about the facts of Christ's ascension to heaven. The timing, when did it happen? Jesus' ascension happened 40 days after His resurrection. During that period, Jesus poured scripture into His disciples. Remember the two disciples on the road to Emaus? He opens up the scripture and their hearts are burning within them while He opens the scriptures to them. Later in that same chapter, Luke 24, Jesus went to the disciples in the upper room and gave them more doctrinal instruction from the Old Testament. "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me and the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms. Then, He opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures." He is doing this over a period of 40 days, a 40-day seminary, wouldn't you like to enroll in that? The greatest teacher in history with 40 days of concentrated work in the prophets and the law of Moses and the Psalms. Where was the ascension? Luke tells us that it was on the Mount of Olives near Bethany. The language used is “a Sabbath day walk from Jerusalem.” That's 2,000 cubits. 2,000 cubits or about six tenths of a mile, that might be a little more helpful. Really close there to Jerusalem, but on the Mount of Olives. What happened? What was the ascension? Jesus, having assembled them there, gives them one more version of the Great Commission. All four gospels have a different version of the sending out of the disciples to the ends of the earth with the message of the gospel. Acts 1:8, is the last time, "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth." Those are His last words to the church. Having done that, Luke's Gospel tells us He extended His hands and blessed them. Then in Acts 1:9, "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight." He seemed to have floated higher and higher, defying gravity. He's not defying it. He invented it. He's in charge of it, like the walking on water, same thing there. He can do what He wants with gravity because He rules over it. So, He ascends higher and higher., and the apostles are standing there gawking up, just looking like this for a while. Long after the event was over, I think, they're still looking, so, then God dispatches two angels. Would you loved to be the angels, like, "Pick me, pick me. I want to go there and tell these guys. Get moving.” “They were looking intently into the sky as He was going when, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them, "Men of Galilee," they said, ‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven,’ note the passive voice again, "has been taken from you into heaven” will return in the same way you've seen Him go into heaven." Let me say a note about that, the Second Coming. They said Jesus would be coming back "in the same way you've seen Him go." And amazingly, to the same place. How do I know that? The prophecy in Zechariah 14, I'm not going to go into that. We'll take another half hour to go into Zechariah. But trust me, Zechariah 14 is about the Second Coming and about the final battle that the Lord fights as a conquering king against the enemies of His people. He comes back, Zechariah 14:4, "On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem." He's coming back to that same place. God loves those kinds of details. So, He leaves from one spot and comes back to that same spot. Beautifully, at His Second Coming, He's going to send out His angels, and they'll gather His elect from the four winds, from one of the heavens to the other. We get to do our own version of what Jesus does in the ascension, we get to rise from the earth and meet Him in the clouds. Tell me you're not looking forward to that. Of course, you'll need some help, an angel will have to pick you up. They're going to lift you up as the rapture passage in I Thessalonians teaches in verse 16-17, "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with a voice of the archangel with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever." That's our future. Now, as I was preparing for my sermon on the Ascension, of course, I needed to consult Wikipedia. I've got to go there and find out what they know about the Ascension. Not much. So, I went there, and I found that some, supposedly, Christian theologians find the Ascension an embarrassment. They're actually embarrassed by it, because I think it represents an archaic, even mythological, cosmology, a structure of the universe that science has now disproved, similar to the flat earth or the earth being the center of the solar system and the sun revolving. We know that's not true. Science has moved beyond that, so, it's a little bit of an embarrassment. Let me tell you something. I'm embarrassed about people who are embarrassed about the Bible. God knows cosmology very well. He invented it. He didn't weave a mythological cosmology into the Bible. The Bible doesn't assert anywhere that the earth is flat. It doesn't say anything about the earth being the center of the solar system, except in the language of sunrise and sunset, which we still use post-Copernicus. We have no problem with that. Neither does it say that heaven is up there like some border you cross, and you're now in a different place, so that now that we've had space flight and gone on the moon, we've disproved the Bible. Famously, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier and an atheist, mocked the idea of a heaven above the earth, saying, "Why are you clinging to God? Here, Gagarin flew into space. He didn't encounter God. So, it's not up there.” They don't understand that the realms, the heavenly realms that I'm about to unfold for you, that the Bible clearly teaches, that one of them is physical, but then is with spiritual dimensions that go beyond our comprehension. The Bible cannot so easily be disproved. Paul himself speaks of being caught up to the third heaven. So, as the first and the second and the third, first being perhaps sky, second outer space, and third the heavenly realms. That's just a simple arrangement we'll go into a little more detail in a moment. Actually, why not right now? Let's talk about the stages of the ascension. I love documentaries about the Apollo space program. I've watched so many of them over and over. I geek out on that kind of thing. Saturn V rocket, all of the technology that those folks did with slide rules and pencils and paper and they made it work incredibly. These guys were geniuses. Just the achievement, it's remarkable. You think about the Saturn V rocket, it was a rocket in stages. First stage, second stage, that's how they decided to do it, it's remarkable. I want you to picture then the ascension of Jesus in similar four stages, four stages of His ascension. The first stage, from earth through the sky, physically, until a cloud hid Him from their sight, like the Saturn V rocket moving up through the atmosphere. Some of you, I'm sure, have flown a kite. What's the highest you've ever gotten a kite up there? I had it so high I almost couldn't see it. It was way up there, and it was pulling hard. It was a windy day. It was near the beach. You picture that as a kite ascends higher and higher, it’s just like that. These guys are out there looking up, watching Him go, physical, going up higher and higher. Now, for the next three stages of His journey, you have to have eyes of faith. It's a different way to look. NASA had to invent different television cameras from the launch site so they could track the rocket as it went. It's something you can't just leave to a human camera worker. They were able to follow the predictable trajectory of the rocket. In the same way, you need eyes of faith to be able to see the next three stages. If you don't have faith, you can't see it. You have to be able to see by faith based on the Word of God, the next phases or stages of His ascension. The author of Hebrews even gives us His language. Hebrews 2:9, "We see Jesus now crowned with glory and honor at the right hand of God." How do we see him? Only by faith, eyes of faith. The second stage of the ascension. Jesus passed through the heavenly realms. He moved through it. He's passing through the heavenly realms, He's beyond the physical. Now, He's in the heavenly realms. The language is “He passes through”, Hebrews 4:14. "Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God. Let us hold fast our confession." The spiritual realms are observing Jesus as He moves through. The third stage is more of a destination. The author of Hebrews tells us, "He entered the heavenly temple, the heavenly holy of holies, and presented once for all His bloodshed on the cross as our priest," Hebrews 9:11-12, "When Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not manmade," that is to say not a part of this creation. "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the most holy placed once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." We're told in the Old Testament that both the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were built according to a pattern and a vision shown to Moses and to David that then David handed off to His son, Solomon. That pattern, the author of Hebrews tells us, was a shadow, an earthly type or shadow of the real temple in heaven. Does that make sense? The tabernacle and the temple are both shadowing representations of the real tabernacle or temple in heaven, the real Holy of Holies. Jesus entered there in the heavenly realms. The fourth stage of His ascension is above every created realm; it’s not a created realm. It's a place where only God can dwell, above everything, where creatures cannot go. Ephesians 4:8-10, "When He ascended on high, He led captives in His training, gave gifts to men.” What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower earthly regions? “He who descended is the very one who," listen to this, "ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe." That's a powerful image, “higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.” Again, the author of Hebrews has the same kind of conception. Hebrews 7:26, "Such a high priest meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." That's a realm we creatures cannot enter, where only the creator God can be. Or, again, as Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, "But will God really dwell on earth or heaven. Even the highest heavens cannot contain you? How much less this temple I have built?" The heavenly realms are a spiritual location where angels dwell and disembodied spirits, saints who have died, dwell in that heavenly realm. Jesus passed through all of that and ended up above it. He crossed that infinite gap that no creature can cross to sit at the right hand of Almighty God. Hebrews 1:3, "After the son had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven." And then, again, Hebrews 8:1, "We do have such a high priest who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven." Then, Hebrews 10:12, "When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God." "The heavenly realms are a spiritual location where angels dwell and disembodied spirits, saints who have died, dwell in that heavenly realm. Jesus passed through all of that and ended up above it. He crossed that infinite gap that no creature can cross to sit at the right hand of Almighty God." That's three times the author tells us that it's a very important concept. It comes, we're told, from Psalm 1:10, at an invitation from God, Almighty God. Psalm 1:10, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit in my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet.'" That's the invitation that God gave to His son, "Sit at my right hand." That's the truth of the ascension in its four stages. III. The Spiritual Significance of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven Let's talk about the spiritual significance of Christ's ascension to heaven. What is the point? I think the point of all of this spatial language, this up language, God isn't up, down, left, right. God is a spirit. But He uses that up language to give us a sense of our smallest in His exaltation. We are low, He is high, high above us. His exaltation, His glorious exaltation, He's high above everything. That's the language that Paul uses beautifully in Philippians 2:9 through 11, "Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." That's the name Lord God, that's the name that's above everything. And that's the highest place that the Father exalted Jesus to. God wanted all His people to see Jesus's glory for all time and bow the knee to him. That's why. And what of the manner of this ascension. This four-stage ascension, I believe, was accompanied with much angelic celebration, don't you think? Don't you think the angels celebrated, sang their own songs? We have so many hallelujahs and triumphs in the book of Revelation. They're constantly celebrating. Events on earth, even minor events of judgment and different things, the angels in the book of Revelation are celebrating. How much more this when Christ ascended? And so, we have Psalm 47:5-8, “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises. Sing praises to our king, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth. Sing to Him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations. God is seated on His holy throne." Now, that's triumph, and the angels are good at that. Psalm 68 captures it, which Paul quotes in Ephesians 4, "The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands. The Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train. You receive gifts from men, even from the rebellious that you, oh, Lord God might dwell there." Imagine the victory train. He's ascending, leading captives in His train, like a general, a conquering general, riding through the streets of the capital city. They're all cheering wildly, and behind Him are trudging His enemies in chains. He's defeated our foes. He's defeated Satan and demons. As Colossians 2:15 says, "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross." There's this victory train going through the heavenly realms with all the angels celebrating Christ's triumph. This is also, I believe, the spiritual fulfillment of the high priest's physical climb. Much of the symbol of the temple and all of its activities were symbolic of Christ. The temple itself was located in the city of David, Jerusalem, Mount Zion. It was up high. Jerusalem is 2,575 feet above sea level. Most of the Jews, three times a year, when they would assemble, but especially the time of the Day of Atonement, they would come from all the localities and towns and villages, and they would assemble, and they would ascend. Three times a year, the Jewish men were commanded to come. But in this case, the place that God had chosen, the one place for them to assemble was very high up. They're going up and they're ascending. As they go up, they would sing Psalms. They're called the Psalms of Ascent. You can look in your Bible, Psalm 120 to Psalm 134. What does that mean, “psalms of ascent”? It's the Jews going up higher and higher to Mount Zion. They're ascending. They're going up, and they're singing praise songs. Then, when they get there, the Temple Mount itself is up high, high in the city. The glorious temple of Jesus, one of the most spectacular structures of the ancient world, was designed to use elevation height to make a spiritual point. The court of the Gentiles was the lowest part of the temple complex, where Gentile, anybody, could go. Fifteen steps separated from the court of women, so-called, where all Jewish people could go, men and women. But no Gentiles could go there. 15 steps up to get to that. Then, another 15 steps led to the next level where Jewish men could go. And then, another three steps led up to the holy place where only the priests could go, and where they would offer those normal sacrifices day after day. The highest of all was the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place. Another 15 steps led up to that, where only the high priests could go once a year, the Day of Atonement, where they would offer the blood for the sins of the people. From the lowest place of the temple complex, the Court of the Gentiles, to the highest place in the temple complex, the Holy of Holies, was a journey of almost 50 feet. Four floors, going higher and higher and higher and higher, that's quite a journey. That ascent, that physical ascent made once a year by the high priest, pictures this ascent that Jesus makes, moving higher and higher and presenting His blood. Hebrews 9:11, 12, "When Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not manmade, that is to say not a part of this creation. He did not enter by the means of blood, of goats and calves, but He entered the most holy place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” IV. The Offices Christ Occupies in Heaven: Prophet, Priest, and King When He ascended, what does He go to do? Here I want to zero our minds on the three offices of the Old Testament, prophet, priest, and king. All three of them find their consummation at the end of His ascension. They're fulfilled, perfected, at the end of His ascension journey. Prophet, priest, and king, I'm going to reverse the order. I'm going to start with priest, as we've already seen. Jesus moved through the spiritual realms into a heavenly temple where He does His work for us as our high priest. The work of a priest mostly focuses on dealing with our sins. We are a sinful people. We're sinful people, and we need a priest. We need a sacrifice. We need atoning sacrifice. Jesus is our great high priest. Hebrew 7:26 says, "Such a high priest meets our need. One who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." What is the priestly work Jesus does after His ascension? There are three. First, He made a perfect final offering for our sin, once for all, completely effective in taking away the guilt of our sins. “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves. But He entered the most holy place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." He also made an opening, a living way for you and I to come into the presence of God. Priests are, in the Latin word, “pontifex”, a bridge-builder, a mediator between God and man. He has made a way, as our mediator, for us to come into the presence of God. That's what a priest does. Hebrews 10 says, "Therefore, brothers, we have confidence into the most holy place by the blood of Jesus." In the Old Testament, there was a curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place. No one but the high priest could go into that most holy place on pain of death. We were not welcome. The old covenant central message is, “this far, you may come and no further.” You can't go up on Mount Sinai, or you'll die. Moses at the burning bush, the first words he heard from the burning bush was, "Do not come any closer." It's the first thing you ever heard from God at that burning bush, "Do not come any closer." But with Jesus, we have exactly the opposite. He has opened a way for us to come into the presence of God. “Since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way open for us through the curtain, that is His body. And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith, having our heart sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” [Hebrews 10: 21-22] And then, thirdly, as our priest, He makes intercession for us. Hebrew 7:24-25, "Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." Our salvation's not done yet. We're not saved to the uttermost or saved completely yet. We are in the process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for you and for me. How is He praying? Just like with Simon Peter, as you heard earlier, "Simon, Simon Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat. But I've prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." And it won't. If you're a true child of God today, your faith is never going to fail. Because you're so great? No, but because Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying to God for you that your faith won't fail. And it won't. So, that's the priestly ministry Jesus is doing on your behalf. Secondly, prophet. Jesus consummates or perfects His ministry as the prophet by His ascension to heaven. A prophet was called upon to proclaim the word of God to the people of God, "Thus says the Lord." Jesus is the perfection and the completion of all prophecy. Hebrews 1:1 and 2, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, He has spoken to us through His son." Jesus is the perfection of the prophetic office. However, when His time on earth was done, He still had more to say to His people. He had many more things to tell them. The ongoing prophetic work done by the outpoured Holy Spirit on the church through the apostles, the entire New Testament hadn't been written yet when the ascension happened. It came as a direct result of His ascension as a pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church. That's how we have the 27 books of the New Testament and all the theology we have of the cross. Jesus said in a great understatement, "I have much to say to you more than you can now bear. I have more things to say. As a prophet I have more things to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own. He will speak only what He hears. And He will tell you what is yet to come. Listen, He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. He's going to finish my prophetic ministry to the church. The Holy Spirit will." So, Jesus directly tied the outpouring of the spirit of God to His ascension. John 16:7, "I tell you the truth. It is for your benefit that I'm going away. Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you." Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit. "Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Jesus ascended to heaven to receive the gift of the Spirit, and when He received it, He poured it out on the church, poured it out on His apostles. He's been pouring it out ever since. In the great Pentecost sermon, Peter preached these words, Acts 2, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see in here." The Ascension completes Jesus' prophetic office through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, we, the church, are now enabled to do the work. As I said, the Spirit continues to be outpoured on the church, as Ephesians 4 says, "But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." That is why it says, "When He ascended on high, He led captive in His train and gave gifts to men.” What does “He ascended mean”, except that He also descended to the lower earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended, higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure, the fullness of Christ." The outpouring of the Spirit, the spiritual gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and then the people doing the works of service, all of that, the completion of Jesus's prophetic ministry. It happens with the Ascension. Central to that is our task of taking the gospel to the people we know. "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be witnesses, my witnesses, to the end of the earth and to the end of time." We have a prophetic role to play in our time. We have to tell the people around us who are perishing, the truth. That's a prophetic role. We do that by the power of the spirit of Christ. Then, finally, king. Jesus ascends to heaven to complete His work as priest and prophet and, especially, to reign as king. He was invited by God to do this. "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,'" Psalm 110:2, the next verse, "The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion. You'll rule in the midst of your enemies." It's as a king that He sits down on the throne. Psalm 2, "God decrees that His only begotten the son will be king." The psalmist asks, "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot a vain against Christ, the anointed one? God laughs at their feeble plots, and then He rebukes them in His rage, saying, 'I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.' I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to me, 'You are my son. Today, I've become your father. Ask of me, and I'll make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You'll rule them with an iron scepter. You'll dash them to pieces like pottery.'" He is reigning at the right hand of God. Ephesians 1, "God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present Israel and the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." In His ascension, God raised Jesus infinitely above all rulers, authorities, powers, demonic powers, angelic powers, human powers. He's infinitely above them, reigning. Christ's ascension then established, He says, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." As a king, He protects His people, He provides for them, He rules over them, and He builds up their nation. That's what kings do, and that's what Jesus is doing at the right hand of God. V. Our Faith-filled Response to Christ’s Ascension to Heaven What is our faith-filled response to this? First of all, just the best thing you can do today is repent and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. The exaltation of Jesus is so that we will believe in Him, that we will trust in Him, and our sins be forgiven. Could there be a greater tragedy than one of you listening to this message and walking out of this place lost, walking out of this place with your sins not forgiven? Why would that be? Simple faith, trusting in Him, the exalted Christ, that His bloodshed on the cross is sufficient for you and is the only answer for you. Trust in him. Then, for all of us who long ago trusted in Jesus, join in the worldwide celebration today of the ascension, the resurrection, ascension of Christ. Stand in awe of it. Picture yourself. If you've been there, what would you think? You think no one is like this. Surely, this is the son of God, with infinite power, even over gravity. Delight in His office is perfected in heaven. Delight in the fact that He's at the right hand of God praying for you, that your faith won't fail, and it won't. That He has, once and for all, presented His blood for forgiveness of your sins, and they are forgiven. And that He has filtering your temptations and will not let your temptations go beyond what you can bear. For Him as a prophet, drink in the word of God. You probably never thought about the ascension this much and probably never will again, I don't know that. But it's deep and rich and powerful. Meditate, drink in the truth of God's Word through Jesus, the prophet, who speaks to us. Then, finally, as king, realize you are completely protected. He fights for you. He will not let anyone touch you. He will not let anyone tempt you beyond what you can bear. He will feed you from His table. He will invite you into His heavenly glory. He is your king. Worship him. Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for this time of celebration that we've had today. We thank you for the beauty of the truths in the Bible. We pray that, as we go throughout this day, as we celebrate with family, and then throughout the week, that you would enable us to speak the beauty and the truth of the gospel to those who need to hear it so much. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
The power of Christ in Christian marriage allows husband and wife to reject divorce categorically and to defeat it with God’s vision of oneness in marriage. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - This morning I'm going to preach on the same topic as I did last week. I'm going to be working through Matthew 19 more than Mark 10. On December 21st, 1988, a timer activated bomb exploded on PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 individuals on board and 11 individuals on the ground. Since the massive Boeing 747 airplane had reached an altitude of 31,000 feet, the explosion created what some called the largest crime scene in history. The wreck had spread over more than 1,200 square miles. Investigators painstakingly collected the fragments in order to determine the cause of the explosion. Eventually, these amazingly skilled people identified trace amounts of explosives to help confirm that this incident was not an accident, but indeed caused by an act of terrorism deliberately planned and executed with murderous intent. The stunning level of meticulous and far-reaching collection of fragments from an explosion, and the subsequent analysis of these fragments to deduce the cause and then bring to justice to criminals was unprecedented at the time and has never been equaled since. As I was reading about this effort, my mind went to the phrase, “the largest crime scene in history.” Sometime ago I began to meditate on the theology of original sin in Adam, the effect of Adam's sin in the world and on every generation that followed. A particular passage in Ephesians 1:9-10 has come to my mind as being very significant in understanding not just sin but redemption and the work of Christ in redemption. It gave me an image years ago of sin having had the effect on the universe like a fragmentation grenade, a phrase I used years ago. It came from Ephesians 1:9-10, “God made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Think about that. God's ultimate purpose, which He will fulfill at the end of all things, is to gather, to bring together all things in heaven and on earth, to bring them all together and make them perfectly one in Christ. This was a powerful insight in helping understand the effect that sin has had on the universe visible and invisible, how it has blown apart things that are meant to be together. What God has done with his work of redemption through the cross of Jesus Christ and through his resurrection, He will bring all things in the universe together into perfect oneness. Isn't that something to look forward to, brother and sisters? He will reverse the explosive effects of sin which ripped apart things that were meant to be together. "What God has done with his work of redemption through the cross of Jesus Christ and through his resurrection, He will bring all things in the universe together into perfect oneness." In light of that concept of sin as the ultimate fragmentation grenade or explosive device, I came to realize that this suffering planet Earth and actually all of human history itself is the largest crime scene in history and the Lockerbie explosion, just a subset of that larger crime scene. We see the effects of that explosion, that divisiveness of sin all over the world, everywhere we look in disunity, fragmentation, brokenness in all human relationships. But especially I want to zero in this morning on the topic of marriage and divorce. My purpose is to point with great hope to the power of Christ in marriage, to reject as we did last week, divorce categorically as Jesus does, and to defeat it with God's vision of oneness. I want to zero in on that concept of oneness in marriage today. I. Review: Jesus on Marriage and Divorce Let's do some review from last week on Jesus’ view of marriage and divorce. The Pharisees came to Jesus with a vicious test asking, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife, in Matthew 19:3, for any and every cause, any and every reason, whatever reason He wants? Walking through Jesus's answer from Matthew 19, haven't you read as we said last time in Jesus' mind, that the answer for all marital issues, all marital problems is in the Bible? The Bible is sufficient, completely sufficient to define marriage, to heal it, to empower it, make it fruitful. Haven't you read that Jesus went back to God's original intention in marriage, asserting that the paradigm God set up at the beginning of human history is permanent for all of human history? In the account you heard in Mark, Jesus begins right away with “What did Moses command you?” They went barking up the wrong tree. Moses permitted a divorce. Jesus was saying, “No, I'm talking about Moses, I’m talking about earlier than that. I'm talking about Genesis 1 and 2. What did Moses command you?” That was Jesus' mindset. The paradigm at the beginning, the creator said, is good for all time. I said last week, God made marriage originally and God makes marriages specifically, God is active in bringing a couple together. God made the ultimate, the original paradigm and lays it on all cultures, all marriage for all time. We'll never change on that. Haven't you read that in the beginning the creator made them male and female, God spoke through biology and He spoke also through scripture. The nature of things, the reality, the significance of gender will never go away. Jesus is not confused about it. We shouldn't be confused either. One man, one woman, covenant union for life, that's marriage. He said for this reason, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. God said it. It doesn't matter that Moses wrote it ultimately. What matters is God said this is the paradigm He gave us. A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, “cleave” in the KJV very famously, like they're glued together, a picture of oneness. The two will become one flesh, the adding of the word “flesh” clearly implying that the sexual union that is unique to the marriage relationship, the one flesh union through which children are procreated. But then Jesus doubles down, He circles back on that saying, so they are no longer two but one in case you missed it, he adds that extra phrase; they are no longer two but one. That is the foundational truth. The two become one is the reason why divorce is wrong. Then his final legal binding pronouncement, therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. That's the ruling by the judge of all the earth. John 5, “all judgment has been entrusted to the Son.” He is the judge of all human beings and this is his verdict on this matter. This is his command, his prohibition. Let man not separate. So no, it is not lawful. No, it is not right for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason. Then in Matthew 19, the question, why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? Jesus replied that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning. He walks through the Moses statement and law concerning divorce. Then the clear prohibition [Matthew 19:9], “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness, “porneia”, and marries another woman commits adultery.” In Mark 10:11-12, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her and if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” So not dealing with the exception clause, which I dealt with last week, in general, divorce is forbidden. I ended last week with an illustration from that photographer turned family minister, Reb Bradley. You remember how he had photographed their wedding and some of you maybe weren't here last week, but this photographer had photographed a wedding, but later in his ministry he saw this man who said, "I think you photographed our wedding." "Yeah, I remember. How's it going?" The man said, "I think we're going to get a divorce." Then there was this awkward pause; but it's important, you need to know when to do an awkward pause. Crickets. "You can't," he said, "I beg your pardon." "You heard me? You can't. I was there as a photographer, but I was also there as a witness and I heard what you said and this is the very thing you promised you wouldn't do and I'm holding you to it." He said, "What do you want me to do?" "Work it out." I didn't tell you the rest of the story. He met with the couple and they did work it out and they didn't get a divorce, a happy ending. Now this is my effort to help you all work it out. That's what this sermon is. It's like, okay pastor, we can't get a divorce, so help us, help us to work it out. That's what we're going to do. There are a lot of approaches I could take on this sermon today. I've already walked through what I did last week. This is meant to be helpful to marriages. First of all, I'm very aware that not everyone I'm talking to is married right now. I'm aware that some were married. You're either divorced in the past or are a widow/widower. I understand that. Others of you will be married in the future, but you're not married now. Others of you, I am very aware, have the gift of singleness, but I am coming from the basic concept of us as a local church we should care about each other. We should care about others who are not in the exact condition we're in. We should care about their situations. I would hope that every member of this church and indeed every visitor would care about the health of the marriages in this church and marriage in general, so I'm going forward in that conception. What I'm going to do, I decided I'm going to stay in my lane here on this because I could go anywhere. There are hundreds of sermons I could preach on marriage, lot of different passages I could go to, but I want to stick to Matthew 19 and Mark 10, and stick to two issues. Above all, above all, oneness. That's going to be my answer, that we would understand it. What is attacking oneness? Jesus said hardness of heart. I'm going to start with hardness of heart to try to understand it and how it creates divorce and then go from that to a discussion of oneness. Then I'm going to speak toward a more perfect oneness that can happen, toward more perfect oneness in marriage. II. The Problem: Hardness of Heart Let's start with the problem. The problem is hardness of heart. Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” What does this mean? “Hardness of heart”, biblically, the phrase refers to resistance or rebellion against the Word of God, a resistance to a rebellion against the Word of God. That's hardness of heart. The first time we see the phrase famously is with the condition of Pharaoh. You remember at the time of the Exodus [Exodus 5], God commanded Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” That's hardness of heart right there. Later in Exodus 7:13-14, “so Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them just as the Lord had said.” So hardness of heart means I'm not listening to what God is saying. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh's heart is unyielding”, so it's an unyieldedness to God. You're not yielding to God. Pharaoh refuses to let the people go, so hardness of heart is rebellion against God. Sadly, tragically, it was later clearly displayed in the people of Israel themselves again and again and again this hardness of heart toward God. So much so that David writing centuries later in Psalm 95:7-10 said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Mariba, as you did that day at Masa in the desert where your father's tested and tried me though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation and I said, they are a people whose hearts go astray and they have not known my ways.” That's hardness of heart, going astray from God, not knowing his ways. A hard heart then is one that is stubborn toward God. It's not soft, it's not yielded, it's not obedient. I believe biblically a synonym for a hard heart in the case of Israel was “stiff neck”. Again and again you see that that statement, they are a “stiff neck” people. [Exodus 32:9]. The Lord said it to Moses, and they are a stiff neck people. I think it's a synonym, it's just a different image for the same thing. It means to be rebellious, not soft, not yielded to God. You're fighting him, pushing back. The author of the Hebrews picks up on Psalm 95 and applies it to all Christians for all time. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” It's a fundamental command to all people apart from marriage on any topic. If you hear God speak to you from his Word, don't harden your hearts as they did in the rebellion. It comes from Romans 8:7, “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God.” It does not submit to God's law. Indeed, it cannot. That is a hostility toward God that does not submit to God and to his law. The hardness aspect implies that God wants softness when it comes to his Word, a yieldedness, compliance, obedience. Divorce comes about when people harden their hearts toward God above all. They will not obey his rules. They break rules within the marriage, such as adultery. They'll break God's law within the marriage and destroy it, or in their relationships with each other and divorce comes as a result. But beyond that vertical nature of hardness of heart, there's a hardness of a heart that happens horizontally within the marriage, the couple. A hard heart horizontally is one that's not m