A single microscopic germ stripped away everything from her. Work and work responsibilities, appointments and meetings, errands and exercise, outings and dinner dates— all gone. For two weeks journalist Brooke Baldwin fought the coronavirus [covid-19]. Her body gorged on 12 hours of sleep each day. Cold sweats soaked bed sheets. Dull aches throbbed. Leaving bed took all her strength. Appetite vanished— and when it did show up, no taste. Stubborn independence quickly gave way to cries for dependence. The virus broke her down piece-by-piece, leaving her without a sense of purpose.
In that stillness, Baldwin could focus on important matters in life; she gained clarity. In her reflection she writes:
In our normal lives, we're faced with a barrage of distractions— events on a calendar, expectations of ourselves. But during this time of Covid-induced isolation— whether you're sick or just socially distancing in your home— we've been forced to sit still [without] distraction.…
When I was sick and my body came to a screeching halt… I found myself thinking about joy… about my work [goals]… about my mother… and about the beautiful interdependence of my marriage. …In the quiet of my quarantine, I was able to more purely isolate my gratitude and my values. (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/19/health/coronavirus-diary-sickness-brooke-baldwin/index.html)
This morning God peels away earthly distraction so that you gain clarity. He does not want you to lose sight of an event longer-lasting than covid-19. An event carving out a deeper impact. An event that has changed the course of your life for all time. Easter prepares you for eternal glory! A priceless Life made you different. A priceless Life gives you hope. So, Live Your Life as a Stranger Here.
Listen to our reading from 1 Peter chapter one, starting with verse 17: Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. That describes you, doesn’t it? You call on God by name. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, breaking down the barrier once separating you (and me) from God. The Holy Spirit gives you access to approach God confidently just like a child fearlessly approaches her father.
Even though God is our tender Father, he is also Judge. That means, God is not some unconcerned grandfather who sits idly by as his little grand-brats trounce all over his word. God enforces his commands; he judges each heart individually— and he does not cut deals.
That’s why he says: live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. You (and I) live on planet earth, and lots of objects are in it: money, tech toys, outdoor toys, play-toys, houses, cars, clothes— all these material items society considers valuable. You (and I) also hear many voices in this world with their many opinions. That you should put your needs first. That you should live in whatever way makes you happy. That everyone— husband, wife, child, boss, neighbor— should respect you. This worldly way of living starts pushing God’s desires out of your heart so that you no longer live under his care, but live for your self-interests.
God does not want his children to fall under judgment. So, he reminds you (and me): ‘You call [me] Father’— because you are his child; you belong to him. That makes you different.
God’s Word peels away worldly distractions so that we see this truth more clearly. If you’re like me, that paring down is painful. Painful— because the heart can attach to the world. We burn with anger over seemingly-needless government restrictions or seemingly-needless protesting because ‘those people’ take worldly treasures away from me. We get upset about losing vacation because we set our hopes in finding peace and rest in luxury. We gripe and complain that a child cannot be recognized for achievements because we over-emphasize (and over-exalt) status. Trembling at the sight mortality means we lost sight of our triumphant Lord, who— as you heard two weeks ago— conquered death.
The pleasures and challenges in this world can blind us from our identity as children of God— children not investing in the passing pleasures of the world, but children who see God at the center of everything in life. If it feels as though you have suffered a loss of purpose, then today is the day to revisit what God has done for you.
God has not set you in this world to latch onto this world. He has redeemed you. He has paid the price to make you different. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. That puts worldly ambition into proper perspective, doesn’t it? God does not love you because you raised your kids to work hard, respect others, and stay out of jail. God does pardon guilt because you sit in a church building and put money in the offering plate and attend Bible class and volunteer. You will not go to heaven because you tried your hardest to live a good life, be a good person, and help others. Gold and silver are valuable, kindness is treasured, but it all stands empty before God. That way of living cannot buy forgiveness because forgiveness costs astronomically more.
God brushes every single distraction aside so that you (and I) can see the most priceless object in the history of universe: Jesus. What makes him so valuable is his unblemished life. Picture that for a moment. Not one trace of greed. Not one inkling of self-righteous pride. Not one harsh word or lustful thought. No unwillingness or doubt. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for 33-years Jesus lives absolutely flawless! That is the life God wants.
Jesus does not hoard what he has. He transfers that priceless life in your (and my) spiritually bankrupt account. Hearts blemished with a carnal love for stuff are covered over with Jesus’ unblemished blood. Every spot of pride washed away. His blood fills you up to stand spiritual rich before God.
This is who you are. Now. In this world. A priceless Life made you different. Life’s ultimate goal is not to store up worldly achievements. It is not to find peace in those achievements. You (and I) are different because A priceless Life gives you hope.
[Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Do you know what ‘hope’ is? If you think ‘hope’ means ‘something that might happen,’ then you are wrong. God does not use the word ‘hope’ to suggest an event that may or may not happen. Instead, ‘hope’ means ‘expecting fulfillment with confidence,’ as in, ‘trusting a future event that will occur.’
You know, checking over my calendar, no one has a birthday today— but one specific day does celebrate your birth. That special day might not be today, it’s off in the future— but it is coming. No doubt about it. Every year you fully expect with confidence to celebrate. Easter makes your future certain. God raised Jesus from the dead. For forty days, Jesus appeared to well over 500-believers (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). What do you think he talked about? How to manage your 401K? How to unleash fuller joy in a broken world? Of course not! Making earth into heaven was never the purpose for Jesus to come. Instead, Jesus rises to bring you the most awesome news ever: Because I live, you also will live (John 14:19). Your future is changed. Your attention is lifted up. A priceless life gives you hope— absolute certainty of life with God forever.
What makes this coronavirus unsettling is that it shoves death in your face. Either (1) a real threat of death hovered over your head (because you stand ‘at-risk’) or (2) you wrestled with the awful thought, ‘Maybe I’m not so invincible. Maybe this virus does gets me (or a family member).’ And you might not have been ready to deal with ‘death.’ Maybe you never thought this day would actually come. The simple fact that death even crept into focus will leave a mark. You will not return to a point in time when these events did not occur. From here you can only go forward. The question is: How will your life be different?
This pandemic has allowed much time for self-reflection. Fear preaches (quite loudly) that all the creature comforts of home cannot fill you with the peace you want. You might have scrounged for facemasks not out of caution, but because you were scared. You learned that death still frightens you. That you still have room to grow. Yes, you know you’re going to heaven, but maybe you do well to take God’s Word more to heart. You can cast all your anxieties at any time on God (1 Peter 5:7). You can read your Bible (or devotion) and know that God does not make empty promises, but rather gives guarantees, a solid rock on which to stand (Numbers 23:19).
Rest from the onslaught of weekend sports and school schedules and endless graduation festivities and work obligations demonstrates that you can still live without these events— and so can your family. There is more to life than worldly achievements. How you and your family are responding to these unsettling times can reveal where you might grow closer to God.
You (and I) can recapture our role as [grand]parents and connect our [grand]children closer to the promises of God. Faith in Jesus as Savior is the most priceless object in the world— and sharing that truth is the greatest investment you can ever make. Do not squander the time given now. Do not hope that your child might stumble into church one day. Do not think it is up to the Pastor alone to preach Jesus. Today is another day where you can take what is seen and heard and remind yourself (and others): You are a stranger here. Life does not depend on what you own. Life rests and finds peace in God’s forgiveness. That forgiveness comes through Jesus. A priceless Life gives you that hope.
God-willing, we will have another chance to return to our work and work responsibilities, appointments and meetings, errands and exercise, outings and dinner dates— all these fabulous blessings. You heard that right: blessings.
God peels away earthly distractions so that you gain clarity. He does not want you to lose sight of Easter. The priceless Life of Jesus made you different. Jesus is the only Way into heaven—and you benefit from that life. He exalted you into the family of God. As a result, His priceless Life gives you hope. When your world shakes and trembles, when so much seems lost, remember: You have lost nothing—because your hope is not anchored to this life. You are a Stranger Here, and a full-fledged citizen of God’s kingdom.
Hiroo Onoda was a second Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army. On December 26, 1944 he assumed his post in the Philippine mountains. His orders were simple: hinder American advancement by targeting airstrips and ports. Under no circumstances was he to surrender. Yet, American forces crept further and further inland, forcing Onoda deeper and deeper into the mountains. He carved out a new position and, all on his own, continued repelling police forces and local resistance. Onoda never surrendered. There was just one problem: the War was over. In fact, the War had been over for 29-years.
Can you imagine carrying on your life as though war still rages all around you, when in reality, it does not? Can you imagine living in constant fear of the unknown? …will the enemy overwhelm you? …will you live to see another day? Can you imagine the stress? …your responsibility of making snap decisions? …always standing alert for sudden danger? Can you imagine the sheer frustration? …why no one ever comes to help you? …why no one ever shares updates about the ‘big picture’ of the war effort? …why this war never ends? …is this war really worth fighting anymore? Hiroo Onoda lived in a completely unnecessary way. The War was over! He could enjoy peace and prosperity! The good news never sunk in.
The war is over! (And I’m not talking about World War II.) Jesus lives!— snapping the stranglehold of death. Jesus lives!— holding in his hands the spoils of new life. Easter blazoned an incredibly enormous change for life, but we can lose sight of the victory. We can live as though nothing changed. So, go back to the empty tomb. Peer inside. Listen to the angels. Recall the events. As you do, Easter Makes Life Make Sense. You Hear God’s purpose for Jesus and you can Apply the facts for life.
In Acts chapter two you find this smattering of people from all over the known world gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual thanksgiving festival. Not terribly spectacular, right? Except they gather fifty-days after Easter and still wait for God to send his Son into the world. They live completely oblivious to what Jesus already accomplished for them!
So, [the disciple] Peter stands up, raises his voice, and speaks loudly and clearly to them: Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man recommended to you… Well, that name rings a bell. Some watched this ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ teach; others heard the fantastic events attached to this Man. Yet, what the crowds associate most with the [the name] ‘Jesus’ is ‘crucified,’ ‘died,’ ‘buried.’ Just another man who met his end and can be visited in the cemetery. Their attentions have moved on from his ministry!
Peter says, ‘Stop! Think back to Jesus. [He] was a man recommended to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know. Do not overlook the obvious: miracles, wonders and signs are visible, you see those sights with the eye. What is seen does not require interpretation. Either you blow out the birthday candles or do not. Either you drive the car or not. Either you get up from the chair or not. You cannot debate if an action happened or not. Many eyes saw mighty acts. Jesus strengthens the crippled, cures the diseased, multiplies food, and raises the dead. No one could debate if those acts happened or not. On top of that, no one could deny these mighty acts surpassed human ability. The point is this: You cannot simply disregard what is seen. Miracles make you wonder (1) who this Man is and (2) for what reason he does these things. Peter says these signs point to something definite: Jesus is recommended by God, which means, God sent Jesus for a specific purpose. You cannot dismiss the One God sent without consequence. You would be opposing God.
But that is precisely what happened! This man, who was handed over by God’s set plan and foreknowledge, you killed by having lawless men nail him to a cross. Some of those standing in front Peter were the ones who chanted: ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ (Luke 23:20-21) Others gave silent approval as they watched the Romans nail Jesus to the cross. Whatever the participation this much clear: The crowds rejected the only Savior God sent. They completely ignored God’s purpose for Jesus.
In spite of rejection 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. God Almighty, the One who knows all things, also knew that Jesus would die. After all, this is the purpose for Christmas, right? The sinless Son of God is delivered to the world. This is the purpose for Jesus’ circumcision and baptism, right? He shoulders the responsibility of obeying God’s commandments (Galatians 4:4-5). God marks Jesus as his sacrificial Lamb. A Lamb not for some, but for the whole world. A Lamb needed because something is morally and mortally wrong with us. A Lamb God sends for a purpose: to save us!
One thousand years before Easter Sunday King David revealed God’s purpose for Jesus. He said: I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon my life to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. Yet, David is not describing himself. That much Peter makes clear. Gentlemen, brothers, I can speak confidently to you about the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day… For all his accomplishments and success, David still could not grasp victory over death. He died— and his tomb remains. Since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one of his descendants on his throne [that is, Jesus], he saw what was coming and spoke about the resurrection of Christ, saying that he was neither abandoned to the grave nor did his flesh see decay.
These many Jews gathering in Jerusalem acted as though Jesus the Nazarene impacted their lives in no way! That Jesus’ ministry flamed out and could be forgotten. Friends, Hear God’s purpose for Jesus. Go back to the empty tomb. Peer inside. Listen to the angels. Recall the events. Apply the facts for life.
You know, throughout this entire pandemic one phrase keeps repeating like a broken record. A phrase smeared on commercials, the media, and governor reports. The phrase? ‘We’ll get through this.’ Says who? Have you thought about that? Who can make good on that promise: ‘We’ll get through this’? We have no guarantee that we will [automatically] conquer this virus. Yes, we hear terrific news that the [virus] curve is flattening (and slowing), but we have no guarantee that a second “wave” does not strike. We have no guarantee that a new disease does not erupt next year. We have no guarantee that the economy instantly recovers or that grocery store shelves are always stocked or the virus just fizzles out. Yes, it stands highly likely the virus goes away— but because of what reason? Because human beings are so smart and we will triumph by our own ability? (We were the ones who could not prevent this whole mess in the first place!) You see, the human heart places an incredible amount of trust in its own abilities. It grows over-confident in what it can manage and control that it thrusts God off the side!
That does not bring any peace, does it? Thoughts of death overwhelm us because you (and I) cannot stop life from ending. Panicked hysteria ripples through your body (and mine) because we cannot make all things work for our good. Feelings of despair keep us awake at night because cling to our own behavior— our helpful actions or kind generosity, thinking this is what God wants from us. Self-reliance treats Jesus as some impotent man who lived, died, and remains dead. Completely unable to help you! That Easter is this onetime celebration stuck in the past. That it remains up to you to obtain real peace.
That kind of living fails to apply Easter to life. Hiroo Onoda hid in the mountains, lived off the land, and fought locals. He was living a war that had been over for decades! He was living in one way of life that was completely unnecessary. He did receive whispers of a new change of life. General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Fourteenth Area Army dropped leaflets announcing Japan’s surrender, but Onoda did not believe the news. His own family dropped pictures from the sky, pleading for his return, but he thought it was a trick. Finally, his commanding officer, Yoshimi Taniguchi, flew to the mountains and ordered Onoda to surrender. He did. Onoda could finally live under the results of peace that had already been in place for 29-years.
Peter shares God’s declaration peace so that you may live under the completed work for the risen and living Christ! This Jesus is the one God has raised up. We are all witnesses of that. The miracles, wonders, and signs testify that Jesus is the God-approved Son sent for the world. Sent to live in your place (and mine). Sent to carry our fears. Sent to confront our self-reliance. Sent to give us new life. Never once does Jesus question God’s care for him. Even has he hangs on the cross, he commits his life into hands of heavenly Father because he trusts with this unshakable trust that he will not see decay. His body will not lay in a tomb and get stinky and break down. He knows the Father would restore his perfect life as promised— and the Father does!
Apply the facts of the resurrection to life! Jesus has won the victory!— and you get to live under the results. Not cowering in fear over guilt, but certain of God’s forgiveness. Not facing conflict alone, but relying on a God who watches, guards, protects, and keeps you in his hands. Never afraid to confront death alone, but certain that God will open your grave and you will see his face.
The war is over! Jesus lives!— snapping the stranglehold of death. Jesus lives!— holding in his hands the spoils of new life. Easter blazoned an incredibly enormous change for life, a change that remains in effect today.
Easter will continue getting further and further behind us. Yet, go back to the empty tomb. Peer inside. Listen to the angels. Recall the events. Hear God’s purpose for Jesus. The Man crucified now lives! Lives to brings you peace in this life and the life to come now and always. Apply the facts for life. Open your eyes to results Christ wins for you. Easter Makes Life Make Sense.
Do you feel like rejoicing and being glad today? It’s Easter Sunday, but it really does not feel like it, does it? At this moment, you are confined inside, either reading these words off a couple pieces of paper or watching service on a screen. (Probably not your normal Easter habit.) You do not sit in sanctuary beautifully adorned with fragrant lilies and blazing white linens. You cannot feel the piano pound its sweet songs. You probably are not dressed in your snazziest, prettiest, newest outfits. You will not enjoy the classic Easter brunch at church with all those familiar faces and glowing conversations. You will not rejoice with your friends in the presence of your God. The celebration just seems to lack fullness, doesn’t it?
Then, you have those timeless traditions that always happened after worship. Easter dinner with family. Easter egg hunts. Easter basket presents. Those festivities will not take place. This year is different. Instead of creating light-hearted memories of happiness, you may just feel without cheer.
So much has been taken away so quickly. Over the course of just one month, we have gone from no Irish Parade to cancelled sports to cancelled school days to cancelled schoolyear to limited gatherings to no gatherings to no going out (unless necessary) to wiping down your groceries and wearing a facemask. That’s a lot to process in a very short amount of time. All this massive adjustment— on top of everything else you already had going on. The strained relationship. The financial stress and retirement planning. The upcoming wedding. The graduation festivities. Moving out on your own and the empty nesting. The first Easter without a loved one. Yes, there will be brighter days in the future, happier days, days that present a reason to rejoice and be glad, but maybe just not today. To rejoice and be glad feels too difficult when there are so many challenges in the world at this moment.
Much like that first Easter, right? You do not see Mary Magdalene and the other women skipping on over to the tomb. No one relishes the fresh morning dew and fragrant lilies. No singing. No brunch. No cheer. That first Easter is dominated by loss. So much has been taken away so quickly.
One sight changes everything: Jesus lives! Just like that, joy! Excitement! Worship! Still, the world in which those women and disciples find themselves has not changed one bit. Jesus lives!— and Jewish leaders still want Christianity snuffed out. Jesus lives!— and the Romans will do anything just to stop hearing the name ‘Jesus’ (Matthew 27:62-66). Jesus lives!— and life is still threatened (John 20:19). That first Easter audience does not rejoice and live glad because their every single struggle suddenly vanishes. They rejoice and are glad because Easter changes the very foundation of life. Despair No More! The Lord lifts you up from depths of death. The Lord anchors you to his salvation.
One man experiences those words firsthand. Today, Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus Christ breaks out of the prison-hold of death, we focus on Jonah. You probably best know him as the guy swallowed by a great fish. Remember how he gets into that situation?
God hand-selected Jonah for a special mission: ‘Preach against the great city of Nineveh so that they might turn to me’ (Jonah 1:1-2).That’s a problem. Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria, and Assyria is the capital enemy of Israel! In no way whatsoever would Jonah ever want to help enemy number one. The mission is so repulsive that Jonah literally runs away from God. Instead of heading east to Assyria, he boards a ship sailing due west, travelling in the complete opposite direction. Jonah has absolutely no desire to set his mind on the things of God. He acts only to satisfy self-interest.
For a moment, Jonah gets what he wants! Until a storm rips away his control. Billowing waves heave, rain pelts, whipping winds gust. The sailors strain for shore, but make absolutely no headway. They dump heavy cargo, but the swells swamp the ship. Certain death confronts the crew. Jonah finally admits: ‘I am running away from the God of heaven, who made the [now-storming] sea and the land… Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm.’ … Then the sailors took Jonah and threw him overboard (1:9-15).
How does Jonah find himself inside a fish? He disobeyed God. God spoke and Jonah literally ran away. That behavior comes from a rebellious heart. Spiritually speaking, Jonah did not want to hear God. He did not want to obey God. He wants God gone. So God grants his wish. Jonah is banished from God’s sight! He plunges into the heart of the sea, sinking lower and lower, the sheer weight of water presses down on him, squeezing him tight, crushing him. His fate is sealed: He would sink into the open jaws of his grave.
That’s nothing to rejoice about, is it? Death is no friend. Perhaps that truth has taken on fuller meaning. This coronavirus puts people at risk of death. There remains a possibility that you can infect loved ones with a life-threatening illness. There remains a possibility that you yourself could become sick and even die. Today’s medical technology has made incredible, but doctors still cannot guarantee to automatically save life. That’s unsettling. At this moment in time you (and I) are getting a close-up view of the grave.
What makes it even more unsettling is that all the comforts which we considered so important are not delivering us. (1) How often sports took priority over Sunday worship. Cheering on a child from the sideline or letting your mind drift onto the big game while at church. Our hearts considered a simple score so important that it attaches value to that activity. (2) How often jam-packed schedules shove time with God (either in prayer or devotion) off to the side! Your prayer-life shriveled up because the television show came first. Your children do not know what happens when a person dies because you did not think it important to teach them. (3) How often self-worth is invested in money and fading milestones. I mean, just one month ago you could list what you considered important, but the whole list is almost wiped out. All those things our hearts consider so important that it sacrificed God— they’re all gone and you (and I) are still here. What good do those priorities serve you now?
Is it any wonder you witness fear and hysteria and panic? Run from God and face eternal death alone.
If you find it difficult to rejoice and be glad this morning, then reset your focus. Listen to Jonah speak: To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. Jonah’s actions tossed him into death, but God, in his infinite mercy did not let Jonah get what he deserved. Instead, the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights (1:17).
Do you realize from where Jonah prays? Inside the fish! He does not mourn, he gives thanks. The Lord lifts him up from depths of death. He has done the same for you!
Jesus has stepped into Jonah’s life, into your life (and mine). He is sent to preach to the world— including to those who hate him and would kill. He is tempted to cherish the treasures of this world, to elevate wealth and status and power. He sees disease and deformity and death. Never does he run away from God. Instead, he comes to do his will (Hebrews 10:5-7).
God’s will set Jesus on the Good Friday cross. There, Jesus marches after your heart that had wandered into death, after my heart that had wandered. He sinks into the pit of death. His life stops. God makes Jesus pay for our despair. Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man [was] three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
Early Sunday morning, the stone rolls away from the tomb and out steps Jesus— fully alive! He holds your life brought back from death. ‘Because I live,’ he says, ‘you also will live’ (John 14:19).
Despair No More! The empty tomb means the Lord lifts you up from depths of death. Christ has risen! Risen to bring us from death to life! With that good news the Lord anchors you to his salvation.
That word ‘salvation’ means ‘deliverance.’ When applied to God it describes the only deliverance that truly matters (or the best deliverance there is): ‘deliverance from death in hell.’ When you (and I) hear: ‘The Lord anchors you to his salvation,’ it means, God ‘delivers you from death in hell.’
This where you stand today, you stand delivered from death in hell. That’s why Jonah sings: But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation [eternal deliverance] comes from the Lord.
Does it feel like it? Christ rose, but the world is far from perfect. You hear about disease and sickness, death and despair. Even in the past, you heard war and unrest, financial collapse and frayed relationships. Christ rose, but struggles did not suddenly vanish. Not to mention all the personal challenges you face. The upcoming wedding. Moving out on your own and the empty nesting. The first Easter without a loved one. Christ rose, but these significant milestones still exist.
So does Easter. The fact that Jesus leaves his tomb means your guilt before God has been wiped away (Romans 4:25). A room is prepared for you in heaven (John 14:2-3). At the right time, God’s angels will carry you to your heavenly home (Luke 16:22). Your future changed. Christ rose and that means you will live forever on high.
That reality is fixed. Firm. Steady. Constant. It never changes. The Lord anchors you to his salvation (his saving work). That means, even in tears you have a firm footing. Your husband who died trusting in Jesus as Savior spends this Easter with his triumphant Lord. One day you will too will gather around the triumphant Savior! Not just that, nothing will stop Jesus from raising you (and me) from the dead. Jesus himself makes clear: A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out… those who have done evil will rise to be condemned… and those who have done good [those who believe] will rise to live (John 5:28-29).
The Lord anchors you to his salvation (his saving work). That means, even when all these activities are stripped away, you really have lost nothing. Parents, God has handed you the opportunity to teach your children about the God who holds the keys of life! No child fears knowing that Jesus will bring them to heaven. Even with older children you can connect the victory of life more closely to today’s settings. Much is taken away, but that allows you (and me) to focus on what is truly important in this world. Prioritizing life with God!
The Lord anchors you to his salvation (his saving work). That means, you hold open access to approach the Almighty for anything, anytime. The God who gave his very own Son into death for our eternal benefit, why would stop caring about you now? I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). Despair No More! ‘The Lord anchors you to his salvation.’
Just like that, joy! Excitement! Worship! Still, the world in which generations of those celebrating Easter has not changed one bit. Jesus lives!— and you still encounter challenges. Jesus lives!— and you still confront death. Jesus.’ Jesus lives!— and life is still threatened. We do not rejoice and live glad because every single struggle suddenly vanishes. We rejoice and are glad because Christ defeated every single fear, every single enemy once and for all time. He hands you that victory! Despair No More! The Lord lifts you up from depths of death. The Lord anchors you to his salvation.
Recent studies suggest an anti-malarial drug called ‘chloroquine’ may possibly fight the coronavirus. Disclaimer: Much testing remains to be done. Still, some claim this medicine promises good.
That simple recommendation was good enough for an Arizona man and his wife. They already had available some chloroquine tablets. So, they mixed it with some soda and drank it. Within 20-minutes both fell terribly ill. By the time the husband reached the hospital he was dead. The wife arrived in critical condition, but appears on track to a full recovery. The recommendation also spread in Nigeria. Soon, hospitals experienced an increase in chloroquine poisonings. The medicine was good, but what went wrong?
There remains a debate about chloroquine’s effectiveness against coronavirus. All debating aside, the harm still could have been prevented. On the pill bottle is a warning label. That warning label clearly reads: ‘Use only as directed.’
Those who created the drug have specific instructions for its use. Some chose to ignore those instructions. As result, the abuse of the medication killed. The Arizona couple actually self-medicated with a fish tank cleaner that contained chloroquine. (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/arizona-man-dies-chloroquine-trump-coronavirus-advice.html) Several Nigerians became severely ill after ‘mass consumption’ of the drug. (https://nypost.com/2020/03/22/nigeria-reports-poisonings-from-possible-coronavirus-drug-chloroquine/) Chloroquine promises good. But consume it for the wrong purpose, in the wrong manner and you do not get better. You get harmed.
During this season of Lent you (and I) have met opponents of truth. People like Caiaphas. Pilate’s wife. The Jewish Sanhedrin. Judas Iscariot. Pilate’s soldiers. Crowds at the cross. All confront undeniable truth. They recognize Jesus fits the mold of Old Testament prophecies. Strange dreams and mighty miracles demonstrate might. His moral purity stands out against the backdrop of shady courtrooms. The truth is clear: Jesus is the Son of God and he carries divine authority.
Still, a very powerful, very personal foe challenges that truth: our own human Reason. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gives clear instructions and a clear purpose for his special Supper. Yet, human Reason loves changing those instructions with some very sly words: ‘It Is the Lord’s Table.’
That is a true statement. ‘The Lord’s Table’ is another name for the Lord’s Supper. Yet, study the phrase a little closer. The use of that name ‘Lord’ tells you something about the ‘table’ (or the ‘supper’). It belongs to Jesus, it’s his possession. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He set it up. He starts it.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus reclines at a table in an upper room, celebrating the annual Passover festival. His disciples also recline around the table. Before them sits bitter herbs, bread made without yeast, wine, and roasted lamb. This meal repeated how God rescued Old Testament Israel from physical slavery in Egypt and would soon rescue them from spiritual slavery.
Central to the celebration is the Passover lamb. The Israelites slaughtered the lamb and smeared its blood over the doorframe of their houses. That night God would ‘pass over’ Egypt. Death struck every house without the blood. Judgment ‘passed over’ the homes covered in blood. On Maundy Thursday Jesus makes clear: He is the Passover Lamb (read John 1:29; Hebrews 9:26-28). In a matter of hours he would be slaughtered and his blood used to cover the doorframes of our hearts— and God’s divine judgment would ‘pass over’ us.
The ‘old’ Passover reached fulfillment. It always pointed to Jesus. Now a ‘new’ covenant, a new promise takes effect. The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
The Lord sets his table. He instructs how his body and blood come to you together with the bread and the wine. He attaches forgiveness of sins and life in his supper. ‘It Is the Lord’s Table.’
A congregation in Corinth ignored that truth. You see, when the congregation came together for worship, they quickly broke into groups. There was a group of the rich and influential, a group of the elderly and the forgettable, another group of the poor and scruffy. Really, the congregation played favorites. During worship the congregation celebrated ‘love feasts’ (much like today’s potlucks). Bonds of fellowship could tighten. Instead, the influential ate most of the food, the rich got drunk, and the forgettables were forgotten. That carried into celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Instead of a congregation already bound to Christ binding closer with each other, they catered to favorite groups. So when they knelt at the Lord’s Table, they did not receive the forgiveness Jesus offers. (1 Corinthians 11:20-21) They had changed Jesus’ instructions.
The instructions are clear: [W]henever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Scripture makes clear that the Lord’s Supper exists for a reason. You proclaim that (1) you need a Savior and (2) you have a Savior.
Human Reason brushes that instruction aside and then creates its own views of the Lord’s Supper. [It claims:] That this is an action you perform to please God; by receiving the Lord’s Supper, you earn God’s favor. That the Lord’s Table is simply an outward show that all humanity really believes the same thing; God never intended offering spiritual benefits. That the bread and the wine are merely symbols; Jesus does not attach his body and blood. Human Reason does not listen to God. Instead, it wants God to listen to ‘you.’ Human Reason claims that you can treat the Lord’s Supper however you wish.
Does it matter how you use that drug chloroquine? Can you self-medicate by the handful? What about consuming chloroquine for fish? Does that matter? Of course it does! Pharmacists own the drug. They give clear instructions for your benefit. Ignore those instructions and something happens: You invite harm!
Jesus attaches a warning to his Supper: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
It Is the Lord’s Table, that is, the Lord owns it. If our own Reason feels privileged to approach the Lord’s Table in a careless manner, you will not receive blessing. You receive God’s judgment. It Is the Lord’s Table and the Lord, who owns it, holds the unworthy guilty
That’s why Jesus attaches instructions. He does not want anyone to fall under judgment. The intention for the Lord’s Supper is blessing. It Is the Lord’s Table and the Lord makes clear: He pardons those examined.
So Jesus instructs: A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. There, at the Lord’s Table, you proclaim the Lord’s death. So, you examine yourself, either privately in your mind or privately with the pastor.
Before receiving the Lord’s Supper, God wants you to know why you need it. (1) Ask yourself: ‘Am I sorry for my sins?’ The Ten Commandments God carved into stone and etched into our hearts lay bare his expectations. Love him with all our heart and love others as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Have you done that? Have you shown respect to authority? Have you loved God that you stood up for what is right without ever regretting that you did? Have you taken words and actions in the kindest possible way? Have you obeyed God always? His Commandments soften the heart to see its brokenness and need for a Savior.
When you stand at the Lord’s Table, (2) ask yourself: ‘What am I receiving?’ Jesus clearly says that his body and blood are truly present in the Lord’s Supper. ‘Take and eat; this is my body… Take and drink, this is my blood’ (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:29). He never uses the word ‘symbolizes.’ He simply tells you (and me) that in a supernatural way he gives his body with the bread and his blood with the wine.
Human Reason challenges that truth. It claims that Jesus cannot give his body and blood because it just does not make sense. Therefore, Jesus cannot being serious. (Reason will even go so far as to Jesus’ words and meaning.)
Yet, Jesus is serious. He is serious when allows thorns to pierce his head, nails to pierce his hands and feet, a Roman spear to pierce his side. He is serious when his lifeblood spills from his veins and life departs from his body. Jesus is serious about bringing you (and me) into a state of peace with God that he gives his body and blood into our death, our punishment.
(3) Ask yourself: ‘Why do I receive this?’ Kneeling at the Lord’s Table is not some great act you do to please God. Instead, God comes to you. Your Lord comes to you with his body and blood together with the bread and the wine to personally assure you that you are pardoned. You stand at peace with God. Eternal life is yours.
As you depart, (4) finally ask: ‘What impact does this leave on me?’ Jesus has dropped your crimes! No longer do I stand condemned for pride. If pride condemned me, then why would I want to return to it? Instead, I live different, I live opposite! Love that pardons an eternal debt leaves an impact. Forgiven much, we do not seek to sin much. Instead forgiven much we live as those forgiven—with joy, peace, and a desire to keep taking God’s Word to heart. It Is the Lord’s Table. There, The Lord pardons those examined.
Human Reason has always claimed a right to change the things of God. Even when Jesus gives clear instructions for his table, Reason tries changing those intentions for its own personal use. Regardless of what the heart wants, Jesus’ words stand firm. Receive the Lord’s Supper for the wrong purpose, in the wrong manner and you do not get better. You get harmed. The Lord holds the unworthy guilty.
That is what you (and I) once were: Unworthy. Jesus gave his life once for all time to pardon our crimes. He still comes to you in a special way with that special pardon for your benefit, to strengthen your faith, to equip you for a God-pleasing life. ‘It Is the Lord’s Table.’ Not mine to change as I see fit. The Supper belongs to the Lord. Receive the benefits as Jesus intends. The Lord pardons the examined.
The elevator doors whoosh open. Stephanie looks out, but this is not her floor. She steps back in and scoots off to the side as this droopy-faced, wrinkly seventy-something-year-old man enters. The doors slide shut and up they go.
The man looked a little strange. His obviously-dyed-black hair reached his shirt collar. (Not really the haircut for older men.) Speaking of which, a flashy sport coat covered a plain black t-shirt. His slim-cut jeans made his legs look like wrapped sausages. This man visibly carried decades life experience. Soon, those elevator doors opened again. Stephanie reached her floor and stepped out. Elevator doors shut and up went that man.
A co-worker watched Stephanie step out. Eyes bugged. Mouth gaping open. ‘Do you know who was in the elevator with you?’ ‘No.’ ‘That was Mick Jagger! You rode the elevator alone with Mick Jagger!’
Stephanie had no idea she stood right beside Mick Jagger. He wore nothing to suggest that he was the lead singer of the Rolling Stones. No paparazzi crowded the elevator, no one even took pictures with the guy! In fact, he was not even with his manager or inner circle. Just him alone tending to some business. Stephanie missed out on an awesome opportunity to know him better. She did not see the man behind the appearance.
Today is Palm Sunday, which means, we are tracing the final days leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. He enters Jerusalem and spends all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at the temple, and if not there, then at the house of his friends, Mary and Martha (Mark 11:11). He uses these final hours teaching his disciples, increasing their knowledge of his saving plan, and bolstering confidence as they take the Word to heart. Because the week ahead will be tough. You may feel emotionally (and physically) drained from all this commotion about a virus. The disciples will feel even worse. Maundy Thursday will come, and after celebrating the Passover, an armed mob will snatch Jesus away. By Friday, they will either see their naked friend dying on a cross or they will hear of his demise. So, today, Palm Sunday, prepares them and us for what lies ahead. Do not lose of sight of your Savior—who he is and what he comes to do. Behold, Your King Comes to You! He rides with peace and He brings deliverance.
The gospel of Matthew records the events of that triumphant day. Starting at chapter 21, verse one, it reads: As [Jesus and his disciples] approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
Jesus gives instructions, yes, but do you see what he just did? He plainly tells the disciples what lies ahead! Understand, Jesus had not traveled on ahead, cased the place, and now returns with a report. He gives a glimpse of his divine power. Remember, Jesus is not merely a man; he is also true God. As God, he holds the power to heal, control nature, read hearts, and reveal thoughts and the future. Simply put, as God, Jesus knows all things happening in all places at all times. Giving instructions like he does, provides a reminder of who he truly is. The One preparing to enter Jerusalem is God himself! (Keep that in mind as you hear Matthew continue his account.)
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet [Zechariah]: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
Is that how you picture the majestic grandeur of kingly procession? Stand on main street— and here comes Queen Elizabeth. Hunched over on a grayish, fuzzy-haired, short donkey, hooves clippity-cloppiting down Hamburger Hill. No jeweled crown or royal gown. Some dash out the front doors and huddle around her; others zip by her running errands, driving home. Would you expect this kind of royal arrival? Of course not! Queen Elizabeth plans a trip to Clare, Michigan, and you have long lines of glistening motorcades and swarming security. Crowds pack the streets; helicopters hover overhead. If you even get to see the queen, gems and gold twinkle off her manicured appearance.
That’s what you expect: dominance, power, grandeur. But this? Gentle? Humble? Riding a donkey? Him approaching you, not you approaching him? What king acts like this? ...Honestly? The King we need.
Remember, Jesus prods the heart with a reminder: He is God. As God, he knows all things. That means, he knows that you (and I) do not always take his Word so seriously.
Oh yes, we might try to cover that fact up, but Jesus sees right through the charade. He knows how the heart places high value on status. When you seek self-praise because of your [grand]child’s achievements. When you feel powerful because of the number attached to your bank account. When you gloat, thinking your own might keeps you safe. He knows the pleasures your heart secretly craves. The passionate thrills of intimately confiding in someone not your spouse. The bloodthirsty revenge that seeks to humiliate others and exalt yourself. The never-ending greed that thinks this one object will finally satisfy to the point of never needing ever again! Jesus knows when and where and how often the heart throws rocks at his commands, plugs its ears to his Word, and spits at his place in your life (and mine).
It’s a wonder Jesus that does not storm into Jerusalem as the King he truly is. That he does not roar down main street riding a thunderstorm as his chariot. That legions of angels do not blast their trumpets and a gilded throne does not thump down. If Jesus arrives as God Almighty, then who can stand?!
Instead, Your King Comes to You. Catch that? You make appointments to meet with the queen or the President, but Jesus comes to you.
What sight to behold! Jesus enters Jerusalem not as mighty warrior-King, but a King going to work. A donkey is a beast of burden, a work-animal. Jesus does not even ride a grown animal, he rides its young, never-before worked child. He rides something lower than a low-class work-animal. He does not arrive to thump down divine authority. Your King comes to go to work. He shoulders the commandments of God we are to keep. Never once griping that he deserves better honor and respect. Never once grabbing at gold and crowns. Never once considering about destroying the arrogant leaders. He sets himself under God’s plan to be our Savior. Behold, Your King Comes to You! He rides with peace so that he can bring deliverance
Matthew continues telling the day’s events. The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
‘Hosanna’ is a Hebrew word. It means ‘save us, please!’ That choral song comes from Psalm 118:25-26: O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Lord has delivered us, hasn’t he? Jesus fully knows what to expect in Jerusalem. In fact, three times he reveals the future [again] for his disciples: We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18-19).
Jesus knows Jerusalem’s powerful religious leaders approved his arrest (John 11:57). He knows many want him dead. He knows these cheering crowds will soon embrace a new chant: ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ (Matthew 27:22-23) Still, Jesus rides towards the cross, knowing full well that instrument of torture will tear his life away— but not without his permission first.
Mark this well: Jesus rides into the hands of death; he puts himself there. He never loses control. The One who comes from King David’s family tree is the One God appointed to establish an eternal kingdom. Jesus has every intention doing just that.
When we lived separated from Jesus, stuck in a kingdom that only led to death, Jesus saved us. With his spiritually rich life, he marches into death. He set down his perfect obedience to every commandment in our spiritual column. He scrubs away our rebellious attitudes. He trims away the passing pleasures of this life. He covers over filth with royal robes. When he rises from death, he sets a crown on your head, marking you as a citizen of his kingdom. Hosanna! Save us, please! And Jesus has. Behold, Your King Comes to You to bring deliverance.
Your King Still Comes to You, still bringing deliverance. Not that you ever lost it, but that he reminds of your membership in his kingdom. He reminds you that you have been delivered from death, from the results of sin, from the power of the devil. This is where you now stand: in a column marked: ‘Delivered.’
To drive that point home we sing those words: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Our hymnal puts those words to song and we sing them right before receiving the Lord’s Supper.
The King sets you at his royal table. There, he gives you his body and blood together with the bread and wine. He make a royal announcement: ‘My life given and shed to benefit your life.’ He repeats the end of hostilities between us and God. He lets us depart with a word of peace: ‘Your sins are forgiven. You are at peace with God.’ Your King Comes to You, still, in the Lord’s Supper, bringing his deliverance.
How that impacts life! Jesus still knows all things. He knows our secret regrets. He knows the gnawing shame. He knows the feelings of unworthiness. He knows how desperately we want the past to remain hidden from. him. He knows how we scramble to find something good in ourselves. Still, Your King Comes to You with a word of peace: ‘That’s forgiven. I see it all, I know it all, it’s forgiven!’ The next time we join in singing those words, envision Your King Come to You, bringing his deliverance.
Do not lose of sight of your Savior— who he is and what he comes to do. Do not let the world’s troubles cloud out the majesty your Jesus holds. Do not let sin shame you into despair.
Behold, Your King Comes to You! He rides with peace and He brings deliverance.
‘Do not test my patience!’ That warning hissed out of the snapping turtle’s gaping jaws. Keep stretching out your hand and feel the vice-grip bite.
‘Do not test my patience!’ Mom’s warning cut through children’s laughter. If the bedroom remains a mess, then expect no more television (and gaming) privileges.
‘Do not test my patience!’ The deputy’s cruiser perched in the highway median. Race over the speed limit and the strong arm of the law will stop you.
‘Do not test my patience!’ That warning is a dance of sorts, isn’t it? One side claims a right to step beyond set expectations without consequences. The other side can actually make threats happen. One side stands weak, the other holds power. So out comes the warning: ‘Do not test my patience!’ Do not try determining how long I will wait before I make my words a reality. Still, the powerless dare the powerful.
Throughout our midweek services we meet opponents of truth. Each adversary confronts undeniable truth, and still challenges supreme power. Proud hearts completely disregard the consequences that comes from the Powerful One. Instead, the arrogant dare God to take action: ‘He Saved Others, but Cannot Save Himself!’
At this moment, Jesus really does look quite powerless. Roman soldiers had forced their will on Jesus. Powerful hands pin down arms and legs as a hammer drives nails through hands and feet. Once finished, strong men pull on ropes, lifting the cross into place. Satisfied, they take a seat and start parceling out his clothing while also supervising the execution (Matthew 27:35-36). The sight is pretty clear: Jesus is not leaving alive. These mighty men have the power to make sure that happens. They feel confident in the control they have.
Those passing by the cross also feel pretty bold. They spit out insults, saying whatever they want without fear of repercussion. I mean, Jesus’ hand is nailed down; he will not you pop in the mouth. Jesus could rain down insults, but bystanders are not the ones dying; they are free to go home. They can throw stuff at Jesus and he cannot chase them. The One who claimed the ability to reconstruct the temple in three days does not look to have the power to come down from the cross (27:39-40).
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!” He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
What more proof do they need? The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders watched Jesus straighten out a man’s shriveled, crippled hand (Mark 3:1). A blind man now cured once stood in front of them. He does not know how his eyes work now, but he does know that Jesus fixed them; he keeps pointing these leaders at Jesus (John 9). Lazarus, dead for three days, wrapped in linens, most likely stinky by now, walks out of his tomb alive! (John 11:38-44) The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders have witnessed this sheer power with their own eyes!
The truth smacks them in the face: Jesus has saved others! He has restored life and limb— and if he can do that, then Jesus can come down from the cross! If can leave the cross, then he is no mere mortal. Jesus is who he claims to be: Jesus is God.
As God, that ranks Jesus over humanity and sets every heart under his expectations. In spite of clear truth, mockers invite God’s judgment. They confront God’s infinite power and eternal presence and still dare him to execute his threats, to keep his Word. The smug little heart within taunts, ‘Prove it. I dare you.’
That attitude arrogantly believes that Jesus is this powerless wimp. That we mere mortals may freely break God’s commandments without any consequence. That God will not will punish us, he will not send us to hell. He’s bluffing. He will not do that.
That conclusion is based on what? Because those miracles do demonstrate Jesus’ power and Jesus does fit the description of God’s long-promised Son. The sinful heart does not submit to God. It will not accept God’s authority until God proves power by taking action. Sin dares God to come down from heaven and stop it.
What if Jesus did what the crowds dared? Nails pop out, ropes slip off, he steps down and stands before them? Be sure, Jesus could have come down from the cross. That action would prove him to be God— quite undeniably at that. Then what kind of Savior would wicked people meet? Not a Savior, but a wrathful Judge.
That is the reason Jesus remains on the cross. Mockers invite God’s judgment, but The Savior holds back God’s judgment. He Saved Others because He Did not Save Himself.
Yes, Jesus looks completely powerless. It appears the Romans can outmuscle him, that bystanders get away with insults, and religious leaders can twist God’s teachings without problem. Yet, look at the cross again. Jesus reveals real power in a different way, a way that even today’s society considers weak and helpless. God had every reason to step foot on Calvary and rain down judgment from on high. To silence every boastful mouth, to crush every proud heart. God does unleash his wrath, but it never touches you. It strikes Jesus instead. The Savior holds back God’s judgment.
God appointed him for this task. Remember those prophecies? The religious leaders did not. The prophet Isaiah said: 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. 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 (Isaiah 53:4-6). Jesus puts God’s Word into action— even when that Word demands his death. So, the King of Israel hangs. He hangs from the cross as the Savior God sent—and what Savior we have!
God is pleased with his life. He is pleased that Jesus never dared God to take action, but rather set himself under God’s commandments. He is pleased that Jesus never questioned God’s threats, but rather obeyed out of sheer love. He is pleased that Jesus never challenged God’s love for him, but rather considered each promise as good as kept. Jesus absorbs the full brunt of God’s fiery wrath, enduring the punishment we brought upon ourselves and paying it off in full. He Saved You by not Saving Himself. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Now risen and reigning in heaven, The Savior holds back God’s judgment. The last book of Scripture [Revelation] points ahead to Jesus’ final return. It does not describe Jesus as a fragile, forgettable baby or some nomadic carpenter. This is what it has to say: Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him (Revelation 1:7). All those who questioned his might will see it. Those who mocked his divinity will stand before it. Those who killed God out of life will not escape him. They will eternally regret their mockery.
Yet, for you this is a day of joyous relief. Like a seawall holding back crashing waves, the Savior holds back God’s judgment. The Father’s fiery eyes studies you and finds… nothing. No arrogant heart. No proud taunt. No daring God to strike. What the Father finds is the cross of Christ on your heart. He finds that Jesus has removed all boastful taunts— never to be seen again, never to be mentioned (or brought up) ever again. The Savior holds back God’s judgment forever.
For the past six Wednesdays we have met opponents of truth. Caiaphas. Pilate’s wife. The Jewish Sanhedrin. Judas Iscariot. Pilate’s soldiers. Crowds at the cross. All confront the undeniable truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Scripture makes it abundantly clear! In stubborn unbelief each adversary dares God to prove his might. He will.
He will punish every mocker who invites his judgment— but not you. This is the reason Jesus remains on the cross. The Savior holds back God’s judgment. He stands between us and God, absorbing our consequences and forming peace between us and God. Yes, Jesus could have saved himself, but in mercy chooses to save you (and me). He Saved You by not Saving Himself.
Finish the sentence: When [the month of] May starts, I expect to find people doing (fill in the blank). How do you think your life and the life of others will look? …where are they going? …what are they doing? …what occupies them? Do you have an answer?
Honestly, I have trouble even guessing. If you are like me, you just do not know what the future holds. I do not know if school be in session or not. I do not know when we will lift up hearts and voices together in this sanctuary. I do not know if Memorial Day weekend will bring hordes of Downstaters or if the city will be quiet. At this moment the future lies unknown.
That reality brings a wide range of emotions. Hope that illness could be gone, but fear that illness might linger. Excitement for school summer break, but worry that classes will drag into summer. The thrill of summer vacation, but the dread that there might be no getaway. No trips to Grand Hotels or beaches or property or campgrounds. No county fair or street fair. Cautious optimism quickly gives way to anxiety. That’s physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Some days you just feel like crashing to your knees, crumpling into a pile, and crying out, ‘How much longer, Lord? When can life get back to normal?’
Not everyone joins that chorus. The aftershocks of restrictions affect us all— but children press on. Two of my young children (ages 7 & 5) realize what they see on the news impacts them. They know they should be in school. They know public places should be open. Two weeks ago I took my son to WalMart and he knew not to touch anything. Both children understand something difficult is happening right now. Still, what they discuss is amazing. They still expect vacation. They plan going to the farm and seeing family. They talk about taking a [Minnesota] Vikings stadium tour. Right now, vacation is a blur to me. (Sometimes I wonder if we will actually be able to leave the state, or if we must stay here, what will be open!) They have no worry. They have no fear about school time or illness or opening church doors again. If you have been around children, you might notice similar behavior. Children cannot make out the future, but they stand confident that the future will be fine.
Call it ignorant bliss if you want, but I think that’s overstating the case. They have genuine confidence. Even if their plans come crashing down and they’re stuck in summer school and do not see a stadium, they still do not panic. They fear nothing because they have a parent.
Good for them. Right? Good for you too. At this time we do not know what to expect, but God gives two truths to expect. Two factual statements that impact your life today. (1) The Spirit testifies to your adoption. (2) The Spirit makes you an heir of glory. That means, Live Confident, Child of God!
This morning God speaks to you— you who believe that Jesus has set you free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-4). In Romans chapter 8, starting with verse 11, he says: [I]f the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
You realize the same word appears four times in four verses. ‘Spirit.’ No, not a ghost or some vapory mist. The ‘Spirit’ is God. Scripture makes clear: God lives in you. Can you be sure? Yes, because God says: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Out of the billions of people living in the world at this very moment, God lives in your single heart.
That reality shapes behavior now. You are taking in the Word of God. You learn what pleases him. The Word guides emotions and helps form decisions. God’s promises provide strength to step out into the unknown. The Spirit of God inside you feasts on those Words. He builds confidence. The Spirit of God in you testifies to your adoption. You can live confident because you belong to God.
Confidence dwindles when you take your eyes off of the Word. If God uses his Word to lead you, then who is leading you when you no longer use the Word?
Here’s a few headlines snagged from last week:
The sinful nature will seize the opportunity to set trust on you! To think that we do control all things. The truth is, you do not. You did not lay the foundations of the earth. You did not shut the seas behind its doors or stretch out the skies. You do not bring out the seasons or manage every creature (read Job 38-39). You lack that ability. That’s why we get hysterical, we confront the reality that we do not control everything. Fear testifies to our limitations. Fear teaches that we have lost sight of our Father who does have control.
That’s what makes children such an astounding example. They fear nothing because they let the parent handle their needs. God stresses the same point so that you can live confident. [T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Remember, you [and I] are led by the Spirit of God; God lives in you.) You also receive a special title: Son! (And yes, that also describes you, ladies.) God does not elevate one biological sex here; he stresses benefits.
You see, in ancient times the son inherited the entire family estate. He received access to property, wealth, business, cattle— and even responsibility over his mother and siblings. He received full use and full rights to everything! God says, ‘You have full rights to all I have!’ For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
‘Abba’ is a Hebrew word. It means ‘father’ or ‘daddy.’ The word describes tender affection between father and child. So, little children chirp: ‘Daddy, you’re home!’ ‘Daddy, can you help me?’ ‘Daddy, let me sit in your lap.’ Why would little kids say this? Because their father demonstrates love. That tender affection flowing from the father increases a child’s confidence. She goes to him for anything, anytime, knowing that he cares for and addresses her needs. How much more our Father in heaven!
You can Live Confident, Child of God! The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. You can curl up in his secure, powerful hands. You can stand confident that the future will be fine.
[W]e are children… You are someone’s child— regardless of your age, regardless of your independence, you will always remain someone’s child. As God’s child, you live underneath his care.
Since we are children, then we are heirs… At this moment, I am an heir to my parent’s estate. They have drafted a Will and I stand in line to receive possessions— but my parents are not deceased yet. Most likely have many years left. Still, I remain an heir. One day their Will will take effect and I will receive my share of their estate.
You (and I) are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… We stand in line to receive possessions. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We will share in that possession; we too will rise from death. The specific day? We do not know. Still, we are heirs, guaranteed to receive the same benefits Christ already has. We remain in line if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
That’s challenging, is it not? ‘Suffering’ and ‘glory’ do not appear to mesh together. If anything, they appear opposites! Yet, stop for a moment and ask: What does a Christian consider ‘suffering’?
Boil it down and ‘suffering’ is when I do not get my way. ‘I cannot finish my goals and get my rest because I must watch the kids all day.’ ‘I pray to God that health restores, but he does not do what I want.’ ‘Other people hoarding keeps me from hoarding myself.’ ‘This virus does not let me make money and spend money and feel secure in money.’ When I don’t get my way, I blame others. I blame them for taking away my happiness— even if that means I blame God and say that following his Word takes away my happiness.
Remember this: Jesus suffered too. He preaches, but religious leaders reject him. He raises the dead, but that only infuriates many. He commits no crime, but is sentenced and crucified. Why does Jesus suffer? Because he put the Word of God first. He suffers because God made him to be our Savior.
Now, look at him. He rose from death and still lives! He ascended into heaven and all things rest set under his feet. No one can drag him out of heaven. No one can stop him from bringing you into heaven. That is your God who put an end to eternal suffering! He belongs to you and you to him!
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. You do not see that glory now, but you will. Just like an heir has not received the estate yet— but he will. God points you to the grave and says, ‘Death cannot hold you. Because Jesus lives, you will live.’
Eternity is set. You will experience eternity just like you experience life today. You will see and smell and hear and touch and talk and walk— except one thing will be different. No sin. No coronavirus. No political bickering. No health-ailments. No financial stress. No uncertainty. Even if life feels pretty comfortable at the moment, it will only get better.
Still, you realize that God is not saying, ‘Well, hang in there. One day it will get better.’ No. He says, ‘The Will is written. You are my child now, walking the path to glory. You will see my glory.’
Children cannot make out the future, but they stand confident that the future will be fine. They fear nothing because they have a parent. At this time we do not know what [the month of] May will bring, but God gives two truths to expect. Two factual statements that impact your life today. (1) The Spirit testifies to your adoption. (2) The Spirit makes you an heir of glory. You hear, have, and hold the Words of your dear Father, the One who control things now and eternally. What fear is there in that? Live Confident, Child of God!
February 20, 2017. President’s Day. A national holiday. A day honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (or, if you so desire, apparently every United States President [see: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Presidents-Day]). You can reflect on all the advantages gained from leadership. A steady hand guiding a nation through the dark days of war. Inspiring speeches encouraging countless Americans pressed down by conflict. Policies bringing economic growth and a secure retirement. President’s Day presents the opportunity to consider how past and present leadership intersected with your expectations.
Yet, February 20, 2017 stood out as a uniquely special President’s Day. Many (millions?) flocked to the streets, bundled in hats, scarves, and gloves, poster-board signs in hand, and started chanting: ‘Not my President! Not my President!’ Counter-protesters shouted back: ‘That is my President! ‘That is my President!’
Now, regardless of your political stance, both messages strike a common chord. The elected president is expected to represent an individual’s values (or beliefs). This protesting is really nothing new. In fact, the chant is thousands of years old.
Each Wednesday in Lent we meet opponents of truth. Each adversary confronts undeniable truth, but rebels against its reality. Every nation rejects the King sent to them. He simply did not meet individual expectations. Now, smug taunts dare him to act. ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’
Of course, no one really considers that a true statement. Pontius Pilate had seen kings before. In fact, a king had appointed him governor of Judea. Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar, the most powerful man in the ancient world. Now Caesar, that man fits the mold of a king. He wears elaborate robes adorned with dazzling gems set in glistening gold, the essence of lavender wafts off his manicured body. The snap of his fingers command fine delicacies, a hand-tap demands service. One word and the army marches. This man holds prestige, dominance, control, influence. People expect that type of grandeur from kings.
Jesus, well, he just does not have that aura. Here stands the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Nazareth, that’s as exciting as saying that you’re from Temple. That township is not known for leaders or industry or military figures. It has no claim to fame. Carpentry, a good skill, but not a multi-million dollar profession. Jesus has no Shangri-La [house]. In fact, he has no set place to lay his head; he constantly finds a new room (Matthew 8:20). His fanciest clothing is an undergarment, a piece of linen seamlessly woven together from top to bottom (John 19:23). Look him over and it’s pretty clear: Jesus is no king.
Pilate knows that. Pilate intends driving the point home. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
The Romans have complete control over the situation. Jesus will not escape. No rabblerousing supporters will bother the soldiers. At this moment, Jesus’ health lies in the hands of a more dominant force. Not just that, but this image of a thorny crown and grimy soldier’s cloak reveals Jesus to be no more a king than a kid dressed up as a king on Halloween. The Romans make clear: If Jesus calls himself a king, then he’s pretending. Any claim to authority can be snuffed out. Perhaps the Jews will understand the point, drop the charges, let him go, and then return home.
Really, this why the Jews hate Jesus in the first place: He is not a king. A few occasions did offer a glimmer of hope.
One time, Jesus took five loaves of bread and two small fish. He thanked God for the meal, tore it into pieces, and gave everyone a free lunch. Not only did everyone eat, but they were stuffed; they had to tell Jesus ‘Enough! We’re full!’ Over five thousand mouths feasted on one grade-schooler’s lunch. That catches people’s attention. They witness divine control over natural forces. They watch God bless the food in Jesus’ hands. That leads many to conclude: “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Crowds grab at him, trying to make Jesus king by force, but he escapes (John 6:14-15).
Then, just a few days earlier, the hope rekindled. Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem. The prophet Zechariah predicted this! He said, ‘Keep watch for that event! When you see it, then you know your king has come!’ (9:9-10). They saw it! The long-promised king to give new birth for a new nation. Instead of storming the palace, Jesus storms the temple… and he calls himself God… and starts acting like God.
The Jews did not want that. They do not want a spiritual king. Abraham is their ancestor; the family tree will make God happy. Worst case, they have the temple. Just bring some animals, say the right words, and God will be pleased. They feel the spiritual department is met. What the Jews want is an earthly king. Someone who drives out the dreaded Romans, fills the belly with food, and leads the nation towards independence, economic strength, and replaces all fear with peace. That’s what they want. Actually, that’s what they determined needful. As for Jesus, well, he does not look like the King we want.
Study that statement long enough and you find a contradiction. He does not look like the King we want. Kings lead people. Here, people try leading king. It leaves you asking: Who, then, is truly the king?
You see, the trouble is not with Jesus’ teachings, the trouble is with self-perception. Our flawed hearts think we stand equal with God, that we hold the right to negotiate with God in our pursuit for pleasure! Jesus urges: ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear’ (Matthew 6:25). Yet, this pandemic is spreading and it does not appear to be slowing. So, we feel a right to worry because we feel the situation extreme. He teaches: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). Yet, we exchange Jesus’ words for Facebook gripes, and criticize first instead of taking words and actions in the kindest possible way. Jesus sets hearts on God’s unbreakable Word: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Yet, that’s difficult because we doubt God will keep his promise. (Or worse, maybe he will keep his promises, but it will cost me money, popularity, or that sinful passion.) Jesus does not look like the King we want.
Remember, kings lead people. Yet, people try leading the King. It leaves you asking: Who, then, is truly the king of your life?
The Jews want a king who caters to their demands. The Romans claim control over the world. That leaves no room for Jesus. He simply does not look like the King wanted.
Because that’s not the King Jesus comes to be. He does not arrive after winning an election or getting the popular vote. He comes to reign as the king we need.
Pontius Pilate, the Romans, the Jews have seen kings before. They marvel at immense wealth, prestige, dominance, and influence. They stand outside grandiose palaces set in lofty locations. They follow orders given at the snap of a finger. That kingship does not always address your every fear or physical need. Really, that kingship lasts only a lifetime— unless it ends sooner.
Jesus reigns as the king we need. He steps off from his throne, lays aside his royal robes, leaves the halls of choirs upon choirs singing his praises. He leaves the confines of safety and security and steps into a royal mess. He wraps himself in human flesh, but is not born to royalty. He becomes a child to a low-income carpenter and a virgin mother from an insignificant village. His royal band does not consist of dignitaries and ambassadors, but rather simple fishermen and tax collectors. He speaks not to national forums, but to gatherings of the curious, the bruised, and the hurting.
He marches off to war the devil in the wilderness for forty days and nights. A foe that snatched at Jesus’ throne. A foe that promises us pleasure if we just follow him. A foe that had lied to us, captured us, and held us captive. A foe that had bound to the pits of hell and eternal death. A foe we constantly faced, but a foe that constantly overwhelmed and defeated us. Yet, that foe could not overwhelm our King.
The King of the Jews comes for you. Jesus literally comes through a Jewish family tree. Miracles testify that he is God’s chosen one, that he is God-appointed, that we can follow him. He marches to the cross as the King to fight for the hellish consequences his subjects brought upon themselves. Some chant his name: ‘Hail, King David’s royal son!’ Others shout: ‘Crucify! King of the Jews!’
This is the reason for which our King is sent: to make us citizens of his heavenly kingdom. Our cries for independence—all those little pleasures that feel so good to indulge do not make us free. Instead, they bind us. They clasp us to a very real hellish consequence. Jesus steps into our trouble. Our consequences bind his hands, head, and feet to the cross. God makes him the target of his wrath. There at Calvary, the greatest battle is fought—and won! Our perfect King meets God’s expectations. Easter Sunday trumpets the tickertape parade for the Triumphant King! He ascends into his heavenly coronation, where all things are set under his feet.
Even today, that perfect King comes to you. He has clothed you with his royal life. He has washed away grimy selfishness. He has slipped a ring on your finger—a ring that identifies you as belonging to him. Baptism made you a citizen of heaven (Galatians 3:26-27). Kneeling at the Lord’s Supper is really feasting with God at his table.
That King still speaks today. Jesus records his Words in the Bible. Those teachings on obedience to government are not meant to restrict you. Rather, they showcase the joy gained by working with and praying for your leaders. Repeated reminders not to worry mean to drain away fear and to cast all anxieties on the One able to handle them. Your King reigns so that you may experience your blessed position under his reign and delight in him controlling all things for your eternal good. Jesus reigns as the King we need.
Each Wednesday in Lent we meet opponents of truth. Each adversary confronts undeniable truth, but rebels against its reality. Every nation rejects the King sent to them. He simply did not meet individual expectations. Jesus does not look like the King we want.
Kings appear in so many different forms, but this King is different. He comes not for self-interest, but for your interest. His cross brings real peace. His resurrection showcases real control. ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Jesus reigns as the King we need.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone.’ Do you think that’s true? Given the many Facebook posts in just the past week it sure appears accurate. Maybe you have seen them too.
Still, I can’t help thinking, ‘You don’t need a virus to act kind.’ We do well to always care for the weak and speak kindly to the cashier and treat the trucker well and appreciate officers, doctors, and teachers. That appreciation ought never change! If anything, crisis presents an opportunity to honestly re-evaluate behavior.
That’s what God accomplishes through crisis. Challenges push us to re-evaluate the priorities of life. To expose what the heart truly cherishes. To shed the harmful so that true good might flourish. Scripture makes clear: God Heals Hearts Torn Apart.
‘Torn apart’ might best describe today’s uneasiness. Just look around! Life lies in complete disarray! Wealth slips through fingers. The nation’s borders are under attack by a foreign threat. Leaders assemble for solutions and stability— but this is no coronavirus crisis management team. This is Israel’s king and Israel’s people scrambling for security and safety against the Assyrians.
Remember those guys? Assyria sits north of Israel in present-day Turkey and Iraq. They boasts the greatest, fiercest army of the day! An army that not only decimates, but also intimidates.
The Assyrians have a reputation for impaling captives— like, stick a pole up through you and out your mouth and plant that pole into the ground. If done right, you would die— days later. They also could skin captives— and so perfected the technique that they could keep you alive to the end. Assyria has not unleashed that army yet. For the time being King Tiglath-Pileaser III is content with threats. He dangles death before Israel’s eyes in exchange for tribute. (As long as Israel keeps giving him money, he will not destroy them.)
Now, he has squeezed too hard and siphoned too much! Israel will no longer shoulder this heavy burden. No! They plan partnering with piddly nation Damascus and pushing Assyria out!
Big mistake. The Assyrian fist tightens with might and force. Battle after battle tears out wealth, land, and life.
Where do you find safety and security in national crisis? Israel suggests a remedy. “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Those words sound good, but did you catch what was missing? An admission of guilt. No one confesses to shoving God aside. ‘God, we worshipped stones and sticks and people and prostitutes!’ ‘God, we relied on military might first instead of approaching you, the Mighty Warrior!’ ‘God, we got scared and trusted our brains.’ No one says that! Instead, each one approaches God with this mindless lip-service: ‘God, it’s me here. I know, it’s been a while, but please fix this mess. Thank you.’
What arrogant audacity! Everyone assumes God exists to fill life with pleasure. Like God is some powerful genie— there to act only when told. Say the right words and God will have no choice but to restore wealth, land, and life.
Except this time he doesn’t. One statement wipes the smug little grin from the proud, arrogant heart. I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone.’ Has that sunk in yet? What is truly important in life? Everything is being taken away! No school and school activities. No weekend sports and clubs. No shows and fairs and dining out. All those things consuming mass amounts of time are gone! Vanished!
That’s unsettling! Those incredible investments return no gains! Standing on the sideline Sunday morning, cheering as your [grand]son play ball cannot answer what happens when you die. The laziness that has kept you out of Sunday worship reaps unpreparedness and nervousness. The arrogance of thinking you know all there is to know about the Bible that you have kept it closed for years— has that decision provided much peace now? Since you know everything in the Bible, have you lived without a trace of fear? When all those supposed objects of security and status and pleasure are ripped away, when they’re all gone, it leads you to re-evaluate priorities.
Even if you have made time for worship, attended Bible class, read your devotions, have you always appreciated God’s Word? Right now you read these words at your dinner table or you watch the service from your chair. How does it feel to be away from your Christian friends who can encourage and cheer you through difficult times? How does it feel to be away from God’s church, away from the sights of his dear cross or from the sound of forgiveness? How does it feel to be hearing these words from a distance and not out loud, in person? Have you taken God’s presence for granted that you assumed you could go without the Word? Even if you remain in the Word, today allows for honest reflection of how well we took the Word to heart and how much we depend on God.
Forsaking the LORD causes misery. Separate from him and you have no answers for crisis, for life. To gain answers, you need the Word of the One who reigns over heaven and earth. In fact, our reading holds one little word easily overlooked. One little word restoring hope. That word? ‘LORD’ (all-capitals). That is not a typo; the capitalization is intentional. The ‘LORD’ (all-capitals) tells you: God is serious to punish and even more serious to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7).
That’s why our reading says what it does. Come, let us return to the Lord. The ‘LORD’ (all-capitals), the God who punishes, but also forgives. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. That ‘tearing’ and that ‘injuring’ does sting. Doctors discover cancer in you. They do not slap a band-aid on the spot or prescribe Tylenol. With scalpel in hand they cut out the tumor. It hurts. It’s not pleasant. Still, lingering pain powerfully reminds you that something deadly was removed.
Today, life hurts. Troubles rip away comforts and can reveal the many different objects our hearts foolishly worship. With those objects gone, we realize that they help us none. The lingering pain we feel today reminds you that something deadly was removed.
God tore away our misplaced priorities one-by-one and strapped them to Jesus. Then, he tore away health and strength and life away from his own Son. He injures Jesus to death and then turns away from him.
For two days the Lord of life lay in the tomb. The third day (Easter day!) he steps out— with a different message, a life-sustaining message: ‘Redeemed! Restored! Forgiven!’
Those sweet words are meant for you. Yes, even in a time such as this, when so many get sick and a virus spreads and no one knows when or where it might appear, these words belong to you. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. God has bandaged up our broken priorities. He has healed injuries inflicted by pride. He stands us healthy in his presence, under his protecting care, under his promise of life forever!
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. Returning to the Lord restores life.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” That’s how life feels spent in God’s Word, isn’t it?
Just like rains hitting the parched, cracked fields of corn or like warm spring rains hitting the dusty soil so that spring flowers might sprout and blossom!
Life fed by the Word springs life. A life delighting in sharing God’s Word with your children, watching them retell Jesus dying on the cross or explaining how God kept Daniel safe in a den of lions. A life confidently telling others that God holds you in his hands. He has healed you forever! What flourishing delight to share God’s comfort!
You gain a life of trust and security. So many hoarded toilet paper because they are scared. They are scared of getting sick, hurting, and dying. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html). God has blossomed in your heart greater comfort that toilet paper. He promises that you who believe in him never die. You live now and will one day walk directly into heaven itself!
God sprouts in you a life of peace and joy. Even though everything is torn away— public places, schools, community centers, and your church— you have lost nothing. You have not lost your God who always keeps his Word. The God who promised a Savior and then sent a Savior. A God who has kept you safe thus far through pandemic, a God who will keep your soul safe from hell. At the very heart and core of your being stands God, the One who rules your heart and fills it with peace. Returning to the Lord restores life.
A shortage exposes extra labors that often go unnoticed. People have always worked for our benefit, but especially now, we appreciate them.
Yet, do you need a virus to act kind? May that be a lesson learned.
May it be learned to evaluate the priorities of our lives so that we stand prepared for life ahead! So many panic and fear and despair because they have no idea what to do with their time now. Because they have no idea when and where this virus might appear next or when it might leave! If you number among them, then now is a good time to re-evaluate the priorities of your heart. Today is the day to recommit yourself to being in the Word, to live underneath the Almighty, to fill yourself up with God’s overwhelming forgiveness and promises.
That’s what God accomplishes through crisis. To re-evaluate the priorities of life. To expose what the heart truly cherishes. To shed the harmful so that true good might flourish. Scripture makes clear: God Heals Hearts Torn Apart. Forsaking the LORD causes misery. Returning to the LORD restores life.