Posted by: lepages | April 24, 2011

2 T’s and 2 D’s!

I don’t often find myself using alliteration when I preach, but sometimes I do!!

My last two preaches over the Easter period have had two words as foundations for what has followed. The first was preached at North Arbury Chapel in Cambridge – the interesting thing was getting a phone call from one of the elders there as I was preparing to preach – I had my 2 T’s already in mind, so I was somewhat amused when I found the previous weeks speaker had spoken on 2 S’s!! Suffering Servant.

Today, at a joyful celebration on Easter Day 2011, I preached at my home church, Rutland Road on 2 D’s!

My notes from both preaches follow.

North Arbury Chapel – 17/04/11

Kangaroo Court

John 19:1-16

 So last week, you looked at Jesus demonstrating his servant heart and modelling it to his disciples. You saw about how Jesus predicted his betrayal by one of his friends. Since that time it has happened. Jesus has been betrayed by Judas and he has been arrested. His loyal friend Peter has denied even knowing him. And now Jesus is before Pilate. He’s previously been questioned by the High Priest, and then after Pilate’s questioning of Jesus he declares him innocent – chapter 18 verse 38 ‘I find no basis for a charge against him.’

 So the opening words of our reading for today make disturbing reading, and make the title chosen for this morning incredibly accurate – Kangaroo Court – John 19:1

‘Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.’

What an excellent thing to do to someone of whom you’ve just said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him.’

 Last week I understand you reflected on the account under the 2 headings

‘SUFFERING’, ‘SERVANT’

 When Peter told me that on Friday I smiled, as I had in my study been stirred with two headings also – from the next letter in the alphabet:-

 ‘TRUTH’ & ‘TRAGEDY’

 We’re going to reflect on this passage, thinking about it under those two headings:-

 ‘TRUTH’ & ‘TRAGEDY’

 You see the fascinating thing is that throughout the passage, whether knowingly or otherwise, truth about the person of Jesus is expressed again and again. The tragedy is that in response to the truth expressed, the exact opposite of what one would expect in response happens…..

 The sad thing is that this is so often still the case today….

 You can know all the truth about Jesus, you can come and marvel at it over the Easter period, but unless you then respond to the truth about Jesus in an appropriate way, we’re left with a tragedy – a rejection of the new life which Jesus died to buy for us – the tragedy of condemming our lives to life without God…

 So let’s take these two words, ‘TRUTH’ & ‘TRAGEDY’ and let them help us reflect on what happened on that first Good Friday morning, and what it means for us today.

 READ John 19:1-3

 ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’

 They gave him a purple robe – as worn by the Roman aristocracy.

They put on his head a crown of thorns – rather than the wreath crown which Roman rulers would have worn.

And they said repeatedly, ‘again and again’ NIV puts it, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’

 What a tragedy that they said the words in mockery, when they were actually speaking truth!

Jesus was and is, the King of the Jews!

He was and is the one who should by rights be robed an majestic honour, though he chose to set aside his glory and become a suffering servant, as you reflected on last week.

And yet, the crown they gave him was not one of honour, but one of abuse and mockery.

We sometimes sing ‘Jesus, the name to sinners dear’ or ‘Jesus, name above all names’ or ‘There is power, in the name of Jesus.’

As you walk the streets of our towns I guess the name of Jesus, is probably the name you hear being called out most often…. but sadly, it is rarely in the context of those songs.

The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus as the King of the Jews. People today mock Jesus, using his name as purely an expression of frustration, annoyance, shock, amazement. And they all miss out… because Jesus was and indeed is King…. and one day every knee will bow before him, and acknowledge him as Lord.

I wonder, do you recognise him as King, as Sovereign over your life?

Or do you make his Kingship a mockery, as the soldiers did here?

As an aside, can I just say how valuable it can be to you to physically express yourself to God. We sometimes sing about bowing down, but rarely do we do it physically. There is a real value in physically expressing what you mean in your heart and mind.

When Philippians 2 talks of every knee one day bowing before Jesus, I don’t think it’s metaphorical, and there is a value for you, if you are physically able on occasion, to bow down on your knees as an expression of your hearts devotion to Jesus as King of your life, as you worship him and honour him.

Back to scripture

READ v4

‘Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”’

Some translations say ‘I find no guilt in him.’

Try as hard as he could, and boy did he try hard, Pilate could find no basis for a charge against Jesus, he could not find anything in him where he could think there was a shred of evidence which he might be found guilty of.

He brings him out and says v5 ‘Here is the man!’

You know a lot of people do that today. They may not use the name of Jesus as a swear word. They may respect Jesus as a great man…. but that’s as far as it goes…. They look at his life, they look at his teaching and they say, ‘What a great man! What a great teacher!’ But they’ve never got to grips with who Jesus was or what he taught.

The truth is Jesus was not guilty of anything. There was no charge that could justly be brought against him and proved in a court of law. Jesus was the perfect, sinless one. He was the perfect fulfilment of a sacrificial lamb – a lamb without blemish or spot.

He was and is, a man, but so much more than a man.

The tragedy is that Pilate went ahead with his kangaroo court, with his mockery of a trial, even though he acknowledged again and again that there was no basis for a charge against him.

The tragedy today is that so many acknowledge Jesus as a good man, a good teacher, but fail to recognise he was and is much more, fail to take on board what he said and did, fail to consider why it was that this innocent man was treated as he was…..

As if to emphasise how stunned he is at the accusations that are brought against Jesus, when the people shout out ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ v6, Pilate answers ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’

Again he emphasises the truth of Jesus’ innocence, but then what a tragedy, he hasn’t got the guts to stick by his assessment of the situation. He’s not guilty, but if you want to go ahead and kill him, you just go ahead. How sad when people see something that’s wrong and then just turn a blind eye to it. 😦 How often has the church been guilty of doing that down through the years… emphasised recently with the tragedy of child abuse that went on for so many years amongst sections of the Catholic church (and other churches it has to be said too).

I wonder if there are things in our lives where we have seen injustice and turned a blind eye?

Perhaps there are things which we need to go to God and say sorry about, to apologise to him for not standing up for truth and righteousness and justice.

V7 brings us to another truth, and another tragedy of response to it!!

READ v7

The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’

The Jewish leaders made an assumption. His claim must be wrong!

But it wasn’t!

At his baptism, God had spoken and said

This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well pleased.’

Pilate wasn’t so quick to dismiss things. V8,9

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace.

‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus… but Jesus gave him no answer.

Pilate took at least a moment to reflect on what if this is the truth?

What if this man truly is the Son of God?

What are the implications of that?

The tragedy is that he didn’t spend long reflecting on it.

He comes in and asks Jesus where he’s come from, and because he doesn’t answer him, goes on to express his own authority and say how he can either free Jesus or crucify him.

The tragedy today is that there are many people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God – years ago, I remember as churches in Bedford doing a religious beliefs survey in the town centre, and having people who professed themselves to be atheists who then went on to say that they believed Jesus was the Son of God!! Sometimes we really need to think about things.

If we believe Jesus is the Son of God, God having become a human being, then that is so awesome that it is something worth thinking about.

The tragedy is that so many hear the good news of the gospel, are stirred by it, whether through coming to a church service, or at a mission type event or through a course like Alpha or Christianity Explored, but then don’t follow through on what it means for them.

Let’s read what happened next

READ John 19:11-16

Jesus himself proclaims truth. The only power that Pilate has is that given to him by God.

If he is to condemn Jesus to death by crucifixion, it is because God has chosen to give him the power to do so.

Pilate is stirred again to set Jesus free, but the tragedy is he gives way to popular opinion.

How often do we do that?

Give way to popular opinion?

I believe the church in the West has by and large given way to popular opinion.

Why is the church in the West by and large so evangelistically inept?

Surely it is because by and large most Christians have given way to the popular opinion that when you die everything will be alright.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard good Bible believing Christians say after someone’s death ‘Oh it’s good, their free now and with the Lord.’ And they’re saying this about people who have never expressed any sort of faith in God!

Actually, it’s not alright, it’s a tragedy, because they are not ‘with the Lord’ other than to face his judgement and be condemned to hell – and however you see that, whether as eternal punishment, or annihilation, or just absence from God, then it’s a tragedy for anybody to be there because we as God’s people haven’t bothered to tell them the good news of the gospel, the good news of Jesus, the real story of Easter and God’s plan of salvation.

The tragedy of injustice and proclamation of truth continued. Pilate proclaims Jesus as their King again, and then in response to their demands for Jesus’ crucifixion Pilate gives way to their demands and gives Jesus over to be crucified.

Conclusion

The tragedy of this mockery of truth in a kangaroo court is however bizarrely the lead to another ‘T’ – TRIUMPH. Because all of this was in God’s plan, that his Son, the King, the perfect one who was without fault, against whom no charge could stand, who was ‘not guilty’ was to be the SUFFERING SERVANT who would give his life as the perfect sacrifice that would take away the sins of his people.

So it leaves us with the question, will we take the time to truly respond to the truth about Jesus, about what happened on that first Good Friday, or will we like Pilate, give it a passing thought and then move on and go on living in the tragedy which is a life outside of a restored, living friendship with God, which Jesus went through the events of Good Friday, to buy for us?

RESPONSE & PRAYER

Well that was my preach from last week in Cambridge. Here’s my preach from today at home in Bedford.

Jesus rises from the dead

Luke 24:1-49

Introduction

I’d like to take you back to just over a year ago, to Easter Day 2010, to a large square in Budapest, Hungary – there over 1300 people from Faith Baptist Church in the city came together to perform a dance to celebrate Resurrection Day as they called it. Pump the volume up Steve – it may not be to everyone’s taste, but listen to the lyrics throughout as you’re able – and enjoy this incredible celebration!

 Play Resurrection Sunday 2010 video

 Now, what is it that causes that number of largely young adults (plus a few seniors and juniors) to go out and do that sort of thing?

In a world which is said to be increasingly sceptical of anything you can’t see and prove for yourself, here are people celebrating something that happened nearly 2000 years ago, as though it has changed their lives! (It has!)

Across our world today, people are having their lives changed through the events of Resurrection Sunday! Across the Muslim world more people are coming to faith in Jesus than at any time in the past – and coming to faith in Jesus means risking life and limb for many.

Why do they do it?

Why is there a growth in courses exploring the Christian faith across the world, like Alpha, Christianity Explored or the Y-course?

It’s because something incredible happened on that first Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday – Jesus rose to life again, he defeated death. No-one else in history has done that. Many have been resuscitated, brought back from the edge of death, but Jesus wasn’t resuscitated, he was resurrected! Raised to a new life, never to die again!

So when 1300 people come together in Budapest to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, they are not just celebrating something that happened 2000 years ago, they are celebrating something that is happening now! A life transforming encounter with Jesus in the here and now, not just a record of something that happened nearly 2000 years ago.

It’s his transforming presence and power which is enabling many in Muslim countries to boldly share their new faith in Jesus with others, even though they know it could result in their death.

So, I wonder how you respond to what I’ve just shared?

A common response would be one of Disbelief

You don’t really believe all that do you?

That Jesus really rose from the dead?

That those folk in that video clip were dancing in the middle of Budapest to celebrate the Christian faith?

That there really are hundreds of thousands of people across the world becoming followers of Jesus Christ each day?

It’s a great story, but….

Disbelief is nothing new.

Jesus’ friends who had spent 3 years with him, who had seen him do miraculous things, who had heard him speak life changing truth, who had seen Jesus put to death by crucifixion were amongst those who did not believe when news of his resurrection was first heard.

We’ve had read to us this morning some of the accounts of the events of that first Easter day – and disbelief echoes through them again and again – but after the disbelief comes something else – Delight – as people discover that yes, this is actually true, it is life transforming, so 1300 people have great delight in celebrating in the centre of Bucharest, because they have found it to be true also, they have known what it is to have a life transforming encounter with Jesus Christ.

If this story of Jesus being raised from the dead, of him being alive today and transforming lives today is true, then it’s worth taking a few minutes to reflect on it.

I’d like us to take a few minutes to explore the disbelief in those who first came across this news to see what that might have to say to our disbelief today. You might find it helpful to have a Bible open so that you can see whether what I’m saying is real, or whether it’s just something I am making up. Luke 24 of the church Bibles.

The chapter starts with the women who had seen Jesus crucified going to his tomb to anoint his body. They get there and a series of strange things happen – firstly, the stone which was rolled over the entrance to the tomb had been rolled back. Has someone else already come here? Who will be inside?

They go in and instead of finding the body of Jesus and someone else they find an empty tomb.

What’s happened to the body?

Then a third strange thing happens:- ‘suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them’ v4

Now we’re getting into Dr. Who type stuff!

The women fall to the ground in fear. The two men speak to them and say v5-7 :- ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’

Let’s get real. Can you imagine going to the undertakers, you’re shown to the room where your loved one has been laid, you go in, you find the coffin is empty – what have they done with him/her?? Then suddenly two spacemen type folk appear and tell you he/she is alive again.

What do you do?

Is this real?

Am I delusional?

If you go and share the news with others, what are they going to say??!!

Have pity on you?

Oh dear, the grief is really getting to them….

What did the women feel??

We can only imagine…. but they went back and told Jesus’ closest friends what had happened.

Their reaction was utter disbelief – inspite of the fact they’d heard Jesus talk about these things.

V11 ‘their words seemed to them like nonsense.’

So, not believing news about Jesus’ resurrection is not uncommon!

Those closest to Jesus didn’t believe it at first!

Peter ran to the tomb, looked inside and saw the cloths lying there where the body should have been – wrapped up by them!! v12 ‘and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened’

It’s not unusual for people to see Christians and see the positive changes faith in Jesus brings to their lives and to go away wondering what on earth has happened to them. It’s not unusual to look at a scene like the crowd on Good Friday, or the 1300 in Budapest and think ‘what on earth is going on here??!!’

Disbelief affects many people. Maybe it affects you?? But it’s not the end of the story.

Later on that first Easter Day, that first Resurrection Sunday, two of Jesus’ friends were walking in a confused state to a nearby village. They were talking over everything they had heard and seen – the hopes they’d had in terms of Jesus being their promised Messiah and bringing deliverance for the Jewish people, these hopes being crushed when they’d seen Jesus put to death, and then this weird report from some of the women!! What did it all mean??

Someone draws up alongside them and joins in the conversation asking what they’re talking about. They’re disbelieving that this person can’t even know, surely it’s obvious! This person must be from out of town! In response to the questions they share their hopes and dreams for Jesus, the awful events of the last 3 days, Jesus’ betrayal and subsequent crucifixion – and then the weirdest story from the women.

They were happy to talk about things, but did they believe?

It wouldn’t seem so with the way Jesus then rebuked them!

Many people today are happy to talk about Jesus and about the Christian faith, but it’s quite another thing to actually believe it.

Jesus then began to show them all the things that were written in the Old Testament about him. At the people’s request he went in to their home to stay with them and as they shared a meal together, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it and broke it, as he’d done a few nights earlier – as we’ll do a little later in the service – and suddenly they recognised him for who he was.

All of a sudden the disbelief was blown at the window leaving them with Delight!

Look at the transformation that went on in them!

READ Luke 24:32-35

Their hearts burned within them, before they recognised who Jesus was and believed.

Many people have that experience!

The number of times I have heard folk about how they are blessed when they come into this place. They maybe think its a nice place, but in reality what is moving their hearts and souls, touching their emotions, is the presence of Jesus Christ. I’ve heard an atheist talk of being ‘touched by the spiritual dynamic’ as they came into a service here. That spiritual dynamic is the presence of Jesus Christ. He has promised that whenever God’s people come together in his name, he will come and presence himself amongst them. This morning we meet in his name and he is here – it’s his presence which is the spiritual dynamic in this place this morning – and just as he wanted to reveal himself to disbelieving hearts in our reading for today, so he wants to reveal himself to those of us who don’t yet believe. What you feel and sense at present is his powerful presence amongst us.

If you turn to him and ask him to reveal himself to you, I believe he will.

I remember one man on an Alpha course saying he needed some revelation from God to believe (in truth we all do!!) and I offered to pray for him. I placed a hand on his shoulder and prayed for God to reveal himself to him and as I did so (unbeknown to me) a burning heat spread through his body. He went home and gave his life to follow Christ and saw his life transformed for the better.

Doubts and disbelief can come at any time in life, even amongst those who have been with Jesus over years. In the final section of our reading the two who had met Jesus went and shared the news with the others and as they were doing so, Jesus came and met with them again. V37 ‘They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.’

Jesus showed that it really was him – he showed them the wounds in his hands and feet, he allowed them to touch him to prove that he was flesh and blood and not just a figment of their imagination, or a product of their loss and grieving. He took some broiled fish and ate it. Spirits don’t eat broiled fish!! He revealed himself to them to cast out their disbelief – and the result, DELIGHT!

V41 says in typical honest fashion:-

‘And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…’

They maybe didn’t understand, but they couldn’t deny the reality of their experience.

For many, when we come to faith in Jesus we have some sort of encounter with him, but we’re not always able to explain what it is. We may put our faith and trust in him, but it doesn’t mean we understand everything about him. But Jesus specialises in taking us on a journey once we trust him and give our lives to him. He’s given us a book which is full of revelation about himself. As we read this book he reveals more of himself to us.

V45

‘Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures.’

If we are stirred to believe, to trust Jesus with our lives, to want to have him reveal himself to us, what do we have to do?

Well, Jesus concludes our reading with these words v46-49

‘This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

Through his death and resurrection the wages of the wrong stuff in our lives (the sin), has been paid and he can now offer us forgiveness, if we will repent. To repent is to have a change of thinking – to say that instead of going our own way, we will now go God’s way. He then promises the gift of his Holy Spirit who will come into our lives and give us power to live in his ways.

So, if you’d like to go from a place of disbelieving to one of delight where you know God for yourself, you can do that now. Tell God you’re sorry for the way you’ve lived your life and haven’t followed him thus far. Tell him that you want to do so now. Thank Jesus for what he has done for you and ask him to reveal more of himself to you. And then ask him to come into your life by his Holy Spirit to empower you to live for him. And he will. And you will know Jesus being progressively revealed to you as you read his Word.

It may be, that if you do that now as I conclude that when we come to share in communion – we welcome all who love the Lord Jesus and seek to live for him – even if that has only just started – to come and take bread and wine and to remember his sacrifice for us – it may be that the Lord will reveal himself afresh to you as he did to those folk on that first Resurrection Day.

Conclusion

So why is it that those 1300 people danced in honour of Jesus last Easter in Budapest – it’s because they know the delight of a living friendship with Jesus for themselves!

Why are we here to worship this morning and proclaim this truth that Jesus is alive – it’s because we have known the delight with him too and know him revealing himself to us.

Let’s join with our brothers and sisters from Budapest and across the world and celebrate Resurrection Sunday, rejoicing in all Jesus has done for us and revealed to us

Amen?!

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