Tuesday, April 29, 2014

==IT IS WRITTEN (2014)==

“It is Written” Series
Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church
January 5 - April 27, 2014

This series was inspired by a discussion I heard about “red-letter Christians.” You’ve heard of or seen Bibles where the words of Christ are printed in red? There have been people for some time who have prioritized Jesus’ words over the other words in the Bible. And particularly in the last ten years or so, there has been a movement to more formally do that, sometimes setting Jesus off against Paul’s epistles or the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures. Yet, anyone who does take Jesus’ teaching seriously should see how connected his words are to the rest of scripture – both what came before him and what came after.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thus it is Written (Luke 24.13-47)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - April 27, 2014
Text: Luke 24:13-47

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell."

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Praise Him! Praise Him!" (piano 4-hands) (Larry Shackley)
Call to Worship: "Hallelujah to the Risen Lamb!" (Lloyd Larson)
Song of Praise: "You Have Been Raised" (Sovereign Grace - Altrogge et al.)
Offering of Music: "You Said" (Hillsong - Morgan))
Our Song of Praise: "The Doxology"
Hymn of Sending: "Lift High the Cross" (CRUCIFER)
Postlude: "Lift High the Cross" (Charles Ore)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.(Luke 24:36-47)
We are finally at the end of our “it is written” series that started back in January. In it we have been seeing how Jesus valued and taught the Old Testament scriptures (his only scriptures) and then how he actually embodied and fulfilled those scriptures. You might think all that would find its conclusion in the Good Friday crucifixion and the Easter resurrection, but it actually extends on past that. And we actually see Jesus continuing to appeal to scripture as he appears to men and women after the Resurrection.

On Easter, we considered the invitation to come and check out Jesus for yourself, especially since the claims of Christianity are so mind-boggling! But we also noted that not everyone is a Peter, ready to run and see and hope for Jesus to check out. Many struggle mightily with doubt and unbelief. And we ended last week with the hopeful note that God does not hide, but comes after humanity. We see that this week, as Jesus appears to those who may have given up, wandered off, or lost hope. And what we will see is that Jesus comes in a number of ways, appealing to head, heart, and spirit. Finally, we will see that what scripture promised in Christ did not even end at the Resurrection, but propels the story of a God-who-pursues on to the world that God loves.

All the things written in Law, Prophets, Psalms (v. 44)


In two separate stories today you hear of Jesus appearing to those who missed his resurrection. First, on the Emmaus road he appears to two leaving Jerusalem. Then, he appears to the disciples, still gathered and trying to make sense of the reports coming in. In both cases, Jesus opens the scriptures, demonstrating how all of scripture – Law, Prophets, and Psalms – have been fulfilled. I’d like to briefly suggest what that might have sounded like…

I can think of a number of passages from the Law that Jesus might have spoken about that day. We’ve looked at the Sermon on the Mount, where he took the Law, including some of the Ten Commandments, and pressed them beyond external observance to the heart. More directly connected to who Jesus was, I think of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 (of John 3:16 fame). There, in response to questions about being “born again,” Jesus compares what will happen to the Son of Man to the Numbers 21 account of Moses making a bronze serpent – a symbol of the people’s sin – and putting it up on a pole that all who looked upon it in obedience and faith would be healed. Jesus says later in John 5:46, talking about the ways scripture testifies about him: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

I can think of a number of passages from the Prophets that anticipated Jesus. We’ve spent the most time talking about Isaiah 53, using it for several weeks as our prayer of confession. It is the passage about the “suffering servant.” Jesus quoted from that passage more than once, but we especially saw connections in Luke 22 at the Last Supper and as they prepared to head to the garden where Jesus would be arrested. Isaiah is also in the forefront in many of the details of Jesus’ birth as well early in his ministry when he reads from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue to declare good news, liberty, freedom, and the Year of the Lord.

Finally, Jesus explains how the Psalms point to him. We’ve especially focused on Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday, but Psalm 22 and 69 are well-known in conjunction with Jesus’ crucifixion in their description of forsakenness and suffering. Psalm 72 speaks of God’s righteousness and judgment, extended through the descendant of David (i.e., the Messiah). That Psalm also concludes with a vision of God’s blessing extending through God’s people to all nations. We will see that extension in play in Jesus resurrection encounter in today’s text and in the book of Acts which will follow.

A Personal Experience and an Open Mind


Jesus not only explains from scripture; he also lets people touch him. He eats with them. He provides a human and tangible experience of him resurrected. I’m not saying that Jesus should have appeared in the flesh to all of you. But almost everyone I know with sincere faith would describe it as more than “head knowledge.” God may have answered prayer or delivered from bondage or given hope in the darkness… often there is some kind of experiential component to what we would call faith. Sometimes we’ve had it but miss it waiting for something flashier; like waiting to fall in love Hollywood-style while missing the faithful and constant companion who has stood by us through thick and thin. My point is not to make you feel like you’ve missed something, but to point out that God not only comes to us through words and through the mind, but through life itself; and the best word I know to put on that is “experience.” Sometimes, if you are looking for faith to grow, one of the most effective prayers is to ask God to help you see where he is showing up in your life. Often it’s already happening and we just don’t see it, like the two on the road to Emmaus who walked some distance before realizing who was walking with them!

Finally, don’t miss what is in verse 45. Jesus also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That’s why I said that God comes to us heart, mind, AND spirit. That’s one of the roles of the Holy Spirit – to illuminate our understanding, to help us to see. We need God’s help from start to finish; the Good News is that God is pleased to provide that help! So that’s really the best thing to pray. God is meeting us and speaking to us all the time; we just have trouble SEEING it… UNDERSTANDING it. For someone interested in faith or even for someone who is not, I can’t think of a better prayer than the prayer of illumination: “Lord, help them (or help me) to SEE!” 

Christ for the Nations (vv. 46-47)

So all that is the main portion of the two stories in Luke 24… how Jesus came to two different groups of people in mind, heart, and spirit. And I think that is instructive for us as we try to understand and appreciate a God who pursues humanity.

In a slightly more public direction, but definitely related, our text ends with an expansion on the scripture-fulfillment theme we’ve been tracking since January. For some time we have been starting our worship with Jesus’ words in Luke 18:31-33, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” After appearing and opening the scriptures to his followers in Luke 24:46-47, Jesus repeats much of that: “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day…” But he adds more on to the end now: “Thus it is written… that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (v. 47)

Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but Christ’s work did not end on the cross or even in Resurrection. The forgiveness of sins purchased on the cross and the victory over death and sins achieved on Easter are FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD… the nations. Even in that we are reminded of the ancient scripture, the promise to Abraham that God would be his God and his children would be God’s people, blessed in order to be a blessing for all the nations of the world. God is in pursuit of humanity and the proclamation of that news is just beginning in these days after Easter.

It is a stunning and humbling reminder that God’s love and salvation are personal, but not private. God is personal and pursuing and public, for the sake of the world. That should and must set our course as God’s people, fixing our hearts outward towards the world God loves. And in the weeks to come that is indeed where we will follow scripture and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as we move towards a celebration of Pentecost. Amen.





Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Third Day (Luke 24.1-12)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - April 20, 2014 (Easter Sunday)
Text: Luke 24:1-12

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell."

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" (Mitchell-Wallace, Head)
Processional Hymn: "Worship Christ the Risen King" (REGENT SQUARE)
Song of Praise: "I Will Rise" (Giglio, Tomlin, Maher, Reeves)
The Word in Music: "The Lord of Life is Risen" (Marcello, arr. Hopson)
Offering of Music: "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" (Hirt)
Our Song of Praise: "The Doxology"
Hymn of Sending: "In Christ Alone" (Getty, Townend)
Postlude: "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands" (Diemer)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 “He is not here, but He has risen.” “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. (John 24:1-12)

Today I want to walk you through one of the Resurrection passages, specifically the one coming from the book of Luke. There are a number of entry points to this text; whether you are a long-time churchgoer or this is all new to you, I’d challenge you to listen for where you might find yourself in it.

It had been a difficult, confusing, exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting week. Last Sunday the crowds had cheered for Jesus, hailing him as a hero-king, ready to save everybody from the Roman occupation and bring God’s reign again. Then that scene in the Temple – tables overturned, coins scattered. Jesus began teaching there day in and day out, with the people gathering to listen and the religious leaders gathering to challenge him daily in one way or another. Thursday night was even more intense. He gathered the disciples for the memorial meal; he washed their feet; they argued; he revealed there was a traitor and even told Peter he’d deny him. There was prayer in the Garden, then the betraying kiss, sword attack, and arrest. Then a trial, and before you knew it, that horrible death on the cross. The Sabbath was a blur and now, Sunday morning, all that was left in that haze of terror and confusion, was to go to the tomb and anoint the body in death. It was that numb, grief-stricken, get through what you have to get through duty, only to find things were upset at the tomb as well.

Perplexed (v. 4)

It was the women who had gone. The women followers and family of Jesus: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mother Mary, and others. And what else could they have been, but “perplexed?” The stone was moved and the body was gone. And confusion folded in to more terror as two men suddenly appeared, dazzling and bright.

I think of how confusing life is. And it doesn’t really matter whether one is a person of faith or not; life happens to all of us. And sometimes it comes fast and hard; sometimes it comes like a thief in the night: sickness, injury, accidents; betrayal, bullying, attack; crushing fear or loneliness or discouragement. Things were supposed to be better than this. Things are supposed to work out. And we have little snippets of God and faith: verses from our childhood, prayers whispered in the dark. But it doesn’t explain THIS; it doesn’t help right in this moment. It’s just a fog, just a mist: confusion and questions. “God, I just don’t understand!”

Confronted (v. 6)

The two were not soldiers or attackers; they had a message for the frightened women, now faces to the ground: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.” (vv. 5-6) First a question, of all things. Why are you looking for him here? Well, they were just trying to do the right thing, to honor and grieve their loss. And then that declaration… “he is not here, but He has risen.” What does that mean?

I am keenly aware of how jarring and confrontational church can be, especially on a special day like Easter. After all, we began the service in the same way that those messengers began, with a declaration that “He is risen!” We even asked you to say it back to us! That’s the way church often is. You come in with life slung over your back, wondering how to pay the overdue electric bill or how you’ll carry on after the break-up or whether you will ever be healthy again. And you are confronted with big statements… God-stuff… like “praise God from whom all blessings flow” or “in Christ your sins are forgiven” or “Jesus is risen from the dead.”

Remembering (v. 8)

That’s not all the messengers said. They kept going, “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (vv. 6-7) Remember that? We’ve been reading it here to start our service for 4-5 weeks now. It was back before the last supper, before teaching in the Temple, before Palm Sunday. Jesus told them what would happen. And that last part… who could understand it? But there it is: “and the third day rise again!” Well, the women DID remember! See verse 8? “And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” (v. 8) You can bet they connected the dots. They remembered Jesus saying that last part – the third day… rise again. And now his body was not there. Why look for the Living One among the dead?

One of the reasons Christian worship is centered around the Bible – God’s Word or promise – is that it helps us remember. We believe God has spoken and that as surprisingly as life comes at us, God is not startled or surprised. We’ve spent several months seeing how valuable scripture was to Jesus – how he rooted his own teaching and identity in what God had said. In many ways, Jesus life and teaching was a great big “remember God!” to all who came in contact with him. My goal in preaching is not to dispense “Dear Abby” type advice, but to remind you what God has already said – to help you (and me) REMEMBER God’s Word and promise. Add to that remembering how God has shown up in your own life before – and I know how easily we forget or pass over that! – and maybe the women’s reaction that day begins to make more sense. Maybe what we are doing here in church makes a little more sense as well.

Unbelieving (v. 11)

The women found the apostles and told them all this, presumably from what they found to the messengers to the reminder of what Jesus had said. And I appreciate verse 11 for the honesty of it. Since these were the same folks who would later tell the gospel story, they could have easily enough made themselves out to be heroes of faith. But here’s what we find: “these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”

This is a very natural and understandable response to the declarations of the Christian faith. God become man? An innocent dying for my sins? Risen from the dead? Nonsense! I struggle to believe it!

This is a place where those questions and that struggle are welcome. In fact, the whole spring program on Wednesday nights has been built around bringing these kinds of questions to the table. Collectively, the folks coming on Wednesday nights asked more than 120 questions, many of which have no short or simple answer. But we’ve struggled with them together and that’s a good thing!

The critical thing is not whether one has questions and doubts – or even unbelief – but what one ultimately does with it. Peter gives us one example.

Exploring (v. 12)

We read in verse 12, “But Peter….” Peter was one of those apostles and presumably one who heard nonsense and did not believe. But he also got up to go see for himself. There is a kind of hopeful questioning that says, “I’ve got to find out for myself!” and there is a kind of cynical unbelief that says, “I won’t bother.” Peter didn’t just ask a few questions, he GOT UP AND RAN to the tomb, stooping and looking in for himself. And after seeing the linen wrappings and not body, he went away to his home, MARVELING at what had happened. (v. 12) His questions weren’t just answered; they turned to belief and wonder.

That’s really the option before any of us, isn’t it? I am sure that every last one of us has questions about God and how it all works. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if God really exists, is supernatural (greater than what we see and know everyday), and has done what we read about in scripture, then you better have questions! The key thing is not whether or not you have questions or doubts, but whether you shut the door on this “nonsense” or choose to explore it for yourself.

Epilogue

Interestingly, that is not the end of the story by any stretch. What about the other 10 apostles? What about the other followers of Jesus? What about the people who didn’t “get up and run” to see? Thankfully, that is not the only way people discover this Easter news. In the chapters following this one and in the coming weeks, we will see that Jesus himself “got up and ran” to see people! He showed up on the road and in the workplace and where people gathered. He ate and taught and helped them remember what God had promised. One apostle, in particular, missed Jesus showing up and refused to believe until he could touch him in the flesh. And Jesus came back another time so Thomas would see him.

That’s part of this story (of scripture) as well; that God doesn’t wait for human beings to perish or to find their way to him; God comes after us. I know, it sure would be easier if Jesus showed up in the flesh and proved to us that he was alive and real. I will tell you that I have seen him show up in surprisingly tangible ways. And we have the testimony of God’s Word, the remembrance of God’s work in the world and in our lives, and the very tangible community of faith to help take this “nonsense” and make it as critical as food, water, and air.

Where are you this morning? Wherever you find yourself in this story and in relation to God, I hope you will hear the declaration that “Jesus is risen!” and, if not ready to celebrate quite yet, that you will be willing to explore God’s community, God’s Word, and God’s love in Jesus for yourself. And if none of that is true for you, I’ll simply conclude with what God has said throughout his Word, in His community, and through Jesus: He has not given up on you.

Jesus Christ is risen; He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! (Praise God!)




Sunday, April 13, 2014

On a Donkey's Colt (John 12.12-16)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - April 13, 2014
Text: John 12:12-16; Psalm 118; Zechariah 13:1,6-7,9

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell."

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee? (Manz)
Processional Hymn: "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" (ST. THEODULPH)
Song of Praise: "Jesus, All for Jesus" (Robin Mark)
Offering of Music: "His Eye is on the Sparrow" (Charles Gabriel)
Offering of Music: "Holy" (Craig Courtney)
Our Song of Praise: "The Doxology"
Hymn of Sending: "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty" (TRURO)
Postlude: "Fanfare in D" (Lemmens)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. (Ps. 118:26)” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (Zech 9:9) 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:12-16)
For many weeks, stretching back to January, we have been looking at the many places where Jesus quoted scripture – his scripture, Hebrew scripture, our Old Testament. Early in his ministry he declared that he did not come to do away with that scripture – the Law, the Prophets – but to fulfill or complete it. And so he dug into it in his teaching, pressing God’s Word deep into human life and the human heart. We were not just to keep God’s Word externally, but internally. That Word is living and convicting and life-shaping!

As Jesus’ ministry progressed and as we’ve moved closer to Easter week, we’ve seen the truth of our Call to Worship, that Jesus didn’t come just to teach the scripture in a new way, but to fulfill or complete it through his own life and actions… in himself. More and more we see him fulfilling prophecies about the Messiah, particularly the description of the “suffering servant” in Isaiah 53. And particularly as he moves closer and closer to the cross, we see the meaning of “the things which are written… [being] accomplished.” (Luke 18:31)

For the past several weeks we have been looking at events that happened during Jesus final week – the week we are about to live through, which we call “Holy Week.” So, chronologically, we are backing up a little bit today to look at Palm Sunday, the events on that day five days before the crucifixion. All that we looked in our previous weeks is about to happen: the clearing of the Temple, teaching in the Temple courts, the religious leaders trying again and again to trap Jesus into saying something to justify them arresting him. The events of that Maundy Thursday night are yet to happen: the Last Supper, the betrayals, the denials, the prayer, and the arrest. We will move slowly and intentionally through those events this Thursday night at our Maundy Thursday evening service. And the events of Friday – the crucifixion – are still coming, yet all that will be past by the time we gather here again next Sunday morning for Easter.

Well all of that is in view in the text this morning. All of that is hinted at in the events and in the references to the old scriptures. And we, of course, know what all is about to happen. Let’s look at it together.

A Psalm and a Prophet – the Hero


Interestingly enough, Jesus didn’t speak either of the two quotations of scripture in today’s text. The first was shouted by the crowd and comes from Psalm 118:26 – “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The second is provided by the narrator, John, who is reflecting on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey. John notes that it is written (in Zechariah 9:9), “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

In both cases, Jesus is no longer quoting and teaching scripture; he is living it, and both the crowd and John-as-narrator make that connection. The events they are witnessing are the completion of scripture written long ago!

And in both cases, the connection the people make is that Jesus is being shown to be King… a hero in the mold of King David himself, the very Messiah promised by God. The people shout it out in the same breath as the Psalm 118 quote: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, EVEN THE KING OF ISRAEL.” That part isn’t in Psalm 118; it is who they believe Jesus to be! And when John makes a connection with the words of Zechariah, they include the promise that “your King is coming.”

Makes sense so far, right? Jesus is not explicitly embodying and fulfilling the scriptures; that’s the point of this extended series we’ve been in. So what happened between this triumphant Palm Sunday hero-welcome, several popular days of teaching in the Temple, and the betrayal and arrest of Thursday evening?

One significant part of that turnaround is that the people – and even the disciples – did not read their scriptures closely enough. Jesus didn’t just come to fulfil an exciting verse here or there, but as the living embodiment of ALL of God’s Word. Let’s look further…

A Psalm and a Prophet – a Suffering Savior


We’ve looked at Psalm 118 before, even a few weeks ago. It does have that memorable verse that the crowd quoted. I’ve noted more than once that “Hosanna” doesn’t mean what we often think it means, a kind of Hallelujah or praise to God. It literally means “Please save us!” or “Save us now!” It is a cry for help. But it also charts a course for the work the Messiah will do, particularly in vv. 22-29. The Messiah will indeed come as saving King, chosen by God; but the Messiah will first be rejected (v. 22) and a great sacrifice will be made (v. 27). The Messiah doesn’t come to save through earthly battle, but through spiritual sacrifice.

And the context in Zechariah is similar. The quote about a king riding on a donkey comes in the middle of a chapter on earthly victory of God’s people. But just a few chapters later, we read this powerful text in Zechariah 12:10:
“10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
John the disciple wrote in v. 16, “These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.” And John also notes the great attention generated by raising Lazarus from the dead (v. 17) and other miracles. It is no wonder that the crowd didn’t stop to do careful scriptural study. We certainly have the advantage of hind-sight, and further explanation of the New Testament.

Yet it is interesting that the events of Palm Sunday called these scriptures to mind, but not the full context of those scriptures. Even if we can overlook remembering these things in the moment, even scholars of that day had focused on the triumphant Kingly themes of Messiah and de-emphasized the suffering servant kinds of themes as found in Isaiah 53. Yet we have seen in recent weeks and today that Jesus was not only King and Messiah, he was suffering servant, as described in Isaiah 53; he was rejected and sacrificed, as described in Psalm 118; and he was betrayed, pierced, and mourned, as described in Zechariah 12.

While it is not the main point of this sermon, this should give us pause to consider where we might have overlooked the actual Jesus presented in scripture and instead constructed a savior or God of our own desire and design. One good guard against that mistake (and related disappointment down the line) is to keep going back to scripture and digging deeper and deeper to discover who God is, particularly as revealed through Jesus. That task is never done, particularly because scripture reveals Jesus to be invitational, and along with knowing him more and more deeply, we are called ever more deeply to release the things we cling to and follow after him.

It is Finished


The main point I want to leave you with is something we will actually pass over because we don’t have a Good Friday service. We will have an opportunity to gather and contemplate the events of Thursday night this Thursday at 7pm. We will have a guided and interactive experience on Friday called “Journey to the Cross.” It is open between noon and 5pm. But when we gather next for morning worship, it will be Easter morning. We’ll be on to the Resurrection, and rightly so.

What I want to highlight is something we’ve been building to for weeks and even months. And in recent weeks, as I noted, we have followed Jesus teaching, life, and ministry all the way up to Thursday night. This morning we have actually wound the clock back a bit to look at the Palm Sunday events. But even there, as in so much of Jesus teaching, life, and ministry, it all points to what God was doing in Christ. In today’s text it is found most clearly in Psalm 118, which is in view with the shouts of “Please save us, you who come in the name of the Lord!” That Psalm describes the Messiah ascending the hill to make the sacrifice and that’s exactly what Jesus will do in the course of this week we call Holy Week.

Months ago, we heard him teaching scripture in the Sermon on the Mount, digging far deeper than the people or even the teachers of the Law were used to digging. He said then that he came not to abolish the Law and Prophets, but to complete them. And for weeks now, we have been reading stories and hearing the truth of what Jesus declared in our call to worship: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him…” (Luke 18:31-33).

By Friday, all that will have been accomplished. Jesus didn’t come to do away with God’s Word, but to open it up to us. And he didn’t just come to teach it to us, but to live it among us. On that terrible Friday, which we call Good Friday, John records these last words: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) The once and for all sacrifice was made to rescue us back from death’s grip. God, who promised His people that He would never leave and never forsake them, kept that promise and came among us.

As you move through this week, spring break and all, I hope you will be reminded in fresh ways of the lengths to which God went to come after you. As you read scripture or think about Jesus, I hope you will see the long thread of redemptive history – God at work to pursue and rescue and welcome you home. And where you and I may have constructed God or Jesus a little bit into the God we want rather than the God who IS, I hope scripture will shake you and redirect you and lead you ever closer to God in Christ.

And if I don’t see you between now and Easter, or if you are somewhere else next Sunday, let me remind you of the full text of what Jesus said was being accomplished, powered by a God who always does what He says He will do.
31 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”
…and on the third day He will rise again. Halleluia!




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Last Words Before Crucifixion (Luke 22.35-38, Isaiah 53)

Sermons by: Robert Austell - April 6, 2014
Text: Luke 22:35-38; Isaiah 53

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell."

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Meditation on Passion Chorale" (Fred Bock)
Song of Praise: "My Soul Finds Rest (Psalm 62)" (Townend, Keyes)
The Word in Music: "The Lonesome Valley" (Price/Besig)
Offering of Music: "His Eye is on the Sparrow" (Charles Gabriel)
Invitation to Communion: "Behold the Lamb (vv. 1-3)" (Getty/Townend)
Song of Thanksgiving: "Behold the Lamb (v. 4)" (Getty/Townend)
Hymn of Sending: "And Can it Be" (vv. 3-4) (SAGINA)
Postlude: "A Mighty Fortress" (Wilbur Held)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. … 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? … 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:5,7-8,11-12)

This short text from Luke 22 is another one of those places where Jesus quotes from Old Testament scripture and shows it to be fulfilled in himself. In doing so he gives some unusual instructions – countermanding something he said earlier – and sets those instructions in the context of the suffering of God’s Messiah. Interestingly, this text falls right after the Last Supper and an argument among the disciples about which one was “regarded to be greatest.” (v. 24) Jesus has also just spoken of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. In fact, this text comes in the verse right after “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.” (v. 34) It is a somber, serious, intense moment.

Expecting Conflict


First, a bit of mystery. Earlier in ministry, Jesus had told his followers to “take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money.” They traveled and shared the good news of the Kingdom and depended on the hospitality of strangers. And Jesus references that earlier instruction in v. 35 with them agreeing that they had not lacked for necessities. But now things are changing. Now, says Jesus, take your money belt and bag. And most perplexing, if you don’t already have a sword, sell your coat to get one.

It’s clear that times are changing for Jesus and his followers. Remember what has been happening: the opposition has been growing along with the public attention. It is Thursday night of Holy Week. Jesus has been confronted daily in the Temple by the religious leaders, clearly seeking to trip him up so that they might arrest him. And already this Thursday night, Jesus has revealed a traitor in their midst. Fair enough. If I were a disciple, I’d take the hint, which is exactly what they do. There in verse 38, the disciples produce two swords on the spot. And he replies, “It is enough.”

So, before we move on to focus on verse 37, I’ve got a few questions and hope you do, too. Swords? Do we ever associate Jesus with swords? Clearly, things are different and dangerous. We know tension has been building and if we read ahead, it is only eight more verses before Judas betrays Jesus in the garden (v. 47) and they are surrounded by a crowd armed with swords and clubs (v. 52). But still, don’t you have some questions? Isn’t Jesus supposed to be peaceful? What does the “It is enough” in v. 38 mean? Are the two swords enough for their purposes that night? And what is that purpose? Is it self-defense only or are they supposed to fight for Jesus?

Well, for one, this is not a general “take your money, bag, and sword from now on wherever you go”; this is “but now… take it along.” They are going to a very specific place this night: to the garden to pray and then Jesus’ arrest will follow. And we get an answer to whether the swords are for attack or defense in vv. 49-52 when they are surrounded by an armed crowd and do ask about attacking; one disciple jumps ahead of Jesus’ reply and attacks, but Jesus calls him off and heals the one attacked. So at most, it seems like they are for self-defense and for the specific events of that night. Perhaps they are even meant to show that Jesus could fight but chooses not to.

To be sure, Jesus was saying more than “make sure you have your gear with you” because his instructions didn’t end in v. 36. He went on to quote from scripture and that part of what he said needs to be weighed as well.

A Deeper (Spiritual) Conflict?


Jesus’ quote in v. 37 is actually given as the reason for bringing money, bag, and sword. After telling them to bring those things, Jesus says, “For I tell you….” In other words, “Here’s why!” It is “that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me.” So, this scripture quote is the key part of understanding why they are going out armed and with their belongings. It is from Isaiah 53: “And He was numbered with transgressors.” And he says it a second time: “for that which refers to me has its fulfillment.”

So, here is something Jesus doesn’t want them to miss (though apparently they did). He says it twice as the reason for them getting up and leaving, armed and ready. If we only look at that short sentence we get plenty of explanation right there. If Jesus is going to be “numbered with the transgressors” it is pretty clear that he is saying, “we are about to face trouble; they think we are criminals!” And that is indeed what happens shortly.

But if we look at the rest of Isaiah 53, there is so much more also happening on top of that literal short-term fulfillment. I’ll remind you that Isaiah 53 is the chapter about the “suffering servant” and is understood to be a prophetic description of the Messiah (though generally overlooked in his day in favor of more victorious and triumphal passages). Nonetheless, as we have noted before, passages like these were so well-known that Jesus could quote one line and the whole thing would come to mind. We’ve been using Isaiah 53 for weeks now for our call to worship and prayer of confession, so that I hope you will recognize a number of the verses as well. As a side note, so much of Jesus’ suffering and obedience is packed into Luke 22, it would be a very meaningful pairing to read Isaiah 53 and Luke 22 side by side in personal study or devotion.

Especially bearing in mind the confrontation, arrest, and crucifixion that will all happen in the next 12 hours or so after Jesus and the disciples leave the Upper Room, listen to some of Isaiah 53. In fact, let’s pause and have our prayer of confession now, noting that all these words come from the passage Jesus quoted as he spoke to the disciples:
Leader:  1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
ALL: 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Leader: 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
ALL: 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed.
Leader: 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;
ALL: But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
That’s just the first six verses. Listen to this next part as you picture Jesus in the garden, telling Peter to put away the swords he asked them to bring and healing Malchus, whom Peter struck with the sword.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” (Isaiah 53:7-8)
And then picturing his crucifixion, listen to these verses near the end:
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, [God] will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, my Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12)
Doesn’t that open up a huge world of context!? The suffering servant will “bear the sin of many and intercede for the transgressors.” That’s his work on the cross! And because of that great sacrifice and service, God will declare and make him great and strong – there’s the victory, there’s the Promised Messiah! And did you hear and do you see the part Jesus quoted? All of that is “because He poured out Himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors.” (v. 12)

Jesus became one of us – the transgressors, the sinful, the rebellious – and poured out himself to death for our sake, that we would be numbered with the righteous. That’s the Good News! For none of us is righteous, not even one. Only Jesus was; and that’s the great exchange that we celebrate every time we come to this [Communion] Table: his righteousness for our transgression, his healing for our sickness, his life for our death.

He was numbered with the transgressors is shorthand for all that he accomplished on the cross and is a reminder that because of him and through him all who trust in him are counted as right with God.

Scripture Has Its Fulfillment


So, Jesus told the disciples right before they headed into the darkest and thickest part of crucifixion night and morning: “Bring your things because God’s Word will be fulfilled this night.” Really, the swords are one minor detail in a much larger fulfillment. My best guess is that they are part of the “sheep that is silent before its shearers.” Most criminals… most men… would have resisted arrest and death; but Jesus called them off that he might walk that path of obedience to the cross, to be numbered among the transgressors that we might be counted among the righteous. Don’t miss the greater story, the greater narrative!

The question for us from this text then is not “What will you bring?” or “What will you do?” but “Do you understand what Jesus has done?” That night Peter would both rush ahead of him and deny knowing him, while all along the very promises and Word of God were being fulfilled perfectly before him.

Can you see it? Do you understand it? Through Jesus, God has made the great exchange – you for him and him for you. It’s what we acknowledge and give thanks for at the Table. And through Jesus all are invited!