New Testament

Responses to Jesus III: Obedience

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Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti

Has anyone ever asked you to steal a brand new car for them?  It’s never happened to me, but I’m not sure about the rest of you.

Jesus appears to do something roughly equivalent to his disciples shortly before his death, which will be the topic of today’s blog.

This week we’re looking at responses to Jesus, starting with his enemies (mocking, beating, killing), then his friends (abandoning, denying, betraying), and finally today looking a faithful response of obedience.  I’ve taken my 10-minute Palm Sunday sermon and milked it into three separate blog posts.  It’s still in terse, outline format.

  • Obeying Jesus.
    1. But in the midst of this rather depressing narrative (mocking, denying, killing, etc), there is a bit of hope.
  • Let’s back up to Palm Sunday, right before Jesus came into Jerusalem.
    1. Jesus commanded two of his disciples to go get a colt that had never been ridden (Luke 19:29-35).
    2. If someone told you to go to dealership, find a car that had never been driven, take it and bring it so your friend could drive it into Philadelphia, what would you call that?
      1. Most people would say “theft.”
      2. It appears that Jesus is telling his disciples to steal a colt (the animal, not the Dodge).
    3. Now, I assume Jesus returned the colt.
      1. Mark’s gospel informs us that the disciples promised to return it.
      2. But none of the gospels record the return of the rented Colt.
    4. Jesus’ errand here is a big ask.
      1. Go steal a colt from a stranger.
      2. I probably would have said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
    5. But Jesus’ knows exactly what is going to happen. He says…
      1. Go to a village with an unridden colt tied up.
      2. People will ask, “What are you doing?
      3. You’ll give your line “The Lord needs it.
      4. They’ll agree.
      5. You’ll do it.
    6. The two disciples did it.
      1. They responded to Jesus with obedience.
    7. Everything Jesus predicted about the colt came true, just as it did with the mocking, betraying, denying, and killing of Jesus.
      1. Jesus’ words come true.
  • So, what can we learn from this Palm Sunday colt-stealing story?
    1. The words of Jesus are true.
    2. But there are times when we have to wait to see it.
    3. After his death, on Saturday, one final word of Jesus still needed to come true for the disciples.
      1. Jesus did come back to life.
    4. This story can give hope to the disciples even post-resurrection as they look back upon their epic failure, to a time when they were obedient and followed Jesus.
    5. And Jesus knew they would respond in faith and they ultimately did, which is why we’re here today.
  • How do we respond to Jesus?
    1. Like the disciples who got the colt, we respond in faith because we know his word is true.  Even when it seems crazy.
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzetti.jpg

 

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Responses to Jesus II: Friends

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Prayer on the Mount of Olives, Duccio di Buoninsegna

How loyal are your friends? Have they ever hurt you, let you down, or perhaps even betrayed you? If you’ve been disappointed by someone close to you, then you and Jesus share something in common.

I have divided my  10-minute Palm Sunday sermon on Luke 22-23 into three blog posts. The first one was about how Jesus’ enemies respond to him, during Passion Week.

This post looks at the response of Jesus’ friends.

  • How do Jesus’ friends, his disciples, respond to him?
    1. One, they argue in front of Jesus over who is the greatest (Luke 22:24-27).
      1. As Jesus is going to die, his disciples are bickering who will be considered the greatest after he’s gone.
    2. Two, they abandon Jesus while he prays (Luke 22:39-46).
      1. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him, but they fell asleep (see image above).
      2. And in Mark’s gospel, they fall asleep three times (Mark 14:32-42).
    3. Three, they betray Jesus, with a kiss (Luke 22:21-23, 47-48).
      1. Despite being warned by Jesus beforehand, Judas betrays Jesus to his death, essentially handing him over to the Jewish leaders to want to kill him.
    4. Four, they deny Jesus (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)
      1. Three times Peter denies being a friend of Jesus.
      2. And like Judas, Peter was warned ahead of time, and yet he still did exactly what Jesus predicted.
  • Not Shocking Jesus
    1. The fact that Jesus’ enemies treated him negatively (mocking, accusing, and killing–see last blog) we can understand, but the fact that even his disciples, his closest friends treated him so negatively (arguing, abandoning, betraying, and denying) is shocking.
    2. Yet, most of these actions against Jesus were predicted by Christ himself beforehand and many of which were repeated three times.
    3. One thing people didn’t do to Jesus was to shock him.
    4. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been among the people betraying, denying, mocking, and killing Jesus. But realistically, I’m sure I would have.
    5. In the final hours of Jesus’ life everyone rejected him, a microcosm of what happened in the Garden of Eden, and throughout human history, as all of humanity ultimately rejects Jesus.

In the final post, I’ll look at one often over-looked hopeful response to Jesus during Passion week.

Image from http://www.artbible.info/art/large/157.html

Responses to Jesus I: Enemies

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Jesus Before Herod Antipas, Albrecht Durer, 1509

I was preaching at a church this past weekend, Palm Sunday, and was given five texts to preach from in 10 minutes.  It was an Episcopal church, they cover a lot of text in a short amount of time.  Efficient.  Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 19:28-40; 22:14-23:56.  Only 148 verses.  About Jesus’ Passion and death.  In ten minutes.  No problem.

Now, to be fair, they told me I could just focus on one aspect, so being a good Old Testament scholar, I skipped the Old Testament (and Paul), and focused on the gospel, of Luke, in this case.  So that eliminated 21 verses; only 127 left.

I then decided to reflect on the question of how do people respond to Jesus, and I’ll divide my 10 minute sermon into 3 short blogs.  Today, we focus on how Jesus’ enemies respond to him during his final hours.

  • The biggest question we have to face in this life is…
    1. How do we respond to Jesus?
    2. Over the course of his ministry people either loved or hated Jesus, which sounds a bit like the presidential candidates.
    3. But as Jesus’ ministry winds down during Passion Week, the responses to him shift from being both positive and negative, to being exclusively negative.
  • How do Jesus’ enemies respond to him?
    1. One, they mock and beat Jesus (Luke 22:63-65; 23:11-12, 35-38).
      1. In three separate incidents, the solders, the chief priests, King Herod, and even one of the criminals hanging on a cross next to him take turns mocking and beating Jesus.
    2. Two, they interrogate and accuse Jesus (Luke 22:66-71; 23:1-10).
      1. In three separate incidents, the chief priests, Pilate, and King Herod interrogated and accused Jesus of perverting the nation and instigating a rebellion.
    3. Three, they crucify and kill Jesus (Luke 23:26-46).
      1. Three times the crowd tells Pilate to Crucify Jesus (Luke 23:21, 23), which was exactly what the chief priests were hoping for.
    4. Mocking, accusing, killing…that’s how Jesus’ enemies respond.

Jesus’ enemies are brutal, even vicious to him, before they kill him.  And we see a pattern of their brutality being repeated in threes.

Jesus wasn’t surprised by any of this.  As we read through the gospels, he predicted it all, and yet he still went ahead, enduring the cross, despising the shame, for the joy set before him (Heb. 12:1).

Next we focus on Jesus’ friends.  

Image: By Albrecht Dürer – http://www.conncoll.edu/visual/Durer-prints/smallpass2.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1005637

Three Lessons from the Five Wise Men

Why three?  I think there were five.

We Five Kings of Orient Are…

Matthew 2 narrates the story of the wise men, sometimes called magi.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem…10 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1, 10-12)

Notice, Matthew never says how many wise men there were.  In Eastern Christianity, the number is often twelve, according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong).

Why do we think there were three?  There were three gifts (2:11). We assume each wise man brought one gift–one brought gold, one, frankincense, and one, myrrh. But just because three things listed doesn’t mean each brought something separate. Five magi could have gone in on three gifts, or there may have been three separate gold gifts.

Do any of you who are parents ever go in together on a gift for one of your children? In the context of these wise men, it makes more sense to give communal, not individual gifts.

I think there were five.

At our church (Calvary of Souderton), a few years ago there was a Christmas competition where teams had to answer questions about the Bible. One of the questions asked, “How many wise men were there?” Possible answers: 2, 3, 4, or unknown.  My son Noah’s team instantly said, “3.”  Noah said, “We don’t know.” They didn’t believe him at first, but he continued, “Trust me.  My dad’s a Bible nerd.” Noah’s team was the only one to get the question right. Sometimes it pays to be a Bible nerd.

Why should we care if there were three or five? I’m really not trying to ruin it every time you sing “We Three Kings” I like the song, and there may have been only three. But I think it’s important as we reflect on the Christmas story to read our Bibles carefully, to not make things up, even things repeated in a popular song. We should expect to learn something new about Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

What unexpected lessons can we learn from the story of the five wise men?  I see three (not five).   

First, wise men, and wise women, follow God’s direction. These wise men followed a divinely given star at the beginning of the story (2:2, 10), and a divinely given dream at the end (2:12).  Let’s expect God to guide us in unexpected ways this Christmas season.

Second, wise men, and women, travel to meet Jesus. These wise men came from lands east of Jerusalem. We’re not sure where they were from exactly, but lands east of Jerusalem today include Jordan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Some of the first people to meet Jesus were from lands that are now Muslim. They still need to meet Jesus. These countries are often considered to be our enemies, but even if they are, thirty years after his birth the Prince of Peace told us to pray for our enemies. Over a quarter million people have died in the past few years in the war in Syria. Let’s pray for peoples east of Jerusalem this Christmas season, particularly ones in Syria, and ask God to guide us (see lesson #1) how he wants us to care for them.  (More about Syria in the next blog.)

Third, wise men, and women, fall down and worship Jesus.  That’s what these wise men did.  Ultimately, the story is about Jesus and our adoration of the incarnate king, born to serve, die, and rise again.

Expect the unexpected when Jesus arrives on the scene. For Christmas, you might be planning for three guests, but get five instead.