Tag Archives: Jesus

You Have Not Seen Him

 

file000638778040

Acts 2:14a,22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31
Psalm 16

Excerpts of sermon one, The Hands of God by Peter Marshall based on John 20:27.  Dr. Marshall was pastor of the Washington DC New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and Chaplain to the US Senate until his early death in 1947.  I have retained his printed style.

When Thomas returned to join the group, he heard the announcement told breathlessly

with shining eyes

as they gripped him by the arm

that the Master had appeared unto them, and that they knew—beyond any doubt—that He was alive.  Partly because of his overwhelming grief, and partly because he was by nature and disposition a skeptic, Thomas would not believe them.

he was, as it were, from some Palestinean Missouri

he had to be shown

he demanded proof

he insisted that he would not be swept

off his feet by any emotional reaction

he would have to be sure

and he refused to believe until the Lord

should appear before him

and until he could stick his unbelieving finger into the nailprints of the hands of the Son of God.

 

Before very long the disciples were again united in the room, and the door still being closed, and without bothering to knock, Jesus stood before them.

 

It was enough for Thomas, and it drew him to his glorious surrender: “My Lord, and my God!”

….

Here is our infinite comfort and strength—

“Behold My hands,” says Jesus.  That gives us confidence, and by this we know that the hands that today lay bricks

dig ditches

plant flowers

operate street cars

mine coal

wield shovels

hold riveting machines

use typewriters

wrap packages

wash dishes

Shall some day be occupied with the affairs of God in the New Jerusalem.

 

Excerpts of sermon two, The Joy of Ascension, preached in Berlin on Ascension Day, May 25, 1933 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer based on 1 Peter 1:7-9.  He was hanged in 1945 for his opposition to Hitler.

“Jesus, my joy”—is what we have just sung, and to be able to say that honestly, from the heart, is the meaning of a life lived with Christ.  If there is someone to whom it sounds very foreign, or who hears nothing in it but mush enthusiasm, then that person has never yet heard the gospel.  Jesus Christ was made a human being for the sake of humankind in the stable at Bethlehem—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ became the companion of sinners and sat among tax collectors and prostitutes—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ became a convicted criminal for the sake of convicts, on the cross at Golgotha—rejoice, o Christendom.  Jesus Christ, for the sake of his church, went from this earthly home to his heavenly kingdom—rejoice, o Christendom….  Say it out loud: Christ, my joy….

But how can people rejoice when they have been abandoned?  How can those who are left orphans be comforted?  How can those who are torn by homesickness be cheerful?  You orphaned church, left alone in your homesickness for Jesus Christ and his ascension, your ascension, rejoice!  For we are allowed to love him whom you cannot see; you are allowed to believe in him who is lost to your sight.  And nobody can take your love and your faith from you…. Without rejoicing, there is no church.  Let us talk today about joy in Christ….

Joy in the sermon—how hard that is for us people of today.  That’s because we are listening to the preacher and not to Christ.  We turn our own joy sour because we confuse earthly joy with heavenly joy.  Our poor Protestant church doesn’t offer us much earthly joy.  Don’t come looking for it here.  But heavenly joy Christ can give us, even through his frail church, and we should look for it only from him, not from the preacher.  In the sermon it is Christ who wants to visit us and wants to b himself our heavenly joy.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Why Are You Crying?

DSC00674

Easter April 20, 2014

Jeremiah 31:1-6
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

As the Holy City of God was still in darkness and the eastern sky was promising its light, Mary Magdalene made her way with the other women to the tomb where her beloved Master was buried on that horrible Friday. They carried the spices and cloths needed to complete the burial; her Yeshua would not be dumped like a common criminal.

Even in the darkness it was evident the stone was rolled from the entrance and the guards were gone.  The women had their lanterns, but none dared look into the tomb.  Instead, they ran in different directions.  Mary made her way to the hiding place of Simon and John, telling them the startling news.

Forgetting their fears, both men rushed to the tomb while Mary followed with more decorum.  Sunlight was now filling the valleys and all were able to see clearly that the burial linen lay on the stone slab, but Yeshua was gone.

The two men entered the small tomb and came out dazed, making their way back into hiding.  Mary watched them leave her alone at the tomb.  She looked through her tears at the empty stone slab, only to discover two men dressed in white and sitting on the stone.

Why are you crying?

Why indeed.  Her Yeshua was tortured, killed, buried and now stolen.

Confused, still half blinded by tears, she turned away from the grave only to face another man.

Why are you crying?

Her emotions boiled over.  She ignored propriety and spoke to a man she did not know, her words spilling in a torrent.  I want my Master back.

Mary.

In an instant she knew.  Yeshua.  Am I dreaming?  He is real.  I touch my Master.  The Messiah lives.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Jesus and the Dry Bones

SDRandCo (6)

 

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45
Psalm 130

The Pharisees, rabbi, scribes, Sadducees, and Temple leaders constantly asked Jesus for signs.  Prove to us you are the Messiah.  They were like Pharaoh with the ten plagues.  Anyone can do that trick.  Unlike Pharaoh, even death left them unconvinced.

Earlier in John 5:21, Jesus explains his power over death.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Mark and Luke tell of Jairus taking Jesus to heal his sick child who dies before they arrive.  Jesus brings her to life. (Mark 5:41; Luke 8:54)  In Luke 7:14, Jesus heals a dead man being carried past him to the grave.

 

Luke 20:37-38 adds this about death.  But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

 

Finally, in Matthew 23:27:  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 

Ezekiel gives us a picture of men’s bones lying sun-bleached and dry in the valley of death.  Then he tells us that the Son of Man will put life back in those bones.

 

This is the sign, a sign the leaders knew about.

 

Yet, when Jesus called Lazarus from the grave, the leaders plotted to kill Jesus instead of worshiping him.  They forgot the words of the Psalm.  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

 

The Son of Man is here, now.  He visits with those who allow Him into their lives.  He leaves us filled with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Life.  Without the Spirit, there is only death.  Life without the Son of Man is life in a matrix that is nothing but a simulation of life; it is not reality.

 

We can only place our hope in the words Jesus gave to Martha before he brought her brother from the grave.  I am the resurrection and the lift.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYb8Wm6-QfA

http://www.brownielocks.com/dembones.html

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Acts 26- Mark 2

file7781250745849        An Ancient Prison

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, March 17, Chapter 26

Paul is in chains before Agrippa, but he manages to take the classical Greek oratorical stance by holding a hand out.  He again assures Agrippa that he is a good and loyal Jew, even a Pharisee.  This is not something he made up for his defense.  In his letters, he also claimed to be a Jew.  He lived as a gentile only when he was with them.  He lived as a Jew when he was with Jews.  My personal belief is that he ate with gentiles, but never ate pork.

Verse 8 is a terrific question for all times.

Paul appeals to Agrippa’s status as a Jew by reminding him of the promise of the prophets.  Note that it is Festus who accuses Paul of being crazy.  Agrippa at the end says that Paul is not guilty and should be released, but he asked to go to the Emperor, so must go.

This shows the big picture.  When Paul claimed Roman citizenship, he saved himself from being killed in Jerusalem, knowing he was intended for Rome.  By claiming the right for a trial before the Emperor, he assured a trip to Rome.  Paul knows that he will die, and he would have been personally thrilled to die at Jerusalem where his Master also died.  But God wanted him to minister in Rome before his execution.

Tuesday, March 18, Chapter 27

We see Luke again in the first verse.  It is likely that he traveled some while Paul was in prison.  Paul was well cared for by the Christians in Caesarea.  As is the case today in many countries, people in prison depend on family and friends to feed, cloth, and nurse them.  The prison is only there to lock the prisoners away.  If no one feeds them, they die, which makes space for new prisoners.

The Mediterranean has claimed tens of thousands of ships over the centuries.  It is more unpredictable than the other oceans because odd-shaped land masses surround it.  Winds sweep down mountains and blast ships into to danger without a hint of clouds.  This trip is an excellent example of what can happen.

It might be helpful to find a map to follow the adventurous journey.  Twice, Luke tells us that they sailed to the lee.  The leeward course simply follows the wind, rather than to sail across the wind.  By doing that, the ships they were on failed to follow the course they wanted.

In verse 12, we see that the ship intended to sail along the coast of Crete, a distance of perhaps 30 miles.  The storm blew them south past the tiny island of Cauda, about 100 miles south.

The storm continued so long the captain ordered all cargo and non-essentials thrown overboard.  They were at the mercy of the winds.  Paul assured them they would live.

After 2 weeks, the ship arrived at Malta and Paul saved them again when the crew tried to abandon them on the ocean.  He became the acting captain.  Thanks to him, all 276 men made it to shore.  It is likely that most of the men were prisoners.

Wednesday, March 19, Chapter 28

Regarding the serpent, Basil the Great (died 628) wrote, If you have no faith fear less the beast than your own faithlessness through which you make yourself susceptible to every type of corruption.

Publius received the power of Paul in the healing of his father.  That led to many others.  No doubt, they left many Christians on the island.

When they finally arrived in Rome, Paul had proven himself to such a degree that the commander allowed him to live where he wanted with only one soldier to guard him.  We can safely assume Paul converted more than one of those guards.

The Jews received and treated him respectfully with several becoming followers of the Way.  Luke gives us a pleasant, if incomplete, end.  Paul preached in Rome for two years.

The record is not clear about what happened to Paul after those two years.  The most widely accepted notion is that he had his head cut off at about the time Peter arrived for his upside-down crucifixion.  Neither account has scriptural support.

There are some hints that Paul may not have faced a trial and did make another missionary journey in Asia and Greece.

It is also possible that he went to Spain.

The truth is, we do not know.

JOHN77_edited-1

Thursday, March 20, Mark Chapter 1

We begin the study of Mark with the same statement used to end Acts, we do not know.  Specifically, we do not know who wrote the Gospel.  None of the Gospels have titles; we have attached them over the years.  However, we do have a written source from about 140 AD that names John Mark as the author, and he is quoting an older source, Papias who was alive when most of the New Testament writers were working.  So, I feel safe in assuming it is John Mark, the same young man who deserted Paul.

Most scholars believe that Mark was the first of the Four Gospels  written, and that both Matthew and Luke used his book as a template for their own, each adding points they believe were relevant, but left out of Mark.  Scholars generally believe that John Mark spent most of his missionary life with Peter and wrote down accounts given by Peter as he preached.

Mark begins with the Gospel.  In Greek, the word is evangelion, literally, Good News.  He next uses a neat rhyme in Greek: Iesou Christou. Huiou Theou; Jesus Christ, Son of God.

He next moves us to Isaiah.  Mark wants his readers to know immediately that Jesus is the Promised One and that John the Baptizer prepared the way.  If you are keeping score, verse 2 is a quote from Malachi 3:1, not Isaiah.

John preached repentance; literally an about-face.  ‘You have turned away from God; do an about-face and come back to Him.’

2 Kings 1:8 describes Elijah much the same as verse 6.

People who owned slaves had them untie the straps of their sandals, yet John is not even worthy to do that for Jesus.  It is intriguing that the word used by Mark for strap is also used for prisoner.

The early church struggled with the idea of Jesus’ baptism; he did not need to repent because he was without sin.  We generally say that he took on the sins of the world; it seems likely that this was the moment when that happened.  Baptism for him was a kind of reverse process.

The Trinity is present when the Holy Spirit comes to touch the Son of God and the Voice of God claims him as His own.  It seems a little odd at this point that it took the church 300 years to accept the idea of God in 3 forms.

Mark deals quickly with the forty days before moving to verse 14 with the arrest of John.  Mark has Jesus doing remarkably little until John is off the stage of history.  Now he begins to collect disciples, starting with those who would be his inner circle: Simon, Andrew, James, John.  It is at least possible if not likely that the four were in business together and may have been cousins.

Jesus ministry through chapter 10 will take place in Galilee, so check your map to see where Jesus is.  You will find him in Capernaum a good deal.  The religious leaders see that alone as a sure sign Jesus is not the Messiah.  No man who is ritually pure would go near the disgusting place with its Greeks, Romans, fishermen, and other lowlifes we will meet from time to time.

Mark does something awesome starting in verse 21.  He gives us a series of open and closed doors, all dealing with ritual purity.  The door first opens with an invitation to comment on the scripture read that day at the Sabbath service.  Jesus’ teaching stuns people.

Then a man possessed by an unclean spirit (the proper Greek word) calls Jesus the Holy One of God.  Jesus immediately closes that door.  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but the evil one is trying to tempt him with the claim, get him to think more highly of himself than he should.

Driving the spirit out quickly reopens the door and amazes people.  He becomes the talk of Galilee.

Jesus has already shown us that ritual purity is a waste of time if the Holy Spirit has not cleared away the sin inside us.  Think about why you go to church, read the Bible, give money, give up ___ (fill in the blank).  All too often, we step into church to cleanse us.  ‘I go every Sunday, so I’m a really good person.’

Becoming famous is another temptation for Jesus, so he leaves that and goes to Simon’s house.  Simon’s wife’s mother, sick in bed, gets Jesus’ attention.  Notice, Jesus closed the door by leaving the public and quickly opens the door to help someone.  He goes to her bed and holds her hand to help her stand healing her.  But do not miss the fact that Jesus violated two purity rules, he entered the bedroom of a woman and he touched a sick woman.  And you thought it was bad that he was hanging out with stinky fishermen.

Yet, in verse 32, Mark makes it clear that Jesus did not receive the others until the Sabbath was over.  Jesus will get in trouble for healing people on the Sabbath (he did heal the mother-in-law), but he does not look for trouble.

Jesus sneaks off to pray early Sunday morning.  Closing the door on the popularity.  Mark mentions going off to pray two other times (6:46 & 14:32-41), and in all 3 cases, there is a kind of crisis going on.  Not a bad example for us to follow.

This time, Jesus closes the door more firmly by leaving and walking around the region.  The leper represents very nearly the bottom of the ritually pure ladder; a dead person being the bottom.  Jesus could have healed the man without touching him, but he is giving everyone another lesson in purity.  Touching people is not a sin, why we touch people sometimes is a sin.

Jesus follows with instructions to go to the Temple for the ritual cleansing.  That was no small order.  The Temple was a two-day walk at best, through bandit country.  It was necessary because God had commanded that it be done and Jesus NEVER violated God’s Law.  God did not say, ‘Never touch a leper’

Nu 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.

Nu 12:10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, 27 like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy;

Nu 12:11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.

Nu 12:12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

Nu 12:13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, please heal her!”

Nu 12:14 The LORD replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.”

That is the Word of God.

Friday, March 21, Chapter 2

Middle Eastern hospitality involved opening the door of the house in the morning and closing it at night.  Anyone who wanted to come in could do so.  The wealthy generally placed a servant at the door as a guard, especially if they were Pharisees.

Back in Capernaum, Jesus was likely at the home of Simon Peter where we know he often stayed.  It was standing room only, even outside and around the open windows.

A roof in those days was built by laying thick beams or tree trunks across the opening, then crisscrossing with smaller and smaller wood or tree limbs.  The finish was a thick coat of mud to seal it.  Mud mixed with urine can create a surface impervious to rain.

Imagine how disruptive those men were by digging through the roof, dirt and debris falling on everyone in the room.  I guess Peter would have had a word or two for them.

Why did Jesus not heal the man?

Two reasons.  Most important, that is not what the man needed.  Sin can paralyze.  Doctors see it all the time.  Today we call it psychosomatic, but it is real.  If forgiveness of sin can heal a physical malady, why not do it?

Reason two is that Jesus knew there were religious leaders in the crowd who would object to forgiving sins.  He knew who they were, and he knew what their reaction would be.  Therefore, he created a teaching moment.

Notice, Jesus did not say, ‘I forgive your sins.’  In fact, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say that.  He did say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  Only God can forgive sins, and even the Messiah did not choose to boast by saying he could do it too.

What is the teaching moment?  Again, two things; Jesus proved his Messiahship by letting the scribes know that he could read their thoughts.  Then he healed the paralytic.

The Lesson: Jesus Is The Messiah.

Jesus, however, never called himself the Messiah and certainly never God.  He almost always called himself the Son of Man.  In Hebrew, it is Ben Adam.

Ezekiel used a form of the name more than 90 times, always showing God’s work being done through the weakness of man.

Daniel used it in 7:13,14,18.

The Book of Enoch, not a part of the Bible, but considered close in the First Century, spoke often of the Son of Man and described him replacing all the kings of the earth.  The book was as popular as it was widely known in Jesus day.  Everyone knew he was claiming the Ezekiel-Daniel-Enoch meaning of the title.  They also knew that it was another name for the Messiah.

Calling Levi is intriguing.  A tax collector was only a notch or two above a leper in purity, not because of money, but because he had to deal with Romans and Greeks every day.  Having the fishermen follow him was tolerable, but not Levi.  The fact that Levi was sitting in the toll booth (it was a tax to use the road) suggests that he was not making enough money to hire others to do the collecting for him.  Remember that any tax collector could ask for any amount above what Herod and the Romans required.  Collecting two or three times that amount was typical.  It was a get-rich-quick position.

The Pharisees could not understand the idea that a person could be free of sin without doing something.  ‘You have to earn it’ they would say, and did.  Jesus says, “No one ceases to be a child of God because of sin.’

Most of us do not get too excited about fasting, perhaps we should.  Leviticus 16:29 calls for a fast on the Day of Atonement.  That is the only one required in the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses.  Four more were added after the return from the Babylonian exile (Zechariah 7:5 & 8:19).  But by Jesus time, the Pharisees did those fasts plus every Monday and Thursday.

Jesus did fast according to the command of God.  The Pharisees complained that Jesus was not fasting as they had decided it should be done.

Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom here; that is a vital image throughout the New Testament, but especially in Revelation.  Jesus says here in Mark that his followers should feast while he is with them; there will be time for fasting when he is gone.  He is also promising a Great Feast in Heaven when we become his bride for eternity.

Should Christians fast?  Yes, if it brings you closer to God.  If all you think about is hunger, no.  In verse 21, Jesus tells us that the form of worship is not as powerful as the willing heart.

Colossians 2:16-23 speaks to the topic above and below.

The Oral Tradition listed 39 acts that were forbidden on the Sabbath.  Almost none of them mentioned in the Bible.  Reaping or harvesting grain was one.  Yet, in Deuteronomy 23:25, God said we can pick grain by hand.

Jesus followed the Scriptures.  But rather than debate with them about it, he, once again, claimed the title of the Son of Man.  If he is the Son of Man, the Messiah, why can he not do what he wants?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Mountain of God

 

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9
Psalm 99

Ambrose: If anyone therefore desires to behold this image of God, he must love God so as to be loved by him, no longer as a servant but as a friend who observes his commandments, that he may enter the cloud where God is. (333-397 AD)

Starting with chapter 19, Moses makes several trips up and down the mountain.  Just to clear away the Charlton Heston mistake, the first time the Ten Commandments, and others, were given, Moses and all the people were standing on the plain just outside the camp.  They were not burned into stone.

But the mountain is what we are considering today.  In Exodus, God descends to the mountain and Moses (with others at different times) ascends the mountain.  We could say they met half-way except that God was already with them.  In Psalms, we are to go to God at His Mountain.  In Matthew, Jesus went up the mountain to talk with Moses and Elijah, kind of reversing the roles from the Exodus account.  Finally, Peter comments on what he heard on that same mountain when he, James and John were invited along.

What does it take for us to ‘enter the cloud where God is’?  The scriptures tell us that Jesus had 120 faithful disciples, 12 of whom he appointed apostles.  Yet, when it was time to climb the mountain of God, he invited 3.  Why?  They were ready; they had grown in their faith and could look upon the heavenly body of the Messiah without dying.

Consider what it would do to look upon Perfection with sinful eyes; to feel the heat of Truth on our false flesh.  I want to be ready to go to the Mountain of God, but for me and most of us, it might be best to do it after we have given up these bodies.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence