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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Resurrection Direction Luke 24:13:35

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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Resurrection Direction Luke 24:13:35

February 2, 2014. Like many of you, my head popped off the pillow that day. It was a day I knew I would never forget. It was a day that I’d been looking forward to for the past two weeks. No, it was not my wedding day. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl! My wings were going; the bean dip was prepared; the confetti was ready to fall in my house. I invited friends and family over and we were ready for that game. Many of you were too. If you remember, the Broncos were playing the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. On the very first drive that the Denver Broncos had, our center hiked it over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety for the other team. From that point forward, it was sheer pandemonium! Do you remember that? My head popped off the pillow that day with the highest hopes imaginable and two minutes into the game, I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to go well for us!”

I wonder if Jesus’s disciples felt the same way that Sunday morning? They’d gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. They’d gone to Jerusalem with hopes high. They’d gone to Jerusalem with anticipation. They were leaving Jerusalem and on their way home, with as high as their hopes were going, their hopes were equally as low leaving. They left Jerusalem—Cleopas and an unnamed friend of his, many scholars think it might have been his wife. John 19:25 suggests that, but we’re not sure. They’re heading from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s interesting because Jerusalem was the place of the Israelites’ hope. It was the place of their faith. It would be the birth place of the church. Cleopas and his traveling companion are unable to get to the place where they can accept the story that they’ve just heard. The grave is empty and even angels have come and declared it, but their hopes are so low that they can’t even hear the best news that they would ever hear. They leave Jerusalem. They leave the resurrection and they go home. They go to Emmaus, a little village seven miles away from Jerusalem. It’s the place of worldly consolation. It’s the place where you cash in your chips and think, “Well, that was a nice story and if only it were true, wouldn’t that be nice?” Unfortunately, life doesn’t go like that, does it?

So the story we just read is built around directions. Cleopas and his friend leaving and going away from the very place that could heal their soul. They’re walking away from the dream. They’re walking away from their faith. They’re walking away from everything that would make their soul come away. And they’re walking away distraught, because their hopes were high and they’ve been absolutely dashed. Cleopas and his friend make a decision—not just about that day. They made a decision about their life. We can’t hope in something as crazy as resurrection. When they walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they’re thinking that the story was over.

The whole story is built around directions, and the truth of the matter is, friends, that for you and I, the direction that we walk determines the life that we live. Think for a moment about the life that you’re living and the direction that you’re walking. There’s a number of things (just like for Cleopas and his friend) that determine the direction that we walk. For some of us, we would say that faith is one of those main things that determines the direction that we walk and the place that we long to go. For a lot of us, the direction that we walk is determined by the circumstances in our life. It’s determined by the events that take place and then, likewise, the way that we process and walk in the events that take place. If you think about your life—your life is determined certainly by belief, it’s determined by circumstance or event. It’s also determined by how we feel about those things and our emotions. And it can be so easy, can’t it, to decide that we’re going to walk in a different direction based on something painful that happens.

So Cleopas and his wife leave Jerusalem. They walk AWAY from the greatest they’ve ever been told! The truth for you and I, friends, is that our direction this morning is either leading us towards the resurrection of Jesus or away from it. We’re either in that place where we’re going, “We believe that story”—the same story that Cleopas and his wife were told but didn’t believe. We’re in the place where either we believe that story or, like a lot of people that were around during Jesus’s day, think it’s an idle tale. Just a nice sort of fairy tale that we all wish was true, but we know deep down it isn’t. Here’s my question: What direction are you walking this morning? Where’s your conviction? Where’s your belief? Where does it lie and what direction are you walking?

I want to explore with you what it looks like to walk away from the resurrection. It’s all in this story, Luke 24:17-20. Jesus comes up to Cleopas and his wife alongside the road. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Quick timeout. After the story, isn’t he going to think back to himself, “Whoops!” This is the Undercover Boss going in and being told he’s a terrible boss. Jesus, coming up alongside of him, and one of his disciples saying, “Are you the only idiot around that doesn’t know what’s going on? Where have you been? You’ve been buried under a rock??!!” I’m surprised that Jesus at that point wasn’t like, “Bye, we’re done here.” Here’s what they say: Haven’t you heard that Jesus, the hoped-for Messiah, was condemned to death and and they crucified him? Here’s what the road away from Jerusalem, away from resurrection looks like: It looks like death. If you’re in this place this morning and you’ve buried somebody who you’ve loved, or you’re in this place and you’ve buried a dream that you had, you’ve buried a marriage that you hoped for, you buried a job that you thought was going to be the thing for you. If you’ve buried a loved one, if you’ve buried a dream, you know that road of Emmaus, don’t you? That thought that man, everything that I’d thought about my life is now completely different. We know that road. We know that Emmaus road, that road heading from Jerusalem to seven miles to the west. We, as human beings, understand that road and we understand it all too well, don’t we? The truth of the matter is, friends, the pain that we experience in life can so easily determine the direction of our life. It can determine the direction that we walk.

As they continue to walk down this road, here’s what they say to Jesus: But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. We hoped he was the one—-that this thousand-year-old story—-we hoped he was going to be the climax, that he was going to be the point. Our hearts were in this, our heads were in this….we saw him heal the blind, we saw him heal the sick, we saw him raise other people who were dead, and all of our hopes were tied up in this man. The Scriptures are interesting because they say they were “kept from recognizing him.” (v.16) We don’t exactly know how or why they were kept from recognizing him, but it seems to me that God was at work in blinding them, but also, they had no category for a Messiah who would come and die. They had no category for a King who would reign in the way of love, rather than in the way of authority and power. Certainly, God was at work, but so were their categories. They couldn’t see this type of Savior. They couldn’t see this type of God. Along this Emmaus road, they had hope, but those hopes were now in the past tense. So they’re walking in this despair. This place, that I’m guessing, you’ve been. They’d hoped that he would be the rabbi who would teach them the way. They’d hope that he would be the friend that would stick by their side. They’d hoped that he would be the one to bring all of the hopes of this nation of Israel and all of the pieces of the story of God….they’d hoped that he would be that person. And as they Jerusalem to walk towards Emmaus, they’re making the decision that hope is now in the past tense and now it’s despair. We’ve walked the Emmaus road. We’ve walked that road of…I thought it was going to turn out like this and it didn’t. Not only that, but it was worse. If you haven’t walked that road, all you have to do is turn on your TV. In the last two weeks, you can think of the different circumstances around the globe that could so easily weigh us down with despair. Last Sunday, there’s a bombing where 21 Coptic Christians gathering for worship in Egypt are killed. A few weeks ago, there was a chemical warfare attack in Syria, where over 70 people died and dozens more have their lives changed for the next decades. Friends, if Easter doesn’t speak to these issues, Easter doesn’t speak to anything. If it doesn’t meet us in this place—-this place of we had hoped it was going to go a little bit different, but it isn’t—-than it doesn’t speak to anything.

Jesus walking along with his disciples AWAY from Jerusalem says to them: O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! You had all the pieces, you had all the puzzle pieces, right in front of you. You just didn’t see how they fit together. My youngest son’s name is Reid. He’s four years old now. He knows we are going on a family vacation to Disney World in Thorida (Florida) this summer. He knows that we’re going in the summer time. He knows that we’re going when he’s four years old. He knows that we’re going to go when it’s warm outside. And he knows that we’re going to go when the other kids are done with school. You’d be surprised how many crossovers there are between those four things that are true and real and every other day of the year. If it’s warm outside when we wake up—Are we going to Thorida today? We wake up and he asks, “How old am I today?” Well, you’re four years old. Are we going to Thorida? He’s got all of the pieces and ZERO understanding. He’s got all of the facts right, but he does not understand the plan and he does not understand the story and the way that it all fits together. And Jesus’s comment to the disciples is the exact same thing. You’ve read the prophets, you’ve read the Scriptures, you get it! You just don’t understand that the metanarrative above it all is that God’s going to enter the story, and he’s going to give his life to redeem humanity. You’ve missed the part of understanding. You knew all the facts, you just didn’t get how it all fit together. Isn’t it interesting how much our understanding can affect our hearts? Isn’t it fascinating that when we’re off course, or we have no category for what God is doing in our life, it’s so easy to come to the place where we say, “God, if you’re real than fill-in-the-blank.” Right? Or, “God, if you love me, well then you would have done this or you would have done that.” Just like the disciples, we can come to this place, heading away from the resurrection, doubting the plan of God, wondering how all these pieces fit together to tell the story of a God who loves humanity and is in the process of redeeming and restoring all things. We can know the facts and still doubt the truth of it. That’s where the disciples are. Are you so slow to believe?

So this is the road AWAY from Jerusalem, the road toward Emmaus. Here are the signposts along the road: DEATH. DESPAIR. DOUBT. And this is the place that Jesus meets his disciples. This is the place where the risen Messiah comes alongside of them and reveals who he really is and reveals his redemptive plans. This is the place—the place of death and despair and doubt—where Jesus meets them and turns them around. We want to meet Jesus on the mountaintop, but most of the time the reality is we meet him in the valley. We meet him in the doubts, we meet him in the despair, we meet him in the death. That’s where our eyes our open to…Oh my goodness, God, even though this terrible thing happened and I never would have chosen it, you’re still good and you still love me and you’re still for me. If we were to drill down in each of our lives today, here’s what I think we would find—-I think we would find that we don’t necessarily have problems that we need to fix. We have directions that we need to change. We need to meet God in the midst of the doubt, in the midst of the despair, in the midst of the death. We need to see him in those places. When it’s all said and done, we don’t necessarily care about fixing all the problems, it’s that hope piece, isn’t it? It’s the direction piece—the life that we’re living and the way that we’re heading. Listen to the way it says it in verse 33. Once they recognize Jesus, he meets them along this road. And they rose that same hour… {Most likely it was in the evening because they’d just eaten dinner with Jesus. He’s broken bread and they’ve seen him. THAT very same hour they….} ..returned to Jerusalem. {You’re not as excited about it as I am. That’s okay.} When they return to Jerusalem, here’s what they’re saying: Our hopes are not dead. That the resurrection that we heard about, that story that we heard about….it actually happened! So we’re going to travel this road, probably at night, we’re going to risk our lives because we believe that that story is true! When we believe that that story is true, it changes everything! That very same hour. Seven miles. Roughly three hours of walking. Just to go back to the place of pain. Just to go back to the place of death. Just to go back to the place of despair and breathe a word of life. They turn around.

They turn around. They’re on the road to Emmaus, heading west. Heading towards the sunset. And they turn around and they head east towards the sunrise. It has been said that Christians are people who head not towards the sunset but towards the sunrise, because we believe that a new day is dawning. We believe that life is breaking forth from death. We believe that our God walked out of the grave. We’re not heading towards the sunset, towards the END, we’re heading towards the sunrise. Towards a new beginning. When we turn towards resurrection belief we choose God’s future. So the direction you’re walking today is determining a future for you. If you’re walking away from resurrection hope that’s determining a future for you. The early followers of Jesus said, “No, no, no, no, no. Regardless of how far we’ve gone, and regardless of where we find ourselves, we can turn around.” We can turn around because there IS hope. The Apostle Paul, in one of the first letters he wrote to the churches, said: For I delivered to you as of first importance {As if to say, “Don’t miss this!” This is his way of saying, “Look up at me!”} what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3-4) They’re going, “This is our story. This is our song.” That the resurrection of Jesus has power, has explosive power, in our lives, not just on that day when our bodies, like Jesus’s, will be resurrected, but TODAY. Because the direction we walk determines the life that we live, and when we choose resurrection direction, we choose to live in God’s future. Rather than the future of the crucified Jesus, we live in the future of the risen Jesus.

Look at how all these pieces start to come together on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24: 25-27) And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a part of THAT Bible study? If you’re Cleopas and you’re a teacher or leader of Bible studies, don’t you, after that, go, “Well, that just ends every Bible study EVER! Let’s just camp there.” Here’s what Jesus is saying: every single plot line in the Bible connects in Him! That the entire story, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, is declaring one thing—that Jesus IS the Messiah, that he IS the King, that he HAS come to reign, and that he HAS redeemed, and is in the process of redeeming, his people. Think of being a part of THAT Bible study!! John Calvin, the great reformer, writes about this idea and I’ll paraphrase. “Christ is the new Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, nevertheless, he did not succumb to the power of death. He’s the new Jacob, the shepherd who has such great care for his sheep which he guards. He’s the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tablets of our hearts by his Spirit. He’s the faithful captain Joshua, leading his people into the Promised Land. He’s the strong and powerful Samson, who by his death overwhelmed his enemies. He is the victorious and noble King David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power under his submission. He’s the magnificent and triumphant King Solomon, governing his kingdom with peace and prosperity. He’s the Lamb that was slain, not just to cover sin, but to completely remove it.” Can you imagine being a part of THAT study? John Calvin said it like this at the end: “If one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets, he would not find a single word which would not draw and bring us to Jesus.”

At South Fellowship, that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about Jesus! Because that’s what the Scriptures are ALL about! So we study the Scriptures, but we follow Jesus. We study the Scriptures because we want to worship Jesus. We study the Scriptures because we believe that in Jesus’s words there are life—life abundantly and life fully. So the early disciples doubt and then he gives them this nice little Bible study. And then it says: When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (v.30-31) They’re going, “Yeah, this is what the story’s all about. It’s all about you, Jesus.” The one who would not just come to rule with an iron fist, but would come to lay down your life. This is what the story’s all about. And they enter into this place, not of doubt anymore, but the road back to Jerusalem…that we choose God’s future in turning towards resurrection belief. It starts to awaken our faith.

If you were to go and read this section of Scripture, you’ll see that phrase “their eyes were opened.” I think Luke is sort of giving a wink and a nod to another meal in the Scriptures that people would have recognized. Those who’d been around the story would have gone, “Huh! So we’re at a meal and our eyes are opened.” They would have thought, “That reminds me of another story!” In fact, it reminds me of the very FIRST story about a meal in the Scriptures. In Genesis 3:6-7, we see that Adam and Eve are told not to eat from one tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They disobey God and this is where the curse that Jesus comes to reverse enters into humanity, because they take it and they eat it and….Then the eyes of both were opened. If you’re reading Luke, talking about a meal where bread is broken and eyes are opened, you go, “Oh wait! That reminds me of the story where their eyes are opened.” THIS opening of eyes (Adam & Eve) was distancing from God. This opening of their eyes was, “Oh my goodness! Now we live in a world where the design is fractured and the distance is now unobtainable. We can’t make it ourselves.” That’s what that opening of eyes meant. See, now when they break bread their eyes are opened. The first meal brought death, but this meal brings life. The curse of death has been broken through the breaking of HIS body. The resurrection of the dead. God’s world is now brimming with the hope of resurrection—with new hope, with new possibilities, with new destiny.

This is where their turn starts. They go, “Jesus, our eyes are open. We see you and we believe you.” Here’s what they said to each other as they were sitting around this meal: How did we miss it? Did not our hearts burn—was your heart burning—when he was telling that story? Oh yeah, my heart was on fire when he opened up Moses, the Law, and the Prophets. Christianity is always more than an emotional experience, but it’s not less! Jesus meets us in all of our humanity. He stirs not only our minds, but our hearts to engage him, to walk with him, to follow him. He woos us as he speaks to our hearts. Here’s the thing. If you’re here this morning and you’ve been around this story, you know all the facts, but maybe, just maybe, you sense….God, I need this to be true for me and He’s saying it is this morning…..you may be having that same type of an experience. Because he does that, that’s the way that he works. He stirs not only our minds, but our hearts. Here’s what’s happening. They’re moving from the place of doubt to the place of faith. They’re moving from this place of despair to this place of hope.

Notice how subtle the shift has to be to turn from despair to hope? The term that they use to talk about their despair, or we had hoped, was they crucified him, but we hoped that he was the Messiah. Now if you turn it just a little bit and make it they crucified him and that is HOW he became the Messiah and HOW he redeemed Israel, well then, that changes everything, does it not? It stirs our hope. Here’s the beautiful thing about this story — God is unwilling to solve the problem of pain and death and sin from a distance. He’s an incarnate, intimate God who does not solve it from a distance but solves it from inside. He steps into it! By his very blood and by his very life he heals us. If you’re here this morning and you’re going, “Hey, Paulson, why in the world should Jesus walking out of the grave, 2000 years ago, stir hope in me?” Here’s why: Because in walking out of the grave he takes your weakness and he gives you his strength. He takes your guilt and he gives you his grace. He takes your pain and he gives you his promise. He takes your sin and you get his righteousness. He takes your defeat and he hands you his victory. He takes your despair and he gives you his joy. He takes your death and he gives you his life. Welcome to the hope of the resurrection, that in Him the story is not done. When we move in resurrection direction, we start to have our despair turned into hope because we know a God who’s worthy of our hope. I will passionately invite you this morning to recklessly put your hope in him. Because He’s worthy of it.

They (the disciples) go back seven miles that same night and here’s what they say. They tell their friends that the story’s true. I can’t explain it all, but we met him on that road. That all of our hopes are found in him. Death didn’t get the final say. The Lord is risen indeed!! They say, “Oh yeah, and he appeared to Peter, too.” As if to say, “You can never be too far gone. You can never be too messed up. You can never have such a dark mark next to your name that the cross of Jesus is unable to redeem it.” And so, they move from death to live, from despair to hope, from doubt to faith. This is the turning that happens when they say, “Oh, we don’t need to stay in Emmaus now. We can go back to the place of crucifixion. We can go back to the place of death, and we can recognize that it’s in THAT place that our God speaks life.”

If you’ve lost a loved one, like I have, this day is significant, is it not? I prayed with somebody this last week from our congregation who was close to taking her last breath and as we prayed for her, we just spoke resurrection over life because it’s true! Sin does not get the final word. Death does not get the final say. That’s true of our lives SOMEDAY in the future and it’s true of your life TODAY. If you’ve made some bad decisions like Peter and you’ve walked away, this story is for you. If you’ve buried some dreams and life turned out nothing like you hoped or dreamed or expected, this story is for you. Because resurrection power is not just something for someday, it’s something for TODAY. The weak are made strong, the ashes are turned into beauty, the mourning is turned into joy, because resurrection declares that the end of the story is never the end of the story. God is at work and He gets the final word. The final word is love. The final word is his goodness. The final word is life. The final word is resurrection.

I don’t know what road you’re walking down or what direction you’re going along the road of life. I only know this, that a turn towards resurrection changes EVERYTHING! I think there’s some of us in this room today where God’s inviting you to make a turn. We don’t have problems we need to solve, we have a direction we need to change. For some of you, the direction is…man, I need to put my faith in Jesus today. It changes everything. Maybe today is, “Jesus, I need you. I’m turning towards hope. I’m choosing hope today. I’m not living in depression. I’m not living in anxiety. I’m not living in sadness and sorrow anymore today, I’m choosing that the resurrection can speak a better word over my life.” Maybe that’s your turn today. Maybe your turn is simply to believe that this God speaks life where there’s death. Today, it’s not just THEIR turn along the road to Emmaus, today it’s YOUR turn. The road you’re walking….I think Jesus is inviting you to turn around and walk towards him.

I want to share with you a story of somebody from our church who made this turn. As you watch her story, would you ask God what turn he’s inviting you to make in your life? {Video begins.}

My name is Rhonda. I’ve been coming to South Fellowship for about 18 months now, October 2015. When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I answered an ad in the newspaper and joined a rock band. Traveled the country a little bit with this band and played in clubs. Through that band I started a relationship with the bass player. After a period of time, I became pregnant and we had a little girl. We decided we should grow up and get married. We did. We had premarital counseling. Through the premarital counseling, we joined the church. God opened up another opportunity and we attended another church and he was asked to come on full-time there. We became a family serving God. It was wonderful to be doing what God created you to do and I loved every minute of it.

One day, out of the blue, after nearly 20 years of marriage, I got a phone call. It was an old boyfriend from high school. I’m happily married for 20 years, I’ve got three kids…. That was pretty much the end of the phone call. At the end, he said, “If ever things change, call me.” I don’t know why, but three days later I called him back and began a phone relationship for about a month before I met him and began an affair. For about another month. I knew better. I knew I was sinning. I knew all of it, but I still chose to be selfish. I bit hard on a lot of lies. Then I was caught and confronted. My husband was completely shocked and devastated. I wouldn’t accept phone calls or anything. I ran out to my boyfriend’s house. The day after this all happened, an email went out to the entire Worship Arts Ministry, which was about 90 people. (It) spelled out what had happened. It was so humiliating and I was so full of shame. People that had looked up to me—(those) I prayed with for them… Here I was.

We got divorced and I began a life with the boyfriend. My relationship with the church after that was non-existent. I didn’t go back to church except for an occasional Christmas service at some obscure church where no one would know me. My son Joe wanted to attend South with his friend one day. He’d been attending another youth group and his friend invited him to attend. So I walked in. I just remember feeling “Ugh! Does anybody know me? Does anybody recognize me?” I just don’t want anybody…. I felt such judgment coming from people from the church. I didn’t want people to see me and judge me. I sat in the very back and just…. The music played….I don’t even remember what the songs were anymore, but it was…. I just couldn’t hold back the tears. I just felt God turning me around—You don’t have to go that way anymore. You can come back. For a few months it felt like I was just slowly drinking a glass of water finally. Just finally getting rehydrated.

Things started to become clear to me. I started to pray. I started to ask God, seek Him. I started to read. God has shown his grace through so many people to me, through all of this with coming back to Him. Everyone of my children have all encouraged me, forgiven me, cheered me on. They’ve been amazing. And my ex-husband Todd and his wife, Linda….the grace that they’ve been able to show….it can only come from God. It changed my shame and guilt into just regret.

The most surprising piece of the journey of grace—God was nudging me to get back into worship. My daughter Molly had been on my case for a long time. “Mom, you need to get back to it. You need to get back and sing again and do what you were made to do.” I’d always told her, “Molly, that part of my life is over, I think. That part’s in the past.” I met with Ryan and asked, “Do you have a problem with me just speaking to Aaron to see if maybe I could begin to participate a little bit?” I received more grace there. It feels amazing to sing again and to not have to be anonymous about it anymore. I can let everybody know that this is what God’s done for me. You don’t have to go that way anymore. You can come back. And I’ve come back. {END}

You don’t have to go that way anymore. You can turn around. You can come home. The arms of our God are wide open. If you think you’re too far gone this morning, I just want to tell you that there’s an empty grave that tells you you can never be too far gone. If you think you’ve screwed up too much to be a recipient of God’s grace, I just want you to know that when Jesus came out of the grave He came holding the keys to death and Hades and he has said, “I am the resurrection AND the life.” When you turn to him, BOTH are yours in him. This morning, it’s your turn! It’s YOUR turn! What turn is Jesus inviting you to make. Is it the turn of putting your faith it him for the first time? I just want to encourage you, if that’s where you’re at this morning and you sense the stirring in your heart, that’s the Spirit inviting you home. That’s your turn this morning. You can pray simply, “Jesus, I put my faith in you. I turn back to you. I believe in your resurrection and I believe that your death conquered my sin. You’re my Lord, you’re my God. My faith is in you.”

Maybe it’s a turn out of despair this morning and you’re turn is, “God, I believe there is hope. Would you show yourself faithful?” Maybe your turn is “I no longer have to fear the fact that I will one day take my last breath in this earthly body, because Jesus has promised it will not be your last breath.” It’s YOUR turn this morning. It’s your turn. {Ryan invites ushers forward to hand out wrist bands.}

Let’s pray. Jesus, for the people in this space that you’re inviting to put their faith in you, would you just draw them and confirm that in their heart today? For all of us, Lord, the direction that we walk determines the life that we live, and we want to choose to walk in the direction of the resurrection, because we know that it’s in THAT direction that we walk into your future. Where faith overcomes doubt, where hope overcomes despair, and where life overcomes death. Jesus, this morning, we thank you for the fact that you walked out of the grave and we can turn and walk TOWARDS you. And we do this morning. It’s in your name we pray. Amen.

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Resurrection Direction Luke 24:13:352021-04-06T16:17:17-06:00

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Clearing the Way Luke 19:28-48

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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Clearing the Way   Luke 19:28-48

We are journeying through this Lenten season as a church and exploring these different encounters that Jesus had with people throughout the gospel of Luke.  In some of those encounters people are called; in some of those encounters people are healed; in other encounters people are challenged or rebuked.  Today what we’re going to see is Jesus marching into Jerusalem and just turning the tables on religion.  Jerusalem, at the time of Passover, would be akin to New York City on New Year’s Eve.  It was like Time Square.  Absolutely ready to burst with excitement and ready to burst with energy; Ryan Seacrest certainly there commentating on the whole thing. Have you ever felt that type of excitement?  My guess is when a city hosts the Super Bowl there’s that type of excitement.  When there’s a significant parade or event happening, there’s that type of excitement.

The city of Jerusalem usually floated around about 100,000 inhabitants.  But on the week of Passover, it would swell, according to Josephus, one of the early church historians, to 2.7 million people in this city, on this day. Can you imagine?  For 1,446 years the Israelites had been celebrating the Passover Feast.  It was a time, in the rhythm of their year, where they looked backed at God’s redemption in bringing them out of Egypt and saving them from the Pharaoh’s hand with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  It was their story that they told every single year.  But for 600 years, it was a story they told, but a reality that they had never seen, because they were under the hand of the Babylonians, and then the Persians, and then the Greeks, and then the Romans. The only reason they came out of captivity was to be transferred to somebody else’s.  So you can imagine as they look back at this Passover deliverance and this meal that they celebrated, reminding themselves of God’s deliverance and God’s goodness, it must have seemed like a fairytale.  It must have seemed like it was just a pie-in-the-sky religious type of hope or propaganda that weak people hold on to because they can’t face the reality of the way life actually is.  My guess is that’s the way it felt.

Still the people flooded to Jerusalem and still the people had this hope that just maybe, maybe, God would once again deliver his people.  And their hope started to have a name, because for three years Jesus had been traveling and he had been healing people—the blind would see again, the lame would walk, the sick were restored.  He would teach and say things like, “The kingdom of God is not coming someday, but it’s at hand!” “God is at work once again in this nation, in this people, bringing about the hope that you actually have.”  So, the temperature started to rise.  The hope started to swell.  The dreams started to be reborn.  There was just this murmuring, this undertone, this groundswell of maybe, just maybe, Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah, the hope that we long for.

2.7 million people.  Jerusalem like a tinderbox.  Jesus healing.  Jesus restoring. Jesus telling his disciples, “Hey, go steal me a donkey!”   Right?  You’ve read it!  Go steal me a donkey!  Go take a donkey that’s never been ridden and I want you to go and talk to a guy about a donkey.  If anybody asks, just tell them, “The Lord needs it.”  Like THAT’S going to go over well.  Hey, buddy, that’s my donkey.  The Lord needs it.  Uh, okay, sure.  Why don’t you have my coat too and my other car that’s in the garage…   How would you like to be the two disciples that got chosen for that mission?  They march into town and talk to a guy about a donkey and sure enough he says, “If you need my unridden colt for the Lord, take it.”  Which, by the way, if you’re going to march into a city and declare yourself the king, you don’t choose a donkey.  It would be like showing up to Sturgis with a moped and trying to pretend like you’re hardcore.  Right??  You don’t do it!  You ride in on a white stallion and you say, “I’m Jesus.  I’m here to take up my kingship.”  That’s how you do it.  You don’t ride a moped.  You ride a Harley, that’s what you do.

But Jesus was making it absolutely crystal clear for anybody that wanted to hear, He was the King!  And he was about to take his throne.  The prophet Zechariah wrote about it.  The nation of Israel longed for it.  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, you king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9:9)   That’s why Jesus chooses a donkey.  He’s not the king that’s going to come and kill his enemies.  He’s the king that’s going to come and die for his enemies.  He’s unlike any king they’ve ever crowned.  And really, unlike any king they’ve ever wanted.

So they gather around the side of the road as Jesus enters into Jerusalem.  His disciples—probably pilgrims from the countryside who are gathering in the city to celebrate the Passover Festival—declare about this Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Some of the other gospel writers said the people said, “Hosanna!”  This is our God and He’s coming to save.  In verse 37, Luke says:  …the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the might works that they had seen…  Can you imagine this scene with people along the side of the road…..I was blind and now I see!  I was unable to walk and I walked here, praise you, Jesus.  I was possessed by a demon—it was really weird and really crazy—but I’m clear of mind!  Just this praise chorus welcoming him.  To his city.  And declaring….make no mistake about it, everybody in the crowd understood what they were doing…..they were crowning a king.  They were saying, “Now our lives are going to revolve around you.  Now our lives are going to point to you.”  The Jewish people are pulling from the Old Testament, out of Psalms 118, and are using that language to say, “Jesus is our king.”  Ironically, it’s also one of the psalms they would read during the Passover Feast as they drank four cups reminding themselves of God’s past provision and pointing toward God’s future restoration.  They would recite Psalm 118 in hope that God would do what He’d done.  That He’d restore.  That He would fix what was broken.

Everybody gathering alongside this road, everybody taking off their coat, everybody laying it down and grabbing a palm branch and laying it down….they’re making way for a Messiah, they’re making way for a king.  They are making a declaration—Jesus of Nazareth is our King!  You know what they get right?  They get right that restoration begins with coronation.  Any restoring work that God does in a nation, in a city, in the soul, in a marriage…..here’s what they get right….that God begins to work when we declare him King.  When we lift his name high, he says, “Oh yeah, that’s when I’ll enter in to that space.  I will take up my throne.  I will begin to rule.”  They’re giving Jesus his rightful due and they’re putting Jesus in his rightful place.  There’s a lot that they get wrong over the next week in the city of Jerusalem.  Some pastors will take this passage and go, “Man, people are so fickle in faith.”  One Saturday they crown him and then on Friday they say, “Crucify him!”  While that preaches pretty well, it’s simply not true.  It’s mostly likely a different group of people that the Pharisees stir up, that the chief priests stir up.  They gather their own crew to come and say, “Jesus isn’t the Messiah that we hoped for.  Look, our nation looks the exact same that it always looked.”   The powers-that-be see Jesus come in as king and they start to manipulate, they start to choose sides, but His disciples get it right.  Because restoration in your life, restoration in my life, begins with coronation.  Whatever king is on the throne of our heart will determine the course of our life.  Whatever we put as ultimate importance, whatever we say that gets to speak into our heart, into our life and guide us, is the very thing that will determine the course that we walk.  The question we have to wrestle with this morning is ‘what sits on THAT throne?’

After Jesus is declared the king…..isn’t is interesting that he says, “Listen, even if you didn’t cry out, the rocks would.”  I read this and go, “Huh, I just sorta wish they wouldn’t have.”  I would have loved to have seen the rock chorus.  So, Jesus is crowned as king….he looks….he’s on a hill looking over Jerusalem and he…..   His first thing he does as king is….what?  He cries.  He weeps.   O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!   That’s the way Matthew (23:37) recounts it. And he weeps.  He knows that this coronation, this crowning him, was the action of a few, but it wasn’t the heart of many.  He knows that as quickly as they crowned him there was going to be others that would rise up and say, “Crucify him!”  He knows that the restoration that the nation of Israel longed for, the restoration that WE long for, was simply a coronation away, but they didn’t really mean it.  Everything they longed for, everything they hoped for, was going to pass them by.  Don’t you love that our God is the kind of God who weeps?  Who weeps over his people making terrible decisions.  Who weeps over his people resisting his grace and love.  Who weeps over his people being a coronation away from restoration and resisting it with everything they have.

I love that the first thing Jesus does as king is weeps, because he’s invested.  Because he loves. Because he longs to see his creation invited into  life.  Here’s the second thing he does — And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Luke 19:45-46)  The first thing he does is weeps; the second thing he does is he remodels.  That’s what he does.  I don’t know if you know this, but ever since President Bill Clinton served as president, the presidents have received a budget of $100,000 to remodel certain rooms of the White House when they move in.  I think it’s good.  I want the President to feel at home in the White House.  I want them to feel like, “This is my space and I get to operate in here in a way that fits me.”  That’s what Jesus is doing….he’s going Extreme Home Makeover on the temple.  Why is that significant?  Why does it matter that one of first things Jesus does…..they lay down their coats; they put down their palm branches; they say, “Hosanna!”; they say, “You’re our king!”; he weeps, then he marches into the temple and just starts to wreck shop on it.  Who cares?  Every Jewish person would have cared.  The temple was the center of the Jewish life.  It was the center for them religiously—it was the place where they met with God.  It was the center for them sacrificially—it was the place where they brought their offering to God and were brought back into right relationship with God. It was the center for them politically as a nation.  It was the center of everything they communally, as a people, held together.  The temple was at the center.  When Jesus walks into the temple, he walks into the center and he makes his declaration, “You may look good on the outside.  You may have all of your systems in place, and you may have all the boxes checked, but on the inside you’re rotten.”  At the core of who you are as a community, you’ve gone awry, you’ve gone off course.  The temple was intended to be, as the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 2:2-3, a light to the nations.  It was intended to draw people:  It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills, and all the nations shall flow to it…  That they might be restored.  That they might be healed.  That they might find the thing that their soul looks for.  Jesus says, “Listen, the center of your life, the center of the community, the center of interaction with God has grown rotten.”  Like cutting into a piece of fruit that looks good on the outside and then getting down to the middle and seeing that it’s rotting from the inside out.  That’s what’s going on.  That’s what’s happened.

He makes a statement: My house shall be a house of prayer, {That was God’s design.  That was what he intended the temple to be.} but you have made it into a den of robbers.  There’s two primary ways that the temple was turned into a den of robbers.  One was through the moneychangers.  There was about five denotations of currency in Israel at this time.  Yet there was only one that was accepted in the temple—it was the sanctuary coin or the Galilean shekel.  People would come to Jerusalem on their Passover pilgrimage and they would want to pay the temple tax, which every Jewish male had to pay every single year in exact change. You could pay it in your hometown in a tax booth that was set up, roughly a month before Passover, but most people chose to pay it at the temple itself.  You would show up with your other money and you would have moneychangers as you got into the temple, saying, “We could do an exchange rate for you.  We could give you the approved temple money, but we’re not going to give you a good deal.  We’re not going to give you a good exchange rate.”    When we were in Mexico a few weeks ago, the exchange rate of pesos to dollars was roughly 19.5 to 1.   Unless you had dollars and needed pesos, then it was about 10 to 1, depending on where you were at.  It’s the same thing going on here.  They’re marching into the temple and getting absolutely robbed. Moneychangers, number one.

Number two:  You had these people selling animals.  You needed to have an animal “without blemish” to sacrifice.  As they were getting closer to the temple, some people would try to bring an animal with them, from wherever their hometown was.  That was dangerous because journeying through the countryside, those animals could easily get picked off by predators.  The other thing that would happen is you would parade a goat up to the temple and you would have somebody from the High Priest’s court ask, “Hey, could I take a closer look at that goat?  It certainly looks like there’s a blemish behind its right ear.”  Or, is your goat limping a little bit? That’s not without blemish.  I have another goat here that I could sell you at an absolutely inflated and terrible price.  So what’s going on?  Moneychangers and animal sellers are picking off people as they’re walking up to the temple.  This place that’s intended to be a way of meeting with God and interacting with God has turned into a place where people get beat down by religious systems that have gone away from the heart of God.  Jesus says, “I set this up as a place where people could meet with me, but you turned it into a place where people get robbed.”

As you read through the gospels, there’s very few things that tick Jesus off more than religious systems being used to distance people from God, rather than bring them to him.  When he walks into the temple and, in John 2:15, braids a whip and turns over tables, and in Luke 19 when he drives out the money changers and the animal sellers…..when he walks into the temple, he’s been crowned as king, but now he’s waging war.  He’s waging war on a system that has gone off course from the way that it was intended to operate.  There’s very few things that make Jesus more angry than religious systems distancing people from God rather than bring him to them, because his heart is for you.  His heart is that you would come into contact with him and into relationship with him, rather than to be kept away.

When Jesus says, “Listen, it was suppose to be a house of prayer, but you made it into a den of robbers,” there’s a whole lot more underneath the surface than Jesus hoping that people would gather in his temple just simply, or only, to pray.  Certainly it is about prayer, but there’s a lot of other things that happened in the temple as well.  In the temple courts there was teaching; in the temple there was sacrifice.  There’s layers to what Jesus is saying.  It would be akin to him saying, “You came to the hospital to get healed, but you walked away with a disease.  That happened—Ignaz Semmelweis in 1846.  He started to recognize that there were two wards in this hospital that delivered babies.  One of them was where doctors delivered the babies.  So, they were doing other surgeries and then they’d be called in to deliver babies.  On the other ward, midwives delivered the babies. And that’s all they did.  Semmelweis recognized that these two wards had very, very different rates of infant mortality.  The babies that the doctors delivered seemed to die far more often than the babies delivered by the midwives.  So, Ignaz proposed, “Hey, doctors, maybe we should start washing hands in between surgery and delivering the baby!”  For them it was like…..WHAT??!!!  What he identified was that the transfer of disease didn’t happen in the air or because of evil spirits, but it happened through hand-to-hand contact between a sick person and a well person. So Ignaz was lobbying for this with his life.  Why??  Because people were going to be born and they were actually dying.  They were going to be healed, and they caught the disease.

The same thing is happening in the temple.  They’re going to be healed, they’re going to meet with God, and they’re being weighed down by a religious system that even the religious people can’t keep up with. I don’t know about you, but I love it that it ticks Jesus off!  I love it that he’s the kind of king who’s going to walk into the temple and turn over the tables and go, “I know I rode in on the donkey, but what now???”  Right?  This is a declaration of war.  He’s passionate about restoring people to God.  It was a den of robbers, but it was intended to be a house of prayer.

So the question is how do those things play out as we look deeper beneath the surface of just that den of robbers and house of prayer?  What’s Jesus saying?  What’s he coming to restore?  What’s the king remodeling?Here’s what he’s doing.  First, he is restoring the temple to a place of awakening rather than oppression.  They were always intended to walk into the temple….  You probably have some flowers in growing in your front or backyards right now.  We have a number of tulips that are pushing through that really hard winter dirt and they’re starting to bloom and come alive again.  For the Jewish mind, the temple was intended to be that.  That people would walk in and they would go, “Oh yeah!  The presence of God is here in a significant way.  The mercy of God is thick in this place.”  They were intended to walk in and as the Jewish mind would have thought, the temple was the place where earth and heaven, to quote them, overlapped.  It was this place of awakening. It was this place of life.  But, the moneychangers and the high priests and the animal sellers had turned it into a place of oppression.  Listen to the way that the prophet Ezekiel talks about the intent of the temple.  He paints this picture in Ezekiel 47:12 of water that flows from the temple, flows out of the temple, and he talks about the intent of that water.  And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food.  Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.  Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.  This was the intention.  So Jesus walks into the temple and when he turns over the tables he’s going, “You’ve made it about oppression, but for me, it’s always been about awakening.”  Awakening people to the life that God has for them.  Awakening people to their DNA and the fact that YOU are an image-bearer of the Most High God.  That’s what we hope every time you come into contact with the God of the universe.  We should get this overwhelming sensation of the reality that we carry His image.  And that wakes people up.  But they’d become oppressive rather than people who awaken.

Second thing that Jesus does in turning over the tables, in awakening people, he says, “Listen, you’ve built all these barriers, but I’ve come to build bridges.”  You’ve made religion about keeping people out, rather than finding a way to invite people in. {Slide: Bridges instead of barriers.}  Oh, come on, church!  I love it that our God turns tables over, because his people became builders of blockades and barriers rather than crafters of bridges.  We’re a light to the nations.  We’re a city on a hill.  Our goal is not to keep people out, but to invite people in!  So when the moneychangers and the animal sellers at the door are jacking the prices up—jacking the price up for people to get back into right relationship with God, jacking the price up for people to find hope, to find forgiveness, jacking the price up for people to have the realization that they’re loved by the king of it all—Jesus goes, “Not in my house!”  Not when I’m king.  Because when I’m king, the offer of forgiveness will be held out to everyone.  The hope will be held out to all.   I will make a way for the person who’s the furthest away from me and has made the absolute biggest mess of their life to be brought back into right relationship with me.  That’s his heart.

Ironically, the word ‘priest’ in the Latin actually means ‘bridge builder.’  You are a kingdom of priests.  It’s a whole lot easier to build a wall than to build a bridge.  It is.  Literally and figuratively.  I could probably build a wall.  A bridge—-now that takes skill.  It takes skill relationally.  Anybody can build walls relationally—just be a jerk!  It’s a lot harder to build bridges.  It takes way more intentionality.  It takes way more thoughtfulness.  It takes thinking about people.  From the very beginning, the early church has braced the ethos of being bridge builders, not wall builders.  In the very beginning, in the incipient stages of the life of the church, they came to this crossroads.  There were a number of people converting to Christianity who didn’t have a Jewish background, they weren’t people who grew up around the Jewish story, so many of the males were uncircumcised.  The church got together in its very early stages and had this conversation:  Do men who have converted to Christianity, who do not have a Jewish background and are not circumcised, do they need to be circumcised in order to be followers of Jesus?  Now, if you’re a male, you have a vested interest in the way that meeting goes.  In Acts 15:19 they have the Jerusalem Council.  Here’s what they decide: Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.   Let’s not make it harder than it has to be.  If their faith is in Jesus, who cares if they’re circumcised or not?  They’re welcome.  From the very beginning of the church’s life, their goal was “Let’s build bridges, not walls.”  It has huge implications for the way that we interact at our workplaces.  It has huge implications for the way that we live as a church and a community of faith in God’s good world.  It has huge implications for the way that we interact in our families. See, they were walking into the temple in hopes of being forgiven, but what they heard was “You’re not welcome here.”  As D.L. Moody says: “The voice of sin is loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder.”  That’s the heart of Jesus, but it was being drown out by all these other things.  Don’t those blockades just prey on every insecurity we have inside of us?  That we don’t deserve to be here. That we’re not welcome here.  That somehow our sin is going to find us out, and the passage that ‘His grace is greater than our sin’ will not hold water on the day that we need it to.  When Jesus turns over the tables in the temple, he says, “No! Your God is for you!”  He’s for awakening, not oppression.  He’s for bridges, not barriers.  He’s for communion, not coercion.

Unfortunately, throughout the history of the church, we have gotten the reputation—some of it very rightful—for being a people who are about manipulation, or coercion, rather than meeting and welcome.  I think of one example.  John Tetzel was a Roman Catholic leader.  One of the jobs he was commissioned by the pope to do was raise money for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  He traveled around the countryside of Italy and the surrounding areas and he had this phrase he would tell people: “A coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”  Give a little money and your dead relatives will really be grateful.  It’s a great way to build a cathedral.  You can check it out—it worked!! It’s a terrible way to invite people into relationship with God. God wants to meet with you, not manipulate you.  The beautiful thing about being in a relationship with Jesus is that you know that he needs absolutely nothing from you.  He calls out the stars by name every night.  He holds the entire world together by the very breath of his mouth.  He’s not up in the heavens wringing his hands going, “Oh man! I hope Paulson comes through for me.  I don’t know what I’ll do if he doesn’t!”  NO!  He has every resource at his fingertips.  He’s God!  You can rest assured that the reason he wants to meet with you is not because he wants to manipulate you, but because he wants to love you.  He’s passionately for you.  When Jesus flips the tables over, it’s because he wants people to know God’s not interested in getting something FROM them, He wants to give something TO them.  Man, I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of God that I want to lay down my coat for.  That’s the kind of God that I want to wave a palm branch at and welcome him as king, and crown him as king.  He not only goes into the temple and turns over the tables, he shifts manipulation for meeting, and he shifts coercion for communion, and he invites you not to be taken advantage of by God, but to be welcomed home.

And then….and then in the giving of his life and the spreading of his arms, he walks into the Most High temple, the High temple that the earthly temple is just a shadow of.  He walks into the throne room of God.  And he wipes that slate clean too.  You may be wondering, “Paulson, why in the world would I lift this king high?  Why in the world would I lay down my coat and welcome him into my life?”  Here’s what I would say back to you—You can lay down your coat and welcome him as King, because he laid down his life!  {Slide:  We can lay down our coats because Jesus laid down his life.}  A week later on Calvary’s hill, he’s going to spread his arms and he’s going to shed his blood.  In doing so, he steps into the Holy of Holies, into that throne room of God, and he clears those tables, too, and he clears your guilt, and he clears your shame, and he welcomes you back into relationship with God—not because of anything that you could do, but because of what he has done.  THIS High Priest, instead of taking advantage of people, gives his life for his people.  Instead of keeping people out of his temple, he makes a way to welcome us home.  Instead of taking FROM us, he gives his very life FOR us. Ironically, the high priest was the one who was able to set up booths inside the temple courts to sell people animals.  The high priest was the one ripping people off!  So when the book of Hebrews (9:11-14) says Jesus is a better temple, that’s he’s the better high priest, that he’s made a way not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption for us and purifying us, friends.  In the same way he cleansed the temple, he cleanses your life.

So as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we’re reminded that his restoration begins with coronation, begins with crowning him as King.  As we do that, I would invite you to think about three things as you practice this this week.  One, obey his way.  The way of the donkey not of the stallion, the way of humility not of power and authority, the way of giving our lives for people rather than killing our enemies.  Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  This is the way of our King.  Second, trust his heart.  He’s the God who weeps over us.  You can trust him, you can coronate him.  He is good.  Finally, that we would be the type of people who obey his way, who trust his heart, and who embrace his mission.  May we, South Fellowship, be a church that builds bridges not walls, that brings awakening instead of oppression, and that invites people to communion with God rather than coercion and manipulation.  THAT’S. OUR. KING.  May we live in his kingdom.  Let’s pray.

Before we go rushing out of here, I just invite you to take a deep breath.  Envision yourself along the side of that Palm Sunday road.  What’s your posture to this King?  Jesus, we long for you to reach into the broken places of our soul.  The places of shame.  The places of regret.  The places of hopelessness.  The places that we, years ago, blocked you off from and figure there’s no way you could break into.  Would you march into those places today, Jesus, and turn over some tables?  Father, we crown you as King and we pray that you would begin the restoration, the awakening, the bridges, the communion, that come along with that coronation.  Would you begin that in our life, would you begin that in our marriages, would you begin that in the dreams that we have that we’ve let go of, would you do that in our relationships?  Jesus, we crown you as King and we long for the restoration that you promise to bring.  Would you help us live in your way, with your heart, on your mission this week, we pray.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

 

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Clearing the Way Luke 19:28-482021-03-25T11:38:53-06:00

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Contrasting Grace Luke 18:35-19:10

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Contrasting Grace  Luke 18:35-19:10

In 1968, a movie entitled “The Odd Couple” came out.  It was a movie about two unlikely friends that started to room together in an apartment.  One of them was extremely Type ‘A’ and very clean; the other was not-so-much. It was eventually made into a TV show.  It showed the way that these two opposites really came together and attracted.  We see that kind of thing happen in our lives and culture all the time, don’t we?  Two people, who are really diametrically opposed in a lot of ways, come together and make something beautiful.  My parents were like that.  On every personality profile they could take, they scored on exact opposite ends of the spectrum.  My mom was extremely artistic and free-spirited.  My dad is an engineer.  They were very, very different.

We see this all the time—things that are opposite come in contact with each other and they tend to attract or make something beautiful.  We see this in the food that we eat.  For example, chicken and waffles!  Were we just looking for an excuse to put syrup on chicken?!  I was in Mexico a few weeks ago and I saw somebody walking down the street eating a paleta, which is a fruit popsicle with chili powder on top of it!  I love that!  Let’s find a way to make anything spicy because it deserves it.  Or, a few months ago, my wife brought home this popcorn. This popcorn is a combination of caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn.  Caramel and cheddar.  Two things that you would think should not go together…….until you taste it!!  Then it’s like your mouth is having a party! It’s absolutely delicious!

There’s time where we don’t know what to do with Jesus because what he’s doing is taking two things that we think are opposites and bringing them together.  There’s time where he takes things that we think should never touch each other and should never come in contact with each other and he brings them together in such a way that when we allow it to touch and prick our hearts it just explodes.  That’s what we’ve seen in these two stories we heard today.  You heard two stories:  One was about a blind man, the other was about a tax collector.  Two stories that Dr. Luke records and puts right next to each other to make a point.  He wants us to sense something.  He wants us to feel something about what happens when people encounter Jesus.  He wants us to know something about the type of people that encounter Jesus.

In Luke 18:35-19:10, there’s two stories, but there’s only one point.  Luke tells you what it is at the very end of the second story:  For the Son of Man came to seek {To find out; to actively pursue and hunt down.} and to save {To make whole that which is broken; to restore that which is damaged.} the lost.   Two stories.  Two different people.  One central point.  That Jesus, the reflection of what God is like, is coming and his central purpose is to find people like you and like me and to bring them back into the fold of God.  That’s why he came.  Two stories.  One point.  That the grace of God is wide enough, big enough, strong enough to chase you down, to hunt you out, and to call you home. In these two stories, Jesus is going to take things we think, oftentimes, live on opposite ends of the spectrum and he’s going to walk into Jericho and he’s going to pull these things together in such a way that it allows his grace to shine.  That’s my prayer this morning as we dive into the Scriptures, is that God’s grace would just have a little bit more weightiness to it in our life today.  That it would shine a little bit more.  That we’d walk out of this place with our hearts captured in worship and with hope being breathed into some dead and dark spaces that we thought were too far out of his reach.

When you and I get a full realization, full recognition, a full picture of God’s grace—this grace that brings polar opposites together—it leads to a fruitful relationship with God.  Some of us are struggling in our life with God because our view of who God is, and the way that he works in our world, and the grace that he showers down, is far too small.  So, in this picture of this unlikely combination—these things that Jesus is going to bring together that we would often keep separate—we’re going to see grace just explode and God maybe call some of us home.

The passage revolves around three main characters:  Jesus, who says he’s come to seek and save the lost, and two men.  One man is blind and spends his days sitting along the road leading into Jericho.  He is desperate. He’s destitute.  His day revolves around asking the Jewish people for alms or gifts.  It was part of the Jewish ethos and their culture to give to those who were needy.  In many ways this blind man is fulfilling a role in society, but his role is one that nobody wants to choose.  He’s completely dependent on everyone around him.  He’s broken and he’s hurting and in need.

The third character in the story—-you have Jesus, the blind man—-is Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus is not just a tax collector, he’s the CHIEF tax collector.  He’s risen the ranks in tax collecting and he’s grown to be one of the more hated people in this region of Israel.  Tax collectors were hated for a number of reasons.  One, they were hated because they were sell-outs.  When Rome conquered the Israelite people, they took bids from Israelites to see who wanted to become a tax collector.  You could pay Rome a certain amount of money and have the right to set up a tax collecting booth.  Zacchaeus had paid Rome, had set up his tax collecting booth, and Rome would tell Zacchaeus, “Hey, you need to get ‘x’ amount of denarii per head. Whatever you can get on top of that, Zacchaeus, is yours.  You get to keep that.”  Zacchaeus was hated not only because he was a sell-out and he had teamed up with Rome to tax his own people, but he was hated because he was in a position of power and he was manipulating everyone around him to try to get things from them.

So you have two stories.  One about a very poor man who’s taken advantage of and who is the oppressed. Another who is an extremely rich man who is the oppressor.  And you have Jesus, who walks into Jericho.  He meets the poor man, the oppressed man, on the ground where he is.  He meets the rich man, the oppressor, where he is.  These are the things that trouble us about Jesus, aren’t they?  If we’re honest with ourselves, we love the fact that He meets the oppressed.  Something in us goes, “Yeah, that’s how it should be.  God should be FOR the people that are broken, the people that are destitute, the blind man who’s in need who has no hope. Jesus should be FOR him.”  But this passage isn’t just about Jesus being for the oppressed.  It’s also about Jesus being for the oppressor.  It’s about Jesus being not only for and His grace being over the victim, but it’s about Jesus’s grace over the victimizer.  It’s about Jesus being for the people that have zero power, zero authority, zero hope.  And it’s about Jesus being for the person that has all the power, all the authority, and is using it to manipulate and steal from all the people around him.  Jesus walks into Jericho, takes those two extremes, and brings them both under the grace of God!  It’s an extremely beautiful AND troubling story.

What we start to see is that God’s grace is incredibly beautiful and it’s shockingly offensive.  You could read it that God’s grace is for the Jewish person in the prison camp and it’s for the Nazi camp worker.  God’s grace is for both the victim and the victimizer.  I’ve developed a friendship for Dr. Jeff Brodsky, who works for Joy International, and who works against human trafficking.  He sent me a text the other day that said: 8 girls rescued. 3 of them minors. 2 traffickers arrested.  I went, “YES!!”  That’s why we took a Christmas Eve offering and gave $8500 to Joy International, because we believe in their ministry.  Then I had to take a step back and wonder if I would have been as excited if he would have written, “And those people who were the victimizers met Jesus.”  We love grace when it touches the oppressed, but what about when it gets a little bit scandalous? When it gets a little bit offensive?  When it reaches further than we would have it reach if God were taking ideas from us?  Look at the different responses of the people in the crowd.  These two stories are parallels of each other, they’re drawing out two different points, but look at the way people respond when the blind man receives sight (Luke 18:43):  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.  They were like, “Amen! That’s what God should be about.”   Speaking of Zacchaeus and Jesus going to Zacchaeus’s house (Luke 19:7): And when they saw it, they all grumbled…  In a very short, few verses, we go from cheers to jeers. Jesus is, at one point, the hero because he’s offering grace to the oppressed, and then He’s the castoff because His grace has gone a little bit too far.  Dan Allender, the psychologist and great author, says it like this: “The Christian faith and the grace at its heart is so radical that most congregations can’t deal with it.”  It’s for the oppressed and the oppressor, the abused and the abuser, the victim and the victimizer.  Have you wrestled with the extent of God’s grace enough to where it sort of haunts you a little bit?  It’s the intention of this passage. He’s bringing both the beauty and the scandal of grace together.  Two stories.  One point.

Here’s the way the passage continues (18:38) — And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He’s seeking, he’s longing, he’s hurting, and his heart’s on the line.  Another man climbs up.  One man cries out, one man climbs up.  Zacchaeus is seeking all the same, isn’t he?  He’s just doing it in a different way.  He wants to do it from a distance.  Luke tells us it’s a sycamore tree, because sycamore trees were a leafy tree and presumably one would be able to climb up in a sycamore tree and be able to hide, but Jesus doesn’t let him hide, does he?  The question both of these passages ask us is what does Jesus do with the person who’s seeking? How does he respond?  So if you’re in this room and you’re seeking out, if you’re seeking Jesus, this is the question that all of us, in some way, are asking, isn’t it?  What does He do when people cry out?  What does He do when people climb up?  The answer is actually better than the question.  Jesus doesn’t just respond to people who are seeking Him out.  He responds by saying, “Oh, I’ve been seeking YOU out!  You thought you were the hunter, but you’re really the hunted, blind man and Zacchaeus!  You thought you were the one who was trying to get ME in YOUR sights, but I’m the one who’s coming to Jericho with the plan to get you in MY sights.” The Son of Man came, not to be sought, but to be the seeker.  That He was on the move.  That He was hunting them down and that He was then going to call them out.

Grace…the way it works in our life, you may have noticed this, is that grace encounters us tenderly—it meets us in those deep, needy places in our soul and refuses to allow us to stay there.   Grace finds us when we’re destitute and when we’re broken, and it doesn’t just say, “I’m really sorry that you’re there,” but it takes us by the arm and it pulls us out.  It’s the way that it happens in both of these stories.  You reach this moment of truth in the story of the blind man where Jesus asks him a question.  He says to him, “Well, what do you want me to do for you?”  I’ve always thought, “Dude, Jesus, he’s blind!  News flash, Son of God, he probably wants to see!”  Sometimes we read through the Scriptures and we’ll read something like this and it doesn’t make sense, and it’s because we really don’t understand.  I think this was a legitimate question.  He has two answers he can give.  He can give the answer he’s given to every other person that day.  What do you want me to do for you?  I’d like……some money.  I’d like alms.  It’s a legitimate answer, isn’t it?  It’s an answer that meets an immediate need but leaves him in the exact same spot.  Or, he can respond by saying, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and believe that you are the Christ, that you are the Son of God, that you have all the power in heaven and on earth and I’m going to ask you to make my blind eyes see.”  But if he does that, his life changes.  If he says, “I want my sight,” do you know what he can’t do the next day?  What he’s done every other day.  He cannot go back to that same spot.  He cannot sit down and beg for alms.  He can’t be alongside of the road.  His whole entire life changes.  For the better?  Yeah!  But change nonetheless.  Before we go, “Well, that’s a ridiculous question!” how many of us respond to the King of the universe when He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” we say, “Just help me get through the day.”  Our response when our marriage is hurting and we’re in pain and we’re going in two opposite directions….sometimes when Jesus enters in and says, “Well, what do you want me to do for you?” our response is “Just help me survive.  Help me get through the day,” instead of “Will you heal this?”  It may mean some pain that we have to walk through in order to get to this point where you do what you promise you’ll do, but, Jesus, we’re willing to walk with you on this.  Isn’t it easier sometimes to just choose what we know than to take a risk that God’s grace will meet us where we are?  So we just continue in the same patterns—-I’d like money, thank you very much.  I know it will help me and I know it will help me today. I think God wants to speak a word over some of us this morning.  He’s asking us, “What do you want from me?” Can I invite you to RISK when you tell Him what you want?  To dig a little deeper than just meeting the immediate and to get to the actual core of what’s going on in your soul.  Maybe there’s a dream that’s died and instead of just surviving, ask Him to awaken it, ask Him to breathe life into dead places.  We’re talking about the One who’s conquered death!!  You tell me what’s too big for Him.  Just ask Him!!  What do you want me to do for you?

So that’s the blind man’s moment of truth.  Here’s Zacchaeus’s moment of truth:  Zacchaeus, come down….   And Zacchaeus is probably like, “Who, me?”  Like he’s up there thinking he’s anonymous.  Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.  If you’re Zacchaeus, aren’t you like, “Hey, that’s a really great invitation.  Could we do that tomorrow?  Cause I left some stuff out that I’d like to put away.  My house isn’t exactly clean.  There’s a few people, depending on how you look at it, that I may or may not have wronged them, and, Jesus, before you come into my house, Son of God, I’d really like the chance to make some things right that I’ve done wrong.  Isn’t that what you and I would like to do?  Hey, Jesus, before you enter my life, let me get it cleaned up a little bit.  Let me take care of a few loose ends and THEN you can come in and enter my life.  {Look up at me for a second.}  It’s not the way grace works.  Grace meets us at our low or it doesn’t meet us at all!  When Jesus encounters Zacchaeus, it’s, “I’m coming to your house—not tomorrow, and not in a week, and not when you get it cleaned up, and not when you’re deserving of having me come in, but I’m coming to your house TODAY.  When you’re a total mess!  When you’re a total thief!  When you’re a CHIEF tax collector, that’s when I’m entering in, He says.  Oh man, that’s great news, isn’t it?  Here’s the thing:  We all wish we had time to prepare for Jesus, but how much time would you need to clean up our life to the extent that you could actually invite a holy God into your house to sit at your table?  Good luck!  Jesus doesn’t say, “I’m going to wait until you get things cleaned up,” he says, “I’m entering into YOUR space, by MY grace, at your lowest point and I’m going to encounter you there.”  Friends, this is the gospel.  This is the message of Jesus — coming to seek and save.  Not good Christian people.  Not people who have it all together or just a few degrees off, but people who are LOST!  People like the blind man who’s lost, and people like Zacchaeus, who’s lost.  I love the way that the great author Brennan Manning puts it when he says this: “Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—-that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—-that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it.  Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?”  This is the scandalous nature of grace entering in, meeting us tenderly, and saying, “I’m coming to your house today.”   OR—What do you want me to do for you?  One thing grace refuses to do is to allow us to ride the fence.  It’s not soft, it’s STRONG!

Look at the way it works in the lives of these two people.  First, in the life of the blind man:  And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”    If you have your Greek New Testament out, that word ‘made you well’ in the Greek is the same word we translate ‘saved.’   So, your faith has saved you, your faith has redeemed you.  Where faith is active, grace is realized.  That’s what Jesus is saving.  If you skip forward to Zacchaeus’s encounter, it says this:  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation {same word} has come to this house.”  So, we have two men—both lost.  Both blind, in completely different ways.  One literally blind and cannot see.  One blind to the way that his power and his use of authority has absolutely ruined and torn apart his life and the life of his community.  And we see Jesus entering into both lives, showering grace down on both lives, that faith invites them to sit at Jesus’s table to receive from Him, and grace, in both instances, makes them well.  It SAVES them.

I have some baggage with the word ‘saved.’ I look back in my life and the way that I have viewed the word ‘get saved.’  I often harken back to tent revivals with an angry preacher who’s got a vein in his neck that you wonder if it’s going to survive the entire sermon.  Right?  And, typically it’s you need to get saved from hell, because hell is coming after you.  So salvation was always sort of a good news/bad news type of word, and indeed, it is. That’s true.  There is a hell.  It is real.  Without Jesus we do go there, but salvation is so much more than saving us FROM something.  Salvation is saving us FOR something.  In this passage, if you look up salvation, salvation looks like SEEING.  It looks like seeing, literally.  It looks like seeing the kingdom of God.  It looks like seeing the way of Jesus.  It looks like seeing the extent of God’s grace.  Salvation certainly saves us FROM, but it saves us FOR.  That we’re redeemed for the fullness of the humanity that Jesus died to instill in us.  That’s what it means to be saved.

This is the way grace works.  It pulls together these two things:  It finds us broken and leads us to this place of wholeness.  Restoration.  Sight.  Look at the picture.  Just zoom out for a moment.  In one instance, grace finds somebody low—in every way.  Low and destitute.  Needy.  Longing.  Dependent.  When grace finds somebody low, grace picks them up.  In another story, grace finds somebody high.  Up in a tree.  In a position of power.  In a position of authority.  Both are lost.  When grace finds you low, grace picks you up.  When grace finds you high, grace brings you down.  Because both are broken.  What grace does in the lives of believers is it makes us whole.  It restores us to the way that God intended and designed us to live.  I don’t know where you’re at this morning.  I don’t if you’re on the ground and broken and needy and grace needs to pick you up.  I also don’t know if you’re in the tree, and you’re proud and you’re arrogant, and you’ve got it all together, and all your boxes for religiosity are checked, and you think you and God are good.  Grace needs to bring you down.  Look at what grace always does:  Grace always restores people to walk with Jesus—whether it picks us up off the ground, or brings us down out of the tree.  The result is wholeness, salvation, life.  Life with Jesus…then look at it….life with others!  The blind man can no longer sit and beg.  He must now be a positive contributor to society, which everybody wants to be.  And, Zacchaeus can no longer steal.  He can’t be the thief, he can’t be the rat, he can’t be the scoundrel any more, because grace has brought him down.  Both people are restored, not only to Jesus, but also to the community around them.  Rescued people are restored people.  Redeemed people are communal people.  It’s Jesus inviting us not only to be forgiven, but then to forgive, to make things right.  This is what Zacchaeus does after encountering the grace of God.  Well, I’ve got to make things right with the people around me, because God has, by his grace, entered in and made me right with Him.

Here’s the way these two passages work out.  Here’s the way they end.  The blind man receives his sight and followed him.  Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”    He says, “I’m making things right.” Why?  Because when grace meets us it meets us at our low—empty-handed, certainly.  God gives it to us freely. Grace, while it’s given freely, demands our all.  It’s these two things coming together that we see in both of these stories — the beggar can no longer beg.  The thief can no longer steal.  Both people, because the grace of God enters into their lives, are left definitively changed.  They can’t go on living the way that they’ve always lived.  Their next day is different.  {Friends, will you just look up at me a second?}  If you’ll invite you me in your life for just a minute, I just want to press on us a little bit.  There’s time where we make grace seem, unintentionally, pretty soft.  Like, it’s just the love of God and we get to just enjoy it.  Certainly, it is meant to be enjoyed.  It’s also meant to be responded to.  Where if we’re not changed because of it, we’ve probably haven’t really tasted it.  Zacchaeus cannot go on being the same Zacchaeus he’s always been and add Jesus to his party.  He can’t do it!  Grace changed him!  Grace wrecked him!  Grace changed his next day immediately because he had met the King of kings and the Lord of lords and it had a weightiness over him.    I love the way that Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer, puts it:  “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.  Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”  My everything.  Grace finds us empty-handed every time.  But then calls us to surrender everything we have…..to Jesus.  King of kings and Lord of lords.  Both of these men respond by calling Jesus “Lord,” and then living as though it’s true.

Has it changed your life?  Has the beauty and weight of that changed your life?  I love both of these stories, because when Jesus enters Jericho and he sees this blind man, He essentially comes to his house.  That’s where he does all of his business.  That’s where he is day after day.  And Jesus enters into his space.  When He meets Zacchaeus, He says, “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house, your messy house TODAY.”  I’m going to meet you on your turf, Zacchaeus.  I’m going to sit at your table, blind man.  I’m going to sit at your table, Zacchaeus.  As I sit at YOUR table, I’m going to lead you to my banquet.  Because that’s what grace does—it meets us exactly where we are.  Grace enters our life and then leads us into the life of God.  It meets us at our table and it carries us to Jesus’s banquet.

Friends, this message of the gospel has changed my life.  Both the beauty and the offense of the grace of God and the cross.  The tenderness and the call.  The brokenness and the wholeness.  The freedom, the free gift and the all-inclusive demand has absolutely changed me.  I’m convinced that the arm of God is not too short to save anyone!  The oppressed and the oppressor.  The abused and the abuser.  The victim and the victimizer. Friends, if the mission of Jesus is to seek and save the lost, the mission of Jesus’s church needs to be to seek and save the lost.  When the church lives the mission of Jesus, the church receives the power of Jesus.  Friends, my hope and my prayer, as He takes us and meets us at our table and leads us to His banquet, is that anthem and that song and that declaration would become ours as well.  When we have a full picture of grace, we have a fruitful relationship with God.

As we come to the table this morning—-HIS table, HIS life that He’s given TO us and FOR us—-may we be reminded once again, in the way that He called us—-the way that He picked us up or the way that He calls us down—-that He calls us, that He seeks and His grace is sufficient for you and for me.  As you come (to communion), would you be reminded of a God who enters your life to invite you into His.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, one who comes to seek and save the lost.  That’s us.  As we come to your table this morning, would you remind us afresh that you meet us at our table in order to bring us to yours.  You enter our life, you seek us out, in order to invite us into the life of God.  Father, as we come this morning and as we taste and see that you’re good once again, may your grace just explode in our hearts and in our souls.  We pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Contrasting Grace Luke 18:35-19:102020-08-20T14:16:40-06:00

Encountering Jesus – The Only Necessary Thing: luke 10:38-42

Encountering Jesus – The Only Necessary Thing: luke 10:38-422020-08-20T14:17:51-06:00

Encountering Jesus – The Healing of Two Daughters – Luke 8:40-56

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The Healing of Two Daughters

Luke 8:40-56

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, and she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.”
50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Have you heard of the parable of the two sons, the prodigal son and his older brother? Well, this is the story of the healing of two broken daughters. If you have ever faced brokenness in your life, then Jesus is speaking to you.

THE SCARS WE CARRY

Cancer.

Few words are more terrifying than this.

As many of you know, 13 months ago, I shaved my head and began chemotherapy to treat stage 3 “T-cell/histiocyte-rich B-cell lymphoma”. I had enlarged lymph nodes throughout my body. I went through six rounds of chemicals and vomiting. Hundreds prayed and God granted healing.

But I know that I am not the only one. We all carry scars. Our scars may be from cancer or sickness, or abuse, or grief, or the loss of a loved one. They may be from a broken family or the lack of a father or mother. Our scars may be due to genetic or chemical challenges we were born with. Our scars may come from things we have done that we regret.

And yet, joy is still possible. And Jesus will show us how.

These are the conflicting thoughts I carry with me into this text on healing.

We see a bleeding woman who has been through 12 crushing years of sickness. It is the equivalent of 12 years of chemotherapy. Each day is worse than the last. We see a twelve-year-old girl who, rather than celebrating the beginning of her adult life, faces a tragic life-threatening illness. We see a father named Jairus who does everything he can to fight the threat to his daughter. We see a woman all alone and Jesus steps in and becomes a father where there was none.

THE THREAT

I am a father. My son is thirteen and my daughter is ten. I would do anything to protect and help my children. When my son was five and my daughter was three, we were out taking a walk through a rural neighborhood in Oregon. Caleb and Constance hung onto each hand as the three of us meandered down the empty road. I looked over to a house about 50 feet to our left and saw a medium-sized dog on the porch. He began down the steps toward us, and though he did not bark, I could hear a low growl and could see his bared teeth and bristling mane. I wasn’t too concerned as he approached the fence separating us until he jumped through a gap in the fence and accelerated up onto the road. Suddenly, I found myself fifteen feet away from an obvious threat to my young children. Without really thinking, I placed my five-year-old son behind my legs, cradled my three-year-old daughter in my left arm and turned to use my body and right arm to shield from and attack this threat.

I remember looking at this dog with my outstretched fist thinking, “even if you rip my arm off, you will not get to these children… and then I will kill you.”

At that moment the owner ran out of her house yelling for her dog to come back. He hesitated, and then retreated.

I wasn’t trying to be anything or do anything heroic. I wasn’t really thinking anything profound other than the fact that I knew, to the core of my being, there was no way that dog was coming through me. That is just what a father does for his children. When there is a threat, you respond to the threat. You do whatever it takes, up to and including laying down your own life. I imagine nearly every father here has a story like this.

This was the reaction of the first father, Jairus, that we see in the text: he does whatever it takes to counter the threat to his daughter.

We also see Jesus in this text. Jesus brings healing and life to a broken and hurting world. But make no mistake, in order to bring life and healing, Jesus must overcome the 3 threats to our lives and eternal destinies:
1) The evil and sin inside of us: that which causes pride, self-centeredness, and war.
2) The Spiritual world fighting against us, led by Satan himself,
3) And the shadow that disease, illness, and death cast over us.

All throughout Luke, Jesus counters evil, transforms people, casts out evil spirits, heals life-threatening illnesses, and will overcome death at the cross and His resurrection. Jesus is willing to do whatever it takes to bring healing and life to this world, up to and including the laying down of his own life; and it will cost Him His life.

HE SEES YOU

Now we arrive at two very difficult, tragic, and intimate scenes. This is the story of one person at a time, and Jesus takes the time. He stops. He values each individual person where they are. He does not simply see a crowd. He sees you.

And here, Jesus sees two women, two daughters, two tragedies. But there is hope.

WHO WAS JAIRUS?

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.
41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house

Jairus is a leader of the synagogue. Leaders of synagogues were generally social and economic leaders in their communities. Normally, people came to him for solutions. Here he is, a great leader, utterly humbled by a desperate need. In that brokenness, in that humiliation, he publically throws himself down before a man who is undoubtedly younger than he is, Jesus, who is in his early thirties, casting aside his dignity, to request that this younger man come and deal with that brokenness. In coming to Jesus, Jairus, this leader, is recognizing that Jesus can do what great men cannot, that the power of God is in Jesus to do mighty things.

Jesus agrees to go. All throughout the Gospels, every time Jesus responds positively to a person’s request, he always comes through. We can imagine Jairus walking along with Jesus with great expectation and joy.

THE DYING DAUGHTER

42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

The child is 12 years old. What does that mean? In Jewish circles a variety of images would come to mind when you mention a girl turning 12. At the age of 12 in Jewish culture, traditionally, girls celebrate their “Bat Mitzvah.” At this point they are fully responsible for their actions, rather than their parents being responsible for them. They become full-fledged members of the Jewish community.

This 12-year-old girl is on the threshold of becoming a woman. In First-Century Jewish culture, It was soon after this age that parents began to make marriage contracts for their daughters. They would not necessarily marry immediately, but the contracts between parents would be drawn up at this time. When so many children died young and so many women died in childbirth at that time, they didn’t mess around. They began reproducing as soon and as often as they were physically able. Also, the age of 12 roughly coincided with physical puberty. In other words, she begins to menstruate. Traditionally, her bleeding has started.

She is at the threshold of being able to give birth to life. But she is dying. She may never give life. Her life may be snuffed out.

THE BLEEDING WOMAN

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, and she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one could heal her.

Why didn’t the woman throw herself before Jesus in the same way that Jairus did? There are several reasons: First of all, she was alone. She had no father to plead for her, to shield her from the threat. Have you felt alone, that there was no one there to plead for you or shield you? This is where she was. Second, she may have felt shame to speak of her bleeding publicly. Third, and perhaps more importantly in the context of the First-Century Jewish tradition, she was ritually unclean: In traditional Jewish culture, a woman was impure for seven days from the beginning of her menstrual flow, her period (Lev. 12:2; 15:25-30). This woman has been in a constant state of being impure for twelve years. She could not participate in regular society. She could not go up to the Temple and worship. In traditional Jewish culture, anyone who touches a menstruating woman becomes unclean until evening (Lev. 15:19). In traditional Jewish culture, whoever touches the bed or anything a menstruating woman sits on during the week is unclean until evening and must wash his or her clothes and bathe with water (Lev. 15:25-30).

She could not go and be with people, and people could not go and be with her. No one could hold her hand. No one could give her a hug. My daughter loves to come and sit on my lap while I give her a hug. She had not felt this kind of love for at least 12 years.

The text says that the swarm of people was so intense that they almost crush Jesus. She forces herself through the crowd until she is close to Jesus. I imagine that she does not want the crowd to know that, unbeknownst to them, she is rendering them all ceremonially unclean. If they had known, they would all have to wash their clothes, bathe with water, and avoid coming into contact with other people until evening. They would all be furious with her for significantly inconveniencing them.

TWO DAUGHTERS. TWELVE YEARS. BLEEDING. TWO TRAGEDIES.

Why point out these details? Not to be coarse, but to notice what Luke, (the doctor who wrote the Gospel of Luke), is doing here in the text. Often, the Bible is much more earthy and free with the realities of physical life, bodily functions, sex, and intimacy, than we are. Luke, the doctor, is holding up two stories of twelve years, two daughters, bleeding, side-by-side.

This girl has been growing and developing for twelve years to become a woman, to be ready for marriage, to have children, all for it to stop here.

By contrast, for the past twelve years, this other woman has only bled, and bled, and bled. We can imagine that she is probably not married, otherwise her husband would probably be there pleading for her the way Jairus plead for his daughter. But no one was there for her. She is alone.

To have life, in the case of the woman, that is being taken away, that is fading out.

To be able to give life, in the case of the girl, coming of age to give birth, that is being taken away.

OUR OWN ANXIETIES

We can draw parallels between these two accounts and anxieties in our own lives.

Many of us have felt the anguish of something important ripped away from us, like this girl who was being taken away at the beginning of her adult life.

Many of us have felt the anguish of not being able to give, not being able to contribute what others take for granted, like this woman, who was unable to experience life in the same way as those around her.

REACHING OUT TO JESUS IN FAITH

44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

She reached out to touch the tassels on Jesus’ garment. It was as if, in reaching out to touch the tassels on the edge of Jesus’ garment, she was affirming that here was a holy man, and the holy power of God flows through Him. These tassels with a blue cord are a reminder to every male Jew that they are to obey the entire Law of God (Numbers 15:37-41). But Jesus is more powerful than any law could ever be, and Jesus did what no doctor could ever do.

She knew immediately that she was healed. She quickly slips away into the crowd. How do we know this? She has to come back when Jesus calls out to her.

GOD’S QUESTIONS

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Like all God’s questions, this question only makes sense to one person: the person to which it is addressed. When God asks us questions, they may make not sense to anybody else. What we hear, what we need, is personal to us. For us, what we hear is God saying “I am talking to you!” the woman knew that she was no longer hidden, no longer alone.

COMPASSION

Yes, Jesus speaks firmly, but He is not angry. On the contrary, Jesus is extending compassion in at least two ways:

First, there is a difference between brushing up against Jesus like the crowd, and reaching out and actually touching Him in faith, like the woman. Jesus recognizes this difference. Jesus wants to emphasize the faith of the woman, both for her, and for those around Him. It was her faith in his power that healed her.

Secondly, Jesus was not done with the healing process. Jesus was willing to make her feel uncomfortable because he wanted to heal more than just her body. He is about to heal her relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.

“DAUGHTER”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter,

This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus calls somebody “daughter.” All three times this account is told: in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8, Jesus calls her daughter.

She has no father. So what does Jesus do? He calls her by the name she longed to hear: “daughter.” Perhaps even more than physical healing, she needed to hear from a father, her father. Jesus steps in and does what no one else can. He takes on the role of Jairus in her life. He sees the threat and steps up to shield her from it. In that moment, she is no longer alone. She hears the voice, perhaps for the first time in her life, of a man who is safe, strong, good, and loves her. A father.

Yes, she is clean. Yes, now she can go to the Temple and worship. Yes, now she can brush up against anyone without dirtying them. But this also means so much more. She has a father.

“YOU ARE COMPLETE”

your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Jesus tells her to go in “shalom.” Shalom, the word translated “peace,” has more to do with wholeness. The image of Shalom is that of a fabric that is intricately woven together. This is much more than the absence of conflict, but completeness. Jesus is saying that she is complete.

If this woman is single, Jesus is saying that she is complete.
If this woman is without children, Jesus is saying that she is complete.
If this woman is in a difficult marriage, Jesus is saying that she is complete and whole.

What made her complete? Whole? Nothing other than reaching out and touching Jesus. She did not need anything else to be complete. Many of us feel incomplete in our lives.

Are you single? Jesus says that you can be complete as you are.
Are you without children? Jesus says that you can be complete as you are.
Are you in a difficult marriage? Jesus is saying that you can be complete even within that difficult circumstance.

We often compare ourselves to others and feel incomplete. It is easy to look at someone else’s circumstance and try to find wholeness in that. But that is not what made this woman whole! Jesus said to her that she was complete, when she reached out to Jesus in faith.

That offer stands for us today as well.

WASHED CLEAN

But, you might say, I have done some evil things. Or, I have had some evil things done to me. I am too broken and dirty to ever be made whole and clean. I may think that I cannot be fixed, that even God does not have the power to fix me. That is simply not true. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says this:

“But you were washed, you were sanctified (set apart as a child of God), you were justified (declared innocent), in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our Lord.”

This word runs deep.

You can be washed clean! You can be set apart as a son or daughter of God! You can be declared innocent! Because of what Christ did for you on the cross.

Jewish Tradition says that anyone who comes into contact with such a woman would be unclean. Jesus reverses this law. Jesus does not become unclean. Rather, when she, an unclean person touches Jesus, she is healed, and she becomes clean. This is how powerful Jesus is.

We too can become clean.

Washed. Washed. Washed. Clean.

“IF ONLY”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.”

This is a pivot point in the story. Jesus was too late. In their minds, there was no longer any chance to heal. She died. Maybe if Jesus had not been so irresponsible, delaying to spend time with this other woman along the way, then this tragedy could have been avoided.

It reminds me of the story of Lazarus when Jesus intentionally delayed two extra days (John 11). Lazarus died in the meantime. When Jesus finally arrived, days later, Martha goes out to meet him, ragged from weeping the loss of her brother, and says, “if you had been here, he would not have died.”

If only Jesus had not delayed two extra days, Martha’s brother Lazarus would still be alive.
If only Jesus had not stopped to spend time with this other woman, Jairus’ daughter would not have died.
If only God had moved in my life, then that tragedy would have been avoided. I, or my family, would have been spared the pain.

GOD-BOXES

We all put God in boxes. We are finite. He is infinite. We are limited. He is limitless. For Jairus, it appears that healing was inside the box of what he thought God could do. Raising his daughter from the dead, however, went above the ceiling of what he thought Jesus could do.

Well, Jesus was about to raise the ceiling of what He can do when He raises the girl from the dead!

DOES GOD CARE ABOUT THE DETAILS?

Elsewhere in Scripture (Matt. 10) Jesus says that He cares about the hairs on our head and the birds of the air. In those passages, Jesus lowers the floor of the box of what we think God cares about. Lowers the floor? Does God really care about the details of my life?

Last week, Curtis Seargent, a man who has started churches all over the world, shared the story of driving into an overflowing Walmart parking lot on a Saturday with his wife. Out loud, she asked God to give them a space right next to the door. He looked at her with the “that’s kind of ridiculous” look. You know the look. What happened? As they approached, a car backed out of the first non-handicapped space next to the main entrance. As they pulled in, she looked back at him with the “now do you understand?” look.

God lowered the floor on Curtis’s God-box.

God wants to do both for us here today: God is able to do more than you or I think He can. God is more interested in the small details of our lives than we think He is.

“DON’T BE AFRAID”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Jesus tells us constantly to “not be afraid.” I quickly counted 28 times that the New Testament tells us “do not be afraid.” There may be more. Why? Because fear is our natural reaction. We live in a world dominated by fear. Most angry people are reacting to their fear. So Jesus keeps telling us to “not be afraid!” Have faith!

When he states to the woman “your faith has made you well,” it is the same faith that this man Jairus has. The healing of the woman is almost an advanced warning to Jairus of the power of Christ to act in any situation.

“STOP WAILING,”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

Jesus is acknowledging the fact that he is about to perform a temporary resuscitation. He is not raising her from the dead in the same manner as the final resurrection, or in the manner that He would be raised from the dead. Jesus is raising her temporarily. She will then live her life and come to a normal death later on. We know this because she is no longer alive today. This is the same scenario with Lazarus (John 11), and every other resuscitation throughout the Bible. Do not mistake these temporary resuscitations with the resurrection of Jesus or the resurrection at the end of time of those who have put their faith in Jesus as their Savior.

“MY CHILD, GET UP!”

54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.

Jesus, with Jairus and his wife, with Peter James and John, walk into the room where lies the dead body of their daughter. Jesus takes her by the hand, speaks to her, and she comes back to life.

Again, Jewish tradition states that anyone who touches a corpse will become unclean for 7 days (Num. 19:11). Jesus, again, reverses this. Jesus does not become unclean when he touches her dead body. Rather, His touch breathes life into the 12-year-old daughter, and she becomes alive and clean.

Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

In effect, Jesus was saying, don’t get on your phone. Don’t get on your email. Don’t get on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Do not turn this into a public spectacle. This is a holy moment for you as a family.

THE RESURRECTION TO COME

Let’s zoom out for a moment. Jesus is pointing to something greater. When Jesus heals, it is a sign that points us to the ultimate healing to come. And here, Jesus is beginning to point to another raising of the dead that is still to come: His own. Just as Jesus raised this girl from the dead, and others, He himself is going to be raised from the dead. But… Jesus resurrection is going to be different. Jesus resurrection is going to be a continuing life, a different body, never to die again. Scripture calls it being “clothed in immortality” (1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 4; Rom. 8).

Jesus death is going to be different from the death of this girl. We die because of our sin. Our sin leads to our death. We die because we have sin (Rom. 5). Death is to be separated from God. Eternal life to be joined with God (John 17). Jesus did not die because of His sin. If He did not die for His own sin, then whose sin did He die for? He died for my sin. He died for your sin. He died for the sin of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2).

Jesus does it differently. His death is different. When He is on the cross he cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At this point, he bore our sins. He bore the separation from the Father that we deserved. His body shielded us from the threat of destruction.

JESUS IS THE FATHER WHO SHIELDED US

Jesus saw the threat of destruction before us. Just like I picked up my son and daughter to shield them from that dog, Jesus picked us up, and shielded us from the destruction of being eternally separated from God by throwing His body on the cross.

Jesus is doing what no father can ever do. Jesus is the ultimate Father.

And His resurrection is different. Jesus resurrection changes our life today. Even in the darkness of our present circumstances, we have hope.

LOSING ACCESS TO MY MIND

The worst day of my experience with cancer was the day I felt like I was going crazy. I felt weak. I had lost weight and hair. I had been vomiting. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without it coming back up. But there was something worse. When I began taking powerful anti-nausea meds, it messed with my mind. I couldn’t finish sentences. I felt like my vocabulary was behind a series of locked doors in my head. I knew that the information was still there, but I no longer had access to it. I don’t know if this is what the onset of dementia feels like, but it kind of freaked me out. I’d rather vomit all day long than feel like I’m losing access to my mind. I did not tell anyone I was feeling like this for fear that I would add to their worries. (And as a parenthesis, there are people all around this auditorium who, if you feel like this, want to hear it. You will not add to their worries. There is nothing you can tell them that will scare them away. We want to, and need to, walk together).

For me, that night, the valley felt deep and dark, and I did not see any way forward. You know what I am talking about. You know what it feels like to be a deep, dark valley.

At midnight, half-freaking out, half crying “help” to God, and not being able to sleep, I got up, wanting to touch something solid. At about 2am I began watching a documentary about people who live through the Antarctic winter, 4 months of total darkness, on a U.S. base. They begin slowing down. They begin repeating themselves. Their vocabulary simplifies. They begin dreaming simple dreams, like, “I wish I could eat a fresh vegetable.” After four months, the sun comes back. It revives them. They come back to normal.

At that moment I realized that this valley of insanity would not last forever. I realized that there was hope. Romans 6:4 says this:
“For if we have been united with him in a death like this (speaking of our faith uniting us with Him), we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like this.”

Let’s be honest. If Christ does not come back first, this body will eventually fail us. But Scripture says that one day God will resurrection these bodies and for all those who reached out to him in faith, transform them into bodies that never die: “clothed in immortality (1 Cor. 15). One day I will have the same kind of resurrected body that Jesus had, that would never again degrade and decay and die. I will live forever with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. On that day, the day of the resurrection to come, I will experience ultimate healing.

This future reality changes how we live our lives today. We have the promise of the resurrection to come, and the promise that Jesus is our Father today. Romans 8:15 say that since we are children, “we received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba (papa), Father.” Today, we can take the posture of the woman whom Jesus called “daughter.” Today, we can cry out “help!”

Jesus may heal right now. Or, Jesus may say “my grace is sufficient to carry you through it” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). When Jesus heals today, it is a foretaste of the resurrection to come. When He does not heal today, we still have the promise of the resurrection to come.

SANDY

I met Sandy while prayer walking last week. Her father died of cancer. The pain was overwhelming. She reached out to God and asked for healing. Instantly, God healed. He granted Sandy peace and took away her pain. Jesus healed her right away.

THEBIA

I also met Thebia on that prayer walk. She was full of more joy than almost anyone I have ever met. I remarked how her joy seemed to gush out of her. She turned toward me with a huge smile and simply said “it’s all Jesus.” Oh yeah, Thebia is in her early twenties, and she is blind. God’s grace is sufficient for Thebia. Judging by the joy that floods out of her, I imagine she is living a fuller life than most people who can physically see. God’s grace is sufficient to carry Thebia through it with joy.

REACHING OUT TO JESUS

I’d invite you to act on these three responses, asking God to speak to you the way Jesus spoke to this woman.

1) HONESTLY ACKNOWLEDGE MY BROKENNESS

Where have I been bleeding for twelve years? Where are my wounds? What are the things that are draining the life out of me just like this woman? Some of us deal with physical brokenness. Some of us deal with sexual brokenness. Some of us deal with broken relationships: with friends or family or neighbors. Some of us deal with Spiritual brokenness. We know that we are separated from God. Maybe we have never taken that step of reaching out to Jesus in faith. We all have brokenness.

2) REACH OUT TO JESUS IN MY BROKENNESS

Do I desire the kind of wholeness, completeness, that Jesus offered the woman when she said “daughter, your faith has healed you.” At that moment, she became a daughter of God. This is why Christ came to this earth, died, and rose again. So that he can call me son. So that He can call you daughter. So that we can call Him “Papa.” She reached out to Jesus in faith. I would like to invite you to reach out to Jesus, just like this woman did.

We are pro doctor, pro medication, pro counselor, pro community. We realize that God uses all of these natural means to heal and we strongly encourage everyone to explore all of them. And while God may use a doctor or medication to heal me physically, at the core of my being, I may need to hear the words “you are my daughter,” or “you are my son.”

3) HAVE FAITH THAT JESUS CAN HEAL MY BROKENNESS AND FILL ME WITH JOY

Yes we carry scars. But joy is still possible! Not only can Jesus heal physically, but more importantly, when I reach out to Him in faith, He calls me son, He calls me daughter. I am no longer alone. I am loved. I am valued. I am cherished. I become a part of His kingdom.

You may say “I realize that I am broken, but I don’t even know where to start. A good next step could be to check out celebrate recovery. Celebrate Recovery meets on Tuesday nights at 6:30 here at South Fellowship. It is a group of people who come together with their brokenness and grow toward healing through Jesus in community. Contact Nicole Pastore (612) 250-0217 to find out more.

This is a healing space. When we go to Jesus, and bring others to Jesus, we are agents of healing in a broken and hurting world.

PRAYER

If you would like to reach out to Jesus right now, feel free to read the following prayer aloud. Read it to Jesus. He can hear you.

Jesus, just like the bleeding woman, I am broken. I have tried and tried so many things to find healing. I’ve gone every place I can think of, but just like this woman who spent everything on doctors and was left with nothing, today, I am left with nothing.

I come to you because I know you are the one true God. You created the universe. You created this earth. You have more power than I can ever imagine.

You made me in your image. You love me. But I turned away from you. Rather than trusting you, I became self-centered and tried to find my own way. Instead of finding healing, I ended up getting hurt, and hurting people that I love.

In your love for me, you took the punishment that I deserve on the cross. In your love for me, when you died, you died for my sin, not yours. And when you rose again, you conquered my sin, you conquered all of my spiritual enemies, and you even conquered death.

Today I reach out to you to freely admit that I am a sinner, and to ask for your forgiveness for it. I know that you paid for my sin on the cross. I also know that you promise that when I call out for you to save me, that you hear me.

Please forgive my sin. Please come into my life. Please fill me with your Spirit, heal me, and make me into a brand-new person: your daughter.

Thank you for saving me. Thank you for healing me. Thank you for loving me. From this day forward, I am yours. I will obey you rather than trying to find my own way. Whatever you ask of me, I will trust you rather than trust myself or those around me who do not follow you.

I love you Jesus.

Papa

I know that you love me too.

I know that I am your child

– Amen

Encountering Jesus – The Healing of Two Daughters – Luke 8:40-562020-10-19T10:46:04-06:00

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Great Storms and Growth Spurts – Luke 8:22-25

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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Great Storms and Growth Spurts    Luke 8:22-25

There’s a small chance I might not win “Father of the Year” award this year.  My kids love going to the park and we love taking them to the park.  It’s sort of our neighborhood “water hole.”  It’s where all of the families gather and the kids play and we get the chance to hang out with friends and chat.  My kids love riding the tire swing that’s there.  There’s three ways to spin a tire swing.  There’s the normal, sane parent way.  There’s, what I affectionately refer to as, beast-mode.  And there’s super beast-mode, which only I am able to do.  My two older kids love super beast-mode.  Super beast-mode pretty much means I hold nothing back.  I’m a grown man spinning an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old with all my might, looking like a fool and I don’t care.  A few weeks ago, the two older kids talked our youngest son, Reid, into sitting on the swing also.  So my 8-year-old, my 6-year-old, my 4-year-old are all on the tire swing.  There’s a conversation between the three kids where the two older are trying to talk him into doing super beast-mode because they know he gets to set the pace. Eventually, he agrees to be on the ride for super beast-mode.  I’m like, “Buddy, you know that daddy can’t hold back when he goes super beast-mode.”  He answers, “I know, daddy, I’m ready for it.”  I start rocking it and I pivot and I spin it as hard as I can.  And I just sit back.  My youngest son’s blond hair shoots straight up in the air and his eyes get as big as saucers.  He starts screaming the most blood-curdling scream you have ever heard in your life!  Immediately, I can feel the eyes of every parent look over, right?  Like, “Who’s the moron over there torturing the children?”  I’m like, “He asked for it!  Super beast-mode!”  I stop the swing, I get him off, he goes to counseling….   I walk back to my wife and the rest of the parents.  I’m saying, “He said he wanted super beast-mode.”  They’re like, “What’s wrong with you, Paulson?”

Sometimes life feels like you’re on a tire swing, doesn’t it?  If you’re a follower of Jesus this morning, the question we often ask is, “God, where are you when life is spinning?”  “Where are you when I’m holding on for dear life?”  And, “Are you the kind of God that does that?  Are you the kind of God that spins us and just sits back and watches us hold on and watches us suffer?”  If you’re not a follower of Jesus this morning, one of the main questions I get from people who aren’t followers of Christ is, “How do you explain the world we live in if you have an all-powerful, all-sovereign, and all-good God?”  Because sometimes life hurts, and sometimes life stings, and sometimes it feels like we are on the tire-swing-of-life and God is on the sidelines just watching us spin and just watching us suffer.  What do we do with that?  While I don’t propose to have all of the answers to that really good and really complex question this morning, what I want to do is invite us into Luke 8 as we see a story about a storm.  You may not ever be in this situation where you’re in a literal, physical storm, wondering how you’re going to make it to safety.  My guess is, at some point in your life, you’re going to face a storm that you wonder how you’re going to make it through.  It may be the death of a friend or a loved one or a child.  It may be the loss of a job or something that just doesn’t go right.  It may be a fracture in a relationship.  There’s a lot of areas that we tend to sense the wind and the waves in our life.  This passage of Scripture is going to invite us to reimagine God’s posture and His position as life spins around.  Because life spins sometimes, doesn’t it?

Luke 8:22-23.  Here’s the way Dr. Luke tells the story:  One day he (Jesus) got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”  So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. {Don’t you just love this snapshot into the humanity of Jesus?  Yes, he can walk on water, but he also needs a nap every now and then.}  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.  So, the Sea of Galilee is positioned in such a way with the surrounding hills that these squalls would come down from the hills and windstorms would just torment the sea in a significant way.  You could leave and it would be as clear as day, then in a moment’s notice a storm could appear and absolutely wreck your day of water skiing, okay?  That was the nature of the Sea of Galilee at this point in time.

Here’s a few questions I want to ask as we begin our time of studying this morning.  Whose idea is it to go across the lake?  Jesus’s.  Luke wants you to know that and he wants you to feel that.  Because, certainly, the disciples found themselves in the middle of the lake, in the storm, Jesus sleeping on a cushion, and they’re going, “Hey, would somebody remind me whose idea it was that we’re in the middle of this lake right now?”  Luke wants you to know it was Jesus who said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”  If the disciples…….like you and I, there were people my parents didn’t want me hanging out with in high school.  There were people that every time we hung out together, we got in trouble.  Every time we hung out together, things went a little bit bad.  If you didn’t have a friend like that in high school, you were probably somebody’s friend like that in high school. They always had bad ideas.  I wonder if the disciples look at each other and go, “Jesus, king of the bad idea! It was YOUR call to get in the boat.  YOUR call to row across the lake.  It was YOUR idea that put us here.”

Second question:  Does Jesus know that the storm is coming.  Certainly.  I would propose he does; anyone who can predict their own death and resurrection certainly has the capability to know if a storm is on the horizon. So, Jesus’s idea; Jesus knows that the storm is coming.  Last question:  Could Jesus have prevented the storm? Sure.  The guy wakes up from a nap, winks at the storm, it’s done, the sea is glass.  He certainly could have preemptively stopped the storm if he rebukes it and quiets it after it’s going.  Okay, let’s put it all together.  It’s Jesus’s idea that they go out on the lake.  Jesus knew that the storm was coming.  Jesus could have stopped the storm.  So why in the world would a good, gracious God put his disciples in the place where the wind and the waters rage and they wonder if they’re going to make it out the other side alive?  This is the question we often ask and wrestle with:  God, if you’re all-good, if you’re all-powerful, why in the world did fill-in-the-blank happen?  And, where were you when that thing happened?  What I don’t want to do is propose this morning that God actively causes all evil in the world, but what I do want to do is propose a lens through which to see EVERYTHING that comes into our life and that lens is God is all-powerful and he can stop whatever he wants from hitting us.  He’s got to have a purpose, he’s got to have a reason and in the midst of THIS storm, we start to see that Jesus has a reason for the wind and the waves in the lives of the disciples. {Will you look up at me for just a second?}  He’s got a purpose for the wind and the waves in your life, too.  He wants to use them. Because there’s some things God wants to do in our heart, in our soul, and in our life that only come when things get difficult, when the wind rages, and when we are in great peril or danger.

In the book of Judges 3:1-2, the nation of Israel has taken the Promised Land.  They’re in the next generation of people who are going to start living in the Promised Land.  Listen to the way that the author of Judges put it: Now these are the nations that the Lord left, {So there’s some nations in the Promised Land that the Israelites haven’t conquered.  There’s some nations that are going to be coming after them.  Why did he leave them?}  to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan.  It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.  God has a purpose in the fight there, because your faith needs a fight!  Faith doesn’t develop.  Faith isn’t cultivated on the mountaintop away from everything else.  Faith is cultivated, faith is strengthened in the valley, when we wonder how we are going to make it through.

Jesus puts the disciples in this same position to strengthen them, to stretch them, to test them, because he knows their faith needs a fight.  Here’s the problem:  Jesus is asleep!  I’d be okay with all of this, right?  Jesus positions the storm, Jesus calls them out onto the water, Jesus could have stopped it, this is Jesus’s idea and He sleeps through his own test!  Right?  I love that the bible is so real, because if it were….hey, everything was easy and everything was calm and the disciples’ lives were perfect from start to finish after they met Jesus, all of us would look at them and go, “That’s not really how it works.”  Sometimes we are in the midst of a season that is dark and painful and we cry out to God and we wrestle with God and it feels like he’s asleep.  Anyone want to say Amen to that?  You’re in good company, because all throughout the Scriptures you have people who cry out to God, “God, where are you??”  Listen to the prophet Habakkuk at the beginning of his account:  O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)  That’s in the bible.  You’re silent!!  The psalmist in Psalms 13:1-2 says this:  How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  God, if you’re good, God, if you’re powerful, are you sleeping??  Where are you?  I’d love to see your hand move and I’d love to see your hand work!  One more, Psalm 22:1-2 — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.  What I was subtly taught, or at least what I heard in church, was God can’t handle the big questions.  God can’t handle the honest questions.  They were just suppose to sing “It is well with my soul,” even if it’s not.  So what do we do when it feels like we’re on the tire-swing of life and we’re spinning around and Jesus seems like he’s sleeping?

That’s a great question.  Here’s the way the passage continues (Luke 8:24) — And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.  We’re perishing!  We’re in danger!  Our boat is sinking!  Wouldn’t we love to think that faith is a submarine that takes us under the water and under the wind and under the waves and out of the storm.  It’s just that faith doesn’t work that way.  Faith is not a submarine that takes us under, but faith is a connection to a person who walks with us through.  Here’s what Luke would have us learn as we study this passage of Scripture:  When Jesus want to deepen our faith, he often disorients our life.   The life of faith ignites when the illusion of control dies.  Let me say that again.  The life of faith ignites when the illusion of control dies.  Control is an illusion.  You do know that you are one phone call away, one doctor visit away, one drive away from your entire life changing.  Jesus wants to do something in the lives of the disciples.  He wants them to be the people that carry the torch of the kingdom of God.  He wants them to be the people who, after he’s dead, resurrected, and ascended to the throne, carry the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth….the declaration that Jesus is King!  What Jesus knows is that in their current state, they are not capable.  So he needs to deepen their life.  He needs to expand their faith.  The way that he deepens their faith is by disorienting their life.  So here’s the great news: There’s significant power in being out of control!  If you’re a person of faith, there’s significant power in being out of control, because it’s in THOSE areas, in THOSE times of life, that we actually start to reach out to God.  We can be apathetic until the storm hits, yes?  It’s the storm that reminds us man, there’s more going on in this story, there’s more that God is up to.  I love the way that author Mark Sayers puts it: “In the storm, God shreds you of those parts of you that battle him.  Those who avoid God’s holy storms fail to feel their pain, but they also fail to grow.”

Because when God wants to deepen our faith, he disorients our life.  Disorientation is one of God’s greatest tools for spiritual formation.  Wouldn’t you love it to be like a class where you just read and study the Bible? Like that’s the way we grow most.  But if we were to go around this room, here’s the stories we would tell. The stories we would tell would be — The things that shook me most severely, shaped me most significantly.  That’s what we’d say.  We’d say it was walking through that health scare and clinging to Jesus in the midst of that….that’s what grew my faith.  It was the late nights praying and weeping and wondering if our adult child was going to make it that deepened our faith.  Ironically, it was the call from the doctor or a call from the boss that changed everything…..those are the stories, because the things that shake us most severely are also the things that shape us most significantly.

When God wants to deepen our faith, he often disorients our life.  Look at the way James put it in this letter to the churches (James 1:2-4) — Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  {It’s like this endurance.  This “I’m not giving up.  I’m shaped and formed in the storm in such a way that, God, I’m hanging on in any and every situation.”}  And let steadfastness have its full effect, {Here’s what James just said: Keep holding on!} …that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. It’s the Greek word ‘teleios.’  It’s this idea of maturity, that you might be mature.  I used to read it and think that it said that storms strengthen our faith.  It’s not that easy though. What strengthens our faith is walking faithfully through life’s storms.  You know you can walk through a storm and have it actually be a detriment to your faith, AND you can walk through a storm and have it develop your faith. What’s the difference?  How you WALK.  Are you continuing to walk faithfully?  Are you continuing to walk with God?  As John Maxwell, the leadership guru, says, “Good management of bad experiences leads to growth.”  It does.  What goes on is that the storms start to reveal to us more about who we are.

If you’d invite me in this morning, in the next few minutes that we have together, I want to draw out from this passage of Scripture a profile of what it looks like to walk through the storms of life.  I don’t intend to answer every single question that comes up, but I do want to say, if you feel like you’re on the tire-swing of life or if you see the billowing clouds and the storm coming in, I want to teach you what it looks like to walk with Jesus in the midst of the wind and the waves.  This passage of Scripture beautifully draws that out.  Verse 24.  As the wind is raging and the storm is coming and the waves are crashing against the boat, coming inside of the boat: And they went and woke him….   The woke up Jesus.  This is this moment of truth in this story.  If this is a story arc, this is the climatic scene.  The disciples have to wrestle with…are we going to get a bucket and start baling water or are we going to go wake up the presumably ‘Savior of the world?’  I love this, because you and I, we have the same question to wrestle with every single day.  This is our moment of truth also.   When the storms of life hit, do we get a bucket and do we start baling water, or do we go and run back to our Savior and cry out, “I need you!  I can’t do this on my own.  My life is spinning and I need your touch, I need your voice, I need you to step in.”  Here’s a confession for you this morning:  I’m great with a bucket.  Here’s what my bucket looks like.  My bucket, in the storms of life that hit me, looks like me putting my head down and work harder. I’ll work myself out of this.  I’ll build a little shelter around my heart and my soul so that I’m not emotionally available to anybody, because I don’t want you to be able to hurt me.  That’s part of my bucket.  I’ll start to see bitterness and cynicism rise up in my soul.  Those are ways I navigate life’s storms.  How do you do it?  It’s a great thing to know what your bucket is because oftentimes we bale without even knowing it.  Maybe it’s anger. Maybe it’s depression.  To know what your bucket is is significant, because you and I, we can either try to control every circumstance and situation around us or we can cry out.  We can either grit our teeth to get it done, or we can bow our knee and surrender.  Here’s the invitation from this passage — The life of faith, as we walk through or get PUSHED through the storms that often hit us in life…..the disciples teach us to reach out. Sure, it feels like Jesus is asleep, but he’s in your boat!!  Reach out!!  Faith says, “I cannot do this on my own!” Faith says, “I’m incapable.”  Faith says, “I need help!!”  We would be a really healthy community if we got better at saying that.  We all do.

There’s two ways we cry out to God.  One is directly to God in prayer.  I want to press on this a little bit, because our tendency in the storm is to get busier and work harder, either to get through it or to ignore it, but what we actually need is just the opposite of that.  We need to create rhythms and we need to create space in our life to hear the voice of God.  To sit with God in prayer.  To cry out to God about the storm.  Also, just to hear his voice.  Do you know what you need to hear more than anything else when the storms of life hit?  You know this deep down.  What you need to hear is not that he’s going to quiet the storms, but that he loves you in the midst of them.  You can hear me say that over your life, but if you create space to hear the God of the universe say that….  Hearing me say that might change your Sunday, hearing Him say it might change your whole life!!  It’s only in prayer, it’s only in silence, it’s only in solitude, and meditation on Scripture and contemplation….that’s when we hear the voice of God.  When the storms hit, we have a tendency to get busier. It’s the very thing we need LEAST.  We actually need to slow down and cry out and hear his voice.

We cry out to God directly, but then we also need the community of faith around us.  The disciples are in the boat together for a reason.  We’re in this space together for a reason—not to be a country club with one another, but to walk with each other through the pain and the suffering and the deep hurt we walk through as human beings in a broken world.  The Scriptures will tell us as a community of faith — Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)  He comforts us so that we can be a comfort to others.  He ministers to us so that we can be ministers to each other.  When was the last time you cried out to somebody else or just told them or just whispered, “Hey, I need help.  I need you to pray for me.  I need you to follow up with me, because it feels like this storm is sinking my boat.”  It feels like this storm is sinking our marriage.  It feels like this storm is something we aren’t going to make it through.  We need people around us who will say, “Oh, Jesus has piloted my boat through that storm, let me walk with you.”  I would add in also that there’s a part that friendship plays and then there’s also a part that there may be some things you’re walking through that you need a counselor to help you start to understand the thought patterns that you’re developing as you walk through the storm, the untruths that you’re starting to build your life on.  I am a huge advocate of reaching out to counselors, to friends, to the community of faith, to God and saying, “I need help!”  So, friends, reach out, don’t tap out!  Reach out, don’t tap out!  Imagine if we became a community of people where our first response was to go to Jesus, instead of it being our last resort.  What might God do?

Look at the way the story continues. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.  {A peace. A shalom.}  He said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid…  That’s a theme all throughout this passage: the wind, the waves, they’re perishing, they’re in danger.  They’re all words Luke uses to paint this picture.  And then Jesus asks this great question ‘Where is your faith?’ because here’s what he knows.  He knows that oftentimes the seeds of faith are planted in the storms of life.  He knows that sometimes the beginning of our faith journey, or a new phase in our faith journey walking with him, is initiated through a place of fear. Fear is a great place to meet Jesus; it’s a terrible place to leave Him!  Let me say that again.  Fear is a great place to meet Jesus, but it is a terrible place to leave him, because the seeds of faith often grow in the soil of fear.

A little while back, I was reading about this group of trees called the Lodgepole pines.  They grow mostly in the Pacific Northwest.  The Lodgepole pines are different from other pine trees because around the pinecone is this resin that holds the pinecone together so tightly that even when it falls off the tree and starts to die, that pinecone does not split open.  Lodgepole pines need a different type of environment for their seeds to start to grow.  That environment that a Lodgepole pine needs is a forest fire.  They need significant heat, because it’s in the heat that these pinecones finally start to open up.

I think this is a picture of the life of faith.  What are faith sometimes needs to open up is a fight, is a fire, is a storm.  It’s significant that when Jesus is leading the disciples along this path, out on this lake, into this storm, the question that He asks them is ‘Where is your faith?’  It’s significant how we read the inflection of that saying, isn’t it?  Where is your faith, {whispers} you losers?  That’s often how we read Jesus, isn’t it?  Where is your faith, you morons?  I can’t believe it!  OR….in light of what you’ve seen me do, where is your faith?  Is this a teaching moment or a moment of condemnation?  I read it and I think, “Man, I’ve read it for so long as a moment of condemnation, because I’ve sort of seen Jesus as crusty-face Jesus.”  {Deep-voice growl — Where is your faith? Haven’t I taught you better?}  I sort of picture the disciples looking back at him going, “Well, we woke you up, didn’t we?”  What did you want us to?  I think it’s more ‘Where is your faith?’ and the invitation for them is to say back to him, “Our faith is in YOU!”  That’s what we get the chance to do in the storms of life; to not only reach out; remember, we’re dependent beings and God is a sovereign God.  But that we reaffirm that He, in fact, is our God.

He said to the, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this…?  Which is the most important question anyone will ever ask!  Who is this man, Jesus?  It’s the same question that Jesus asks his disciples as they’re walking down the road — Who do people say that the Son of Man is?  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and other Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16: 13-18)  After Peter says, “You’re the Lord, you’re the Christ, you’re the Messiah, the Anointed One.  You’re the King of it all!”  Jesus says back to Peter, “You are right and on THAT rock, on your affirmation of faith, I will build my church.  Here’s the thing, friends, will you look up at me for a second?  Every life is built on whatever we put our faith in and on.  That’s the foundation of our life.  The beauty and the power and the struggle of the storm is that the storms often erodes the foundation of our life and we didn’t realize we were building on that thing until it’s gone.  We didn’t realize we were building on health until it was gone.  We didn’t realize we were building on wealth until the storm came in and it knocked it out.  We didn’t realize that family was THE most important thing….   Family’s great.  Money’s good.  Health is essential.  But none of that stuff can be the focus of our faith.  It will fail us.  It WILL let us down.  That’s why it’s such an important question — Who do you say that I am? — because all of us are building on some foundation.  The question is is it a foundation that will stand in the storms of life or is it a foundation that will fail us?

The opportunity in the storm, the reason God often disorients our life to deepen it, is because the storm starts to put into perspective where our hope really lies.  Then we get the chance to redirect our gaze back to the only One who’s worthy of all of our hope and all of our dreams and all of our life.  Friends, the object of your faith will determine the course of your life!  It will!  Jesus is taking the disciples on Discipleship 101 boat ride. Where’s your faith?   I guess, after that Houdini trick, it’s in you!  It’s in you!  You’re King of it all!  You’re Lord of it all!  He uses this to draw their faith forward.  So I’ll use it to ask you the question:  Where is your faith this morning?

The disciples end this section of this passage of Scripture with this standing, dumbfounded, mouths open ‘Are you kidding me?!  Did we really just see that?!’  That’s my translation.  Here’s what they really say:  Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?    Now, it’s lost on us, but for a Hebrew mind the sea carried with it this chaotic type of atmosphere.  For the Hebrews, the sea was this primordial, unordered chaos that from it came the forces of evil.  Which is why, if you read through the book of Revelations, the beast comes out of the ocean.  It’s this picture of evil, chaos, disorder.  What Luke’s doing when he tells us that Jesus calms the storm is that he’s telling a much bigger story than just this story.  Luke is telling us that Jesus has authority, has power, has control over the very things that we run from most.  Jesus is exercising power over nature.  He’s exerting his authority over the forces of chaos, which are trying to attack His children, His kids, and He’s saying, “I’m bigger than them all!”  Luke is making the case that Jesus is worthy of your faith.  That he’s worthy of your trust.

There’s a huge problem.  Jesus doesn’t quiet every storm.  Right?  There’s some storms that he walks with us through rather than standing in the bow of the boat saying, “Shhhh!  Be quiet!”  I don’t presume to know all the reasons why.  I only know that that’s true.  I only know that deep in my bones, in my soul, that He has all authority and power in heaven and on earth.  And so, He’s able, should he chose, to stop every storm.  If God wanted to heal my mom in the two years she dealt with a debilitating brain disease, He could have done it in a second!!  I would almost rather believe He couldn’t have done it!  I KNOW He could have done it!  So the question we have to wrestle with is if God is all-good, and all-powerful, then why do some things in life happen the way that they do?  He can calm ANY wind and ANY water and ANY wave.  Why does he choose to do it sometimes and why doesn’t he choose to do it other times?  I don’t know!  I only know this:  If I believe that God is strong enough to calm any wind, any storm, and any wave, I also have to believe He’s wise enough to know whether or not he should.  I can’t have one without the other.  I can’t say God, you’re all-powerful, but I’m all-wise, so here’s the way we’re going to do this.  No!  If He’s all-powerful, He’s also all-wise.

The storms bring us to this place where we bow at the feet of Jesus and, afresh, recognize his sovereignty.   We sang during offering that ‘this is our Father’s world.’  That tho’ the wrong seems oft so strong, He is the ruler yet.  Whatever comes into my life comes because He allows it, number one, but He also plans to use it.  I love the way the great Dutch theologian (Abraham Kuyper) says it: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”  That’s awesome!  The storm pushes me back to say, “God, you’re sovereign.  You know better than I know and so I’m going to trust you.”

You know what the storm also does?  It reminds me that my faith isn’t in an outcome.  My faith is not God, I have faith that you will….’  My faith is God, I have faith that you ARE.  It’s not God, I know you’re going to do it this way and that way, and I know you’re going to take my plan and you’re going to execute it to perfection.  It’s God, I know you’re all-powerful, all-good, all-sovereign, and I trust you to be all-wise.  I’m certainly going to tell you what I prefer, but then I’m going to bow and say, “The wind and the waves, they know your name and they have no clue who I am.”

Author Robert Louis Stevenson re-tells the story of his son who was on this fishing boat with a number of his friends.  They were in the middle of the ocean when a storm came up.  Stevenson’s son went to ask the captain of the boat if there was something that they could do about this terrible situation.  The story goes that the captain of the boat just turned back and smiled at Stevenson’s son.  His son when back and told his friends, “I have good news.  I have seen the captain’s face and he is unafraid!”  Friends, I have good news this morning.  I have seen the captain’s face and he’s unafraid!  He’s in your boat.  He’s in control.  He is good!  Whatever you’re walking through this morning, can I invite you to just step back and remember that the storm whisperer is in your boat!  While the promise is not He quiets every storm you’ll ever face….that is NOT the promise this morning!  The promise IS that He has quieted the biggest storm you will ever face.  When He died for your sin, was resurrected to new life, ascended to heaven, when He walked out of the grave, He looked at the storm of sin, He looked at the storm of death, He looked at the storm of separation from God, and He said, “Be still!!!” So death has lost it’s sting!  No power for those who, by faith, are in Christ.  That storm has been quieted by our Savior!  So the question we get to wrestle with this morning is God, through the disorientation in my life, how do you want to deepen my faith?  Will you reach out for Him?  Will you reaffirm God, my faith is in You, not in an outcome, but in You?  And I trust, that You are sovereign over all and maybe bigger than any of that, I trust that You are in my boat.

As we close our time together this morning, I’m going to invite Dave and Aaron back up.  They’re going to play a song.  On the other side of your outline there’s three bullet points.  One says ‘My Storm.’  The other says ‘My Reach.’  The final one says ‘My Conviction.’  So I’d invite you, before we go rushing out of here to the noise and chaos of our day, to pray and ask God, “God, what are stirring up here?”  Is there a storm I’m walking through right now or maybe one that I just came out of?  Here’s my reach out to you, here’s my prayer to you.  In the midst of the storm, here’s my conviction about who you are and about who I am in You.  Aaron’s going to sing this great old hymn, Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.  As you write and pray, I’d also invite you to listen to these great words.

1. Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

2. As a mother stills her child,
You can hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will
When You say to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

3. When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
Grant me long and peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Your chest,
May I hear You say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

Jesus, that is our prayer this morning, that you would, in the disorienting times in life, deepen our faith.  That you’d teach us to reach out to you and to others.  That you would reorient our trust and our faith and remind us in the midst of it all that you’re sovereign over all.  So, this morning, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, we say back to you that we love you and we are overwhelmed with gratitude, that in the midst of any storm we walk through, we know that you are in our boat.  That makes all the difference in the world.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  And all God’s people said….AMEN!

ENCOUNTERING JESUS: Great Storms and Growth Spurts – Luke 8:22-252020-10-21T14:21:10-06:00

Encountering Jesus: If You Say So – Luke 5:1-11

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ENCOUNTERING JESUS: If You Say So    Luke 5:1-11

You may not know the name — Charlie Taylor.  If you were to ask his friends, they would have described him as a fairly quiet man who enjoyed a good cigar and had a propensity for being mechanically inclined.  Some would have considered him to be a mechanical genius.  Like many geniuses, he dropped out of school at the age of 12, sort of disinterested, and he went to work for the Nebraska State Journal.  After a few years working in their processing department, he got a job in their binding department because of his propensity for mechanics.  After working there for a number of years, he met two men who recruited him to be a part of their company.   They recruited him and paid him $18.00 per week.  In the late 1800’s that went further than it does today certainly, but it wasn’t exactly a stellar paycheck even back then.  The two men who recruited Charlie Taylor you’ve probably have heard of.  Their names are Orville and Wilbur Wright.  They recruited Charlie because of his mechanical inclination.  They gave him and task of developing an engine that was light enough and powerful enough to actually fly.  A few years later after beginning to work with the Wright Brothers, Charlie Taylor designed the engine that the Wright Brothers eventually used on December 17, 1903, to fly 120 feet in the air. That wasn’t all that unique, because other people were flying at the time; the thing that was unique was that they could actually steer and not die when they did fly!  Charlie Taylor’s relationship with Wilbur and Orville Wright changed the course of history.

If we go back in the course of history, we’ll see that history is defined and changed and the courses are charted by encounters.  By interactions that people have.  By happenstance meetings that some people engage in, whether it’s Charlie Taylor or the Wright Brothers….  Or in 1874, Alexander Graham Bell met Thomas Watson and soon together developed the telephone.  Or in 1898, Henry Ford met Thomas Edison; Thomas Edison poured into Henry Ford’s life in a way where Ford would stand before us (if he were here today) and say, “I would have never started the Ford Motor Company if I had not met Thomas Edison.”  Steve Jobs encounters Steve Wozniak in 1970 and begins Apple Computers.  Or in 1973, Edwin Paulson met Christina Hughes…..and in 1980 Ryan Paulson was born because of that encounter!  In 2000, Ryan Paulson met Kelly Hester on a backpacking trail and it changed the course of, at least my, history.  We could go back and see the definitive movements in history and we could trace them back to encounters.  We could trace them back to people meeting a person that changes their life.  We could trace it back to people partnering together in a way that would change the course of history.  It may have been a sergeant in the army who had somebody put their arm around them.  It may have been an inventor who was ready to give up and somebody came along and said, “Listen, there’s something on the horizon, keep going.”  Encounters have the ability to change the course of history.

Throughout the gospels, we read about people encountering this man, Jesus.  Some of them walk away sad. Some of them walk away discouraged.  Some of them walk away wondering, “How could we ever follow this man and what he calls us to.”  But others walk away with the unique and new ability to walk.  Some walk away with the ability to see for the first time in their life.  Some walk away free from the demons that possessed them and they have a new outlook on life.  If you were to go back through the course of history, certainly you would see encounters that changed the course and the direction that things go.  But you will never encounter a man who has changed more people than Jesus of Nazareth.  Over the last 2000 years, people have been encountering this man, Jesus, and for many of those people, their lives have never been the same.

Today I want to tell you the story of a man named Simon, or Peter as we’ve grown to know him, and his encounter with Jesus.  Simon was a fisherman.  It was what he did.  It was what his family did.  It was his lot in life.  It was the family business.  They lived right next to the lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee.  Peter didn’t have to pray or think about what he was going to do on a given day.  He knew exactly what his day would hold when he woke up in the morning.  It was in the morning after an entire night of fishing that he would get ready and prepare, and then later in the evening he would push back out to sea.  We pick up this encounter in Luke 5:1, after Peter has fished all night and he’s come back to shore.  On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him (Jesus) to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee), and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  If this is a movie…..Scene 1.  Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, teaching….we’re not exactly sure what.  But people from this town—the population was around 15,000 people at that point of time in history—are pressing in around Jesus.

In the Greek, you get this picture of this word of Jesus being almost claustrophobic because there is so many people hanging on his words.  Notice who isn’t hanging on Jesus’ words.  It’s Peter.  It’s Simon, the star of the show.  It’s who this entire passage is about.  He begins this time disinterested.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about what Jesus is saying, but he’s more interested in what he’s doing.  He’s got a task list in front of him, right?  Peter is unwilling to say, “Okay, the nets can wait.  I want to hear what Jesus has to say.”  So, I’m just going to timeout and jump into your world a little bit today.  My guess is there’s some people here that are distracted.  There’s some people here that are disinterested.  There’s some people here that re preoccupied. Be careful!  That’s exactly where Peter was at when he encountered his Messiah.  Peter just wants to live a normal life.  Peter wants to get his job done.  He’s got a family, he’s got a solid job, he’s got a plan, and Jesus is about to mess it all up and change it dramatically.

Peter’s not interested in what Jesus is saying, but Jesus highjacks his boat.  Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land.  And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.  Jesus just highjacks Peter’s boat.  Peter has this plan, Peter has this process, Peter has his tasks….Jesus steals his boat!  He gets in it and says, “Hey, let’s turn this into a floating pulpit so I can teach the people on the shore.”  A number of years ago, 1986, they discovered a boat along the Sea of Galilee that they believe is from the first century.  They call it The Jesus Boat, not because they think Jesus sat in it or taught from it, but primarily because these were the types of boats he would have sat in and would have taught from.  Twenty-seven feet long, 7-1/2 feet wide.  Picture Jesus floating along the shore; people clambering, hanging on every word, longing to hear what he would say, and Peter reluctantly rowing Him along or hoisting his sail. He’s obedient.  He does it, but you better believe he’s saying under his breath, “I cannot believe you’re asking me to do this after an entire night of fishing, where I caught nothing.  I’m washing my nets.  I’m ready to go home.  I want nothing more than sleep, and you want me to turn my office into your pulpit!  No, thank you.”  I think one of the reasons Peter says yes to Jesus is that, if you read back in chapter 4, Jesus has just healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  So he sort of owes him one, right?

Jesus gets done teaching — And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”   I mean, this is the itinerant rabbi saying to the professional fisherman, “Let me teach you how to fish.  I’ve just highjacked your boat, I’ve just ruined your day, I’ve just stolen your sleep, and now let me teach you how to do your job.”  Can you feel the offense that must have been in Peter?  Not only that….put out into the deep.  So, Peter, let’s get away from the shore, which is normally where we fish because that’s where the fish are.  Let’s do it in the middle of the day, which is the time of day where nobody is fishing.  It’s why they were done, because the fish aren’t biting at that point in time.  And then, let’s put into the deep, so, I want to get you away from the other people, Peter, I want you to get you into the middle of this lake, which is 13 miles long and 8.1 miles wide.  Peter, here’s what I want to do.  I want to get you to the quiet. I want to get you to the place where you’re away from the people and away from the crowds.  Have you ever just sat in a boat in the middle of a lake?  There’s a piercing quiet about that, isn’t there?  You start to hear the wind and the birds.  We know the end of the story.  Here’s what Jesus is doing and it might be what Jesus is doing in your life.  Jesus is taking Peter away from the noise, away from the busy.  He’s isolating him so He can speak to him.  Isolation is often the place of preparation.  Isolation is often the place where we meet Jesus or where He takes us deeper into relationship with Him.

This picture is Jesus taking Peter out of the world so that He can start to take the world out of Peter.  Maybe for the first time in weeks or months, he is quiet.  But make no mistake about it, here’s Peter’s profile right now.  At this moment in the story, Peter is exhausted.  Peter is disappointed from not having caught any fish. Peter’s frustrated that Jesus is telling him to do something that he knows, in his rational mind, isn’t going to work.  If you’re to make an equation out of it:  Isolation + exhaustion + disappointment = Encounter   Every mom in the room just went, “Praise Jesus!  Isolation plus exhaustion….I can meet Jesus in that place?!”  Isn’t it comforting to know that you don’t have to go to the top of a mountain on a spiritual retreat with a spiritual guru in order to meet Jesus?  That sometimes you just need to be exhausted, at the end of your rope, and taken away from everything else, in order to hear His voice and sense His call.  Is that good news for anyone else other than me?

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.  What did Peter just finish doing with these nets? Washing them.  Jesus is really pushing it here.  You have to sense the weight of this….if you’re going to sense the weight of His invitation, you’ve got to sense the weight of Peter’s frustration.  I just got done washing these nets!  I’m depleted.  I’m at the end of my rope.  But….put the nets down.  Here’s the way Peter responds: Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! {Embedded in this, could there be this jabbing at Jesus, “Come on!  We know how to do our job.  We do this every single day!”  But then Peter responds with four words that change his life….}  But at your word I will let down the nets.”   Or, “if you say so.”  I don’t get it.  I don’t agree.  I’ve got major doubts that this is going to do anything fruitful in my life; in fact, I just washed these nets and now I’m going to have to wash them again.  So, it’s going to do something in my life — it’s going to cost me time, it’s going to cost me sleep.  All my fishermen friends are standing on the shore wondering what in the world I’m doing out here!  But at your word, or if you so.

If. You. Say. So.  Four words that changed the course of Peter’s life.  They’re the same four words that could change the course of our lives too.  We could go around and tell stories that THAT was the fork in the road, that was the moment for many of us, where we said, “If you say so….” back to God.  It redirected where we walked and redirected the way that we lived and redirected the course of our life.  From the parents in this room — Aren’t these the words we long to hear?   If you say so or at your word?  Please come the first time I call you! After I present a scenario, will you please repeat back to me “if you say so.”  I just need to hear somebody say it, okay?  Will you please come the first time I call you?  If you say so. Will you stop screaming for no reason at dinner?   If you say so.  Will you stop hitting your sister?  If you say so.  I just needed to hear somebody say it, because my kids aren’t saying it right now!

You know what’s interesting?  This is not for Peter. This is not a moment of clarity, this is a step of faith.  This isn’t….well, “if you say so” and I believe you’re saying so because there’s a massive amount of fish just ready to jump into these nets.  And I trust you and I think you’re right.  It’s reluctant obedience.  If you say so…..  This moment of truth, built not around a moment of clarity but around a step of faith, changes the course of Peter’s life.  And it could change ours too.  Because the life you and I long to live is found in the obedience God calls us to give.  The life we long to live—that dream that’s within our heart, the deepest longings of our soul—are found in obedience to the One who wove our soul together.  If Peter says no, we never read about his story.  If Peter says no, he doesn’t become a disciple.  He walks away like the rich young man who’s sad because he can’t bring himself to give up the things, the stuff, that he loves so much.  Peter’s response is different.  His response is if you say so, I’ll do it.

One of my favorite movies growing up as a kid was Princess Bride.  In that movie, Wesley says to Princess Buttercup, “As you wish.”  Whatever you want.  If you say so, I will do it.  Those are words of love, aren’t they? But “if you say so” are words of discipleship.  I don’t see it.  I don’t agree.  I don’t have clarity, but I’ll trust. Friends, while this type of an interaction with Jesus is certainly not the norm today, it is the norm to read things in the Scriptures and think, “I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m not sure I like that and I’m not sure what the end game is there.”

So what’s your response when you read something like that?  When you read “Don’t just forgive one time, but forgive seven times seventy-seven,” is our response, “Well, if you say so.”  When we read that the invitation to the life we really want is through giving our life away, is our response, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” or is it, “If you say so.”   That the path to greatness is actually through servanthood, through washing feet…..is our response, “That’s insane, that would never work,” or is it, “If you say so.”  The call to love our enemies; to release our anger; to live free from anxiety, trusting Jesus not only holds our today but our tomorrow and our next year.  Is our response to Him, “You don’t get the burdens I’m under,” or “If you say so.”  What’s our response when we read something that just feels crazy?  Here’s the thing—If we only hear Jesus inviting us to do things we agree with, we may not be listening that well.   Herman Melville in his great book Moby Dick, includes a chapter in it where there’s this pastor preaching in a church that’s designed for sailors.  The pastor says, “All things that God would have us do are hard for us,” reminding them of the obedience God calls for and the cost of discipleship.  He goes on to say, “If we obey God, we must first disobey ourselves.”  We’ve got to give a piece of the control away.  We’ve got to release the ownership.  We’ve got to come to the place where we say, “I don’t get it, but if you say so.”  Friends, trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. Say back to Him, “If you say so.”  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and His promise to you is I will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)  This is the journey that Peter is on in his encounter with Jesus.

Here’s the way the story continues in verse 6:  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  {Follow the nets in this story, right?  First he’s cleaning them, disinterested. Then he puts them down reluctantly.  Now he brings them in and he’s like, “Thanks a lot.  These were perfectly good nets before you blessed me.”  Which is the way Jesus works often.  His blessings tend to wreck our lives….for the good!  It’s this place where we’re going, “The life that I now have can’t fit into the structure that I had maintained.  You’re changing me.”  We love the thought of change, but when it actually comes down to it sometimes it breaks our nets.}   They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  Just like Peter’s life.  Friends, if we are unwilling to do the ridiculous, we will never see the miraculous.  If we’re unwilling to let the nets down after we washed them, in the middle of the day, because we just sense God’s calling us to follow Him into this, if we aren’t willing to do the ridiculous, we’ll never see God do the miraculous.

I can remember this moment that Kelly and I got to in our journey with the Lord, when we were deciding whether or not we were going to move back to Colorado.  It didn’t make sense financially.  In some ways, it didn’t make sense in ministry.  It didn’t make a lot of sense vocationally, and yet there was just this something in us where we went, “God, I know that you’re calling and I know that you’re leading.”  My wife said to me, “Ryan, you know it would be disobedience if we said no.”  I’m like, “Thank you, Holy Spirit!”  It was this “if you say so” moment that just sunk our boats in the best possible way.

And this step of blind obedience—I don’t know what that looks like for you today, but I know there is one—leads us to a place of absolute astonishment and abundant blessing. God, I never could have expected this, and I don’t think my life could support it in the way that it’s currently structured.  “If you say so” positions us to step into this place of “I never expected this!”  It’s better than I was ready for!  Apologist Peter Kreeft says it like this, and it’s short and poignant and it’s true:  “‘Thy will be done’ is the infallible road to total joy.”  As long as God gives me breath, my longing is to plead with you to say those words, to surrender your life.  The “if you say so” life is the grace-filled, joy-drenched, abundant life that God longs for every single one of us.

A lot of our call to obedience stops with “if you say so” and it doesn’t lead people to….well, there’s fish under the boat you have absolutely no clue about, and you’ve just got to drop the nets and then you’re going to bring in the catch of your lifetime.  Oftentimes we just stop with “just obey” and it’s obey because God is a good father and he loves you and you are his child and he is ridiculously for you.  With that out there, I need to say, if there’s a step of faith you’re resisting, there is a blessing you are forfeiting.  If there’s a step of faith you are resisting, there is a blessing that you are forfeiting.  If you’re unwilling to forgive.  If you’re unwilling to take the steps that you need to take to get free from pornography.  If you’re unwilling to take the steps you need to take to get free from anger.  If you’re unwilling to reconcile….   There is a blessing you’re forfeiting, because there’s obedience that you’re resisting….and joy that’s waiting.  Peter is being moved by Jesus from this place of rationale to this place of miracle.  This place of “I never expected that!”

Here’s the way it continues.  Verse 8.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”    Which is a little bit scary, right?  So Peter sees the blessing after the obedience and he falls on his face in a boatful of fish.  You’ve got to picture it in your mind.  Sometimes we just read over it, right?  Close your eyes for a second and just picture this 27 foot long boat, 7-1/2 feet wide, with live fish flapping all around, screaming for air. Jesus looking at Peter with a look on his face like “I told you so.” And Peter bowing, turning a fish-filled boat into an altar of praise.  {You can open your eyes.}  His statement “Depart from me.  I’m not worthy.  I recognize you are God and Lord and I am unworthy.  I’m a sinner.”  It’s the first time that word “sinner” is used in Luke’s gospel.  It’s the same effect that being in the presence of God had on the prophet Isaiah when he walked into the throne room of God (in a vision).  It says:  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:3-5) 

Whenever we see God clearly, we start to see ourselves accurately, and it leads us to this place of “Woe is me! I’m not worthy!  I don’t deserve to stand in your presence.”  Here’s where obedience leads Peter to, and it’s where it leads us to, also, because we start to see the blessing.  We start to see the face of God.  Blind obedience leads us to a place of recognizing our unworthiness and reorienting our worship.  Genuine repentance…turning from a life that was and stepping into a life that God calls us to, that’s what repentance is. I’m turning from one belief and I’m walking into another.   (Genuine repentance) Always, always, always begins with a renewed awareness of this is who you are, God, and this is who I am in You.  If we never see Jesus clearly, we will never obey Jesus fully.  It’s what Jesus says in John 8:31-32 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, {If you obey me.} you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”    So, if you abide and if you obey, then you will be my disciples and you will know the truth.  The truth has a name.  His name is Jesus.  He claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  So if we never obey, we never know the truth.  The truth has a name.  His name is Jesus and it absolutely changes Peter life.  He says, “Get away from me.”  It what all the rabbis had said to Peter.  Get away from me. You’re not worthy.  You didn’t pass the rabbinic test.  You’re not going to be a disciple.  You didn’t make the cut. There were brighter, smarter, better people than you, Peter, so why don’t you go back to fishing.  Get away from me is what the rabbis said to Peter.  But now it’s what Peter says to THE Rabbi.  Aren’t you astounded and grateful that Jesus’s response to Peter is, “I’m not going anywhere?”  Because it’s His same response to you, too. Friends, recognizing our brokenness is not a disqualifier for discipleship, it’s a prerequisite.  Coming to this place of “woe is me” and “get away from me, I am unworthy” is a prerequisite for following God, it’s not a disqualifier.  And that’s where Jesus takes Peter to.  Peter expects condemnation, but he gets grace.  And he receives this calling.  So Jesus is moving Peter from rationale to miracle; he’s moving him from condemnation to confession.

Finally, it says this in verse 10 — And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  Follow the nets — He’s washing them; he’s dropping them; he’s pulling them up, they’re breaking; and now he’s leaving them. They’re the picture of everything that his life was.  They are his identity.  They are his security.  It his occupation and when he sees Jesus….when he turns his eyes upon Jesus and is full of his wonderful grace, the things of the world grow strangely dim….   And Peter leaves it all and walks and follows.

I read on an app this week about a student at Louisville University who was participating in a half-time contest. The contest was you had to make one layup, one free throw, one 3-pointer, and one half-court shot.  $38,000 rode on the line.  This guy makes the layup, makes the free throw, steps back and drains the 3-pointer.  All he has left is the half-court shot.  He lobs the half-court shot up and it’s just slow-motion…..looks good, looks good, looks good.  Nets it!!  Makes it!  Remarkable!  Except for the fine print in the contest rules.  You could not have played basketball at a high school level or higher within six years of participating in the contest.  He doesn’t get the money, just gets to be an illustration in a sermon!

I think some of us think God’s going to look at the fine print in our life and go, “Oh, I didn’t see there was all that.”  I didn’t know you had that past.  I didn’t know you had that baggage.  I didn’t know you had that addiction.  I didn’t know that that was going on in your life.  And if I had known, I would have never had call… Based on the fine print, now you are disqualified.  That is NOT your God.  He knows it all and he calls you anyway.  And this blind obedience leads us to this place of relinquishing our rights, laying down our nets, our security, our future, our dreams, our family, our whatever, and then receiving his call.  It doesn’t always mean follow Jesus into someplace that’s other than where you are right now.  Your call could be to stay exactly where you are, to keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing, with the renewed awareness that you are in the boat with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  The call isn’t always go somewhere else, do something different. We’d love that adventure piece, but maybe the call is stay exactly where you are with the renewed awareness that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is with you.  But make no mistake about it, Peter’s life from this moment on is definitively different.  It’s changed!  “If you say so” leads him to this place of blessing, leads him to this place of confession, and leads him to this place of calling.  If Peter were to write the script for his life, he could never have written it on his own.  He didn’t know what Jesus was doing.  He just knew that he was going to be faithful to follow that call.  A.W. Tozer, the great author, says it like this:  Salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures.  Apart from obedience there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.”

Here’s my question for you this morning:  Is there anything you’re resisting that you sense God calling you into? What does it look like for you to live an “if you say so” type of life?  Because the life you long for is brought about by the obedience that God calls for.  What are you saying no to that you feel like Jesus is inviting you into?  Jesus moves Peter, in this short story, from control of his life to surrender….he lays down the nets.  From condemnation—woe is me—to confession….You are Lord.  And from rationale—I’ve got to understand it and I’ve got to plan it and it’s got to make sense—to miracle….I’ve never expected that.  And that’s our longing as a community of faith, to step into that kind of life.  It all hinges on “if you say so.”  If you say so, I’m going to do it.  Friends, we serve an “if you say so” God.

On the night Jesus is betrayed, he’s in the garden and he’s pleading with his father, “If there’s another way, Father, to accomplish the redemption of the world, let’s do it that way.  But not my will, but yours be done.”  If you say so, if it has to be this way, I will follow you even to the cross.   Because I love humanity that much. Friends, we follow an “if you say so” savior, and he invites us to be his “if you say so” people.  When we say, “Thy will be done,” our world starts to expand.

So on the night that Jesus was betrayed, he said to his father, “If you say so.”  He broke bread and said, “This bread is my body which is given for you.”  After supper he took the cup and said, “I’m going to shed my blood for the forgiveness of your sins.”  For 2000+ years, followers of Jesus have been gathering around the table to remind themselves that their God said back to his Father, “If you say so,” and purchased the redemption of all mankind.  As we come to this table today, would you here his invitation once again to become an “if you say so” follower, to say, “God, you’ve got my life, wherever you lead, whatever you ask, I will follow, even if I don’t get it, I am yours.”

{Ryan continues with communion instructions.}

Jesus, in light of how far you’ve gone to purchase us back to make a way home, that “woe is me” people like us could step into the presence of a “holy is you God,” we say thank you this morning.  We fall in worship and adoration this morning.  We say back to you, “If you say so,” we’re willing to be obedient.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Encountering Jesus: If You Say So – Luke 5:1-112020-10-19T10:56:14-06:00
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