Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 27, 2016
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
Therefore, in light of that, today I want to contend for the faith. I want to stand up and refute your disbelief. My goal today is to persuade you by using the word of God that Jesus has in fact died on the cross and has risen from the dead, and that the reality of His resurrection is the most important reality of your life.
A World Without the Resurrection
To begin, let us first think about a world without the resurrection of Jesus. In our text today, Paul discusses four consequences of a world without the resurrection. The first is found in verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain.”
If Christ is not resurrected then this moment is an utter waste of your time. You would be better off watching an infomercial then sitting here listening to me. In fact, not only would it be a waste of your time, but everything I say to you is a lie. And who in their right mind would want to subject themselves to the rantings of a liar for 45 minutes.
But this wouldn't just be true for my preaching today, but for every Sunday. I have been preaching for three years at Cornerstone Church, that is over 150 sermons. If I spent on average, 12-15 hours in preparation, this means I would have wasted nearly 2000 hours of my life in the last three years to absolute meaningless.
But this would not be only true for me, but also for Billy Grahm, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliff. All of their passionate preaching regarding Jesus was complete vanity. These mighty men of the Church are nothing but straw. Not to mention the Apostles, our author Paul being one of them. In Acts 17:6, these men are described as one “who have turned the world upside.” But if Christ is not risen, it was all for nothing.
And if Christ is still dead it is not only that our preaching is in vain, but so is the faith that springs from it. Once again, look verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” This means that all of you who have heard the preaching and believed the preaching of the resurrection have been duped. The joke is on you. The wool has been pulled over you eyes. But don't worry, you are not alone. Currently there are an estimated 2.2 million self-proclaimed Christians. Christianity is the largest religion in the world, nearly 1/3 of the world claims to believe in the resurrection. But, once again, if the bones of Christ still lay in the dirt, then the resurrection is the greatest hoax ever to have been pulled off.
And this hoax does not just cause people to believe something that isn't true, but it causes radical, life changing transformation. People have left their their jobs, their homes, their comforts and eventually their lives. According to Christianity Today, there have been 70 million people who have laid down their life for Jesus. But, if Jesus did not overcome death, every single one of their deaths is meaningless.
But that is not the worst of it. It is not just that preaching is meaningless and our faith is meaningless but if Christ is not alive, then we are destined to perish in our sins. Look at verses 17-18, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”
Humanity is the only creature that is governed by a moral code. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong. Why is this? Because we are the only creature created in God's image. This moral code, this law, is instituted by the Law Giver, God, our Creator. The problem, however, is that every single one of us has rejected the Law Giver and his law. This is called sin.
Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” I don't care how good you think you are, in the eyes of God you are a sinner. We have all rejected God and broken His law, not just once or twice but more times than we can count. In fact in Genesis 6:5 says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every... only...continually...evil.
Now many of you may say, how can this be? Simple, if you are made for on singular purpose, and you reject that purpose and go in the opposite direction, every step you take is in defiance to that original purpose. If we are created to love God, trust God, glorify God, yet we reject the reason we exist and live in opposition to God's intent, everything we do, even down to the building of hospital's for children is a sin, it our motive is not to bring glory to God.
None of this sin stuff would be a problem if God was a dead beat Dad, but he is not. He is a Just and Holy God. Every transgression that is committed must be paid for. This is what it means in verse 17, when it says, “you are still in your sins.” This is just another way of saying, that we still owe a debt. So how does Christ not be risen effect that specific debt? This is the reason Christ came. He came to pay our debt. His blood was the restitution that God is owed. If Christ is not risen, that means that God did not accept His payment for our sins. This means that the check signed with the ink of Jesus blood bounced. This means that we still must pay the penalty for our sins. And the place that this penalty is paid is a place created by God to house sinners, Hell. Jesus himself tells us that it is a place of eternal torment. And if Christ is not risen, then Hell is every man's future eternal home.
Therefore, if there is no resurrection, then there is only one conclusion that can be drawn and it is found in verse 19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins destined for Hell, then we are pitiful. So the question is, should we be pitied, or is Christ alive?
To answer this question Paul provides nine pieces of evidence to prove the resurrection. And let me say before we begin, this evidence is a prosecutor's dream. The evidence of the resurrection is overwhelming proof of its reality. So many people claim that Christianity is a blind faith. This is not accurate at all. Christianity is a seeing faith, for we have been given the eyes to see and ears to hear the overwhelming evidence that Christ is a Living King.
Exhibit #1: Verse 3, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” What does that mean? It means the Bible foretold the death of Christ. This is what so many people do not understand. The death of Jesus of Nazareth was not a set of unfortunate events, it was a perfectly ordained plan by God. A plan that he revealed throughout the Old Testament. We do not have time today to go through every one of them, for there are so many, but the most well known is Isaiah 53. Verse 4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions” Verse 7, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” The death of Christ was no accident, it was a written down, premeditated murder, orchestrated by God himself.
Exhibit #2: Verse 4, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” Once again, the resurrection was not back fill. It was not something the disciples dreamed up in desperation, it was foretold long before it happened. We can see this by staying in Isaiah 53 if we want. After describing the death of Jesus it says this in verse 10, “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” But that is not the only place in the Old Testament that the resurrection is foretold. In fact, after the resurrection, Peter in Acts 2 quotes from Psalm 16:10-11, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.11You make known to me the path of life” The reason he quotes this passage is to tell the Church that everything is going according to plan. Once again, time does not provide us the ability to go through each an every time the Old Testament pointing forward to the resurrection, for they are too numerous. But make no mistake the resurrection was not dreamed up by some rag tag cult. No, God had called his shot before we swung for the fence.
Exhibit #3: Verse 5, “and that he appeared to Cephas.” Every time I stand in front of a jury, I ask them this question, “What is one of the best pieces of evidence that I could provide you in this case?” You know what every jury says, an eye witness. The jury wants someone to take the stand and swear under oath and tell them what they saw. Peter was one of those eye witnesses. And he was so convinced of the resurrection that he died for it. So either Peter was clinically crazy dieing for a lie that he knew to be a lie, or that he truly saw the risen Savior.
Exhibit #4: Verse 5, “then to the twelve.” Peter was not the only eye witness. There were more, the twelve apostles. In fact, one of the requirements of being one of the twelve apostles was being an eye witness of the resurrection. We see this in Acts 1, the apostles are looking for a replacement for Judas, who betrayed Jesus and hung himself. This is what Peter says in Acts 1:21 regarding the qualifications of being an apostle, “men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Once again, imagine a jury. Usually, with one eye witness, I can win a jury trial. Just one. With two, even better. With three, it is almost a guarantee. With 12 eyewitness, it is impossible to lose that case. In fact, if I called twelve eye witnesses the Judge would be annoyed at me, for wasting to Court's time. But there is more.
Exhibit #5: Verse 6, “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” 500 people. Jesus's resurrection was not done in the closet. It was out in the open. As Paul wrote this defense of the resurrection, he dared them to go talk to the people who saw it. Perhaps you can relate to what Paul is doing. Have you ever told someone about some event that took place, and they just won't believe you. Your in frustration you say, “Go ask them yourself. I am not making this up.” This is exactly what Paul is doing. The resurrection was not some quiet hoax, it was a public reality.
Exhibit #6: Verse 7, “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Who is James? James is Jesus's half-brother. The son of Mary and Joseph. This is important first because James was a leader in the early Church. But second it is important because during Jesus's life James did not believe his brother was the Son of God. John 7:5, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” Once James saw Jesus die and then saw him alive again, his response was to worship him.
Exhibit #7: Verse, 8 “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul, the author of this letter, is another eye witness. Just like Peter, Paul gave up everything to serve a resurrected Jesus. And this leads right into Fact #8.
Exhibit #8: Verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Paul's life was transformed because of the resurrection. Before Jesus appeared to Paul, he hated Christians. He thought their leader, Jesus, was a phony. And Paul was literally Hell bent on destroying the Christian faith, but all that change when the resurrected Christ appeared to him. Paul was living proof of the transforming power of the resurrection. He went from hating to loving Jesus. Why? The resurrection.
Exhibit #9: Verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” At first, you may wonder, how is this proof of the resurrection? But I believe it is the most powerful proof. There is something persuasive about confidence. Once again, in my job I sit down with people all the time who tell me their story. Some of them are mildly believable, but there are others who are powerfully persuasive. Why? Because what they are saying is true. There is something about truth the resonates within us. This is why billions of people have believed in the resurrection, because it is true. And as this truth goes forth it goes in power and people believe. And this happens every day. In fact, I pray that it is happening as I speak. That as I proclaim this fact that He Has Risen, there is something inside of you that is saying “Yes!” And your new belief is another piece of evidence to put on the pile of Christ's resurrection.
A People to Be Envied
So where does this leave us? It leaves us here. The evidence of the death and resurrection is overwhelming. The only explanation for someone not believing is that your are blind. And by saying that I do not mean to be mean, but to explain the reason Biblically. 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So my prayer today is that God would lift the veil so that you can see that He has Risen. So that you will recognize that my preaching today is not in vain, nor is the faith of millions, nor are Christians destined to Hell, nor a people to be pitied.
I pray that you will recognize that we are a people to be envied, for we have a hope. A hope that is beyond this World, a hope that spreads out into eternity. A hope that produces joy and peace in this moment. A hope that cannot be taken from us. A hope that is built upon Jesus who has conquered sin and conquered death and He is alive!
Preached at River Bend Assisted Living on March 25, 2016
This afternoon, I am going to read from Matthew 27:45-54. Most likely this passage is very familiar to many of you, but the reason I have chosen it is because so many people miss the greatest reality of the sacrifice of Jesus, and it has everything to do with a piece of cloth.
What is this Curtain?
So what is this curtain? This curtain was perhaps the most famous curtain to have ever existed. It would have been a curtain that Matthew and all of the Jews during his time would have been very familiar with.
For the curtain that Matthew is referring to is the curtain that hung in the Temple. The Temple was a building in the heart of Israel, Jerusalem, and it represented the dwelling place of God, hear on Earth. The Temple was grand central, it was ground zero. Everything oriented around this building because it represented the presence of God.
The Temple was made up of three spaces: the court yards, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The courtyard was the place that the common man could be in. It was open to the public. The Holy Place was designated for only the Priests. It was a sacred. It acted as a buffer between the people and God. Which leads us to the the third area of the temple, the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place contained what is called the Mercy Seat of God. This was the location that was designated for God alone. This was where God said he would meet with the people, above the mercy seat. Separating the Holy Place, which was designated for the Priests, and the Most Holy Place, which was designated for God, was a curtain.
According to Josephus, a Jewish Historian, the curtain was approximately 60 feet tall. Jewish tradition claims that the curtain itself was 4 inches thick. Therefore, this curtain was no shower curtain. It was substantial. It was significant. And its purpose was to create a symbolic separation between God and man.
Only one time a year could a person pass beyond the massive curtain and enter into the Most Holy Place. This occurred on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was the pinnacle of the Jewish festivities. For on that one day the High Priest, the top dog of Priests, would cleanse himself and array himself in sacred attire and he would enter into the Most Holy Place and he would offer a sacrifice to God for himself and his house. After this sacrificial cleansing for himself, he would then be able to be a mediator to offer a sacrifice to God on behalf of Israel.
Therefore, no one was allowed beyond the curtain except one man, one time a year. No one else. Why was this?
Sins that Separate
I mentioned earlier that the curtain was a symbol of separation. But what separation did it symbolize? This separation symbolized the separation that exists between God, who is Holy, and man who is sinful.
When we say that God is a Holy God, we mean that God is other, he is not common, he is set apart. 1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” He is a God who has no sin. In addition to being perfect, Psalm 5:4 says, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.” Therefore because of humanity's sin, we are separated from God. This is why Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and this is why God seems so distant in our lives, because he is. Isaiah 59:2 says, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”
The curtain in the Temple symbolizes that separation, not just between Israel and the Most Holy Place, it symbolizes the separation between God and all men. You and I included. We are all sinners, just as I am. The Bible is explicitly clear on this. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned.” Because of your sins and because of my sins, we have been kept at an arm's distance from our Creator, the Giver of Life.
And this is a problem, for if we do not become reconciled to God before we die, we will be cast into eternal separation, Hell. This is a place that is described by Jesus himself as a place of weeping, the gnashing of teeth, outer darkness and a place of eternal torment. This is the ultimate separation from God. And this is terrible news, but make no mistake that it is true. It is true for all of humanity, you and I included.
The Current was Torn
But all of this changes at Calvary. All of this changes with the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, the earth shook and the rocks split and the tombs were open, but as it effects us, the most important event that displayed the good news of Jesus was the curtain being torn from top to bottom. For as the curtain symbolized a separation, the tearing of that current symbolized a reconciliation.
This truth is so important for people to understand. So many people have been told that they must do something to earn God's forgiveness. So many religions live just like they did in the times before Christ. So many people are trying to live their life as if the curtain still exists.
But the Gospel truth is that there is nothing you can add to the sacrifice of Christ to reconcile you to God. Jesus has done it all. Baptism does not add anything, Church attendance does not add anything, communion does not add anything. The curtain has already been torn. Eternal redemption has already been secured.
Full Assurance of Faith
So what is left? If Christ, on the cross, has entered into the presence of God and made a way for us to be reconciled to God, what are we to do?
If you have spent your life trying to tear down a curtain that has already been torn down, it is time to let go of your sacrifices and to cling to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He has done all the work for you, all you must do to receive the gift of his grace is to believe.
So this Easter, do not focus on the rituals, but instead let us “ behold, [that] the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” And let us worship Jesus Christ, our great High Priest who has made a way into the presence of God, therefore we have an secured and eternal redemption with our God. Praise be to God!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 20, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 4:43-54. Today we continue to walk through the Gospel of John verse by verse. For those who are visiting today, we at Cornerstone see great value in the teaching and preaching entire books of the Bible, verse by verse. This protects us from our sinful biases of picking the easy stuff. Today is a great example of why preaching through an entire book from start to finish is so beneficial, for today we are examining a miracle of Jesus that, to the casual observer, is a dime a dozen. But as we shall see there is more than meets the eye. So let us read our text, pray, and see what it God has to say to us today.
Things are Not as They Seem
If you notice, in today’s sermon, I did not start with verse 46, the place that the ESV puts a heading “Jesus Heals an Official’s Son.” Instead I reached back to verse 43. Why? Because these two verses lay the foundation for the rest of the passage. Which brings up an important point. Headings and chapters and versus are not original to the text, so do not be limited by them. When you are pursuing the truth within the text, read around the text. This is what we call Biblical context, not reading a verse in isolation, but reading it within the flow of thought of the author. The danger of not looking at the context is that you might miss the main point of what God is trying to say to you, which I think it at risk in this story.
At first glance when you read verses 46-54 you may simply conclude that this story is about Jesus performing a miracle, nothing more than that. Guy comes to Jesus and makes a request for his Son, Jesus snaps his fingers, miracle is done. As I said earlier, we have seen this kind of thing before. In fact, because you have read about Jesus performing so many miracles you may find this text boring. But, is this story really about the performance of a miracle, or is there more?
Look at verse 43 and 44, “After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.).” At the beginning of verse 44 in the ESV it says “For.” The NIV, NLT and several other Bible translations do not have this word in their translation. The editor's take it out. However, this word really does exist in the original Greek. It is the Greek word “gar”. The ESV, the NASB and the New King James all keep this word in. This is one reason why we use the ESV and not the NIV or the NLT. It is missing words.
Now the question is, do these words matter? Lets look again at our text. “After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)” The word “for” is a conjunction. It connects two thoughts and helps us understand those thoughts in relationship with each other. The word “for” points to the reason that Jesus is going to Galilee. Without that “for” you don’t connect that verse 44 is the reason for verse 43. Jesus was going to Galiee because he said that he won’t be honored. That seems strange doesn’t it? Jesus is going to Galilee because he knows that Galilee will not recognize that he is the Son of God.
To make things even more confusing, look at verse 45. “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” Once again, NIV doesn’t have the word “so”, but in the Greek it is there. It is the word “oun”. Many times it is translated to “therefore”, here the ESV chose the word “so.” “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” How strange. Jesus is going to Galilee because they won’t honor him, but when he arrives does it appear that he is dishonored? No, at least not to us. The picture we are given is open arms, welcoming. What is going on?
Lets look at why they are welcoming him. Verse 45, “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” The reason that his hometown area welcomed him is because “all that he had done in Jerusalem.” What had he done?
Flip back to John 2:23, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” What Jesus was doing was signs. This is John’s word for miracles, signs. Many of these Galileans were at Jerusalem watching Jesus perform signs and because of those signs they “believed in his name.” The signs produced a belief. But as we said several weeks ago, what kind of belief? Let’s keep reading. John 2:24-25, “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” The belief that these people had as a result of his signs was not a belief could be trusted. It was a belief that was their today and gone tomorrow. It was a fleeting belief.
So turn back to John 4 in Galilee, as Jesus steps back into his hometown, everyone has been talking about the Son of Mary and Joseph, the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon. They were excited to see him, they welcomed him. Why did they welcome him? The signs. They loved the signs.
The Idol of God’s Gifts
And this type of welcome was not the welcome that Christ desired. This was not the honor that a King deserved. He was not some wizard, he was not some traveling healer, he was God incarnate. The Lord. Yet the people worshiped the signs, and not Him. This is what their faith was built upon. They would welcome Jesus as long as he made their life comfortable.
What a stark contrast from Samaria. There is not one recorded miracle that Jesus performed in Samaria. The reason the people of Sychar believed in Jesus was because of the Word, that was it. They believe he was the Messiah because He said he was the Messiah. No miracle needed. Just truth.
This problem of demanding signs was not isolated to this one moment in time Galilee. It was a predominate problem throughout Jesus' ministry in Israel. The people flocked to him because the miracles he performed, whether it be the feeding of the 5,000 or raising Lazarus from the dead. As long as Jesus kept producing wonders, they continued to be his groupie.
In fact, this is a main theme found in Palm Sunday. The people of Jerusalem laid down their cloaks and waved palm branches and welcomed him with great splendor. But all of that changed later in the week when they saw this so called King imprisoned, beaten, weak and they cried out “crucify Him, crucify Him.” Their belief in him was built upon the shifting sand of circumstances, not upon the rock of who Jesus was.
I would like to say that this problem of worshiping the miracles of Jesus, and rejecting the Lordship of Jesus ended in Galilee, but it is present today at a shocking magnitude. Unfortunately, this world is full of people who welcome Jesus into their life only for the purpose of using him. Their faith is built upon circumstances. They receive God only as long as things work out for them. Treating God as a genie in a bottle. Palm branches waiving when the sun is shining and the money is flowing in and kids are healthy, but the moment tragedy strikes they are done with God.
Jesus is not honored in their life. He is treated like a candy machine. They do not see Jesus as their greatest treasure, but instead they see his gifts as their greatest treasure. They do not love Christ, they love the blessings of Christ. It is very similar to being rich. When you are rich you have friends who are not really your friends. They do not love you, they love your money. This is not the honor that Jesus seeks from you. He seeks the honor that comes from loving him no matter what your life looks like. It is the honor that renounces all that you have to follow Christ. It is the honor exemplified in Hebrews 11 where a long list of God's true followers who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,a they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—“ The faith of these people was not dependent signs and wonders and health and wealth. Their faith was built upon Jesus.
There is a song by Shane and Shane that some of you have heard named, “Though You Slay Me” and the chorus says this, “Though You slay me Yet I will praise You, Though You take from me, I will bless Your name, Though You ruin me, Still I will worship, Sing a song to the one who's all I need.” This is why honors God, to love him no matter what.
An Unwelcomed Welcome
Now in light of all this, let us now look at verse 46, “And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” So imagine the heaviness of this father’s heart. He loves his son more than anything. He is dying. Most likely he has tried everything he can think of to save his son: food, rest, doctors, medicine, you name it. My guess is that he has not slept or ate very well since his child was sick; perhaps when he did sleep he cried himself to sleep. In a last ditch effort, he rushes down to Cana desperately looking for this man named Jesus. And when he finds him, he asks Jesus to come and heal his son.
What is surprising is Jesus’ response. Verse 48, “So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” This man is broken before Jesus, desperately seeking his help, the only thing on his mind is his son, and Jesus appears not to care.
I want us to think about this for a second. Is the response of Jesus loving? Is it loving to blow off the request and lecture this man about his lack of faith in a time of great anguish? Absolutely. Jesus is God and God is love. Everything Jesus does in his life is the purest of all love. Jesus is loving that man better than he has ever been loved before. However, the problem is not with the love of Jesus, but our definition of love.
Our cultural definition of love is feeling loved. So for example, if you said something to me that made me feel bad, I would say that you don’t love me. My emotion towards your response defines whether your action is loving or not loving.
John Piper has termed this emotional blackmail. This is what he has said about this issue: “Not feeling loved and not being loved are not the same. Jesus loved all people well. And many did not like the way he loved them.” Our story could fit this. It is possible that Jesus’ response could cause this man to not feel loved. This man may not have liked the way Jesus handled his pain, but make no mistake it was perfectly loving. Because this man's lack of faith in Jesus had more dire consequences then his son being sick.
If you are Bible saturated and Holy Spirit driven, this will happen to you. Someone will come to you with a problem, with a heavy heart, and you go to God’s Word and you try to apply it to the best of your ability. And the person who is hurting feels rejected because you didn’t make them feel good. Your answer to their pain is not what they wanted to hear, and the pain still exists, and their feelings is all that matters to them. Therefore, in their eyes, in the world’s eyes, you are unloving.
But we must remember, we must love according to God’s definition, not the worlds. We must love as Jesus loved. We must love in truth, trusting in Him and His ways to heal their hearts. In our text for today, Jesus looked into the heart of this man and spoke about the greater problem in this man’s life. For this man, his god was his son. As he stood before Jesus, this was all that was on his mind, his dying son. And as he looked at Jesus all he saw were his miracles, a healing man. He was blind to the reality that Jesus was Lord of the Universe. This official was not giving Jesus the honor He deserved. And Jesus knew it, because he knew every man. And this was the greatest problem for this official and his family.
At this point in the story, however, we see a shift. Everything up to now is a focused on the sin of Galilee, this man included. They do not honor Christ. They are coming to Him for the wrong reasons. They are blind to the reality that he is the Son of God. These people have spent their entire life rejecting God, and now God stands in their midst and they treat him like a sugar daddy. Jesus does not minimize their sin. He addresses it right to their face. Just like he did the the Samaritan Women about her sexual sins. But after he confronts their sin, what does he do? Poor his wrath out on them? No, he loves them. Verse 50, “Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”
This is why I love Jesus! This man deserved Hell, but instead he tasted Heaven. This man did not deserve God's grace, but Jesus gave it anyway. This man would not believe unless he saw a sign, so what did Jesus do, he gave him what he needed, a sign. And not just any sign, but a sovereign sign. He was not some wandering magician, he was God. And after seeing the power of Christ what was the man's response? He believed, him and all his family. Why did Jesus do this? Because Jesus is full of grace.
This is who God is, a God who demands to be honored, a God who requires our worship. However, because we are slaves to sin, we have no capacity to give him the worship that he deserves. But because our God is a God of love he does a miracle in our life and pours out his sovereign grace upon us and gives us the eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
As I said, on the first palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ. Five days later they crucified him. Above his head while he hung on that cross there was a sign that said, “The King of the Jews.” This moment in time was the pinnacle of dishonor, to kill the Author of life, but in his last moments Jesus cried out these miraculous words, “Father, forgive them for the know not what they do.” In the moment of his death, he bled grace. And it is the display of this glorious grace that cuts our heart and causes us to believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 13, 2015
Open your Bibles to John 4:27-45. Last week we examined the first half of the story of the Samaritan women at the well. In doing so we saw the amazing grace of our God. We saw that the Sovereign God of the Universe arrange a meeting between his Son, God incarnate, and a women that in the world’s eyes was a complete and utter nobody. This women had been culturally rejected, religiously rejected and socially rejected, yet Christ was to meet with her. This conversation was between the Holy One of God and the poster child of sinful brokenness.
And why did we say that God ordained this meeting? Because this is who God is. Because this is who Christ is. As it says in John 1:14 Jesus is “full of grace.” This story is dripping in Grace. There was nothing this woman brought to Jesus except sin and its consequences, yet because God is “rich in mercy” and “because of the great love with which he loved” her, he was going to make her alive through the living water of His Son. This event is a visual of John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This women thought she was going to draw water from Jacob's well, but God was drawing her to the Fount of every blessing.
Last week, at the end of the conversation we read this exchange in verse 25, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” And this morning we will examine the rest of the story.
I love how the transition happens in this text. As Jesus proclaims the greatest truth that can be uttered, that he is the long awaited for Messiah, the conversation is interrupted by the return of the disciples. Verse 27, “Just then his disciples came back.” It was like it was planned. Because it was.
Think about how this looked. Jesus arrived at the well with his disciples. He sent them into town. While they were walking into town, the women was walking out of town. She came to the well alone, for such a time as this, to meet her Maker. Jesus revealed who he was and her need for him and testified to her that He is the Christ. At that moment the disciples come back from the town and she leaves.
The disciples and the women are not on the stage at the same time. When one enters stage left, the other exits stage right. Why? I believe it is because God is creating a contrast between them. This contrast is similar to the one that was created between Nicodemus in John 3 and the Samaritan Women in John 4.
In verse 27 we see that the disciples came back. Back from where? Tehy came back from the nearby town of Sychar. What were they doing in Sychar? Verse 8 tells us, “For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” So they left the well with nothing and came back with food they obtained from Sychar.
Now let us look at the women. She left Sychar and came to the well. What did she have with her? A jar for water. After Jesus revealed to her that he was the long awaited for Messiah she left. What did she take with her back to town? Nothing. Verse 28, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town.” Why did she leave her jar? Why does anyone forget something? Because you are thinking about something else.
She has just met a Man whose words pierced her heart, Who knew her intimate and dark secrets, Who proclaimed to her, without reservation, that he was the Messiah. Her mind was completely on other things. The last think she was thinking about was her clay jar. Therefore, the disciples left with nothing, and came back with food. The women came with a jar, and left with nothing.
The question you might have in this moment is. “Was the women saved?” I believe the answer is yes. Why do I say this? Because Jesus tells us in Matthew that you know a tree by it’s fruit. Remember their earlier conversation. Previously, Jesus told the Samaritan Women that if you knew who you were talking you, earthly water would be the last thing on your mind. At the moment that he told her that he was the Messiah, we see this exact thing occur. She was not concerned about earthly water anymore, she was , I believed filled with living water. Her eyes were finally opened to who she was talking to.
Second, what did she do after leaving the well? She went back to Sychar and in verse 28, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Remember this is a women who is, most likely, a social outcast. As I stated last week, there is a good chance that she is at the well at this moment because no one else will be there. She is ashamed of her sin, and this shame has pushed her further into the darkness. Previously when she left the town to come to Jacob's Well she was dead in her trespasses and sins; however, upon her return she was alive. She was returning to Sychar a new creation. She no longer would live her life in darkness, but she would instead live her life in the light of Christ.
Third, which is connected to the second, it appears that this living water that Jesus had spoken about in that, in fact, welled up in her and could not be contained. It poured out of her as quickly as it poured into her. She tells the people of the town, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She had seen the gift of God, the living water, and as Christ desired her to drink, she now desired her fellow Samaritans to drink. This living water was overflowing from her heart, and pouring out on others.
So was she a believer? I think the evidence points to, yes she was.
Jars of Clay
Let us take a moment and pulls some things together. As I have already stated, the meeting between Jesus and this women was a divine appointment. Likewise, we marveled that the God of the Universe would love this cultural, social, and religious outcast. And he would love her exactly where she was at. He did not create any hoops for her to jump through, she merely had to believe that he was the Messiah.
When she left her jar of clay at the well, the divine appointment was not over, it was only beginning. For God had a plan that was bigger than just her salvation. God was going to use the most unlikely person in all of region to save an entire town from going to Hell. So let us look at how this unfolds.
Remember, this was the town that the disciples just came from. What did they bring back to Jesus? Food. Look at verse 31, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” What was Jesus’ response? Verse 32 “But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
Jesus didn’t want their sandwiches. Why not? Because he says he already had food. In the Greek the “I” and the “you” are emphatic. This means that they should be emphasized when read. “I have food to eat you YOU do not know about.” This food of Jesus was a food that his disciples were oblivious to. They had no idea what he was talking about. And you can see this blindness in verse 33, “So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”
Jesus, knowing that they don't see, explains what his food is. Verse 34, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” So what is Jesus talking about? What does He mean that His food is doing God's will?
Let us answer this with another question? What is the purpose of food? Food is what gives you the energy to live. Food is what sustains you, what provides the strength for you to keep moving forward. So how is God's will, Jesus' food? In the same way. It is God's will that gives Jesus life. Jesus was sustained by every word that comes from the mouth of God. As long as God had work for him to do, he was able to take another step.
What a radical way to view your life. A life fully dependent, not on the things of this world, food included, but entirely dependent on God's will. This way of seeing life is so different then the worlds. It goes against everything we are taught. We are taught that we need food, that we need a home, that we need a car, that we need insurance, that we need an education, that need a 401k. The list can go on and on. But that is not the way Jesus saw the world. He viewed it through one lens, His Father's will. Our minds are so saturated in sin that we have a hard time processing what he is saying. We are exactly like the disciples, totally confused. And this is why Jesus speaks these words to them, to help them view the world rightly, with God centeredness.
Lift Up Your Eyes
Take a moment and think about this event. He had just sent them into Sychar, and he hangs back at the well. They walk through a sea of souls, and never tell one person in that town that right outside the city limits sits the God of the Universe. They do not bring one person to meet Jesus, not even one. Are you kidding me!? Open up your eyes!
And this is exactly what Jesus said to them. Verse 35, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” The harvest that Jesus is talking about are the souls of Sychar. God's will for Jesus was to come and save the lost. The disciples existed to facilitate that salvation. To bring people to the Lamb of God, so that their sins could be taken away. But on this particular occasion, they were too busy being worried about their stomach.
But this was not the case for the Samaritan Women. Her eyes were open wide. She stood in stark contrast to the Disciples. The disciples were men, had been following Jesus for some time now, they were true Sons of Israel, knew the Old Testament. The women was a brand new believer with very little knowledge except that Jesus was the Messiah. They bring Jesus sandwiches. She brings Jesus her community. Verse 39, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
How did she do it? She shared her testimony and asked them to come and listen to Jesus for themselves. And this act of love towards them is why in this moment, those people who put their faith in Jesus are in the presence of Christ, and not in Hades.
Saving Your Sychar
In two weeks it will be Easter Sunday. On that day we are having a pancake breakfast and an Easter Sunday service. In between now and then, we have a choice to make. We can be like the disciples, and only offer Jesus food, or we can be like the Samaritan women and bring him our community? The question is will we lift up our eyes from our self centered lives and see before us the harvest of God? Will we set aside the cares of this world and be sustained by the will of God, to go and make disciples?
This is why we exist, to do the will of God. The will of God is made abundantly clear. Verse 38 “I sent you to reap.” The reason why God saves you, and then leaves you here on earth is to be the Samaritan women in your community. Later on in the book of John, Jesus is praying the night of his arrest and his says this to His Father in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” If you have the living water of Christ in you, this is your calling, this is what it means to follow Jesus.
I was reading the introduction of a book this week named, “The Insanity of Obedience.” The Author described a meeting with some Christians in China. He was giving some statistics about the growth of Christianity in China. After the meeting a Chinese man pulled him aside and told him that his numbers were wrong. He said that in China, true Christians do not consider someone to be a true follower of Jesus until they have led other people to Christ and until they have helped plant more house Churches. Using this definition of following Christ, would you be considered a Christian?
Therefore, I have two challenges that I want to put before each of you this morning. First, I want to encourage you to be about your father's work and spend the next two weeks fasting and praying for your community. Let us be like our Lord, and forgo food and pursue God's will. How much you fast, I will leave it up to you. If you want to fast one day each week, that is fine. If you want to fast two days each week, that is also fine. If you want to fast three days each week, that is also fine. I will leave your fasting to you and God.
Second, invite people to come to Easter Service, not for the pancakes, but for the Gospel. Invite every person who lives on your block, invite all of your co-workers, invite your extended family, invite complete strangers. Let me be abundantly clear about something, this is not about filling seats on Sunday morning. This is about Heaven and Hell. To help you with this task we have 500 invitation cards. Let us put these in the hands of 500 people. On your way out I encourage you to grab a dozen or two.
No one in this room is incapable of these two tasks. If God can use this Samaritan women, he can use you. If you have this living water welling up in you, stop hording it and allow it to pour out upon those nearest you. Allow the power of God to be unleashed.
2 Corinthians 4:7 – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Let us share our greatest treasure.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 3, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 4:1-26. As we begin, let us start with a question. What is the primary purpose of the Bible? Many people, many churches, many pastors would argue that the Bible is primarily about the salvation of man. No one would argue that this is a significant theme in the Bible, but is this the primary purpose? Others, me included, would say that the Bible is primarily about the revealing God. God, who today we will read is Spirit, is invisible. The only way we can know him is by Him revealing himself to us through His Word. The pinnacle of this revelation is when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
This difference is important, because how you come to the Bible will effect what you get out of it. If you see man as the central character of the Bible then you will seek to emulate their behavior, their questions, their faith, or lack thereof. However, if you see God as the central character you will marvel at his doings and worship. So as we read our text today, come to the pages with a desire to see God, o know God, to worship God. Let us read our text, pray, and then see what God has for us this morning.
Samaria, A Broken Religion
As we have said many times at Cornerstone, context is crucial. So let us spend some time, setting the stage. If you recall, John began this Gospel in Heaven, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” From there John brought the story to Earth. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Next, our attention was drawn to the rural area of Bethany, across the Jordan, where John the Baptist was Baptizing, and it was there that the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Next we were taken to Galilee where Jesus calls his first disciples, by saying the simple, but commanding words, “Follow me.” Following this we find ourselves at a quaint wedding where Jesus turns water into wine. John 2:11 tells us that, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” From the wedding, Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Where we see Jesus place himself at ground zero of the Jewish celebration, the Temple, and deliberately makes a scene, and declares his ultimate authority over the Temple. While still in Jerusalem we see a conversation between the wisdom of man and God himself. Whereby Jesus tells Nicodemus th teacher of Israel, that religious works will not save you, it is only by God's Sovereign Grace that we have any hope. From there Jesus moves into the wilderness of Judea and people begin to flock to him. As John the Baptist watches the dwindling of his congregation and the increase of Jesus', his heart rejoices, seeing the mystery of the Christ unfold before his eyes.
Now in our passage today, we see Jesus moving on from the wilderness of Judea towards Galilee. In doing so we see in verse 4, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” First, let us address Samaria. What is Samaria? Samaria, during the time of Jesus, was a region within the Roman Territory. It existed between Judea and Galilee. Judea was to its south and Galilee was to its north. Samaria, today, is located within what is known as the West Bank of Israel.
The reason that Samaria exists is because of the sin of Israel. Around 900 B.C. the King of Israel, King Solomon died. Due to Solomon's sin and Israel’s rebellious heart the nation of Israel was divided into a Southern Kingdom and a Northern Kingdom. The capital of the Southern Kingdom of was City of David, Jerusalem. The eventual capital of the Northern Kingdom was Samaria. The town of Samaria was near a placed named Shechem, a prominent location during the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. You can read about this in 1 Kings 16.
Now for today's purposes, this is what is important to understand. The Northern Kingdom was conquered around 722 B.C. The King of Assyria took some Jews out of the Kingdom and brought some gentiles into the Kingdom. This was the King’s attempt to assimilate the people. Over time, these gentile foreigners started to intermarry with the Jews. This was a major taboo, for it made the Jews racially tainted. In the process of intermarrying with these gentiles they started to pick up on some of their idolatrous behavior, and because of this God sent lions to kill the people. In response, the King of Assyria sent the Samaritans a priest to teach them the law of God, which was the first five books of the Bible. The Samaritans, however, did not completely follow God, they were lukewarm towards God. You can read about this is 2 Kings 17.
This lukewarmness towards God continued throughout the Samaritans history, and their understanding of God was greatly undermined. The Samaritans only accepted the the first five books of the Bible, and rejected the writings of the Prophets. This is one reason that Jesus says in verse 22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know.” The Jews had been given the full oracles of God, the prophets included, the Samaritans rejected God’s Word beyond Deuteronomy.
In addition to this, because they mixed their religion with the World, they also did not worship at the same place as the Jews. As we saw in John 2, the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. For the Samaritans, they worshiped at Mt. Gerizim. This is why the Samaritan women said in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Most likely this Mountain was nearby, for it is believed that the town of Sychar was in fact Schechem.
Because of this mix of race and religion, religiously and ethnically pure Jews, did not get along with the Samaritans. There was an immense divide between these two groups of people. You can see that in our text today, Verse 9, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” This division was common knowledge for both Jews and Samaritans. Look at verse 9 again; the Samaritan women says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” This women knew about the tension. She knew that the Jews viewed the Samaritans as unclean, tainted, religious outcasts.
In fact, it is said, there was a pathway that led up the Transjordan that allowed the Jews to go from Galilee to Judea without having to walk through Samaria. Having said all of this, where do we find ourselves today, we find ourselves at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, the place of Shechem. Why?
He Had to Pass Through
Look at verse 4 again, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” This is such as interesting thing for John to say. Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ, had to pass through Samaira. Jesus, you would think, does have to do anything. Geography is no restriction for Jesus. He is not compelled by circumstances. Not to mention that I have already informed you that geography was really not the issue. There was a roadway that along the Jordan that would had led them around this so called tainted region. In fact, there was a good chance that from Capernaum they would have traveled the Transjordan on their way to Jerusalem.
But we are told in today’s passage that he had to pass through Samaria. What is going on? I believe the answer is actually found in verse 34, which is just outside of our text for today, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” The “had to” in verse 4, I believe is explained in verse 34. This meeting that took place between Jesus and the Samaritan women was a divine appointment arranged by the God of the Universe. This event was no accident, this was no happenchance. This was destiny.
I believe this conclusion is further corroborated by verse 8 says, “For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” Why would all of his disciples go into town to buy food and leave their Rabbi all alone in the middle of Samaria? Mostly likely it was because Jesus had sent them all away. He was in effect asking them to step out of the room so that he could speak to this women.
Lost Sheep of Samaria
So what is so great about this women? Why does the God of the Universe, desire His son, the Messiah, to strike up a conversation with this lady? Was this another Nicodemus type moment. In John 3, we saw Jesus have a conversation with the cream of the cream of the cream of the Jewish crop, the most pious of Jerusalem. Was Jesus now going to have the same conversation with the most pious of Samaria? No. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a more dramatic contrast between John 3 and John 4, than this women.
First of all, the Samaritan women is a women. Women during the time of Jesus were not treated as they are today. To put it bluntly, the culture was sexist. You can see this in verse 27, another text just outside of our reading today, “Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a women.” They marveled. What he was doing was counter-cultural. In fact, many people during that time took the position that it was not appropriate for men to talk to women in public. In fact, in my studies I found that for Rabbi's, which Jesus was considered to be, they commonly viewed talking to women, their wives included, was an inappropriate use of their time. This culture had distorted God's original design of men and women having equal value and worth in the eyes of God.
But if that wasn't enough, not only was the women a women, but she was promiscuous. Look at verse 16, “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” This women was the opposite of virtuous. In stead of spending her whole like pursuing religious devotion, she had made a train-wreck out of her life. Perhaps this is why she was at this well all alone, in the middle of the day, all alone; because of her sins she was an outcast.
He Came to Save Sinners
So let us think about this for a second. The God of the Universe, who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Who is all knowing, all powerful, transcendent. Who spoke all things into existence out of nothing, sends his Son Jesus, who is God himself, into the World so that he can sit at a well, on this particular day and meet this particular women; a women whose culture was broken, her religion was broken, and her heart was broken. Why would God ordain this? Because God loves sinners, and this is why Jesus came.
Never Thirst Again
The women poses to Jesus a very interesting question to Jesus in verse 12, “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Jacob was a mere man, digging a mere well. As the women said these words, the bones of Jacob lie lifeless in the dirt, and the well he dug could only provide water to quench a man's thirst for a few hours. Little did she know who she was speaking to. As different as she was to Nicodemus, she was also the same. As the King stood before her, she did not have the eyes to see his majesty.
In verse 10 Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus knew who he was. He knew the significance of his presence. As Jesus said, he is the gift of God. This rings with the same tone of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” This giving of the Son, is not just some divine experiment, it is a act of amazing benevolence, not only to the Jews, but the world, all people groups, Samaria included.
So what is go great about Jesus that he is a gift to us? He tells us twice. In verse 10 Jesus tells us that he is the gift of God because he is the source of living water. Again in verse 13, “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” So what is Jesus saying?
One way to describe why we sin is thirst. Not physical thirst, but spiritual thirst? God designed us to be satisfied in Him. We were made in the image of the Trinity. The Trinity is a relationship. Therefore we wired to have relationship with God, yet because of sin our relationship with God is broken. We are cut off from the thing we need most in life, God. All of us feel this separation. All of us feel this need, and we spend our lives pursuing things to quench this thirst. For this Samaritan women, she sought to quench her thirst with men. Divorce after divorce, looking for something only God can fill. For Nicodemus it was religion. For you it may be drugs, alcohol, your kids, your job, your home, your stuff, the list can go on an on. This behavior is the essence of idol worship, a thirst for God that you attempt to quench with the dust of this world. And drinking dust will not satisfy.
I have used this quote before, but it fits so well here. CS Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
And this is what Jesus is telling this women, she is not made for Samaria, she is made for heaven. The desire you have inside of you, is ultimately for Christ. It is only Christ that can quench your thirst. It is only Christ who can satisfy your deepest desire. We are all designed for God, to love him, to trust him, to worship him. This is your purpose, and this is God's gift, to satisfy our thirsty souls.
And this gift is available now. It is not something we must wait for. It is a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And the fountain of this well is Christ alone.