2021:Sundays after Pentecost

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Beginning of Wisdom (Pro 9:10)

  • Introduction: Epistle reading for today from Ephesians 5:6-21 provided contrasts between wisdom and foolishness.  We want to be the people whom God inspired the Apostle Paul to write about.  In contrast, we don’t want to partner with the “sons of disobedience” as we heard from vv6-7.
    • We must have wisdom in order to not be deceived by empty words of deceivers who show up everywhere.  Believe it or not, there are more & more deceivers even in the pulpits of churches, and so it is harder for people to not get sucked into a deception that will rob them of eternal life with Christ.  How can we discern wisdom from foolishness, so that we are not deceived with empty words?
    • There were some very neat and coordinated readings appointed for this, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost.  Let’s take a look at some of the contrasts Paul made in Eph ch#5 in view of Pro 9:10.  I repeat v10 here from an original translation from the Greek - 10 A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding[1].
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, You exhorted us through the Apostle Paul us to not be deceived by empty words.  But Lord, how can we know empty words from truth?  You inspired King Solomon to write, a beginning of wisdom starts with a fear of the Lord, and counsel of the saints is understanding.  We ask that You send the Holy Spirit to open our ears to hear Your Word in its truth and purity, and then apply this word to our daily life.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Contrast #1: We start out with the first of three contrasts with the following - 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
    • I hate being deceived by anyone at any time.  And yet, more experts in public seem to be downright fools! A person can be book-smart, but an absolute fool when it comes to discerning, for instance, whether there are only two biological sexes. Only a fool would deny there are differences between the two sexes.  God had His reasons for creating male and female, and specializing each for specific purposes.  Wisdom would tell us just by looking at each person here on today there are differences between us despite us being one in Christ.  We don’t have to read that out of a book to figure that out.  But believers in Christ have a fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom as our text from the OT Book of Proverbs instructed us.
      • We probably know people who feared their dad.  I’ve read stories where a person grew up with a dad in the household who was just plain mean.  It was tough to tell if there was any love in the man.  With that sort of reality about an earthly father, it is easy to see why it would be tough for a person with that background to perceive a Heavenly Father differently.  That person would fear God in the way they feared their earthly dad.  Please don’t leave here today perceiving your Heavenly Father is waiting to zap you the moment you screw something up.  That is not the kind of fear King Solomon was inspired to write about.  We should *not* fear our Heavenly Father to the point where we do not want to be in His presence.  We are His beloved children through the work of His one and only Son.  When we were baptized, we became a part of Jesus.  We also received the Holy Spirit who continues to work faith in our soul.  We therefore received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters.  We aren’t sons and daughters who run away from our dad though. We are sons and daughters who respectfully call him “Father”.  The Holy Spirit continuously reminds us we are children of God.  And if we are His children, we are fellow heirs with Jesus. (Rom 8:12-17)
      • Now that it is sinking in about being one of the King’s kids, we should remember that we can screw up this perfect gift given to us by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We shouldn’t fear God being mean to us, even when we are being disciplined.  Proper disciplining is to teach a lesson on right from wrong. Otherwise, how would anyone ever learn the difference between these two?  However, we should fear His authority over where we spend eternity.  Jesus was quoted by Matthew, one of His 12 disciples, 28And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (γεέννῃ)[2].  It is this sort of fear of God that we should have.  This fact that God has the power over sin, death, and the devil should be a constant and sobering reminder that, while Jesus did all of the work of salvation to save us from hell, we do hold the power of rejecting this gracious gift. We can sin against the Holy Spirit by telling Him to get lost when He testifies into our soul we need to knock off whatever sin we like doing.  Do you recall what happens when we sin against the Holy Spirit?  That is the *only* sin which we could commit that did not get nailed to the cross when Jesus shed His innocent blood for us.
      • God’s word is a balance between the Law which identifies what a sin is, and the Gospel, which reassures us those sins were pardoned through the sacrifice made by Jesus.  So, keep in mind our Heavenly Father considers us precious even though He could easily snuff out our life.  Just three verses later, after Jesus told us to fear He who can destroy both body and soul, we have these words from Jesus - 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows[3].  Sparrows?! What does God’s love have to do with sparrows?  I sometimes confuse a sparrow with a hummingbird when looking out in our backyard, because the sparrows are so small.  And yet, Jesus made the point that even the sparrows do not fall to the ground apart from our Father in heaven.  The implication is if there is that much care and concern for a tiny sparrow, imagine the care and concern the Lord has for you and for me!
    • Getting back to the contrast in Eph 5:6, how are any of us supposed to know empty words when we see and hear them? 
  • The Apostle Paul provided a simple answer to this question in another of his inspired writings.  The question we should always ask of anything we read or hear: are the words in accordance with Jesus?  Listen to Paul’s words from Col 2:8-10 - See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every ruler and authority[4].  The entire 66 books of the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is all about Jesus. How is it I can say that? Because, Jesus *is* the Word as the Apostle John pointed out at the beginning of his Gospel account.
  • Even so, the words of the Bible can become empty in our soul if those words are not put into practice (Mat 7:24-27).  Let me provide an example of empty words with which we can all identify. Politicians on both sides of the aisle come around each election cycle saying they are going to work towards the goals spelled out in their campaign, but once elected, we don’t see results. It would be fair to say those words communicated during a campaign are empty, because there are no actions behind them.  Let’s not make that same mistake in our relationship with our Lord.  If we say we love the Lord, let’s put His words into practice in our life.
  • Contrast #2: Our second contrast from Ephesians ch#5 is - 15So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise[5].  We walk carefully throughout our time in this Age by staying in the Word and putting the Word into practice as was just said.
    • Here’s something from the Septuagint version of Pro 9:6 – Forsake foolishness, and you shall live.  And seek discernment so that you spend life straight in understanding with knowledge[6].  Solomon was exhorting us by God’s inspiration to forsake our foolish ways, and then don’t deviate to the right or to the left from the discernment that the Lord provides in His Word.  Staying straight on course as provided by the Word will keep us from making foolish decisions, such as falling for the empty words of a get rich quick scheme that only leads to losing money.
      • We can be vulnerable to get rich quick schemes when we fall for the greed of being rich instead of being well provided for.  There are a lot of people chasing after things which do not last – pure foolishness!  Jesus cautioned us to store up treasures in heaven and not in this Age.  The treasures of this Age are subject to decay or theft (Mat 6:19-21).  The day is coming when everything of this Age will literally disintegrate on the Last Day; nothing will be left!  Why put all energy and effort into something that won’t last?
  • Contrast #3: Our last contrast from Ephesians ch#5 - 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is[7].
    • Foolishness is to live as if there is no life after death.  We all had a beginning when we were conceived by our parents.  In contrast, we will have no end.  Yes, our body will die, but our soul will live on – forever!  The question that gets resolved in our time in this Age is where we will spend eternity.
    • Last week, we heard from Pastor Zill about eating the bread of life that came down from heaven and not dying.  The Word of God makes clear the bread Jesus referred to is faith in Him. We will eternally live with Him by having faith in Him given to us by the Holy Spirit.  It is the will of the Lord that we live with Him for eternity, and not perish in hell eternally with no way out of that torture.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit came up with a plan even before the foundations of the earth were laid, to find a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  They knew our first parents would screw up the perfection of creation.  That is why Jesus referred to Himself as the bread from heaven (John 6:51,57-58).  He provided the path to reconciliation with the Father through the redemption provided in Jesus’ flesh and blood.  It is faith in Jesus which makes true the words from our Gospel reading of today – the one who eats this bread will live forever.
      • In that plan drafted before anything of this Age was created, the Father was pleased that His entire essence dwelt in Jesus, and therefore through Jesus, the reconciliation of everything corrupted by sin would be accomplished. This reconciliation cost Jesus His life on the cross (Col 1:19-20).  There was no other way for us to have the hope of spending eternity with God.  It would take an action of God to redeem us from eternity in hell.
      • It therefore would be foolish to forsake the gift of redemption. Trust me, we do not want to hear the Lord ever say to us, “I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.[8]” The beginning of wisdom is a healthy fear of the Lord possibly saying that on Judgement Day.  Equally healthy is knowing that He went through a lot to assure that doesn’t happen to those who fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.
  • Call to Action: Our last quote from Ephesians ch#5 is not a contrast, but an exhortation - 19speak[ing] to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord[9].
    • Speaking to one another in this way is working at the second half of Pro 9:10 which I repeat here - A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding[10]. We have counsel of the saints each Sunday here at Christus Rex.  We share with one another the faith in the reading together a Psalm and singing of hymns.  I don’t know how to be routinely in the counsel of the saints unless regularly attending church and bible class.  It is in church where souls are most likely to be refreshed. Pro 9:10 doesn’t diminish the importance of personal, daily devotions.  We grow in the Word by doing that.  But, it is important to also be in the assembly of the saints.
      • Paul addressed this concept again in Col 3:16 - 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God[11].  How does that wisdom grow without being in God’s word regularly?  We all need to ask ourselves whether we would be thankful to God if we didn’t regularly hear about the gifts He has provided for us.
  • James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote by inspiration - But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him[12].  We ask for wisdom, and the Lord in His word of Jas 1:5 promised to provide it.  It is that simple, but if we ask, we shouldn’t doubt whether God will provide or not.  If something is in God’s word like this, it’s as good as guaranteed to happen. 
    • As a child of God, we should speak like a child of God. Speaking like one of the King’s kids will sound like words not taught from human wisdom, but words taught by the Holy Spirit (1Co 2:13).  Contrast that wisdom with listening, for example, to news reports in various media.  As a child of God, I’m sure it is clear when someone is merely blowing smoke (ie. speaking human wisdom) versus actually saying something of substance.  If that turns you off when new anchors do that to you, it’s a good idea to stop blowing smoke to others.  Nobody who listens to the Lord in wisdom is fooled by cheap talk.
    • Let’s turn ourselves away from cheap talk and conduct ourselves as children of God.  Remember something said earlier in this message?  It’s not just the hearing of the Word; it’s also putting the Word into practice.  Later in James’ Epistle, he exhorted us to - …show by his good behavior [our] deeds in the gentleness of wisdom[13].  10A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding.  Ask the Lord for this wisdom and He will grant a measure of His wisdom.  I can assure you there will be plenty of wisdom for you to share with others in both your words and deeds. Amen.


 


[1] Original translation from the Greek of the Septuagint as presented at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/9/1/s_637001

[2] Mat 10:28 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+10&version=NASB

[3] Mat 10:31, IBID

[4] Col 2:8-10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+2&version=NASB

[5] Eph 5:15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[6] Original translation from the Greek as found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/9/1/t_conc_637006

[7] Eph 5:17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[8] Mat 7:23b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+7&version=NASB

[9] Eph 5:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[10] Pro 9:10 from an original translation as noted earlier; emphasis is that of the translator

[11] Col 3:16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+3&version=NASB

[12] Jas 1:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+1&version=NASB

[13] Jas 3:13b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+3&version=NASB

What Sign? (John 6:30)

  • Introduction: The inspiration for the message on today is from John ch#6.  John 6 starts out with the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-15).  I should note the count was just of the men present.  There could have been as many as 25,000 people if every man had a wife and averaged three children.  Those assumptions are not out of line for the 1st century.  This meal was a big deal, considering they were in a desolate area near the city of Tiberias, and not the McDonnald’s where my wife Karla works part-time.  Her McDonnald’s probably conservatively serves 3,000 customers/day, so that’s 8 days of customers at the Sahuarita McDonnald’s.
    • There are examples in the Gospel according to John, where the sign represented in a miracle led to a representation of the significance of an associated teaching from Jesus[1].  For example, in John 9:1-7, Jesus healed a man who was born blind.  Ophthalmologists in the 21st century are not known for this miracle.  It was this occasion when Jesus identified Himself as being the Light of the world.
      • In John 11:23-27, Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was dead for 4 days and already laid in a tomb.  No doctor has ever brought someone back to life who had been dead for 4 days.  Before Jesus performed this miracle, Jesus was speaking to Lazarus’ sister, Mary.  She believed Jesus would have kept her brother from dying, had He come to Bethany sooner.  It is in that conversation with Mary when Jesus identified Himself as the Resurrection and the Life.  In the ending portion of Gospel reading for today in John 6:32-35 (also v48), Jesus identified Himself as the Bread of Life.
    • We will spend some time on today looking at signs of bread from heaven from the OT reading of Ex 16:15, and from the Gospel according to John 6:11.   These signs are a representation of Jesus coming from heaven to bring eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 6:48-51).
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, the people in the crowd of 5,000 men who were fed by Jesus chased Him down.  They asked for yet another sign despite eating their fill.  The point of Your Son, Jesus performing miracles was to point to Him as the Messiah sent by You to redeem the world from their sins.  The point was not to keep performing miracles in an earthly kingdom.  Send to us the Holy Spirit, so that we do not receive from eating food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Background: As I mentioned, John ch#6 starts with the account of Jesus feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14).  So often throughout Jesus’ ministry, He would perform a miracle, but people would either not appreciate the miracle, or criticize Jesus for performing miracles during the Sabbath.  However, with this miracle, the crowd was so appreciative, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him King (John 6:15).
    • Jesus was not, nor is not interested in becoming an earthly king. He realized the crowd wanted Him as a king, so Jesus then sent the disciples in a boat to Capernaum (John 6:16-21).  He then went up into the mountains by Himself to pray.  He had to get away from there, because, as Jesus later said to Pontus Pilate,  His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36-37).  The crowd went to find Jesus when they realized He and His disciples were gone.  People got into boats and started looking for Jesus.  They eventually found Him in Capernaum (John 6:22-24). 
    • When the crowd found Him, their motivations were not pure (John 6:25-26).  They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, when did You get here?[2]”  I can just imagine the tone of voice with our Lord as if He was supposed to get their permission before leaving the desolate area to the north of Tiberias.
      • Even so, Jesus used the feeding of the 5,000 as an object lesson for what is important in life as summed up in John 6:27.  You can read the version of this from your bulletin, but I would like to read to you a more accurate translation from a translator whom I trust - 27 Do not receive for eating the food that perishes, but the food that remains unto eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for it is upon him that the Father has set His seal, [that is,] God[3].”  We can’t work for the food which remains unto eternal life.  We can only reject this food from heaven.  Jesus has provided food from heaven.  It isn’t anything we work for any more than the people in the crowd who sat down and were served by the disciples who in turn received bread and fish from Jesus.  People of the crowd sat there on the grass and waited to receive the bread from heaven – just like we are today.
      • It appears what Jesus said to them went right over their head. They were still clueless on what Jesus’ purpose in coming from heaven was. They asked Jesus what they were supposed to do in order to accomplish the works of God?  The “work” of getting the bread from heaven like they received the day before still wasn’t clear to them that God provided to them the bread. What they needed to do is believe in Jesus who was sent by God the Father (John 6:28-35). 
  • Analysis: Their response to Jesus’s answer to believe in Him in my book was really insulting.  These same people who sat down after listening to Him preach and teach, and then were fed until they were satiated, asked Jesus for a sign so that they could believe in Him.  Was not the teaching and feeding of the 5,000 already enough of a sign?  They were there when this HUGE miracle was performed by Jesus!  They saw firsthand what Jesus did!  There was no other explanation for what they had witnessed the day before.  And now, they wanted a sign. ☹
    • How could they miss the sign of signs?  This is the same people who were willing to take this same Jesus by force and make Him their king.  There were going to work at Jesus until they got what they wanted.  Forget about this idea of merely believing in Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man.  It can’t be that easy.
      • Is it a leap to say they were spiritually blind? They were wanting a king who could provide for them.  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate some of the loaves and were filled[4].  Had they actually “seen” with a believing heart the miracle that Jesus performed by feeding the 5,000 from 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, they wouldn’t have insulted Jesus by asking for another sign so that they could then finally believe in Him. 
        • You have to wonder how anyone in the presence of Jesus would miss the sign that He is the Son of God.  And yet, before we poke fun at these spiritually blind people who literally tasted and saw that the Lord was good, we need to look in the mirror.  Each time we are in church, we are in the presence of our Lord.  We taste and touch Him in the Lord’s Supper.  He knows we cannot free ourselves from our own sin that is pulling us straight to hell.  We must have the redemption He provided. 
        • We don’t have the ability to just believe in Him, much less work for food which lasts for eternal life.  Jesus commissioned the Holy Spirit who provides us with the ability to believe in the signs that all point to Jesus as being our Lord and Savior.  Without the Holy Spirit working faith in us through the Word of God, we would be as spiritually blind as this crowd who asked Jesus for a sign so they could believe in Him.  Again, I emphasize they asked Jesus for sign after having eaten the bread He provided for them literally the day before.  That is blind!
      • In fairness, we look back through the scriptures and see how people just muffed it when it came to understanding who Jesus is and what He did for them.  The Gospel accounts are pre-Pentecost.  Recall, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came into the hearts of people in order to empower them to believe in Jesus.  There is a “Pentecost” experience for each person on the day they are baptized. It was nonetheless difficult for people of the 1st century and even now to understand through the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus foreshadowed a new covenant meal.
        • That new covenant meal is something the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1Co 11:23-36.  You probably know the words well, because you hear them each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.  The pastor who consecrates the wafers and the wine with the Words of Institution will say, “Take, eat, this is my body”, and “take, drink, this is the new covenant in my blood.”
        • Keep in mind, John ch#6 is not an actual description of the elements of the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus at the time of John ch#6 had not yet instituted the new covenant.  He was speaking to the people in the context of the feeding of the 5,000 and people hunting Him down for another free meal like it. Jesus told them the real work of God is to believe in Jesus who was sent by the Father.  Jesus wanted them to believe in the bread from heaven that was sent by the Father, and not look for food from Jesus that will spoil.  The manna the ancient Israelites ate would not keep for longer than a day.  When God rained down fresh manna, the manna from the previous day would be spoiled – except on the Sabbath Day.  God wanted the people 3400yrs ago to believe and trust in Him above all things and not just look for manna that will spoil.  Jesus’ message in John ch#6 is the exact same message as what was contained in Ex ch#16.
    • Decide for yourself whether the people of John ch#6 were seeking spiritual or physical food.  We have evidence the people were seeking physical food that would spoil. Otherwise, why would the people want to take Jesus by force and make them their king?  Why would the people insult Jesus by asking for another sign, when they already sat and ate bread and fish served to them by the disciples who in turn received the meal items from one source – Jesus.  Everyone in that crowd had to have known from where the bread and fish were coming from that they ate.
      • Remember from last week – Jesus’ ministry was not about the fringe of His garment.  Modern bible translations seem to have changed the focus from Jesus to the fringe of His garment as the source of healing.  We can speculate on why modern translations would do that, but it remains clear we must focus on Jesus who is the power of salvation from the evil of this Age. 
      • The same people of our OT reading, read earlier this morning from Ex ch#16, were the same people who complained to the Lord’s servant, Moses, about the crummy manna and quail they had to eat every day for 40yrs.  This “crummy” manna and quail came literally down from heaven by God to His people (Ex 16:2-15).  To the complainers we learned about last week in Num 21:4-5, it was just physical food that would spoil and not spiritual food recognized as having come from heaven.  God therefore sent poisonous serpents against the Israelites which would bite and cause death.  The Israelites cried out for salvation from the serpents, so God had Moses raise up on a wooden pole a serpent, so that anyone who was bitten would be saved from the venom of death.  Generations after those Israelites would eventually worship the same bronze serpent that Moses constructed – instead of worshipping God in thanksgiving for sending salvation from the venom of death. 
      • Last week’s message was similar to this week in that people 1400yrs after the exodus from Egypt were looking for a sign, despite one literally hitting them in the face in the form of the bread from heaven.  At least the crowd of today’s Gospel acknowledged God fed those ancient Israelites (John 6:31). 
        • Let’s not make that same mistake in our lives by focusing on things that spoil.  Everything of this Age will eventually be gone.  Nothing of this sin-corrupted Age will remain.  We receive bread from heaven in 2021 in the form of the gifts we receive from God each day.  It should behoove us to give thanks for everything we have instead of complaining.  A majority of the 7.7 billion people in the world right now don’t have enough to eat. It can easily happen to us, especially how things are deteriorating so quickly in this nation.
  • Conclusion: Dare I ask, what signs of bread from heaven have we personally missed? It’s pretty easy to see the mistakes of others, isn’t it?
    • One might say that since Jesus ascended into heaven, we no longer have Him around to provide us with visible signs of His salvation from the venom of death.  Actually, we do!  In the NT era which is the End Times, we have the signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each has the visible means of grace, a sign if you will, that is something we can touch.  Baptism has the means of grace in the water consecrated with the word.  The Lord’s Supper has the wafer and the wine as its means of grace, both of which are consecrated with the Words of Institution.
      • Unfortunately, some religions stop here in John ch#6 regarding the Lord’s Supper.  Lutherans agree that John ch#6 is not about the physical eating and drinking of the Lord’s flesh and blood.  That comes right at the end of Jesus’ ministry on that first Maundy Thursday.  These other religions which look at Communion only as a spiritual eating don’t make it to the night Jesus was betrayed.  That was when it became clear the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant foretold of by Jeremiah amongst others. 
        • That new covenant is a spiritual eating and drinking.  But what Jesus foreshadowed as recorded in John 6:51 came to pass on the night before Jesus hung on the cross with our sins – not His own, because He didn’t have any sins to nail there.  Listen to Jesus in v51 -  51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.[5]
        • A doctrine concerning the Lord’s Super as being spiritual-only ignores the completeness the physical aspect of the New Covenant meal founded in Jesus. Jesus ties the spiritual and physical eating together just a few verses later - 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, the one who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread that came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; the one who eats this bread will live forever.[6]” 
    • In a moment, we will partake of the meal the Lord has prepared for us in His body and blood.  We will have a sign of His presence in the meal, because He told us - 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink[7].  We also will receive from Him spiritual strengthening, because as He said - 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life[8].  
      • Many people who were in the crowd of 5,000 missed the sign Jesus performed.  We saw that in their reaction the next day after hunting Him down and then speaking with Him. Let’s *not* make the same mistake! In addition to the signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we have signs every day, if we are willing to acknowledge them, that Jesus is very active in our life.  May the Holy Spirit open and keep open our spiritual eyes to the Lord’s grace, mercy, and peace all the days of our life, now and forevermore. Amen!

[1] Conclusion drawn from Weinrich, William C, Concordia Commentary on John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2015, p.646

[2] John 6:25b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[3] Translation from Weinrich, William C, Concordia Commentary on John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2015, p.657

[4] John 6:26 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[5] John 6:51 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[6] John 6:56-58, IBID

[7] John 6:55, IBID

[8] John 6:63, IBID

It’s Not About the Fringe (Mark 6:56)

  • Introduction: To me, it is an unfortunate situation with modern translations of the Bible. Third person pronouns are changing due possibly to the woke culture we find ourselves in.  There is a concerted effort to remove gender references of “he” and “she” in all documents and publications.  While this may make sense for legal documents where it is unnecessary to make a distinction between males and females, removal of gender references in God’s Word when referring to any of the three persons of the Trinity is just plain wrong.  All three persons of the Trinity are referred to in the male gender throughout the Bible.  I don’t know for sure if the translators of the ESV, NIV, and NASB all have updated their translations of Mark 6:56 from our text in order to be gender neutral.  I do know it is a disturbing change to now read gender-neutral language, when older translations which we grew up with had the correct gender pronouns.
  • In our text for today, recent updates of popular English translations, such as those I mentioned changed a simple, 3rd person pronoun from “He” to “it” in v56.  You might say, “so what?”
    • Please open your bulletin to the Gospel reading on page 4 (the centerfold) and see if there is something unusual.  All three of these translations I’ve named changed how we read the last phrase of Mark 6:56.  It now implies the healing of people perform by Jesus was due to the fringe of Jesus’ garment instead of Jesus healing power! 
      • This isn’t the first time God’s people have been led to trust in something other than Him.  We will go through a couple examples in a moment.
      • We need to be careful though, and not make the same mistake as provided in the forthcoming examples.  We could lose out on the salvation He won for us from the cross, by focusing on fringes and not Jesus.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, the scriptures are not about the fringes.  The scriptures are about Your one and only Son, Jesus. He *is* the Word.  Send the Holy Spirit to have us focus on Him and not all the things around Him.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Background: I teased you with the Bible having a few examples of God’s people taking their focus off from Him and instead onto things around them.
    • Recall the bronze snake that Moses placed on a pole, so that the Israelites who were bitten by serpents would look up to it and be saved (Num 21:8-9). We read from Num 21:5-9 - So the people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we are disgusted with this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and against you; intercede with the Lord, that He will remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flag pole[1]; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and put it on the flag pole; and it came about, that if a serpent bit someone, and he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
      • 700yrs later, King Hezekiah had to crush to pieces this same bronze snake, because people were worshiping the bronze snake!  Listen to the account in 2Ki 18:4 of what King Hezekiah did sometime after he became king - He removed the high places and smashed the memorial stones to pieces, and cut down the Asherah. He also crushed to pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel had been burning incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan[2].  People at the time of Hezekiah had become corrupt in their worship to the point where they worshiped the object, which was a *sign* of God’s grace, instead of God Himself.
      • Jesus referred to the real purpose of the bronze snake in the context of His own purpose in coming into our flesh to save us.  Recall when a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling council of the temple at the time of Jesus, came to visit with Jesus after dark? The visitor was named Nicodemus. Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about heavenly things as recorded in John ch#3, but Nicodemus wasn’t catching on. So, the Lord then spoke to Nicodemus in terms he would understand.  Nicodemus wouldn’t have been on the Sanhedrin without knowing biblical history.  He would have known about Nehushtan.  So, Jesus said this to Nicodemus - 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him[3].  What Jesus was saying here just before the Gospel in a Nutshell, is the serpent affixed to some sort of pole was a sign of God’s grace to His people Israel, in a similar way when Jesus would be nailed to a cross.  Jesus hanging from a cross would also be sign of God’s grace to the adopted sons of God who are the children of Abraham – us!
    • But, the fact that we are all sinners, and have all descended from Adam, the first sinner, we get distracted similarly to the Israelites about 3400yrs ago along with the Pharisees at the time of Jesus.  At the end of His ministry, Jesus had to call the Pharisees of Jerusalem to account for their worship of the gold of the temple and not He who is to be worshiped in the temple.  Listen to the silliness of the legalistic Pharisees on whom Jesus pronounced the first of eight woes in Mat 23:16-19 - 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the offering that is on it is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering[4]?   The church-leading Pharisees who should have known better, came up with some fringe argument about the temple, instead of actually concentrating on the holiness of God Himself, who was to be worshipped in the temple.
  • Analysis: The impression is given in our Gospel the people looked upon Jesus as a healer of physical ailments (Mark 6:55).  Jesus had fed about 25,000 people in the same vicinity where He landed again in our Gospel for today.  Word traveled fast even in the days prior to Twitter, and so when some people recognized Jesus and His disciples in the boat headed for shore, the word got around that Jesus would be back.  Anyone who knew someone who had a disease, deformity, or paralysis fetched the afflicted person and had them ready for Jesus once He disembarked from the boat. People continued to bring the afflicted to Jesus as He traveled from town to town and points in between.  They had received a free meal after a day of preaching, and now they were receiving free healthcare!
    • You can see how the perception of Jesus would be He is a healer. This perception is obviously true; the miracles of healing were taking place.  However, I wonder if the perception extended to an understanding of Jesus’ power or purpose.  Did God the Father send His one and only Son to be a feeder of the hungry and healer of the sick?  No, that perception is only at the fringe of Jesus’ real power and purpose.  He heals all believers in Him from their sin (Mark 2:15-17).  We learned that early from the Gospel of Mark from the account of the calling of Levi to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  Levi, given the name, Matthew, was a tax collector called by Jesus to follow Him. Matthew was ecstatic, because he would have been barred from temple and synagogue worship by the church leaders because of his profession.  Jesus, Son of God, called Matthew to serve as one of Jesus’ chosen twelve!  So, Matthew throws a party and invites all his friends. These friends were identified as “sinners” by the church leaders.  They then boldly approached the disciples and asked in Mark 2:16b - “Why is [Jesus] eating with tax collectors and sinners?”  In response, Jesus gave them the reason for His leaving heaven to come to earth in our flesh - 17 And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.[5]
    • Let’s put the Mark ch#2 passage into the context of today’s message from Mark 6:56.  The last word of v56 in the Greek is ἐσῴζοντο (essō-tsŏn-tǝ).  This word is printed in the outline on the back of your bulletin.  The root of this 3rd person imperfect passive verb means to be saved, though in English this is rendered as “being healed”.  I believe rendering ἐσῴζοντο as “being healed” further confusing Jesus’ purpose for becoming God in man and dealing with all the frailties of humanhood.
      • I suppose ἐσῴζοντο can mean being saved from the suffering of a physical ailment.  Anyone who has healed from a major illness or surgery will believe they have been saved from suffering.
      • However, my preferred meaning is “…to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgement[6]”.  Jesus came to deliver us from the penalty of sin. The penalty is being sentenced to live in hell eternally.  God didn’t want that for any of His creation.  He made everything perfect and in His image of holiness.  When we corrupted that perfect image, there was no place for anyone in Eden, nor in heaven.  God Himself had to save us from this certainty of our sin, and that is why Jesus came.  The healing was part of His ministry because of His compassion.  He didn’t want people to have to wait to get to heaven before they receive relief from their afflictions due to the corruption of God’s perfect creation.  More importantly though, He came because He wanted all generations of people to be saved from their sins, if only they would not reject His gift of salvation.
  • Conclusion: We should take a cue from King Hezekiah, and keep focus on God and not the symbols of God.  Hezekiah’s motivation for smashing to bits the bronze serpent is found in the verse immediately after where we read of his efforts to cleanse Jerusalem of objects of idol worship - He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; and after him there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who came before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not desist from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses[7].
    • Let’s not let the distractions of Jesus’ miracles take our focus away from who Jesus is and what He has done for us.  Jesus displayed compassion for people during His 3yr ministry, especially toward those who were suffering.  His miracles of healing also certainly drew attention to Him and His ministry. 
      • But, the miracles served the ultimate purpose of pointing to Him being sent by the Father to save the world from itself.  He is more than just free food and healthcare as noted in His miracles recorded in Mark ch#6.  Old Testament profits would speak the message given to them by the Lord, but would also perform miracles in the name of the Lord.  The miracles would demonstrate God’s power in the prophet.  Jesus at one time in His ministry, pointed out to doubters they should at least believe in the miracles He was performing which were done to bring glory to the Father, and that the Father is in Him and He in the Father[8].  Jesus was frustrated with the unbelief of those who had seen the miracles He performed.  They rejected any notion that Jesus was the true Son of God who was foretold to be the savior of the world.
      • Let us put our faith and trust in Him to save us from all evil of both body and soul as was done by Jesus on both sides of the Sea of Galilee. On the east side of the Sea in the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus drove out of a man the demons collectively named “Legion” (Mark 5:1-13).  Later in Mark ch#5 but on the west side of the Sea, a synagogue ruler pleaded with Jesus to heal his little daughter who was at the point of death.  While on the way to the leader’s house, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for a dozen years without relief believed if she could just touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, she would be saved (Mark 5:25-34).  She believed not only in the healing power of Jesus to cure her from her physical affliction, but also to cure her from the afflictions of her soul.  We know this because of Jesus’ reaction after perceiving His almighty power had gone out to her.  He asked, “Who touched my garments?”  The disciples mocked Him for asking such a question when there was such a huge crowd pressing in on them.  After it was clear who touched Him, listen to this account of the situation in Mark 5:33-34 - 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved (σέσωκέν) you; go in peace and be healed (ὑγιὴς) of your affliction (μάστιγός).”  The point of Jesus’ performing this miracle of healing was to show compassion on this daughter in the faith.  Note: it wasn’t the fringe of His garments that saved her.  It was His divine healing power in love that went out to her.  The woman knew and believed that, because she knelt at His feet and confessed her faith  in Him – not the fringe of His garment.
    • May all of us grow in the same faith this woman displayed, for you & I have been healed of a similar sickness of sin she had.  I end this message for today with the same blessing the Apostle Paul delivered to the Ephesians as was read for the Epistle reading earlier in the service: may you be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God[9]. Amen.


 


[1] Septuagint: σημείου; Strong’s definition - neuter of a presumed derivative of the base of G4591; an indication, especially ceremonially or supernaturally:—miracle, sign, token, wonder, from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4592/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[2] 2Ki 18:4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ki+18&version=NASB

[3] John 3:14-15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NASB

[4] Mat 23:16-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+23&version=NASB

[5] Mark 2:16-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+2&version=NASB

[6] Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage as quoted from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4982/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[7] 2Ki 18:5-6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ki+18&version=NASB

[8] Allusion to John 10:38

[9]Eph 3:16b-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+3&version=NASB

Jesus' Compassion (Mark 6:34)

  • Introduction: Unfaithful shepherds have been around a long time.  Listen to what the Lord said through the Prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century, BC - Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not been concerned about them; behold, I am going to call you to account for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord[1].
    • A nation can be overrun with evil because of priests of the Lord not being faithful to His word, and instead preaching and teaching something that the Lord neither spoke nor contemplated.  Our OT reading for today was from the Book of Jeremiah, and for the first few chapters, the Lord basically unloads on the people for being so sinfully evil.  The Lord gave the remnant of Judah living in Jerusalem one last chance to repent of their evil ways.  He sent Jeremiah, but the false prophets at the time were countermanding everything Jeremiah reported from the Lord.  Then in the last chapter of Jeremiah, Jerusalem was burned down and the temple of the Lord destroyed.  There was nothing left for the Lord to do to get the people to repent, and so judgement was pronounced on them through King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army.  As for those false prophets, Nebuchadnezzar himself had them brought before him and he struck them down.  Ironically, this heathen nation obeyed the Lord’s word better than God’s own people. 
    • When there is such massive destruction, is God really being compassionate to those He claimed were His own people, a people of His pasture?  And, when false prophets abound in a land, what should the sheep of God’s pasture do in times like that?  We will start out our message for today looking into the OT Book of Jeremiah to see what the times were like, and then we will look into whether that Book has anything to do with our Gospel reading for today.
  • Let us Pray: Oh Lord, there were many false prophets saying, “peace, peace” when there was no peace.  There can be no peace apart from the peace of knowing and believing our sins are forgiven and we are therefore right with You.  Please Lord Jesus, purify the pulpits across this land of secular humanism, which is drawing the faithful away from You into certain temporal and eternal destruction.  Grant us the discernment to be able to recognize Your word in its truth & purity from that which is empty talk.  Bless us as we hear Your word this day, so that we not only hear it, but do what You say and follow what you do.  To You, Lord Jesus we bring this petition before Your Father, with Whom You and the Holy Spirit reign, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: There will be a lot of references to shepherds in today’s message. You probably could tell that was coming, given the Psalmody being Psalm 23.  Additionally, both the OT & NT readings had references to shepherds.  Good Shepherd Sunday occurs during the Sundays of Easter.  However, today is more of a review of bad shepherds and the consequences of them being around unchallenged.   It is clear from our OT reading, with unfaithful shepherds there will be unfaithful people.  The passage from Jeremiah ch#23 read earlier this morning starts out with identifying what happens with unfaithful shepherds - “Woe to the shepherds who are causing the sheep of My pasture to perish and are scattering them!” declares the Lord[2].  The sheep entrusted to uncaring shepherds wind up perishing either in some sort of disaster like what happened to Jerusalem in 586BC, or worse, perishing in hell eternally, because they justified their own sinful actions instead of seeking justification through God.
    • Listen to some of the words the Lord had from Jer ch#5 for these unfaithful shepherds - 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it this way! But what will you do when the end comes[3]?  These prophets and priests did not clearly speak of sin.  They didn’t warn the people of what “the end” looks like without being right with God.
      • The Lord said to those remaining in Jerusalem - “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, offer sacrifices to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known, 10 then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are saved!’—so that you may do all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I Myself have seen it,” declares the Lord.
      • 12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the beginning, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the Lord, “and I spoke to you, speaking again and again, but you did not listen, and I called you but you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, just as I did to Shiloh. 15 I will hurl you out of My sight, just as I have hurled out all your brothers, all the descendants of Ephraim[4].
        • I read this rather long passage from Jer 7:8-15 (bulletin outline has Jer 7:3-8 – sorry!), to illustrate the displeasure the Lord has with our sinfulness.  He will not tolerate it.  Pastors to this day will tell a congregation there are multiple paths to heaven.  No, there is not.  The one path is through Christ, because that is the only way sins are forgiven.  Jesus took on the sins of the world, but redemption comes to those who humble themselves before the Lord, confessing their sins as we did earlier in this service, and truly seeking forgiveness.  What does truly seeking forgiveness look like? Turning from your sinful ways.  This passage from Jer ch#7 is an example of people going off and doing what they wanted, the priests telling them, “it’s okay, God is gracious and loving”, while neglecting the whole truth that, yes, God is gracious and loving, but expects people to go and sin no more once forgiven. That is not a picture of repentance.
      • Because of this complete lack of owning one’s own sins so they can be confessed and receive absolution from an ordained priest, Jerusalem was wiped out by the Babylonians.  In Jer 50:6, God finally had enough when He said through Jeremiah - “My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill. They have forgotten their resting place.
      • And, God used an unlikely bunch of people in the Babylonians to accomplish His purpose.  The Babylonians knew the war against Jerusalem was not necessary.  They actually felt called by the one, true God to utterly destroy Jerusalem and His temple there.  Listen to the Lord’s account of this in the next verse of Jer ch#50 - 7All who found them have devoured them; And their adversaries have said, ‘We are not guilty, Since they have sinned against the Lord who is the habitation of righteousness, The Lord, the hope of their fathers[5].’
    • Look at our society today and assess objectively if mainline religions are sticking closely to God’s word, particularly about sin and its consequences.  You might think they have God’s love figured out, but I dare say they don’t, in light of what I just read from Jeremiah.  My fear is our nation is headed in the exact same direction today that the people of Judah and Jerusalem were headed in the 7th & 6th centuries BC.  All the more reason for us to be in God’s word, and proclaim it in our words and actions to countermand the false priests of 2021! 
  • Analysis: When Jonah the prophet was all upset that Nineveh repented of their sins after he called them to repentance, God asked of Jonah - 11 Should I not also have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people, who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?[6]” Our Lord was concerned for His creation in Nineveh, and He was concerned for the people of Jerusalem all the while they were on a collision course with meeting up with their sin.  Back to our OT text for today we read - I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.  Through Jeremiah, the Lord was telling the unfaithful shepherds their days were numbered, and they will be replaced.  They will be replaced with shepherds who will tell it like it is to His people. 
    • And then, something I think for the time was very unusual.  God said “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will live securely; And this is His name by which He will be called,
      ‘The Lord Our Righteousness.’ Not only was God thinking of the people of Jerusalem, He was thinking of a people not yet born.  In fact, He was thinking of *everyone* who would ever be born, when He, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, came up with a plan for everyone to be saved from their own sins[7].
    • Jesus is the fulfillment of the promised Shepherd of Jeremiah in the passage I just read to you!  How do I know that?  Jesus Himself told us in John 10:11 - 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  God is faithful and true; there is nothing false about Him.  If He said it, it is true; He is the Good Shepherd.
      • Jesus is the Shepherd King David wrote about in Ps 23 we read for the Psalmody on today.  In Jesus’ human nature, He is a descendant of King David, and yet, David confessed - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.[8]  David had no idea when he wrote this Psalm a thousand years prior to Jesus’ birth who this Good Shepherd would be other than God.  The only thing David had was the Lord’s promises, but that was good enough for David.  He trusted in the Lord’s word, and that is what made David a man after the Lord’s heart.
      • What does this good shepherd act like?  In our Gospel text for today, despite wanting to get away for a while, Jesus had compassion on the people who followed Him on land as His boat traveled to some wilderness place (Mark 6:30-34).  Here it was, the disciples had just come back from being sent out two-by-two into towns and villages to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee, and just after Jesus was run out of His own hometown of Nazareth.  King Herod had heard about all the miracles which had been performed by Jesus. Herod thought maybe it was John the Baptist having come back from the dead after Herod had him beheaded.  Jesus just wanted to get away from everyone for a while so that He could be with the Twelve.  They get into a boat and sail over to a desolate location along the Sea. However, word of Jesus and His disciples had spread so far and wide, that crowds were following the heading of the boat from the shore.
        • When Jesus came ashore, He had compassion on the people of the crowds, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  The Greek word rendered as “compassion” is σπλαγχνίζομαι (splank-nits-omai).  It means - to have compassion to the point of feeling it in the gut. You can check this word out in your bulletin.  In ancient times, the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity.  If you ever felt your heart sink because of the loss of a loved one, that’s the gut-felt compassion of  σπλαγχνίζομαι; the love you feel is like a gut punch.  That’s what our Lord Jesus felt for the crowd who, let’s face it, were probably looking for free food and health care.  Nonetheless, the Lord wanted to engage with each person of the crowd and provide for their physical and spiritual needs – just like a shepherd would act with the sheep entrusted to him.
      • Jesus had compassion on the people, because His Father has compassion. Getting back to John ch#10, Jesus explained to some unbelieving Jews - 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.[9]”  Jesus was performing miracles of healing, because He was doing what the Father wanted done for His creation.  One of the things which distinguished a prophet from a priest is the fact that a prophet from God would also perform miracles. This is why Jesus would point to the things He was doing in order to verify He indeed was a prophet from God. The miracles were consistent with the compassion God the Father showed mankind in the sending of His one and only Son to this sinful Age.  That Son would willingly take all the sins of the world onto Himself after leading a perfect, sinless life, and pay the penalty of sin in the place of all who believe in Him. Would you send an only child to redeem a despicable person like Adolph Hitler from his sins?  Jesus even went to the cross for him, if only he would have turned from his sinful ways.
  • Conclusion: It is written in Ps 86:5 - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all who call upon You[10].  The Triune Godhead continues to have compassion on us, from before the foundations of the earth being laid, to even today.  He wants us to turn from our sinful ways and live.
    • The Holy Spirit of the Trinity is still working in compassion to enable us to believe and trust in Jesus.  Despite all the times we have run in the opposite direction, the Holy Spirit persists in His compassion to bring us to true repentance.  It is only in repentance when we can see how badly we have been, and how much we need the salvation Jesus provided for us in His death and resurrection from the dead.  The Holy Spirit also aids us in watching out for sin in our lives.  He is faithful.  He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are enabled to handle.  He will also provide a sinless way out of the temptation so that it can be endured (1Co 10:12-14).
    • It is a proper reaction once God’s compassion is understood to then reflect the compassion Jesus taught us to show in the example of His reaction to the crowds waiting for Him on shore.  Jesus said - 12 Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father[11]
      • Some of these works Jesus had in mind are what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Colossae - Put on Σπλαγχνα, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col 3:12).  Those are some of the attributes of the Good Shepherd, and the Shepherd wants us to show those traits to others around us.
    • It is fitting then we end this message with this blessing - 20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen[12].


 


[1] Jer 23:2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+23&version=NASB

[2] Jer 23:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+23&version=NASB

[3] Jer 5:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+5&version=NASB

[4] Jer 7:8-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+7&version=NASB

[5] Jer 50:6-7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+50&version=NASB

[6] Jonah 4:11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jonah+4&version=NASB

[7] Jer 23:4-6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jer+23&version=NASB

[8] Ps 23:1 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+23&version=ESV

[9] John 10:37-38 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+10&version=ESV

[10]  Ps 86:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+86&version=NASB

[11] John 14:12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=NASB

[12] Heb 13:20-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+13&version=NASB

Two Kingdom Priorities (Mark 6:14-29)

[Provided by guest preacher, Marcus Zill of the Arizona Lutheran Campus Mission Society on Sun, 11Jul21]

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

See what happens when you mess around with politics and marriage? You lose your head – literally! 

John wasn’t martyred for preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. He lost his head for criticizing Herod’s shabby morals for shacking up with his brother’s estranged wife Herodias. John calls him out on it and meets more than his match with Herodias, who’s probably more of a political player than anything else. Her daughter does a seductive belly dance for Uncle Herod and his buddies at his birthday party and, in a fit of probably drunken tomfoolery, offers the girl whatever she wants - up to half his kingdom. She goes off to Mom who seizes the opportunity and asks for John’s head on a platter. So much for John. Exit stage left, down the stairs of moral activism.

At one level, we might say that’s what you get when you get involved in marriage, politics, and the morality of public figures. You wind up in prison, or worse, with your head served up on a platter. But what does Jesus have to say about all this? That’s what we’re wondering here, since Jesus doesn’t even make a cameo appearance in today’s Gospel, which is odd because the Gospel’s are supposed to be about Jesus and not John. 

Now surely He has some commentary on this sordid and unsavory affair, right. But actually no, Jesus has no comment. As John’s disciples go to get the headless body of their fearless leader and bury it, as we will see next week, Jesus gathers His disciples together for a little retreat, and then He goes on to preach, teach, heal, and throw a dinner party for 5000.

John, of course, was right to criticize Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his own. That was out of line with the spirit and intent of marriage. Herodias was probably playing politics, and while marriage certainly has been a tool for political power, it was not that way in the beginning when the Creator said “the two shall become one flesh.” Marriage is a protective fence built around a profound mystery, the union of male and female as one flesh, indissoluble, for life. Marriage is supposed to serve like an electric fence around a field, keeping the outsiders out and the one-flesh insiders in. And it’s doubly scandalous when this is the wife of your own brother, but then, the Herod clan wasn’t exactly known for it’s high moral standards.

From a Christian perspective, marriage finds it’s ultimate fulfillment and purpose with Christ and His Bride, the Church. This is the “great mystery” of Genesis 2, according to Paul. Not simply that a man leaves father and mother to be joined as one flesh to his wife, but that the eternal Son left His Father and His mother at the cross to be joined as one flesh to the Church that was made from His wounded side as He slept in death. So there is certainly much more to marriage than meets the eye, much less the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government.

And so it’s not surprising that John is outraged at Herod’s conduct and takes advantage of the audience he has while in prison to call him out on his bad morals. “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Good for John to speak up. Someone had to, and being in prison, he had nothing to lose. Except his head, of course.

What surprises us is that Jesus doesn’t immediately seize on the opportunity to do a follow-up. He has nothing to say on the matter. It’s as though he has bigger fish to fry, or in this case, to multiply, along with some loaves. He has thousands to feed and teach and heal. He has a cross to bear, an appointment with sin, death and the power of the devil in Jerusalem, a Sacrifice to make that deals once and for all with the sins of the world, including those of corrupt kings and their adulterous bedrooms. God doesn’t deal with the sin of the world by instituting a program of moral improvement. Instead He sends His Son in the flesh to put Sin to death in the flesh.

Underlying all of this is the notion of God’s two kingdoms or rules – temporal and eternal. King Herod is a temporal king in a temporal kingdom. God is behind Herod’s authority too, albeit in a left-handed power sort of way. Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He was on trial. “You would have no authority unless it had been given you from above.” And Jesus didn’t mean Caesar. And it’s like that with all governments, corporations, nations, states, institutions, even the visible and temporal side of the church. When men do it, it’s temporal, always imperfect, and ultimately destined for destruction.

God’s kingdom is eternal. It’s the kingdom we pray for and about when we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” It’s a kingdom that comes not with might or power or politics but by the Spirit of God when the Word of God is preached, heard, and believed, and we live godly lives according to it, both now and forever. God’s kingdom is not a reign over nations but over hearts and minds. As Jesus also said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” God’s kingdom comes by faith alone in Christ alone. So while John was losing his head over Herod’s bad morals, Jesus was laying down His life to redeem the whole mess for God. And when we see the contrast between John and Jesus, you get the point of God’s two kingdoms. John dies for criticizing Herod’s sin. Jesus dies for Herod’s sin.

I know this is going to leave some people unsatisfied. Our old Adam is an activist. He loves the moral cause, the righteous cause, because the righteous end always justifies the means. He can be proud of the strong stand he takes, and if he’s martyred for the cause, so much the better! Surely God is pleased, right?  Well…

Things temporal are always more engaging, urgent, and enticing than things eternal. It’s easier to get worked up over supreme court decisions and flying giant baby balloon figures of presidential figures in diapers than the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. It’s more enticing to mobilize the forces to vote, protest, and sign petitions, or to show up for a political rally, than it is to make disciples of all the nations by baptizing and teaching. It’s easy to slip into trying to establish the kingdom of God on the earth by our own doing. I’m sure John had the same notion of Messiah/Christ as his contemporaries did. A power messiah. A true king, not unlike Herod and his brothers. God’s king on God’s throne ruling God’s nation. That’s what people were waiting for. A super man who would clean up corruption and establish truth, justice, and the Israelite way.

But that wasn’t Jesus’ way or the way of His kingdom. It wasn’t then, and it’s not now. Earthly kingdoms are about power. Their kings lop off the heads of their critics. God’s kingdom is about the mercy of a King who dies for the people. John had to decrease, Jesus had to increase. John had to get out of the way for Jesus to be the Way. John was safe in death. His headless body buried somewhere by his disciples. He was safe because Jesus was going the way of the cross to rescue him and the world.

That’s why Jesus doesn’t seem to react to His cousin John’s death. That’s also why God doesn’t seem to react to every instance of evil or injustice in this world. There’s no need for that kind of reaction. God doesn’t work by micromanaging evil but by drowning it in a deluge of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The one needful thing has been done. Christ has died. Christ has risen. “It is finished.” What more needs to be done that that?

Our own age tempts us to be John and criticize the lousy morals of our own perverse and wicked generation. There’s so much that is not right. So much to be said. And we can feel good about ourselves standing up for what is right, defending the proper place and understanding of marriage against those who would use and distort it for different ends. We can feel justified in speaking out against declining morals, corrupt government, despotic rulers, all of that stuff. And more, including the pure and unadulterated evil of destroying children in the womb.

But… John served best when John pointed his prophetic finger to Another and spoke with His prophetic voice calling in the wilderness, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There’s ultimately God’s answer to all of this. There’s God’s solution to the world’s problems and to your Sin. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yes, the sin of the world. Of Herod and Herodias and Herod’s drunken friends. Of John and the disciples. Of you and me. The world. Following John won’t save you. Follow Jesus. Behold the Lamb.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

For the Sake of Christ (2Co 12:10)

  • Introduction: We have an interesting text for today from 2Co 12:1-10.  It begins with the Apostle Paul having written about some unnamed person who was given a vision of heaven (2Co 12:1-4). Later in the text, we discover that “unnamed person” is really none other than Paul!  He didn’t want to directly claim he had this experience.
    • The vision was so great, he wanted to boast about it (vv5-6).
    • However, he only got to see heaven, because the Lord chose to show it to him.  The vision of what is to come for all who believe in Christ wasn’t provided so that Paul could boast about his experience (v7a).  His testimony wouldn’t mean squat if what he talked about, wouldn’t somehow bring glory to the very Lord Jesus who called him to serve.
      • The Lord gave a lasting reminder for Paul to not boast in the testimony of what the Lord allowed Paul to witness (v7b).  As Paul described it, the lasting reminder was like a thorn in the flesh.  We would equate that in the Sonoran desert with a pricker from a Cholla cactus.  If you’ve ever been attacked by one, you won’t forget it. ☹
      • Paul pleaded with the Lord 3x to take the thorn away (v8), but the Lord responded to inform Paul that the Lord’s power is made complete in Paul’s weakness (v9).  Think of it: a permanent Cholla cluster of prickers in your side!  You & I might plead with the Lord even more than 3x.
    • Some religions require parishioners to have a testimony handy to tell people when they came to faith.  For some unfortunately, that testimony winds up being more important than being prepared to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. The question before us on today is, should we boast in our testimony, or boast that despite our weaknesses, the Lord uses us to accomplish His Word (v10)? 
  • Let us Pray: We give thanks to You, Heavenly Father, for the blessings You have provided us through living in the United States.   Unfortunately, the blessing of self-governance has come with problems, due to the sinfulness in all citizens.  Like the Apostle Paul, we too have our burdens; our “thorns in the flesh”.  And yet, those burdens are there to remind us we are strong only through Christ, and therefore should not be smug.  For the sake of Your Son Christ, empower us by the Holy Spirit to bear the burdens of weakness, insults, distress, persecutions, and all difficulties so that the power in Christ dwells in us to Your glory. We pray this through Your Son Christ, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, all who are one God with You, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Analysis: I set the table for our message on today with the horrible thought of cholla cactus prickers stuck somewhere in our side all our life.  People have speculated on what Paul meant by a thorn in his flesh.  I don’t think it was one thorn or cholla pricker.  Also, I don’t think it was his poor vision or walking with some sort of limp. I don’t think it was necessarily any kind of physical limitation, although that could have been one of many thorns with which he suffered.  I believe these concepts about the “thorn” because Paul seems to list a few thorns in 2Co 12:10.   Let me read to you my direct translation from the Greek of v10.  As I read from Paul’s list, the words of which are slightly different than what we heard in the Epistle reading from the ESV earlier, ask yourself  what thorn(s) in the flesh do you have?  Paul wrote in verse ten, 10Therefore, I am pleased for the sake of Christ in weaknesses, insolence, compulsions, persecutions, and pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong[1].
    • Please understand that in general, Paul’s writings can at times be very difficult to translate into English, and this verse happens to be one example, given the Greek grammar used in v10.  All the five plural nouns for thorns I emphasized were indirect objects.  One would expect them to be direct objects, because Paul became pleased to suffer the thorns of these five nouns – for the sake of Christ!  However, I believe the direct object of this sentence is the implied suffering for the sake of Christ while Paul performed the ministry to which he was called.
    • The first noun in the list of five of v10 is “weaknesses” (Greek: ἀσθενείαις).  Because I like to provide the tools for you to verify whatever is said from this pulpit, I had printed onto the back of your bulletin the Greek word I have interpreted in this case for weaknesses.  The Greek is pronounced “ass-thə-nay’-ais”.  This word means things we do not have the capability to do, because we are too weak[2].  The weakness can be physical, and Paul did a lot of walking in order to perform the three missionary journeys, the beatings, even the attempts to stone him to death. However, there was also overcoming the weakness of a lazy or stubborn will in order to press on toward the goal of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus[3].  Anyone after just one stoning or walking a thousand miles probably would want to stop at those experiences.  It is a weakness of will that would be necessary to overcome, in addition to any physical weaknesses.
    • The second of five thorn nouns is insolence (Greek: ὕβρεσιν).  The original Greek is pronounced “he’-brɘ-sin”.  This means over the top damage that adds insult to injury[4].  It’s like Satan through one of his demons making a simple fender-bender collision in a parking lot wind up making your car a total loss.  It’s not just the initial problem, but all of the junk you have to go through after a simple problem comes up.
    • The third of five is compulsions (Greek: ἀνάγκαις). This is pronounced in the biblical Greek as “ah-nang’-kais”.  These are necessities in life which MUST get done.  We all experience these sorts of necessities in our daily life.  However, in addition to the necessity, there is a sense of urgency such that it becomes urgent to the point of distress[5].  Paying bills which are due when there is *not* enough money in the account is a combination of necessities that become stressful.  A lot of people resolve this by omitting returning a portion of the gifts received back to the Lord.  We talked about this a bit in last week’s message that there isn’t anything we have that wasn’t given to us by the Lord.  And yet, instead of returning to the Lord as the first check to write out, many people write that check last – if at all.  The Lord knows the stress that comes with obligations of this Age, but He also let’s us sweat sometimes, just to see whether we will trust in Him or not.
    • Fourth of the five nouns is persecutions[6] (Greek: διωγμοῖς), pronounced from the Greek as dĭ-ōg-mois’.  A week or so ago in bible class, we spoke of the persecution that broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem as recorded in Act 8:1. Stephen the evangelist had just been stoned to death for his confession of Christ.  That is persecution of the worse kind.  One of the ring-leaders of the stoning was a guy by the name of Saul. He would later see the light (literally) and become a committed Christ-follower.  His name changed from Saul to Paul; the same guy who wrote our text for today.  He knew a thing or two from both sides of persecution, including being the object of a stoning.  We may never in our lifetime be facing death as a bunch of stones are hurled at us, but we do endure persecution for our beliefs.  However, for the sake of Christ, we need to think if it is better to receive the favor of sinful people, or the favor of our Lord Jesus, who can toss unbelievers into hell.  Maybe a stoning isn’t so bad in comparison to spending an eternity of pain and despair in hell, because we denied Jesus in this Age.
    • Our last of the five thorn nouns, pressures (Greek: στενοχωρίαις), is one I can identify with personally.  The Greek pronunciation is ste-nah-chō-ri’-ais – the pressure felt when it seems everything is closing in[7].  I can identify with this noun in particular, because I have had the diagnosis of “stenosis” in a few places of my spine.  It was always presented to me “stenosis” meant arthritis.  However, when I started learning biblical Greek in 2008, I came across the word “στενοχωρία”.  It is a condition of narrowness of room in the literal sense.  In the metaphorical sense, it is a pressing in of stuff against a person. Stenosis, when used as a medical term in 2021, is a pressing in of the spine structural items against the nerves in my back – causing pain.  Στενοχωρίαις is the literal and metaphorical pressing in on a Christ-follower.
  • Conclusion: Are you getting the feeling now on what Paul meant in the verse – “10Therefore, I am pleased for the sake of Christ in weaknesses, insolence, compulsions, persecutions, and pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong”?  Because Jesus chose us, we are special – which is exactly why the world hates us.  Jesus said as much in John 15:19 - 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you[8].  Scripture interprets scripture, and sometimes it is wise to see how an inspired writer of a book of the Bible uses the same Greek word in other writings.  Each of those five “thorn” nouns has been used by the Apostle Paul in other places of the New Testament.  In these final moments of the message for today, we’ll review other usages of these nouns I believe Paul used as examples of thorns.
    • We are so weak spiritually, we don’t even know what to pray that is in our best interest.  I’ve said many times, thank God for the prayers which the Lord did not answer with a “yes”.  Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us as Paul wrote in Rom 8:26 - 26 Likewise the [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  The Holy Spirit strengthens us from being spiritually dead prior to our baptism, to being able to speak with the Lord in prayer. We need the faith He provides in order to first, believe the Triune God exists, and second, believe He rewards those who seek Him[9].
    • Paul used the word ὕβρεσιν in Act 27:10&21 to describe a shipwreck that never should have happened.  In v10, he attempted to get the centurion guarding him on his travel to Rome as a prisoner, to winter in the port where they were and not try to sail on to Crete.  The ship’s pilot and also the owner overrode the wise advice of Paul, who grew up on the Mediterranean Sea. Paul must have known of ships being lost at sea in winter storms. They set sail, and initially all went well.  However, winter storms blew in and eventually caused the ship to run aground on a reef.
      • We gained wisdom when we developed a healthy fear of the Lord. Nonetheless, we need to watch out for our own foolishness as well as that of others.  We are quite capable of screwing up our life with our own foolishness.  Paul’s life was almost lost because of the foolish insistence to try to beat the oncoming winter weather instead of sitting it out for the winter in a harbor.  We need to be careful of becoming a victim of someone else’s foolishness.
    • Do not live under the law of you must do this or that.  The early church had what some have called Judahizers, because those people were insisting on keeping some of the Old Testament sacrifices.  They didn’t really get it that our Lord Jesus provided with His own body, and the shedding of innocent blood, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices demanded of OT believers. There are religions to this day that demand strict adherence to their church teachings.  While this seems like a good idea, I am told by a member of my cohort at the seminary there is a huge problem with depression amongst many women in Utah.  They can’t perform up to the standards of their religion.  They do not understand the freedom believers in Christ have. The necessity of performance to standards which cannot be kept creates an insurmountable amount of distress in their lives.  The question ever-present in their mind is, will they have been good enough in this life in order to advance to the next level in the next life.
      • You might say that is an example of self-imposed ἀνάγκαις, or necessity taken to the point of distress.  But most religions of the world do not teach about a God who came to mankind, not as a great king, but as a lowly, helpless baby boy in a stable, so that God, combined into that man, could be the one person from humanity who would get the job of salvation done for all mankind.  One guy, Adam, screwed it up for everyone, and so one guy, Jesus, fixed it for those who will believe in Him.  Most religions are concerned with earning their way into their concept of heaven, instead of trusting in a gracious and loving God who planned out a fix for a broken mankind – even before mankind was created!  Our Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, did just that: they figured out a plan to save us from our own screw ups even before we were created. Because of the perfect execution of this plan, no one in Christ must perform in any aspect of their redemption from hell.  Jesus paid the full price for those in Him to have a free pass into heaven.
      • As said last week, God loves a cheerful giver.  I bring this up again, because Paul used a form of the word ἀνάγκαις in 2Co 9:7 - Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver[10].  Let me say something shocking but very true: if you are tossing money into the offering plate at the back of the church because you think you must, stop it! Don’t put another dime into that plate until it is clear how much your God loves you, and gave you all you have. In a loving response to His grace, you will want to return a portion, 10%, 5%, whatever – it’s not commanded in the NT what the amount should be of His blessings. Return a portion back to the Lord out of love for all He has done for you and to advance His kingdom here at Christus Rex and beyond.  No one should return gifts to the Lord because they are somehow compelled to give back.
    • Paul, in 2Th 1:4, noted the churches at Thessalonica were under much persecution.  Despite that, they remained steadfast in the faith.
      • We must endure and even fight back against the increasing lack of freedom of religion in this country.  We celebrate the Declaration of Independence on this day each year. The First Amendment to the Constitution is clear, along with the Establishment Clause worded as such that the government may not establish any religion.  Yest, despite this, those believers in Christ who still want to follow Him and speak out against the back-sliding in this nation are excoriated in one way or another, even to the point of being “canceled”.  Our society has screwed up and squandered the gift of our form of government God gave to us.  It is a gift unique in the history of mankind.  Most governments have had one ruler at the top as either a king or dictator.  We elect people to lead and manage the government.  But there are many people in high places who have abused this and now rule for their own benefit.  Persecution of God’s people is on the rise as a result.
    • Lastly, Paul questioned in Rom 8:35 what would separate us from the love of Christ?  One of the seven possibilities in his list, στενοχωρία, was the pressure felt as if everything is closing in.  In Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, some seed was choked off by the cares of this Age.  But Paul made it clear by inspiration the cares of this world don’t have to choke off faith even though there are examples of people who did get choked off.  He wrote that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord[11]. Nothing!
    • Remember: Jesus chose us and not the other way around.  No one has ever chosen Jesus to be in their life (John 15:16).  Salvation was made available to all, but only a portion of the seeds in life grew in the faith.  Apart from Him we can do no good (John 15:5).
      • We are His adopted brothers (and sisters) through Him.  The writer to the Hebrews (probably Paul with others) reminded us of God’s promise to never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5-6). The key passages quoted in Heb ch#13 are “I will never leave you nor forsake you.[12]”, and “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?[13]
      • We get through all these thorns in life for the sake of Christ! He makes sure of it through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God the Father waits for us to cross the threshold of the admittedly narrow gate into heaven which is nothing less than His Beloved Son, Jesus the Christ.  The plan, made before the foundations of the earth being laid, will have then been made complete with each believer in Christ crossing that threshold!  Amen!


 


[1] The author’s personal translation from the Morphological GNT as written at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2co/12/1/t_conc_1090010

[2] Strong’s Definition composition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g769/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[3] Reference to Phil 3:14 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=phil+3&version=ESV

[4] Strong’s Definition composition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5196/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[5] Strong’s Definition composition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g318/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[6] Implication of Strong’s Definition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1375/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[7] Strong’s Definition composition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4730/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[8] John 15:19 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+15&version=ESV

[9] Allusion to Heb 11:6

[10] 2Co 9:7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+9&version=ESV

[11] Allusion to Rom 8:38

[12] Acknowledged to be Deu 31:6 from “Concordia Self-Study Bible”, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, p.1893

[13] From Ps 118:6,7, IBID

Equality Among Christians (2Co 8:14)

  • Introduction: There are people now preaching equity instead of equality.  This philosophy makes a claim that not everyone starts off life with the same gifts, talents, money, intelligence, or whatever. Because of this, there is an inequity in life that needs to be addressed[1].  To me, this is easily seen on the surface.  I agree with these people on this fact, to a point.
    • To my delight a young person either in their late teens or early 20’s posted a detailed examination of Vice President Kamala Harris’ campaign ad of 2020 which explained her point of view on equity versus equality[2].  Critical thinking still exists in the next generation!  The young man quoted Thomas Sowell in rebuttals of what was in the original Harris campaign ad, and I think he did a fair job of providing information from both sides of the political argument. 
    • The thinking from this philosophy is that someone starting out life with less than someone else should be compensated in such a way so that all in society will reach the same goal in life. It’s not clear what that goal may be – the goal is not defined.  To so, this seems fair.  The criticism of this thinking is all in society will end up equal versus looking at equal opportunity.  Does equity necessarily mean equality?  The crowd would say no, and I think the counter-crowd would agree these words do not mean the same thing.
    • Does this thinking have any place in church doctrine?  How would we as Christians, who believe all were created equally by God, determine compensation for some but not others?  In other words, what criteria would be applied to determine equality compensation?  We know from the scriptures all of us, 100% of everyone, falls short of the glory of God[3].
      • Since equity over equality is a contemporary philosophy, let us compare what the world is teaching now with a portion of our Epistle for today and see if there is agreement between the two.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, You did create all humans equally.  It is sin which has caused differences and divisions, but that was not Your original plan.  Please send the Holy Spirit on us as we consider a contemporary philosophy so that we test whether the teachings of man on equity versus equality is consistent with Your holy word.  Bless us with Your truth.  We bring this before You, Heavenly Father, through Your Son, Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to the church at Corinth. The first letter was written around 55/56AD when Paul was in Ephesus.  The second letter, a portion of which was the Epistle reading for today, was written from Macedonia probably within a year later.  During one of Paul’s missionary journeys, he was taking a collection from the churches he visited to the church in Jerusalem.  The following from 1Co 16:1-3 is the context for what we read a few moments ago in the Episle - Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you are to do as well. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save as he may prosper, so that no collections need to be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you approve, I will send them with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem[4].
    • As I mentioned, it is believed Paul wrote the second letter to the Corinthians from a region to the north of Corinth called Macedonia.  At the beginning of ch#8, Paul wrote about how the Macedonian church gave well above their means.  We read - Now, brothers and sisters, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave voluntarilybegging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God[5].  The Macedonians were apparently very rich in the joy of Christ, and were motivated to give toward the saints in Jerusalem far more than one would expect from such a monetarily poor people. 
    • I don’t think Paul pointed this out to the church at Corinth in order to goad them into giving more than they would otherwise (2Co 8:7-9)  However, in reading Paul’s inspired writings, I think he was merely astonished at how much they gave toward the cause.  I believe this because of what Paul wrote in v8 -  I am not saying this as a command, but as proving, through the earnestness of others, the sincerity of your love as well[6]
    • And finally, when we read where Paul used the word, “equality”, he defined that word he used in vv13 &14, with what was written in Ex 16:18 - 18 When they measured [collected manna] by the omer (about 3qts.), the one who had gathered much did not have too much, and the one who had gathered little did not have too little; everyone gathered as much as he would eat[7].  Paul’s definition of “equality” is steeped in this example of God’s feeding of the Israelites who were wandering in the desert for 40yrs.
      • To recall, God left manna on the ground each morning for six of seven days of the week so that the Israelites would be fed.  They would be cared for despite their own sin of rebellion which caused them all to be under a curse.  That curse would be in effect until every adult who didn’t go up into the Promised Land when God told them to, had died off due to their rebellion of unbelief.  What is implied in Exodus is those people who couldn’t gather much were assisted by those who easily could gather manna lying on the ground before it melted in the sun. Everyone had enough to eat.  God made sure of it in His provision of manna, and inspiring fellow Israelites to help each other out with the daily collection of food.
  • Analysis: In light of the introduction to this message, do we see in Paul’s definition of equality from Ex 16:18, a tension between equity and equality?  The Israelites all wound up with 3qts of manna each day – double that on the day before the Sabbath.  The end goal by God was everyone had enough to eat.  Not too much; not too little.  That sounds like equality of result despite everyone having different abilities to collect the manna each morning.  However, I wonder if there were times when someone normally able to collect a lot was not so able.  There may have been times when the high producers weren’t able to produce, and may have needed assistance they frequently gave out.
    • These thoughts would suggest there is no tension between contemporary thought on equity versus equality.  Except that, like everything else sin has corrupted, there is a twisting of truth with the way politicians talk about helping the less fortunate out as part of equitable treatment in life.  Listen to what God told Adam regarding which trees were for food and which weren’t - 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.[8]”  Now listen to what Satan said to Eve not long after - …he said to the woman, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not dieFor God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.[9]
      • Did you notice two things Satan countermanded God on?  One half-truth was Satan making the outrageous claim that God was denying Eve the opportunity to eat from any tree of the garden.  Is that what God said in Gen ch#2?  Eve at least caught that half-truth.  But then the second deception was more enticing.  Satan alleged God was holding back knowledge of good and evil from Eve. Eve must have thought, hmm, maybe God isn’t so loving and gracious after all.  Why would God do that to us?  Satan knew Adam and Eve would eventually die.  They just wouldn’t die right away, and so there’s another half-truth.
      • This early example of Satan’s twisting of words is why we need to be armed with the armor of God against all things at all times.  The Apostle Paul wrote at the end of Eph ch#6 about different weapons of offense and defense against the ploys of Satan and his followers (Eph 6:11-17).  To recall, Paul pointed out the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet being strapped with the gospel of peace, and the shield of faith. Additionally, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood in this Age.  It is against the forces of darkness, the forces of wickedness, all waiting to dupe God’s people into following someone other than Jesus.
    • In this discussion of equity and equality, if taken to an extreme, does this mean Jesus is instructing all of us to be communists? After all, in Paul’s example of the Israelites being fed manna by God for 40yrs, everyone had enough to eat.  No one had too much, and no one went without enough.
      • I don’t want to get into a long discussion on the definition of communism other than to say in such a system, everything is done collectively. Merriam-Webster on-line defined communism as, “a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed” and added, “a theory advocating elimination of private property.[10]”  The problem with trying to link the modernly-used term equity with the word “equality” as Paul used it in our text is that Jesus is speaking through Paul to individuals of the church at Corinth.  In 2Co 8:12-13, Paul stated - 12 For if the willingness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the relief of others and for your hardship, but by way of equality—[11]
      • Verse 12 of what I just read is not a message to the “collective”, meaning the entire church at Corinth.  The message was written to individuals of the church just as Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount to individuals to be disciples of His.  When one reads the Beatitudes of Mat 5:13-20, it is clear Jesus was speaking to individuals who, when gathered in one spot, could be referred to collectively as “disciples”.  But that doesn’t mean Jesus was speaking to some collective as in the definition of communism, or Paul was speaking to the collective commune that is the church at Corinth.  Yes, Paul would collect from one offering plate much like we do here each Sunday, but it is individuals who give as moved by God that comprises what is in the collection plate.  Christus Rex is no more a collective than the church at Corinth.
      • Paul, in 2Co 8:1-2 started with addressing the “brothers” at Corinth.  Scripture interprets scripture, and the story of the widow’s might in Mark 12:41-44 is very similar to what individual Macedonians were doing for the needy saints in Jerusalem who were suffering during a famine.
      • Jesus was clear in 2Co 9:7 that giving should never be done under compulsion.  Listen to what Paul wrote by inspiration - Each one must do just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver[12].  When God blesses us, He also then wants to see what we will do with those blessings.  Giving is *not* done under compulsion.
        • The Macedonians gave out of their heart.  They gave beyond their ability, volunteering to give much, because their individual hearts were moved to help out fellow saints in need (2Co 8:3-5). From what I understand of the Macedonians, they were very poor.  They understood hardship.  They should have been a group for which a collection was organized, and not the way it was.
          • And yet, they were like a beggar handing out gifts and *not* shaking people down for gifts.  I don’t know how many here have been in Tucson or elsewhere and seen people standing at a stoplight with a sign seeking money for food.  Let’s for a moment give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are needy.  The Macedonians were like these people at the stoplight, but instead of begging for money, they are handing out cash!  I think you would agree if someone standing at a stoplight in worn, tattered clothes walks up to your car and hands you a $5 bill, you would be astonished by their giving heart.
  • Conclusion: In addition to the Apostle Paul’s usage of manna in the desert to define equality, Paul provided a second definition of equality in v9 of our text -  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich[13].  Again I point out, the “you” words in this verse are clear Paul wrote to individuals and not the collective.  Paul had stated essentially that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Jesus became a man so that He could share in our humanity. That is abject poverty in comparison to Jesus’s attributes showing Him to be the Son of God.
    • Everything belongs to Jesus, as we confess each week in the Apostles or Nicene Creed.  But He gave that up, or more accurately set that aside, to be like us despite being God (Php 2:6-8).  He was obedient all the way to the cross to save all of us as individuals – not the collective.  Some churches believe and teach that everyone is saved, because Jesus gave Himself for the collective.  That’s only part of the truth.  It is only by faith can we grasp onto the salvation won for us.  Shockingly, a Jesus-denier will not be in heaven, because salvation is not for the collective human race.  Redemption was available to even Jesus-deniers, but they as individuals chose not to take hold of it.
      • He did not come to us 2000yrs ago, born in some filthy stable so He could be served.  He came to serve us as a ransom for many (Mat 20:28).
      • Just like the Israelites some 3500yrs ago, everything we have has come from the Lord.  Paul made this clear in his first letter to the Corinthians when he asked them - 7For who considers you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it[14]
    • Freely we have received from God (Mat 10:8).  His mercies are new each day.  We therefore need to consider giving to others freely, because we have abundance like those in the story other than the widow who gave what coins she had left in her possession (Mark 12:44).
      • It is important to perceive how richly we have been blessed. Jesus set aside His power as God to be hung on a cross in order to provide the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Paul pointed this out in Rom 5:17 - 17 For if by the offense of the one, death reigned through the one, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  We have an abundance of grace through Christ in that our sins are forgiven.  We now have a free pass into heaven we wouldn’t otherwise have.
      • Jesus is calling us to share that abundance with others similarly to what the saints in Jerusalem were doing not long after that first Pentecost (Act 4:32-35).  It was a community of individual believers who were holding everything in common – by their own choice and not compelled to do so.  Some were selling things in order to grace the needy with financial support.  It was a community of individuals, each responding to God’s great mercy to them as individuals, but acting as of one heart and soul.  On Judgement Day, the collective will not as one be judged before Jesus.  Each individual member of a community of believers from every nation, tribe, language, and people will be judged.  Those in Christ will only hear about the good things they did for Him and others while in this Age.  But for the Jesus-deniers, they will hear about every sin they ever committed.
      • Apart from Christ, everyone has equality in being a sinner. However, all in Christ have equality in being a fellow redeemed - no Jew or Greek, slave or freed, not even male or female.  We are one in Christ (Gal 3:28).  That is what equality looks like to our Lord!  Amen.

[1] Vice President Kamala Harris in a 2020 campaign ad posted on YouTube at https://youtu.be/w4kowE_YIVw 

[2] “After School Talks” as posted on YouTube at https://youtu.be/AfSOdt6K44s

[3] Ps 14:1-3, and quoted by the Apostle Paul in Rom 3:10-12

[4] 1Co 16:1-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+16&version=NASB

[5] 2Co 8:1-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+8&version=NASB

[6] 2Co 8:8 from NASB20, IBID

[7] Ex 16:18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+16&version=NASB

[8] Gen 2:16-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gen+2&version=NASB

[9] Gen 3:1-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%203&version=NASB

[10] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism

[11] 2Co 8:12-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+8&version=NASB

[12] 2Co 9:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians%209&version=NASB

[13] 2Co 8:9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians%208&version=NASB

[14] 1Co 4:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+4&version=NASB

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