Get Out of the Boat ____________________

 

In the New Testament, three of the Gospel writers record an event where Jesus and Peter walk on the water. I have always been fascinated by this account. There is so much here that applies to so many circumstances we go through all the time.

The disciples were sent ahead of Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. Jesus was hanging back to spend some time alone – he had just fed the 5000 and everyone went home. The disciples set out, but then things got rough.

Jesus saw that the boat is getting beaten on the sea. Just before dawn, the bible says ‘in the fourth watch,’ Jesus walked out to them. Mark tells us in his Gospel that Jesus was going to pass by them.

Jesus could have walked as far from the boat as he liked, but he walked near enough for the disciples to see him. He would have kept walking, but he recognized that they were in trouble. He let them see him ‘passing by’ walking on the water. When they cried out to what they thought was a ghost, he answered and calmed them. God wants to help you in your distress, but you need to call on His name.

When the disciples saw Jesus, they thought he was a ghost. They were terrified and were screaming and yelling. Jesus spoke to them and Peter wanted to know for sure that it was Jesus. Peter said that if it was really him, to call Peter out to the water. Jesus said to come and Peter got out and walked on the water and in the midst of the storm.

Many years ago, in a bible study I was a part of, we talked about this story. We looked at a few different details.

The disciples were far from shore. They were passed the point where they could turn around. The water where they were was deep. The place of most danger for the disciples was in the boat. The very vessel they were putting their immediate faith in to bring them to where they were going was the thing that could hurt them the most. The safest place to be was walking on top of the waves.

How many times in your life have you set off on an endeavor that you felt called to? Have you ever faced adversity at the point of no return? 

Even though the disciples had lost sight of Jesus, Jesus never lost sight of them. He came close to them, and let them catch a glimpse of his deity. Much like when Moses was able to catch a glimpse of God on the mountain in the Old Testament. Jesus did not force his way into their scenario. Mark tells us that Jesus would have continued to the other side had the disciples not cried out to him. God will not force his way into every situation, much like a parent. I see my kids getting into all sorts of situations, but I love them enough to let them fail sometimes. We can learn more from our failures than our success.

Peter wanted to know that it was truly Jesus. Have you ever come across a help or possible solution to a problem, but were unsure whether it was a God thing? So did Peter. Peter trusted Jesus when he called him out onto the water. But once Peter stepped out, the further away from the boat, the more his fear crept in. When Peter saw the wind and the waves, he took his eye of Jesus and focused on the storm around him. This is when we sink, when we lose our focus. 

Peter cried out for Jesus’ hand and Jesus pulled him up and walked him back to the boat. Once they got in, the storm abated.

Peter had an encounter with Jesus in the midst of a storm by stepping out in faith. The things of this world that you put your faith in (your boat) are going to fail you and in some cases hurt you. Jesus is asking you to trust him and walk above the water with him. Get out of your boat and go to where Jesus is. Even if you lose your focus, God is faithful to reach out his hand.

When the disciples got to the other side, there was breakthrough. A man oppressed by demons was healed and set free. When storms come up in our lives, it may be because our enemy is trying to keep us from breakthrough.

When Peter was on the waves, it wasn’t the waves or wind that physically stopped him. It says when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and took his eyes off of Jesus. When we are trusting and keeping our eyes on God, he protects us. Things may look dire, but God is in control.

What are you in the midst of? Are you putting your faith in your own vessel? Get out of the boat and focus on the one who never loses sight of you.

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Help Wanted ____________________

 

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In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter ten, Luke records when Jesus sent out seventy-two of his followers in pairs to the towns where he was going to visit. This is similar in some ways to when Jesus sends out the twelve disciples earlier in the book. There are, however, some differences. Jesus uses very specific words to convey the task he was setting before these individuals. Here is the passage as it is written in Luke:

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.’

6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you.’

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,

11 `Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’

12  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There are a few key things that I want to focus on. First of all, Jesus sends seventy-two (some manuscripts record that there were seventy). Why seventy-two? Well, in Exodus, when Moses recognized that he could not govern the Israelites by himself, he appointed seventy judges to govern the people. This was a familiar number to the individuals Jesus was sending. Even if the actual number was seventy-two, it is estimated that there were seventy-two Gentile nations during this time period and the seventy-two were being sent out to the Gentiles. The twelve that were sent out earlier in the book were sent to the Jews. The twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus knows his audience.

Second, Jesus sends them out in pairs. Why? Jesus tells them that they are being sent out as sheep among wolves. Wolves prey on weak individual sheep, or sheep that are hindered or unhealthy. There is strength in numbers. The two can provide accountability and encouragement. They can also stand against false witness. We cannot live out our Christian lives as islands. We need each other. Jesus designed ministry to be done in teams.

Third, they are told to pack light and not to waste time making small talk. There is a sense of urgency here. This mission is for the seventy-two to go into the ‘fields’ and reap the ‘harvest.’ The Kindgdom of God is near, there is no time to waste!

What is so interesting about this agricultural reference is that when the seventy-two ‘laborers’ go into the ‘harvest’ they are not simply looking for wheat or corn to stick in a basket and store away. They are reaping more laborers to help bring in the rest of the harvest.

What I always missed was that this passage is not about the harvest. That’s the easy part. What this passage is about is the laborers. The laborers were few. We are sent out to those who have not met Jesus yet. We are sent together with other believers to keep us accountable and encouraged. There is urgency and we must go. But here is the encouragement: the harvest is guaranteed. Jesus says it is plentiful. Mark Driscoll, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, refers to these ‘pre-Christians’ to be harvested as the low-hanging fruit. These are people who have already been prepped. These are not the people who are going to fight you, these are the people who have been waiting for you to invite them to church. The work has already been done, we are just called to collect what God has planted and tended to.

This is not a job we have to do. If you don’t, there will be others to come along and collect the harvest. This is a job we get to do! God is our Father and the land owner. His Son, Jesus is the seed, or the crop. The Holy Spirit is the sun and the water. We get to join in the reaping of the harvest! The reason we do this is not duty. The reason we do this is because we cannot possibly think of a better way to respond to the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are moved by duty and believe that if you DO, then you can get some reward, you are doing it wrong. There is no special formula. You can’t DO anything to earn your reward. It has been given to you already.

The seventy-two in Luke are not named. We do not know who they were. In the same way it is not about who YOU are. It is about who HE is. God does the work, we just collect the harvest. Pray for more laborers. Ask God to show you the low hanging fruit in your life and join together with the body of Christ and reap the harvest with me!

Finding the ‘Meme’ing of it all _________________________

For those of you who are unaware, and I was among you until recently, a ‘meme’ is a picture with words printed over it to convey a short, usually funny, scenario. Google defines a meme this way: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. Many of these are quite funny and more often they are off-color, or not for a mixed audience. I saw one the other day that struck me on a different level. There are many memes featuring Jesus depicted in various ways. Many are rather offensive, but I have to be honest many of them make me genuinely laugh. This one in particular was one that I initially wanted to just gloss over, but I thought about what it said.

 

Becoming a parent almost four years ago has taught me a great deal about love. I never understood the love of God towards humanity fully until I had kids. What you realize as a parent is that your heart and your capacity to love expands and morphs into this incredible thing. Regardless of what my kids do, I never stop loving them. Nothing they do makes me love them more or less and I never understood how this was possible. The same goes for God. Nothing we do can earn God’s favor. He loves his children. Now, do I agree with every choice my children make? Will I ever disapprove of them? But will I ever stop loving them and wanting the absolute best for them? No, I do not agree with every choice, yes I will and do disapprove of things they do, and no I will never stop loving them and wanting the absolute best for them.

 

Loving someone does not mean you agree with or condone everything they do. This is a big misconception. You can love without aligning. Jesus tells us that the world will know you are a follower of him by how you love people. (John 13:35) Unfortunately, this is not the way that most people would describe Christians. The meme that made me stop and think is this one:

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I think a lot of Christians put a lot of conditions on their love for others. Maybe they are afraid that if they ‘love’ someone that it means they are in line with every philosophy and failing, every statement and stance. If this was what Jesus meant, than I can tell you that he would not ‘love’ me. I am a flawed person, cursed to live in this imperfect body until I get my new one. (2 Cor. 5:1-5) Thankfully, God loves us, his children, regardless of what we do. God does NOT agree or align with everything we do, but he still sent his Son to die for us. If that is not love, I don’t know what is.

 

When Jesus told us to love others, do we just question? Did he stutter? There is a Tim Keller fan twitter account and it usually tweets Tim quotes. This was one from the other day: “In American society most people only know of either a mild & nominal or a separatist & legalistic Christianity. Neither is the real thing.” Ouch. I want to be known as a follower of Christ by my love for others. Jesus said that the two greatest commands are love God and love your neighbor. It all comes back to love. But just because you love someone does not mean that you have to agree with them on everything. Jesus put no conditions on who he would love, but he did tell us to ‘go and sin no more.’ (John 8:11)

 

Maybe you are struggling with accepting the love of your heavenly Father. Maybe you have a bad relationship with your real father. Let the love that sent Jesus to the cross touch you today. Whether you know it or not, God loves you. Think about that today.

 

May the Fourth be With You _______________

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May the fourth just passed and with it, many Star Wars fans dressed up, watched the films, had parties and celebrated this beloved franchise. Ask any Star Wars fan to give you a quote from the movies and almost definitely someone will say, “May the force be with you.” I was trying to get a number as to how many times this phrase is said in the films, but all I found was that “the force” is mentioned 91 times in all six films. Many people like to draw comparisons between ‘the force’ and the Holy Spirit. This was my inspiration for this post. As you notice, I am a little late in posting, but better late than never!

 

Speaking to Judas (not Iscariot)  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid …” John 14:23-27 ESV

 

In this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is promising the Holy Spirit to his disciples. The same way Luke Skywalker did not understand the force is the same way that, at this point in Scripture, the disciples did not understand Jesus or his true mission. The disciples thought that Jesus was going to establish a physical kingdom on the earth and overthrow Rome. They had not grasped the concept that he was to be the savior of the world through his death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus kept talking about leaving and the disciples were left scratching their heads.

 

At times it seems like when reading the Gospels, Jesus is speaking to the disciples the way that Master Yoda spoke to Luke Skywalker. Yoda was the Jedi Master and teacher of Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader who were both at opposite sides of the force. Darth Vader was originally a force for good, but was turned and was operating in the Dark Side of the Force. Ben Kenobi, or Obi-Wan, operates on the Light Side, or positive side, of the force. Luke did not fully understand the power that he possessed or how he could use it for good. Jesus is promising his disciples a comforter; a guide, the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit will ‘teach [them] all things.’ The Holy Spirit alive on the inside of all who believe in Jesus as savior and all who claim him as Lord. This is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. It is easy for people to compare ‘the force’ to the Holy Spirit, but there is one big difference. In the universe of Star Wars, there are two sides to the force, Good and Evil. 1 John 1:5 tells us, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. There is no other side to our ‘force’ who is the Holy Spirit. John goes on from this verse to say, If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

When we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness! That is the power of the ‘force.’ The Holy Spirit is what we receive as believers. When Jesus died on the cross, it erased the records of those who believe. Each time we mess up, and ask God to forgive, he says, “OK, that’s one.” Next time we mess up, he says, “OK, that’s one.” God forgives and forgets, the slate stays clean. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

 

Nothing you have ever done or will ever do can disqualify you from receiving the Holy Spirit. Whosoever believes will have everlasting life. When you are a believer, and you receive the Holy Spirit, you will be operating with ‘the force’ alive inside of you.

 

… Through the Grapevine _______________

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

 

This morning I gave the sermon at Restore Church in North Haledon. We have been attending Restore for about six weeks now and we definitely see a future here. I spoke this morning on the Great Commission. This passage in Matthew chapter 28 is the last words Jesus speaks to his disciples before he ascended into heaven. Last wills and testaments are important in TV shows and in Movies when a main character is dying and they ask that the survivors, “Tell my children I love them.” Sometimes people get a last meal. The death row convict asks for a steak dinner before he goes to the chair. The last thing we do is often very meaningful and important. At this point in the lives of the disciples, forty days earlier Jesus was arrested and executed. During the arrest and the trial, all of his friends abandoned him; they scattered. Now Jesus calls them together and asks them to scatter. He tells them to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded you. And behold I am with you even until the end of the age.” 

 

Of the four requests Jesus makes: Go, Make Disciples, Baptize and Teach, the one that we have missed as the church, big C, is make disciples. We have a decent handle on the Go, the Baptize and even the Teach (although we definitely need to know our Bibles better) but how are we on making disciples? If you ask me, not great. I feel in many churches, there is a desire for discipleship, but there isn’t discipleship. Why? Being a disciple is hard. Jesus says that we need to hate our families by comparison. As Kyle Idleman puts it in his book, Not a Fan, Jesus wants to be our one and only and not our one of many. Disciples fail. Jesus’ closest friends abandoned him when he needed them most. Mark, the Apostle, ran away from the Garden when Jesus was arrested naked! Disciples fail. But disciples are followers. If all authority has been given to Jesus, how can we as disciples operate in that authority? Abide.

 

Merriam-Webster gives this definition for abide : to stay or live somewhere. Jesus tells us in John that we are to abide in him. Abide in him. This means we are to live in him. Look at a grapevine. We have one in our yard. There are vines and there are branches. The branches are attached to the vine and get all of their nutrients from it. Apart from the vine, the branches die, plain and simple. Apart from Christ we can do NOTHING. I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. We are called to go and make disciples. How can we make a disciple if we do not abide in Christ? We can’t. You cannot lead someone somewhere you have never been. Only disciples can make disciples. It is a commitment and not a decision. It’s not a wedding, it is a marriage. We are to take up our cross and make Jesus Christ our one and only and not one of many. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we can carry out the great commission without abiding in our vine, Jesus Christ. Our power comes through the grapevine.

The Real McCoy ___________________

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. Luke 22:3-6 ESV

 

Last year, around this time – actually March 31, 2013 to be exact – I was thinking about Judas. I had listened to a sermon via podcast and the speaker was talking about a spirit alive in the church. He had acknowledged that most of the listeners were aware of the Jezebel spirit that attaches itself to those in power and perverts it. You may have been to those churches. Where certain church members attach themselves to the pastor and his family and try to steer the ship. Well this other spirit that was more concerning to the speaker was what he called the Judas spirit. Let me explain. 

 

Jesus hand picked his twelve associates. These associates were not just tag-alongs, or groupies. These twelve men were disciples being mentored by the most influential mentor ever. Jesus called each one to help him with his ministry on the earth. Each of these men were on hand to pray for the sick, to feed the poor, and to aid Jesus in proclaiming the Kingdom of God drawing near. These men spent all day, every day with one another for three years. They knew each other very well. They were in accountability with each other. It is clear to me that Judas was just as a part of the group as John or Matthew was. As a matter of fact, when Jesus announces to the disciples that one of them would betray him, they all looked at one another in shock. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” Mark 14:18-19 ESV

 

Don’t you think that if each time the disciples were going to go lay hands on someone or cast out a demon and Judas was excusing himself each time that someone would be suspicious? They did not know who Jesus was referring to when he said one of them would betray. Judas fit right in with the rest. Judas actually held a position of importance in the group. Judas was the treasurer. Judas was the CFO of Jesus Christ Ministries LLC. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus in the weeks before he would go to the cross and be murdered, Judas was bothered by this. The ointment that Mary used was equivalent to roughly one year’s salary. John tells us Judas responded to this with, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:5-6 ESV. Keep in mind though, that John wrote his gospel over fifty years after these events took place. The fact that Judas was helping himself to the money was most likely a fact that was revealed after the death of Christ.

 

If Judas was called to be one of the twelve Apostles, and he was trusted enough to handle the money, what changed? Did anything change? Judas seemed bitter about Mary’s display. Did Judas hold bitterness about anything else? One commentary explains that Judas, like many of the other disciples, believed that Jesus’ reign would be political. They believed that Jesus was going to overthrow the Romans and establish his kingdom physically on the earth. The commentary goes on to say that when Jesus praised Mary for her display of anointing his feet, Judas realized that Jesus’ kingdom was spiritual and not physical. Judas believed that he would hold a place of high esteem in Jesus’ new kingdom. I believe that when Judas’ daydream was shattered, it changed his mind on the person of Jesus.

 

On the outside, Judas appeared to be the real thing. Judas was blinded by ambition and his own idea of how Jesus should operate. Have you ever had your judgement blurred by how you thought Jesus should operate in your life? When you try to stuff God in a box, you may be upset when he breaks out of that box. If that frustration makes you bitter, be careful. That bitterness can grow and that can give the devil a foothold. Some scholars say that Judas never believed. Jesus says in his prayer for the disciples in John 17:12, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” Did Judas ever make his peace? We know that Judas hanged himself when he realized that he had truly betrayed innocent blood. When Judas tried to return the money to the high priest, could the high priest have offered Judas the opportunity to be forgiven? The priests did not want their money back. Even they knew it was wrong. Judas procured his own redemption. He did not believe he had any way out. I wonder if Judas was ever really ‘saved’ or not. Was he just a fake? What about me? Am I the real deal? What about you? Do you trust who Jesus said he was? If Judas did, he would realize that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The same goes for you. Nothing you will ever do will make God love you more or less than he did when he sent His Son to die for YOU. This former Judas is very glad for that.

 

Not what we had in mind _________________

Luke 19:28-40 The Triumphal Entry

 

What have you ever had to wait for? Have you ever waited in anticipation for your birthday to arrive or even Christmas? As a child these two events were always the subject of much waiting and anxiety. I had trouble waiting. I would often try to make proposals to my parents to open ‘early Christmas gifts.’ What is it about waiting that is so difficult for us? Well, it’s not just you or I, it is mostly everyone.

 

Keep that feeling in your mind- waiting for your birthday to come- and imagine having to wait almost six hundred years. Imagine being an entire group of people waiting six hundred years for your special day. Imagine how excited you would be when you realize that today is your day! What has become known as ‘Palm Sunday’ was that day for the Jewish people in the first century. Let’s go back for a moment. Let’s go back to around 520 BC to a man named Zechariah. Zechariah was a Jewish prophet born in Babylon during a period of exile of the nation of Israel. Zechariah made a prophecy in the 500’s BC that reads, “Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

 

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been waiting for their Messiah. Ever since God’s covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Israelites have been waiting for their deliverance from oppression. God told Isaac, “I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham, your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed …” (Gen. 26:3b-4) The Jewish people were perpetually in a cycle. It was a state of closeness with God, sin, judgement, captivity, release. This went on for generations. God sent His prophets to bring His children (Israel) back to Him. Like a mother hen gathers her chicks, (Matt. 23:37) God wants to gather His children to Him. Israel was waiting for this deliverer who would come humbly on a donkey and overthrow Jewish oppressors. 

 

Luke writes, in his gospel, that Jesus sent two of His disciples into a village near Bethany. He tells them, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” What follows is Jesus- the teacher who has spent the last three years traveling around the surrounding areas healing the sick and raising the dead- riding into Jerusalem before Passover on a donkey. Yes, the guy everyone was talking about, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God being at hand, who raised the dead a week or so earlier, is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey!

 

The disciples at first did not put two and two together (John 12:16) but, when the crowds started singing and shouting and glorifying Jesus, the lightbulb went on. The crowd who had just seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead were bearing witness to that event to all the others who had gathered. Talk about exciting! This is it! He’s here! Rome will be defeated and our Messiah will set up His Kingdom! Not so fast, Israel.

 

 

The events that followed were Jesus clearing the temple of all the swindlers and money changers and eventually his betrayal by a close friend, abandonment by the rest of his friends, his trial, beating and crucifixion. For a triumphant king coming to claim his kingdom, this seems like a bum deal. I thought this was the promised Messiah? When the people of Israel realized that this was not what they thought Messiah would be, they turned on Jesus so fast it could cause whiplash. Sunday they shouted ‘Hosanna’ and Friday they shouted ‘Crucify him!’ 

 

If only they realized earlier that this, in fact, was their promised Messiah. When Jesus was lead like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) and fulfilled over twenty prophecies regarding Messiah in one day, the world should have recognized who Jesus was. Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive him (John 1:11). Even his disciples thought that maybe they had it wrong. When Jesus was executed, many thought, “Well, I guess we were wrong.” One of the only ones who recognized who Jesus was during the crucifixion was a Roman soldier. When the sky turned black at three in the afternoon, and there was an earthquake, and the tombs of the dead were opened and the curtain of the temple was torn, one man said, “Surely this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54)

 

Are you the Israelites or the Roman centurion? Do you recognize the fulfilled prophecy and the un-repayable gift that was given for all humanity? The Gospel, or good news, is this: Jesus was the prophesied Messiah who gave His life for every single person who has ever, and will ever live. He conquered death and rose again and is preparing a place for each person who accepts the reality of what has been done. There is NOTHING that you can do to earn this gift. Whether or not you choose to believe that Christ died in your place, does not change the fact that He did. It’s as if on the day you are trying out for the school orchestra, before playing a single note, you are told that you are first chair. You do not need to do, then you receive. You receive, and then you do. If you recognize that Christ died for you and you believe that to be true, your response should be that of gratitude. That gratitude makes you want to live a life that reflects the love of your creator God. And THAT is the Gospel. Jesus IS what we thought!