Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sermon on Colossians 3:1-4 for the Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Sunday. "Christ Who is Your Life!"

Outline for my Easter sermon. Sermon audio available on

1. The first resurrection appearance—a life-changing experience. Where their lives any different? We know they were! The women and disciples’ lives were forever changed—no returning to life as usual. New braveness, bold witnesses, new joy

a. That death had been defeated was not news that could casually be overlooked

b. Outside the realm of normal human experience, yet something that could and was completely experienced, seen, and understood by humans

2. What would you be doing now if Christ had not been raised? Where would your life be? What choices would you have made differently? But since Christ has been raised, has that changed your life? For those who believe in Him, the answer has to be Yes!

a. Colossians 3:1-4 you have been raised with Christ! How? In your baptism:

b. Colossians 2:11-12, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

c. Flesh died, sin died, sinful desires died with Christ in the cross, repentance

d. Raised in new life—Christ is your life. Faith in the powerful working of God. Heavenly thoughts, focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

e. Hope has taken hold of our lives—a hope that is confidently founded on God’s unbroken promises. Why is life changed? We have a future and a hope! Strength to face each day, peace that can’t be taken

3. A life set on earthly things will be unchanged. It is subject to the sad and broken world that is passing away. It cannot help but fret and worry about the things that it cherishes, and how they don’t last. Set your mind on things above.

a. Do we want to or even try to turn away from earthly things? Pursuing

b. Eyes focused on one goal (heaven), not two

c. Choosing earthly things instead of heavenly is like choosing a little trickle of water that will soon run out to satisfy our thirst for eternity, instead of the true and eternal fountain that is Christ Jesus—living water. Never thirst, water wells up inside you; baptism—hidden life;

4. But we have died to that, we die daily to sin in baptism and repentance

a. Don’t notice changes? Sin is still warring in you? Feeling conquered? Christ is your life, set your mind on Him—He is the new life hidden in you. He is the one who conquered sin for us, and He is the One who is able to conquer it in you

b. Christ is our life—He is not a segment of our life, but He is active in all parts of our lives, and demands and calls forth a human response in all areas of life….. “the Christian meaning system applies to all of life, not to a few gaps left over after the world has done its job.”

c. The new life that is hidden now will be fully revealed when Jesus returns—all the world will see that we are participants in this new life in Christ

d. Example of the palm cross: green and vibrant; tough fiber; quickly fading to dry and pale green; brittle, weak, disintegrating—cut out of the branch. Christian life is green and vibrant, tough and resistant to the challenges of life when in Christ the Vine—Christ who is our life. Removed from Christ, it doesn’t take long for us to become dry, brittle, lifeless. Color fades, “fiber” weakens. Stay rooted in Christ, nourished, fed. All areas of life, not just one—endurance.

5. You have been raised with Christ—baptized into Christ you are joined to your Risen Savior and His Resurrection Power. Celebrate Jesus’ life, but celebrate the new life you have in Him as well! Begun, not yet perfected, but hidden—but very much new and growing—to be perfected in glory. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sermon on Psalm 22 and Mark 15:34, for Good Friday, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? These gasping, dying words of Jesus, as He hung dying on a cross. Ancient words that begin a prayer written some 1,000 years earlier by the prophet, King David. My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1. It was no accident that these particular words tumbled out of Jesus’ mouth—this whole Psalm was an ancient prophecy, an ancient prayer, that described in great detail the events of this very day of Jesus’ death. These words were written and then waited 1,000 years to find their fulfillment on Jesus’ tongue. They describe His intense feeling of loneliness and abandonment by God. In a terrifying way, He felt what it was to be separated from God because of sin. Yet it was not because of His own sin that God’s face was hidden from Him, but because of the sin of the world that He bore as the heavy yoke and burden on the cross.

Movies that have tried to portray the suffering of Jesus on the cross have been able to some extent capture the physical suffering that Jesus endured. But no movie can capture the intense spiritual suffering that He endured when the guilt of our sins—our rebellion against God—bore down on Him. To feel God’s wrath and anger against sin, the terrible cup of God’s wrath against sin, poured out on Jesus. To feel God’s judgment for the unbelief of the world—all the proud and sinful denials that God exists. The wicked worship of other gods. The unfaithfulness to the God who so richly blesses us. To feel God’s judgment against all the ways in which we have broken the commandments—dishonoring His name; disregarding worship and the hearing of His Word; disrespect and disobedience to parents and authority; disregard for human life and safety, hatred for other people; disregard for marriage as the God-honoring way of using our sexuality; disregard for our neighbor’s property, and greedily coveting after what is not ours; and defaming our neighbor’s reputation by lies or slander. All these broken commandments, all these acts of rebellion and disobedience to God—Jesus bore that guilt on the cross. Forsaken. Abandoned. Scorned and mocked by the very people He was dying to save.

He cry echoed back from the lonely hill where Love was crucified: My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? No answer. Only the hours ticking slowly by in agony. In the unspoken words of the prayer written for Him, Jesus said “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” How bitterly those words must have stung Jesus, as He heard the mockers echo them in near perfection quotation at His death. Words accusing Him of being a fraud, a false prophet, an imposter. Words accusing Him that He had no power to save others or Himself. That God had rejected Him. Yet in silence He did not answer their cries. In silence He bore the brutal irony that in this very act of surrender, this very act of obedience to God’s will, in dying on the cross—He was in fact saving them. He would not be rescued—He would not be delivered from death—no, not on this day. He was giving His life to rescue us that Good Friday. He was giving His life to rescue all the sinners whose guilt He bore before God.

A life that looked to be wasted was in fact God’s gift given for the life of the world. Bones stretched out of joint by the cruel nails piercing His hands and feet, His appearance marred and offensive to people from His mistreatment. Dying of thirst, ribs sticking out as His breath became labored and heavy. It looked like His life was wasted. It looked like even God had abandoned Him. Jesus cried out to God, but He seemed far from saving Him, no answer and no rest. Rescue would have to wait three days. But Jesus’ life offered here on the cross was no waste. Contrary to all the external appearances, it was a life well spent. Not just well spent, but the best and most perfect life ever spent—the costliest life ever spent. A life spent in perfect obedience to God—faithfully keeping each and every commandment. A life spent in remarkable and self-giving love and service to the sick, the poor, and the lonely. A life spent calling lost sinners to repentance, so they might share in the forgiveness and life He was buying here on the cross. Yes, Jesus’ life was well spent, teaching the kingdom of God and preaching people into it by God’s love.

But Good Friday is no funeral, it is no eulogy in remembrance of a life well spent that is nevertheless over and done. Good Friday is called ‘good’, not because of the terrible deeds that were done to Jesus on the cross, but because through them Jesus purchased our salvation, our rescue—at the expense of forgoing His own rescue. We call Good Friday ‘good’ because Jesus did not remain in the tomb where He lay for three days. Because after death was not too late for God, and God served His innocent Son Jesus with Justice on the third day. Good Friday is “good” because our Savior is alive and living—having defeated death. You see the chains of death could hold a guilty man—but not the innocent Son of God! Forsaken in His hour of death, forsaken as He bore the judgment of the world’s sin, He was vindicated by God on the third day, and by His rising to life again, is proclaimed as the innocent Son of God.

Psalm 22 was a prayer written centuries beforehand, waiting for Jesus to take it’s words on His lips on Good Friday, when He hung upon the cross. But the Psalm did not end in despair and gloom, even as it spoke of the evil men that surrounded Jesus, as it spoke of the piercing of His hands and feet, His thirst, or even that they cast lots to gamble for His clothing. See, it was also a prayer of deliverance, with the hope and confidence that God would finally deliver Him in the end. After being laid in the dust of death, He would live to tell of God’s name to His brothers, “in the midst of the congregation [He would] praise [God.]” Jesus would die, but live again. Jesus would live so that the Gospel—the good news of His death and resurrection, could be proclaimed and circulated around the world. That generations yet to be born would here and receive the preached good news, that the righteousness of Jesus would be heard by generations yet unborn. So here you are drawn into the fulfillment of this Psalm also! Some 3,000 years after it was penned, and 2,000 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we who were distant and foreign generations, have had the gospel preached to us, and we have believed.

We’re brought into the amazing fulfillment of God’s promises, and we are connected to the saving acts of righteousness that Jesus did on the cross. We’ve become a part of God’s plan and story of salvation. We’ve become His children. And so we remember and give thanks and praise to God, in the congregation, that we have been included in so great a salvation, and that the sins and wrongs that we have done were punished at the cross in Jesus. So are we forgiven and free, given to live a new life of thankfulness and love for what Christ endured for us and our salvation. Mindful of the great price you paid, O Jesus, we thank you. We thank you, Amen.

Sermon on Hebrews 9_11-22, Maundy Thursday, "Last Will and Testament"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Tonight we gather on the night called Maundy Thursday. As a child, it always confused me because it sounded like Monday Thursday. But the word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum—command. On this “Command” Thursday, Jesus gave His disciples the command to celebrate the New Supper He had instituted: “do this in remembrance of me.” Also He renewed their call to obey the command that they love one another. Tonight is the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. At the Last Supper, Jesus warned that one of them (Judas) would betray Him, and that the sign of who was the betrayer would be that he dipped his bread together with Jesus. It was a night of concern and confusion for the disciples. What did He mean that He was going to be betrayed? What was about to happen?

When Judas left the upper room, some thought he was going to buy something for the feast, or give something for the poor (John 13:29). They didn’t realize the chain of events that were about to take place. Although Jesus clearly stated on several occasions that He would be handed over to the chief priests and leaders, be accused, put to death, and then raised, His disciples still didn’t get it. Even on the night when the last pieces of the plot were falling into place. But Jesus carefully preserved this last hour alone with His disciples. Though they wouldn’t understand it now, what would happen that night would be critical for understanding His life and mission on earth. He was soon to shed His blood for the world. He was stepping into His role as our Great High Priest, as the reading from Hebrews 9 tells us.

What do I mean about Him becoming our Great High Priest? The central activity of priests in the Old Testament was to make sacrifices on behalf of the people. Sacrifices to cover the sins of the people, sacrifices of thanksgiving to God, sacrifices to cleanse the people of uncleanness. Sacrificing animals seems completely foreign and perhaps even brutal to us. Why should an innocent animal have to die for the people? But that’s precisely the point. The sacrifices were an ongoing object lesson in the life of the Old Testament believers, that sin had a cost and a price had to be paid—the price of a life. And the greater lesson lay in the fact that the innocent died in place of the guilty. From the skinning of the first animal to cover Adam and Eve after their first sin, to the sacrifices commanded by God to Moses and the Israelites, the message remained the same—an innocent substitute died in place of the guilty.

It was a sign of God’s mercy. Instead of applying the direct and immediate punishment that our sins would deserve, God delayed punishment and transferred it to the animal. It was a costly thing for the people to make a sacrifice, but it meant that they would be spared. While God required the sacrifices in the Old Testament, the blood of animals was ultimately unable to purify the people from sin. The writer of Hebrews explains that they had to be repeated over and over. But on this night when Jesus was betrayed, He prepared His 12 Jewish disciples for a dramatic change in their faith. Or rather than a change, a dramatic fulfillment of their faith. After what Jesus was about to do, the whole system of sacrifices would become unnecessary, completed, finished. One of the central parts of their Old Testament faith would be brought to a completion, and would not continue. Jesus was the climax, the fulfillment of all those Old Testament sacrifices. He was to become the One Perfect Sacrifice—the only worthy innocent substitute, that would die in place of the guilty. All the Old Testament sacrifices pictured and looked forward to this One Final Act where that endless stream of sacrifices would be brought to a close. Jesus was preparing to offer His holy blood, the blood of the Only Son of God, to be the cleansing of all humanity—to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Why His death and the shedding of His blood? Because Jesus was establishing a covenant. Not just an ordinary covenant, or agreement between two parties, but a testament—a last will and testament. And as the writer to the Hebrews explains, even in the case of a regular person’s will, or last will and testament—the death of the person who made it must first be established before the will takes effect. When a person writes a will, their possessions or inheritance aren’t distributed before they die, but only after they die, and in accordance with their wishes. A will can’t be changed or altered after the person dies. Jesus was establishing His last will and testament on the night when He died. He was making a new covenant, in His blood, for the forgiveness of sins. He was making His last will and testament for His disciples—those who believed in Him. His will needed to be sealed and put into force by His death.

So what was that will or new testament that He made? It was this: “Take eat, this is my body, which is given for you. Drink of it all of you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus gave a new and lasting covenant, sealed in the shedding of His own blood, for the forgiveness of our sins. Those who eat His body and drink His blood participate in the forgiveness that came through the innocent substitute that died for our sins. In the shed blood of a perfect, divine and human man, Jesus Christ, God granted the pardon of the whole sinful world, and that all who have faith in His Son Jesus, would have the forgiveness of sins. His last will and testament grants us the inheritance of all Jesus’ spiritual blessings that attend the forgiveness of sins—namely eternal life and salvation. In Jesus we experience the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices: God’s grace in sparing us the penalty of our wrongdoing, and blessing us instead through His Son.

Now He has given this command to His church: “Do this in remembrance of me.” We remember through doing just like the Israelites remembered their rescue out of Egypt by doing the Passover meal—the meal that was eclipsed into greater meaning when Jesus instituted this New Supper on the night of the Passover. So that one day later, when His body hung on the tree of the cross for our sins, His disciples might see the sinless Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world. And so we do this in remembrance of Jesus, week by week calling to our minds and to our mouths and to our hearts, how Jesus gave His life for ours, so that we might be the inheritors of His last will and testament. But the marvelous ending to the establishing of this will and testament, is that while Jesus’ death put it into effect, His resurrection from the dead ensured that we will share the joys of His kingdom together with the One who so graciously willed them to be ours forever. So as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim His death until He comes again and brings us to that heavenly kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sermon on Matthew 27:11-66, for Palm Sunday, "The Blame Game"

• the signs of Jesus’ innocence are repeatedly ignored and overlooked, and He is sentenced to crucifixion against all justice and with no fair trial. There was no “Innocent till proven guilty” for Jesus. No one ever proved any guilt in Him.
• Take the life of another person and you have their “blood on your hands.” Since Pilate knew he was killing an innocent man, he tried to exculpate himself (free himself from blame) by washing his hands. But this couldn’t free him from guilt. Shockingly, the mob made no such attempt to exculpate themselves--they brazenly said: “His blood be upon us and on our children!” They took the responsibility and were glad for it, thinking that they were vindicated by the fact that they were supposedly doing good by getting rid of this troublemaker Jesus.
• What are the different ways we try to exculpate, exonerate, absolve, vindicate, ourselves from sin or guilt? We “wash our hands” of the matter, saying we had nothing to do with it, or if we knew we shared no responsibility. (doesn’t work because we really are responsible--doesn’t change anything to deny it--the guilt remains--a criminal is not truly guilty just because they plead innocent). We point the finger at another (three more point right back at you--no one else is able to pay the debt either--no help there). We retreat under the “safety” of imperfection, and chalk it up to ordinary mistakes (God doesn’t grade on a curve, and its pass or fail, and we all fail--90, 95, 99% effort doesn’t cut it). We say we didn’t know better (ahh, but we do know better. It’s written on our hearts, in our conscience--and besides, negligence and ignorance don’t entirely remove responsibility or blame). We question whether it was really wrong or whether anyone has the right to say what is right and wrong (denying that there is right and wrong ends up collapsing under its own weight when we realize that deep down we really do believe its wrong for someone to hit us unprovoked, to cut in line, to steal our possessions, to defame our reputation--we most certainly will cry foul--and in doing so admit that we know there is right and wrong--we just want others to be held accountable, not us). We can’t free ourselves from responsibility by excuses or pointing the finger. We can’t free ourselves from the guilt of sharing in the debt of sin that was laid on Jesus. We can only “own up to it” by admitting our guilt and responsibility.
• Congress will soon be voting on raising the “debt ceiling” of how much our nation can borrow to continue paying its bills. For most people, the $15 trillion limit we are approaching seems like an unthinkable amount of debt. We even have difficulty conceiving of such an enormous number. Yet there is an even greater debt that is owed--a debt that is truly unthinkable and immeasurable--and that is the debt of sin against God. Not measured in dollars or yen or euros, but accumulated by a lifetime of sins and offenses against God, by every human being that ever lived on the planet. If you multiplied however many billions of people have lived on earth, by the number of sins that they have committed in their lifetime, you can see how staggeringly high this debt of sin is against God. And we are always raising the “debt ceiling” by continuing to sin. The problem is that on our own we can only “default” on our debt. We can never pay the amount, much like the unforgiving servant owed an impossible debt in the parable in Matthew 18. Though countless people, Christians and non-Christians, followers of every world religion, labor under the false delusion of being able to “pay down” their debt by their good works. They consider their good works as an acceptable form of “credit” before God. But the great eye-opener of the Bible, the astonishing truth is that God does not accept our good works as “credit” to pay off our sin debt. Because even our good works themselves are tainted with sin. It’s like trying to pay a credit card off by opening a new line of credit and going into more debt. Or like paying back I.O.U’s with more I.O.U’s. Or like writing checks with no money in the bank account. It’s funny money. Bogus. Unacceptable. The huge accumulated debt of our sin is payable only by death. The wages of sin is death--the Bible says. So any religion, Christian or otherwise, that is built on the idea that we can pay back our debt with our good works, is sincerely mislead. So where does that leave us? With an insurmountable debt that we can’t pay back, and that sentences us to death! The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord! The astonishing truth that we can’t pay back our debt, and all would have to default, is surpassed by the even more amazing truth that Jesus came to pay all that debt for us. That instead of passing the buck, playing the blame game, or excusing ourselves, or whatever other tricks we might play to escape the blame from our sin, we must accept that responsibility by repenting of it, and turning to God for His mercy. That we plead our spiritual bankruptcy and inability to pay our debt. We admit that we shared in laying that guilt on Jesus. We contributed to the soaring spiritual debt that seems to have no ceiling. And we can only appeal to Jesus Christ to pay that debt for us. We realize that only He has the “true credit” of an entirely pure and innocent life to be able to repay that debt. Only the true Son of God has the limitless resources of heavenly goodness, love, and forgiveness, that can swallow up an unimaginable debt of sin. But it cost Jesus an awful price. It cost Him His life blood, and His death on the cross. He paid the wages for our sin--the wages of death.
• So we can’t scrub ourselves clean, but Jesus has to do it for us. The irony of the crowd taking the blame for Jesus’ death, was that they didn’t consider themselves guilty, but justified in taking Jesus’ life. They thought they were ridding the nation of a dangerous blasphemer and leader of a new religion. But the irony is that having His blood on them and their children was the only way to be forgiven of that guilt, because Jesus' blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Abel's blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies, but the blood of Jesus, for our pardon cries.
• For Jesus, it isn’t a blame game. His Word of Law does show our sin, and puts us in front of the mirror, so we can’t hide from the fact that we are guilty. But He doesn’t point the finger at us so that He can leave us convicted in sin, but to extend His hand to lift us up and say: “Rise, and sin no more!” If we will take refuge in Him, He will defend us against the blame that we deserve. He paid down our debt in full on the cross, so that we might truly know what it is to be debt-free.

Sermon Talking Points:
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1. How do we try to play the “blame game” when it comes to acknowledging or denying our sin? What are our tactics? Why does it ultimately never work? Jeremiah 2:22; Romans 3:3-6; 3:19-20; cf. John 9:41; Romans 6:23

2. What various events or statements at Jesus’ trial and death showed Him to be innocent? Who tried to escape blame at His death? Who apparently “accepted” the blame? (Matt. 27:25). How did Jesus maintain His innocence? Who else recognized His innocence?

3. How is our guilt like a debt that we could never pay? Matt. 18:21-35. Why is it one of the greatest mistakes of religious belief (Christian or otherwise) to think that our “good works” count as “good credit” to repay our “debt” or earn grace from God? Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:4-5; Gal. 2:16

4. What is the “price tag” for the worldwide, accumulated debt of humanity? Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19. Why was only Jesus able to pay it? Why is it so important that He be true God and also true man?

5. How is repentance like making a claim of “spiritual bankruptcy” for ourselves before God? We are unable to pay our debt, and are placing ourselves completely at God’s mercy. How do we share in the blame for Jesus’ death? How are we spared or forgiven that blame?

6. Consider what it means to have Jesus’ blood “on you and your children.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Acts 18:6; 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; 2:3

7. Instead of playing the “blame game”, what is Jesus’ motive in showing us our sin by the Word of Law? What does that lead us to, and instead of blame, what does Jesus speak over us? Luke 23:34; Hebrews 12:24

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sermon outline on John 11:17-53, for the 5th Sunday in Lent, "Not too late for God!"

1. Jesus is drawing closer to the cross—the plot against Him thickens—He is getting too popular, too powerful. What to do?

2. Martha and Mary to Jesus—“you’re too late!” Death is the silently acknowledged victor, and humans are seen as powerless in its face. Yet Martha’s great faith!

a. OT faith in the resurrection: The God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob; Job confesses faith in His redeemer—in my flesh I will see God

b. Trust in Jesus as the Christ, and His power, even before having seen the resurrection

c. Jesus’ great emotion and humanity—tears for Lazarus. Try to scratch the surface of the source of this great emotion: Analogy of an architect of a great city, now ruined. Jesus’ creation overrun with death and sin and suffering. People disbelieving, angry, hurtful, sin-blind, deaths claws tearing into life. God’s heart endured the scorn, pain, sin, insults, etc

3. Grieving at funerals & the Christian confidence in the resurrection—a contrast:

a. Is death the silently acknowledged victor? Do we say “God, you were too late?”

b. Grieving because of love and loss, but with hope vs. hopeless grief

c. Contrast to the false hope of reincarnation—near endless cycles of life, being reborn to suffer for the mistakes of your past life. Ruthless, unforgiving universe. Karma’s debt—no rescue but to try to balance the scales on your own. Only thing to look forward to is the extinction of yourself to escape the treadmill.

d. Bible teaches: conceived and born uniquely—not duplicated or replicated. Appointed for us to die once and face the judgment. Help is from God, there is forgiveness, life can have a meaning and purpose—there is hope beyond death, and personal existence together with the God who loves you and wants you to be with Him eternally. This hope is not extinguished by death because whoever believes in Jesus, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

4. For those who believe in Him He never comes too late. Jesus’ grief again at the tomb. Martha stunned that He wants the tomb opened. Calls Lazarus out. Unbound from death. A Christian can be prepared for their death knowing that though they die, yet they shall live, because they have believed in Jesus.

5. Caiaphas’ ironic prophecy—foretold Jesus’ death and what it would accomplish, but it happened in a totally different way and for totally different reasons than he thought.

a. Rome still took away the Temple and their nation

b. One man died—a whole nation was spared—even more, a whole world

c. The nation, and also the scattered children of God are gathered together to Jesus.

d. The truth of the resurrection was not a vague, general principle, but it was centered in Jesus Christ, the One who holds power over death

e. Lazarus’ resurrection foreshadowed Jesus’ greater resurrection—cave, stone, burial cloths—Important difference! Lazarus is still in the bonds of death, must be untied—Jesus burial linens were left neatly arranged in the tomb, not on His body—He is no longer subject to death and decay!! Our resurrection will be patterned after Jesus’, with a body no longer subject to decay.

Sermon Talking Points:
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1. What motives lurked behind the plot to kill Jesus? Why was He such an offense or threat to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Ruling Council)? John 11:47-53; 5:18; 6:41-42; 7:1-52; etc.

2. What was the Old Testament basis for faith in the resurrection of the dead? Exodus 3:6, cf. Matt. 21:32; Job 19:23-27; Psalm 16; Ezekiel 37

3. How is this story one of the greatest pictures of Jesus’ humanity? What made His emotion so strong at the death of Lazarus? Hebrews 4:15; Phil. 2:7-8; Luke 19:41-44; Matt. 9:36;

4. How do we grieve at funerals? What kind of grief is appropriate? When do we in unbelief silently give death more power than God? 1 Thess. 4:13-18; John 11:21-27.

5. How is the Christian hope in the resurrection different from the religious belief in “reincarnation?” Why does that belief ultimately give no hope, and make everything dependent on our works? How does the Bible teach differently? Hebrews 9:27; Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Job 10:20-22; 16:22; 19:23-27.

6. Why is physical death for the Christian not too late for God? 1 Cor. 15. How is that the ultimate hope and confidence for a believer in Christ? Even better, it doesn’t depend on us and how good or bad we’ve been!

7. How was Lazarus’ resurrection a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection. What was similar? What’s significantly different? What’s that mean for us when Jesus comes to raise our bodies from the grave?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sermon on John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39, for the 4th Sunday in Lent, "Lord, I Believe!"

1. Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11) God made us the way we are for His own purposes—to show His glory; that His works might be seen in us. This man’s blindness was through no fault of his own, or his parents, though the Jews and disciples believed it was. Each are given different gifts or abilities—sometimes also handicaps—but God works through them. Are we “marked” by our circumstances? Find our worth and esteem in Christ, not ourselves or how we compare to others.

2. Sin blindness. Spiritual. Unable to see the truth or the salvation that is in front of us. The Pharisees’ growing spiritual darkness, while a man first sees the light. We don’t want to see, because to see means to recognize our own helplessness, our lost condition—that we need God.

3. John 12:35-43 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

4. Jesus’ incarnational act of healing. Dirt and spit. God created with dust. Creates sight with mud. Jesus’ nearness to sinners and suffering. Matt. 12:10-12 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

5. After interrogation, refusal to call Jesus a sinner or deny He is from God, the Pharisees cast out the blind man. Being healed also led him to hardship. Jesus seeks him out and calls him to faith and a bold confession that He is the Christ. Our confession of Christ will also not win us the friendship of the world. It may cause others to turn away from us.

6. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38). Given the opportunity to believe and confess his faith, the healed man believes in Jesus and worships Him. This should be our natural response of faith. Healed from sin blindness by the one who is the light of the world—He drove out our darkness, gave us light, cleansed us from sin, gave light to the world. His light is life. So we worship Him. Worship is reserved by the first commandment only for God—and so we are right to worship Him who is the true Son of God, Jesus Christ—the One who can open the eyes of the blind.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
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1. Read all of John 9, and see the full “investigation” that was undertaken by the Jews about the healing of this blind man.

2. What types of “blindness” are discussed in this passage? Elsewhere in the Bible? Cf. Exodus 4:11; 23:8; Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 6:10; 35:5; Matt. 15:12-14; John 12:35-43; 2 Corinthians 4:4

3. What is remarkable and yet also very earthy about how Jesus healed the man? What does this indicate about Christ’s willingness to enter into the brokenness of this sinful world? What does the miracle of the incarnation (that “God became flesh”) teach us about God’s love for mankind and the fallen world? Phil. 2:5-11; John 1:1-18

4. The irony of this passage is that a man goes from physical darkness into physical and spiritual light—while the Pharisees go deeper into their spiritual darkness/blindness because of their unbelief in Jesus.

5. Why was Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath day not a violation of the Sabbath commandment? Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:27-28; Matt. 12:10-12

6. Why was it so important that the man healed of blindness confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Savior? What hardship did it cause him to make that confession of faith?

7. How did this bring him greater healing than his physical restoration of sight? What was the natural response of his newborn faith? John 9:38. How does our faith give rise to this same response? O, come let us worship Him—Christ the Lord!