Coronavirus Lockdown Messages

 

EDINGTON CHAPEL, SOMERSET

The Road to Emmaus  Luke 24:13-32    Sunday 11th April 2021   Speaker: Dave Bracey

Opening Slide  A true fact about Charlie Chaplin is that he once entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest and came third.

Slide   Sometimes we can all fail to recognise somebody we should know.

Well, we’re going to read today about an incident in the Bible that tells us something about God’s heart for his people and gives us some pointers for dealing with hard times, and the story starts with people failing to recognise Jesus for who He is.

Slide   Let’s look first of all as to who these people were and what they were doing there.

Who were they?

Well from the passage we see that clearly both travellers were disciples from the early Christian community. We know that one of the two travellers was called Cleopas, the other is not named and various theories have been raised at who the second person might be. Some commentators suggest that it could have been Luke himself due to the clarity of his description of the evening, but most commentators think this unlikely. My favourite theory is that the other disciple is Cleopas’ wife.

Slide  John 19 v 25

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 

The spelling is slightly different but many commentators believe that Clopas and Cleopas could be the same person. In which case the second person could be Mary his wife. That’s the view held by both the Catholic church and the Orthodox church. Another piece of evidence that may support this theory is that when they get to Emmaus they urge Jesus to stay with them in what sounds like a private house, so this may hint at them being a married couple.

So, What Were They Doing?

I think that they were throwing the towel in, admitting defeat, washing their hands of this discipleship business and returning to their old home to pick up the threads of their old life.

They had just been through the worst days of their life. Jesus was gone and worse than gone they probably thought that he had proved to be false. For surely the Messiah wouldn’t die? Didn’t the scriptures say that the Messiah would abide for ever? They felt utterly sick at heart - all their hopes and dreams were dashed. They felt foolish as they had wasted months, perhaps up to three years of their life following a dream that had indeed turned out to be nothing more than a dream.

Slide  Luke 24 v 15 – 16

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

The Shepherd has found his scattering sheep. This tells us something of God’s heart for us. Imagine what the risen king of the universe could have been doing that first day after He rose from the dead. What choices he had. Well, He chooses to go find his fleeing and grieving disciples and comfort them and put them back on the right road.

Remember, how earlier we saw that this was probably the worst day of those disciples’ lives? If they had just known it, it was actually going to be the best day of their life. They would see this shortly, but not yet. We live life looking forwards, we understand it looking back. If they had not known the great sadness with which they started the day, they would not have received the great blessing they received later in the day.

Now Jesus chooses to prevent them recognising him. Suppose that he had allowed it, can you imagine how excited they would have been to see him? They wouldn’t have been able to focus on what he was saying or retain it and so they would have missed out. Jesus wasn’t being cruel is allowing them to walk in sadness, he wanted the best for them and that best was to understand and to grow, before they experienced the closeness of his presence, because in the long run they would be more blest that way.

It’s interesting isn’t it? If Jesus were to give us the choice of a wonderful worship service where we could be so close to him and feel his presence, or of a deep Bible study where we would find out more about him, which would we chose? The praise party or the Bible study? Well for these two disciples Jesus made the choice for them and he chose the Bible study. That they should understand more about him before they had the joy of experiencing his presence. Perhaps that is the choice that Jesus makes for most Christians. Perhaps this is one reason why we don’t go to Heaven the moment we come to Christ. We are given the opportunity to walk the road of this life with our Saviour learning and growing even if we don’t see that that is happening, When the time is right, we will be translated from this life to the next. We will find ourselves in the presence of our Saviour and realise that he was with us all the time, but that we should never have gained all that he had taught us without that walk in which we were prevented from recognising his immediate presence but were nevertheless learning.

Slide  Luke 24 v 19 – 24

 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

Slide What the two disciples say is revealing. They are honest, they don’t try to sugar-coat anything. But you can feel the weariness and the defeat in what they say. Perhaps even more revealingly is what they don’t say. Because their grief and exhaustion has made them forget

  • Firstly, they have forgotten that Jesus is the Messiah. They call Jesus a prophet. They no longer say Jesus is the “Messiah” or “Christ.” They’ve lost faith. They’re finding it too hard to believe. It’s too dark. Jesus is dead he must have just been a prophet like the prophets of old who died. He can’t possibly be the Messiah chosen by God. The Messiah is supposed to come and liberate his people, and Jesus is dead.
  • Secondly, they have forgotten what Jesus said. More than once he had told the disciples that he was going to Jerusalem that he would be put to death but that on the third day he would rise again. Yet in their sorrow the two disciples had forgotten these promises,
  • Thirdly they had forgotten what their friends had told them, the testimony of other disciples. True they had remembered the women’s account of what they found at the empty tomb but their memories are selective because in just a few verses (v34) they’re going to remember that Jesus had already appeared to Simon Peter.
  • Fourthly they have forgotten the Bible (or the Old Testament part of it which they had) as there are verses in the Old Testament (such as Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53) written hundreds of years before, that described with amazing accuracy what would happen to Jesus and what they knew had happened over the previous few days.

We may feel that these disciples have forgotten an awful lot, but they didn’t have the advantages that we have of knowing what would come next. But let me confess that even with those advantages I so often find myself in the same position as these two disciples. I sympathise with them; I see so much of myself in them and their struggles.

So often when events don’t turn out as I expect I have a tendency to forget all of God’s faithfulness in the past, all of his promises to me, even what he said about how things would be in the Christian life. He tells me that if I want to live a Godly life that I will be persecuted, but when I face persecution I’m asking ‘God where are you? Why is this happening to me?’.

Slide Luke 24 v 25-27

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Now the term Jesus uses here for foolish is not unkind. It’s the Greek word anoetos, which means without reflection. He’s saying something like ‘You’re not thinking this through’ He doesn’t use a harsher term such as moros, meaning dull, stupid or foolish. which He warned against calling anyone in Matthew 5:22.

So, “What is the Bible about?”  The Bible is about Jesus. 

It’s not a reference book, it’s not a book of examples to live up to, it’s not a to-do list.  It’s not a list of rules and regulations. It’s about Jesus.  Because it’s about Jesus that means that it’s about grace. It’s about how God loves his people and how God saves and rescues His people. It’s a true, historical story with a plotline.  That plotline is creation, fall, redemption, consummation.   J.R.R Tolkien calls it the eucatastrophe – the story behind the Gospel, he said.  How the King has come back is the one story behind all the stories that we’ve ever loved. 

Slide

Have any of you read any of the works of Dorothy L Sayers? she lived around the same time as C.S. Lewis and was a friend of his.  She was very, very smart.  Like most of us, she learned Latin when she was six.  She was also one of the first women to receive a degree from Somerville College, part of Oxford University.  She wrote a lot of books but she was most known for detective fiction. In her fiction the main detective she wrote about was Lord Peter Wimsey, many scholars that have studied her writing say that as she wrote about Peter Wimsey, she fell in love with him.  And so later on in these detective fictions there was a new character introduced by the name of Harriet Vane.  And Harriet Vane is one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford University and she also writes detective fiction.  And so, you see what Dorothy Sayers did, she created someone, a character, that she came to love so much that she wrote herself into the story and ultimately these two fictional characters get married.  In the same way, God our creator loves us so much that he wrote himself into the story.  He became part of his creation, he became a man, that he could rescue us, redeem us and make us his own.

That’s what the Bible is all about and that should make our hearts burn within us, just like it did for the two disciples here.

And their hearts did burn within them. Once they understand how all of Scriptures points to the Messiah needing to suffer and die and rise again it changed everything. They believe! They understand! Of course, the descendent of Eve would be struck by the serpent, of course, it was the Father’s will to crush him for our iniquities, of course, Jesus is the one and final sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Of course, he was the suffering servant by whose wounds we would be healed, Of course, the resurrection happened because that was the plan all along. 

Slide  Now the story could have ended there.  Luke 24 v 28 - 29

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

These two disciples asked Jesus to abide with them, they importuned, they urged him strongly - What if they had not asked Jesus to stay with them? The opportunity may have been lost for ever. The Greek word prospoieomai used here indicates that He really was going farther, and would have gone on had these two disciples not constrained Him.

I think that there is a spiritual lesson for us here.  Isaiah 55 v 6. Tells us to ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near’ and Jeremiah 29 v 13 tell us ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.

So many people who really met with Jesus, who received his help, who saw his power, so many of those people were characterised by being desperate to meet Jesus. They were willing to pay a price to meet with him. They sought him, and importuned him. They were not luke-warm or apathetic in their seeking. They went all out to encounter Jesus and to receive his help. Think of Jairus, the lepers, the woman who had been ill for many years, the Centurion and so many others. Just like them, these two disciples really wanted to have more of Jesus.

Slide Luke 24 v 30-31

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 

So, once they sat down to eat, their guest did something very strange, something that at first sight would have seemed rude or presumptuous.  He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. It was not the job of a guest in the home to do this, these were the tasks of the host, but in that familiar act they recognized Him. And, of course he was the host, even in their home. Perhaps there is another lesson here, it’s when Jesus is the host, the head of our home that we get to see him more clearly.

The moment they recognize Him, He vanishes. The Greek word aphantos, which occurs only here in the Bible, indicates that He became invisible, not that He actually left the room. Perhaps when these disciples had left to go back to Jerusalem and report what they had seen, He continued, on His journey down the road, or perhaps invisibly He walked back to Jerusalem with them, at the moment we don’t know. Perhaps one day we will.

SlideSo, What Does This Mean For Us?

Slide Remember

When we feel battered by events and by this world. It is helpful to take a breath and think back on all that God has done for us and all that he has done for others. Do you remember the old hymn ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one’? Well, there’s wisdom there, because seeing God’s faithfulness over many years puts today’s troubles into perspective.

Slide Devour the Scriptures

When God seems far away. Read his word. Everything we need is in the scriptures. We just have to see it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

So, if today you’re lacking hope, if you’re lacking joy, if you’re discouraged, if you’re in hard circumstances - what Jesus wants us to do is to go back to the Word.  To have confidence in the Word, to understand the Word and believe what the Word says about himself. And the Holy Spirit will be at work in you. Even if you can’t feel Him at work immediately, He will be at work in you. His intention is to do with you just what Jesus did with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. He’s taking people that are sad and discouraged and finding it hard to believe and He’s taking them from brokenness and discouragement to joy and hope and renewed faith and a closer walk with Jesus than they would have had if they had never been through those hard times.

Slide Seek Christ with all your heart.

God has said you will find me when you seek me with your whole heart. So, we must ask for a thirst and a hunger for God. For God will reward those who diligently seek him. Now as fallen human beings our emotions run hot and cold and by nature, we have a tendency to lukewarmness and apathy. So, ask God that you will have a hunger for Jesus, a thirst for Jesus and God will be pleased with that prayer and he will answer it.

To Sum Up

  • We’ve looked today at two disciples who were discouraged, sad, depressed and in the act of throwing the towel in.
  • Jesus showed his heart for them by seeking them out, although he had many other things he could have chosen to do that day.
  • His answer to their sorrow was to take them back to the scriptures so that they might know him. We can do that too.
  • But they played their part by wanting his presence, by choosing to have him in their home and because they did, they were allowed to know Him even more. We can do that too.

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  4th April 2021 Easter Sunday  Luke 24:1-12  Speaker: Crawford Telfer

 “Parting is such sweet sorrow’! A famous line - from a famous play – by a famous writer. Yes, it was Shakespeare, spoken by Juliet as she bid her lover  Romeo  ‘good night till it be tomorrow’.   Well I suppose since their separation was so brief, their sorrow could be considered ‘sweet’.   For many of us this past year, the enforced lockdowns and separation from friends and family has been anything but sweet, and tragically for so many, it has not been for just a night but for ever – or has it?

For the women who came to the tomb on that resurrection morning, they believed their parting from Jesus was permanent. This Jesus who had turned their lives upside down and whom they’d come to love and worship as the Messiah - he was dead. They’d seen him die with their own eyes, and now they’d come with their shattered dreams and broken hearts to embalm his body. He couldn’t after all have been the messiah they’d been so sure he was.

But then, quite literally in a flash of brilliance – their sorrow turns to indescribable joy as two angels tell them ‘he’s not here – he has risen!’  And then it all comes back to them – how Jesus had told them  at least three times that he would be put to death, but would rise again.

So you can imagine they’re in a complete tizzy as they rush back to the disciples and blurt out the news – but to the disciples, they’re talking a load of crazy nonsense. Actually the word Luke used implies they thought they were ‘delirious’.

But one of them doesn’t – Peter.  Suddenly he’s on his feet, running as fast as he can – he’s remembering some of the things Jesus had said – things that sounded weird at the time and he desperately needs to find out – could it be – could it all be - true? Hoping against hope he races on, possessed by the need to find out.  And then the memory comes flooding back - the painful, agonizing, gut wrenching memory of what he did that cold evening only a few days ago as he stood warming himself by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s house.  It wasn’t as though he’d done it just the once,  not even twice, but three times. Three times he’d openly denied knowing his Lord – the very last thing he would ever have dreamt of doing. But by far the worst of it wasn’t that he’d done it, but that the one He had loved and now disowned had heard him do it, and when Jesus turned and looked straight at him – that look, that steady, unblinking look as his eyes seemed to see right in to the very depths of his soul - he would take that look to his grave.      

I wonder what you think was in that look. Your answer is an indication of how well you know Jesus. Do you imagine it was a look of sad disappointment – ‘ah Peter, you’ve really let me down?’ Or was it a reproving, stern, angry look? Or maybe a cold stare of rejection – ‘forget about being my disciple Peter you had your chance and you messed up – you failed’. For many believers, sadly, that’s how they see Jesus, and it poisons their relationship with God, it poisons their relationships with others, and it poisons the fellowship of God’s people.

But that wasn’t what Peter saw that chilly evening. It was a look which spoke volumes to Peter, a look of understanding – ‘yes Peter, I see your heart, I know that you mean well, that you really do love me, don’t despair, one day when my Spirit fills you, you will boldly preach  about me to thousands, and one day you will die, for me’. There was no condemnation, no anger, no rejection, but pure love, love that melted Peter’s once proud but now humbled heart, that drove him outside where he wept his bitter tears in private.  It’s never the anger or  sternness, or even the holiness of God that changes us, it’s his love, only His love can melt the hardest of hearts.

I’m sure that’s why Peter was in such a mad rush to find out if the women’s report was true:  that this man he now knew he couldn’t live without was not dead but alive. And when he saw the empty tomb and the grave cloths lying neatly folded – the assurance exploded in his heart, ‘yes it’s true, it’s all true  – my Jesus has risen from the grave’.  And he stood there marveling at what had happened, and at what it all meant. 

That’s what we all need to do - take a fresh look at what this Easter Sunday means, especially with what has been happening around the world this past year. The message of the resurrection is the one message the world needs to hear and God’s people need to be reminded of. So let’s  spend a few moments looking at why we need to be reminded . . . .

First of all if there is no resurrection then everything we have believed is a lie and we have been deceived. As Paul tells us in 1 Cor 15:19 ‘If only for this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’.  I’ve heard people say that even if Christianity is not true – they would still choose to live as though it is. It sounds very commendable, very noble, very righteous, but what’s the point? If Jesus did not rise from the grave then it means we have prayed and sacrificed and given our lives to serve a lie. It means we’ve been tried and tested, struggled against temptation, shunned by friends and family and for many, suffered persecution and death – all for nothing.  No wonder Paul, who knew more than most about these things said we are of ALL people most to be pitied.

 But then he adds -  ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.’

The resurrection means that Jesus is indeed who he said he is and that everything he said and did and promised is true and not a lie. We could spend months looking at this – but the bottom line is that – Jesus Christ is to be trusted, trusted to have taken away our sin, trusted to hold us in His grip and to bring us safely home when we breathe our last. The great shame is that we trust him so little.

Let’s look briefly at some other ‘glorious consequences’ of the resurrection:    

Not since the second world war have we been reminded every day that we are mortal beings destined to die. This time though it’s not bombs and bullets, bayonets and torpedoes, that are killing us, it’s something so small we can’t even see it. Covid 19. It’s not surprising that fear of death, what Psychologists call ‘death anxiety’ is surging right around the world and is having an impact on people’s mental health at levels not seen for a very long time.      

he message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ means we don’t need to be afraid of death.  Hebrew 2:14 tells us that Jesus: ‘by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’

I remember one summer driving along a country road with my dad, and all of a sudden he swerved and nearly ended up in a ditch. ‘I saw it, I saw it’, he cried. ‘What did you see?’ I asked him – I was well and truly shaken.  ‘I saw a magpie – a single magpie!’ Well you may know the superstition about magpies – one for sorrow two for joy and so on – well he explained that the last time he’d seen a single magpie, his father had died that year!  He thought this magpie was a sign that this year his number was up. Well, he survived many more years, despite the magpie and  triple bypass surgery. The fear of death – it affects us in many ways we may not even be conscious of.

Many of you will know of Joni Eareckson Tada, Malcolm and I have had the privilege of meeting her several times. When she was 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and was left paralysed from the neck down – she’s now 72 and she said this: ‘For me, the death and resurrection of Christ have removed every ounce of fear from death. The Grim Reaper is no longer the heinous, sharp-fanged, menacing monster it used to be.’

Psychologists tell us that the fear of death is at the root of most of our phobias! Jesus came to die and rise again so that we need no longer be bound by the fear of dying.    

The resurrection means that death is not the end of the story, but the crossing over to life in a new dimension – life which will never end because there will be no time as we know it, no yesterday, no tomorrow - but an eternal NOW in the presence of God.  Life is not some pointless, purposeless accident. We are not the random product of the collision of cosmic particles.  As Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 ‘we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’  The word ‘handiwork’ in the Greek is ‘poiema’ which gives us our English ‘poem’. If that doesn’t give us you sense of purpose, a reason for living  – nothing will!

The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s response to all our questions that begin with the word ‘why’.  It’s a response that God planned before the cosmos even existed. 

One of the things we have to come to terms with is that God doesn’t always explain himself.  And so we refuse to trust God unless he does explain himself and we can understand everything he does:  Why did God let my child die at the hands of a drunk driver? Why was a Godly young pastor struck down with cancer and the church robbed of someone who’d have been a great blessing?  Why does God let 2 thirds of the world endure hunger and deprivation while the rest is overfed and drowning in stuff they don’t need?   Why did God let this Pandemic happen?

Up and down the land preachers preach and theologians write their books, offering up their answers: ‘it’s because we’ve done this, its because we haven’t done that, it’s a judgement, it’s a warning, it’s punishment, it’s God’s will’ and on and on it goes – and somehow the answers they give seem trite. They don’t scratch where we are itching.  Going back to Joni Eareckson, she was often asked ‘why do you think God let you have that diving accident and become paralysed?’ And for a while she thought she had the answer as she discovered a world of opportunities opening up for her as a quadraplegic artist, writer and speaker, increasingly in demand. People loved to hear her positive, God affirming messages – ‘we know that in everything God works for good to then that love him.’  But in one of her books called ‘A Step Further’,  she described how she began to meet Christians who were also paralysed from the neck down, but they didn’t have a loving family to look after them. Some of them lived alone in the most appalling circumstances – and as she visited them and saw their circumstances her pet answers began to fall apart. Then she described how she came to understand the true meaning of faith, and it’s something we should all write in the front of our Bibles: ‘faith means trusting God when you don’t know the reason why’.  Isaiah had already said the same thing thousands of years earlier when he wrote in Ch 50:10 ‘Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.’

And there’s only one way we can do that - by going back to the focal point of history, when God demonstrated his love for the world when He came to earth to die, and three days later rise up from the grave.  The Apostle Paul - persecuted, imprisoned, lashed with the whip, beaten, shipwrecked, before he was martyred wrote this, referring to his experiences: ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles!!  that’s how he regarded all his sufferings for the Gospel as ‘light and momentary troubles’ and then he says why he regarded them as such: because  - they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 

And that’s from 2 Cor.4:16-18   How much we need to visit and revisit the foot of the cross and the empty tomb – because there is THE answer to our deepest need which is to know that behind whatever happens, is God who LOVES this hurting, crying world, and not only that but WITH us in it all. Which brings us to the last of these ‘consequences’ of the resurrection.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel the resurrected Jesus and the by now 11 disciples are together on a mountain by Galilee. It’s there that Jesus authorises them to go and make disciples from every nation, baptizing and teaching them about himself. They’ve no idea what’s about to happen. They’ve no idea that Jesus is about to leave them and return to his Father in heaven.  And then as though to prepare them for it he tells them something that – well it’s almost too good to be true – recorded in Matthew 28:20 ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."   ‘I am with you always’ – literally in the Greek, ‘I am with you every day’.  I am with you every day by my Spirit  whom I will send to you when I return to the father. And the full meaning of that would become crystal clear on the day of Pentecost which was only days away. From that point on, every believer would be able to experience the presence of Christ in their hearts by His Spirit right down through the centuries to this present moment: Easter day in the year 2021 in Edington in Somerset.

The reality of the presence of  Christ in our hearts is the most powerful and convincing evidence that he rose from the grave and is alive today, and we shall never be parted from Him.

The words of the great gospel song written by Alan Jackson are gloriously true:                         I serve a risen Saviour, He's in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He's always near

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

Let’s pray.

Lord Jesus you said "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

Lord, whatever we are going through, whether it’s joy or whether it’s sorrow, whether it’s a time of hardship or a time of plenty, or whether it’s neither but just a steady keeping on going, may your presence in our hearts so fill us with your peace in these tumultuous days that people will look and ask us – ‘what is the reason for this hope, this peace that is in you?’  And for those who don’t yet know you, or only know you a little, may you draw them after yourself and reveal yourself to them so that they too may have that life changing assurance that you are alive.

Lord Jesus you told us that: “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good courage! I have overcome the world”

Amen    

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Sunday 28th March 2021                                                 Speaker: Shane Goodyear

Genesis 49:8-12

FCF: We do not expect leaders who are powerful, to protect and want to enrich us. 

Intro: ask questions

Empathy:

Bible: Jacob’s death bed scene

Judah’s testimony:

V8: Judah’s descendants are going to receive praise and subdue His brother’s enemies.

E:  Judah’s  descendants are going to be the rulers of their brothers descendants and subdue their enemies  (Bow down)- rulers, praise (for Judah’s leadership)
P: Joshua invades the promised land- however Joshua fails to get rid of all the Canaanite tribes who were God’s enemies because they did despicable things- things I cant say here because children are in the room- after Joshua’s  The Israelites seek God to see who should go up first to push back the Canaanites and take their land- God chooses the tribe of Judah to do this- and they do it to a certain degree and liberate parts of the promised land- Judah’s tribe leading other tribes to subdue God’s enemies or as Jacob puts it ‘Judah’s hand will be on the neck of your enemies’ and because of this the rest of the Israelites will see Judah’s descendants as a ruler over them- Judah’s tribe will be a ruler who will protect God’s people from their enemies and drive their enemies back. 

L: we don’t expect our leaders to protect us

P:  YouGov app: back in October 63% of people in this country believed the government was not do enough to protect people from catching covid 19 and it is roughly the same number believed the same if Sir Keir Stamer was PM- there will be some in this room from countries where you have actively seen your leaders take public money and force you into situations that where dangerous for you and your family.

So at best many of us don’t see our leaders as being able to protect us and at worse they are there to abuse us- but not so With Judah’s tribe he is there to rule over God’s people and to drive their enemies away from them to protect them.

V9: Judah is going to be a powerful ruler, like a lion

E: Jacob is now describing what kind of leader the tribe of Judah will be by using the picture of a lion

P: you have a lion waiting in the long grass seeking and searching out its pray- stalking every move of its pray crouching down just before he pounces to totally tear to pieces its pray—no one will dare to rouse a lion in this state, unless you had a death wish, why because this lion is powerful, wise and methodical it catching and devouring its prey. This is the sort of leader Judah will be a powerful ferocious leader in protecting his brothers against their enemies in battle.

L: we don’t expect powerful leaders to protect us and at worst we see them as devouring us.

P: my mother protecting me  

This is what this protective leadership looks like

V10: Judah’s future descendant is going to be God’s future king  

E:  the Sceptre ( denotes rule and upholding justice) picture of old English kings and queens holding this on documentaries- and the nations of the world will obey Judah’s descendant as he will be the righteous ruler who deals justly with the nations   

L; we don’t expect our leaders to bring us justice

P: many prophets in the OT talk about this king coming, especially in depressing awful times in Israelites history: Is 2: he fortells God’s king coming on a mountain where the nations will come to and this king will settle disputes between them and they will smash their weapons into the ground- when Isiah said this Iseral itself was in a desperate situation with bad evil and power hungry rulers and their enemies surrounding their borders and seeing their brothers being wiped out by those same enemies- but still the promise of this king from Judah’s line stood and it still stands today- the only difference is we are looking at it from the other end waiting for jesus to return

P: Jesus is this promised ruler- who is powerful and good who will protect his people and crush their enemies and the nations have and will flock to him and justice will eb done- we will see this more later how he does this- but there is also another startling thing this says about Judah’s descendant Jesus and what he will do for his people

V11-12:  Judah’s future descendant Jesus will bring in a time of prosperity

E: this king will bring in a time of future prosperity and enrichment for his people

L: we don’t expect our rulers to prosper us and to treat us extravagantly

P: tether donkey to the vine/his colt to the choicest branch ( a donkey will be tied to a vine and a branch- this is a sign of prosperity because vines where there to make wine and wine made you money and if you tied your donkey to it  will eat the grapes and you would lose money- but in this age when Judah’s descendants rules it wont matter because there will be loads of vines so you can afford to allow  your donkey to eat of it ) He will wash his garments in wine his robe in the blood of grapes ( washing his clothes in wine- bathing in it- this is an age of such prosperity that wine is used to laundry detergent)

P:what we are seeing here is God’s king from Judea- Jesus bringing in such a time of prosperity for us that it is extravagant- it is a time of wealth and prosperity all under the protective good rule of a just king

Adam:- called to rule, ended up neglecting that big time- sinning against God and then blaming his wife- and we see people in Adam’s era getting steadily worse killing each other and enriching themselves

Judah: does not start that well: selling his brother into slavery- getting his daughter in law pregnant but we see aft that incident he grows in character and pledges his life for his younger brothers Benjamin’s both to his father and to Joseph- and this leads Jacob to pronounce this blessing on him about his descendants.

Judah’s tribe: God calls them in judges to lead the mop up operation of the rst of the cannites and they are also called to bring Judgment on the Benjimites another tribe of Iseral because of the evil acts they did in judges- seeing Judea partially fulfil this role of leadership amongst his brothers

Judah’s king David:  started off really well- a man after God’s own heart- gave God people rest from their enemies- brough in a time of wealth and prosperity for the Iseralites- conquered Jerusalem and expelled some of the last of the cannites tribes and brough back the symbol of God living with his people the arch- however- human frailties got to him and he became a murderer and a adulterey even though he was forgiven

Solomon  so there was high hope for his Son Solomon  God gave him wisdom and iseral got wealtherier and wealthier- he was seen as just ruler who will protect his people however again he was lured away by idols and the pleasures of the world and in the end it looks like he feel away from trusting in God and this lead to the Iseralite kingdom going into civil war with the 10 tribes of Iseral in the north and Judea in the south- oh no what is going to happen to God’s king

Judea’s kings: most of them where bad- persecuting the prophets stealing private property of their subjects and generally supressing the people and leading into worship of false God’s which even required some of them to sacrafeice their children and after 100 years of this God’s people where thrown into Exile, but they would return to the land

Jesus: And it was a few hundred years after they returned to the land the king came

Powerful:

  • drive out demons
  • heal the sick
  • commanded nature
  • defeated our greatest enemy death by his resurrection

Protection and justice

  • he will not leave the guilty unpunished
  • he called out abusive leaders who used their power for their own advantage
  • he warns us against false taechers
  • he protects us from the eternal consequences of our sin

Prosperity

  • we will rule with him one day
  • we will inherit the earth
  • there will be a time when all different nations will come to him to worship him and we will have a world without disease hatred and pain

 

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21st March 2021 - Speaker :  David Willis  Luke23:23- 43  The Crucifiction of Christ

Introduction  

The thing I love about Luke’s writings, as he gives us an ‘orderly’ account of Jesus’ life in this gospel and then outlines the beginnings of the Christian Church in the Acts of the Apostles, is the amount of detail he includes.

In the passage before us today we look at the number of people who are mentioned and how he paints with words an amazing picture of the scene as Jesus is led out to be crucified at Golgotha, which is aramaic (John 19:17) for the place of the skull (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15), Calvaria in Latin, hence our word Calvary. A friend of ours, Julie, who came to the Lord when we were at Wellsprings Chapel said when she first started coming to church, she couldn’t understand our obsession with carveries! Of course, she later came to understand we were speaking of the place where our precious Saviour gave up his life for each one of us.

At the beginning of our passage we find Jesus travelling along what has become known as the Via dolorosa – literally ‘sorrowful road’, or ‘way of grief’, indicating Jesus’ route from Pilate’s judgement hall to the place of his crucifixion. It was common for the criminal who was being led out to be crucified to have a placard hung around their neck outlining their crimes. Jesus could possibly have had the sign saying ‘this is the King of the Jews’ hung around his neck as he took his journey, before it was nailed to the cross on which he himself was nailed.

The Scene

With the words of Isaiah 53 ringing in our ears we view what was surely one of the saddest scenes in history. As a modern Christian song puts it:

‘I cast my mind to Calvary

Where Jesus bled and died for me

I see his wounds, his hands and feet

My Saviour on that cursed tree’

Mel Gibson’s 2004 film ‘The Passion of Christ’ focused very much on the physical suffering of Christ, ‘the most punishing depiction of the crucifixion ever mounted…the much talked about brutality is unflinching’ said the Radio Times in one review. However, Leon Morris reminds us in his commentary on Luke that ‘the New Testament concentrates on the significance of Jesus’ death, not on harrowing our feelings’.

So, while it is right that we understand the physical suffering that this scene portrays, we ought to be concentrating more on the spiritual suffering that Jesus endured as he cried out, ‘My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?’ and what lay behind this scene as Jesus gives his life as a ransom for many.

This scene was what the whole of Jesus’ life had been leading up to, in fact this scene is what the whole of history had been leading up to.

Imagine the comments, the emotions, the disappointments that were probably being shared among those involved in that scene. Many probably would have thought along the same lines as the two walking on the road to Emmaus did when they later said, ‘but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’ 24:21. Others were probably saying to themselves ‘I always thought he was a fraud’, as the shouts go up, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One’ 35. Dreams were shattered! Hopes were dashed! Doubts were confirmed!

The Characters

But what about the characters and the part they played in the scene before us?

The Roman Soldiers. Just another day’s work for them as ‘They (the soldiers John 19:16) led him away’ from Pilates Judgement Hall. Later we read ‘the soldiers also came up and mocked him, saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself”, before offering him wine vinegar to drink’. Yet if we read on to 47, we find Luke records the Roman centurion praising God as he says ‘Surely this was a righteous man’. We aren’t told anything more about this Roman soldier, but one wonders how his life could ever be the same as, in the death of Jesus, he recognised God at work.

Simon from Cyrene. Here we have a man from Cyrene, modern day Tripoli, in Libya. He had most likely travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and as he made his way into the city from the country, he finds himself unexpectedly caught up in the drama of Jesus’ journey to Golgotha. John records that Jesus went out carrying his own cross, but when the burden became too much for him Simon was picked at random by the soldiers and forced to carry the cross. As an occupied country any citizen could be immediately pressed into service by the Roman authorities – it wasn’t a good idea to argue with them! This is what happened to Simon, but while the soldiers may have picked him at random, surely God had a hand in this, as undoubtedly his life was changed that day, as he came into contact with Jesus. Mark 15:21 tells us he was the father of Alexander and Rufus, who were clearly known in Christian circles at a later date, so it is highly likely that he became a follower of Jesus.

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him 27-31. Any event like this would draw a crowd, especially in Jerusalem at Passover time. No doubt you will have seen on TV a funeral from the middle east which is very different to the sober way in which we conduct ourselves in this country. Their funerals processions are very noisy affairs with their grief being shared with anyone in listening range. We might have a few quiet sobs, holding ourselves in check, whereas there is no holding back within that culture. In some instances, professional mourners were hired, but that wouldn’t have been the case here, these were probably people who were genuinely grief stricken by Jesus’ treatment.

Surprisingly Jesus, who has been generally very quiet during his arrest and trial, stops and speaks to the women who followed, addressing them as ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’. This is the first of three times he speaks in the passage we’re considering today. As Jesus speaks to these women, he turns the attention away from himself and to them as he says ‘do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children’. He isn’t saying he doesn’t want their sympathy, but he is saying they need to think about themselves, their futures, and their relationship with God. Jesus knew what the future held for this great city of Jerusalem as within forty years of his death it was besieged by the Romans and the temple was destroyed. He paints a picture of how dreadful it will be at that time, so much so that people will wish that they were already dead, using words from the prophet Hosea 10:8.

Several suggestions have been made about what Jesus means in 31, but it seems most likely that he’s saying if they (the Romans) treat me, the Messiah, like this when I’m innocent, what will their treatment of the Jews who are guilty and deserve it be.

Two other men, both criminals. How do you react when you’re in a tight spot, when you’re cornered, when you know you’ve been caught out? It’s easy to become defensive, or to lash out, which is what one of these criminals crucified alongside Jesus does. He had nothing to lose, his life was done, so he decided to join in with the mockery of this man who claimed to be the Messiah but was doing nothing about it, who was going meekly to his death without putting up a fight. He said to Jesus if you’re the Messiah save yourself and us! This belligerent man strikes me as being very selfish, even here as he faced death, he is thinking of himself, and not thinking like his colleague on the other cross that they were there because they deserved to be!

The other thief seems to have used the time of his impending death to focus on things that mattered. He recognised his guilt and that he deserved to be where he was, but also that Jesus was innocent and didn’t deserve to be where he was. It was as he faced death that he speaks about fearing God. He says to his compatriot, ‘don’t you fear God’, presumably meaning that he did.

We don’t know what his understanding of theology was as he hung upon the cross, or even his understanding of Jesus’ person and work, and his ability to save. However, there is enough to indicate that he realised that Jesus’ death wouldn’t be the end of everything for him, and that beyond death Jesus would have a kingdom. There is certainly a sense of repentance, a recognition of God, who should be held in awe, and of Jesus who could take him into a better place following his death.

Jesus speaks again as he issues those wonderful words, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’ 43. We haven’t got time to look more deeply at the meaning behind Jesus’ words, but let Leon Morris sum it up as he says, ‘Jesus assures this man of bliss in the immediate future, a bliss closely associated with himself’.

The rulers. There were others involved in the scene before us that we haven’t had time to consider in detail. There were his accusers, (the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders Matthew 27:41, Mark 15) who sneered at him, and the people who stood watching and joined in with the insults. But there is one character who we haven’t really considered, Jesus himself – the central character.

Jesus – the Central Character.

After Jesus was crucified, hung up on the cross to die as a common criminal he uttered one of his seven cries from the cross 34. It was a cry, a prayer, that some early manuscripts didn’t include and some have wondered if it was because the early copyists decided to omit the words on reflection that perhaps God had not forgiven the guilty nation! However, there are enough manuscripts with it included to acknowledge it as genuine. Yes, Jesus really did pray, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’.

So, we have seen Jesus give a warning to the Daughters of Jerusalem to prepare for coming doom; an invitation to a penitent thief to join him in the bliss of paradise; and now a prayer to his Heavenly Father to forgive the perpetrators of his cruel death for they were doing it in ignorance. Although he was most likely thinking of his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities who had put him on the cross, we recognise now that it was also our sin and the sin of the whole world that had put him there. How wonderful to know that his forgiveness stretches to us all.

Not only did Jesus show his love and compassion for sinners as he died as a sacrifice upon the cross; he also left us an example of how to react when we suffer on his behalf.

1 Peter 2:21-25 shows us how Jesus responded to his abusers as they hurled their insults at him. What restraint, what humility, what trust in his Father (‘him who judges justly’). We can learn so much from him as we meditate on this passage we have thought about together today.

Conclusion

But in conclusion what have we learnt today that can make a difference in our lives? What is God saying to us, by His Spirit, through this passage?

The old spiritual asks the question, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’. No, of course we weren’t, but what happened on that cross is as significant to us today as it was to those who witnessed those events all those centuries ago.

It is significant to us because in the central character of the scene shared by Luke we see:

  • The supreme sacrifice for the salvation of sinners, as Jesus shed his precious blood, in bearing our sins in his body on the tree.
  • The forgiveness and compassion of Jesus for all who will turn to him in faith and repentance.
  • The warning of what awaits those who don’t prepare for the coming judgement.
  • The example of how to respond to insults and abuse as followers of Jesus who take up his cross daily.

May God give us grace to live in the power of the cross as we daily seek to draw nearer to him. Amen!

 

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 14th March 2021 – Luke 22:63-23:25    Speaker:  Bert Weenink

INTRO: I guess that most if not all of us will be familiar with the details of the events leading up to Easter. It is possible to be so used to the story that we fail to be moved or even shocked by what we read.

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3   1:9   1:14    The Word became flesh – Jesus, God in the flesh! The night God was arrested! Suddenly the events sound incredibly shocking. God became man and this man was betrayed by one of his followers, he was arrested by a mob, he was disowned by Peter and forsaken by all. That leads us to the passage we are considering this morning.

 

Jesus, the Son of God, was humiliated by His guards

These were servants of the high priest, who gave our Saviour no respite after his sleepless night and before his upcoming trial. They mocked the Son of God and beat him. They blindfolded him and demanded that their creator would prophesy and tell them who hit him. According to Jewish law, not even serious criminals were to be treated like that, but this is how Jesus, the Son of God was treated. Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”

Jesus, the Son of God, was falsely accused by the religious leaders

Here we see our Saviour standing before this kangaroo court of chief priests and teachers of the law. They asked a simple question: 22:67a ‘…’ It was an important question. Jesus could simply have said ‘yes’ I am, but He was blatantly open with the full significance of who He was: 22:67b-69 ‘…’ Although Jesus describes Himself as the Son of Man, the position at God’s right hand made it very clear how He saw Himself. 23:70 ‘…’ Oh, how blind the Jewish leaders were, they knew the Scriptures, but did not recognise the Messiah. Listen to what Jesus said to them as recorded in John 5: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Herod uses Jesus, the Son of God, for his own entertainment

We will not waste too much time on Herod as Jesus ignored him completely. The Jewish leaders made more accusations against Jesus, but Herod just used Jesus for his own entertainment. Herod was aware of Jesus’ reputation and was hoping for a miracle or at least some clever answer, but Jesus did not say a word. We read how Herod and his soldiers then ridiculed and mocked the Son of God and then sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate condemns Jesus, the Son of God to be crucified

Pilate saw Jesus briefly before he sent Jesus to Herod. One of the questions Pilate asked Jesus was “are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so”, Jesus replied, which simply meant, ‘yes I am!’ When Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, we really get to know what sort of man Pilate was. He wasn’t nasty, but he was weak. He did not dislike Jesus, but was afraid of an uproar among the crowd. He was convinced of Jesus’ innocence, yet handed him over to be crucified. He was the Roman governor, supposedly in charge, yet he was a people pleaser. Even his wife pleaded with Pilate to let Jesus go. It is only Matthew who recorded that she sent Pilate a message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him,” but Pilate ignore her.

Even Pilate’s master stroke did not work. We read in Matthew about the governor’s custom to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. Barabbas probably stood against the Romans, as he possibly was a member of the Zealots, a Jewish revolutionary group, but in the process, Barabbas had committed murder. Who do you want me to release: Jesus or Barabbas. 23:18

Mark records: What shall I do then with the one you call the King of the Jews? “Crucify him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed”? But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Isn’t it shocking that a crowd of religious people would like to see a common criminal released, while they demand the death of their Creator, their God, their King?

How do we respond to this true story that we all know so well?

  1. Humility

On the one hand I emphasised the need to be shocked at what happened to Jesus so many years ago. At the same time, we need to be humble and admit our own part in His death. It may shock us to me reminded of the fact that Barabbas was released while Jesus was crucified, yet the essence of the gospel is that Jesus was condemned, so that we could be forgiven. Jesus suffered, so that we could be blessed, Jesus died, so that we could live. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  1. Thankfulness and joy

1

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That you, my God, should die for me?
 

2

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
humbled Himself in all his love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
What mercy this, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

3

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

 

The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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Sunday 28th February Morning Service.  Speaker: Don Morrison

Luke 22:47-62 - Jesus arrested

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.’

Peter disowns Jesus

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant-girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

57 But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

60 Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Introduction

This passage gives us Luke’s narrative of the arrest of Jesus

We read about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas - one of his closest friends

We read about the failure of the beloved disciple Peter to live up to the rash commitments he had earlier made – ‘even though all the other disciples may desert Jesus – he never would’

And we read of how Jesus responded as he approached his hour of greatest trial

Now there are many ways we could approach this story to see what we might learn from it

I would like to spend a few moments reflecting on it in terms of the main characters in the story – specifically Judas, Peter and Jesus himself.

What does the passage teach us about their motivations?

What lessons can we learn?

How do we apply what we discover in our own lives as we seek to live in a way that pleases our Lord & Saviour?

So my first heading is

  1. Judas - The calculating betrayer

If we read all the biblical evidence about Judas – we are forced to the conclusion – to put it in the modern vernacular ‘a nasty piece of work’ – we struggle to find in Judas any redeeming qualities

I suppose the best that we can say is that he was good with money – the only problem is that he was a thief - he was trusted with the money – somebody had to be the keeper of the money bag - so at some point the disciples must have decided that he was the man for the job.

but what do we read in

John 12:3-6  3 Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[a] He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Here was a man motivated by money – a man who valued money above all else – above integrity, above friendship, above the Lord Jesus himself.

I wonder if the apostle Paul had Judas in mind when he wrote these words to Timothy

1 Tim 6:10

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Judas didn’t betray Jesus because of some high-flown albeit misguided principle – no - what did he say to the Chief Priests?

 ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you? Matt 26:15

So here is a man who is consistently evil – for 3 whole years.

Sometimes people of previously good character have a sudden fall, with a dramatic and sudden loss of reputation - Not Judas, here is someone who has engaged in a long-term calculated lifestyle of deception – culminating in the ultimate blasphemy – betraying the Lord of Glory with a kiss.

And the other disciples had no idea! No one suspected him – but Jesus knew.

You remember when Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him – there was consternation – ‘surely you don’t mean me, Lord’

Apparently, there were no knowing looks amongst the disciples – no one said that’s got to be Judas

And if we know the story we know that Judas life came to a desperate end – almost Shakespearean in its tragedy - with no true repentance for his sins, only remorse for their consequences.

Now how do we apply this to our own lives?

We might feel that Judas was so irredeemably evil - so unlike us in so many ways that there is little we can learn from his life

Let me very briefly mention 2 applications

  1. 3 years in Jesus Company had no effect – Judas witnessed the miracles – Judas heard the sermons, the parables, he spent 3 years in the company of the disciples.

He had the privilege of seeing Jesus at close quarters – indeed he was his friend.

And yet, he was unchanged by it all.

What about you? Christian home – church family. What difference has it made?

  1. Are we what we appear to be? Would people be surprised – possibly even shocked to see how we behave when we’re not in a church context? Judas was leading a double life. Disciples were fooled, but Jesus wasn’t.

Now we move on to another disciple – Simon Peter - unquestionably he was a flawed character – but he repented of denying his Lord

So Judas is the calculating betrayer

but Peter gets 2 headings – here’s the first

  1. Peter - The misguided defender

Peter was outspoken – larger than life character

You might say he was always putting his foot in it

But in the modern vernacular ‘heart in the right place’ – he loved Jesus, but he was always getting things wrong

There is a most spectacular example of this – and ironically it happened just after one of his greatest insights

Jesus and his disciples are in a place called Caesarea Philippi

Jesus asks ‘who do people say that I am?

Then, ‘who do you say that I am?

Peter declares ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus commends him, affirms that this is an insight given Peter not by flesh and blood but by his Father in heaven and goes on to explain the he must suffer and die – and poor Peter goes and spoils it all – he rebukes Jesus

Prompting the pointed rejoinder from Jesus – ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

And in our passage here he goes again – his enthusiasm for Jesus far outweighs his wisdom and insight

They wanted to arrest Jesus – but he was going to take control- and he thought He thought force of arms would do the trick

Listen to what we read in John 18

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’

Application – spiritual battles can only be fought with spiritual weapons – we can so easily forget that we have no power in ourselves to win spiritual battles

Ephesians 6 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

We want to organise ourselves – to resolve to do better – to plan, to strategize – these are all good things in themselves – but in a spiritual battle it is spiritual weapons that prevail – Feeding on God’s word, prayer, discipleship, fellowship – Ephesians 6  - putting on the full armour of God

But we must press on to our 3rd Heading

  1. Peter - The overconfident denier

Peter had a Mistaken view of his own abilities

Self-sufficient – he thought his own qualities would see him through

He was proud – he disparaged his colleagues

In Mark 14 we read his boast:

Even as we read it we have a sense of foreboding that it will not work out well

I wonder if Peter had ever read in Proverbs 16 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Peters failure was abject – challenged 3 times – including bya servant girl – and his bravado was shown up for what it was – an empty boast and cowardice

3 times he denies his Lord

Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows twice  you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept

By way of application – 2 things we can draw from this

  1. The first is a warning against complacency 1 Cor 10:12 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Have you been a Christian for a long time – you didn’t keep yourself – because you couldn’t keep yourself?

God kept you – we need to continually remember that what we are is purely by the grace of God

  1. The second application is by way of encouragement – Peter found forgiveness - He found grace – he had messed up big time – but Jesus did not write him off

We read later how Peter was beautifully restored

And as we read on in the New Testament we see how he was wonderfully used at Pentecost and subsequently – he had a lot of lessons to learn, but Jesus worked in his heart and life

And this brings us the final character in our story – Jesus himself

4. Jesus – the self-possessed Saviour

In the story of Jesus arrest and crucifixion we have many authority figures

There were the Chief Priests

There was King Herod

There were the Pharisees

There was Pontius Pilate

There were the Roman soldiers – the occupying army

But there was only one person in charge – the carpenter from Galilee – but the one who claimed to have authority over legions of angels on whom he could call

Notice the pointed questions

  • To Judas ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’
  • To the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 
  • Notice his statement to Peter when he cut of the ear of the High Priests servant with a sword – no more of this
  • Notice his power  - in healing the mans ear with just a touch
  • Notice the effect on Peter of just a look from Jesus – in our Passage Luke 22:61

61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

What a look that must have been – no words were needed

So there we have it – 3 characters

Judas – a thief, a hypocrite, a betrayer who never truly repented and never found grace

Peter – bold brash misguided – but in spite of his failure – his denial of his Saviour  - he repented with tears – was graciously restored and went on to be greatly used in the foundation and development of the New Testament church

And finally Jesus – the one who was in control of it all – in all of the chaos – the confusion – the evil - the injustice

He is utterly self-possessed

He is our Lord and saviour

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Victory through Christ           21st Feb 2021 Neil Todman

Romans 8:31-39

Intro

I don’t know under lockdown if you’ve watched more TV.  I definitely have.  One series I watched with my wife, Susan, was the Great British Bake Off.   Since I got remarried I’ve watched every series of the Bake Off but here’s the thing: I have never baked a cake in my life.  I’ve seen a lot of great cakes on TV but I’ve never tasted one of them or made one myself.

Why am I telling you this?  I think a lot of us have a similar experience to watching a cookery show when we read Romans chapter 8.  As we read Romans chapter 8 we can see that it is good- arguably the greatest chapter in the whole of the Scriptures.  But that is as far as it goes.  The truths seem so great that they are somewhere out there, and don’t really touch the way that I live at all.

So today I am pleading with the Holy Spirit to help us deal with three blockages in our hearts this morning. 

The first is disappointment.  That is disappointment with ourselves, our lives, and maybe those around us, but ultimately with God himself.  If he is so great then why is my life like this? 

The second blockage is guilt.  Many Christians are guilt ridden.  If we are not careful it gets worse the longer we are Christians.  That guilt can turn what should be a joyful, daily, walk with Jesus into a drudge, where days become weeks, weeks become months, where we rarely draw near to him because we feel so bad.  Why would I want to draw near to God when every time I do I feel so bad? 

The final blockage is fear.  We fear that something in this life will happen that is so bad that we will lose our faith in Jesus, or we fear that in the next life we will be exposed as sinful frauds and sent packing by him away from his love forever.  Fear keeps us from enjoying his perfect love and resting in the assurance that gives us.  When this life is so tough, how can I be sure it ends happily ever after for me?

Today’s passage deals with all three of these blockages-disappointment, guilt and fear- and shouts to our hearts that we can have total victory over them in Jesus Christ.  We can “taste and see that the Lord is good”.  

  1. Over disappointment- verses 31 and 32

These verses are the conclusion of the first half of Romans.That is why verse 31 says, “What, then, shall we say to these things?”Which things?All this good news about Jesus Christ!Paul writes eight glorious chapters that build to these verses.They show in the opening three chapters that we are powerless to save ourselves: our sin runs too deep and our religion can get down far enough to dealing with it.But chapter 3 verses 21 through 24 are a game changer:

 

  • But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Paul then spells out in the following five chapters how by faith this Good News makes people new, how the Spirit comes to live within all those who trust in Jesus, and is getting them ready for the return of the King when everything- all creation- will be made new.

But, as we wait for that day, how do we deal with the realities of life?Why at times is life so hard?Why at times does God seem so very far away?Why doesn’t he answer my prayers, even when they are for good and unselfish things?Why is life with Jesus so often very disappointing?

We need to learn from Paul here.Verse 31b.Paul knew what it was to have people against him.But Paul knew there was a greater truth still.“If God is for us...” then in the end the opposition we face will not stand.Since, not if, God is for us.(Four times different emphasis on each word)

More than that, if something that we have prayed for was really for the best, then God definitely would have done it.That is the argument of v. 32.God has already given us the best thing that he could.He has given us eternal life through the death of his Son.There is nothing more precious in the Universe to the Father than his Son.But because he loved us so much he gave him up for us.Paul’s argument is that anything else he gives in response to our prayers is far less in comparison.God isn’t holding out on us.For reasons we don’t fully understand, he isn’t doing what we want.But he is doing what is best- for your good and his glory.This is a truth you can live your life on, come what may.

Clover- On the fridge: My heart is filled with thankfulness.

That victory in Christ over disappointment.

  1. Over guilt- verses 33 and 34

Paul here is thinking of the court room in these verses- verse 33- charges are brought.Verse 34- punishment is demanded for crimes committed.

Lots of us love crime dramas.When I was a kid my parents loved watching Perry Mason.He was a fictional defence attorney, and over 135 million copies of novels about him were sold. But what was remarkable was that the ending of Perry Mason stories was always the same.In the final courtroom scene, Perry always produced a new piece of evidence which freed his client and usually implicated someone else sat in the room.Every time, at the eleventh hour, justice was done- the innocent went free and the guilty were punished.

In real life, before God, things are different.There are charges that could be brought against all of us.There are no innocent ones. Paul has already spelt that out in Romans chapter 3: “”

Satan, the accuser, would have plenty to say.But he will not be given the chance.It is God’s court and he has justified me.It is God’s right to punish, and he has taken my punishment upon himself in the person of his Son.More wonderfully still, my defence attorney isn’t Perry Mason, it is Jesus Christ raised from the dead, who is in the position of power at God’s right hand and he is my defence.

Guilt is a crushing thing.I don’t know if you have ever heard the story about the little boy who killed his grandmother’s duck.Do you know that one?He’d gone out with his sling, shot nothing but on the way back into his gran’s house took a pot-shot at her duck and killed it.In panic he hid the duck behind the woodpile, then to his horror turned and saw his little sister, Sally, had seen everything.

After dinner, when his grandmother asked Sally to do the dishes, she said, “Johnny told me he would like to do them”.Then whispered to him, “Remember the duck.”For weeks this pattern carried on, until the boy decided to tell his gran what had really happened.His grandmother said this, “I know, Johnny.I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing.Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you.”

Some Christians have a lot of dead ducks piled up in the wood pile.Some of them are big sins we are ashamed of.Others are repeated patterns of behaviour that we feel we can’t go back to God with again.We decide we are best off carrying the guilt for them ourselves and somehow trying to make it up to God.We need to hear the voice of God, saying to us, “I know what you did.I saw the whole thing.Because I love you in Jesus, I forgave you. I wondered how long you’d let that sin and that guilt enslave you before you remembered there is no charge and no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus my Son.”

That is where victory over guilt is found.

  1. Over fear- verses 35 to 39

I love the questions Paul raises in this section because the answers are: no one, no one, no one, and no one- verse 31, 33, 34, and 35.There is no person and no circumstance which can separate us from his love.Verse 35b means a lot coming from the Apostle Paul.He had experienced all those things.

Tribulations: all kinds of troubles of this life; Distress: the emotional effects of those troubles; Persecution: the abuse that comes if we faithfully follow Christ; Famine: recession

Nakedness: humiliation; Danger: often as he travelled.But the unexpected accidents and disasters that spring out of nowhere; Sword: war or terrorism, violence

He had been to the depths described in verse 36, as he quotes Psalm 44:22.He had faced death day after day after day at points in his ministry.Had that broken him?No way- verse 37.Then he lists everything he can think of which might snatch us away from Jesus- verses 38-39a- and concludes verse 39b.

We fear at times that there will be something that will take us away from Jesus.It might be something in this life that we imagine we couldn’t live without.It might be someone.But Paul says to those who are in Christ, there is no power in all creation that can separate us from his love.Even the worst things that happen can be used by God for our good and his glory.

Verse 37 is a game changer.Even if following Jesus costs us our lives we are still conquerors.In fact more than conquerors.Literally, super-conquerors.Many of us love superhero films.Some love Marvel, Spiderman, the Avengers and the like.Some love DC, Batman especially.Some love both.The amazing thing is in Jesus Christ you are a superhero.He’s given you your superhero name: Super Conqueror.Pretty cool.That means we can live our lives without fear.Even death is defeated.

But are we convinced?

Steve Levy story- George Jenkins, Tabernacle street

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Chris Menzfeld (SGA)– The fear of the Lord         Sunday  14th February 2021                                Prov.2v1-5

 

Solomon, after stating his purpose 1v1-6 lays the ‘grounds’ of wisdom 1v7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

It’s important to point out in that verse, the close association between wisdom & the Fear Lord…

Let’s pursue God’s wisdom a while – in order that we make the right decisions in life as set out in Proverbs…

By doing so we will understand Fear Lord 2v5 which is the beginning wisdom 1v7

 

1.To find wisdom we must receive & treasure God’s word v1 “receive & treasure my commands” Is this your loving desire?

Solomon begins this lesson with the words “My son”… in other places he addresses his children 4v1, 7v24

It’s as if Solomon was most concerned for godliness in the family home… MY SON

& when you consider some words of Jesus Mt.12v42 “a greater than Solomon is here” …. & the fact that Jesus “became for us wisdom from God” 1Cor.1v30 & spoke as heaven’s mediator His Father’s words to us…

Then the words MY SON take on a fresh meaning!

i.e. it is the expectation that the child of God has a loving desire to bend himself to his Heavenly Father’s Law!

Is this your loving desire…to receive His word into your heart & to treasure his commands? Lk.10v39, Acts 17v11?

& having received his word, hide it “within” our hearts where no man or demon can snatch it!

In what ways can we receive His word? Is there also a lesson about paying attention in v2?-

2. To find wisdom we must pray! v3 “yes if you cry out… lift your voice” Is this your loving desire?-

Jms.1v5 “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask God”

Prayer – the Christians vital breath! We must lift our voice to heaven…

Do you understand all of God’s word? Then ask God’s help because these are spiritual matters…

Think of Jesus, how He prayed! Look at His prayer – what a prayer warrior! Are we?

He was the Master in the art of prayer & has taught all the greatest intercessors amongst the sons of men – Mayer 1847-1929

Our time would easily go by just looking at the prayer life of Jesus! The gospels are full of His prayers! (LUKE…)

Please read in Luke & look at the occasions when things happened while he prayer Lk.3v21, 5v16, 6v12 , 9v18, 29

IF JESUS FELT THE NEED TO PRAY, SHOULD NOT WE?           HOW MUCH MORE?-

3.To find wisdom we must search as for treasure! v4“if you seek her…search for her” Is this your loving desire?

We are to search the Scriptures… SEEK & SEARCH… & you will surely find “treasures” … ‘S’, not just treasure!

This Holy majestic book is full of treasure God & God wants to share it with you! Ps.119v161-62, Is.33v6

Like a miner, we must search hard, dig deep - rarely do we find treasure without gigging deep!

MADNESS not to search         – “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow with it” Prov.10v22 (AV)

LAZINESS  not to search          – no one having a Bible is so busy he has no time for God’s word

FOOLISH   not to search – why close the door to God speaking personally to you!

What a wise theologian Solomon was… he had a clear & logical mind… here are two life changing words…

IF v1, & THEN v5…

THEN follows IF & so if we get the IF part right THEN we will understand Fear Lord & be on course to wisdom…

Therefore, let us give ourselves to this spiritual matter!

Fear Lord brings us into the SP realm – FEAR of a special kind – Heavenly dimension – Vertical not horizontal…

We are talking of REVERENCE & AWE

A sense of Majesty when we talk of God or to God or read the Bible or worship…

Fear Lord is not REPELLENT but ATTRACTING – you dare not run away from Him, but only run to Him – Piper

This fear is not an enemy but a friend … because it holds God in the highest esteem – in AWE

We don’t need to be frightened of Him (like children scared of a bully) … perfect love casts out fear

Fear Lord is the mark of Godly men Ex.3v6 “Moses was afraid

Fear Lord was the mark of the perfect Man! Song 5v16, Mt.3v17, 1Cor.1v30

This is Jesus - totally HOLY – Altogether lovely – full of the Spirit and “fear of the Lord” Is.11v2

Are we better than LJ? If He had the Fear Lord, dare we say we don’t need to fear the Lord?

So, what kind of person fears the Lord? Solomon describes Him…  It is the child of God, who, with a loving desire receives & treasures His word, prays much & seeks & searches for wisdom as one looking for the best of treasure Mt.7v24-27…

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SUNDAY AM, 7 FEBRUARY 2021 Reading: Jonah 4 •

Speaker: Neil Summerton

 I am aware that this is the fourth in your series of expositions of the book of Jonah, and I have very helpfully been provided with the notes on the previous three teaching. So I am aware that you have probably heard already more or less everything that could be said about the book – or at least that you feel that you have – ‘Oh, no! Not Jonah again!’, you may be saying wearily.

• So I propose to focus quite narrowly on the text of Jonah 4

Context

• But first, let us remind ourselves of the context, in two ways:

The wider context

This has been touched on in all your studies so far. Like very many of the OT prophecies, the context is not narrowly ‘religious’ or personal/individual. The OT comprises three main genres of literature.

(1) History: much is historical account, though not the dispassionate history of today – it is history against the background of cosmic truth about the universe and beyond; events are explained in a wa-y that a modern historian would never attempt.

(2) Wisdom: experience of God in the heart and soul, but very often in the context of real life, like the suffering of Job or the all-too-human and terrible sin of David in Ps. 51.

(3) Prophecy: the message/word of God by his Spirit, but always into particular circumstances, and frequently into concrete political and inter-kingdom circumstances – as is clear, for example, of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, which simply can’t be understood without taking account of the concrete historical background. As has been pointed out to you, there is very little direct prophecy in Jonah – the end of 3: 4, and the prophetic prayer in 2: 2 – 9. It is much more personal history. But it is personal history in a geopolitical context. Within a century, Assyria (Nineveh) was going to become a major threat to Israel – in fact, about a century later Assyria was going to overthrow Israel and end the existence of the 10 northern tribes for ever (as a result of the latters’ persistent sin and idolatry). o But the times of Jonah were the times of Jereboam II of Israel, a king ‘who did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; [who] did not depart from the sins [of Jereboam I, a founder of the northern kingdom]’, yet a man by whom the sovereign LORD saved the northern kingdom (2 Kings 14: 27). Indeed, Jereboam II widened it to something like the borders of David and Solomon, while Assyria was going through a bad patch – within 30 years to be reversed by Tiglath-Pileser III. Still, the destruction of Nineveh which Jonah hoped to see as a result of his prophecy would be worth seeing in geopolitical terms. It’s not too fanciful to see Jonah as moved by the national success that Jereboam II achieved.

The immediate context

The immediate context of Jonah 4. Jonah cried out his prophetic word: ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ (3: 4). And the last thing Jonah wanted happened. They repented in a remarkable way. You could say that there was a dramatic revival. They fasted, repented in sackcloth and ashes, and ‘turned from their wicked way’ (3: 5 – 10a). And as a result, ‘God relented’ (3: 10b). God demonstrated that as so often in his word, he pronouncements of temporal judgment are conditional: if there is true repentance and turning from sin, there is forgiveness and mercy in God – because mercy is his beloved work and judgment is his strange work, that which he does not want to do if he can possibly avoid it.

Sequel

• Chapter 4 is a sequel or coda to the book, and the great event of God’s compassion and mercy shewn to Nineveh. It completes the personal story of Jonah, and stands as a warning.

(a) Jonah’s anger

• You would have thought that, as a preacher of Yahweh, Job would have been delighted to see this great city repent as a consequence of his preaching. Gospel preachers don’t preach to see people reject the gospel and suffer the judgment of God; they preach to see people repent and be saved!

 4: 1 – 3 are to my mind among the most appalling verses of Scripture. Jonah reveals astonishing aspects of his attitude and character: He reveals (in prayer!) his motivation all along: ‘... was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? ... in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish’ (v. 2a) In other words, he took the ship to Tarshish, the exact opposite of the direction God wanted him to go in, because he was afraid that if he preached in Nineveh, the Ninevehvites might repent and God might spare them. In other words, he refused to preach, precisely in order to guarantee their destruction by God: he was only interested in preaching judgment and seeing it happen, not mercy resulting in salvation. Jonah did this not in ignorance or self-deception. He did it, knowing that he was flying in the face of God and in rank opposition to what he knew clearly was the character of God: ‘for I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.’ (v. 2b) Jonah’s thinking, inspired by the belief that only the Hebrews deserved mercy and not anyone else, was frankly depraved, consciously depraved.

He so angry, so disconbobulated, by what God had done that he wished to commit suicide, to die rather than live: ‘please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life’ (v. 3). And consistently so: Jonah ‘begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (v. 8 – and also v. 9).

And all this was against the backdrop that God had intervened when he was on his way to Tarshish, caused him to be thrown off the ship, possibly drowned to death, saved by a great fish, spewed out on the beach, and possibly brought back to life, and in spite of the promises which he had made to God in those circumstances: ‘I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ (2: 9)

• Have you ever read a book, watched a film, or watched the news, and wanted to shout out in rage and frustration? I think that these verses want to make me rage, ‘Jonah, are you mad? Have you gone nuts?! How can you possibly think and speak like this, after all you have gone through, after God’s mercy, grace, and kindness shown to you? Can’t you see that you need to show the same grace and kindness to others.’ One is reminded of Jesus’ parable of the unjust steward. Yet God responds patiently, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’ (and one rather suspects that Jonah’s answer was an angry ‘Yes’!) (v. 4)

• Except, ‘let him that standeth take heed lest he fall’! I ask of you to think within the quietness of your heart of hearts, have you never been angry with God?, whether about the way he seems to be treating you or yours, or about the principles on which he seems to be acting. Have you never consciously resisted, or disputed with, God? Have you never quarrelled with God (even Job did!)?

(b) The lesson of the plant, gourd, or vine

• This bad-tempered conversation with God took place while Jonah was still in the city (v. 5). But he then went out into the wilderness to the east of the city, put up a booth, and settled down to ‘see what would happen to the city’. Perhaps he still hoped that God would change his mind and judge the city.

• God then mercifully provides a plant of some kind to provide more shade for Jonah ‘to deliver him from his discomfort’ (v. 6). ‘And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant’. But then God tests Jonah by causing the plant to wither, perhaps to find out if Jonah is still angry – as he certainly is. Jonah has an anger problem in spades, with plants (God’s creation) as well as with God!

• God’s purpose in this seems to be to try to expose to Jonah his extreme selfishness, that his focus is on himself, his comfort, and more widely his determination to get what he wants. One wonders whether Jonah repented and saw himself as God saw him. We are not told.

(c) The compassion of God

• It is God, not Jonah, who has the final word in this prophecy. And that final word is about the compassion, lovingkindness and mercy of God, not judgment. • This is the central message about God in this 8th century BC prophecy, the same as God revealed to Moses on Sinai: ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger [unlike Jonah], and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving inquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty ... to the third and fourth generation.’ (Ex. 34: 6, 7) – a Scripture that Jonah was perfectly familiar with as Jonah 4: 2 records.

• And later God abrogated even the last assertion, so that people die for their own sin, not for that of others: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.’ (Ezek. 18: 4). And Ezekiel spends the entire chapter amplifying the point, and concludes, ‘... get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.’ (Ezek. 18: 31b, 32).

 

• As Peter wrote to the Christians of Asia Minor, ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.’ (1 Peter 3: 9).

• This is the God that we see more than 800 years before, confronted with the sin of Nineveh. ‘When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which he had declared [through Jonah] that he would bring upon them. And he did not do it.’ (3: 10). And he did not do it because he understood their circumstances and their ignorance: ‘there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and life hand ...’ (4: 11) - and they had repented in sackcloth and fasting, turned from their wicked way and from the violence which was in [their] hands.’ (3: 7, 8).

• This is a God who will respond to true repentance, by whomsoever. ‘pierced to the heart’ the men in the crowd at Pentecost asked Peter ‘what shall we do?’ He replied, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off [in other words anyone], as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.’ (Acts 2: 37 – 39) • Those who will turn in repentance and faith to God today will receive forgiveness and his Holy Spirit, whatever their credentials or lack of them so far as God is concerned. He is the God who delights to have mercy. He can and will change your heart, life, spirit. You will become a new creature, a new being. (d) ‘... as well as many animals’

• And one last challenging point for believers. God said to Jonah that his delight was to have compassion not only on the men and women and children of Nineveh, but on ‘many animals’. (4: 11). Not only does the gospel offer us the wonder of salvation, sins forgiven, and being given a new heart so as to become new creatures. Part of it is that we are called to show the same compassion as God has for the rest of his creation. We were created to care for the animals and the garden. How much more should be do so as new creatures in Christ Jesus.