Posts Tagged ‘God in the flesh’

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 3)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

We have spent the last two days looking at how Jesus got mad at how the Court of the Gentiles within the Temple grounds had become so focused on commerce rather than the allowing God-fearing Gentiles from worshiping God. There was so much commerce going on there that it was a complete distraction and left little physical room for Gentiles to worship God. This made Jesus angry because the Temple was not supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a wonderfully, reverent, quiet place to worship God. God was not first anymore here. It was the making of money that was first. Now, today, let’s talk about Jesus Himself in this scene.

 

I don’t know if you watched the Republican presidential debate last night from Houston, TX carried on television by the CNN network. It was a sad commentary to me on the politics of our nation where a candidate like Donald Trump actually has traction. America has become so enamored with celebrity that Donald Trump is likely to win the Republican Party’s nomination for President. After watching last night’s debate, it firmly convinced me that this man is enamored beyond belief with his own celebrity and that he has no business being a candidate for President. The man never revealed any definitive policy positions. He spent his whole time bashing Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and when pressed on what his position was on a particular subject, he never gave a real answer. His answers to questions about Israel were literally contradictory in the same sentences. His answers to questions about the Mexican border were equally as laughable. His answers about cutting taxes were pie in the sky dreams that will work in a 8 year presidency much less a 4 year one. Marco Rubio was masterful in pointing out that Trump is just a loud mouth, blow-hard who is style and no substance. He was masterful at pointing out the contradictions of Trump’s statements throughout his career and his candidacy. The sad fact is that Trump doesn’t care about any of that. Trump is so in love with himself that he thinks he is right even when he contradicts himself. He is so in love with himself, he doesn’t even know that he lost the debate last night. He is like the little spoiled rotten kid who when you prove he is wrong just starts calling you names and ridicules you about things having nothing to do with the subject of the conversation. Well, yeah, but you’re a loser! I pray desperately that our choices for President of the United States are not Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It is this Trump illustration that brings us to the point of our discussion today, which is Jesus Himself in the scene presented by Matthew in Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

 

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

 

“‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

Isn’t funny that the religious leaders could not see Jesus for who He really is much like the angry, pissed off white people that are giving Trump’s campaign traction. We have become so in love with celebrity in the 500 cable channel world that nothingness has an audience. We have become so enamored with wealthy people that we will make them celebrities even when they have nothing of value to say other than being bad boys or girls. The same nation that has made Trump a celebrity has made Snookie a celebrity. We are a nation that makes celebrities out of people just because they get their face on television and not because they are talented or even have anything of great value to inspire us. All I say to the Trump supporters out there is – be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it. It will be like putting a kid in the cockpit of an F-16 and saying “go fly boy!”Vapidness wins the day.

 

I think of the religious elite here in this scene with Jesus in the same way. They are clueless and they should be the ones with a clue since they are charged with being Israel’s religious leaders. Blind men, in the scene before this one, could see Jesus as the promised Messiah but yet these so-called religious leaders could not. We know from the other gospels what Jesus said to them here angered them so much that began to desire murdering Jesus.

 

Let’s be clear here about what Jesus said about Himself here. After performing miracles in their presence and hearing the children shouting that He was the Son of David and the chief priests ask Jesus about it. He responds with a quote from Psalm 8 in the Old Testament. Psalm 8 was a praise Him about the majesty of God and how we are humbled by His allowing us dominion over His creation. Specifically, He quotes Psalm 8:2 where the children of God sing His praises. Do not mistake it here. Jesus is calling Himself God. Jesus makes it very clear to the chief priests with that statement that He is God. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God come down from heaven. Jesus is God that they psalmist was writing about. However, the chief priests were blind to the signs of who Jesus was. They could not see the Messiah. They were more concerned with their own celebrity. They were more concerned about keeping their position. They were more concerned about making money in the temple. They were more concerned about things that don’t matter in eternity than they were about recognizing the Messiah standing in front of them. They were the Donald Trumps of their day. They were enamored with who they were. They were charged with being the leaders of people but yet they were blind guides with no clue about worshiping God or about seeking His presence. All they were blow-hards that enjoyed hearing themselves talk and enjoyed sitting at the finest tables at meals and they enjoyed all the attention that they got. They had no clue because they had no spirit in them. They had sight but could not see the Messiah. They just thought Him some prophet who was crazy enough to say out loud that He thought He was God. They denied the miracles or ignored them. They did not want Jesus to be God in the flesh. It would have meant the end of the search for the Messiah. It would have meant the end of their position as the heralds of the Messiah. It would have ended their position as the leaders of Israel. They did not want to see the Messiah because it would have changed their lifestyle.

 

Are we not the same way today? Our world wants to make Jesus something other than He is so that it does not change our lifestyle. We want to like Jesus as a great guy and a great philosopher. We want to like him as an anti-establishment rebel. We want to like Him as just a guy who accepted everybody right where they are. We forget that Jesus Christ is God. He is God come down from heaven. We must ignore that. We must discount the miracles. We must leave out this scene altogether from Matthew. We don’t want and angry Jesus who calls Himself God in the flesh. We must ignore that if we want to continue living the way we live today. Jesus has to be an option not the central core of the universe. He has to be an option so that we can make the things that He says that we don’t like optional. He has to be an option and not God Himself. We need Jesus just to be a guy so that we can put less value in His Word. We need Jesus to be just a guy so we can pick and choose among religions as to what works for our lives. We need Jesus to be just a guy so that we do not have deal with Him being God in the flesh. We will have to account for our position on Jesus one day. Are you willing to bet your eternity on Jesus being just a guy? Are you willing to throw away the parts of the Bible where He comes right out and says that He is God? Are you willing to bet your eternity on the pick and choose menu of modern belief systems and miss the fact that Jesus is God? As C.S. Lewis so eloquently stated once that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? Do you see Him as Lord? You cannot have the Jesus of your choosing. You either crucify Him as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did or you believe that He is God in the flesh. We must all account for this decision on this side of eternity and your answer to that one simple question determines your eternal home. Do you see the Messiah standing right in front of you or are you so enamored with the trappings of this world and your lifestyle that you cannot? Eternity hangs in the balance.

 

Just as our country is at what I see as probably the most crucial presidential election in our nation’s history and no one sees the train wreck that is coming with the popularity of Clinton, Sanders, and Trump. Socialism vs. Self-Loving Celebrity. We cannot see those who truly have a vision for what our country needs such as a Marc Rubio who has the passion to get it done. We have polarizing figures who glory in making people angry and walk away. It’s like a choice between which type of poison you want to die from and we, as a nation of people enamored by celebrity and scandal and people being rude for the hell of it, do not see the candidates who can really save our nation from the trainwreck that we are headed toward. Just as the religious elite was so enamored with their position in society, and their wealth, they could not see anything wrong with commercializing the Temple courts, and they could not see the Bible’s promise of a Messiah standing right in front of them. Just as we make Jesus just another guy. We are missing the boat my friends. Eternity’s coming. Make the right choice. See the Messiah. See your train wreck coming. See the Messiah and accept Him as your Savior. Make the choice of a lifetime. Make the choice of your eternal future in Jesus Christ. He is God. He is the One. He is I AM. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Calms the Storm
Picture if you will a 12 year-old boy on a slalom water ski being pulled behind his father’s boat. Back in my pre-teen and teenage years, this was Saturdays in the Summer. My best friend from those years, Donnie Garrison, and I would ski any chance we got. Just find my Dad or Donnie’s Dad and get the boat on the water. We became really good at it. Not professional but really good. No two skis for us. It was slalom all the way. Man, could we get air when we jump the wakes. Time of your life, huh, kid? We would ski for hours on end every Saturday. And the best part was coming back to our beach cove at Donnie’s property which was our base of operations on Saturdays. When we would come back from a run, Daddy would drop each of us off so that we could show off coming for a landing and see if we could make to shore without stopping and just hop off on land. Then, the next guy. Afterwards, Donnie and I would argue over who had the best run and the best landing. Great times.

Man, those memories come flooding back in HD picture quality when you allow yourself to think about them. The reason I bring up those summers of skiing every weekend on Lake Hartwell is that it brings back one memory as clear as day. Picture, if you will, my Dad pulling us along for another Saturday on the lake. This time we all decided so see how long we could take it. From the Garrison’s cove near Stone Creek Cove on Lake Hartwell down to the Hartwell dam is about a 7 mile ride by boat. It we could make it there and back, we would have slalomed 14 miles. If you have ever water skied, you know how much pressure slaloming puts on your lower back so this was an endurance test. Picture if you will, as we get down to the dam and get as close as we can before the roped off area in front of the main part of the dam, we make the turn to head home. As we look north back toward where we came from, we see a storm cloud approaching of fierce proportions. Picture if you will racing back to our home cove some 7 miles away by water. Picture if you will the heavens opening up and lightning flashing everywhere. Picture my Dad flooring the boat motor to get back to our cove as fast as possible. If he stopped it would take 10 minutes to get me and my friend Donnie and I back into the boat, pick up the skis and the ropes, and then to get back up to full speed. We had no time. Lake Hartwell was white-capping because of the storm. I was a great slalom skier back then, but this was work to stay upright. Lake Hartwell was like an ocean that day…deep pits between waves, white caps, wind blowing hard. Rain was hitting me hard and felt like little bee stings all over the front of my body. Add to that, we were getting tired from the long run. There was pain along the way that made me wonder if I was going to make it back to our home shore, but through it all though I trusted my Dad to get me back to our cove so I could drop the rope and slide into shore for a perfect landing!

That leads us to our Scripture passage for today. Let’s read:

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There are three striking features in this passage. The first is that Jesus was sleeping during this furious storm. Why was he sleeping? The second thing is that fear had taken hold of the disciples that they did not think that would make it back to shore so much so that they cried out to Jesus. Finally, it is striking too that Jesus with a few words or less spoke and calmed the storm. The Scripture passage demonstrates to us that we must have faith to fully experience the power of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

The first point that I mentioned was that Jesus was sleeping through the storm. How could he sleep through a furious storm? Well, first off, Jesus was tired. Likely tired as any minister is after busy day of preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Jesus was living his life in a human body so he got tired and needed sleep like the rest of us. Yet, in the midst of a raging storm, he continued to sleep. In his very core, He knew that He was secure. He had faith in the Heavenly Father to guide his human life through the storm. As I mentioned earlier, about water skiing through a torrential downpour, I had faith that my Dad was leading me to safety. Same here. Jesus knew His Heavenly Father was going to take care of him. Jesus also knew that he had the power of God at his hand. Jesus was living what he preached. Serenity in the face of the storm. Do we react to storms in this way? Do we have the serenity to allow us to have peace and comfort through the storms of life? Don’t you think too that Jesus’ sleeping through the storm was to see how his disciples would handle it? Often storms of life are not of our own making. Often storms of life are forced upon us. Storms being forced upon us can be a factory shutdown where we lose our job by no fault of our own. Storms can be an unwanted divorce. Storms can be a husband’s or wife’s affair. Storms can be an unplanned pregnancy. Storms of life can be the unexpected death of a loved one or a close friend. Storms of life can take many shapes and forms in our lives. Can we handle it as Jesus taught us? Can we trust that God will guide us through the storm such that we can find rest, peace in the storm?

The second point that is interesting is that the disciples were distraught to the point of fearing for their lives. These guys had been hanging around with Jesus for a while at this point, but yet at the first sign of trouble they were just like the rest of us. They forgot what they had been taught and were ready to give up. In my earlier illustration, you know that I could have easily let go of the rope and let myself drop into the rough waters and wait for my Dad to swing around and come get me out of the water. In a sense that would have been like giving up on what my Dad was trying to do – get us back to our cove as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what the disciples are doing here? Their fear of the storm overcame them. Their fear overcame their faith. They had little faith that they were going to make it through the storm. They feared that their expectations were not going to be met. In their humanness, they wanted the boat. They wanted the calm waters. They wanted to reach the other shore dry and none the worse for wear. They had little faith that even if they were tossed into the water that there was purpose in it. They did not have faith that God would see them through the storm whether it was in the boat or not. They got so distraught that they came to Jesus and woke him and asked him to save them lest they drown. Jesus reminds them that they should have had faith in Him. He asks them “why are you so afraid?” In other words, in today’s language, “Yo dudes, why are you so afraid…you got me right here…You know I got your back.” Isn’t that the way it is with us. We shout and scream at the storm for upsetting our personal plan for the way things should be. We work ourselves through our own choices, our own dependence on ourselves, that we ultimately get to the point that we cannot control our world anymore. We cry out to Jesus to save us from the storm. Jesus was there all along. We know of his power. We ignore the power that faith in Him can give us but yet we focus on ourselves and work our lives into a frenzy of seeking our own solutions. What happens when we come to the realization and come to the back of the boat and ask Jesus to save us from our storms? He is immediately available. He has been there all along. Why do we ignore Him? Why can’t we, from the beginning, go sit with Jesus in the back of the boat and know that He is there. Knowing that He is there will calm the storm in us and help us weather the storms of our own making or the storms that are forced upon us by others.

The final point that is interesting here is that with a couple of words the storms go away immediately. Jesus, in some translations of the Word, says, “Peace. Be Still!” And the heavens dried up and the clouds dissipated immediately at his command. The waters became calm immediately. This passage reminds me that Jesus is the Son of God. He had the full power of God. The elements of the earth obey his commands as He is their Maker. The disciples were astonished that the storm went away in an instant. Apparently, there was no gradual dissipation of the storm as we are often used to with storms. He said those few words and BAM! The storm was gone as if it had never existed. If Jesus and the disciples had lived their human lives in today’s world, the disciples would have said, “Whooooaaaa! Dude, did you see what He just did. It was like…. Then, he said, “Chill out!, to the storm”…and then it was like….whoa!” This Scripture passage points out that Jesus was truly the Son of God. He has control of the elements. He can control any storm. This gives me great confidence in my Savior. He can help me through anything. He can calm the storm in my life or he can calm the storm in my soul. He is my source of strength. He is my defender and my shield. As Philippians 4:12 says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!” I know that no matter what situation or season of life that I find myself in, God is right there. He is in my boat. He leads me into the situations I need to be in. He leads me to greater dependence on Him when I trust Him. Just as I trusted my Dad to lead me back to our cove on Lake Hartwell without question. I knew my Dad was doing the right thing for me. I trusted that. When we trust God with the very fabric of our lives, He will lead us to where we need to be. He will bless us for having depended on Him. He will show us a happiness and joy we’ve never known on a human scale. Just as the disciples were in awe of His control of the physical elements of the world, we will be in awe of the changes that he will wrought in our lives.

Do you have the faith? Can you trust in Him? Can you let go of your control of your life? Can you give it all over to Him…not just the parts that are convenient to give up? Can you give it ALL up to him? Can we trust God with everything, every aspect of our lives? Our marriage? Our children? Our jobs? Our money? Our time, talents, and resources? Sure, God does not want us to ignore the storms of life. He gave us brains to plan and execute. In prayer, we seek His guidance on how to plan and execute, but bottom line is that we must learn to depend on Him for the way through the storm. Bottom line is that He will teach us things that we need to know in the storms. Bottom line is that in the storms we learn dependence on Him. How freeing is it when we trust in the Lord totally and completely. There is joy that comes from that. There is peace that comes from that. He’s always right there in the boat with us, guiding us, directing us, toward the safe shores of home. He’s got this! Let us trust that! Let us know that! Let us live that!

Amen and Amen.

Luke 2:8-20 — Often we miss what the angel of the Lord said here. It is important for us to really get what is said. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David. And you recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (vv. 10-12, NLT).

Do not be afraid. The Shepherds were afraid. The angel reassured them that they did not have to be afraid. It reminds us of the assurance that we have in God. Our God is not out to squash us like bugs. He wants us not to be afraid. Although God is a God of justice and evil cannot stand in His presence, God is not out to punish us. He does not want us to be afraid. He wants us to come to Him. He calls out to us. Do not be afraid. God is love and He loved us so much that He pursues us through the person and work of Jesus Christ and through His Word. He does not want us to be condemned by His perfect and fair justice. He wants us to open our eyes and not be afraid. We all stand condemned and should be afraid but God provided the answer to the fear in this innocent child lying in a manger.

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Notice how broad is the angel’s message. It’s not for just the pious or the Jew, but “for all the people.” What wonderful news for those who are estranged from God. Great joy for all people. The shepherds are great examples of a whole people group that had been written off as unworthy and unsavable by their Jewish brethren. The birth of Jesus being announced here changes everything. The game will no longer be the same. Jesus came for everyone. His actions from birth to death and resurrection are for all, even for unbelievers. All you have to do is believe that He is the Son of God who died for our sins and who was raised from the dead to give us our eternal hope. This is good news. No one is too far from the grace of Jesus Christ. No one. Liars, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, drug addicts, adulterers. All are welcome at His table. All we must do is receive the grace that already exists in Jesus Christ. All we must do is confess our sins. All we must do is humbly ask Jesus to come into our lives and change us from the inside out. All we must do is realize that our way is the road to destruction but humble submission to the Lord is the way to permanent life change and eternal life. This is the good news that is great joy. This is the good news that it is for all people. Not just the pious few but for all people.

The Messiah has been born. The Savior. The Messiah. The Lord. He is all of these things. Having all of these descriptors used together at one time. Those who study Hebrew understand that the angel is making sure that those who read the text understand that this is no ordinary baby. He is God himself in the flesh. No ordinary baby. Jesus, part of the eternal trinity of God, coming to earth as a baby born in the usual way. He is the horn of salvation for all people. This act of coming into human history forever alters the course of human history. You cannot have the cross without the manger. He had to come and do it in the way that He did. He came to show us how much God loves us. He came to sacrifice Himself for our sins, past, present and future. He came to finish. He came to put and end to the hopelessness of our sin problem. This birth is the most necessary thing ever. The Messiah has been born. The Messiah has been born. Announce it! We would have none of our favorite hymns, favorite contemporary Christian music. We would not have churches. We would have none of it if God did not choose to send Jesus. This is the most loving thing ever. This is the most important thing ever. The Messiah has been born.

You will find a baby. You will find a baby. Jesus came to earth as a baby. He could have come as He will in the second coming in the clouds with trumpet sounds. But, the first advent is a humble one. He came as a baby. A child. Can you imagine the God of all things in a baby’s body? I bet Jesus was thinking, wow, this is pretty limited! LOL But back to the point. Jesus came as a child just like you and I are born as babies. He was a baby. He crawled. He learned to eat food. He learned to walk. He learned to be a part of a human family unit. He learned to do chores. He learned love. He learned physical pain. He learned emotional pain. He learned his father’s trade. He lived as a man. He knows. He knows. He knows what it is like to live the human experience. Jesus is our advocate with the Father because He knows what it is like to live in a human body. All of it. From birth to death. He lived the human experience. He knows. Because he came as a baby. So, when you think that God will not understand what you are going through or feeling, think again. Jesus knows. Jesus knows your troubles. He knows how you feel. He can more than just sympathize. He can empathize. He lived the human experience. He walked among us. He knows your hurts, habits, and hangups. He knows. He came to us as a baby. He did not magically appear. He lived the whole human experience. Never think He does not or could not understand. He knows. He came as a baby.

Father, thank you for the good news that makes us no longer afraid. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Him to us to deliver us from our condemnation in our sin. Thank you for sending Him to live the life that we experience. Thank you for His understanding of the human experience by coming to earth in the way that we do and living the life that we live. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.