Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Easter Sunday Message:

‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations’

© April 1, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

Opening Hymn #163: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Choruses                                

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  

Responsive Reading #644: Christ and Immortality ( from 1 Corinthians 15)

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                   

 ‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations’

Let us pray…

He is Risen!” (Congregation responds: “He is Risen, Indeed!“) Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Easter Sunday Celebration Service. Moreover, as this year Easter falls on the first Sunday of April, we celebrate the Lord’s New Covenant with Communion.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations,’ where we will examine the difference between the expectations of the disciples and the actual events that transpired on that Easter Day that Christ, Jesus rose from the dead. Let us start our lesson with the Scripture passage of Luke 24:1-12 (ESV):

 The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Verse 10 of Luke 24, identifies several women, namely Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women arrived at the tomb of Jesus, expecting to embalm the body of their Lord. You may recall from our Good Friday lesson, in Matthew 27:62-66, that the chief priests and the Pharisees, in conjunction with Pilate had the large stone at the entrance of Jesus sealed and secured by guards. So it was not surprising that the women who travelled to the tomb speculated on whom they would ask to help move the stone, so that they could prepare the body of Jesus, Mark 16:1-4 (ESV):

The Resurrection

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

There were several revelations that surprised the group. Not only was Pilate’s seal broken, the large tombstone had been rolled back, the body of Jesus was nowhere to be found, and two angels, who looked much like men in dazzling attire, waited inside. But the most surprising revelation came when the two told the women what had happened to the Lord, Luke 24:5-7 (ESV):

 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 

With the stone removed from the tomb of Jesus, Luke’s account does not mention where the guards assigned to guard the tomb were.

The women disciples had forgotten that Jesus had prophesied not only his crucifixion and his resurrection on the third day. The women remembered the Lord’s prediction, and rushed to bring the good news to the apostles, Luke 24:8-11 (ESV):

 And they remembered his words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 

You will note in Verse 10, Luke describes the followers as apostles or messengers of Jesus, no longer are they identified as disciples or students of the Lord. Sadly the apostles are skeptical to the news of the Joanna and the two Marys’ treated the account of the women as a contrived story. It seems that disbelief and lack of faith were unique to the apostle Thomas. At least Peter followed up upon the news of Jesus’ resurrection by running to the tomb to investigate the report,  Luke 24:12 (ESV):

12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Another account of the resurrection, from Mark’s Gospel, continues to contrast how greatly the disciples’ expectations differed from the reality of events, Mark 16:9-12 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Remember how Jesus would choose to minister first and foremost to the people considered to be the outcasts of the day, including criminals, adulterers, the disabled, tax collectors, lepers, and so on. It is not surprising that Jesus chose to reveal himself as the Resurrected Christ to those not generally respected in the day, first to the women, next to two minor disciples, and later to a man who was responsible for the arrest and murder of many Christians, Saul of Tarsus, known after his faith conversion as the Paul the apostle of Jesus. Again, Jesus sought to teach humility as he had when he washed the feet of his disciples.

You will note that the women first ventured out from the locked Upper Room, to face the guards of the tomb and at potential personal risks to their own safety, to take care of the body of Jesus. And we find two Jews, who were also followers of Jesus encounter Jesus while they walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, lamenting their Lord’s death, even after hearing that the women had encountered their resurrected Lord, earlier that very day an account told in Luke 24:13-35 (ESV):

On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

It seems that Jesus had encountered more doubt and skepticism from Cleopas and the other disciple about the women had witnessed at the tomb. Jesus had to reiterate the prophecies concerning himself, as the Christ and Messiah, that he is not a prophet of God, but the living Christ. It was only at the breaking of bread did the Lord reveal himself to the two disciples. Unfortunately, like the disciples cloistered in that Upper Chamber, they disbelieved the two disciples in the same way they had doubted the women.

It seemed the only way for Jesus to convince the disciples in the Upper Room of his resurrection, the Lord would have to reveal himself to the disciples in person,  Luke 24:36-49 (ESV):

 Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for[c] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

As happened on numerous occasions before his crucifixion, Jesus called out the disciples for the lack of faith, Luke 24:38-39 (ESV):

38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 

Jesus was expected, as God the Son, to ascend into heave to sit beside God the Father, as an advocate for the sinners, and in order to send God the Holy Spirit to admonish his believers in the truth of his Gospel, and the Spirit would help to convict those with little or no faith. We see the Lord’s ascension described in   Luke 24:50-53 (ESV):

The Ascension

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b.Luke 24:42 Some manuscripts add and some honeycomb c.Luke 24:47 Some manuscripts and

If the disciples had remembered Jesus’ had told them that he would be first crucified; only to be resurrected three days later, the women would not have gone to the grave to anoint a body that was not there. Further, the two disciples would not have embarked on a journey to Emmaus, but would have remained in Jerusalem. Finally, the remaining disciples would have unlocked the door to the Upper Room, anticipating with confidence, the return of Jesus, as their resurrected Christ.  The disciples no longer need to fear penalty of death, which is God’s judgement for humanity’s sins, as Christ, Jesus has paid the price for us all. This is summarized in our final Scripture verse, from Corinthians 15:20-26 (ESV):

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

On his return, as the Resurrected Christ, Jesus revealed the good news that the judgment for sin that was unleashed upon Adam and Eve, and their descendants, expunged for all generations. The proof of the truth of the Gospel lay not in an empty, open tomb, but by Christ’s resurrection from death, his ascension to the Father in heaven, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit. He Is Risen Indeed!

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (The Last Supper – Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me 

 

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

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The Good Friday Story

Message Shared with Toronto Vineyard and

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘The Good Friday Story’

© March 30, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin Good Friday March 30, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus                                                                           

Choruses: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                    

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings         

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Good Friday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the annual Good Friday Worship Service, with the combined congregations of Toronto Vineyard and BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Good Friday Story’ we will examine the Crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday following Passover nearly 2,000 years ago from the perspective of several key people, who either witnessed or were involved in the events of the day.

We begin our story with the Simon Peter, from Matthew 16:13-19 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While one disciple receives a blessing for correctly identifying Jesus as the Son of God, another is cursed for betraying the Lord, Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV):

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Footnotes:a.Matthew 27:3 Greek he

While Jesus indicated that the perception and faith of the Peter had earned the disciple the promised appointment as the foundational rock of his church, with an entitlement to the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the Lord had also predicted that the Galilean would betray his master on three times in the on the night of his betrayal, Mark 14:66-72 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[a] and the rooster crowed.[b] 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.[c]

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:68 Or forecourt b. Mark 14:68 Some manuscripts omit and the rooster crowed c. Mark 14:72 Or And when he had thought about it, he wept

The feeling of guilt had driven one disciple to tears of remorse and another to suicide.

The Son of God, would receive a crown of thorns in a sadistic coronation, crucified upon the cross bearing a sign written by Pilate signifying Jesus as King of the Jews,  John 19:16-30 (ESV):

16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Footnotes: a. John 19:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

As Jesus had both his life and blood drained on that wooden tree of death, and just before committing his spirit to the Father in heaven, he committed his mother and his disciple John to care for each other. Later, Mary and the other women would go to a tomb provided by a wealthy disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, for the lifeless body of Christ, and John cloistered himself with the other disciples fearful of the same fate as their Lord, Matthew 27:51-66 (ESV):    

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[b] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son b. Matthew 27:65 Or Take a guard

As Jesus had surrendered his life and spirit on the lonely cross of death, the earth shuddered and trembled. Pilate fearing the removal of body of Christ from the tomb had the entrance cover stone secured with a seal and placed guards at the entrance.

Jesus was perceived to pose such a great a threat to the chief priests, elders, and other members of the mob, they conspired with the assistance of Pilate to accomplish what King Herod I of Judea’s soldiers could not do: put baby to death, when the king ordered his soldiers to kill all the male babies, in what was described as the Massacre of the Innocents. With the death of Jesus on the cross, they felt the Prince of Peace was now dead to the world and was no longer a threat to their hypocrisy and their business of running the temple. The self-righteous expected that they would no longer have to deal with his biting remarks, regardless of how accurate or truthful.

It seemed now to be the end of an era for this gifted teacher who preached a new faith in God and promised a New Covenant, where the sinner and righteous would be treated the same way, if they demonstrated faith and trust in the Lord.

To those involved, it seemed all that remained after the death of Jesus would be the grieving. Passover or Pesach had come, and neither bitter herbs nor marked door posts or lintels could stop the cloud of death from taking the life of Mary’s first-born son.

On that day, it was as if all the disciples had forgotten the message of hope announced by the host of angels, when a heavenly star had pointed to the humble birth place of the long-awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, the only Son of God, who also was God the Son.

The disciples were thrust into a world of lost hopes, of grief and fear, of unfulfilled promises that were devoid of joy. It seemed that the all miracles and lessons from their Lord were forgotten and made hollow by the death of their teacher. I wonder if at this time the disciples remembered Jesus’ lesson of the Breaking of the Bread and the meaning Sharing of Chalice of the Wine taught at the Passover Meal before his death? Did the disciples share these elements of Communion in an act of faith, awaiting their Lord’s promise to return? Or were the disciples so fearful and introspective in absence of the Holy Spirit, that they remained barricaded in that Upper Chamber fearing the same fate of Jesus would befall them?

From the Scriptures, it appeared none of the disciples would go outside that Upper Chamber, save for the women who ventured to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Christ. Perhaps Mary still had in her possession some of the myrrh, an oil used to embalm the dead, brought by one of the Magi as a tribute to the baby Jesus?

We do not know what became of the Thomas in the days following the burial of Jesus, but the Scriptures indicate the disciple was absent from the Upper Room.

Luke 24:13-35 gives the account of two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, who felt that the teachings of Jesus had ended with his death on the cross, as they were departing on the Road to Emmaus. It is likely the two were not the only followers of Christ who felt when Jesus announced, “It is finished” viewed the Lord’s pronouncement to be about his ministry, though he was actually talking about the completing the payment off the debt for the sins of humanity.

Paul Harvey and The Rest of the Story

In the latter half of his career, Paul Harvey was also known for the radio series The Rest of the Story, described as a blend of mystery and history, which premiered on May 10, 1976. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true.[14] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Harvey

Over the span of 30 years a journalist named Paul Harvey had a radio broadcast, where he would deliver what at first blush, seemed to be innocuous news stories that my father, a career media journalist, would classify as “puffball news”. A puffball news story named for the puffball, a member of any of several groups of fungi in the division Basidiomycota. The distinguishing feature of all puffballs, which look like a very large mushroom, is the absence an open cap with spore-bearing gills, as its spores are produced internally. Puffballs grow to a rather large size on the outside, however when cut open are found to be hollow and empty on the inside, save for some spores which may puff upwards and out from the cap on a hot day.

Back to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” the first two minutes of his broadcast sounded like a light-news puffball story typically broadcast on a slow news cycle. A puffball is used as filler on a slow news day.

The first two or three minutes of the broadcast began as a normal, ordinary news story with a seemingly predictable conclusion, until Harvey would pause and announce, “And now for the rest of the story. The next segment of the story would then take an unexpected, often surprising turn in direction towards its final conclusion. This unexpected turn of events in the story’s narrative was hook that drew a large audience who followed the Harvey stories to hear these “truth is often stranger than fiction,” conclusions to the Harvey stories.

So it seems that life and promise brought by Jesus may appear initially to the disciples just a predictable account of events, following the Lord’s death on the cross.

At this point of our Good Friday lesson, we say would say: “And now for the rest of the story of Jesus,” which the disciples might have described an ending considered that considered as unexpected, earth-shattering, and life-changing. It seems as if that they had forgotten or suppressed much of what Jesus had prophesized about his death and resurrection, until they witnessed the events unfolded as Jesus had prophesized.

On this Good Friday let us not make the same mistake as had  many, if not most, of the Lord’s disciples. Today we need not cover our heads with ashes or wear robes of mourning, instead we should rejoice in the gift from God through His Son Jesus, who though he died on the cross for our sins.

Our Lord and Savior overcame death, which is our judgment for sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from dead. Jesus not only defeated death, he defeated the devil, who had deceived Adam and Eve so they had disobeyed God the Father, and brought this judgement of death for sin upon themselves and upon all their descendants.

When we eat the bread element and drink the juice element of Communion today, we should remember the Lord’s body was broken and of the blood Jesus shed in order to pay for the judgement for humanity’s sins Though neither gift, of salvation or life eternal, is deserved by any of us, we should celebrate and rejoice in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, because we do know “the rest of the story,” which is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as a sign of God’s love for each one of us! He died as the son of man, only to be resurrected as Son of God, or should I say God the Son.

I invite all of you to return here this Easter Sunday to celebrate the “rest of the story” of Christ, Jesus.

Let us pray…

Communion: Toronto Vineyard

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me                                          

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Palm Sunday:

‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

© March 25, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn:  Hosanna (See Front of Bulletin); Choruses:

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #631: The Incarnate Christ (-from John1)

 Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Palm Sunday Celebration Service. Our lesson today is about: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’.

Palm Sunday is the date that the Christian Church observes the fulfillment of the long-awaited prophecy that God would send His only Son, as a Savior to the people of the world suffering under the death for sins, which hovers over all like an ominous dark cloud of death. That prophecy is found in Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV):

  The Coming King of Zion

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth.

Footnotes: a. Zechariah 9:10 That is, the Euphrates

Many of the faithful believed that the deliverer sent by God would be arrive at Jerusalem as a mighty king as described in Zechariah 9  and lead his people in a battle against Rome, not unlike the Battle of Jericho described in Joshua 6:2-20, a lesson topic that we studied in our March 6 Worship Service.

The events of Jesus’ arrival, described as The Triumphal Entry may be found in several of the disciples gospels. For our lesson, we will look at the account from Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV):

The Triumphal Entry

 21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
   on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”               

Footnotes: a, Matthew 21:5 Or donkey, and on a colt

You will note that as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, many of the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

What do the crowds mean when the people shouted Hosanna?

When used in a liturgical context, Hosanna refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.[5]

Judaism

In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.[3] The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, “Great Hosanna”).[6]

Christianity

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCF Church Palm Sunday 2011 Bulletin

“Hosanna” was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem,[3] “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”[7] It is used in the same way in Christian praise.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosanna

And what about the terms Messiah or Christ, used to describe the Lord?

The Greek translation of Messiah is khristos (χριστός), anglicized as Christ, and Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the “Christ” or the “Messiah”. Christians believe that Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that he will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy.

The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies consider Jesus to be the Son of God and God the Son, a concept of the Messiah fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic concepts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah

Many Christians mistakenly use Christ and Jesus, as if both interchangeably describe the given name of the same man. As instructed by angels who visited both Mary and Joseph, Mary would give birth to her son, who was fathered by the Holy Spirit, and they were instructed to name him Jesus. In time Jesus would grow  to fulfill the prophecies to bring reconciliation and sanctification to all humanity by his death as the Son of God, and he demonstrate his identity of being God the Son by his resurrection. Jesus would later show his love for us, by sending us the Holy Spirit of God to be our companion now and forever.

It is interesting that though the people gathered at the entrance of Jerusalem, awaiting the arrival of Jesus, shouted out to him: “Hosanna,”  which was a plea for mercy that acknowledges the  power and authority of the Messiah or the Christ sent by God the Father. However, we see  in Matthew 21:10-11, some mistakenly identified Jesus as a prophet:

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Perhaps it was the fact that Jesus arrived on a colt, the foal of a donkey, or  because the Lord did not arrive clothed in royal raiment, along with an entourage befitting a king, many in the crowd assumed Jesus to be just a humble prophet. Contrary to the expectations of some, Jesus did not arrive on a chariot or horse, dressed as a king, dressed in expensive robes worn by kings, and emperors of the day.  The Triumphal Entry did not include horns and a mighty army as Joshua had brought to battle Jericho. The Messiah’s mission was not to battle the army of the Empire and bring down the walls of the city of Rome. Our Christ was on a more important mission: to bring salvation to humanity and to demonstrate the love of God by allowing himself to be the final sacrifice for sin. The disobedience of Adam and Eve, with the help of the devil, would be forgiven through the obedience of the Son of God,  who defeated both sin and the devil on the Cross at Calvary. Christ did not come as a Messiah for the people of Israel, The Lord’s teachings and actions would enact God’s New Covenant of salvation, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit to all of humanity, for all time, allowing all of us to join God’s Chosen.

That was the same misperception that the Woman of Samaria had in last Sunday’s lesson, John 4:19-26 (ESV), where the Samaritan said in John 4:19 (ESV), also misidentifies Jesus as a prophet:

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

 And later the Samaritan woman acknowledges in John 4:25 (ESV) that a Messiah is coming:

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

It is then, in John 4:26 (ESV), that Jesus corrects the Samaritan woman by identifying himself as the Messiah,

 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The frequent misidentification of Jesus as a humble prophet instead of the Messiah sent by the Father was not just a case of erroneous identification, but an integral part of the Ministry of Jesus, as we see in Mark 10:42-45 (ESV):

                                                      

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a]44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Or bondservant, or servant (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos)

The importance of Ministering the Gospel of Jesus with humility is reinforced when Jesus teaches his way of ministry in the most humble way when he washes the feet of the disciples, described in John 13:1-17 (ESV):

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

If Jesus were just playing the role of servant for the Passover Meal, he would have washed the disciples feet before the meal. But to avoid this perception, an assure that the twelve would understood that he was teaching an important lesson by example of humility. He would humble himself even more by allowing himself to be betrayed, denied, tried and convicted as a criminal, crucified for the judgement,  though he were innocent. Though the Lord was the Son of God, he allowed himself to die the death as the humble son of man.

As disciples of the Resurrected Christ,  we are expected to carry out the Great Commission in the same humble manner of Jesus. Instead of teaching the Gospel of Jesus,  we must follow the humble example of  the Lord, by way of truth of in our words and love in our actions, as explained in Philippians 2:3-11 (ESV):

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Footnotes: a.Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage c. Philippians 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

Jesus came in the form a humble servant, preferring to identify himself as the son of man: born in a humble stable, arriving to Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey, though innocent, he died the death of a criminal to pay our debt for our sins by surrendering his blood, his body, his life as the perfect love offering. Jesus died a man’s death as the son of man, only to return three days later, as the resurrected Son of God, a Messiah for all of humanity, for all generations, our Lord of lords and King of kings, forever, until the end of time.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Abiding in the Way of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

©March 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 18, 2018

Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 and January 25, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April_3_2011

BLCF Bulletin April 26 2015

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  Handiwork I See                                   

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

Prayers and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Handiwork I SeeResponsive Reading #597 (Gr of PrayerOD’s Attributes- Psalm 19)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what we may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as upon a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested building, as temples; one each for Church of the Transfiguration. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

On Mount Tabor, today, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Divine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them listen to him. .

Our second verse, offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees ask the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law, in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly. Both groups sought to serve themselves and their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form, but appear as the angel in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Having heard the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses which consisted of some 613 Commandments, as well as additional instructions and interpretations derived from the original Ten Commandments. All of these Laws and Commandments could be distilled down to two, which Jesus gave in response to the question of which was the Greatest Commandment,  is found in Mark 12:28-33:

The Great Commandment

The Royal Commandment

 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother

We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be important to the descendants of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

Wailing Wall

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Wall

The Hajj

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Holy_Sepulchre

As Christians who see a relationship with God the Father, by trusting in the Gospel of Jesus, we at some time or other face the question: “Is undertaking a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites an important expression of our faith in GOD?”  We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s comment that her fathers worshipped GOD on a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place is not as important as how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth, that matters. It because the Christian’s identity is to not dependent upon any physical or geographic location, but upon a faith in God’s love, the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, our beliefs are not constrained to physical constraints or controls. This is why Napoleon concluded:

 “I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                 Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)   

I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

John 15:17 (ESV)    

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 John 14:21 (ESV)

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 John 15:10 (ESV)

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Rather than embarking upon pilgrimages and building glorious cathedrals, our best and purist expression of Christian worship is truth and love, as defined by the Lord. In this manner, we have an opportunity to share with others a true glimpse of heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484:  It Only Takes A Spark (Pass It On)

Benediction: (2 Corinthians 13:14):  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

© March 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 11, 2018

Based on Messages Originally Shared with BLCF Church on February 27, 2011

BLCF_Bulletin_February_27_2011

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                    

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings         

Responsive Reading #668: The New Life (from Colossians 3)                           

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                      ‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, for the Sunday, March 11, 2018. To those of you who are here right now, congratulations to you for setting your clocks and alarms ahead one hour. Please be kind to those who may walk in to the service an hour late.

Our lesson today will include three Scripture verses that describe three different accounts of people in need of healing, cleansing and restoration from the Lord. The first two describe men afflicted with Leprosy. To better understand this disease, let us briefly review Hansen’s disease, commonly called Leprosy:

Leprosy – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leprosy /ˈlɛprəsi/,[1] also known as Hansen’s disease (HD) is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae[2] and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.[3] Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years.[2] Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.[2] This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries.[4] Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.[ Leprosy is curable with treatment. Globally in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000 and the number of new cases was 230,000.[2] The number of chronic cases has decreased from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. In the past 20 years, 16 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy.[2] About 200 cases are reported per year in the United States.[8]

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years.[4] The disease takes its name from the Latin word lepra, which means “scaly”, while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen.[4] Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India,[9] China,[10] and Africa.[11] However, most colonies have closed since leprosy is not very contagious.[11] Leprosy has been associated with social stigma for much of history, which is a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment.[2] Some consider the word leper offensive, preferring the phrase “persons affected with leprosy”.[12]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprosy

The first of today’s Scriptures, from 2 Kings 5:1-27, is the account of Naaman who was a brave commander in the army of king of Syria. Naaman was an effective commander, even being described as being given victory in battle by the Lord. However the soldier was afflicted with Leprosy:

2 Kings 5:1-27 (ESV) Naaman Healed of Leprosy

5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.[a] Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels[b] of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Gehazi’s Greed and Punishment

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 5:1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. 2 Kings 5:5 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms; a shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams c. 2 Kings 5:12 Or Amana

Elisha, a prophet of Israel, refused to touch, anoint, touch or even speak to Naaman, instead sending a servant to deliver a letter, instructing the Syrian Commander to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.

Initially, Naaman was infuriated that Elisha had refused an audience with him and that he was told to bathe in the Jordan River instead of a river in Syria, so he stormed away. But Naaman was convinced by his servants that Elisha was a mighty prophet of God, reminding their master that he was promised to be healed, if he followed Elisha’s directions. Eventually, Naaman did follow the instructions and was completely healed of his affliction.

Naaman is convinced by his wife’s servant of how a prophet in home Israel, could heal her master of his affliction. Naaman tells his lord, the King of Syria of the servant girl’s belief and asks for leave to go to Israel. The king sends Naaman, along with a letter, to the king of Israel. The King of Israel, upon reading the letter, tears his clothing as only God can heal a man of Leprosy and suspects that the request is a ruse by the King of Syria to start a war against Israel. In 2 Kings 5:8   we see how the Lord responds to the faith of the servant from Israel, the Syrian Commander and His prophet Elisha:

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.

It is interesting that Elisha takes Naaman out of his comfort zone, by not greeting the commander’s entourage, accepting the monetary gifts, and by specifying that Naaman immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times. Elisha’s response to Naaman asks the commander for humility and trust from Naaman, while clearly disassociating the healing from any worldly influence, so that credit would go solely to the Lord.

Naaman initially hesitates to obey Elisha’s instructions, angered by both the reception from Elisha and the unexpected method of the healing, is convinced to follow the directions from the prophet. Naaman is healed and acknowledges God, but tries to reward Elisha who reuses a wealth of gifts. Elisha tells Naaman that the healing is a gift from God, not the prophet.

Later, we see that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is tempted and accepts the gifts offered by Naaman by telling Naaman that Elisha had a change in heart. Gehazi hides the offering in his house and denies to Elisha that he went out. We see that Elisha is aware and disappointed in Gehazi’s actions as we see in 2 Kings 5:26-27:

“Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?  Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

We could almost call this passage “A Tale of Two Servants,” where the faith of one servant brings faith and healing to a Gentile, while another servant brings upon himself a harsh judgment for his greed and lack of faith.

We see that by repeating the action of immersing himself in living water action,  Naaman demonstrated his faith and was rewarded with the Lord healing  him of his affliction.  The Scripture shows how God rewards obedience and faith. It is interesting to note that Naaman, like Joshua in last week’s lesson was instructed to repeat an action seven times.  Fortunately, both Joshua and Naaman did not quit after completing only six repetitions, electing instead to faithfully follow their instructions to the end. In both accounts, we see how the repetition of seemingly insignificant actions such as marching in circles or bathing in a river, can have miraculous consequences when God is involved. And also interesting is how God’s Glory is revealed through the faith demonstrated by a servant girl and a prostitute. How marvelous that a leper, who does not have the birthright of the people of Israel, may receive God’s blessing for actions that demonstrate a faith and trust in the Lord!

Our second Scripture Luke 17:11-19 tells of how Ten Lepers are healed by Jesus, but only one of the ten, also a Gentile, returns to acknowledge the Lord:

Luke 17:11-19 (ESV) Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,[a] who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. Luke 17:19 Or has saved you

In Luke 17:19, we see that the Lord acknowledges the healed man’s praise:

 “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.

Based upon our first two Scriptures, one might conclude that Jesus first came to heal the world of their physical afflictions. Though the Lord did demonstrate compassion for the afflicted and healed them, this was not the reason why Jesus came to the world, as we see in Mark 2:13-17:

Mark 2:13-17 (ESV) Jesus Calls Levi

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of[a] the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts and b. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts add and drink

Jesus came not heal us of physical ailments; instead the Lord came to cleanse us of our Spiritual afflictions, which is sin. This is why the Lord sought to associate with tax collectors and sinners, described in Mark 2:17:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came to minister and heal sinners, it is important to focus not on the fact that two Lepers were healed, but the faith of those messengers who brought healing. It is interesting that while Naaman came out of his comfort zone by trusting and obeying the instructions of God’s prophet, Elisha, the Syrian commander came to faith based upon the testimony of a nameless servant girl. A servant who took compassion upon a commander of a foreign nation that had taken her into a life of servitude. She left her comfort zone by sharing her faith with a leader in the country which she was held captive.

Remember that the only one of ten Lepers’, who were healed by the compassion of Jesus to acknowledge the Lord, was also a foreigner, a Samaritan. We are reminded that we are commissioned as apostles or messengers of the Lord to share the Gospel of Christ Jesus not just with whom whose company we feel comfortable, but with those whom we may tend to avoid or whose company we do not like. We see this in the Scripture passage that we have adopted as our Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, see Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Footnotes: a Matthew 25:40 Or brothers and sisters

Finally, may we accept that while the Lord, and later the Apostles, did perform many miracles of physical healing, Jesus came solely heal the world of sin. The Apostles’ were given the Great Commission by Christ: to spread the good news, the Gospel, that Christ died for our salvation from the spiritual affliction of sin. We are challenged to step out our comfort zone and associate with those who are untouchable and disenfranchised, considered unrighteous by others.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord                                           

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.