Jesus – The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God’

© December 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

blcf bulletin december 30, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn # 115: Go Tell It on the Mountain

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers               

Responsive Reading #615: Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God’

 Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday of 2019. Next Sunday, we will herald in the new year 2010 and with it a new decade.

As often happens towards the end of a year, we reflect upon the past year and anticipate what the future year may bring us. Looking back over these events, it is not unusual to reflect on both the joys and challenges of the previous year but to contrast them with those of previous years.

Last week, believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrated the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, some 2,000 years ago. Though the birth of Jesus was not marked by a mass per se, visitors did come to the Lord’s birthplace to worship the Christ Child, some bringing gifts to celebrate the newborn King of kings.

And annually, the birthday of Jesus is celebrated with worship, song, visitation and sharing gifts and fellowship with others. At BLCF, we celebrate Christmas both on Sunday and Wednesday.

Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God.’

It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember for the Mickelson family living in San Antonio, Texas celebrating Christmas had its challenges. My younger sister, Rhona had suffered a traumatic spinal injury two years previously leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Though dad had a job in the US Air Force, stationed at a local base, many of the medical treatments and medications for Rhona were neither covered nor available to military dependents. The costs to the family meant that there were not a lot of surplus funds in the family budget to pay for decorations or gifts at Christmas. Still, the family made due.

To help pay the bills, Dad took additional work after his daytime job, working as a public information officer with the Air Force during the day, he would work delivering newspapers and as a journalist by night. Somehow, dad managed to get by with little sleep or no sleep for six days of the week.

When Christmas Eve came around, our mom and dad would go to the local farmer’s market late in the evening, just as the stalls selling Christmas trees were closing on. Mom would negotiate the best price on a tree, which had little or no value as it would otherwise be destined to go to the dumpster at the closing time.

This is when it seemed like some Christmas magic would take place in the Mickelson home. My sisters and I would have gone to bed, and my parents would get to work decorating the tree with lights, ornaments, and popcorn on a string. Stocking would be hung, filled with mandarin oranges, apples, new socks, and some candy canes or chocolates.

Since we had financial constraints, mom initiated a Secret Santa gift exchange. Sometime in early December, family members would put their name on a piece of paper, which would be folded and placed in a bowl. We would each draw a name from the bowl, selecting whom we would buy a gift as a Secret Santa. Mom had saved up for the entire year to provide each of us with $5.00 to spend on a gift for the selected family member.

On that particular year, I had drawn my name from the bowl, which normally meant drawing another name and placing my name back in the bowl. However, I told my parents that since I had drawn my name I insisted that I should be allowed to buy a Christmas present for myself. I was surprised when they agreed to my request.

That Saturday we embarked to the Las Palmas plaza. I made a beeline to Neisner’s Store with a $5.00 bill in my wallet to purchase a gift for myself.  I ended up buying myself a Lone Ranger cap gun with holster. The set considered by many today as politically incorrect was at the time the rage among young boys at the time. When we arrived home, I wrapped my present, so it could be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve. But as Christmas Day approached, I was saddened by the fact that unlike the rest of the family, I knew what my Secret Santa gift was. There was no mystery or surprise in my gift which removed any joy of anticipation for me.

Christmas morning arrived and the family opened their only gift from a Secret Santa, with much excitement and anticipation, except for me, there was no mystery or Secret Santa as I already knew what was under the tree. That Christmas Day I learned some valuable lessons about the sharing of gifts on Christmas Day, particularly the joy of giving over receiving and excitement of anticipating the arrival of a Christmas gift given in a loving, selfless manner.

Our lesson today contains some parallels to my life lesson. While the Jews had anticipated the arrival of s Messiah sent by God, no one knew day or time the Christ would arrive. Even the mother of the Messiah was initially unaware that she was chosen by God to give birth to him, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b.Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

 Not only was Mary unaware of her selection to be the mother of the Christ, but she was also surprised that she would conceive her child as a virgin.

Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, had similar concerns to the news of her pregnancy, but his fears were allayed by the visit of an angel, Matthew 1:18-24 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

While it seems that Mary and Joseph may have been aware of the arrival of a Christ or Messiah for the People of Israel, it appears that neither knew that God would choose a woman betrothed to a carpenter as parents to raise His Christ child. The lord had to send His angels them the important place they would have in fulfilling His plan.

We know that there were also Magi or Wise Men, though not Jews, they were aware that God had placed signs in the heavens, so they followed a star to Bethlehem, where the Christ was to be born, Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV):

 The Visit of the Wise Men

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

We see that the Wise Men, the chief priests, scribes, and King Herod were aware of the prophecy of God sending a Christ, the wise men sought him in the palace of the king in Jerusalem and Herod was uncertain as to where to find the Messiah.

The chief priests and scribes indicated that Scriptures indicated that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

King Herod plotted to kill the Christ child, asking the Wise Men to return to him with the location of the baby’s birth. But warned in a dream, the Wise Men returned to their homeland by another way, not telling Herod about the child.

Joseph was warned in a dream as well, by an angel of the Lord of Herod’s plan, and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt until receiving word of the king’s death.

As we read through the New Testament, we see that many of the Jews, including the disciples, had not anticipated the reason why God sent His only Son, Jesus nor in what manner Jesus would eventually redeem humanity for the sins that they had committed and was facing a judgment of death, John 3:16-17 (ESV):

For God So Loved the World

 16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

The first Christmas marks the arrival of a much anticipated Messiah, but the manner of how, when, and where God executed His plan and promise of salvation through His only Son, revealed events that were unexpected, filled with mystery, wonder, and joy. This is the message of Christmas being blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day

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.

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Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Third Advent Sunday 2018: Joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ

– Third Advent Sunday 2018: Joy’

© December 16, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 16, 2018

Based on Message Shared at BLCF on December 13, 2015

BLCF Bulletin December 13, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                  

Lighting Third Advent Candle (Joy) – Hebrews 12:1-2 (below):  

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                                                                    

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                  

Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Hymn #103: O Come, All Ye Faithful                                                                   

Tithing and Prayers; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Responsive Reading #631: The Incarnate Christ (John 1)                                             

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the Third Sunday celebrating the advent of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We celebrate today the Joy of the Savior’s birth having lit the third Advent Candle, the ‘Joy Candle’, known also as the ‘Shepherd’s Candle’. The joy and the shepherds are both found in the first of today’s Scripture verses, Luke 2:7-20 (ESV):

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Christmas 2011

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[
a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

In this Scripture passage, we have an angel suddenly coming upon and startling the shepherds, who are watching their flock on that special night. The angel instructs the shepherds not to be afraid, and to replace their fear and trepidation with joy and praise, (Luke 7:9-10): And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

What is not told directly in this narrative is that Mary treasured up all of the evening’s events, while pondering them in her heart.

Remember Mary has just gone through childbirth in a stable, probably not the place where she had expected to give birth to the Son of God. Since Jesus was born as a son of man, it is likely that the Christ Child, though conceived supernaturally, was delivered in the same manner as all children. Mary likely suffered the pain of the contractions of childbirth which God promised to Eve and her descendants, following the sin in the garden, Genesis 3:16a (ESV):

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

 

I was fortunate to be present with Sophie at the birth of all of our four children. I remember the pain of the contractions she suffered, with each birth.

However, once the baby was delivered, her pain was forgotten and replaced with the happiness and joy that our child gave her. After the first birth, the joy continued so a few years later, Sophie and I considered having another child. The joy that each child gave Sophie exceeded the extreme pain.

Jesus is the alpha and omega, that is being at the beginning of creation, and the end of time was aware of what was expected of him, in order to bring forgiveness and sanctification to all sinners, for all generations.

However, Jesus did not dwell on the pain and suffering he would endure on the day he would be crucified. Instead, the Lord rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, celebrating that his crucifixion would bring a conviction and understanding to those who believe. Such is the will of his Father in heaven, Luke 10:21-24 (ESV):

Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:21 Or for so it pleased you well

Any sorrow Mary experienced in childbirth was displaced with the joy, once her baby was born.

We see in our third Scripture, that Jesus references the transformative results that take place among his disciples, after his impending death on the cross. He tells them that they will experience sorrow and anguish not unlike what a woman would experience in childbirth. But once the process is complete, their sorrow will turn to a joy that cannot be taken from them, John 16:16-24 (ESV):

Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

We see that Jesus describes his own death on the cross will be a paradox: while his disciples are experiencing sorrow and lament at the death; at the same time, the world will rejoice. But like the woman the disciples’ sorrow will turn to joy after the child is born.

This passage, Jesus talks about his death, which will bring the joy of salvation to the world. While his death will cause the disciples to lament, their sorrow will change to joy, after his resurrection. And after the Day of Pentecost, the Lord will send believers a companion in the Holy Spirit, so that they, too, may experience the same joy in the Spirit that Jesus described previously, in Luke 10.

In conclusion, the passage in John 16, talks of the pain of childbirth that will result in the salvation of sinners everywhere. Those who believe and confess their sins will experience the fullness of joy from being born again in the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

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.

 

To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within’

© September 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn # 410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                            Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (-from Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                      Message by Steve Mickelson:‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Prayer and Worship Service for the last Sunday of September 2018.

Today’s lesson is entitled: To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within was partly inspired from an online article by Jon Lockett, about a mysterious 1,000-year-old map, published by the UK Sun, online on September 10, 2018, entitled:

CRACKING THE CODE: 1,000-year-old Medieval map ‘reveals the location of          Noah’s Ark and other biblical mysteries’

Mappa Mundi

By Jon Lockett

10th September 2018, 3:12 pm

Updated: 10th September 2018, 6:43 pm

 Hereford’s Mappa Mundi contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical events.

 A HISTORIC map which marks the supposed sites of religious events is still being decoded – nearly 1,000 years after it was made.

The Mappa Mundi, in Hereford Cathedral, contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical happenings.

Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5ft 2ins by 4ft 4ins), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

The huge masterpiece is seen by many history scholars as one of the greatest surviving artworks of the Middle Ages.

On the map the world is depicted as a circle with East at the top of the map – to mark the rising of the sun and the second coming of Christ.

Jerusalem sits at its centre as was common at the time.

Noah’s Ark is clearly pictured on the bottom-left of the map on the modern-day Iran-Armenia border.

And that ties in with the theory that the ruptured remains of the legendary vessel can now be found on Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.

Close to the very centre of the Mappa Mundi can be found the Tower of Babel – said to have been built after the great flood.

According to the Bible, the tower was so tall it was seen as a challenge to God, who caused humanity to speak in different languages as a punishment.

It has been long claimed that Shinar, where the Bible says the tower stood, was in south Mesopotamia and that Babel was located at Babylon.

However those that have studied the incredible and beautiful map put it in what is now Syria.

Eden is represented by a circular island at the very top of the map surrounded by a ring of fire and separated from the land masses by water.

Eve is seen taking fruit from the tree of knowledge from a terrifying serpent perched in the tree.

Hereford Cathedral’s commercial director Dominic Harbour said: “The map disarms anybody who stands in front of it.

“It’s really a cacophony of too much going on at the same time. The map’s unfathomable, really.

“You have to immerse yourself into it.”

Scholars believe it could be 1,000 years old and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework.

Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7219987/ancient-map-reveals-location-noahs-ark/

Since the above article describes the biblical accounts of the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden, I thought that it worthwhile to review these two accounts, as they appeared in the Bible:

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV): The Tower of Babel

Confusion Of Tongues

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for con\used

I would like to point out that in Genesis 11:7, the Lord refers to Himself in the plural, which is appropriate for the Godhead or Holy Trinity.

The Lord takes great exception to the people who migrated from the east, settling in the land of Shinar, and together decided to build there a tower with its top in the heavens.

At that time, people spoke the same language, and the Lord decided the easiest way to foil their plan to build this tower, which He found to be an abomination, was to confuse the people by causing to speak in different languages. This was to ensure that the people could not understand each other so as to prevent them from understanding one another, which in-turn would foil the people’s plans to collectively build a tower to heaven.

While it may not be the actual construction of the tower which concerned the Lord, but the reasons why the people sought to use the building as to reach the heavens for their own glorification. In other words, to elevate their perception by others to be elevated to a level equal to God, a motivation not unlike that which the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit described in Genesis 3:1-13 (ESV):

The Fall

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[d] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only were Adam and Eve’s eyes opened to an awareness of good and evil, which brought them an awareness of their sin and being naked, which prompted them to hide because of their nakedness because of their fear.

And their fear and guilt of their transgression to God, caused Adam to blame Eve, and Eve to blame the serpent for their sins. Not only had they disobeyed God, but they also lied to Him when they refused to take responsibility for their own actions.

We see in the account of the Tower of Babel, there were consequences from the Lord for Adam and Eve, ejection from the garden of Eden, which they had walked together with God. This separation from the Lord, where they walked together with Him to enjoy conversation in the cool of the day, was perhaps the greatest punishment because it also brought them a judgment of death:

Genesis 3:20-24 (ESV)

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[a] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

The Tower of Babel was constructed after Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, bringing the punishment of the loss of fellowship with God and the punishment of death. There was no manner of works, including building a tower to heaven, which would allow people to restore what the Lord had decided to remove as a punishment for their sins.

There is only one Way by which the separation between God and humanity could be removed, allowing a restoration for the lost fellowship with God, through Christ Jesus. He is the only way that we may restore both the relationship with the Father in heaven that was taken after the fall, but it will restore a unity taken when the tower was constructed at Babel:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV): One in Christ

 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

Through blood and flesh sacrificed by our Lord, Christ Jesus, we have reunited again in one single body. And by way of the Holy Spirit sent to us from the Father in heaven, in the name of his son, Jesus, we are able to understand each other since that Great day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV): The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

God has provided a plan to sanctify us through his son and reconcile us as a body of believers to our Father, so that we may look forward to that day when Christ returns to walk, talk, and fellowship with Him in that garden, at the cool of the day.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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.

 

Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart’

© September 16, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 16 2018

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on Sunday, May 26, 2013

BLCF Bulletin May 26, 2013

Let us pray…

In past lessons shared at BLCF on previous Sundays, we have examined how those who view religion with a purely legalistic outlook without faith carry an attitude which can act like excess baggage and impede their faith walk. A specific example would be the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had difficulty with Jesus’ teachings about being born again in the Spirit. Though Nicodemus had what can be described as having head knowledge of God’s laws and the Scriptures, he had little or no faith understanding of God’s spiritual intent behind those commandments. Without faith or belief that Jesus came to end our judgment under the law, we face the impossible task of being perfect within the law to prevent our own condemnation.  We should conclude that all the other things of this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, we need to discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus.

So you may ask yourself: “What are the risks of taking a purely legalistic approach to our faith?” Before we discuss the penalty or remedy, let us first look at the laws which govern us in our faith walk.

We have two sets of laws that were given to the people of Israel. First, we have God’s 10 Commandments, written on stone tablets by God, and were carried beside the Ark of the Covenant. Next, we have the Ceremonial Law or Mosaic Law, written by Moses, which was carried as a book on the side of the Arc of the Covenant. There is a chart inside today’s bulletin which helps us to distinguish one from another.

God expects us to abide by His 10 Commandments.  Now the legalist might question the name of these God-given laws.

According to Wikipedia, the Ten Commandments are called, in biblical Hebrew, עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D’bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters”. The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used “ten verses”. The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use “tenne commandements”, which was followed by the Bishops’ Bible and the Authorized Version (the “King James” version) as “ten commandments”. Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.

The English name “Decalogue” is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, “ten words”, found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning “the tablets of the covenant”.

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

It is not surprising that some scholars will even confuse Ceremonial Laws of Moses with God’s Commandments. It is only the Ordinances and Decrees that Jesus removed by His crucifixion, not God’s 10 Commandments.

Just as important as keeping God’s Laws, both to God and ourselves, is the need to keeping faith with the Lord. While a legalist may say that they abide by both the law and the spirit of the law. But that is not the same as abiding by the law of the spirit, which is, in essence, keeping the faith with the Lord.

In today’s first Scripture verse, Luke 11:37-52, we have Jesus invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Remember from our earlier lesson of Nicodemus that the definition of a Pharisee is as follows:

(noun):

  1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.
  2. a self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

The Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner, which was a Jewish Ceremonial observance, not for reasons of hygiene. The washing supposedly made one clean before God, something mandated by man, not by God. The reaction of the Pharisee gave Jesus an opportunity to criticize the Pharisee for being focused on the relative superficiality of being focused on outward appearances and what is on the inside, where greed and wickedness contradict an outward demeanor of righteous. Jesus gave the desire to have the best seats in the synagogues and the desire to be acknowledged in the public marketplaces as examples of the Pharisee’s greed. As for wickedness, Jesus pointed to Pharisee injustice to others and avoidance of love to God.

When a lawyer objected to what Jesus said, by characterizing these truthful observations as an insult not just to the Pharisees, but as an insult to lawyers as well. By defending the criticisms that Jesus made of the Pharisees and siding with them, the lawyer attempted to try to make such behaviour as righteous and justified. This opened the door for Jesus to observe how lawyers do behave fit the definition of a Pharisee, being self-righteous hypocrites. Jesus commented on how the lawyers saw fit to burden people, rather than to help them. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy shown by building tombs and monuments to the prophets who were killed by the fathers of the lawyers. And being educated and learned, the lawyers have had an opportunity to a  faith practice, which they not only avoided but acted as a stumbling block to others finding faith. This is a perfect example of one reading the scriptures with the mind, but not the heart. By obsessing on the words and not the intent of God’s word, they miss the true meaning of the scriptures for both themselves as well as for those to whom they read the verses.

But is missing the mark of comprehending and sharing the scriptures limited to just Pharisees and Lawyers? Do some Christians recite verses from the Holy Word by rote, as if the words alone have some magical power? Let’s have look at how Jesus taught us to pray.

If you look on the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see two examples of what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The first recorded in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 1-4, was a response to one of the disciples request to be taught how to pray, as John the Baptist had taught to his disciples. Thus we have:

2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”                                                                           

The other version of the Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5 to 14, which is also found on the back of the bulletin, which Jesus spoke as part of His Sermon on the Mount. Before he began to pray, Jesus admonished those present not to behave like the hypocrites, who we now know to be the Pharisees:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:                                                             

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you

But we see a variance between the two versions of the prayer, not only between those recorded in Luke and Matthew. We find differences in the same verse, from one Bible translation to another! How can this be? The best explanation may be found in the history of these translations:

The Lord’s Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity also commonly known as Our Father and in the Latin tongue as the Pater Noster. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew  as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke,which records Jesus being approached by “one of his disciples” with a request to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.” The prayer concludes with “deliver us from evil” in Matthew, and with “lead us not into temptation” in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions address God; the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns. The liturgical form is Matthean. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, an addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew, but originating in an ancient Christian writing known as the Didache.

Though Matthew 6:12 uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord’s Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words “debts” and “debtors”.

The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate Jerome is considered to be responsible for changes such as the use of “supersubstantialem” instead of “cotidianum” as a translation of “ἐπιούσιον” (epiousios) in the Gospel of Matthew, though not in the Gospel of Luke.

The doxology associated with the Lord’s Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.

In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord’s Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy today is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, but instead after the priest’s prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus…, elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).

There are several different English translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:

Other English translations are also used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_prayer

It is a common fallacy among some Christians and even certain Biblical scholars, that the Bible is based on one single set of manuscripts housed in some library, monastery or museum. All they have to do is go to this place and reference these ancient scrolls to obtain a definitive translation of the scriptures. This misconception likely comes from present law-givers being able to see and reference the original historical documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights, the US Constitution or the British Magna Charta.

Well, it is not quite that simple. Let us briefly look at where scholars obtained the source for the modern Bibles we use today:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

 The Hebrew Bible or The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. From the 9th century to the 15th century, Jewish scholars, today known as Masoretes, compared the text of all known biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified, standardized text.

A series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonant letters. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since some words differ only in their vowels—their meaning can vary in accordance with the vowels chosen. In antiquity, variant Hebrew readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The discovery of older manuscripts, which belong to the Alexandrian text-type, including the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, led scholars to revise their view about the original Greek text. Attempts to reconstruct the original text are called critical editions. Karl Lachmann based his critical edition of 1831 on manuscripts dating from the 4th century and earlier, to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus must be corrected according to these earlier texts.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Alternative word order, the presence or absence of an optional definite article (“the”), and so on. Occasionally, a major variant happens when a portion of a text was accidentally omitted (or perhaps even censored), or was added from a marginal gloss. Fortunately, major variants tend to be easier to correct. Examples of major variants are the endings of Mark, the Pericope Adulteræ, the Comma Johanneum, and the Western version of Acts.

Early manuscripts of the letters of Paul and other New Testament writings show no punctuation whatsoever. The punctuation was added later by other editors, according to their own understanding of the text.

We see that our current Bible comes from a variety of sources. Translators were supposed to use as many as 600 Greek manuscripts in order to avoid a skewed or misleading translation. Unfortunately, some of the early translators relied on as few as 40 Greek manuscripts in their translations, because geography and politics made universal access impractical. Over time the availability to more sources enabled corrections to the translations. A couple of years ago, while researching a message on the Holy Trinity, I came upon a good example of such a change. On the bottom of the second page of your bulletin, you will see two translations of 1 John 5:7-8:

The King James states:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And the English Standard states:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Changes to a verse’s translation by the removal, addition or change of the wording has led to some Christians claiming a demonic conspiracy in effect to alter the Word of God, particularly the King James Version when compared to the newer translations. This would be the kind of reaction one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes. Such disagreements are not the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the Christian body of believers and acts to hinder others from hearing the Gospel. Our commission is not to spend our time on petty arguments amongst ourselves over the merits of one translation over another, for the Spirit is absent from such debates. We are commissioned to share God’s Word and promote an appreciation and love for God, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said   in his epistle, Romans 10:5-13 (ESV), entitled:

The Message of Salvation to All’

   

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);    9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.     11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Again, we see that the key to salvation and forgiveness from God lies in our heart, as an expression of our faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and our testimony to the truth of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #3: God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

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.

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stones-Throw from Each Other

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s-Throw from Each Other’

© September 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 9 2018

Originally shared with BLCF on November 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                        Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                             Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (John 8:1-11)                         Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

 Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at accounts of stoning in the Bible.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

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

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second Scripture Verse, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, Verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

Paul on the Road to Damascus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin from those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision, that is just a stones-throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

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.

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.

 

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.