Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord’

© November 18, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 18, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (Tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore); Choruses                                                                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #603: Divine Providence (- from Psalm 34)                         

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Sleeping Safely through the Storm, Calmed by the Peace of the Lord’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service at BLCF Church, where our lesson will examine two of the Jesus miracles performed in order to prove to his disciples his identity as the Son of God. Both miracles occurred as the disciples struggled to overcome wind-generated storms on the Sea of Galilee in order to reach their appointed destination. However, as we shall see, as often happens in the Scriptures, the lessons taught from journey are more important than the destination. One example would be Saul’s conversion experience while he journeyed on the Road to Damascus.

I would like to present the first miracle for today’s lesson, from three points of view found in the Synoptic Gospels, each bearing the common title of Jesus Calms a Storm, while mostly contain the same elements, do have some slight variances. This is what one might expect from three different points of view telling what they observed of a common event. The first example comes from the gospel of Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew gives an account where Jesus goes aboard a boat, followed by the disciples. While Jesus is sleeping, a great storm comes upon the vessel. Fearing for their lives, the disciples wake the Lord, asking him to save them from harm. Jesus asks them why do they fear and then rebukes them for their lack of faith. Having rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, Jesus then rebukes the wins and the sea. The resulting change from a great storm to a great calm prompts the disciples to ask what sort of man is their Lord, who is able to change the wind and the sea by the mere words of his commands?

Our second account of this miracle of the Lord comes from the gospel of Mark 4:35-41 (ESV):

 Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark’s account gives us additional information from Matthew’s gospel. We learn that it is evening when the disciples join Jesus aboard a boat to cross Sea of Galilee. Though we also learn the group sails in the boat, leaving behind a crowd. It seems that some of the crowd decided to follow the boat containing Jesus and the disciples, as we learn that other boats were with him. Mark gives additional details, indicating Jesus was at the stern of the boat, where had fallen asleep on a cushion. Mark indicates that Jesus rebukes the storm and then his disciples, where Matthew has the order reversed. It could be because Mark felt the Lord rebuking the sea was more significant than his personal rebuke of the disciples. We also learn that this miracle which prompted the disciples to question the identity of their Lord came out of fear, at least from Mark’s point of view.

Now let us look at Luke’s take on these events, taken from the gospel of Luke 8:22-25 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Luke’s account of events is more succinct, but we learn that the storm came as they fell asleep. It seems that Jesus was not the only disciple who had fallen asleep, which might explain the brevity of Luke’s account. As Jesus and Luke slumbered, perhaps Matthew and Mark kept watch, giving a possible explanation for the latter two’s more lengthy and detailed description of events. While Luke agrees with Mark that the disciples experienced fear at witnessing this miracle over nature, the former indicates that he marveled at the events.

All three Synoptic accounts end with the disciples questioning the identity of the man whom they follow and call their Lord.

This leads us to the second miracle involving the disciples aboard a boat in a stormy sea. Only this time Jesus has sent his disciples ahead of him, while he dismissed the crowd, and later went up a mountain to pray alone. Let us look at the account of events found in the gospel of Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV):

 Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[a] from the land,[b] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[c] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d]he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b. Matthew 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea c. Matthew 14:25 That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. d. Matthew 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind

Similar to Ontario’s Lake Nippising, near North Bay, the Sea of Galilee’s dimensions and orientation makes it a prime candidate to sudden unpredictable storms caused by the prevailing winds. Needless to say, I am sure that Jesus, having been blest with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Divine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

So why did He allow them to go in the boat without Him? And why did He wait so long before joining them?

Do not forget that Jesus wanted to go up the mountain to pray. As Christians, we need to take time to pray, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order to clear our slate of thoughts, actions, and feelings which distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher not only to the multitudes but to the twelve who followed him. The journey from Heptapegon, also known as Tabgha, el-Oreme or ‘En Sheva to Bethesda was about seven miles distance and would have taken the disciples maximum of 3-4 hours under normal conditions. Because of extreme headwinds and waves, the disciples’ boat had covered only half the distance in about 12 hours’ time or about 1/6 of the normal rate of travel.

There is no doubt that Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples were encountering, but he allowed them to go for some time before he set out to tread across the sea. Until Jesus arrived, the disciples had to work persistently and together to keep their boat on course, against the storm. The disciples would need the same persistence and cooperation, in the not too distant future, to share the Gospel to people who knew nothing of God, or worse, had drifted away from God in the pursuit of a religion devoid of the Holy Spirit.

This account gives us a combination of three miracles, Jesus walking upon a stormy sea, Paul joining the Lord by walking on the troubled water, and then again commanding the storm to cease. Jesus again rebukes the disciples for their doubt and lack of faith.

This miracle differs from the previous miracle as the disciples no longer doubt the identity of Jesus, as all on the boat by worshipping him as the Son of God.

The lesson from Matthew’s account is that we should seek the light of Jesus, as only the Lord can provide us with the safety that allows us to lie down and sleep in peace, as is indicated in Psalm 4:6-8 (ESV):

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we are justified by our faith and reconciled so that we have peace with God, through His Son, Christ Jesus, as we read in  Paul’s gospel, Romans 5:1 (ESV):

 Peace with God Through Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #401: When Peace Like a River Attendeth                                                                                                                                                                                Benediction – (Colossians 3:15):

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Know Jesus, Know Peace!

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Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

 © August 27, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on July 28, 2013

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Prayer Hymn #195: Fill Me Now (Hover o’er Me, Holy Spirit); Choruses                                                                                                                        

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

Responsive Reading #654: ‘The Holy City’ (-from Revelation 21)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                   ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’                                                

1 Kings 18:20-40 (ESV) The Prophets of Baal Defeated

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 18:32 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire.’   The invention of fire had a profound effect upon our world. Fire brings us heat to counter the cold, cook our food and to illuminate our surroundings. Fire enabled members of society to work through the night and led to the advancement of the civilization of humanity.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According ancient mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Fire was likely first discovered by accident event, as a result of natural causes, such as volcanic eruption, ignition of marsh gas or more likely from a lightning strike.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the use and significance of fire. In most scriptures that mention fire included to describe the manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1Kings 18.

A severe drought and famine in region of Samaria led to God’s Prophet Elijah facing off against some 450 prophets of the god Baal. Elijah was critical of the people wavering between this god and the true Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

Elijah proposes to the people the building of two altars, each with its own sacrificial bull. To one, the prophets of Baal will call upon the god Baal to ignite the wood of the altar. And with the other, Elijah will call upon God, Jehovah, to ignite to wood. The people and the 450 Baal prophets accept the challenge.

For hours, the prophets of Baal called in vain, upon their god, Baal to ignite their altar.  The prophets even resorted to cutting themselves to illicit a response from Baal. And no fire came; Baal did not reply.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. But to make things interesting, Elijah instructed the people to douse the offering and wood with four jars of water, not once, not twice; but three times!

I recall camping a few summers ago and trying to ignite some wet wood. It was not easy. Just when you have some flames, the fire dies out.

The wood on the altar constructed by Elijah wasn’t just damp, being soaked by a dozen jars of water to the point that excess water collected in a trench surrounding the altar. But this did not deter Elijah’s faith, nor did it deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the authority of the Lord saying “I am your servant”. He asked that God would start the fire not as a response to a request to do the bidding of Elijah. Instead Elijah implored the Lord to start the fire to change the hearts of those who had turned away from God and to restore their faith.

God’s response was to send a fire of such intensity, that it not only consumed the offering, wood and stones, so all that was left was dust. And all the water, including that in the trench, had evaporated. God’s response was clear and definitive, leaving no doubt in the minds of the people of Israel. The people fell on their knees, acknowledging that “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

And the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Such was the judgement of God. And afterword, the Lord kept His promise by bringing rain to end the drought.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a list of several instances in the Bible, where the power and glory of God is expressed in some form of flame or fire.

Most of us are acquainted with the Prophet Moses’ encounter with the Lord, who revealed Himself as a Burning Bush, Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV):

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

At the time of this account, Moses was 80 years of age. Having been expelled to die in the dessert by Pharaoh, Moses had lived the next 40 years as a shepherd, and had seen most that the dessert had to offer. But something had caught his eye. The English translations translate what Moses saw as a bush, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word seneh is brambles. While we could spend the rest of today’s sermon debating the inaccuracy of the translation and the merits of the original Hebrew over inaccuracies of English translations, such discussions have no real bearing on the lesson our Lord is trying to convey and only act as a distraction from the main theme of the passage. Now back to Moses.

Moses noted that while the bush or brambles burned, it was not consumed by fire. And when he drew close to the bush, Moses saw an angel in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush. And when the Lord had seen that Moses turned aside to see, God admonished Moses to not come closer and to remove his sandals, as the ground that Moses stood upon was Holy ground. And the Lord identified himself as the God of Moses father, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, the flames burning supernaturally without ceasing.

After God used Moses to deliver the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt, He did not forsake them, Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV):

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

We must remember that that light is not just a tool of mankind, but an expression of the presence of the Lord, Exodus 24:17 (ESV):

17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

But the fire and flame of the Lord is not only a source of comfort to the faithful, but will be an expression of God’s judgment upon those who are not of value to His Kingdom, considered to be like thorns and brambles, Isaiah 10:17 (ESV):

17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.

This same fire is as an expression of God’s ability to refine and cleanse us of impurity and filth, Malachi 3:2 (ESV):

2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Refiners use fire to melt and separate precious metals such as silver and gold from non-precious metals found in the ore. Each stage extracts purer metal. And fuller’s soap is used in a process to wash and clean raw wool of impurities and odors.

We find a more direct description of the Lord’s fire, by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (ESV): 

  

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   

You will note that the Prophet’s indicates that water baptism is an act we do for repentance, but only the Lord can baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So when the believer receives the Holy Spirit, the same fire which is an expression of God, also is received, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) The Coming of the Holy Spirit:

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the followers of Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and the gifts of fire which is the glory of God, Hebrews 1:7 (ESV): 

               

7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

To better understand Hebrews 1:7 let us back up to the first four verses of Hebrew 1, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the above passage, we see that Jesus is described as the radiance of glory of God, and like a refiner purifying precious gold; He purifies us from sin, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we see that Christ is talking with two prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had experienced the power and presence of God by fire and flame. And we have an idea of this radiance in the description of Jesus in the account, in Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 Footnotes:  a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

I believe Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us some idea as to how it will be with Jesus after our own resurrection. Just like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to see our Lord, present in all His glory; radiant and full of light, bright like the fire of the sun. May this vision ignite a fire of passion and faith to share with all those around us the love of God as is expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the Savior’s final commandment our Lord gave to us. For it only takes a spark of faith, to ignite the fire that is found in the presence and power God’s love.

Let us pray…

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

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

© April 30, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 30, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        Opening Hymn #547: Jesus, We Want to Meet; Choruses                                  Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                  Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto.

Our Lesson today, ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’, continues on the subject of forgiveness from sin through Jesus. And with forgiveness comes rest or peace from the Lord, which falls in line with the with the Scripture found posted in the Church Sanctuary and on front of today’s bulletin “Know Jesus – Know Peace; No Jesus – No Peace”, which paraphrases the Scripture 2 Peter 1:2 (ESV): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

You may recall in last week’s lesson, we looked at how, on the night Jesus was arrested, Simon Peter sinned against the Lord on three separate occasions when he denied that he knew Jesus. Later, after his resurrection, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times whether he loved his Lord, which the disciple acknowledged each time. In his acknowledgement of his love for Jesus, Simon Peter was then forgiven and invited to follow the Lord.

So this begs the question: Is Paul’s forgiveness of his transgressions by Jesus an example of special dispensation towards his disciple or is the same dispensation available to all sinners? For an answer to this question, let us look at the first of today’s Scriptures, Matthew 11:25-30, titled as:

 Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

 25 At that time Jesus declared, “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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 11:26 Or for so it pleased you well

In verse 38 of Matthew 11, Jesus offers rest to “all who labor and are heavy laden”.  When we see that all, you may ask is this rest from the Lord available to all disciples or anyone who may have sinned? The answer is found in our next Scripture passage, Luke 7:36-50, titled as:

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a.Luke 7:49 Or to

We see in Luke 7 that Jesus accepts an invitation to dine at the home of a Pharisee and that a woman, who is a sinner arrives, where she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair; kisses his feet and anoints his head with ointment. All of these actions should have been performed by the Pharisee as host for the meal. Instead of taking ownership for his own mistakes as host, Simon focuses on the fact that the woman was a sinner, likely a harlot, and that Jesus had allowed the woman to touch him. Jesus praises the woman’s actions while admonishes inactions of his host sounds very much like the comparison of the goats and sheep described in The Final Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, which happens to be the Mission Statement that BLCF has adopted for the BLCF Café Community Dinner.

Jesus then tells the Parable of the Two Debtors, after which he gets his host to acknowledge that if both debtors are forgiven their debts, the one whose debt is ten times greater would be more appreciative. In the same regard, the woman whose greater sins are forgiven would be able to not only receive salvation from the Lord, but his peace as well.

We see that forgiveness is available to disciples and sinners, but what about those who are viewed not to be a member of the faith? Jesus gives us a clue to the answer in John 12:20-26, titled as:

 Some Greeks Seek Jesus

 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

In verse 26 of John 12, we see that anyone who serves Jesus will be honored by the Father in heaven.

So far in today’s lesson, we see that salvation is available to all, regardless of whether they are disciples, sinners, or gentiles. This brings us to the final question: What do we do about the sin of a brother or sister and is there a limit to how many times a person can be forgiven? Our answer comes from today’s next Scripture passage, which is Matthew 18:21-35, titled as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b]25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:23 Or bondservants; also verses 2831 b. Matthew 18:24 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 18:26 Or bondservant; also verses 2728293233 d. Matthew 18:28 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer e. Matthew 18:34 Greek torturers

When Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother’s sins, the Lord replies seventy-seven, which is an unlimited number for that time. After all, Jesus forgave Peter three times for committing the same sin over and over again.

But what happens if Christian claims to love God, but refuses to forgive the sin(s) of a brother or sister? The answer comes from our final Scripture passage, 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen.

Footnotes: a.1 John 4:20 Some manuscripts how can he

If a Christian refuses to forgive the transgression of a brother or sister is a hypocrite and should not expect God to forgive them. This is an expensive price to pay for the self-indulgence of keeping a grudge and not forgiving a sin.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #509: Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?

 Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10): And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.