søndag 30. desember 2012

Audio recording Mark 15:33-43 Jesus opens the way to God

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Mark 15:33-43 Jesus opens the way to God.

Mark 15:33-43

This morning I was clearing the snow out of the driveway to get it ready for Debby to go out. Then I reversed the car out of the garage, made sure the kids’ car seats were in and fastened, and the car was warm. Before that I had charged the battery on her camera and her phone, swapped out the camera card and formatted it so that it was all ready to take pictures. When Debby came out she gave me a kiss and thanked me for all my acts of service.

And that got me thinking. I hadn’t noticed that I was serving, I was just, you know, doing it. And then I was amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit to enable a selfish person to be a servant – the essence of love. The heart of love is setting yourself aside for the good of others. It is saying no to what I want and yes to what others need. And I must admit that does not come naturally to me. Naturally I say YES to what I want and NO to what others want (unless what they want either doesn’t affect me or happens to be what I want too…)

My neighbour commented the other day about how kind Debby and I were to have so many people in our home. “Kind? But that’s what we do as Christians”, I thought. I’m not kind, any more than I am unselfish. And if you don’t believe me, well, you would soon believe it if you could listen to my thoughts for a day!

I am not kind. I am not loving. I am not servant-hearted. All too often I get angry when my needs aren’t met, when I feel sidelined, when I am insulted or my pride is hurt. I say things with too much bite. Or I just don’t bother to do things because I’m too lazy to do them.

But, and this is what struck me when thinking about, by the grace of God, little by little I am becoming a tiny bit more like Jesus. And if you’re a Christian today, so are you. By the power of the Spirit we are starting to have the same heart, the same nature as the one man who looked at all the people spitting at him and insulting him and rejecting him, looked at the agonising death awaiting him on the cross, looked into the pit of Hell and the armies of Satan and his demons waiting to attack him, who looked at his power and kingship and might and glory, and thought “I’ll give all this up in order to take the punishment they deserve, them and all the people like them throughout time and space, to adopt them into my family.” Now THAT’S a servant heart. That is LOVE which we only faintly echo. That’s the heart of the God who made the heavens and the earth and everything in it. The heart of the God we serve, the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Tonight I want us to see three things:

1. Jesus takes our place as a sinner

2. Jesus opens the way to God

3. The way to God is open for everyone, without exception

1. Jesus takes our place as a sinner

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.

Darkness. In the Bible darkness means judgement. Divine judgement. Remember the Exodus: when Moses led the great rescue of people of Israel out of Egypt? Maybe you’ve seen the movie Prince of Egypt? The people of Israel, cowering in slavery to the evil Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who was harsh and unkind, beating them and ordering all baby boy Israelites to be killed.

So the Israelites cry out to God to rescue them. And God raises up Moses to be their rescuer, and gives him power to perform miracles. There were 10 plagues – 10 judgements upon the stubborn Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who refused to obey the Living God. As Pharaoh refuses to obey God things get worse: the Nile River turns to blood, there’s a plague of frogs and then gnats, and flies, and then the cows and sheep and goats all died, and then the people get boils all over them, then there’s a huge hailstorm, then locusts come and eat everything - but the final two were the worst: darkness covered the whole land of Egypt; and the death of the first-born son of each Egyptian family.

But this time the darkness is not for wicked Pharaoh and the Egyptians - but for Jesus. This time it is the Son of God who is dying. Why? Why is Jesus facing God’s judgement as if he were wicked when he is innocent, perfect, pure and holy?

Because he is carrying our sins – all of our sins. He is taking our place to be beaten by the Roman soldiers like the Israelites were once beaten by the Egyptians. He is taking our place as a slave to experience the full extent of sin. Only sinners can treat other people the way we do. Only sinners can order babies to be taken from their mothers’ arms and slaughtered. Only sinners can beat another human being and feel pleased about it. Only sinners can enjoy another person’s suffering and humiliation.


Because to be a sinner means to have a broken relationship with our Creator. And when that relationship is broken, all our relationships break.
And so we have divorce and abuse and slavery and abortion and murder and theft and genocide and fraud and corruption and greed and deceit and so on. Watch the news: it’s a massive message saying we have abandoned God and we can’t fix our broken relationship.

But Jesus steps into this gap. His relationship is perfect. Ours is broken. So he becomes our representative – born as a human being, fully human, fully God; starts his ministry by being baptised as a sinner; experiences hurt and pain and frustration and joy and gladness and friendship as we do; and all the time with his goal in mind: the cross, where he would pay the ultimate sacrifice of death, a sinners death, and a sinners experience of the wrath of God, of the broken relationship, of being abandoned by God. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

He who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus took on our sin. He goes into the darkness for us. He takes the judgement we deserve, and gives up his life, the Son of God, in order to rescue all of us in slavery to sin. He’s leading the great Exodus from slavery to sin, to freedom in Heaven. He is carrying our sins – all of our sins. He has taken our place.

If you are a Christian this is the moment when all your sins were dealt with. God is not bound by time, he stands over it, he commands it, and he looked down at your life and all the wrong things you have done, all your regrets, all your dark secrets, those things nobody knows about, your darkest private thoughts which fill you with shame – all that is poured out on Jesus in this moment. And all the sins you will do! All our sin is upon his shoulders – not just half of it until now then, good luck on your own! No, Jesus’ sacrifice was not half-way there – he carries us through to the gates of Heaven. It’s the true Exodus, the Big Rescue, from the gates of Hell to the gates of Heaven and inside. It’s guaranteed, underwritten by the blood of Jesus. If you trust in Jesus as your Saviour, and follow him as your King, you can be sure of your salvation.
The Bible talks of us being seated in Heaven NOW – that’s how certain our salvation is. Because we’ve been moved from the enemy camp, into the camp of Jesus – and nothing can take us out. This will be familiar to those who’ve been coming on Wednesday nights to the Bible study! Do I hear a Hallelujah! A shout of Thank you Jesus! Hooray for Jesus!

Jesus takes our place as a sinner.

I just want to spend a few more moments on verse 34 because some people have spread misunderstandings about this verse. They say “Why does Jesus say My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? It’s because Jesus is not God, he’s just an angel or a good man, and now he’s failed, God has left him.”
Well, if you have no understanding of the Bible you might make up something like that. It’s totally wrong. We know already that he’s identifying with us as a sinner and taking our place – but Jesus isn’t just crying out something random: It’s a quote from Psalm 22, the Psalm of the suffering King. The King of Israel, God’s King, is under attack, an attack so fierce he describes it like crucifixion – hundreds of years before crucifixion even existed! And Jesus, the true King, God’s King who is enduring the ultimate suffering, quotes that Psalm with his last breaths. If you know your Bible you’ll easily be able to see that this is not a declaration of failure, but of victory! Even with his last breaths, Jesus is declaring to the world “I am the King”.

Through the darkness, through hell, through abandonment, our King opens the way to God!

2. Jesus opens the way to God

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Crucifixion normally took days – but Jesus dies within a few hours. He gave up his own life, breathing his last. He was totally in control. This was a deliberate act of love, planned from before the creation of the world. And what his death achieves is immediately clear: 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain in the Temple was a massive, thick piece of cloth 20m high, 20m wide, and 10cm thick. It was more like a wall than a curtain. Behind the curtain was the Most Holy Place, and that was where God “lived” as a symbol of living with his people. If anyone went behind the curtain without going through a lot of rituals to cleanse them of their sin, they died instantly! God is holy, we are not – and unholy meets holy is like darkness meets light: it is destroyed. The curtain in the Temple separated God and man.

Until now. Now Jesus gives up his life to open the way to God, to make the unholy holy, and the Temple curtain is torn from TOP to bottom. God Himself has torn down the barrier between us! He has done the impossible, and made a way for unholy people to live with a holy God. And it’s not through a Temple, some special building, some special rituals – but through a person, his Son, the Lord Jesus. Christians don’t have Temple, we don’t have holy places. There is one holy place, and that is Jesus himself.

Jesus has opened the way to God, torn down the barrier. It’s his work, his action, his power which holds the door open. So do not be afraid. You are secure in Christ.

Jesus has opened the way to God.

But what if you’re not a Christian? Or what about our friends and family and colleagues and neighbours who will face the darkness alone, who will face death alone, and who will face ultimately Hell, alone, for all eternity? There is good news:

3. The way to God is open for everyone, without exception

Immediately, IMMEDIATELY, we see the effects of Jesus’ opening the way.

39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

The statement in verse 39 is utterly incredible.“This man truly was the Son of God!” What is it that turned this man around – from abusing Jesus to worshipping Jesus? V39 says when he “saw how [Jesus] died”. I wonder what he saw? Perhaps he saw in Jesus’ eyes, through the spiritual and physical pain, the love that drove him to the cross? Perhaps Jesus looked at him with eyes so filled with forgiveness it pierced even this rough Roman soldier’s heart? Perhaps it was something else. We don’t know – but it was the death of Jesus that brought him new life, as it has been for every Christian since.

I love how God does things. He chooses this man to be the first one to declare the truth about Jesus! Isn’t that amazing? Here’s the man who nailed Jesus to the cross! He is a Gentile, he is an enemy of the Jews, a soldier of the oppressors – and he’s the first one who declares the truth about Jesus. Not Peter, not John, not the priests, none of the crowd – but an enemy Roman soldier. There is no-one beyond the reach of Jesus, not even you. Not even me. If he can save a man like that, a man who moments before was spitting at him and hitting him and mocking him and nailing his hands to the cross – well, he can save anybody.

And not just him – have a look at verse 21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)

Simon was most probably a black man, a North African (Cyrene is now Libya). Mark mentions Alexander and Rufus like we would know who they are – it’s not too much to assume that they are leaders in the church and that they and their father turned to Christ because of this moment, when their father carried Jesus’ cross, and saw him die. Even in this darkest of moments, there are glimmers of light.

In verse 40 we read about the many women who were following him. In those days women were second-class citizens, unimportant, not to be taken seriously – a woman could not be a witness in a court case as her testimony was considered unreliable! But Jesus accepts even women(!), takes them seriously, loves them even to death on a cross. Many women were there, followers of Jesus.

Glimmers of hope. The Roman soldier, the oppressor at the top of society; the black tourist or trader, a foreigner; the women, unimportant, nothings in society; and, finally, even a religious leader of Israel! 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honoured member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Even at this dark moment, like little glimmers of light, we see a group of people around Jesus from different nationalities, different social status, different political backgrounds, different genders, different religions, just like here – all welcome at the cross, all being given new life as Jesus gives up his life.

It’s like planting a seed, a tiny seed in the dirt, and you see nothing for so long, then suddenly – a little green shoot! Then another. And another. And a vast tree grows from this tiny seed, covering the whole world! That’s what the gospel is like, said Jesus. And here we see it. His death brings light and life to the whole world, even to us in Notodden, Norway, just like a tiny seed can spawn a great tree.

1. Jesus takes our place as a sinner

2. Jesus opens the way to God

3. The way to God is open for everyone, without exception

This is the hope for the non-Christian: that Jesus has opened the way to God for them. So pray for your friends and family and colleagues and tell them about Jesus. And if you’re not a Christian here today, today turn to him and give up your life to receive his.

This is the hope for the Christian. The cross is just as much for the Christian as the non-Christian, if not more so. Remember you are secure. Your sins are carried, taken, dealt with. No guilt in life, no fear in death – this is the power of Christ in me! You are safe. Remember the cross! Amen.

tirsdag 25. desember 2012

Audio recording: Mark 14:53-15:15 Rejected!

From a few weeks back - been a bit of a backlog here!
Here's the link. As usual, don't worry about the virus scan warning, click download anyway. There are  no viruses!

mandag 24. desember 2012

Audio recording Mark 15:16-39 The Warrior God!

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søndag 23. desember 2012

Mark 15:15-39 The Warrior God!

Mark 15:15-39

Remember back in school when people had to pick teams for some playground sport? Remember the guy who no-one wanted, who was always picked last? Remember the fear that that guy would be you, and you’d be standing there all alone, unwanted, rejected? Maybe it was you and you know that feeling of rejection?

Now imagine that you’re God, that you made people – and they’ve all rejected you. Imagine how Jesus felt in the text we read two weeks ago when everyone rejected him, everyone abandoned him –even his closest friends.

The disciples ran away. The religious leaders rejected him, and condemned him to death for claiming to be who he is: the Son of God! And the Gentiles (non-Jews) sentenced him to death even though they knew he was innocent. Rejected by everyone.

Yet Jesus still goes to the cross in order to save those who reject him.

We pick up the story in Mark 15:16. Jesus has just been unfairly sentenced to death by Pilate, even though Pilate knew he was innocent. But this is what Jesus said would happen – remember he told his disciples three times that he would be arrested by the religious leaders, he would be put to death, and he would rise again. Jesus went out to meet those who came to arrest him. He did not run, did not hide, but went to meet them. Because that night he had been praying for strength to go to the cross. That is why he came. He came to show us what God is like. He came to tell us that we are sinners and need a Saviour. And he came to be that Saviour. He dies for his enemies, like you and me, to make us into his friends. Whatever the cost, he will pay it – and the cost for rescuing us is high, very high indeed. It starts with beatings and mockery:

1. Mocking the King

17 [The soldiers] dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship.

Why would the soldiers mock him so? Were they just cruel, bloodthirsty men? Is this how they treated all their prisoners? Well, maybe. We do know that Israel was not the best place to be sent. There were continual uprisings and rebellions, soldiers faced danger all the time. It wasn’t a posting people wanted. So maybe these soldiers were a bit rougher than the others.

But the mock worship goes deeper. Jesus’ claim to be the king made a mockery of their Emperor, Caesar. And their treatment of him is to put him back in his place. Notice in verse 16 how the entire regiment is called out (that’s around 600 men!). “Insult our Emperor would you? Raise yourself up would you? How dare you? King! Ha! Hail O King.” they shout as they push thorns into his head, and beat him and spit on him as they bow and laugh at him in mock worship.

Isn’t that ironic? There is great irony here. Jesus is the true King, and deserves all worship. It is the Emperor, Caesar, who is the false king, trying to claim worship and authority that is not his. It is he who should be mocked, should be brought low.

And it’s not just the Roman soldiers who mock Jesus. v29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!” 31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

Those shouting insults and wagging their heads – they are the ones who deserve the punishment that Jesus is taking. They are the ones who have failed to keep their covenant (promise) with God. They have dealt falsely with their Saviour, they have betrayed their God, they have tried to overthrow the rightful King. As have we.

But in the right-way-up world of God’s love faithlessness is met with faithfulness, betrayal met with forgiveness, broken promises met with payment in blood, hatred met with love.

Everyone, laughing and hollering and pointing as Jesus is hammered naked onto the cross, beaten, bloodied, humiliated, exposed. The soldiers laughing as they beat him and pretend to worship him. 600 men spitting and hitting and making fun. Passersby mocking and jeering. Religious leaders, priests who represent the Almighty, gleefully slapping each others backs at their own cleverness, and laughing at this Jesus who hangs naked before them. “We showed him”, they would have been thinking.

Now it’s easy for us to see how wrong these people for mocking and abusing Jesus, especially because we know who he is- the God who created all people everywhere. But then point the finger back to ourselves, because we treat God the same way! How?

Maybe we ignore his words when we want to sin sexually – perhaps pornography in front of the computer, perhaps an adulterous affair, perhaps sexual intercourse with our girlfriend – but it’s ok because we “love” each other. Really? We mock the living God and his claim over our lives, and raise ourselves up as king in that situation. I will decide what is right for me. I want to sin sexually. I will do it.

Or maybe it’s not sex, but gossip, saying horrible things about other people, allowing bitterness to rise. Or perhaps its jealousy – thanklessness lies at the heart of jealousy. You’re not grateful to God for what he HAS given you, all you can see is what he hasn’t – and you mock him and spit on him with your attitude, saying “I can be a better God than you. I can make better decisions than you about my life and my needs.” See what word crops up: my, my, my. Who’s the King there? Instead of being filled with the glory of God, wanting to worship him and see his name exalted, we want to exalt ourselves. Ugh.

As we read in Romans 7:24 in the Wednesday night Bible studies “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Why? Because he has done the unthinkable, and swapped places with us. He has taken the punishment and shame that our sins deserve, and taken it upon himself. We mock the King, but he is responds by being…

2. The suffering servant King

How absurd that statement sounds! A King who serves? A King who suffers? How absurd! But isn’t that God? The Master of the absurd. The one who rescues his enemies at the cost of his own life. The one who meets hatred with love. The one who offers grace when judgement is owed. What God is this! His thoughts are indeed not our thoughts, his ways not our ways!

Can you imagine being beaten, humiliated, degraded like Jesus was? And for no reason! He is innocent. Pilate said so. The Jewish leaders found no evidence except that he is the Son of God! He is innocent. And he’s doing this by choice. Jesus, Jesus endures. He takes the mocking, in order to restore the broken relationship. It is his love which holds him there as people spit in his face and hit him and hurt him and make fun of him.
He is not powerless – no, at a word from him thousands of angels would appear and strike down those who mock him. At a word from him the sun would fall and the earth would swallow up those who dared to speak against the King of the Universe. Yet, he does nothing. As Isaiah 53:7 says “like a sheep before his shearers is silent, he does not open his mouth”. Praise God that he was silent and did not utter a word of vengeance!

To try to illustrate what Jesus did on this day on the cross, I’m going to tell you the true story of James Thomas. James was a British dancer on the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia. The Costa Concordia ran aground when the captain drove too close to land and hit a reef because he wasn't wearing his glasses and "had difficulty maneuvering large ships," two things we assumed would have been addressed at some point during the interview process. The captain then bravely abandoned ship, leaving 4000 passengers stranded. Up steps James Thomas. Passengers were stuck on the wrong level, unable to get to the life rafts. So Thomas stretched one arm down to the life rafts while holding onto the rail of the deck above, allowing dozens of people to climb onto his shoulders and then down his body to the rafts.

He allowed his body to be used as a human ladder, supporting all of the weight of the climbing passengers with one hand, as they crossed over him from danger to safety.

Jesus uses his own body to bridge the gap between Heaven and Hell, between judgement and mercy. And although James Thomas was heroic, he was not carrying the weight of the sins of the world as he did this, the passengers were not mocking him and shouting abuse at him while he rescued them, and he was not facing the forces of darkness, staring into the depths of Hell.

29 “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

30 save yourself and come down from the cross!”

Can you not hear the stench of Satan around that statement. save yourself and come down from the cross! What did Jesus say to Peter when Peter tried to divert Jesus away from the cross? “Get behind me Satan.” And here the people are calling out “Save yourself! Come down!” And the religious leaders “he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!
The last throw of the dice for Satan! For when Jesus goes into the darkness for us, when he breathes his last and gives up his life as the final, perfect sacrifice for our sins – then Satan’s power is broken, and he is defeated. He has no claim on people whose sins are covered! None! Desperately he cries out “Come down. Come down!”

But Jesus will not be deviated, he will not be tempted. Sinless he has been and sinless he remains. The Warrior God, fighting with his own body, with the deep perfect drops of his blood. You can almost imagine him looking into the spiritual realm, looking Satan right in the eye as his utters a loud cry and gives up his life.
Jesus is more Rambo than Rambo. This is the Warrior God who fights for his people.

My Dad’s favourite verse is Exodus 14:14 “Be still, and let the Lord fight for you.
And here we see the ultimate, impossible, battle. Who of us could endure even a minute of this without falling – but Jesus is hard as nails, resolute, immovable, staring into the abyss, looking at Hell itself – and jumps in to the very depths of Hell, facing pain unimaginable, the torment of his own just anger at the sin he is carrying. Our sin. The sins of the world.
Here is our King, our Champion, our Saviour, fighting the forces of darkness with his body and his blood. Now that is love!

And I want to show you something so thrilling, so exciting – at the moment Jesus breathes his last, the very moment he dies to save each and every one of us, we have verse 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Isn’t that amazing? Here’s the man who nailed Jesus to the cross – and he’s the first one saved by his death. He is a Gentile, he is an enemy of the Jews, a soldier of the oppressors – and he’s the first one who declares the truth about Jesus. Not Peter, not John, not the priests, none of the crowd – but an enemy Roman soldier. There is no-one beyond the reach of Jesus, not even you. If he can save a man like that, a man who moments before was spitting at him and hitting him and mocking him and nailing his hands to the cross – well, he can save you.

So what does that mean for me?
Firstly we need to recognise that we are sinners, rebels against God. Some of us are very nice sinners, polite sinners, even “good” sinners. Some of us may be politely ignoring God, pretending the King does not exist – and that’s just as bad and just as rebellious as someone hurling insults at him, or beating a defenceless man for fun. We’re all in the same boat, all in the enemy camp. When soldiers attack an enemy position, they don’t differentiate between the nice enemy soldiers and the horrible enemy soldiers – all of them are the enemy. And so it is when we face God’s judgement. We are all in the enemy camp, rebels against the true King.

Secondly we need to fall to our knees and thank the Lord Jesus for being our Christ, Messiah, Rescuer. He has burst into the enemy camp “If you want to live, come with me”. Only he can rescue us from Hell, because only he has faced Hell and defeated it, only he has paid the price our sins deserve, only he has sacrificed his own life to save ours. It is a swap. We swapped out the true King for ourselves – Jesus swaps himself in our place, and gives us his perfect life. Sinless, free. A Christmas Gift.

This Christmas, will you accept that gift by bowing your knee to Jesus as King and Saviour?

mandag 17. desember 2012

"How can a loving God allow suffering" 1 Pet 1:3-9

For those who missed out!

Thank you!

Thank you to Notodden Kirke (folkekirken), Notodden Misjonskirke, and Betania Pinsemenighet.
Vi setter stor pris på dere!
Phil 1:I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

onsdag 12. desember 2012

Posters for Sunday service

Here's two posters designed by the brilliant Anna Garratt Nystad for your downloading-and-sticking-up pleasure!
One is in English, the other Norwegian.

Rock International Church - please try to be at Krona at 15:30 on Sunday to ensure everything is in order for the service! Thanks! :-)

Note that there will be Sunday School / Children's church. The children will be following a separate program and will not be told about the attack on St. James church.

Min personlig Utøya


Hei! Jeg heter Debby, og jeg vokste opp i Cape Town, Sør-Afrika. Cape Town ligger helt i spissen av det afrikanske kontinentet. Det er en by med dobbelt så mange innbyggere som i Norge og med stedets gode klima og dramatiske natur er Cape Town et populært turistmål.

Da jeg ble født i 1979 var Sør-Afrika ikke et demokrati. Samfunnet var organisert under et system kalt Apartheid, som førte en politikk for separat utvikling: rasene (folkegruppene) ble holdt fra hverandre. Hvite sørafrikanere fikk alle rettigheter mens ikke-hvite sør afrikanere, som var størstedelen av befolkningen, ble forferdelig undertrykt og misbrukt av regjeringen. De ble vurdert som ikke-mennesker og hadde ingen rettigheter. Men da jeg nådde tenåringsalderen var det store endringer på gang. Det var et økt press, både nasjonalt og internasjonalt, for regjeringen til å forandre kurs. Det var mange politiske anti-Apartheid grupper som startet opp, noe som medførte en ny stemning i Sør-Afrika. Det voldte stor usikkerhet, fordi de som ble undertrykt vokste stadig i tillit.

Jeg ble født inn i en kjærlig kristen familie. Begge foreldrene mine elsker Jesus og kort tid etter at de ble gift overtok de en liten kirke i en av forstedene i Cape Town, kalt St James. Denne kirken vokste til en menighet på mer enn 2000 medlemmer, fra mange forskjellige raser og bakgrunner.

St James kirke var som et hjem for meg. Jeg tilbrakte mange timer der som barn. Det er et stort “campus” (kirke område) og har alltid hatt mange aktiviteter for barn. Det var der jeg lekte og fikk venner. Jeg følte meg trygg der.

Det var et sted hvor jeg lærte fra Bibelen at Jesus er Konge over hele verden og har kontroll over alle ting. Min opplevelse av den kristne tro var bare positiv og trygg. Og dette inkluderte innenfor de velkjente veggene til St James kirken hvor jeg i timevis lekte og lærte og vokste.

Men i løpet av få minutter, ble min trygge og forutsigbare verden helt knust.

På en kald og regnfull vinternatt i juli 1993, få uker etter at jeg fylte 14 år dro jeg til kirken som vanlig. Det var en søndag kveld, og jeg satt sammen med alle vennene mine ganske langt bak og lyttet til en sang. Plutselig kom fire bevæpnede menn stormende inn og begynte å angripe menigheten. De startet å skyte med AK47 (maskingevær) og kaste håndgranater med spikerbokser festet på dem og banet seg vei oppover midtgangene.

Det var så uventet, så utrolig og utenkelig at når det begynte satt jeg bare der som fjetret og så på disse mennene. Var det et spill av noe slag? Et angrep var det siste jeg tenkte på - til venninna mi, som satt ved siden av meg, dro meg ned på gulvet, der jeg ble værende med resten av menigheten hvor vi prøvde å skjerme oss fra kuler og granatsplinter. Når den øredøvende støyen hadde lagt seg, løftet jeg forsiktig hodet opp og kikket rundt. Alt følte først veldig uvirkelig. Støyen fra håndgranatene hadde gjort at all lyd syntes langt borte og det var røyk i luften som gjorde alt disig. Det var et øyeblikks ro da jeg reiste meg opp. Men så begynte jeg å høre rop og skrik. Det var fullstendig kaos og forvirring, jeg så venner ligge dø i benkene der de satt, blod strømmet ned midtgangene, folk skrek som hadde fått kroppslemmer sprengt i lufta - og min lille verden begynte å gå i stykker.

Lekeplassen min så ut som en krigs sone. Alt jeg kunne tenke på var å komme meg ut, dra hjem - til det andre trygge stedet i mitt liv. Jeg måtte vekk, jeg var desperat etter å forlate og glemme og ikke vite at dette forferdelige hadde skjedd. Når jeg var hjemme trodde jeg at det hele ville være over. Men det var langt fra over.

Det var over 1000 mennesker på gudstjeneste der den kvelden. Mange av dem led og fortsatt lider på mange måter. Noen mistet sine kjære, noen fikk langvarige skader som daglig volder dem smerter, noen mistet kroppslemmer. Og for mange av oss har den psykologiske kampen vært svært reell. Jeg husker i ukene som fulgte ble jeg helt desperat etter å få tiden til å gå: da ville jeg ikke måtte kjempe for å sove, eller føle meg så deprimert, eller få et panikkanfall hver gang en dør ble slengt igjen. Men det som fulgte var nesten 5 års kamp med fobier, søvnløshet, depresjon og sosial tilbaketrekning.

Men det største problemet som møtte meg var min tro på Jesus. Hva skulle jeg skal gjøre med Jesus nå? Hvordan kunne jeg takle det som skjedde med meg i lys av hva jeg hadde lært og trodd om Jesus? Var han virkelig Gud og i kontroll av denne verden? Er han virkelig glad i meg? Er vi kristne bare fjols som bedrar oss selv?

Jeg oppdaget at Bibelen lærer oss at lidelser bør trekke oss nærmere Gud, ikke drive oss lenger unna. Å forlate troen på en allmektig Gud gjør lidelsens eksistens mer forvirrende, ikke mindre forvirrende. Den eneste grunnen til at jeg kan si at dette angrepet var galt er fordi det er en Gud som har gjort seg selv kjent. Hvis det ikke er noen endelig (ultimal) standard, ingenting utenfor vårt ”system” som forteller oss hva som er rett og galt - hvem er jeg da som kan si at dette var galt? Mennene som gjorde dette mente virkelig at de hadde rett. Vold er en vesentlig del av naturen. På hvilket grunnlag kunne jeg betegne dette som galt eller feil? Jeg kan ikke det uten en tro på Gud Skaperen som har satt standarden for godt og ondt. Ellers ville det bare vært deres syn på hva som er rett mot min oppfatning av hva som er rett. Nei, jeg måtte finne svaret med Gud, for jeg kunne ikke fornekte hans eksistens, og jeg kunne ikke bevise at han ikke var allmektig ut i fra denne hendelsen.

Men jeg var fortsatt plaget med "Er han en kjærlig Gud? Elsker han meg?“ Spesielt i tider med dyp depresjon der tanken på å få slutt på livet mitt var mer attraktivt for meg enn å leve.

Ved å lese Bibelen min –som er Guds tanker – har jeg oppdaget at Gud har gitt oss mange løfter. Men aldri har han lovet at vi ikke skulle lide her på jorden. Gud bedro meg ikke den kvelden fordi han har aldri noensinne lovet at denne type ting ikke ville skje. Faktisk, Bibelen sier det motsatte, at onde ting, vil skje. Men han lover å hjelpe oss når ting som dette skjer. Gud sier i Jesajas bok: Frykt ikke! Jeg har gjenløst deg. Når (ikke hvis) du går gjennom vann, er jeg med deg, og gjennom elver, skal de ikke overskylle deg. Når du går gjennom ild, skal du ikke svies, og luen skal ikke brenne deg.

Og det er akkurat hva jeg erfarte.

Hva jeg erfarte var at under hele denne mørke tiden var Jesus både trofast og veldig reell. Jeg oppdaget gjennom min erfaring at kristendommen dreier seg ikke om en idé eller en filosofi. Den handler om en person; Jesus. Og ikke bare hvilken som helst person, en som har gjennomgått mer enn noen av oss noen gang vil.

Korset er nå et romantisk symbol, men å bli korsfestet er en av de mest smertefulle fysiske opplevelser et menneske kan ha. Derfor brukte romerne den bare for de verste forbrytere - og ingen romersk borger kunne bli korsfestet for det var ansett for å være altfor barbarisk. Og på toppen av det hele måtte Jesus utholde, bokstavelig talt, helvete. Han ble pint på alle måter, fysisk, følelsesmessig og åndelig, for meg, for OSS, slik at vi kan være venner med Gud. Det var den eneste måten. DET er kjærlighet det!

Det var denne Jesus som jeg ba til gjennom hele denne tiden. Denne Jesus hjalp meg, noen ganger minutt for minutt. Denne Jesus var det jeg hørte fra i Bibelen. Jeg var trygg i denne personen Jesus, og jeg finner ingen større kjærlighet enn dette.

De fire mennene som angrep oss den kvelden var alle 17 år gamle. De jobbet for APLA, en bevæpnet ving av en politisk anti-Apartheid gruppe. APLA gjorde flere andre attakk det året og deres mål var å angripe sivile for å skape frykt i folk. St James kirken var et mykt mål. Vi lærte senere at deres oppgave var å drepe alle som var der den kvelden. Heldigvis var det en bevæpnet politi reservist i menigheten som skjøt tilbake og traff en av dem. Dette fikk dem til å forlate oppdraget sitt og rømme ut.

Disse mennene ble tatt kort tid etterpå og broren min fikk anledning til å snakke med dem mens de var i fengsel. Jeg tenkte ofte på hva jeg ville si om jeg konfronterte disse mennene.

Vel, broren min, som også er en pastor, satte seg ned foran dem og sa følgende: "Ifølge Gud er det ingen forskjell mellom dere og meg. Vi begge fortjener Guds dom." Han fortsatte med å forklare at vi alle er opprørere mot Gud, uansett hva vi gjør eller hvor vi bor, ingen av oss er gode nok for Gud. Det er fordi Gud ikke har et hierarki av synd. Han betrakter ikke mordere som verre enn de som lever gode liv,men er ikke perfekte. Han ser oss alle på samme måte, ingen av oss har nådd opp til Hans gode, fullkomne standard. Og hvis vi dør i denne ufullkomne tilstanden står vi alle overfor en evig dom.

”Men! " sa han: "Det finnes gode nyheter! Og det er at Gud har gitt en måte for oss å bli fullkomne i hans syn. Det er det Jesus gjorde på korset, det var en ’swap ’– en utveksling; hans fullkomne liv for våre ufullkomne liv. Jesus hadde ingen synd, allikevel ble Han dømt av Gud i stedet for oss slik at vi kan bli akseptert av Gud og slik at vi kan unnslippe hans dom. Det er derfor vi elsker Jesus så mye! ” Vår bønn er at disse mennene vil akseptere tilgivelse og denne Gud som tilbyr det.

søndag 9. desember 2012

Mark 14:53-15:15 Rejected!

Mark 14:53- 15:15

It’s night-time in an olive grove in early spring. The scent of budding flowers is in the air. There’s a full moon, its face shining brightly on the earth, creating strong contrasts of silver beams of lights and dark shadows under the branches of the trees.
And in the shadows we see twelve men huddling in fear. They are fugitives, on the run from the authorities – and they have just been betrayed.
They trusted Judas – he was their treasurer for goodness sake! And now he betrayed them.
They looked at their leader, Jesus, his face drawn with anxiety. They had never seen him like this. He brooded in silence.

Suddenly there was a shout – the soldiers had found them!

“RUN!” shouted Jesus. “Run for your lives”. The twelve men set off in different directions, fear etched on their faces. Jesus threw himself in a ditch, and began to crawl towards the safety of a nearby river.

But it was too late. There were too many soldiers. All too soon the men were rounded up, and their leader, Jesus, his face covered in dirt and leaves and debris, was hauled before the Captain of the Guard. He laughed as Jesus cowered before him, disbelief and fear etched on his face. An shameful end, for a failed prophet.

OR The Hollywood version!

As Jesus crawled away he heard the screams and cries of his friends, his followers, as they were tracked down by the soldiers, bound together, and taken away to judgement and punishment. A few tears escaped before his face grew hard with resolve. This time, he will teach his men to fight. This time, he will strike down the authorities. This time, he will not be skulking away, but be victorious.

He’ll be back!

If we had to guess or even write about what was going to happen, knowing 200 soldiers were coming to arrest 12 men, wouldn’t that be how we would picture it? If we were Jesus, isn’t that how we would react? Isn’t that what people think about Jesus – just another failed prophet, who accidentally got himself arrested and killed?

As we saw over the last two weeks, surprisingly, what actually happened is very, very different. This was no failed prophet, running from death. This is not the weak end to what could have been a lifetime of famous ministry. This is not a tragedy, but a victory!

This is the pinnacle of Jesus’ ministry. This is his crown jewel, the moment he has been working towards his whole life. This is when he will be revealed as the King above all Kings – as he destroys death and Satan, rescues humanity, and glorifies himself!

This is the high point of human history: the reason Jesus came was in order to die.
He came to be the Passover Lamb: sacrificed so that his blood would shield those who trust in Him from the Judgement to come.
He is the King, the one who is strong, the one who prays in deep anguish to avoid the cup of judgement - but faces it anyway. He drinks the cup, the cup which makes men stagger, down to the last poisonous drop.
We are weak, like the disciples, unable to pray, but instead to sleep, unable to stand with Jesus, but instead to be scattered: we are weak, and could not face the judgement to come. So Jesus, in his great love, faces it for us. That is propitiation. He absorbs the judgement, the wrath of God, and shields us from it, by his blood, by his broken body.

That is love.

Last week we saw that Jesus knows that we are weak. And still loves us. Our weakness, our failure is not something we have to try to hide from him. Christianity is not about pretending you’re better than you are!

Jesus is strong where we are weak.

Tonight we see again how Jesus is strong, whereas we are weak. He is the King, the rightful and true King – yet he is rejected by the Jews (represented by the leading priests and high council), rejected by his own dearest friends (represented by Peter), and rejected by the Gentiles (non-Jews, that’s us, represented by Pilate).

1. Rejected by the Jews v55-65

They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered...55 the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any.

The trial is a sham. It is irregular – meeting in the middle of the night instead of the day, and not in the Temple court but in the high priests house. And no evidence could be found! They’d already decided the verdict - back in chapter 11:18 they had decided that Jesus must die and were plotting to kill him. This was no fair hearing, but a loaded gun pointed at Jesus’ head.
How precious this must have been to the early Christians being persecuted in similar trials under Roman and Jewish persecution. Jesus went through this, so can I!

How precious this is to us when life seems unfair, when the decks are stacked against us, when we are wrongly accused – Jesus has been through this. He knows what it feels like. He endured. He is strong. Draw strength from him in your weakness.

56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’ ” 59 But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!

If this wasn’t so serious it would be like a comedy sketch! The bungling baddies, oafishly getting their stories wrong. The paid witnesses saying the opposite of each other! You can almost see little fight breaking out between them: “why’d you say that, you idiot, you were supposed to say….” You can almost imagine them getting cream pies out and hitting each other in the face with them. It is so utterly foolish.

Man vs. God.
Don’t we look like a bunch of clowns? Aren’t we utterly idiotic when we try to act like God, deciding for ourselves what’s right and wrong when we don’t understand anything about, well, anything! It’s like children trying to understand the goings-on in an adult world. Sometimes my kids try to make decisions, which to them seems good (like “Daddy stay home today, don’t go to work”) – but they have no idea of the wider world, the bigger consequences (like having food to eat and a house to live because Daddy goes to work instead of staying home and playing with the kids!).

So, even the high priest can now see that they’re getting nowhere. Even as a sham trial this is pretty thin. He’s probably beating his head against the wall in frustration – while Jesus stands there calm, resolute, quiet. Eventually in frustration he turns to Jesus v60 “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” I bet he couldn’t believe his luck when Jesus answered him: “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Blasphemy! BLASPHEMY!! You dishonour God! How dare you claim to be God! BLASPHEMY! Death!
But not once did they stop to consider maybe this is true. They did not listen to his words: I AM, the personal name of the God of Israel (Yahweh or Jehovah means I AM who I am – God said to Moses tell them I AM sent you). So Jesus says I AM. Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? Yahweh, says Jesus. I am.
And just to make sure they understand, he then claims to be the human figure in Daniel 7 who is given all authority in heaven and earth by the Father (the “Ancient of Days” in the prophecy). He is the Messiah. He is God Almighty. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But they miss it. Their sin blinds them to the truth, and drives them to murder their own king, their God.
We, too, are blinded by our sin. Without his grace we too would be shouting Crucify him! Blasphemer! Playing our religious games while murdering the Son of God.
Religion does not lead you to God, but away from God. Unless you know Jesus, religion is dangerous. Paul the Apostle was a very religious man, and loved God (or so he thought) – but that love expressed itself in murdering Christians until the day that Jesus met him and turned his life around.
Unless you know Jesus, religion is dangerous, poisonous, futile, and hellish.

65 Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.

Why did Jesus suddenly openly proclaim his divinity (that he is God, the Son of God), the Son of Man in power, and that he is the Messiah? Up to now he has always refused to proclaim this publically, always told demons to be quiet, and those whom he has healed not to tell anyone. Why now?

Because now, chained, arrested, beaten, abandoned, there is no misunderstanding what type of Messiah he is. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah. He is the conquering King as well, but it is a spiritual conquest, not a political. Jesus can openly claim to be the Messiah because now no-one will want to force him to be the political king. He is arrested, weak, with no followers. Who’d want this fellow to be king?
Now there is no risk to his mission being compromised – he came to die, and he will achieve it. Now it is unstoppable, and so he can reveal himself because no-one will believe it. In fact, revealing who he is will achieve his goals!

64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”

So the Jews, the very people of God, with the religion of God, the word of God, the rituals of God, the Law of God – reject God.

And even Jesus’ closest friends reject him.

2. Rejected by his own

54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.

Peter was probably still determined to “die for Jesus”. He follows him right in to the courtyard. He had probably convinced himself that he could still do it, that this time he wouldn’t run away – despite the fact that, unlike Jesus, he had not prayed for strength, but fallen asleep. And despite the fact that Jesus had already told him that he would fall.

He did not believe Jesus. He thought he was fine by himself. How often is that us? Or our friends, or family members, or work colleagues?

We don’t want to hear the uncomfortable truths. We don’t want to hear that we are sinners who sin. That there is a God, and we are not him! That God is angry with us and will judge us and condemn us to hell if continue to rebel against him. That shame covers us. We have dishonoured our King. Lalalala we say with our hands over our ears, trying to block it out. The problem is, is that it is true. And reliable, true, truth. There is no escape.

Jesus said a few hours before: v30 “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

A servant girl questions him v67 “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.” 68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” One.

V69 She began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70 But Peter denied it again. Two.

“You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.” 71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” Three.

And he broke down and wept.

There is no escape. We are weak. We reject Jesus in our own strength and condemn ourselves to hell.
Jesus’ closest friends deny Jesus. He is the rejected King.
Praise Him, that he knows our weakness, and is able to cover over our failure with his blood. Peter, after meeting with Jesus after his resurrection, became the head of the church, its premier evangelist and missionary. He knows our weakness, yet still love us.
Praise Him, that he is strong, face set like flint, going with determination towards his death as he enters the courtroom of Pilate to be rejected by the Gentiles, to pay the price of love so that he can forgive us.

3. Rejected by the Gentiles

Just in case we were thinking, well, I’m not Jewish, not religious, I wouldn’t have rejected Jesus. I’d have seen through their lies and seen the truth of Jesus. Well, here comes Pilate, our representative.

Because the Jews were under Roman occupation, they had no authority to put someone to death. So they needed Pilate to find Jesus guilty in order to sentence him to death. Unfortunately “blasphemy” was not punishable under Roman law – so they accuse Jesus of being the King, and therefore rebelling against the true ruler: the Emperor of Rome! Ironic, isn’t it. 2 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Jesus makes no further defence, says no further words – to Pilate’s amazement – and in accordance with Scripture: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth”. (Is 53:7)

Just as in the first trial, where no witnesses could agree and the only charge that stuck was actually true, Jesus is declared innocent in this second trial. 10 (For he [Pilate] realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

But Pilate is a crowd-pleaser, amoral, with no fear of God. He was not a good man, forced into a bad situation. He was a bad judge who condemned a man he knew was innocent to a brutal and disgusting death. He rejected the King, he rejected God, he even rejected his own conscience. 15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Jesus, rejected by the chief priests and the Jewish nation, rejected by his closest friends, rejected by the whole world.

What about you?

fredag 7. desember 2012

What's coming up this Christmas at Rock International?

Sunday 9th: Church service at 17:00 at our house Harald Bjerkesgate 26. Mark 14:53-72.

Wednesday 12th: Church Bible study at 19:30 at our house Harald Bjerkesgate 26. Romans 8 (first part). The Bible study group will break over Christmas, starting up again on the 2nd January.

Venue will be KRONA (in town - above Coop, near the Post Office)

Debby's Dad, Frank Retief, a gifted speaker and evangelist, known the world over for sharing the gospel clearly and simply from the Bible, will be speaking to us on the St. James Massacre. In 1993 gunmen came into the church and attacked the congregation of around 1500 people with AK47s and grenades.
How do you cope with violence and suffering as a Christian?
Is Christianity even relevant in the "real world"?
Is God powerless or powerful?
Does God even know our sufferings? Does he care?
During his festive season we celebrate that he does care. Jesus came and suffered with us, for us. And he has set aside a day, his return, when all evil will be wiped out, and will be no more.

Invite your friends, neighbours, colleagues, people in the street....! This is a fantastic opportunity for people to hear about Jesus.

Church services will continue through the Christmas period:
Sunday 23rd, 17:00. Mark 15 Jesus' trial.
Monday 24th (Julaften): No service at Rock International, but we recommend joining with many of our fellow citizens of our beautiful town at the Folkekirke in the centre of town. (The big red brick church). At 16:00 we can join in and wish everyone "God Jul!"
Sunday 30th, 17:00. Mark 15-16 Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection ("You can't keep a good man down"!)
And that brings us to the end of Mark's gospel! Momentous good news indeed: Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the Son of God

In January we'll start with the book of Amos - and we'll see that this prophet's words to Israel hundreds of years before Christ are surprisingly relevant to us today in Norway. The whole Bible speaks about Jesus, and Amos is no exception. Get excited! The Lord speaks today! 

søndag 2. desember 2012

Mark 14:26 to 52 No guilt, no shame - Jesus has taken it all AUDIO RECORDING

Here's the link to the mp3 of tonight's sermon. Hooray for Jesus!
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Mark 14:26-52 No guilt, no shame – Jesus has taken it!

Mark 14:26-52

In tonight’s passage we will see that we (people) want to be strong, wish we were strong – but we are weak. Often we know the right thing to do, we want to do the right thing, but we don’t do it. It’s too hard, too costly, and so we chicken out, take the easy road.
We are weak.
And Jesus knows this. And still loves us.
Our weakness, our failure is not something we have to try to hide from him. Christianity is not about pretending you’re better than you are!
Because Jesus is strong. Although he was “greatly distressed and troubled” he still went through with his suffering and death on the cross, bearing the sins of the world – in order that he, the strong, can lift us, the weak, up.

And we can trust this message because the Scripture (the Bible) is true. What the Bible says will happen, happens. This is true truth.

Last week we saw why Jesus is strong enough to achieve this exodus, this rescue of weak people in slavery to sin. Jesus is the Christ (which means “anointed one”), because he is being anointed (by the woman pouring the perfume on his head). And he’s being anointed for his burial because he is the Passover Lamb, who dies to take away the sins of the people, so that they can be rescued from slavery to sin, and brought into right relationship with God.

Last week was probably a bit complicated and a bit dense - I got a bit excited and wanted you to see with me how all the threads of the Old Testament are coming together in Jesus at this moment! But instead of being exciting it may have sounded more like a textbook with 15 subpoints than a rousing call to praise and wonder! So let me sum it up by saying Jesus is the fulfilment of everything good in the Old Testament! Or as the Spirit Himself simply puts it in 2 Cor 1:20: In Jesus all of God’s promises are YES!

Jesus the King. Jesus the Passover Lamb. Jesus the Christ. He is strong. We are weak.

1. We are weak (27-32)

Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. No matter how brave you are in other areas of life, when it comes to Jesus we are all weak. Our sinful nature rises up in us, fear takes hold, and we fall away. And Jesus knows this. God the Father knows this. The Spirit knows this.

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

How often do we see ourselves as better than we are? Especially us guys – we always want to do it alone, in our own strength. That’s the disciples, confidently asserting that they would rather die than deny Jesus. But a few hours later “50 And they all left him and fled.”.

I thank God for the disciples. Because they are real people like you and me. They make mistakes, they get things so wrong, they don’t understand, they are foolish, they are cowards – these are no super-spiritual giants, ticking all the right religious boxes! I mean Peter even tells Jesus off at one point, telling him he’s wrong. Oops.

And Jesus still loves them, still accepts them, still allows them to follow him – and uses them, makes them part of his great glorious work of salvation! And builds the church upon their weak and frail backs!

I heard someone tell a story about Jesus returning to Heaven after his resurrection. The angels are standing there singing praise, congratulating Jesus about his great work of salvation, his great achievement. All glory to the King!
But then one angel comes up to him and says
“uh, Jesus, I’ve got a question....”
“Um, how are you, you know, going to get the message out? About what you’ve done? How are people going to hear about it”
Jesus points to the little band of weak and small disciples.
“Ah, hahaha, hmmm, yes, yes, them, yes. Do you, um, have any other plan?”
“No, no other plan.”

Don’t you love our God, who chooses the weak to shame the strong, who reveals truth to children and conceals it from the “wise”, who loves the unlovable and forgives the unforgiveable – even at the cost of his own life. Who builds his unstoppable church through people like you and me!
The God who is strong in our weakness.

“No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”
What is it that you feel guilty about? Have you let Jesus down? Have you some secret sin which you could never reveal to anyone, certainly not Him? Do you sit awake sometimes in the dark watches of the night, your room closing in about you, as your thoughts accuse you “guilty! Guilty! Weak! You are no Christian! How dare you call yourself a Christian! Failure!”. Are you ashamed of boldly claiming to stand for Jesus “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” – only to shrink away in denial when the time came?

Well, welcome to the human race! This is us. We are not righteous. We do not seek God.
But, thankfully he seeks us. He knows our weakness. He knows our shame. He knows our guilt. And he has covered it with his blood.
It is gone.
No guilt in life, no fear in death!
Confess your sins with joy, not fear, for he knows and has forgiven you!
Jesus knew hundreds of years before that the disciples would fail him. Through his Spirit he wrote the words that he quoted in v27 ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ from Zechariah 13:7. The last time we heard a quote from Zechariah was during the triumphal entry, Jesus, the King, riding in on a donkey. Rejoice O Zion! But now the King, the Shepherd, will be struck and the sheep scattered. This is all part of God’s plan (“I will strike” is God speaking) to bring about his purposes: the big themes in Zechariah are the LORD returning to his Temple, and blessing the whole world through “Jerusalem” – the new people of God.
And here is the King, ready to be struck, the sheep, bleating their cries of “we will not be scattered” – but He will be struck and they scattered. But have no fear, for Jesus will bring them together again in Galilee “28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”, where he began his ministry, this time the risen, victorious Christ, giving them power to enable them to do the works he has given them to do: to spread the word about Jesus, his victory over sin and death, and forgiveness for all who come to him. No guilt, no shame, but forgiveness, acceptance, and a new way of living, a new purpose, a new goal: the glory of God Almighty.

We may not be the best Christian in the world – but we have the best Christ! Where we are weak, he is strong. So trust him. He will hang on to you. His grip will not fail. You are secure in him.

2. Jesus is strong

33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

The night in the garden was the worst of Jesus’ life. Here before him lay the final choice: to go through with torture and death, and worse, face the anger, the wrath, of the Father as he carries our sins to the cross; or to turn aside, to call down myriads of angels to fight for him, to be carried up in glory to his rightful place in the throne room of heaven. What would you have chosen?

Like Jesus, greatly distressed and troubled – what would you have done?
Like Jesus, saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” – so deeply full of sorrow you feel like you’re going to die, simply because of sorrow, of dread of what is to come – what would you have done?
Like Jesus, throwing yourself before God Almighty in prayer, begging him to get you out of this, open another way “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” – what would you have done?

Well, we know what Jesus DID. He did not fall away. He did not yield to temptation. He did not fall asleep but prayed for strength. He did not turn back. Instead he prays the most remarkable prayer in the Bible, and the prayer that should be echoed in the heart of everyone who follows Jesus, everyone who calls themselves a Christian, in every area of our lives because we belong to him: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (v36)

Not my will, but yours be done. That is the cry of a heart yielded up to God. Jesus here is the perfect human being, willing to do whatever the Father asks in order to glorify him. We were created to bring him glory – that is our purpose and our destiny. We are to reflect back to God his beauty, his splendour, his majesty, crying out with every action, every thought, every prayer, every word spoken, at work, at home, in the garden, up on the mountain: you are glorious, you are holy, you are amazing. Your will be done.
We pray that in the Lord’s Prayer, don’t we? “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” That doesn’t mean out there somewhere, distant from us – no we’re praying that his will is done in our lives, we’re praying that we would yield to his will, praying that we would not fall into temptation and follow Satan along the path of comfort and death, but Jesus along the hard path – but glorious and fulfilling and the path of life eternal.

But what we will face will never be anything near what Jesus faced. And we never face it alone, but our great high priest, who knows our weakness, is always with us.

Jesus, though, was alone. His sheep were about to be scattered, which he knew. He was about to be arrested, which he knew “the hour has come”. And he was about to drink the Cup. In the Old Testament the Cup was often used as a symbol of God’s judgement on sin. For example Jer 25:15-29 says Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them...You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts. Similarly Jer 49, Isaiah 51, and Psalm 75:8.

Set before Jesus was that cup. A foaming cup of poisonous punishment. Anger upon anger, wrath upon wrath, poured out for the sins of the world from all of time and space all gathered into one concentrated poisonous dose. Like a witches’ brew – but a thousand, a million, a trillion times worse. We will never know what Jesus knew he was facing.
But he faced it.
Three times he prayed for steely resolve to drink this cup to its last drop. And he did not falter, did not stop. Arise, he says, my betrayer is at hand. He did not run, did not call down legions of angels to defend him, did not use his awesome power to simply swat away the soldiers who had come to arrest him. He had prayed. He was at peace. Not my will, but yours, Father.

We may be weak, but Jesus is strong.

3. Scripture is truth

It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a long linen shirt about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the shirt and ran away naked.

Jesus offers no resistance to his arrest - in fact he goes out to meet them. No playing hide and seek amongst the trees. No fighting. No running. One of the disciples gets it wrong – hacking off someone’s ear. He should have prayed – he’s totally on the wrong page! And then when Jesus simply gives himself up, terror grips them all and, just as Jesus prophesied in v27, quoting Zechariah’s prophecy from hundreds of years before, the sheep do indeed scatter: v50“they all left him and fled”. One disciple, a “young man” who is probably Mark, the writer of this gospel, was so frightened that when the soldiers grabbed him by his long shirt he just tore it off and fled away naked into the night.

They all abandon Jesus. The spirit was willing “I will die for you Jesus!” – but the flesh was weak. But Jesus, the perfect man, prayed, was strengthened, and did not fall away. Where we are weak, he is strong.

Friends, let me remind you that this is true. This is true truth, Rock solid. Dependable. Listen to verse 49 again Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.

All this is happening according to Scripture. This was written down hundreds of years before so that we would KNOW that it is true. We would KNOW that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the Christ, the Rescuer – and our King. The Bible is not one book written by some old dude in a tower. It’s a library (so the name “Bible” from the Latin biblia meaning library): 66 books written by 40 authors, written over 1500 years. So hundreds of years before Jesus, men were writing, inspired by the Holy Spirit, about what he would be doing and what he would be saying. Isn’t that amazing?
Last week I showed you how all the different promises of God all come together in Christ. The Temple is Christ, the Passover Lamb is Christ. He does what the Servant in Isaiah does. He does what the King in Zecahriah does. He is the LORD coming to his Temple from Malachi. Again and again we see that Jesus fulfils Scripture. Someone counted up all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled – somewhere between 300 and 400, depending on how you count (some people count one verse saying two things as two prophecies, others one)! And Jesus fulfilled all of them. Every single one. Statistically impossible to do by random chance – the only way to fulfill these prophecies is if you are the one who was prophesied!

Have assurance. This is true.

We may be weak, but Jesus is strong. He knows our weakness, knows our guilt – and has covered it. Pray without fear. Pray without guilt. Come to him knowing your darkest secrets are covered. And walk in new life, to his praise and glory. Hooray for Jesus!

søndag 25. november 2012

Mark 14:1-26 The Christ!

Mark 14:1-26

Have you ever watched a marathon (running race)? It’s a long race, over a number of hours – but the most exciting part is often the very, very end, when there’s one or two amazing runners using the absolute last bit of their energy, gasping for air, pushing their bodies towards the prize. After hours of running, the race comes down to milliseconds! And that’s where we are in Mark’s Gospel – we’re in the home straight, running for the finish, and the action is hotting up! So Mark goes into slow motion so we can capture all the detail of these last couple of days of Jesus’ life here on earth. From his anointing for burial to his last meal with his disciples, to his sham trials, and his display of Kingly service on the cross as he dies for sinners like us, to his resurrection. This is what it’s all about. This is what Mark wants us to hear, to understand, to believe, and in believing, have life. Remember how he began: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Previously in Mark’s Gospel....

The disciples have been fed with heavenly food (feeding of 5000) and their eyes have been opened (2 stage blind man miracle and blind Bartimeus who sees the King) to who Jesus is. They know that he is the Christ. They were called in chapter 3:13-19 in a way that reminds us of the calling of the twelve tribes of Israel. It seemed, then, that Jesus was founding a new Israel.

That is confirmed now. In chapter 12 we saw that Israel, represented by chief priests, scribes, elders, have rejected Jesus, their Christ (or Messiah) and King. And so Jesus has pronounced the consequences upon them. Last week we saw that not one stone will stand. The old Temple will be cleared away for the new Temple: Jesus, and his church. The church is founded on its cornerstone, Jesus, the Christ.

But why did Israel reject Jesus? What’s the issue? Remember Mark 7? Jesus reveals why people reject him. It’s a heart problem. Mk 7:20–23 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile (make unclean) a person.”

Sin drives the religious leaders to kill God. We all want God to be dead, so that we can take his place. We all want to decide for ourselves. We hear people say after tragedies, a loved one dies, they fall sick, they’re hit by a massive storm which destroys their house, “I can’t believe in a God who allows such things to happen”.
That’s ironic because it’s only because of God that they expect things to be any different! Why would you expect the world to be kind and loving when it absolutely isn’t –unless that’s how God made the world in the first place, reflecting his good character!

What they’re really saying is I can do a better job as God than God. “I wish you were dead God, so I can take over”. It’s the child’s equivalent of putting their hands over their ears so they can’t hear you (the Dad!).

And so v1 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

But what they don’t know is that this is exactly what Jesus came to do. He has been preparing for his death for many years. He is the Christ.

1. Jesus is the Christ (anointed one)

Christ means simply “anointed one” (to anoint something means to pour oil on it to set it apart for special or holy use). Three types of people were anointed in the OT: Kings (2 Sam 2:4), Priests (Ex 28:41), and Prophets (1 Kings 19:16). The anointing symbolised being equipped for service by the Holy Spirit. King, priests and prophets were anointed, set apart to serve God in the power of the Spirit.

Now we’ve already seen Jesus being anointed as King, at his baptism. 1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus is anointed not by oil but directly by the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s voice from Heaven declares him to be God the Son, the beloved second person of the Trinity; the Son of God, the name given to Israel – he will do what Israel could not and fulfil the covenant with Abraham to be a blessing to all nations; the Son of God, the name given to Israel’s king, who represented the nation before God, and therefore when anointed king also called the Son of God – and so Jesus too is recognised as the anointed King of God’s people.
Jesus of Nazareth, fully human, identifying with us in baptism, declared to be the King, the new Israel, and the divine Son.

So Jesus is the true King. But not just that, he is also true Priest and true Prophet. The role of the Priest was to offer sacrifices to God, to mediate (make clear the way) between sinful man and holy God. Jesus is preparing himself to be the sacrifice, and open the way for sinful men to meet a holy God. More than that, he will not just be the Priest but the Temple itself! The stone Temple will fall because Jesus is now the true meeting place between man and God.

The Prophet spoke the very words of God “thus says the Lord” – Jesus says “I say to you” (further indicating that he, at least, saw himself as divine, equal to the Father).

3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard (a type of perfume), very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

Now, three day before his death, he is publically anointed before his followers, reminding them that here is the King, our champion, our representative. For just as Jesus was baptised, something only sinners need to do - for baptism is a washing away of sin, dying to sin under the water and rising again to new life out of the water – just as Jesus identified with our sin in his baptism, so now he completes that work of baptism by taking the penalty of our sin upon himself. His body will be broken, his blood shed, to break the power of sin over us, to set us free, to achieve the real Exodus: bringing his people from slavery to sin under the power of Satan to a new freedom in (ultimately) a new earth under his good kingly rule.

Jesus understood this: 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.

His burial will be gospel (good news) proclaimed to the world. Because don’t forget that although he’s anointed for burial, he is no sinner – he is our representative, bearing our sin, dying in our place, but he himself has committed no sin; death has no claim on him. So, as he himself has reminded us three times: he will be handed over, he will be killed, he will rise again (8:31, 9:31, 10:34) .

Christus Victorious! The Risen Christ! Jesus, enthroned upon the seat of Heaven, his great work of redemption complete. That is yet to come. For the path of the Christ, the Promised Rescuer, eternal King, means he must become as nothing, a pitiable slave, a willing sacrifice, a lamb lead to the slaughter. First he must be the Passover Lamb, driven by his deep self-sacrificial love for rebel sinners like you and me.

So Jesus the Christ is also

2. Jesus, the Passover Lamb

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

Mark reminds us of the PASSOVER in v1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And in v12 on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.

The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread was a feast to celebrate the Exodus, the great rescue of God’s people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land, under God’s good rule through his word. The Unleavened Bread was flat bread, bread without yeast, which is bread you can make in a hurry, if you have to leave quickly. They were to make flat bread in preparation of the sudden call to leave Egypt, that very night. Judgment would fall on the Egyptians, and the Israelites would be set free.

We’ll be reminded of Exodus again and again through the coming weeks as we look at these final chapters of Mark. The Exodus, the great miraculous rescue of a million people from slavery to a new home, was a mere shadow compared to what Jesus is achieving here. This is the real Exodus. Throughout time and history Jesus’ blood powers his mercy. Each time God relents from judgement: Jesus’ blood is there. Each time we see God meeting with sinful people: Jesus’ blood is there. Even the Exodus itself is only possible because of the blood of Jesus. The blood of lambs could not take away the guilt of the people! No, it was the blood of the true Passover Lamb, Jesus, shed 1500 years later, that washed away their guilt and spared them from the judgement on the Egyptians. God had told them what they needed to do to be rescued, and they placed their faith in his word, acting accordingly, sacrificing the lambs – and God saw their faith, and counted it to them as righteousness, covering their sins through the blood of the Son.

So the disciples meet to celebrate the Passover, while the real Passover is taking place at that moment. Interestingly, the Passover meal consists of bread, wine…and a lamb. But there is no lamb mentioned here. For the sacrificial lamb who will be slain is seated in front of them. And to ensure they understand this he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Jesus is about to be sacrificed in order to fulfil the covenant (promise) God has made with mankind. First with Adam, then Noah, then Abraham, Moses, and David. Here is the second Adam, the perfect son of God, righteous, sinless human. Here is the Ark of rescue from the judgement flood to come. Here is the descendant of Abraham come to bless all nations. Just look around! We’re from many nations. Here is the perfect Law-keeper, and the righteous eternal King.

And please note that Jesus knew that his death was not the end. Listen to verse 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Jesus was not some poor victim of circumstances outside of his control! He himself had planned this, with his Father and Spirit, united in purpose and love to rescue sinful humanity, and bring glory to the Godhead. All praise be to God! Such love that drives Jesus willingly to the cross. Did you notice verse 16? 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

All is prepared beforehand. This must be so. God is sovereign over all things, all events – even Judas, acting out of greed or frustration, we don’t know. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him God is sovereign but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born but we are responsible for the decisions we make. Our decisions are real decisions, with real consequences; and God is fully sovereign, knowing our thoughts before we think them, preparing the way of the Son before the dawn of time.
Be comforted. Evil cannot thwart God’s plans. You cannot jump out of his hands. They found it just as he had told them. And Jesus moved deliberately towards his great work on the Cross and completed that great work. And now history moves deliberately toward the Return of the King, the great day when the veil over our eyes will be torn away, and we will see reality as it truly is, the great King Jesus upon the eternal glorious throne.

So make the right decision. Your decisions have eternal consequences. Do not be like Judas, rejecting the King, for you too will hear “woe to you, it would be better if you were never born”. Instead, fall at his feet like this woman 2000 years ago, worshipping him with costly worship. And worship is the right response, because we have been rescued, set free, by him. Jesus bore our sin on the cross. It is gone.

There are two impossible applications, one for non-Christians, the other for Christians

One is to reject Jesus. To say that’s fine, Jesus did all that, but I’ll take my chances by myself. That’s the impossible application from this passage. This should drive you to repent, not to follow Judas. It ended badly for him – he hanged himself, and his insides burst open. Not a great end – but the spiritual end is even worse. Be warned.

The other impossible application – for Christians - is to live like I am the Passover Lamb. To live like I bear my sin. To live in guilt and fear. To believe that I can fall out of God’s hands at any moment, that his sacrifice was not sufficient to bring me to glory. That’s the impossible application.

Instead, let us rejoice and sing. Let us thank God. Let us shout aloud to the God of our salvation! Let us praise him in our hearts and minds every minute of every day. We are set free! He has rescued us! All praise to the Christ, King!

All praise to our Passover Lamb, Jesus, the Christ of God!

mandag 19. november 2012

Mark 13:1-37 The future is secure AUDIO RECORDING

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Mark 13:1–14:1 The future is secure

Mark 13:1–14:1

Horoscopes, crystal balls, palm reading, tarot cards, runes, tea leaf reading, gypsy fortune tellers, clairvoyants – all these speak of a deep-seated desire to know our future. Most of us realise that’s impossible, and so laugh at the con artists I just mentioned – but the desire is still there. What’s going to happen in the future? Who wouldn’t like to peer into their future and see what’s happening? Especially if it’s good! Happy marriage, healthy, happy kids, still Christian... whatever it is, it would make it easier, wouldn’t it. Ah, I’ve made it. The anxiety disappears. I’ve made it, I’ll be alright.

Or even if it’s bad, if the way you’re currently heading is heading straight for disaster, wouldn’t you like to know now, so that you can change it? Avoid it? Dodge it somehow? Change the course of your life like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”: a miserable old man sitting alone with his bags of money to a cheery old man shouting “Merry Christmas everyone!” and spreading joy and good cheer wherever he goes.

And that’s what Jesus says here. Hey, the future is secure. But for the Jewish nation, the future in wait is a terrible one. They did not listen to Jesus. They did not repent. And we know from history that what Jesus said would happen did happen. This is not “Back to the Future” where Marty manages to save the day, or A Christmas Carol where Scrooge repents. No, this is the reality where Scrooge snarls “go away” to the ghosts showing him the truth – and where the Jewish leaders crucify their saviour and King.

1. The Temple will fall

The discussion about the future starts because of the disciples adoring their Temple building. They were proud of their spiritual heritage. It seemed immovable, secure, indestructible – like their relationship with God. They were God’s chosen race, God’s favour would forever rest upon them.

Really? We’ve just heard Jesus say 12:9 “What will the owner (God) of the vineyard (Israel) do? He will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

We saw the last couple of weeks how the Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus. The slithered up to him to attack him with clever questions designed to make him look foolish – but instead Jesus challenged them, exposing their hypocrisy, showing them that they did not love God, but themselves, and calling them to repentance. But instead of repenting, they fall silent, and ask him no more questions – when they should have been pleading for mercy “How can we be saved Jesus?”.

But, no, the elders, chief priests and scribes, representing Israel, have rejected the cornerstone, the foundation stone, the very basis of their religious life! Jesus says in 12:10 Have you not read this Scripture: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”

You know, my great-granny was once a little bit foolish. She decided that she wanted to more space downstairs, so she decided to lower the basement floor. So she merrily started digging away the foundations! As you can guess the house started leaning alarmingly to one side. And still does. If you go into the corner of the lounge in the old house on the farm, you’ll notice the floor slopes away to the corner. Thankfully she had the presence of mind to stop digging, unlike one poor fellow I heard who carried on digging until his whole house collapsed!

If you dig away the foundations, the house cannot stand. Israel has rejected its foundation, and the Temple cannot, will not, stand.

13:2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.
Of course, the disciples’ next question is “When?!”

That’s devastating news. Imagine you’d just received a report – there will be a colossal earthquake in Notodden. “When! When!” we’d all cry out- both terrified and a little bit transfixed by the horror that is to come.

Jesus’ answer, like much prophecy, does two things at once. He talks about the immediate future that happened in AD70 when the Temple was destroyed AND he talks about the final judgement that is still to come.
For we, like Israel, have rejected our cornerstone, and heaven and earth will be shaken, and only what is holy and good and pure will be left, only that built on the unshakeable foundation of Jesus and his grace and truth. Only what is in Christ will stand at the end.

The question is: will you? Where do you stand? Have you rejected the cornerstone? Or do you rest on him? Is your life built on him? If so, remember that He is unshakeable. All that rests on him is unshakeable. You are, in him, eternally unshakeable. Your future is secure. Do not worry about the future. You belong to him.

The Temple may fall – but Jesus will stand, forever.


2. Do not be lead astray

Only Jesus is unshakeable, so don’t be lead away from him. Jesus starts off with all of Christian history in mind in verses 5-13 (the “birth pangs” of the new Creation), then zooms in to the destruction of Israel in AD70 in verses 14-18, then uses the destruction of Israel as a warning of the final judgement to come in verses 19-27.

The world before Christ’s return is marked by three things: false religion, human conflict, and natural disasters.

First, false religion: 5 See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Jesus warns us of the dangers to come: people pretending to be him (false christs) and people pretending to speak for him (false prophets). We have seen this throughout church history, and I’ll spend a little bit of time on this:

· men like Origen, who, amongst other things, claimed that Christ death would reconcile all people, even those who rejected him. Therefore there is no final judgement, and no hell. Today many continue with this false teaching, most notably Rob Bell in his book “Love Wins”. Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other topic. I’d rather listen to his words of truth, however uncomfortable, than the pleasant-sounding lies of Origen and Bell!

· Arius (Arianism denies that Jesus is God, like Jehovah’s Witnesses today),

· Macedonius (who denied the Holy Spirit is God), and

· Sabellius (who said that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were three appearances of the same person (i.e. like God is wearing three different masks) rather than three persons in one Godhead),

· Marcion, who thought the God of the Old Testament was a different God;

· and Gnostic philosophies, arising 150 or so years after Jesus’ resurrection, like Docetism (which claimed that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, i.e.: he was not fully human, merely appeared human);

· and others like Antinomianism (which divides the spirit and matter and says therefore that what we do in the body doesn’t matter, so we can sin as much as we want in the body because our spirit is saved).

So be on your guard! There’s lots of false teaching about. Know the Bible. Signs and wonders are no guarantee of truth. Are you impressed by the conmen in white suits on “Christian” TV because they do miracles and wave the Bible about and occasionally throw the name of Jesus about? Their words are poison, not truth. Man-centred salesman, selling you the lie of “Your Best Life Now” which is all about money and status rather than picking up your cross and following our Lord Jesus, claiming that you can be “Dreaming with God” or say “Good Morning, Holy Spirit” while, like Macedonius, treating the Holy Spirit like the Force from Star Wars whom we can channel to do our bidding, rather than the Almighty God.

Do not believe them, says Jesus! 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Be on your guard, Jesus has told us these things beforehand. Know his word, and you will be fine. Did you notice that “the elect” will not be deceived. Why? Because the elect know the voice of the Master. We love the Bible, we love hearing his voice, and so we will not be swayed from the truth. And that love is something we are given by the Spirit.

I’ve spoken a fair bit about dangers inside the church, but, of course, there are those outside the church who claim to speak for God: Muhammed, who claims to be a prophet of God, but contradicts what Jesus says. So who’s right, Jesus or Muhammed? Muhammed may have been a great and mighty man, but he never healed the sick, nor raised the dead, nor died for his followers – and today he is still in his grave, whereas Jesus is risen from the dead and seated upon the throne of heaven.
Likewise Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, who also claimed to speak for God. There are numerous “prophets”, many on “Christian” TV claiming to speak for God but contradicting the teaching of Scripture. And men like Sun Myung Moon founder of the South Korean “Unification Church” who claimed to be Jesus and taught that obedience to him would lead to salvation.

And then there’s the continuous wars, fighting, conflict between people groups all throughout history, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom. We are a bloodthirsty race, fighting, fighting, fighting. Wars and rumours of wars (v7) aptly describes our history.

And then there’s the natural disasters: earthquakes, famine.

Does all this make you anxious?
Don’t be. Jesus has told us this beforehand. He has not lost control of the world, but is leading it towards its final end. He is Lord of history, allowing a limited amount of evil in order to cause men to repent, but storing up punishment for every evil act. One day it will all be dealt with. And what a glorious, terrifying day that will be. Do not be lead astray, for

3. Judgement will fall

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The tribulation, literally “troubled times”, is how the Bible talks about the world we live in. But there will come an end, when the world will be shaken, and Jesus returns.

How do we know this will happen? Because v 14-18 happened exactly as Jesus said it would. In AD70 the Roman army smashed a Jewish rebellion, and destroyed the Temple, planting their standards at the Temple altar, proclaiming allegiance to the Roman Emperor-God. That is the “the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be”. The Roman flag in the ruins of the Temple.
In the following nearly 2000 years the Temple has never been rebuilt (Jesus is the new Temple! There’s no need for it).

The rest of v14-18 describe the terrible suffering in those first Jewish wars, when Roman armies invaded Palestine. This took place only a generation after the death of Christ (v30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place), and the Jewish Christian church would have shared in the general suffering. Tradition says that the Christians fled to Pella in Transjordan (the mountains), taking Jesus’ warning to heart. V20 possibly means that the Romans could have wiped out the church, and therefore if God had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved.

AD70 warns us of the judgement to come. Jesus words will not pass away (V31). They were true of AD70, they are true of the judgement to come.

So do not be fooled. One day, at an hour we do not know, not even the Son know, but only the Father (V32) – so all you idiots trying to figure it out and proclaiming set dates can stop right now, that’s not the point! – one day he WILL return. So be on your guard.

28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

Look at our world. Read the newspapers. What do you see? Wars and rumours of wars. Earthquakes and famines. False teachers performing miracles to lead astray the elect, if that were possible. See the signs. And know that he is near, at the very gates.

Judgement will fall. It has done so in the past, according to the word of the Lord. And it will do so again.

So what are we do to?

4. Stay awake!

33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

What does it mean to “stay awake”? It is this: to live as servants of the king, each busy with his own work. We are called to obedient service, service like the disciples are called to. For they were called to live as Christian people in a hostile world, and called to proclaim the gospel no matter what the consequences.

Let’s have a look at what Jesus commands the disciples to be busy with:

9 But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Endure to the end. Trust Christ. Do not give up. They would receive revelation from the Holy Spirit, which, by God’s grace, they wrote down for us, so that we too will not be anxious but know what to say. (Remember Jesus is speaking not to us but to the twelve. There is no excuse here for lazy Christians not knowing the Bible, but expecting the Spirit to give us the words. The Spirit gave His words to the disciples, and we are to use those inspired words to endure to the end.)

Stay awake by reading the Bible, praying, telling others about Jesus, and living like a loved son or daughter of God. You are a servant of the Master. Live like it! Every moment of every day, that is your identity. You belong to him. You are his.

To sum up then:

Do not be anxious. Our future is secured by the blood of Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, the day will come when he will gather you from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. You will meet him face to face. Secure. Safe.

But if you do not belong to him, the opposite is equally as sure. You will be shaken, and there will be no rescue.

The Temple will fall, did fall. So do not be lead astray by false teachers – only Christ holds the truth, no-one else, and only he can hold you secure against the judgement to come. And it will come. So be on your guard and stay awake! Stay awake by reading the Bible, praying, telling others about Jesus, and living like a loved son or daughter of God, secure, unshakeable, in Christ. Amen.