Thursday, June 12, 2014

“The Word’s Words”

Message:  “The Word’s Words”
This message title is my attempt at a play on words … literally.  John’s Gospel refers to Jesus as the living Word of God.  As I began thinking of all the recorded words of Jesus, I wondered, “Which is the most important word that Jesus spoke?”  My personal favorite is from John 13:34 “A new commandment I give you: love one another as I have loved you.”

Many Bibles highlight the words he spoke by printing them in red.  Thumb through your Bible and you’ll realize how few of his words we actually have.  You could easily read all of them aloud in far less than an hour. 
I know it’s possible because it did it while studying for this message.
The first words that Jesus spoke triggered a memory from my own life.  Maybe you can also relate.

The first recorded words that Jesus spoke were to his parents.
It was required that the devout Jewish men make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year for Passover, which is a week long festival.  The city filled to overflowing as the pilgrims arrived.  The roads leading to the city were crowded with men and young boys and the occasional complete family.  Children ran and played with relatives and strangers of their same age group.  The travelers were in such large numbers that it was fairly safe from highway robbers.
After the week long celebration the roads would fill with crowds leaving the city.  Again they traveled in large groups with people dropping out of the caravan as they arrived at their own towns and cities.  For Jesus’ family it was about a three day journey to return to Nazareth.  At some point along the journey it was discovered that Jesus was not with them.

If you have ever misplaced a child in a store or a park or even at a family gathering, you can understand the range of emotions that flood over you.

When my eldest son was around four years old, we went to the Iowa State Fair.  We had been there for quite a while when we stopped to rest in the area called the Children’s Forest.  Arik’s little legs were tired from all the walking and I was tired from all the carrying.  We had brought a toy wagon along but left it in the car.  So, I decided that it was time to go and fetch it.

Upon my return, my wife asked, “Where is Arik?”  To which I replied, “I don’t know.  He stayed with you.”  She said, “No, he went with you.”

Panic!  That seems like such a calm word compared to the emotion that filled me.  There were about a quarter of a million people on the fairgrounds … and one lost four year old.  What to do?  What to do?

Retrace my steps in hope of finding him.
Originally I had gone down the hill and around the Agricultural Building.  This time I went inside.  Inside were hundreds of people milling around to look at all the displays.  I went up the stairs to the mezzanine so that I could get a better view.  Scanning the crowd below, I saw a young woman with my son sitting astride her shoulders.  I yelled his name.  But the din of the crowd drowned out my voice.  I bolted down the stairs only to discover that they had moved from where I’d seen them.  Now however, I was looking above the crowd instead of down a knee level for my son.  I soon spotted them again and made my way to them.  Arik saw me and yelled, “Daddy!”  The girls saw me and lowered him from her shoulders.

The girl explained that she had noticed him looking as though he were searching for someone.  He wasn’t crying but she asked if he was lost.  “My daddy is lost,” he told her.   I thanked her and I thanked God for sending someone to watch over him. 

As my heart rate slowed and the adrenalin that had been coursing through my system, began to decay, my legs nearly gave out on me.

I’m sure that Jesus’ parent were going through the same range of emotions until they found him at the temple.  He was sitting there calmly discussing with the temple teachers.  Asking and answering theological questions.  When his parents voiced their concerns, he dismissed them by saying, “Did you not know that I’d be in my Father’s house and about his business?”  

Upon that simple statement, all of Jesus ministry was built.  For approximately three years he traveled the countryside teaching, preaching, healing and pointing the way toward the Kingdom of God.  He was about His Father’s business. 

Three years of his earthly ministry boiled down to about 3-4 dozen short parables, short sermons, explanations and commands.

So well told were these stories that most of us (who have been in church for more that a couple of years) will remember most of them from just a few words.  Do you remember?
Weeds among the wheat
The pearl of great price
The unmerciful servant
Laborers in the vineyard
Invitation to the banquet
Wise and foolish bridesmaids
The servants and the talents
The two debtors
The good Samaritan
The Rich fool (or the Rich young ruler)
The waiting servants
The barren fig tree
The lost coin
The lost sheep
The prodigal son
The house on the rock
The lamb under a bushel basket
The mustard seed.
These are only a few of the many stories that Jesus told that got his listeners (then and now) to really think about the point that he was making.

How about the sermon on the mount where Jesus gives the list of blessings that we call the beatitudes?  Remember?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus had the ability to say more in fewer words than any preacher I’ve ever heard.
I almost … almost gave the shortest sermon ever one Memorial Day when the pastor turned the service over to me.  I was really tempted to just say,  “Be kind to one another.  Now go outside and play.”

Perhaps the words that Jesus spoke from the cross were the most important simply because they cost him so much to say aloud.  As cruel as the crucifixion on the cross was, perhaps the cruelest is the way most people died.  It wasn’t from blood loss from their wounds.  It was from asphyxia.  They suffocated.  Did you know that?
In order for Jesus to speak He would have had to pull himself up with nails through His flesh.  What were his concerns as he hung there?

  1. Forgiveness:  Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
  2. Salvation:  Luke 23:43 Jesus said to him, “I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.”
  3. Relationship:  John 19:26-27  Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there. He said to his mother, “Look, here’s your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Look, here’s your mother!”  From that time on she lived with that disciple in his home.
  4. Abandonment:  Matthew 27:46  About three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
  5. Distress:  John 19:28-29 After this, when Jesus knew that everything had now been finished, he said, “I’m thirsty.” He said this so that Scripture could finally be concluded.  A jar filled with vinegar was there. So the soldiers put a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick and held it to his mouth. 
  6. Triumph: John 19:30 After Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said, It is finished!”
  7. Reunion: Luke 23:46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” After he said this, he died.

These are traditional have been known as the “Seven Last Words”.

However, as they say in the infomercials, “But wait a minute.  There’s more!”

The book of “Acts” begins with: “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
(Here the author is talking about the Gospel of Luke which he had written earlier than the book of “the Acts of the Apostles”)

To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together,

After His death came His Resurrection.  After the resurrection, we know that he spoke with Mary in the garden when she mistook him for the caretaker. 
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Road to Emmaus
We know that he spoke with several apostles as he walked along the road to Emmaus.  “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

We know that Jesus appeared to the gathered Disciples  … twice
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Later he lead his followers to the hills outside the city where He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Here Jesus was telling His followers about the great gift they were about to receive.  And what do they do?
They start asking questions that are completely off the track that Jesus is setting them on.
And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
I can almost hear the exasperation in His voice, can’t you?  He once again tells them, “but you shall receive po.wer when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
Many times before His death he has told his followers that God would be with them in a new way.  That they would be in God and God would be in them.  He has now told them twice again.
Have you ever heard that from your parents?  “Don’t make me tell you again.”  Have you said that to your children?  And yet Jesus repeats himself once again.  And then He tells them what to do with that new indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.  
Matthew records it this way: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven”
In other words, Get yer hands outta yer pockets an’ git ta work!

So what did I learn in studying all these words? 
The first words and the last words were connected.
The first words were about His being about the Father’s business. 
The last words were about us being about the Father’s business.
The duty remains the same only the cast of characters changes from generation to generation.

The hymn writer, Philip P. Bliss, captured it very well when he wrote,
“Christ, the blessed One gives to all.
Sinner, list to the loving call,
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven.
Sweetly echo the gospel call,
Offer pardon and peace to all.
Jesus, only Saviour
Sanctify forever.

Father, let us share those Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life, as Jesus commanded.  Amen.

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