Second Reformed Church

Monday, April 27, 2009

May Sermons

D. V., in May, I plan to preach:

5/3/09 Guest preacher: Larry Stamm, Jews for Jesus, “The Jewish Origins of Pentecost”
5/10/09 Communion Luke 24:50-53 “Continual Blessing”
5/17/09 Acts 1:1-5 “Many Proofs”
5/24/09 Ascension Acts 1:6-11 “It Is Not For You to Know”
5/31/09 Pentecost Guest preacher: Rev. Howard Currie

"Everything Must Be Fulfilled" Sermon: Luke 24:36-49

“Everything Must Be Fulfilled”
[Luke 24:36-49]
April 26, 2009 Second Reformed Church

We continue from last week’s Scripture – it is still the early hours after midnight, after the resurrection. The eleven are together, with a number of the other disciples, along with Cleopas and his friend, who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They had just told the story of how they met Jesus – and that He is physically risen from the dead – He is alive. And Simon Peter recounted to them how he, also, had seen the risen Jesus.

Just then, Jesus appeared among them in the locked room and said, “Peace to you!” And they were shocked – they were frightened – they didn’t know what to make of His appearing, except to think that this must be His Spirit come among them.

But why would they think that? Hadn’t they just been rejoicing, discussing the physical visitations of Jesus that they had been part of? Why would they suddenly think – to use the old word – that Jesus’ Ghost had appeared?

We can imagine Jesus shaking His Head at them as He asks them why they are troubled. He asks them why doubts were arising in their hearts. Jesus had appeared to them before, why were they still doubting? Why didn’t they understand?

So Jesus told them to examine His Hands and Feet – to touch Him – to see that it is really Jesus. He has flesh and bones. He has risen in His Perfected, yet Physical Body. So, they examined His Body. They saw that it was Jesus and He was alive there in His Physical Body. But it was still too much for some of them – some of them were so filled with the joy of Jesus being alive, yet still carrying the knowledge of His Crucifixion and Death, that they still could not believe it was true. How could this be? They had seen Him die. They had buried Him. They wanted to believe, but they were in such shock that they marveled at Him and could not bring themselves to understand.

We can understand their joy and their difficulty in making sense of what was happening. If one of our loved ones died, and we saw him or her dead and buried, and then that loved one appeared in a locked room, alive, not a ghost, but having a physical body, we would likely be afraid, stunned, confused....

But our Lord is so merciful: after letting them touch and examine His Body, that they would see that He is flesh and bone, that He had the wounds of the scourging and the crucifixion, He condescended to give them another sign to prove that He was really, bodily there, and that He is really the same Jesus: He asked them for something to eat. And they gave Him some boiled fish, and He ate it.

And then He entered into the Bible study He had given to the men on the road to Emmaus: Jesus explained that what happened was exactly what He told them would happen, and that He had to fulfill everything that was written about Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Jesus said that what happened was all part of the prophecies made about Him – the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God – so everything had to be fulfilled.

We can assume that Jesus began to explain to them, now, how all the Scriptures pointed to Him and the things He would have to endure to accomplish His Work as the Savior of Israel. And again, understand, when we read that Jesus interpreted the Scriptures, we’re only talking about the Old Testament – the New Testament didn’t exist yet – and when we read that He began with Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, we are to understand that Jesus began with Genesis and explained how it showed Him to be the Savior, then Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. And we’re told that Jesus opened their minds so they would be able to understand the Scriptures.

What Scriptures was Jesus talking about? We can’t possibly go through all the prophecies about Jesus that He fulfilled this morning, but let me just mention a few of them to you:

In the writings of Moses, when God cursed the serpent, He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV). This is considered “the first Gospel” – that the day would come when the serpent’s offspring would bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but her offspring would bruise his head. In other words, that the devil would have Jesus put to death, but through the resurrection, the devil would be defeated.

John describes what happened in this way: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and a half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:13-17, ESV).

And Moses records for us the appearance of Melchizedek – the priest-king of Salem, “And Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed [Abram] and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High. Possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand ’” (Genesis 14:18-20, ESV).

The author of Hebrews explains that this is a pre-Incarnate appearance of Jesus, in which we see that He is the One and Only Human to hold the offices of Priest, King, and Prophet: “For this Melchizedek. King of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also the king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (Hebrew 7:1-3. ESV).

In the Gospels, we have the record of prophecies of the Psalms being fulfilled:

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 13:35; cf. Psalm 78:2, ESV).

“This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots’” (John 19:24b; cf. Psalm22:18, ESV).

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28; cf. Psalm 69:21, ESV).

“For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:36-37; cf. Psalm 34:20, ESV).

And also the words of the prophets themselves:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:22; cf. Isaiah 7:14, ESV).

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6; cf. Micah 5:2, ESV).

“And leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, ‘In the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned’” (Matthew 4:13-16; cf. Isaiah 9:2; 42:7, ESV).

“Jesus, aware [that they wanted to kill him], withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope’” (Matthew 12:15-21; cf. Isaiah 42:1-4, ESV).

“This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, mounted on a donkey; and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’” (Matthew 21:4-5; cf. Zechariah 9:9, ESV).

And there are many more.

So, according to the Scripture, according to the Word of God, did Jesus fulfill all of the prophecies concerning the Promised Savior? No.

“But wasn’t the whole point of the Scriptures you just went through to show us that Jesus did fulfill all those prophecies?” Someone is at least thinking.

Do you remember I have used the example of prophecy being like a series or range of mountains, which from a distance look like they are right on top of each other, but when you actually get a close look at them, you see that they are far apart? The same is true of prophecy, and that is something that many of the people in Jesus’ day missed. For example, many thought that after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He would overthrow the Roman government and bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Well, it is true, Jesus is bringing God’s Kingdom to earth, even now, but it will not fully come until Jesus returns to judge and restore the earth.

So, Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies about the Promised Savior that had to do with His First Coming, and we are confident, based on His fulfillment of all those prophecies, that He will fulfill all of the prophecies relating to His Second Coming. There are still prophecies in the Scripture to be fulfilled, and they will be fulfilled in God’s Time.

Thus, Jesus explained to the disciples that He had to suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day, because that was what was prophesied and necessary for Him to do to accomplish His Work and to fulfill the Scriptures.

Once they had some understanding of this, Jesus told them that it is the work of Jesus’ disciples to spread the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness for sins. They, and we, are witnesses to Jesus’ Salvation, beginning where we are and extending out to the whole world – every people, tribe, and nation. And Jesus promised them that they would receive power – in the form of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, after Jesus ascended, so He told them to wait in Jerusalem.

How, then, shall we live?

This morning’s Scripture reaffirms the fact the Jesus physically rose from the dead, and we hold on in hope and with sure confidence that on that last day, Jesus will also raise all of us who believe. So let us cling to that hope and never lose it. Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ shall come again, and all of His people can say, “I will die; I will rise, when He comes again.”

We also see, and we will see more clearly as we read our Bibles, that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies concerning Himself and His First Coming, thus proving Who He is. And we are confident that He will fulfill all the prophecies concerting His Second Coming.

And, Jesus has called every one of us to be witness to and for the Gospel. Now, every Christian immediately receives the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Each one who believes has God inside him or her, leading, reminding, and helping him or her to understand.

So let us give thanks to our God and Savior. Let us know Him and believe Him. Let’s follow Him and show others Who He is through our words and deeds.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You have given us confidence through the witness of Jesus fulfilling all You called Him to fulfill in His First Coming. Inspire us to continue to comb the Scriptures to see Jesus in them. And may we be faithful and productive sons and daughters in the field of this world, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor

The pastor is on vacation from April 27th through May 4th. If you are in need, please call a member of the Consistory or the church office.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Classis Meeting

The next Classis meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, at Abundant Life Reformed in Wyckoff at 5:30 PM. Consistory members, please remember that you are urged to attend this meeting of the Classis.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Consistory

Consistory intends to meet (D.V.) after worship on Sunday (the 26th). Please plan to stay for this meeting, Consistory members.

"Was It Not Necessary?" Sermon: Luke 24:13-35

“Was It Not Necessary?”
[Luke 24:13-35]
April 19, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Last week we celebrated Easter, and we remembered our Lord’s Resurrection, and we considered the first week after His Resurrection as He appeared and spoke and was touched and ate with over five hundred people. And we considered whether or not the real, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus matters – and we answered, “yes.”

Today, we are picking up the history of the Gospel at the end of the Gospel of Luke, and, if the Lord is willing, it is my plan to finish the last chapter of Luke and then lead us into an examination of the second volume of Luke’s work, that being Acts.

The Scripture that I read begins the evening of the day of Jesus’ Resurrection and ends in the wee hours of the next morning. Today and, Lord willing, next Sunday, we will consider some of why all that happened to Jesus had to occur.

As we look at our Scripture, we find that two of Jesus’ disciples, but not from the twelve, were walking down the road, going towards their homes in Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking intently with each other, and, suddenly, Jesus was right behind them. And we’re told that God prevented them from recognizing Jesus.

Jesus asked the men what they were talking about so intently, and one of the men, named Cleopas, asked Jesus if He was the only Person in Jerusalem Who had not heard what had happened. And Jesus asked them to test them, to see what they had understood, “What things?”

Cleopas explained to Him that there had been a prophet, mighty in word and deed, Who was sent of God, named Jesus of Nazareth, and the chief priests and the Romans condemned Him to death and crucified Him. He explained that the reason that all Israel was talking about it was that they had hoped that He was the Savior of Israel, but it was now the third day since the crucifixion. And to make matters all the more scandalous, some of the women who followed Jesus went to His tomb to finished His embalming, but He was gone. They told the men that there had been angels who told them that Jesus was alive, but the men went to the tomb and just found it empty.

Why did God keep them from recognizing Jesus from the first?

We’re not given a specific reason, but we can say two things: first, our senses are fallible. Although that is not the case here, we need to remember that our senses fail us, so we should keep those limitations in mind as we live our lives. Second, and more to the point, God knows that there are times when we are not ready to see or hear or understand, either due to sin or lack of maturity, or something else. The author of Hebrews rebuked his readers, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV).

What did they think about Jesus?

These were men who had followed Jesus. They had held Him in high esteem, recognizing Him to be, at the least, a mighty prophet from God. They had also hoped that He was the Savior of Israel, but now their hope was waning: it was the third day since He had been crucified and died. But there was a little hope left – the tomb was empty. Something had happened – they didn’t know if they believed the women who said they saw angels who told them that He was alive, but something had happened. After all, the Roman Governor, Pilate, had specifically placed a guard to keep anyone from breaking into the tomb and stealing the body – so something had happened, but they didn’t know what.

And then Jesus rebuked the disciples, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Isn’t this exactly what the prophets said would happen? Haven’t they been telling you for four thousand years that the Savior was called to suffer in this way to accomplish His Work?

And then Jesus began to explain to them how all the Scriptures pointed to Him and the things He would have to endure to accomplish His Work as the Savior of Israel. Understand, when we read that Jesus interpreted the Scriptures, we’re only talking about the Old Testament – the New Testament didn’t exist yet – and when we read that He began with Moses and all the Prophets, we are to understand that Jesus began with Genesis and explained how it showed Him to be the Savior, then Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. We’re reading through the Bible in Sunday morning Bible study – Jesus led them through a study of the whole Old Testament as they walked to Emmaus!

They arrived at the village where the men lived, and Jesus pretended to be going on. But the men urged Him to stay with them and eat with them, since it was late. So they prepared dinner. And Jesus gave the blessing, and broke the bread and gave it to them. And in that moment that they receive the bread from Jesus, God allowed them to see, and they recognized Him, and He disappeared.

How did they respond?

They looked at each other and said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” They hit themselves on the head – the realized that no one but Jesus, no one by God the Savior could have explained the Scriptures to them the way He did. No one else could have caused the Scriptures to come so perfectly alive in them that their souls burned with the truth of them. Jesus was alive! They had seen Him and talked with Him and eaten dinner with Him!

But it was late. Our text indicates it was after dark. They had just made the seven mile walk from Jerusalem. So they went to bed, figuring they would tell others in the morning. Right?

No, they got up from the table “that hour” – right away – and they made the seven mile walk back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven. They got back on the road, walked another three hours or more, in the dark, went to where they knew the apostles would be – they were still awake, and there were others with them, because something had happened there as well: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” While the two disciples were on their way back to Emmaus, Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter – the resurrection was confirmed.

And then the two told what happened to them – how Jesus had met them on the road, but their eyes were kept from seeing Him, and then how He explained all of the Scripture to them, that they would understand why the Savior had to live and die like He did to fulfill His Work, which caused fire to burn within them, and then He ate dinner with them and when He broke the bread, Who He is was revealed to them, and He disappeared, and they immediately went back to Jerusalem. “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Cleopas and his friend!” This is another confirmation of the resurrection.

We may ask ourselves: what was it about the breaking of the bread that made them able to recognize Jesus? Was this the Lord’s Supper?

No, this was not the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus told them at the Last Supper, “Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink from the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17b-18, ESV).

No, this was a normal meal in which Jesus gave the blessing. It was God’s choice to reveal Him at that moment – there was nothing magical in the bread or the blessing. John Calvin wrote that God used the bread as a “spiritual mirror” in which to reveal Jesus to them and also as an injunction for them to give thanks (Calvin’s Commentaries, re: vs. 30).

Have you given thanks for Jesus and His Resurrection? Are you thankful for all that He has done for you in saving you and making you His child? Have you shown your thanks to Him? The disciples were so thankful and excited, they immediately went to tell others. They walked all the way back to Jerusalem, in the dark, after they had already made the journey. They needed to rejoice with other Christians. How will you give thanks?

What does this text mean for us today?

First, it means that if we are to understand Jesus, what He did and why, we must know the Old Testament. We are woefully ignorant of the Old Testament, but the New Testament is the fulfillment and completion of the Old. If we don’t understand the Old Testament, we can’t really understand the New.

There have been heretics throughout church history – even within a few miles of this church and on our TVs – who have said we can do without the Old Testament. I know people who say that only preach from the four Gospels. We are given the whole Scripture purposefully – God means for us to read and study and know Him and His Salvation through all of it. We cannot throw any of it out.

Jesus proved Himself to the disciples by taking them through the Old Testament and showing them that all of the Scripture is about Him and He fulfills it through His Work and Ministry, which leads us to a second conclusion:

It means that if we do read the Old Testament and read it correctly, we will see Jesus. Understand, Jesus interpreted the whole Old Testament to the two disciples, but Jesus has given us the New Testament to help us. The rule of thumb is that the New Testament interprets the Old. The New fulfills, explains, clarifies the Old – which means we need to read the New Testament as well, if we are to understand the Old – if we are to understand Jesus and what He has done.

For example, the book of Hebrews (in the New Testament) has been called a commentary on the book of Leviticus (in the Old Testament). The book of Leviticus is one of the books that Moses wrote, and it contains laws about sacrifices and diseases and worship. The book of Hebrews explains how these laws point to Jesus and prove Him to be greater than every prophet, priest, and king who came before Him, because He, Alone, is the Savior of Israel. We cannot fully understand Leviticus without reading Hebrews, and we cannot understand Hebrews without a knowledge of the book of Leviticus.

We have been given a lifetime to read and study and hear the Word of God preached, and we will not know it or understand all there is to know in this lifetime, so we ought not waste time, but begin to read, to take advantage of good books, good preaching, and studies that are offered in the church and elsewhere.

If we want to know and understand Jesus and His Ministry, we must know the Scripture. And as we know the Scripture, we will find Jesus on page after page after page.

Third, it means that if we meet Jesus in the Scripture, if we see and know Him through His Word, He will meet with us and give us assurance and strengthen us, just as He did those first disciples and apostles. Understand, Jesus is no longer physically on the earth – Jesus’ Physical Body is seated at the Right Hand of God the Father, but Jesus spiritually meets with us in worship and as we read His Word and as we hear it read and preached, so we can respond with those first Christians, “The Lord has risen indeed!”

Was it necessary for Jesus to endure all the things He did? The answer that the Scripture gives – the answer that Jesus gives, is “yes.” If the Lord is willing, we will look more specifically at what that means next week. This week, open your Bibles – read something. Read the Scripture for next week – it’s in the newsletter. Read something in the Bible and pray that Jesus will meet with you and assure you and strengthen you. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to understand. And if you have questions – next week – or ever – ask them. Ask me. Google it. Search in good books. But don’t let your question go unanswered.

Open your Bible to the table of contents and read something you have never read before – or something you haven’t read in years. Ask yourself what the Scripture tells you about Jesus and why He came. See if your hearts do no burn.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for giving us the Scripture. We thank You that Jesus continues to meet with us and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand. Help us to put away our excuses – we don’t have time, we’re too old, it’s too hard – and cause us to believe You that You Yourself will instruct us in Your Word. It is for the joy of knowing You that we ask this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Girl Scouts

Future organizational meetings for the Girl Scouts are indefinitely postponed. Please call the church office for information.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"So What?" Sermon: John 20:1-31

“So What?”
[John 20:1-31]
April 12, 2009 Second Reformed Church

The sun had not yet risen. The night before, Pilate had stationed guards at Jesus’ tomb to keep anyone from stealing His Body and claiming that He rose from the dead. The guards were tired, but the kept their post, until the ground started to shake – an earthquake Suddenly the stone which had been rolled across the tomb and down into a cleft so it would stay tight was rocking back and forth, and the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. And then angels appeared with the glory of God about them, and the soldiers fell to the ground as though dead. When the light dissipated, the guards ran back to their barracks, leaving the open tomb unwatched.

At that time, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women came to the tomb to finish the burial preparations that they had to stop making, as it was the Sabbath, and no work is allowed on the Sabbath. But they found the tomb open, and empty. So they ran back to the disciples.

Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves, and they also found the tomb empty, and they wondered what it could mean. They didn’t understand that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Mary went back to the tomb and sobbed. Angels appeared to her and witnessed to her of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And then Jesus, Himself, appeared to her, and told her to tell His disciples that He is risen, and He would be ascending back to the Father.

That evening, Jesus appear to the ten – Judas was dead and Thomas was elsewhere – and He gave them the gift of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Then they went to tell Thomas, but he said he would not believe unless he could physically examine Jesus’ wounds. So Jesus appeared again, and Thomas believed.

We hear at least one of the Gospel’s accounts of the resurrection at least once a year, and, as we consider what happened on that first Easter morning, let us ask ourselves the question, “So what?” Does the resurrection of Jesus mean anything to you and, if it does, why does it mean something to you?

There are plenty of scholars and teachers and ministers who will tell you that Jesus did not actually rise from the dead, and it doesn’t matter. They say what matters is that we believe in Jesus’ ethics – the good things He told us to do. The resurrection did not really happen, they say, it is just a metaphor that affirms that Jesus did good things, and we should do likewise.

Does the resurrection matter? Why are you here this morning? If I read this morning’s Scripture and said, “So what?” How would you respond? The witness of the New Testament and the early Church is that the resurrection is of utmost importance – that Jesus really rose from the dead in His Physical Body is of utmost importance. And we find a few reasons in our text for why that is so.

First, if Jesus physically rose from the dead, then we who believe will also physically rise from the dead with new and perfect bodies. As Paul explained, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. Last of all, as one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as risen from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ is not raised, then our preaching is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised to glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:1-19; 42-22, ESV).

So what? If Jesus rose from the dead, He has promised that all we who believe in Him – we who have been forgiven of our sins by His Work, we shall rise in the same way and with the same type of new and perfected body that He has.

And still there are those who will object, “No, He didn’t rise. It was someone who looked like Jesus, but it wasn’t Him. Even Mary didn’t recognize Him at first.” And that’s true, she didn’t recognize Him. Neither did the men on the Emmaus Road. Why? Possibly because His Body, now perfected, didn’t look exactly the same way as His Body had looked. Even Madison Avenue tells us that if we take this pill or go to this gym or follow this diet, we’ll look different. How much more so now that His Body had not taint or mark of sin in it?

Some will still object and argue that what they saw was wishful thinking, or a mass hallucination. But can that really be the case here? There were more than five hundred eyewitness to Jesus’ Resurrection in a physical body that ate and drank with them. Also, most of those eyewitnesses were alive at the time the New Testament was being written, so they could be questioned – and all of them would report the exact same truth. And, perhaps most compellingly, there were willing, and many of them did, die for refusing to recant their testimony that Jesus is alive, risen, eating and drinking with His disciples. Why would it take to get you to recant? Do you see how compelling this testimony is?

“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be to you ’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he has said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Luke 24:36-43, ESV).

Second, if Jesus physically rose from the dead and ascended to the Father – back to His Throne, then Jesus is Sovereignly in control of all things, and we have no reason to worry. If Jesus physically rose from the dead, and we believe in Jesus Alone for our salvation, then the things of this world should not cause us to worry.

Ultimately, that is the way we should respond to the resurrection, but we are still sinners, and we fall and sin and worry. Yet, part of the message of the resurrection is that our God and Savior, Jesus, is absolutely in control of everything that occurs, so if we are His, what have we to worry about?

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20, ESV).

If Jesus physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His Throne, wouldn’t it make sense to bring all our troubles and concerns and needs to Him? He is the Creator and the Sustainer of all of the Creation. He sovereignly has planned that this shall happen and this shall not. To Whom else shall we turn? Who else can comfort us and give us exactly what we need each day? What other satisfaction can we find other than what we find in the Resurrected One?

Third, if Jesus physically rose from the dead, then all those who believe in Him, as we see in our text, receive the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us in our Christian walk. This is exactly what Jesus promised:

“‘These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

“‘Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

“‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you’” (John 14:25-26; 16:7-15, ESV).

So, if Jesus physically rose from the dead, all those who believe in Him Alone for salvation will receive the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, Who will help to us to remember and understand what Jesus has said and lead us in glorifying God. And He will also show us how to live out all that God has said.

And fourth, if Jesus physically rose from the dead, all those who believe in Him Alone for their salvation are blessed. You and I are blessed, if we believe in Him, though we have never seen Him or met Him in the flesh. And that’s not just some intangible, “I’m blessed.” No, we are blessed, because we shall receive new, restored, eternal bodies at the end of the age when the dead are raised, we have no reason to worry or become unduly excited by the things that happen in our world, because everything is unfolding according to Jesus’ Plan, and He has promised to fill our every need, and we have received the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit Who leads and teaches us.

Jesus has physically risen from the dead. So what? To all those who believe in Jesus Alone, we are made right with God – saved eternally – forgiven and made righteous and holy on that final day. We are loved, beloved children of God, for whom He is preparing an eternal home, where we will live in resurrected bodies like Jesus. And for now, we have hope, a God we can trust, and a God Who lives in us and uses us according to His Will.

So what? So much! Unspeakable riches! Open your Bibles and read – receive the grace God has for you. Be strengthened and encouraged for the good works you have been called to do. And give thanks.

Another blessing we’re given is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In a few moments we will receive the bread and the cup, and Jesus will meet with us spiritually and minister to us with His Grace – if we come to the sacrament, honestly, as Christians, we come away from it having grown and been strengthen. Come, expecting to meet with Jesus. He is alive. He is risen. And that means everything.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, we thank You for raising Jesus from the dead, restoring His Body and perfecting it, and receiving Him back to His Throne. We thank You that through His resurrection, we know that we will also rise and be like Him, that He is sovereignly in control, and You have sent the Holy Spirit to us. Help us to be able to answer the sceptics among and around us who hear the history of the resurrection and say, “So what?” May You be pleased to open their eyes and have them receive You for their salvation. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"It Is Finished" Sermon: John18:1-19:42

“It Is Finished”
[John 18:1-19:42]
April 10, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Tetelestai! ” “It is finished! ”

We have just heard the history of what happened to Jesus after the Lord’s Supper and through His Burial. With these events in mind, I would like us to focus in on one verse, John 19:30, and have us consider what this cry of victory means: what did Jesus finish? What was finished in His final moments on the cross?

Jesus had been betrayed and the Pharisees and the chief priests had come with weapons to take Jesus away. They had tried Him – illegally – during the night. Peter had denied Him. The Pharisees and chief priests brought Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, because Israel was occupied by the Romans – they were not allowed to put criminals to death. Pilate interviewed Jesus and was unnerved by Him. The crowd demanded the Jesus be crucified and Pilate relented when they threatened to tell Caesar that he was a traitor to the crown. So they crucified Him, and He died, and Jesus’ followers received His Body and laid Him in a tomb.

That sounds like failure: his own disciples thought He had failed. Some of them said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a, ESV). And we can understand that to a degree: Jesus had been condemned by the religious and the secular authority. He had been mocked, beaten, and scourged – we can hear the whip, studded with glass and sharp stones hitting Him again and again – thirty-nine times – the historians of the day wrote that there was not an inch of His Body that was not bruised, torn, or bleeding. Then He carried the beams of His cross, and they threw Him down on it and pounded spikes into His wrists and ankles. But that was not all – it was not just the suffering of being crucified that He endured, but Jesus cried out that the Father had forsaken Him – in a way that we cannot fully understand, the Father turned His back on the Son, and the Son received the eternal sufferings of Hell for each one who would believe, concentrated and all at once, as He hung on the cross. How could they not think He had failed?

But then, in His final moments, He cried out a cry of victory: “Tetelestai! ” “It is finished! ” It didn’t look like it on that first Good Friday, but in that moment, Jesus announced His Victory – His Completed Work – though it had not all played out, it was now secured in history. In that final moment, the curtain of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two, from the top down, so, let us take a peek through and beyond the curtain:

Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about the Messiah – the Savior. Again and again, we see in the New Testament, references to Old Testament prophecies about the Coming Savior, and the text telling us that “this happened to fulfill the prophecy” or “He did this to fulfill the prophecy.” There are hundreds of prophecies about the Coming Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled every one.

Jesus kept the whole Law of God. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18, ESV). And the author of Hebrews wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” (Hebrews 4:15, 5:8-9, ESV). Jesus kept God’s Law perfectly; He never sinned. Therefore, He was able to take our place – to be our Substitute before God in judgment – to receive the judgment for our sins, and He was able to give those who believe His Perfect Righteousness – credited to us – to our accounts.

Similarly, Jesus did all the Father sent Him to do. As Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that has been given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:38-40, ESV).

Jesus accomplished all that was necessary for our redemption, justification, and salvation: “Consequently, [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him. Since he always lives to make intercessions for them. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ – ” (Hebrews 7:25; 9:15; Galatians 3:13, ESV).

He gave Himself as a ransom for all those who would believe: “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Jesus] gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (Matthew 20:28; I Timothy 2:6, ESV).

He paid the wages of sin: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, not to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy place every year with blood not his own, for then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But, as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26, ESV).

Since Jesus is Holy and Innocent and able to take our place in judgment, He was also able to satisfy God’s Justice by enduring the full penalty for all of our sin in Himself: “[Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people. Since he did this once for all when he offer up himself” (Hebrews 7:27, ESV).

And He has provided a perfect standing before God for His people: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet, For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14, ESV).

He has secured our eternal salvation, as Jesus said, “‘Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given to him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’” (John 17:1b-5, ESV).

Jesus us secured our salvation by vanquishing the power of death, Hell, and the devil: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death we subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV).

And so we look forward to that day of victory when Jesus returns for us, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying, as it is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting.’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:53-57, ESV).

Let us also note that Jesus glorified the Father as part of His Finished Work: “‘Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John 12:27-28, ESV).

Tetelestai! ” “It is finished! ”

God the Son incarnated, lived under God’s Law, kept it perfectly, fulfilled all the prophecies of the Savior, and accomplishing everything the Father sent Him to do. He paid the ransom for His people, He endured God’s Wrath – Hell on the cross for our sins, He satisfied God’s Justice, declaring His people justified and righteous, secure in eternal salvation, because death and Hell and the devil were defeated. And in all these things, He glorified His Father.

In that final moment on the cross, Jesus proclaimed victory, because He had finished the work He was sent to do. On the third day, He would rise, and forty days later, He would ascend back to His Throne. This horrible day is Good Friday, because Jesus accomplished all of this, for our sake, and to the glory of the Father.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we cannot truly imaging the extent of the horrors You endured on the cross, yet we understand something of what You did for us. We ask that we would not take sin so lightly, but remember what You endured to make us right with You. And keep us from thinking there is anything left that we must do to become right with You, for You declared the work finished, and the work is all of You and all for You and all to Your Glory. May Jesus Christ be praised. Amen.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Are You Clean?" Sermon: John 13:1-15

“Are You Clean?”
[John 13:1-15]
April 9, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Once Jesus and the disciples arrived in Jerusalem, they found a place where they could celebrate the Passover together – that feast which memorializes God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt by God’s Mighty Right Hand. They were seated in the Upper Room; the meal had not yet been served. And John tells us that Jesus knew three things:

First, Jesus knew that this was the end – that He was going to depart to be with the Father – and Jesus had loved His people to the end. Jesus knew what was before Him: on the one hand, the horrors of the crucifixion lay before Him, and, on the other, the joy of being received by the Father into glory was also before Him.

Second, Jesus knew that the devil had come upon Judas and put it in his heart to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that one of His twelve chosen had followed the devil’s deception and sold Him out to the Pharisees.

And third, Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His Hands. He knew that He had come from the Father and was returning to the Father. Notice, this is a statement of Jesus’ divine origins: Jesus is not merely a man Who became God or god-like. No, Jesus is God Himself Who took on a real human body and soul. He is the Creator of all things Who willingly came to earth for our sake and to the glory of the Father.

Therefore, John tells us – since Jesus knew these things – Jesus began to wash the disciples’ feet. Since Jesus is God Who came to earth to save His people and glorify the Father, since He loves His people to the end, since He knew that Judas had betrayed Him, since He knew He would suffer the worst Hell humanly possible and then be received back to His Throne by the Father, therefore, He washed His disciples’ feet.

How does that make any sense?

We have to turn back to the Old Testament and look at the God’s instructions for the laver – the basin of bronze. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go to the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall also wash their hands and feet, so they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations’” (Exodus 30:19-21, ESV).

As one went to worship, first he met the altar, then the bronze basin – the laver, and then, he entered the sanctuary. We need to understand the symbolism of these items: when the priests sacrificed on the altar, they were offering up a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. This continued until the Final, Once-for-All, Sacrifice of Jesus. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sacrificed” (Hebrews 10:11-14, ESV). Jesus is the Final Sacrifice on the altar that forgives us for all of our sins forever. We are forgiven for our sins, justified, made right with God, credited with Jesus’ Righteousness, through Jesus’ Sacrifice.

However, according to the Scripture in Exodus, God promised to kill anyone who entered the sanctuary without going through the basin. Why? Why did the priests need to wash their hands and feet after the sacrifice? Because the sacrifice was bloody, and blood got on their hands and feet and clothing. We looked at the basin in our Sunday morning Bible study, and we saw that this was an enormous metal bowl on legs, which contained water. There were spigots around the basin, and the priest would stand under it, after the sacrifice, to wash off the blood and anything else he got on him during the sacrifice. This is to remind us that, although we are forgiven through God’s Sacrifice, we continue to sin and befoul ourselves, so we need to repent and confess our sin daily. If one believes in Jesus Alone for Salvation, then Jesus’ Sacrifice on the altar – the cross – His Resurrection and Ascension, merit eternal salvation for that person However, all those who believe are in a process of sanctification – of becoming holy. That is why we need to confess our sin – that is why we have a prayer of confession during our worship service. We are saved by Christ Alone – through His Bloody Sacrifice, but we mature and become holy as we confess our sins, daily, and are washed anew.

Paul explained, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27, ESV).

Notice, Christ gave Himself up for the Church – a one-time act of sacrifice which secured the Salvation of all those who would believe. However, sanctification, becoming holy, is a process that requires a daily washing away of sin. Of course, Paul tells us that this washing is not the literal washing with water that the priests did after they sacrificed. No, now, the washing comes through the administration of the Word of God. How? At least in two ways:

The Word of God reveals our sin to us: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet, if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7, ESV). We cannot repent of our sin if we do not know we have sinned. So, God’s Word makes it clear to us that we have sinned and what sin is.

The Word of God – read and preached – is also a means of grace by which we receive the strength to refuse sin and to repent of sin when we do sin and to grow in holiness that we would be made like Jesus on that final day. The Psalmist wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word (Psalm 119:9, 25, 28, ESV).

This is why it is necessary for us to meet together as a people; we cannot be healthy Christians on our own. The author of Hebrews wrote, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day draw near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV). Our gathering as a people is necessary for our mutual encouragement, love, and good works, as well as the reception of the grace to do these things, through the word read and preached, which is our cleansing by water.

So, Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet is a picture of sanctification – of our becoming holy – like Jesus. It is not for salvation – for justification – for becoming right with God. With this in mind, let us consider how Peter reacted:

Jesus came to Peter and Peter asked Him if He was really going to wash His feet. Jesus told Him that he didn’t understand what He was doing then, but the day would come when he would understand. And Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet.” Why?

Peter thought Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet to be beneath Jesus. After all, Peter had confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Son of God should not be washing the feet of His disciples, like a common servant. And under different circumstances, Peter’s recognition of the high rank of Jesus would be appropriate, but it wasn’t here.

It was as though President Obama came to worship this evening and suddenly got up and said he was going to wash our feet. Our response would likely be, “You will not wash my feet; the washing of feet is beneath the office of the President.” Those who hold the office of President are to be respected and held to a high standard; they are not expected to be doing the work of a common citizen.

But Jesus said, “If I do not wash your feet, you have not share with me.” In other words, only those who have been saved through the Sacrifice of Jesus are welcome and able to be forgiven of their daily sin and to progress in holiness. If Jesus did not wash Peter’s feet, it was a denial of Peter’s salvation through Jesus.

So, as Peter often did, he jumped to the other extreme, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and head ” And Jesus said, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” Peter thought that having his feet washed by Jesus would be an honor, but having his whole body washed by Jesus would be an even greater honor, so, he asked Jesus, if He was going to wash his feet, then wash all of him. But Peter missed the point of what Jesus was doing.

On the one hand, Jesus was washing their feet. It was customary that the host, or his servants, wash the feet of his guests. Remember, although people bathed in Jesus’ day, they wore sandals and walked on dirt roads, so their feet would have been filthy, despite their having bathed earlier. Jesus used this truth to tell Peter that, if he had bathed, he was clean except for his feet, so that’s all he needed to have washed. But as we have said, Jesus was talking about more than physical cleaning – he was talking about their spiritual state.

Being clean is having received salvation through Jesus Christ Alone, as Paul tells us, “[Jesus] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, ESV). Jesus told Peter that he was clean – Peter had received Salvation in Jesus Alone, his sins were forgiven, he was right with God, he had received the crediting of Jesus’ Righteousness. (And Jesus notes that one of them – Judas – was not clean – he had not received Salvation in Jesus Alone – he was the betrayer.) Yet, his feet needed to be cleaned. As Peter walked – we talk about our spiritual walk – Peter’s feet got dirty – he sinned, and though he was forgiven for his sins, he still needed to confess them, repent of them, and be washed clean by the Word of God.

So Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and asked them if they understood what He had done. He reminded them that they call Him “Lord” and “Teacher,” and Jesus said that He is both of those. As Lord, Jesus and His Word as to be obeyed, and, as Teacher, He is to be believed.

Since Jesus humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples (reflecting the image of His leaving Heaven and taking the form of a servant), Jesus said that His disciples ought to wash each other’s feet. Since Jesus had humbled Himself and given that example, His disciples ought to do likewise. And again, we do well to remember that Jesus does not merely mean the act of physically washing each other’s feet, but seeking out and repenting of the sin in our lives and being willing to seek the welfare of those for Whom Jesus died by loving them. Paul wrote, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2, ESV).

Are you clean this evening? Have you received Jesus Alone as your Savior? If you have believed in Him, you are clean, you are saved, your are justified, and right with God. If you have not, Jesus calls you to repent and believe – to forswear the filth that clings to you – and to become clean through His One and Final Sacrifice.

If you are clean, have you been washed? Have you confessed and repented of your sin this day? John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8, ESV). The band, the Call, has a lyric in their song, “Blood Red,” that goes like this, “He says, ‘we’ll walk in the front door, and proudly raise our heads,’ I said, ‘man, you must be joking, our hands are covered blood red! ”

If you are clean, if you are washed each day as you come before God in prayer, let the Love of Christ cause you to seek the welfare of all those for Whom Jesus died, both spiritually and for their daily needs.

Jesus had the horror of the cross before Him, the disappointment of Judas’ betrayal that very night, yet Jesus was focused on accomplishing His Father’s Will. He loved His people, and He showed us how to love in the image of submitting to the washing of the disciples’ feet.

As we join together with Jesus in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, let us pray to be like Him in loving all those He has called to be His Own.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, we thank You for the example of Your Love in the washing of the disciples’ feet. We thank You for reminding us that we continue to sin in this life and need to come back to You for washing every day. We ask that as we come together to hear the Word of God read and preached, and even through the bread and the cup, that we would receive Your Grace and learn to wash each other’s feet by loving each other as You loved us on that first Maundy Thursday night. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts will be meeting (D.V.) at Second Reformed Church on Saturday at 10 AM. Please call Laureen Delance for more information: 973-746-8200 x 130

Holy Week Services

Please join us for our Holy Week Services:

7PM Maundy Thursday April 9th.
7PM Good Friday April 10th.
10:30AM Easter Sunday April 12th.

Join us, and find out why you should care!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"They Continued to Testify" Sermon: John 12:12-19

“They Continued to Testify”
[John 12:12-19]
April 5, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Last week, Rev. Mast pointed out that the resurrection of Lazarus was the beginning of the end for Jesus; even more people began to follow Jesus after He raised Lazarus from the dead, and the Pharisees determined that this following would lead to Rome punishing Israel, and the Pharisees, so, it would be best for the nation if One Person – Jesus – died for the sake of the nation. They thought if they could put Jesus to death, Israel would be saved. They had no idea how wrong and how right they were.

Lazarus also followed Jesus, and the crowds followed both Jesus and Lazarus because of the miracle Jesus had performed and to see Lazarus with their own eyes. After all, they had heard of resurrections in their history. Most believed that resurrection was promised by God in the Scripture, but few had ever seen someone risen from the dead.

Once the crowd arrived at Bethany, Mary broke open a costly jar of nard ointment and anointed Jesus. To the confusion of the crowd, Jesus explained that she was anointing Him for His Burial. They didn’t know what Jesus could mean: Jesus kept telling them that He was going to be put to death – what could that mean? They sound like our denominational officials and the discussion we are having now – “What could Jesus mean?”

The Pharisees understood that, whatever Jesus meant, more people were following Him now that He had raised Lazarus, so they decided they ought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. The instigator Jesus would be no more, and there would be no proof of His Power. So they thought.

But word had traveled that Jesus was heading for Jerusalem. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His disciples, even with the threat of death hanging over His Head. What could this mean? The crowd from the country knew – they ran after Jesus and tore down branches from the Palm trees and threw them on the ground. Why?

In the book of Leviticus, we find the instructions for the Feast of Booths. The Feast of Booths is an eight-day celebration in which Israel remembers that the generations after the deliverance from Egypt lived in booths in the wilderness. The Feast of Booths is a feast in which the people remember God’s Salvation and deliverance of Israel from Egypt and through the wilderness. Symbolically, we read that they are to do this: “And you shall take on the first day the fruit of the splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Leviticus 23:40, ESV).

Throwing down the palm branches before Jesus meant that they recognized Him as the Messiah – the Savor – of Israel. They were symbolically affirming that Jesus is the Savior and Deliverer of Israel. The symbolism would have been obvious to everyone who saw it. The Pharisees were not happy.

John confirms this understanding: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb ’” (Revelation 7:9-10, ESV).

Yet, the crowd does more than just throw down branches – they open their mouths and cry out, “Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel ” “Hosanna” means “save us – we praise you” – it is a cry of triumph – it is an assured request of salvation – a call to God for salvation which the speaker already is confirmed of having. So, the people were calling out to Jesus as Savior, Lord, and King of Israel.

The crowd was crying out, quoting from Psalm 118 which is a Psalm about God’s steadfast love for Israel and the Savior that He would send: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord We bless you from the house of the Lord.”

Let us noticed here that Jesus accepts them calling Him Savior, Lord, and King. Jesus does not deny that He is the Savior, Lord, and King. He doesn’t stop and tell them not to tell anyone – to keep this news to themselves. And we will remember that Jesus had told just about everyone He had taught and healed not to tell anyone, to keep quiet, and to give an offering in the temple, but to tell no one. Why has Jesus suddenly become willing to have Who He is be known to the world?

This is a unique event in the Gospels – one that all four mention – that at this time, Jesus allowed the crowd to loudly announce Who He is. He was no longer quieting the crowd, going away from them. Because it was now time for Him to be revealed – for Him to fulfill this part of prophecy where the world hears Who He is. (Though they didn’t understand what that really meant.)

The crowd that saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 118 would have known the verse following the one that they cried out to Him, “The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with the cords, up to the horns of the altar ” (Psalm 188:27, ESV). It is clear as we look at the record of Holy Week, that they didn’t understand this verse of the Psalm. The Psalmist tells us that the Savior is the Light and that He would be sacrificed.

John, himself, wrote much about Jesus being the Light: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13, ESV).

And He gave Himself as The Sacrifice for all those who would believe, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “But as it is, [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26b-28, ESV).

But the crowd was mistaken in this: they thought Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government – after He rode into Jerusalem – and restore the kingdom to Israel. The Pharisees thought similarly, though they were largely concerned with losing their power. So the Pharisees yelled at Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39b, ESV). “Tell your disciples to keep quiet. Tell them You are not the Savior – You are not the King – You are not going to overthrow Rome.” And Jesus answered them, “‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 20:40b, ESV). “If the crowd – if my disciples – became silent, the inanimate creation would cry out praise and adoration to Me.”

It is not possible to keep the Truth from coming out. The Communist government of China has done everything it can to silence Christianity, but all their efforts have led to their being a strong and faithful Christian Church in China. One famous story is that of the preacher, Watchman Nee, who was imprisoned for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t long after he was imprisoned, that the communists realized that Watchman Nee’s writings were continuing to come out – you see, his guards converted under his preaching in prison, so they killed the guards and stationed new guards. But his writings continued – the second set of guards converted, so they killed those guards and stationed news guards, and for good measure, they cut off Watchman Nee’s arms. But his writings continued to come out of the prison.

It is a fact of history, that Christianity thrives under persecution. In lands where it is tolerated in some form or another, it becomes something other than Christianity. Look at Great Britain. Look at the United States. People are killed in Africa for confessing Christ. People are killed in the Middle East for confessing Christ. People are killed in China for confessing Christ. The crowd could have been killed for proclaiming Jesus as Savior and Lord and King. In the United States, we pick and choose the parts of the God’s Word that we want to believe and follow on any given day. May God cause us to faithfully stand for God’s Word and open our mouths to proclaim it.

Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9, ESV). The crowd recognized that Jesus fulfilled part of this prophecy in riding into Jerusalem – they thought He would fulfill it all and restore the kingdom then, bringing righteousness and Salvation to Israel. But this was only the first part – it will be fully fulfilled when Jesus returns to restore all things and judge the world.

We call this the Triumphal Entry, but A. W. Pink points out in his commentary, that this could well also be called the Tearful Entry from Jesus’ perspective. Remember what happened as they approached Jerusalem, “And when they drew near and saw the city, [Jesus] wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44, ESV). Jesus cried as they approached Jerusalem, because He knew that they would reject Him and kill Him, and for that, God would send the Emperor Titus in 70 A.D., to destroy the temple and Jerusalem. Which is what happened, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy.

But it wasn’t just the crowd and the Pharisees that didn’t understand Jesus and what He was doing – His own disciples didn’t understand until Jesus had been glorified. Then, they remembered that things that had been written about Him in the prophets, and they understood why all these things had to happen to Him.

Do we realized what a blessing that we have living on this side of the cross? Even the disciples who studied with Jesus, Himself, didn’t understand what was happening until He was Risen and Ascended to the Father. We have been blessed to live in this time when we have the Scripture and the explanation of how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies made of Him. We have a knowledge and understanding of the Scripture, especially with the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, Who reminds us and teaches us God’s Word, which far surpasses those who knew Jesus in the flesh. What a gift we have in knowing all these things

Notice, that even though the crowd didn’t understand all that we understand now, they continued to bear witness to Him. They had seen Him raise Lazarus from the dead and they understood that He is the Savior, Lord, and King of Israel, so they continued to tell others. They continued to spread the news. Throughout Holy Week, and then after the Resurrection, they continued to testify to Who Jesus is and what He had done. They continued to open their mouths and speak the Truth of Jesus. They could have been killed – and many of them were – but the Good News of Jesus Christ was too important to them to keep their mouths shut.

These days, we have special services during Holy Week – and I encourage all of you to be here to worship with us on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and then on Easter. We have palms this morning. We will have flowers, Lord willing, soon. We sing special songs and hymns. But, do we tell anyone outside of these walls? Have you invited anyone to our Holy Week services? Have you told anyone this year why Easter matters? We say we don’t know what to say. We say we’re embarrassed to say something wrong. In the rear of the sanctuary, you will find copies of the booklet, History’s Most Spectacular Sin, which is a chapter from Rev. Dr. John Piper’s book, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. The booklet explains why Jesus had to die the way He did. Please take a copy for yourself. And, if you’re up for the challenge, take a few to give to others this week. This church’s name and address is in each copy. So, you can just say, “Our church was handing these out.” Or, “Here, this is for you.”

With the knowledge we have of what happened and why it happened during that first Holy Week – beginning with the Triumphal Entry – we cannot keep the news to ourselves The crowd saw the resurrection of Lazarus and saw Jesus fulfill prophecy as He rode into Jerusalem, and they had to tell everyone. We know He has risen from the dead and ascended back to the Father, having secured our Salvation, and given us His Righteousness. What greater news could there be – we’re talking about God and eternity.

The crowd only partially understood, and the Pharisees realized there was no simple way to silence the proclaiming about and worship of Jesus: “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Let’s be like that crowd that ushered Jesus into Jerusalem. Let’s open our mouths. Let’s continue to testify. Let’s continue to tell the story of Jesus and His Salvation. Let us cry out about Him until the devil and his demons say, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

And let us get ready to testify to the Work and Salvation of our Savior and Lord and King as we receive the elements of the lord’s Supper. As Paul wrote, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (I Corinthians 11:26, ESV). May each one in this sanctuary hear that proclamation.

Let us pray:
O God, You are our God, and we give thanks to You. You are our God, we will extol You. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His Steadfast Love endures forever Lord, we thank You for saving us as a people to Yourself. Give us courage and the words to speak. Let us not be afraid of humans, but overwhelmed by Your Salvation. And let us be a glory to You and we continue to testify. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Review: "Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: the Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs"

I recently finished reading Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: the Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs, by Dr. Neal D. Barnard. I bought this book some time ago because I had read other books by Dr. Barnard and been impressed with them. However, this one sat on a stack of books for quite some time, since I am not a diabetic.

However, I have started going to an endocrinologist, and he has suggested that I am on my way to becoming a diabetic – something I would like to avoid if at all possible – so I picked up this book and read.

Dr. Barnard begins by explaining diabetes and how it occurs. He then moves into an explanation of his program, which is basically, eat what you want, so long as you eat vegan, low fat, and low glycemic index. And this basically means, eat anything you like, so long as it is not an animal product, low in fat, and (generally speaking) not a white-colored food. (He goes into very understandable detail about these categories.)

The book includes both medical research and anecdotal proof of his plan.

The book ends with a section of recipes to help jump start the program.

I am going to follow his regime, and, hopefully, get myself in better health through it.

Highly recommended!

Review: "The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (even when you have every reason to be miserable)"

I have just finished reading Scott Hamilton’s The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (even when you have every reason to be miserable). Go to http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0785228942 to see the product detail at the Thomas Nelson site.

Scott is a naturally happy guy, and his suffering as an athlete and as a cancer patient (both testicular and brain) have only served to increase his happiness. Add to that, being in a supportive marriage, having two sons, when it was thought that he could not have any, and converting to Christianity, Scott is a very happy man.

His book is called The Great Eight because he reveals eight secrets to happy living. Why eight and not ten or twelve as other similar books? Because, in skating, the figure eight is the most difficult and most essential move.

The eight secrets, as he names them, are “Fall, Get Up, and Land Your First Jumps,” “Trust Your Almighty Coach,” “Make Your Losses Your Wins,” “Keep the Ice Clear,” “Think Positive, Laugh, and Smile Like Kristi Yamaguchi,” “Win By Going Last,” “Learn a New Routine,” and “Stand in the Spotlight.” His insights about not giving up, trusting God, putting a positive spin on whatever happens, etc., are all valuable life lessons – lessons that have served Scott well through all he has lived and endured.

I was put off at his calling God, “Coach,” and I understand that he is trying to keep with skating metaphors, but it seemed a bit glib to me. I was also disturbed with the overall theme, especially front and center in the last chapter, that God wants everyone to be happy. That is not so, and to teach that is, at best, counterproductive.

I wonder if Scott would tell someone who just can’t get happy, despite his eight steps, that it is that person’s fault. More generally, I don’t see how he can explain, from what he has written why there is so much unhappiness. In other words, he needs to address sin, even in such a popular book as this.

Enjoyable as it is, I would not recommend this book. Rather, I would direct persons with such concerns to Rev. Dr. John Piper’s books.

(This review is posted on my blog and Amazon.com)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Flea Market!!!

This Saturday, D.V., we will be holding our annual Flea Market from 10AM to 2PM. Please come out and help us continue the ministry of Jesus Christ at Second Reformed by making a purchase. Remember, if you don't buy anything, you're hindering the Work of the Lord! (Not really, but we are grateful for everyone who comes.)