Last week we started our series on the Ten Commandments, and I established that the true purpose of the ten commandments are not to make us holy and righteous, but instead reveal our sin nature and inclination for rebellion against God. Thus, when we have a proper view of the law, or the 10 Commandments, they should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for a savior found in Jesus Christ. At the core they show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep the commands perfectly.
I also talked about commandment one and at the very heart is about love. Because when we love God with all of our being, we cannot and will not worship anything or anyone over the God who has called us to Himself.
Today I want to pick up where we left of and talk about the second commandment and how it is relevant and applies to our lives today.
Go to Exodus 20:4. - 6
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 6but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands (Exodus 20:4 – 6)
What do you think when I say the word idol? Is idolatry even a thing for modern humanity? I mean aren’t we more civilized than ancient humanity who seemed to need carved graven images, statues or effigies to bow down before, worship and offer sacrifices in order to function in a sane life? There is some validity to that question, however I think this view of idolatry is a bit distorted. I will talk about this in a few moments.
What Are Idols?
In Exodus 20:4 – 5 God introduces us to the sin of idolatry. This second commandment prohibits people from making any images or statues (whether on earth, below the earth or in the heavens) and bowing down in worship to them.
Since the first commandment warns of worshiping the wrong God (there are no gods besides me), then the second commandment warns against worshiping God in the wrong way. This commandment includes imagining the true God as like yourself or something lower. This means we have the tendency to make God into something of our own limited understanding, likeness, or ability to control. This is what the Israelites did at the base of Mt. Sinai while Moses was receiving the law. When the Israelites were worshiping the golden calf (as you can read about in Exodus 32) they weren’t worshiping foreign gods like Baal, Ra, or Osiris. They were worshiping their perception or creation of God. They had created an image in the form of a golden calf and worshiped it as God. They used their imagination to create and conceive a physical representation of what they believed was God. Thus, even if their motives were right (which I highly doubt), they were creating an image of god, who could not be created. This was their sin. They created a god of their own understanding and imagination. I have heard people talk about acknowledging or worshiping the God of their own understanding and I flinch a bit because they are talking about worshiping an idol. What we perceive or imagine God to be in our own minds is dangerous and goes against the second command. J.I. Packer writes, “No statement starting, ‘this is how I like to think of God’ should ever be trusted. An imagined God will always be quite imaginary and unreal.”
Do We Worship Idols Today?
Some watching or listening may be thinking, we know that we shouldn’t make statues in God’s image, so why is this commandment even relevant or applicable to us today? The answer is everything in our lives and in this world has the potential to become an idol!
Modern humanity may not worship statues or carved images, but I would argue that many do not have other (both seen and unseen) gods that they worship today. Think back to the days before social distancing while watching or participating in worship as a favorite performer or sports figure does what he or she does best to entertain the masses and you may change your tune. Now, I am definitely not saying that participating or attending sporting events or concerts makes you an idol worshiper, but there is a tendency to do so. When this pandemic has subsided go and observe Raymond James Stadium on a Sunday morning, the Tropicana field during MLB season, or visit the Amelie arena for a concert or hockey game. I promise you will see plenty of idol worship.
According to author and Pastor Timothy Keller, “A counterfeit god (idol) is anything so central and essential in your life that, should you lose it, your life would be hardly worth living. An idol has so much controlling position in your heart that you spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.” Professor Tom Shippey states, "(Idols are when we) take the hearts fondest desires and magnify them to idolatrous proportions.” Anytime we need something to represent or to see God we are undermining his freedom. No image can capture God’s glory. We do this with buildings, pulpits, relics lying around the church or any image that we need in order to bring us into the presence of God.
This even happens in churches today. I think back over the years I have been in ministry and I remember once being criticized for moving a pulpit from the area where I preached. and the reality was, that pulpit had become an idol. Another time I asked a pastor friend if I could borrow some candelabra’s from his church for a wedding. He agreed to let me. As I went to the church to pick them up, I was stopped by the church secretary and told, very sternly, those candelabra’s cannot be removed from their place since they were the only items that had survived a church fire in prior years. In fact, they are not even supposed to be touched without gloved hands. Those candelabra’s had clearly become idols. Idolatry can have many faces in our churches… It can also include a “style” of praise and worship. One person says, “I can only worship God with hymns and organs”. Others say, “No, the only way I can truly worship God is only through modern praise songs and bands.” When the reality is, God should be worshiped regardless of musical styles. Some have elevated intellectualism as their gods. For some, Pastors need to be seminary trained, MDiv degree holders, and fluent Greek scholars and a lay person could never properly lead a congregation in worship of God. Now, there is nothing wrong with seminary training, but one’s training is not what qualifies one for ministry. For some churches a smart, seminary trained, and well-read pastor is a requirement for one in order to properly institute the sacraments and effectively lead worship. I am sure that many of you can share similar stories of items or methods of worship that have become idols in church.
Is all idolatry bad?
The short answer is yes. We know that God does not tolerate idolatry. Throughout scripture we read about how God will not take second seat to anyone or anything, in fact Exodus 20:5 says, “I am a jealous God”. The problem we have is that there are many potential idols in our lives and sometimes these can be things that are good, healthy, and advantageous when viewed and used properly… but when we place them above God and worshiped (kiss hand in affection) they can subtly become idols, no matter how good or advantageous they may be.
Can Believers Have idols?
As mentioned earlier Tim Keller wrote, “Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol.” How is this so for Christians?
Idols of the Heart – Read Ezekiel 14:1 - 6
“Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. 2 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 3 ‘Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and have put their sinful stumbling blocks in front of themselves. Should I actually let them inquire of me? Therefore, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: When anyone from the house of Israel sets up idols in his heart and puts his sinful stumbling block in front of himself, and then comes to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him appropriately. I will answer him according to his many idols, 5 so that I may take hold of the house of Israel by their hearts. They are all estranged from me because of their idols.’ Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Repent and turn away from your idols; turn your faces away from all your detestable things.”
What Can Idolatry Look Like for Us?
When we depend on or look to anything more favorably than God as our source of joy, security and salvation then it/they have become idols in our lives. Here are a few thing that have the tendency to become idols in our lives if we are not careful.
Has something in your life taking precedence over God? If so, then this “something” has become an idol/god. We are created beings and we were created to worship God. Unfortunately, our natural sinful inclination in not to worship God, but to worship things created by God. Romans 1:18 – 23 says, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
Our sinful tendency is to worship anything other than God. We so easily exchange our worship for God with the temporal and fleeting. We replace God with subtle physical idolatry (people or things) or idols of our hearts (Unseen and possibly good).
My prayer is that you take some time this week and pray about identifying the idols in your life and seek to replace them with the true, life-giving, fulfilling, and joyful worship to the only one who is worthy of praise. When we faithfully allow God to search our hearts, He is going to deal with us individually and when He does, we need to be prepared to make the necessary changes in our lives so we can be right with God.
 Packer, J.I... Keeping the Ten Commandments . Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (Dutton, 2009), p. xvii
The 10 Commandments
Exodus 20:1 - 17
Today we are beginning a new series titled, “The Ten Commandments” and I will take the next ten weeks to talk about what each commandment means and how they still apply for us today.
Whether you are a believer or not you are probably familiar with the concept of the 10 commandments. I would venture to say that this portion of scripture is possibly the best-known set of rules in all western and eastern culture. Depending on how you were raised and when you grew up it is likely that you at least heard them recited or were even made to memorize them as a child.
I would be interested to know how many of you can recite all ten commandments. (Leave a message in the comments section) Or how many of you even know where they can be found in the Bible? That is sort of a trick question since they are found in two separate passages (Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5).
Listen to this sobering and somewhat abnormal fact. According to an October 2007 Reuter’s article that at the time of the writing less than 15% of Americans can name the 10 commandments. By comparison 25% of Americans could name the seven ingredients in a Big Mac and the names of all six Brady Bunch children. Now, I wouldn’t consider a scientifically accurate tests because there are many variable to consider, but it is an interesting article, just Google 10 Commandments and Big Macs and read the article for yourself. Do you have anything better to do today?
When I mentioned that we are beginning a new series on the Ten Commandments maybe your mind was brought back to the 1956 movie with the same name and possibly had a mental picture of Carlton Heston (Moses) standing before the court of Pharaoh with staff in hand demanding, “Let my People go!” Or maybe you had a vision the of Heston standing on the mountain with the stone tablets in hand, rebuking the Israelites for their sinfulness and throwing the stone tablets at the Golden calf thus blowing it to smithereens.
Whatever picture comes to mind it is important to know that the 10 Commandments are more than an entertaining Hollywood movie, a bunch of rules recited from memory, or the false idea that if we keep them to the best of our ability then we can go to heaven. No, these commandments are intended for far greater purposes and we will look at them today and, in the weeks, to come.
Jesus & the Law
Now, before we get too involved in this message, some of you may be thinking, “Why are we doing a study on the laws or commands of God, aren’t we under grace and not the law? That is a good question and John 1:17 does affirm “for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus.” You may also be thinking if Jesus came to fulfill the law, then why do we need to observe the 10 Commandments? It is true Jesus did come to fulfill the law according to Matthew 5:17, but He also says that He did not come to abolish or end it. In Matthew 22:34 – 40 Jesus was asked by the Pharisees which commandment is the greatest to which he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… The second it like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and prophets depend on these two commands.”
All of them, yes, all 613 laws in O.T. The Ten Commands summarize all 613 laws which are summarized into two laws: Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.
Author and theologian J.I. Packer writes, “Jesus himself is in fact the embodiment of the Ten Commandments and living below the standard of service that his life sets is, quite simply, falling short in neighbor-love.”
The purpose of the 10 Commandments
As I have already mentioned the 10 Commandments are not just a list of do’s and don’ts or rules that must be followed in order to go to heaven, win God’s approval and put him in our debt. No, they are commands given by God to his people whom he just delivered, rescued, and redeemed from Egypt and keeping the commandments should be, at the minimum, the grateful response to His love, grace, and mercy. They reflect the way God’s people are called in response to be holy (set apart) and they reflect God’s nature (attributes) that shows us what He looks like and what He desires from His people.
The true purpose of the ten commandments are to reveal our sin nature and rebellion: Ultimately, they reveal that we do not like God (or anyone for that matter) telling us what we can and cannot do. The truth is the law, or 10 Commandments should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for Jesus. They show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep His commands perfectly. They reveal that we are sinful people. Now, we can either view the 10 Commandments as rules constraining and restricting to keep under God’s thumb or we can view them as ways for free people, His people, to live in obedience to the God who has truly rescued, delivered and set them free.
Background (Exodus 19)
Before I begin talking about the first commandment, I think we all would benefit from gaining a better perspective and background leading up to Moses receiving the commandments.
As many of you know Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years and God through Moses had recently liberated the Israelites from captivity. Moses and the Israelites had been wandering in the desert for three months and they set up camp at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses goes up to the mountain and God called to him from there.
God instructs Moses to speak to the Israelites on his behalf and declares that Israel will be His own possession out of all the peoples in the earth, and they will be God’s kingdom of priests and His holy nation. Ultimately, God is declaring that Israel belongs to Him.
Moses comes down and tells the people what God has said the people respond that they will do whatever the Lord says. He then goes back up to the mountain and receives specific instructions (ceremonial consecrations) as to how the nation must prepare for God’s descent to the mountain. Once again Moses goes down and tells the people what they must do.
On the third day it began to thunder, and lightning and a thick cloud enveloped the mountain and a loud trumpet sounded. God calls Moses back to the mountain to give him the 10 commandments.
“Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:1 – 3)
There is a reason the first commandment is the first commandment. If you remember Israel was delivered from a pagan nation (Egypt) who had many gods. It is believed that there were over 2,000 gods in ancient Egypt. And out of these 2000 there were lots of impressive gods and goddesses and it was inevitable that some of the Israelites had assimilated to Egyptian culture and religion. However, Israel had been called by God to be a holy nation and this means they were a set apart nation; they were called to live differently, act differently and worship differently from the rest of the world. Thus, God needed to establish that He alone is God.
Vs 2a: “I am the LORD” The word LORD is the Hebrew name for God YHWH. He is the same covenant keeping God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. He is the same God whose name is “I AM WHO I AM”. He is same the self-existent, self-sufficient, sovereign God who created the world. He is the same God who delivered them from Egypt, brought them through the Red Sea, and provided for them in the wilderness.
Vs 2b: “your God…” He is not just the LORD; He is a personal God. He is the God of Israel. God says, I am YOUR God. He is not a distant god who is unconcerned with the well-being of his people. Nor is he a tyrant who wields his exponential power and authority without restraint over His creatures. He is “your God” who cares for and loves His people. He is the Father. He is on our side. He gives the commands for our good and His glory.
Vs 2c: “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.” God reminds Israel what He has done for them…
Vs. 3: “Do not have other gods besides me.” This does not mean that God is one of many gods. Nor does it imply the most powerful among inferior gods. He is declaring that no other god exists except for him. God affirms that no other gods should be worshiped because THERE ARE NO OTHER gods except for Yahweh. He is One, and there is none beside him. God is saying: “Worship me alone or don’t worship me at all.”
The Bible records the statement over 20 times that God is ONE and there are no other gods besides Him. God will not take a backseat to anything or anyone and we will talk more about this next week as we look at the second commandment.
Application: How Commandment 1 Applies to Christians today
So, what does all of this mean for us today? What is the takeaway from this message? How does keeping the commandments apply to Christians today? Here are three takeaways.
God cannot be worshiped rightly or properly if he is worshiped alongside anyone or anything.
So why do we need to keep this commandment? Because love is at the very heart of this first commandment. When we love God with all of our being, we cannot and will not worship anything or anyone over the God who has called us to Himself.
As I close, I would like to issue a challenge to all of you hearing this message. As a collective body (physical church and digital church) I would like for us to journey together to memorize the 10 Commandments. Each week I would like for us to memorize the commandment that we just studied. This week we will memorize (Exodus 20:1 - 3) as a church together and as we memorize we can make it a practice to not only know and memorize God’s Word, but to commit to living it out as well.
 (Packer, J. I.. Keeping the Ten Commandments . Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
This Easter morning people around the world are observing this holiday. Children are searching for hidden eggs, gnawing on chocolate bunnies, and families are preparing food that will be more than sufficient for a King or queen? Families will gather together albeit virtually for many because Easter is all about family, right? Well, not really. For Christians the true purpose of Easter is to reflect on what Jesus accomplished through His death and to celebrate the life we receive as a result of the savior’s resurrection. If you grew up in a traditional Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox or Lurtheran church you may remember the Paschal greeting which goes like this… The pastor announces, “He is risen!” To which the congregation responds, “He is risen indeed!” This is a tradition that goes back many, many centuries and is a wonderful way to greet Christian brothers and sisters on Easter morning. So, I say to you this morning… “He is risen!”
For Christians Easter is the most significant day we observe in the calendar year. It is the pinnacle (if you will) of God’s plan of redemption. The events of Easter through Jesus fully restores true fellowship with God and humanity that was broken at the beginning in the garden as a result of sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection are what we look to during the Easter season as our greatest hope. For those who observe and participate in Lent know that these past forty days was is observed and practiced in preparation for this day.
For others Easter has no spiritual value whatsoever; it is only a day that is set aside to spend with family or loved ones (which is a good thing), eating ham, hiding Easter eggs, and chomping on chocolate bunny ears. For the unbeliever the significance of the resurrection may be nothing more than a story, myth or conspiracy theory thought up by early Christians to gain power, wealth and control over the masses. For unbelievers the resurrection is a myth, a crutch or a joke.
For us who believe and are fully committed to Jesus Christ we do not observe or enter into this this day casually. In fact, we put all of hope in the truth that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead thus conquering sin and death. We have placed all of our faith in the reality that the resurrection of Jesus makes is the foundational hope of our future resurrection. When we proclaim the Paschal greeting to one another we are not just muttering empty words; we are proclaiming the Gospel (the Good News) of Jesus Christ. We proclaim a risen Jesus who has ascended to the Father for our justification as the Good News. In fact, the Gospel is GREAT NEWS, and it is the only news worthy of declaring to bring hope to all who believe!
The Cross of Christ
If you have your Bibles, go to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 as we will be spending some time in this passage. The Apostle Paul writes, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” Paul did not come to Corinth with eloquent words and heady wisdom. No, he had a simple message; the message of the cross. Paul calls it a simple message because the cross (Jesus Christ and him crucified) is central to the Gospel message. Our faith is grounded in the cross of Jesus Christ, without the death of Jesus there is no atonement for sin. Paul’s desire was to preach this simple and central message to them through the power of the Holy Spirit.
May we never forget the significance of the cross. Sadly, more and more Christians talk about the cross of Jesus Christ with apathy or as an everyday common ordinary occurrence. I have heard Christians speak about the cross lightly and sometimes with indifference. I hear people say, “We’ve already heard about the cross of Jesus, tell us something new. Give us some creative and well thought out wisdom as to how we can become better people and thus help us become better Christians.” They have forgotten the seriousness of the cross of Christ. Too often they make Christianity about them and they fail to truly acknowledge it is about Jesus and what He has done. Sometimes they overlook or become bored with the message of the suffering He faced, and the agonizing price He paid so that all who believe could have eternal life and redemption. My friends, may we never get to this point in our Christianity.
When I think of what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary, and I try to get my brain around what he did it humbles me. Why does it humble me? Why would the message of the cross humble anyone? What is the purpose of the cross of Christ? Why did Jesus have to face such an agonizing and humiliating death? Simply because the cross points me to my sin, my life here on earth, and my eternal destiny.
The Bible records that all are sinners and that no one is righteous before our holy God. Sin has separated us from God. If this is true then we are worthy of one thing… death… eternal separation from God. You may be thinking, “Hey, Jeff this is Easter! Can’t you be a bit more positive? Aren’t you being a bit extreme? I mean know I’m not perfect, and I have my human inadequacies, but I’m not that bad of a person. I pray sometimes, I attend Church regularly, and I never ever take the Lord’s name in vain.” The truth is we are ALL sinners and the sin nature we inherit makes worthy of death. No good deeds are enough to declare us righteous before our holy God.
There is good news though; the Bible says, “God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus as a sacrifice and atonement for our sins) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the core of the Good News of the Gospel! We don’t deserve forgiveness, eternal life, or even to be declared righteous, yet He gives them all to us who respond to the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father and repent of the sins and are called by God to become his children.
Thankfully the Gospel does not end with Jesus dead in the tomb. The news gets better! 1 Corinthians 15:3 - 8 tells us, “3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me. After three days in the grave Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead. He didn’t raise in spirit; He physically rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. This means one thing… He is alive today! Sinful humanity tried to kill him; the devil tried to conquer Him, but death couldn’t contain Him.
The resurrection of Jesus is just as essential to our faith as his death. Some may say, “Wait a minute! The death stuff I can buy, but I don’t know if I can buy this resurrection story?” How essential is the resurrection of Christ to us today? It is ABSOLUTELY essential! 1 Corinthians 15:14 -17 “14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.[a] 15 Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified wrongly about God that he raised up Christ—whom he did not raise up, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Without the resurrection, we have nothing. Worshiping of a dead god is the same as having a dead faith. If you don’t believe Jesus is alive today, then you are wasting your time calling yourself a Christian because you are not one. If you can’t buy the resurrection then your sins have not been forgiven… Paul says, “you are still in your sins.”
Christ rose from the dead to show that He has conquered the dominion of death and the sins of this world. Through his resurrection we can experience the power over death and sin in our lives.
5 Reasons the Resurrection is Essential to Our Faith…
Why is the resurrection important to us? What does the resurrection mean to us? Why is His death significant to me? Here are five reasons…
Knowing Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can live; die and rise again should give us all hope, strength, faith and a desire to live fully for Him today, tomorrow and the days to come. He died willingly and rose from the grave for His us so we may have forgiven of our sins and receive life and to have it abundantly. This is a promise given to us by the Savior. Since Jesus is victorious over death, we also are victorious over death.
 Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Ro 4:1–25). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
If you have ever spent time on a stage you are aware of the feeling of anticipation, excitement and fear you experience before the curtain rises. Once the curtain rises you have two choices… you do what you were meant to do, or you run away. Here in the garden, the curtain (if you will) raises, Jesus sets the stage for the plan of his departure from this earth. This is the time that he has been talking about and preparing for since his public ministry began.
In the garden, Jesus is confronted by a band of soldiers who have been brought to the garden by Judas, the captain and officers of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. Unbeknownst to many is what lies before him is the cup which the Father has given to him to drink and soon Jesus takes the cup and endures, because this is his moment.
Once Jesus finished his prayer and concluded his farewell discourse to his disciples, he went to a garden to pray. Judas knew Jesus would be there at this time, so he brought with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200 soldiers) and the temple police to the garden to have Jesus arrested. It is probable at this time Judas kisses Jesus, but John does not record it. He meets the group and asks who they are seeking? They respond, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replies, “I am he.” The literal translation is “I am.” Upon hearing his response John tells us the soldiers drew back or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground.
What happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall down? Some biblical scholars believe that the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect of soldiers falling to the ground. Others believe it was a result of a Theophany (an appearance of God to humans) causing his enemies to fall back and fall prostrate before him. “We see they are struck down by a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his companions to the earth (Ac 26:14). It was the glorious effulgence (radiance) of the majesty of Christ which overpowered them. “This, occurring before His surrender, would show His power over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He gave Himself up” [Meyer]. Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon I AM HE, “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is it awesome but it is awe inspiring. In Jesus we see the power of God manifested in His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees, then we can only imagine the power that is in his presence.
Eventually, Jesus was arrested and bound by the soldiers and taken before Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest Caiaphas. Annas is also called the High Priest in other passages so there is some debate over why he is also called the High Priest. Some suggest that Caiaphas and Annas shared the position and others suggest that since he was High Priest before Caiaphas that he was probably retired from the position but still held the title.
The death of Jesus is a graphic and gruesome thing. I need not go into detail about it since many of us have either seen movies, read books or imagined in your mind what this horrific event was like, but I do not think we can fathom what it was really like. The death Jesus suffered was a painful, humiliating and violent death, yet it was necessary in order to accomplish the will of the Father. Crucifixion was a gruesome method of capital punishment used by many nations including Greece and Persia. The Romans used it as a means to execute slaves and criminals.
In the Gospel of John, as Jesus hung on the cross, the final two statements Jesus makes were…
It was nearing the Sabbath before Passover and the process of death needed be sped up, so the guards began breaking the legs of those being crucified. They wanted to get this over, so they could go ahead and celebrate the Passover. However, Jesus had already given up His spirit and since he lifeless there was no need to break His legs (thus fulfilling prophecy… See Zech. 12:10). To ensure He was in fact dead the Roman soldier pierced his side.
When we read the full account of this gruesome, brutal, and somewhat tragic death of Jesus we may respond in humble heartbreak. We may cry out because Jesus did not deserve the death, he died but it was altogether necessary. Through his death God establishes a new covenant of grace, atonement and redemption with humanity. The gruesome and heart-wrenching death of Jesus may bring sadness to us today, but we must remember today is not the end… Sunday is coming.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (Jn 18:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
When I tell people that today (the Thursday before Easter) is Maundy Thursday, I am usually met with a blank stare or a look of confusion and someone saying, "What is Monday Thursday?"
The words Maundy Thursday are derived from the Latin phrase “Dies Mandatum” which means "The mandate" or more specifically “The day of the new commandment.” This mandate or commandment is in reference to John 13:34 - 35 when Jesus tells his disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (ESV).
Today’s reading highlights the commandment or mandate that Jesus gave to His disciples in the upper room on the eve of His death. Traditionally, the Church observes this evening with a ceremonial foot washing service and concludes with a time of communion. Today, we will look at the events of this first Maundy Thursday to reflect on Christ’s death and prepare us to celebrate His resurrection for our justification on the first Easter Sunday.
Verse 34 - 35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In this passage Jesus lays out his expectations to his followers for when He is gone. In his commentary on John, D.A. Carson hits the nail on the head concerning the attainability of this new command, “The new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice.” Jesus’ command for the disciples is to love one another the way he loved them. We know Jesus showed his great love for his disciples in the foot washing ceremony but it wasn’t the washing of the feet that he was referring. The foot washing points directly to the death of Jesus and the disciples would soon see the importance of loving each other in the manner that Jesus truly loved them. He then tells them it is important for the disciples to love one another in this way. Through loving one another with a sacrificial and self-less love people will know that they belong to Him.
Essentially he is saying to all believers, you are going to be on display for the world to see and the manner in which you treat each other and love one another will speak volumes about who you follow. Love for one another needs to be the evidence that you are a disciple of Jesus. Jesus gives the disciples and us a life command and not one that they are to keep once and then move on… love must be displayed among them continually, so people will see we belong to Jesus.
Second century Christian author Tertullian writes about how the Pagans marveled at the love of the Christian fellowship, especially in times of intense persecution. He writes, “See how they love one another! ... How are they ready even to die for one another!”
So, what does sacrificial love look like? We need only to look at Good Friday as a reminder of true sacrificial love. We see this true love in Jesus as he willingly to laid down his life for his friends. When we look at the cross of Jesus it wasn’t intended to make us feel good about ourselves. The cross of Christ is intended to bring glory to Jesus and to the Father and to give life to all who believe. The willingness and obedience of Jesus
going to Calvary speaks volumes as to his love and full commitment to his
people. The cross wasn’t an example of Christ’s love for us, it was the essence of
his love. The cross was Jesus’ love in action. We have heard the saying,
“Actions speak louder than words” and this is truly the case in Jesus Christ and the
cross. This is an awe-inspiring love, it is an unbelievable love, it is the kind of
love that is motivated and given by the Spirit so we can in turn love our brothers
and sisters in Christ as Jesus loved.
This is the manuscript from the sermon I preached online for West Bradenton Southside this week.
Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28 – 40, John 12:12 – 19
Easter is a time when we reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During this time, we are reminded of the humiliating and excruciating painful death our savior endured to atone for our sins. As Christians we remember that Jesus died for our sins and we rejoice in the truth that he rose from the grave. We celebrate Easter because He is alive today and seated at the right hand of the Father.
The Bible tells us Jesus endured the cross and rose from the dead so that anyone who puts their faith and trust in him will share in the resurrected life he offers to all who confess their sins, repent and believe on His name. I will speak more specifically about this next week.
Today is Palm Sunday, and this day begins “Holy Week”. My goal for today is to talk about the four separate accounts of the same event that is called Jesus’ triumphal entry or more commonly known as Palm Sunday found in the Gospels. This event is one of a few occurrences that is recorded in all four Gospels in the life of Jesus. While all four are similar in subject there are some differences in the way the accounts are re-told. Today we will look at these accounts collectively as we read about and celebrate the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.
The Story – (Outline)
Today we celebrate and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by joining the multitudes by proclaiming “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Now, we know what comes next, but the people who were emphatically proclaiming Jesus as Messiah on this day did not. Eventually many of them will turn on him and joined the riotous mobs a few days later screaming “Crucify him!” “Kill the blasphemer!” “He is not our king!”
It’s easy to be like the multitudes and get caught up in the moment, have an intense emotional experience and rejoice over Jesus, but it’s temporal. When things don’t go your way, something bad happens or the excitement of the moment goes away so many people are quick to turn their back on Jesus and end up like the riotous mob that turned on Him and demanded his death.
The challenge and question before you today is, “Are you fully in?” Are you committed to be a full-on disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to praise him in the glorious sunshine of the morning as well as the darkness of the night? Are we willing to put our cloak on the ground and praise the King of salvation? Are you determined to follow and are you committed to your Lord during the good times and during the troubled times? This is your challenge for today and for the week ahead. Praise the King for he has come! Praise the King for he has died a death that we deserve so that we might live. Praise the King for he is alive today and He dwells among us.
 Wright, N.T. (2004) Matthew For Everyone p. 67 Westminster John Knox Press
 Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 253). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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