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JESUS” LAST PUBLIC SERMON

WEDNESDAY – Jesus’  Last Public Sermon Matt 23: 1-39

Most scholars believe that Jesus’ last public discourse (found in Matthew 23) was delivered on Tuesday. They also believe that the great eschatological treatise aka the Olivet Discourse was privately delivered on Tuesday. They also conclude that the Gospels do not record any of the Wednesday events of Passion Week. If this is true, Jesus had a very busy speaking day on Tuesday.

Jesus last public discourse was aimed directly at the Scribes and the Pharisees. What He had to say regarding them was not pleasant. In fact, it was inflammatory and antagonistic. Jesus was in non-stop attack mode. Eight times He begins His attack with ‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees’. A ‘woe’ is more than a warning, it is a denunciation and Matthew 23 is nothing more than a denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.

Seven times Jesus calls the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites. Although used fewer times than ‘woe’, it is a stronger denunciation. He also calls them ‘blind guides’ four times and ‘fools’ once. At the end of this sermon there was no doubt in the listener’s minds about what Jesus thought of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Why was Jesus so strong in His denunciation of them? Matthew 23:2-12 tells us that they were proud men. They were proud of displaying their position of leadership before each other and the people.

But worse, their teaching kept themselves and others from a relationship with God. They had reduced religion to outward activity and had convinced themselves as well as the people they taught that a relationship with God was dependent upon your performance.

Jesus said that those who follow the teaching of the Pharisees’ performance based religion were cut off from heaven. In other words, anyone who trusts in his good works as being pleasing to God is really separated not only from religious reality but from an eternal relationship with God (see Mt 23:13). In fact, following the teaching of a Pharisee was doubly damned in the sight of God (Mt 23:15).

After His very convicting sermon against the scribes and Pharisees to the people, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37-39). He wept because the teachers and religious leaders did not understand the ways of God. Because of their poor teaching, the people also did not understand the ways of God. Performance based religion is unacceptable to God. It is nothing more than filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Jesus spent much time trying to get the eyes of the people off of themselves (and their performance) and onto Him (His Person and His work).

In the midst of the most important week of remembrance on the Christian calendar, are you taking the time to focus on the work of the cross and its eternal benefit for you, or are you focusing on what you think you need to do in order to garner God’s favor. Passion Week is not about us – it’s about Him and His work on our behalf. Let’s not make the same mistake of the people in Jesus’ day by listening to the wrong voices and being distracted with our noble efforts to please God rather than focusing on the glories of the cross.

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THE ATTRACTION OF SACRIFICE

TUESDAY – John 12:20-50

The Attraction of Sacrifice

I know “The Attraction of Sacrifice” is a strange heading for this sermon of Jesus delivered on Monday of Passion Week. Yet, it conveys the lesson intended by Jesus in these verses. It is noteworthy that this message was delivered to Hellenistic Jews (John 12:20).

Note the language that Jesus’ uses to describe His crucifixion.  In 12:23 He calls His crucifixion the hour of glory (12:23) and that the crucifixion was ‘The hour of purpose!’ (12:27). He also asked the Father to use ‘The Hour’ to glorify His Name (12:28a). The Father responded by promising He would (12:28b). Jesus’ purposed to focus on the results rather than the means of His work on the cross, thus eliminating discontent with the plan.

To help the Disciples and the Hellenistic Jews understand the crucifixion, Jesus used an agricultural metaphor (12:24). In order for wheat to be living and productive, it must first die. But once it dies and is buried, it becomes fruitful.

Jesus said He was willing to die and be buried in order to be fruitful for the Father’s glory (12:28, 32, and 33). He indicated in this teaching that finding one’s life and identity in this world is a losing mindset. Instead, He proposes that abandoning one’s earthly identity (i.e. dying to self) results in eternal fruitfulness (12:25). But not abandoning one’s earthly identity will forfeit eternity. Therefore, He implores us to identify with His purposeful work and gain eternity rather than holding onto the worthless material life we can see and presently trust.

After this teaching session, Jesus left and hid Himself (12:36b). It was not profitable to remain around those who would not believe (12:37). There was a reason for their unbelief. Isaiah is quoted as saying that their hearts were hardened by God (12:40). And although it seems that God is maliciously hardening their hearts and keeping them from the faith, we see in 12:43 that the hardening of a man’s heart is not arbitrary on God’s part but rather a response to man’s misplaced loyalties. John 12:43 tells us that those whom God hardens and keeps from the truth are those who live to please men rather than God. Or said a different way, they fear man more than they fear God.

What kind of person are you? One whose focus is self-centered and in this world? One who fears man more than God? One who lives pleasing men to gain the approval of other men, or one who lives shows love for God through obedience to His will in order to express appreciation for His purposeful plan on the cross? Jesus taught in John 12 that it was time to die. For Him it meant setting aside His desires, His will and His physical life in order to experience spiritual and physical death as our substitute of the punishment for sin to accomplish the plan of God. For us it means setting aside our love for this world and the approval of men in order to gain an eternal inheritance through faith in His person and work (12:25, 43, 44-50).

PASSION WEEK

THE FINAL WEEK OF JESUS

MONDAY – Palm Sunday

After many months absence, I have returned! These last several months have been busy and have kept me from writing as I would like. However, on this night I find myself unable to sleep because of the challenging times – the current economic situation, the talk of potential monetary globalization but more importantly, what this week over 2,000 years ago meant to our Lord. After almost three and ½ years of ministry, the time of His first coming was approaching its termination. He would soon be sacrificed on the cross – a work considered tragic (unhappy events that excite pity or terror) by humans but planned and purposeful by God.

This week we will take a brief look at the final but deliberately planned events in Jesus’ life. It all began on Sunday, the first day of the week that we commemorate as Palm Sunday. The historical summary is recorded in Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19 under the heading of the Triumphal Entry.

Jesus’ ministry to this point has increasingly placed him at odds with people. The religious leadership – the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and Herodians – have turned against Him after tentatively embracing Him at the beginning of His ministry. His followers at this time include the people and the disciples but this is about to change. Excitement has been building over the past few weeks of Jesus life. The Jewish people knew from prophecy that the Messiah was about to appear on the scene. Daniel 9: 24-26 predicts the exact day the Messiah will appear and the Jewish people have been expecting His appearance. Jesus has demonstrated His Messianic credentials (Isaiah 61:1, 2a). He has captured the attention of the Jewish nation waiting for their King to take His throne.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus made His entrance into Jerusalem as it had been foretold by Daniel. He entered on the back of a donkey as Zechariah 9:9 had indicated. The people assembling for the Passover were delirious with the excitement over prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes and they expressed their excitement (‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ – Matt 21:9) as they had been taught from Psalm 118:24-26 at Jesus’ triumphal entry.

But the people’s excitement also elicited rage on the part of the religious leadership. Jesus’ was stopped by the Pharisees just before entering the Temple and commanded to rebuke the crowd for giving Him the Messianic greeting of Psalm 118 (Luke 19:39). Jesus’ reply is from Habakkuk 2:11 but paraphrased He said, ‘Even if I command them to stop proclaiming the Messianic Psalm to me, the rocks will take up the cry because prophecy must be fulfilled’ (Luke 19:40).

And then He entered Jerusalem, and then the Temple. He healed the blind and the lame (Matthew 21:14) and then He left for Bethany (Matthew 21:17). An anticlimactic end after such an enthusiastic welcome.

The crowd was disappointed in Jesus’. He had not lived up to their expectations for political deliverance from the Romans and because of this they abandoned their support of Him. Now Jesus’ only supporters are the disciples and in a few days one will betray Him, the others will temporarily abandon Him as well. From a human perspective, Jesus’ is experiencing increasing loneliness.

All this should cause us to ask, “What kind of person am I?” “What unbiblical expectations about Jesus’ am I allowing to dominate my mind?” I think there are three main attitudes that need to be addressed. The first is the apathetic attitude that basically maintains there is no need to pursue an understanding of the purposeful work of Jesus. This mindset does not and is not willing to consider the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God and Son of Man who came to substitute Himself as a sacrifice to receive the just wrath of God for man’s sin. This also carries the greatest eternal condemnation because judgment is based on what you do with the Person and work of Jesus the Christ (Psalm 2:12).

There is a second problematic attitude. This one acknowledges the Person of Jesus but has a focus of an earthly expectation of His work – as the Pharisees and the 1st century Jew did. Those in Jesus’ times expected a Messianic kingdom that would overthrow the Roman rule. When that did not materialize they abandoned their support of Jesus. In doing so they missed the reason Jesus came to earth.

The third and correct attitude shared by the Apostles and taught in Scripture is that Jesus came to redeem us from an eternal spiritual separation from God because of our sin. Although establishing an earthly or material kingdom was a part of God’s purposeful plan, it was not the primary focus of Jesus during Passion Week. Rather, the focus of Passion Week was spiritual rather than material. It was spiritual redemption that would ultimately lead in the purposeful plan of God to material redemption.

During these unstable economic times it is easy to get sidetracked from the reason Jesus came. This is not the time to reject Jesus for not living up to our expectations in the material world but to refocus on the spiritual objectives He accomplished on the cross. It is a time to remain consistent in our praise and allegiance to the KING of King and LORD of Lords as we contemplate this week in the life of Jesus that fulfilled the prophecies of His first coming.

Abiding Produces Rewards

WEDNESDAY

NAU John 15:6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

NIV John 15:6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

NKJ John 15:6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

There is a danger for NOT abiding in Christ. Jesus says that the branch that does not abide is separated from the life of the vine. Some have taken this to mean that a Christian can lose his salvation! But elsewhere in Scripture we are told this cannot happen (John 10: 28, 29; Romans 8:31-39) and since Scripture will not contradict Scripture, John 15:6 cannot refer to the loss of relationship with Jesus or the Father! Instead it must be referring to the ‘fake’ branches that are allowed to identify with the real branches for a while before being separated from the vine.

True branches bear fruit:

NAU John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

NIV John 15:2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes {2 The Greek for prunes also means cleans.} so that it will be even more fruitful.

NKJ John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Fake branches do not bear fruit.

It’s that simple! The one who remains confident in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for the needed ‘declared righteousness’ from God will demonstrate the reality of that confidence by remaining confident in that truth. And God will demonstrate their true status by producing fruit in their life.

NAU John 15:8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

NIV John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

NKJ John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Not abiding has a consequence. Abiding has a reward. Remain dependent upon Him.

ABIDING: An Attitude of Dependence Upon God

TUESDAY

NAU John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

NIV John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

NKJ John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

The analogy of the vine and branch is very appropriate when discussing what it is to abide. The image is one of dependence. The branch of a vine or a tree cannot survive on its own. It is incapable of independence. It has life only as long as it remains attached to the body of the vine or tree. Once that relationship is severed, life in the branch is done.

Jesus uses this analogy masterfully to demonstrate the believer’s dependence upon Him in order to be productive spiritually. We will not come to Him on our own for salvation, we cannot initiate our own salvation, we cannot live victoriously over sin without Him and we cannot be productive spiritually without Him. We must remain in Him. And unless He grafted us into the vine not only would we not have life but we would not be able to remain grafted.

The importance of this truth about abiding is that we are dependent upon Jesus for every aspect of our spiritual life. And the mark of a true follower of Jesus is that he will remain acknowledging his dependence on Him for salvation, sanctification and ‘fruitification’! So, at the start, abiding is an attitude that (as we will see) will express itself in action.

NIV John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

ABIDING: A COROLLARY TO REPENTANCE

MONDAY

Last weekend I attended with my family the 4th Annual Resolved Conference. It is aimed at collegians but benefits all ages. The topic was Heaven and Hell and concluded Monday night. I would highly recommend next year’s conference. But this only explains why I am late in posting my blog.

Last week we looked at repentance and saw that the Greek word for repentance means to ‘change your mind’. This primarily refers to ‘changing your mind’ about the Person and Work of Jesus, but we concluded the week by seeing that repentance is an attitude the follower of Christ will embrace in all areas of His walk with God.

This week’s post is about Abiding in Christ. The Greek word for ‘abide’ means to ‘remain’ or to ‘continue’. The follower of Christ first repents or changes his mind about the Person and work of Jesus, and then remains or abides with this changed view of Jesus. This is the very command of Jesus to those who repent in their attitude toward Him:

NAU John 15:4Abide in Me, and I in you….

NIV John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you….

NKJ John 15:4Abide in Me, and I in you….

It is obvious we will be looking at the John 15, specifically verses 1-10. But we must begin by identifying the key characters of the passage. They are: the vinedresser, the vine and the branches.

NAU John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Jesus identifies Himself in verse 1 as the vine and calls His Father (God) the vinedresser. This is clearly established in verse 1. In verse 2, the branches and their care are introduced but not identified – the identification comes in verse 3! The branches are identified with a personal pronoun – you – and refer in the immediate context to the disciples but will have an expanded identification to include those who follow Jesus.

As we close today, we must notice the work of the vinedresser – taking away or pruning! The literal meaning of the two words used are ‘lifting up’ and ‘cleansing’ respectably! Two of the issues we will examine in relationship to abiding this week are ‘lifting up’ and ‘cleansing’ in addition to looking at the Source,, the Result, the Proof and the Demonstration of Abiding.

THE CONTINUITY OF REPENTANCE

FRIDAY

When you think about it, the follower of Christ is in a constant attitude of repentance. You are constantly changing your mind. You begin following Christ by changing your mind about who He is and what He did for you (He is the Son of God who took the punishment for your sins). You change your mind about the Bible (it is the Word of God that teaches us about the Person of God, the nature of our salvation and convicts us of sin). And when you change your mind, it manifests itself by changing your behavior out of appreciation for His work on the cross – you turn away from doing that which is displeasing in God’s sight as revealed in the Word of God, the Bible. In fact, as we expose ourselves to God’s Written Word, His Spirit will convict us of our wrong thinking and behavior and prompt us to repent in our thinking and behavior. We repent because we appreciate His sacrifice on our behalf. So repentance is not a one time act, it is an ongoing mark of the follower of Jesus. We should repent everytime God’s Word and God’s Spirit convicts us of sin.

Another way of discussing this topic is to use the term conformity. We are chosen to conform to the image of Jesus:

NAU Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

The followers of Jesus are NOT to be focusing on themselves and conforming to their desires:

NKJ 1 Peter 1:14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;

Instead we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing our minds through God’s Written Word:

NIV Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It is interesting to note that the word used in both 1 Peter 1:14 and Romans 12:2 means to be shaped by. Our own desires and the world system is not to continue shaping our thinking and behavior. Rather, we are to be shaped into the image of Jesus. Although perfection is not obtainable in our thinking and behavior here in this life, it is certainly the hope we will attain when we enter the presence of God as believers in the Person and work of Jesus.

NEXT WEEK – ABIDING: A COROLLARY TO REPENTANCE