June 13th 2021: Alun Johnson

Matthew 27:27-56

I wonder if you can think of a time that left you completely in awe? It could be something like seeing the Northern Lights crossing the sky or the Canadian Rocky Mountains stretching out into the distance, or maybe hearing about random act of kindness by a stranger. There are many things that make us feel good about the world around us. We want to sing with Louis Armstrong, ‘What a wonderful world.’

To read Matthew chapter 27 of these events is also an awe-inspiring experience but in a completely different kind of way.  It surely cannot make us feel good about the world around us when you read about such depraved inhumanity towards an innocent man. For some, it is an historical account that should leave us feeling very much like Moses before that burning bush, that we’re standing on holy ground.

It’s probably the most well-known passage in all the gospels. With well-known passages there is a temptation to come to them and think to yourself, ‘But I have heard this all before.’ But have we really heard it all before? Le u’s be clear, there are things going on in these events that are completely beyond the realms of human understanding. There are things going on in these events that show us that we’ve hardly begun to understand the dreadful position of humankind.

When you read Matthew 27, when you consider the events of Good Friday, we should not come easily to these things. We should, like Moses, take off our sandals and tread carefully. This morning I want us to consider first of all, what is the reality of what is going on.

In 2004 Mel Gibson released a well-known film called ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ I’ve never seen it but I can remember, as a youngster, going down to cinemas in Cardiff and giving tracts to those coming out of the cinemas after watching the film. I remember very clearly the looks on people’s faces as they came out; they looked shocked, devastated. They were shaken. It made me realise that just like the Nativity, the history of Golgotha has been sanitised and sentimentalised. It’s been made into something it is not. What Mel Gibson did very well was to shove people’s faces into the horrors of the crucifixion of Jesus. It shocked them out of that sanitised version that perhaps they had been presented with in Sunday School or in primary schools. As you read these events, the on the surface facts of the death of Jesus Christ are absolutely horrifying.

Any crucifixion was absolutely horrifying. The Roman statesman Cicero describes torture like this, “The mere name of the cross should be far removed from not only the bodies of Roman citizens but even from their thoughts, their eyes, and their ears. The results and suffering from these doings as well as the situation, even anticipation, of their enablement, and, in the end, the mere mention of them are unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man.”

What is he saying? Well, he’s saying this: ‘Don’t even talk about crucifixion, don’t even mention it in polite company, it is that bad.’ But when you come to the gospels, they make a great deal of the Crucifixion of Jesus, they talk a lot about it. John devotes over half of his gospel to events surrounding the death of Jesus, Matthew 2/5, Mark 3/5 and Luke 1/3. Clearly the death of Jesus, to the gospel writers, was the most significant thing.

One critic of The Passion of the Christ spoke some truth when he said, “This movie is the prayer of a gifted film-maker, but it is also a narrow and harrowing perspective on a story that, no matter what your faith, is bigger than any attempt to portray it on film.”

Jesus suffered appalling tortures before and on the cross. Soldiers beat Him. Soldiers spat in His face. They mocked Him over and over again. They forced a crown of thorns on His head. The Roman whipping that He received was absolutely awful. It didn’t have the leniency of the Jewish forty lashes minus one. The took Jesus around the city on the longest journey that they could have, trying to prolong the sufferings of Jesus.

As you come to the gospel writings there is no great emphasis on the physicality of tortuous death. That is where Mel Gibson got it wrong and where that film critic got it right. The events of Good Friday are just bigger than any event to portray it on film.

What does Matthew say pertaining to the death of Christ? Actually, not a lot about the Crucifixion. He says, in verse 35, ‘When they had crucified Him.’ That’s it. Mark 15:24, ‘And the crucified Him.’ Luke 23:33, ‘When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him.’ John 19:17-18, “He went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.There they crucified him.” 

 For the gospel writers, therefore for the Holy Spirit, the brutality of the death of Christ was not the main thing. The main thing was the significance of that death – the spiritual realities of that death were the important ones. They want us to focus on the spiritual realities. This was no ordinary death. There was something massively supernatural and miraculous going on here and you cannot avoid it. You cannot avoid it because, first of all, you have got darkness and dereliction. Secondly, you’ve got what one preacher calls, ‘divine vandalism,’ – the tearing of the temple curtain from top to bottom. You have also got death reversed (v.52), the mass resurrection of many holy people.

Let’s consider darkness and dereliction for a moment (v. 45). In World War II the blackout, despite its eeriness, kept people safe. On Good Friday there was a massive blackout from the sixth to the ninth hour, darkness was all over the land. Evidently, it was an extensive darkness that covered the whole land. This three hour blackout was when the Middle Eastern sun should have been at the highest in the sky. It must have been terribly unsettling to witness it.  Why the darkness? Darkness is connected with God’s judgement. Peter prophesied against false teachers and prophets (2 Peter 2:17). Jesus says in Matthew 24:29, talking about the end of the world, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

In Matthew 27:46 Jesus gives us some insight as to what is going on. It is called the cry of dereliction, which comes towards the end of that darkness. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is where, I suggest, we need to take off our sandals and tread very carefully. We realise the person who is crying out is none other than the eternal Son of God, the only begotten Son. He was in the beginning with God. There is no relationship in the whole universe that was closer than the Father and Son.

Yet here, at this moment, God the Son is forsaken. In that three hours of darkness, God the Father’s judgement fell on His Son. The judgement that was so awful that the bond between God the Father and God the Son, for some time was broken. The Father never ceased to love His Son because Jesus says, For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again,” (John 10:17). 

There is no voice from heaven to comfort His Son. There is no angel to strengthen Him, He is forsaken. What is going on? “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We realise our sin is absolutely awful, so awful it nailed the Son of God to a Roman cross. It is so awful that the Son of God, who enjoyed the closest relationship with His Father throughout eternity, had to be utterly forsaken by His Father as He endured hell. He had no sin and yet He was made sin for us. God the Father, because He is just, cannot just sweep sin under the carpet. But, by pouring out His wrath on His own Son, against our sin during that massive judgement blackout, He can remember our sins no more.

“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

When peace like a river

Jesus, in enduring the wrath of God during that cosmic blackout, was pierced, Isaiah says, for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The judgement that brought us peace was upon Him. By His wounds we are healed.

Are you a Christian here this morning? If so, what we have read means that you are as free as a bird. Your sin, not in part, but all of it, is nailed to the cross and you bear it no more. You have peace with God. You are completely healed. Praise the Lord.

If you are not a Christian, or you may think you are a Christian but haven’t thought too much about sin, Jesus’ cry of dereliction, when you hear it, doesn’t make much difference, it doesn’t bother you too much. Perhaps you haven’t realised what sin is about? In our society people don’t accept the idea of sin, it seems outdated. People aren’t held responsible for their own actions, ‘Being who you are’ is the slogan of our society.

But Jesus’ cry of dereliction teaches us one thing – we are sinners. Our sin is real to God and it has to be punished. Only the death of His Son can sort it out. The fact is, we are responsible creatures and one day God is going to hold us to account.

As a Christian, when we hear the cry of dereliction doesn’t it make you hate your sin all the more? Does it not make you cry, “O Lord, help me to live a holy life!” Does it not help you go to places like Titus and echo with Paul, not just to want knowledge of the truth but knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness? In other words, that we don’t just stand there at the foot of the cross, gazing in horror, then just walk away and carry on flirting with sin as if it is no big deal, that we carry on harbouring a few pet sins of our own.

We should come to the foot of the cross and break our hearts over our sin. It was our sin that caused Jesus to suffer such unthinkable agonies. We should throw ourselves on Him to keep us from sin.

At Calvary, God was doing something that He is an absolute expert at – He was bringing the greatest good out of the greatest evil. You see it in the signs that immediately follow the death of Jesus. Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, God’s wrath had been poured out on His Son, Jesus is forsaken by His Father, Jesus dies (Matthew 27:15 / John 19:13). What effect does all that have? Is the work of Jesus finished? Yes, it is! Because then you get the curtain of the temple being torn in two, from top to bottom (v 51-52). This is no accident, it is hugely significant and important. At three o’clock in the afternoon the priests would have bene busy preparing for the evening sacrifice. Then, all of a sudden, all of the mysteries of the Old Testament are opened, revealed and unfolded to all. The curtain would have concealed the most holy place, the place where only the high priest could go, once a year. Now, it is open to all. The partitioning wall, which would have divided Jew and non-Jew, the ceremonial law, was now removed (Hebrew 10). Now, through Jesus’ sacrificial death, we can all approach the Shekinah Glory. Let me tell you, that is huge.

“There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin,
there’s a door that is open and you may go in.
At Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
when you come as a sinner to Jesus.”

So powerful, so complete is the sacrifice offered by Jesus that the miracles don’t stop with that divine vandalism of the curtain being torn. You now have death reversed. There is an earthquake that is so violent it splits rocks, it opens tombs, and even before Easter Sunday, Resurrection is already on the cards (v 52). What is all this showing? Clearly, that Jesus’ sacrifice not only pays for sin, it not only opens up the way for sinful people to come back to a holy God. But also, don’t we want to leap for joy at this – it means death is defeated! It will be an inheritance of a marvellously rejuvenated universe and life without end in a mind-blowingly fantastic resurrection. Wow! Good Friday and Easter Sunday prove that this life is just a drop in the bottomless ocean of eternity. And that changes everything!

Let us briefly consider some of the reactions to what we’ve seen. We’ve had the realities, now let’s see the reactions. Before we finish, we’ve got to bring it a little closer to home. Why do we need to bring it closer to home? Because, as I read these gospel accounts, as I think about the crucifixion, I find that there were people who were actually there. There were eyewitnesses of these things and they respond in vastly different ways. I am bothered by this because if you think that even eyewitnesses could be so terrifyingly ignorant of the implications of what was going on, how much more we, living 2,000 years later, can also be terrifyingly ignorant of the most important event in all of history.

What eyewitnesses am I talking about? First of all you have the mockers, those who hurled insults at a man who was being horribly tortured to death. You have the robbers and the passers by (v.40). They use the second person, using the pronoun ‘you.’ Then you have the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders who use the third person, he and him. In other words, they don’t even say it to His face (v 42-43). These were the great teachers of the law. They should have been familiar with the teachings of the Old Testament about the Christ. Yet, they are staggeringly ignorant about it all. It’s a scary thought that those people who possessed all the prophetic writings, the teachings of the Old Testament, observations of Jesus at close hand, had heard His teaching, were now ridiculing this man in such a cowardly way – that God-Man who was dying so that they could have life. It’s horrendous.

Haven’t we been doing something similar ever since? Perhaps years and years of going to church, years and years of listening to the Bible being preached, years and years of listening to our Christian friends and family telling us about the love of Jesus and perhaps, not outwardly, but inwardly mocking the very idea that Jesus was dying for my sins. Don’t let the darkness that so blinded teachers of the law and the chief priests so blind you to your desperate need of to repent of your sin, and your desperate need of a Saviour. Jesus died for you. Believe now. Repent now. Do it while there is still some light emanating from the pages of Matthew chapter 27.

Now less shocking, but no less unsettling, are the reactions of those we read about in Luke 23:48. The people ‘beat their breasts and went away.’ Up to this point, there was Jesus breathing His last. Those onlookers maintained some interest but now they begin to drift away to carry on with the rest of their lives. But ‘they beat their breasts.’ This was an ancient way of showing grief. Somewhere, in the depths of their souls, they realised that in some way which they haven’t quite understood, they were responsible for the death of this innocent man. I wonder if there are any like that here, today? Perhaps there have been many times where you have felt sorrow for your sins. Perhaps you’ve started to realise that your sins nailed Jesus to the cross. But many times you’ve just drifted away; you’ve left church just to carry on with your life, just as before. The Bible, in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, talks about a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Let me tell you, don’t drift away again. Pray for that godly sorrow that leads somewhere, that leads to repentance.

Luke 23:49. Here are brave women. The Bible was ahead of its time. Brave women and not so brave men who knew Jesus and who are watching from a distance. Disciples would follow Jesus for three years, they had given up everything to follow Him. What are they doing now? They are playing it safe. Are we a little like that – not so brave Christians? Are we playing it safe as we live our lives, keeping our distance from this wonderful Jesus? Today, let us really, really endeavour to go right up to the foot of the cross and declare to anyone who will listen, our allegiance to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Last, but definitely not least, is the centurion that we read of (v.54). Here was a man, an extremely hard man, who had witnessed and taken part in scores of crucifixions, and yet realises that this particular crucifixion was like no other. He saw the convulsions of nature in the earthquake, he saw the dignified conduct of Jesus in the way He was put on that cross, the way that He dies, and with the little understanding that he does have, he comes to the conclusion, as Luke reports, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ Perhaps you have very little understanding of what is going on here, you have very little knowledge of Jesus, and of Christianity and of the Bible. Perhaps Jesus has only been recently introduced to you. But look today, look now, really look at the evidence before you. Be amazed at what is before you and believe.

As we close, let’s just focus on one person, the wonderful person of the Lord Jesus Christ. You would think that the glorious dignity of the second person of the Trinity, being beaten, being whipped, being spat upon, being mocked and scorned, being deserted by His friends, being crucified, you think of the absolute control that He showed throughout it all. He, being the One who gave up His spirit, not having it taken from Him. He, being the One crying out in a loud voice, and going out in full possession of His faculties. It reminds us of that hymn, ‘Man of Sorrows.’ Hallelujah! What a Saviour! Amen.

November 11th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen 1-Nov 2019Matthew 26: 57-68, 27: 27-31

The philosopher Plato once asked what would happen if an absolutely perfect man would be born and lived in an imperfect world. He also had an answer to his question; our just man will be “thrown in prison, scoured and racked, has his eyes burned out and is finally impaled, presumably on a spear,” (Book II, Plato’s Rebublic). Plato wasn’t a Christian but he realised what a perfect man might encounter. 400 years after Plato was born, this perfect man would be born – Jesus Christ. Plato knew a perfect, holy person would not be welcome amongst us, he would be tortured and brutally killed.

We seem to be mesmerised by court cases. 100, 000,000 people watched the OJ Simson trial. We are obsessed with verdicts and sentences, yet the greatest trial of all time is barely given a murmur amongst people today. Why don’t we consider this trial today, non-Christians and Christians? Matthew 26 is a well-read passage but is over-looked in the build-up to the Crucifixion. Yet it is of immense significance.

The trial of Jesus was an illegal trial. According to Jewish law, the trial should not have taken place at night, which it did. Jesus was not given a formal charge. The high priest was not supposed to intervene. There was no defence or attorney. But there is one point Jewish leaders wanted to adhere to – witnesses to speak out against Jesus. The religious leaders were so desperate to have people to testify against Jesus they panicked. They tried their best to find who they could, as quickly as possible. The problem was the trial took place in the middle of the night. Eventually two witnesses were found (Matthew 26:60-61). As far as the judges and priests were concerned, the witnesses were good enough. Both witnesses said Jesus claimed He could destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, “But they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” (Matthew 26:60-61).

Jesus’ phrase, ‘in three days,’ was used on a few occasion. The priests knew Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. In Jewish tradition someone’s soul left the body three days after they died. So Jesus was saying that He would rise again after three day, stating that He had power over death. The high priest saw this as blasphemy.

We are looking ultimately at different ways in which Jesus Christ stood in place of sinners.

  1. Jesus was silent for us. This is an incredible sentence. Why is Jesus staying silent at such a crucial time? (And again in Matthew 27:13-14). What does it accomplish?
  • To fulfil scripture (Isaiah 53:7). He fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy. He is the true Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
  • If someone is guilty and has no defence, what can they say? Nothing. They have to be silent. The Jewish leaders were expecting Jesus to retaliate. There was no other one able to pay the price of sin. If Jesus had argued for His right, what good would it have done?
  • Most astonishingly, Jesus was silent for us. He lived the life we were supposed to live – a sinless life. He stood in our place because we haven’t lived that perfect life. Jesus had to die for us, for every bad thing we’ve ever said and done. He stood in our place for sins we’ve committed. Jesus stood silent for us because He took our sin upon himself. He is not guilty in Himself but He is made guilty for our sins. A man who is deserving of death cannot speak for Himself. He died our death. How astounding!
  1. Jesus was sentenced for us. The priests and judges seemed to have Jesus backed into a corner. If they took Jesus’ statement literally, that He was to tear down the temple, or if they took it as He would rise after three days and do this, they thought they had Him in a corner.

    Mark tells us after finding witnesses, in the end their testimonies were not consistent with each other (Mark 14:58-59). They were thrown out of court because they were no good. The high priest must have been frustrated. He had to find another way. The high priest uses a clever statement, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus had to answer this question and replies, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64). This is all the high priest needed to hear to get Jesus formally charged under Jewish law. He perceived Jesus was falsely claiming to be the Messiah. This was going to get Jesus killed. Have you ever told a lie? We are lairs. We have stolen. We have looked in lust. All this deserves death. But Jesus stands in our place and takes it Himself.

Death is just more than closing our eyes on this earth. Sin causes separation between us and God. If we are not trusting in God we die physically and spiritually, experiencing God’s anger and just punishment. It is what Jesus experienced on the cross. Jesus and God were together from eternity, always equal. Then tearing separation happened. It was nothing of what Jesus did but all we have done. He takes the punishment. Sin crucified Jesus. Sin tortured Jesus. JC Ryle writes, “We drink the same cup that was drunk by our beloved Lord. But there is one great difference: at the worst, we only drink a few bitter drops; He drank the cup to the very dregs.”

If you trust in Christ, you will never have to endure separation from God. He loves you with an infinite and everlasting love.

  1. Jesus suffered for us. This brings all the points together for us – being silent and suffering for us is suffering for us. They spat on His face, beat Him with fists, told Him to prophesise who had hit Him. It is horrible for anyone, but to my Saviour it was abhorrent, despicable and repulsive. And it was for me and for you and for all who will believe.

The gospel of Mark says Jesus was blindfolded for this part. They slapped and spit on this man. Little did they know He was their Creator, Lord of heaven and Earth. He was pierced for our transgressions. We are healed but He was scourged. He was whipped. Horrendous! Severe! Every sin we have ever committed was whipped into His back. Millions blaspheme His name saying, ‘Jesus,’ ‘Christ’ in the middle of a conversation. Here He is bearing every one of our sins. Our sin tears His body apart. The torture was so bad Jesus seemed hardly human (Isaiah 52). It was terrifying. So great was His bearing of humanity’s sin, so we could wear a robe of righteousness. Every whip mark, every drop of blood, every grimace and cry was for your sin and mine. He stood in our place.

This shouldn’t just cause you to shrug your shoulders. All your fallen-ness and shame should cause you to weep. You need to repent. You must repent or you will be certainly lost in Hell.

 Jesus’ trial is over. Jesus is coming back. Although He was sentenced to death He rose and He must be worshipped and glorified. When He comes again a new trial will begin. Your trial! Jesus will return as a Saviour and Lord – but only for some of us. For those who do not care that he died, He will be a righteous judge. Like He was silent, those who have rejected Him will be silent, standing in their own place, having nothing to say because of their sin and guilt. Now, there is no better time to repent. Jesus may return before we finish this sermon. What do you think of Jesus now? Is He fantastic news?

Jesus welcomes you. He stood in the place of sinners for a reason. What is your verdict of Jesus?  Are you going to sentence Him to death in the sense that you ignore Him? Or is your verdict He is the Saviour of the world, if you if you trust and believe?

Spurgeon said, “My entire theology can be condensed into four words: ‘Jesus died for me.’” Is that your theology? Can you say, “Jesus died for me?”

August 8th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 22

The vast majority of psalms have a personal and historical application to the author and time. They may look forward to beyond the time of King David, to the coming of the king of Kings. Psalm 22 is somewhat different. It is entirely prophetic. The Psalm unfolds the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clearly like the passage of Isaiah 53. It is a description of the crucifixion. It gives a clear view of the sufferer’s humility. This makes the Psalm all the more striking as crucifixion was not established until centuries later.

The gospels record the outward details of the crucifixion but they only give a glimpse into the Saviour’s experiences. Psalm 22 opens up the Saviour’s soul and mind the penalty which our souls deserved. He did not endure Calvary unconsciously. As He suffered on the cross He was conscious He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (John 19:28). He w aware the scriptures were pointing forward to His death. In Matthew 27 Jesus quotes the opening verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Even as the Lord suffers He reviews in His mind those prophecies which concerned Himself. He came to fulfil His Father’s will (John 5). As the Saviour takes the Psalm to His own lips we are given an insight into His sufferings.

What can we learn from this?

1. The repudiation of the suggestion that at the cross the Saviour’s faith failed. As we look at the psalm as a whole we see it is full of the Saviour’s confidence and faith. It’s ‘My’ He has lost sight of His Father’s face but not His faith. In the midst of His suffering and anguish He utters great confidence in God (verses 3-5). In His abandonment He knows God is faithful. Christ is able to realise God’s faithfulness to Himself (verses 9-11). The Saviour, from the time of His birth, knows this relationship of trust and confidence with His Father. This enduring faith does not in any way diminish the depths of His suffering.

2. His humiliation and the pain and mockery of the crowds to the Saviour.
The One who had walked among the people, who was full of compassion, is now alone. Betrayed. Denied. The disciples had fled. The Saviour hangs in full view of all those gathered around the cross, crowds full of venom. We see in this Psalm how deeply it penetrated His heart “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). He is humiliated by those He came to save. The Lord God, the author of all creation, now feels Himself to be a worm, the least of all creation. The nails and the spear caused no greater pain than this mockery. Verse 8 takes us so vividly to the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:41). The religious leaders, experts in the Old Testament scriptures, are blind to the promised Redeemer “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion,” (Psalm 22:12-13).  These rulers are described as strong bulls, an enraged herd ready to trample down their victim.

3.The horror of the Saviour’s physical sufferings (verses 14-15). This is nothing less than a description of crucifixion. As Jesus is laid on the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet, we see the description of His suffering. In verse 16 we see the description of the crowds, as they follow the lead of the religious leaders, cry out like a pack of hounds wanting blood (Luke 23:20).

Crucifixion is a death which caused constant perspiration, “I am poured out like water,” (Psalm 22:14). The bones are dislocated, bringing the sufferer to the point of exhaustion, producing extreme thirst, “My tongue clings to My jaws,” (Psalm 22:15). It is an awful description of crucifixion. But these words, as horrible as they are, can’t depict the horror of the suffering. We only scratch the surface.

4.The dark hours and the Saviour’s cry of dereliction. The land was covered in darkness, The Saviour cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When the Saviour was born the darkness of the night was broken by the glorious light of heaven as the angels proclaimed His birth. Now, at the ninth hour, when day should have been at its brightest, the darkness of hell shuts out the brightness. As darkness covers the land, so our Saviour enters the darkness which He alone could endure. He had to plunge into that darkness, into the physical wrath and anger of God who is holy and cannot look on sin. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to be alone in His earthly ministry. He could always say e who sent Me is with me. But now, His Father turns His face from His Son as the God-Man suffers. He endures the total forsaking, total abandonment. Why? Paul declares, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). It is hard to imagine, we cannot imagine, a pure, perfect, spotless life, to be utterly sinless. But here, on the cross, the sinless one becomes our substitute. He comes to die for those He will save. He suffers all the consequences of a broken law. During those three hours of darkness He bore the holy wrath. Here is the essence of our Saviour’s work. This cry of dereliction is the great climax to the Saviour’s work.

5.The turning point (verses 19-21). The Lord is now saying God has answered Him. God accepts the Saviour’s sufferings are complete. The Saviour can now cry out, “It is finished!” The Saviour has accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. The public declaration of the Saviour’s work comes on the third day – the Lord’s Day.

We can draw three great conclusions:

  • How dreadful, extremely horrid and evil sin must be.
  • It brings us to a new appreciation of the greatness of the Father’s love. The Saviour was His delight, yet He gave Him to suffer in our place (John 3:16).
  • We proclaim, as believers, because of this, Salvation is utterly free and offered to all.

July 28th 2019: Philip Meiring

Philip Meiring - Juy 19 -1And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” II Kings 5:16

Have you ever had a strange prescription from the doctor? Here, Naaman, a very important gentleman, is told to wash seven times in the Jordan, then his flesh would be completely healed. This story is an illustration of the good news we have of Jesus. God has given us a prescription which is signed off by God Himself, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’ This prescription is for us as rebellious people full of sin. The gospel prescription is wonderful!

Naaman’s reaction is a good illustration of how people react to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an interesting twist to this story. Naaman is not only healed but he is a man changed in his heart too. He came to know the living God that the servant girl knew.

Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria. His CV was long and impressive. He was a man who led from the front, a ‘valiant soldier.’ He was a brave, strong man, one of the most important people in Syria. He was even used by God in battle. He was a deeply religious guy but he had leprosy. That’s how it is with us. Naaman began to lose sensation in his fingertips. Pale white marks spread on his skin. It was about to ruin him. That’s why Mrs. Naaman was so upset, wondering where to turn. This man didn’t realise he had a deeper problem than leprosy.

We have put men on the moon, can listen to wonderful musical compositions, think about black holes on the edge of the cosmos. God has given us a wonderful world. But the Bible tells us we have a deep problem within our hearts because we are sinners. We have this disease which spoils everything. For all that we are as human beings, this disease spoils us. It’s in our hearts. It spoils the world we live in. Naaman was going to have to have his skin healed, but wonderfully, he was going to have his heart changed too.

How did God sort out Naaman? How does God sort us out? Look at verses 9-16. Naaman was used to being in control of his life. He sort of controlled the gods around him. He was deeply religious but he didn’t know the God who made the world. Everything revolved around Naaman. When he arrived at Elisha’s home, the neighbours must have been surprised to see the chariots roll up. The neighbours would have expected Elisha to come to the door but instead Elisha’s servant came out and gave instructions. It doesn’t sound like Elisha had a lot of respect for Naaman. But this was the man of God. He was giving Naaman a prescription that would change Naaman’s life and cause the pride of this man’s heart to be broken before God. The prescription was designed to humble Naaman. He would have to know his place.

Naaman’s reaction is what happens when a lot of people hear the good news about Jesus. The good news is Jesus died in your place. He took the penalty for that rebellion in your heart, that sinfulness. From the time you and I were born we were cut off from God. But Jesus died on the cross in your place and my place as a punishment from sin which has separated us from God. And if you come to Jesus and thank Him for taking the flack for your sin, if you truly believe in Him, you will be saved and have a relationship with God. It’s wonderful to know Him! Jesus lived a perfect life on my behalf. I’m so thankful. He took the penalty for my sin and I can go free. Believe and you will be saved.

The gospel is designed to make God big and us small, to give all the glory and praise to Him. You cannot pay for this good news, to be washed clean. It’s free. Jesus is the one who paid the price. You and I just have to accept the grace of God. That’s what Naaman experienced that day.

This morning, whatever you think is holding you back from a relationship with God, be assured, God can forgive. Humbly accept it, freely accept it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. There is no other way, it’s just Jesus. He is the only way.

How was Naaman healed? He went storming off in anger. Like all of us, he rebelled. But he had some wise men around him who told him to be humble and accept the prescription. Eventually, Naaman sees sense. He repents. What is repentance? It’s a change of mind and a change of direction. He turned to God. He washed himself seven times in the Jordan – seven is the perfect number.  He was healed. That’s how it is with Jesus. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. Naaman believed the promise that had been given to him. You need to repent and change your mind about God and what He is offering you. Believe. Trust Him to be your Saviour.

July 7th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).

Duties neglected, even little ones, often bring great downfalls. This can certainly apply to our consideration of the fifth Commandment. This Commandment is central to the well-being of society. God’s command to honour parents is the foundation for society to live in harmony. One of the characteristics of a declining culture is disrespect – for one another and those in authority. At the root of this decline lies the rejection of the fifth Commandment. Learning of respect lies within family with children honouring their parents.

The position of this Commandment is it’s the first of the second tablet. The first four Commandments show man’s relationship to God. The second tablet shows man’s relationship amongst ourselves. This Commandment brings forth all the others that follow, it leads on to those that follow. It is the priority for the second tablet.

There’s a promise that comes with the commandment. Paul notes it is the first Commandment with a promise, a promise not to the individual but to people as a whole, a nation (Ephesians 6). It is talking to society. Here is the cornerstone for a stable society in the Promised Land. The people are instructed how to live in the Promised Land; if you want to prosper then honour your father and mother.

In the Bible the term ‘father’ is used to denote the elderly in general, those in authority and those who are fathers. It is used as an expression of respect. It denotes giving someone the honour they deserve (1 Peter 2:13, Leviticus 19:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Most catechisms teach that we honour, be loyal, to our father and mother and all those in authority over us. It is the basis not only for respect within the family but, having learnt respect for a mother and father, then having respect in church and for those who are older. So Christians are to honour all those who are above them, in church, work and the wider world. You may feel that they do not deserve our respect but we are to honour them as God has ordained them. Acts 24-26 Felix was an adulterous, greedy man. Festus was of a more noble character but had little time for true justice. Agrippa had an incestuous affair with his sister. These characters do not win respect yet Paul respectfully addresses all three of them. We are to respect the rule of the law, including those who carry out the law. The only time a Christian can go against this is when a believer is called to do something contrary to God’s law.

Children’s actions should never be excused when they show rebellion. Adults, parents in particular, are to lead from example, for children learn best from imitation. This Commandment lays the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on respect throughout society. But the main teaching is that children are to honour their parents, treat parents as those who carry weight in their lives.

In what ways do we honour our parents? “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:3). We are to have a deep reverence for parents that comes from a right fear and true love of them. We should never belittle our parents either in word or action. Don’t make jokes about them or speak in a derogatory way. Place weight on their advice and wisdom. In addition, children are not to answer back to their parents. In Biblical terms it is a shameful thing to do. Teenagers can be disrespectful. They ‘know what’s best’! This may be true in the realm of technology but not in the realm of life. Young adults, as they gain independence, are supposed to remember that their parents carry weight. Older adults care for elderly parents, esteem them for all they gave and did for them.

Children are to be obedient to the parents (Ephesians 6:1). Children are to obey their parents teaching, especially as they are based on the Bible (Proverbs 1:8). Children are to obey their parents’ commands with a willing heart. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ obey His heavenly father in saying, “Not my will but your will be done.” In perfect obedience He went to the cross. He offered Himself up as the atoning sacrifice, He took on our sins, including the sins of disobedience, to our heavenly Father.

It is important children are taught that they should be only told once and that is that. Rules are set and to be obeyed. Parents, of course, must not be unreasonable in their demands (Ephesians 6:4). Parents are not to be tyrants but to be loving.

We must care for our parents. This Commandment is spoken mainly to adults. The nations that surrounded Israel practised euthanasia, the elderly were left to die. But the Israelites were to honour their fathers and mothers, to care and provide for the elderly. Even in Jesus’ day people were trying to make deals so they could not pay for their mother and father’s care (Mark 7:9-13). But think again. Our blessed Lord, as He hangs upon that cross, in agony of body and soul, what does He say? He looks at Mary and commends her to the care of John, and says John is to take responsibility for Mary. Even in His dying breath the Saviour does not forget to provide care for His mother (John 19: 26-27).

Today we see the fragmentation of the extended family that has led to the increase of pressure on social services. But as Christians we are to care for our elderly families, the church and community. It is a sign of Christ’s Lordship over us that we value, respect and care for our elderly family, neighbours and friends. The only one greater duty to parents is our duty to the Lord. There is no doubt we show our love for the Lord in the way we care for parents.

Some may have suffered, to various degrees, at the hands of their parents. They may have had very difficult relationships with parents. And that’s not easily forgotten or easily forgiven. And so I say, if that’s you, we understand. Ask the Lord to help you to forgive. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to honour your parents, even though they have hurt you. Ask the Lord to help you keep this Commandment for His glory and your good and for the good of your parents. Remember how disobedient you have been to you heavenly Father, remember, in so many ways how you’ve offended Him. Yet He has only done you good. Ask your Saviour, who suffered on the cross, to help you honour your father and mother.

March 11th 2018: Andy Millership

Andy Millership-March18Acts 16:16

In AD 49 Paul and Silas once again headed for Asia Minor. Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him so they made their way to the regional capital, Philippi. Philippi was an important city – financially and strategically. Rome’s gold, for the most part, came from around Philippi. It was situated on one of the main trading routes; people flocked there. It was such an important place that after Julius Caesar had been assassinated, the legionaries from that region and the Praetorian guards were rewarded for their loyalty; each was given a parcel of land to make sure the place remained secure.

So, we find Paul and Silas here in this very busy, rich, stable city. They are there for a reason – to spread the gospel. There was no synagogue in Philippi so Paul and Silas went to the river, a place of prayer (Acts 13:16). This was where Lydia heard the gospel and was saved. On their way back, Paul and Silas came across a slave girl who had been cruelly treated by her masters. She was possessed of a spirit. People paid to hear her tell their fortune. Paul dealt with the spirit and so her masters couldn’t make money out of her. They complained to the authorities and Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison.

‘At about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.’ (Acts 16: 25-27). This was a dramatic picture. The earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The reaction of the jailor was extreme, ‘He drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”’ The jailor wanted to kill himself. Why? This was a military posting. This man was a soldier, a legionary, a man who was quite senior. He was a man who had seen battle on numerous occasions. He would have been a strong, disciplined, controlled man. His high position allowed him to bring Paul and Silas out of prison to his own home for a meal (Acts 16:34). He had full responsibility for the prisoners who had been given to him; he didn’t need to ask others’ permission. He wasn’t just any old jailor, he was important. In modern terms, he was a prison governor. So why did he have this extreme reaction when he found the prison doors were off.

The jailor had family, slaves and servants. He was certainly comfortably off. He had social responsibilities. He was an important man. So why did he want to commit suicide? He’d faced fear before, so it wasn’t that. Insight comes from the question he asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That was his priority.

Paul and Silas had nothing – no money. All they had were the clothes they stood in, yet even these were torn off them. But having been beaten they were worshipping God. They appeared to have nothing, but they had more than all around them – they had hope in a Saviour. What do we have? An important job that carries with it an enviable reputation? Do you have responsibility? Are you a good person with responsibilities? Are you doing well for yourself financially? These are not bad things but if that is all you have, then you have no hope. When the doors fall off and the earthquake comes, if that is all you have, you have no hope.

Paul and Silas had something more than the jailor ever had. His position, money and responsibility meant nothing – he recognised he needed a Saviour. He understood that. That’s what you need as well – one who can stand before God in your place, a God who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. You need someone who is  pure, who is faultless. Your best is filthy rags. If we have any hope at all, it must be in a Saviour because we cannot do it ourselves. We need one who lived, died and rose again for us, one who stood in our place. Don’t rely and hold onto your best because your best is not good enough. Without a Saviour you have nothing, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:36). You haven’t got the whole world to offer. The jailor needs a Saviour and you need a Saviour. It must be a hope in Him, not in you.

February 11th 2018: Dave Evans

Dave Evans -Feb 18Philippians 1:27 – 2:15

There is something special about the Christian life, the way we’re called to behave. This passage is broken into various exaltations:

1:27   ‘Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.’                  2:4      ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests.’
2:12    ‘Work out your own salvation.’
2:14    ‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’

In the very centre of the whole section the Apostle sets before us the very foundation of why we should behave in this way, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 2:5). Paul is pointing us to the Lord, our Saviour, and His behaviour. Paul reminds us that our Christian life isn’t something that’s simply outward. Our thoughts and actions work themselves out in our outward behaviour.

In verses 5-8 we read of our great example. We must always be clear that the gospel in not just simply Jesus as our example, it is clear the gospel begins with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21). Until we have committed ourselves to Him for forgiveness He can never be an example to us. But having become Christians, knowing the forgiveness of sinners, Jesus then becomes the supreme example of behaviour. His mindset is to be our mindset, our foundational attitude, our whole approach to the Christian life.

Verses 6-11. What do we see of the mind of Christ in these verses? Our Lord’s humility, His amazing self-denial, is exhibited in these verses. Firstly, in verse 6, ‘He was in the form of God.’ We see the great, permanent, unchanging nature of Jesus. Paul is saying the Lord Jesus Christ has always been in the form of God, that He is divine in every way, the co-equality of our Saviour.

It’s only when we realise how high He is we realise the depth of His humility. Equality with God was His by right but He did not cling to it, He made Himself of no reputation. When the plan of salvation was made in eternity, He took the form of a servant and came in the likeness of man. It’s staggering! The Lord of glory should become a man, a God-Man, who walked among the people of this earth. He came to be born as a bond servant – born in a stable into a humble life. This is no other than the Lord of glory! The Lord Jesus Christ, though He became a man, did not cease to become God (verse 8). He set aside so much of what was His by right yet He was ever God.

What did He give up? In heaven Jesus had no guilt, no burden of sin, but in becoming the God-Man He took upon Himself the burden of guilt. He gave up the riches which were His. His outward earthly life reflected the depths to which He humbled Himself. He was dependent on friends and disciples to give Him a place to sleep. He remained truly divine, became a servant so that our salvation might be possible. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross.

It’s a staggering thought that the gospel takes the Lord of glory to the cross to die an agonising death in our place. The cross was horrific, a death reserved for slaves, rebels, the most  vile of criminals. It was the cruellest of deaths at that time. No Roman would talk about it, such was the horror. Our Saviour’s sufferings go deeper; He not only suffered physically but also He suffered God’s judgement. In those three hours of darkness God poured out His wrath on His Son. He bore all that, humbled Himself so that we might be forgiven. Have we come to realise for ourselves what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for lost sinners? Do you see He died for you sin so we could escape the awfulness of Hell and judgement?

The promise of Scripture is all who come to Him will be saved. This humility is our example, our standard. That’s a staggering thought for us. If Christ could humble Himself in such a way, how willing must we be as believers to humble ourselves in our Christian walk, that we exhibit the humility of Christ in our life? Loot to the Lord Jesus Christ, the great standard. May we be those that follow His example and glorify Him.

December 25th 2017: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016In 1647 Christmas Day was not celebrated. No church bells rang, no services were held. Christmas was not to be celebrated by an Act of Parliament for a few years. Why? Was it because M.Ps were against the gospel? Because there was no love for Jesus Christ in the land? Perhaps a great disaster had struck in the land so Christmas was cancelled? No. The people who passed this Act of Parliament loved Jesus Christ with all their hearts. So why then? The people were concerned to underline the importance of Sunday worship. Over the centuries the church had added saint feasts, there was concern to point out the only command is to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. They wanted to establish the Lord’s Day as a worship day for the nation.

The people were also concerned that Christmas was celebrated with drunkenness, gluttony and little or no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ. They thought it such a travesty that they cancelled the celebrations. Perhaps we should cancel Christmas? After all, isn’t it true that Christmas is nothing more than an excuse for gluttony, revelling and with little thought of Christ? An increasing number of children do not know Christmas is anything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.

What about us? How much are we conscious we gather because of the birth of a Saviour? What is wrong with the nativity scenes that are presented to us? It is highly unlikely Jesus was born in a stable. It is not likely animals were present. One thing in the usual nativity scenes in Christmas cards and presented to us is definitely not part of the nativity – the wise men weren’t there. Herod slaughtered boys up to two years old. The wise men would have taken a substantial time to travel to Herod. We are not told the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem – they came to a house where the young child lay.

Our Christmas is so full of different ideas and notions and bear little or no relation whatsoever to the birth of Jesus. Let’s cancel it. We don’t need a special day of giving thanks to God … But perhaps Christmas is worthwhile, worth keeping if we, like the wise men, come to worship. If that’s our true motivation.

The wise men brought three gifts. The gold symbolised the kingship and royalty of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Frankincense is a very aromatic spice used in the temple as part of worship of God. The priests prepared it. The wise men brought frankincense to one who will be the great High Priest of His people, representing His people before God, bringing sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Myrrh is associated in the New Testament with the death of the Saviour. It was part of the preparation of herbs and spices of Jesus’ body by the women. He came to die. Myrrh is a symbol of death. Perhaps Christmas should be celebrated if it’s us coming to worship the King of Kings, the great High Priest, the Lamb of God. If that’s why we gather, then certainly it is right we do so. But how sad so many are careless they celebrate what they do not understand or know, they reduce worship of the King of Kings to nothing more for indulgence.

Perhaps too, Christmas is worth keeping because God has given us, in Him, the gift that really matters. There are presents you can open anytime, not waiting for a certain day, presents offered by God. Angels spoke of them. Presents embodied in the baby. He is the gift, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16). This is God’s gift. It brings us joy. There is a difference between great joy and great fun. For most, Christmas is just great fun. But at some point the laughing stops. But joy continues. There is a difference between great happiness and joy. Happiness depends on circumstances. But circumstances can change. Adverse things can overtake us and our happiness is spoilt. Great joy, deep satisfactions of the soul, is knowing God, having contentment which means we know it is well with our souls and nothing can change that. The laughing may stop but the joy goes on, knowing God’s presence because a baby was born to die for our sins. It’s not only joy, it is peace, that peace with God, being made right with God. God was justly at war with us because of our sin. He shed the blood of His only Son to bring peace.

God’s gift in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is so we can enjoy every moment of every day. It is worth celebrating Christmas if it’s thanking God for His great gifts to us. We can show the concern of 1647 but maybe we don’t have to cancel Christmas if we truly come to worship the King, trusting in Him as the sacrifice offered for our sin, thanking God for joy unspeakable and peace which passes all understanding that He has given us – Jesus Christ.

May this day be a blessed day as we spend it having fun, being happy, but full of joy and peace in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.

 

December 10th 2017: Norman Rees

norman rees-dec17Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.”

Caesar Augustus declared all to be registered, to go to the place of their birth. Picture the scene of Jesus’ birth. His mum and step-dad Joseph were brought up in Nazareth. The Holy Ghost came upon Mary in a miraculous way, according to God’s great plan, planned in eternity. God knew we’d be cursed and Jesus would come and save millions. Jesus Himself would leave heaven, leave communion with the Father. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, would come into this world as a baby. Miraculous! He would be born and conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Holy Spirit came upon this young girl, who asks, ‘How can this be?’ Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a godly young woman, blessed to be the mother of the Son of God – but not worshipped. He was her Saviour, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47).

So Mary and Joseph took the long, arduous journey of some 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, travelling on a rough, dangerous road. They were registered in Bethlehem as Caesar Augustus had decreed. They had to go according to the law of the land, but more importantly, ordained by God and prophesied by Micah.

Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been on their own. Quite a few were also travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Finally, towards evening time, as they came towards Bethlehem they saw an inn. Surely this would be somewhere to stop, to have a warm meal and a room? The innkeeper may have heard of Mary’s pregnancy and thought she may have been an adulteress. Mary may have been shamed and shunned simply because God worked in her life. However, the innkeeper pointed them to a little shelter, less than a stone’s throw. Mary and Joseph made a place there, where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Here Joseph would have held the very Son of God. Staggering! God the Son being taken out of the womb of a virgin. How they must have praised God!

Jesus could have come down from heaven in all His glory and splendour, bringing sinners unto Himself. He could have come down with angels and a great cry of triumph. But He humbled Himself, He took on flesh. He came as a baby, totally dependent on His mother. The Son of God.  It blows your mind! That was His first Advent. He will return.

Everyone born of a woman is a sinner. We have inherited Adam’s genes. Christ lived a life without sin. He came to live a perfect life. At the end of His 33 years He was rejected. He came to bring the gospel, heal the sick, bring life abundantly, raise dead sinners to life. He was mocked and put to death. He was beautiful, perfect, spotless – He was killed in the most cruel way – the death of thieves and robbers, nailed to a cross after being beaten. Nails were driven into Hs hands. The nails were probably about 4 to 5 inches long, with the top of the nail about 1 ½ inches across. The nails were driven into His hands and feet as they lay Him down on the ground on a cross, before lifting Him up. Psalm 22. He dragged the cross, a spectacle for all to look at as they mocked Him. They put a reed in His hand. God turned His face away from His Son. His wrath was poured upon His Son so we might live forever, our sins washed away.

After the taxation was over people would have made their way back to their home. Joseph was warned to escape to Egypt, eventually returning to Nazareth. We can be so caught up with the things of Christmas we forget why we’re here, why Christ came. There was no room in the inn but room in a cattle shed. There is no room in the hearts of many people yet they celebrate Christmas. What has the birth of Christ have to do with Santa, reindeer, crackers and snow? Nothing at all. Let’s get our minds focused on why Jesus came. Let’s go again to Bethlehem and see the Lord who was born to save our souls. Oh that we might not stop talking about Jesus, like the shepherds. One day He’s coming again. Praise God. We’ll see Him glorious and holy. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Do we love Him because He first loved us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 3rd 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-Dec17Matthew 1:17-25

What’s appropriate at Christmas time? What is Christmas all about? It is a time of year of watching cute Christmas films, trees and Christmas decorations. There are Christmas films being released. Perhaps a surprising one is a new war film of the 9/11 events. Christmas is more like the war film than the cute Christmas films.

This is a story of when God Himself comes to this earth in flesh. Mary conceives, the conception is from the Holy Spirit (v.18). This reminds us Jesus was born without sin, therefore, He will war against sin. He took on flesh – God came down out of heaven to take on flesh. This is the nitty gritty of the Christmas story, the real nativity.

We love opening gifts, it’s wonderful. There are things we want, things we desire in this world. Sometimes we may receive things we don’t need. But what we really need is a Saviour to save us from death, destruction and sin. That is what all of us will have to face. Adam and Eve brought death into this world. Adam lived and died. You and I live and die – which is why this message of a Saviour is wonderful. It brings us hope. Jesus was born into this world to be a Saviour.

We are to remember what the significance of the story is – at Christmas we focus on the birth, the little baby. But do you see in verse 21 Jesus will save His people from their sin? “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). This is not just about a baby but what that baby will do. He will fulfil all righteousness and save His people from their sins. This is about a Saviour. It’s a humbling reminder that Jesus came to save sinners.

Look back at your life and all the things you’ve done – your achievements but also your failures, the times you’ve not done what is right – when you’ve hurt the people you love most. Then look at this verse. You’re reminded, if you’re a Christian, at one point in time you were not saved. But Christ came and made you aware your sin deserved hell. By His grace you turned and now follow Him. Jesus went to war for you. Because of your own sin there was nothing you could do, ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.’ (Ephesians 1:1). But Jesus came to save you, not people, but His people. Not everyone will be saved – only those who come to Him and ask for forgiveness.

Once upon a time, when you lived your life your own way, God in His goodness and justice could have left you like that – doing exactly what you wanted – and you wouldn’t have been saved. But in His mercy and love He came to you and made you aware of His love for you, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us.)’ (Matthew 1:23).

What is more important, the gift or the giver? Children get excited about the gift. But the giver is more important, the relationship is more important. What is the purpose of having your sin forgiven? Christmas is all about God being with us and us being with God. There is a time coming when, if you’re one of God’s people, you will be with God. Jesus was with us, died on the cross, then was absent for 3 days before He rose again and appeared with His followers, then left. There is a time coming when we will be with God. Revelation 21 speaks of God dwelling with man, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death.” (Revelation 21:3-4).

That is where the Christian story started and is heading to. As Christians we are looking forward to a time when we will see Jesus and live with Him in perfection and glory forever. Are you looking forward to seeing your Saviour, talking to Him, being with Him forever? The gates of heaven are open. If you know your sin brings death and destruction and know Jesus died for you, if you confess your sin and repent, then nothing condemns you, you are welcomed into heaven.

There’s a certainty about Salvation. You’ll be with Jesus. The doors are open if you’re a Christian. But on that final day when Jesus Christ comes and His people will live with Him forever, the doors are also going to be shut. When He comes to judge the living and the dead, and make everything right, the doors will be closed. No-one else will ever be able to go in there again. There is only a certain amount of time for people to come to the Saviour, to put their trust in Jesus. For one day the door will be closed.

As God came to be with us and us with Him, share the gospel message – not in our own strength but asking in His Spirit – to change the hearts of children, parents and loved ones. The time is coming when Jesus Christ is coming again, when He will open and close the doors. Let’s get people ready. Let’s remind them of this wonderful, miraculous birth.