Allen Jackson - Jesus' Friends - Part 2
Israel's opened up in the last few days. Imagine I had prepared a trip to Jerusalem for you. I made all the flight reservations, secured the hotels, and arranged for a driver and a guide to pick you up at the airport when your flight lands. In fact, I chose the best guide. I've known several, and we worked together, I chose an itinerary that will maximize the few days you have to experience the land of Israel. Just because I didn't want you to miss the opportunity, I paid all the expenses for the entire adventure. Travel, food, lodging, entry fees, guides, I even paid the tips, you just have to be willing to participate. Yeah, me, too.
Well, that is the story of redemption, except it's 100 million times better than a trip to Israel. And yet when we process the things of the kingdom of God, we think of them in terms of a forfeiture. Well, what do I have to give up. Well, it's true, to take a ten-day trip to Israel, have to give something up. You won't sleep in your bed. You won't get sausage gravy for breakfast. There's other things you could do with those ten days, but you'd miss the trip. Now, you don't have to accept the invitation into the kingdom, it's not mandatory. You have to choose it. In fact, you have to want it with your whole heart. And you will give up some things. You'll give up a life ruled by yourself. You'll give up a life that's totally ruled by what I want, and I feel, and I think.
There'll be some challenges that come with it, but it will have rewards not only in time, but for all eternity. I've got a few minutes left, let's take just a day with Jesus. It's Matthew chapter 9. And some of the stories are familiar, I won't read all the text. I'm telling you, if we'd spend a little more time with Jesus, we'd be different. And this has been bumping around in my head all week, we have to tell the people about Jesus, Allen. You know, he's a little persist, Angus. In Matthew 9 it says, "Jesus was talking and a ruler came and knelt before him, and said, 'My daughter has just died. Come and put your hand on her and she will live.'" That's not a normal, my daughter's died, but Jesus, if you'll put your hand on her, she'll get up, dude. And Jesus said, "Okay, okay".
Can you see the disciples? This is pretty early in the story. How many of you know they're moving to the back of the line? What is he doing now? He said she died. What did that man ask? He said his daughter died, and what did Jesus say? He said he would go, what's he thinking? So they're on their way. By this point, he has a reputation, there's a crowd of people. Between where they began the journey and arriving at the man's house, a woman who's been sick for many years pushes through the crowd and touches Jesus's garment and she's healed. She had said within herself, "If I can just touch the hem of his garment, I'll be better". Jesus stopped, he understood something had happened. "Who touched me"? Peter goes, Are you kidding me? All these people pushing you and you wanna know who touched you?
Peter's still agitated because he said he'd go to the house with this guy. He's about to trash his reputation. And the woman presents herself, "Jesus said, 'Your faith has healed you,' and the woman was healed from that moment". When he gets to the man's house where the daughter's dead, there's already mourners there, professional mourners. If you could afford them, it was a part of the drama, a display of your influence. And Jesus puts all the mourners out and he said she's not dead and they laugh at him. The disciples go, "Oh, jeez, so much potential". And he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. Then Matthew says, "News of this spread throughout the region," you think? You think?
You know, I can see Peter going, "I knew it was the right move all along". We've all done that with the Lord, right? What are you doin?' No, no, yes, nice work. It's a desperate father and a dead girl, and the outcomes of resurrection, and in the midst of that unfolding, there's a broken woman, no money left, there's no resource left, there are no other options left. And in her desperation, she breaks several rules to push through a public place to be where Jesus is, and she's healed. It's not a bad start to the day. Same chapter, verse 27, "As Jesus went on from there," it's just moving on from there, dead girls, "Two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David.' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came and he said, 'Do you believe that I'm able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord.'"
Well, you know, we read that so quickly, that's a loaded question. Do you believe I'm able to do this? "He touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith, will it be done unto you.'" He kinda put it back at them, didn't he? They initiated this, they cried out after Jesus. In John chapter 9, Jesus stops and ministers to a blind man that didn't ask for anything, but these men were crying out, "Help us, have mercy on us. We want to see". So, Jesus stopped and said, "Do you think I can do that"? If Jesus stopped us, we prayed for miracles earlier, if you had a personal encounter with him before you got to sleep tonight, and he said, "Do you believe I can do that?" how many of us are ready to say I believe it. Well, I'd like to think so. I hope so. I know you could.
We're in training. The crowd was amazed, no kidding, nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel. I like the line, "Blind people being able to see. Nothing like this has been seen". Men seeking mercy and they got a miracle. Same chapter, verse 32, "While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and couldn't talk was brought to Jesus. When the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke". Do you believe in evil spirits? Jesus did, if that helps you make a decision. And it's worth noting that the evil spirits were active and involved in the places where Jesus was and the covenant people of God were, so it's not like just the unclean or evil spirits or demonic spirits, whatever label you want to use. It's not just like they pester pagans, it's very clear from the gospels in the New Testament that they're engaged with God's people.
"When the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed". We haven't seen this before. This is just one day with Jesus. A man has been overpowered. The word is important to me. As I thought about that passage a little bit, there's a man who's been overpowered by evil. Something disrupted his ability to speak, and then in himself, in his physical self and his resources, he didn't know how to gain freedom from that thing which had rendered him mute. It seems that he's aware something had happened to him, and Jesus addressed it. The demon, it says, was driven out of him.
Now, think of this day. A desperate father, a dead girl, a broken woman, men seeking mercy, and a man who's been overpowered by evil, and Jesus brings deliverance. They share some things in common. They all sought Jesus. They all made efforts towards him. And in almost every story, there are either interruptions, or mockers, or delays, or critics, or unexpected outcomes, and certainly what they receive is beyond any previous experience. See, that's not the way we've built our religious engagement. We want it to stay within our previous experiences. That's how I believe. That's how I prefer to worship. That's how I pretend to think. This is the way I serve. This is how much time I make available. This is when I read my Bible.
We have kind of narrowly defined this, and we're wanting different outcomes because truth has fallen in the street and we need Jesus to be reintroduced, but we're kinda stuck a little bit in the the ways that we know to experience it. And when I walk with Jesus through Matthew chapter 9, everybody's beyond their previous experience, and I think it's equally true that every person that we just looked at looked to Jesus for something that was incomplete within themselves. Some of them were powerful, some of them were influential, but they were incomplete. They didn't have everything they needed. We're gonna have to be humble enough, and honest enough, and have enough respect and reverence for God to say listen, I can't do this without you. I can't do this without you. I don't want to do this without you.
I'm gonna talk about the Jesus rules just a second. Not the rules that Jesus hands out, we can talk about those, there's some of those that are fun to look at, but I'd rather, as we wrap this up, talk to you about how Jesus rules. That he is over all things. That he sets the boundaries. Remember when God came to talk to Job and he said, "Job, you've had a lot to say, but if you're so smart, I want to talk to you for a minute. I got some questions for you, Big Boy. Where were you when I set the boundaries between day and night? Where were you when I was naming the stars, Job? If you're so smart". Jesus is the ruler of all, and we've been a little embarrassed of him, a little timid about him, a little reluctant about him. Different ways, different places.
Acts chapter 2 and verse 36, "Let all Israel be assured of this, God has made this Jesus whom you crucified Lord and Messiah". That is not a bridge-building sentence, he's standing in Jerusalem and he said, "God, the Creator of all things, made Jesus, the man from Nazareth whom you crucified, Lord and Messiah". At this point, it's very clear that Peter had not been through sensitivity training. His inclusive language needs some work, he's gonna get canceled. He's reintroducing someone. He said you met Jesus, he walked the streets of this city. In fact, if I remember correctly, he said Pilate, the Roman governor, gave you an opportunity to have him released from Roman custody, and you chose Barabbas, an insurrectionist, a rebel, a murder. And when you were asked what to do with Jesus, you said, "Crucify him".
I want to reintroduce him to you. His story didn't end on a cross. His story didn't end in a grave. His story didn't end in the humiliation of a beating from the Roman soldiers. He is both Lord and Messiah. He's alive today. Do you know him? We have the privilege of re introducing Jesus to people. They've walked past him, they've dismissed him, they've denigrated him, they've mocked the people who followed him, they've ignored the boundaries of his that they've known, so this is not particularly a fun conversation. I gotta be honest with you, reintroducing Jesus in our culture comes at some cost.
People say, "Oh, I know him, I went to church with my parents as a kid, and I've gone from time to time. We were married in the church, and we, you know, our kids were christened, and we took our kids to Sunday School some. I mean, I know about that, stop. I'm not like a Muslim". Now what are you gonna say? "Okay, sorry, I misunderstood". Peter could have stood up at Pentecost and said, "You know, you all know Jesus, the miracle worker, the healer, he came down the hill over there. He came down and healed and everybody went over with palm branches. They're gonna celebrate that day for years to come. Group hug, come on. He was one of us". But he didn't, he took a pivot, and he said, "You crucified him. You crucified our Messiah". We're gonna have to have the courage to have these honest conversations in our world. Thousands of them that day gave their heart to Jesus, thousands of them.
John chapter 13, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power". Jesus rules, he understood that the Creator of all things had put everything under his power, that's amazing. Jesus played two prominent roles. I don't have much time to unpack it, and you have some of the references, you can reflect on it at your leisure if you're interested. He came as a Savior. He said of himself, "He came to seek and to save that which was lost," that would be us. He came as our Savior. I have studied in theological institutions, some of the most celebrated academic settings, and if you said I believed in being saved, they would mock you.
So, it isn't surprising that this has made its way into the public square. We've been pumping this into the minds of those leading our churches for decades, and before you point your fingers at them, we've been turning out church boards, and presbyteries, and all sorts of administrative groups that have been hiring people that believed it, because we were content with the appearance, with the routine, with the habit, because we could manage our lives. We didn't need God in the midst of it. We had enough opportunities if we worked harder, we studied harder, we were determined, and we were content enough with what our kids could become.
Folks, we are not there anymore. We better start training for something different. The Father has put all things under his power. He's our Savior, and he's also our judge. He's our judge. It's just a statement of fact. In John 5, "The Father judges no one, he's entrusted all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father". God, the Creator of all things, has entrusted judgment of this planet and its inhabitants to his Son, Jesus. You would rather be his friend than his adversary.
It's been some years ago, it's better if the judge is your friend, I think, does that seem right to you? It's been some years ago, so you can probably figure out who, but I got caught in kind of a speed trap. I mean, there was like six or eight cars lined up, it wasn't just, like, me, and I was doin' somethin' wicked, like 34 in a 30 zone. And when they stopped me, I'm thinking, "Oh, I've done a whole lot worse than this right through here". And the officer said, "Well, we've had some complaints from the neighbors, and we needed to change the habit of the people that were comin' down this little street". He said, "If you go to court, the judge will wave the ticket". I mean, normally I'd just pay the ticket. I mean, normally. In the rare event that I would have one of those.
So, I go to court, I had a little checkin before hand at the court with somebody I'd gone to school with, the judge. I thought, "Well, hey," so I go to court, I knew some of the police officers, the judge is up there, and he said, "You know, how may I help you"? And I said, "I just came for mercy". He looks at the... I don't know what he looked at, and he said, "He has to pay the ticket". Oh, I had to practice forgiveness. I wanted to say, "Wait a minute, the officer said if I'd take my time, and skip work, and come up here, and stand in front of you," and he's like, "No, pay the ticket".
Jesus is a just judge. I can't speak to all the speed traps, but Jesus is a just judge. It's one of his titles. You want to make friends with him. You want to be in training to be his friend. You want anybody that knows you to know you want to be his friend. This isn't, like, some undercover initiative. You know, it's possible it could come to that in our culture, but right now we still have the freedom. We want to push everything we know about Jesus out as clearly, and as broadly, and as effectively as we know how. He's the judge of all the earth. I think Revelation 19, you know, so many people think that God in the New Testament is cuddly, and in the Old Testament, he's kind of cranky.
In Revelation 19, we have a portrayal of Jesus as judge. You get to see the scene. He said, "I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True, and with justice he judges and makes war". The war that will be unleashed when Jesus comes back as the judge will make what we have watched of late seem like child's play. Significant percentages of the earth's population will be destroyed. "His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself, and he's dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses dressed in fine linen, white and clean". The King is coming.
Folks, we've got some work to do. We have an opportunity before us. I just want to encourage you to begin to consciously think for yourself, what would it be like for me to be engaged in training in righteousness? Where am I uncomfortable? What am I doing right? That makes me a little sore, I wouldn't, you know, I probably wouldn't have done that if I hadn't been training. Where have I changed my schedule and my habits? You'll have to take a little discipline, 'cause when you start training, you don't see much outcome initially, you just see discomfort. It's more than a day, or a week, or a month.
In fact, if you start your diet, you get hungrier. In fact, if you just say you're going to start a diet, you get hungrier, right? If you've just watched a Nutrisystem commercial on TV, you gotta get up, get somethin' to eat. Those poor people eating that stuff, I need something. Where's the cheez doodles? And it's highly probable that if you determine you're going to begin to train for the Lord that you'll have to overcome some things that you weren't thinking about before. We have an adversary. But let's train anyway. I'm gonna talk to you some more about this, but I brought you a prayer, and I actually remembered to put this one in your notes. If you were here Sunday, not so much. Why don't you stand with me? We can read it together.
Heavenly Father, we lift our hearts and our voices to you in praise and thanksgiving. There is none like you. From your great mercy, we have received life and hope. We joyfully yield our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Through him we have overcome. Give us the strength to complete the course you have chosen for us. Fill our hearts with joy. Open our eyes to see the majesty of our God and King. Let the earth be filled with the praises of our God, in Jesus's name, amen.