Craig Groeschel - The Gift You Need the Most
We are preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a message series called "The Gift", as we look at three different gifts that the Magi or the Wise Men brought to worship Jesus. Now as we think about this and visualize what it would've been like at that time when the Magi brought in their gifts. I'm guessing that many of you think about a manger scene like one at Grandma's house. Would I be right? Any of you kind of visualize this?
If you do, what you're probably seeing is something like what I see in my mind. You're probably seeing three Wise Men with flowing robes made of porcelain because that perhaps is what the manger scene is made of. You probably see some farm animals, maybe a sheep, maybe a cow. Chances are you might see some shepherds. If the roof is pitched, you might see an angel at the top of the roof and of course, baby Jesus is glowing because there's a nightlight under the cradle. Any of you know what I'm talking about?
The challenge is that very likely there were not three Wise Men at this moment. There could've been many more, we don't know how many Wise Men were there. And also, they would've been in a house and by the time the Wise Men traveled the distance to there, Jesus was very likely not an infant. Most scholars believe that he was over a year old, maybe 18 months old or so, perhaps even older. That changes my visual of Wise Men bowing down to a toddler.
How many of you have, right now, all of our churches, how many of you have a two year old? Do you have a two year old? How many of you have ever had one? You ever had one? How many of you been around one, okay? I used to judge parents of two year olds before I had children, you know what I'm talking about? Your kid would be in a restaurant, banging on the table, throwing a fit in the store, wah, wah, wah, and I would judge you. Before I had a two year old. And I learned that you do not negotiate with terrorists, right?
You have two year old out of control, you're like, "I'll give you anything, kid"! You become the worst parent and you're happy. "Here's my iPhone! Take it! Play Baby Shark for the 90 millionth time. I'll give you candy, you can have pony, I'll give you a race car, whatever it is. Just stop"! This changes my visual. Magi, Wise Men, bowing down and offering gifts to perhaps a toddler. I want to look at the text and we're going to get some context and then we're gonna look at the three different gifts.
Matthew's Gospel shows us this in Matthew chapter two, verse 10 and 11. Scripture says this of the Wise Men. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and they worshiped Jesus. They opened their treasure chest and they gave him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Unusual gifts in our day and age, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but very valuable gifts, very useful gifts, and gifts that had symbolic nature to prophesied who Jesus would become.
Unusual gifts. On behalf of my family, we'd like to express our gratitude to those of you who have expressed your gratitude occasionally throughout the years, and given us gifts. To be honest, we've gotten some unusual gifts throughout the years. Would you like for me to share with you some of the unusual gifts? There's no spiritual value whatsoever, would you like for me to share with you? Yep, so Amy and I talked about it, and the best of our recollection over almost 24 years of leading Life.Church, the three most unusual gifts that we've received would be these.
The first was actually, believe it or not, the ashes of a dead cat. In a jar, like I didn't know that was a thing, like you cremate your cat, I didn't know that was a thing, and I never though anybody would give someone that as a gift, what do you do with that? Throw away kitty? No, I've got cat ashes somewhere in my attic to this day. It's a weird gift. Obviously, playing on my cat humor throughout the years, someone else got me kitty litter cake. It's a thing. I've actually got a picture of what kitty litter cake looks like. I know, right?
I mean, there might be like some kind of Bible verse against giving that to your pastor, those are tootsie rolls in case you're wondering, and you can eat that, that's the second most unusual gift we've received throughout the years. The most unusual though, for those of you that are maybe celebrating your sobriety, congratulations, I received a bong, you know, people use drugs with, but it was framed, a framed glassed in bong because someone else was sober so they gave me their drug paraphernalia, you know? Why, I don't know, being a pastor's difficult, you know? In case of emergency, break glass. I'm just, I didn't say it.
The Magi gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold was valuable of a monetary nature, as it has been through history, but gold, we'll talk about next week, symbolizes the kingship of Jesus, Jesus as king. Frankincense, we talked about last week, actually symbolizes Jesus as our great High Priest who would offer His life, and yet he's one who sympathizes with us, he understands. Today, we're gonna talk about the gift of myrrh, which many people probably don't know anything about myrrh. myrrh is a valuable gum-like substance that's actually used 17 different times in the Bible.
Occasionally, myrrh would have been used as an antiseptic. For example, if you know the story on Jesus on the cross, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh to dull the pain but Jesus rejected that because he wanted to bear the full force and weight of our sins. More commonly though, myrrh was known as an ingredient used to embalm the dead. In other words, myrrh would have been used when Jesus gave His life, to help prepare His body for burial, so myrrh, scholars agree, and I full-heartedly believe, represents Jesus as the suffering servant or the Lamb of God who was born to die for the forgiveness of our sins.
What I wanna do in the remainder of our time together is look at an Old Testament prophetic passage from Isaiah, the prophet, Isaiah chapter 53, and show you how the myrrh represents Jesus the suffering servant who was born to suffer on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. Now, I'm curious, and at all of our different churches, how many of you are football fans, raise your hands. Okay, notice how football fans always make a noise when they raise their hand. Whoo, okay, that's football fans.
Imagine, if you will, if I had the power to predict the two teams that would be in the next Superbowl. That would be impressive, perhaps lucky. Imagine though if I could predict the exact and final score, who would win, and down to the point which team would win. That would be mind-blowing, and if you're a gambler, you would probably want to befriend me. Imagine this though. Let's just say that the world is still here, and football is still popular 700 years from now. If I could predict the two opposing teams in the Superbowl, and the exact score of that game 700 years from now, that would make me a prophet like no other.
Isaiah essentially did something very, very similar. He prophesied 700 years before the birth of Christ, a very detailed account of what the suffering servant, Jesus, would endure on our behalf. We're gonna look at that in a moment. First, I'm gonna show you our problem, because we have a very real problem, then I'm gonna show you the price that Jesus paid for our sinful problem, so we could be forgiven and experience eternal life. Let's start with our problem, and we see it in verse six of Isaiah chapter 53, when Isaiah the prophet says, all of us, like sheep. Somebody say, "Like sheep". Like sheep.
Let's say it again, you guys are way too quiet. Listen, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it right. I need some help from somebody in Wichita, even though it's snowing in Wichita. All of us, like sheep. Like sheep. Have strayed away, we've left God's path to follow our own. Isaiah says you are like a sheep, and unfortunately, that is not a comment. If Isaiah has said all we, like lions, that might have been a compliment. All we, like eagles, that might have been a compliment. But when he compared us to sheep, he was essentially saying you are not the brightest crayon in the box, right?
You can train a lot of animals, you can train a dog, you can train a bird, you can train a hamster, you can train a elephant, you can train a pig, you can even, I'll admit it, you can even train some cats, right? But you can't train a sheep. Have you ever gone to the circus to watch the trained sheep show? No. Have you ever had someone talk about their pet sheep and say, "Hey, come over to watch my sheep sit". I just realized that was an incredibly dangerous sentence that I just pulled off majestically. Come and watch my sheep sit, that could have gone baaad.
Ha, hashtag dad joke, somebody stop me, it could come from anywhere at any time, you never know. I'm just getting loosened up. Go, man. Sheep's not a compliment. All we, like sheep, have gone stray. Sheep were basically known for three things, they're weak, they're witless, and they're wayward. They're weak, think about this, sheep are weak, they're kind of defenseless. If a coyote, or you know, some kind of animal, a lion comes after a sheep, how can a sheep defend itself? They can't like go, "Ha" with their fangs, they've got fangs, they've got no quills they can shoot, they're not fast, they can't fly away, they don't blend in, they don't have like bleh, poisonous tongue or anything like that, thyre essentially defenseless.
Not only are they defenseless, but they don't even say like, "Hey, you run that way, I'll run this way, then one of us will live". No, sheep huddle up and say, take your pick, whichever one you want. They're weak, and they're witless. In other words, they don't think for themselves sheep tend to follow the crowd. If one sheep does dumb sheep stuff, the other sheep do dumb sheep stuff too.
In fact, this is a true story, you can look it up, dead true story, I promise you. In the year 2005, in Turkey, 1500 dumb sheep followed each other off a cliff, 1500. You would think after the first one, the second one, the third one, the fourth one, the fifth one, the sixth one, the seventh one would have said, this is not a good plan, I'm backing off, but no, 1500 sheep followed each other off the cliff. The bad news is 400 of them died. The good news is, it was the first 400. The rest lived, because the first 400 made a sheep pillow, and they're boing, boing, boing, boing.
When Isaiah calls us sheep, it's not a compliment. Sheep are also wayward, they wander. Where you going, little sheep? I don't know, looking for something, happiness over here, oh if I get those shoes I'll be happy, nope, no, I'm just in debt. Oh if I have this experience, I'll be great, oh no, that hurt. Everybody else did that, I'm trying, sheep are wayward, they wander. When the prophet Isaiah said all of us are like sheep, he wasn't saying, "Wow, you're amazing". He was saying, "You need a lot of help because you tend to go away from God's path and you tend to choose your own".
Here's what scripture says. Let's look at it again, Isaiah 53, verse six. Isaiah said, all of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We've left God's path to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him, the suffering servant, the one who would be called Jesus. The Lord laid on Him the sins of us all. Now, remember, this is 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesied. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet never said a word. He was lead like a lamb to the slaughter.
Have you ever been hurt, mistreated, rejected, overlooked, unjustly criticized, or misunderstood? Jesus understands. It was prophesied of Him that he was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and we looked the other way, but he was despised and we didn't care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried, it was our sorrows that weighed Him down, and we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins, but he, Jesus, our savior, the suffering servant, he was pierced for our rebellion. He was crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
That's what Jesus would do for us. It seems like when people look at a baby born in a manger, sometimes people seem to say, "That was a holy event that happened a long time ago". But what does that mean for being today? Jesus died on a cross, he rose again. Well what does that really mean? Why should I follow Jesus? Why should I devote my life to him? When you understand the magnitude of his suffering, and the depths of his love, you won't casually say, "I'm a Christian". Yeah, I got to church when I have time, yeah we might as well pray over the food. No, no, no, when you understand what he did for us, the declaration of divine love, the only reasonable response is to wholly, completely follow him.
I'll try to describe it, but I can not adequately do it. Start with just the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the place that Jesus wrestled with God when he got a glimpse of the suffering that was to come, and he said to his disciples, hey, you guys watch and pray, but they just fell asleep, and all alone, he cries out to God knowing what is to come. He says "God, would you remove this cup of suffering from me"? And then he fell to the ground, and blood dripped from his brow. The medical term is the word, hemosiderosis. It's something you experience under extreme trauma, when your capillaries burst and blood is mingled with your sweat, and he falls to the ground, and he says, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow "to the point of death".
That's how bad it was. God, can we do this another way? And then he declares faithfully, "Yet Father, not my will, but your will be done". Then one of his own, Judas, betrays him with a kiss, he's arrested, falsely accused, unfairly tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He would be stripped naked, publicly exposed, feeling humiliated and ashamed. They would put the crown of thorns on his head, one and a half to two inch thorns going in to his brow, and the beating would start.
Again, and again, and again, they'd whip him across the back. Wearing a signet ring, they would beat him in the face. They'd take the clubs, and pound it across his head, burying the thorns deeper in to his brow. Isaiah implies that they would pull out his beard, and that he was so disfigured that he wasn't even recognizable as a human being. Then weak, suffering, and alone, they'd give him the cross bar, weighing about 100 pounds, force him to carry it 650 yards on a path known as The Way of Suffering, to Golgotha, to be crucified on the cross.
They would take the nails, seven inches or so in length, and drill them, drive them in to his wrists and through his feet, hang him up on the cross while his back so bloody, his internal organs are likely exposed, sweeping across the rough beaten cross. The only way that he could breath is to pull himself up with the wrists full of nails, push himself up on his feet trying to catch a breath. It wouldn't be long before his shoulders would be dislocated, and his legs would give out and he was slowly, slowly, slowly being unable to catch a breath, hanging under the heat of the day, shamefully, nakedly exposed, as the creation mocks the Son of God, the Creator.
And that was only the beginning. The most painful part was when the innocent one, who had never sinned, bore the sins of the world, became everything vile, and filthy, and unholy, and demonic, he became that, and God, in his righteousness and holiness who could not look upon sin, pulls away, and intimate fellowship Jesus had always known with his Father is broken, and in probably the most agonizing moment of his life, Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you pulled away"? Why aren't you here with me, why have you forsaken me?
They have offered him the wine mixed with myrrh, the very thing they would use to embalm him at his death, and he says, no I don't want something to numb the pain, I will finish what my Father set me to do, and he declares it in faith. Tell it test not, it is finished, in to your hands, I commit my spirit, and he gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins. And the prophet, Isaiah, 700 years before this ever took place, he prophetically declared what this child, innocent one, born of a virgin, never sinned, would endure on behalf of our sinfulness.
Isaiah continued, of the suffering servant, and said, unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal, he was put in a rich man's grave. How did Isaiah know that a man named Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, would offer his grave 700 years later? When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied, and because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. That's what he did for us.
Think about it for a moment. What is it that sets Christianity apart from all other world religions? What sets Christianity apart from Islam, from Buddhism, from New Age, from Hinduism, what is it that sets it apart? It is the bloody death of an innocent victim, that's what sets it apart. It goes all the way back to the Old Testament to something known as the Passover. Once a year, God would execute his temporary judgment on the sins of the people. He would unleash the most fierce force in the world, his righteous judgment on the sins of mankind.
What could protect you from this judgment? Well the blood of an innocent lamb. A family would take a lamb, a one year old lamb, sacrifice the lamb, eat the meat of the lamb, and take the blood of that lamb and put some on the door post, on the top, and on both sides. Then death would pass over the house because that family was saved by the blood of an innocent lamb.
When you think about that, can I just say it clearly, that's a little bit weird, right? It's confusing. It seems to me completely unfair! And yet, all the way back in that historic event, we see the cross foreshadowed when the blood of the lamb was put on the top of the door post, and it would certainly drop down, and both sides you see a picture of the instrument of torture on which the Lamb of God would shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. What separates Christianity from all other world religions is that God would become flesh and he would be pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be made whole, and by the stripes he bore upon his back, we would be healed.
So when you visualize it, the Wise Men will offer him myrrh, the substance used to embalm the dead, you understand God was foreshadowing what was to come, the Lamb of God would be slain for the sins of the world. Jesus understood this, and he prophesied it of himself. This is what Jesus declared in Luke's gospel, chapter nine verse 22 and 23 He said of himself, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed, and on the third day raised to life". Then he said to all of them, hey, you wanna be my disciple, "Whoever wants to be my disciple".
Let me tell you what Jesus did not say. He didn't say you pray some prayer, and then you're blessed and prosperous every day for the rest of your life. He didn't say that. He didn't say you pray a little prayer of salvation and you do whatever you want and jacuzzi Jesus is gonna set your sins free, he did not say that. What he said was, he said you wanna be my disciple, then you deny yourself. It's not about you. Then he said you take up your cross, in other words, you die to yourself. And then he said, then you follow me.
It's not a hobby, it's not an add-on, it's not something that helps us feel good while we celebrate Santa and go to grandma's house, it's God becoming flesh, born of a virgin, not inheriting the sin nature of an earthly father, but the heavenly nature of a divine father, he never sinned. And when you understand that, it overwhelms and overtakes your life. What did he do? He endured this for you, for your lives, and mine, for your lustfulness, and for mine, for our hypocrisy, our judgemental spirit, our greed, our anger, our unforgiveness, our wicked hearts.
And God sent Magi to give him gold, prophetically declaring he would be King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, frankincense, he is our great High Priest, the veil is ripped, he gave his life, we have access to come boldly before the throne of grace, for our high priest receives for us, because he understands, and myrrh, an embalming material, declaring that this one, this child was born to die. That's why it's called the gospel. It is the good news beyond measure that our God would do that for us, that his son Jesus would be crushed for our rebellion, beaten so we could be whole, by his stripes we are healed.
And because of what he did, died and rose again, I don't follow him 'cause I have to, because it makes me a better person, because it gives me something to do every now and then on Sundays. But because of who he is, and what he did, I give him my whole life.
So Father, today we ask that as your church, we would honor you, you are worthy of our praise.
At all of our churches, as your reflect, I'm guessing there are some of you like me, you get caught up in the demands of life, and it may have been awhile since you just told our God, thank you, you're worthy of our praise, there is none like you. Those of you that are followers of Christ and say, I wanna take a moment to thank him with me, would you lift up your hands right now at all of our different churches? I wanna ask Pastor Steven Cole to come out to just to sing over us, and maybe in your seat with prayers, maybe by singing along, let's take this moment to recognize who he is, recognize what he's done. He is the suffering servant.
Jesus, no one compares to your name, your name is above every name. We give you praise, we give you honor, we worship you for who you are, Jesus, for your love, your mercy, your grace. God, thank you for your patience, as you wait on those to come to repentance.
At all of our churches, there are those of you, you're about, maybe perhaps for the first time ever, to give God the praise, the gratitude for which he is due, because you're about to experience his grace in a way that you never ever have before. In a moment, I'm going to invite those of you who need his forgiveness, his grace, his salvation, just to express your desire to know him by lifting up your hands. You very likely know who you are. There's a weight, shame, a guilt, for what you've done.
Let me give you the best news you could ever imagine, the gospel. Our God loves you, doesn't matter what you've done, doesn't matter how dark your life is, our God loves you, and God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, born of the virgin, perfect in every way, ever, ever sinned, didn't do anything wrong, it was prophesied of him 700 years before he was here. And he was obedient even to death on a cross. He became sin in our place, satisfied the justice of God, and yet God extends his mercy to any of us as the gift that we need the gift of grace.
At all of our churches, those of you who say, I need his forgiveness, I need his grace, I know I've fallen short, I feel the weight, I don't really know where I stand on God, when you call on the name that is above every name, his name is Jesus, at his name, God forgives, he separates your sin as far as the east is from the west, God doesn't see your sin, he only sees the grace, the goodness, the power, the glory of Jesus.
At all of our churches, those who say yes, yes, I want that, I need his forgiveness, I turn from sins, I turn toward him, Jesus, I give you my life, that's your prayer, lift your hands high now, all over the place, and say yes, I surrender right here, and right over here is well placed, God, for you. Others today who say yes, Jesus, lift up your hands, I call on him up here in the top section, others who say yes, Jesus, I need you, and God bless you up here as well. Church Online, you click right below me. I hope somebody here or give God a little bit more praise in this house today.
He is here, he is good, he is worthy! Salvation by grace through faith. Church, if you don't mind, in this holy moment, if you're able, would you just rise and stand to your feet with those around you. Together, by faith, we're gonna pray a prayer, nobody prays alone, and you will celebrate. Give God worship, give him praise for the gift that you need the most. Just pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all my sins. Jesus, save me, change me, make me new. I believe you died for me, and you rose again so I could live for you. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can follow you, be faithful to you, and show your love in all that I do. My life is not my own, I give it all to you. In Jesus's name, I pray.
Could somebody celebrate big, somebody worship God, give him praise for who he is, church. Lift up his name, it is above every name, give him praise, he is worthy of our honor, he is worthy of our praise. Celebrate new life in Christ!