James Meehan - The God Revealed Through Suffering
- Get involved
Question for you. Have you ever held an unpopular opinion? Like maybe you have loved something dearly that a lot of people just don't or maybe it's something that not a lot of people understand as I was preparing for this moment getting ready to share with you. One of my unpopular opinions, there were two different ones. I was wrestling with trying to figure out which one is the least embarrassing to share. And because I couldn't decide I'm just gonna tell you both. So, as a millennial youth pastor reaching a gen Z generation I fully recognize that I have the unpopular opinion that skinny jeans are the only way to go. Because for some reason you hate skinny jeans. Why have you tried them? Like, I literally wear them and I feel like I'm being hugged all day long. Like it is amazing. It's gorgeous. It's beautiful, it's life-giving. Reminds me of the love of God. I'm just kidding. It doesn't actually do that but that would be kind of interesting.
So that was the first one. I was like, man, I'm talking about skinny jeans. It was like, well, they hate me. So I said, you know what? Let's just confess it all clean slate. The second thing, is my favorite hobby is a game that's a little bit more popular now than it has been in recent years. Thanks to the show, stranger things. You might be familiar with. It is a game known as Dungeons and dragons, D and D for short AKA the greatest fantasy tabletop role playing game of all time. Here's what you need to know about me. I'm a dungeon master. That means that every two weeks when my dungeoning group that's actually not what we call ourselves. I don't know why I said those words but when my group of people that I play Dungeons and Dragons with gets together, I'm the one who is leading the charge. I'm like the narrator plus rule maker plus referee all at the same time.
And we get to come together and inhabit. These are different worlds and play these different characters and just have incredible adventures together. Like as a kid, did you ever play imagination? It's basically like that. But with a bunch of grown dudes sitting around a table. One time somebody found out that I played Dungeons and dragons and they literally compared playing Dungeons and dragons to getting drunk at a bar until two o'clock in the morning. And I said to that person you've clearly never played Dungeons and Dragons. Cause it's way better than that. Come on somebody. But here's the thing. Here's the thing like there's these things that we love that oftentimes others don't and maybe it's because they don't understand it. Maybe they don't get it. Maybe they just have different tastes or preferences and that's okay. But what's so fascinating to me is the range of opinions that surrounded the person of Jesus. Because 2000 years ago, when Jesus stepped onto the stage of history, everybody had a different opinion about who He was and if He was good or He was bad but nobody was indifferent towards Him, right?
People loved Him or they hated Him. They wanted to crucify Him as a criminal or crown Him as a King. Everybody had an opinion about Jesus. Oftentimes they didn't line up, but nobody was indifferent towards Him. There was something about Jesus that caused people to look at Him and react in one of two different extremes. What I find so fascinating is that throughout that process whether people loved Him or hated Him, whether they wanted to crucify Him or crown Him, both sides of the debate actually called Him King. The first time this happened was actually at His birth. There was a group of wisemen who traveled from the East to see the one who was born King of the Jews.
So, at his birth, a group of people traveled across the world to see Jesus because they believe that He was the one that was meant to be born King of the Jews, they called Him King with respect with adoration and reverence. But then later at His death, Jesus was called King, Once again a sign was placed above His head while he hung on a cross that said King of the Jews. But this time the title King was not given out of respect or adoration. It was meant to be mocking and ridiculing Him. There was something about Jesus that caused people to wonder, who is this man? Is He a King? Is He a criminal? Is He just some ragged rabbi wandering around telling people about the Bible. Is He a crazy guy that just happens to tell really good stories? Is He a radical? Is He a revolutionary? Is He a rebel? Who is this Jesus? And wherever He went people wanted to know the answer to that question.
And now in our world today, I'm utterly convinced that that question is the most important question that anybody can wrestle with. Because if Jesus really is who He says that He was then that changes everything. But if He wasn't then actually it changes nothing. So who is Jesus? We are in part four of this series where we've been wrestling with that question. As we've been exploring the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was one of Jesus's disciples, one of His followers who after the death of Jesus after the crucifixion of Jesus after the resurrection of Jesus, Matthew felt compelled to write down the stories of his time with Jesus to share about this man with others. And as we've been walking through this journey together we've started by exploring the idea that in part one Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us. And part two of our series we looked at Jesus being the son of man which has this beautiful dual meaning of Him being fully human.
So He can relate to us but also fully God's who He is capable of doing and getting us to the places we can't on our own. Then in part three, we talked about Jesus being the Messiah the anointed one, the chosen one of God. Who God sent into the world to undo the damage of sin and evil. But in this part, part four of our series we're looking at Jesus as King, who is Jesus? I would say that Jesus is King. Now what's interesting about the idea of kingship in the Bible is that the nation of Israel this is where God's chosen people who God had set apart to be His representatives to all the world had a very specific process that anybody who was going to be King would go through. It was a three-step process. It started with designation, moved to demonstration and then was completed with coronation. Designation-demonstration-coronation.
The three-step process for someone to become King of the nation of Israel. And what's so beautiful about Matthew's gospel, is that he sort of structures the entire book around that three-step process to help us understand that Jesus is the rightful King of Israel. But even more than that, that Jesus is the rightful King of all creation. And when we look at the gospel of Matthew, we are taken on this journey through Jesus's designation, His demonstration and His coronation. So, designation. This is the moment when a future King would be chosen by God to become King. In the Old Testament, David, who was the greatest King of Israel had ever known was designated by the prophet Samuel. He was the youngest of all of his brothers. And one day Samuel shows up to his home and pours oil on his head. That oil was symbolizing the spirit of God, descending upon him, designating him as the rightful King of Israel. Jesus's designation took place at His baptism.
What's so interesting about this is it wasn't a prophet pouring oil on His head. It was actually the heavens opening up and the spirit of God descending upon Jesus. And you could hear the voice of God declaring that, "This is my son with whom I am well-pleased". Jesus's designation kind of made David's look a little bit, I don't know, small, weak source. Which is crazy because like I said, David was the greatest king Israel had ever known. And then Jesus shows up and His designation puts David's to shame. Then there's the demonstration. Right after the King is chosen after he's designated to be the future King of Israel, he has to demonstrate his worthiness to be King. Cause to be King of Israel is a big deal. They are responsible for leading the people of God representing God to the people and leading that nation of people to represent God to the rest of the world.
So David's demonstration, we've all heard the story. At least most of us have, it had something to do with a giant, a giant named Goliath. And David who was believed to be a teenage boy at the time shows up to this battlefield where this giant Goliath had been taunting armies of Israel for 40 days. And for 40 days, nobody was willing to challenge Goliath until this teenage boy shows up with a sling and some stones. And with the confidence that comes from being chosen by God he walked into battle with Goliath and he put Goliath down. He did what nobody else was willing to do and demonstrated his worthiness to be King. For Jesus right after His baptism. He also went on a journey that included 40 days. But this time it was Him going into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by another giant. But this one, wasn't just a man who happened to be really big. This one was the giant that comes after all of us. The enemy, the devil.
Jesus went toe to toe with him, in the desert was tested three different times. And every test that Jesus went through was meant to be a callback to the test that the people of Israel had gone through so many years ago when they were wandering the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. And every time the people of Israel were tested then they failed. But when Jesus is face to face with this giant when He is being tempted in the wilderness every time He's tempted, He overcomes the temptation. And he proves that he can do what nobody else can. He demonstrates His worthiness to be King. There's a designation, there's a demonstration. And then there's a coronation. The coronation is the moment where this King has a crown placed on their head. where they're seated on the throne and all the people acknowledge. This is the real King. This is the true King.
And was so beautiful about Jesus's coronation. And what's so confusing about Jesus's coronation is that it really caused people to question, how does any of this make sense? His designation was incredible. His demonstration was unheard of But Coronation, I can't even wrap my mind around it. And that's why the apostle Paul writing a letter to one of the early Christian communities described the coronation of Jesus as a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. It's a stumbling block for the Jewish people because they cannot wrap their mind around the idea that the King of creation, the King of Israel would be coronated in this way. And it's foolishness to Gentiles because there is no way I would ever follow a King who is coronated like that because everything about Jesus's coronation defied everyone's expectations to the point where they didn't know what to do with it.
So why is it, that Jesus's coronation was a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles? Because Jesus's coronation was actually His crucifixion. Jesus's crowning moment was the moment when He was hanging on a cross. Execution is a form of death sentence that wasn't invented by the Romans but it was certainly perfected by them. It was a death sentence that was reserved for slaves, rebels, and terrorists. It was meant to be a form of murder and torture and execution that sent a message. It was intended to be the most shameful and humiliating way to die imaginable. And somehow for some reason Jesus chose that method to be His coronation. He chose to be killed on a cross to show the kind of King that He is. And so what I want us to do is look at the story of Jesus's crucifixion. And as we read the words that Matthew wrote begin to understand just a little bit more about the kind of King that Jesus is. A King who is all together different and unlike any other King of the world has ever known.
So, picking up in Matthew chapter 27 we're going to read this account. Like I said, where the Roman empire is going to kill Jesus in what is meant to be the most shameful and humiliating way imaginable to send a message to anybody and everybody about what happens when you challenge the authority of Rome. So, pick it up in Matthew 27 verse 27 we'll read through 31. Here's what we read. This is the, the governor's soldiers. They take Jesus into the Praetorium. They gather the whole company of soldiers around Him. They strip Him, they put a Scarlet robe on Him. They twist together a crown of thorns and they set it on His head. Then they put a staff in his right hand. They kneel in front of Him. They mock Him saying hail King of the Jews. They spit on Him. They take the staff and strike Him on the head, again and again, after they had mocked Him, they took off the robes and they put His own clothes on Him. And then they led Him away to crucify Him.
What's interesting about this passage we just read is that every step in the process of Jesus's road to the crucifixion was meant to model every step of a Roman emperor ascending to the throne. Right? We read about the soldiers who take Jesus into the Praetorium, right That's exactly where a Roman emperor would go on their way to the throne. They gather the whole company of soldiers around them. They put a robe on him, a crown on His head, a stuff in His hand, the soldiers kneel in front of Him and they would hail, "This is Cesar, our emperor". But they're hailing Jesus King of the Jews. And what's crazy is they're doing it in a way to mock Him and ridicule Him without even realizing that this is exactly what Jesus had planned all along, what they meant to use as a form of humiliation Jesus stepped into willingly.
There's something about Jesus that just doesn't make sense to the people around Him. This is why they called it a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Moving further down. Where we're reading verse 35 is that they had crucified Him. And when they did, they divided up His clothes by casting lots. And now sitting down these soldiers keep watch over Him. above His head they placed the written charge against Him. This is His crime, It says, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews". And so you have Jesus, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the chosen one of God. Hanging naked on a cross with a crown of thorns on His head blood dripping down His face, being held up by nails in His hand and His feet, His back a bloody mess because of all the whipping things he'd taken And His face unrecognizable because He had been beaten repeatedly by a stuff. This is Jesus the son of God and the King of the Jews.
Who is this Jesus? And why in the world would this. Why would this be His coronation as King? It's interesting because when we continue on in verse 42 there're people mocking Him, they say, "'He saved others, but he can't save Himself. He's the King of Israel. So let him come down now from the cross. And if he does we'll believe in him, he trusts in God so let God rescue him now, if he wants him, because he said he's the son of God. And if that's true, then God should want to rescue him. If he's really the son of God then why would it be hanging on a cross like that?' And so in the same way, the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on Him". Can you imagine men being crucified next to him, hurling insults at Jesus. They're so done with this idea of Jesus being King that as they are dying, the little bit of enjoyment they find is mocking him and trying to tear him down even further.
What kind of God would choose this? What kind of King would willingly die on a cross? They wouldn't. So, this Jesus you believed in this Messiah you put your hopes in, we're gonna make you regret believing that He is who he said he was. Because there's no way that the God of heaven and earth Would stoop to this level. There's no way that a King of a group of people would allow himself to be humiliated and shamed so publicly that's not what Kings do. That's not what gods are supposed to be like. And yet Jesus who is God in the flesh is hanging on a cross allowing the insults to be hurled at Him. And he doesn't retaliate. He doesn't try to defend himself. He doesn't even try to explain a way all the suffering He embraces it. This is what makes Christianity so unique because the Christian claim is that 2000 years ago, God became man that he lived on this earth in the person of Jesus.
And that this God man Chose to announce his kingship through crucifixion. This God allowed himself to be killed in the way that is the most humiliating and shameful imaginable. The God of heaven entered history and allowed people to murder Him. What kind of King is okay with that? I can't even wrap my mind around that concept of God. And yet the heart of Christianity is found with a God dying on a cross. This is what makes Christianity so beautiful. Because we serve a God Who didn't just sit up in heaven and watch us in our pain. But he hung on a cross and he became suffering for us. He chose to suffer with us. He allowed himself to die in our place. Jesus is the God revealed through suffering. And there's something about suffering that shows us the heart of our loving father, that some of us still haven't been able to wrap our minds around because the crucifixion of Jesus it's a stumbling block to Jews and it is foolishness to Gentiles. And yet Jesus's crowning moment was His crucifixion.
As we continue reading in the story, picking up in verse 50, Jesus cries out again in a loud voice and he gives up His spirit. And it's at that moment that the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. And then continue on the Centurion who was Leading those Roman soldiers who had been the people to carry out the execution of Jesus that centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake they see all that had happened. They're terrified. And they exclaimed, "Surely he was the son of God". The same men who mockingly called him King just hours ago Now declares in front of everyone that something about this Jesus is special. Not only is he King of the Jews but he is surely the son of God. He is the beautiful thing about Jesus is that his entire life he was preparing for that moment on the cross. He was designated at his baptism. He demonstrated his worthiness in the wilderness by overcoming the temptations of the devil.
And he was coronated, by being murdered in the most humiliating and shameful way possible. And the beautiful thing about Jesus is that death could not hold him. Sin could not stop him. Hell could not take him. You see Jesus in his life, in his death and his resurrection, demonstrated the truth that there is no power that is above the power of God that even in his death, he robbed hell of its power. You see what Jesus was doing was showing us that the way that we combat evil is not with violence. It is with willing sacrifice. Jesus did what nobody else could. He did what everybody else needed to have happened but only he was willing and able to actually achieve it. You see what Jesus shows us is that true power doesn't come from leading armies or conquering enemies true power comes from being willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of others. Because Jesus, the King that we serve is not a King who sends his people to die for him. He's a King who gets his hands dirty and chooses to die for his people.
So what does that mean for us? For those of us who are Christians, followers of Jesus, reconciling and wrestling with this idea that the King of creation died on a cross. How do we do anything with that? Well, we do exactly what Jesus has followers did. We preach the gospel to everyone everywhere. We proclaim the story of Jesus the story of a God who became a man, who died on a cross and rose from the grave. Because the beautiful thing about Jesus is that the crucifixion was not the end of the story. But on the third day, the man who had been crucified as a criminal rose from the grave, as our risen King demonstrating the fact that nothing on earth or under the earth could ever stop Him, that when he sets his mind to something, it will happen. It will be finished. That is the God we serve and the King that we follow.
And so if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, here's what you have been invited to do. You've been invited to be crucified with Christ. The apostle Paul described his relationship with the Christian faith as one, where he had been crucified with Jesus, that when he put his trust in Jesus When he declared his allegiance to King Jesus, that from that moment on, it was no longer he who lived but it was Christ living in him. And if you are a follower of Jesus, what I need you to understand is that you have chosen a life marked by the cross. You have chosen to crucify yourself with your King so that it is no longer you who live, but it is him living in you. And the beautiful thing about that is that means that there is nothing that you have to fear because when death, evil and hell did its worst to Jesus, he came right back stronger than ever launching the church into all of the world to reflect His goodness, His love and His power. And that is exactly what he's inviting you to do. To preach the gospel to everyone everywhere.
Now, to be very clear, preaching the gospel is not just something we do with our words. It is our entire lives declaring the goodness of God telling the story of Jesus so that when we suffer, we suffer like Jesus. When we love, we love like Jesus. When people hurt us, we respond with forgiveness, just like Jesus. The beauty of the gospel is that it is so much bigger than anybody could ever imagine. You see the gospel. It's the good news announcement that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that our God has once again become King, that His Kingdom is coming on earth, as it is in heaven. And everybody everywhere has been invited to be a part of His kingdom. If you're a follower of Jesus, you have a job to do to spread the rule and reign of your King Jesus to every corner of creation.
What does that look like? It looks like being willing to live a cross shaped life, in our self centered culture. It looks like a call to beautiful resistance. When people are attacking you and persecuting you and insulting you, it means you responding with love and prayer in the same way that your King Jesus responded so long ago. The gospel, it's really good news. It's the news that the real ruler of everything the real King of creation is the God who became man who was willing to suffer and die in the most humiliating and shameful way possible. who did not stay dead and who has invited all of us, no matter what we've done or where we've been to be a part of His new family, His kingdom have transformed, forgiven, redeemed people and that's really good news.
Now what's interesting about the parallels between David and Jesus is that when David was first coronated King of Israel, not everybody actually acknowledged he was King yet. There was just a portion of the nation of Israel that agreed. Yeah, you're our King. It took another seven years before the rest of Israel acknowledged that that David was King. And in the same way, not yet all of creation acknowledges that Jesus is King. See 2000 years ago, he became King, but not everybody realizes it. Not everybody has aligned themselves with our good and loving King. And so as His people, the people of God, as kingdom people, we have a job to do Because there will come a day when our King Jesus returns to finish what He started. But until then, He has asked us to partner with him in rescuing all of humanity from the sin that holds them captive and to participate in the renewal of all creation.
Listen to me, following Jesus is not a call to being passive. It is a call to actively engaging of the work of putting all the broken things back together But there will come a day when our King Jesus returns and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. When every knee is bent, confessing and declaring that our King Jesus is the King of creation. And until that day, we'll love, we'll serve, we'll worship and we'll suffer with joy because we know that the very foundation of reality is under the rule of our King Jesus. So, that no matter what comes our way, we can have hope. Because our God who became a man hung on a cross. And somehow through that became the King of creation. who is Jesus? Jesus is King.
Heavenly Father, we come before you, and we thank you that you somehow, some way chose the most surprising and confusing way possible to be King of all the world. God we thank you that we get to join together as a fellowship of believers across the country around the world to declare that you are King.
Now, I know that there may be some of you right now as you're hearing this message you're realizing that you consider Jesus your King and your Lord, but you realize that you have not been doing the work of partnering with Him to bring his goodness and kingdom to every corner of creation. And you're done sitting on the sidelines. You wanna step in and be a part of what He's doing in and through the church. If that's you, then simply raise your hand, type it in the chat so, that we can pray for you because you have been called and equipped by God to make a difference right here and right now.
Father God, I pray for those students that you would give them courage to get uncomfortable that you would give them wisdom to love others well, and that God, even when they fall short even when they struggle, even in their suffering they will be reminded that you are the God who suffers with us. And the God who suffered for us.
Still in an attitude of prayer. I know there's another group of you who as you're hearing this message about Jesus, there's something that you can't describe that you can't explain but Something that is stirring inside of you. Here is the reality is that everything about Jesus it causes a reaction. Some people loved Him, others hated Him. Some wanted to crucify Him others wanted to crown Him. But through Jesus's life, death, and His resurrection He made a way for all of humanity to be forgiven of their sins, to be made right with God, to be made new. And that is exactly why you are here today because God has been desperately wanting you to re-unite with him. And it is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that anybody anywhere if they call on the name of Jesus would be saved. They would be changed. They would be forgiven. They would be made new.
And that is exactly why you're here today to say yes to Jesus, to declare that He is King, with your heart, with your mouth, with your entire life. If that's you simply lift your hand right now all across the room. If you're saying yes to Jesus today, online if you wanna make the decision to choose to put your trust in him, type it in the chat, click on the link that is there so that you can let us know that you're making the most important choice in the world to align yourself with the King of heaven and earth. And as you are making that choice I want you to know that we're a family. And even though you had to make that choice on your own you do not have to pray alone. We are going to pray all together celebrating the decision that you just made. Repeat after me out loud:
Heavenly Father, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your forgiveness today I give you my life, in Jesus name. Amen. Amen. And amen.