Good Friday

This is the sermon for Good Friday. The sermon text is: Isaiah 53:1-6. The sermon theme is: Who Would Believe This Message? Here is the Written Sermon.

"<4> Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. <5> But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds." (Is 53:4–5 HCSB)
“<4> Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. <5> But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Is 53:4–5 HCSB)

Who Would Believe This Message?

Do you believe what you see? If you are ever bored one day, go ahead and do a google search for pictures of Jesus. And what you will find will amaze you. You will find pictures of Jesus showing you that he was a white man. You will find pictures of Jesus showing you that he was a black man. You will find Indian and even Chinese pictures of Jesus. But Jesus, of course, was a Jewish man. And most interesting of all, in almost all of these pictures the Messiah you will see is strong and handsome. If only I could have a beard and look as handsome as Jesus. If only I could lift weights and get as huge as Jesus.

You look at all of these pictures and you end up saying to yourself, “I don’t believe it.” But what if you could find out what Jesus really was like? Then would you believe it? About 800 years before Jesus died on the cross, through the prophet Isaiah, God showed us what Jesus-the real Jesus. In Isaiah 53 we read these words: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Is 53:1 NIV)

In a very unique and amazing way the Lord tells us that he is going to show us clearly and truthfully this Messiah, this Christ. But even if the Lord showed who Jesus was clearly and truthfully, who would believe it? What did Jesus’ life look like? In verse two we read: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Is 53:2 NIV)

What was Jesus’ life like? In order to answer that question, Isaiah takes us to the vineyard. Every gardener wants all the nutrients to go straight to the grapes so that they are big and plump and tasty. So when there is a sprout that grows and threatens to take away these nutrients, what does the gardener do? He cuts it off and throws it away.

Notice what Isaiah says here. That’s what we do with Jesus. We are the ones who set Jesus aside and throw him away. And in this verse, notice the reason why this is true. We set him aside because, instead of the manly, muscle-filled and handsome Jesus we find in pictures, Jesus’ appearance was not impressive. And in the next verse we see why it was that his appearance was so unimpressive: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Is 53:3 NIV)

Jesus was rejected by people because he was familiar with sorrows and suffering. Put yourselves in Jesus’ shoes for a moment. Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And now all people are sinful because they are born that way. And because of this sin inside each and every person it leads to death. And so, the sinless Son of God comes to this earth and how his heart was filled with sadness-sadness because of all the sickness, suffering and eventually death that he saw.

And is shouldn’t surprise us that the suffering that agonized his soul overflowed into his life. If you were around Jesus you were around a sad and suffering man. And there is where you have answer to the question we begin with this evening. Why is it that we do not believe what we see in God’s word about Jesus? We do believe this message about Jesus because we don’t want a sad Savior. We want a happy, triumphant Savior. We do not want to see the sad life of Jesus because it might make us sad too. Why do you think it is that there books on the top ten best-selling book list with names like “Your best life now” and “Every day a Friday?” By nature we don’t like to wallow in sadness. But that’s exactly what his life was. It was full of sadness. For he saw all the sin in the world and in our hearts.

And when we see how sad Jesus’ life is, we reject this part of God’s word. We reject this picture and message-despite how true it is. And so, who would believe this message? Who would believe that his life was so filled with sadness? But in the words which follow we find an even more powerful reason to not believe this message from God’s word. Isaiah tells us: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Is 53:4 NIV)

Who would believe how full of sadness Jesus’ life was. And as Isaiah says here, who would believe how full of suffering his death was? When I was a freshman in high school they made us read this old book by Charles Dickens called, Great Expectations. And in this book there was a boy names Pip. Pip was in love with a girl who was way above him. So he would go out and visit with this girl he loved and be reminded how uneducated and un-wealthy he was. And then where would go next? He would go home. And there, when he sat down to eat was his brother-in-law, Joe. Now, Pip’s parents had died, so Joe took care of Pip. And after going to visit a clean and beautiful girl, Pip would come home to Joe. He would come home to a man whose hands were permanently stained and burned from the work he did as a blacksmith. He would come home to a man whose back was hunched over from the hard labor he did all day. And there we discover the most bitter irony in the whole book. Joe burned his hands in the forge to put food on the table for Pip. Joe’s back was hunched over so that there would be clothes on Pip’s back and a roof over his head. What Pip should have seen as marks of love, he saw as marks of shame and embarrassment.

And my dear friends in Christ, what Joe when through in his work as a blacksmith is nothing compared to what Jesus endured out of love for you. For here we read that he “carried our transgressions.” Be careful and stop when you read these old Latin words. What is a transgression? A transgression is where for our good and for our protection God draws a line in the sand. And we, in our selfishness, step over that line in rebellion. And so the Lord has told us not to lust, but we do. He has told us not to lie, but we do. He has told us not to hate, but we do. He has told us not to harbor envy in our hearts; but we do.

And because of these transgressions there is also iniquity. Again, my brothers and sisters in Christ, pause and ponder when you bump into these old Latin words. What is “iniquity?” Iniquity is a guilty verdict. We have rebelled against our Lord again and again just as Adam and Eve did so long ago. And the bitter irony in our lives is that Jesus endured our guilty verdict and we turn our backs on him. One would think that if someone would lay down his life for another the one still living would remember, respect and rejoice in the one who made that sacrifice. But our sin is shown in our lack of love toward God, our lack of worship of him, our lack of time learning about him in his word.

And so, let us go back to our question once again: Who would believe this message? Who would believe that Jesus is the Christ? We are annoyed by Jesus’ sad life. And we are embarrassed by his suffering death-even though it is the death and punishment we deserved. So what then is the answer to that question: who would believe this message? The answer to that question is: no one. None of us by nature believes what the bible says about Jesus. And we do not believe the truth of God’s word because we are born this way. We are born in sin. And as a result we are annoyed by Jesus’ sad life and embarrassed by his suffering death. And that’s why the words which come next are so important and so beautiful: 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is 53:5-6 NIV)

In these words we find two amazing miracles. First, Jesus knows the number and the depth of our sins. He knows sick and sinful our hearts are. And his arms and his side are pierced for us. He sees all our rebellions. And yet he is the one who is crushed in hell in our place. And because Jesus paid this price the sins of the entire world are forgiven. That is the first miracle. But the second miracle is just as amazing. Through the very message that we despise Jesus performs a miracle. As it says in the New Testament, “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17 NIV). Through this message that you hear preached about Jesus and through God’s word that you read at home Jesus performs a miracle. Through his word we see Jesus as he actually is-not through made up images on google. Through his word he gives us faith to know that because Jesus was punished, I am forgiven. Through God’s word he gives us faith to rejoice that because Jesus died and suffered in hell, I will never suffer in the hell that I deserve.

Who would believe it? What a great amazing joy it is to know that through the price paid on the cross my sins are forgiven and through the gift of God’s word I now believe it. Amen.

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Maundy Thursday

This is the sermon for Maundy Thursday. The sermon text is: 1 Corinthians 11:23-28. The sermon theme is: Why is this supper so serious? Here is the Written Sermon.

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." (1 Cor 11:26 HCSB)
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor 11:26 HCSB)

Why is this Supper so Serious?

What do you see when you’re sitting in the pew? Many of us here this evening have been receiving the Lord’s Supper for a long time. And because of this it might be difficult for us to remember what it was like when we didn’t. What was it like for you when you weren’t confirmed? I remember when I was young, like all the rest of the children while all the others went up for communion, I stayed. And I wondered what I was missing. And so, as the people finished what they were doing up there at the altar, I watched them. And there’s one thing that I always saw. I always saw such serious faces. And sometimes I almost saw sad faces. And even then I asked myself the question, what is it that makes this Supper so serious? As Paul writes to the Church in Corinth he lets them know all through these words I’m about to read that this supper is a serious supper. This supper is so serious, first of all because of the setting. Detail by detail Paul lets us know from these words that the Lord’s Supper is something serious. And so, Paul starts off by telling us: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor 11:23 NIV)

Notice what Paul is saying here. Word for word from Luke’s gospel, the very words that were handed down to him, he was handing down and entrusting to them. Look how careful Paul is. He hands this section of God’s word down to them word for word so that they would know that he wasn’t making these words up as he went along. So there is a careful sharing. But what else is so serious about this supper? Paul tells us: 23 The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (1 Cor 11:23-25 NIV)

This is a new covenant that Jesus is handing down to them. It is a covenant, and official contract, that promises to them that their sins are forgiven. And it is sealed in Jesus’ blood. That’s serious if you think about it. Today when we want to take on a serious contract what do we do? We sign a bunch of papers over and over again. But in the Old Testament they had a different way. They killed things. Covenants were considered official when an animal died and its blood spilled out. And the message was very clear: If I break this contract and covenant, may I be like that animal. Here Jesus says that as a result of signing this contract of forgiveness he died. That is a serious fact, isn’t it?

So, look at the setting. These words are serious because Paul Precisely and carefully hands them down. They are serious because this contract is signed in Jesus’ very own blood. But there’s another reason: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26 NIV)

Every time you come forward to this table you are preaching. You are preaching that Jesus had to die because of your sin. Here at this table you have to confront the God who took on humanity and bled and died because of your sin. This too is serious, isn’t it?

And so we see that this supper is a serious supper from the setting. But that leads us to the next question, why? Why is Paul so serious in his words and why is this supper so serious? These words are so serious so that they would show you how sincere Jesus is in them. Jesus wants you to know that he is not joking when he speaks about your sin. He wants you to know that he is not joking when he speaks about your forgiveness. He wants you to know that when he says “This is for you” in these words, he means it. Through this bread and wine and body and blood the forgiveness that Jesus died to obtain is given to you in this supper.

This supper is serious to show Jesus’ sincerity. And the result of that is clear. Because of Jesus’ sincerity, now we have complete security. A couple of days ago they discovered that a whole bunch of internet websites that were supposed to be secure weren’t. Hundreds of websites that have your passwords are now vulnerable to attack. We live in a world of doubt. And the worst sort of doubt is the doubt our sinful nature plagues us with. It is this sort of doubt where we doubt what God clearly promises. But here is where we begin to appreciate why this supper is such a serious supper. If we doubt that Paul both got the words right from the gospels and that he handed them down correctly, we find security in the fact that the very words Paul received he handed down. If we doubt that this holy supper actually gives to us the forgiveness of sins, we find security if the fact that there are no figures of speech here. In such clear words, what Jesus says, he means. In this supper there is real forgiveness really given. If we doubt that this forgiveness really comes to me, we find security in the fact that this covenant is not signed in ink. No, instead, it’s signed in the holy, precious blood of Jesus.

With such absolute security there in that supper is it any surprise to us that children yearn to have it when they are young and those on their death bed crave it? And yet it is the same gospel and the same forgiveness that is read to us from the lectern and preached to us from the pulpit. This supper is not a different gospel. It just comes to us in a different way. Instead of simply being heard, it is smelled, tasted and received.

What do you see in the faces of those who have received this supper? I remember years ago studying those faces of the people who were coming back to their pews and there was a lady whose face was different. Instead of the pondering looks the rest had, her face held a smile and beamed with joy-and rightly so. For if Jesus is so sincere in these words and if we now have security that our sins are forgiven, then how can we not amidst all the pain also have some joy?

So, tonight, when you receive Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine and the forgiveness that it delivers, what will your reaction be? Let it this supper be a serious supper. Let it be a serious supper because Jesus spoke these words in sincerity and with them gives you security. But also let it be a joyous supper. For the forgiveness signed in Jesus’ blood is ours and there will be a day when we will join Jesus in heaven at this supper. And on that day there will be no more doubts, fears or tears. Amen.

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