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Washed Clean

Last Sunday we read through the story of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. This was the day when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem much like a King arriving at his coronation day.  Crowds of people welcomed him with shouts of praise and celebration – waving palm branches and laying their coats on the ground before him. They were overjoyed to finally welcome their long awaited Messiah – the King of Israel.

And as the streets of Jerusalem were filled with celebration and praises to God, Jesus affirmed that their praises were absolutely appropriate for the arrival of the Messiah, even if the crowds did have a terribly mis-shapen understanding of what the Messiah had come to do! 

You see, most Isrealites were expecting the Messiah to come in as a political and military leader – much like King David or one of the judges of old – and they expect that he would liberate Israel from the oppression of the Romans. But as we talked about last week, they had no idea that God had much bigger plans than just defeating the Romans. God had plans to defeat sin and death once and for all. He had come to rescue all of mankind! Overthrowing the Romans wasn’t even on his radar!

The Kingdom of God – that Jesus was about to usher in – was going to look entirely different from what everyone was expecting. Even the disciples had completely missed the point of what Jesus had come to do. 

For example, Luke 22 tells us that at the Last Supper – on the night before Jesus was crucified – the disciples were still arguing about which one of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom! Even at that point, they still didn’t get it!

But of course, Jesus patiently endured their blindness – explaining to them time and time again that the kingdom of God was going be unlike any kingdom they’ve ever seen or experienced.

And we’re certainly going to see that our passage today.

Today we’re going to look at the events of the Last Supper – but not so much the elements that we’re most familiar with – that is, the breaking the bread and the sharing of the wine in remembrance of Jesus – signifying his broken body and spilled blood on the cross. Now of course, that will be a part of our message today, but for the bulk of the message this morning, I want to focus on what happens before that. 

While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the sharing of the wine and the bread – John’s Gospel doesn’t include those details at all (probably because his Gospel was written quite a bit later than the others and he didn’t feel the need to include information that was already well established by the other Gospels.) Instead, John begins by telling us what happened before that part of the meal.

And what Jesus does there is completely unexpected and it completely flips the disciples understanding of the kingdom of God on it head.

We’re reading this morning from John chapter 13 – starting at verse 1.

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The Misunderstood Messiah

If you come from a more traditional Christian background, you’ll likely know that next Sunday is Palm Sunday. That’s the Sunday that begins “Passion Week” or “Holy Week” as it is sometimes called – which of course is the week that leads up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. So traditionally, we would celebrate Palm Sunday next week and then Easter the week after that. However, I’m going to bump things up one week and talk about Palm Sunday today, leaving next Sunday to talk through the Last Supper – and then of course, we’ll go through the Easter story on Easter Sunday as usual. 

So hopefully, that doesn’t mess up your traditional expectations too much – but there is just so much going on in that final week of the life of Christ, that I thought it might be best to spread it out a little bit.

Now as we’ve been following the life of Christ, it’s been interesting to see how all the four different Gospels vary in what parts of Christ’s life they include. In fact, there are actually very few events in the life and ministry of Jesus that are recorded in all four Gospels – but Palm Sunday (or the Triumphant Entry – as it may be labeled in your Bibles) is one of the them.

And although this event is recorded in all four Gospels – there is still quite a variety in the details that are included in each Gospel.  And so today, instead of sticking with any one particular Gospel, I’m going to try to pull the details from each of them so that we can get a more complete picture of what’s going on here.

Now if you were with us last week, you’ll remember how Jesus had just raised Lazarus back to life after Lazarus had died from a severe sickness. Because of this amazing miracle, many people believed in Jesus! And I want to begin today by reading the very next verses that follow that story – because they really set things up for what is about to happen next. We actually ended with verse 45 last week in John chapter 11 – and so let’s begin with that same verse today.

45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 

46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.”

John 11:45-48

Now this is pretty significant. In these few verses, we begin to see just how concerned the leading priest and Pharisees had become about about Jesus. Their fear was that if all the people believed that Jesus was the Messiah, that would naturally lead to a revolt against Rome. You see, in their minds (and really, in the minds of all the Jews at that time) the Messiah was going to be a political and military leader much like King David or perhaps like some of the Judges of old – and he would free them from the oppression of the Romans – who had conquered them some time earlier! That was the image of the Messiah that they had formed in their minds from all the different Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah.

However, if Jesus were not the true Messiah (and the Pharisees were certain that He was not), then, when He would undoubtedly attempt to lead a revolt against Romans – it was sure to end in disaster! The Romans had no mercy on rebels – and the religious leaders feared that the Romans would make Jerusalem pay dearly for this Jesus-led insurrection that was sure to come – destroying both the temple and their nation!

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Lazarus – Hope in the Midst of Grief

This morning as we continue our journey from Christmas to Easter – following the life and ministry of Jesus – we now find ourselves much closer to Easter than we are to Christmas. Although we aren’t given a precise timeline in the Scriptures, all the of the events that we will look at from this point on are likely to have taken place within the final 2-3 weeks before Jesus’ death and resurrection.

That being said, there is still a lot of stuff that happens during those 2-3 weeks. In fact, if you read through the Gospel of John, pretty much the last half of the book all happens within those last two or three weeks. So that’s probably helpful for us to remember as we go through our story this morning.

This morning we’ll be reading primarily in John chapter 11 – so if you’d like to follow along in your Bible, you can turn there with me now.

John chapter 11 – starting at verse 1 – reads like this:

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

John 11:1-3

So here we are introduced to three significant characters in the life of Jesus – three siblings – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And we quickly see that these three seem to hold a special place in Jesus’ heart. Specifically, in verse 3, we read that the two sisters refer to Lazarus as “Jesus’ dear friend.”

This tells me that this plea for help is not like the many other pleas for help that came to Jesus on nearly a daily basis. These sisters are not random strangers that have sent word to Jesus, hoping for a miracle – kinda like what we saw a few weeks ago with Jairus or the bleeding woman. But rather, these are some of Jesus’ closest friends. In fact, as we read through the Gospels, more than once do we we see Jesus hanging out at their house for dinner parties and spending time with them. It seems that Jesus is actually pretty close with this family – they are some of his closest and dearest friends!

But now one of these friends, Lazarus, was sick. Very sick according to the message sent to Jesus in verse 3.

Now if you’ve been with us over these last several weeks as we’ve been following the life and ministry of Jesus, you’ll recall how Jesus always seems to have compassion on those in need. When the wine ran out at the wedding, Jesus turned water into wine. When the crowds who were listening to Jesus teach became hungry at the end of the day, Jesus multiplied bread and fish for them to eat. When Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying, Jesus immediately stopped what he was doing and went to heal her!

Jesus always seems to have compassion on those in need! And so if Jesus showed such great compassion on people he didn’t even know, certainly, he will have compassion on his dear friend Lazarus! So let’s read what he does!

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Our Good Shepherd

In our journey through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ – we now find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We made it through the birth and early childhood of Jesus some time ago, we saw his baptism by John and his subsequent temptation in the wilderness… We saw how Jesus began his earthly ministry by choosing 12 disciples and and inviting them to follow him. We’ve also seen Jesus do some amazing miracles like turning water to wine and feeding the 5000 and even healing a variety of people.

And of course, while Jesus is doing all of this, He’s constantly preaching and teaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God. As we’ve mentioned before, Jesus’ ministry wasn’t all about performing signs and wonders to amaze the crowds of people – but rather, His purpose was to communicate vital truths about God.

Sometimes he would do that through preaching – the sermon on the mount is a good example of that. Sometimes he would do that through telling parables – like that of the sower and the seed or the Good Samaritan. Or sometimes he would just use teachable moments – as he walked along and experienced life with his disciples, he’d often use everyday objects or events to teach about life in the kingdom of God.

And since teaching and preaching was such a key part of what Jesus did, I thought it would be important, as we journey through his life and ministry – to take a moment to sample some of his teachings!

And so that’s what I want to do today.

Of course, there are a whole variety of teachings that I could chose from to share with you this morning – the Gospel are full of examples of what Jesus taught and preached. But I’ve chosen the first part of John chapter 10 to go through this morning because I think it really is an excellent summary of the central message of Jesus. Even if we had no other record of anything else that Jesus said or taught – this passage would still give us a good, clear understanding of who Jesus is and what He came to do.

Now as we’re going to see, this passage isn’t really a sermon per se or even technically a parable. But it is very similar to a parable. The Gospel of John actually doesn’t include any parables (you’ll only find those in the other three Gospels), but John does include what he calls a paroimia. 

A paroimia is like a parable, but it’s less of a story (like the Good Samaritan for example) and more of a word picture. It’s almost like an object lesson – where Jesus uses a common, familiar item to explain something about Himself. It’s a figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, but it helps us understand more about who Jesus is and what He came to do.

But like His parables, these paroimias are always shrouded in a bit of mystery – it’s a bit of a riddle. And, like with his parables, many people simply did not understand what He was trying to say. And we’ll see that in our passage today.

But hopefully, as we take some time this morning to consider these paroimias in John chapter 10  – and as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and minds, and speaks to us through the Scriptures – I trust that we will be able to understand and apply what Jesus is communicating to us.

So John chapter 10, starting at verse 1. It begins like this:

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Just Have Faith

Back in January, we began our current message series – following the life and ministry of Jesus from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter. And since we are trying to condense all of this into a fairly short timeline – from Christmas to Easter – it’s been a challenge to decided exactly what parts of Jesus’ life and ministry to include in our study. A more in-depth look at the life of Christ could easily take several years worth of sermons to fully explore, but we’re trying to fit it all into a 4 month window. So what do we include and what to we leave out?

Well, so far, we’ve covered the early life of Jesus and the beginnings of his public ministry – and we’ll certainly give some significant attention to his final days as he journeys to the cross – but for this middle part, I’d like to just give us a sampling of what Jesus’ ministry typically looked like. 

Last week we touched on how crowds of people followed Jesus everywhere – and while Jesus often tried to get some time away by Himself to relax and reconnect with his Heavenly Father – none-the-less, He always seemed to have time to minister to people. He had incredible compassion for them and always provided for their needs! Sometimes in miraculous ways – such as feeding 5000 men and their families with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! But of course, more importantly than meeting their physical needs, Jesus came to address their real spiritual needs. He hadn’t come just to feed them fish and bread – but he had come to feed them the Bread of Life! He had come to offer Himself as the sacrifice for their sin so that they could have eternal life through faith in Him.

Of course, at this point, the crowds of people didn’t understand that – all they knew is that Jesus had incredible compassion and love for them – and that He had met their physical needs in an amazing way!

And so today, I want to look at a similar but slightly different aspect of Christ’s compassion for people and how he met their needs. This time not by providing food for the hungry, but this time by providing healing for the sick and the suffering.

And I do confess that today’s story will be slightly out of order on our timeline – we’re actually jumping back in time just a little bit before the feeding of the 5,000 – and so I probably should have switched these two sermons around and done this one first – but hopefully, you can make that adjustment in your notes and we won’t be too confused.

Our passage begins in Mark chapter 5 – and we’ll begin reading at verse 21. 

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Jesus Feeds 5000

The Bible records that Jesus did nearly 40 different miracles during his time on earth – but of those 40 different miracles, (with the exception of his resurrection) there is only one miracle that is recorded in each of the four Gospels. 

Now I found that to be pretty surprising! Of all those miracles that Jesus did – only one was so important and so significant that each of the Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – all decided that they need to include it in their Gospel.

And so, as we journey through the life and ministry of Jesus in our current message series, it seems only fitting to include this miracle as one of the milestones that we’ll stop and take a look at along the way.

Now before we get to today’s passage – I do want to point out roughly where we are on the timeline. Last week we saw that Jesus just starting out his public ministry – calling his disciples to follow him. Specifically we looked at how he called Peter and Levi, but by the time of today’s story, Jesus had called all 12 of his disciples and had commissioned them as his apostles. Over the next little while as they followed Jesus, Jesus began to teach them and to prepare them for ministry. This meant watching and listening to Jesus as he taught the crowds, cast out demons, and did miracles such as healing the sick and even raising the dead.  

Then after that initial period of learning from Jesus – Jesus sent them out on what we might consider a short-term mission trip. It seems that Jesus would agree with the old 4H moto – “Learn to do by doing!” And so the disciples were sent out two-by-by into the surrounding towns and villages to preach the Word of God – calling people to repent of their sins and turn to God. And as they preached, Jesus also gave them the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick as he had been doing.

And so, as we begin our passage today, we’re going to see that the disciples had just returned from their missionary tour and were ready to debrief with Jesus regarding everything they had just experienced.

Of course, while they had been gone, Jesus had continued his ministry of preaching and teaching, performing miracles and casting out demons – and so by now, Jesus could hardly go anywhere without huge crowds of people following him. And that’s about where our story today begins.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is recorded in all four Gospels, and I may jump back and forth a little bit to see some of the unique details in each Gospels, but I’ve chosen Mark’s Gospel as our main text today. So if you want to follow along, you can turn to Mark chapter 6 and we’re going to start at verse 30.

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