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Tag: Mary

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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Meeting Jesus

For those who haven’t been with us for a while, we are currently working our way through the life and ministry of Jesus – creating a bit of a timeline to help us see how all of the stories and events of Jesus’ life all fit together.

And so far, we’re really just begun. We looked first at the one event recorded for us in the Bible of Jesus childhood – that is, the time when his family visited Jerusalem for the passover and Jesus got separated from his parents for three days. Eventually they found him in the temple – sitting with the religious teachers – listening to them and asking questions – growing in his understanding of God and already beginning to carry out His Father’s will.

Then we hit the fast forward button and jumped ahead in time to when Jesus was an adult and was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Although Jesus certainly didn’t need to confess or repent of any sin, his baptism marked the first step in his journey to the cross where He would take all of our sin upon Himself and take our punishment once for all.

And then right after His baptism, we saw that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights. Of course, Jesus had complete victory over every temptation that Satan brought his way and he modelled for us how we too can have victory over the temptations that we face.

And that brings us now to the beginning stages of Jesus’ public ministry. Today we want to look at two “firsts” for Jesus. I had originally planned just to look at Jesus’ first miracle, but as I read through that, I realized we should probably back up and also look at Jesus’ first disciples as well – since they are a significant reason for why Jesus did this first miracle in the first place. So we’ll start with his first disciples in John chapter 1 and then we’ll move to chapter 2 to look at his first miracle. It is quite a lot of material to cover in one message so we are going to go through it all fairly quickly – but hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up on the major themes that run through these two passages and learn something important for our lives today.

Now as we mentioned back at Christmastime, the Gospel of John really doesn’t say much about Jesus’ birth or early life. Instead, John gives a brief summary of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish, and right after that, jumps into the narrative of John the Baptist. So in John’s Gospel we don’t actually meet Jesus until after Jesus had already been baptized and presumably after he had returned from his 40 days in the wilderness.

And before we start, I should mention that we will be talking about two different John’s today. There is John the Baptist (whom we’ve talked about already) – and then there is the Apostle John who would eventually write the Gospel that we’re reading from. I’ll try my best to clarify which John I’m talking about as go through it. I did a word count when I was finished this message and apparently I’ll be saying the word “John” about 75 times! So hopefully we won’t get too confused.

And so as the Apostle John begins his story of Jesus, we see John the Baptist preaching and baptizing – explaining to the people that He Himself was not the Messiah – but He was only preparing the way for the Messiah. 

And it’s at this point that Jesus happens to be walking by and John spots him from a distance. This is where we first meet Jesus in John’s Gospel – this is in John chapter 1 verse 29…

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

John 1:29-34

Even before Jesus performed any miracles or preached any sermons or taught any parables, John the baptist was boldly declaring that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There was no doubt in John’s mind that Jesus was the Chosen One of God – the Messiah that everyone had been waiting for. And so John was very enthusiastic and intentional about pointing people to Jesus.

And that’s actually one of the things that impresses me most about John the Baptist – he always pointed people to Jesus – both figuratively as he called the people to repent and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah – and now quite literally, as He points out Jesus in the crowd and declares that Jesus is the Chosen One of God. John’s focus is never on himself – he’s not trying to build up his own ministry or increase His own following – but He always very plainly points everyone to Jesus… 

Of course, at this time, John had huge crowds of people coming to see him and hear what he had to say. He himself had several disciples that were following him and learning from him. We even see many years later in the book of Acts that the believers in Ephesus were still preaching and practicing the baptism of John – and so John’s influence was quite far reaching!

But John was always very careful not to make it about himself – it was always about Jesus. In fact, John would later say in John 3:30…

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In His Father’s House

As many of you have probably noticed, I really enjoy preaching through Biblical biographies! I love preaching through the life stories of all the incredible characters found throughout the Scriptures. Over the years I’ve preached through the stories Joseph, Elisha, Samson, Nehemiah, Abraham, Samuel, King Saul, and so far, about 1/2 of the life of David.

But I realized something this last December. As I began preaching through the different characters of the Christmas story, I realized that I’ve never really preached through the life of Jesus!

Now of course, Jesus has been a key part of pretty much every sermon I’ve ever preached! After all, every part of the Bible points to the life of Jesus in some way, shape or form. He is the central figure of the Bible and it all relates back to Him.

But as far as chronologically working through the life of Jesus here on earth, that’s something that I’ve never really done!

And so – for these next few months between our seasons of Christmas and Easter – I want us to walk through the life of Jesus – from Christmas to Easter.

And I don’t intend to make this a detailed, comprehensive study on every aspect of Jesus’ life here on earth – perhaps one day we’ll do something like that – but this time around I just want to create a bit of a timeline for us – just a basic outline to see the flow and progression of the key events in Jesus’ life and ministry.

We certainly spend a lot of time studying his birth every Christmas… and his death and resurrection every Easter – but what about all of the other stuff that happens in the middle? I mean, we’ve got miracles & parables, training the 12 disciples, healing people, casting out demons, teaching and preaching…. But how does it all fit together? How exactly do we get from Christmas to Easter? So that’s what I want us to look at for the next few months.

Now of course, having just come out of the Christmas season, I think we’ve all had a sufficient refresher on the birth of Jesus, so I won’t go over all of that again. Instead, I want us to pick up the story a little later on in Jesus’ life  – when he is now 12 years old.

Not much is recorded about the life of Jesus prior to his full-time ministry – which he started when he was about 30. In fact, this event I want to look at today actually is the only recorded story in the Scriptures of Jesus’ childhood – outside of his birth. So that, in itself makes this a rather unique story.

It also includes the very first recorded words of Jesus. So I think this will be a key point for us to look at as we begin this overview of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Now just before we get into our passage today, I briefly want to fill in the timeline between Jesus’ birth and our story today. When we concluded our Christmas series with the wisemen and King Herod a couple weeks ago, we ended with Joseph taking his wife and new baby down to Egypt to escape from King Herod who had ordered his soldiers to kill all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem. Of course, being warned of this in a dream, Joseph took Mary & Jesus and fled to Egypt – where they stayed until Herod died – which happened probably less than a year later. After Herod died, an angel appeared to Joseph again and told him that it was safe to return to Israel. So Joseph took his family and left Egypt and they eventually made their way back to their hometown of Nazareth.

Now of course, Luke doesn’t include the story of the wisemen, King Herod, or the trip to Egypt in his Gospel  (only Matthew includes those details) – and so as we begin our story in Luke chapter 2 today, the flow of the story may lead us to assume that Mary & Joseph returned to Nazareth just a few weeks after Jesus’ birth. But actually Jesus could have been 3 years old or even older by the time they made it back to Nazareth – where Jesus would then grow up.

Of course, we’re not given those types of details in the Scriptures, so it’s probably not too important for us to calculate all the dates and numbers and put it all together in a neat little package. Those details don’t change purpose or the message of this story, but I did just want to mention those things briefly, just in case you had questions about that as we get into our passage today. 

So let’s start reading in Luke chapter 2 – starting at verse 39.

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The Worship of the Wisemen

Through the month of December, our Sunday morning messages revolved around the characters of the Christmas story. We looked first at Jesus himself, then his earthly father Joseph, then his very young mother Mary, and then finally last week we looked at the shepherds who were outside of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. Typically we tend to look at the events of Christmas more so than the characters, so I’ve appreciated the new perspective that we’ve gained as we’ve looked more in-depth at these different people.

Now my plan for today was to start leading us through a new series of messages that will take us right on through until Easter. Basically, I want us to walk through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection. However, I feel like we’ve kinda missed an important set of characters in the Christmas story. You’ve may have realized too, that we haven’t looked at the wisemen or King Herod.

And so today, I want to use the wisemen as a bridge between these two series of messages. They will be the final characters in the Christmas series, but also the first story in this new series as we begin to look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

After all, the wisemen really do serve as a transitional story between the baby Jesus and the young child Jesus. Despite what most nativity scenes depict, the wisemen most certainly did not gather around the manger to meet baby Jesus on the night he was born, but rather, they met Jesus at least days, weeks, or even months after his birth! But we’ll look at all that stuff as we go through our passage today.

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The Message for the Shepherds (And You!)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve noted how each of the different Gospels draw our attention to different characters within the Christmas story. For example, Matthew draws our attention to the wisemen and King Herod – whereas Luke draws our attention to the shepherds and the angels. Both Gospels are telling the same true story of Jesus’ birth, but they each draw your attention to different aspects of the story.

The same is true even concerning Jesus’ parents. We see that Matthew writes his story from the viewpoint of Joseph and Luke writes his story from the viewpoint of Mary. It’s the same story – but we see it play out from totally different perspectives.

And so for the last three weeks, we’ve approached the Christmas story from three different angles – we’ve read from three different Gospels which have focused on three different characters – Mary, Joseph, and of course, Jesus Himself.

We started by looking at Jesus as he is introduced in the Gospel of John. And John doesn’t spend much time talking about Jesus’ birth, per se, but he focuses on how Jesus existed before he was even born! He talks about how Jesus has existed eternally as the second person of the Godhead and how He is our Creator. What’s more, out of his great love for us, Jesus choose to become one of us, born as a human being, so that He might live a human life and one day die a human death in our place so that we could be saved from our sin. We don’t always focus on that aspect of the story at Christmas time, but that’s really what Christmas is about!

From there, we turned to the Gospel of Matthew who focused on the character of Joseph. We saw that, while Joseph was indeed a descendant of King David, he did not live a life of royalty. He was just a regular guy – working in the trades, doing his best to provide for his family. But what’s impressive about Joseph is His godly character! Even when he believed that his fiancé Mary had been unfaithful to him and had committed adultery – because she was now pregnant and Joseph knew that child wasn’t his – but even then, Joseph determined to do what was right and to act in a loving way towards Mary even when it seemed that she had been unloving to Him.

Furthermore, we were impressed by Joseph’s immediate and constant obedience to God. Every time God gave him some instructions – even ones that were pretty difficult follow –  Joseph did it immediately and without arguing or complaining or anything. All we see from Joseph was immediate obedience to God. What a great example for us!

And then last week, we looked at the Gospel of Luke to see things from Mary’s perspective! And Mary is another impressive character! Even though she would have been very young at the time – probably 13-16 years old – she displayed some incredible spiritual maturity when God revealed to her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. I’m sure Mary realized the negative social consequences of having a child out of wedlock and that having this baby now would completely change the course of her life – but like Joseph, all we see from Mary is immediate submission to the will of God.

Luke 1:38 sums it up well:

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38a

Mary’s willing submission to God was clear evidence that she knew the character of God – and if God was going to ask her to do this very difficult thing, then she could trust Him. Even though she didn’t fully understand what God was up to, she could trust that God was doing something good – because that’s just who God is.

Again, what a great example for each of us. As I said last week, it is no wonder that God chose this couple to raise His son Jesus.

And so that’s a brief summary of what we’ve been going through for these last few weeks. Now today, I want to continue looking at the different characters of the Christmas story – specially, I’d like us to look today at the shepherds.

Now the shepherds may not be ‘essential characters’ in the Christmas story – after all, Matthew, Mark, and John all leave them out of their Gospels entirely – but yet, Luke does include them – and their part of the story has been recorded for us in the pages of Scriptures, so there is obviously something important about them. There is something that God wants to communicate to us through the story of the shepherds, and so today we’re going to see if we can dig some of that out!

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Mary – Eagerly Submitting to the Will of God

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at some of the key characters of the Christmas story. And I’m not talking about Rudolph or Santa Claus – that’s a different story all together! I’m talking about the original Christmas story – the historic events that actually happened some 2000 years ago and are still packed with meaning and significant for us even today.

And I expect that most of us are familiar with the events of that first Christmas – how Jesus was born and laid in a manger – how the angels appeared to the shepherds and how the wisemen brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are all the traditional Christmas scenes that we sing about in our Christmas carols or we display in our nativity arrangements. 

And of course, if you’re not familiar with those events, I’d invite you to come to our Christmas Eve service this Friday as those events will be the focus of our Christmas celebration.

But for our Sunday morning messages as Christmas approaches, we’ve been taking a deeper look not at the events of Christmas, but rather at the characters of Christmas.

We started by looking at Jesus Himself. Who is this baby who was born and was laid in a manger? And what is so significant about that child that we continue to celebrate his birth even 2000 years later!? To find those answers, we looked in the Gospel of John and saw that Jesus was not just an ordinary baby, but was in fact, the second person of the Godhead – the eternally existing Creator of the world – now born as a human being. He truly is Emmanuel – which means God is with us. And what’s all the more amazing is that He came to be with us so that we could be with Him for eternity.

Then last week we took a closer look at Joseph. We don’t read a lot about Joseph’s life in the Bible – he kinda comes across as a minor player in the pages of Scripture, but as we saw last week, Joseph really was a spiritual giant – truly a model of righteous character and faith in God. He is perhaps one of the best examples for us to follow in how to be a godly father and husband.

Now today we want to look at a third major character in the Christmas story – and that of course, is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Like Joseph, she too, is a pretty amazing example of someone who displayed an absolute trust in God. When you consider all that she went through – especially considering how young she was at the time – her faith and obedience to God are truly remarkable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I mentioned last week, when Matthew writes his Gospel and records the birth of Jesus, he focuses almost exclusively on Joseph. He begins with Joseph’s family tree, he talks about Joseph’s dilemma when he discovers that Mary was pregnant before they were married, and he records the four different visits that Joseph had from the angel. But he really doesn’t say anything about Mary. 

In contrast to that, when Luke writes his Gospel, he hardly mentions Joseph at all. He focuses his attention primarily on Mary. And that’s why it’s so great that we have four different Gospels. Each Gospel tells the true story of Jesus, but they all tell it from a slightly different perspective. That really helps us get a well-rounded understanding of really happened.

And so now, having looked at Joseph through the eyes of Matthew last week, today we’re going to look at Mary through the eyes of Luke. So if you have your Bibles with you, you can turn with me to Luke chapter 1.

However, we’re not going to start at verse 1 because Luke doesn’t begin his Gospel with Mary – he actually begins with Mary’s relatives – specifically, a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time going through their story this morning, but let me just quickly summarize it for you so you know what’s going on when we get into Mary’s story. 

Zechariah and Elizabeth have been unable to have children and the Bible describes them now as “both being very old.” Obviously too old now, to have any expectation of still being able to have children.

But one day, an angel named Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby and that their baby would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Of course, every Israelite had been waiting for the coming of the Lord for quite some time now. In fact, for the last several hundred years, God had promised through the prophets had that he would send a Messiah – a descendant of King David who would save the Israelites and would rule Israel forever! 

So this was pretty huge news for Zechariah and Elizabeth – not only where they finally going to have the baby that they had always wanted, but their baby would prepare the way for the future King of Israel!

Oh and one more thing, their baby was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth – and his name was to be John – we would eventually come to know him as John the Baptist.

So with that as the backdrop, Luke begins to tell the story of Mary in Luke chapter 1, verse 26.

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