More Than Family

“More Than Family”

August 12, 2018*

By Pastor John Partridge

 

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33         John 6:35, 41-51       Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

Is your family close?

Do you love each other?

Is there anything that you wouldn’t do for your family?

For some families, there is no closer bond.  They will go anywhere and do anything to help one another.  There is no mistake, however grievous, that cannot be forgiven.  Of course, not every family is like that, but even among those that are, sometimes that family bond can be put to the test.  As we rejoin the story of King David this morning, God’s punishment for David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah has come upon him.  First, the child that he had with Bathsheba died.  But then, one of David’s other children, Absalom, determines to push David aside and become king for himself.  Over a span of years, he persuades many of David’s own advisors and military leaders over to his side and stages a coup.  David, and those loyal to him flee the city and Absalom sets up a tent on the roof of the palace, at the high point of the city, where everyone can see.  And in that tent, Absalom sleeps with all of David’s wives that couldn’t flee with him.  But as David fights to regain what was his, the bonds of family are stretched to the limit.  (2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33)

The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David’s son staged a coup, drove him out of his capitol city, moved into his home, slept with his wives, went to war with him, and attempted to kill him, and still, David’s love for his son is so great that he commands his troops to “be gentle” with Absalom and David weeps in great distress when he learns of Absalom’s death.  Though obviously, Absalom didn’t feel the same way, those are the bonds of family.  Despite the betrayal and the carnage, David still loved his son enough to care deeply about him and mourn his loss.

When things work the way that they should, the love, and the bonds of family are some of the strongest that we ever have for other human beings.  But in a story recorded for us in the Gospel of John (John 6:35, 41-51), Jesus begins to describe a bond that is even greater.

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Once again, the religious critics of Jesus disparage him because they knew him and knew his family.  To them it seemed obvious that Jesus couldn’t be anyone important and certainly couldn’t have “come down from heaven.”  But Jesus refutes their arguments by simply saying that no one can follow him unless God leads them to follow him and all those who follow Jesus will be raised up on the last day.  But more than that, Jesus says that he is the living bread and anyone who eats that bread will live forever and he promises that those that follow him will never go hungry or thirsty.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we already know that we are adopted, by God, into his family and are made brothers and sisters, legally co-heirs, with Jesus.  Legally, we become family.  But beyond that, Jesus says, God gives his family members eternal life and will care for their needs forever.  It’s worth noting that while this is not a huge change from Jewish theology, it was dramatically different than many of the other religions of Jesus’s day.  The gods of most other religions demanded obedience from their human worshippers, if they cared anything for them at all. The gods only cared about themselves and they had little or no concern for the welfare, past, present, or future, of their worshippers.  But the God of Israel cared.  And the change Jesus emphasizes is a major change from Jewish theology.  Jesus says that you don’t need to be a genetic descendant of Abraham.  If you follow Jesus, God will adopt you into his family, invite you to live with him, and will care for your needs forever.  That is a relationship that goes beyond the ordinary boundaries of family.

And in Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2, the Apostle Paul preaches that our relationship with God goes even farther.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The first thing that we see in this passage is how Paul describes our relationship with one another where he says that we are all “members of one body.”  Think about that.  What does it mean to belong to “one body?”  What Paul is describing, is a relationship that is closer than family.  It’s one thing to love your brother or your sister, but it’s an entirely different thing to say that your hand or your foot is important to you.  You might consider walking away from a relationship with one of your family members, but few, if any, would willingly cut off a hand.

Paul goes on to warn the church not to allow our anger to cause us to sin.  This takes us right back to the story of David and Absalom.  While David continued to love his son, no matter what insults and atrocities he committed, Absalom allowed some insult in the past, some hurt, to fester into anger, and he allowed that anger to cause him to rebel against his king, and sin against his father David.  But anger is just the beginning.  Paul has more to say about how we are to manage our relationships with one another.  Don’t steal, work, and work enough so that you have something extra to share with those in need.  Purify the words that come out of your mouth and don’t behave in ways that grieve the Holy Spirit.

Wait.  What?  How do I “grieve the Holy Spirit?”

Think of it this way, at the moment that you put your faith in Jesus Christ and follow him, the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you, right?  So, every minute of every day, everywhere that you go, the Spirit is there with you.  Just imagine God’s reaction to some of the places that you go.  Do you think that God is thrilled when he walks beside you into a strip bar, or to some of the R-rated movies that you’ve seen, or parties that you’ve attended?  Do you think that God’s spirit rejoiced when some of those words that you shouldn’t have said came out of your mouth anyway?  Of course not.  But you did them anyway.  And you took a holy and perfect God along with you.  And the Spirit of God grieved over the places that you went, the things that you did, and the words that you said.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, violence, slander, and every form of malice.  Be kind, and compassionate, forgive one another, and walk in the way of love.

These are not easy things.  They’re not.  They’re hard.  But in today’s story, we are Absalom.  We’re the ones who got mad, went our own way, behaved badly, betrayed our father, and hurt him more than we could ever imagine.  But despite all that we have done, God loves us anyway.  Our God is the god who genuinely cares about his people.  God loves us like family.  In fact, God loves us more than family.  God made each and every one of us and he wants us to be more than we are.  God wants us to be like Jesus.  God created us to be perfect and holy, and he wants us to be perfect and holy.  God wants us to care about each other more than family.  God wants us to care about each other as if our brothers and sisters were our own hands and feet, or kidneys or liver.  God wants us to be one body, that is pure, and holy, and works together for the kingdom of God.

So yes, doing all the things that we talked about today, doing all the things that Jesus, and Paul, and the other writers of scripture have taught us is hard.

But doing those things is how we get from where we are, to where God wants us to be.

We were created to be more than family.

Let’s act like it.

 

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Jealousy, Hate, Betrayal, and Faith

“Jealousy, Hate, Betrayal, and Faith”

August 13, 2017

By John Partridge*

 

Genesis 37:1-28                      Romans 10:5-15                                 Matthew 14:22-33

 

 

Have you ever been angry?

 

Of course you have.

 

But have you ever been so angry that your passions boiled over, smothered your good sense, and caused you to behave in ways that you shouldn’t have behaved and probably later regretted?

 

Most of us, at one time or another, have done things, or at least said things, in the heat of the moment that we knew we shouldn’t do or say and that we later regretted and for which we probably had to apologize.  Some of the things that we have done may well have permanently damaged relationships in such a way that no amount of apologizing will ever make it right or repair what we once had.  Our anger, our passions, our emotions, are all God given, but if we allow them to control us they can take us places that we never wanted to go.  This contrast between emotion and good sense is a major part of the story of Jacob, his sons, and especially, his son Joseph. (Genesis 37:1-28)


37:1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

 

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

 

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

 

Joseph was born to Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachael, who, for most of their marriage had been unable to have children while Jacob’s other wives, and their servants, had many children.  Rachael was obviously Jacob’s favorite, and so for this reason, and because she wasn’t having children, the others mocked her and made her life miserable.  And so when she finally got pregnant and had a son named Joseph, he became the favorite of Jacob’s eleven sons.  And his favoritism caused problems.

 

Because Jacob favored Joseph so much, and because he was the youngest child, his brothers were jealous of him and grew to hate him.  But when Joseph had a dream in which he saw his brothers and his entire family bow down to him, and when he shared that dream with his family, his father was annoyed with him, but his brothers just hated him even more.  And when they were far from home, and were given the chance to do away with Joseph forever, Joseph’s brothers allowed their emotions and their passions to overtake their good sense and they betrayed him, and betrayed their father, and they sold him into slavery and told their father that he was dead.

 

The power of this story is not just in the story of Joseph and how God walks with him; the power of this story also lies in the striking contrast that is drawn between Joseph and his brothers.  Although Joseph may well have been spoiled and deliberately rubbed his favored status in the face of his brothers, he is portrayed as the innocent, honest son, who is only being obedient to his father.  In this story, there is little that Joseph can do to change the course of events.  The emotions and the passions of his brothers overtake him, he is captured, stripped, thrown into an empty cistern and sold into slavery.  There is nothing that Joseph could do, his life has spun completely out of his control, and all that he had left… was faith.

 

This first part of Joseph’s story is remarkable because it sets up this enormous contrast between the powerful and the powerless.  Joseph, although the favorite, becomes completely powerless to change his own story and is at the mercy of his brothers, the slave traders, and later his Egyptian slave owners.  But what none of them can take away from Joseph… is his faith in God.  No matter what happens, Joseph remembers that God loves him, cares for him, and is ultimately in control of his life, as well as the lives of his family, his brothers, his powerful owners, and even in control over the life of the Pharaoh of Egypt.

 

In Romans 10:5-15, Paul also teaches by using contrasts.


Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

Paul says that living under the law is a life of always trying to do things in order to live by it and therefore, be declared righteous.  But being righteous by faith doesn’t require all the doing on our part because Jesus has already done all that needed to be done.  There is no need for us to climb up into heaven to find Jesus, or to descend into the depths of the sea, the depths of the earth, or into the depths of hell in order find Jesus because Jesus is always as near as the next spoken word, the next beat of your heart, or the next thought in your mind.  All that we need to do, is believe that Jesus is Lord and accept him in your heart, and we are given the righteousness of Jesus, and rescue from our sin, as a gift.

 

For that reason, one of the biggest contrasts of the ancient world was utterly erased.  Jews had always pointed at the Gentiles, the non-Jews, as a contrast to themselves.  The Gentiles lived differently, they did not keep the law, they were not circumcised, they did not live under the promise of God, and were not a part of God’s covenant with Israel.  For the Jews, there was no one else that they could describe as being more different.  But Paul says that there is now no difference between Jew and Gentile because all of us worship the same God and God chooses to bless everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who puts his faith in Jesus Christ and calls on his name in the hope of salvation and rescue.

 

Where we come from doesn’t matter.  What we look like doesn’t matter.  How we worship doesn’t matter.  What we eat doesn’t matter.  Our culture doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters… is our faith in Jesus Christ.

 

And with that in mind, we come to Matthew 14:22-33, where we remember the story about Jesus walking on the water.

 

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

First, we should remember from last weeks’ message, that Jesus was tired, and grieving the loss of his cousin and friend John the Baptist but because the crowd had followed him, he never had the chance to be alone.  This time, Jesus sends the boat ahead so that if the crowds follow, they’ll follow the boat and then he goes off, by himself, to be alone and pray.  When he is finished, his friends on the boat were a considerable distance ahead, as you might expect, but had not yet arrived at their destination as they might have, because they were forced to row the boat against the wind rather that sail.  For those of you who know sailing, this was long before the invention of the jib sail, which made sailing against the wind possible.

 

What I want to point out is this: Peter walks on water.  That is totally astounding.  Peter walks on water.  But when all is said and done, Jesus summarizes the story by asking Peter why he had so little faith.  The disciples’ obvious conclusion is that Jesus is God, but we are left with a single nagging question: What are we capable of doing, if we only had enough faith?

 

What are we capable of doing, if we only had enough faith?

 

The contrasts that we see between Joseph and his brothers are given to us in a deliberate way so that we understand the difference between the brother that has faith, and the ones whose faith is not mentioned.  Joseph’s life is totally out of control until all that he has left is faith.  But his brothers, whose faith is not considered, are selfish, jealous, angry, hurtful, and hateful.

 

Joseph’s faith is not just something that makes him stronger; it is the one thing that makes his life different.

 

Paul’s lesson is that faith is the thing that pushes aside our differences and draws us all closer together.

 

And Jesus’ message is that, with faith, we are capable as individuals, and as a community, of doing far more, through our faith in Jesus Christ, than we ever imagined was possible. But we are called, not only to have faith, but to share it with others.

 

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news

 

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

Seismic Sellouts

“Seismic Sellouts”

April 09, 2017

(Palm Sunday)

By John Partridge*

 

Matthew 21:1-11                   Matthew 26:14-25                 Matthew 27:11-26

 

 

Have you ever felt the earth move?

 

I’m not talking about when the love of your life kisses you for the first time.  I really mean, have you ever felt the earth shift?

 

On April 18, 1906 the city of San Francisco experienced the most devastating earthquake of its history.  A foreshock hit the city first and then 20 or 25 seconds later the full intensity of the main quake began.  The earth shook for over a full minute.  People said that you could see waves several feet high moving down the streets as the city heaved up and down.  In some places the earth was displaced as much as 28 feet and the Salinas River shifted to a new course and now the mouth of the river fed into the bay six miles from where it had previously.  With both gas mains and water mains sheared and shattered all over the city, fires raged out of control for weeks and in the end, 80 percent of the city was destroyed, at least 3000 people were killed, and 300, 000 people, 75 percent of its population, were left homeless.  The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 not only changed the course of history for the city and the people who lived there, it changed the course of history for all of California and the entire United States and beyond.  Everything from building codes, to the design of water mains and fire fighting equipment, to mining and drilling regulations, and even the planning of things like the interstate highway system, were all shaped, and continue to be influenced, by our understanding of this disaster.

 

The word “seismic” means “pertaining to, of the nature of, or caused by an earthquake or vibration of the earth, whether due to natural or artificial causes.”  Earthquakes are a big deal.  But other world events can be said to have a “seismic” impact as well.  Other events in the story of humanity can have world changing impact or set in motion a chain of events that redirect the course of history just as surely as the San Francisco earthquake changed the course of the Salinas River.

 

Our scripture readings for today describe one of those events.   We begin this morning by reading from Matthew 21:1-11 as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover with his disciples.


21:1 
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

Jesus and his disciples were not alone as they entered the city of Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover.  Thousands, even tens, or hundreds of thousands, of people came to the city for this celebration.  The historian Josephus recorded that the city would swell to many times its normal population during the festivities of Passover week.  And so, as Jesus entered the city, he rode on a donkey as a symbol of royalty and the people proclaimed him as the Son of David, or, as the king of Israel.

 

But only a day or two later, on the first day of the feast, the first tremors of the shockwave begin in Matthew 26:14-25.


14 
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

 

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

 

And so Judas, through the betrayal of his companion, teacher, and friend, sets in motion the beginning of a seismic sellout and betrayal of Jesus.  Skipping ahead a little to Matthew 27:11-66 and the trial of Jesus in front of Pilate, we read this:

 

27:11 Meanwhile, Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Only days earlier, the crowds in Jerusalem had proclaimed the arrival of Jesus as they would have the arrival of the king of Israel but now, after the betrayal of Judas and the manipulation and distortion of justice by the leaders of the church, Jesus is sold out and abandoned by many of the very people who would have proclaimed him king.  It is a sellout of epic proportions, a seismic sellout, if you will.  And that sellout leads to the single event that would change the course of human history more than any other.

 

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

At the moment of Jesus’ death, the earth itself is shaken, rocks split, tombs break open, the dead walk the earth, and the curtain that separates ordinary humans from the holiest of places in the temple is torn open from top to bottom.  Even the centurion on guard realizes that something supernatural is happening and proclaims that Jesus must have been the Son of God.

 

Far more than just and ordinary earthquake, the earth was shaken and the course of human history was changed forever.

 

But so what?

 

What does any of that mean for you and me?

 

Simply put, hear these words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11.

 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

Jesus was the Son of God, God in human flesh, and yet he did not wield his power over other humans in an effort to intimidate or subjugate, or to glorify himself.  Instead, he became a servant, even sacrificing his own life, so that all of humanity might be saved from sin and death.

 

We are encouraged, therefore, to remember this model in our relationships with others.  Rather than expending our efforts to glorify ourselves, we are called to use our time, energy, skills, strength, and talents to help others.

 

Looking out for number one might change your life, but looking out for everyone else will change the world.

 

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.