"THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE"

 

Text - JOHN 11:1--44

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR RESURRECTION AND OUR LIFE - OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS THE CHRIST.

On the day our text took place, Jesus spoke the most powerful and comforting words ever heard by human ears – “I am The Resurrection and The Life”.  And the way He said those powerful words and the situation in which He said them enabled people to understand Who Jesus is and what power He possesses – as never before.

The month before Jesus spoke those words, He and His disciples were in Jerusalem where the opposition toward Jesus was growing steadily more violent. Each day, they crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the Temple where His opponents were at their strongest.  Each evening, they went back across the Kidron Valley and climbed the Mount of Olives to stay at the home of His beloved friends — Mary, Martha, and Lazarus - in Bethany of Judea.  Staying in their home — so close to the Holy City — did little to calm the growing fear the disciples had for Jesus.

They were so happy when - after yet another attempt on His life - Jesus led them back across the wilderness, past ancient Jericho, and across the Jordan River to the far safer confines of Bethany of Perea.  

 

Then the sisters sent a messenger to tell Jesus, “Lord, Your close friend is sick” 

  

“THE GOSPEL IN A NUTSHELL…

…BUT THERE’S MUCH MORE”

 

Text — JOHN 3:1—21

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

In our Gospel text, as we first see him coming to Jesus, Nicodemus’ life was built on a Pharisaic faith rooted in God’s Law and the Pharisee’s perceived ability to totally show his love of God by fulfilling perfectly every requirement of his interpretation of God’s Law.

Despite his Pharisaic lifestyle, it seemed a pretty hopeless world to Nicodemus. The highest ranking religious and secular Judean authority was Caiaphas — the high priest who, through agreement with Rome, presided over the temple and Sanhedrin.  His political party, whose majority members controlled the temple and Sanhedrin, was the Sadducees — a party composed of priests who rejected all belief in an eternal relationship with God – unbelievers governing the faithful.     

The Judean people were as secular as their church and government.  During religious festivals, the number of people in Jerusalem more than tripled as the people flocked into the holy city for the religious celebrations – kind of like Christmas-and-Easter Christians.  Synagogue attendance was down though most people expressed inactive belief in God.  The faith and moral climate of the nation was totally secular.

Nicodemus, on the other hand, used every moment he could studying the Scriptures and seeking enlightenment from the rabbis he knew. Then Nicodemus heard Jesus Who taught with Authority, Enlightenment, and Wisdom that went far beyond the teachings of all the Pharisaic rabbis Nicodemus had met with.  

Late at night, when no one was around to see him, Nicodemus went to see Jesus privately.  Wasting not a moment of his private audience, he went right to the heart of his concern - “How can I totally and completely love God and show God that love by fulfilling perfectly every requirement of God’s Law and, thereby, earn an eternal relationship with God?  It seems such an impossible task. How can I do it?”

 

 

Text -- JOHN 4:5--26

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

 

 

In areas outside cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, each morning before the sun has much chance to bake the earth and each evening as the sun begins to set, the women come to the village well to get the family’s supply of water and to take part in their most basic daily social event.  

 

Jesus left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria - a land Judeans only pass through in the summer when the wilderness on the alternate route to the Galilee is too hot to enter. And there Jesus came to Jacob's well near Sychar,

Here we see Jesus as a Judean Man walking through a land where everyone hates Judeans and where Judeans hate everyone living there. Jesus is sitting by a village well which bore an invisible but undeniable sign proclaiming "For Samaritans Only".

 

Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour -- a good five or six hours after the women had their sunrise gathering at the well and an even longer time span it had taken Jesus and His disciples to walk from Jerusalem to Sychar in Samaria.

 

"Amazing Grace, 

how sweet the sound,

that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

was blind, but now I see."

Text -- JOHN 9:1--41

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

         

On a Sabbath morning in October of 29 A.D.  Jesus and His disciples  came to the Temple to celebrate the Judeans' most joyous and hope-filled festival -- the Succoth Festival.

Each of the eight Succoth mornings, as the people rose from their few hours of sleep in their succoth tents, they gathered west of the Mount of Olives to watch the sun rise -- something like our own Easter sunrise services. As the sun rose, the sound of the shofar horn echoed from the temple and the people shouted, "We once worshiped the sun.  Now we look to God for all things."  The people celebrated the Life and the Enlightenment only God Himself can and does give.

          

Beneath the huge steps leading into the Temple complex, Jesus and His disciples were greeted by a sight which contrasted dramatically with the spirit of joy and hope so evident in the Succoth celebration of Life and Enlightenment. They saw a man blind from birth.

“Tested For Us”

 

Text - MATTHEW 4:1--11

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS THE CHRIST.

There it was -  the serpent or the kind appearing old man - in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus ... in the crowd as Jesus moved through the streets of Jerusalem to the cross ... while He was on the cross.   The creature with the face a mingling of evil and false compassion that said "I feel your pain.  I know what you are going through and what lies ahead. I can help if you'll only follow where I lead." Trying to tempt Jesus to stray from His path to the cross and venomously striking at His heel when He would not alter His course.

We've seen this tempter before - slithering into Paradise to tempt our first ancestors.  "What a wonderful and bountiful place God has given you!  You must love it, oh, how you must love it - but I feel there may be a feeling that there could be even more - something you're missing. Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"  

Eve took the bait from her false friend expressing such concern for her needs.  Eve used God's Own words to defend God, but, as she did, she tried to improve on God's Word.  The tempter nodded at her addition to God's Word - "Eve, if you can improve on God's Word by adding to it, perhaps there are some flaws in what He did say.  Eve, you will not surely die if you eat the forbidden fruit, as God says you will.   In fact, God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.  Come on, you and Adam, take a bite."

We know how the tempter rejoiced when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and brought sin, separation from God, guilt, fatigue, illness, and death into paradise – things from which only God Himself can save us. 

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