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Road to Jerusalem [Series]

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St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church, Brown’s Bay

“The Road to Jerusalem”

Lenten Series 2006

A Synopsis of the sermon on 05 March 2006 by the Rev J O Evans

[1] The Compelling Christ

Reading: Luke 9: 51-62

Text: “He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” [9:51]

Luke sets a major, critical section [Luke 9:51-21:38] of his Gospel narration of the life and ministry of Jesus in the motif of a journey. Within it are some of the most significant people, incidents, encounters, conversations and teaching of the Gospel. Some of us are old enough to remember studying parts of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in school. You remember how he drew his characters and their stories together in the setting of a journey – a medieval pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. The pilgrimage was a common means and sign of piety in the Middle Ages – to Compostela, to Rome, and, of course to the Holy Land. The practice continues today! There is the annual Islamic Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca; the pilgrimages for healing to Lourdes; and the Holy Land Tour! Thus, during these Lenten weeks I invite you share in a pilgrimage through this section of Luke’s Gospel, to join in the journey with Jesus and to experience again the incidents and the conversations on the road to Jerusalem that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection.

*1 The Resolution Jesus Showed:

# Now it begins – akin to the countdown before a space launch; “As the time approached” [51NIV], “when the time was come” [KJV], “as the days drew near” [GNB, RSV], “as the days . . . . . were running out” [JBP]. The phrase here compares to John’s use of “my hour”. The clock is ticking. The countdown is running inexorably to zero. The hour will strike. The shadow of the Cross looms larger, blacker, and darker.

# Jesus “steadfastly set his face” [KJV], “resolutely set out for” [NIV], “made up his mind and set out on his way” [GNB].  Resolution might be described as “fixedness of purpose, especially in the prospect of difficulty or danger”. Jesus steeled himself, his will, to this high purpose. It must have shown on his face – cf the prophetic word regarding the Lord’s Servant in Isaiah 50:7 about setting his face “like a flint” In the comparable passage in Mark 10:32, it says the disciples were amazed as they followed; they were afraid, that is, filled with foreboding and fear. Was it something they saw in his face?

# Here too, the destination is stated – Jesus set his face “to go to Jerusalem”. This is not merely an objective stated – like the pilgrim objective of Mecca, or Lourdes, or even the Holy Land. It is not so much a destination as a destiny, the fulfilling of God’s plan and purpose. Remember his saying, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work” [John 4:34]? Thus he is setting out on the way –to betrayal by Judas, to denial by Peter, to desertion by his followers, to injustice from the Jewish leaders and Pilate, to suffering on the cross, to bear our sins “in his own body on the tree” [1Peter 2:24]. It was all for us – “the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God” [1Peter 3:18]. Yet notice, it was not just a journey – it was a royal progress – he sent out messengers before him; His kingly claim!

*2   The  Rejection Jesus Found:

The mission was to the Samaritan villages. Notice how the response of the villagers is described: “the people would not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem” [53KJV, RSV], “”did not welcome him because he was heading for Jerusalem” [NIV]. See how the human will is involved. 

            See how

·         Prejudices are brought up

·         Rivalries are stirred up

·         Controversies are opened up

·         Minds/hearts/lives are closed up

·         Allegiances are drawn up

Then, as now, people seek the benign leader, the gracious teacher, the healing wonder-worker, perhaps even the nationalist martyr. What they do not want, and will not receive is the Jesus with the Cross engraved on his face, with all his claims to absolute Lordship, his challenge of the Kingdom, and his clear call to repentance, to faith and to discipleship.

            James and John respond by wanting to call down “fire from heaven” [54] on the village in judgement.  Note Jesus’ response in the KJV [omitted in other versions], “You do not know what manner of Spirit you are of” [55]. As Ivor Powell put it, “they were exceedingly good Bible students, but disappointing saints”!  They simply move on to another village to share the Good News.

#3 The Recognition Jesus Sought:

On the journey we are given insight into what following Jesus will involve. We have the encounter with the three would-be followers of Jesus. The Lord’s answers clearly spell out commitment required, as well as the cost to be faced and made.

  • The Impulsive Follower – “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go” [57]. How often we have been there. The instinctive, immediate, emotional response at an altar call, or an invitation to come forward for ministry can be overwhelming. We have all felt it - the Gospel can be profoundly moving. The Gospel is not about making decisions. It is about making disciples. Thus the first man needs a reality check – “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” [58]. Eagerness, enthusiasm and emotion need to face reality, no starry-eyed vision will suffice or outlast the perils and pitfalls of the way!   

“From prayer that asks that I may be

Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,

From fearing when I should aspire,

From faltering when I should climb higher,

From silken self, O Captain, free

Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,

From easy choices, weakenings,

[Not thus are spirits fortified,

Not this way went the Crucified]

From all that dims Thy Calvary

O Lamb of God, deliver me.”    [Amy Wilson Carmichael of Dhonavur]

 

  • The Diffident Follower – Here Jesus summons the man, “Follow me” [59]. The man’s response is “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” [60]. Remember the man’s is not lying dead at home even now. Otherwise why should the son not be at home fulfilling his duties rather than talking by the roadside? What he is saying is “when my father dies, I will follow you” – sometime in the future, possibly years off. What he needs is the sense of urgency the call of Jesus brings to our lives - the fierce urgency of now.

 

  • The Irresolute Follower – He says, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family” [61]. Here again the cultural differences between east and west are obscured by the English translation. The young man is not asking to be allowed to go home and say, “Cheerio, I’m off to follow Jesus!” He wants to go home and seek his parents’ permission to follow Jesus, probably knowing permission would be refused. The literal translation is “take leave of them at my house”, which formally a permission seeking and permission-granting or permission-withholding process. He needs a new sense of priority. Jesus’ claims supersede all other claims on loyalty and duty.

Conclusion: So the call to follow comes to us. Like the would-be followers is it “me first” [59, 61] or “first the Kingdom” [Matt 6:33].    

“Who answers Christ’s insistent call

              Must give himself, his life, his all.

              Without one backward look.

              Who sets his hand upon the plow

              And glances back with anxious brow,

              His calling hath mistook.

              Christ claims him wholly for his own;

              He must be Christ’s and Christ’s alone.”

St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church, Brown’s Bay

“The Road to Jerusalem”

Lenten Series 2006

A Synopsis of the sermon on 12 March 2006 by the Rev J O Evans

[2] The Warning Christ

Reading: Luke 10: 1 - 24

Text: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that

Were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would

have repented long ago.” [10:13 NIV]

Luke sets a major, critical section [Luke 9:51-21:38] of his Gospel narration of the life and ministry of Jesus in the motif of a journey. Within it are some of the most significant people, incidents, encounters, conversations and teaching of the Gospel. Some of us are old enough to remember studying parts of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in school. You remember how he drew his characters and their stories together in the setting of a journey – a medieval pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. The pilgrimage was a common means and sign of piety in the Middle Ages – to Compostela, to Rome, and, of course to the Holy Land. The practice continues today! There is the annual Islamic Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca; the pilgrimages for healing to Lourdes; and the Holy Land Tour! Thus, during these Lenten weeks I invite you share in a pilgrimage through this section of Luke’s Gospel, to join in the journey with Jesus and to experience again the incidents and the conversations on the road to Jerusalem that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection.

            On the road to Jerusalem Jesus teaches, trains, equips and prepares his own for mission and ministry in the world. With the Cross looming ever larger and darker on the horizon, he sends out the Seventy Two followers. Notice in the passage that the preparation, commissioning and the reporting back are marked by realism rather than romantic or idealized views of ministry and service. The Gospel, as well as its proclamation, ministry and experience, means celebration, joy and the offer of grace, but it also has its solemn component.

*1 Opportunities for the Gospel:

Jesus sends his followers out. He sends us out to do his Kingdom-tasks. As he sends them he says, “The harvest is plentiful . . .” [2]. Do we truly believe that? Do we believe it is out there waiting – now; not just in the phenomenal growth of the Church in the Third World, in Africa, in Asia or in South America, but in the opportunities in our own communities? How so?

  • There are HURTS: In the pain behind the behind the brittle smiles, and the cheerful denials, and the quick rebuttals. Often we are too busy to be listening properly, or else we are unwilling to take the time to draw them out –

# the stories of personal disasters

# the stories of personal disappointments

# the stories of personal disillusionments

# the stories of personal defeats

We live in the midst of a hurting society out there!

  • There are HUNGERS: All around us people have longings, desires, aspirations, hopes and dreams – for love, for acceptance, for understanding and for fulfilment.

We have them ourselves. You know that. Others have them too.

  • There are HASSLES: It’s all part of real life in the real world. People experience difficulties, denials and doubts. It’s part of the human condition. The Gospel speaks into that. We minister Christ and the Gospel into that world.

Notice what the message is: “the Kingdom of God has come near to you” [9 KJV]. God’s kingly reign is present in the ministry of Jesus, and in the Church in the world, and our being there in that situation in His Name! It brings the opportunity of grace. It brings the offer of the Gospel.

 

*2 Observations about the Gospel:

# Commenting on few are the workers, Jesus urges them to “Pray” [2] – a typically Lucan emphasis in his Gospel.

# See too, the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and lordship in the matters of mission and ministry – “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field” [2b]. He is the one who calls, equips, enables and sends.

# Most surprising is the realism of the commissioning – “Go! I am sending you out as lambs among wolves . . .” [3] It is no easy task, no walkover, no Sunday School picnic. It is a dangerous business.

# There is also the note of urgency – no purse, no bag, no sandals and no greeting on the way! [4]. The Lord will provide.  In other cultures greeting others on the way is an important facet of the common life, and it can take time. You do not say “hello” in passing and go on about your business because you are in a hurry! Here again the commission is flying in the face of accepted cultural practice.

# The Gospel brings its own delegated authority – “He who listens to you, listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” [16].

*3 Obstinacy to the Gospel:

“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” [13] They had been confronted with his kingly claims. They had personally seen the evidence of his mighty works, his miracles and the changed lives brought about by Jesus. Yet they did not believe, they did not repent.

Here we are brought face to face with the startling truth that people could be in the presence of Jesus, hear his words, see his deeds – and not believe in him! Jesus points out that brings judgement.

Why do people resist or reject the Gospel?  Often it is unbelief which in Gospel terms is an act of the will, turning away from Christ’s offer. Sometimes, simply, people do not wish to change their lifestyle – and in some case they know that is a radical challenge to them. For others still, it can be a misconception of Christians and of Christianity.

What is clear is that opportunities of grace always carry with them responsibility and accountability.

*4 Overjoyed at the Gospel:

See how they return to the Lord and give him their report and they are full of all the wonderful things they had been able to do [17]. He points them to the real focus of their joy – “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” [20].

Are we overwhelmed by this joy? Think of our blessings in the Gospel –

  • Our sins are forgiven in Christ. We are new creations” in Christ. He gives us a new beginning, a fresh start.
  • We have been reconciled to God  in Christ through his death once and for al upon the Cross.
  • We have been given a place among God’s people – we have a people to belong to, “we are family, we are one”.
  • We have the Holy Spirit within us – sanctifying us, transforming us, equipping us, enabling us to be the people of God in the world.
  • We have a Hope for the future, that strengthens us in the midst of the trials of today.

Briefly, in closing, notice our Lord’s joy [21] “full of joy through the Holy Spirit”, prays in thanksgiving to the Father, who has revealed these deep eternal things to “babes” [KJV], “little children” [NIV]; that is, to those who come in simplicity of faith and trust, in commitment with a genuine openness to God.   The section concludes with an emphasis on God’s sovereignty and grace in these things [22].

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it,  and to hear what you hear but did not hear it”

[23,24]. Truly we are blessed indeed, and ought to be filled with an inexpressible joy.

St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church, Brown’s Bay

“The Road to Jerusalem”

Lenten Series 2006

A Synopsis of the sermon on 19 March 2006 by the Rev J O Evans

[3] The Demanding Christ

Reading: Luke 14: 15-35

Text: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” [14:27 RSV]

Luke sets a major, critical section [Luke 9:51-21:38] of his Gospel narration of the life and ministry of Jesus in the motif of a journey. Within it are some of the most significant people, incidents, encounters, conversations and teaching of the Gospel. Some of us are old enough to remember studying parts of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in school. You remember how he drew his characters and their stories together in the setting of a journey – a medieval pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. The pilgrimage was a common means and sign of piety in the Middle Ages – to Compostela, to Rome, and, of course to the Holy Land. The practice continues today! There is the annual Islamic Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca; the pilgrimages for healing to Lourdes; and the Holy Land Tour! Thus, during these Lenten weeks I invite you share in a pilgrimage through this section of Luke’s Gospel, to join in the journey with Jesus and to experience again the incidents and the conversations on the road to Jerusalem that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection.

            As we continue on our own faith journey this Lenten season there are things we need to learn and appreciate about the Gospel. There are perceptions about the nature of the Gospel – and responses to it – we need to sharpen up and clarify amid all the confusion and blurring of our time.

*1 The Provision of the Gospel:

# Notice the Gospel is an offer – an invitation. It is the undeserved grace of God at work in the life and ministry of Jesus. We all like to get invitations – dinner invitations, birthday invitations, and wedding invitations. Even receiving the invitation can cause a little thrill of anticipation or excitement – and we haven’t even got there yet! And at least some people in the household will be asking, “What shall I wear?”

# See too, how the Gospel is described in the context of a banquet, a feast, even a wedding feast, - in a word; it’s a party! The emphasis is on gladness, joy and celebration. As followers of Jesus, as witnesses to the Gospel we are counted among the revellers. We are party-goers! Does church feel like that? Does our Christian life and experience reflect that?

Our words, our actions and our attitudes need to show such joy – rather than being soured and embittered. We might well sing the old children’s Sunday School song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart” – but does our face know anything about it?

# The marvellous thing about the Gospel is that all we have to do is receive the offer. All we have to do is accept the invitation. All we have to do it “Come” – come to the party! Not just in terms, of course, of that great, unique, initial coming to Christ – but to all the other offers and invitations he extends to us along the way – on our faith journey!

Yet, as we shall see in a moment, God’s party invitation can be refused. Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son? When the Son returned – the father held a party and there was great rejoicing. Yet the saddest thing was that even though the Father went out to the Elder Brother sulking in the yard, “he would not go in” [KJV], “he refused to go in” [NIV Luke 15:28]. 

*2 The Preferences to the Gospel:

 

Notice that the background to the parable [15-24] is the actual feast in the pharisee’s house [14:1], while the trigger is the pious statement of one of the guests [15], “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God”. He is probably speaking into an uncomfortable silence following Jesus’ somewhat uncomfortable and challenging words about vying for the best seats and whom they should really invite to their parties! He really means “People like us” – pious, respectable Jews. Do you recall Jesus’ words on another occasion about many coming from “from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside . . . .” [Matt 8:11f]. The figure is of the great end-time banquet. See, in the parable, that when the time comes to actually come to the feast, the invitation to which was probably long standing and had certainly already been accepted, they offer indifferent and insulting excuses.

  • “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it”. It was laughable. Everyone knew that such a purchaser would already have been over every square in of that property – was already familiar with every boundary marker, and every feature of it, every tree or well, al its previous history and harvest yield for generations. Needing to go and take good look at it? I don’t think so! Rather like buying a house in a North Shore suburb over the phone, sight unseen – and with the deal done, needing to go and see it! As the Tui adverts say, “Yeah, right!”
  • “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out”. This is a serious investment. This guest is wealthy to require five yoke of oxen. Again, he certainly would have checked them out before the deal was done. Cf “I’ve just bought and paid for 5 late model used vehicles, and I want to and see them!”
  • “I just got married, I can’t come”. It is down-right rude – not even the attempt to ask to be excused. It might also be a little crude – which really adds insult to injury. Even if it were true – he was just married – it wasn’t the same day, for no village could sustain two such celebrations at the same time!

People think they can accept the Gospel offer when they like, when they choose. There is the place of the Holy Spirit drawing people to Jesus. See how Jesus goes on to describe the host’s righteous anger. If the invited guests [Jewish leaders] won’t come, then invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” [21] – the outcasts of Jewish society; and because “there is still room” invite those from “the roads and country lanes” [29] – the gentiles.

*3 The Priority in the Gospel:

See in v23 the emphasis on the crowds following Jesus, demonstrating his popular appeal. Yet again see how he lays it on the line. He spells out what it means truly to be a disciple.  He does not call people to follow him under false pretences - no offer of “fulfilment” or “success”. 

# Complete Commitment – We cannot hold back, not even for family ties, or even personal aspirations, dreams, ambitions. “He cannot be my disciple” [26].

# Counting the Cost – This is clearly spelt out in the figure of bearing the cross, not so much in terms of life’s burden, trials or difficulties [As in “I suppose it’s a cross I must bear”]. It is about fundamental discipleship. It is about dying to one’s self. Remember Paul in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live . . .” In Palestine in Jesus’ day a man carrying a cross was going out to die! Remember Jesus to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” [Luke 9:23].  This is the point, too, of the pictures of the man building the tower and the king going to war. There is a realistic reviewing of the situation in advance, upon which a proper decision is made. There is no hyped-up emotional response.

# Determined Dedication – He is the demanding Christ, alright. “Any of you who does not give up all that he has cannot be my disciple” [33]. Yet we sing so glibly our songs of consecration and dedication – “All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely give”; “Take my life and let it, consecrated, Lord, to Thee”. Is it true? Do we mean it?

St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church, Brown’s Bay

“The Road to Jerusalem”

Lenten Series 2006

A Synopsis of the sermon on 02 April 2006 by the Rev J O Evans

[4] The Passing Christ

Reading: Luke 18: 31-43

Text: “But he cried out all the more. ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!” [18:39]

Luke sets a major, critical section [Luke 9:51-21:38] of his Gospel narration of the life and ministry of Jesus in the motif of a journey. Within it are some of the most significant people, incidents, encounters, conversations and teaching of the Gospel. Some of us are old enough to remember studying parts of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in school. You remember how he drew his characters and their stories together in the setting of a journey – a medieval pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. The pilgrimage was a common means and sign of piety in the Middle Ages – to Compostela, to Rome, and, of course to the Holy Land. The practice continues today! There is the annual Islamic Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca; the pilgrimages for healing to Lourdes; and the Holy Land Tour! Thus, during these Lenten weeks I invite you share in a pilgrimage through this section of Luke’s Gospel, to join in the journey with Jesus and to experience again the incidents and the conversations on the road to Jerusalem that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection.

            Jerusalem with its betrayal denial, suffering and death looms ever closer. On this last journey Jesus approaches Jericho. Once again an encounter, an incident and the conversation bring to the fore some very important features of the Gospel – the Good News from God. It is Good News about Jesus and about God’s kingly rule.

*1 The Mystery of the Gospel:  [31-34]

On the way, for the third time, Jesus seeks to confront the Twelve with what will happen in Jerusalem, with the reality of the Cross. His teaching on the Son of Man, the Messiah, flies in the face of all they have traditionally been taught, believed or looked for!

  • A rejected Son of Man
  • A crucified Messiah
  • A risen Saviour

The disciples “did not understand” [34], could not comprehend such a thing, could not grasp it or take it in. The great mystery of the Gospel is that he bears our sin “in his own body on the tree” [1Peter 2:24]. Or in Paul’s terms, “God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” [2Cor 5:21]. This what our forebears described as “the great exchange”. It is of grace – and received by faith.

*2 The Opportunity of the Gospel:

The blind beggar, Bartimaeus – so Mark 10:46 – could hear the buzz of activity as he sat by the roadside, and on asking what was going on, they told him “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by” [35]. Jesus had come. He was actually there – with all its possibilities and potential. It was his opportunity and he sought to grasp the moment.

You might remember Robin Williams in the movie, “Dead Poets’ Society”, when as a teacher in private school in the USA he is forever urging his students, “Carpe diem” – “Seize the day!”  In the New Testament the word would be “kairos” – a special moment, a special time or a special opportunity. I am sure we have all had such special spiritual moments – and there will doubtless be others to come in the goodness of God. Remember the word of Jesus a few weeks ago - “the kingdom of God has come very near to you” [10:9]. So it is for us –

  • In conversion, “decision”, salvation, new birth, beginning our faith journey
  • In some particular blessing
  • In a new experience of the Holy Spirit – filling, release or anointing
  • In an experience of recommitment or rededication to Jesus as Lord
  • In hearing and responding to God’s call to some particular piece of service

While Jesus by his Holy Spirit is here among us – as we believe he is – and while others are being blessed, what about us? “Saviour, while on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by!”

*3 The Urgency of the Gospel:

See how immediate is the blind man’s response to the news that Jesus was there. He shouted out loudly. He created a disturbance. He interrupted the religious gathering, the travelling Bible School. People on the fringe of the crowd were distracted. They couldn’t hear Jesus properly. They tried to hush him up. He refused to be hushed up. “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!” [39]. We seem to have lost all sense of urgency.

The blind man did not know it – although we know it – Jesus would not pass this way again.

He would enter and pass through Jericho. He was travelling to Jerusalem – to denial, to betrayal and to death on the cross. For Bartimaeus it was this place and this time; this moment and this opportunity.  For him it truly was “kairos” – an appointed time, an anointed time. So for us, we should not defer or set aside these unique spiritual moments of opportunity when they come to us – when the Kingdom seems near to us, the Saviour seems close to us and the Holy Spirit is drawing us. “Now is the accepted time”!

*4 The Mercy of the Gospel:

Notice his cry was, “Have mercy on me!”  The heart of the Gospel is grace not works; mercy not merit.  The Gospel proclaims that in Jesus we find –

  • Compassion for our needs and our hurts – “What do you want me to do for you?” asked Jesus. “Lord, let me receive my sight/Lord, I want to see” [41 NIV]. Are we blind and looking to see?
  • Forgiveness for our sins
  • Reconciliation for all our alienation and estrangement from God, all our condemnation and all our judgement
  • Deliverance from all our bondage – from whatever it is that has captured us, or even captivated us or holds us prisoner.

God’s love in Jesus reaches out to us whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever our situation – to touch, to heal, to restore, now.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill

Or were the skies of parchment made.

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade.

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky.”

*5 The Simplicity of the Gospel:

All that is needed is faith [42] – and even that faith is sourced in God, it is not “of ourselves”, it is “the gift of God”. It is not faith in faith. It is not faith something or in anything. It is faith in Jesus – as “the way, the truth and the life” [John 14:6].

Notice the outcome – “immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God” [43]. Immediately he was whole and well. Straight away he began following Jesus. That’s what it can be for us.

The result was praise – celebration of God’s goodness, love, truth and power by all the people round about. There is the joy that Jesus brings. What about us?


St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church, Brown’s Bay

“The Road to Jerusalem”

Lenten Series 2006

A Synopsis of the sermon on 09 April 2006 by the Rev J O Evans

[5] The Weeping Christ

Reading: Luke 19: 28-44

Text: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you,

             even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it

                  is hidden from your eyes.” [19:41f NIV]

Luke sets a major, critical section [Luke 9:51-21:38] of his Gospel narration of the life and ministry of Jesus in the motif of a journey. Within it are some of the most significant people, incidents, encounters, conversations and teaching of the Gospel. Some of us are old enough to remember studying parts of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in school. You remember how he drew his characters and their stories together in the setting of a journey – a medieval pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. The pilgrimage was a common means and sign of piety in the Middle Ages – to Compostela, to Rome, and, of course to the Holy Land. The practice continues today! There is the annual Islamic Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca; the pilgrimages for healing to Lourdes; and the Holy Land Tour! Thus, during these Lenten weeks I invite you share in a pilgrimage through this section of Luke’s Gospel, to join in the journey with Jesus and to experience again the incidents and the conversations on the road to Jerusalem that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection.

            Our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem is nearly accomplished. Approaching the city from the Mount of Olives there is the Triumphal Entry into the city on Palm Sunday – although, interestingly, Luke in his account makes no mention of palms. In human terms it was a key opportunity to rally the population behind him as a “popular” Messiah. Think of it in terms of a ticker-tape parade in Main Street, USA! Or, in New Testament terms, remember the sequel to the feeding of the five thousand in John’s Gospel, when “they [the crowd] would have taken him by force and made him king” [John 6:15]. Why then, now at the pinnacle of acclaim and opportunity do we find him weeping over the city?

*1 Institutionalism:

 Jerusalem was a byword for religion. The magnificent temple, the glorious ritual and the fine music – all seen at their very best during the great annual feasts, pilgrimages and festivals as the crowds thronged the city to bursting. Pilgrims from overseas would be awed and impressed. Do you remember in Mark’s account of the events of Holy Week he describes the occasion [13:1] when as they are leaving the temple precincts one of the disciples says, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” The country boys up from Galilee are amazed by the sights of the big city. Jesus’ answer is, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down”. For the religious establishment – the priests and the Pharisees – the institution was everything for it meant their power, position, influence and prestige. They had lost their true focus – and the whole thing had become hardened.

            Add into this mix the reality of nominalism in faith and we have a recipe for disaster.

Now, as then, nominalism means going through the motions; having the form without the reality. Paul talks about “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” [2Timothy 3:5 KJV]. Perhaps this was more common in an earlier generation than now, but it is still around. You know, “Don’t get too carried away”, “Keep a right perspective, and everything in its place”, “Don’t become fanatical!”.

Thus for Jerusalem then and for society now, too blind to see, too deaf to hear, and too prejudiced to perceive. Jesus claims were too threatening to their lives. It was al too radical and too demanding a commitment.

*2. Corruption:

We only need to hear the seven “woes” of Jesus in his condemnation of the Pharisees [Matthew 23] to realize how corrupt the whole system had become. Elsewhere [Mark7:11] Jesus says that rather than make provision for their parents, some say the money is “Corban” – that is, already dedicated to the Temple or to the Lord! Truly, ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked/corrupt”. It is so easy for us to deceive ourselves in spiritual things – to fudge the truth, even to twist the truth.

  • Sinfulness: Do we really believe in it any more? Our forebears spoke much – perhaps too much at times – of “the pleasures of sin”. Nowadays pleasure is an entitlement, and if others are hurt then too bad! The delights of a life of purity, simplicity and service to others are such fuffy-duddy virtues, are they not. Often they are the butt of ridicule and humour. We like to consider ourselves to be sophisticated, worldly wise, mature, come-of-age. In Bunyan’s terms, we much prefer the Vanity Fair of life.
  • Worldliness: Now, there’s another word we don’t hear too much of in these times. It is not simply regarding some particular pastime as wrong or sinful or comprising one’s Christian witness – like make up, the cinema, the theatre, dancing, while in some circles – as for alcohol!!! Rather, properly speaking, worldliness is adopting and following, even avidly pursuing the unregenerate society’s attitudes, perceptions and values – in terms of money and materialism [things/possessions]; in terms of personal prestige, power or success in life. All of which might be described as being described as a life dominated by I – me – my - mine!
  • The nett outcome of all this is that others are neglected or forgotten. Indeed, that God himself is excluded from the reckoning – “There is no God” or compare Romans 1:32.

*3. Rejection:

For all the cries of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday, on Good Friday the cry would be “Crucify!”, “Release Barabbas!” As he had predicted it would all end in rejection.

  • Of himself – of his person, of his ministry and his claim upon them.
  • Blindness – human beings actually prefer darkness to the light [John 3:19].
  • Unbelief – the opposite of believing – turning away from God and Jesus.
  • Opposition to his message, his ministry, himself – “you will not come to me that you might have life” [John 5:40].  Cf Ezekiel 2 “whether they hear or refuse to hear”.

*4. Condemnation:

For all of these reasons Jesus weeps – not only over the city of Jerusalem, but all our cities, even this very comfortable city! He still weeps –

  • For lost opportunity – Remember his words about “the Kingdom of God has come near you” – and all the occasions when the Holy Spirit has been drawing us to God – and al those kairos moments when God is near – when Jesus, so to speak, is “passing by”?
  • For lost repentance – which means to turn right around and to change the direction of our lives. We have been attracted. We have been drawn. But we have let it all slip away from us.
  • For lost Salvation – the new life in Christ of fullness, love, joy and peace we might have known. It was all so tantalizingly close – but!!
  • For lost eternity – There’s something else we don’t hear too much about; the lostness which is not just for now, but for ever.

John in his Prologue stated of Jesus, “He came to his own and his own did not receive him; but to as many as received him, who believed in his name, to them he gave the authority to become the children of God” [John 1:11f]. What about you? What about us?

Once more it is Palm Sunday. Once more the parade is passing by. Once more the King is among us and is presenting Himself.

# Now, truly, is “the acceptable time”.

# Now, the Holy Spirit is showing us Jesus, who he is, al he has done for us and all he offers to us,

# Now, we are invited all over again to come, to take, to drink, to receive – all so simple and so direct action words.

# Now, we can into eternal life and find compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, deliverance – in a world LIFE in all its fullness!

# Now, from the crucified and risen Christ there can be repentance, faith and commitment.

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