Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12
Key verse: Luk 24:11 “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)
“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)
“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)
I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.
An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:
Gal 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:
- Disempowered mainly,
- Dismissed if they had an opinion.
- Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.
But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.
And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.
The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.
The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.
The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.
It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”
And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.
Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.
People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.
But that is okay.
- Seeing the impossible.
- Believing the unlikely.
- Having hope for the hopeless.
- Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.
It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up
- That he appeared in locked rooms
- That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
- That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
- That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
- That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
- That he promised never to leave them
- That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given
Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:
Act 10:39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.
This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.
Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
And later he says:1Co 15:42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
What great news is this for us.
Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”
Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.
Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.
Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long – “he stinketh’.
Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!
Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-15; Matthew 1:18-25
CALLING PEOPLE NAMES
What were you called as a child? Yes I know you were named Larry, Peter or Susan.
But you must have had other names. Or called other people names. Children can be horrible. Ok forget the mean names. What about the nicknames?
I was called various names through my school years. They weren’t all nice, but some were a good description of me.
This passage from Matthew is really important when it come to names – and what people are called.
The angel makes it clear – speaking to Joseph about Mary:
Mat 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
That in itself would be enough. What a powerful name. Meaning “God saves”.
Hallelujah – what a Saviour – is what we sing at Easter.
Jesus – Joshua – is about Jesus and his mission.
But Matthew goes on. He is writing to Jewish readers and wants them to understand how Jesus fits in to the bible they had – and the prophets’ predictions
So he says: Mat 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:Mat 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Of course back in Isaiah’s time – they expected someone to come and help them.
But the prophecies often had multiple applications.
Jesus was the ultimate Immanuel.
This is Immanu – el in Hebrew.
El – is the word for God. Immanu – means with us.
You would have heard some of the other names for God in history.
Jesus – is what he would be named on his birth certificate. Immanu-el – is what they would call Jesus. A very powerful name. And “called” name. (You see it on forms today – the name you like to be called by)
GOD WITH US.
That description changes everything for us.
The rejection we face
GOD WITH US.
GOD WITH US.
Fighting around us
GOD WITH US.
Never to leave us or forsake us – is what he says.
The moment Jesus comes into that manger – in fact from his conception – GOD WITH US.
The world is never the same.
We went to two concerts last Christmas.
- The Bach Musica Concert in the City hall.
- And the Morning Melodies at the Bruce Mason.
In both concerts they were singing about IMMANUEL. God with us.
The City Hall concert included Puccini’s Mass – with the whole of the Nicene Creed sung.
These lines got my attention. This amazing bass-baritone was singing in Latin of course;
Passus et sepultus est; Et reurrexit tertia die.
Died and was buried; And rose again on the third day.
But this was the line that got me before those \wo. I thought – if only I could talk to him afterwards – and say, ‘do you know the one of whom you were singing?”
Because it says; ET HOMO FACTUS EST – AND BECAME A MAN.
All those people were hearing about Jesus -Immanuel – God with us.
And at the Mason theatre – we sang another Charles Wesley hymn:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel
Those hundreds of people were signing about Emmanuel.
I was praying – Lord – show them who you are in reality.
Now we know this already.
And we know Him as God with us.
Or at least we are discovering Him as God with us.
My prayer for you this Advent and Christmas season is that you discover fully what it means to know Him RIGHT IN THE CENTRE of your life – whether things are tough or easy sailing – may you know Him and his hope, peace, joy and love.
Reading: John 12:12-19
So – its Easter morning. You would have expected a service at sunrise. When you were small you might have had an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
You climb out of bed and go downstairs.
And you see a Christmas tree and Christmas presents, with Easter eggs hiding behind them.
You rub your eyes, scratch your head – and go back to bed thinking this is a dream.
Try again 10 minutes later – and yes, it’s true. Someone’s got Easter and Christmas muddled.
You wonder why. What does this mean? What are they trying to tell you?
That’s exactly what makes Jesus’ triumphal entry so interesting.
It was the spring – it was Passover time. There were things you did at Passover – remembering the rescue from slavery and the blood of the lamb on the doorpost which saved people from death – and you celebrate their rescue from bondage.
And Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and people are waving palms.
This is a mid-winter thing happening in the spring. Like Christmas and Easter together.
Although it’s the wrong time of the year, the symbols of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem go with Hanukkah– which John has already mentioned in 10.22. (Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter)
When Judas Maccabaeus defeated the pagan invaders and cleansed the Temple in 164 BC, his followers entered the city waving palm branches in celebration (1 Maccabees 13.51; 2 Maccabees 10.7). (Tom Wright)
We were talking about these extra books called the apocrypha just recently – a whole series of them you don’t find in the Protestant bible.
Here’s the passage from the second book of Maccabees chapter 10, reading from verse 7:
2Ma 10:7 Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 2Ma 10:8 They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.
After the temple was cleansed in 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus and his family became kings of Israel.
Jesus and his followers were combining Hanukkah and Passover – declaring that Jesus was the true King coming to claim his throne AND at the same time he would really set people free. He is the new Passover lamb as well – they just didn’t know it yet.
And the final sign that sealed the matter was the raising of Lazarus. He was set free from death!
That’s why the two verses before this passage and the last three verses of today’s passage are so important:
Joh 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, Joh 12:11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
Joh 12:17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Joh 12:18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. Joh 12:19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
The raising of Lazarus was the last sign and the hour had come. We talked about that last week.
Palm Sunday seals the destiny of Jesus.
People connected the dots because of the palms. Not just the Jewish community who would have remembered Hanukkah, but the Romans and Greeks would have all recognised the significance of the Palms as a sign of a victory parade.
Like a flag raising parade when the battle is won – it has huge significance. The enemy’s flag is lowered, and the conquering army’s flag is raised.
It’s a powerful provocative statement. And on a donkey – not a huge white horse. They would have remembered the prophecy in Zechariah 9:
Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Palm Sunday is the triumph of the love the God – yes.
But the means of victory – we know looking back the way of achieving victory would be painful to say the least.
FOCAL POINT TODAY
I’d like us to focus on one verse today:
Joh 12:17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.
Witnessing is a central part of discipleship – of following this amazing man called Jesus of Nazareth.
Giving testimony to what he has done.
Spreading the word.
- Have you testified this week?
- Given testimony?
- Have you been a witness?
V17 – they bore witness to Lazarus’ raising –
Do we talk about the resurrection?
It is the separating point between us and other religions– the dividing line – the ultimate sign of Jesus’ power and authority, his divinity, his supremacy – and of course it leads to his ascension when he is enthroned again on high.
It’s the greatest story worth telling.
Because it brings the greatest sense of hope.
Are we ready always to give a reason for the hope we have?
Our Mission in the newsletter these past weeks has been this; “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have”
Hope – in the face of the greatest enemy – death.
WE DO THIS IN WORSHIP EACH WEEK
- We wave Palms every week!
- We cry Hosanna!
- Worship is exactly that – celebrating King Jesus
– Celebrating the triumph of the cross
– Celebrating the power of the resurrection
– Celebrating the glory of the ascension.
– Celebrating the love of the Father
– Celebrating the promises that apply to us – our inheritance that will outlast all the other shiny things that fascinate us.
Peter puts it like this (we shared this in our call to worship today):
1Pe 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Palm Sunday takes us into this week called holy week.
I’ve asked today how we can make this a different week.
I don’t know how you’re going to do that.
But you can’t ignore the power of the events.
I hope that you take the time to remember at the various opportunities we have to remember what God has done for us to establish this inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
I pray that we can really discover for ourselves that he was and is the true king, the true rescuer, the bringer of true freedom.
As we watch his progression into Jerusalem, and on to meet his fate, we must ourselves be drawn into the action, and the passion, that awaits him.
And we must ourselves become part of the means by which his message goes out to the world. (Tom Wright)
The victory was won for us by a young man nearly 2000 years ago.
Our closing hymn captures the profound nature of this day.
1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.
2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!
3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.
4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.
5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!
Robin Mark has a song that helps us anticipate and appreciate what he has done as we close: