THE STORY – IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CROSS
by Pastor Mike Fortune
March 22, 2008
Introduction: BlueFish Video Ressurection
The story is all about...
- Knowing God
- Sincerely Serving Him
- From the foot of the cross
48The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" 49"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 52At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?" 54Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." 57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" 58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Point number one this week is The Story is all about knowing God. And according to Mark 1:24, the demons already knew that. After Jesus got baptized, called His first disciples, and then went to Capernaum for church, someone in the synagogue had a demon in him, which in itself is sort of interesting, and Jesus casts it out. But right before He did, this is what the demon said, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
And then in our passage today, the folks in Jerusalem respond to Jesus previous discussion about The Story being all about the truth setting you free from fear with nothing but fear and accusation. Verse 48 says, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" 49"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus" Apparently, Jesus didn't mind being called a Samaritan. Which in their minds was an inferior half breed Jew.
Today we have all kinds of derogatory names for people from different places. Some of you may even know them. Hopefully, none of you are forwarding them via email. But they were ways of insulting Jesus. Falsely accusing him. Making fun of his birth saying he was an illegitimate child. Because the Samaritans to them, were illegitimate Jews. But here's the cool thing. Jesus doesn't mind being identified with them. Even if they were illegitimate Jews. Shrouded in a painful past full of false accusations. Because He knows all about that. Notice Jesus doesn't say He's not a Samaritan. Even though He wasn't. He simply says He is not demon possessed.
In other words, there are some things not worth talking about. But there are some that are and one of those things is The Story of Jesus is true. You cannot dismiss it by calling him names. Verse 50 says, "I honor my Father and you dishonor me." But the story is all about knowing God. Point number one. Verse 55 says, "55Though you do not know him, I know him."
And throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, there are illustrations and examples of people who have known God. And been known by God. It can be done! Genesis 3 describes God joining Adam and Eve to walk in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden. He personally promises the childless patriarch Abraham that he will have a son in Genesis 18. God wrestles through the night to give Jacob a blessing in Genesis 32. We already talked about how Jesus in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night led the children of Israel out of slavery and into the promised land according to 1 Corinthians 10. He wakes up Moses from death and takes him to heaven early according to Jude 9. He hand delivers the battle plan to Joshua prior to Jericho in Joshua 5. He literally takes the heat with three Hebrew boys in a fiery furnace in Daniel 3. He provides the best wine for the worst wedding reception in John 2. After talking all day, He stays up even later to talk to one Pharisee in John 3. He waits at a well to offer living water to an outcast Samaritan woman in John 4. He says "Way to go!!!" to a self conscious widow for giving 2 pennies in church in Mark 12. He goes out of His way to make Sabbath a day of miracles for people far from God. Like that paralytic in John 5. He is the crazy but good shepherd who leaves 99 of His precious sheep alone unprotected on the hillside to go and search for the one that wandered away in Matthew 18. He makes a long journey to relieve the anxious heart of a Canaanite mother in Mark 7. He dries a widow's eyes before turning her mourning into joy in Luke 7. He makes a house call to a tax collector in Luke 19. He hangs out with lepers no questions asked in Luke 17. He interrupts his dying on the cross to provide care and a home for His widowed mother in John 19. He delays the entire resurrection on Sunday morning to comfort one weeping woman in John 20. He shortens His visit with His Heavenly Father to encourage broken hearted Peter in Luke 24. He serves breakfast to the rest of the disciples in John 21.
The story of Jesus from beginning to end is that He wants to be personally known. And the story of John from beginning to end is that we can know Him. Even though we don't see Him face to face. Why? Because John 20:29-31 says, "29Then Jesus told Thomas, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' 30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." Do you believe we can know Him? More importantly, do you know Him?
I hope so! Because after 3 ½ years of sermons and teaching, Jesus boiled his ministry and eternal life down to these few words in John 17:3. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know God" This is not just the story of Easter or of the Gospel of John. It is THE STORY from beginning to end of the Bible. Which is why Paul says it this way in Philippians 3:8. "8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
Tell me the story of Jesus!!! We sing, "More, more about Jesus!!!" So why is it that the demons know it better than we do? Let's never forget point number one this week: The Story is all about knowing God. And point number two, sincerely serving Him. Let's back up to verse 50. “50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.'" Skip ahead to the 2 nd part of verse 55, "55If I said I did not [know Him], I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word."
Jesus was right. He did know His Father. And He did keep His word. The Bible says He did so perfectly in fact. The prophet Isaiah predicted that would be the case hundreds of years before Christ was even born. Isaiah 53:5 says, "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities." Verse 12 adds, "He poured out his life unto death and numbered with the transgressors. He bore the sin of many and made intercession for them." And here's the thing: He's the only One who ever did. Romans 5:18-19 says, "18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."
Through the obedience of how many men will the many be made righteous? Just one! And that man is Jesus! That's why Romans 3:23 says all the rest of us continue to fall short of the glory of God. My New Testament Greek teacher in seminary said that verse is identified grammatically as "present continuous." Which means we fall short and will continue to fall short of the glory of God. Which is important to note because people who preach and teach about grace are often falsely accused of not caring about obedience or the law or overcoming. Which is why I've quoted 1 Timothy 1:8 over and over. "That the law is good—if we use it properly."
It's not that we don't care about the law, it's just that none of us will ever be saved by keeping it. According to Romans 3 and 5 only one man perfectly obeyed and that is Jesus. Therefore, when the Bible talks about obedience, the only thing it can be referring to is us sincerely doing so. Till the day you die. Or see Him face to face. But that's not good enough for some folks in our church. Many of our evangelists continue to teach and preach there will be a final generation of perfectly obedient people. And until that happens, Christ can't come. So as compassionately, but as clearly as I can say it, this is bad theology. It is simply not what the Bible says. And it is not what Jesus means in John 8:51 and 55.
We know this is true because if any of us could perfectly obey the law, now or in the end of time, Christ wouldn't have had to die! And nobody around the world would be celebrating Easter and the Resurrection. It was because we couldn't that He did. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "By beholding we become changed." We can become more obedient by beholding the only One who ever perfectly obeyed. And as a result, sincerely serve Him till the day we die or we see Him face to face. But both His eternal life and His abundant life must be received as gifts of His grace. That's what The Story is all about. We remember the first point. That it’s about knowing God. But we forget the second. That it's about sincerely serving Him. Which is the same mistake the disciples made in their lives. Even after spending 3 ½ years with Jesus, they had yet to learn to sincerely serve Him.
I don't know how I missed this before. Maybe you did too. But it becomes obvious to the reader of John that Jesus washed the disciple's feet not before but during or after the meal. Turn with me to John 13 if you could please. Verse 2 reads, "2The evening meal was [already] being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus." They were in the middle to end of the meal when verse 4 says, "4So He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." And then verse 12 says, "12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. 'Do you understand what I have done for you?'"
In washing the disciples' feet, Jesus was not simply conforming to some necessary custom that washed the camel dung and dirt from their toes. That was part of it. And why it historically happened the minute you walked through the door. Usually by a Gentile slave boy or girl. Which could be why for years it has come first in our church. But in John 13, when Jesus washed the disciples feet, it actually happens in the middle to end of the meal. Only after it became painfully obvious that none of the disciples were gonna do it. None of them were gonna sincerely serve each other or Him.
Maybe they would have if they knew that within 24 hours, Jesus would be nailed to the cross. Verse 1 says, "1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." Which is a poor translation because it messes up the real meaning. The Greek word for "end" is telos meaning "perfectly, wholly, completely." Literally, it says "He loved them to the end." Which means, in the context of verse 1, that Jesus is saying, "I love you so much that you can count on Me to do anything for you. Even after you continually fail to do the simplest thing for Me." In short, "I'll not only serve you to the end, if necessary, I'll die for you." And then 24 hours later, He did!
When we wash another's feet after the communion meal, as Jesus actually did, as we're going to do today, we're saying to that person, who represents all of humanity, whether they know God or not, that they are precious to Jesus. That they are your brother or sister in Christ. As imperfect as you are, you're saying to them that in spite of your flaws and all, one thing they can count on is this: "I will be here for you. I will sincerely serve you. You may let me down, but I am promising you here today, by God's grace, it is my intention to never let you down. I am wiling to humbly serve you in any way I can." But it's more than that. If you participate for the right reason, you're also saying as Jesus did that "If necessary, I am even willing to die for you."
If we really understood foot washing, people would be flocking to take part in it. And there wouldn’t anybody joking around during it. It’s one of the most powerful and significant things you can share with another brother or sister in Christ. It’s truth in love in a lived out parable.
Verse 12 makes it obvious to me that there is more than lessons in cultural custom and humility going on here. He was showing them how to sincerely serve Him too. And when He was done, He asked them in verse 12, "'Do you understand what I have done for you?'" Sadly, they really didn't. But were learning to. And today we are too. Because the story is all about knowing God. And sincerely serving Him. Till the day we die. Or see Him face to face.
And by faith, that’s what I think Abraham saw. We'll close with these verses 56-58 which say, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." 57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" 58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing Jesus. And Jesus says He actually saw it. And was glad. How did that happen? The Bible doesn’t say. But that's what Jesus says. I think it could have something to do with what Abraham experienced for himself in Genesis 22. So let's go there to see if we can see some clues to the cross..
Genesis 22 tells the story of Abraham and Isaac. We don’t have time to go into all the details. Long story short: God had promised Abraham that Isaac would be born. And through him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. While Abraham believed the story being told, He too had a hard time perfectly obeying God. But by faith he sincerely served Him. And on a mountain top Abraham learned through the events that happened next what would happen to another son.
Look at all these clues to the cross in Genesis 22. Verse 2 says, “Take your son. Your only Son.” Jesus was the only begotten Son of God. Verse 3 says go early in the morning. Jesus was wrongfully tried and paraded through the streets early in the morning before being nailed to the cross at 9am or the 3 rd hour according to Mark 15:25. Verse 4 says on the third day, they saw where they were going. And it is on the third day that Jesus was resurrected and is why according to 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 our faith in Him is not useless. In verse 6, the son carries the wood to the place of sacrifice. And Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha. Verse 7 says the fire and wood were there but no lamb. And verse 8 says God will provide the Lamb. John the Baptist wasn’t the only who recognized that Jesus was the Lamb of God slain before the Creation of the world. God did indeed provide the Lamb. Isaac voluntarily chose to die. Should his father deem it necessary. And Jesus voluntarily laid down his life. No one took it from him. When he shouted it is finished, He did so in a megaphone voice. Not because he couldn’t go on. But because chose to lay down his life. Long before Abraham heard the voice of the Lord say not to harm Isaac and replied, Here I am in verse 11, Jesus told John and everyone else in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was born, I am!”
John 8:56 says, “Your Father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day. He saw it. And was glad!” Why? Because he saw it play out in the very life of his own son Isaac. God gave Abraham a living parable to explain to him how crucial the cross would be. Everything comes back to the cross. Because the cross shows us the evil that is really in the hearts of even the most orthodox church members. The cross shows us the depths of love that is really in the heart of God. That He would rather die than spend eternity without any one of us. Flaws and all. And the cross shows us the joy that is ours in Christ. No wonder the writer of Hebrews encourages us to “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The story is all about knowing that kind of God. And sincerely serving Him from the foot of the cross. Which is point number three. The comparisons between Genesis 22 and the events of the day Jesus died make it obvious to me that it was the day Abraham saw and rejoiced and was glad about. And it’s because of that story, that we can rejoice as well. You don’t even have to be Christian to see that. Mahatma Gandhi made the comment that of all truths of the Christian faith, the one that stood supreme to him was the cross of Christ. He conceded that it alone was without parallel.
But let’s be clear, it wasn’t the Jews who crucified Christ. It was our sins that nailed him to the cross. It was ours sins that kept him there. One of the shortest letters written to an editor was by G.K. Chesterton. It read, "Dear Sir: In response to you article, 'What's wrong with the world,'—I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton."
We are what is wrong with the world. But Jesus came to die for it anyway. And because He died and was raised from dead, we live too. Sincerely and abundantly until the day He returns. Are you looking forward to that joyful day? I am!
As we participate in the Lord’s Supper right now, I invite you to think about this story being told. And afterward I invite each of you wash another’s feet. As Jesus did. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to here for each other. And humbly serve each other. If necessary, even die for each other. Because He first loved us. That’s the story being told.