April 14th, 2019 – Palm Sunday
“The King’s Coronation”
Aux. Text: Philippians 2:5-11
Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 118
Service Orientation: Was Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem a foreshadowing of His ascension to the Throne as King of the Universe, or a prelude to the rejection, pain and heartbreak He would suffer as a sacrifice on the cross? Yes!
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. — Luke 9:23
- This final week is so important that the Gospels give a disproportionate amount of space to it. Jesus lived thirty-three years. His active ministry occupied three years. But large portions of the gospels are given over to the events of just the last eight days. Matthew devotes one-fourth of his Gospel to it (chaps. 21-28). Mark uses one-third of his Gospel (chaps. 11-16). Luke gives a fifth of his chapters to the events of this last week (chaps. 19:28-24). Most remarkable of all, John gives half of his Gospel (chaps. 12-21). Taken together, there are eighty-nine chapters in the Gospels, but twenty-nine and a half of these (exactly one-third) recount what happened between the triumphal entry and Jesus’ resurrection. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 434)
- It was not uncommon for a king to ride on a donkey; the key is when a king would ride on a donkey. If a king was going to war, he would ride on a warhorse as a picture of power. When he was not at war, the king would ride on a donkey as a picture of peace. The fact that Jesus came riding on a donkey speaks to His mission as the One who came to make it possible for us to have peace with God. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 279)
- The crowd received Jesus like a king. They spread their cloaks in front of him. That is what his friends had done when Jehu was proclaimed king (2 Kgs 9:13). They cut down and waved the palm branches. That is what they did when Simon Maccabaeus entered Jerusalem after one of his most notable victories (1 Maccabees 13:51). (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 278)
- (v. 8) The coins of the last time that the Jewish people had been free, the time we call the Maccabeans or Hamoneans, used as their nationalistic symbol, a palm branch. Palm branches had nothing to do with peace and love. Palm branches for a Jewish person of the time were what the stars and stripes are to Americans. It was a way of saying, “We want our freedom! We want deliverance.” (Ray VanderLaan, “That the World May Know”; Set 4, Faith Lesson 23; The Lamb of God)
- (v. 8) It was an ancient custom (see 2 Kgs 9:13) for citizens to throw their garments in the road for their monarch to ride over, symbolizing their respect for him and their submission to his authority. It was as if to say, “We place ourselves at your feet, even to walk over if necessary.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 260)
There is a remarkable parallel between the ascension ceremony of the Emperor of Rome to divine status or the coronation of Caesar to his throne and the account of Jesus going to the cross as presented in Mark’s Gospel. Here are the points of comparison:
- The Praetorium Guard of the Roman soldiers would assemble in the Praetorium to honor Caesar. (Mk 15:16)
- A purple robe and a wreath crown from the god Jupiter would be placed on the emperor who was ascending to the throne of Caesar and being declared god. (Mk 15:17)
- The Praetorium Guard would proclaim Caesar as “Hail Caesar, Lord and God”. (Mk 15:18, 19b)
- A procession would then begin from the Praetorium to Capitaline “Head” Hill where Jupiter’s temple was located. This was called the Via Sacra. Along the way incense and the sacrifice to be made along with the instrument of sacrifice was part of the procession. (Mk 15:20-21)
- Once they arrived at Capitaline Hill, (place of the skull) there the emperor was proclaimed, ”Lord and god”. (Mk 15:22, 39)
- The emperor was then offered a cup of wine mixed with myrrh and he would then pour it out as he refused to drink it. (Mk 15:23)
- The sacrifice was then offered (Mk 15:24a)
- On the right and on the left of the emperor was located his officials, those who are with him. (Mk 15:27)
- Then everyone would then wait for a sign from the gods that verified that the emperor had actually achieved god-like status. (Mk 15:33, 38)
The question to be answered is . . . What is Palm Sunday all about?
Answer: At the very least, Palm Sunday is the King’s Coronation Day, Lamb Selection Day, and the Day of Decision. But, it is so much more. We will have all of eternity to investigate the more.
This is probably the most counter-cultural message I have ever given. If you have ever had leanings towards the Prosperity Gospel or the Health and Wealth Gospel or the Name It, Claim, It and Frame It Gospel; and have not totally broken away from those teachings; then you will more than likely be forced to choose one side or another today. Because, what I believe God’s Word is telling us in this Passion Narrative is directly opposed to those teachings. — Pastor Keith
The Word for the Day is . . . King
What was Palm Sunday all About?:
I- It was Coronation Day for a True King. (Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 19:28-44; Jn 12:12-19)
We don’t have to apologize for the crucifixion, the crucifixion was God’s coronation. It was the greatest triumph ever held. He defeated evil, and sin, and death; because at the moment of His death people came back to life . . . (Ray Vanderlaan; “The Road to the Cross”)
Jesus came on a donkey and the people say, “Hosanna” which is a political thing, “We want a king.” And they waved palm branches which is a way of saying, “We want a king, we want a deliverer.” But, Jesus came on lamb selection day as a way of saying, “Yes, I am the king. But my kingship is going like I just told you on the road down there, by my being a servant. I’m going to go and give my life and that will usher in my kingdom” (Ray VanderLaan; “That the World May Know”; Set 4, Faith Lesson 23; The Lamb of God)
In the context of the book of Zechariah, as well as the rest of the prophets, this word “humble” does not mean so much “gentle” as it means “lowly” or “bowed down” or even “full of suffering.” The word “humble” denotes, as C.F. Keil claims, “the whole of the lowly, miserable, suffering condition, as it is elaborately depicted in Isaiah 53.” So, in contrast with the arrogance and violence usually associated with earthly kings, this king, we are told, will be poor and afflicted; he will be a sovereign Lord and yet a suffering servant. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 591)
While the crowd correctly saw Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies, they did not understand where Jesus’ kingship would lead him. The people who were praising God for giving them a king had the wrong idea about Jesus. They expected him to be a national leader who would restore their nation to its former glory; thus, they were deaf to the words of their prophets and blind to Jesus’ real mission. When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to fulfill their hopes, many people would turn against him. A similar crowd would cry out, “Crucify him!” when Jesus stood on trial only a few days later. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 410)
A king who is hung on a cross is the king of a strange Kingdom indeed. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Roman Marine is the first witness that Jesus’ crucifixion was not a defeat, it was not a dark day, it was the greatest inauguration/coronation ever held. But its upside down. As he took power by being weak and serving others. Which, as it turns out, is the only way it works. (Ray Vanderlaan; “The Road to the Cross”)
True kings do what is best for their subjects with total disregard to their own safety, passions, desires, feelings or wants. — Pastor Keith
We all like to be called servants until we are treated like one. (Mark Devers on a 5 Keys to Spiritual Growth – Ligioner Ministries)
Ex 25:10–22 Our study of the tabernacle/temple and its furniture this month has emphasized its status as a copy of the heavenly throne room. As a copy of this throne room, it makes sense that there would be a replica of His throne in the sanctuary, and such a replica did exist in the form of the ark of the covenant. Today’s passage describes this ark, which was placed in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 26:34).
Our knowledge that the ark mimics a throne, or, more specifically, a footstool, has been bolstered since archaeologists have discovered thrones from ancient Near Eastern kingdoms with a look similar to that of the ark of the covenant. Like the other articles in the temple, it was made from acacia wood (25:10), which was a highly durable wood that grew in the area. The ark was covered with pure gold, gold that had been treated so as to remove any impurities (v. 11). Obviously, anything less could not be a fitting piece of furniture for the King of kings. (R. C. Sproul; The Ark of the Covenant: Ligonier Ministries web-page)
More confirmation that the ark symbolized the Lord’s throne/footstool is seen in the fact that the “testimony” of Yahweh would be placed within it (Ex. 25:21). This testimony was none other than the tablets on which God wrote His law (Dt 10:2), and this is significant because ancient Near Eastern kings often kept a copy of the laws of their kingdoms at their feet. The Lord, as the king of all, likewise would keep a copy of His laws at His feet in His footstool, the ark.
Once the Law was placed inside the ark, a lid called the mercy seat closed the box (Ex 25:17–22). God knew that Israel would break His law but that He would be merciful and cover their law-breaking to guard those who truly loved Him from His wrath. Ultimately, this was achieved through the death of a substitute and the sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat itself (Lv 16). (R. C. Sproul; The Ark of the Covenant: Ligonier Ministries web-page)
How many kings
stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords
have abandoned their homes?
How many greats
have become the least of these?
How many gods
Have poured out their hearts?
To romance a world
that is torn apart?
How many fathers
gave up their son for me?
Only one did that
for me. – anonymous contributor HFM Easter 2008
II- It was Lamb Selection Day. (Ex 12:1-7; Isa 53; Jn 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:18-19; 2:22; Rev 5:6-6:16; 7:9-17; 12:11; 14:1-10; 15:3; 19:7-9; 21:9-23; 22:1-3)
On the Sunday before Passover this road was thronged with people. For this day was a special day. It was lamb selection day. It was the day people came to chose a perfect lamb for the Passover that would soon follow and among the crowd, riding on a donkey that day, was a lamb. (Ray VanderLaan, “That the World May Know”; Set 4, Faith Lesson 23; The Lamb of God)
Jesus’ descent into Jerusalem along the road here on the side of the Mount of Olives, was not simply coming as a triumphant king on a donkey. But it had to do with Jesus showing up to go up to this city to die on a day that the lamb was picked. It is almost as if God is saying to the world, “Here is my lamb. Will you chose Him?” . . . Jesus has made a very clear statement by the day he chose to come into Jerusalem. He is saying, “Have you recognized who I am?” (Ray VanderLaan; “That the World May Know”; Set 4, Faith Lesson 23; The Lamb of God)
God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, “Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me.” But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the Cross, and say to God, “Now, we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.” When the magnitude of what he did dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else. (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 18)
The introductory reference in Rv 5:1-14 is to the Lamb triumphant. This description of the Lamb and the works attributed to Him clearly identify Him as the Christ. The characteristics of the Lamb (used exclusively in Rv but not in Jn 12:15) are significant. He stood as “one slain,” as if his throat had been cut in sacrifice. He had been slain, but was alive forevermore. He had seven horns, which prob. were symbolic of his great power. He had seven eyes that represented his ceaseless vigilance for the people of God; thus the eyes were reinterpreted as the seven spirits of God, the fullness of God’s Spirit working in behalf of His people. His attributes were those of God–omnipotence and omniscience. The term for lamb in Revelation was consistently different from the usual term for lamb elsewhere in the NT, and the significance of this difference has been much debated. It is most likely that the two words have the same essential meaning in the NT–a symbolic representation of the redemptive work of Christ, although in Revelation that redemptive work is viewed in connection with its triumphant victory over all things. (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. Three, 860)
A sacrifice is significant in proportion to the benefit of the recipient and the cost of the one making the sacrifice. — Pastor Keith
The lid of the ark was called the “mercy seat” (Ex 25:17), and above it was the shining glory of the Lord, or Shekinah (which literally means “the dwelling”), radiating between two cherubs, or angels, on either end of the ark. This was a symbol of the throne of God and the presence of the Almighty in heaven. The walls of the most holy place were engraved with many angels, representing the clouds of living angels that surround the person of God in heaven (1 Kgs 6:29).
The sanctuary shows how God deals with sin. Sin cannot be ignored. Its wages are death (Rom 6:23). the law can’t be changed to make sinners not guilty. Sin’s wages must be paid, either by the sinner in receiving eternal death, or by Christ on the cross. (www.newfoundationspubl.org/mercy.htm)
“Have you ever heard of the akedah?” asked the teacher. “It’s the offering up of Isaac by his father, Abraham.”
“I’ve heard of it,” I said, “but I never understood why it happened.”
“It was a test,” he said, “but also a mystery. At the end of the test God sealed His covenant with Abraham. In such a covenant, each party had to be willing to do what the other was willing to do. Now let’s open up the mystery. Abraham was willing to offer up his son as a sacrifice. Therefore. . .”
“Therefore, God,” I replied, “would have to be willing to offer up His Son. . . as a sacrifice.”
“The father brings his son on a donkey,” said the teacher, “to the land of the sacrifice.”
“So then God would bring His Son on a donkey to the land of the sacrifice. . . Palm Sunday. . . Messiah is brought on a donkey to the place of the sacrifice.”
“The father places the wood of the sacrifice on his son’s shoulder. . .”
“God would place the wood of the sacrifice, the cross, on Messiah’s shoulders.”
“The son carries the wood up the mountain to the place of the sacrifice. . .”
“Messiah carries the wood to the place of the sacrifice.”
“The father lays his son upon the wood and binds him to it.”
“The Messiah is laid on the wood of the cross and bound to it.”
“The father lifts up the knife of sacrifice but is stopped. . .”
“And so the knife, the judgment of God is lifted up. . . but is not stopped. Messiah is killed on the wood of the sacrifice.”
“Do you know what appears in this account for the first time in all of Scripture?”
“The word love. The first love in the Bible is from this account, the love of the father for the son. . . just as the first love in existence was that of the Father for the Son. And yet the Father was willing to offer up the Son of His love, to save us. And what does that reveal? If God offered up the Son of His love to save you, then He must love you with the same love with which He loved the Son. (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 79)
III- It Was the Day of Decision concerning The Lamb of God. (Josh 24:15; )
The people wanted Jesus on their own terms, and they would not bow to a King who was not of their liking, even though He were the Son of God. They wanted Jesus to destroy Rome but not their cherished sins or their hypocritical, superficial religion. But He would not deliver them on their terms, and they would not be delivered on His. He was not a Messiah who came to offer a panacea of external peace in the world but to offer the infinitely greater blessing of internal peace with God. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 262)
A man is absent from church Sunday morning. Where is he? If he is in a hospital having his appendix removed his absence tells us nothing about him except that he is ill; but if he is out on the golf course, that tells us a lot. To go to the hospital is compulsory; to go to the golf course, voluntary. The man is free to choose and he chooses to play instead of to pray. His choice reveals what kind of man he is. Choices always do. (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 158-9)
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity, pgs. 55-6)
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. — J. K. Rowling
We are our choices. — Jean-Paul Sartre
I believe the reason most of us don’t enjoy our anointing is fear. We are afraid to claim this power because we’re afraid to really follow the Spirit’s leading. Because He may not lead us where we want to go. He may lead us where we don’t want to go. He might even ask us to climb up on a cross after we get beaten half to death. — Buddy Briggs (1-21-09)
Worship Point: With Palm Sunday being Coronation Day we recognize Jesus as King of the Universe as well as Lord and God (Gn 49:10; Isa 9:6-7; Mt 1:23; 2:2-6; 9:6; 19:28; 22:43-45; 26:64; 28:18-20; Lk 1:32-33; Jn 1:1-12, 49; 5:17-23; 10:30-33; 12:13-15; 18:36-37; 20:28; Eph 1:20-22; Phil 2:9-11; 1 Tm 3:16; 6:15-16; Ti 2:13; Heb 1:1-10; 2:7-8; 1 Pt 3:22; Rv 1:5-7; 17:14). He has authority over all of heaven and earth (Mt 28:18-20; Eph 1:20-22; 1 Pt 3:22); and yet was willing to sacrifice His interests and well-being to love us (Jn 3:16; 15:13; Rom 5:8-10; 1 Jn 4:7-21).
Blood and the mercy seat typified the final cleansing that would be achieved through the shed blood of Christ (Heb 10:1–18). Because of this blood we can now meet with the Lord in worship just as the high priest used to meet with God before the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:22). Therefore, when we come into the Lord’s presence, we must strive to do so with reverence and awe, for in worship we are entering the great King’s heavenly throne room. (Passages for Further Study: Ex 37:1–9; Nm 10:29–36; Ps 132:8; Ti 3:4–7)(R. C. Sproul; The Ark of the Covenant: Ligonier Ministries web-page)
Jesus was zealous for the purity of worship–worship that he was going to make universally available through his death. Only by clarifying how the old system was intended could the new system have a place. Only by “destroying the temple” would Jesus be able to offer all believers personal access to God. Only by fulfilling the system of sacrifice could he become the perfect and final sacrifice for all mankind. The eventual destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. was the final evidence that the old system had been superseded by Jesus’ work on the cross and in the lives of those who believe in him. (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 46)
Gospel Application: With Palm Sunday being Lamb Selection Day (Ex 12:1-7) we recognize Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (Isa 53:7; Jn 1:29, 36; Rom 3:21-26; 5:1, 8-15; Gal 2:15-20; 3:24; Phil 3:7-10; Eph 2:13; 1 Pt 1:19-24; Rv 1:5; 5:6-14), and sets us free from sin and death (Mk 5:29, 34; Lk 4:18; 13:12-16; Jn 8:31-38; Rom 6:6-7, 16-22; 8:2, 21;1 Cor 8:9; 9:19; 1 Cor 15:20-28; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 2:4; Gal 4:22-5:13; Heb 9:15; Jms 1:25; 2:12; 1 Pt 2:16) so we might have peace with God and within ourselves (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14).
As to “Blessed (is) the One coming in the name of the Lord,” this is a quotation from Ps 118:26. Combined with “the Son of David,” as here in Mt 21:9, it must refer to Jesus as the Messiah. It was deplorable, however, that by far the most of these people did not go one step farther: they should have combined Ps 118 with Isa 53 and with Zech 9:9; 13:1. Then they would have recognized in Jesus the Messiah who saves his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 766)
The NT often describes the saving work of Jesus Christ in terms of the mercy seat. It says that Jesus came to “make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). It says, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Rom 3:25). It says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). The word that the Bible uses in each of these verses (hilasterion) refers specifically to a sacrifice poured on the mercy seat. The cross of Christ is our mercy seat. It is the place where the blood of an atoning sacrifice reconciles us to God by coming between his holiness and our sin. The cross is the place where sinners can find mercy. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Exodus, 821)
When Jesus asks us to repeat an act to remember Him and His greatest act; He did not want us to do something to remember His birth, His miracles, His parables, or even His resurrection. When Jesus asked us to repeat something to remember Him he asked us to remember His death on the cross. (Tim Keller; St Matthew’s Passion: The World’s Last Night – The Last Supper)
Spiritual Challenge: With Palm Sunday being the Day of Decision we recognize Jesus as the Wedge for our eternal destiny. We either crown Him or crucify Him. (Jn 3:16-21; 14:6; Acts 4:12)
Jesus will not be liked. You either bow down and worship Him as God or kill him as a lunatic and a heretic. But let us not come with any relationship with Jesus that is less than total commitment. Jesus says, “Crown me or kill me”. — Tim Keller
If Jesus had been content to claim to be a prophet, the probability is that he need never have died. But he could be satisfied with nothing less than the highest place. With Jesus, it is all or nothing. People must acknowledge him as king, or not receive him at all. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 282)
Far too many Christians are being transformed by our culture rather than by Christ. Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness has been perverted into seeking our own kingdom and everything else we can get our hands on. (Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 186)
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
- Have you fully embraced the mind of Jesus as Paul outlines in Philippians 2:5-11? What aspect of this mind-set or world-view is most challenging to you?
- What passions, desires, wants, or wishes control you? How can you become more aware of when you are thinking, planning, or operating from the flesh rather than the Spirit?
- What thoughts do you have about Jesus when you wrestle with the reality that He regarded His coronation and ascension to power, authority, kingship and reign as one filled with suffering for the sake of love rather than personal or selfish pursuits or gain?
So What?: God’s values are completely upside down from the world’s (Isa 55:8-9; Mt 5:3-12; 18:1-4; 20:26; 23:11; Mk 10:43; Lk 9:46-48; 22:24-27; 1 Cor 1:18-3:21). The Bible speaks exponentially more about embracing suffering than about pursuing comfort. Also, the greatest in God’s Kingdom is one who suffers as a servant (Mt 20:26-28; 23:11; Mk 9:35; 10:43-45) who is willing to do anything for love (Mt 22:35-40; Mk 12:30-33; Lk 6:32-35; 10:27; Jn 13:1-17, 34-35; 15:9-19; Rom 5:8; 12:9-10; 14:15; 1; 1 Cor. ch 13; 16:14; Gal 5:6, 13-14, 22-23; Eph 4:2; 5:2, 25; Phil 2:1-11; Jms 2:8; 1 Pt 1:22; 4:1-2, 8, 13; 1 Jn 3:10-4:21). Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13) Jesus transforms human suffering (Rom 5:1-5; 8:18-25; Acts 5:41; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 2:19-24; 4:1-2, 12-19).
Wilderness? Exodus? Exile? Incarnation? Crucifixion? Taking up your cross? These elements of the biblical narrative suggest that God does not prize comfort. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 57)
The one who would have God’s power must lead a life of self-denial. There are many things which are not sinful in the ordinary understanding of the word sin, but which hinder spirituality and rob men of power. I do not believe that any man can lead a luxurious life, overindulge his natural appetites, indulge extensively in dainties, and enjoy the fullness of God’s power. The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17). Paul wrote: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor 9:27; see ASV, Greek; note also Eph 5:18). (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 75-6)
The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today. But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die. It may be a death to popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simple lifestyle). But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die it if is to multiply. (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 322)
Jesus goes out of His way to flip the script of what it means to truly live the good life. (Pastor Dave Turner, 3-31-19 Sermon “The Good Life”)
The kingdom of God always appears upside down to the human perspective. We think it’s strange to die in order to live, or to give in order to receive, or to serve in order to lead. Solomon captures the perpetual enigma of our looking-glass values just as Jesus describes them in the Sermon on the Mount. He insists we should embrace sorrow over laughter, rebukes over praise, the long way instead of the short, and today instead of yesterday.
The truth is that it’s not the kingdom of God that is upside down–it’s the world. It’s not the Word of God that turns life inside out–it’s the world that has reversed all the equations that God designed for our lives. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 189)
We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it. (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 122)
Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as adversity has done. Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, the most poignant poems, the most gripping stories. Out of suffering and tears have come the greatest spirits and the most blessed lives. —Billy Graham (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 11-16)
We must reassert the words of Joseph Rickaby: “the Cross does not abolish suffering, but transforms it, sanctifies it, makes it fruitful, bearable, even joyful, and finally victorious.” (Robert Lewis, The Church of Irresistible Influence, 97)
Don’t seek suffering, and don’t try to avoid it. Instead, keep on doing what is right regardless of the suffering it might bring. (NIV Life Application Study Bible notes 1 Pt 4:16; 2264)
When our bodies are in pain or our lives are in jeopardy, our real values show up clearly, and sinful pleasures seem less important. If anyone suffers for doing good and still faithfully obeys in spite of suffering, that person has made a clean break with sin. (NIV Life Application Study Bible notes 1 Pt 4:16; 2263)
Mature Christians do what is best for others with total disregard to their own passions, desires, feelings or wants. — Pastor Keith
In so many ways I can’t explain, fasting puts me in a position to not only hear from God but to be formed by God. It takes me to a place where I feel a heightened sense of vulnerability and a diminished sense of power. I’ve come to believe that equates to a certain availability to hear and obey God.
My experience is that when I surround myself with all of the things that make me comfortable, I require little if any power from God. Surrounded with everything I think I need, involved with my own means, methods, strategies, and plans, I become a product of my own will and wisdom. (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 178)
The apostle John writes, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn 2:16). We fail to understand the force of this passage because of our tendency to relegate it all to sexual sin. The “lust of the flesh” refers to the failure to discipline the natural human passions. C. H. Dodd says that the “lust of the eyes” refers to “the tendency to be captivated by outward show.” He defines the “pride of life” as “pretentious egoism.” In each case the same thing is seen: infatuation with natural human powers and abilities without any dependence upon God. That is the flesh in operation, and the flesh is the deadly enemy of humility.
The strictest daily discipline is necessary to hold these passions in check. The flesh must learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own. It is the work of hidden service that will accomplish this self-abasement. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 130-1)
Redemption begins. The faith begins. The good news begins. The word of Messiah begins. The message of salvation begins. The Gospel begins. Think about it. It all begins in a tomb. Did you ever consider how radical and completely upside down it is? (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 65)
God knows your heart will never be totally devoted to Him unless and until we are willing to sacrifice all for Him. For where your treasure is your heart will be also. That is why giving all to Jesus is so crucially important. Unless and until we give it all to Him, there will be some area of our lives refusing to make Jesus Lord. And it is at that point where our submission to Him fails. It is also the obstacles that keeps us from entering into the Kingdom of God. — Pastor Keith
Without suffering, obedience is meaningless. — Steve Brown
“Anyone who has gone through great suffering is bound to have a greater sympathy and understanding of the problems of mankind.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
A person that eats and drinks too much does not feel such effects from it as those do who live in notorious instances of gluttony and intemperance; but yet his course of indulgence, though it be not scandalous in the eyes of the world nor such as torments his own conscience, is a great and constant hindrance to his improvement in virtue; it gives him eyes that see not and ears that hear not; it creates a sensuality in the soul, increases the power of bodily passions, and makes him incapable of entering into the true spirit of religion. (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 191-2)
Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindnesses. But they do not therefore lack discipline. In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin: oddly, it is an appetite suppressant. The reason is that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for justice. And they spoil the appetite for God. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 35)
While some would call themselves free of the restraints of Christianity, Law saw it another way. “They may live a while free from the restraints and directions of religion, but instead thereof they must be under the absurd government of their passions.” And our passions, as any thoughtful Christian knows, are harder taskmasters than is our God of mercy and grace. (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 66)
Should you choose to suffer? no, but choose to get in positions of love which in all likelihood will require suffering……don’t look for pain—but look for people in pain…..look at the cost and you embrace the cost. — John Piper
Richard Foster, in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, notes that we need to find value in suffering. Jesus was a man of sorrows, Foster reminds us. Christians who speak of “victory” have perhaps missed what Foster calls the “sacrament of suffering.” There is a triumph to suffering, but it goes through suffering, and not around it. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 312)
Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing the disciples’ feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission. The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 116)
We do not have to look far to see the application to our own lives. The siren song of popular culture is to avoid pain and take the easy way, the path of least resistance. But God’s Word still speaks truly: “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tm 3:12). Jesus embraced the cross by refusing the easy way, and as his followers, he says, we must do the same: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt 16:24, 25).
If we embrace the logic of Jesus’ refusal to take the easy way, we will see that taking the path of least resistance, to follow comfortable expediency, is idolatry–it is worshiping a false God. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 136)
The message of the cross has a central and unique place in the fight for joy. Paul put the gospel in a class by itself when he said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14), and when he said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
These are sweeping statements. No boast except in the cross! And no knowledge that is not a knowledge of Christ and him crucified! Every boast we make in any good thing must include the boast that, without the cross, we would have hell and not this good thing. Everything we know must include the knowledge that we do not know it rightly except in relation to Christ crucified. (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 76)
I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.” (Soren Kierkagaard; And I looked Around and Nobody was Laughing.)
There is no such thing as a dreadful price for the “pearl” in question. Suffering for him is actually something we rejoice to be counted worthy of (Acts 5:41; Phil 1:29). The point is simply that unless we clearly see the superiority of what we receive as his students over every other thing that might be valued, we cannot succeed in our discipleship to him. We will not be able to do the things required to learn his lessons and move ever deeper into a life that is his kingdom. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 293-4)
While physical pain may be a part of the fall, God can and does use it for our spiritual advancement. Brother Lawrence said God “sometimes permits the body to suffer to cure the sickness of the soul.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fourteenth Letter) (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 170)
Have you ever noticed the way suffering helps us become less self-absorbed? A little suffering can produce a lot of compassion. And that is what happened to Joseph. God turned a dungeon into a classroom where Joseph learned some lessons in empathy and sympathy. He got an education in emotional intelligence. (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 24)
The quickest way to a person’s heart is through a wound.” (John Piper; sermon “God Seeks People in Spirit and in Truth”)
Only once in all the recorded words of Jesus did our Lord announce that He would provide an “example” for the disciples, and then He washed their feet (Jn 13:15). Only once in the rest of the NT does a writer offer an “example” (1 Pt 2:21), and that is an example of suffering. Serving and suffering are paired in the teaching and life of our Lord. One does not come without the other. And what servant is greater than the Lord? (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 23)
Christ did not come to bring financial prosperity; He came to focus our attention on eternal prosperity. Even now the words of the Master ring with divine authority: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19,20). (Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 189)
The Faith teachers insist that prosperity signifies spiritual favor while poverty is a sign of spiritual failure. Robert Tilton summed up the sentiments of the Faith movement when he said, “Being poor is a sin.” (Robert Tilton, “Success-N-Life” television program 27 December 1990, as quoted by Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 214)
This false theology lay at the very heart of the Corinthian rejection of Paul. His bodily weaknesses did not commend him to their view of apostleship. An apostle should be “spiritual,”…living in glory and perfect health. They rejected Paul and his theology of the cross (with its ongoing suffering in the present age), because they saw themselves as “spiritual” redeemed from such weakness…
Paul tries everything in his power to get them back to his gospel. In 1 Cor 1:18-25, he reminds them that the gospel has as its very base a “crucified Messiah.” For the Corinthians that’s like saying “fried ice.” Messiah means power, glory, miracles; crucifixion means weakness, shame, suffering. Thus they gladly accepted the false apostles, who preached a “different Gospel” with “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4), and condemned Paul for his bodily weakness (10:10). (Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 264-5)
- W. Tozer in “The Old Cross and the New”:
“From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique—a new type of meeting and new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as of the old, but its content is not the same, and the emphasis not as before.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into the public view the same thing the world does, only a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner; it re-directs him. I gears him to a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect…The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross. The old cross is a symbol of DEATH. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took the cross and started down the road has already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise; modified nothing; spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with the victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear, or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross….
We, who preach the gospel, must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern entertainment. We are not diplomats, but prophets; and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum.” (A. W. Tozer as reported in The Biblical Evangelist, November 1, 1991, 11)