The Tears of Jesus (Part 3)

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31–34 ESV). We go a bit further back in the chronology of this event with our reading today. The betrayal, the mockery, the shame, the spit, the flogging, the murder—and so much more—was planned. In other words, the resistance, the rejection, the unbelief and hostility were not a surprise to Jesus. They were, in fact, all just a part of the plan (v. 42). Remember what Jesus said about his parables in Luke 8:10: “To you [disciples] it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” God was handing them over to hardness. It was judgment. The mercy of God is a sovereign mercy. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). But here is the point we see: This sovereign Christ weeps over the hard-hearted, perishing people of Jerusalem as they fulfilled his plan. It is unbiblical and wrong to make the tears of mercy a contradiction to the serenity of sovereignty. Jesus was serene in sorrow, and sorrowful in sovereignty. Jesus’ tears are the tears of sovereign mercy. And therefore his sovereign power is the more admirable and the more beautiful. It’s the harmony of things that seem in tension that makes him glorious—“merciful and mighty,” as we sing. We admire power more when it is merciful power. And we admire mercy more when it is mighty mercy. Oh that we would see and savor the beauty of Christ and his tears of sovereign joy and the self-sacrificing love and obedience that took him every step of the way during this incredible week of atonement. And, that we would be changed by what we see and become more tenderly-moved, self-denying, need-meeting people. This is the message for us today. As we each walk those parts of our journey that are unbearably painful and incredibly impossible to fathom, we must remember the tears of Jesus. Even when he knew how little we would understand he still carries us through every experience with sovereign mercy. And when we reach the other side of these experiences, we must also become people of mercy and compassion. Even when it is “their fault” be a person of kindness and grace; extend mercy, not wrath. Accept this grace...

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The Tears of Jesus (Part 2)

And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:36-40 ESV). Our reading today takes us just moments before Jesus weeps. It is an incredible scene. First, the crowds praised God for Jesus’ mighty works (Luke 19:37). He had healed leprosy with a touch; he had made the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame walk; he had commanded the unclean spirits and they obeyed him; he had stilled storms and walked on water and turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for thousands. So as he entered Jerusalem, they knew nothing could stop him. Surely He could just speak and Pilate would perish; the Romans would be scattered. He was sovereign. They so missed His real message. Then, secondly, the crowds cried out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Jesus was a King, and not just any king, but the one sent and appointed by the Lord God. They knew how Isaiah had described him—as sovereign over an invincible, never-ending kingdom. It was described as a universal, never-ending kingdom backed by the zeal of almighty God. Here was the King of the universe, who today rules over the nations and the galaxies, and for whom every political state are merely a grain of sand and a vapor. Third, when the Pharisees tell him to make the people stop blessing him as a king, he answers, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). They did not understand that the design of the universe is that Christ be praised. And therefore, if people won’t do it, he will see to it that rocks do it. In other words, he is sovereign. He will get what he means to get. If we refuse to praise, the rocks will get the joy. It is remarkable, therefore, that the tears of Jesus in this passage are so often used to deny his sovereignty. Some argue that he weeps because of his failure to bring this kingdom to earth at this time. But there is something not quite right about this objection to Jesus’ sovereignty. He can make praise come from rocks. And so he could do the same from rock-hard hearts in Jerusalem. What’s more, all this rejection and persecution and killing of Jesus are not the failure of Jesus’ plan, but the fulfillment of it. All this was the completion of the sacrifice assuring this great kingdom. We only wait for the time to be right! That’s our great...

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The Tears of Jesus (Part 1)

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 ESV). Perhaps the most well-known passage when we see Jesus weep is found at the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus (cf. John 11:35). While we cannot know why Jesus wept at this moment, we certainly know the root of his grief and the subsequent tears we find in our reading today. This event took place on what we call “Palm Sunday” today. This is the day in the church year when traditionally we mark the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. As he rode into town on the humble beast, Jesus was not oblivious to what was about to happen to him. His enemies were going to get the upper hand, and he would be rejected and crucified. And within a generation the city would be obliterated. God was visiting them in Jesus, his Son (cf. John 1:11). But they did not know the time of their visitation. So they stumbled over the stumbling stone. The builders rejected the stone and threw it away. Jesus saw this coming. Looking at the magnificent temple, the thousands of people dutifully marking Passover with their pilgrimage to the Holy City, Jesus wept over their blindness and the impending misery of Jerusalem. He was overcome with grief. He wept. I would call these tears those of sovereign mercy. The effect they should have on us is to make us stand in awe before Him and treasure him above all others and worship him as our merciful Sovereign. And when we have seen the beauty of his mercy, we become merciful with him and like him and for his glory. So, today let’s worship Christ, admiring His tender sovereignty. What makes Christ so admirable and so different than all other persons is that he unites in himself so many qualities that in other people are contrary to each other. We can imagine supreme sovereignty, and we can imagine tenderhearted mercy. But to whom do we look to combine, in perfect proportion, merciful sovereignty and sovereign mercy? We look to Jesus. No other religious or political contender even comes close. This is our starting point for the next few...

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A Picture of Freedom

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36 ESV) I love the image of freedom from seeing the flight of a falcon. My good friend, Danny Pickens, is a falconer. He has trained many birds of prey. Presently he flies a Peregrine Falcon. He has invited me on several occasions to go with him to watch his birds hunt. While I have not done so yet, I am told they dive on their prey at speeds of 200 mph from a height of nearly a mile. They are incredible birds. Thinking about witnessing such takes me to the issue I raised yesterday. Our spiritual freedom can only be accomplished by Jesus. However, what is this freedom really? Let’s take skydiving, for example. What you want is to experience the fullest possible exhilaration of freedom in skydiving. Let’s suppose then that you are on your way to the airport to go up for your first real jump, but your car hits a pothole on the highway. You have a blowout, and run into a telephone pole. You are no longer free to jump, whether you have the ability or not, because the opportunity passes while you wait for the tow truck. You lack the freedom of opportunity. Or suppose you do make it to the airport, but it turns out that you skipped all the classes and don’t know the first thing about skydiving. You lack the most basic abilities. The opportunity is there, but you don’t have the freedom of ability. They’re not going to let you jump. But suppose that you make it to the airport, you went to all the classes, and have all the abilities needed. You take off in the little plane, but as soon they open the door and you look down, all your desire vanishes and in its place comes a paralyzing fear. The opportunity is there, the ability is there, but you don’t have the freedom of desire. But there is one last requirement for full freedom. Suppose you get to the airport with no obstacle (you have the freedom of opportunity); you have all the know-how necessary (you have the freedom of ability); you look out the door at the tiny clusters of silos and barns and farmhouses a few miles down, and just can’t wait to jump (you have the freedom of desire). So you jump. And as you free fall, enjoying every second of it, unknown to you, your parachute is defective and is not going to open no matter what you do. Are you free, fully free, free indeed? Of course not! In order to be fully free — free indeed — the Son of God must set you free. Trust in Him… then you will be...

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Set Free

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV). Today is a day to be “set free” for me. At least in some small way I will get some freedom that I haven’t had since my fight with my table saw. I am scheduled to have the stitches removed and be able to resume regular activity. I am looking forward to losing the bandages changed at least twice daily. More than that I am looking forward to being able to use my thumb as I did prior to the injury; the little things like buttons and zippers, typing shoelaces are impossible to do without pain and difficulty. I will welcome that freedom greatly! The prospect of having that returned took me to a consideration of what has come to be called “Fake News.” This phenomenon has taken our world by storm. With social media and news outlets propagating their own political agendas, it’s getting more difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Fake news websites deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike satire, which seeks to entertain, fake news aims to mislead readers for financial or political gain. A similar battle for truth takes place every day in our spiritual lives. Fake news is something the enemy has been using a long time to wage war on God’s people. It’s been around ever since the serpent deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were convinced into believing that God was holding out on them, that they didn’t need Him or His governing rule in their lives. Their willful disobedience led to shame, humiliation, and disgrace. With the bribery of the guards at Jesus’ tomb, Christ’s enemies even used fake news to try and cover up His resurrection (cf. Matthew 28:11-15). Fake news doesn’t always come from external sources; it can often wrap itself in those inner thoughts that we struggle with from day to day. The enemy wants us stuck in the mire of shame. He wants our faith paralyzed by these internal lies. We need to trade in the fake news for the “Good News.” The only way to rightly deal with the enemy’s accusations is to continually point to the cross where Jesus took our guilt upon himself. It exposes his lies and cunning deceit. It reminds him that the sacrifice Jesus made for us was more than enough to bring us into a right relationship with God. This is the truth that really sets you...

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