The sermon text is John 9:1-41 vis another long one. The part that has always intrigued me the most – other than the sheer wonder of the miracle of giving a man his sight – is the formerly blind man’s defence of Jesus to the authorities. The authorities are jealous and anxious about Jesus. They have the peace to guard, and their way of life and privilege in society. This man simply tells them the way it is. Only God is able to do such a wonder. In what ways could you be clearer and simpler about who Jesus is?
The account of Jesus discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:4-42 shows Jesus determination to do his saving work. The dialogue between them covers a lot of ground. There is ample opportunity to get off track. But Jesus stays true to his focus to give the woman his spring of living water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:15). He is also determined to share it with her village. Initially they believe on account of the woman’s testimony about Jesus (John 4:39). But later, it is on account on his word (John 4:41). It still is… the witness speaks the word of God but the encounter with the living Christ and his word that brings salvation. In this text look out for the reference to the Holy Spirit and his work (John 4:14, 23-24), and also the ‘doggedness’ of the Father in bringing people to worship God (John 4:23). There is also a section on the mission and the large scope of the mission field (John 4:31-36). At first this looks incidental. Its not though. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman Jesus has given his disciples no less than a master class in evangelism and encouragement for the task. What are your favourite themes in the text? What are three ways it encourages you?
Each year we spend a Sunday on Jesus’ Transfiguration. That’s how essential it is to the Easter story (Matthew 17:1-13). It is remembered the Sunday before Lent starts. We are told that Jesus goes up to the mountain with his disciples, is ‘metamorphosised’ into blinding light before their eyes so that they see his complete glory. He consults with Moses, who represents the law, and Elijah, who represents the prophets. God the Father speaks from the heaven “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Jesus then descends the mountain to go obediently to Jerusalem to die. From glory on the mountain to plumb the depths of human muck, evil and sin through his cruel, torturous and innocent impalement on a Roman cross. Down, Down, Down. “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen [up here on the mountain] until the Son of man is raised from the dead” That’s what Jesus tells’ his disciples (Matthew 17:9). In other words: Wait! See the cross! Understand that it is essential. There is nothing to be told without telling about the cross. Have you forgotten about the cross? Is that central to your story? To the story you tell others about Jesus? That is his central message of the proclamation of how he saved the world. It’s nothing without it. Don’t leave his cross out of what he has done for you… don’t leave it out of your story about him to others. Yes – it’s a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others (1 Cor 1:23), but to those who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The many keen observers of the Bethlehem bulletin will notice that the text I preach on today, Matthew 5:17-20, is not the assigned text Matthew 5:21-37. In fact we heard today’s sermon text last week after the section on us being salt and light (Mathew 5:17-20).The thing is, Matthew 5:17-20 is too important to skip over, but too different to the salt and light section to combine into one sermon of less than 17 minutes. Someone I respect a lot suggests that the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and the salt and light exhortation (Matthew 5:13-16) act as the Gospel introduction to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). From there, Matthew 5:17-20 introduces a new topic: Jesus’ relationship to God’s law and his authority to proclaim God’s will for us. This in turn acts as an introduction to the 6 so-called ‘antithesis’ found in Matthew 5:21-48 on murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, ‘an eye for an eye’ and love for enemies. Ok! So if that’s all a bit intense the thing to know from today’s sermon text is that Jesus shows us the depth of God’s love in his radical restatement of God’s commands in Matthew 5:21-48. Moreover, only he can keep it, which he will do for us as part of the salvation he gains for us. He also points to faith in him being what allows us to enter the kingdom of heaven, rather than the requirement to be even more righteous than the extremely righteous pharisees and teachers of the law (who did not believe in him). Faith, not works. Interesting how faith produces works though…