The sermon for 3 May 2020 will be based on the Gospel reading for that day which is John 10:1-10. John chapter 10 is part of the ‘Good Shepherd discourse’ of John’s Gospel. But in that reading Jesus tells us much less famously that he is ‘the gate’ (v7 and 9). I think this is easily the least recognisable of his seven ‘I am’ saying in the Gospel of John (can you think of the others?) Today we’ll look at why he says this and what it means for our spiritual protection and feeding. We also won’t ignore the role the Holy Spirit plays as the watchman (v3).
The first moments after our risen Lord Jesus met with his disciples were precious in more ways than we at first might think. John recorded them in his Gospel (John 20:19-23 – the sermon text for 19 April 2020). For Jesus it was less about hugs and smiles and mostly about reconciliation. First in the sense he deals with their desertion and lack of belief. He greets them with ‘Peace be with you’. No animosity at all, but gift. But secondly, it is also about the significance of his death for them. Risen from the dead, Jesus makes forgiveness of sin the chief act and therefore gives us the main reason he died. He would dearly have us remember that whenever we don’t feel forgiven or are living with a sense of “I don’t need forgiveness”. So either extreme, and everything in between. To really anchor all this he goes on to give two additional gifts: His Holy Spirit and the most important ministry task of forgiving people their sins. We see here how it is Christ’s spirit at work to bring us Christ’s redeeming work. We also have the forgiveness of sins spelt out in case we are not already certain. We also understand that this is where Jesus commissions the pastoral ministry to keep bringing his and the Spirit’s gifts. This first order of business remains the continuing order of business until he returns.
This Sunday we commemorate when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding a donkey with the crowds laying down palms and shouting various acclamations from the Old Testament reserved for kings and, specifically, the Messiah (see especially Matthew 21:5, an amalgam of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9). By Friday afternoon he would be executed a criminal. Jesus was obviously a different kind of king to the one that they were expecting. This Sunday I’ll preach on a few aspects of the symbolism in this text. Hopefully it will be a video sermon if all the tech works. But for now, this quote from Luther sums it up nicely, and is too good not to share:
’This Gospel (Matthew) wants to entice us to faith, above all else. But no one can accept this gracious Christ unless [they] believe that he is a Man and adopts the opinion of him that the evangelist gives. He is presented as sheer grace, humility, goodness, and whoever believes that of him is blessed. Look at him! He rides no stallion, which is war animal, and he does not come with fearful pomp and power, but sits on a donkey, which is no war animal but which is ready for the burdens of work that will help human beings. Thereby he shows that he does not come to terrify people, to drive or oppress them, but to help them, to carry their burdens and take them on himself.’ (As printed on p354 of F D Bruner, The Gospel of Matthew: A commentary, Volume 2, Eerdmans 2007).
The service for Palm Sunday will be in two main parts. We’ll remember Jesus entry into Jerusalem. Then, consistent with the custom of the Christian church through the year, we’ll switch over to the beginning of Holy Week and hear a reading of Jesus’ last hours before his death (The Passion).
..the first thing to say is that all these COVID-19 restrictions are so fresh and all-encompassing that it’s a little hard not to view life through them at present. And therefore the sermon. That, said it’s not my intention to let ‘the 19’ dominate every sermon from now till we emerge the other side. Rest assured! But not starting this week. The Gospel concerns Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. There are quite a few other persons in the account. The thing they all have in common is that they are pretty annoyed with Jesus in some way. Fair enough. ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ (John 11:37). That’s representative of the sort of heartfelt questioning. All said with a bit of nark though. You have expectations about Jesus too. How have they been disappointed, changed and downgraded these past few weeks? For some of you COVID-19 is not or will not be the worst thing that ever ruptures your life. For all of us perspective is helpful. The challenge in a text like the raising of Lasarus is to have Christ’s perspective. That what he would have us learn here. As ever, it’s a lesson in faith and for faith. In that lesson he shows us there are some very unreasonable expectations we should have, once we really think about the nature of resurrection as an antidote to the stench of death. Our resurrection after our death. All by his death and sealed with his resurrection. Whoever said Jesus, his Father and the Spirit that brings them to us was into reason though? That’s too human a construction. Seems a lot more like a case of Jesus being ‘unreasonable’… thankfully.