The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Sacrifice The Missing Link

This morning we are in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 for our series on the life of Christ from all four Gospels. Today’s message is titled “SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK.” If there is one thing lacking in our culture today, it is sacrifice. We do what is expected of us and maybe a tad bit more but that’s it. Sadly, this is also true of many Christians. In today’s message we will see from the life of Joseph what true sacrifice looks like.

Matt. 1   18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has been rejected and ridiculed by some people. They ask – “How can a virgin give birth? It is physically impossible. Miracles don’t happen.” Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” In other words, miracles like the virgin birth are for the naïve and uninformed. A German NT scholar Gerd Lüdemann, who does not believe in miracles, put it in a witty and terse statement: “The tomb was full and the manger empty.”

How do you convince people like them that miracles are possible? The place to begin is by asking, “Do you believe in God?” If you can believe that there is a God who created nature, then you can also believe that nature is subjected to Him. Miracles are simply nature being subjected to its Creator. He can do whatever He wants to. Not only did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth but He is still in the miracle working business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, answering prayers, making the impossible possible, and the greatest miracle of all – changing a sinner’s heart.

According to the Pew Research in 2013, 73% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth.

But there is another issue in this passage that often gets overlooked – it is sacrifice. In this passage we come across Joseph – an unsuspecting spectator who became part of the greatest drama in history. Like Mary, he too had to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, and goals in life for the coming of Jesus. Sadly, we’re living in a time when people cut corners, do the minimum, play it safe, and bailout early. More sadly, it is even among Christians.

Application: Would you describe yourself as a selfish or as a sacrificial person? Even better, would others describe you? How will people describe you when you’re gone? “He always got his way.” “She always got what she wanted.” If someone compels you to go a mile, do you go two? If someone tried to take away your tunic, do you also let them have your cloak? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? Are you willing to lay down your life so that someone else may find Jesus Christ? By the way, have you truly understood the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross? Until you do, your standards of sacrifice will be too low.

This morning as we look at the example of Joseph, let the Holy Spirit challenge you to sacrifice your life for others. If you do not know Jesus Christ, receive His sacrifice for your sins today.

1. HE SHOWED MERCY WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE TO.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Background: Mary was pregnant and Joseph her fiancé was not the father. This was not good. The penalty for adultery according to the Old Testament was death by stoning but the Romans had abolished all Jewish capital punishments. The worst they could do was divorce, public humiliation, and shunning. Mary would probably never marry again. She could live in the community but as a pariah. Also keep in mind that she was Nazareth, a tiny community of 150-200 people at the time, mostly of priestly lineage, the holier than thou. Do you remember Nathaniel’s remark to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even Jesus felt their hate when He came to teach in their synagogue. In Matthew 13 they said, 55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? (They did not even deem it worthy to use Joseph’s name.) Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6 even adds, “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief.” Even God was shocked at their hateful and unbelieving spirit.

So you can only imagine what Mary was up against in Nazareth. They would have looked down on her, shunned her, called her names, and Joseph - a just mandone every evil behavior imaginable to her. Joseph could give her a public divorce and cleared his name but he decided to put her away quietly. I can imagine his family and his friends telling him, “Joseph, she isn’t worth it. Why are you staking your reputation over her? People will think – you did it. Make it public. Let her suffer. Let her be an example.”

Application: If you were Joseph, what would you have done? Would you have listened to the crowd? Would you have publicly humiliated Mary? Or, would you have compassion on her? It is natural to look down on others and judge them. The first step to a life of sacrifice is to do what doesn’t come naturally. That’s what God did for us.

2. HE BELIEVED WHEN IT WAS HARD TO.

20 “But while he thought about these things…” What is Joseph thinking? I know I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me but what will this do to her? How does God want me to handle this? Will He be pleased by my decision?

Application: Do you think about what God wants you to do? Do you think about the decisions you make? Do you think about how your decisions impact the lives of others?

NativityAs he was thinking – 20 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Now, let me clarify – by Virgin birth, we’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

By Virgin birth, we are referring to the virginal conception. It simply means that Mary became pregnant with the baby Jesus without any relationship with any man. It was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah. Someone asked me – “Do you have to understand the virgin birth to be saved?” No – the thief didn’t know it. But if someone were to explain it to you as a Christian, you better believe it.

What was Joseph’s reaction? 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, Joseph could have dismissed the dream and gone about his life but he submitted himself to God’s plan. Many times we cannot understand God’s plan. We want to take the easy way out but there’s so much peace in trusting God’s plan. It is a sacrifice that is worth it.

Illustration: Dad refusing to go to the big church in order to take the small church in an obscure part of the country. Why? Because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Application: How would you have responded to that vision? Would have taken God at His Word? Would you have taken the narrow road? There’s so much joy in saying – “not my will but Your’s be done.” The buck stops with the Word of God.

3. HE STAYED WHEN HE COULD HAVE BAILED OUT.

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: We read that verse so quickly without thinking of it. The angel had commanded Joseph in verse 21 And she will bring forth aJoseph naming baby Son, and you (Joseph) shall call His name JESUS (Yahweh is salvation)…” Joseph could have hung out until Mary had the baby and then slipped out. It’s too much. It’s not what I signed up for. He had to stick around and give this baby who was not His own, the birthright of being the first-born.

People like to say – “I’m just not going to promise anything. That way, if I don’t show up, you can’t blame me for it.”

Application: Do you sacrifice for your family, church family, lost, and others?

We can never sacrifice too much. Jesus did that!

Do you know Him? Have you received His sacrifice for your sins?

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PRAISE UNDER PRESSUREWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I am preaching a message from Luke 1:46 titled, “PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE.” It is easy to praise God when things are going great – no bills, no pain, no bad news – but it is very hard to praise Him when things are tough. Many of us become obsessed with our problems, get discouraged, destroy relationships, and make bad decisions. But, when we deliberately choose to praise God, we not only please Him but we open the door for Him to take charge and work all things together for good.

Luke 1:46   And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn. This song has been a part of liturgies, music, and art for centuries. Sadly, we have lost the real meaning and purpose behind it. Mary wrote it at a time when she was going through extreme doubt, worry, and fear. This was her song of praise and submission to God’s will.

Here’s the gist of the message – During times of pressure, you can either continue in doubt, worry, and fear or you can turn to God in praise. You can either get angry with people and be down at your circumstances and indulge in some destructive habit or you can “lift up your eyes to the hills – from where comes your help.” You can say with the psalmist, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” When you do that, you open the door for God to step into your life and take charge of the situation. After all, He allowed it to come for a reason. When you praise Him, you invite Him to switch seats from the passenger to the driver. But let me also warn you – just because you praise God in the midst of pressure doesn’t mean your problem will disappear. It only means that God will steer your life to bring glory to His name.

Application: What trial or pressure are you facing this morning? How are you handling it? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Without Him you can try to be positive, optimistic, and even pray but you are lost like a sailboat in a storm. You need Him to be your Savior.

Let’s look at Mary’s song and see how we can praise God under pressure:

1. CONTEXT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:39   Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Background: When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be pregnant with a child who is the Son of God, she was afraid and full of worries. A baby was growing inside of her and she had nothing to do with it. How would her family deal with this? She’s not married but engaged to a good man. How will Joseph deal with this? She comes from a priestly family. How will her community deal with her? Will she be stoned to death? So the angel suggested that she visit her relative Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Mary left immediately from her home in Nazareth of Galilee and travelled 80-100 miles to the hill country of Judea, South of Jerusalem. It probably took her about 3-4 days in journey. You can only imagine how exhausted she was. I doubt she had a full night’s sleep since the week before. Now she came to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home. How will they treat her?

Picture – Mary, a young girl who was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.

Application: Have you ever been in that situation? Maybe it wasn’t as intense but it was exhausting. Maybe you are in that situation right now. How are you handling it? Are you getting angry? Are you discouraged? Are you afraid? Are you praying? Luke 18:1b “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” The antidote to losing heart is prayer.

How did Elizabeth greet her? 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Meaning: No condemnation, criticism, and condescension but only uplifting, encouraging, and faith filled words.

Application: Let me ask you – When people get around you, do they feel uplifted, encouraged, and faith filled. I guess the deeper question is – “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” “Is your life under His command and control?”

2. CONTENT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:46 And Mary said:

Background: Let me stop here for a moment – Some people mistakenly think that Mary immediately launched into her song of praise when Elizabeth finished saying verse 45Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” It is as if Mary was like – “I’ve been writing a poem all the way from Nazareth to Judea. It’ll make a great song one day. Tell me if it rhymes.” This is my opinion – I don’t think Mary wrote this song of praise until sometime in the last month of her three months with Zachariah and Elizabeth. It was after day after day and week after week of listening to Zachariah and Elizabeth that Mary began to jot down her thoughts and prayers.

Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It grows in the crucible of suffering and pain. Some of the greatest melodies and lyrics were written when a person was going through a time of loss and pain. Charles Spurgeon said, “Pain makes every note come out with great effort, yet I believe God bends down His ears to hear such singing as that. I have known birds in cages sing better than those outside—and the Lord sometimes puts us in a cage on purpose that He may hear us sing the sweeter.”

Now listen to her words of praise – it can be divided into three sections:

  1. She focused on God – “My soul magnifies the Lord…

Meaning: This was not a song of self-determination and resolve. It was a song that magnified God. How do you magnify God? How do you make God great? It’s not like you put God under a microscope. It’s more like walking up to the Washington Monument and realizing how immense it is. Magnifying the Lord means drawing closer to Him and realizing how great He is in everything. It begins by thinking upon Him and His many attributes. Sometimes we focus so much on our problem that it is magnified more than it needs to be. Instead, the more you magnify God, the more you want to magnify Him. You may start to magnify Him in a whisper at the bottom of the hill but as you start climbing up and draw closer to the top, you find yourself shouting praises to His name!

When was the last time you focused on how great is our God?

  1. She returned to the basics – 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Meaning: As Mary begins to magnify God, she does not get into the deep things of the Christian life. She does not talk about pneumatology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. She does not get into the various views of sanctification. She goes back to the fundamentals. She rejoices in “God my Savior.” No matter how deep you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and no matter how much you understand the deep things of the Christian life, you never get too far from “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You might say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven” and that’s wonderful. At the same time, this same Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” At the end of the day, I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

When was the last time you got on your face before God and said, “God be merciful a sinner.” Do you know what that does? It takes the pressure off of us and puts it upon God.

  1. She was grateful to God for everything:

– First, for her own self. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

During trials it is good to look back and thank God for how far He has brought you.

For e.g. Visiting a lady at the hospital and how she encouraged me to be thankful.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Meaning: When God shows His grace, He does not compromise with sin. Don’t ever think that grace means God overlooks your sins. It only means that God looks at Jesus instead of you.

– Second, for all people. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

Anytime good things happen to people, it is God. He is the source of all good things.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. Meaning: The wicked rich He has sent away empty.

– Third, for God’s people. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Meaning: There’s a difference here in how God blesses all the people in the world and how He especially takes care of His people.

For e.g. If I see a child hungry, I’ll find a way to feed him/her. But, if it is my child, I don’t wait till I see him/her hungry. I have a purpose for his/her life.

Application: Are you going through a time of pressure, have you praised God? Have you thanked Him for what He has done for you, for others, and for His people? What are you magnifying in your life? Are you grateful for being saved?

3. CONSEQUENCE OF PRAISE

Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

She had to go back. We live in a time where people want to run away. Nobody wants to go back. Everybody wants to move somewhere else.

But, how did she go back – reluctantly, bitterly, or angrily? We get a glimpse of her new personality after the shepherds came to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Luke 2 17 Now when they (shepherds) had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it (crowd) marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Another translation has it – “And Mary was pondering all these matters, trying to put them together in her heart.”

Meaning: She did not lose heart, bail out, get angry, feel sorry for her self, and wish she had another life. Like a servant, she knew that her Master knew best and she submitted willingly.

Application: How are you dealing with your pressures? Do you know Jesus?

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When you need the human touchWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This morning I’m preaching a message titled – “WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH.” Nicole often tells me the story of her little brother who was scared to go to sleep. Their dad told him that God was with him and angels were guarding him and he had nothing to be afraid of. He replied, “I know but I want someone I can touch.”

Luke 1   26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!…31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS…36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren…39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas season – The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the news of Jesus and she is shocked but he comforts her and she happily submits. All that is true but when we step back and look at this account in its overall context, we find a greater truth just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. The account of Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is couched between the accounts of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25 tells us how the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah and Elizabeth, a couple who was righteous and blameless before God. Then, Luke 1:26-38 is about how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and gave her the news that she will be with child whose name shall be Jesus. We just read it. Then, Luke 1:39-80 is about how Mary went and stayed with Zachariah and Elizabeth for three months until John was born. Meaning: Zachariah and Elizabeth were very important in Mary’s life and the birth of Jesus. For e.g. Like a sandwich that has meat between two pieces of bread, we have eaten the meat but left the bread. Oh, we got the meat – Jesus – but we missed the sandwich.

This morning, the point of the message is – God’s Providence, God’s Promises, and God’s Presence are vital for us to go through life but so are God’s People. God wants us to connect with godly people who will bring wisdom and encouragement in our life.

Application: Do you feel like you are doing your Bible Study and having your prayer time and even going to church but there’s still something missing? Are you connecting with godly people? Do you have spiritual connection with other believers? Some people say, “Oh I go to church.” Unless you have the right connector, you are going in vain. Jesus is the connector. Without Him our churches are nothing but a club or a hangout.

This morning we will see how along with God’s Providence, Promises, and Presence, we also need His People:

1. GOD’S PROVIDENCE

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Background: In the 1800s many scholars denied the existence of Nazareth because there is no mention of it in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, or Rabbinic writings. This all changed when archaeology revealed there was indeed a small town named Nazareth in Galilee. (Now there’s a reason why I’m dealing with this now and it will make sense a little later.) Nazareth was a very small village, probably just a caution light. As they say, if you blink, you would miss it. It had a population of 150-200. It was located in the hills of Lower Galilee and it was not a stop on any major route. When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, they did not even bother to mess with it. Who lived in this small town? Archaeologists found some inscriptions claiming that it was a settlement for Jewish priests in the third and fourth centuries BC. Hence, Mary was probably from a priestly, Aaronic lineage. And, how about the name Nazareth? It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” referring to the Messiah. Maybe, this small group of priests believed that the Messiah would come through them. Maybe, some of them had been connected to the lineage of David. How did other people think of them? Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This was Nazareth. But, God in His providence saw Nazareth and He sent His archangel Gabriel to Mary.

Application: This morning – you might be in a Nazareth. You feel small, insignificant, forgotten, and isolated. But not in the eyes of God – He sees you. He knows your every problem. He is aware of your every need. His providential care is upon you. God knows and He cares for you. He hasn’t abandoned you. Trust His providential hand.

2. GOD’S PROMISES

28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Background: These people considered themselves to be the shoot of David. They thought they were the ones through whom the Messiah would come. But when it actually began to happen, fear came upon her.

Isn’t that how it is for us? We want God to use us, bless us but when He actually starts, we get scared. On second thoughts, “God – I don’t want to be used. Use someone else.”

The angel Gabriel starts reminding her of the promises of God – 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Isn’t it wonderful how the promises of God give us the courage to face life?!! Just when you think all hope is gone, the promises of God shine through like the bright sun on a dark cloudy day. For e.g. Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma. They hung him upside down for sharing Jesus. As human waste rolling down his back, someone asked – “So how does the future look?” He said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Application: What promises are you claiming in your life this morning? The scripture is filled with them. Unless you know Jesus as your Savior, these promises are nothing but words on a page. Get to know Him and then claim His promises for your life.

3. GOD’S PRESENCE

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” By the way, there’s a big difference between Mary’s doubt and Zachariah’s doubt. Remember, Zachariah said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Mary was just a young girl and Zachariah was a priest before God. It’s one thing for a newborn Christian to say – “I don’t know how God can help me,” but it’s quite another for a church going, Bible toting, mature Christian to doubt God.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Background: Gabriel promised her that the Holy Spirit Presence would take care of her.

Do you know that as a Christian you are never alone? Jesus said in John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Application: Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? The only way to have Him is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, then pray and ask His help in your life.

4. GOD’S PEOPLE

Mary in Nazareth36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” This is probably the most neglected verse in the Christmas narrative. Why did he do that? Was he just making small talk? No. In this small village of 150-200 people, it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out what’s happening and start talking. Can you imagine what they would do to Mary? Gabriel was telling her to leave and go to the godly couple Zachariah and Elizabeth. What happened when the angel left? 39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah…” This region was to the South of Jerusalem about 80-100 miles from Nazareth. It would have taken Mary about 3-4 days to get here. But she had to go.

Listen to what happens when she gets to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home –

41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.Nazareth to the Hills of Judea

  • Godly people have the Holy Spirit controlling their lives. They are not led by their emotions, evil motives, and secret agendas.

42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

  • Godly people have a sense of spiritual discernment. This was no chitchat about the weather in Nazareth and how long it took.

43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

  • Godly people are constantly aware of God’s greater plan around them.

44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

  • Godly people are not ashamed to share what God is showing them.

Mary with Elizabeth45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

  • Godly people ignite and fan our faith in the promises of God. By the way, this is the first Beatitude in the Gospel.

Luke 1:56   And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Mary stayed until John was born and then she headed home. She had a difficult road ahead of her but now she was prepared.

Application: Do you have such godly people in your life? I go to church will not cut it. It is knowing Jesus that joins us together. Do you know Him as your Savior?

TRUE VS FALSE DISCIPLES – CELEBRATING THE COMMUNION

TRUE VS FALSE DISCIPLES – CELEBRATING THE COMMUNION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

True vs False DiscipleMatt. 26:17-22   17 Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ ” 19   So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20   When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.  21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22   And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

Overall Background:  The passage we just read is one of the most somber, sorrowful, and grim chapters in the entire Bible. The time had come for Jesus to go to the cross. This was not unexpected; this was not spur of the moment; this was prophesied; this was written centuries beforehand; this was the very reason that the second person of the Godhead came into this world as the Son of Man. His disciples knew that something was up but they were infantile in their faith and understanding. Make no mistake that they were saved – except one – but their eyes were not yet fully open. Jesus had tried to explain what was about to come several times but they still didn’t get it.

About this time, there were two major holidays of the people of Israel – the feast of the Passover and the feast of the Unleavened Bread. Every nation has its holidays. In America we have the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and so on. These are man-made holidays and we enjoy them but there is only nation for whom God established their holidays – Nation of Israel. He gave them 7 holidays to be a prophetic reminder of the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “feasts” is “to keep an appointment.” God made these appointments with His people to meet with them at certain times.

Jesus took this opportunity to reveal to His disciples that He was the fulfillment of the feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Passover. Not only that, He also used this opportunity to reveal to them who was a true disciple and who was a false disciple.

Application: This morning as we hear this message, let us not only see who Christ is but also who you are – are you a true disciple or are you a false disciple? Are you truly following Christ or are you playing Christianity? And if you are a false disciple, let the Holy Spirit turn you around to the truth.

We will divide up this account into 3 parts: what took place before, during, and after the meal.

I. WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE MEAL?

Background: We have to start reading at Matt. 26:6-9  6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,  7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. (Now who was this woman? When you place all 4 gospels side by side, like Paul Harvey, they tell us the rest of the story. This woman is none other than Mary the sister of Lazarus—whom Jesus raised from the dead. She had a terrible past until she met Jesus. She was so grateful that she sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha her sister complained about her. She loved Jesus. Somehow she understood that his death was significant.

What happened when she anointed Jesus’ head and feet with the costly oil? 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” (Now Matthew does not identify the disciple. Once again, you have to turn to John’s gospel to get the rest of the story.) John 12:4-6  4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,  5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

What a contrast between Mary and Judas! Mary was grateful for what Jesus had done for her. Judas was a thief. He was a disciple in name only but his life was never touched by the truth. All he could see was profit and loss. All he could see was opportunity. Unlike Mary, he never saw who Jesus was. Judas was a natural man, described in I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

What did Jesus do? He commended Mary and rebuked the disciples, especially Judas, for troubling her. He said in Luke 7:47 “But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

How did Judas react? 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.  16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

How tragic! So close to the truth and yet so far away!

II. WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE MEAL?

Matt. 26:20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.Application: Has the Holy Spirit of God opened your eyes? Are you a Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, willing to break a costly perfume at the Master’s feet, grateful for what He has done for you? Or, are you a Judas cynical, critical, negative, stealing from God, blinded by the lures of the world?

Background: What Jesus was about to celebrate with His disciples was something the Jewish people had done for 2000 years at the time. It was in accordance with God’s commandment to the people of Israel. God had commanded them through Moses that when they came into the land of promise, they were to observe this feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread – the Seder. And if their children were to ask, “why?” They had to explain it to them. By the way, to this day, when the Jewish people celebrate Passover, the youngest child repeats the ritual question in the – Ma Nishtana? “Why is this night different from all the other nights?” Then the family reads from the Haggadah.

You can imagine the disciples sitting down to go over these rituals and customs. Everything is ready – the approved lamb had been taken to the temple and slain. Then, it had been brought back and roasted and placed on the table. Also on the table was unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and now wine has been added to the meal. The disciples have no idea what is about to come.

Jesus begins the meal with these words—21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

What a dramatic scene? They were exceedingly sorrowful. One of them was a traitor. Jesus answered them in verse 23  He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25   Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.”

How tragic? Having dipped his hand with Christ in the dish, he continued on the course to betray him. His mind was made up.

Application: Are you coming to church, taking part in the activities, serving in ministry, and even partaking of the Communion, and yet your life is unchanged.

Once again you have to turn to John 13 to get the rest of the story – 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” And Judas left.

When a person repeatedly rejects the invitation of grace to receive Jesus as Savior, he/she is opening himself/herself to Satan.

Application: Have you repeatedly rejected God’s call of salvation in your life? Are you leaving the door open way for the enemy to come in?

What did Jesus do at this point? Now the real feast begins. Matt. 26:26   And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed (This is the prayer that is made to this day – Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth – Again – Jesus is talking about His own death and resurrection to come) and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

A Jewish custom originated about 3 centuries ago that puts three breads side by side. Then they reach down and pick up the middle bread and broke it. Isn’t it amazing that the middle Matzah is picked up out of the three pieces and that’s the one that is broken. Remember: the Father did not die on the cross, neither the Holy Spirit; only the Son. What is even more amazing is that they take one broken piece of the Matzah and wrap it and hide it for the children to find it – just like the Easter Eggs. Then, they bring out that hidden piece of bread – the Afikoman – that which is coming – at the end of the meal and eat it. It is a substitute for the lamb. For the past 1900 years the Jewish people have been celebrating the Pesach with no Lamb – where will you sacrifice it. No temple, no altar. The Afikoman represents Jesus who died and was wrapped according to the custom and buried Him in a grave but on the third day He came alive.

Now the most powerful statement: Matt. 26:27   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus not only celebrated the Passover but He also explained its true fulfillment. The next day was the National Passover, when the priests would sacrifice the lambs for the whole nation. At 3 pm, as the Levitical priests were slitting the throats of the lambs, Jesus was hanging on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins. Then He said – “It is finished.”

Judas did not get this – He was a false disciple.

So far we have seen – what happened before the meal and during the meal, now…

III. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE MEAL?

Jesus gave them a solid assurance that they will meet again one day.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Keep in mind that it was not over – Peter was still going to betray Him. The rest of the disciples were still going to desert Him. Nonetheless, the promise to the true disciples was – together we will “drink it new in My Father’s Kingdom.”

Meaning: True disciples may fail, falter, and stumble but they are not lost eternally from the Father’s hand.

Application: Are you a true disciple or false one?

………………..

Then they sang a hymn and 30 “…they went out to the Mount of Olives.” It is a custom to end the Seder by singing the Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118).

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