AM Sermon preached at Central Christian Church March 2, 2008
Jesus At The “Cross”roads Sermon Series The Road to Jerusalem
[START SLIDE SHOW—IT’LL ADVANCE AUTOMATICALLY TO SLIDE #4]
Today, as you can see from the slides and the bulletin insert, we’re starting a new sermon series----one which I’ve given the title of “Jesus At The “Cross”roads.” In this series we’ll be looking at Jesus’ journey which took Him to the cross and beyond. And while we’re going to really zero in on the meaning and depth of Luke 9:51, before we begin digging there I’d like for us first to look at another verse, one out of Hebrews. Hebrews 12:2. Hebrews 12:2 is to me, one of the most fascinating verses in the Bible---[SLIDE #5] it encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What especially fascinates me in this verse is the phrase “who for the joy set be fore him endured the cross.” I want you to put that phrase on the back burner of your mind and keep it warm. We’ll be bringing it up front again a little later.
Right now though, I want to encourage you to open your Bibles to Luke 9 as we begin to fix our eyes on Jesus… [SLIDE #6] Here’s the situation in which our key verse falls…
Determined in spite of inconveniences
For nearly three years Jesus has been involved in public ministry--- travelling around the countryside, teaching crowds, performing miracles, healing individuals---and now the time is approaching for Him to make His final trip into Jerusalem. He’s been to that great city before, on several occasions. But soon, He knows it’s going to be different. Soon He will allow Himself to take prisoner. Soon there would be bloodshed---and the blood that would be shed would be His. Other visits before had been made where the religious leaders wanted to arrest Him---wanted to do away with Him, but they wouldn’t make their move because the crowds were with Jesus. And at the moment, the crowds were still with Him, hanging on His every word, calling Him a prophet and talking of Him possibly being the One, the Messiah they’d all been waiting for. But this trip was going to be different. It would a major transition in Jesus’ ministry. In a way this trip was the beginning of the end. Things were beginning to change. And soon, the crowds would turn violently against Him. Soon taking their cue from the Prince of Darkness, the Pharisees would play their hand and Jesus would be mocked, beaten and crucified. Jesus knows all this---and yet in this morning’s key verse, in Luke 9:51, we find that He is bound and determined to go to Jerusalem.
[SLIDE #7] Here’s how Luke 9:51 reads in the NIV… 51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
[SLIDE #8] The Message Version claims Jesus “gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”
[SLIDE #9] The KJV reads that Jesus “stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem…”
AND The NASB puts it this way “He was determined to go to Jerusalem…”
[SLIDE #10] Jesus set His heart upon going to Jerusalem not because He relished the idea of being beaten and crucified---but because His love for us made Him bound and determined to do whatever it took to make it possible for us to be forgiven. Jesus was intent upon entering the ring with God’s wrath against our sins so we wouldn’t have to. So with an unwavering divine grit He started out for Jerusalem. [SLIDE #11]
Almost immediately Jesus had to go to battle against inconvenience and rejection. The very first thing we read after reading Luke’s comments about Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem is a roadblock of prejudice that added some unnecessary hardships to the journey. [SCRIPTURE SLIDES] Luke 9:52-56 tell us that Jesus….52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.
Here’s what’s going on---at this point in Jesus’ public ministry, wherever He goes, He has crowds of people following Him. What’s more, the shortest distance from Galilee to Jerusalem is through Samaria. And that’s a three day trip. So, thinking of the people, Jesus sends some messengers ahead of the crowds to the town they’re approaching. He probably wanted to give the townspeople a heads-up as to their arrival so they could make extra food to give or sell to the crowds---and so they could perhaps set up some tents or make other special housing arrangements for the flood of people moving their direction. But the abrupt word comes back…”Stay away! We don’t want you or any of the others traveling with you to Jerusalem to come around here!”
What we’re talking about is a matter of prejudice. A centuries’ old hatred was rearing its ugly head. For centuries because of the Samaritans having intermarried with their Assyrian conquerors, the Jews had been rejecting and badmouthing the Samaritans. And the Samaritans decided to return the favor. An encounter between a Jew and Samaritan often ended up in a childish match of name calling or worse. The Jews would mouth off with something like “Hey you—yeah you, Samaritan. You half-breed---you’ve got half a brain!” The Samaritans would counter “If my being a half-breed means I have half-a brain---that must mean you’re a purebred idiot!”
The townspeople of this first Samaritan village which Jesus was drawing near to, made it clear He and His entourage weren’t welcome there. So James and John, the ones known as the Sons of Thunder, with equal prejudice speak up and say Lord, should be call fire down from heaven to destroy them? And in case you didn’t know---they were probably speaking literally. They’d known how Elijah had called for fire from heaven and received it----and they were thinking of Jesus as being something of a modern Elijah---so they probably meant it…probably even hoped it would happen, because if it did they’d enjoy it. But Jesus rebuked them, making it clear that He meant what He’d said earlier when He talked about loving your enemies and praying for them. In fact, it’s not long after this that Jesus tells one of His most famous stories, a story we’ve come to know as the story of the Good Samaritan. What we need to take note of especially this morning---is that this rejection and the inconvenience of having to travel further before securing the night’s lodging---these things didn’t keep Jesus from moving forward.
Jesus had made up His mind---He was going to Jerusalem. He could deal with rejection. He would work through the inconveniences. He was not backing down, giving up or turning back---even in the face of opposition He would march on. [SLIDE #17] Now, rejection and opposition aren’t the same. For example, a university may reject a student’s application for admission to their school but that doesn’t mean they’re opposed to that student attending elsewhere. At the start of this journey, Jesus was rejected by the Samaritans. Not long after He was opposed by the Pharisees and religious leaders. [SCRIPTURE SLIDES] In Luke 11:53-54 we read how “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.” And as you read on in Luke you find that when these guys figured out after month’s of trying that they’re weren’t going to be able to use Jesus’ words against Him, they tried another ploy. They tried to scare Jesus off course. Look at Luke 13:31 with me… 31At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."
I can almost imagine the venom in their voices as they deceitfully told Jesus---“Listen, Jesus, it’s no secret that we don’t like you and that we don’t approve of many of the things you teach…we think you’re wrong---but be that as it may, we think you’re sincerely wrong---so we feel for you and we thought we ought to warn you---you’d better stay out of Jerusalem---if not because of us, at least because of Herod. King Herod wants to kill you!” I love Jesus’ response. [SCRIPTURE SLIDES] Verses 32-33… 32He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
What’s He saying? Jesus is saying. You guys aren’t going to keep me out of Jerusalem and neither is Herod. I will, I must keep pressing on. I’ve got something I have to do---I have to be killed in Jerusalem!”
Inconvenience, rejection, opposition were not enough to stop Jesus. [SLIDE #22] Neither was His being misunderstood and unappreciated. At one point along the way, Jesus cast a demon out of a man. But some who witnessed Jesus’ display of spiritual power misunderstood and they said [SCRIPTURE SLIDE #23] "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." Luke 11:15 [SLIDE #24] If you’ve ever done your best to bring about something good in the life of another person only to have your efforts misunderstood or worse to be accused of having malicious or selfish motives, then you might begin to see how discouraging it must have been for Jesus to have people accusing Him of being in league with Satan when in fact He was at war with him.
And then there was that time when Jesus was about to enter a village and ten lepers called out to Him, “Master, have pity on us!” Jesus healed all ten of them of their leprosy, yet to our knowledge only one of them ever thanked Him for it. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you too have wrestled with feelings of being unappreciated. If you did, who won the battle? Jesus was frequently misunderstood and often unappreciated even then He didn’t throw in the towel.
Don’t think for a moment that He wasn’t tempted to. The Bible clearly teaches us that Jesus faced the same kinds of temptations we face. And since we’ve been tempted to call it quits, we can be sure Jesus was. I don’t think it was a constant temptation for Him on this journey because this journey that takes Jesus into Jerusalem and eventually ends at Calvary---it had its highlights and special moments of joy---I imagine that Jesus was thrilled to heal blind Bartimaeus; He probably smiled and laughed as the little children ran to Him and as He took them on His lap and kissed and hugged on them---He was filled with joy when He got reports of success from the seventy-two He’d sent out---He was moved by the widow who put everything she had in the offering. Obviously, every step of the journey was filled with thorns. So I don’t think Jesus was constantly being bombarded with the temptation to pull Himself out of the running---but I do believe the temptation was always there lurking in the background and whenever it thought it had a chance of bringing the Mighty One down, it snuck into the scene.
One such time came, I think, after Jesus had made it clear to His disciples that the reason He was so intent upon going to Jerusalem was to be put to death. [SCRIPTURE SLIDES] Matthew 16:22-23 let us know that at that point “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Notice that phrase “stumbling block.” It carries the idea that a person can be tripped up by it---a stumbling block in a person’s path increases his chance of falling. I think Jesus was telling Peter---“Stop it, Peter. Stop it! You’re one of my closest friends and you don’t know what you’re saying! You have no idea of what would happen to you if I don’t go there and die. You’re tempting Me to turn aside from my mission. Peter, knowing what I know about what lies ahead---it’s hard enough to keep on going. The last thing I want from you is for you to go on and on about how I shouldn’t do it. I can’t do this man’s way; I’ve got to do it God’s way…so stop it!”
Ever had a close friend or even a family member try to get you to compromise your faith or lessen your commitment to God? This is just the way it is, the closer we are to a person---the more we love them, the greater our desire is not to disappoint them. As a result we don’t like telling them “no.” That’s why sometimes when we know we should say “no,” we’re tempted to say “yes.” That’s why I think Jesus was so tough on Peter when Peter suggested that He not go through with it. Because the temptation to turn aside was stronger coming from Peter than it was coming from the Pharisees.
All that being said, how can we not see the pattern here? Jesus has resolutely set out for Jerusalem because He has the things of God in mind. And He refuses to allow anything outside of Him or inside of Him to barricade the way. No inconvenience, no rejection, no opposition, no misunderstanding, no being taken for granted, no temptation, no power, no person, no thing, nothing would change His mind or redirect His course. At the Father’s request He had began this journey. It had taken Him from heaven to earth. And now it was taking Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. Soon it would take Him to the cross. And not long after the triumphant cry would be heard from Calvary. “It’s done! I did it! Mission accomplished!”
Three days later Jesus would rise from the dead---and He’d say to His disciples and to all the human race---sure, it was tough---it was worse than anything you can every imagine, really. But let me tell you something, it was worth it. You …were worth it.” [SLIDE #28] Now go back to that phase “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” You see, friends---you were the joy, I was the joy, we were the joy set before Jesus---we were the reason He endured the cross. Jesus says to Him we were worth it.
On many, many occasions I’ve stood up here and said that Jesus gives the best life now and heave later. And I believe He does---but not to everyone. He only gives it to people who put their hope and trust in Him, who live for Him and finish their life’s journey with Him. It’s this simple---the person who dies without faith in Jesus, will not enter into heaven---while the person who dies with their faith in Jesus still intact will be welcomed into heaven.
Let me tell you a story and then we’ll tie all this together and move into our decision time. Imagine an airplane. The stewardess on this plane is passing out parachutes. She tells the passengers. A lot of people say that they enjoy having a parachute with them and that it makes their flight more enjoyable. As she helps one man strap a parachute on his back she says, “Here try this on for size.” The weight of the parachute and the fact that having it on made it impossible for him to recline back in his seat---well they made him wonder why anyone would say it made their flight more enjoyable. Wearing that parachute, he thought was awkward at best. About an hour later when he tried to get up to get something off the shelf above his head, his parachute got caught in the seatbelt attachment on the back of his seat. “Stupid parachute” he mumbles. It took him several minutes to pry it loose and the experience left him rather frustrated. The real topper came when the stewardess returned with coffee because as the man turned to place the cup of coffee she’d given to him on the tray of his seat, the parachute bumped the pitcher the stewardess was carrying and she spilled hot coffee down his back. Angry, hurting and frustrated with the parachute the man stood up, unstrapped it from his back, let it fall to the floor and then he kicked it under his seat. That’s better, he said as he reclined in his seat.
Now imagine a different plane. With a different passenger and a different stewardess. This stewardess is also passing out parachutes. Only she doesn’t tell the passengers of this plane to try a parachute because some people have said they liked wearing one during their flight---no she says you need to put this on now. The captain’s told me that we’ve lost and engine and in a few minutes we’ll be losing another. The plane’s going to crash but before it does we’re all going to jump off. We’re cruising along right now at 25,000 feet but soon we’ll begin losing altitude. If you want to live putting on this parachute is not an option. It’s the only thing that will save you from death. Now picture her helping a man put one on. “I’m sorry it’s so heavy,” she says. The man knowing the parachute’s going to save his life says, “It’s okay. I can deal with the weight.” He sits back down with the parachute on. It doesn’t bother him in the least bit that the parachute’s made it so he can’t recline. He listens closely as the stewardess announces that soon they’ll be over the place that the captain believes will be best for everyone to jump. Please remain as calm. Stay in your seat. If no one panics we can all safely get off the plane….she says. Remembering he has something of special sentimental value in his luggage on the shelf above his seat he attempts to stand up and retrieve it. Like the passenger on the first plane, he gets his parachute caught in the seatbelt attachment. He wriggles around for several moments until finally the parachute comes free. “Ah, you wonderful, difficult parachute” he says as if the parachute could hear him. At this point, the stewardess is quickly making her way towards the cockpit pushing the drink cart to get it out of the aisle. She accidently catches her sleeve on one of this guy’s parachute straps and you guessed it, she spills hot coffee down his back. The man’s immediate reaction is to jump up and grab for the parachute straps to loose the thing from his back---but just about as quickly as he reacted, he remembered---I need this parachute. I’ll be dead without it.
Some of you know where I’m going with this illustration. When we talk to other people about Jesus or about church we need to be careful that we don’t give them the impression that church is all about our personal enjoyment. The whole thing with church and having a personal relationship with Jesus isn’t about trying something on to se if we like how it fits or seeing if it makes life more enjoyable. While I personally believe that it’s true that Jesus offers us the best possible life now---I don’t encourage people to follow Jesus solely for that reason. In fact that reason’s actually secondary. The primary reason for following Jesus, the main reason we need to put our faith in Jesus and keep it there ---and the main reason we need to encourage other to do the same is this---Jesus is the only One Who can save us from certain death. Jesus is the only person Who can keep us out of hell and get us into heaven. When people get a real grip on this reality then they’re willing to put up with the inconveniences without whining. When they accept the fact that without Jesus there will be no future eternal life in heaven then they’re ready to deal with the rejection of being one of His followers. There’s no doubt they’ll enjoy moments of great joy along the way and that they’ll take advantage of many opportunities to help others as they journey through life. But when people oppose them, when friends tempt them or family members misunderstand them they’ll still cling to their faith. Their very best efforts may go unappreciated but it doesn’t matter---they’re seeking the approval of God, not men and so they won’t waver. Like Jesus they are determined to go the distance. Why? Because they’re convinced that an eternity with God in heaven will be worth it.
“William W. Borden was the heir of a wealthy Chicago family. In 1904 and 1905, at the age of eighteen, he travelled around the world. This was followed by a brilliant education at Yale and then Princeton Seminary where he committed his life to seek to win the Muslims in China to Christ. Before he left, he gave away some $500,000 (I understand that to be the equivalent of about $20,000,000 today) and served at the age of twenty-three as a trustee to Moody Bible Institute. In 1913, in his twenty-sixth year, he left for Egypt and never looked back. It was the final year of his life, because in Cairo he contracted cerebral meningitis. As he lay dying, he scribbled this note: “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”
---quote from R. Kent Hughes.
That’s the kind of attitude---that’s the kind of commitment Jesus calls us to today. U.S. Senator Sam Nunn once said, “You have to pay the price. You will find that everything in life exacts a price, and you have to decide whether the price is worth the prize.” The cross was a huge price for Jesus to pay. He endured it for the joy set before him. To Him we’re worth it. When it comes to your following Christ, how much will you put up with? What are you willing to endure? What are you willing to sacrifice? Again, friends while I believe Jesus offers us the best possible life now----it’s not always the easy life---in fact sometimes it’s hard. Remember Jesus said, if anyone would become my disciple he must indulge himself, and be willing to carry around his own down feather pillow, right? [SCRIPTURE SLIDE] No, Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 I know this isn’t the most popular way of presenting Christ these days, but I’m telling you the truth. There’s a price to be paid in following Christ. And like Senator Nunn said “you have to decide whether the price is worth the prize.” I’m convinced it is, are you?
Let’s stand and sing this morning’s decision hymn. We’d welcome any public decision you’d like to make for Christ. If you wish to make one, please come forward and meet with me as our praise team leads us in singing……..
NOTE TO THOSE WHO READ AND OR CHOOSE TO MAKE USE OF ANY OR ALL OF THIS SERMON: I am sharing this sermon with the hopes it will be an encouragement to others. I apologize for any blatant typing errors! If you find any I’d appreciate hearing from you so I can correct them. I try to give credit where credit is due, noting writers and or sources to the best of my ability. I have for years been drawing from a wealth of sources including this website. I recognize that my mind and writing processes are fallible. I may occasionally fail to properly identify a source. Please do not take offense if you see anything of this nature. I never intend to plagiarize. Having said that I want you to feel free to draw from my message. When appropriate I hope you will give credit as I do. But most of all I hope Christ will be lifted up and God will receive the glory in all things.
P.S. I went ahead and posted this and a few other sermons without removing the tech notes I had in my manuscript because of a time factor in wanting to make them available for those looking for Easter messages over the next few weeks. I hope you don't find them too distracting!