Summary: The sermon looks at giving care and love to the dying.
I know that the area, we are returning to this evening comes just before the death and resurrection of Jesus. It may seem that our timing is not exactly right but that is what happens when you preach through a whole book of the Bible. Things don’t line up exactly with the events on the calendar.
But tonight we are returning to the subject of Jesus death. Death is not the favorite subject to speak about. It is something that most of us would rather avoid. However, there are times in which all of us are able to minister to those who are dying. I believe hospice care is an important program in which Christian people can minister to others who are facing death. We often think about Jesus ministering to those who are facing death but in tonight’s text we learn some things about those who minister to Jesus before his death.
Many refer to the dying process of going through a wilderness experience. It is a time of in which a person can struggle with their dignity and even their faith. In this morning’s text we had the Sanhedrin looking for a way to stop the ministry of Jesus. They believed that the only way to stop Jesus was through taking his life. I was not Jesus’ time so the text tells us that Jesus no longer moved around publicly but he withdrew into a area that was desert. It was not the place most people would go looking for him. As Jesus approached his death he seems to go to a place that most people would avoid. I believe the desert described his life at this time. It was uncomfortable and even preparing for his death was uncomfortable.
As a Jew, Jesus would be familiar with the wilderness. The children of Israel had wondered in the wilderness for over 40 years. God had brought them out of Egypt. He had rescued them from the armies of the Pharaoh. God had opened the Red Sea and allowed to pass on dry ground. He fed them manna and quail. God gave them water and provided for all their needs but this was while they were trying to live in the wilderness. God had a greater home for them. He was going to give them the Promised Land.
However, this generation of Jews became set in their ways while they were out in the wilderness. God had told them that something greater was prepared for them on the other side of the Jordan River. Spies were sent into the Promised Land but only two spies, Joshua and Caleb came back with a good report. The other spies told the people that the risk was too great. Therefore, the people died in the wilderness because they did not trust God to move into the Promised Land. God was their key to escaping the wilderness. But instead of trusting God and seizing the opportunity they stayed where they were in the wilderness.
We will die in the wilderness if we are not willing to take risks for the Lord. We must step out in faith and do extraordinary things for him. When we take a risk for the Lord, he often gives us opportunities we never thought we might have. God doesn’t want us to live in the wilderness but he wants us to enter into the Promised Land of his kingdom. When we enter into the Promised Land life becomes exciting and satisfying.
We are told that next to dying, public speaking is about as stressful. I sometimes stand before people and I think what am I doing here? What makes you think you have anything to say to these people. Several years ago I returned to Michigan for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. My parents did not want any gifts but they did ask me to preach on Sunday, while my sister Sally was to sing. Not only did they as us to take part in the service, my father also told my sister what to sing and me what text to preach on. My sister was to sing the "Holy City" and I was to preach on the "Holy City" as it is found in the book of Revelation. These are sometimes things you sing about or preach about to give hope at a funeral but I wasn’t sure how to use them for a collaborative time.
I did my work and I got everything prepared. I had preached at my home church before so that wasn’t giving me to much trouble. I also knew that there were going to be lots of people I did not know and people who did not know me there, so I was feeling OK. However, as I was visiting with those who came to the open house, I learned that many of my relatives and other acquaintances were coming to the service. I was a nervous wreak throughout Saturday night. I began to think that I wish I had chosen a different text. It isn’t easy preaching on Heaven and Hell and the importance of being prepared to meet God. It was an important message but wasn’t an easy one considering the audience.