Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."
Jesus 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. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day -- for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!"
It is said that one day Martin Luther stood in his pulpit, opened the Bible, looked out at his congregation and said, "There is no word of God for you today. Amen." Then he shut the book and sat down. Pastor Luther was angry with his people for not listening to his preaching. For years he had told them of how great Godís love for them in Christ was and how they should give God their hearts, but they would not. They became hardened to his preaching and would not listen. They would not obey God. So that day Martin preached no sermon at Wittenberg, hoping the people would better cherish the Word of God the next time they heard it.
Today Christian preachers can feel the same way, when they preach week after week about wages of sin and the love of God for sinner, and see little progress in the lives of their people. During sermons the view from up here is often one of sleeping men, women eyeing each otherís fashions, and children making too many trips to the bathroom. Iíve even heard the sounds from children playing electronic games in church instead of listening to what God wants to say to them. This has led some preachers to theatrics in the pulpit in order to "spice up" Godís word and make it more interesting to complacent souls, which results in a show that has to out do itself week after week.
There is no need for entertainment in Christís church. Godís word has its own power. To those who believe in death and hell the spoken gospel is the most powerful substance in the universe. It is a source of life and salvation, freedom from the curse of a sinful existence, and joy beyond comparison. To those who are happy with the world and have no fear of what happens after death, church sermons are little more than boring commentaries intruding on an otherwise lovely Sunday morning.
Christ commissioned his apostles to preach, not their own entertaining message, but his story of salvation. Nothing could prevent him from his work as the savior. Not even when they said to him, "Go away, Herod the king wants to kill you." Jesus had work to do. He had miracles to do, demons to drive out of tormented souls. He had the love of God for repentant sinners to proclaim, and the coming judgment of the Almighty to preach to those who were hardened in their ways. Jesus had to preach the good news about what he was going to do. He had to go to Jerusalem to do it, even if there were those in high places who threatened him.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to tell the good news about Jesus. We are often afraid to do this. There is no question that speaking Godís Word can get one into trouble -- BIG trouble. So it was with our Lord Himself, so it was with the prophets who went before him. Today we heard Jeremiah undergoing a trial for his life, which in many ways resembles Jesus í trial. He was encouraged to tell the good news. So are we.
The world attacks us for speaking of law and gospel. The law is the message that whatever we are comfortable doing with out life is not necessarily that way God wants us to live. Godís law tells us that he has standards, commandments for us to live by, and points out where we are not measuring up.
The gospel, on the other hand, is the message that is preached once the law has convinced us that we are sinners and face the judgment of an angry God. The gospel shows us what God has done to save us. It is when Jesus went into Jerusalem, fully aware of what was waiting there for him. Jerusalem put Jesus to death, just like it had so many of the prophets before Jesus. In Jerusalem there was a cross of wood waiting for the one who reminded the city of its sin and pointed to himself as its only savior. That cross, intended to kill the one who remind Jerusalem of its sin, became the instrument that saved millions who believed in Jesusí gospel.
We are called to tell this good news about Jesus, but the world is a Jerusalem to us. It attacks us for speaking of Jesus. That is because our message exposes the worldís sources of security as helpless. Wealth, possessions, self-determination, power, immorality -- all of these are meaningless in the face of Godís coming judgment on the world. The gospel strikes the unbeliever as insulting or irrelevant. They have no need for a savior.
But still we should not be silenced. Jesus and Jeremiah were threatened with death. Most of the time it doesnít take a death threat to shut us up. It is hard to tell the good news even in our own families!
But why are we so ashamed? We should not be surprised if we are not friends with the world. Jesus said he came not to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. His message would turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. Is it no wonder that we are afraid to speak the faith to our relatives? But the good news is so important we must keep telling it. It is a matter of life and death for all who will receive it. That must start with those we love.
Illustration about confidence.
We are to tell the good news about Jesus with confidence in the Lord who made us His. He will supply all the confidence we need. We need only remember the confidence Jeremiah had when he said to his accusers, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city." Jeremiah said, "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house. Now reform you ways and your actions and obey your God. Then God will not bring disaster upon you." Jeremiah could say that because he was assured of his destiny. So can we.
Godís love gives us confidence. Think how much Jesus loved Peter, the one who denied he even knew him three times. Or how much he loved Jerusalem, saying he longed to gather her children together as a hen gathers its chicks under her wings. Jerusalem who would put him to death.
Jesus death was the most extreme shedding of innocent blood. Every time we see the cross we should be reminded of how much God must love us in order to do that. The empty tomb means we have good news for everyone, even for ourselves. Godís love for us gives us great confidence to speak his message.
We should also have confidence because he sends us. We are not prophets like Jeremiah. Most of us are not called pastors either. But we do have the commission to take the word of God to our neighbors wherever we can in our Christian lives. God has sent us as his ambassadors to speak to everyone who will listen, in every place, at home, at work, in society, and in the church. We are to tell the good news and build one another up in the faith.
We canít control how people who hear us will react to the good news. Sometimes it may appear that we have entered into Jerusalem to die like Jesus did. But we must not hesitate to speak, because Jesus gives us confidence and he has sent us.
But we must not harden ourselves to this task. When we will not take the risk to speak of Jesus, then we are the ones in Jerusalem who kill the prophets and stone those sent to us. When we will not receive the word of God and keep it, we are working against Jesus. Preserve us from this, O God.
The more we listen to the Word of God, the more naturally we give forth Godí s message, and the more certain we are of what we say. By the power that the word carries with it, we are not mere imitators of preachers like Jeremiah or Martin Luther, but we are more like the one into whom we are baptized, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The most natural thing for people in the world to do is to tell the Good News. Start with the people with whom you are most consistently in the word, like your family. Speak the word to one another, even if all you do at first is to repeat the Scriptures, catechism, and hymns. Listen to the Good News you speak, and recall that it is Good News of forgiveness for you too! Youíll be amazed at what happens next.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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