Monday, April 5, 2010

King Jesus in His Glory

Mark 10:32-45 (NKJV)
32 Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: 33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

There are times in every teacher’s life when he wonders if the people in whom he has been investing his energy are even listening. No doubt this was one of those times in Jesus’ life. Here he has just told the disciples for the third and final time that his mission in going to Jerusalem is one of suffering and death, and immediately James and John sidle up to Him and ask Him, “Lord, when you enter into your glory, grant that we might sit one at your right hand and the other at your left.” Grant that we might be your most influential counselors when you finally take charge in Jerusalem. We can imagine Jesus’ furrowed brow.

What lies behind James’ and John’s request is a distinct notion of kingship, a notion shared in common with the scribes and the Pharisees, with the chief priests and the elders, with the Herodians and the Zealots, with Rome and with Egypt. Kingship, they believed, is a display of power, a show of force, an exhibition of authority. True glory, therefore, lies in making others do one’s bidding, in being served by others.

As James and John are heading to Jerusalem with Jesus, therefore, certain that now is the moment when Jesus will enter upon his glory and take power, they ask him this very pointed request – we want to sit with you, one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory.

The interesting thing our text reveals, by the way, is that this radical misunderstanding was not unique to James and John. For when the other disciples hear what James and John have requested they do not laugh the request off – My goodness, how could James and John have so misunderstood what Jesus has been teaching us? No, instead, we are told, the ten are indignant. They are incensed that James and John asked the question that all of them have been yearning to ask but afraid to raise. All the disciples share this same mixed up notion of kingship. And so Jesus takes the time to instruct and correct them once again, to teach them.

Jesus’ response to James’ and John’s request is disbelief. “You do not know what you ask,” he declares. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Don’t you remember what I’ve been telling you? I’m heading to Jerusalem to suffer, to die, to be rejected – is this really what you want a share in? But James and John miss the rebuke; they persist in their request – “Oh, yes, we are able. We can do it. we’re going to suffer right alongside you, have no fear. We will fight with you and make sure you get your seat in glory. All we ask is that you let us sit beside you, on your right and your left, once you are there. You know our loyalty.”

And so Jesus, ever the patient teacher, knowing that soon James and John along with the others will receive the rude awakening that will enable them to see their ignorance, replies – “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink and with the baptism that I am baptized with you will be baptized” – you will be made to suffer, James and John – “but,” he continues, “to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

So James and John, and the other disciples, are left wondering, wrestling with themselves – who will it be? Who will get to sit on his right and his left hand in glory? When he is revealed as the radiant and resplendent king, the long-awaited Son of David, who will be beside him?

So the question for now, in Mark’s Gospel, is left hanging. Who will sit at Jesus’ right hand and his left in his glory? The question has been asked but no answer has been given. Yet.

For Mark does give us the answer to the question. Mark does reveal those for whom it was prepared to sit on Jesus’ right hand and on his left in his glory. When Jesus’ glory as the King of Israel was most fully displayed, Mark tells us who was honored to be on his right hand and on his left.

“Now it was the third hour,” Mark tells us in chapter 15, verse 25, “and they crucified Jesus. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him they also crucified two revolutionaries, one on His right and the other on His left.”

So here’s the question we pose this evening: where is the glory of Jesus as our King most fully displayed? Mark tells us that Jesus’ glory was on display in the cross.

And it is this very lesson that Jesus endeavors to teach the disciples once again in our text. Your notions of kingship are all messed up. “You know that those who are appointed leaders among the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus’ true glory as King is that He gave His life for His people. And it is this that we celebrate on Good Friday. So let us thank God for our glorious King.

Let us pray:

You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God. we adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom of priest to stand and serve before our God; to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever. Amen.

Declared to be the Son of God with Power

Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the single most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have cathedrals. Because of the resurrection, we have computers. All because of the resurrection.

It is this world transformation that Paul points out to us in the introduction to his letter to the Romans. After assuring us that Christ’s advent was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this turn of phrase?

While many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God – the text does not support this notion. For how could Jesus’ status as the eternal Son of God undergo a transformation as a result of the resurrection? He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. This is not what Paul is addressing.

What is Paul saying then? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in the ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a result of the resurrection. He was born of the seed of David – had indeed the natural right to rule as King. But simply having the natural right to rule does not establish that one does in fact rule. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim means little if one does not actually have the throne. And it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a legitimate claim to the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power – that is, the resurrection was Jesus’ coronation as King. God, as Peter says elsewhere, made Him to be both Lord and Christ by the resurrection from the dead.

What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.

So give heed to the exhortation of the psalmist in Psalm 2, the coronoation psalm of our King:

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Let us kneel therefore and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him.

Show Yourself a Man, Part 2

1 Kings 2:5-9 (NKJV)
And David charged his son Solomon, saying, “Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. 6 Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”

This morning we bring to a close the lessons which young men teach us as the people of God. It is fitting that we do this on Palm Sunday, the day the Church historically has celebrated the Triumphal Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem. For this day Jesus demonstrated that He was a faithful son of David, willing to risk His all for the glory of His Father, and a true specimen of manliness.

Last week we noted that David urged Solomon to “show himself a man.” This manliness would manifest itself in two ways: robust obedience to God’s law as it was revealed through Moses and conscious dependence upon the promises which God had made to David.

Today David gives Solomon two more charges that highlight what it means to be a man. David had left some unfulfilled business which could pose some potential problems for Solomon’s reign – Joab who was a murderer and Shimei who was a traitor. And so David exhorts Solomon, “Show yourself a man! Take care of these men. Don’t ignore them and pretend that they will go away. Deal with them.” In the ensuing history, Solomon shows himself a man by fulfilling the charges his father gave him.

Jesus too manifest this same type of manliness. Luke tells us that Jesus “steadfastly set his face” to go to Jerusalem – knowing the opposition he would face, knowing he would be rejected, knowing he would be slain. But He did it. He was a man.

Likewise, young men, you have been given tasks to fulfill. Whether these are placed before you by your parents, your teachers, or your Lord, the measure of your masculinity is in how you respond to the challenges. Will you do the work and show yourself a man or will you sluff and procrastinate and show yourself a milksop? This is the choice that lies before you.

But David not only charges Solomon to take care of his enemies, he also reminds him to take care of his friends. “Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” A man, David insists, not only strives to overcome his enemies, he is doggedly faithful to his friends and his father’s friends, looking out for their best interest. Solomon would later write in Proverbs, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away” (Pr 27:10).

And it is this faithfulness and loyalty that were and are manifest in our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, came because of His Father’s great love for us, and continues to teach and instruct us by His Spirit – no longer calling us servants but calling us friends.

So, young men, are you being faithful friends? A friend who sticks closer than a brother? Are you looking out for your friends’ best interests? For this is what it means to be a man.

Reminded this morning that true manliness consists in a willingness to deal with conflict and in a tenacious loyalty to one’s friends, let us kneel and confess that we have failed in both respects.

Show Yourself a Man, Part 1

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

We are losing our sons. Let us candidly admit this truth. As Douglas Wilson remarked in our Leadership Training yesterday, the number of women in evangelical churches greatly exceeds that of men. This, despite the fact that men outnumber women in both Islam and orthodox Judaism. By and large the ladies remain in the churches while the men head to the locker rooms. What has caused this lack of interest on the part of evangelical men? Part of the answer lies in our failure to appreciate that which is distinctly masculine and to cultivate that masculinity in our sons.

This failure is remarkable in light of the Bible’s delight in both masculine and feminine forms of piety. While we modern evangelicals tend to be inordinately fond of the latter, the Scriptures extol each in their place. We would do well to learn what this masculinity looks like and how it should be manifest in our congregation. What is biblical masculinity? What are the traits of the man of God? It is to these questions that we address ourselves as we begin to wrap up our discussion of the lessons which young men teach us as the people of God.

When David was on his death bed, passing on to the land of his fathers, he exhorted Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kgs 2:2). David expected Solomon to live up to the training he had received and to exhibit certain traits that were distinctly masculine. How was Solomon to do this? The portion of David’s charge we have read today identifies two ways.

First, Solomon must obey the voice of the Lord. Solomon was to “keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies. . .” (2:3). Masculinity, David emphasizes, is not found in rebellion, as fallen culture erroneously surmises, but in a rigorous, zealous, full-orbed obedience to the God of all creation. Masculinity is willing to say, “No,” to ungodliness and unbelief; willing to say, “No,” to a gang of thieves and stand up against them; willing to say, “You idiot,” to a friend who speaks disrespectfully to his mother. So young men learn this lesson early--the mark of true masculinity is dutiful service to God. Disagree if you will, young men, but do it in a way that manifests a heart of obedience to the Father of Glory.

But there is a second lesson in our text that David teaches Solomon about showing oneself a man: humility. Solomon was to recall what God had promised his father and to live in light of this promise. This implies that masculine virtue is not afraid to confess its dependence upon others. Real men are willing to learn from their elders; to stand on the shoulders of their forebears; to glean all that can be gleaned from their teachers; to rejoice in the heritage which their parents have already passed and are continuing to pass down to them. As Coleridge once remarked, “A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” Young men, you are dwarfs, but if you are willing to mount upon our shoulders and we are willing to mount upon the shoulders of our fathers, imagine how far you will be able to see.

So give heed to the words of David today – Show yourself a man! Obey the Lord; treasure the inheritance of your parents. This is a taste of biblical masculinity.

Body Language

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

In the course of his instruction to his son, Solomon takes a moment to remind his son that there are certain things which the Lord despises, which He hates. While many today are fond of talking of God’s love, few have reckoned with the fact that those who love much must also hate intensely. He who loves his wife must hate him who would steal her away or injure her. He who loves his children must hate him who would lead them astray or hurt them. He who loves the Church must hate him who would disrupt her peace or divide her. As Jesus tells us, “One cannot love God and mammon. He who loves the one must hate the other.” So too the Lord who loves and cherishes righteousness must necessarily hate and despise wickedness.

Solomon arranges these sins which the Lord hates in couplets. The first and last go together; the second and second to last, so on. Let us consider each in turn.

The first and last items have to do with arrogance and pride – a proud look and one who sows discord among brothers. These exhortations picture a man who imagines that his way is always the right way; the one who cannot consider that perhaps others may have wisdom and insight to give; the one who is haughty and domineering, crushing his brothers. Haughty people inevitably cause discord among others because they have to prove that they know best – and the only way they can prove they know best is if they destroy everyone who might compete with them. Beware pride.

The second couplet addresses lying and deceit. The Lord despises the lying tongue and a false witness who utters lies. He hates the tongue that pours forth honey but under which are poisonous asps and adders; the tongue that plots the destruction of others while securing its own advantage. Beware lying and deceit.

The third couplet exhorts those whose hands and feet are destructive, “whose hands shed innocent blood…whose feet are swift to do evil.” Earlier Solomon warned his son about the gang mentality – do not follow a multitude to do evil. Our hands have been given to protect the innocent but the wicked man slays them; our feet have been given to walk in the path of life but the wicked man pursues the path of death. The reason we should shun gang violence, in other words, is because their conduct is offensive to a holy God. Beware violence.

At the center of these couplets comes Solomon’s most treasured instruction for his son. That which the Lord hates is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” Earlier Solomon had warned his son – “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” And here – in his arrangement of sins the Lord despises – he returns to this theme. Watch over your heart. It is our heart that leads us to scheme and plot and destroy. It is our heart that becomes bitter and resentful and moves us to wickedness. Beware an evil heart.

So reviewing these exhortations, I would like you to notice that Solomon addresses every aspect of our lives. First, he addresses body language. The Lord hates a proud look. Notice that this means that there is such a thing as a proud look. Beware your face and the tale it tells. Second, he addresses speech, he addresses our mouth. God hates a lying tongue, a false witness. Beware your speech. Third, God addresses our actions, our hands and our feet. Beware what you do and where you walk, whose steps you follow. Finally, He addresses our heart – for from it flow the issues of life. Beware what you are loving and esteeming; what you are hating and abhorring.

Reminded that our whole being – our looks, our speech, our actions, and our hearts – are open and bare before the face of Him to whom we must give an account, let us kneel and confess our sins to Lord.

Young Men and Peer Influence

1 Kings 12:6-11 (NKJV)
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” 7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ”

A catalogue of the lessons that young men teach us would be woefully inadequate did it neglect the danger of peer influence. As we learned several weeks ago, the very strength of young men can condition them to scorn the different types of strength that God has bestowed on others at different stages of life. And it is this folly that we find in our text today.

Rehoboam has received a deputation from Jeroboam and the northern tribes of Israel – be kind to us; reduce our workload; stop taxing us so heavily. Rehoboam begins well – before he responds he seeks counsel. The elders advise moderation, kindness, and service from Rehoboam. “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” The elders urge Rehoboam to humble himself, to acknowledge the complaints that the northerners are making against him, and to serve these people.

But the idea of serving is distasteful to Rehoboam. And so he seeks other counsel – and counselors to tell him that these elders are just a bunch of fools are not hard to find. Don’t listen to them. You’re the king. These people must submit to you. Let them know who’s boss.

Young men, beware the folly of Rehoboam. There will always be fools about to counsel you to spurn the words of your parents and elders. Unfortunately, today, there are even old folks who would counsel you like Rehoboam’s companions. God is speaking to you from the life of Rehoboam – listen to the wisdom of your elders. Give heed to their voice. Do not be overcome by the flattery of your peers.

So, young men, imitate Rehoboam in this: seek counsel before you act. But don’t play the fool and seek counsel only to spurn it. Listen to your elders; listen to the Word of God; humble yourself. In other words, imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who grew in favor with God and with men by honoring and respecting his parents and elders.

Likewise, the rest of God’s people. Learn from Rehoboam’s folly – seek counsel and follow those who speak in harmony with God’s Word not with your own desires.

Reminded that we are often prone to listen to the wrong counselors, that we scorn the wisdom that God sets in front of us for folly, let us kneel and confess our sins to God.