The Tenants, 11 April 2021

The Tenants
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 12:1-12

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Jesus—the rejected cornerstone—challenges religion once again while predicting his own death.

I love stories! Do you? There’s nothing like a great story…especially one with surprises. There are few things more exciting than suspense…and few thing more boring than a predictable plot. I think that’s one reason I rarely watch a movie more than once. If I know the ending, there’s no mystery to solve.

The Bible is packed with stories. After all, it’s not a book, but a library…of 66 books! Some parts of the Bible are filled with poetry, others with instructions, and still others with history. Today we’re returning to Mark’s story, gospel, good news, biography of Jesus. Chapter twelve is between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The religious leaders are becoming so envious and agitated with Jesus that they are literally finding a way to kill him. In the previous chapter, Mark tells us

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:18)

The Jews were God’s chosen people, but they were frequently led astray by corrupt kings and self-righteous religious leaders who were more concerned about their own glory than God’s. Jesus repeatedly confronted them, leading to their hostility. Spoiler alert: they succeed in killing the Messiah. But…

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law knew the scriptures we call the Old Testament. You could call it the Jewish Bible. Many memorized long sections and even entire books. They were so passionate about the rules they often missed the purpose behind the rules…a deeper relationship with God.

Jesus repeatedly spoke of the law and the prophets in reference to the Hebrew Bible. The five books of Moses—known as the Pentateuch—are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The prophets covered the other books, though some put the psalms or other writings in a third category.
Before we look at Jesus’ words in Mark, I want to examine a passage from the prophet Isaiah. This is a poem…a love song.

Isaiah 5:1 (NLT)    Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
2 He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Isaiah 5:3    Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
you judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could I have done for my vineyard
that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Isaiah 5:5    Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
6 I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it.

Isaiah 5:7    The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.

In case you missed it, the vineyard owner is God and the vineyard is Israel. The vineyard failed to produce good fruit in the same way the people of Israel abandoned justice and righteousness for oppression and violence. It sounds a bit like our world today, doesn’t it?

It’s likely that this passage had been memorized by some of Jesus’ audience when

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. (Mark 12:1)   

I’m sure they were saying to themselves, “We know this story. We know how it ends. We can reenact it right now.”

This was actually a common arrangement. Vineyard owners would rent their land to farmers in return for a share of the harvest.

There’s a lot of talk these days about tenants, people who rent land or property from a landlord. The COVID-19 pandemic led the government to make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants who lost their jobs and were unable to pay their rent.

The relationship between tenant and landlord can often be a little tricky. As I mentioned last month, expectations are crucial in any relationship. This is why we have contracts that spell out the arrangement.

At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. (Mark 12:2)   

There is no surprise here. This was exactly what was supposed to happen.

But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. (Mark 12:3)   

This was not supposed to happen! What kind of tenants would do such a thing?

Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. (Mark 12:4)   

The original Greek word for “struck on the head” is similar to the word for beheaded, which could be a subtle reference to John the Baptist.

He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. (Mark 12:5)   

These tenants are ruthless! They not only pay the crops to the vineyard owner, they violently attack every member of the collection agency!

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ (Mark 12:6)   

Does this seem a little naïve? The owner is going to send his son? His only son? His son whom he loved? In the culture, a family member of a wealthy household would be respected far more than a servant.

If the son shows up, the tenants might assume the owner is dead.

“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. (Mark 12:7-8)   

These are evil tenants! How dare they reject the son! They surely thought they would lay claim to the property if the owner and His son are dead. In the Jewish culture, squatters could claim the property of a deceased person who had no inheritor.

In this case they not only killed the owner’s only son, they threw him unburied, a terrible offense to Jews.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Mark 12:9)   

Is that harsh? Is that fair? In Isaiah, God punished the vineyard or Israel for not producing good fruit. Here, the tenants are clearly to blame. The religious leaders caused Israel’s corruption…and now they will be removed.

10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12:10-11)   

This is another Old Testament quote, this time from Psalm 118:22. Many believe this was sung at the dedication of the second Temple or Jerusalem’s rebuilt walls. It was sung on Palm Sunday in the previous chapter!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Jesus is the son. The stone was a symbol for the Messiah. God sent his son to earth, knowing he would be killed. Jesus is the rejected one. He is the cornerstone. Up until this point, the religious leaders thought the tenants were the evil Romans, but now they realize Jesus is saying they are the tenants, the violent ones in charge of the vineyard (Israel). The tenants in the story are the leaders of Israel.

The surprise in the story is the good guys—or at least the righteous-looking religious leaders—are actually the bad guys. The servants in the story, by the way, are the prophets sent by God. If you know anything about biblical prophets, they were hated and persecuted.

There are three special offices or positions in the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is all three…the greatest prophet, our great high priest, and the King of kings.

Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away. (Mark 12:12)   

The religious leaders would kill Jesus soon. He would die. But he is risen! He is risen indeed!

So What?

I wrestled for a while this past week trying to discern what relevance this story has for us today. Here are a few reflections:

  1. 1. The Old and New Testaments are two parts of the same story. This might not be news to some of you, but Jesus updating Isaiah’s story shows both his knowledge of the ancient account and his masterful use of retelling.

  1. 2. Biblical prophecy gives credibility to the Bible. This is one of many account in which Jesus predicted his own death. This parable became reality on Good Friday. We don’t worship the Bible. We worship Jesus, but the Bible is a reliable tool we have to know and understand God and His plan for humanity. It’s not just a bunch of fairy tales or the result of a dream (or indigestion). It’s a historically accurate, archaeologically-verifiable library of books assembled in multiple languages from multiple continents over hundreds of years…with one overarching metanarrative of God’s love for us and His desire for us to respond in obedience.

  1. 3. God wants a relationship with us. He wants a relationship with you. Does He have one? This is where the religious leaders missed the boat. They tried to be good, moral people but failed to do the only two things God requires: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. 4. In the story, the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were the fruitless vineyard. Today, the Church is understood to be God’s people. God—the vineyard owner—gave the vineyard to the Church. If we are God’s vineyard today, what kind of fruit are we bearing? What kind of fruit are you bearing? If you look at the passages that surround today’s text, you’ll get an idea of what God requires of us.

  1. a. Our place of worship is to be a house of prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17)
  2. b. We are to be a forgiving family (11:25)
  3. c. We are to give to God what belongs to God (12:17)
  4. d. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (12:30)
  5. e. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (12:31)

The fruit we owe the owner—God—is our obedience. We are to be an accepting, prayerful, devoted, forgiving, and loving fellowship built around Jesus, the cornerstone that binds everything together. Otherwise, we may face God’s judgment. Good fruit comes from being connected to vine…Jesus (John 15).

The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22-23)

Jesus was hated and rejected. He was pierced, crushed, and crucified. But he conquered sin and death. He is risen! He is risen indeed! The LORD has done this! It is marvelous! This is the greatest story ever told!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Irony, 2 April 2017

Series: A Love That Never Dies
Luke 23:39-43

Series Big Idea:
Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

Big Idea: Jesus’ death was filled with irony…and hope for all sinners.


The bald guy’s name is Curly.
The huge weightlifter is called Tiny.
The psychic’s presentation is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
The name
Judas means praise.

Irony involves a contrast between appearance and reality, between expectation and occurrence.

My name is Kirk and we’re in the middle of Lent, the season leading to our remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This series is entitled, “A Love That Never Dies” and to demonstrate a love that will never die, Jesus died. He died a gory, horrific death…because He loves you and me.

There are so many ironies in the crucifixion account. Dennis sang about many of them.

Why did a friend betray Jesus?
Why did he use a kiss?
Why did King Jesus have to wear a crown of thorns?
Why did the only perfect human die on a cross like a thief?

Here are some others:

The Romans usually nailed each criminal’s charges to his cross. They wanted everyone to know what they did…and the fate of those who try to do the same thing. Crucifixion was meant to be a deterrent. The message was, “If you steal, this will happen to you. If you murder, this will happen to you.”

Jesus’ charge? First, it was written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Tri-lingual! Latin for the Romans, Greek for those in commerce. Hebrew for the Jews. And the charge said, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” The irony is the charge was true. He is the King of the Jews. He’s also the King of the Romans, King of the Gentiles, He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords. And the King of all hung dying for those who rebelled against his rule and that of His Father.

He wants to be king over you and me, too. He’s not an insecure ruler seeking power and control. Instead, He rules benevolently, with love and grace, mercy and forgiveness. He is a good King. The best King!

Our text today from Luke 23 begins at verse 39

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)

Yes, Jesus is the Messiah.
Yes, Jesus is the Savior.
Yes, at the very moment he was in the midst of saving every man, woman and child who would choose to follow him as LORD.

This passage reminds me again of the layers of suffering Jesus endured.

He wasn’t just stripped naked.
He wasn’t just beaten.
He wasn’t just pierced with nails.
He wasn’t just betrayed by one of his closest friends.
He wasn’t just tired from a night of prayer while his disciples were sleeping.

He gets insulted by a criminal hanging beside him. I can only imagine the tone. Most of communication is non-verbal.

“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

On the other side of Jesus was a criminal with a completely different attitude.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)

Do you feel the irony? The criminals were punished justly, but Jesus had done nothing wrong. Obviously this criminal had faith. He feared God. We don’t know exactly what he did to deserve execution, but people have faith have been known to make mistakes…and even commit crimes.

Some of the most vibrant followers of Jesus live behind bars. Their sins, like those of the criminals on Calvary, are known. They are branded—child abuser, thief, drug dealer. They don’t have the option of putting on a fancy suit and parading around on Sunday mornings pretending to have the perfect life, the perfect spouse, the perfect kids. They are humble. They are broken. They are desperate for redemption.

Oh how I wish that were the posture of every Christian. We all need a Savior, a Redeemer, a King. Just because my sins haven’t put me on death row doesn’t mean I don’t need Jesus. Just because many of my sins are “acceptable” sins like worry and anger doesn’t mean I don’t need Jesus. Just because my sins are not always visible like pride, judgmentalism, jealousy, and impatience doesn’t mean I don’t need Jesus.

Jesus was without sin so He could pay for the sins of the world.

God became a human so He could pay for the sins of humanity.

Both criminals heard Jesus’ first words on the cross, a prayer for the very ones who nailed Him there:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)

They should’ve been the ones seeking forgiveness. They knew what they were doing—obeying Pilate’s orders and securing the empire against insurrection and rebellion. They were executing a blasphemer, a troublemaker, a radical.

But only Jesus truly knew what he was doing: providing a path of forgiveness and salvation for anyone who would repent and surrender their lives to him, to the King.

The faith-filled criminal beside Jesus realized forgiveness was possible for those who nailed him to the cross. That gave him hope, despite his own sins. He said

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

What a request. What faith!

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

If Jesus could forgive this criminal—this person who probably never went to church, read the Bible, gave money to the poor, or went on a mission trip—he can forgive you and me. If Jesus wanted those who pounded the nails to be forgiven, you and I have hope.

Another irony comes from the crowds who taunted and shouted

“You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (Matthew 27:40-42)

The religious people got involved. Jesus didn’t just die for criminals. He died for the self-righteous, for the proud. They said, “If you are the Son of God.” That’s what Satan hurled at Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness.

…“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: 
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:6)

The so-called people of God were mouthing Satan’s temptations!

They urged Jesus to save himself at the very moment he was dying to save them!

To save us, Jesus could not save himself. In a love that could not die, Jesus died. His love kept him on the cross. Love for you. Love for me.

So What?

Some of you see yourself like the criminal, paralyzed by guilt and shame. You blew it this week. You lashed out at your kids. You indulged in porn. You drank yourself silly. You lied to your boss.

You need forgiveness. You need grace—unmerited favor. You need Jesus.

Some of you are on the opposite extreme. You’re religious, self-righteous, and a really good person. Your reputation is so stellar you think you’re almost perfect. You’re here every Sunday, always put money in the offering plate, and have even memorized parts of the Bible.

You need forgiveness. You need grace—unmerited favor. You need Jesus.

I’m a recovering Pharisee. Pride is arguably the worst of all sins, the root of them all. It’s subtle because it’s usually unseen…and rarely punished. But it kills relationships. It separates us from others…and God. I need Jesus.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the crucifixion is God’s love for sinners. As we recently saw

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

He didn’t die because we were good.
He died because we were bad. We were sinners. We are sinners.

I believe some of you still struggle with God’s ability to forgive you and truly love you. I struggle to fully comprehend God’s grace. But whether you believe it or not does not make it true or false. I have discovered the Bible can be trusted. It has been tested. It works.

The good news, the gospel, the message of our faith is Jesus is LORD. He is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. His love never fails. His arms are reaching out to embrace you…but He won’t force Himself upon you. He simply invites you to follow Him. I accepted the invitation decades ago and I’ve never regretted it for a second.

Credits: Some ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Witness: Woman of Sorrow, 04 January 2015

    Big Idea: Mary experienced great joy as a mom…and great sorrow.

    Key Scripture: John 2:1-11; Mark 3:20-35; John 19:25


    Happy 2015! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. The highlight for me was undoubtedly spending nearly a week with our entire family that now resides again in three different states.

    Many churches today are talking about the new year, resolutions, goal setting, and ways to have your best life now. I’m deliberately avoiding the temptation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my desire to finish what we started with regard to Mary. As I said last Sunday, we can’t just throw her in the attic with the nativity set until next year. While her most significant moment may have been Jesus’ birthday, labor and delivery is the beginning, not the end of motherhood. We looked at Mary the mom last week as she brought Jesus to the temple for dedication where they were blessed by Simeon.

    The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

    In full disclosure, I’m not a mom! I’ve never been a mom…and I never plan on becoming a mom! I am, however, a parent. Nothing in life has been more challenging for me—or more rewarding—than being a parent. I’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’ve felt every conceivable emotion and been impacted physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, and relationally by parenting three incredible humans.

    I believe love is the reason parenting is so significant. Love involved risk, and the more you risk, the greater the joy and the greater the sorrow. During lunch on New Year’s Day, Heather and I were reflecting on our parenting journey and how it has taken us through tragedy and triumph, horror and happiness. She asked if I’d do it again if I could turn back time and I said absolutely though nothing could prepare me for all of the challenges. Perhaps nothing has shaped me into the man I am today more than being a parent.

    Today I want to look at a few final moments in Mary’s motherhood adventure.

    The First Miracle

    Jesus began His public ministry by making wine. We often miss Mary in this story.

    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” (John 2:1-3)

    Remember, children were to honor their parents according to the fifth commandment (which I believe is still relevant today!).

    “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
    (John 2:4)

    “Woman” could also be understood as “mother.” “My hour” was a reference to the crucifixion. Note Jesus does nothing until Mary directs the servants to obey Him.

    His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

    Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

    Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

    Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

    They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:5-10)

    What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

    This wedding began a public shift in Mary’s life. Imagine her joy! Talk about a proud mama! She would learn to be obedient to her Son. He was the One before whom she was to have no other gods. Honoring God meant following her own Son while surrendering her own honor.

    Scot McKnight says, “If Jesus alone knew God’s will, then the only ones who knew God’s will were the ones to whom Jesus revealed that will. For Mary to know and do God’s will, she would have to follow Jesus. Her honor would have to surrender to his honor. Jesus’ words were subtle, and they pierced Mary’s heart. She would have to allow her son to become her Lord. This interchange between Mary and Jesus is nothing short of stunning…Because Mary directed the servants to do as Jesus said and because the servants obeyed, Jesus converted six thirty-gallon jars of water into the best wine yet served at that wedding.”

    This was only the beginning.


    Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

    Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

    “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

    Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)

    “Thanks a lot, Son! Your mission is more important than your mom?!” Was this the sword Simeon said would pierce Mary’s heart?

    Sometimes honoring God and honoring your father and mother come into conflict with one another. Of course, in our western culture, honor is a word rarely spoken. We focus on our own rights rather than selflessly honoring others. The Jewish priorities were God, parents, family, society…and lastly one’s self.

    Mary and her other children were ambivalent about Jesus, perhaps much of the time. They expected the Messiah to be a prophet like Moses, like ancient prophets, a descendant of David, and a reigning King combining the glory of David with the wisdom of Solomon. He would be powerful, ruling over all governments and peoples. He would restore Israel, establish peace, righteousness, and holiness.

    Jesus didn’t fit their expectations…and the most unimaginable was yet to come.

    The Cross

    I have heard the worst experience on earth is losing a child. I was reminded of this a few days ago as I heard the wails of a grieving mom whose child died. My mind raced to Mary’s agony watching her Son die. She not only witnessed the loss of her Son, but also her Savior, her Messiah, her hope.

    Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

    About fifty percent of the first century Jewish women were named Mary!

    She was near the cross (all of the males fled except for John!). She saw it all. She remained faithful to Him. A sword pierced the side of Jesus…as Mary’s heart was pierced.

    Anglican poet G.A. Studdert Kennedy said:

    She claims no crown from Christ apart,
    Who gave God life and limb,
    She only claims a broken heart,
    Because of Him.

    Are you near the cross? Has your heart been pierced?

    The Rest of the Story

    Mary does not vanish at Calvary. In the Upper Room following Jesus’ ascension into heaven we are told of the early followers of Jesus.

    They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

    She no doubt had a tremendous role in the early church, including the telling of stories that we now read in the Gospel biographies of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. She was an eyewitness to His birth, life and death.

    One More Appearance?

    Mary may appear one final time in the Bible…in Revelation 12. Look it up! It may refer to Mary and/or the People of God and/or Israel and/or the Church.

    So What?

    May surrendered to her Son. Family is important, but obeying and glorifying God the Father is most important. We are to love our children and honor our parents, but even family can become an idol, a god.

    Jesus revealed a new family in which His brothers and sisters and mother are those who do God’s will.

    Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)

    Mary is not a perfect example, but a real example of someone who trusted God and surrendered to His will, a real human with a real faith in the real world.

    “Do whatever He tells you” is the motto and mantra of Jesus’ family.

    For Further Study

    The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Covenant & Kingdom: The Cross, 5 October 2014

    Big Idea: The Cross is about a substitutionary death―our Covenant, and the victory of God over our enemies― the Kingdom.

    Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21


    In previous weeks we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

    Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a
    double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being. Invitation.
    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing. Challenge.

    Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

    As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at the most important week in human history, the Passion Week.

    In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20)

    Did you catch that? Jesus introduces a new covenant in His blood. Remember, covenants required the shedding of blood for two parties to become one.

    For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Corinthians 5:14)

    As we have said throughout this series and our earlier series on Ephesians, followers of Jesus are “in Christ.” Whatever is true of Jesus is true of us. We’re on His team. We wear His uniform. Because Jesus died, we have died. Jesus is the Son of God. We are Sons of God (it’s not a gender issue).

    And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

    Jesus gave His life for us. The only appropriate response is to give ours in return.

    So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)

    This is not an instant thing. Jesus actually likens it to a birth. The moment you are born, you are completely human, but not fully developed. We are not perfect. Our world is not perfect. We can, however, live in peace in the midst of chaos knowing we are never alone and one day we will rule and reign with our Father the King forever.

    All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Corinthians 5:18)

    God the Father gives us the same ministry of reconciliation He gave Jesus because we are His, too! A human brought sin and death into the world and, therefore, God became human to conquer sin and death through Jesus. He became One of us. Last week we talked about how He understands temptation. He also understands pain and suffering.

    Have you ever looked at our broken world and thought, “Why isn’t God doing something?”

    He is.

    You’re it!

    …that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

    We begin in covenant with the Father and then He enlists us to serve in His Kingdom, to announce the good news that Jesus is LORD. We are His team. There’s no plan B! He’s our Father. He’s the King. We have royal blood and represent Him.

    We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

    We are on a mission from God. We are His ambassadors, His representatives. When people see us, they see Him. You are the only Bible some people will ever read!

    God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

    That’s the cross. Jesus had no sin, yet God dumped our sin upon Him. It killed Jesus! By Jesus’ blood we get the antibody for the disease of sin. He became Sin and we become Sons (again, not gender). We become, to God, exactly as Jesus is. When the Father looks at you, He looks at you as if it was Jesus because we are one with Christ.

    Covenant gives us value.
    Kingdom gives us vision.

    On the cross, Christ extends His arms as if to welcome us. He was suspended between heaven and earth, the vertical bar an image of our covenant relationship with the Father and the horizontal bar a picture of our kingdom responsibility to love our neighbor.

    ʻAt that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"ʼ (Matthew 27:51-54)

    The day of Judgment came because God the Father judged sin. He declares His judgment upon Jesus. The earth shook. Rocks split. Tombs broke open. The universe was forever changed.

    On the cross Jesus died instead of us.

    His body was broken instead of ours.

    His blood was shed as a new covenant.

    He gave everything for us. It’s only appropriate that we return the favor.

    ʻWhen you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the Cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.ʼ (Colossians 2:13-14)

    The early church fathers described it this way: God tricked the devil! Satan thought he won when Jesus was put into the tomb, but Jesus had one final play!
    Jesus entered the world of the dead and announced to the spirits captive there that He had won. Jesus has the keys to death and hell. He won them. He’s our champion!
    You see, the Gospel is really really good! He has died in our place so that we might be in Covenant with God, so that we might be ONE with him, so that we might be connected again. And he has defeated the principalities and the powers of darkness, bringing forth the brightest of light and healing and is asking us to do the same.


    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Hurt: The Death of Jesus, John 19:25-30, 29 September 2013

    Big Idea: We are hurt, we hurt one another, and we hurt Jesus with our sin.


    Have you ever been hurt? Of course! What hurt first came to mind? Physical? Emotional?

    We all hurt others. They say that hurt people hurt people. Sometimes we intentionally hurt others, sometimes it is accidental, and sometimes we don’t even know we hurt someone. Have you ever learned after the fact that you hurt someone unknowingly?

    There is a difference between hurt and harm. A vaccination shot at the doctor’s office hurts, but it is not meant to harm.

    Last week we looked at the crucifixion of Jesus. The physical pain and agony He suffered is hard to imagine, yet the harm done to Him was more than physical.

    Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

    It is believed by most that John is the disciple mentioned. What is noteworthy is the likelihood that John was the only one of the eleven disciples that watched Jesus die.

    In many wars and conflicts, while women are free to come and go since they are not viewed as a threat and they need to maintain the household including shopping. Men, however, are vulnerable to attack, kidnapping, or even murder.

    In this scene, we see women at the foot of the cross, but John, too. He was probably very young and not viewed as a serious revolutionary. He may not have even had a beard, a common feature of grown men.

    Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (John 19:28-29)

    Here we see another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the Messiah. In Psalm 69:21 it says

    They put gall in my food
    and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
    (Psalm 69:21)

    The symbolism in these two verses is vast.

    Jesus often spoke of water. Sign one was Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into premium wine, providing for the thirst of others (John 2). Now he receives low-grade sour wine. He offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). In John 7 He invites the thirsty to come to HIm and drink (7:37).

    N.T. Wright sees a series of signs in Jesus’ ministry, beginning with the first miracle during which He made wine at a wedding, revealing His glory. The second sign is the healing of the nobleman’s son at Capernaum (4:46-54). The third is the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool (5:1-9). Then He multiplied the loaves and fishes (6:1-14), healed the man born blind (9:1-12) and raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44).

    Seven is a biblical number and Wright believes the seventh sign to reveal God’s glory is Jesus being lifted up. It is fitting then that…

    When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (19:30)

    In the original language, this phrase means, “It’s all done!” It’s a single word that is written on a bill after it has been paid. The price has been paid. Jesus’ work is complete. It’s finished. It’s done. Jesus has accomplished His mission.

    So much happened in that moment. Although I’ve focused this series on John’s Gospel, Matthew records fascinating details.

    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (Matthew 27:50-52)

    Let’s go back to Jesus’ mission that He accomplished. The hurt Jesus experienced was not only physical, but profoundly spiritual. The writer of Romans tells us

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

    Paul is explicit in his letter to the people in the city of Corinth.

    God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    I killed Jesus.
    I nailed Jesus to the cross.
    It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

    Hurt by Johnny Cash (originally by Nine Inch Nails)

    The sins of others hurts me.
    My sin causes others to hurt.
    Our sins caused Jesus to hurt.

    I killed Jesus.
    I nailed Jesus to the cross.
    It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

    Reflection and Confession

    It’s easy to reflect on the cross and appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus for us without acknowledging our sins that necessitated it.

    Each of us has a long history of sin. Big sins, small sins, public sins, hidden sins. Sins of things we did. Sins of things we failed to do.

    Sin separates us from God. Sin is deadly to relationships and sometimes even human life.

    That guilt you feel…it’s probably the result of sin. The number one reason people feel guilty is because they are guilty! There is false guilt, but Romans 3:23 tells us that all of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. All of us. You. Me. Billy Graham. All of us.

    This isn’t about shame, but it is about honestly assessing our lives. How have we loved or hated God? How have we loved or hated our neighbor? How have we loved or hated ourselves?

    Kyrie eleison (Greek: Κύριε, ἐλέησον "Lord, have mercy"). The phrase predates Christian usage.

    There’s an old prayer of the Church that says, “LORD, have mercy”

    I urge you to reflect upon your sin. Confess it to God. Repent and turn away from it. Experience His love and forgiveness. That’s why He died. That’s why we call it Good Friday.

    LORD, Have Mercy

    John later wrote

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

    That is truly Good News! Hallelujah!

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    King of Love, John 19:16b-24, 22 September 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus held out His arms and said, “I love you THIS much!” Does everyone know?

    What is love?

    This week I was talking with a friend who told me about a family that has no faith in God because they only believe in science, that which can be proven. I asked about love. Can you prove that love exists? What is it?

    This is a question I return to again and again because it is used so often in our culture to describe so many different things. Frequently it is just a word used to manipulate someone into doing something, but love itself requires doing and action. Love is a verb.

    Our text for today could actually be a short passage referenced months ago in the third chapter of John. It says

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    We continue our series on the Gospel or “good news” of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends. The next several weeks will address the final hours of Jesus before His burial. I must warn you that some of the content will be graphic and disturbing. Parents, be advised we have some short videos that involve the crucifixion. The suffering we have examined in the past few weeks was excruciating, but Jesus willingly experienced crucifixion, the ultimate Roman torture.

    Before we look at
    what Jesus did, I want to be crystal clear about why He suffered and died. He did it for you and for me.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    For God so loved you and me that He sent Jesus to die for us.

    Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah wrote

    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
    (Isaiah 53:5)

    So begins Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, the most successful rated R movie in history, grossing over $370 million.

    He was pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded…because He loves us.

    Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

    So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

    If you recall, Pilate desperately wanted to release Jesus as He found no reason for Him to be arrested, much less executed. Bowing to the pressure of the Jewish leaders and their threats of involving Caesar, Jesus was handed over to be crucified by the soldiers.

    Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (19:17)

    They took Jesus outside the city to crucify Him. This is a fascinating detail because the traditional place of Jesus’ death is now a church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, but it is inside the city. Personally, I found it to be something of a religious freak show, a series of buildings that actually house multiple churches, religious artifacts, and a large box built in 1810, the edicule of the Holy Sepulchre that is supposed to commemorate the tomb where Jesus was buried! I found the whole thing to be very strange, dark, extremely religious (and not in a good way) and depressing. I found it a very odd way to celebrate a living Christ!

    There is another site outside the city that is believe to have possibly been the location because of its name, the place of the Skull.

    John tell us…

    There they crucified him, and with him two others —one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (19:18)

    John does not give us details of the crucifixion.

    One detail found in the other Gospels (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) is Jesus quoting Psalm 22:

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
    (Psalm 22:1)

    When you understand a bit about crucifixion, you quickly understand why Jesus felt forsaken. In order to understand the agony from a medical perspective, I found this video.

    Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” (19-21)

    It was fairly common for condemned criminals to wear signs around their necks while on their way to execution to serve warning to others.

    Jesus died for all and the sign was in multiple languages, the three most understood at the time. For God so loved the world. Even the declaration of Jesus’ Kingship was announced to all.

    Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

    Pilate infuriated the chief priests. He probably doesn’t believe Jesus is a king any more than they do, but he makes fun of them, a “calculated snub,” in the words of scholar N.T. Wright. Regardless, the words were true. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and He died for every man, woman and child from every nation, tribe and tongue.

    May he rule from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    (Psalm 72:8)

    May all kings bow down to him
    and all nations serve him.

    For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
    He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
    He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.
    (Psalm 72:11-14)

    Anyone familiar with the Scriptures had to see the promised Messiah, yet it was the most religious that had Jesus arrested and crucified.

    When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. (23)

    “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

    This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

    “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

    Indeed Psalm 22, which we mentioned earlier, continues

    Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
    All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
    They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
    (Psalm 22:16-18)

    So this is what the soldiers did. (24b)

    So What?

    I struggled to prepare this message because it involved many disturbing images and accounts. At times, I found myself getting sick when I thought about the agony involved in crucifixion…but it was all part of Jesus’ ambition and plan to seek and save the lost, to offer hope to the hopeless, to offer forgiveness to us sinners, to offer reconciliation between us and our heaven Father we have rejected.

    This is a love story. This is passion.

    Have your received His love?
    Have you shared His love?

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.