When Nothing Seems to Be Happening

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Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

04/04/2022

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When Nothing Seems to Be Happening

Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 20:25-28

Have you ever had someone ask you what you’ve been up to or what you did yesterday, and your response was nothing really? Many of us seem to be constantly on the go, but we all have those days – are maybe hours – when we find ourselves with nothing to do or when what we did what so unimportant, we simply forgot how we spent the day. There are likely things we could do or perhaps should do – like laundry or cleaning the house or working in the yard – but nothing we have to do. As you know, we are approaching what are arguably the most important and significant two weeks in all of the year… at least for Christians. A week from today we will be celebrating Palm Sunday and in two weeks we will be celebrating Easter, Resurrection Sunday, and we can’t forget Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in between. But today, we have this lone Sunday, this calm before the storm. As the week began, I honestly struggled with what my sermon should be on this “ready, but not yet” day. I thought about having a service without a sermon – okay, no I didn’t. You know me better than that! What I did do was go to the Gospels to look at what Jesus and the disciples were doing in this time. As we discussed several weeks ago, at the start of the Gethsemane series, Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem and he was on the road.

Now, by today, they are getting close, within about 50 miles of his destination. While Jesus was never diverted from his goal of arriving in Jerusalem on the day that we now call Palm Sunday, he was distracted along the way. What we find is that in his last week before Jerusalem, Jesus healed a blind man sitting by the side of the road; taught his disciples about serving and the kingdom of heaven; continued to speak about his death; spoke with a rich young ruler; and met, and had dinner with, a man named Zacchaeus. So, to sum it up, what was Jesus doing in the days leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter? He was busy doing the same things that had marked his entire ministry to that point. He was teaching, he was healing, and he was seeking and inviting.

It seems Jesus was always teaching. As Matthew 4:23 says, Jesus began his ministry by going about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And then in Matthew 26, near the end of his ministry Jesus is teaching in the temple. Was he perhaps thinking back and remembering all the people he had impacted through his teaching? There were the disciples, of course. And the faceless crowds of thousands, including those who gathered for his very first sermon: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then there were the personal contacts. The meeting at night with Nicodemus, who didn’t understand all that he said but knew he was a teacher come from God. There was the meeting at the well with the Samaritan woman who he told of the living water he offered that would lead to eternal life for all who believed in him. There was Mary, the sister of his dear friend Lazarus, who sat at his feet and listened to him speak. And so many more. He preached in plain language, some hard to accept because they were life-changing words. He taught in parables and stories so that those who were serious about what to follow him would have to struggle to understand his meaning. He called out those in power or the rich who were proud of their own accomplishments and used what they had been given to benefit themselves instead of helping others. He taught as one speaking for God and as God. He taught children; he taught the aged. Men and women. Rich and poor. Rulers and servants. Those who oppressed and those who were oppressed and outcast. He taught in homes, in synagogues, in the streets, in open fields, and on mountain tops. And in less than two weeks he will even teach a dying man on a cross.

So how do we respond to that? It’s pretty simple, really. We listen. In Matthew 11, Jesus said, “Learn from me, for you will find rest for your souls.” There was a day when Jesus taught some particularly difficult truth, and almost everybody threw up their hands in disbelief and walked away. To the twelve who remained, Jesus said, “Do you also want to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 

If Jesus was still teaching, right up to his death, then he teaching was, and is, important. He wants us to listen, to struggle to understand, and for our lives to be changed by what he taught. As Jesus said in Luke 6:46: “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” We listen and do what Jesus taught us to do when it’s hard, when it’s painful, when we would rather do something – anything – else, even when it will cost us. Because we also listen and believe him when he says we can believe and be saved, when he says there’s a heaven we can look forward to, when he says we can pray and ask for anything, when he promises us good to come.

Secondly, Jesus was aways healing. He began his ministry by eating with a tax collector, Matthew, and at the end, we have another tax collector named Zacchaeus. Jesus’ healing was a lot like his teaching. He healed the poor and the rich, men, women, children, people considered unclean. We have the names of some whom he healed, but most remain nameless. He healed those who had faith, those who didn’t have faith, and those who questioned whether they had enough faith.   

How do we respond to that? Jesus offers healing to each of us today. You see, each person Jesus healed may have needed some sort of physical healing, but in every case, they were broken. In their culture, most of the people Jesus healed were considered unclean because of their condition and were living on the margins of society as outcasts. Jesus heals them to move them from the outside to the inside. Most of the time, in the Greek, several words are used when Jesus heals and none of them are medical terms for the alleviation or elimination of symptoms, what we would call “cured.” There’s the word “iaomai,” which means “retuned to a complete state.” And the word “apallasso,” which means “to change or alter.” Or, the most frequent word used in the New Testament is “therapeuo,” a word which means not just to heal, but to fully restore one’s being and one’s soul to a place of service and worship. And then there are times the word “sozo” is used. “Sozo” is the root word for our word “salvation.” “Sozo” means to save or deliver in a biblical sense. The point is that Jesus’ healings are far deeper than what we see on the surface, and this is the healing offered to us.   

There are people who reject the healing that medical advances offer today. But of far more importance, there are many who offer the healing that Jesus offers. His healing will make you whole from any hurt, any brokenness, any loss, any grief, anything wrong in your life. Because only his healing has the power to save and restore eternally. 

Finally, right up to the end, Jesus was seeking and inviting. As the last verse read for us this morning says, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This sums up Jesus’ entire ministry. He once told parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons. He came to die so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life. John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, hours before the cross, he said, “It was for this purpose (which is, to die) that I came to this hour.” Paul himself wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

So, how do we respond to that? We begin by accepting his offer of salvation, by believing in Jesus not just as a great man and wonderful teacher, but by acknowledging him as the Son of God who died for us. If you’ve not made that proclamation of faith, then reach out after the service. The gift of salvation is free, but it requires acceptance.  For those here who have accepted the gift of salvation, Matthew 20 leaves us with a challenge. Just as Jesus invited and sought and served, so we too are to do the same. 

We started this sermon with a question – what was Jesus doing a couple of weeks before Easter? And as we saw, he was doing what he had always done – he was teaching, he was healing, and he was seeking. He’s still doing those things right now… today… in this place. Are you listening, are you seeking healing for those areas in your life where you’re hurting, and, most of all, have you answered his invitation to accept the gift of salvation? And if you’ve received all these things, are you living according the example Jesus set: are you teaching, are you offering healing to others, are you seeking out and inviting others to share in the gift of salvation? When nothing seems to be happening, it seems there is a lot going on. 

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When Nothing Seems to Be Happening

Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 20:25-28

Have you ever had someone ask you what you’ve been up to or what you did yesterday, and your response was nothing really? Many of us seem to be constantly on the go, but we all have those days – are maybe hours – when we find ourselves with nothing to do or when what we did what so unimportant, we simply forgot how we spent the day. There are likely things we could do or perhaps should do – like laundry or cleaning the house or working in the yard – but nothing we have to do. As you know, we are approaching what are arguably the most important and significant two weeks in all of the year… at least for Christians. A week from today we will be celebrating Palm Sunday and in two weeks we will be celebrating Easter, Resurrection Sunday, and we can’t forget Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in between. But today, we have this lone Sunday, this calm before the storm. As the week began, I honestly struggled with what my sermon should be on this “ready, but not yet” day. I thought about having a service without a sermon – okay, no I didn’t. You know me better than that! What I did do was go to the Gospels to look at what Jesus and the disciples were doing in this time. As we discussed several weeks ago, at the start of the Gethsemane series, Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem and he was on the road.

Now, by today, they are getting close, within about 50 miles of his destination. While Jesus was never diverted from his goal of arriving in Jerusalem on the day that we now call Palm Sunday, he was distracted along the way. What we find is that in his last week before Jerusalem, Jesus healed a blind man sitting by the side of the road; taught his disciples about serving and the kingdom of heaven; continued to speak about his death; spoke with a rich young ruler; and met, and had dinner with, a man named Zacchaeus. So, to sum it up, what was Jesus doing in the days leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter? He was busy doing the same things that had marked his entire ministry to that point. He was teaching, he was healing, and he was seeking and inviting.

It seems Jesus was always teaching. As Matthew 4:23 says, Jesus began his ministry by going about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And then in Matthew 26, near the end of his ministry Jesus is teaching in the temple. Was he perhaps thinking back and remembering all the people he had impacted through his teaching? There were the disciples, of course. And the faceless crowds of thousands, including those who gathered for his very first sermon: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then there were the personal contacts. The meeting at night with Nicodemus, who didn’t understand all that he said but knew he was a teacher come from God. There was the meeting at the well with the Samaritan woman who he told of the living water he offered that would lead to eternal life for all who believed in him. There was Mary, the sister of his dear friend Lazarus, who sat at his feet and listened to him speak. And so many more. He preached in plain language, some hard to accept because they were life-changing words. He taught in parables and stories so that those who were serious about what to follow him would have to struggle to understand his meaning. He called out those in power or the rich who were proud of their own accomplishments and used what they had been given to benefit themselves instead of helping others. He taught as one speaking for God and as God. He taught children; he taught the aged. Men and women. Rich and poor. Rulers and servants. Those who oppressed and those who were oppressed and outcast. He taught in homes, in synagogues, in the streets, in open fields, and on mountain tops. And in less than two weeks he will even teach a dying man on a cross.

So how do we respond to that? It’s pretty simple, really. We listen. In Matthew 11, Jesus said, “Learn from me, for you will find rest for your souls.” There was a day when Jesus taught some particularly difficult truth, and almost everybody threw up their hands in disbelief and walked away. To the twelve who remained, Jesus said, “Do you also want to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 

If Jesus was still teaching, right up to his death, then he teaching was, and is, important. He wants us to listen, to struggle to understand, and for our lives to be changed by what he taught. As Jesus said in Luke 6:46: “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” We listen and do what Jesus taught us to do when it’s hard, when it’s painful, when we would rather do something – anything – else, even when it will cost us. Because we also listen and believe him when he says we can believe and be saved, when he says there’s a heaven we can look forward to, when he says we can pray and ask for anything, when he promises us good to come.

Secondly, Jesus was aways healing. He began his ministry by eating with a tax collector, Matthew, and at the end, we have another tax collector named Zacchaeus. Jesus’ healing was a lot like his teaching. He healed the poor and the rich, men, women, children, people considered unclean. We have the names of some whom he healed, but most remain nameless. He healed those who had faith, those who didn’t have faith, and those who questioned whether they had enough faith.   

How do we respond to that? Jesus offers healing to each of us today. You see, each person Jesus healed may have needed some sort of physical healing, but in every case, they were broken. In their culture, most of the people Jesus healed were considered unclean because of their condition and were living on the margins of society as outcasts. Jesus heals them to move them from the outside to the inside. Most of the time, in the Greek, several words are used when Jesus heals and none of them are medical terms for the alleviation or elimination of symptoms, what we would call “cured.” There’s the word “iaomai,” which means “retuned to a complete state.” And the word “apallasso,” which means “to change or alter.” Or, the most frequent word used in the New Testament is “therapeuo,” a word which means not just to heal, but to fully restore one’s being and one’s soul to a place of service and worship. And then there are times the word “sozo” is used. “Sozo” is the root word for our word “salvation.” “Sozo” means to save or deliver in a biblical sense. The point is that Jesus’ healings are far deeper than what we see on the surface, and this is the healing offered to us.   

There are people who reject the healing that medical advances offer today. But of far more importance, there are many who offer the healing that Jesus offers. His healing will make you whole from any hurt, any brokenness, any loss, any grief, anything wrong in your life. Because only his healing has the power to save and restore eternally. 

Finally, right up to the end, Jesus was seeking and inviting. As the last verse read for us this morning says, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This sums up Jesus’ entire ministry. He once told parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons. He came to die so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life. John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, hours before the cross, he said, “It was for this purpose (which is, to die) that I came to this hour.” Paul himself wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

So, how do we respond to that? We begin by accepting his offer of salvation, by believing in Jesus not just as a great man and wonderful teacher, but by acknowledging him as the Son of God who died for us. If you’ve not made that proclamation of faith, then reach out after the service. The gift of salvation is free, but it requires acceptance.  For those here who have accepted the gift of salvation, Matthew 20 leaves us with a challenge. Just as Jesus invited and sought and served, so we too are to do the same. 

We started this sermon with a question – what was Jesus doing a couple of weeks before Easter? And as we saw, he was doing what he had always done – he was teaching, he was healing, and he was seeking. He’s still doing those things right now… today… in this place. Are you listening, are you seeking healing for those areas in your life where you’re hurting, and, most of all, have you answered his invitation to accept the gift of salvation? And if you’ve received all these things, are you living according the example Jesus set: are you teaching, are you offering healing to others, are you seeking out and inviting others to share in the gift of salvation? When nothing seems to be happening, it seems there is a lot going on. 

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