A few weeks ago, the Academy Awards were on TV. Did you see them? Even if you didn't, you know how the people arrived, right? Those stars did not sneak in a back door somewhere. They know how to make an arrival: the finest vehicles, the most exquisite clothing, the perfect presentation, and, of course... the red carpet. That is how someone important arrives.
Then there's Jesus. In Mark 11, we see him entering Jerusalem to complete the work he came to do, to accomplish the most important accomplishment in the history of the world - and he rides ...
The next day, the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted, "Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the King of Israel!"
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, and you are in fact dead. 2 Wake up and strengthen whatever you have left, teetering on the brink of death, for I've found that your works are far from complete in the eyes of my God.
The man was asked to kill his son. Read Genesis 22. The man was asked to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering to test whether he loved God or that boy more. And what's astounding is what verse 3 tells us. Abraham got up "early in the morning" to do it.
"If only I..." Have you ever started a sentence like that? If only I had a little more money... If only I were a little more artistic... If only I had an opportunity like that... I can't think of any more paralyzing words. "If only" sets us up for failure.
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been." The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that. While his poem spoke specifically of a lost opportunity in love, the truth of his verse extends far beyond that. We all understand the truth behind it: What a sad thing to see wasted talent, wasted resources, wasted opportunities.
Once you were far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don't drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.
"I'm talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I'm saying. Isn't the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn't the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread."
Why? It's a classic question. Anyone who has raised children knows the power of the "why." They always want to know why, and we don't grow out of it. So last week, when we looked at Jesus saying, "Follow me," we looked at how his word gives us the power to do that. We never quite got around to asking that kindergarten question - Why?
"And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ."
If I knocked on your door and asked you if you would rather die than give up the teaching I'm ready to share with you, how would you respond? If I called you on the phone as you were eating dinner and told you to give up your home and your car and your relationships and follow me, how would that go over? I'm guessing not so well, right? I don't think I'd have too many followers.