Sunday, April 16, 2017


Mark 16:1-8 (4/16/2017)
Introduction: According to a legend, a king once placed a heavy stone in the roadway. Then he hid and waited to see who would remove it. Many who came by loudly blamed the government for not keeping the highways clear, but none assumed the duty of pushing the obstacle out of the way. At last a poor peasant stopped and rolled it into the gutter. To his surprise, he found a bag full of gold embedded in the road beneath the spot where the rock had been. A note said it was the king’s reward for anyone who removed the troublesome object.
            Over two thousand years ago, there lived an unusual King, and his name was Jesus. He was sarcastically called the King of the Jews, yet he himself claimed that he came from another world and his Kingdom was of another world. While Jesus was still alive, he taught his disciples about the Kingdom of God.  He told his followers that one day he is going to be crucified and die a cruel death on a cross. When the time came, the crowds who once shouted Hosanna, Hosanna, Lord save us, the ones who prophetically said, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” now incited by the Scribes and Pharisees shouted, Crucify Him! Crucify Him.
            Given into the populous demand, Pilate the governor ordered that Jesus would be flogged and crucified. According to the prophecies of the ancient prophets, Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. Now there was a problem. Though he truly was the King of the whole world he did not have any possessions of his own, there was no place even to bury him. One of his rich friends who may have been touched by his teachings came forward and buried his friend Jesus in his own tomb and rolled a stone over it.  Now, it was the first day after Sabbath, Jesus’ friends some women wanted to anoint the body of Christ, but they had another problem, it was the Stone. They asked each other, who will roll the stone away from the entrance? Mark 16:1-8
            I title this message, “Who Will Roll the Stone Away? Before we answer this question, who placed the stone? Why was that grave stone, sealed and guarded so tightly?   

            It was the preparation day, that is the day before the Sabbath. Joseph of Armathea a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God, gathered up courage and went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After receiving the body Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock and he rolled a stone (extremely large) against the entrance of the tomb. By doing so the Prophecy in Isaiah 53:9, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death,” was fulfilled. According to this passage we know who placed the stone, that was Joseph of Armathea, but why was it sealed and secured so tightly? Matthew gives some reasons to why the stone was sealed.

            While Jesus was still alive on several occasions he made it clear that he was going to be killed and on the third day rise again. The disciples did not understand what he was talking, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law took him literally and seriously. So, they went up to Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that when he was still alive, that deceiver said, “after three days I am to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, let the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead and the last deception will be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, “Take a guard, go make the tomb as secure as you know how. So, they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard”.

            What do we know about the Roman guard? The Greek word for “guard” was Kustodia that’s where we get the word custodian. Kustodia was a 16 men security unit. Each man was trained to protect six square feet of ground. The 16 men, according to Roman history, were supposed to be able to protect 6 square yards against an entire battalion and hold it. Each guard had four weapons on his body. He was a fighting machine.”[1] Just imagine, would it be possible for eleven fearful disciples to come secretly and steal the body of Jesus in the watch full eye of the powerful Roman Guard? How about the two women, who would come back the next day to anoint the body of Christ, be able to roll away extremely large stone? So, the two women wondered who will roll the stone away?

            Have you wondered why the stone had to be rolled away? Could Jesus not have risen while everything was still intact? He could have risen, secretly but he didn’t. The reason being, Jesus publicly told several times that he would die and rise again on the third day, so perhaps he wanted his resurrection to be a public display not a secret one. In Matthew 28:1-4 we read about this spectacular rolling away of the stone. After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”
            Coming back to Mark 16:4-8, “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.
            See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” What a powerful encounter the rolling away of the stone from the entrance. It so happened to show that no Roman guard or wicked scheme of the Pharisees could prevent Jesus from rising on the third days just as he has promised. That is the power of the resurrection. The angel rolled away the stone to show to the world the power of the resurrection.

            In the scriptures, the unsaved condition of the human heart is often compared to a grave and a stone. On this resurrection day listen to the promise of God Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  How is your heart today?  Are you like the women, who were amazed and afraid? Is your heart sealed off and feels cold like a stone? The good news of the Resurrection is that, the same power that was there to remove the stone and raise Jesus from the dead is here today.  This power can change you from being a captive to sin, darkness, fear, hopelessness and death, to walk in light, freedom and fullness of life. The power of the resurrection will also enable you to bear witness to what Christ has done in your life. Amen

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Story of the Palm Sunday: Luke 19:28-44

Introduction: A little boy was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, "Why do you have that palm branch, dad?" "You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved Palm Branches to honor him, so we got Palm Branches today." The little boy replied, " Aw Shucks! The one Sunday I miss is the Sunday that Jesus shows up!"
            Well this boy may have felt terrible for missing church on Palm Sunday, but what could we say about a whole city of people missing the arrival of a King who entered the city on a rather odd looking, and most unusual carrier? The story of Palm Sunday was about the entry of the King of Kings, God’s chosen ruler of the whole world into Jerusalem. Was it a logistical nightmare? Why did he come into town? What was the mode of his transportation? How could the crowd and the city officials miss it all? The gospel writer Luke gives a detailed account of Jesus’ royal entry into Jerusalem, in the midst of fanfare and a hostile environment. I title this message: THE STORY OF PALM SUNDAY. Let’s look at what happened on Palm Sunday.

            Last week we looked at Jesus’ intentional, yet deliberate journey towards Jerusalem. In Luke 18:31-33 Jesus took the twelve aside and made his intentions clear to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, and spit on him. They will flog him and kill him. On the third day, he will rise again.” Jesus explained to his close disciples about the nature of his death and resurrection as it was written by the prophets yet his own disciples did not understand the plan.
            Even today God is speaking His truth through the Bible times, and through the sermons you hear on Sunday or from other sources yet just like the disciples we too lack understanding. On this Palm Sunday and during the Holy week; let’s ask God for understanding and clarity of his message. We learned last week that the primary reason for his trip from heaven to earth was to seek and save the lost that is you and I, and restore us back to the father.
            Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem? It was to be mocked, insulted, spit upon, flogged, crucified and rise again on the third day. The manner in which he entered Jerusalem this time was not a coincidence but was a fulfillment of the prophecy, prophesied by prophet Zachariah in 536 B.C.  What was the prophecy? How was it fulfilled? What is its significance today?

            In 536 B.C two prophets named Zechariah and Haggai both were preaching to the first generation after the return to Judah from the Babylonian exile. The first eight chapters deal with the remnant repenting, the judgment on Israel’s enemies and the restoration of the nation of Judah. Chapters 9-14 deal exclusively with the future beyond Zachariah’s days. Keeping that futuristic view in mind, let’s read the prophecy. Zechariah 9: 9-10, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Vs 9 of this prophecy has been fulfilled when Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem.
            Jesus couldn’t have picked any other moment to make this spectacular entry. The city of Jerusalem was bustling with crowds because of the Passover feast. Families from all over came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Jesus along with his disciples too came to Jerusalem to celebrate. He sent out two disciples to a nearby village with instructions to bring him a donkey.
The disciples went and found a donkey exactly as Jesus described. As they were untying the donkey the owner (literally “lords”) asked why are you untying the donkey and the disciples said, “The Lord has need of it” that’s it; no more questions were asked, the disciples brought the donkey to Jesus. What can we learn from this incident? Four things: First; the Lord needs some thing or some one to accomplish his purpose. Secondly; as Christ needed a donkey to communicate a message concerning his kingdom to the people of Jerusalem today he needs you and me to communicate the gospel message to the people of our town. 
Thirdly; God doesn’t necessarily use impressive people to spread the message but often uses the humble. Fourthly; when God needs some body, and want to use him or her for his purposes those of us who have a so-called claim on them or lord over them need to learn to release them for God’s purposes. Coming back to our text in the midst of jubilation Jesus made his entry on a donkey. Imagine, the King of the universe! Riding on a donkey? That sounds rather strange, isn’t it? The sight of Jesus riding on a donkey sure must have sent shock waves to some but to those who had eyes to see, they were given much needed hope and assurance.
Why did Jesus choose a donkey as his mode of transportation why not a powerful horse ridden Chariot? Here are a few reasons for the usage of the donkey. Firstly, in Palestine the donkey has always played a much more important role than in the western world. It was the universal saddle of the east. Consider the following scriptures: Abraham a very wealthy man frequently used donkey. Genesis 22:3, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey…When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering he set out to the place God had told him about.” Secondly, in the book of Judges, we find that riding a donkey is mentioned as actually a mark of high rank. Judges 12:13-14, “Pirathon, led Israel. He had 40 sons, and 30 grandsons, they rode on seventy donkeys.”
Thirdly, a young, donkey the mode of Jesus’ transportation was perhaps even more symbolic for the crowds gathered then, than what the president’s “Air Force One” is for us today. By riding into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, Jesus reminded the crowds of a 500-year-old prophecy. “Behold your king is coming to you, your king He is Just and endowed with salvation, Humble and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
By using a donkey as his mode of transportation, Jesus sent several implicit messages. They are: He was indeed the King, and the messiah as was prophesied by Zechariah. He was rich in love, mercy and forgiveness. He has come into the world to save people from their sin. He was humble and righteous, unlike the then proud kings and unjust rulers. Jesus’ unassuming arrival without any pomp and military power must have sent mixed reactions in the crowd. While the Pharisees, scribes and teachers were offended and disgruntled by the shouting of crowds, but Jesus’ disciples were jubilant and filled with hope. It was a victory for the followers of Jesus.

            The ordinary folk, the farmers, many of these people probably wouldn’t have passed a Secret Service screening, but they nonetheless lined the road for the approaching donkey-cade, were simply delighted with joy. As Jesus entered through the gates, the crowds went out of their way, some took off their cloaks (outer garments), John writes in John 12:13, “great multitude, took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him.”
            Not a few, but a great multitude of the disciples came out to see King Jesus. The young, the old and little children began to praise God joyfully, saying, Vs 37-38Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
            Throughout his ministry wherever Jesus went crowds followed him. However, Jesus was not impressed, by crowds he knew their hearts so he wouldn’t entrust himself to anyone easily.
            But this time it looks like the multitudes of his disciples got it right; really? They saw Him as their future King, perhaps thinking that he would save them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. While the crowds and the disciples seemed to have gotten the message, the Pharisees and the rest of the city missed it.  How could they so badly miss it?

            One would wonder how in the world the Pharisees and the rest of the city missed a clear sign of the entry of the messiah? Was it shear ignorance or was it a plain refusal to accept Jesus was indeed the messiah prophesied long ago by prophet Zechariah?  We need to look back to what happened, a few days prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This was what he said out of vexation of it’s constant refusal, we read in Luke 13:34-35, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
            Now again, for the second time, Jesus rebukes all those who have missed those clear signs of the prophet Zechariah. Luke 19:41-44, “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
What a tragic situation! Sadly, many on the first Palm Sunday missed the glorious visitation of our Lord. Though they were very familiar with scriptures, yet could not accept the truth literally walking in front of them. Wait a minute, let’s not be too critical of all those who have missed the boat. What happened to the city of Jerusalem could happen to anyone of us.
It is possible that you and I too can miss the day of the visitation of the Lord. Jesus still weeps over every soul that refuses to accept him as their Lord and savior. On this Palm Sunday let’s take a pause and see where you might fit in the story. There were several characters in the story: The donkey, the disciples, the crowds, the Pharisees, the whole city of Jerusalem and our Lord the Messiah. I was like the donkey which was tied up, staying very close to my mom and dad, safely at home. The Lord saw something in me, he sent his Holy Spirit, saved me and set me free so that I can be used for his purposes. But I was to let go off by my parents, especially by my mother, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.

In closing, let me ask you a question? Which one of the characters in the story do you see yourself in? If you see yourself as a donkey, the crowds, the disciples then you have hope. But if you see yourself as the Pharisees and the rest of the city in Jerusalem who knew the truth yet refused to accept the truth, then I pity you. If Jesus were to arrive at Hope Church today, what will be our response, will we gladly receive Him and worship Him? Or refuse to accept him and miss a wonderful opportunity? My prayer is that none of us will miss the day of the visitation of our Lord. Amen

Sunday, April 2, 2017


The Greatest Search and Rescue 
Luke 19:1-10 (4/2/2017)
Introduction: "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33. "("We are well IN THE SHELTER, the 33.") That seven-word message set off a wave of euphoria in Chile and around the world. It had been written in red letters on a scrap of paper and taped to a drill bit that penetrated an area of a gold and copper mine just north of CopiapĆ³ in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile-written by the 33 miners who had been trapped 2,300 feet underground 17 days earlier.
            There was every reason to believe that the miners had not survived the initial cave-in and, if they had survived, they would likely starve to death before they could be reached.  But "the 33" survived the blast and took refuge in an area three miles from the entrance to the mine. Then 17 days later, when a 6 ½ inch exploratory drill bit punched through the roof into their pitch-black sanctuary, they let the world know: "Estamos bien"-"We are well."
            As soon as rescuers discovered the miners were alive, a collaborative effort began to devise a way to get them out. The rescuers included three international drilling rig teams, every ministry of the Chilean government, engineers and technicians from NASA, and more than a dozen multinational corporations. On October 13, 2010, fifty-two days after the miners were discovered-69 days since the cave-in-all 33 were brought to the surface alive. 
            It is estimated that more than one billion people around the world watched some or all of the televised rescue of "the 33." By far it is one of the most watched rescue operations in modern history. Thank God for the rescuers and those who were trapped for not giving up their hope. However, there is another ongoing search and rescue operation underway that is seldom reported by the Media or talked about by people. I would like to share with you the story of a man who was very wealthy but has been ostracized and rejected by society. He wanted to live a life of freedom and happiness but has been trapped in his own fears and hang-ups. He has been the subject of one of the greatest search and rescue operations, his name is Zacchaeus.  I title this message: “The Greatest Search and Rescue” Luke 19:1-10. The context of this story. Jesus was on the last phase of his journey to Jerusalem where he was going to accomplish his mission. On his way to Jerusalem Jesus met with several seekers. Firstly, a rich young ruler who wanted to know how to get saved, but when Jesus told what he must do he was unwilling to part with his earthly riches so that he might inherit eternal riches.
            Secondly, a desperate blind beggar who badly wanted his sight back. When he heard that Jesus was passing by him he shouted “Jesus Son of David have mercy on me” the crowds tried to calm him down but the blind man kept crying, “Son of David have mercy on me” Jesus stopped by and restored the sight to the blind man.

            Thirdly, a rich chief of tax collectors, Zacchaeus who wanted to see who Jesus was. The story of Zacchaeus is familiar to many of us, we have heard it from our childhood, and because of its familiarity we fail to see some life changing principles. At the offset a lot seems to be going for Zacchaeus. He is a Jew, a chief tax collector, and he is wealthy. What more one would wish? But if we take a deeper look at Zacchaeus in spite of all his wealth and influence he seems to be miserable and missing something.
            Isn’t that somewhat true with us? Somehow modern man believed a lie that, the more “wealthy and successful he becomes the happier he will be.” We envy celebrities on TV because of their good looks, fashionable clothes and all they seem to enjoy. They are rich and famous, but we don’t realize is that many of them are miserable.
            They deal with multiple divorces, court cases over property and relational matters. They are addicted to drugs and so on. But they know how to pretend in front of a camera and media.  As an old saying goes “all that glitters is not gold” Wealth can buy you a lot of things, but it cannot give you everything you need in life. It cannot bring you joy and peace. What makes a person peaceful and joyful? It is living in right relationship with God, oneself and one another.
            That was missing in Zacchaeus. He was not living in right relationship with God, himself and with others. Partly because of the way he has earned his money and also how he was perceived by his fellow Jews. During ancient times if any Jew worked for the Roman government he was ostracized by the rest of the Jews. Here Zacchaeus was collecting taxes from his fellow Jews and giving it to the Roman government, not only that he was the Chief of tax collectors. Can you imagine the wrath he might have faced by his fellow citizens?
            Zacchaeus must have heard about how Jesus healed the ten lepers, healed the blind beggar and how he put the rich young ruler in place. But he was not satisfied just listening to those wonderful stories, he just wanted to see who this Jesus was. Similarly, you may have been attending Church all your life, you heard about Jesus, you read about him or even sang praise songs to him but do you really know him? Hearing about Jesus and having a personal relationship with him are two different things. I too went to Church all my life and read the Bible but not until the age of seventeen I had a personal relationship with Jesus
            Zacchaeus had a strong desire to see, in NASB it says, “he was trying to see who Jesus was” but there were several hurdles he had to overcome before he could see Jesus. How did he overcome his hurdles? Zacchaeus had a few hurdles to overcome. Firstly, he was a high-ranking officer, a chief tax collector that didn’t give him a credible standing in the Jewish society. Secondly, the crowds, wherever Jesus went he was surrounded by huge crowds wanting to touch him for healing, and the adversaries who wanted to find faults.
            It is like trying to get through to Tom Brady. He may be surrounded by fans, the body guards and the police. It will be pretty tough to get near to him. Thirdly, Zacchaeus had a physical hurdle to overcome. He was small in stature may be five foot tall. What are your hurdles that you need to overcome so that you could be with Jesus?  They could be your pursuit of wanting to be rich, or your social life, or simply your pride.
            Zacchaeus did not let his hurdles to stop him from reaching his goal of wanting to Jesus. He was intentional, determined and creative. He went to extraordinary lengths to fulfill his quest even enduring the probable shame of climbing a tree despite his adult male status and position in the community as a wealthy ruler. In the same way when we have a strong desire and are determined to know Jesus we would be willing to go to any lengths. Nothing will hold you back. It was like my Iranian Muslim friend in India when she heard about Jesus she invited him into her heart. She didn’t care about the repercussions and the possible persecution.

            Zacchaeus knew which way Jesus was coming so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. Why did Zacchaeus choose to climb this particular tree and not any other tree? Firstly, because it was fairly a common tree in the foothills of Palestine. The sycamore (Fiscus sycomorus) is a type of tree growing only in the Jordan Valley and near the Mediterranean coast. The sycamore is pictured as growing in abundance in 1 Kings 10:27. The sycamore is not the same as the tree by that name that grows in North America. The sycamore tree belongs to the nettle family, like the mulberry and fig trees.
            The fruit looks like a fig, but the taste is unpleasant. It is eaten by the poor. The limbs are low. Even a child could climb into the tree to get a better view.[1] Secondly, it has wide-spreading branches and affords a delightful shade. Zacchaeus perhaps wanted to be anonymous and just take a peek at Jesus while he was passing by without anyone noticing him. Thirdly, sycamore figs are inferior character. In Amos 7:14 where the prophet Amos referred himself not as a prophet but just the grower of sycamore figs, he must have been reflecting on his own inferiority More than one way Zacchaeus must have been carrying a very poor perception of himself. After being rejected by the crowds he must have been going through tremendous rejection. Whatever may be the reason for Zacchaeus to choose to climb the sycamore tree, now here he was hiding in the tree.
            The commotion of the crowds was drawing nearer and nearer and suddenly it stopped just under his tree. This is the chance of a life time. The one he heard a lot about and the one who he always wanted to see was just right under the tree. Can you imagine the emotional high of Zacchaeus? Jesus the miracle worker, the great and powerful teacher of the Kingdom, the one who raised people from the dead was now standing under an insignificant fig tree.
            Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Upon hearing that Zacchaeus must have fallen down from the tree!! The writer here mildly put it saying, “so he came down at once” and welcomed him gladly.”
            Who here wouldn’t want to welcome Jesus if he invites himself to your home? I would love it too. If Jesus were to walk into your home, your life, and your marriage, what would that be like? You too will be changed forever like Zacchaeus. God’s ultimate desires is that all would be saved “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. To that extent God has been conducting this, Greatest Search and Rescue operation in the world.

            This was the climactic moment in the story which the author Luke captured so vividly. Just imagine Jesus, his disciples were reclining at the table and enjoying the rich hospitality of this wealthy man. The grumbling and complaining crowds must have been standing all around the house and outside. Without Christ saying anything the truth dawned upon Zacchaeus. He discovered what was hindering him from receiving true Joy, which was his wealth. He was willing to let go of the grip of money on his life. So, he stood up in front of everybody and made a bold confession. “Look, Lord Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.
            Up until now Zacchaeus was a slave to money, trapped in his own fears, inhibitions and rejection. He was bound by his physical limitations, but with that confession he declared Jesus as Lord not only over his life but over his money, over his possessions and everything that was hindering him. Christ the ultimate rescuer of souls proclaimed salvation to Zacchaeus saying “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. I Thank God for he searched me and rescued me.
            Seeking and saving sinners is indeed the greatest search and rescue operation ever. Each time when a sinner who has been trapped in his sins has been forgiven and is freed up and offered eternal life, there is great celebration in heaven. Jesus has been on the greatest search and rescue mission ever. By the power of the Holy Spirit He is searching and saving the lost.
            Are you like Zacchaeus though seems to have everything yet feeling lonely and rejected? Are you trapped in your own sin and dilapidating habits? More than you want to be free, Jesus is desiring to set you free. He is right here standing and knocking at the door of your heart, will you receive him gladly like Zacchaeus did, I guarantee that your life will forever be changed. Amen