What seems right isn’t always

So, a guy in France is being investigated, on the suspicion that he might have four wives, which in this day and age might not seem unusual. The difference is, he has them all at the same time. Lies Hebbadj, is an immigrant from Algeria, and French authorities are having some difficulties with the case, as you can imagine.

The issue isn’t whether or not he has four wives; he doesn’t debate that at all, the issue is how he got four wives. If he married them in France, then he has committed an illegal act, however, if he married them in Algeria, not so much. The French system simply wouldn’t recognize wives 2, 3 and 4, but with that being said, they would each qualify for state aid as single moms. Interesting.

Hebbadj defends his actions by stating, “As far as I know, mistresses are not forbidden, neither in France, nor in Islam.” Come to think of it, mistresses aren’t forbidden in Canada either. Kind of sounds like the statement in the Old Testament, where it is recorded, “Everybody did what was right in their own eyes.” But that didn’t make it right then and doesn’t make it right now. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

 

    

The Main Thing

It’s almost over, can you feel it in the air? Almost an electricity as people wait expectantly for April to be over. They don’t care what Denn will be preaching next week or the week after that they just know it won’t be about Money. By the way next week I will be preaching on Sin. Which leads me to a funny story that has nothing to do with this week’s message. That is the joy of combining my ADHD tendencies with sermon preparation. Look a squirrel.
The story is told that when Calvin Coleridge was president he had to attend church alone one Sunday because his wife was sick. Now obviously the President didn’t always pay attention to the message because when he got home his wife quizzed him and asked “So what did the pastor preach on?” The president thought for a moment and replied “Sin.” “And what did he say about sin?” probed his wife. The president thought again and replied “he was against it.”
But that’s next week.
Two weeks ago I preached on the little things, the minutia, the details, and we looked at Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. And we looked at that last line who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. And some of you commented to me after the message that you never really stopped and thought about the practical aspects of Christ’s ministry and how those needs were met. What they ate, where they slept and what they did when their sandals wore out. The little things, the minutia, the details. The same type of needs that have to be met in churches all over the world to one degree or another and here at Cornerstone specifically. And Then I looked at the reasons why these folks gave out of their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. They gave because they loved Jesus and They gave because they believed in the mission.
And then last week we looked at the big things, and specifically we looked back into 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple.”
This was the beginning of what would be the biggest project ever embarked upon by the people of Israel, what some people today would refer to as a BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a term first made popular by Jim Collins the author of “From Good to Great”.
And in last week’s message we looked at the sacrifices that were made to build this temple, by the King, his leaders and the people of Israel. And the bottom line was they gave for two reasons: They gave because they loved God and they gave because they believed in the mission.
So we looked at the little things and we looked at the big things, and those who gave to meet both those needs. This week I want to look at the main thing, the thing that both groups had in common. Yes they did give, they gave sacrifically and they gave in order to express their love for God and their belief in the mission. But there is something else they shared. You see all the people involved were Jews who lived under Jewish law including Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” And so before the people of Israel contributed to the temp of Godtemple they paid their tithe and before Mary and Susanna and Joanna and the others gave from their own resources in order to support Jesus and the disciples they paid their tithe.
Tithe is one of those churchy words, and sometimes those of us in the church suffer from the curse of too much knowledge. We know what a certain words means and we assume that everybody else does as well, but there are some questions that I hear from time to time about tithing , and we’ll try to answer those this morning.
The first is The What of the Tithe? In its simplest form tithe simply means a tenth. In the Greek the word that is used is δεκάτη or Dekate. “Dec” you know like decade is ten years or The Decalogue is the Ten Commandments, and a decapod is a creature with ten legs like a lobster or a crab. The decimal system is based on the number 10 and in the old Roman Calendar December was the Tenth month and decametre is 10 metres. But that isn’t the way it is normally used, it is normally used to mean a tenth that is given to God or to the church. And it was first mentioned in Genesis 14 where we are introduced to a mysterious King and Priest by the name of Melchizedek. The only introduction we have is in Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. That’s really all we know about him, he was the King of Salem, a priest of God Most High and he brought Abraham some bread and wine. After this incident we don’t hear from him again until Psalm 110 and then nothing until the New Testament Book of Hebrews.
But we do read this Genesis 14:20 And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.” Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.
The next time the tithe is mentioned is later in the book of Genesis when Abraham’s grand-son Jacob is feeling blessed and decides to make an offering to the Lord and we read in Genesis 28:22 “And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

 Now isn’t that strange, of all the choices that Jacob could make he decides on the very same amount that Abraham did. No written instructions. No law. This was before the bible said “a tithe belongs to the lord” matter of fact it was before the bible. He could have made a hundred choice, 1%, 2%, and 3%, all the way up to 100%. Could it be that God told Him?

 And then of course when the law was laid down we arrive at the scripture I had mentioned earlier Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.”

 The next question I get asked is The Why of the Tithe People wonder why it had to be dictated what people should give? Couldn’t God have just asked people to give and then leave it up to each person to determine what they should give? Perhaps. But there was The Philosophy of the Tithe and that was recognizing that what we have isn’t ours at all, instead it comes from God. The tithe was the acknowledgement of that. It puts us in our place and God in His place. It allows us to acknowledge that we exist because of him and that all we have is because of him.

 So why not just let it happen? You know, let people decide on their own to give back to God and then let them decide how much to give to God. But seriously do you think with human nature being what human nature is that would work? How many people would just give? It’s not just the church that has to ask for money, every organization that does good things needs to ask good people to support their work. Do you think without the Christmas Daddies Telethon each year people would just decide to send their money in? How many people driving down the Bedford Highway go by “Feed Nova Scotia” and stop and give them food or money, just because.

 There was also The Necessity of the Tithe. The tithe wasn’t just collected for fun, it was collected to support God’s work. 3000 years ago it was used for the sacrifices that were offered to God, to maintain the tabernacle and eventually the temple and to support the priest’s whose job it was to lead people into the presence of God. Even back then there were musical instrument that needed to be purchased and maintained, building maintenance to be done and salaries to be paid. It was for God’s work and it was God’s people who were expected to support it. And throughout the Old Testament or the New Testament you will not find evidence of a bean supper, raffle sale or chariot wash to support the work of the Lord, you will just find God’s people giving.

 And there was The Fairness of the Tithe. It wasn’t expected that any one person would do it all, nor was it expected that everyone would give the same regardless of their circumstances. By being 10% it allowed each to give according to what had been given to them. So the man with only 10 Shekels gave one shekel and he couldn’t complain about why the man who had 100 shekels only had to give 1 shekel, because he had to give 10 shekels. And the man who had 100 shekels couldn’t complain that he had to give ten times more than the other man without acknowledging that he made ten times more than the other man. And as your tithe increased it was an acknowledgement of the blessing upon your life.

 I can remember when I made less pastoring my first church in college than I tithe today, and that isn’t a reflection on how much I make now nearly as much as how little I made then.

 The Continuance of the Tithe If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “But isn’t the tithe an Old Testament concept?” I’d have a lot of nickels. And my answer is “Sure is, along with thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not lie.” And Jesus didn’t negate those commands he raised them to a higher standard. He said “It’s not enough to not kill someone, you can’t even hate them.” He told us “It’s not enough to refrain from committing adultery, you shouldn’t even think about it.” And “It’s not enough to not break an oath, you word should be so good that you shouldn’t have to take an oath”
With that in mind why would Jesus raise the bar on other Old Testament concepts and lower it on giving?
And take the case of the Pharisees, Jesus did not like these guys every time you see them together in the scriptures they are fighting; they mix like oil and water. And Jesus condemned the Pharisees for a lot of things but there was one thing that he commended them for and that is found in Matthew 23:23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Jesus didn’t tell them to practice justice, mercy and faith instead of tithing; he told them to practice justice mercy and faithfulness while tithing. He condemned them for hypocrisy, he condemned them for neglecting important things, he called them tombs full of dead men’s bones, he called them snakes, but he commended them for their tithing. And they weren’t just tithing the big things they were tithing the little things as well, they were tithing their birthday money and their winning roll up the rim cups.

 Listen to what Paul wrote to the believers in the city of Corinth 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. Acts 18 tells us that the Corinthian church was started by converted Jews, now remember that the law was pretty explicit about the tithe, if you were to tell a Jew that they should set aside a sum of money for God’s work in keeping with their income I wonder what amount would come to mind? Throughout the gospels Jesus commended people for giving ten percent or more but he never commended anyone for giving less than ten percent. On two occasions he even told people to give everything they had, and when he praised the widow in the temple it was because she had given everything that she had.
The Result of the Tithe A lot of people think they have that figured out, they figure that the result of the tithe is that they will have 10% less to spend where they want. But the scriptures point to a whole different result, listen again to the scripture that was read earlier Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
That is the word of God, the promise of God. He is telling us that he will bless us for being obedient. Does that mean we’ll get more money? Well, do you believe the concept of all we have as coming from God, he has entrusted us with our material possessions to make an impact on this world. And we can choose to do that or choose not to do that and that is entirely up to us. But if we choose to spend what was meant for the sacred on the secular then God is not going to bless us. The concept is laid out in Luke 16:10 When Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
The New International Version says it this way Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much.”
But of course that also involve your motives, if you are just giving to get you’re not giving you’re investing. The blessing you receive is the blessing of being obedient, of knowing that what you are doing will make an eternal difference, not just a temporal one.
And each one of us will decide what we will give, some will give a tenth of what they have and others give a tenth of what they ought to give. Here is a thought that I mention every year, You should give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving. So here’s a question, could you live on 10 times what you give to the church each week?
Is this where you’d live? Is this what you’d drive and is this what you’d eat? Just asking.
So let’s end with something a little different.
The Top Ten Reasons for not Making Your Mortgage Payment

10. The only time I ever hear from the bank is when they want money. They never pay attention to my other needs.
9. I’m upset at the bank president. He said some things I don’t agree with.
8. That house payment is a tenth of my income. That’s a whole lot more than I can really afford.
7. I’ll give them what I can every month. But I don’t want to make any long-range promises.
6. We went on vacation last month. The bank will have to wait while we catch up on other bills.
5. I’ll support the bank with my prayers. That ought to do more good than my measly little payment.
4. The bank spends too much money on itself. When it starts giving more away, then I’ll start making mortgage payments again.
3. The bank has a lot of rich customers. It can get along fine without my little payment.
2. I support another bank that needs my money more.
1. I want to spend my money on me.

 But ultimately people didn’t give because of the law, they didn’t give because of the blessing they gave because they loved God and they gave because they believed in the mission.
We’ve looked at the little things and we’ve looked at the big things and the main thing is not whether you tithe or not but whether you are obedient or not. And there are two reasons why you will give to Cornerstone You’ll give because you love Jesus and you will give because you believe in the mission.

Just Stop It!

Litter bugs me? I just can’t get my head around it, what possesses people to just throw their trash on the ground? This time of year seems to be the worse and Tim’s cups seem to be the greatest offenders, but that might just be perception, after all, their spring cups are red and easier to spot. Or maybe people get upset with having the opportunity to play again and out of frustration, they just throw the offending cup out their car window.

I understand that in some countries, they cane people who litter. I wonder if that would take provincial or federal legislation, to make that a law in Canada?

I don’t litter, but I assume that those that do think, “Well, it’s just one cup, or one can or one bag, what will it hurt?” And if it was just one cup or can or bag, it probably wouldn’t hurt. But if you do it once, you will do it again and the point isn’t that it’s not much, the point is that it’s wrong and irresponsible.

And, I suppose it’s the same with whatever small sins litter our Christian lives and the answer is: just stop doing it. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

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The Big Things

Last week I spoke about the little things, the minutia, the details. In that case it was the details that would have been involved in supporting Jesus and his disciples. And I looked at Luke 8:1-3. In particular the verse that said Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
Do you remember why they contributed their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples? That’s right because they loved Jesus and believed in the mission. But that was last week when I spoke about the little things, the minutia, and the details.
And this is this week and I am going to be speaking about a big thing, as a matter of fact you might even say it was a BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I don’t know if you are familiar with the term but it comes from Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great” who is one of the speakers at next month’s Leadercast that we are hosting at Cornerstone. Here is how Collins’ defines it: “A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”
And this was in the truest sense a BHAG. We first read about it in a discussion that King David had with his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:7 “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honour the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. For four hundred years the people of Israel had been worshipping God in a temporary facility, the tabernacle which God himself had provided inspiration for to Moses. But the time had come as a nation that King David felt there needed to be a permanent spiritual home for the people of God. Sounds like a good idea, I’ve known other leaders who have cast the vision for a permanent place of worship. But listen to the rest of the story that David told his son, 1 Chronicles 22:8 “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honour my name.
Now personally if I was David I would be a little confused, after all he might have shed blood but it he was just following God’s commands and for the most part he was defending Israel against the Philistine and Amalekites and everyone else who thought they should have a piece of Israel, some things never change.
But I’m not David and I’m not God. And the issue here wasn’t an issue of whether David was obedient or disobedient instead it was a matter of God’s timing and apparently God’s temple was to be built during a time of peace and not one of conflict because God told David that Solomon would be able to do what David could only dream of doing. And that was to build the temple.
I think it says a lot about David that even though he knew he wouldn’t get to build the temple he did his very best to see that the temple got built, the temple didn’t just magically appear, it happened because people gave to make it happen and that takes us to the scripture that was read earlier. 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple.”
So the first thing is that It was Sacrificial Giving Not only did David tell the people that he was going to give in front of God and everyone he tells them exactly how much he is giving. 1 Chronicles 29:4 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings Now David could have simply said “I’m really, really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of gold and silver.”
But he didn’t, he said I’m giving 224,000 lbs of gold, 464,000 lbs of silver. Now we don’t know what that was worth in their economy. There was no currency as we know it in Israel at that time, but in today’s dollars that much Gold would be worth close to 10 billion dollars Canadian. And to quote Senator Everett Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money”.
And it wasn’t just the king who gave 1 Chronicles 29:6-7 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the Temple of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron.
Now understand that the tithe was already a part of life for the Jewish people, including the King. They were already contributing 10% but this wasn’t their tithe and this wasn’t in place of their tithe, this was over and above their tithe. And if they were like most people in most cultures than I would suspect that the gifts that were given for the temple cost these folks something, there were other things they could have used those gifts for, bigger homes, nicer chariots, new robes and yet they opted to give it, sacrificially to God’s work.
From the looks of it they gave some really neat stuff. Gold, silver and precious stones. If you get into the description of the temple being built it was the very best of everything that was used. Why? Because apparently just good enough wasn’t what Solomon and the Jewish people wanted to present to their God. They wanted their offerings to mean something and in order for it to mean something it had to be a sacrifice. A sacrifice is by definition, a sacrifice. It is when you give up something of value for something or somebody who you think is more valuable than what you are giving up.
Often I hear people say “Well today people aren’t familiar with sacrifice.” Sure we are. In each of our lives we all are familiar with making sacrifices, perhaps not for God but you will make sacrifices for something. Maybe you will make sacrifices so your children can be in sports or band or go to a private school or get a tutor. Or maybe you’ll make sacrifices so you can drive a nicer car, live in a better home or have a better retirement. Some people make sacrifices for causes that aren’t nearly as noble. If you smoke what is it in your life that you sacrifice for your cigarettes? If you drink what is it you give up to buy a case of beer or a bottle of liquor? If you gamble what else could you or should you have spent that money on? You see when you choose to spend money on one thing instead of on something else you have made a sacrifice. For better or for worse.
And the amount of the sacrifice is directly proportional to how much you care for the person or object you are making the sacrifice for. Care a lot, sacrifice a lot, care a little sacrifice a little. You cannot love much and give little.
And it doesn’t have to do with how much you spend instead it’s how much you sacrifice. What might be a sacrifice for me might not be much of a sacrifice for you. Does that make sense?
When we were building this building our theme for the capital campaign was “Not equal giving but equal sacrifice.” And that is still the reality; God doesn’t call for equal giving he calls for equal sacrifice.
So when it comes to what you give to God is it sacrificial or is it just superficial?
Let’s go back to 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple.” So you remember whose words these were right? They were King David’s. The most powerful and richest man in the Kingdom. So the next thing we discover about this story is that It was Top Down Giving It would have been so easy for David to have said “We are going to give a bunch of money to build the temple, and by “we” I mean you.”
David didn’t expect his people to do something that he wasn’t willing to do. And it didn’t stop with David, the story goes on in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.
All of the leaders of Israel came to the party because they believed in what was being done and they wanted to be a part of it and they wanted to demonstrate their commitment.
I think it says something about God when we read in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God, creator of the universe loved us so much that he what? He gave. And what did he give? He gave his one and only son. Do you remember what Jesus told the apostles during the last supper? Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. So the example set for us by God is one of giving and sacrifice. He doesn’t just demand that his people give, he gave. And he gave the very best he had to give.
And God continues to give. Do you believe that all you receive comes from God?
At Cornerstone you can be assured that those in leadership are givers. Over 7% of our weekly budget comes from our staff, and one of the requirements of being on the leadership team at Cornerstone is that you are a sacrificial giver.
And David not only told the people he was going to give he told them what he was going to give, remember 1 Chronicles 29:4-5 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings and for the other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?” I wonder if there were people who were upset because David publically declared how much he was giving? Maybe they didn’t mind that he said he was going to give but they were a little cranky because he named amounts.
Six years ago Cornerstone went through a capital campaign in order to raise the initial capital needed for this building and as a part of the process Angela and I along with some of the leaders told the congregation how much we were going to commit to our building project over that three year period.
And I know that there were some folks in the congregation who wondered why I had to state it publicly. Why I didn’t just stand up and say “I’m really, really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of money.”

I don’t think David did it to prove how special he was, everyone knew that David was the richest man in the Kingdom. It wasn’t going to benefit him much because 25 verses later he died. I don’t think he did it to shame people into giving.
When I decided to tell the church how much I was giving it wasn’t so you would think, “Wow that Denn is a great guy.” If you are going to base that on money there are a lot of people out there that can do more than I can do, does that make them greater? I certainly didn’t do it to shame people into giving as much as I was giving.
The reason that David announced for everyone to hear the amount of his gift was for one reason and one reason only. To show that he was committed to the process. Listen again to his words
1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction.”
The reason I tithe to Cornerstone now is the same reason I announced how much my contribution would be the new building, because I am committed to seeing our vision accomplished. And for anyone who cares I can show you my T-4 and my giving receipt from Cornerstone. In other words I am willing to put my money weh
Neither myself or our staff or the leadership team expects others here to do what they don’t do.
Let’s continue with the story, I love the line in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. Did you catch the last three words? All gave willing.
It was Voluntary Giving This was not a tax that the king imposed to build that temple it was voluntary. The people of Israel caught the vision for building the temple and they wanted to be involved.
Listen to what Paul wrote about the church in Corinth 2000 years ago, 2 Corinthians 8:10 Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it.
And then there were his his comment on the Christ followers in Macedonia 2 Corinthians 8:2-4 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
You probably remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts. They had seen how others in the church had sold property and given it to the church so the kingdom could advance. So they sold a piece of property and then gave it to the apostles. And that’s fine and they didn’t give all of the money only a portion, and that was fine. But they told the church that they gave it all and that wasn’t fine. We pick up the story in Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” And if you know the story the fear of the Lord came over Ananias and he dropped dead. But it wasn’t what he gave and it wasn’t what he kept that was the issue, it was that he lied to God.
And really your giving to Cornerstone is voluntary. We don’t tell people, “Unless you give you can’t come to Cornerstone.” We don’t hold you up by your feet after the service and shake you to make sure we got all your money.
Let me end with two thoughts: In the Old Testament God asks his people a rhetorical question through the prophet Malachi and then he answers it himself in Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.” Interesting, when we don’t give God what is due him we cheat him.
And I know that sometimes we just can’t get our heads around the math, how can we give when it seems we spend all that we have now. Leonard Nimoy said “The miracle is the more we share, the more we have.” When you think about it that’s not logical but those that share would tell you it is a reality.
Why did David and the leaders of Israel and the people give to see the temple constructed? 2 reasons ,they are deep so you want to write them down this could have been all the of the sermon They gave because they loved God and they gave because they believed in the mission.
Let me pray for you and then Michelle and Angela are coming to sing for us.
Special: Abba’s Money, Money.

Sinners not Celebrities

What’s with the Sandra Bullock, Jesse James thing? If you have caught any of the celebrity news at all, you have probably heard some of the story. Actress Sandra Bullock, who won both a Razzie and an Oscar this year, is estranged from her husband, celebrity mechanic Jessie James, after discovering he was guilty of multiple infidelities. Who did the man think he was? A professional golfer? What amazed me is how surprised and hurt she was, at the revelation of her husband’s affairs.

This was, after all, his third marriage and she had met him while he was still married to wife number 2. Maybe it never crossed her mind, that Jesse might have a problem with commitment and there might be a wife number 4 out there somewhere.

The news has been filled with accounts of celebrities acting badly, but it is not limited to actors, athletes and politicians; we just hear about them because of who they are. The problem isn’t that they are celebrities, the problem is that they are sinners, like all of us. And they don’t need rehab nearly as much as they need Jesus, like all of us. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Little Things

When you stop and think about it, it’s the little things the minutiae. I can get my head around the miracles in the New Testament, miracles are by definition miracles. You either believe them or you don’t. So I don’t struggle with how Jesus fed the five thousand that was a God thing, a miracle and by definition miracles are miraculous. He took the little bit the boy had to offer and multiplied it to feed thousands. And there are all kinds of lessons we learn from that miracle, the concern that Jesus had for the hungry crowd, the sacrifice that the boy was willing to make and the faith that the apostles had when they started handing out the food. It is a great story and I preached on it two years ago during our stewardship month.
And so I don’t ever wonder about the mechanics of how Jesus fed thousands of people one afternoon but on the other hand I do wonder how he fed the twelve, day after day, week after week and month after month for three years. And where they slept each night and what they did when their sandals wore out. You know the little things the minutiae.
You ever wonder about stuff like that? Probably not, maybe before today it never crossed your mind. And probably the vast majority of people who heard Jesus preach and watched him heal the sick and those who ate tuna fish sandwiches on a hillside two thousand years ago never gave it a second thought.
They enjoyed the teaching they heard, they laughed when Jesus told stories of men straining a gnat out of their drink but swallowing a huge camel and people with beams in their eyes trying to take sawdust specks out of the eyes of others. They marvelled at the beatitudes and pondered the parables that he told, but they never really thought about the little things, the minutiae.
And maybe if people had brought up the little stuff that needed taken care of the response of some would be “Don’t sweat the little stuff” or “you just have to trust that God will take care of those things.”
But that didn’t mean that the little things weren’t important, as a matter of fact if the little things hadn’t been taken care of than the big things wouldn’t have happened. How long could the ministry have continued without Peter, James and John and the other nine guys eating? Or finding a place to crash at the end of the day. And so we have the scripture that was read earlier this morning.
Luke tells us in chapter 8 that Jesus travelled from town to village teaching and preaching about the Kingdom. And apparently he didn’t go alone because we are told Luke 8:1-3 . . .He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others . . .
Kind of interesting the mix we have here. There are the twelve apostles, which of course is to be expected. And then we are told that there were some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. We really don’t know how many women there were in the group, only three are actually named, and of those three this is the only time we hear the name Susanna. But we are told that there were many others.

I think it’s neat though what we know about the other two, we are told that Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her and that is really all we know about Mary, through the centuries she has been cast in roles as diverse as being a prostitute or being the wife of Christ. But all we know is that she had seven demons cast out of her and she was from Magdala and she was a follower of Christ. When the Da Vinci code came out as a movie I preached a message called “There is Something About Mary” and if you want more information about Mary let me know and I will send you the manuscript.
And then there was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager. But business manager doesn’t say it all, the Greek word used here is ἐπίτροπος, epitropos. And this was the man who would look after all of King Herod’s financial interest, his Chief Financial Officer so to speak, one of the most important people in Herod’s court. And things like that fascinate me, how she heard about Jesus, what made her decide to follow him, how different she must have been from the common Mary from the little village of Magdala. But then again Jim Irving’s wife Jean is a committed believer who grew up on a farm outside of Peticodiac.
I think it’s interesting that these woman are first mentioned at the beginning of Christ’s ministry and then we read in Luke 24:1 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. We just came out of Easter so you know that this is Luke’saccount of the resurrection. And maybe you thinking: so what? The so what comes in Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. Mary Magdalene and Joanna, right? And tradition has held that Susanna was one of the several other women who were mentioned. As a matter of fact in the Orthodox tradition they are known as the Myrrh-Bearing Women and are celebrated on the second Sunday after Easter, which is next Sunday.
What were they doing at the tomb, they were preparing to give their final gift to Jesus.
It is April which means that it’s stewardship month at Cornerstone and so as fascinating as all of that is we are going to focus on Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
So what can we learn from this one verse?
Things get mentioned because they are out of the ordinary. If people giving to Jesus’ ministry had been the norm than it wouldn’t have warranted a line in Luke’s account. Instead Luke thought it was pretty special that these individuals had taken it upon themselves to see the kingdom of God advanced.
So apparently there were two groups of people who availed themselves of Christ’s ministry 2000 years ago. Those who supported it financially and those who were just along for the ride. It seems that some things never change.
Those Who Didn’t Give
So if some people never gave I guess there is a question that is 2000 years old but the answers are probably still the same. What Were their Reasons for Not Giving?
Seriously if some people gave and some didn’t there must have been reasons why they didn’t. And after 29 years of pastoral ministry I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t give to the ministry of the local church. I would suspect that at least some of those reasons are the same.
For Some There Was No Reason to Give These were folks who had no interest in Jesus or his message, they never stopped to hear him preach, no one they knew or cared about had been touched by Jesus. Their lives hadn’t been changed by the carpenter from Nazareth.
If Jesus stopped preaching and teaching and healing it would have no impact on their lives at all, and really there was no reason for them to give. I am sure that Jesus never expected those people to contribute to his ministry. Just as he never really expected the Roman Empire or the Jewish establishment to support what he was doing.
And I don’t think those who have no connection with Cornerstone should be expected to support Cornerstone. Those who never come through the door, who don’t call Cornerstone their church home should not feel obliged to support financially a ministry that has little or no direct impact on their lives. If we closed Cornerstone tomorrow and someone bought it for a used car lot those people’s lives would not change one little bit.
And is the same way there is no obligation for the government, municipal, federal or provincial to assist the Church. Although sometimes they do, we received money from our municipal counsellor to help with the paving, the provincial Government paid for the playground equipment we have and every year the Federal Government graciously allows you to deduct your giving to Cornerstone from the income tax you pay. And that is a bonus but it is not something that we should expect them to do.
But I would suspect that there were people who listened to Christ’s teaching and enjoyed the benefits of the miracles he performed who weren’t included in that list of those who contributed from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. They weren’t shy about giving Jesus the credit for the difference that he made in their lives but he wasn’t getting their cash.
So how come, why didn’t they give? Probably the same reason some don’t give today.
Some Never Thought About It Strangely enough there were some in the crowd who never connected the dots. They arrived and Jesus and the 12 were there, and they left and never gave it a second thought about where the group would eat or sleep or who would pay the bills at the end of the day.
They may have even experienced a healing because of Jesus or maybe they had a “Got It” moment about the kingdom, a life changing revelation, or maybe it was a spouse who heard Jesus teaching and had decided to make the marriage work. But they never really clued in to the fact that if Jesus was going to continue to teach and heal and change lives it would require someone to come to the party and help pay the bills.
I don’t think they were stupid, it just had never crossed their minds. If they thought of it at all it was simply to think that somehow it just happened.
There are those like that in every church in the world including Cornerstone. They come to the church; enjoy the preaching and the music. Maybe their life has been changed, or their marriage has been saved or their kids have been impacted by the children’s ministry or youth group.
But they don’t connect the dots. There isn’t an “aha moment” when they suddenly realize that there are mortgage payments to be made, and power bills to be paid, and pay cheques to be written. Somehow they figure it just happens that maybe the church has a magic pot in a back room that generates money or some mysterious benefactor somewhere who somehow pays the freight.
Some Figured Someone Else Would Do It. There were others in the crowd who had made the connection, they knew that there were bills that had to be paid but they were content to let someone else do it. And there were probably a couple of different reasons for that, maybe they figured others could afford it more than they could, after all they had bills to pay and kids to feed, and the chariot needed new wheels this year and apparently those who were able to contribute to the ministry of Christ didn’t face those challenges.
And then there was Joanna, Chuza’s wife, she could probably pay for all of Jesus’ expenses by herself. That problem comes up time and time again in any situation that Mrs. Irving is involved in, people automatically assume that Jean should pay for it.
And there are still people like that in the church today. They have this expense and that expense and they know they are unique. They know that other people don’t have to pay the mortgage and car payment, other people don’t have to feed their children or pay for hockey and so those other people can afford to give to the church.
It’s easy to define luxury as something that someone else has that I don’t have, and at the same time declare that everything I have is stuff I need.
Some Saw No Value In The Kingdom Preaching These were folks who enjoyed what Jesus had to say, and perhaps they had directly benefited, they had enjoyed one of the spontaneous banquets that sometimes happened after he spoke. But they found it difficult to assign an intrinsic value to what he had to offer. They felt they couldn’t justify giving to Jesus’ ministry because it wasn’t benefiting them. Maybe if he had of promised them material blessings they could have found their way to give as kind of an investment. But they knew that when Jesus made statements like he did in Matthew 19:29 Jesus said “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” That he wasn’t talking about the here and now he was talking about the there and then. And add to that the statements he made like Matthew 5:11-12 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
And there are still people like that today, they attend church but they don’t really see the value in it, and if their church closed tomorrow they would just drift up or down the street and settle into another church they wouldn’t support.
And Some Just Weren’t There Yet. They were new in their faith and just hadn’t grown to that point yet. It was Martin Luther who said “People go through 3 conversions: their head, their heart and their pocketbook. Unfortunately, not all at the same time.” And so while they had gotten it here in their head, and that had made the transition to here in their heart, it still hadn’t made it all the way to the wallet in their back pocket.
Giving is part of the growth process in the Christian faith, and as you grow and mature in your faith your commitment to God increases and your trust in God increases and that is evidenced in your behaviour. Seriously some people talk about how much they trust that Jesus is in control and will provide their needs but they won’t take their hands off their money long enough for him to prove it. Instead you’ve simply proven the old adage The tighter we hold onto our money the tighter our money holds unto us.
But those aren’t the people we are talking about this morning; instead we are talking about those who contributed from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

Those Who Did Give And contrary to popular opinion the folks who gave probably weren’t rolling in money wondering where they could throw it away. They probably had the same bills and expenses that everyone else had. And the money they gave was money that would be missed and money that could have been used somewhere else, but instead they chose to use that money to support Jesus and his disciples. So the question is why? And that question has the same answers today as it had 2000 years ago.
I suppose that I could go back over the original list and tell you they gave because They Realized There Was a Need, They understood that If They Didn’t Do it It wouldn’t Get Done, They saw Value In Kingdom Preaching and they Had Grown to That Point in their Spiritual Life.

But I am not going to do that, because you figured that out on the first trip through.
So here it is, the reasons why some people did and do contribute from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. You’ll want to write this down and reflect on it because it is deep.
They Gave Because they Loved Jesus
They Gave Because They Believed In the Mission
That’s it, they gave because they loved Jesus and believed in the mission. That’s it. I guess I could have said that twenty minutes ago and let you go home, oh well.
In two weeks we will challenge you about your giving for the upcoming year. And between now and then you will be processing all kinds of information that we give you but in the end your commitment will be based on those same two things, you will give because you “Love Jesus and Believe in the Mission.”

When you’re Dead you’re Dead

Penn of Denn
Two women were arrested the other day in England, for trying to smuggle contraband onto a plane flying from Liverpool to Germany. I know it happens all the time; someone tries to sneak a gun aboard an airplane or worse yet, 150 ml of mouth wash or shampoo, but this was different.

It seems that the women were trying to sneak a dead relative aboard the flight, seriously, I kid you not. The 91-year-old man was being pushed through the airport in a wheel chair, wearing sunglasses, when airport personnel got suspicious. You think? The two women were charged with failing to give notification of a death and released on bail.

The news account didn’t provide a motive for the crime, but I’m suspecting that it probably had to do with the price difference of shipping a dead body, as opposed to a seat sale for a live body.

In the book of the Revelation, Jesus spoke of a church that was dead, but tied to pass itself off as being alive. That didn’t work either. And apparently, it takes more than the appearance of life to make you alive, for airline passengers and for churches.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

 

 

    

A Tale of Two Jesus’ Part 2

And so this is how it would end, it wasn’t what he expected at all. On Friday he had watched as they crucified the carpenter and he walked free. And that is how it should have ended, a happy ending for him, a not so happy ending for Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter who almost became king.
He had spent his entire life pursing violence, and only as an adult had he attached his violence to a cause, the cause of Jewish freedom, he had become a Zealot, one of the freedom fighters seeking to rid Israel of its Roman oppressors. And of course violence begets violence and one day he killed a man, sure the man deserved to die but the Roman authorities didn’t see it that way and he was arrested and sentenced to die. And not just die but to die on a Roman cross, a horrible violent death that fit a horrible violent man.
But that changed when Pilate, the Roman governor offered a sop to the crowd, because it was the Passover celebration he would grant freedom to one prisoner.
And then he presented the two for the crowd to choose from. And tradition tells us that both men shared a common name, Jesus. There was Jesus of Nazareth, the man who preached love and forgiveness, the man who played with children and healed sick people. The Jesus who the crowds had welcomed into Jerusalem only a week before, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
And then there was Jesus Barabbas, or possibly Jesus Bar Rabbis, which means Jesus the Rabbis’ son. And he was a preacher of a different sort. His congregation were those who were demanding an end to the Roman occupation and rule. Perhaps if they had of won they would have been considered heroes but they didn’t win and so they were terrorist and criminals and murderers. Hated by the Romans and distrusted by the ordinary people of the day Barabbas really didn’t see the crowds picking him and yet when offered the choice and it is recorded in Matthew 27:15-17 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
A simple choice, “Should I free the one that you wanted to crown as king just a week ago or should I release the one who has been terrorizing the country side? You decide.” It should have been simple but listen to what Luke writes Luke 23:18-21 Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
I don’t even think Barabbas expected that. And so the Gospels tell us that Pilate washed his hands and said “Fine, go ahead but his blood will be on your hands not mine.” And Jesus the Nazarene was crucified and Jesus Bar Rabbis walked away. And that’s how it should have ended, but it didn’t. Because that was Friday and today is Sunday.
Tradition says that Barabbas followed the procession to the cross and watched as Jesus was crucified, that makes sense, if only in a gallows sort of way. After all Barabbas above all people knew that it should have been him on that cross.
I wonder if Barabbas made his way to the tomb to watch as they buried Jesus? Perhaps like Yogi Berra, his philosophy was “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
But that was Friday and today was Sunday. On Friday Barabbas was the winner and Jesus was the loser. On Friday Barabbas lived and Jesus died, on Friday love hung on a cross and hate walked free. But that was Friday and today is Sunday.
Because history would be measured not from Friday but from Sunday. And on Sunday Jesus of Nazareth became the focal point of human history and Barabbas became just a sad footnote. You might say, “That’s all she wrote.” Because we know nothing else for certainty about Barabbas, he walked away from the cross on Friday and walked into obscurity. Tradition tells us that he was later killed while involved in another rebellion attempt, which goes to prove you can’t teach some people nothing.
You would think, that Barabbas would have been more aware of the fact that Jesus had taken his place on the cross and when the stories of the resurrection began to surface that if only out of curoristy he would have checked the stories out. And that as a result of the reurrection that Barabbas’ life would have been turned around and he would have become a Christ follower. But there is no evidence of that at all, and as rich as tradition is with stories of the disciples and other early followers of Christ there is no mention of Barabbas.
And that has to be because while he was very aware of the fact that Christ had taken his place on the cross he couldn’t or wouldn’t believe the resurrection or if he could accept the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead it made absolutely no difference in his life.
And there are people in the world just like that today and I probably wouldn’t be too far off to say there are people like that in this room today. They have no problem with Good Friday, they get the fact that Jesus died on a cross, they can even process the fact that Jesus died on a cross for them but boy the resurrection, they either can’t or won’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Why is that? Probably for the same reasons that kept Barabbas from accepting what happened and the same reason that some people today feel that the resurrection is simply a myth. So this morning we are going to look at some of the objections there are to the resurrection as well as explanations that are sometimes offered up to explain away the resurrection and answers to those objections and explanations.
You see the issue of the resurrection isn’t just one of those doctrines that we can accept or not accept it is at the very core of who we are as Christ Followers. Paul told the early believers in the Corinthian church 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. So obviously Barabbas didn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead or didn’t care. And that doesn’t matter at all, my question to you would be: If you don’t believe in the resurrection, why would you call yourself a Christ Follower?
1) Maybe He thought the Resurrection was Impossible. Maybe he heard about it and just said “Nope, never happened that’s impossible.” On the face of it this is probably the most common objection to the resurrection. Dead men aren’t alive they are dead. And I will be the first to admit, it is impossible. But then again if it wasn’t impossible it wouldn’t mean a whole lot would it, if people were raised fromt the dead was an everyday occurance it wouldn’t mean a whole lot, would it? Within the scope of things Christians have never denied this point as a matter of fact it is the foundation of our faith.
Our faith acknowledges that a person cannot come back from the dead, but our faith doesn’t believe that Jesus was just a person; instead we believe that he was God. And if God put the rules of nature into force then God can step outside the rules of nature. We see that time and time again throughout the bible, they are called miracles and you either believe in the supernatural or you don’t.
And we believe it not just because one person said it happened but because the bible records numerous people who witnessed it. The first were the ladies who are mentioned in this account, and then we read that Christ appeared to the 11 remaining apostles and then other disciples. Paul spells it out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
Or maybe Barabbas thought: Ok, I’ll buy into the fact the tomb was empty, so what? There could be other explanations. And there have been various theories presented thought the years.
2) Maybe He Thought They Went to the Wrong Tomb. Obviously the women were upset, they had witnessed the brutal execution of a close friend, it was early in the morning and maybe in their confusion and in the dark they arrived at a tomb that hadn’t been used yet and thought that it was the tomb that Jesus should have been in but wasn’t.
But let’s think it through, Jesus wasn’t buried in an unknown tomb, two thousand years later we even know the name of the man who donated the tomb, it was Joseph of Arimathea. And we are even told in Luke 23:55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. They had been there just two days before and even if they had gotten mixed up and went to the wrong tomb don’t you think Joseph or someone else would have pointed out their mistake? And these were women, if they didn’t know where they were going they would have asked somone for directions. And when they went back and told the disciples we read that Peter rushed to the tomb and it was empty. What are the chances that he would have gone to the wrong tomb as well?
And if this was indeed the wrong tomb then logic would tell us that there had to be a right tomb, a tomb with Jesus body in it. And if there was a right tomb with a body then it would have been a relatively simple thing for the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities to say “Hey dummies, you went to the wrong grave, here’s the right grave with the body of Jesus right where it’s supposed to be.” But they didn’t, why? Because the woman had gone to the right grave and there was no body in it.
3) Maybe He Thought the Body Had Been Moved. Ok, the question then begs to be asked, Who stole the body? A) The Romans B) The Jews or C) the Disciples.
Well we can deal with the first two together because the Romans and the Jews had nothing to gain by removing and hiding Christ’s body and everything to lose. The Jews and the Romans didn’t want an empty tomb to bolster the claims of the Christ Followers, they wanted a body. They wanted to be able to say “Hey look everyone, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead here’s his body and he’s still dead.” But they couldn’t do that because they didn’t have a body.
Instead we read this account of what happened after the tomb was found empty Matthew 28:12-13 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’
So maybe the disciples did steal the body. But why? When Christ was arrested the apostles all scattered. We only hear about two of them actually following Christ and John hid in the shadows and Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.
So all of a sudden this sorry lot become ninja’s sneaking up on a group of highly trained Roman soldiers, roll aside the stone that sealed the tomb and disappeared into the night carrying the body of their friend. And then they use this act of deception to found a religion based on a high moral code of integrity and honesty. Seems a little far fetched to me. But there is no record of the soldiers being punished for falling asleep on duty, no record of the apostle’s being forced to tell where the body was hidden.
Add to that the fact that every one of the disciple eventually faced persecution and death for their faith and not one of them broke and admitted where they hid the body. They were a braver bunch then I would have been.
I know that there are all kinds of people who are willing to die for what they believe in, remember 9/11 and all the suicide bombers we hear about on the news. They are willing to die for their faith because they believe that it is true, but if the apostle had of stolen the body of Jesus they would have been willing to die for something they knew was false.
4) Maybe He Thought Jesus Wasn’t Really Dead Some people have called this the swoon theory. There are some people and even some churches that teach Jesus was dead but he was simply unconscious and in the coolness of the tomb he revived and people thought he had been raised from the dead.
If you understood the reality of the crucifixion you would realize just how implausible this theory is. The Romans crucified people all the time, and it was done to kill people not just render them unconscious.
Think about it, by the time he got to the trial he had already been awake for 24 hours, then he was repeatedly beaten, flogged by a Roman soldier, forced to carry a cross to his place of execution, had a crown of thorns pressed into his head, was nailed to a cross and left for hours in the Palestinian sun and then had a spear thrust into his side.
A Roman centurion who supposedly had all kinds of experience at this kind of thing pronouncing him dead, he pulled down off the cross and stuck into a cold tomb where apparently with no medical help he spontaneously revives, moves the rock in front of the tomb, slips by the Roman Guard and then this half dead bedraggled man in desperate need of medical help convinces his apostles that he is the risen Lord and conqueror of death.
5) Maybe He Was Concerned Because The Accounts Seemed Contradictory. And if we read the accounts in the four gospels they do all contain different details. But if they were all the same the objection would be that they were obviously just copying one another.
The question should be are the key elements the same? And they are. They went to the tomb and they found it empty. Who arrived there first or second is really irrelevant, were there angels inside or outside, depends on who you ask and when they got there. If you asked the team who went to Africa about our trip you would hear things from me that you wouldn’t hear from the other four and vice versa does that mean those things didn’t happen? No, it means that event had more meaning for some of us, or we noticed something that others didn’t.
On my trip to Sierra Leone a few years ago I saw a monkey run across the road, the two guys in the backseat missed it and the monkey was gone when the other vehicle passed by, does that mean that there was no monkey? I asked our driver what type of monkey it was and he said it had to be a fast monkey because the rebels had eaten all the slow monkeys.
Our daughter and her husband are finishing up bible college. This semester they are doing their internship at Kings Valley Wesleyan in Quispamsis, and they are living in Saint John. So if I told you there were in Bible College, and Angela told you they were working in Quispamsis and Ruth told you they were living in Saint John who would be telling the truth? The answer is: all of us. Just because there are different details doesn’t mean they contradict each other. In fact, each statement compliment the other.
6) Or Maybe It Just Didn’t Make A Difference. Maybe he had heard about the resurrection, maybe he had even seen Jesus after the resurrection and it just didn’t matter. There are people here today who believe that Jesus lived, and they believed that he died on a cross and they even believe that he rose again but it doesn’t matter.
And for whatever reason Barabbas either couldn’t or wouldn’t allow the resurrection to change his live. And it really doesn’t matter because Barabbas is dead and it’s too late for him, but what about you?
So where are you at this morning? There are two questions that you need to answer before you leave here today. The first one is “Did Jesus truly rise from the dead?” and remember the scripture that we started with 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.
The second question of course is even more important and this is “If Jesus truly did rise from the dead what does that mean for me?” It’s not enough to believe here, in your head if you don’t do anything with it here, in your heart.
A lot of people are going to miss heaven by a matter of inches. They’re good people, maybe attend church weekly, and have even read the Bible and agree with it all. But they’re still going to miss Heaven by a matter of inches, because they believe in their head but they haven’t received in their heart. They have a knowledge of who Jesus is but they have no experience of Him. And that’s tragic.

A tale of two Jesus’

So this is where it would end, in front of a hostile crowd, nailed to a cross. He had of hoped for better and I’m sure his family had hoped for better. I don’t know what his mother had envisioned for the little boy who played at her feet but I’m betting it wasn’t this. Everyone had thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps and everyone was wrong. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect his father for what he had done but he was marching to the sound of a different drummer, for better. . . or for worse.
There had been times that he was talking to people and casting the vision of what they could and should be that he was sure they had gotten it. And he was sure that they’d be willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices for a new world a better world, but apparently he was wrong.
And so it had all come down to this after all of the sacrifices that he had made for the people of Israel and now it would finish here in front of a Roman Court. A Roman Court, in Israel, it hardly seemed fair that his fate would be decided by a foreigner, an interloper. Didn’t the people see this is why the kingdom that he preached about and that he taught about was the better way?
But he was no fool, he knew that eventually it would end this way, he knew this was the price he would have to pay for the message he taught and how he had lived. He had hoped that the people of Israel would recognize the truth of what his teachings that they would understand that they could live better lives but deep down he knew that they would never change, at least not yet.
Suddenly the Roman guards pushed another man alongside of him, another victim of “Roman Justice” and then the man in charge, the man named Pilate told the crowd “Today one of these men will go free and one will die on a cross and it is you choice, you will decide. One man will walk and one man will hang and it is up to you.” And then the question was asked “Who do you choose today, Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Barabbas? The one who encouraged you to love your enemy or the one who encouraged you to hate your enemy?”
And then he heard the roar of the crowd, “Barabbas, we want Barabbas free Barabbas, crucify Jesus free Barabbas.” He couldn’t believe his ears, they wanted Barabbas. Barabbas the criminal? Barabbas the Murderer? He was Barabbas. It was like winning a lottery, no it was better than a lottery it was his life. One minute he was destined to be nailed to a cross and the next minute he was being set free.
And it seemed that finally his people recognized him for who he truly was a freedom fighter, a hero, not a terrorist and a murderer. They chose him, they wanted him
Tradition tells us they shared a name, history tells us they shared a passion, a passion for the people of Israel, the Bible tells us that at this juncture in their lives they shared a common fate, crucifixion on a Roman cross, the fate of the lowest criminals. But it was at that point their stories diverged.
The story is told in all four of the gospel accounts; Pastor Wilson read Mark’s account earlier. Mark 15:6-8 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.
If you’ve read the gospel accounts it doesn’t take long to discover that Pilate was a little hesitant to crucify Jesus. He hedges, he waffles, he offers Christ the opportunity to recant, he sends him off to Herod in hopes that Herod will release him. But Jesus keeps ending up back in front of Pilate with the Jewish leaders demanding his death.

 Perhaps this would be the pivotal point. Pilate knew that the leaders wanted Jesus dead, but he had heard how popular Jesus was with the people, so he would let the people decide. And so he offered up to the crowd two options, would they choose the man who preached peace or the man who preached war, the man who spoke of love or the one who spoke only of hate?

 Have you ever been in a situation where you were sure you knew who would win, or who would get picked and then it went in exactly the opposite direction? I am pretty sure that Pilate was betting the crowd would pick their favourite, Jesus, the one who healed the sick and fed the hungry. Instead they chose Barabbas. In the various Gospel accounts Barabbas is described as a notorious prisoner, a revolutionary, and as an insurrectionist. But all accounts agree that he was a murderer. And that is who the crowd picked.

 Pilate must have felt the same way my Father did when Pierre Trudeau was re-elected as Prime Minister in 1980. No Pilate couldn’t have felt nearly that bad.

 But who was this Barabbas? Tradition tells us that Barabbas was not this man’s first name. Remember our old buddy Peter? Sometimes in the gospels he is referred to Simon Bar Jonah, or Simon the Son of Jonah. Tradition has it that Barabbas had a very common first name, a name that he shared with many other Jews, one that he even shared with a young carpenter from Nazareth. You see tradition tells us that the Zealot’s complete name was Jesus Barabbas. As a matter of fact that is even noted in the foot notes of some bibles that some translations actually name him as Jesus Barabbas.

 And the Barabbas part of his name? Well there are a couple of different theories about this. Some scholars feel that his name was probably Bar Rabbis which in the Greek means Son of the Rabbi. I’m sure some people are thinking; typical preacher’s kid right? Maybe his dad was one of the leaders who called for the death of Jesus.

 Other commentators would say that his name was not Bar Rabbis but was Bar Abbas, and you all know what Abba means right, wrong it’s not the name of a Swedish band. Abba is one of the Hebrew terms used for father. But Son of a Father wouldn’t make sense, but if he was referred to as son of “The” father it might. The thinking is that Barabbas was the son of someone so famous and respected that people thought of him as “Father”, someone connected politically or religiously. But we really don’t know.

 What we do know that Barabbas was not a nice man, he was one of the Zealots, those who wanted to rid Israel of Rome. And the Zealots didn’t care what it took, murder, robbery, terrorism. And maybe if they had of succeeded history might of treated the zealots and Barabbas better, when I studied Canadian history Louis Riel was a bad guy, but Barabbas never became known as a freedom fighter, only as a murderer.

 Two Jesus’, one who preached love, and one who preached hate, one who preached peace and one who preached war, one who preached forgiveness and one who preached vengeance. Two Jesus, as different as day and night.
It’s easy to isolate Barabbas, to see him as a solitary tragic figure that happened to be in the right place at the right time and won back his life. But the reality is that once we stop and take a closer look at Barabbas we are able to see how he was like other people.
Barabbas Shared a Fate With Lazarus. Do you remember Lazarus? He was Mary and Martha’s brother, he was Jesus’ friend. Like Barabbas we don’t know a lot about Lazarus and like Barabbas what we do know about Lazarus is isolated and centred around one solitary event in his life, his death.
Perhaps you will recall that in John Chapter 11 Jesus is teaching across the Jordon river and a message comes from his friends Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus is sick and they want Jesus to come, the bible doesn’t specify why they wanted Jesus to come. But the assumption is that they felt that if Jesus came that he would heal their brother. Instead of rushing immediately to the bed of Lazarus, Jesus dilly dallied where he was for a couple of days and when he finally arrived at Bethany where Lazarus lived Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days.
If you do the math you realize that even if Jesus had of immediately rushed to Bethany as soon as he heard the news that he would have been too late, but the girls, Lazarus’ sisters, were inconsolable in their grief. John 11:21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And I’m sure that you know the story, Jesus stood at the entrance to the tomb and spoke the words and Lazarus rose from the dead. He was alive, just moments before he had been dead, there could be no doubt of that and now he was alive and of that there could be no doubt. And he owed his life to Jesus, that was undeniable.
And Barabbas was just as dead as Lazarus. I know that he was still walking and talking and breathing, but it was just a matter of time. Lazarus had been sentenced to death by the powers of Rome, accused of terrorism and Rome didn’t take treason lightly. When Barabbas awoke that morning he knew that he was dead, that he was simply a dead man walking, there would be no more visitors and no last meal, before the sun set Barabbas knew that he would die. But instead at the end of that day he walked away from his fate, alive.
And he owed his life to Jesus, that was undeniable. One would live and one would die, that was the choice and it was only because Jesus died that Barabbas lived. Some historians scoff a the story of Barabbas, they say there is no outside collaboration for the story, no evidence that setting a prisoner free at Passover was a Roman custom, no other accounts of criminals being released.
But why would there be? They were criminals and history in most cases doesn’t record the fate of criminals. The only reason that the story of Barabbas is told is because it is connected to the story of Jesus, the story has nothing to do with Barabbas, he was just a bit player.
And the truth is that Pilate hadn’t even considered the possibility of Barabbas going free, he played the “Get of Jail Free Card” for the benefit of Jesus, not to allow Barabbas to go free. He probably picked someone like Barabbas to stack the deck in Jesus’ favour.
There are several accounts in the scriptures of Jesus giving someone the gift of life. The widow’s son in the book of Luke, Lazarus in the book of John, Jairus’ daughter in the book of Luke and others. And they all shared three things in common. They died, Jesus gave them back their lives and then. . . they died again.
Death is the great equalizer, we will all die at some point, even those that Jesus gave them a few more days or months or years eventually died. Because the reality of life is death and that’s why the scriptures tell us in Hebrews 9:27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.
Most of us feel a little bit like John Barrymore who said “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
And John Barrymore died in 1942 And although we don’t have dates Lazarus died, and the widow’s son died and Jairus’ daughter died and Barabbas died.
But it wasn’t just Lazaraus that Barbabbas shared something with, you understand don’t you that Barabbas Shared a Grace With Us. 1700 years after Barabbas walked away from the cross that he was supposed to be crucified on John Newton penned the words “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
If you’ve benn coming to Cornestone long enough than you have heard me say “Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is getting less than you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. In the case of Barbabbas the murderer, justice in that day would have been being nailed to a cross. Anyone in Palestine 2000 years ago knew the penalty for treason and the penalty for murder was crucifixion plain and simple, that would have been justice. And yet that wasn’t Barabbas’ fate. Mercy or getting less than he deserved might have meant that he would have been flogged and imprisoned, or perhaps mercy would have simply meant a quick and relatively painless execution in contrast to the horror of the cross. But Grace, getting what he didn’t deserve was walking free on that day. There was absolutely no reason that the logical mind could grasp that would account for Barabbas’s freedom that day. None.
The scriptures, the word of God reminds us that we are all sinners far from God and that the penalty for that sin is spiritual death, an eternal separation from God and all that is good. And so in our case justice or getting what we deserve would be spending forever separated from God in a Christless eternity. That would be justice. And mercy or getting less than we deserve would be annihilation, there would be no promise of heaven but there would be no threat of hell, we would just cease to exist.
And yet each one of us is offered a gift we don’t deserve and never could. And the only reason that anyone of us can face eternity is the grace of God, that is why we are reminded in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
R. P. C. Hanson wrote “Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it. It means that while we were sinners and enemies we have been treated as sons and heirs.”
And so as we watch Barabbas walk away from the cross and we realize that He lived because Jesus died we need to understand that it wasn’t just Barabbas’s place that Jesus took upon the cross, it was ours as well.
That shouldn’t have been the way that it ended, with one man walking free because Jesus was nailed to a cross. But it was, at least it was on Friday. (Video New again)