Pentecost 2 – "Keep the Sabbath Day Holy" – Mark 2:23-28


The theme that underlies our Old Testament and Gospel readings today has to do with “the proper observation of the Sabbath.” How do we ‘keep the Sabbath holy’? In our Old Testament reading, Moses preaches to the congregation, telling them that they MUST keep the Sabbath holy and HOW to keep it holy. In our Gospel reading, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of negligence for failing to teach His disciples how to keep the Sabbath holy.

SART-2015-07-19-1090x639 Let’s begin by listening to Moses once again.
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.” (Deut. 5:12)

Moses is referring the time 40 years earlier when, reading from the two tablets of stone that he received from God on Mt. Sinai, he recited the 10 Commandments for the FIRST TIME. Israel was just beginning its journey to the Promised Land back then.

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, he preached. Why? “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:11).

In his Exodus sermon on the 3rd Commandment, Moses took the congregation all the way back to the seventh day of CREATION when “God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Gen. 2:2-3)

It’s NOT that God got tired from all the WORK He had done that He needed to ‘REST.’ God never gets tired. No, it’s clear that God rests for the purpose of ‘enjoying’ what He has done. “And God SAW everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…” He stops His work to LOOK at all that He had made. And He’s ‘pleased’ with it.

Because really, what’s the use of doing all that ‘WORK,’ if you never stop working to ENJOY it, admire it, appreciate it?
So, when God commands MAN to stop working and rest, ‘Shabbat,’ every seven days, the purpose of this ‘rest’ is not physical – as much as is to appreciate and enjoy the work that GOD HAS DONE.

Which may certainly include the ‘grandeur’ and ‘beauty’ of God’s creation – BUT SHOULD ALSO most certainly include all those DAILY things we tend to take for granted, such as Luther lists in his 1st Article explanation – “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that he had given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me ‘clothing, and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals and all that I have.” “For all this, it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

Of course we should mingle our thanks and praise into our serving and obeying every day of the week – as we pray, ‘at all times and in all places.’ But the Sabbath Day is a day set aside to intentionally do so without the mingling of work.

To STOP ‘WORKING’ for the purpose of appreciating all that God has done – just like God did – is at least a part of what it means to have been made in the image of God. Unlike the ants and the beavers who work, work, work and never stop to appreciate what they have made, man is to stop working and enjoy, not what he has created, but what God has created. What God has “finished.”

And isn’t it right here that we can see means that we have ‘LOST THE IMAGE OF GOD’ from another angle. To work, work, work, – or even – play, play, play, and never stopping to ‘KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY,’ is a sign of our fall into sin and rebellion against God.

And I suspect this also at least contributes to why we get so WEARY not only in our WORK but also in our PLAYING. We fail to HONOR THE SABBATH DAY AND KEEP IT HOLY.

Now once again, Moses preaches on the 10 Commandments. “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.” This sermon comes 40 years after the first one – at the end of Israel’s journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

But this one is a different sermon. Here in Deuteronomy, Moses connects the SABBATH COMMANDMENT – NOT to the Lord’s Creation in the beginning, BUT to the Lord’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. ““‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. THEREFORE the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

Here Moses says that the Sabbath day is for ‘REMEMBERING’ THE LORD’S DELIVERANCE. It’s a day for ‘REMINISCING,’ for telling and retelling the stories about their “slavery in Egypt,” and how hard life was, and for all of their ‘working, working, working,’ old Pharaoh was never satisfied.

The Sabbath is a time set aside by God Himself for His people to ‘remember,’ to ‘REMINISE,’ to tell and retell the story of God’s rescue and deliverance. Telling and retelling the story of God’s “mighty hand and outstretched arm.”

This practice of a keeping a “Sabbath day” where all work stops and all attention is directed to God –is something that is utterly unique to Israel among all the other nations. No other nation has anything like a biblical “SABBATH DAY.”

And over time, the Sabbath Day becomes a point of NATIONAL IDENTITY for Israel. They’re known as the people who stop working every seven days for the sole purpose of sitting back and ‘reminiscing about God’s creation and deliverance by His “mighty hand” and His ‘outstretched arm.’

So the keeping of the weekly Sabbath day literally ‘made them holy.’ That word ‘holy’ literally means, ‘to set apart.’ The keeping of the weekly Sabbath “set them apart” from all the other nations.

There’s lots of ‘reminiscing’ throughout the Old Testament about how when Israel got so caught up in their working and playing that they forgot to STOP and KEEP THE SABBATH DAY, they lost their identity as the ‘people of God’ and became just like all the other nations. They were no longer ‘holy.’

And we should have no trouble seeing the connections to our own day.

So, in order to try to protect its identity, it’s holiness, the religious leadership of Israel developed a body of laws to enforce the ‘PROPER’ keeping of the Sabbath.

For example, if keeping the Sabbath Day means that you shall do no ‘work,’ it might be important to clarify what actually constitutes ‘work.’ How far can you travel for a ‘Sabbath day’s journey,’ and how does that vary depending on how much weight you are carrying? How much work can you do to prepare food for your family on the Sabbath Day? How much work can you do if someone gets injured on a Sabbath Day?

A body of over 400 of these ‘laws’ about THE SABBATH DAY evolve and become the focus of the Pharisees and Scribes who become Israel’s ‘SABBATH POLICE.’ And this is what gets Jesus into trouble with the Scribes and Pharisees. He pays almost no attention TO these laws.

And when they challenge Him, He rebukes them.

“One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.” (Luke 14:1-6)

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him…4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Mark 3:1-6)

So, when we hear in today Gospel reading that as Jesus was walking with His disciples, ‘through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain,” the ‘Sabbath police’ turn pull Jesus over. They say, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” (You’ve got to wonder if they were hiding in the field or what.)

25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God…and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

If they’re going to arrest Jesus for violating the Sabbath, then they needed to arrest David too. Jesus was doing no more for those with him who were hungry than David did for those with him.

And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

When Jesus says, “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath,” He means that the true Sabbath is not a day – but a person. Some argue that “the Sabbath day” should be Saturday. Others say Sunday. That’s an argument the Scribes and Pharisees would love to engage in but that misses the point entirely.

Jesus Christ IS our Sabbath rest. When Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished,” it’s the same “FINISHED” that He announced at Creation – but now it is a NEW CREATION. By His mighty hand and outstretched arm, nailed to the cross, He has DELIVERED HIS PEOPLE from their bondage to sin and death.

Jesus Christ IS the “mighty hand and outstretched arm” of God by which God has delivered you.

In Jesus Christ, there is NO MORE WORK TO BE DONE – either for your life or your salvation. In fact, now that the Son of Man has FINISHED HIS WORK, to keep working for yourself, for your life, for your salvation, is burdensome and makes us weary – because you will never be able to satisfy the demands of the one, true God who is already completely satisfied with the work that His Son has FINIHSED for us. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, He says, and you will have SHABBAT for your soul.”

Truly, “the Sabbath was made for man.” God created the Sabbath Day for our good. It’s good for us to set the rhythm of our life to the weekly rest from our work and our play, to gather together to ‘reminisce’- to tell and retell the story of God’s creation and how He delivered us – to come together at this railing to ‘take and eat, and take and drink, “in remembrance” of the Lord of the Sabbath. May God help us to keep the Sabbath day holy.

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Trinity Sunday – "The Mystery of the Trinity" – Athanasian Creed


Holy-Trinity On Trinity Sunday, we recite the Athanasian Creed and say strange things like, 'the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God, in three persons and three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.'

Rather than trying to ‘simply things’ and say them with familiar language, today we speak deep and profound words and may not fully understand what we are actually saying. “The Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.'

If you prefer swimming in shallow water where you can always find the bottom with your feet while keeping your head above water, today we are definitely in over our head. 'The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten; the Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten, the Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding.”

Today, we declare and confess with all boldness and confidence that, “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. And yet there are not three incomprehensibles, but one incomprehensible.”

Welcome to Trinity Sunday, a day carved out of the Church’s calendar to celebrate the MYSTERY of the DIVINE TRINITY. Three divine persons in One divine being. God is Three in One and One in Three. He is a singular plurality and plural singularity. It’s enough to make your head spin, your head hurt and leave you wanting to sing, “Jesus Love Me, This I Know.” Continue reading

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Pentecost – Acts 2 – "The Day of Pentecost"


“When the Day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”

pentecost-mosaic-690x353It may surprise you to learn that the Day of Pentecost has been on the Church’s calendar a lot longer than Easter or Christmas. The Festival of Pentecost was established in the Old Testament, when Israel was in the desert making its way to the Promised Land. God told Moses to tell that people that the Promised Land would “flow with milk and honey.” Every day would be an ‘all you can eat and drink’ buffet. And not one of those $7.99 ‘all you can eat’ buffets. It’d be “the choices meat and the finest wines” all the time. And it would all be FOR FREE.

That’s really news to people who happen to be living in a desert and who have been living on a steady diet of manna and quail, manna and quail, manna and quail and getting their drinking water from a rock.

The Day of Pentecost is the annual day to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest. Initially, it was called the “Feast of Weeks.” From the day that the first grain was cut, they were to count a ‘week of weeks,’ seven weeks – 49 days. That’s the time it would take to bring in the harvest.

The day after the ‘week of weeks,’ ON THE 50th DAY from when the harvest began, they were to bring baskets of grain to the temple as a ‘thank offering’ to God for the bountiful harvest. “Pentecost” literally means “50th.” It’s the “50th day” after the “FIRST FRUITS” of the harvest was cut.

The Day of Pentecost was something like our “Thanksgiving Day” only without the football and ‘Black Friday.’

So when we read in second chapter of Acts, “When the Day of Pentecost arrived,” we understand that lots of ‘good and faithful Jews from all over the world had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest and give thanks to God – as ‘good and faithful Jews’ had done for centuries.

But as with all OLD TESTAMENT FESTIVALS, the OLD Day of Pentecost pointed to a NEW Day of Pentecost. On this day there would be another kind of harvest to celebrate. Not a harvest of grain – but a harvest of human souls.

50 days before the Day of Pentecost was Easter Sunday – the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead – “the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The holy seed that was sown in womb of the virgin Mary has produced His crop of Christians, and what a crop it is. Continue reading

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Easter 7 – "Holy Eavesdropping" – John 17:11-19 – 5/13/18


Сдал квартируA couple of years ago we had new gutters installed on our house because the old gutters weren’t doing the job anymore. They leaked and the water dropped from the eaves right to the ground. Our new gutters have been very successful in preventing ‘eavesdropping.’

The word ‘eavesdropping’ comes from the sound that drops of water that fall from the eaves of the roof make when they hit the ground. It’s a bit of a stretch, but ‘eavesdropping’ is listening in on someone else’s conversation. ‘Eavesdropping’ is usually considered to be rude and impolite. It’s said that Henry VIII had wooden figures carved into the eaves of his courtroom as a way of signaling others their gossip and ‘private conversations’ were being overheard.

When we come to the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, we find ourselves listening in on someone else’s conversation. The Son is speaking to the Father in prayer. And we’re invited to ‘eavesdrop.’ We’re invited to ‘listen in’ on this conversation that is going on within the Trinity, just as we were when we heard God say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let the have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen.2:26)

Jesus is in the Upper Room with His disciples. It’s probably right after He gives them His very body and very blood in the bread and the wine of the Supper, He prays – out loud. He wants them to ‘eavesdrop’ as He speaks with His Father.

As we ‘listen in’ on this prayer of the Son to the Father, we should keep in mind that it is being held under the shadow of the cross and therefore with particular solemnity. Continue reading

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Ascension – "Cause For Great Joy" – Luke 24:50-52


ascension“Ascension.” The act of ‘going up.’ In his gospel, Luke writes, ‘He was CARRIED UP into heaven.” In his Acts of the Apostle’s he writes, “He was LIFTED UP.” In his gospel, Mark writes that “the Lord Jesus… was TAKEN UP into heaven and sits at the right hand of God.” In our ecumenical creeds we confess what the Scriptures tell us, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty…”

It’s a circuitous route our Lord travels in His mission to redeem the world. He who, from eternity, sat at the right hand of God the Father, DESCENDED. He came down from heaven and became man, and died on the cross, and rose again on the third day, and 40 days later, He ASCENDED into heaven to resume the position that always was His, always is His, and always will be His.

Or as He Himself put it, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:28).

All of this He has done out of perfect obedience to His Father, to glorify His Father, and to redeem you and me and His whole creation. It had to be an ‘inside job.’ No ‘waiving magic wands’ over the world and ‘magical incantations’ would do. But there was clearly no ‘insider’ to get the job done. And there still isn’t.

So God came down and entered His own creation as the ‘consummate insider.’ He became one of us – FOR US and for our salvation.

Christ our Lord took on our humanity FOR US. He was crucified and raised FOR US. And now, he has ascended into heaven FOR US.

By His incarnation and passion, God has shown us His love FOR US and poured out His love into our hearts. By His resurrection from the dead, He has ASSURED our hearts and strengthened our faith. And by His ascension into heaven, our Lord has given us the sure and certain hope that we shall indeed be with Him where He is and we see Him as He is.

The Good Shepherd leads His flock and brings them home. He goes ahead – and His sheep follow. Continue reading

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Easter 5 – "Test The Spirits" – 1 John 4:1-4


“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Acid-TestAnytime you’re reading your bible and you come to words that say, “DO NOT BELIEVE,” it always gets your attention. It’s like, “what? Did it just say that I should NOT BELIEVE?”

The bible is filled with one admonition to believe after another. John concludes his gospel saying that the whole purpose, not only of his gospel but of the whole bible is that we might BELIEVE. “These things are written that you might BELIEVE… and that by BELIEVING have life in his name.” (John 20:31).

But here, like a cymbal crash in the middle of a lullaby, John writes, “DO NOT BELIEVE.”

Sometimes our problem is NOT that we believe TOO LITTLE but that we believe TOO MUCH. Because we don’t know our bible as well as we should, we can lack that critically important ingredient of faith called ‘discernment.’ The writer to the Hebrews urges his congregation, “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their POWERS OF DISCERNMENT trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:14).

UNBELIEF can be just as much a mark of SPRITUAL MATURITY as BELIEF.

John was writing to the church in his day, but some things just don’t change. It’s the same for us. Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and BELIEVED what they SHOULD NOT have believed. And ever since, people have been BELIVING what they should NOT BELIEVE and NOT BELIEVING what they should. Continue reading

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Easter 4 – "The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life For The Sheep" – John 10:11-18


“I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Good Shepherd That’s Jesus who’s talking. He is the “I am.” The same “I am” who spoke to Moses in the burning bush, “I am who I am.” The same “Yaweh” who declares, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the vine,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the way and the truth and the life,” “I am the door of the sheep,” “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

Today our attention is focused on His declaration to us, “I am the good shepherd.”

He is the “GOOD” Shepherd. “GOOD” as in the beginning when God saw what He made by the power of His Word and called it GOOD. “GOOD” as in “tov.” Exactly the way it’s supposed to be. “GOOD” light. “GOOD” dry land and seas. “GOOD” fruit trees bearing fruit and vegetation. “GOOD” stars in the sky. GOOD creatures on the earth. “GOOD” man and GOOD woman. “I am the GOOD Shepherd.” Exactly what a Shepherd is supposed to be.

Shepherds are responsible for doing one thing – taking care of sheep that have been assigned to their care. If a shepherd is given 100 sheep to care for and one, just one, goes astray, they better get out there and look for it until they find it and carry it if they must, all the way back to the fold. Any shepherd who comes in with fewer sheep than he was entrusted with is not a GOOD SHEPHERD.

“I am the GOOD shepherd.” “Of those whom You gave me I have lost not one.” (John 18:9) Continue reading

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Easter 3 – "7 Proofs Of His Presence" – Luke 24:36-49


1500916230164The shepherd had gone missing for three days. The sheep responded as sheep do when they realize that they’re on their own with no one to lead them, no one to protect them, no one to provide for them. They froze in fear and had a nervous breakdown.

But the shepherd is not gone forever. He had told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:16,22)

Now, just as He said, the Good Shepherd comes to His dear sheep to calm their fears, announcing the Good News that He wants all His dear sheep to hear. “Peace to you!” He simply wants them to know that He has returned and everything’s going to okay because He is alive and not dead. He is with them. And as long as He is with them, they can live with HIS PEACE – “Peace to you.”

It’s taken me some time to realize this and I’m still working to trust it more fully than I do, but there is great comfort simply in knowing that the resurrected Jesus Christ is alive and present with me. The world doesn’t have to change, my situation doesn’t have to change, the danger may still be just as present as it was, but its’ okay and I can get through this and move forward and actually live, as long as know that the risen Jesus Christ is present with me.

The unbelieving world doesn’t get this. And I’m a part of that unbelieving world and so are you because our faith is always weak and we all have our doubts. Apart from faith in the risen and living and always present Jesus Christ, “peace” for my life is dependent on all of the outward circumstances of my life and this world lining up just right. And what little control over these things we have.

Apart from faith in the risen and living and always present Jesus Christ, our only hope for real and genuine ‘peace’ is if the politicians and the economy and the media and the doctors and our neighbors and friends and our family do what we want them to do – which of course has less chance of ever happening than if someone nailed to a cross has of being alive and present with us three days later. Continue reading

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Easter – "I Will Sing To The Lord – For He Has Triumphed Gloriously" – Exodus 15:1


Note: The first minute of this recording is blank.

hqdefaultThe message for this Easter day is based on the first verse of Exodus, the 15th chapter, which we have already sung twice – once in the Introit and again in the Gradual – “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

From the other side of the Red Sea, Moses leads the people of God in a rousing halleluiah chorus. This is Israel’s Easter celebration in advance of the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead. God’s incredible rescue of His people from their slavery in Egypt and His a
amazing deliverance from certain death at hands of wicked Pharaoh and his army stirs up Moses say, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, for the horse and the rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Today, the one, holy, Christian church SINGS the victory song – for CHRIST IS RISEN! (He is risen indeed. Alleluia!) He has triumphed gloriously.

Today, our 40 day fast comes to an end and we “SING WITH ALL THE PEOPLE OF GOD, AND JOIN IN THE HYMN OF ALL CREATION.” “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!”

Singing “with ALL the people of God” means ALL the people of God – those who were before us and those are with us even now, and those who will come after us. It means that we sing this victory song together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – ALL TOGETHER, “with one voice,” singing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.

In his revelation of heaven, St. John sees and hears all of heaven singing. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power… for You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Rev. 4:11; 5:9)

John doesn’t identify any of the singers in this heavenly choir. But we know who they are. Continue reading

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Good Friday – "Crucified For You" – Mark 15:21-41


I. Jesus Led Out Of The City, Carrying His Own Cross
A. Isaac Carries Wood Himself
In the 22nd chapter of Genesis, we read that when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only, beloved son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah, as an offering for sin, Abraham collected the wood for the fire and made Isaac carry it himself.

That Isaac would be made to carry the wood for his own sacrifice was God’s way of showing us how Jesus, whom Isaac foreshadows, would also carry the wood for His sacrifice Himself. And not only does Jesus look a lot like Isaac as He carries His cross, but the divine drama is actually carried out in the same location. Mt. Moriah is the place where the Temple was later built in Jerusalem. Just as Isaac had carried his sacrificial wood up Mt. Moriah, now Jesus carries His sacrificial wood down Mt. Moriah to the place called Golgotha.

B. Jesus Carries the Kingdom
This is most certainly more than coincidence. If nothing else, here we see plainly that the whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was loudly acclaimed to be the King, as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, carrying His kingdom on his shoulders. “For unto us a child is born and the government shall be upon his shoulders…” (Is.9:6).

Now, we see our King carrying on His shoulders the heavy price He will pay to purchase citizens for His Kingdom – a Kingdom that He will rule, not by power or might, but in weakness and humiliation and shame. This King rules His kingdom with mercy and forgiveness for all who will be ruled by Him.

Consider the burden our King carries here. Certainly the weight of the beam was heavy, even more so since He had not slept in two days, nor been given anything to eat or drink in that time, and that he had been beaten without mercy.

But consider especially that weight even greater than the heavy beam. Consider the weight of the sins of the whole world that He is bearing on His shoulders. Continue reading

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