Sermons 2018 02 18

25.02.18 AM  Sermon  Obeying Jesus Commands # 5 - Faith & Forgiveness (Mark 11:22-25, Matthew 18:21-35)

 

We are going to consider two of Jesus' simple, straight-forward commands.

But realising that like all of Jesus' commands, though they may seem simple, they are anything but.

 

1. "Have faith in God"

Mark records Jesus commanding his followers to (Mark 11:22) “Have faith in God”

And what does this faith look like? What does he give as an example? Well, he describes faith in this way: (v23-24) “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Faith here, is all about a relationship between a person and God.

Not doubting, but believing. Commanding, and it happening. Asking, receiving. All sounds so simple.

But, note the context of this command of Jesus. The context is one of coming judgement.

Jesus is in Jerusalem.

He has just cursed the fig tree, and it has withered, he has overturned the money changers tables.

He has caused a stir. They are out for his blood. He is about to be crucified by his people.

And now Jesus says, "if anyone says to this mountain" - note carefully - this mountain.

The mount of Jerusalem. The context of this command to have faith in God, is destruction and judgement.

It isn’t a moving of any old mountain, the troubling mountains of our difficulties, the insurmountable mountains of our fears, rather - it is an expression of judgement upon God's city, upon God's people.

Matthew records this context even more clearly for us : (Matthew 21:21) Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.

Here the context for Jesus' command to have faith is - Faith to destroy, to curse, to wither, to annihilate. Jesus withering of the fig tree was his only destructive miracle and it is in this context that he talks about faith in God.

When he deliberately spent time making a whip, and used that to drive the money changers out of the temple courts, upturning the tables, inflicting upset, disorder, perhaps pain, it was in order to express righteous judgement. A zeal for God's house consuming him.

John 2:15 "So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables."

There are only two things that we read Jesus physically making with his hands - mud and a whip.

Both were contentious acts. The mud made on the Sabbath to bring healing, cleansing salve for a blind man.

The whip bringing cleansing to the temple. Ridding it of the unclean, the spiritual blindness.

Note also in the Old Testament a link with Isaiah's words in regard to God using a whip:

Isaiah 10:1-3 "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? … (v4) Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. …(v11-12) "shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’” When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem  … (v13) For he says: “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this … (v22-24) Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land. … “My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid … (v26) The Lord Almighty will lash [those who oppress] with a whip,... (v27) In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken …

Jesus was coming to bring freedom to the captives, release to the prisoners.

Those who were imprisoned by a corrupt and unjust sacrificial system.

He was coming to bring a sacrifice that would end all sacrifices

 

And as Jesus is referring to this mountain, mount Zion, and its being cast into the sea - which is an expression of judgement and destruction - never to be seen again.

Mark 9:42 [ Causing to Stumble ] “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."

Revelation 18:21 "Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again."

Jonah 1:15 "Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm."

 

So judgment and doom is expressed for Jerusalem, it had been warned through the scriptures …

Lamentations 2:1 "How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion With a cloud in His anger! He has cast from heaven to earth The glory of Israel, And has not remembered His footstool In the day of His anger."

Lamentations 2:8-10 "The LORD determined to destroy The wall of the daughter of Zion. He has stretched out a line, He has not restrained His hand from destroying"

Jeremiah 14:19 "Have You completely rejected Judah? Or have You loathed Zion? Why have You stricken us so that we are beyond healing? We waited for peace, but nothing good came; And for a time of healing, but behold, terror!"

Joel 2:1-2 "Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near."

The judgement of being cast into the sea, being as deep and as severe as the sin

Lamentations 2:13 "What can I say for you? With what can I compare you, Daughter Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you, Virgin Daughter Zion? Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?"

However, Jesus is not coming to bring judgement, but salvation. Healing. Through his own destruction.

He is about to bring a cure which is as deep as the wound.

He will bring a depth of salvation that mirrors the depth of the depravity

And it is faith in him that is required. Faith in God. Faith in Christ, God our Saviour.

He becomes the city of Zion, the temple, the mount, the place of sacrifice, the promised land.

He takes the place of the one, and ones who are destined for destruction. Judgement is righteously decreed, yet salvation is graciously given.

Jesus is going to take the sin and the punishment of Jerusalem, indeed the whole world upon himself.

He is going to be the Jonah cast into the sea, swallowed by the whale for three days, and vomited up from death into life to proclaim repentance and life.

Jesus is the King of Salem, the Mechizadek, without beginning nor end.

Psalm 76:2 "His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion."

Psalm 132:13-14 "For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation." (also Psalm 87:2)

Psalm 135:21 "Blessed be the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!"

Joel 3:17 "Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain So Jerusalem will be holy."  Isaiah 46:13 "I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay And I will grant salvation in Zion, And My glory for Israel." Micah 4:6-8 "In that day," declares the LORD, "I will assemble the lame And gather the outcasts, Even those whom I have afflicted.

Jeremiah 30:17-22 "'For I will restore you to health And I will heal you of your wounds,' declares the LORD, 'Because they have called you an outcast, saying: "It is Zion; no one cares for her."'

Isaiah 52:1-2 "Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean Will no longer come into you."

Psalm 102:13-16 You will arise and have compassion on Zion; For it is time to be gracious to her, For the appointed time has come.

And as Christ becomes for us Zion, he becomes the one to whom we are to come and belong, and dwell.

Isaiah 2:2-4 "In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it." (also Micah 4:1-3)

Hebrews 11:16 God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,

Revelation 14:1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

Psalm 125:1-2 "Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever."

So we have a command to have faith, in the One through whom judgement and salvation would come.

And alongside this call and command to faith, there is a command to forgive …

2. "If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them"

(v25) "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Again there is a context and a consequence.

The context is "when you stand praying …"

In other words, do not think your prayers will be heard of answer if you are withholding forgiveness.

And the consequence is  

"forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Without forgiveness of others, there is no forgiveness for ourselves.

And Jesus tells a parable - of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

The context is judgement; A king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

There is a settling, a reckoning, time is up! Need to pay what is due.

Yet the man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was not able to pay, and so he and his entire family, and all he had would be enslaved to repay an unpayable debt.

And the man begged on his knees for mercy from the king. For his patience, for more time.

But the king knew the servant could not repay, and so he took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

He forgave him the unpayable debt.

But then that servant, whose debt was forgiven failed to appreciate the depth of the grace shown him.

And he withheld mercy from a fellow servant, who owed him so little compared to what he had been forgiven - a hundred silver coins.

He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

And when the fellow servant also begged him for mercy, he was shown no mercy. He refused.

Well, the other servants were outraged, and told the king, and the unmerciful servant was hauled before the king, his unforgiveness and lack of mercy earned him the title ‘You wicked servant’

And in anger, the king handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

An eternal torment and torture resulting from his unforgiveness of another.

And Jesus makes it clear (v35) “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

When we pray the Lord's prayer, we pray; "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." In other words, Lord, with the measure I use Lord, measure it out to me.

Father, to the extent that I forgive others their sin, will you forgive me my sin?

When I withhold forgiveness from a fellow servant, please withhold your forgiveness from me.

The context of Jesus parable about the unmerciful servant, was in answer to a question from Peter.

(v21-22) "Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Peter thinks he is being pretty generous, in forgiving his brother 7 times, that sounds generous doesn’t it?

Peter had a brother, Andrew. He wanted to show Andrew love, and generosity - seven times, but there of course must be a limit to my forgiveness.

I mean, how will you ever learn if I keep forgiving you?

How will you understand the seriousness of your offense.

You will take my grace for granted. You will see me as a pushover. As weak.

 

But Jesus, as ever, turns Peter's world upside down and removes the limits that Peter puts on his forgiveness.

Not seven but 77 or 70 times 7. In other words, Jesus is saying there is no limit, there is no end to forgiveness. If you want to know the unrestrained forgiveness of God for yourself, then show it to others.

Jesus took all the punishment we deserved upon himself. Dying that we might live. Tortured that we might have peace. Hung restrained by nails on a cross and confined to the tomb of death, that we might be released. He is overturned, withered, thrown into the sea, that you and I may go free.

Such abundance love and mercy and grace. Who are you and I to withhold such love and grace and mercy and forgiveness from others around us. Indeed our measure to others, will be measured to us.


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