Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
4 April 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
A Happy and Blessed Easter Sunday to everyone because Jesus is alive!
“I love the company of other people but because of the lockdown I miss the opportunity of sharing my faith and the Good-News with unbelievers. The advantage is that we can spend more time reading the Scriptures and pray for many people and situations. I also love to experiment with cooking and creating new recipes is exciting. The disadvantage though is I am getting a larger waist and my clothes are getting tighter.”
Reading: Mark 10:32-16:20
Again the high priest asked Him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus.Mark 14:61-62
With the “Kingdom of God” still in mind I would like to cover Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The relevant passages in the Gospels are undergirded by references to the kingdom and explain how the OT vision of the kingdom is being fulfilled. The expansion of the kingdom contrasts with the increasing failure of “the existing regime and the temple on which its authority is centred” (R. T. France).
As we move from Palm Sunday, to Good Friday and on to Easter Sunday, we see an escalation in the numbers of those closely following Jesus, now falling away. For sure there are many difficult aspects of the Christian faith, and following Him to and through the cross is the most difficult,
Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.Mark 8:34-38
We must humble ourselves and submit to the revelation of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has revealed Himself especially through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, who is the image of the invisible God. There is no other revelation, there is no other God; no-one should make God in their own image.
What is Palm Sunday about? It’s about the King (of kings) coming to Jerusalem. We see a marked change in Jesus’ approach, from one who previously has urged e.g. those whom He healed to keep quiet about it (e.g. Mark 7:36; see also Matt. 16:20). Now, He is acting in a very open way that strongly provokes the religious establishment of the time (cf. the ultimate provocation in Mark 14:62). The religious leaders were well aware of the Scriptures in the OT that speak about the king who comes into Jerusalem, e.g. Zechariah 9:9 (cf. also Genesis 49:10-11; 1 Kings 1:38-40 and the use of a donkey):
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.Zechariah 9:9
This scripture is actually quoted by Matthew (Matt 21:5); and John (John 12:15); but not by Mark. The lowly, humble king comes in peace riding on a donkey, not like a warrior king riding a stallion. This was a remarkable occasion and the crowd were well aware of what it all meant,
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’Mark 11:8-10
Previously, I have gone along with the interpretation that has emphasised the fickleness of the crowds, here shouting His praises, and later shouting crucify Him, but now, influenced by among others R. T. France, I believe two different groups of people are involved. Here, those who have followed Him from Galilee, as still He is outside the city; and later, upon entering the city, the crowds gathered from Jerusalem itself,
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee’Matthew 21:10-11
Note also no mention of “King”. This is consistent with the reaction of Jerusalem and its king, Herod, upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, the King!
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.Matthew 2:3
The word for disturbed in Matt 21:10 above literally means, “shaken”. Compare the same word used regarding the reaction of the guards upon seeing the angel of the Lord outside the tomb of Jesus now risen,
The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.Matthew 28:4
It’s a fact Jesus, the King of kings disturbs all of us, but if we respond in a right way, a humble and repentant way to that disturbance, He then mightily blesses us with His kingdom and salvation. If we resist and fight Him, one day we will meet Him face to face at the Judgement seat of Christ and then we will be mightily shaken, in agony that we didn’t respond in the right way when given the opportunity to.
Let’s make no mistake about it Jesus has clearly predicted that He would be crucified (e.g. Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34; Matt. 17:22-23). Knowing this, why didn’t He avoid going to Jerusalem and thus save His life? Such can be compared to Peter’s attempt to protect Him from the soldiers arresting Him in Gethsemane. Jesus responded,
“Put your sword back in its place,’ … ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”Matt. 26:52-54
(cf. also Matt. 16:21-23). The self-sacrificial death and resurrection of the King of kings is the way in which the Kingdom of God is inaugurated here on earth. For the strong man has been bound and his house plundered (see Mark 3:27).
“The ‘defeat’ of Jesus by His enemies is in fact the paradoxical way to the establishment of His kingship. Even on the cross He is king, and when death is itself defeated in the resurrection … [we] recognise in Israel’s rejected Messiah the one to whom ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given’.”
R. T. France
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom .. He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.Heb. 1:1-4
Spend a few moments thinking again about the agony He went through as He died on the cross because of His great love for you. Think also of the pain and agony of the Father, having to watch His dearly beloved Son, the One with whom He was well-pleased being battered, humiliated and finally crucified, again because of the Father’s great love for you!
Resurrection Day! And Hallelujah to that! There was so much opposition to Jesus and His Kingdom mission, and yet His Kingdom would ultimately be a kingdom in which peace reigned:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”Luke 2:14
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”Luke 19:38
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”Acts 10:36
Following His resurrection and prior to His ascension, Jesus continued to teach His disciples about the kingdom,
After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.Acts 1:3
Combining Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom and that of Paul’s, provides an inclusio around the book of Acts (Acts 1:3, 6; 28:23, 31) meaning that this is a central theme of the whole book. Vital to this ministry of the kingdom was the equipping of the disciples with the Spirit,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:8
Even after Jesus’ resurrection (and ascension) the kingdom was both present and future, both already and not yet!
“Jesus’ demonstration of God’s rule at His first coming would foreshadow the completed revelation of God’s rule when He returns.”
Jesus’ resurrection is the first instalment on the future resurrection of the righteous, guaranteeing that it will occur,
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.1 Cor. 15:20
Believers have received the Holy Spirit as a down payment and so already enjoy the kingdom present, but are also guaranteed the kingdom future,
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.1 Cor. 1:21-22
You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.Ephesians 1:13-14
We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.Rom. 8:23
Christ is King – are we living under His Lordship humbly obeying Him? The way to a victorious Christian life is to daily take up our cross, die to self and seek first His kingdom rule in our lives. Are we living as if Christ has risen, that He is alive for evermore? Amen!
Questions for Discussion
- When did you fully surrender to Christ’s rule in your life?
- Have you ever been disturbed by Jesus? What about other people you know, have they?
- Why do you think there are so many religions in the world; so many different gods?
- Why did so many Jews, and especially the religious leaders, not recognise Jesus as Messiah?
- Why did it take you so long to realise that Jesus was the Christ the Saviour of the world?
- Do you live as if Jesus is risen from the dead? Or is He still stuck on the cross?
- How often do you think about the kingdom that is still to come?
- Jesus died fulfilling God’s purposes. Are you suffering through fulfilling God’s purposes?
Quote for the Week
“I know pretty well what evidence is; and, I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”
Lord Lyndhurst – one of the greatest legal minds in the history of England
Verse of the week
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever.Daniel 2:44
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for Your is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
Lord we especially pray for W, as her cancer has worsened. Be with her and she goes to see the specialist. Strengthen her and Father that You may even heal her. We continue to pray for R and S, L and all those who are unwell. Lord be with them; strengthen them; restore them back to full health, to shalom, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.