Last week we read that Jesus came to Bethany and stayed with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. A message of work, witness, and worship emerged from his hosts. One outside of the faith might comment, “What kind of friendship is that? Jesus came and visited, but the visit became all about him.” Fair question, but the reason for the undivided attention was Jesus had become personal to them; he had raised Lazarus from the dead. He had earned their devotion.
In our message today Jesus is arriving in Jerusalem, and as he entered the city it, “went out” (John 12:13). The phrase means they gave him a triumphant parade; a big deal in the day. The crowds’ interest in Jesus was based on rumors; stories of how Jesus had performed mighty signs. The crowd hoped if they paid him some attention he in turn would dance for them; meet their agenda.
Going up to Jerusalem is a metaphor in the Bible for fulfilling God’s will. Jesus didn’t come to dance for people, but to be obedient to his Father, God; to go to the cross. At the cross Jesus becomes personal to us, for at the cross he raises us as he raised Lazarus, and he earns our devotion.
He loved us first,
The desert is always a place of extremes; extreme heat, dangerous reptiles, prickly plants, and powerful storms, and that was some storm last week, eh?
No matter how long one has lived in the Sonoran Desert you can never be completely ready for these extremes. For instance the civil engineers have provided us with large drainage canals that they have calculated will safely move all that water away from us when a storm hits. That storm last week showed us their calculations were wrong and many freeways, ranches, and neighborhoods were flooded.
The Greek word for church is ecclesia, which means the called out ones. This does not mean we are no longer in the world, but we have a growing understanding of what this world is all about. I was impressed how our ecclesia responded to last week’s storm. You began calling, texting, and checking up on each other to make sure everyone was OK. Yes, you were concerned for yourself, but it did not end there, for you were concerned for others, and ready to help. Good on ya for that!
Called out, but still in it,
One of our beloved entertainers took his own life this week. He was able to bring laughter to others but happiness eluded his personal life.
If you are alive you will suffer depression, only material things don’t suffer from it. Oswald Chambers said, “If human beings were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation.” We must admit there are things that are going to depress us; like death. Therefore, we must always consider our ability suffer depression.
God’s people suffer from depression, for example Elijah was on the run for his life. He had enough and prayed, “Lord take my life” (1King 19:4). God response was, “Arise and eat” (5). Depression caused him to turn away from God, but when God stepped into the situation he gave Elijah the most natural thing to do.
When depressed we turn away from God and deepen our depression with such things as: Alcohol, drugs, anger, and isolation. However, if we simply would take the first step in obedience to God the depression is gone. “As soon as we arise and eat, we enter a higher plane of life,” Chambers.
I heard a story; a man was walking along the beach one morning after a storm. He saw the storm had deposited a large number of starfish onto the sandy shore. The man came upon a boy throwing the starfish back into the sea. He asked the boy, “What good does it matter, you can’t save them all?” The boy replied, “It matters to this one, as he tossed another starfish into the sea.
Saturday we went down to the heart of Phoenix to serve the homeless. Karmann played, we served them food, I preached the word, and we all brought clothing and fellowship. We again experience the heartbreak of seeing people living on the edge. It is not a pretty place, for it is full of broken dreams, broken people, and strong odors that linger with you. It is easy to be overwhelmed and think, “The need is great and our church is small what good does matter?”
When you think that, remember the boy and the starfish. Yes the work is great, and our church is small, but it matters to the ones we helped.
Some people brought Ezra bad news about the people. Upon hearing the report Ezra tore his robe, pulled hair from his beard, and sat down appalled. At the evening sacrifice he prayed, “I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to you, my God” (Ezra 9:6). Ezra was a man who set an example for his people to follow. When he heard of his people’s sins he was quick to blush with shame.
We live in an era of moral chaos. One of the reasons for this chaos is shame has been abandoned to the waste bin; nothing affects us anymore. Don’t believe me? Listen this week to how many times you hear someone mention how much chaos is in the world right now. Then watch how everyone shrugs their shoulders and goes about their business. The Psalmist explains much, “The Lord does not see. Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed” (Ps 94:7).
It is time for the Christian to become an Ezra for the people of our day. It is time we set an example of shame, embarrassment, repentance and intercession.
The Lord sees me,