Sunday, April 12, 2009



Intro.: I think we have all heard the reports of earthquakes in Italy this past week.
  1. As believers, we must begin by praying. But we are also called upon to help those in distress. Have you considered finding a relief agency involved with helping those who lost family members or homes this week.

  2. Having said that, we should note that earthquakes can happen in any part of the world. I have been involved in two quakes that I know of.

  3. The first while in high school – I was sitting in a high school chemistry lab. We just sat and stared at each other.

  4. The second was about 26 years ago while serving the church in Gloversville, NY. I was in the basement in my home office. At first, I thought it was my an upset stomach or just a brief loss of equilibrium. But the longer it lasted, the more I wondered. When I listened to the news, later that evening, I discovered the cause of my discomfort was an earthquake that was felt over five state area.

Read: Matthew 27:45-54; Matthew 28:1-10



  1. As I reread the events which took place during those last days of Christ's life and following His resurrection, I saw something that had never caught my attention before. During those three days, between Christ arrest and His resurrection, there were actually two earthquakes.

  2. I knew that there was an earthquake after Christ's death on the cross. And I knew that an earthquake occurred shortly after His followers found His empty tomb.

  3. But you know, I never bothered to add one to one to get two. So, though I knew there were two different earthquakes associated with Jesus death and resurrection, I never realized that there were two earthquakes that week.

T.S. Let's look at the events surrounding these two earthquakes.

  1. Earthquake #1: The death of Christ

    1. Contrasts seem to follow Jesus where ever he goes. Here we have the “Light of the World”, the one who was born with a star that show the way for wise men to his cradle. Yet at His death, we are told that there is darkness for three hours.

    2. It is during that three hours that we finally hear Jesus' words, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” or in English “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    3. It probably would not surprise us, but those who hear Him do not understand. They think he talking to the famous Old Testament prophet Elijah – not realizing that He is talking to the very Father that has rejected Him.

(Appl.) Those that stood around the cross that day were not much different than us. We tend to see Jesus the way we want to see Him, rather than as He is. We take our experiences and interpret what Jesus says and what Jesus does using those experiences as being the norm. But we cannot do that – as we look at Jesus life, we need to accept what He does and what He says at face value – and rather than using our experiences to understand Him, we must use His life and words to understand our own.

(Ill.) One of the first, if not the first, earthquakes mentioned in scripture occurred when Moses was on Mt. Sinai. Exodus 19:18 says “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” Here we have the Lord meeting with the man that will deliver the Law to His people and the earth shakes. God's way of dealing with man is forever changed.

    1. Can we be surprised that the earth might also shake when the Son of God is dying on the cross? After all, God's way of dealing with man is forever changed.

  1. Earthquake #2: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

    1. The two women did not quite get it right. They really expected to find Jesus in the tomb. They had not understood that Jesus would rise, they did not understand what Jesus had told them about that first Easter. They had gotten their doctrine wrong.

    2. On the other hand, their hearts were in the right place. They had come to worship their Lord. They had come to finish what had been done hurriedly a few days earlier. Jesus had come to be the focus of their lives, and that had not changed.

    3. The earthquake for the women was not the end of something, as it had been at the crucifixion. Rather, it was to get their attention.

(Ill.) If I asked a seismologist about this second quake, I suspect he would be less surprised than I was. You see, he knows about the aftershocks that accompany any large arthquake. Rescuers are well aware of the dangers of aftershocks that follow an earth quake. “Aftershocks are able to do serious damage, so don’t look them over lightly! They have the power to crumble buildings, roads, and bridges already weakened by the initial earth movement.”1

(Ill.) Have you ever noticed how when someone seems out of it or is totally distraught in the movies, the person is slapped. The purpose is to bring them back to reality. In some ways, that is what God was doing with this earthquake. God wanted to bring the women's focus away from the grief, away from the discouragement they were feeling. They needed to focus on Jesus. They had work to do.

(Appl.) In some ways, the women, in fact all of Jesus followers, were experiencing two earthquakes. The first was the very real earthquake that Matthew wrote about. The second brought as much pain, but it could not be recorded by and seismograph. It was the earthquake that they were experiencing in their lives. Jesus, the Son of God, had died. The man they had been following for three years was dead. The man who had taught and demonstrated what it meant to live for God had died. Their lives were shaken up – shaken to the very core. And when we find our lives shaken up that much, we need something that is steady, something that is constant, something they can cling to. Jesus is that something.2

Just like those first believers found their lives in an uproar, so will we. There will be times when a potentially crippling chronic illness (be it ours, a family member's, or a friend's) may shake up our lives. Or it may be some event in our lives. Maybe the day we realize that we need to depend on someone else more than we did in the past. You can think of the earthquakes in your life – and when those earthquakes come, we need a quiet point. A place that is rock solid and unchanging – that place is at the feet of Jesus. “If we’re going to be stabilized in an ever-quaking, shifting world, we must fix our eyes upon the fixed One, Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)”. Decide today, that when the next earthquake hits, you will turn and face the unchanging one, the one who loves you more than you love yourself.

Conclusion: I don't usually think about earthquakes when I think about Easter.

  1. I think about chocolate, Jelly Beans, and Peeps. I think about stuffed animals and Easter Dinner.

  2. But earthquakes were there for that first Easter. As Christ died and rose again, there were Earthquakes.

  3. And we still have earthquakes today – both real kinds and those that can tear our lives apart in unexpected ways.

  4. But we, like the early church, must remember to focus on Jesus when we are hit by life's earthquakes.

  5. You can begin by focusing on Jesus today.



2Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary (213). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tough Times

Tough Times

Intro.: This has been a tough week.

  1. I spent most of the week preparing for Saturday's meditation

  2. But in the middle of it, I also had dinner with the DS and his wife at their home.

  3. I finished my official work at cardiac rehab, but signed up for more of the same as part of a maintenance program.

  4. I started taking classes at RIT – no tests, no grades, but going into a group of people I do not know is difficult just the same – at least for me.

  5. A busy week. And a trying week.

  6. But I expect that it was not as busy and trying for me as it was for Jesus in the hours following His arrest and trials.

Read: Matthew 27:1-26


T.S. Jesus' final interaction with the priests and Jewish leaders and with Pilot teach us a number of things about sin and how we can handle it.

  1. Jesus' meets with the Chief priests one more time

    1. The trial that took place accomplished nothing. It was an illegal trial – and thought they had hoped to force a verdict, it would not happen.

    2. Now morning has come and something has to happen. But, because they can do nothing, they decide to send Jesus to Pilot the governor.

    3. It is complete. Jesus, who knew no sin, has taken our sin. He is being tried as a sinner.

(Appl.) Think of the worse thing you have ever done. It may have been a child, a teen, or as an adult. You may have told someone about it – or maybe you have kept it to yourself all these years. But it has left you drained. As Jesus makes that trip from Caiaphas' home to Pilot's court, he carries with Him your sin. Regardless of how bad that sin may have been, Jesus carries it with Him.

(Ill.) Someone has suggested that sin is like something thrown into an ocean. If it is too light, it floats. It is obvious to all who see it. Unforgiven sin is sort of like that – we may be able to hide it from those around us, but you know what, we will see it. But a sin that we have confessed to Jesus and allowed him to deal with is hidden. It is like that thing we threw into the ocean. What if it were a weight from the weight room. It would not float, it would sink. And it would be covered so that nobody, not even you, would see it. When Jesus takes our sin, he covers it. He hides it. He deals with it.1

    1. Now being taken to the governer – for what, they think, will be a fair trial.

  1. Jesus comes before Pilot

    1. Matthew includes a brief parenthesis about Judas' regrets for betraying Jesus. It's not where I want to spend my time this morning, but I also do not want to neglect noting that sins is never as simple as it looks.

    2. Pilot takes the straight forward approach.

    3. Are you the King of the Jews?”

    4. Jesus is as straight forward in his answer. “You have said so.”

(Ill.) Of course this only half true – you see he is the King of the Jews. But he is also the King of Kings. He is the Lord. He is my Lord – I trust He is your Lord.

    1. But Pilot was weak – he gave in to the crowd rather than follow his conscience. The biggest evidence that Pilot knew that Jesus was innocent was his choice of Barabbas. Barabbas was a notorious prisoner. Just as Pilot knew his reputation, so did the entire community. The contrast between Jesus and Barabbas was obvious. Pilot thought he was safe – surely they would choose to set Jesus free.

    2. But they didn't – and Pilot would not do what is right. He followed the crowd.

(Appl.) It is easy to follow Pilot's example – to follow the crowd rather than do what was right. I like to think that we as adults have out grown the peer pressure crowd; but, as Pilot illustrates, we may never out grow it. Decide what is right – choose to do it, before you ask what others are doing.

    1. Pilot delivered Jesus to be crucified.



1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

UMW Communion Meditation

Meeting At The Table

Intro.: The table has become a central point of our lives.

  1. The family gathered at the table has become a symbol of the communities we all belong to. Whether it be families gathered at the table, or CEOs meeting with their board, or diplomats ironing out the details of an important treaty – the table serves to bring communities together.

  2. The table played a significant role in Jesus' life as well. Luke mentions the role of the table in Jesus' life 16 times. He eats meals at the homes of friends, He overturned the tables in the temple; today, we remember the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before his crucifixion – as they sat around a table.

  3. We talk about celebrating the Lord's supper – but at the same time it brings with it certain sadness as remember the suffering that was to follow Jesus over the next few hours. It's true in our lives as well. At the table of some there is a feast – but for others there is a famine. Though treaties are made and signed at tables, it is also at tables that treaties are broken. As members of the family of God we bring both hope and doubt.

  4. The table can also be a place of division – as we decide who we will include or exclude from our tables. God calls us to a higher calling – a calling that invites all who are broken, hurting, or lost. We are called to work for peace and justice for all of creation.


T.S. In the next few minutes I want to look at three words most often translated as table in our English Bible. It is my hope that by studying these three words we may better understand the importance of the table in the life of the Christian.

  1. The first word is the Greek word trapedza

    1. Literally, the word means “four feet”. In practice, it is the table where we sit down to eat our meals.

    2. Every time we sit down to say grace before we eat, we are sitting at he trapedza. This is the Lord's Table – it is a reminder where he sat and had His last meal with His disciples. God meets us as a family as we come together at the table. We come as a family to our Father's table.

    3. But the trapedza is also the table of the money changers – the tables that Jesus turned over when he came to the temple.

(Appl.) Like those money changers, we come to today's table broken, in need of a savior in our lives. What distinguishes us from the money changers is that they did not know they needed a savior. We come, knowing we are broken, unable except by the grace of God, to approach God's table.

    1. The remarkable thing is that the service itself recognizes this fact – as it begins with words of confession.

  1. The second word is the Hebrew word sulhān

    1. The most common location for the sulhan was in the tabernacle or temple. It held what was known as the “showbread”. Moses was given the instructions for making the bread that would become part of worship at the temple. It consisted of twelve baked cakes made from a fine flour. Each week, on the sabbath, the priest would replace the previous weeks offering with a new set of loaves.

    2. The bread was placed on the sulhans, These tables were an integral part of the worship. Their presence in the temple meant that they were considered holy.

(Ill.) Andrew Blackwood, a well-known preacher of early 1900's, once said, “The Lord’s Supper should be the crowning service in the church, and thus be earth’s nearest approach to heaven”

(Appl.) The table, the sulhan, was a place where the people of God me their Lord. It is where we, too, can meet our Lord and savior.

  1. The third word is the Hebrew word paniym

    1. Though occasionally translated “table”, the root meeting is “PRESENCE”.

    2. Not only do we meet God here, He also meets us. He takes us as we are and allows us to approach.

Conclusion: Communion is family time.

  1. We gather at the table this morning as the family of God.

  2. Here we remember the Father's gift and His son's sacrifice.

  3. Come to the table, because you are a member of the family.