Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jesus was Arrested (Jn. 18:5-14)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 15 July 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation

Passage: John 18:5-14

“So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.” (Jn. 18:3)

In contrast, Jesus was weaponless, without religious power backing, without political power and and without wealth.  What was Judas thinking about?  He had followed Jesus for 3 years.  What had he learned?  The Lord Jesus had no defence.  He asked His disciples if they had swords.  They had two and Jesus said that was enough.  In reality that was hardly enough if they were to fight against the soldiers.  Jesus did not rely on human might but God’s Spirit.

Our Lord is the greatest among all.  He asked, “Who is it you want” (v.4) so that He could be delivered.  When they said, “Jesus of Nazareth”, He said, “I am he”.  He did not seek after profit.  His heart was for the truth, for the glory of God.

Judah betrayed Jesus for money.  Jesus did not escape danger for the truth.  They all drew back and fell to the ground when Jesus said He was “I am he.” (v.6)  Why did they fall backward? It was because of the greatness of His character.  The power of His character is greater than all those who came with weapons.  He is the Lion of Judah.  The Lord is our example. 

He asked them the second time.  When they said again “Jesus of Nazareth”, Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”  (v.8)  And the Scripture recorded, “This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (v.9)

A great leader does not care for his own safety but care for others.  Where are great spiritual leaders in the church today?

At this point, in his passion Peter drew his sword and cut of the right ear of the high priest’s servant (v.10).  Why would the Jews be allowed to carry a sword?  He could be a well-respected person in the community. 

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (v.11)  Here Jesus gave us an important principle.  Hatred cannot be solved with hatred.  Those who use sword will die by the sword.  We can only use love to overcome hate.  Our impulsiveness will bring us greater danger.

We need to learn that the last Judge is God.  There is no need to defend ourselves.  God did not call us to defend ourselves but to preach the gospel.  Jesus submitted to the Father and trust God to judge.

If you suffer for your own sin there is no value.  But if you are persecuted because of the will of God, it is of great worth.  Jesus said He would drink that cup the Father had given Him to drink.

Before He was crucified, the last miracle He performed was to heal the ear of the high priest’s servant.  This is His great spirituality.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Three principles in which the members of the body of Christ have unity

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 23 June 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation

Passage: John 17:24-26
People believe when they see Christ's glory, when they hear His Word and when we testify Christ (obeying His commands).

There are three principles in which we have unity:
1.) in the Name of the Lord
- He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of rightousness for His Name's sake. (Psalm 23:3)
- It is easy to walk with those also walks in paths of righteousness.

2.) in His Word
- we who have heard His Word and believe will be in unity with future or faraway believers who hear and believe His Word (John 17:20)
3.) in the glory of God
- this glory is not like sparkling jewellery
- this glory is that upon the Cross
- when Jesus manifested the glory of God, He did not make use of splendor from any physical material. Neither was it measured by valuable things in human terms.
- Jesus Christ's glory is the splendor displayed by God's holiness, love, compassion, justice, demonstrated in the Cross.
- So, we sing "In the Cross, In the Cross, be my glory ever"

Jesus was born under a most humble circumstance: in a smelly manger. Even approaching His death, His inner garments had been taken away from them. Jesus hung shamefully on the cross. Thanks be to God! This, then, is the glory of God! One who truly sees the glory of the cross will surely bow before Jesus Christ. Then will you realize that there is no meaning in all the splendor of the world.
The glory of our Lord exists before the creation of the world. It means that it has nothing to do with physical materials as there has been no such things (e.g. pearl, diamond, gold or jade) before the Creation. "Father, I have given them the glory that you gave me," (Jn 17:22) and this glory is what Jesus had with the Father before the world began (Jn 17:5).
There were two robbers beside Jesus when He was crucified. For the one who was saved, his entire life was transformed at a single sentence by Christ. Prior to this, he was mocking at Jesus along with the other robber. But Jesus suddenly said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) The robber is noble and intelligent, immediately understanding Christianity by that one statement, unlike so many who has heard millions but have yet to be saved. He immediately understood and repented and said to Jesus to remember him when He come into His kingdom (Lk 23:42). Because he recognizes, from Jesus' statement, that He is the King of the heavens, the Saviour who forgives sins, the King who will judge the world and will receive a Kingdom which is eternal and is greater than the Roman empire. Based on Jesus' statement, the robber's theological standpoint was completely built up and the structure of his faith strengthened.
Who is the Jesus whom the robber saw? He did not merely see Him as crucified, covered with wounds, suffering tremendously, helpless in saving Himself. Rather, he saw glory from suffering, wisdom from folly, great power from infirmity, future honour from shame of the world. This is faith. Faith is not to believe in God only after seeing His glory. Faith is to see the essence of glory hidden behind the external appearance of suffering.
The robber's faith is greater than that of the apostles Paul and Peter. The latter placed their faith in the Lord only after they witness his miracles and glory. But this robber did not get to see the miracles of Jesus on the cross or to hear any of His theological theories. He only heard that one statement and know Jesus as Saviour, King, future Judge and he saw the glory of God. So Jesus Christ said "I have given them the glory that you gave me, make them one in this glory."
We are one in the Name, the Word and the glory of the Lord.
Rev Tong does not consider love as a principle for oneness, but rather sees love as a method to achieve oneness in His Name, His Word and His glory. Because of love, we are one. This is God's method. We are able to love one another because the Holy Spirit has poured out God's love into our hearts. Jesus prayed that we may be one as God is one (Jn 17:22b).

Why did Jesus pray for us to be one? So that the world may know that the Father has sent the Son.This is the great goal at the end of His prayer. Also, He pray that we may be one so that we may know that the Father loves the Son just as the Son loves us. And so, the two final great goals: that the entire world knows that it is the Father who sent Jesus Christ, and that the whole world will know that the Father loves the Son and the Son loves those who belong to Him. Never has there been anyone who dares say that he is sent by the Father, because human can only say they have been sent by God and will not dare to say that the Father has sent him. Confucius has never said that God has sent him and that the Chinese should listen to him. Neither has Laozi said that God has sent him and that we should read his scripture. Neither has Shakyamuni said that God has sent him to become a buddha to teach us. Neither have Hinduism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Persian religion all said this. But prophet Muhammad has said that God has sent him, and that we should recite that Muhammad is apostle, that God is the only one God, and that Muhammad is an apostle sent personally by God. He dare to say that he has been sent by God, unlike most religions which do not dare say so. But that does not mean that he is right.
But, did not Jesus also say such a thing? The difference is that He used 'Father', not 'God'. How intimate is the relationship between the Son and the Father! Jesus is the only one in history who said 'the Father sent me'.
Both the One who has been sent and the Sender have the same essence. Hence, they must also have the same moral ethics.
Therefore, if the Father is holy, the Son should be holy. If the Father is merciful, the Son should be merciful. If the Father is just, the Son should be just.

May the only One in the entire world, who had been sent by God, become the Saviour, Lord, Mediator. the Great Shepherd of the flock, the only Great High Priest between God and men. Only Jesus Christ. He said, "Righteous Father, the world know you have sent Me. I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me ... before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, ... be in them." (Jn 17:24-25)
The church is united in His Name, His Word and His glory, the glory on the suffering cross. This is the true unity in the church, not organizational or administrative or in form or superficial, but oneness in the Spirit.
And the people will then see two things:
1.) The believers have shown that God has sent Christ, because what we have preached to them is the cross of Jesus Christ, the salvation of the Son of God. This must be true.
2.) Because of our unity, the people realize that there is true love among the believers, love caused the believers to be in unity. They manifest the love of God.
"Father, let the world know that You have sent Me (Jesus), and that I have already given them the love You have for Me."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jesus Walked to Gethsemane (Jn. 17:20-26 - 18:11)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 7 July 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation

Passage: John 17:20-26; 18:1-11

The prayer in John 17 is the last portion in the Upper Room.  Jesus ended the Holy Communion with His disciples, then made this prayer to the Father.  After He finished praying He went to the garden of Gethsemane (Jn 18).

Mark 10 records that Jesua sang hymn when He walked to Gethsemane.  Christianity is the faith that sings most songs.  Christians are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and sing praises and give glory to God. 

When Jesus wept for Jerusalem He saw the destruction that would happen in the future.  He cried at Lazarus’ tomb because He saw the stubborness of the people.  In the same manner, when He cried out to God at Gethsemane, it was not for Himself.  It is not because Jesus wanted to avoid death, in fact He came to earth so that He could die.  He entered death but was never subdued by the power of death.  He said He had the power to give away His life and the power to take it back.  Death cannot overcome Him for He is the Lord of Life.  This is the Lord who can be your Saviour.

But what is the meaning of His prayer at Gethsemane? What is the cup that He wanted to be passed from Him?  It is not His death nor crucifixion.  Jesus never pitied Himself.  Self-pity is unbecoming of a Christian.  If you indulge in self-pity, you have fallen into the trap of the devil.  You have forgotten your inheritance, your hope and your salvation.  When Peter said to Jesus that the crucifixion should not happen to Him, the German translation is, “Lord, have pity on yourself” and Christ’s response was, “Get behind Me, Satan.”  This is very stern.  Asking Christ to escape the cross is of the devil.  He is so strict and solemn.  The Bible teaches you not to pity yourself.

So Jesus could not have pitied Himself at Gethsemane.  Yet why would He pray for the cup to be removed?  “If it were possible, let this cup pass over Me but not My will but Yours be done.” This also does not mean that Jesus has a different opinion from the Father.  The Father’s will and Jesus’ will are one, that is why Christ submit to the Father’s will.  But why did He distinguish His will and God’s will?  It proves that Father is a Person and the Son is a Person, so each has a will, but they are aligned.  It proves He is not independent of the Father and is obedient to the Father. 

But again what was this cup?  This cup is neither death nor suffering.  Christ is very willing to suffer and to die.  The cup refers to the separation between Him and the Father.  He was not willing to be separated from the Father.  So His prayer was not against the will of God.  There is a great mystery.  For one moment in history, there is a separation between the Father and the Son to accomplish God’s eternal will to reconcile sinners to Himself.  It seems wrong but this is right.  It is paradoxical.  If God the Father did not desert God the Son, we will not be reconciled to God.  If the Son was not cursed, we will not be blessed.  God judged Christ so that we would be acquited, God let Him die so that we will live. 

As Christ walked to Gethsemane, He sang from Ps. 118, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” The Day refers to the Passover Day, the day Christ suffered, was crufified and died within the span of 24 hours.  It is the will of God that this be the Day of salvation.