Genesis 35 finds Jacob on his way to Bethel. He’s leaving Laban and the current conflict behind, but on the way Jacob discovers Rachel’s hidden gods. They were household figures made of soft stone and wood. They were family idols common among Laban’s faithless crew. Genesis 35:4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. The question quickly came, “What do you do with a buried god?” In the realm of all things human, what is buried is concluded. What is buried is closed, finished. When Jacob buried those gods, he did so with the knowledge that they would stay there. Buried gods have no way out. Buried gods decay with the passing of time and the elements of earth.
Move ahead and you’ll find another assumption.
When Pilate and the temple priests released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they did so with some confidence that the matter was concluded. After all, whoever heard of a god, or in this case, The Son of God, coming back from the dead. They thought that a dead and buried Jesus would have ended the matter. It was written in the history of the lives of their patriarchs. However, this Jesus was like none other and the purpose of His burial was meant to reveal the power of His own Resurrection. In fact, the only way for Jesus to rise from the grave was to first be buried. And in this case, even a watch (guarding soldiers) and a sealed tomb (with a signet ring) could not and would not keep Jesus in the earth. In three days, just as He said, Jesus rose from the grave. And in His hands He held the most significant keys to mortal man: Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
A messenger was sent to declare a new king in Israel. The Bible describes him as a madman in attire and in conduct. It sounds like John the Baptist, but this happened in that older testament. The Word of God was in his mouth; the prophecy and appointment of this new king was sure and sound. When the message was given, the men around him, “…took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted….”
(2 Kings 9) The new king was Jehu and he was sent to destroy the sinful kingdom of Ahab and Jezebel, as well as establish the Law of the Lord in Israel.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people shouted, “Hosanna, blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord!” It was a reflection of the story of Jehu. They too blew a trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the stories of the Old Testament which provoked them to quiet the crowd. They should have seen the semblance. Jesus was the King! The people were spreading out their coats before Him, just as it happened for Jehu. The people were shouting out their recognition of Him, but the leaders rejected their praise.
There are no less than 44 prophecies foretold of this King Jesus. Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets. He was the reflection of the righteous kings. He was from the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:10) He was born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) They called Him Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) And today, we have come to recognize Him as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Hosanna! Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord. His name is and forever shall be, Jesus!
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
In an open display of prophecy, Jesus will tell His disciples about His impending death by the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law. He said that the “Son of Man must suffer many things…” The disciples hear His words, but cannot understand their meaning. The message is far from the victorious Messiah they hoped He would be. Yet the next statement was more troubling than the first. Jesus said, Luke 9:23 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
It was no longer just about the suffering of Christ. Now it was about the cross each man must carry in order to follow Him. Jesus made it clear; if you wish to follow Him, you must deny yourself and take up your own cross.
The statement repels the flesh. To the modern Christian, it’s also very un-American. Who wants to deny themselves anything? We tell ourselves the opposite. We believe in a painless journey with Jesus Christ. Many think that the current Christian experience excludes personal suffering. We speak of one Cross and that belonging to Jesus alone. We rarely, if ever, talk about our cross. It seems so counterintuitive to talk about the overcoming power of Jesus and self-denial at the same time. Cultural Christianity is not so keen at selflessness or abstaining. We don’t want to think about carrying our own 80lbs. transom up a lonely hill. Yet, the words of Jesus are as true today as they were among those men. To save your life here means to lose your life in the end, but to lose your life for His sake is the pathway to save it upon His return. Jesus did bear a Cross, but He won’t bring anyone with Him who rejects their own cross. Instead, Jesus is calling for His people to deny themselves and bear the burden of the Gospel and the message of this Holy Way.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
Knowing the growing pressures of the early church, the apostles made a declaration about priorities. Acts 6 is a display of the growing pains that occurred naturally in the church. The apostles were knee-deep in feeding the hungry; helping the widows and the needy. While the function was important, the demand was taking time away from their calling. The apostles made a decision of higher priority. They would devote themselves to “prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Devote comes from the Greek word meaning “to persist at” or “remain with.”
The decency of caring for the widows stood in the way of the ministry of the word. We call it, Sacred Substitutes. It occurs when a good work is at odds with more important things. It’s when we miss prayer because we are doing other “good things.”
Sacred Substitutes have grounded the work of the church as they divert our attention from faithfulness to the house of God. Worship is bypassed as other duties are attended to. It was the separation of Mary and Martha: Wholesome activities interrupt the attention given to the preaching of the Word and to prayer. This is an emerging conflict in the lives of busy Christians. Joshua told us to meditate on the Book of the Law (Josh 1:8). Paul said, Phil 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Yet, we have no time to devote to thinking or meditating because we feel pressed to do that other good thing. The Spirit is calling us back to prayer and deep intercession where we shut out the busyness of life. I feel the Lord calling us back to His house for Worship; forsaking the cares of this world.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole