sermon

Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 3

Cutting Room is everything that we researched that didn’t make it into the Sunday sermon. As always, a special thank you to Ryan Tanski for his contribution in research assistance.
— Pastor Pilgrim

 

Cross Reference Scriptures

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB)—Therefore be careful, how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)—And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV)--For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

2 Timothy 1:8-12 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.


 

God's Work

God's Sovereignty

God's Justice

God's Goodness

God's Immutability

God's Eternality

God's Creativity


 

"Eternity in their hearts"

God has “set eternity in the human heart.” In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than this transient world. And with that awareness of eternity comes a hope that we can one day find a fulfillment not afforded by the “vanity” in this world. Here is a closer look at the verse:

“In the human heart” is an expression representing the mind, soul, or spirit of each person. God places eternity (Hebrew olam) into our heart and soul.

The word translated “eternity” is much debated regarding its translation in this passage. The word olam can be translated as “darkness,” “eternity,” or “the future.” The use of this word could indicate darkness (in the sense of ignorance), contrasting this concept with what follows in verse 11: “Yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” It could be that Solomon is contrasting human ignorance with God’s perfect wisdom.

A better possibility, and the one that is the typical interpretation, is that olam refers to God’s placing an eternal longing or sense of eternity in the human heart. Taking this understanding to be the correct one, Ecclesiastes 3:11 affirms the idea that humans operate in a different way than other forms of life. We have a sense of eternity in our lives; we possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now.

 


 

What are the differences between the animal kingdom and humans?

    • The imago dei. Genesis 1. We have souls, they do not.
    • We have rational minds, whereas animals do not, and thus solely operate off instinct.
    • We have morality, given to us by God.
    • We have intellect paired with intellegence
    • We have purpose

 


Injustice

What are some injustices that have happened in the last 20 years geopolitically? Socially? Etc.

Older examples:

  • The Cambodian Genocide
    • A direct result of weak and indecisive US military action, followed with a stark withdrawal from the area. 1.5-3m people were decimated. 
  • Korean Airlines Flight 007
    • Shot down for political gain by Russian operative and then lied about in hearings the followed. 246 passengers perished. 

Quotes

Charles Spurgeon: Do not believe that you re standing still; you are not. Your pulses each moment beat the funeral marches to the tomb. You are chained to the chariot of rolling time. There is no bridling the steeds or leaping from the chariot.

Ben Franklin: Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of. 

Henry David Thoreau: As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. 

Unknown: When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.When I became a full grown man, time ran. And later as I older grew, time flew. Soon I shall find while traveling on, time gone.

Susan Ertz: Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. 

“God made man in his own image; and nothing more surely attests to the greatness of our origin that those faculties of the soul which are capable of yearning for, conceiving, and enjoying the Infinite, the Immortal, and the Divine. . . . Every appetite in nature and grace has its appropriate satisfaction.” (Meyer)

Jim Carrey: I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.


THE POEM THAT WILL MAKE YOU CRY

No Time to Play (Dianna Neal)

My precious boy with the golden hair
Came up one day beside my chair
And fell upon his bended knee
And said, “Oh, Mommy, please play with me!”

I said, “Not now, go on and play;
I’ve got so much to do today.”
He smiled through tears in eyes so blue
When I said, “We’ll play when I get through.”

But the chores lasted all through the day
And I never did find time to play.
When supper was over and dishes done,
I was much too tired for my little son.

I tucked him in and kissed his cheek
And watched my angel fall asleep.
As I tossed and turned upon my bed,
Those words kept ringing in my head,

“Not now, son, go on and play,
I’ve got so much to do today.”
I fell asleep and in a minute’s span,
My little boy is a full-grown man.

No toys are there to clutter the floor;
No dirty fingerprints on the door;
No snacks to fix; no tears to dry;
The rooms just echo my lonely sigh.

And now I’ve got the time to play;
But my precious boy is gone away.
I awoke myself with a pitiful scream
And realized it was just a dream

For across the room in his little bed,
Lay my curly-haired boy, the sleepy-head.
My work will wait ‘til another day
For now I must find some time to play.

Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 2

Cutting Room is everything that we researched that didn’t make it into the Sunday sermon. As always, a special thank you to Ryan Tanski for his contribution in research assistance.
— Pastor Pilgrim

 

Word References in Ecclesiastes

God - 41x/36v - Eccl 1:132:24263:10-1113-1517-185:1-246f18-206:27:13-141826298:212-1315179:1711:5912:713-14

Under the sun - 29x in 27v - Eccl 1:39142:1117-20223:164:137155:13186:1128:915179:369111310:5

Vanity - 22x/16v - Eccl 1:2142:1115192123263:194:47-8165:106:212:8

Wise - 24x/23v - Eccl 2:14-16194:136:87:4-571619238:15179:111151710:21212:911

Wisdom - 27x/24v - Eccl 1:1316-182:912-1321267:10-121923258:1169:101315-161810:110

Fool (ish) - 25x/23v - Eccl 2:14-16194:5135:13-46:87:4-6917259:1710:1-31214-15

Righteous (ness) - 11x/9v - Eccl 3:16f5:87:15f208:149:1f (cf Justice - Ec 3:165:8)

Wicked (ness) - 10v/8v - Eccl 3:16f7:15178:10149:210:13

Evil - 20x/18v - Eccl 2:214:35:113166:17:258:3811-149:31210:512:114

Labor* - 26x/19v - Eccl 2:10f18-22243:134:468f5:1518f6:78:179:9

Toil - 6x/6v - Eccl 3:95:16188:159:910:15

Rich* - 8x.8v - Eccl 4:85:12-14196:210:620 (Wealth - 4x/4v - Eccl 1:165:196:29:11)

 

Other Scripture Cross-References

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV) | My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. 

1 Timothy 6:17-19 | 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

 

What are some things that the world indulges in for pleasure, and what are the effects?

Alcohol

  • Liver failure
  • Drunk driving
  • Addiction
  • Broken lives and families

Money

  • Incorrect focus
  • Lack of meaning
  • Stuck up and prideful
  • Wasted life
  • Greed

Sex

  • STDs and STIs
  • Affairs
  • Sexual immorality
  • Broken relationships

Drugs

  • Stealing
  • Lying
  • Divorced from reality
  • Addiction

Chocolate

  • Cavities
  • Fat
  • High cholesterol
  • Sugar cravings

 

Word study v.2 “mirth”

Webster - gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter

Simchah (sim-khaw) - Joy or pleasure

 

How is the brain wired for pleasure?

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/what_is_dopamine_love_lust_sex_addiction_gambling_motivation_reward.html

Dopamine is the one neurotransmitter that everyone seems to know about. Vaughn Bell once called it the Kim Kardashian of molecules, but I don’t think that’s fair to dopamine. Suffice it to say, dopamine’s big. And every week or so, you’ll see a new article come out all about dopamine.

So is dopamine your cupcake addiction? Your gamblingYour alcoholismYour sex life? The reality is dopamine has something to do with all of these. But it is none of them. Dopamine is a chemical in your body. That’s all. But that doesn’t make it simple.

What is dopamine? Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next in the tiny spaces between them. When it is released from the first neuron, it floats into the space (the synapse) between the two neurons, and it bumps against receptors for it on the other side that then send a signal down the receiving neuron. That sounds very simple, but when you scale it up from a single pair of neurons to the vast networks in your brain, it quickly becomes complex. The effects of dopamine release depend on where it’s coming from, where the receiving neurons are going and what type of neurons they are, what receptors are binding the dopamine (there are five known types), and what role both the releasing and receiving neurons are playing.

And dopamine is busy! It’s involved in many different important pathways. But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response to sexdrugs, and rock and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction.  All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it.

Really, dopamine is signaling feedback for predicted rewards. If you, say, have learned to associate a cue (like a crack pipe) with a hit of crack, you will start getting increases in dopamine in the nucleus accumbens in response to the sightof the pipe, as your brain predicts the reward. But if you then don’t get your hit, well, then dopamine can decrease, and that’s not a good feeling. So you’d think that maybe dopamine predicts reward. But again, it gets more complex. For example, dopamine can increase in the nucleus accumbens in people with post-traumatic stress disorder when they are experiencing heightened vigilance and paranoia. So you might say, in this brain area at least, dopamine isn’t addiction or reward or fear. Instead, it’s what we call salience. Salience is more than attention: It’s a sign of something that needs to be paid attention to, something that stands out. This may be part of the mesolimbic role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and also a part of its role in addiction.

Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 1

Cutting Room is a blog featuring content from our research team that did not “make the cut” for a Sunday sermon at Shoreline. Take advantage of this content to supplement your study and go deeper! Enjoy!
— Pastor Pilgrim

"Son of David, King of Israel"

There were only 4 kings in Israel who reigned in Jerusalem, before it was a part of Judah, the southern kingdom. Saul, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. So clearly this has to be Solomon.

 

Ambition

The 119th-century Bible scholar G. S. Bowes pointed out the ultimate futility of ambition that isn’t accompanied by dedication to God. Citing four powerful world rulers of the past, he wrote:

“Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery.

Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned.

Julius Caesar, ‘staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,’ conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph.

Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years, in banishment.” No wonder Solomon warned of the poor prospects for anyone who strives to succeed without relying on God.

 

Meaningless

Like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or tapping the "clear" button multiple times on a calculator, life under the sun really is a treadmill that isn't going anywhere.

Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of all time, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: "I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day." 

 

Overview of the book of Ecclesiastes

    • Authorship: Solomon (most likely)
    • Date: Solomon's reign as king of Israel lasted from around 970 B.C. to around 930 B.C. The Book of Ecclesiastes was likely written towards the end of his reign, approximately 935 B.C.
    • Unique place in the canon: was fought about by rabbi's for a long time before it was finally accepted universally

 

Good, short Quotes

    • G Campbell Morgan - Ecclesiastes is an inspired confession of failure and pessimism, when God is excluded, when man lives under the sun, and forgets the larger part, which is always over the sun, the eternal and abiding things.
    • Ray Stedman - Ecclesiastes is a collection of what man is able to discern under the sun, i.e., in the visible world. The book does not take into consideration revelation that comes from beyond man's powers of observation and reason. It is an inspired, an accurate book. It guarantees that what it reports is what people actually believe. but it is an examination of those beliefs.
    • “What, then, is the purpose of Ecclesiastes? It is an essay in apologetics. It defends the life of faith in a generous God by pointing to the grimness of the alternative.” (Eaton)
    • “Ecclesiastes does not pretend to preach the Gospel. Rather, it encourages the reader to a God-centered worldview rather than falling victim to frustrations and unanswered questions. None of its contents has to be rejected in the light of the New Testament.” (Wright)
    • McArthur: While the context in each case will determine which meaning Solomon is focusing upon, the most recurring meaning of vanity is “incomprehensible” or “unknowable,” referring to the mysteries of God’s purposes. Solomon’s conclusion to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13, 14) is more than the book’s summary; it is the only hope of the good life and the only reasonable response of faith and obedience to sovereign God.
    • Spurgeon; Nothing can satisfy the entire man but the Lord's love and the Lord's own self.

 

Word study: VANITY (v.2)

    • In common parlance "vanity" and "vain" apply to conceited persons with exaggerated self-opinions. While the biblical usage includes this nuance, it describes the world as having as no ultimate meaning, a concept shared with some philosophies. The meanings of emptiness and lacking in reality are already present in the Latin vanitas, from which the English word "vanity" is derived. This approaches the chief Old Testament understanding that human life apart from God, even at its best, has no ultimate significance and consequently is valueless. This theme characterizes the Book of Ecclesiastes, which begins with "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (1:2 NRSV), words that have become classical in the languages into which the Bible has been translated. In viewing life without God the believer is on the same level as the unbeliever in recognizing the desperateness of life. Hebel [l,b,h], the Hebrew for vanity, as its Arabic cognate, suggests a wind or vapor. Man's life is like a breath ( Psalm 39:5 ).

 

Word study: UNDER THE SUN (v.14)

    • The phrase “under the sun” is used 29 times in Ecclesiastes and nowhere else in Scripture. The intended meaning in Ecclesiastes is that what happens “under the sun” in a life separated from God is universal—the point of view in Ecclesiastes is an earth-bound perspective.
    • human nature never changes, men and women, apart from grace, always look for answers to these questions in things that cannot satisfy. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/nothing-new-under-sun/
    • To say there is nothing new under the sun means there is nothing really new on the earth. All the activity of a man during his lifetime is lost in the grander scheme of things and will soon be forgotten

 

Wisdom (vv.12-18)

  • In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is seeking wisdom “under the sun” (cf. 1:3), that is, apart from God, as the source of happiness. This he rightly concludes is “vanity and grasping for the wind” (1:14). However, if wisdom is viewed as based in “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7), then it is the very means of obtaining true happiness. Indeed, Solomon came to this very conclusion in Ecclesiastes (see 8:12; 12:13). Also, the OT understanding of wisdom is not the accumulation of great amounts of knowledge. For Solomon, wisdom is first and foremost living a successful life of righteousness and peace in obedience to God. Knowledge alone does not bring wisdom. Indeed, the message of Ecclesiastes is that knowledge alone brings only sorrow. Wisdom is the accumulation of the right kind of knowledge coupled with a life that is in harmony with God’s commands and at peace with Him.

 

What are things that people strive after?

  • money
  • status
  • power
  • security
  • love
  • happiness
  • influence
  • meaning
  • purpose
  • excellence
  • truth
  • fulfillment
  • satisfaction

Cutting Room Introduction

Sermon preparation really is an art form. I tell young pastors/leaders that preaching and sermon prep is less like painting and more like sculpting. Each week, I accumulate lots of content from various sources and then begin to cut out much of it. I generally preach 50 minute sermons so this means much of what I've read and studied (quotes, references, illustrations, historical and doctrinal content) simply cannot fit in the time needed to effectively communicate a passage's general and specific truth. Thus, I've created this blog to feature whatever didn't "make the cut"! Enjoy!

Cutting Room blog posts will be posted generally on Mondays/Tuesdays the week after a sermon is preached.

Sermon Recap (11/27) "Jude: Week One"

Have you ever poured salt on your food, just to discover your food tasting slightly sweeter? Or poured sugar in your coffee and ended up with a not-so-sweet flavor? Salt and sugar look almost identical, but they taste totally different. Sometimes, something that seems familiar can be surprisingly deceptive.

This happened in Jude's time as men were distorting the Gospel. They were straying from orthodoxy, which is the validated doctrinal stance that's consistent with the history of the church. Today, we're going to read and study verses 1-4 of Jude.

WHO IS JUDE?

Right at the beginning of Jude, we learn who Jude was. He describes himself in to ways in verse 1:

  • "A bondservant of Christ"
  • "Brother of James"

The word "bondservant" is "doulos" in the original Greek. A doulos is a servant who willingly commits to their master. Unlike the traditional idea of a slave, Jude is describing himself as willingly surrendered to Jesus as a servant. And this is what our lives should look like too. We should be proud to be bondservants of Christ.

"The highest honor of the greatest apostles, and most eminent ministers, is to be the servants of Christ; not the masters of the churches, but the servants of Christ." -Matthew Henry

Jude's second description of himself was "Brother of James." Now, if you know anything about the Bible, you know that James was the son of Mary and Joseph. Coincidentally, Mary was also Jesus' mother, and James and Jude were his half-brothers. If Jude had a brother like Jesus, why wasn't he dropping names to earn "street cred"? Well, Jude knew there were no ins with Jesus. Nothing makes us more likely to be loved by him. In humility, he acknowledged himself as James' brother, and left it at that.

TO WHOM IS THIS WRITTEN?

Continuing in verse 1, Jude tells us he's writing to:

  1. Those who are called
    • It's important to not mistake this for calling on God. God calls us. He chooses us, and we respond. It's His calling, not our calling.
  2. Those who are sanctified by God
    • The word "sanctified" can also be described as set apart and beloved. We are loved by God.
  3. Those who are preserved in Jesus Christ
    • "Preserved" is a passive verb, meaning we are kept by God. There's nothing we can do to be kept. We just are kept. Isn't that incredible?

WHAT'S THE MESSAGE?

In verse 3, Jude tells us why he's writing. He wanted to write about their shared salvation and focus on wonderful, joyous things, but he felt compelled to instead exhort the church to contend for the Gospel.

Moving on to verse 4, we learn that there are people amongst those in the church who are ungodly and who distort the Gospel. These false teachers tell us that salvation comes from Jesus plus something else.

SO WHAT?

Today, in 2016, this is still happening. There are people changing the Gospel to work nicely for them. And instead of learning doctrine and standing up for Biblical truth, we tend to "agree to disagree." We fight for what's important in life, and what's more important than the truth of the Gospel?

Just as boxers train and prepare in every way they can for a big fight, Jude urges the church to prepare in every way we can for battle. This means learning scripture and knowing doctrine, so that when you're confronted with a false teacher, you'll know truth. 

But it's important to know that contending for the Gospel is not the same as fighting against someone else. Our goal as Christians is not to fight with others and tell them they're wrong, but to stand up for what is true. Let's not be known for what we're against.


CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THIS WEEK'S SERMON

Sermon Recap (10/23) "Proverbial Fool: Lazy"

Everything in our society points us toward believing work is evil. We dread Mondays, find hope in Wednesdays (#HumpDay) and live for Fridays (#TGIF!). For some reason, we're stuck in this pattern of believing work is a bad thing.

This week in our Proverbial Fool series, we're taking a look at the lazy fool - the sluggard.

WEEK 2: THE LAZY FOOL

In Proverbs 6:6-11, Solomon says, "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep-So shall poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man."

Clearly, Solomon thought there was something wrong with being a sluggard. He instructs us to use ants as an example for how we should live. Ants do their work efficiently, without instruction, without anyone to praise them for their good work. Yet many people fall into the trap of becoming a lazy fool. They are idle, and they don't accomplish much at all, if anything.

To add to laziness, the sluggard is full of excuses for his unwillingness to work (Proverbs 26:13-16), he has the resources, but refuses to use them (Proverbs 20:4) and stewards his resources poorly (Proverbs 24:30-31). He has fields, he has opportunity, he has time, he has physical ability, but the sluggard doesn't use these gifts wisely.

Can you think of areas in your family or your job where you just do the bare minimum to get by, but don't truly put as much effort in as you should? Do you push the snooze button too many times in the morning? Do you go to work just for the paycheck, but not to make any real difference? Do you have the time, money, or energy to do more, and choose not to use them wisely? Maybe God has even been convicting you of laziness in your life lately!

A NEW OUTLOOK ON WORK

As we said earlier, we have pretty much been trained to believe that we shouldn't enjoy work. At some point, we starting thinking that work was a result of the fall - that it's not a good thing and that it's some sort of punishment for our sinfulness. This is just not true.

In Genesis 2:15, 19-20, before the fall ever happened, God gave Adam work! God intended for us to use our hands. We were meant to work and to not be sluggards. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, the Thessalonian church is instructed to work with their hands. Idle hands leave room for temptation and disruption. 

"Laziness could run a competitive race for the most underrated sin. Quietly it anesthetizes its victims into a lifeless stupor that ends in hunger, bondage, and death." -Ronald Sailler and David Wyrtzen

APPLICATION

The whole point of this series is to learn how to walk in wisdom by applying the fear of the Lord. In order to avoid becoming the sluggard, we should examine the heart behind everything we do. 

Do everything for God's glory
Colossians 3:22-24 - "Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."

Sometimes, we get in the habit of only doing our best so others will notice us. It could be for a promotion or a raise, or even just to get a pat on the back. But everything we do should be to bring God glory and it should be done out of reverence for him.

Reflect God through your work
Titus 2:9-10 - "Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."

By working hard, you can actually show Jesus in the workplace. Isn't that so cool? 

Redeem your time
Ephesians 5:14-17 - "Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light" See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

This passage in Ephesians is a great reminder that these days are evil. They are working against us, and we should spend every moment redeeming the time, bringing God glory, and walking in His will.


Sermon Recap (3/20) "Crucified"

The cross is the centerpiece of Christianity. But sadly, many people see the cross as cool, elegant, or even unnecessary. We studied Mark 15:21-47 and saw 7 different eyewitnesses at the cross.

Simon of Cyrene

We met Simon, the Libyan proselyte who was in Jerusalem to worship. We learned that Simon was forced to carry Jesus' cross, and that most likely he and his family received Christ after this encounter. Paul seems to mention Rufus (Simon's son's name) in Romans 16:13 as well as Simon's wife being an encouragement to him. We learned that even random encounters with Jesus can change people's lives forever.

The Thief on the Cross

Jesus was crucified between two thieves. Luke tells us in his Gospel that one of these thieves repented and confessed Christ as Lord. Even in our fleeting last moments there is hope that we can be with the Lord. 

The Centurion

This captain of 100 Roman soldiers had observed dozens, if not hundreds, of crucifixions. Yet there was something about the way Jesus died that stood out to him and caused him to confess Jesus as the Son of God. Even people we write off as "unreachable" may be impacted by the Gospel as they see Jesus.

Mary Magdalene | Mary mother of Joses | Salome

These women would normally not be admitted as eyewitnesses in a trial, yet Mark uses them as key witnesses to Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. He also points out that they had been ministering to Jesus even as far back as His work in Galilee. They followed Jesus even to the cross, while the disciples (other than John) were in hiding.

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph was a prominent Sanhedrin council member, yet boldly gets the courage up to ask Pilate for Jesus' body. He then methodically and carefully prepares Jesus' body for burial, allowing Jesus to be buried in his own (rich man's) tomb, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

These testimonies tell us one thing: THE CROSS OF CHRIST CHANGES LIVES! Today we could be guilty of emptying the cross of its power (1 Cor 1:17) by trying to spice up our communication of the Gospel. But this is unneeded. We merely need to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:1-5) and be faithful to live lives that are daily crucified (Gal 2:20). The cross should inform every area of our lives and we should be known foremost as "People of the Cross".

I can't wait to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ this Sunday together with our community!! He is risen indeed!!