All Things New (“Follow Me”) #4

FollowingJesusPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  All Things New Series #4 (“Follow Me”)                Hear this message: Download our App in the App Store: Search the Gathering Connect

Catching Nothing John 21:1-7a, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:17– 20a 

After Jesus resurrected He appeared multiple times to many different people.  John, in his gospel, speaks to four of these appearances (John 20:14-16, 19, 26, 21:1), but in looking at all of the gospel accounts we discover many more.  We will look at all of these appearances in our upcoming series: Evidence For The Resurrection. 

Before the ascension of Christ at the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, the eleven disciples went back to Galilee ( about 70 miles north of Jerusalem) for a period of time.  Then Peter and six other disciples had an encounter with Jesus while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee.   

The Sea of Galilee has been known by a number of names (Sea of Tiberius, Buḥayrat, Ṭabarīyā, Lake of Gennesaret to name a few) depending on what people ruled the area at the time. When Jesus carried out his ministry on the shores of the freshwater lake, it is likely he would have called by its Hebrew name, “Kinneret” or “The Sea of Chinnereth.” The name “Chinnereth” appears in the Old Testament in Numbers 34:11, Joshua 13:27 and Joshua 19:35, but the exact origin of that name is not known. 

To go from Jerusalem to Galilee took three days of travel, if you went through Samaria. If you went around Samaria (through Perea) two additional days would be required. The Jews and the Samaritans got along as well as the Jews and the Arabs do today.  Most Jews would take the extra days on the journey. 

It is worthy to note that all seven of the disciples on that fishing trip were fishermen before following Christ, so in essence all of them had decided to go back to business as usual after Jesus had resurrected.  It is humorous to read “that night they caught nothing.” The disciples had obviously forgotten that Jesus had called them to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-20). Jesus reminds them all of that fact when He called out to them from the shore: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”  Although they didn’t recognize Him, likely because of distance and not expecting to see Him, the “lights” went on in John’s mind when they followed His direction to throw their nets on the right side of the boat and were unable to haul them in because of the large number of fish (John 21:5-6).  With that John cried out “It is the Lord!” Jesus had repeated the miracle of their first calling which had once astonished Peter, James, and John (Luke  5:1-11) and caused them to “leave everything and follow Him”.  We too need to be reminded that once we follow Jesus we can no longer just go about “business as usual” or we will “catch nothing” (that is worthwhile for the kingdom).   We have become “new creations” and like the disciples have been called to be “fishers of men”—”ambassadors of Christ!”  God chooses to make His appeal through us to reconcile the lost to Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-20a).

“New”, we all love it don’t we?  New clothes, new shoes, new  home, new car… no   wonder “new car smell is the favorite scent offered at car washes and detail shops.  What about new life?  Only Jesus Christ offers that.  Only He can make all things new and there is no imitation of His real deal.  He said; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus brings newness to everything He touches.  Do we love Him for this new life He brings? Jesus said, “If you love me then keep my commands” (John 14:15).  We are not to just be “fishing” for earthly things but to be living out the Lord’s prayer: His kingdom come, “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”— not ours! (Matthew 6:9-13).  We must also remember that it is only by His power and direction that we can accomplish this call.  “Apart from Him we can “catch      nothing”—”do nothing” (John 15:5), but in Him we “can do all things”! (Philippians 4:13).  Christian: are you trying to go about business as usual and catching nothing? Follow Jesus and be kingdom minded. 

Jumping In John 21:7b-14, Matthew 16:24-27, Psalm 34:8, Revelation 21:5

As soon as Peter heard John say “it is the Lord”, he put on his outer garment, jumped into the water and swam to the Lord.  Culturally speaking, it was is not strange that Peter was fishing half naked in his underwear or that he quickly wrapped himself to respectfully meet the Lord.  What is strange is that John makes note of it.  At first glance we might be impressed that Peter’s joy was so great that he jumped into the water and swam to Jesus, but there is a deeper reason that John included this detail in his gospel account.

Impetuous  (acting quickly without thought or care) Peter was at it again! He was “right” and ready to get back to following Jesus, yet he still didn’t really understand what it meant to follow Him.  Do we?  Jesus, in not so many words, explained to Peter what “following Him” is about: “Oh, Peter,” Jesus might have said, “you are so quick to dress yourself and plunge headlong into the task. That’s what we are like when we’re young, is it not? But the time will come when another will dress you and take you where you do not want to go. You won’t be getting dressed and jumping in so quickly then!” (Peter was eventually crucified upside down in Rome). This is core of the message that Jesus spoke, “You rush to meet me, but you must realize by now that following me is the way of the cross?”  Jesus made this point clear when He asked Peter three  excruciating times  “do you love me?” (reminding Peter of the three times he denied knowing Christ: John 18:15-18, 25-27). Finally Peter gets a reality check and says: “You know all things” (“my self-centered ways); “you know (in spite of myself) that I love you.” 

Jesus response to Peter’s three fold confessions of love is “then feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. In essence Jesus said to Peter: “stop acting quickly without thought or care and be about the business of my kingdom and not your own… be a fisher of men! (capture the lost and make them into disciples) “Follow me!” 

Impetuous Peter jumps ahead of his senses one last time and blurts out: “what about John?” (John 21:20-21). Following Jesus is less about what we want and what others are doing and more about where the way of the Cross takes us.  “Follow me” said Jesus.  These words take us to a cross (where we willfully give up our lives to follow Christ) , but that cross brings resurrection! He makes all things new!  Following Jesus is not a garment that we tie about ourselves lightly. So don’t jump in too quickly as Peter so often did, but count the cost (Matthew 16:24-27). If you will, then you shall see as Peter did, that business as usual is an unacceptable proposal to one who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8).  His reward far outweighs any cross that we may bear.  Follow…He makes all things new!  (Revelation 21:5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Things New #3 (“Born Again”)

JesusResurrection2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: All Things New Series #3 “Born Again” Easter Sunday

Dark Friday  John 19:38-42, John 3:1-3, 16-18

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57). The source of his wealth is unknown, but we know from scripture that he was “good and upright” (Luke 23:50), but then Joseph was a part of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:51)— that group of elite Jewish religious leaders who called for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but Joseph was opposed to the Council’s decision to arrest Jesus and was in fact a secret disciple of His. (Mark 15:43). Joseph of Armathea was once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer! 

Nicodemus was an influential man, a Pharisee (religious leader) and also a member of the Sanhedrin (Surely another vote against Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but the Bible doesn’t say so). Nicodemus made an appointment at one time with Jesus after dark so that he would not be seen by his peers and the public (John 3:1-2). We later read that Nicodemus stood “halfway up” for Jesus among his peers (John 7:45-52) sometime after that encounter with Him.  By that time he may have also been a “secret disciple” like Joseph.  Nicodemus was also once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer! 

On the morning of that dark Friday Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha, that hill the people called the place of the skull where so many had been crucified before.  Those were thieves, murderers, and those who had broken Roman laws, but not Jesus.    Pilate, the governor of Rome himself, proclaimed “I find no  basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6).  The Jewish leaders could find no charge against Jesus either.  Their cry to crucify Him arose from the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 5:18, 18:23)…and He was and is… say His disciples!  Are you one of them? 

Jesus was nailed to a cross and lifted up so that everyone could see Him and mock Him.  In fact He is still being mocked by many today— so many who believe in Him, like Joseph of Armathea and Nicodemus, are also “secret disciples” for fear of what others may think, say or do.  Are you a “secret disciple” of Jesus?  Do you stand up for Him everywhere you go or are you like His disciples who “deserted Him and fled” when He was arrested  (Mark 14:50)?      

Jesus, an innocent Lamb, hung on that cross for six excruciating hours, in the last three “darkness came over the whole land” (Mark 15:33). Darkness always comes without Christ.  Are you in darkness today? His disciple John was there at the cross with Mary.  Did John remember the Passover dinner he had just shared with Jesus and the other disciples?  Did he remember what Jesus said as He offered the third cup of redemption at the table?: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  Did he remember what John the Baptist had called Jesus on the banks of the Jordan?: “Behold the ‘Lamb of God’ who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,35)?  Jesus, the willing sacrifice for our sin.  Jesus, our Passover Lamb.  And the prophet Isaiah said of Him:   

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before         its shearers is silent,  he opened not his mouth”.  Isaiah 53:7 

Were the “secret disciples”, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus at the          crucifixion?  The Bible doesn’t say.  Other members of the Sanhedrin were likely there…mocking. Were the “secret disciples” there standing in shocked silence? How do we respond when co-workers, friends or family mock Christ or use His name in vain…do we use His name in vain? 

If Nicodemus was at that crucifixion was he thinking about the incognito         conversation he had with Jesus when the Christ said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”(John 3:3)?  Are you “Born Again?”  Did Nicodemus remember that Jesus said “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15)?  How quickly do we forget that “God so loved the world” that He sent Jesus to save it , but without Jesus we are condemned (John 3:16-18).  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)?  Did the “secret disciples” finally realize, on that dark Friday, that in the end all die… and there is only one who can raise us up?  Do you realize that? 

All Things New John 19:38-42, Matthew 10:32-33,

After the death of Christ all appeared to be lost, but we see something new! We always see new life in Christ (Revelation 21:5). We see the results of being “born again” in two men. We no longer see two “secret disciples” in Joseph and     Nicodemus. We see strength and resolve. Joseph goes boldly to Pilate and asks for the body of Christ. He could have been sentenced to death himself for such an act!  Nicodemus and Joseph spend a great deal of money and time lovingly wrapping the body of Jesus and laying Him in Joseph’s own tomb.  He gave Christ his tomb and Christ gives resurrection. This fulfilled a 700 year old prophecy by Isaiah which says: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Isaiah 53:9 

Certainly Joseph and Nicodemus were thrown out of the Sanhedrin and lost their positions of respect and authority in Jerusalem, but they would move on as true disciples of Christ who said: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven… (Matthew 10:32-33). 

Believe! Matthew 28:1-10, John 11:25-26

Whatever became of Joseph and Nicodemus we do not know for sure, the Bible doesn’t say.  Much has been made of them in legend, proclaiming them both to be active missionaries of the gospel, but two things are sure. They were greatly  rewarded for their faith only three days later when Jesus raised up from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). We who believe also know that they are with Christ for He has said: “I am the resurrection and the life… ” (John 11:25-26).  At that time Jesus asked Mary if she believedLater He would tell Thomas to believe (John 20:24-31).  Now it is your turn… all that is written is so that you too will believe and that by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31). Do you    believe?  If you do then live it out, shout it out!  No secret disciples.  He Lives!

 

 

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Things New #2 (“Hosanna!”)

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Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church          All Things New Series #2            “Hosanna!”

Just The Right Time  John 11:53-57, 12:1-3, 7-11, 12-13, 16-19

Once the Sanhedrin (an assembly of Rabbis acting as a court of law) met to discuss       Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus no longer moved about publicly because they plotted to kill Him (John 11:53). Jesus and His disciples went to a small village in the      wilderness called Ephraim.  They stayed there in hiding for about six weeks until it was almost time for the Jewish Passover (John 11:55). As the crowd was gathering in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, the pilgrims were wondering if Jesus would attend the feast even though his life was in danger.   Popular opinion among the people was in His favor, but the religious authorities made it clear that He must be arrested (John 11: 56-57). Jesus wasn’t in hiding because He was afraid.  Jesus was in hiding so that He would be right on time to fulfill ancient prophecy. 

Six days before Passover Jesus and His disciples came to Bethany to have a dinner with Mary, Martha and Lazarus (whom He had raised from the dead). As they reclined at the table Mary poured an expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair (John 12:1-3).  Judas rebuked her for this act but Jesus saw it as an act of love for His    upcoming burial (John 12:7-8).  Meanwhile a crowd grew outside of the house because they heard that Jesus and  Lazarus were inside.  The next day the crowd would be even bigger and word that Jesus would be going into Jerusalem had spread all the way into that great city.  The streets everywhere were full of people on their way to the annual Passover festival.  As Jesus left the house to get on His way many people went out to meet Him.  They had palm branches ( an emblem of praise for a king) and were shouting out “Hosanna!” (Save us!) “Blessed is the king of Israel!  The disciples did not understand all of this, but Jesus knew exactly what was happening. He was right on time. 

Prophecy Matthew 21:1-9, Zechariah 9:9,14:3-4, Luke 19:40-44, Ezekiel 44:1-3

Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead to get a colt (male donkey) and they found it along with its mother just as Jesus instructed. The animals were there right on time to fulfill the prophecy of Zachariah (Zachariah 9:9) written 500 years earlier . Jesus rode upon that colt which had never been ridden (Luke 19:30, 35) through the Eastern Gate into Jerusalem.  That original gate was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD which fulfilled another prophecy given by Jesus on that Palm Sunday recorded in Luke 19:40-44. The actual gate that Jesus entered lies beneath the current gate which was built in the 6th century. It was sealed by the Muslim conqueror Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I in 1541 to insure against another Biblical prophecy that the Jewish Messiah will enter from it when He comes again (Zechariah 14:3-4, Ezekiel 44:1-3). Sealing the gate actually partially fulfills the prophecy.  For it says it will remain shut until “the Prince” himself enters it. I am sure that Yeshua Hamashiach (Ye-shoo-ah  ham-mah-SHEE-akh: Jesus the anointed one) will bring fulfillment to that prophecy as well!

All Things New  Exodus 12:3,12-14, John 1:29, Revelation 3:20,

Sixteen years before the birth of Jesus king Herod began building the great Temple complex.  It would not be finished for 80 years (under construction throughout Jesus’ earthly life [John 2:20] and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.)  but Herod and the Jewish religious authorities agreed that the  sacrificial rituals & offerings were to be continued throughout the entire time of     construction. It was at this time that the Passover ritual was restored. Throughout Jesus’ childhood, Joseph would have taken a lamb to that Temple to be inspected for his family sacrifice every year at Passover. As a young man, Jesus, the oldest male, would have done the same for His widowed mother and family. Instructions for the sacrifice and ceremony had been given to the Jews and recorded in Exodus 12:1-30.  Passover had always been done in the same way and at the same time every year, but Jesus would change that forever.  He would make all things new by becoming the final “sacrificial lamb” of the Passover.  

The celebration of Passover was and is to remind the Jews of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, but it was done with the blood of a lamb.  On the tenth day of Nissan (the first month of the Jewish calendar) the leader of each family was to select an unblemished male lamb to    sacrifice.  That lamb was to be inspected and approved as a worthy offering before the sacrifice four days later.  The blood of that lamb was then applied above and on both sides of the door.  At night, when the angel of death came to judge all of Egypt, the homes with the sacrificial blood applied were passed over.  After this judgment Pharaoh let God’s people leave Egypt and they journeyed to the Promised Land (Israel).

The day that Jesus rode that donkey colt through the Eastern gate and into the Temple complex was the tenth day of Nissan:  the priestly inspection day for the sacrificial lambs.  We can recall John the Baptist saying at the onset of Jesus’ ministry “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  !”  Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God came riding on a beast of burden to carry the wrath against our sin.  He came to be the “Passover” sacrifice for our sin.  He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks (Revelation 3:20). Have you placed His blood on the door of your heart? 

Now! 2 Corinthians 6:2, John 19:4-7

The people that day shouted “Hosanna!” which means “save us now!” The scriptures say that “now is the day of salvation”(2 Corinthians 6:2). Jesus wept for Jerusalem because they “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them” (Luke 19:41-44).  Salvation is offered now, tomorrow could very well be too late. 

We read in scripture that for four days Jesus (the perfect Lamb) was examined by the authorities and religious leaders.  They could find no fault in Him (the unblemished Lamb) “No basis for a charge”-except that He claimed to be the Son of God (John 19:4-7).  On the 14th day of Nisan, as all the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed, Jesus died on a cross for you and me…It was finished (John 19:30). “Hosanna in the highest!”.  He offers to “save now!”  He is mighty to save!

 

 

All Things New #1 (“Come Forth”)

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Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church         All Things New Series  #1         “Come Forth”

Fakes   Mark 8:36-37, Matthew 7:21-23

Throughout history people have faked many things to profit themselves.  People have  created fake art, fake documents and fake money. People have faked businesses,    occupations and social status.  Some have faked marriages for citizenship, while others have faked promises for votes.  Many journalists have faked news for stories, many have even faked testimonials under oath…all of these fakers are deplorable, but the worst faker of all is the one who fakes miracles in order to be seen and worshiped as a god. 

 Recently Pastor Alph Lukau of Alleluia Ministries in Africa blew up the internet when he raised up a dead man in a coffin, who reportedly came straight from the mortuary. That resurrection turned out to be fraudulent and Pastor Lukau now has multiple lawsuits filed against him.  Unfortunately fakes like pastor Lukau have always been in large supply and always seem to have large followings even after they have been revealed as frauds.  Pastors Robert Tilton and Peter Popov were revealed as frauds in an expose on ABC’s Primetime Live on November 21, 1991. They faked miracles and made millions off of gullible people. Today Robert Tilton has a struggling web show but Peter Popov is still on TV making millions and    doing the same old tricks!   Today many such spiritual fakes are making millions off of people who desperately want to believe in miracles.  Evangelist/ healer Benny Hinn makes more than 75 million dollars a year off of his crusades.  He has been exposed multiple times but still packs arenas all over the world.  It is reported that not one of his healings has ever been medically substantiated.

 Faking things does seem to bring an earthly profit.  That is obviously why it        continues in such a prevalent way, but spiritual fakes are especially playing with fire (Mark 8:36-37). These kind of fakers have no fear of the One True God who is in   reality the only true miracle maker.  Spiritual fakers will ultimately be rejected by Christ (Matthew 7:21-23)  and incur the wrath of the God (Hebrews 10:29-31) who really does do miracles and raise the dead!

 The Real Deal   John 11:1-44, John 12:23-25, 32-33

In the entire Bible there are only 10 documented resurrections of the dead.  Three in the Old Testament through prophets (One through Elijah, two through Elisha), and seven in the New Testament—five brought by Christ (Jesus performed three in His earthly ministry and then raised up Himself along with “many others” Matthew 27:50-53—later the Apostles Peter and Paul were both used to raise one dead person each). Every resurrection account is a stupendous miracle, showing that God Himself is the Source of Life and has the ability to give life to whom He will—even after death, but Fakes like Alph Lukau cause people to disbelieve even the Bible’s miracle and resurrection accounts and this has really got to make God angry.

 Unlike fakes, the resurrection accounts in the Bible never made anyone rich and many of them were not even done in public. All who performed them were also severely persecuted.  Not much of an earthly payment huh? Among these resurrections the one that drew the biggest noise was one that made Jesus weep (John 11:35).  Likely because He had to bring His friend back to this earth to be murdered (John 12:9-11)—although we don’t really know.

 Lazarus was a dear friend of Jesus who’s resurrection was used to drive Jesus to the cross so that He could make “all things new” for me and you!  Jesus said so Himself in John 11:4.  By “glorified” Jesus meant “be crucified”.  The plot to kill Jesus rose from the popularity He gained by raising Lazarus from the dead

(See John 11:45-53).  Lazarus was raised from the dead so that Jesus would be raised up on a cross to die for our sin…so that through the death of one (Jesus) the resurrection of many would come (John 12;23-33). That includes you and me.

“Come Forth”!  Ephesians 2:1-5, Colossians 2:13-14

Jesus was only two miles (Jerusalem) from Lazarus (Bethany), when He got word that His friend was sick, but He stayed until Lazarus was “stone cold dead” and in the tomb for “four days” (John 11:17-18) before arriving.  He did not want to be accused of faking Lazarus’ resurrection.  Martha and Mary both said, when He arrived: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). Onlookers said that too (John 11:37).  They couldn’t understand His tardiness.  Neither do we when our prayers sometimes go  unanswered, but God had a plan…He always does. “Believe!” “Take away the stone” He said. “But Lord…he stinks of death.”  “Lazarus come out!”(“come forth” KJV) ,said Jesus and he did. 

 How can a dead man respond to such a command?  Can a dead man do anything at all?  How about all of mankind and you and me.  How are we who are “Dead in sin”  ( Ephesians 2:1-5) able to respond to such a call?  It is because Jesus made the way and wills it so. He has made us, who have believed,  alive in Christ.  He has “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness” and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).  Like Lazarus, He calls us out of death and into life by name.  Will you “Come forth”?  “Believe!” He makes all things new.

 “Rise from the dead”  Ephesians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:17

Isn’t it ironic that we can laugh at the gullible looking for hope in fake miracle workers even while looking for hope ourselves in other superficial things.  In the end we all die, in fact our creator says that we are already dead in sin, but He is truth among the lies.  He makes all things new. “Wake up”—He’s calling!