God visited this World in Jesus because He wanted to Save us?
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those joining online. My name is Matt Johnson and today (because we have visitors here for the baptisms) I want to speak more generally about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian.
PRAYER: Well, if scientific evidence actually supported the concept of a Creator God would you believe or not? What I mean is – if there was good evidence to believe the existence of God, is more likely than atheism would you be open to becoming a Christian? (PAUSE)
I know that for a short while in the 20th some scientists claimed that tthe concept of God was now redundant. Everything could now be explained with a big bang, a long period of time and evolutionary process. But is that actually true? Whether you believe in the big bang and evolutionary process (or not) – there are a number of GAPING HOLES – in the modern atheistic/agnostic worldview. 1) The fine-tuned argument, 2) irreducible complexity in DNA and 3) abiogenesis actually point to the existence of God. So I want to talk just for a moment about ABIOGENESIS. Meriam-Webster dictionary says (Slide 2).
But many scientists now acknowledge that slipping the word EVOLUTION into the concept of abiogenesis is intentionally misleading. The problem is inanimate, inorganic matter cannot evolve. Living things may be able to evolve. But inanimate things like carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen never evolves because it has no ability to learn. In fact, every chemist knows that (unless kept in the most pristine, artificial conditions) even the most BASIC COMPOUNDS tend to break down. So, more and more scientists are beginning to admit that the idea that non-living matter somehow became living matter (all by itself) is now in the area of pure science fiction. Now for some this may be surprising.
Some of you may remember studying the famous MILLER-UREY EXPERIMENT in high school. (Slide 3)
In 1953 Miller and Urey claimed that in the original PRIMORDIAL SOUP of the ocean there was 1) ammonia, 2) hydrogen and 3) methane gases. Then supposedly as lightening struck the water – these elements turned into the basic building blocks of life. So Miller and Urey conducted their experiment for a week and discovered some very simple AMINO ACIDS had formed. So all of a sudden – scientists claimed – they had a real plausible scientific hypothesis for the origins of life. Forget God. He’s irrelevant.
THE PROBLEM scientists are now admitting is that AMINO-ACIDS are NOT life and they are NOT even close to being life. So in the past 70 years – since Miller and Urey first conducted their experiment (and with all the developments we’ve had in science) – how much further have we got with science turning simple matter into life? (PAUSE) Zero. Zip. Nada. Many world leading scientists are now saying this is an impossible hypothesis. So, if life did not come about by abiogenesis – where did it come from?
Please indulge me three quotes from well-regarded scientists because if I am going to talk about God, I need to defend the plausibility of God. Paul Davies (Slide 4). That equals flipping heads on a coin 6 million times in a row. James Tour, who won the Nobel prize for molecular science says – (Slide 5). Even Richard Dawkins the world’s leading atheist says (Slide 6). When Dawkins was then pushed about who the designer was – he speculated (and I kid you not) perhaps it was extra-terrestrials. Why not accept, that perhaps it was God? The fact is abiogenesis, the fine-tuned argument and the complexity of things like DNA is now very clearly pointing to some sort of God.
Point 1: Jesus came to Jerusalem as God’s Promised Messiah
Show: Lk.19:28-31 (READ)
Explain: Well, I’m hoping that whether your atheist, agnostic or some other religion – you will have heard of Jesus. You can see in verse 31 & 34, Jesus refers to himself as Lord. Jesus (talking about his need of the donkey) says the Lord needs it. Lord Jesus needs the donkey. But what do Christians mean – when we call Jesus Lord?
Well, there is more historical evidence to support the existence of Jesus Christ, than there is to support the existence of Julius Caesar. We know Jesus was a Jewish man born in Nazareth about 4BC. We know he gained a following of Jewish people because of his miracles and teaching and ultimately founded the largest religion on earth. Even Jewish historians like Josephus (who never converted to Christianity) write about Jesus’ life, miracles and death on the cross. So, its reasonable to believe there was a real historical man named Jesus. But who was Jesus and why do we call him Lord?
Well Judaism is probably the oldest surviving religion on earth – dating to at least 1800BC. Hindusim is the only other religion still practiced on earth with this sort of antiquity. So the Bible tells us that God revealed to the Jews that he was the supreme Creator God – called Yahweh. (Slide 9) Our modern Bibles often translate the name Yahweh with LORD in capital letters.
The question is – when Jesus call’s himself ‘the Lord” twice in these opening verses – does he mean like Yahweh God who created life? Well according to the Bible – Yahweh God gave the Jews the 10 Commandments and the Jewish law. The laws were built on the basic premise that every human being is made in the image of God and therefore equal in value. In contrast evolutionary theory teaches some life forms are more or less evolved than others, and therefore more or less valuable than others. This evolutionary argument was then sometimes used to defend the practice of slavery in the 1800’s.
So the Jewish laws taught people to respect ALL human life and they gave basic human rights to the downtrodden and vulnerable. THE PROBLEM was the Jews found it very hard to obey God’s laws. On the few occasions they kept Gods laws they reaped personal blessings and they found that society worked better. But every time they rejected God and failed to respect the sanctity of life – society started to break down and life got messy. It seemed that even with great laws – man was destined for a never ending cycle of misery, suffering and mess.
But around 1800BC God also started to give the Jews promises – about a perfect Saviour-King who would help them. This Saviour-King was called the MESSIAH. And the Bible abounds with all sorts of prophecies of what this Messiah would do and what he would be like. The slightly spooky thing is that all these prophecies (of which there are perhaps hundreds) – seem to perfectly align with the historical life of Jesus. In fact, the prophecies so perfectly align with Jesus – that all the sceptics used to claim they were doctored by Christians after Jesus’ life. The sceptics claimed – that after Jesus was born, lived, died and supposedly rose again – the Christians went back and changed all the Jewish writings to make it look like Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. This argument was constantly made in the C19th and early C20th.
But the discovery of the DEAD SEA SCROLLS in Qumran in 1946 started to prove the Jewish Scriptures contained real prophecies. The Dead Sea Scrolls were ALL dated by science to the 2nd and 3rd BC. SO they are definitely written before Jesus was born and yet they contain the same biblical prophecies that perfectly line up with Jesus’ life. So how is that possible? Hundreds of lucky guesses? Or perhaps, there really is a Creator God – who is somehow in control of world history. How can there be real prophecies about a Messiah-King that correlate with Jesus’ life – unless there is a God? Christians believe these prophecies point to Gods existence and the significance of Jesus.
So the passage we are looking at today in Luke 19 includes some of these prophecies. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem he tells a few of his disciples to go to the next town – where they will find a young donkey that has never been ridden upon. You can see this in verse 30-31 (READ). Now the fact that the Messiah would ride a donkey into Jerusalem comes from Zechariah 9 – written about 550BC.
Have a look (Zech.9:9 – READ). Please notice that in 550BC a prophet named Zechariah said the promised Messiah 1) would be righteous, 2) he would bring salvation from sin and 3) he would come to Jerusalem riding on a young donkey. Jesus’ life perfectly corresponds with all the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah because he is the Messiah. So when Christians call Jesus LORD, they mean that Jesus is the promised Jewish King who would save God’s people. And those getting baptized today are declaring that Jesus is now their King. As they go under the water – they are dying to their old way of life (perhaps as atheists, or addicts or hedonists) and as they come up from under the water – they are rising to live a new life with Jesus as King. JESUS IS LORD, means Jesus is the promised Jewish King. But it also means more…
Point 2: Jesus Comes to Jerusalem in the Name of the LORD
Show: Lk.19:35-38 (READ)
Explain: Well this now brings us to ANOTHER PROPHECY about the Jewish Messiah. The words in verse 38; “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” actually come from Psalm 118. And in Psalm 118 the word LORD is actually in capitals. It’s God’s personal name Yahweh. So Psalm 118 is saying that when the Messianic King comes to Jerusalem he will be Gods representative on earth. The King will come in the name of Yahweh or the King may even come with the name Yahweh. This could be translated “in the name of the LORD” or “with the name of the LORD.”
Now when the Jews went to the three main Jewish religious festivals each year in Jerusalem – they would recite Psalms 113-118. It was like singing Christmas carols at Christmas. Every year they would sing Psalms 113-118. And in Psalm 118 Gods personal name Yahweh or LORD is used 25x in just 28 verses. Its like LORD, LORD, LORD, LORD over and over again. YAHWEH, YAHWEH, YAHWEH, YAHWEH. So as the Jews go up to Jerusalem for Passover – they’re all singing Psalms 113-118 like they do every year. But this time is different. Some of the people are beginning to see that Jesus is the promised Messiah in Psalm 118. That’s why they’re laying out their cloaks on the ground in front of Jesus’ donkey. IT’S THE EQUIVALENT of rolling out the red carpet. The promised King has finally come in God’s name.
But do they really see properly? Throughout Psalm 118 the Jews see Yahweh’s name 25x. But the Jews believe that Yahweh’s name is so holy that they won’t say it out loud. So instead of singing the word Yahweh, they sing LORD! LORD, LORD, LORD – 25x. But we’ve also been told verse 31 and verse 34 – that THE LORD (with a definite article), is sitting on the donkey. The Lord needs the donkey and is riding the donkey. So, what is the relationship between the Lord Yahweh and the Lord Jesus. What sort of King could properly represent Yahweh God on earth and come bearing his holy, unspeakable name?
Throughout the Old Testament – all the Jewish Kings had been too corrupt and too evil to really represent God properly. Like many bishops and popes today – they perverted God’s ways and made God look bad. So who is this Messiah and how can he truly represent God OR come in or with God’s name – without actually being God himself.
Well this passage is wanting us to see that the Lord Jesus is actually the LORD Yahweh in human form. Jesus has the name LORD, because he is LORD. Another famous prophecy written by Jeremiah in 600BC says this; (Jer.23:5-6; Slide 13-14). Now David was the first proper Jewish King and God said the Messiah would one day come from David’s line. But Jeremiah says the Messiah’s name will be “the LORD, our righteous Saviour.” Notice LORD is capitals. It’s Gods name. The problem was no ordinary sinful human king could properly represent God on earth or save the world. So God, the Creator God, came to earth as the man Jesus to help and save his children.
Now I know this sounds ludicrous to some. The idea that Yahweh, the supernatural spiritual being who created the world – became a man seems unlikely. It stretches the edges of credulity – like tossing heads on a coin 6 million times in a row. But if there is a God who created the world and made us in His image is it really that hard to believe? (PAUSE) Who here is a parent? Who here loves their children? Now if your child was in serious trouble, facing death and there was no one else who could help them – what would you be willing to do to save your child? Would you be willing to give up your job or perhaps give up a kidney? (PAUSE)
THE ANSWER for most decent parents is – of course. Even if our children got themselves into trouble by being STUPID – most of us would still do whatever was necessary to help them. But where do think that innate sense of parental love came from? You think it just evolved? No, parents have this innate sense to help their children because we were made in Gods image. So, just like us, God did whatever it took to get his children out of trouble. God came to our rescue in Jesus because no one else could do it.
And if you can imagine yourself doing this for your kids – why is it so hard to believe God might do it for his kids. When Christians call Jesus Lord, they mean Lord God in the flesh – and as they acknowledge Jesus is God – they begin to see something truly BEAUTIFUL.
Point 3: Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as the Lord of Peace
Show: Lk.1:41-44 (READ)
Explain: Well now we see Jesus the Messiah, who is Yahweh God – WEEP when he sees Jerusalem. The idea is that of crying with deep emotion. And we need ask why? What would make God weep? Jesus goes on and says he weeps because THE WAY OF PEACE is now hidden from Jerusalem’s eyes. (Now there are some really significant implications of this verse – including the salvation of Gentiles which on an ordinary church Sunday we might explore). But today, focussing on the non-Christians in the room – I want you to realise that God weeps for non Christians, because you do not know the way of peace. So God weeps for you because he is concerned for you.
I know many of us have been through great sadness and loss in this sinful world. Life often hurts. It might be the death of a loved one. It might be seeing our child battle an incurable disease. It’s terrible. This suffering often then causes anger (and not knowing what to do with our anger) – we end up blaming God. Even when we say we don’t believe in God, we still blame God for the suffering in the world and we even use the suffering in the world as an excuse for not believing in God. The logic goes – if God is good, why didn’t he do something to help me. So we end up blaming God for all the evil and suffering in this world. But do you realise that God weeps over all the evil and suffering in this world – as much or even more than you?
Jesus weeps because the way of peace is hidden from Jerusalem’s eyes. They don’t see the answer. All the pain and suffering in this world ultimately comes from rejecting God, sin, greed and selfishness. But Jesus came to bring us peace with God and peace with fellow man.
(GOSPEL) As people who reject God and do evil stuff in His world we deserve to suffer the consequences of our choice both personally, and collectively. Suffering and pain come from our sinful choices. But like a perfect parent, God still loved us so much that he came to earth and went to the cross to pay the penalty for everything we have ever done wrong. Basically, the children do the wrong and God the parent pays the price to get us out of trouble. SIN AND EVIL lead to suffering and death. So on the cross Jesus (the God-man) suffered and died to pay for your sins because He loves you. Now how many people love you that much they’d die for you? This is how much God loves you. And God weeps for you because like Jerusalem – you cannot see it.
People often say why doesn’t God do something to put an end to all the suffering in the world. But God has. Jesus died in your place for your sins so that you can see God still loves you. This is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus showed us that the way of peace is found in learning to love others unconditionally. What’s more, God says that if you accept Jesus as King, say sorry for your sins and ask God for forgiveness – you will be forgiven. Again, God has shown us in Jesus that the way of peace (and the end of suffering) is not in revenge or bearing a grudge, but in learning to forgive. But the only place you really learn to FORGIVE is at the foot of the cross – as you accept Gods forgiveness of you. And its only in being UNCONDITIONALLY LOVED by God, that you can really learn to love unconditionally. But this is the way of peace. Jesus is the Lord of peace and he weeps because many cannot see…
Apply: Jesus also weeps over Jerusalem – because he knows their failure to see him – will ultimately result in destruction. When we reject the true Creator God and chart our own course of sin – pain, suffering and destruction always follow. Jesus wept for Jerusalem because he knew the consequences of rejecting him would be dire. Sadly the majority of Jews did reject Jesus as their Messiah and within one generation – the Romans came and totally destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD. It was carnage.
And Jesus says this destruction would take place because the Jews failed to recognize (end of verse 44) the time of Gods coming to them. The original Greek word is actually – “VISITATION”. It is a word that means theophany or an appearance of God. Yahweh God (the Creator) visited Jerusalem in Jesus in 30AD – and they cried crucify. The people didn’t want Jesus or God in their life – so they tried to kill him. But rejecting God the author of life is tantamount to killing ourself. Rejecting God is rejecting life….
Although, God loves you like a parent and is ready to forgive you of anything and everything – you are ultimately responsible for your ACTIONS and your CHOICES. In the end we will all stand before the judgment throne of God. So what will you do? If the evidence for God and His Son Jesus is equal or better than any of the alternatives currently available – will you believe or not. And if the answer is still no – the question you must yourself is WHY?
The people getting baptised today have made a reasonable decision to accept Jesus as their King. As they go under the water they are dying to their old way of life – of sin, suffering and unforgiveness AND as they rise up from under the water they are rising up to live a new life, following the King who loves them so much he died for them. But what about you?
I’m not going to do an altar call. But I am going to say – that if you would like to find out more about the reasonableness of Christianity – we run a short 7-week course, called Christianity Explored – where you can find good, reasonable answers. Most of the people getting baptised today did that course and they saw Christianity actually make more sense than all the alternatives. So if you would like to find out more – please fill in one of these cards in the front of the Bibles. Then place the card (with your details on it) in the offertory bag when it comes around and we’ll get in contact with you. THERE IS A GOD, a Creator God and He loves you and wants to help you walk in His peace.