The Tomb

Posted on 04/01/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Good morning and welcome. Let's gather on in with our hearts around the throne of God, as we run into his presence with thankful hearts, and lavish upon him our praise.

Let's all stand to our feet and welcome the presence of the Lord into our midst today.

Lord, we worship you! We thank you for your Spirit here with us today! We welcome you into our midst, Holy Spirit. Come and have your way in our lives, and in our hearts. Point our eyes to Jesus, help us bend our ears to his voice, and may everything that is within us bless his holy name!

We pray for your children that are calling out for help from you Lord. We pray for Paul who needs your guidance, wisdom, and blessings on his business. Lead him to glorify your name in all they do, and may everything he touches prosper.

We pray for Buttercup's friend, Joan, who has been told she's dying of cancer. If you choose to take her home, we ask that you give those who love her grace and comfort. But Lord, you are not the author of disease. Jesus, you bore that sickness on the cross, and by your stripes we are healed! We ask for faith to rise up in the hearts of those who love her, and that you would work a miracle in Joan, in Jesus' name, and that your power and love would be shown through her to those around her. May Jesus be magnified in and through Joan!

Lord, I pray for each person here or under the sound of my voice or reading these words. Let your Holy Spirit fall right now, surrounding each one, working in us, healing broken hearts, setting at liberty those held captive to sin, depression, confusion, and defeat. Breathe a fresh wind of life into each one now, in Jesus' name.

Now Lord, we enter into your presence with hearts that long to draw ever closer to you. And we come to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Remain standing, and touch the pulpit for a notecard or watch the overhead, and let's continue to worship God with song.


I WILL SING OF THE MERCIES OF THE LORD

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
    I will sing, I will sing
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
    I will sing of the mercies of the Lord

And with my mouth will I make known
    thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness
And with my mouth will I make known
    thy faithfulness to all generations


JESUS NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer,  Living word.


HOW GREAT THOU ART

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


Lord, you truly are great! And we worship you today. Be glorified by the reading of your Word, and speak to us by your Holy Spirit. May what you speak to us today be seeds that go down deep, take strong root, and grow into trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that you may be glorified.

And it's in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

You may be seated.

Today's message is titled, "The Tomb."

Last week we talked about The Blood, and next week, on Resurrection Day, we will talk about the bodily resurrection of Jesus. But between the atoning, cleansing blood and the glorious, life-transforming resurrection, there is by necessity a passage through the tomb.

It's nice to talk about prosperity, blessings, freedom, joy, love, peace, miracles, healings, resurrections, and eternal life. And yet none of these things would be possible for us without the tomb.

And this brings us to our first Scripture passage today, which is found in John chapter twelve, starting with the twentieth verse which says,

20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.
21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.


Now when you think about it, this sounds like a very strange reply to a seemingly unrelated request. Some people had come to worship, and they wanted to see Jesus. And we could paraphrase it like this:

The disciples said, "Jesus, there are some worshipers of God who want to see you."

And Jesus replied, "Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it is just one seed. But if it dies, it produces many like it. If you love your life, you'll lose it. But if you turn your back on your worldly life, you'll keep your life forever. If these people want to serve me, let them follow me, and they will be with me."


If a public figure today answered such a simple request with words like these, we would think they were avoiding the question, or perhaps they were overdue for a trip to rehab.

And yet this was God incarnate who was speaking these words. He wasn't avoiding a question, he wasn't trying to hide something, he wasn't trying to sound deep or philisophical.

When Jesus replied to a situation or answered a question, he spoke nothing but the very words of God, for he was indeed the Word of God clothed in human flesh.

When the words of Jesus seemed to not really answer the question being asked, we can always look deeper and see that Jesus was addressing not the words of the question, but the true, deepest issue behind that issue, or behind that question.

And so it is here. Someone wanted to see Jesus. But Jesus wasn't here on a PR tour. He wasn't here on a book signing. He wasn't here to be recognized in a presidential nomination. He wasn't here to overthrow the political government and set up a worldly throne.

So many of the things for which the followers of Jesus and those awaiting the coming of the Messiah were looking, they simply did not find in Jesus.

They expected the Messiah to overthrow the opressive government. Jesus taught them to submit to authority and to not speak evil of them.

They expected the Messiah to be gloriously exalted in the temple and sit on earth at that time as king. Jesus was hated, rejected, beaten, and crucified instead.

They expected the Messiah to experience and demonstrate nothing but life. And yet, after only a few short years in public ministry, Jesus was laid, broken, bleeding, and lifeless, in a cold stone tomb.


And so these Greek worshipers came to see Jesus. And Jesus was well aware of what those who believed he was or could be the Messiah were expecting. He knew they were looking for someone else, someone always smiling and on top of the world, someone who never had any problems and could remove all of theirs, someone who never experienced pain, sorrow, and grief, and could turn their earthly lives into gardens of paradise.

So Jesus answers by saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."

Now let's think about this for a moment, if you will. What hour was it?

Wasn't it the hour, or the time, that Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss?

Wasn't it the hour that the Roman soldiers would arrest Jesus and lead him off to face judgement for sins he never committed?

Wasn't it the hour that a murderer and mob leader would be released, and that Jesus would take his place on death row?

Wasn't it the hour that Jesus would be beaten and spit upon, that his beard would be ripped out of his face, that a wreath of large, sharp thorns would be pushed into his scull, and that he would be mocked and disgraced in front of the world?

Wasn't it the hour that Jesus' back would be whipped with leather straps laced with broken glass and metal and bone, until he could not be recognized as a man, and should have already been dead?

Wasn't it the hour that nails would be driven through his hands and his feet, and that he would he hung, naked and disgraced, in torment and agony, like a lamb being slaughtered, for everyone to pass by and see?

Wasn't it the hour that, in Jesus' darkest hour, in his time of most desperate need, his own Father, his own God, the one who had sent him to pay the ultimate price for your sins and for mine, wasn't it the hour that God would turn his back on Jesus, and that Jesus would cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

And wasn't it the hour that Jesus' lifeless body would be laid in a borrowed tomb, the signal for mankind that he had miserably lost, that there was no hope, that he was a fraud, a loser, a liar, and a lunatic, laid in a grave graced not by flowers and grand eulogies, but by cold Roman soldiers who intimidated the few who would have visited his place of burrial?


And yet, knowing full well that all these things were about to happen, he tells his disciples, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."

And he follows it up with this: "Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a seed. But if it dies, it will spring forth with life and will produce many."


Last week we talked about the deliverance of the people of God from slavery in Egypt. We saw that their deliverance did not come at the time they watched their enemies drown in the Red Sea, but it came when the word of the Lord was spoken, at the time God had pre-ordained.

And today we see Jesus, at the door of humiliation, torture, and death, saying that the time has come for him to be glorified, and that a seed must fall into the ground and die before it springs to life and multiplies.

His disciples didn't want him to fall into the earth and die. Those hoping he was the Messiah didn't want him to hang on a cross. Those who were waiting for the Promised One to redeem Israel didn't want their Savior to be executed between two common criminals.

And yet, if Jesus had held on to his life, if he had sought after glory, if he had pushed the hands of time and sought for another way, he would have been just a seed, just a potential, just one little morsel for a bird to come along and devour, never becoming life for the world, and never fulfilling his mission to bear your sins and to open the way for you to to be reconciled with God.


Don't we do this very thing? We seem to imagine that if God were really doing his job, our lives would be free from sorrows, free from pain, free from tragedies, free from sickness and death.

We say that we want to see Jesus. And then we are confused and dismayed when the answer comes, "A seed must fall into the earth and die before it can grow and bring forth life."


Do you sometimes feel as though God has abandoned you?

Do you sometimes feel as though your prayers aren't getting answered?

Do you sometimes feel as though you must be destined for failure and pain, since that is what seems to fill your whole existence?

And we hold on to the little that remains of our own earthly ambitions, desires, and ideals, and never fully surrender them to die.

Jesus finishes his answer by saying, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

How often do we fully surrender the things we think are life, into the hands of God and his will, whatever that will may be?

We see the potential for life, the spark of something wonderful, the glimmer of greatness, the glint of happiness, peace, and joy within us, and we imagine that the way to fan those embers into flame is to keep them alive in our own strength, following our own ideas and plans to bring them to life.

And yet, if a seed does not fall into the earth and die, it remains exactly as it is -- a seed, a glimmer, a potential, a "could be."


There are things within you that God has placed there, lovingly and meticulously just for you. The question is, are you willing to let those things fall into the earth and die, trusting completely in God to transform them into a living, growing, fruit-bearing creation of his own design?


Some of us hold on to our own reasoning, thinking that the flawed, unstable mind of man can somehow chart out the path to truth through dark and starless oceans.

And yet, unless you surrender the trust you hold in your own reasoning, and surrender to the will and the mind of God, your potential for true understanding will remain just that -- a potential, never growing, always aging, and never bringing forth fruit.


Some of us hold on to our own plans and purposes, thinking that if we continue to follow the compass of our own dreams and desires, that they will spring to life some day.

And yet, unless you surrender your own plans and purposes into the plans and purposes God has for you, they will forever remain elusive dreams, producing no lasting joy when touched, and you will never see the grand, indescribable wonder God intended for them to become.


Some of us hold on to our own timing, our own seasons, our own calendar, thinking that the things we see glowing within our seed should come to pass on our schedule and according to our timetable.

And yet, unless you surrender the days and seasons of your life to the one who tells the sun when to rise and when to fall, then the things in your life will continue to seem much too long in coming, and will continue to come to you as just a seed, perhaps broken in an attempt to grab the potential within, rather than a living, growing, life-breathing tapestry of the times and seasons of God's perfect design.

Jesus knew that in the eyes of man, he was about to be humiliated and, in destitute weakness, utterly fail.

But he knew that in the eyes which see the beginning from the end, in the knowledge of him whose mind is far above the mind of man, he knew that his hour of greatest darkness was the beginning of his greatest glory, his deepest agony was the beginning of his greatest joy, and his most absolute end in death was only the beginning of eternal life for all who believe.


One important thing I'd like to point out here, is this:

Mankind thinks of the grave as the end. Some relgious beliefs teach that the grave is only the beginning. But we see in the example of Jesus that the grave is really a time of transformation.

Jesus went into the tomb an obviously mortal man. He came out of the tomb clothed with immortality.

Jesus went into the tomb broken, abased, and torn. He came out of the tomb full of life, glorified, and the healer of our souls.

Jesus went into the tomb being doubted, a fading memory of just another man. He came out of the tomb to prove he is who he said, his memory never to be removed from the minds of humanity.


But his resurrection is another issue altogether. Today we're not talking about his death. Today we're not talking about his resurrection. Today, we're talking about his tomb.

As many blind eyes as Jesus touched, he was only a seed.

As many lame feet as Jesus made to walk, he was only a seed.

As many deaf ears as Jesus opened, he was only a seed.

As many demons as Jesus cast out, he was only a seed.

As many dead people as Jesus raised back to life, he was only a seed.

All the miracles Jesus performed, no matter how great and incredible they were, were only a glimmer of the potential that lay within him, that lay within his seed.

In John 14:12, Jesus told his disciples, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."

What is the reason Jesus gave that we who believe in him would do even greater works than he did? It was because he was going to the Father. And what had to happen before he could go to the Father? He had to fall into the earth and die, like a seed of grain.

It's during that time in the earth that the life of a seed, the potential for life and greatness God has placed within it, is drawn to the surface. The seed cracks and breaks, and a root begins to drink in the moist minerals. A tender shoot works its way to the surface, and new life appears. It can then become a great tree, the birds nesting in its branches, and people resting underneath it for shade.

But the seed must first die. And it must remain in the earth for the appointed time.


We may say, "Okay God, I've gone through sorrow and hardships. I've been put into the grave. And I surrender my ways to your ways, my plans to your plans, my desires to your desires, and my timing to your timing. Now I expect that tomorrow I will wake up to a brighter day, and everything will be right with my world."

And yet there is a season that God has ordained, a time which he alone knows, and when the season through which God is taking you gives way to the next, and when God's appointed time for you has come, the new life of Springtime will push its way into the cool, fresh sunshine, drinking in the morning dew, and trusting in the maker of the earth to supply the rain and bring new growth.


Don't we tend to get a bit impatient? In a field of human seeds, we see tiny bits of grain popping up from the ground, like a water sprinkler shooting seeds into the air.

Then the birds come and eat them.

But I believe we are those who recognize the importance of the grave, no matter what form that grave might take in our lives. And in your time of darkness, and during your season in the tomb, I believe you will rest in the presence of the Lord. I believe you will drink in his Word and his Spirit.

I believe you will surrender your ambitions, your goals, your dreams and desires, your reasons, and your timing; I believe you will surrender all these things to God's ambitions for you, God's goals for your life, God's dreams and desires, God's wisdom that is far above ours, and God's perfect timing.

And in due time, you will taste the dew, you will drink in the sunshine, and you will feel the cool breeze of a brand new season, a brand new day, sweep across your soul, as the Spirit of God moves in the new deepness of character in you, strengthening your roots and shaping you into the spiritual image of Jesus.


This altar is open for prayer and ministry, and the ministry team can come stand across the front now.

If you don't know for sure where you would go if you died before you took your next breath, or if you know you wouldn't go to heaven, please instant message one of these ministers, and we will help you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

The altar is open for everyone who wishes to come pray, worship, or just stand or kneel in the presence of the Lord.

When your time here in God's presence closes, please make your way to the room to your left for our time of fellowship.

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains  alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for  eternal life.
26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.

Come.