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04. Kingly Power and the Darkest Hour

Ron Kelly
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Jesus left to us an example in how to relate to authority during His earthly sojourn, and He gives us encouragement for the times we find ourselves under unjust authority.

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Ron Kelly

Senior Pastor, Village SDA Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan

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Recorded

  • December 22, 2018
    11:30 AM
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Let’s pray. Lord, we are so thankful for your nearness as embodied in this song. And I’m praying, Lord, now, especially for someone who has not felt that nearness, that in this moment, on this Sabbath, in this place and in this season, they would rediscover You or come to know You in ways they’ve not known You before. Bless us as a body of believers. Bless the body of believers around the globe that is worshipping in the different time zones. Draw us to you; draw us to each other. And I do pray comfort for those whose hearts are heavy in this season, and at this moment. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Writing in The Desire of Ages, the author states, “The story of Bethlehem is an exhaustless theme. In it is hidden ‘the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.’ We marvel at the Saviour’s sacrifice in exchanging the throne of heaven for the manger, and the companionship of adoring angels for the beasts of the stall. Human pride and self-sufficiency stand rebuked in His presence. Yet this was but the beginning of His wonderful condescension. It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man's nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.”

 

I’d like to begin by quoting the words of Sir Isaac Watts, “I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies; I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; the moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey. I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food; who formed the creatures with his Word, and then pronounced them good. Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye! If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky! There’s not a plant or flower below but makes Thy glories known; and clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne. Creatures that borrow life from Thee are subject to Thy care; And there’s not a place where we can flee but God is present there.” And may the breath of heaven breathe on each of us.

 

Take your Bibles this morning and open them up to the gospel of Matthew, Matthew, chapter 1. This morning I would like to trace the journey of Jesus from the beginning to the end of His earthly sojourn. Matthew, chapter 1, and I’m going to be focusing on Jesus as a man under authority. In this case, as a babe. Matthew, chapter 1, looking at verse 20. His father is a man under authority. Lots of times, the state of the parents mentally, the culture of the mind of the parents, most of the time is the culture of the children. I can always tell when I’m engaging a child who has never heard anything bad about me said at their house; they smile when they see me. They want to shake my hand; they want to talk to me. Conversely, when the culture of a home or a person’s mind, in this case a leader, is dark, there tends to be the battle between light and darkness in the heart of the child. What is the culture of your mind, dad? What is the culture of your mind, mother? Are you subject to the impress of the Spirit? Is the purpose of the commandment being filled in your heart, love, pure love, a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith? If so, it’s likely that your child or children will receive an inheritance that is priceless, the inheritance of hope, the inheritance of practical Christianity that brings light in the midst of darkness.

 

Matthew, chapter 1, verse 18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” This is a problem. This had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since, and it won’t. She was engaged to a man and had a baby some other way or was in the process of preparing to have one.
For her husband to be, this created quite a decision moment. Verse 19, “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David,’” notice the reference to royalty, “‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child whom she has conceived is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, and He will save His people from their sins.’ Now, all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord to the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with us.’ And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.”

 

We gloss over the emotional trauma of these situations as if it was a fairytale, and a good one, when in reality the journey this put them on was somewhat of a social nightmare. The trauma, the misunderstanding, the disbelief: these are all written into the bylines, between the lines, of the Bible narrative. And to read them casually and not understand the great emotional and social price tag associated with this journey is a travesty to the Scriptures. And we ought to stop and take a few thoughtful minutes. Joseph was a man under authority. He understood the purity embodied in the law of God. He understood the sanctity of the home and the holiness of pure love, and when he thought that was transgressed, he decided to separate. But an angel came and said, “No, this is the way it’s supposed to be,” and, “This is what I want you to do.” Joseph, like Mary, in effect, says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord. This is what I’m going to do.” Being under authority was an experience and is and will forever remain an experience of God’s people. Sometimes the authority is good, sometimes the authority is bad.

 

Take your Bibles and turn to Matthew, chapter 2, verse 13. The wise men have come and gone. They have the means for what they’re going to need to do. “When the wise men had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord,” verse 13, “appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy him.’” Now, we see contrasted here, good authority and evil authority. Joseph, as a man under authority, will obey the angel again. He’s learned a life of submission to the voice of God; however, he is now pressed hard up against the abusive and unrestrained authority of Herod the Great, an insecure monarch who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone that’s a competitor for the throne.

 

Joseph leaves his home country on the heels of having left to be numbered under Roman authority. And Joseph, for what length of time we know not, leaves his family wondering about his wellbeing, and his wife’s family, if she had much of one. We know that Herod will reach out and destroy little children who have no potential, at least for many years to come. He was an old man when this happened, and he’ll leave many a mourning mother weeping, as the prophecy said, for her children, and refusing to be comforted.

 

Take your Bibles and turn over to the book of Luke, chapter 2. Jesus and His family, before they make this sojourn to Egypt, will be under the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures about the dedication and presentation of children in the temple. Luke, chapter 2, verse 1. It says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken.” This was Roman authority. Verse 21, “And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.”

 

Everywhere you turn in the Scriptures, you’re going to see the Great Controversy played out in people who exercise their authority well and people who exercise authority poorly; people who are beneficiaries of well-exercised authority and people who are suffering because of an abuse of authority. Nothing has changed, nothing will change until Jesus appears in the clouds, and we can declare with great joy that finally Jesus will sit rightfully on the throne that was given away to Lucifer and by God’s grace given back to us.

 

If we were to look up the three great temptations of Jesus, we would see that Jesus is under all of the authorities of the human experience, the laws of physiology and fatigue. He gets into a boat, and He can’t hardly stay awake, so He sleeps, and a storm rages. He’s gone almost six weeks without eating food, and the devil’s there to tempt Him to turn stones into bread, and He won’t, but He’s hungry.

 

Jesus encounters a variety of people in His ministry who believe He has authority, some who doubt He has authority. Jesus lays aside all of that which distinguished Him as the legitimate monarch of this universe and of this little globe, and Jesus comes without position, without pomp, He comes without all circumstantial glory and honor, and He walks the ordinary journey of the poor man for 30 years. And then we find Jesus on a trajectory that no other human being will ever be placed under in the degree and the intensity that He was.

 

Take your Bibles and turn back to Matthew, chapter 26. I want to look for a few moments at the crucifixion, and then I want to back up to the darkest hour. Matthew, chapter 26. Jesus, throughout his three-and-half years of ministry, will bump into various powerful entities and structures of society laws/powers. Jesus could have rightly exempted Himself from being under any of their governance, but He did not. Matthew, chapter 26, looking at verse 47, we find Jesus placing Himself under the authority of the mob. It says, “While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” There isn’t a single thing about this that can be construed to be legal, just, fair, or any other adjective of procedural justice, and yet Jesus allows Himself, against Jewish law, to be bound and judged in the dark of night. He does not deliver Himself from the relational bonds of Judas, although He appeals to Judas by pronouncing His ability to see past his betrayal, and yet Jesus allows Himself to be bound.

 

There is a momentary flash of divinity when one of Jesus’ disciples attempts to kill one of the mob but gets an ear instead, and Jesus releases Himself from the grasp of strong men, places the ear back on the side of the man’s head, but once again subjects Himself to the authority of the mob.

 

I want to read a little bit farther, verse 48, “Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him,” quite a phrase, “‘Friend.’” I want you to think about that word for just a moment. Is it an accurate description of His relationship with Judas? “‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.’”

 

And then verse 53 cannot be easily glossed over. Verse 53 is this little momentary commentary about remembering who Jesus is. They had come to the place where they can fit Jesus only into a frame, a paradigm, a structure of earthly upward mobility, “This doesn’t fit, so let’s defend Him.” But Jesus has not forgotten who He is, where He came from, and where He’s going. These are words similar to what is commented on in the Gospel of John when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, knowing who He was, where He had come from and where He was going. But this time Jesus verbalizes it. And He says, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

 

So, anywhere from 48,000 to 72,000, depending on how you register the term “legion” at what point in time in history, Jesus, with one word, could beckon for 12 legions of angels to descend from Heaven and reorder the structure of abuse that’s around Him. “Put your sword away. Remember something: I could call the angels from Heaven if I needed help,” but He didn’t.

 

When it comes to the story of another good friend, Jesus does not deliver Himself from the agony of His denial, Luke, chapter 22. I appreciated the prayer today for the lonely and for reconciliation. And if there is anybody here today who is unreconciled, this would be a good season to let the King of Heaven bridge the gap that exists between you and another individual. Luke, chapter 22, looking at verse 54, “Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance.” Verse 55, “After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, ‘This man was with Him, too.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’ A little later another saw him and said, ‘You are one of them too!’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.”

 

And this is the only one of the Gospels who makes this commentary, but there was a bit of communication without words between Jesus and Peter. It says, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Now, if you’ve never read The Desire of Ages and its account of this moment, the book would be worth buying just to read what the writer says about that look, for in that look there was no condemnation, only pity. The One to be pitied was the One bound in the kangaroo court, experiencing the wrong judgments of Caiaphas and Annas. And yet Jesus will not release Himself from being outside the realm of the relationships that He’s in, and some of those relationships are toxic and evil. And some of them, right now, are strained and you might say almost broken. But Jesus does not remove Himself from the situations of suffering, and it’s a good thing that He reminded us that as He was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, there will be times when we suffer too…wrongly, unjustly. It is in the midst of darkness that light shines the brightest. And oh, how sad that the darkness that was in Heaven that transferred itself to the garden and then found itself in the very central courts of the Sanhedrin, should be smack-dab up against the brilliancy of the brightest Light that has ever shown—Light itself, Jesus.

 

Verse 57, the Bible tells us that Peter abandoned his loyalty to Jesus, and it was painful to Jesus. Turn back to Matthew, chapter 26. I want to look for a moment at the other authority that Jesus was subject to. Jesus was first taken to Caiaphas. It was a terrible experience that He had there, none of it deserved. Matthew, chapter 26, verse 59, “Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, ‘This man stated, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”’ The high priest stood up and said to Him, ‘Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?’ But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether or not You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘You have said it yourself.’”

 

He could have stopped there while He was under this sacred oath, but it wasn’t sufficient, for there was a witness to be stated against them and this travesty of justice. And He said, “I tell you, thereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” A light of divine royalty and power shines through, and does it create a reaction? You bet it does. “Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of any witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ And they said, ‘He deserves death.’” And then I want you to see how they treat Him. “They spat in His face, they beat Him with their fists, and others slapped Him.” And on top of it all, they mocked Him, saying, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”

 

Peter will remind us that when we go to suffering in the cause of Christ, at least to most of his writers, he reminded them they’d not yet suffered as unto blood. Jesus will remind us in the Sermon on the Mount that we will be blessed when we suffer in His name. And the story of the apostles in the New Testament, singing songs and rejoicing that they’re worthy to suffer, are walking in the shadow of One who suffered at the wrong hands of authority. How many of our Adventist pioneers, how many of our faithful missionaries, have been abused for nothing more than taking the name of Jesus wherever they went? If we think that when Paul made his Nazarene vow and all the suffering that he suffered as the result of taking bad council from the G.C. committee of his day or the division committee of his day, if we think he was the first and the last, we ought to wake up and say to ourselves, “Like Jesus, there will be moments when we suffer under injustice or misunderstanding, or both, but that doesn’t mean the darkness can’t still be pierced by the light.”

 

He was taken to Pilate, chapter 27. Let’s look at verses 1 and onward. “Now when the morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and he returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and he hung himself.” Verse 11, “Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say.’”

 

Quite a bold thing to say to a provincial leader who has to constantly deal with the rebellious nature of an unsubdued group of people. This will be the way that the Pharisees leverage the death sentence against Jesus, and yet Jesus is not willing to deny it when He is speaking with one who is less informed on a religious basis, and less advantaged than the children of light. “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and the elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.”

 

Last week when I finished this sermon, after a while I found myself in this corridor leading out under the pergola, and before I got there, there was a couple waiting to visit with me, an older couple, a couple that have served this church for probably 40 years; they’re retired now. They just wanted to visit with me for a little bit. I mean, to tell you, anybody that serves this church for 40 years with a sweet, beautiful spirit, has truly entered into a special regard by this pastor right here, especially teachers. As they visited with me, they shared stories, beautiful stories, although some of them weren’t so beautiful. But the way they shared them was beautiful. They made an interesting statement to me. I can’t get it exactly verbatim, but I’ll be close; they said, “You know, Pastor, it’s not our job to fight for our rights.” Now there’s something about truth that ought to be enunciated, but there’s a point in time in which fighting for your rights is fighting the wrong battle.

 

God is not off His throne. The Scripture says, “He sits encircled above the earth.” There are times when truth should be spoken, even if it, like Stephen, is writing your own death sentence. And there are times when you should be silent and let the circumstances say what they must, and God may send another to your defense. In this case, there was none. Jesus would speak a word to Pilate, but He would say nothing to the scribes and the Pharisees. they had no interest in justice and truth. They had no desire to be of a true mind, and Jesus left them to the darkness of who they were. But Pilate himself, understanding the very different natures of the two, one individual and group he was dealing with, was amazed to see the Son of God with a stately, dignified bearing, not bothering to respond to their attempt to pluck the insecurities or the fears of Jesus. Jesus won’t answer them, and Pilate is amazed.

 

Sometimes the best approach we can take is just be quiet. Pilate finds out, however, that He belongs really to Herod. Take your Bibles and turn over again to the book of Luke, chapter 23. So Pilate pawns Him off on a local guy. Luke, chapter 23, looking at verse 8, “Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.” That’s not a very positive commentary on a leader. It’s got a little bit of that human curiosity, like going to a roadside circus and wanting to see the railroad car, the semi-truck car that has the freak show in it. “He questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.” This is interesting now. “And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.”

 

After this, Jesus was turned over to the Roman soldiers. They didn’t care about people very much. Their hearts were locked down as a function of their role. And there Jesus was beaten and mocked, scourged, a crown of thorns placed on His head.

 

Turn back a page to Luke 22. But the darkest hour came before all of this. Verse 39, they have broken bread, they have walked across the Kidron Valley, they have sung a hymn, but as they entered the garden, as they come up to the Mount of Olives and they enter the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus goes strangely silent, and it bothers and disturbs the disciples. Verse 40, “When He arrived at the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’  And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’”

 

We know from the Gospel narratives this happened three times. What you need to understand is that every time Jesus knelt in that garden, like a woman coming closer to giving birth to a baby, the pangs of anguish and suffering intensified. And Jesus in the first hour was strained and stressed beyond anything the disciples had ever seen. In the second hour, Jesus began bleeding great drops of blood, and in the third hour the cup trembled in His hand. In every one of those intervals between the two, Jesus came to His friends hoping that somebody would say an encouraging word, but all they could do is barely notice what was going on from their stupor.

 

And finally, Luke tells us, and even though some of the early manuscripts don’t include these verses, The Desire of Ages affirms them as true, that finally, verse 43, when there was no human being to wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, God sent the one who replaced Lucifer. An angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. Now this encounter is the pivotal encounter. Jesus is there facing the frailty of His humanity, wondering if He can go through with it. And terrible things are happening; He’s been abandoned or will be soon, and He knows it; He’s prophesied it.

 

There, as He’s in the garden, the devil whispers things like this into His ear, “What is to be gained by this sacrifice? How hopeless is the guilt and the ingratitude of men? The people who claim to be above all others, Your people, with spiritual advantages, have rejected You. They’re seeking to destroy You! It’s not just rejection; they can’t stand to have You in their presence. You, the Center and Seal.” I’m taking the words of The Desire of Ages and working my sentiments around them, but these are substantively hers, “You, the Seal and the Center of the promises made to them, they’re Your supposedly peculiar people. One of Your own disciples, who’s listened to Your instruction, has been foremost in church activities, will betray You. And one of Your most zealous followers will deny You. All will forsake You.”

 

“And Christ’s whole being,” I’m quoting now, specifically, “abhorred the thought. That those whom He had undertaken to save, those whom He loved so much, should unite,” listen to these words, “unite in the plots of Satan, this pierced His soul. The conflict was terrible.” In parenthesis, I’ve placed in the midst of the paragraph my own commentary: (Everybody looked like they’re going over to Satan’s side, and Jesus has to ask Himself, “Is this really worth doing?”) “Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life.”

 

“God suffered with His Son. Angels beheld the Savior’s agony.” [Page] 693, The Desire of Ages, “They saw their Lord enclosed by legions of satanic forces. His nature weighed down with a shuddering, mysterious dread. There was silence in heaven. No harp was touched. Could mortals have viewed the amazement of the angelic host as in silent grief they watched the Father separating His beams of light, love, and glory from His beloved Son, they would better understand how offensive in His sight is sin.

 

“The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer. Angels had longed to bring relief to the divine sufferer, but this might not be. No way of escape was found for the Son of God. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, when the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of the sufferer, the heavens opened.” This was the darkest moment in the history of man.

 

Jesus, the God-man, not exactly like us, but yes, like us. Not just mind, body and soul, He was God, mind, body and soul. He was in most every way exactly as we are, and yet not quite as we are, for He was fully God and fully man. And so there Jesus, with the weight of my sins on His shoulders, with the weight of the darkness of my sins crowding out the light of His Father and thinking that nobody, nobody, not one can understand or appreciate. But fortunately, God opened up a shaft of light from Heaven down to that hell of Gethsemane, and in the midst of the stormy darkness of the crisis, the mighty angel who stands in God’s presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, he comes to the side of Christ. The angel didn’t come to take the cup away, but he came to strengthen Him with the assurance of the Father’s love. And he told Him three things, and I’m going to share with you what they are.

 

Number one, Gabriel told Jesus, he pointed to the open heavens where there was a ray of light, and he told Jesus that souls would be saved as a result of His sufferings. Praise God, Hallelujah. Even though everything around Him looked bleak and dark, and betrayal and denial and hatred and murderous intent was in the minds of many, Gabriel, while Jesus is looking up and He can see a shaft of light, says, “Souls will be saved as a result of your sufferings.”

 

Number two, Gabriel told Him that the Father was greater and more powerful than Satan, and that His death would result in the displacement of Satan as ruler of this world. It looked like defeat, but it was really victory; it was full of suffering under the abusive authority of His own family, the Roman government, and the denial and betrayal of social institutions called friendship and brotherhood.

 

And the last thing that Gabriel told Jesus was that the kingdom of this world would be given back to the saints of the Most High. And Jesus made His decision, and He arose, and He went out to meet the mob. He awoken his friends for the last time, and as He’s waking them up, the sounds of the mob is upon them.

 

Now in closing, I just want to read a few sentences; I don’t want you to turn, I just want you to listen. Just listen, “If there’s any encouragement in Christ,” if, “if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit,” and, “if there is any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind.” Now we may wrestle over theological subject matter. We may wrestle over points of view and perspective on religious topics. We may even find ourselves under the influence of one who disagrees with us and has power over us. But Paul’s appeal is to make his joy complete, “by being of the same mind and maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one [purpose].” Don’t do anything from the insecurity of selfishness and empty conceit, but with humility of mind think of the guy sitting next to you or the woman down the pew from you as more important than yourself.

 

Don’t look out for your own personal interests only, but look out for the interests of others. And have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Jesus. Although He was exalted in form, He was God. It wasn’t anything that He hung onto. He didn’t regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, which, by the way, is exactly what Judas’ 30 pieces of silver could get you in Exodus. “I’m being made in the likeness of a man, and being found in appearance as a man.” He wasn’t fully exactly like you and me; He was somewhat different, but He experienced with an intensity beyond anything we’ll ever know the temptations we face. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.”

 

And while Paul will not enunciate and extrapolate, while Paul won’t go on to declare all of the unholy and ungodly alliances and the abuse of authority that led to this, the Gospel writers do it for us. “For this reason, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every [other] name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.”

 

Ellen White says in The Desire of Ages that when Jesus was born, every element of sin that could be launched on the human race was launched. And she also says, praise God and Hallelujah, that there was a flood of grace poured out on this earth that could not be stopped until the day Jesus appears to take us home. That grace is enough. You may suffer in the name of Christ; you surely will. Have you ever been a child? Do you think the parents always got the authority thing just right? You will suffer at the hands of your boss; it might be that your boss is an ordained minister. It might be that your boss is a commissioned minister. It might be that your boss is a president of some religious institution, and you might suffer. Injustice might be your lot.

 

Just remember this: kingly power shines the brightest in the darkness. In the beauty of Christ, there need be no discomfiture of your soul. You are not out of the purview of Heaven. He sees what’s going on in your life. He knows what you’re suffering. He knows where wrong exercises of authority have caused you pain, and He is still on the throne. But before He got there, He walked the valley of sorrow, suffering, and abuse. So, if you follow the bloodstained feet of Jesus, you’ll probably go over some of the same ground, and you’ll end up in the same place, with the same joy, and the same hope.

 

Welcome to the human race, where we don’t treat each other the way we should all the time. And welcome to the hope of Jesus, where some day it won’t be so. And until then, the light that shone above the hills Bethlehem can still shine into our heart and be reflected out of our heart. And the world will take notice, just like Pilate. The world will take notice that there is something that’s not completely human about us; that beautiful, divine nature of Jesus will be showing through, and souls will be won, and the Savior will be glorified.

 

May God bless us as we remember how Jesus left it all behind. It would have been infinite humiliation just to come like Adam, but He came so much lower than Adam. And He’s leading us to the high ground of the new Kingdom with a new experience in our heart. May God bless us as we make that journey today.

 

Lord, it’s one thing to think back on the story of Your Son’s sojourn on Earth and to arraign those that had charge over Him in the bar of justice as guilty, abusive. It’s another thing to know, Lord, that it was our sins, my sins, it was my voice and my actions, no different from those who abandoned Him and abused Him 2,000 years ago. And to think, Lord, that You should suffer abuse under the authority of my unconverted heart who rejects and refuses the purity of Heaven but in your patience and goodness has won me anyway. There is not a one of us, Lord, who has not abused You and done with our race what was literally done by our ancestors. We were there, Lord, in the same way we were in the loins of Abraham. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for the restoration. Thank You for the reconciliation. Thank you for the patience. May we now offer it to each other and to a world who may never have experienced it and probably doesn’t understand it. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.  

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