Mary thought Jesus was the gardener so she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, please show me where you put him and I will get him.” That’s love. Maybe Mary weighed 110 pounds. Let’s assume Jesus weighed 180, and John tells us that Nicodemus and Joseph had wrapped His body in 75 additional pounds of aloe and spices. So this little woman was willing to heft a corpse weighing over 250 pounds on her shoulder and carry it back inside the tomb. That’s love. Her hope was shattered, and her faith was absent, but her love was still there. John 20:1-18.
GET IN THE BOAT Do not let us be a church that rows away into eternity covering our eyes and ears so we can’t hear the screams of the people who are lost and dying around us. Let’s be a church that pursues them, that loves our neighbor in such a way that we can look at them and say, “There is plenty of room for you. Get in the boat.” Matthew 13:1-9.
WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE? It is hard to find authenticity in this world. It’s hard to know what is true, it is hard to know what’s genuine. It seems as if that all of us are expecting some sort of angle. Even the way that you watch the news, even the way that you deal with others. At times we like we have some sort of guard up against our neighbor, against those around us, because we are assuming that they are working with some type of angle in mind. Mark 10:35-45.
JESUS’ REMOVAL FROM THE CROSS The Bible tells us that Jesus had two unlikely undertakers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. You might expect family members or disciples to step forward and claim the body, but instead these two respected members of the Jewish Sanhedrin collected the body of Jesus from the cross. It was not an easy or a pretty job. First, they had to climb up and either remove the nails or removed Jesus hands and feet from the nails embedded in the cross. Then they had to lower His mangled body. Jesus’ back had been ripped apart with a whip, Water and blood had flowed from the wound in His side. Then they had to remove the razor-sharp crown of thorns. John 19:38-42.
DEATH BY INCONVENIENCE To me it is the height of hypocrisy that the Jewish leaders were so concerned about sunset messing with their religious holiday that they appealed to Pilate to hasten the death of the three men being crucified. They didn’t want a bloody body to inconvenience them from their religious acts. John 19:28-37.
KNOWING Can you imagine living your whole life anticipating the most horrible death possible? No doubt Jesus saw hundreds of Roman crucifixions as He was growing up. He must have thought, “That’s me someday.” Every time Joseph planed a rough piece of wood, Jesus probably thought about the cross. Every time Joseph pounded nails in wood, Jesus surely thought of the last time His human ears would hear that sound. John 19:28-30.
INCONCEIVABLE The Gospel writers don’t go into minute detail about the crucifixion because all of their First-Century readers had witnessed the horror of crucifixion with their own eyes. We really don’t have a modern frame of reference for it. It would be like me going back to the time of Jesus and saying there was a head-on collision on Loop 49 and none of the passengers were wearing seatbelts. You get the picture—but they wouldn’t. We can’t begin to imagine the wickedness and cruelty of Roman crucifixion. John 19:17-27.
Are you going to be like the first thief or are you going to be like the second? Are you going to be like the soldiers who are just gambling for their eternity? Or are you going to be like the first thief who says, “Listen, I just need you to get me through this.” John 19:17-27.
With that act of symbolically washing his hands, Pilate thought he would be vindicated. He thought that he would never be associated with the death of Jesus. But let me show you what is tragically ironic. The one man who wanted to be absolved of any guilt is the name that has been spoken millions of times connecting him to the death of Jesus. I’m referring to the Apostle’s Creed. This creed has been recited millions of times, and is being recited today in Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and many other churches. John 19:5-16.
The crown of thorns was a prophecy of the majestic crown Jesus will wear when He returns. When Jesus came the first time, He came as the gentle Jesus, meek and mild. When He returns it will be a conquering King. When He came the first time it was as the Lamb of God, when He returns it will be as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. John 19:1-5.
REAL IDENTITY Barabbas was a bad dude. But he got the break of a life-time. An innocent man took his place on the cross. I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. We are all guilty sinners. And we deserve to receive God’s judgment against sin. But like Barabbas, we have a substitute. Jesus died in our place. John 18:33-40.
THE PATH We see two completely different stories between Judas and Peter. Both men failed. Both slipped into sin. But Judas hid and went into the shadows of the night to end his life. Peter ran toward the light in order to have life. Which path are you on? John 18:15-18; 25-27
FALLING BEHIND Peter followed Jesus at a distance to the courtyard of Caiaphas’ house. That’s an indication that we find ourselves in trouble when we don’t follow the Lord closely. If you followed the Lord closely at one time, but you have hung back and now you follow the Lord at a distance, before long you find yourself hanging out with the wrong crowd. And soon you find yourself doing the wrong thing. John 18:15-18; 25-27
CUP OF HORRORS What was in that cup that Jesus found to be so unpleasant? To drink a cup means to go through an experience. Inside that cup Jesus knew there was terrible physical pain. He knew over the next few hours He would be tortured and crucified. Also inside that cup was isolation. All His disciples would forsake Him, and He would face the cross alone. Even on the cross, He endured isolation from His Father. But I think the most horrifying content of that cup were sins of all the world. He would bear all the sins in His body on the cross. All the lies, murders, rapes, and hatred of the world would stain His sinless soul. John 18:1-11.
UNITY IS NOT UNIFORMITY When you look at unity in the church as described in Revelation, you see a whole lot of different flavors. John describes one body of worshipers at the throne of Jesus: a single multitude, united, yet a multitude made of people from every distinct nation, tribe, people, and language. United, but not uniform. Full of flavor, variety, and uniqueness, stirred together to worship the one true King. John 17:20-26
We can only be satisfied with the joy that comes from Christ. If we want to be good soldiers for Christ, we can’t find satisfaction in the world. We have to understand that we are going to be set apart, we are going to be sanctified to continue growth, but always, when we are growing as a church we will always be going as a church with the gospel of Jesus. John 17:11-19.
PASCAL’S WAGER Is death the end and there is no afterlife as Dr. Stephen Hawking claimed or as Billy Graham said, is there an afterlife where we may spend eternity with God in a place called heaven? Both of them cannot be correct. And the most important decision in your short life is to decide which position is correct. John 17:1-12.
THE FRIEND At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that starting that night, He would call them friends, not servants. It is a revolutionary truth that we can be friends with our Creator. Abraham was called a friend of God. The Bible said Moses spoke to God face to face as a man speaks to a friend. When Jesus was told that Lazarus had died, He said, “Our friend, Lazarus has gone to sleep, but I’m going to wake him up.” John 15:12-27. Audio TBA.
The world is watching the church right now like never before. This is an opportunity for us to show a true joy. You can shut down the church house, but you never take away the joy that is found in Jesus Christ, because our joy is not dependent on our circumstance or what is happening around us. Our joy is found in the fact that Jesus Christ took the plight of man and made a way for us to be reunited with God once again. John 15:9-17.
PAUSE FOR PEACE The world doesn’t understand peace. People talk about world peace, and that’s a noble goal. It’s always a good answer in a beauty contest. But according to an article in The New York Times, out of almost 4,000 years of recorded human history, there have only been about 200 years of peace—and those years of peace are just pauses for the armies to reload. John 14:27-31.
CAUTION When we petition the Lord, we need to be very careful about how we are using the Lord’s name. One of the most elusive ways we can use the Lord’s name in vain is in our prayer life. We are praying for things that are not of God’s desire or His will. We need to be cautious of how we pray in the name of the Lord. John 14:12-26.
ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY One reason people are on edge is because there is so much uncertainty. What if I, or someone I love contract the virus? Am I still going to have a job? Will I be able to retire? When will this pandemic be over? Will life ever be the same again? There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now. If we just could get some kind of assurance that life will work out—then maybe we can hold on. I want to remind you than in the midst of so much uncertainty there are some things you can be absolutely certain about: God loves you and Jesus died to give you eternal life. John 14:1-11.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN After the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized him, they were so fired up they got up and returned to Jerusalem–seven miles. It’s uphill in that direction, but I can imagine they literally ran. What had been a road of despair was now a road of rejoicing. When they found the eleven disciples, they couldn’t keep silent. “It’s true! We’ve seen the Lord! He is ALIVE!” And there was celebration on the first Easter evening—and we’ve been celebrating ever since! Their hearts were on fire. The spark from one heart ignited the hearts of others. Luke 24:13-29.
MISTAKEN People make two big mistakes about what they think love is. Some think love is a feeling. Although love produces feelings, Jesus taught us that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. He chose to lay down His life. Some people make the mistake of thinking love is some uncontrollable force. “I just fell out of love with that person.” You don’t fall out of love; you fall out of trees. Or they say, “I couldn’t help it, I fell in love with that person.” You don’t fall in love; you fall in holes. John 13:31-35.
COLLEGE DROPOUT Judas spent three years attending Jesus University. His mind was full of biblical truth. Judas heard all the parables and teachings of Jesus. He knew more about what Jesus taught than we do because only a small percentage of what Jesus did and said are in the Gospel accounts. Judas’ problem wasn’t information, it was transformation. He hadn’t been transformed. John 13:18-30; 36-38.
SECURITY Once you come to Christ, that relationship is secure forever. God is your Father and you are a child of God. Nothing can change the relationship. But as we walk in a dirty world, we sometimes still stumble into sin. So to stay in fellowship with the Lord we come to Him and regularly confess our sins to Him. John 13:1-17.
MAMA BEAR MENTALITY Have you considered how love can drive out fear? There are several stories about supernatural courage and strength that takes place in a mother when her children are in danger of any sort. It is similar in our relationship: God’s love for us helps remove fear in our lives. Knowing that God loves us and that all things work together for good to them that love Him, we find strength to face fear with faith. 2 Timothy 1:7. Audio: David O. Dykes; Transcript: Michael Gossett.
PHARISEE FEAR There is no such thing as a private or secret follower of Jesus. According to John, this does not and cannot exist. The person who disguises their faith is the self-proclaimed believer who has an intellectual faith but not one that has taken root in their heart. This group of followers chose to fear the Pharisees instead of following the Savior. John 12:37-50.
POLAR OPPOSITES There are three different ways people react to the preaching of the cross. (1) Some are repelled by the thought of a messy, bloody cross. They want a nice clean, sanitary religion. (2) Others have no response. They have no interest in hearing about how a man died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago. (3) For many, the cross is like a magnet, drawing them to it. John 12:27-36.
REDEEMER When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Jews were looking for another military Messiah. But Jesus rode a donkey to show that He wasn’t a Hammer, He was a Redeemer. A radical revolutionary kills others for his cause but a loving Redeemer lays down His life so that others may live. John 12:12-19.
LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF FELLOWSHIP Jesus gave Lazarus life, then He gave Him liberty, and now Lazarus is enjoying a fellowship meal with Jesus. Some people think the Christian life is like a funeral but it’s more like a feast. He invites you from the spiritual tomb of your lostness to the spiritual table of fellowship with Him. John 11:28-44.
WHEN YOU CAN’T JUST SIT THERE Sometimes when we experience a disappointment or a setback, we want to hide out and just be alone. It was part of the Jewish mourning custom that Martha should have stayed in her home sitting Shiva for seven days after Lazarus died. But when she got word that Jesus was on the way, she couldn’t sit still. She ran to Jesus. John 11:17-27.
THE LAZARUS LESSON Jesus’ delay in going to Lazarus was a lesson He was trying to teach His disciples and us—that death is like sleeping. It is not to be feared any more than lying down and pulling up the covers under your chin to sleep. Jesus took the sting of fear out of death. John 11:1-16.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE The truth about Jesus isn’t just something to believe. It isn’t a set of facts to inform you, it is life-giving truth that transforms you. Belief that doesn’t affect your behavior isn’t true belief. If you believe Jesus is God it will affect the way you approach your marriage, your singleness, or being a parent or grandparent. It will transform your job, your hobbies, and how you handle God’s money. And believing in Jesus will affect your relationship with everyone you meet. John 10:29-42.
WORKING NON-STOP Have you ever started something you couldn’t finish? I have and probably so have you. But God has never started something He couldn’t finish. He began a good work in you and He will persevere until the day of Jesus: That means either the day you die and meet Jesus or the day Jesus returns. Either way, He won’t stop working on you. John 10:22-29.
Jesus knew He was going to die, but He also knew the time and the place He would die. He was in complete control. That’s why He said He would lay down His life for the sheep. They couldn’t kill Him until He was ready to lay down his life. He said, “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down willingly.” John 10:10-21.
IT’S PERSONAL Our Good Shepherd deals with each one of us individually. Have you noticed all the personal encounters Jesus had in this study? He was one-on-one with Nicodemus. He spoke to the woman at the well. He spoke to the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. He dealt personally with the man who was blind from birth. Jesus redeems individuals, not groups. John 10:1-10.
FRIENDS OR JESUS? So if you are going to stand up for Jesus, prepare to be rejected. Many Christians, especially young people and young adults, can’t resist the peer pressure. They want to be accepted by their friends, so they make a decision to reject the truth of the Bible to go along with the popular culture’s definition of truth. If you stand for truth, like this blind man did, you are going to be kicked out of the popular crowd. John 9:13-38.
When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He didn’t hang around and wait for their answer. He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He kept on walking. They had to act at that moment or the opportunity would be gone. Audio: Michael Gossett; Transcript: David O. Dykes.
SEPARATION ANXIETY You and I have an understanding of what death is, but death is essentially known as separation. This is the moment where the spiritual part of the person is separated from their physical part. The question for most people is not necessarily about the spiritual and physical separation but rather the concern is what is going to take place after this separation occurs. And this is where most of the focus of all human ideology comes. John 8:48-59.
SPIN DOCTOR The first recorded words of the devil are found in Genesis 3:1. He asked Eve a question. “Did God REALLY say you can’t eat from ANY tree in the Garden?” That’s not what God had said. So we see from the first that the devil tries to twist God’s words. And the devil always puts a question mark about the statements of God.
DEALING IN ABSOLUTES Today, truth is subjective and personal. People say, “There are no absolute truths. Whatever I feel to be true is my truth. And my truth may not be your truth.” But think about the contradiction. For someone to insist that there are no absolute truths is a statement of an absolute truth.
THE JESUS FLASHLIGHT Just as we need a good light to read, we need the illumination of Jesus to empower us to understand the Word of God. Before a person comes to Christ, their understanding is darkened. But as they begin to truly seek the Lord, He begins to illuminate their minds. The light comes on. I’ve had people tell me they read the Bible for years and I couldn’t understand it, and then one day it was as if someone turned on the light and suddenly it started to make sense.” That is the illuminating power of Jesus.
What’s that in your hand today? Is it a rock and you find yourself being obsessed with a sense of always being cynical and hypercritical? You can’t have an open hand of grace as long as you’re holding on to a rock in your fist. The message the Holy Spirit has for some of you today is to drop your rocks.
If you want to know what’s filling a person’s heart listen to what they talk about. If it’s a certain music filling their heart, they’ll talk about it. If it’s a hobby like golf or horseshoes they’ll talk about it. If it’s the latest television series, they’ll talk about it. If their heart is full of Jesus, they’ll talk about Him. I don’t mean that’s all you’ll talk about—but if you never or seldom speak about Jesus, you need to check your heart.
Those who know God intimately have come to see that He often allows us to face adversity in order to conform us to the image of Christ. God determined from the beginning that we should be shaped into the image of His Son. Part of this plan involves the painful removal of those things in our lives that don’t reflect this image.
I can stand up here and say anything, but that doesn’t make it true. I can say, “I’m a tree. I’m a flowering pear tree.” And if I insisted on saying that you’d say, “No, you’re not a flowering tree. You’re a blooming idiot.” The reason I’m not a tree is that I don’t have the inner nature of a tree. A person can say, “I’m a Christian.” But saying doesn’t make it so unless they have had their hearts changed by Jesus.
The manger is empty so we can be filled with the truth about God. The cross is empty so we can be filled with forgiveness. And the tomb is empty so we can be filled with hope. To put it another way, the manger, the cross, and the tomb are all empty so that Heaven can be filled with people who trust Jesus.
We live in a culture where the world, the devil and the flesh are doing everything possible to draw us away from Jesus. We can be drawn in two different directions. Have you ever been at the ocean and you’re in the surf near the shore? The waves are pulling you toward shore and the undertow is pulling you in the other direction. On the surface, there is so much in our culture trying to distract you and draw you away from Jesus.
We live in a hungry world. Every creature has an open mouth wanting to be fed. From the baby bird in the nest to the eagle soaring in the sky; from the minnow in the creek to the whale in the ocean; from the mouse nibbling on a crumb to the mighty elephant in jungle; every creature has to be fed. In fact, most creatures in the animal world devote most of their lives to finding food. But physical food only satisfies us temporarily.
When the disciples were caught in the storm at sea, they couldn’t see Jesus, but the good news was that Jesus could see the disciples. When you’re going through a dark struggle, you may look around and ask, “God where are you?” You may not think you can see God, but you can be certain that God sees you and He cares for you.
In the miracle of the fishes and loaves, there were five thousand men, plus women and children. All of them had been following Jesus all day. It was late and they were tired and hungry. On the surface, you would think their main problem was a lack of food. But that was just the surface problem; there was a deeper spiritual problem.
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding of what eternal life is. Many of us grew up on the good old King James Version which often translated it “everlasting life.” So it’s easy to get the idea that eternal life is talking about a length of existence. Eternal life really is a quality of life.
I’m always looking for ways to help you understand how the Holy Spirit lives in you. I usually drink coffee in the morning, but a few weeks ago, I was in a restaurant for breakfast and I ordered a cup of hot tea. The server brought a cup of hot water with a tea bag on the saucer beside the cup. I unwrapped the tea bag and started dipping it into the hot water. In that moment, the power of that tea was infused into the water and it changed it. Within a few minutes, the plain, tasteless water was transformed into something totally different. It looked, smelled and tasted differently. Just having the tea bag beside the cup of water didn’t change anything. It was only when it was in the water that it infused it. I was reminded that I am totally incapable of reproducing the life of Jesus in my personality. In order to live the Christian life, His life and power has to be infused into my personality. When you put a tea bag in hot water, you don’t even call it water any more. You call it tea.
Are you willing to leave your comfort zone to trust God completely? God didn’t save you to make your comfortable, but you make you obedient. You’ll never go on a mission trip is you’re not willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start tithing until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start travailing in prayer until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never vocally share your faith with others until you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never volunteer to serve the Lord if you aren’t willing to leave your comfort zone.
We are surrounded by people who are living miserable lives. They have no peace, no joy, and no hope of life getting any better. It’s our job to tell them, “You know, I used to be like that, but what a wonderful change in my life has occurred since Jesus came into my heart.” If you’ve been changed, you’ll want to share your story.
Sometimes we fall into the same trap of thinking that worship is about a place, practice, or posture. It is not. It’s about the Lord. We call this the Worship Center, but there’s nothing more holy or sacred about this place than your prayer closet where you worship the Lord all alone. Or there’s nothing more sacred about this place you’re your kitchen table where you have family devotions. My automobile is a worship center, because every Sunday morning on my way here I am singing praises to God.
Whether you are looking for satisfaction in possessions, pleasure, prestige, or power–you will never be satisfied. All those pursuits are like the liquid water Jesus spoke about: You can drink it and feel refreshed momentarily but you will still get thirsty again. But He offers something so radical and powerful that once you experience it, you will find absolute and total satisfaction.