The Bare Soul - November 15, 2009
Looking for Jesus

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Looking for Jesus" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on November 12, 2009.

Looking for Jesus - November 12, 2009

Matthew 28:5 - The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified."

Many today claim they are seekers after truth. Of these, some will say they are looking for something to believe in. Others might say that they've looked in churches or synagogues and they just can't find God. For these and all hoping to encounter truth, finding God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ may be as simple as not where they look but how. Has the heart been tenderized so that humility fuels the search? Or, is it an intellectual endeavor that seeks persuasion of the mind before a so-called rational decision can be made? Looking for Jesus will generally result in a jaded outcome if powered by the mind. However, an honest search for Him through the heart will always result in finding Him and His Father above (Jeremiah 29:13). Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus gave their love not just to a "good" man nor to a woman's son, but to their Lord and Savior. Through this awakening of His true identity, they would find Him to be so much more after his crucifixion than they could possibly understand before that fateful day.

Matthew 28:1-15 juxtaposes presumably two or more Roman guards and two Israeli women in mourning. The scene in the garden that morning might have been as simple as one guard coming to relieve another at first watch. The women coming to the tomb would have been of no particular significance to those who might have beheld them in the early dawn light. However, the extraordinary exchange after a sudden earthquake undoubtedly made the guards take notice, not only of the supernatural manifestation taking place, but also the honor the angel bestowed on these women. Matthew 28:4 tells us that the guards shook with fear when they beheld the angel. However, the heavenly being had not come to speak to them but to the lowly, mournful women. God's word through this angelic being is first one of calming to those grieving the loss of their Lord, and most poignantly to not be afraid. The scripture is very clear that the angel spoke to the women exclusively, and not to the soldiers. Fear was an appropriate response for the guards and one they should have embraced in a long term manner. They would have been much better off had they seized the moment for its true significance, as we shall see. However, the angel first comforted and then consoled by revealing to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus that God knew why they were at the tomb. That even in their extreme loss and seeming desperation, they had still sought out the love of their lives though their longing seemed hopeless. They had quite literally thrown off any expectation other than spending time mourning their loss over the broken body of their crucified Lord. But then the miraculous transpired! The angel announced that indeed Christ had risen and that He would meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:6-7). As stated in the following verse (Matthew 28:8), the women held on to their fear with obvious reverence over what was happening while also the scripture tells us that they had great joy! What a marvelous turn of events as they hurried off to report these things to the disciples!

However, what of the guards? What was their response to being witnesses of the greatest event ever to happen to humankind? While the scripture is not clear, other than they were fearful at the sight of the angel, we can surmise their state of mind and heart by their final decisions regarding their angelic visitation. While Matthew 28:4 is the only verse describing the soldier's reaction at the tomb, their report and responses to the Jewish hierarchy is most telling. Matthew 28:11 tells us that the guards merely reported "all that had happened" to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). The events that follow are not surprising in light of the denial of the Pharisee rulers of Jesus' divinity. Instead of seeking and looking for Jesus themselves since they had first-hand information that He had indeed risen, they chose instead to gloss over it and deny this momentous event. They rationalized with their minds the consequences of admitting their wrong in crucifying the Savior of the world, and decided that the best thing to do would be to act like it never happened. Sadly, we read that the guards also joined in the Jew's complicity by taking a bribe and agreeing to say that they had fallen asleep while His body was stolen away in the night (Matthew 28:13-15). Having witnessed an empty tomb and an angelic proclamation, they disavowed their own integrity and sought Him not. They could have just as easily forsaken their post and followed the women to Galilee, but it was not to be. They had reasoned with their minds and allowed their covetous hearts to remain hard rather than allowing God to tenderize their hearts in the moment.

We all know people like the Roman guards. Many of us were once like them. Some of us may yet be. God has more than once encountered such as these in a supernatural, spiritual manner and yet their hearts remain hard to God's patient wooing. Many have dutifully shown up at church, week after week, and have listened to countless sermons on the resurrected power of Jesus and have left unchanged. They, like the soldiers, have not been looking for Jesus with their hearts but have been casual observers while God is in their very midst. All around them, God is saving, healing, encouraging, loving others yet they overlook the divine and the supernatural God because they are so self-absorbed in their own rationalizations. Their minds have allowed them to disseminate and "report" on what they have seen in a carnal manner, telling themselves that God may be moving in others but He can't or won't in their lives. As their minds and intellect report to their own Pharisaical heart, this hardened corrupt beast full of the nature of sin will blaspheme and deny the resurrection power of Jesus Christ every time. The unyielded heart will always be at enmity toward God. It is no wonder the Pharisees and the Roman guards did what they did in Christ time, just as there is little doubt what those will do who don't look for Jesus with all their heart. They are doomed to be casual observers as the soldiers, selling their souls for an opportunity to appease those in power over their lives. Beloved, if you are one of these that only knows Jesus from a far -- if you are one that can "report" on what God has said about Him yet you have not pursued Him, there is still time to change. Don't be like those who sought the approval of men but rather look for Jesus until you find Him. Decide right here and now, that life lived without the fullness and joy that only Jesus Christ can give is a wasted life -- it's nothing more than a sold out life to sin and eternal damnation. For only as we look for Jesus shall we find Him, and only as we search with our whole heart will we encounter the greatest, deepest, fullest relationship known to humankind. Blessed be His Name forever!

Lord Jesus, we all must come to the tomb of despair to look for You as the risen Lord. Let us not come with the evil beast of intellect, but let us come with open, tender hearts. There we will encounter the blessed assurance of Your resurrection. Lord, give us eyes to see as we look toward You and Your mighty saving power. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

 

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