16th Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 22
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thought of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Harvest time – conjures up all sorts of images – of fields full of corn – Farmers in their combine Harvesters – tractors towing carts piled high with – potatoes – turnips – and sugar beet
But probably the most familiar image of all – for Christians is Jesus’ parable of the Sower – A Farmer sowing His seeds – wherever there is any hope that some might grow – on the footpath – on rocky soil – amongst thorns – and on good ground
In our NT reading Jesus is doing some sowing – John tells us He is talking to – " Jews who had believed Him" – who had expressed a desire to become disciples – but as our reading shows – they were more like the dry and barren soil – of the footpath an rocks – than good soil –
we are going to look at what Jesus is telling them – and at their response – to see if it helps us in our discipleship –
In verse 33 – Jesus says –
" If you stand by my teaching , you are truly my Disciples ……..you will know the truth, the truth will set you free”
Christian discipleship begins with the belief that Jesus is telling us the truth – about the love of God – and the problems of sin – it starts with the realisation that we need to change – and follow God’s way of doing things
but Jesus warns us that beginning well is not enough – we have to progress to the end – stand by His teaching throughout the whole of our lives – despite the difficulties we encounter –
All Christians are learners – what ever progress we make – we have to realise we are constantly in need of fresh additions – through prayer – and studying our bibles – its not about reading a passage once and saying that’s it – we have to go back and read it again and again – in order to really understand what Jesus is telling us
Its also about listening – when we say God is getting to us – its not because He is communicating better – its because we are listening better – we are getting through the static – and tuning in to God’s message
the reward for our perseverance is that He will reveal more and more about Himself to us –
and with that revelation and understanding comes obedience – and response – the disciple is the learner who learns in order that he may do –and encourage others – the truth that Jesus brings is not for intellectual appreciation – or study – its designed for action –
Point 2 So what is the truth Jesus is talking about?
Jesus brings us the truth about God’s purpose for each one of us – He shows us what is really important – and what is not – about God and about life –
He answers our most fundamental questions – what do we give our life to? – what priority do we give our careers? – our lifestyle – money and possessions? – how much of our lives do we give to God?
These were just the sort of questions Nehemiah had to face – when he heard the news of what was happening to the Israelites in Jerusalem –
Nearly 100 years had passed since the Jews had returned to Jerusalem – they rebuilt the Temple – but the city had barely been occupied and was in need of a wall
compared with their other problems – building a wall might not seem so terribly important – but – in those days a city without a wall was easy pickings for robbers
the Jews were concerned for their security and had scattered among the other nationalities in the surrounding villages – more Jews lived in the villages than in the city – they were in danger of losing their identity and language – but more importantly their religion – and being absorbed in to the cultures of their neighbours
Nehemiah prayed to God for help – he was a cupbearer to the Persian Emperor – one of the highest positions in the Persian court – yet he took his career – and probably his life into his hands – and spoke to the king about his concerns – and his wish to leave the court – and go to Jerusalem
and as we see from the reading – the king approved his request and – gave him safe passage and promised him wood from his forests
But that wasn’t the end of his problems –
At Jerusalem Nehemiah had to overcome resistance from powerful politicians determined to keep the Jews down – but Nehemiah was more than a good manager – he was a man of God – he did nothing without prayer – he did not pray without acting – He recognised God’s role in all that had happened to him – and never forgot to give him the credit – He was not looking for earthly status – if he had been he would never have left Persia – Nehemiah practiced the presence of God – and become a great leader of his people –
Contrast this with the behaviour of the Jews – when the truth was presented to them -they jumbled it all up – and then rejected it
In verse 32
"We are Abraham’s descendants …….. we have never been in slavery to anyone ……….what do you mean by saying , you will become free?"
– their claim was obviously not true – as a race they had been conquered by the Egyptians, the Babylonians and they were currently being ruled by the Romans – but the Jews set tremendous value on freedom – their Laws stated that – no Jew – however poor – must descend to the level of a slave – so as far as they were concerned – Jesus’ remarks about slavery was an insult to them
but Jesus was clearly speaking about another kind of slavery – the kind of slavery which – we – cannot break away from – by ourselves –
" In very truth I tell you ……….. everyone who commits sin is a slave”
Here Jesus isn’t just speaking about evil works as we would understand them – such as stealing – or violence – He is also speaking about our human nature –
When we do things – against God’s will – we are under the control of sin – we claim to have free will – yet through pride or our own self indulgence – we are taken over by it – and we sin again –
The Jews thought they were sons of God’s house – because of their – earthly descent form Abraham – they believed that pride of race and blood was a sufficient guarantee of ultimate freedom of life – and salvation – but Jesus rejected that claim –
He used an illustration of Son-ship to get His message across – the Jews were well aware of the distinction between the son and slave in the household – the son is the permanent dweller – nothing can put Him out – but the slave can be ejected at a moments notice
It wasn’t that Jesus failed to communicate – it was that they didn’t want to hear His message – because it made them face up to their need to change –
The admiration the Jews showed Abraham was not misguided – but living on his merit was – they could not do as they liked just because of who they were – none of us can live on past achievements – the real descendents of Abraham were those who acted in the way Abraham did –
and if they were truly free – they would welcome Jesus – not reject Him and put Him to death
God sent Jesus Christ His only Son – to die on the cross for our sins – to pay the price for our wrong doings – once and for all – so we can be forgiven – and reconciled back to Him –
It’s only when God Himself deals with the sin that affronts Him – that forgiveness – can be experienced –
Jesus regenerates us by His Spirit and sets us free – and with that regeneration comes faith – and freedom
– freedom from fear – He is always with us – freedom from ourselves – often our greatest enemy – freedom from others – because we focus on what God says we should do – and freedom from sin –
There is only one way to salvation – one saviour – one hope for sinners – Everything fades in comparison to the brightness of Jesus – Abraham and the OT Saints looked to the same Christ that we do – and as God’s true Son – Jesus desires no Glory for Himself – only for God
Jesus demands Disciples who will run the whole race – and reach the finishing post – who will keep to His word and hold it like a treasure – if we stand by His teaching – the sting of death is blunted – and the Spirit will live within us and bring us life
So when our master sower throws the seed our way – what sort of soil do we make?
Are we like the poor soil – not allowing the roots to take hold – letting the seed whither and die – or get taken away – or are we like the good soil – allowing His word to penetrate and germinate a mature plant and new life from us and within us – Only those who are firmly rooted in His word and remain in it – will truly be His disciples –
Jesus said " and some seed fell on good soil, where it came up and grew, and produced a crop; and the yield was thirty fold, sixty fold and a hundred fold "
"If you have ears to hear, then hear!"
At harvest time – what sort of harvest will you produce?
Prayer to finish
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit