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4-1-20 Midweek Lenten Devotion in place of Midweek Lenten Worship

There is no Midweek Lenten Worship Service tonight, but in place of gathering to worship, here is a Midweek Lenten Devotion.
Case File: Jesus 
Case: The State V. Jesus of Nazareth 
Crime: Blasphemy 
    The case before you today is that of one Jesus of Nazareth! He is charged with one count of blasphemy. The charge of blasphemy is counting yourself as God when you are not. Today’s convicted character is that of a witness in protective custody. You can’t see him, because what he has to say would endanger his very life, but you can read his sworn affidavit here: 
    I have carried many stones in my hands before. Normally, there were only two reasons that I would be carrying stones: for throwing or for building. There’s this time that Jesus’ friend John writes about in John 8. I was there with others and we had a handful of stones. You see this Jesus was already on our list for healing a man who was blind and paralyzed on a Sabbath during His last trip to Jerusalem. We had our options: we could either build or start winging these suckers at Jesus. We started in what you know as John 8 v. 48 by throwing stones that were metaphorical. We needed to mock Jesus to rile Him up. This way we could get Him while His guard was down so that He would confess that He thought He was God. So we threw our first two “stones” at Him: we called Him a Samaritan to question His heritage, then we called Him demon possessed. 
    We tried to knock Him down a few pegs, Right? But He stayed up with the truth of who He is. He called God His father in v. 49, then He said that God would give Jesus glory in v. 50. It was like whatever words we were throwing at Him to get Him riled up, He wasn’t taking the bait. Of course, we couldn’t tolerate this, so we claimed in v. 52 that Jesus was demon possessed again. I know, I know, it was a lame come back. We just do what they do naturally…we just can’t stop throwing these stones of insults. 
    But then just when we thought Jesus was going to get away He said that Abraham (v. 56) looked forward to seeing what Jesus could do. So we lobbed another verbal assault at Him about His age. There was no way Jesus was old enough to have seen Abraham. 
    Then Jesus goes and does it. He says in v. 58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  Now…now after all this verbal stone throwing, He reveals who He is. This is His claim not just to some lame Godhood, any Caesar or king tried that, but Jesus claimed to be Yahweh, “I AM” – the proper name of the God revealed to Moses from the burning bush. The proper name of God given to the Hebrew people. So what did we do? You guessed it. You can read about it in v. 59: We picked up stones to throw at him. Why is that? Well there are only two options here: He either is Yahweh or He is not. I chose to take my handful of stones and knock Jesus down. Leviticus 24:16 gives me my right to do so if I don’t think this person is God. “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” 
    We actually desired in our hearts to murder Jesus by throwing stones at Him. Why? Because when you have a handful of stones in your hand you have 2 options: You can either use those stones to build or to start throwing them at people. And we had every right to throw them at Jesus. 
    Or so we thought. I raised those stones with every purpose in my heart to murder, but then I couldn’t see Jesus. Like as in I literally couldn’t see where He went. I realized that my eyes could see just fine, but my eyes of faith had been blind. Right up until that point. I saw the results of His miraculous healing of the man at the pool. I heard Jesus teach w authority. He either is the great I AM or He is not. I am in protective custody today, because I have come to believe that He was telling the truth. Blasphemy? No. He was telling the truth of who He is. He had power over sickness. He had power to teach from the Scriptures with authority that I have never seen. This is not my enemy. He is telling the truth. He is Yahweh, but if I say this in public, then I’m just as likely to see the same stones in the hands of my friends that I picked up to throw myself. 
Closing Remarks 
     When you have a handful of stones in your hand you have 2 options: You can either use those stones to build or to start throwing them at people. This is our connection. In the Church – I see this regularly. Whenever we see someone who we think is spiritually maturing well, we have 2 options – we can give thanks to God for His work in their lives, we can build an altar to God’s grace in that person’s life…or we can start winging stones at them to feel better about ourselves. Our fastballs are getting pretty accurate aren’t they? We think that if we can expose the sin in someone else, it will make us appear more holy, more honorable. 
     But there’s this problem with sin – it doesn’t matter if I bring you down to make myself look better, someone will always be throwing rocks at me. 
     A pastor from the era of World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, "If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all." When you live under this text in John 8, you start to connect with the people in the story. How? Well, when you are standing next to the great I AM, like the crowd was…you realize that you are the Great I AM NOT. 
I am the opposite of Jesus claims in v. 48: I am not one who always seeks to honor the Father 
I am the opposite of Jesus claims in v. 49: I am not one who gives glory to others 
I am the opposite of Jesus claims in v. 50: I am not – worthy of the Great I AM Jesus and His love for me. 
     Why? Because I am a sin filled, broken mess. And so are you. And if we’re spending all of our time throwing stones, guess what: we’ll only get more broken. 
     Jesus is such a great I AM God of grace, He is able to live a perfect life and make a work on the cross that basically states, “I AM … a sinner.” Not that He ever sinned, but he took our stone throwing so personally on to himself, that He took on the brokenness of those First Century Jewish people and all of the brokenness of every stone throwing generation after. He had to hold closely to our sin on that cross, because if it was left to us, we would’ve kept throwing stones until He’d give our sin back. But He didn’t. And the last stone to be thrown was His. A huge stone once was the only thing that was in between Him and you. It wasn’t one that you threw at Him. It was one that closed the only way He was going to get out of that tomb in His resurrected body to get to you. He threw that sucker off the tomb where His dead body once laid and walked out so you would know the Great I AM loves and cares for you. 
     In 1 Cor 15:10 Paul writes, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” That is, as I am now a saint by the grace of Jesus, His grace has an effect in everyday life. When I stand next to Jesus in this text now…I’m still an “I am not,” but I’m different. 
"I am not" one to throw stones at Jesus. 
“I am not” one to throw stones at you either. 
You’ve spent some time now under this text now. You might still have a handful of stones. My question is – as you stand next to the great IAM, Jesus, what will you do with them? Amen. 
Prayer: Jesus, help me release the stones that I meant to throw at others. Help me remember the stone of Your resurrection. Amen. – By Pastor Seth

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