I greet you wherever you find yourself on this day when, as believers, we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
In this text God said that He heard the prayer of Solomon when they knelt before Him. If we kneel before God, humble ourselves and repent, God will heal our land. If we cry out to God and repent, He will be attentive to our prayer regarding pandemic or any disease.
God should not be a spare wheel whom we call on when there is a crisis and we have a puncture. We should not only pray to God when we are in trouble, we should always pray. Some people look for the spare wheel in a crisis and only then they realise that it is flat or not even there. A person can pray and find that God’s spirit is absent. We should call on God in good and bad times – drought, pestilence and plagues. God will hear from heaven. When people are in trouble they call on Him. We should always pray. God says …my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. We should not only pray when we are sick or in trouble but no matter what the circumstances are, we should pray. God will be attentive and open His ears.
When Solomon finished praying fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering. The people were amazed. God can shut up the heavens. He can command the locusts to devour the crops. He can send a sickness on His people. We have experienced great drought in parts of our country and now this pandemic has covered the globe. We need to call to God, “Open your ears and have mercy on us.” We also need to come to God and confess the sins of our forefathers.
The text for today is taken from Matthew 26:57–75
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council[h] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[i] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgement?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:57-75
In order to obtain evidence which could put Jesus to death two witnesses were brought. This great leader, the high priest, who should have known better, tore his robe when Jesus declared that He is the Son of God.
Look at the mockery that Jesus endured. He was abused and slapped and then asked “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” People who walk with Christ are mocked. Do not be surprised. If you preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ you will be mocked by people who say, “Look at how he preaches! Look at how he testifies! Look at what he has!”
What Jesus said about Peter was fulfilled. You cannot hide the fact that you walk with Jesus. Your speech, your accent will give you away. Do not be surprised when people ask you where you go to church or whether you are a believer. It can be seen.
Peter did something very serious here and when he remembered the words of Jesus, you will deny me three times, he wept bitterly. If you have sinned against God, you should weep over your sin and God will hear you. Confess your sin and God will hear you.
Jesus had told Peter before that He had prayed for him that he would not fail and that when he had repented, he should strengthen his brothers. Jesus knew what was going to happen to Peter and that he would fall into sin. Sin cannot reign in the life of a child of God when he openly confesses his sin. God will be attentive and open His eyes and ears.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Matthew 27:1
They had plotted to kill Jesus. People can plot against you too but if you are a child of God and remain in the Lord Jesus, no matter what is plotted against you, God will protect you. A person will eventually die and people may succeed in planning a person’s death if God allows it to happen. While the crowds praised Jesus, the chief priests plotted against Him.
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Matthew 27:3-7
Judas Iscariot said that he had sinned but after this admission, he hanged himself instead of saying that he had sinned and needed God’s forgiveness. This is similar to when a person admits to murder or robbery but his crimes drive him to suicide or when a woman who has aborted her babies but her crimes drive her to suicide. This type of remorse does not bring about grace or forgiveness. If Judas had said, “I have sinned. I have sold the Lord Jesus. I need forgiveness,” things may have turned out differently.
Satan entered the heart of Judas. If Satan enters your heart, he takes control of your life and does with you what he wants. This happened to Cain. Satan entered Cain, took hold of him and Cain murdered his brother Abel because he was envious of him. Judas turned against his Lord for the sake of money which even the priests realised was ‘blood money.’
19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Matthew 27:19-21
At this time of the year a prisoner of the people’s choice would be released. Pilate asked the people to select either Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Christ. Pilate’s wife was troubled because of a dream she had had about Jesus. The crowd chose Barabbas and our Christ was crucified.
Today we live in a free country but this is the type of freedom where people do what they like – the freedom of Barabbas. The freedom to go to sleep without praying – who will question you? The freedom to look at your cell phone and pornography – who will question you? Who will say that it is wrong? The freedom of men and women to live immorally – who will say anything about it? The freedom to go to a brothel, no questions asked. This type of freedom crucifies our Lord Jesus Christ afresh. Child of God, if you return to your sin, you crucify the Lord Jesus afresh. If you return to your sin you say: I choose Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be killed. Through the life that you live, you say Jesus must be put to death.
I love the prodigal son. He said, “I will go back to my father. I have sinned.” He did not say, “I will go back to my father and say that the devil got hold of me and made me do it.” When David confessed his sin, he did not say, “I was on the roof of my palace and when I saw that woman and the devil made me do it.” Peter did not say, “I denied the Lord Jesus three times and it was Satan who made me do it.” No, he took responsibility for his own sin and showed remorse.
There is a Lutheran hymn about this fountain: There is a fountain filled with blood…and sinners plunge beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. Sinner, you are invited to come and be cleansed in this fountain. It does not dry up.
The authorities thought that they had seen the last of Jesus Christ – He was crucified and buried. I doubt that Mary dreamt she would be faced with such things. When the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was shed, it flowed for us sinners and through that blood that we can receive the remission of sin.
Do you remember when you first met the Lord Jesus and surrendered your life to Him? Do you remember how wonderful it was? Do you remember the great joy you experienced? Remember those from Emmaus when they met Jesus unknowingly, their hearts were set aflame when He spoke to them. Their eyes were opened. Our eyes must be opened to recognise Christ and to see God at work in our midst. Our eyes need to be opened to discern that Christ works through a preacher no matter of what race he is. Read about this in Luke 24 from verse 29 onwards and verses 40 and 45. There was another instance when Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples but they did not recognise Him. Jesus opened their minds because their eyes were closed and they did not recognise the Lord Jesus, they did not grasp the working of God. Our minds and eyes can fail to discern what is of God and what is not of God.
When Jesus rose from the dead, there was an earthquake. People who had lived for the Lord also rose from their graves. Brother, sister, if you are still asleep, wake up from your sleep! Do not be asleep like those drowsy disciples. We should not be spiritually asleep. We should be alert and awake. We need to turn back to God from our wicked ways so that God might hear our prayers. Let us repent of our evil ways. Let us not make God our spare wheel but make Him an integral part of our lives.
God is working in His own way these days. It is up to us whether we will hear and pay attention to what He says. Are we in fellowship with God? Are we in contact with God on a daily basis?