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Blake Holmes and John Elmore speak during this Good Friday service. John shares his story of being a slave to sin and destruction before finally giving his life over to Christ. Blake teaches from Mark 8:22-29, where Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus wants to ask you, what do you see? We each have to make a decision about who Jesus is and respond to His sacrifice on the cross for us. Who do you say Jesus is?
At Home Worship
Christmas Eve 2015
The Greatest Invitation
Making Room, Making Disciples
The Lies We Tell Ourselves
Your Trial In Heaven
Fort Worth, Here Is What We Think of You
What the Church Who Believes Is and Does
The USA: United States of Anxiety
From Intimacy to Idols
The Standard: Old Testament, Jesus and Believers
The Path to the Good Life
Nothing Short of Miraculous
Confessions From a Bathroom Stall: Lessons Learned in a Battle With Gluttony
How We Come To God
Dealing with Disappointment
The Story That Never Gets Old the God Who Is Always Behind It and the Way We Are Told to Remember It
The "One Thing"
Baptism Celebration 2015
Believing That Leads to Life
What Should I Do With My Money?
The first man in a garden
Eyes open and heart hardens
Longing for more than the fruit of the tree
The man was deceived
He tried to place blame
Found naked and covered in shame
Never again would our nature be right
To walk in the light
One trespass created the fall
One sacrifice justifies all who receive it
Two men tell the story from shackles to glory
Two gardens that changed the fate of man
Let the lost be found again
The next man in a garden
Eyes closed and heart pounding
He prays to his Father alone in the night
Confessing his fright
Absorbing the blame
Stripped naked and covered in shame
Delivering us he delivered himself
To the hands who rebuild
One trespass created the fall
One sacrifice justifies all who believe it
Two men tell the story from shackles to glory
Two gardens that changed the fate of man
Let the lost be found
One trespass created the fall
One sacrifice justifies all
A blessed reversal
The chief without flaw
Blake Holmes: Well, the lyrics of that song were born in Romans, chapter 5. In Romans 5, verses 18 through 19, we read, " Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."
That's why, gang, we gather on Good Friday. It's to remind ourselves of the centrality of the cross and what Christ accomplished for us there. If you're anything like me, as you approach Good Friday you're going to be tempted to jump ahead and think about the hope of Sunday. As I've prepared and prayed and thought about today, it has been hard to resist the urge to want to jump to Sunday, because I don't like, candidly, the reality of Friday!
You see, the Bible teaches, gang, that all of us…all of us…rebelled against the God who loved us. The Bible teaches us that, as gruesome as the reality of Friday is of Christ's death on the cross, we were the ones who were responsible for driving the nails through his hands. When we think about that and we consider our guilt, when we consider our responsibility, it's an unpleasant thought. I don't want to think about that. I want to think about Sunday. I want to think about God's love. I want to think about his hope. I want to think about his rescue.
I don't want to think about my trespass and my guilt, so I'm just going to ask you, so you can appreciate the reality of the resurrection, which we're going to celebrate really soon, to live in the moment of this particular garden. I'm going to ask you for this hour or so to stop and consider what Christ accomplished for you and me on the cross and why he was there. I'm going to ask you to think about the centrality of the cross, your responsibility and mine. Let's pray.
Lord in heaven, we stop to acknowledge that you are good, infinitely wise, sovereign, and in control even when the world around us appears to be in complete chaos. Father, we acknowledge you are holy and righteous and, Father, we fall short of your standard of perfection and your holiness, but despite our faithlessness you are faithful.
You've had a plan all along. As the Scriptures unfold, we see, even in that original garden, you promised one would come, a deliverer, a rescuer, one who would come to save us, so today, we stop and we consider Friday. We consider our part in Friday. We acknowledge our need for a Savior, we rejoice in your love for us, and we give you thanks. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
As you know, social media was taken by storm not too many weeks ago just around one question, and that question everyone was arguing over is…What color is the dress? I walked downstairs and I was certain I was being punked. I was certain there were candid cameras and the world was out to trick Blake, because when I walked downstairs I look at this picture and it's very clear the dress is blue and black. It's clear.
Now, my wife looks at it, and she goes, "Look at this! People think this is blue and black!" I'm going, "Umm… Because it is. It's blue and black." She goes, "No, it's white and gold." I'm going, "Rebecca, are you serious?" All of a sudden, my home is divided, with our kids, my wife, and me. I come to church. I go out to lunch with JP. JP looks at me and goes, "Can you believe this? This thing has taken off? Can you believe people are so crazy to look at that and think it's blue and black?"
I look at JP and go, "JP, are you serious?" I really am thinking, "Oh, my! They really are after me." What would you do? People are going to come out. "Blake Holmes is the only one who thinks this is blue." I go, "JP, it's blue and black." He grabs the waiter and says, "What color is this?"
I know each of you, when you look at that picture, you look at the picture and with 110 percent confidence, you either think, "This is blue and black," which you would be right, or you think, "This is white and gold." I've stared at this, and I've looked at this, and those who I've talked to are absolutely convinced. Do you know what?
As I've engaged with friends and neighbors and I've talked to them about the reality of Good Friday, I've noticed something. The same thing is true. Have you noticed that? When you mention Jesus Christ, people with 100 percent confidence and clarity either declare to you that Good Friday is indeed good because Jesus was the Son of God sent on a rescue mission to pay the penalties for our sins on that cross or they look at the reality of what the Gospels teach and they deny it altogether.
My neighbor exclaims, "What's so good about that? A good man? A moral teacher? I'll grant that to you, but he's a dead prophet." You see, we're looking at the same thing and we come to draw radically different conclusions. Each of us has to make the choice today, gang. Every one of you. I have to make that choice. When I look at the cross, what do I see? When you consider Jesus, who he is, and what he was doing on the cross, what do you see? Who do you say that he is, and why did he come?
I want you to hear from a close friend of mine, John Elmore. John is going to come, and he's going to share with you about the time in his life when he looked at the cross, what he saw before, and now, what he sees today.
John Elmore: Much like that picture of the dress, Blake asked me to share. "Tell them what you saw before in Jesus, who you saw him to be, and who you see him to be now." I'll tell you who I used to see Jesus to be. I saw him as fire insurance. He was the way I wouldn't go to hell. When I was a child, I heard, "When you die, you will spend eternity either in heaven or hell." Clearly, as a child, I didn't want hell, so I said, "Then, I trust Jesus, because I don't want to go to hell," but that seemed really far off in the future. That was just when I died.
I sought out to live the rest of my life. If he kept me from hell, what I have to do is do what he would want me to do, and I continually failed. I tried. I tried really hard. I tried to do the things he would want me to do. I tried to not do the things he didn't want me to do (the drinking, the smoking, the sexual sin, the lust, and the pride).
I failed over and over again daily, hourly, and I felt so ashamed, and I felt disappointed, and I felt like Jesus must be incredibly disappointed in me, because what he was to me, aside from just fire insurance, was rules and regulations, and I could never keep them, so I felt like he was perpetually disappointed in me, which was so frustrating that I just walked away. I thought, "I'll just continue to disappoint you, so forget it. I'll just stop disappointing you. I'm not going to even deal with you, Jesus, anymore."
That led me to become more of a deist. I believed God existed by what had been created, but I thought he just made everything, spun it into motion, and left us on our own. I couldn't see him. I couldn't hear him. I didn't think he was present in my life. For all that I was trying, I didn't see him there with me, and I thought, "You've just left me to go about my business." Don't hurt anybody. Have some fun along the way and maybe you won't go to hell when you die. That's what I thought about God. I thought he was distant, irrelevant, impersonal, and nothing to do with me.
What that led me to with Jesus was he was more of a historical figure to me and less and less the Savior who was keeping me from hell and more just someone who lived 2,000 years ago. Yeah, he was the Son of God. He died on a cross and rose from the dead. Great, but he hasn't done anything for the last 2,000 years and certainly not in my life. He was a historical figure.
I remember one night, probably eight or nine drinks into my evening on a weeknight at a bar alone by myself, and the bartender said, "What religion are you?" I was like, "I'm a Christian." He goes, "Really?" Because he could see what I myself couldn't. I was not a follower of Christ. He was just a historical figure to me, and that line of thinking…
You see, I thought I could go my own way and have more fun. I remember when I was a kid. People said, "Sin leads to death," and I thought, "No, it doesn't, because I just got wasted this past weekend or went home with whatever girl, and it didn't lead to death. In fact, I think I had more fun than you!"
But sin has a slow fuse at times, and I had lit that fuse and was fanning the flame with my sin, and it caught up with me, and when it did it caught up in a huge way. I was an alcoholic all through my 20s, and at the age of 30 my sin caught up with me in a huge way that was destroying me, and it did lead to death.
I had two doctors tell me, "If you keep drinking like this, you're going to die," and I thought, "Good! Because I'm done." I don't mean done with my situation, as it was. I mean, done. I wanted out. I wanted to die, so it was drinking with painkillers and sleeping pills, hoping I wouldn't wake up because I didn't have the guts to commit suicide, hoping it would look like an accident because my life had unraveled. My sin had led to death in my relationships, in my work. My chase after status and pride and money had all caught up with me.
One day, I knelt down beside the couch I was living on when everything was dying in my life, and I said, "Jesus, I've squandered everything you have given me, but whatever I have left, it's yours. Save me." In that moment, for the first time, I began seeing Jesus for who he truly is (not for who I thought he was, but I saw Jesus for who he is) and everything changed. Everything changed from that point on.
Nine years ago, at the age of 30, he began a work in me that is inexplicable apart from him being who I see him to be, my Savior, but he no longer was just saving me from hell when I die; he was saving me from the living hell I was in in my 20s up until 30. He was saving me from my sin and the consequences of it. He rescued me out of the pit I had dug myself into. He wasn't just saving me from that living hell I was in. I also saw him as my Lord, the Lord of my life, Lord over all, and Lord of everything I had.
When I was lord of my life, it resulted in a wreck. I was a terrible lord of my life. When I called the shots, it did not go well. Every now and then I might make a kind of good decision, but it would catch up with me and I'd make terrible decisions, but with Jesus as Lord of my life, it led to life and peace and joy and contentment I cannot explain. He is a good Lord of my life, but not just that. When I look at Jesus, he is my covering, my atonement, my substitute. It says in Colossians 2, verses 13 through 15,
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all…" **Past, present, and future."…our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him[by the cross]."**
You see, before Jesus, before I saw him as my covering and my atonement, I was guilty. I was dead in my sins, and there was a list, a written decree with its legal demands, that stood opposed to me with my alcoholism, my sexual sin, my pride, my lust, my ego, my laziness, and my gluttony. All of it was Satan standing there to accuse me before God saying, "You're holy. He's sinful, and he deserves death. He's guilty."
God said, "No, no, no. You give me that list." He took my list and yours. It says he took it, set it aside, and nailed it to the cross, never to be taken back. He laid my sins and yours upon Jesus and disarmed the rulers, powers, and authorities, triumphing over them on the cross. Our covering and atonement… That's who I see Jesus to be.
Not just that. Jesus is my freedom because I was a slave to sin. I remember people saying, "There's freedom in Christ." I was like, "That's crazy. He's keeping me from everything I want to do," but it wasn't until I realized I was a slave to sin that I needed someone to set me free, and Jesus is my freedom.
I can stand here before you today and tell you all of my sin, and I'm not ashamed, because I am not who I was because my sin has been nailed to the cross. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. "…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." He has made us new. I'm not a better person because of Jesus; I am new. That's who I see Jesus to be.
Who do I see now? I see my Savior. I see my Lord, my covering, my freedom, my King, the one who died for me and for you, so if you believe Jesus to be that, then stand with us and sing to your Savior and Lord.
Blake: That's the way he's described. Exactly who is this man of sorrows and who is this rock of ages we sing of? When you look at the cross, what do you see? The Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) give us the answer. They tell us who Jesus is by painting a portrait. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not simply biographies, as many people think of them. No. They are actually mosaics, if you will, theological mosaics that were written to communicate a point, to paint a portrait, to give you a picture of all of the historical events in Jesus' life arranged in such a way that you'll walk away with a greater understanding of who this person is.
Matthew very purposefully wants you to understand Jesus is the King of the Jews. Written to a Jewish audience, he was the one who was foretold of long ago, and Matthew arranges his gospel around five sermons, each one ending with, "And Jesus finished teaching these things in order that you may know he's the fulfillment of the Old Testament law."
Luke speaks of Jesus as being the Son of Man, the perfect man, the second Adam. He emphasizes his parables one after the other after the other. He continually says, "And Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem," that Jesus' life wasn't simply taken from him, but he laid it down.
John shows you Jesus is the Savior of the world, and John arranges his gospel around the seven "I am" statements of Jesus. "I am the Bread of Life. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the way, the truth, and the life." He gives you seven signs. Why? So you will walk away with a portrait, a picture, and draw the conclusion that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, the Savior of the world.
The text in the gospel I want us to consider this morning is the gospel of Mark, probably the first gospel written, and why Mark wrote. His purpose statement is found in Mark, chapter 10, verse 45, which tells us, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark wants you to understand Jesus is the suffering servant, and he emphasizes not his parables, not his long sermons, but his miracles. It's written to a Roman audience, people who respected power, and the word you see repeated throughout Mark is immediately. In other words, whatever Jesus said… Bam! It was accomplished. He had complete authority over the spiritual world and the natural world. That's why it's so perplexing when you get to Mark, chapter 8, that you read the story of Jesus' encounter with a blind man. In Mark, chapter 8, it says in verse 22,
" And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Do you see anything?' And he looked up and said, 'I see people, but they look like trees, walking.' Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly."
You see, Jesus, from Mark 1 through 7… Anything he wanted to accomplish was accomplished immediately, but then we get to this peculiar passage. You look at it and you go, "What in the world? Was Jesus unable to heal immediately? Was his power somehow limited? Was he unwilling to heal immediately? Why?"
Why do we see this partial healing and then a full healing done in two stages? It's because Jesus, like Mark, wants to communicate a very profound point. They want to ask you, "What do you see?" You can't help but notice this as you read this book. If you start all the way back to the very beginning and you look at this book, it opens with the baptism of Jesus and what is declared by the Father: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
In every chapter throughout this book, you see the people's confusion of the identity of Christ, and there is debate over, "What do you see?" In chapter 1, the Father makes it clear. "This is my beloved Son," but then, you don't go too far in the gospel and Jesus heals another man. It says the crowds were amazed, and they asked themselves, "What is this? Who is this man?" "A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
In chapter 2, he heals a paralytic. You see the crowds around him say, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?""We've never seen anything like this!" In chapter 4, verse 41, " And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'" **In chapter 6, verse 3,"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…?"** On and on it goes. In every encounter, people are forced to ask themselves, "Who is this man?"
Then, we get to our chapter, chapter 8, and Jesus has fed the 5,000 miraculously. He has fed the 4,000 miraculously. The Pharisees come to him and go, "We demand a sign. Speak clearly. Tell us who you are." Then, we see right before the healing of the blind man which I just read to you that Jesus has this strange encounter with the disciples. Verse 14 says,
"Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, 'Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.' And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?'" Look at verse 18.
"'Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?' They said to him, 'Twelve.' 'And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?' And they said to him, 'Seven.'"
Do you see what's happening here? Verse 21: "And he said to them, 'Do you not yet understand?'""I'm not talking about bread and fish. I'm asking you, 'Do you see?' I've already proved to you that hunger is not going to be your problem. I can provide. I'm asking you to consider, 'What do you see?'"
Then, we get to our text where there is this partial healing and then an ultimate healing, and it illustrates a very profound point. Each of us have to make the decision as to who Jesus is and what was he doing on the cross? There are those who are blind, who cannot see, like the Pharisees. There are those who can partially see who are asking questions and who are wrestling with who Jesus is. Then, there are those who see fully.
All of this leads up to this great text following immediately after the blind man who is healed. Look what you see! Verse 27: " And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?'" Do you get this? He now turns to the disciples after all of this confusion, after all of this back and forth, and he gathers his disciples and goes, "Okay, gang. Now, you have to make a decision."
"Who do people say that I am?' And they told him, 'John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.' And he asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?'" It's no longer what the Pharisees believe. It's no longer what the crowds believe."What about you?"It's here that Peter says, "You are the Christ."
In chapters 8, 9, and 10, after there is clarity on who Jesus is, he tells them three times, "And this is what I've come to do." Look what he says in verse 31. "And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again."
You see, the book starts with this great proclamation from the Father. "This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased." Then, it goes forward, and Mark wants you to ask yourself, "Who do you say he is?" Then, the disciples answer the question. "You are the Christ. You're the Son of God." He goes, "You got it right. Now, you must understand my mission."
Immediately, he takes them up on the Mount of Transfiguration. In chapter 9, verse 7, what do you hear once more but the Father say of the Son in front of Peter, James, and John, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." The book ends in chapter 15 with one of the Roman centurions declaring, "Surely this was the Son of God."
You see, this book is asking you to consider what you see, and Jesus, using the physical ailment of a man who was blind, uses that to teach a spiritual truth, a reality some of us refuse to see because our hearts are hardened, and others of us cry out in desperation. You skip two chapters later, in chapter 10, and a blind man named Bartimaeus cries out and Jesus heals him immediately.
There is clarity on who Jesus is, and you have in the next chapter the triumphal entry where Jesus enters into Jerusalem. Gang, this book is put together so you won't miss it, and we gather today on Good Friday so you won't miss it and to ask you to consider, "Who is Jesus and what was he doing on the cross? Why was he there?"
I want to give you a second now to reflect on the words of this song and to watch this video and to think about what it must have been like on that Friday (the confusion Jesus' disciples must have felt; the question, specifically, Mary must have asked herself; and how Jesus might have responded).
What we just witnessed is why Good Friday can be called good, because that's what we deserved. The wages of sin are death, and the wrath of God had to have been satisfied, and he was rejected that we could be accepted, his stripes for our healing, pierced for our transgressions, his rejection for us to be accepted right with God, and him to be made sin that we could be the righteousness of God.
This is why Good Friday is good, because our Savior, our Lord, took our place upon the cross the death we deserved, and he rose again, proving he was not just a man but he was God in flesh, the sinless sacrifice who came as a ransom for us to bridge the gap from our separation from a holy God and our sinfulness, to bring us back together. This is Good Friday because he took our place. He took the wrath we deserved. In Christ, we're given his righteousness.
"…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
He is coming again, because he is alive. Today, we have the opportunity to remember, to do this in remembrance of him. If we have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we can take the bread (his body broken for us) and we can take the cup (his blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins) and receive it because we are right with God. That's Communion as we remember him and as we proclaim to the watching world his death, resurrection, and his coming again.
In a moment, we'll take Communion, but I would ask if, throughout this service, you've not yet trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, if you're still considering the claims of Christ, to just remain seated. As you walked in, you received a card with Isaiah 53, prophecy from 700 years before his birth, saying exactly who this man was, every line fulfilled in Christ.
I would invite you to just read and consider who Jesus is for you, not the historical Jesus but the one who died for your sins and rose from the dead, because why would you partake symbolically of that which you've not yet partaken of spiritually and personally? If, when you look at Jesus, you see your Lord and Savior who died for your sins, who took the wrath of God on your behalf, then in just a moment and when you're ready, come forward, and receive Jesus' body broken for you and his blood shed for you.
As you wish, sit, pray, thank God for Jesus, worship, and leave as you wish. We'll be here afterward if you want to talk more about who Jesus is and how you can have a relationship with him (me and others at the front). We'll gather together Saturday and Sunday to celebrate the resurrection, that Jesus is alive, and in him we are made new. Let's pray and give thanks.
Lord God, we thank you and praise you for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died the death we deserved for our sin, who saved us from sin, death, and Satan, who made us new in Christ, who frees us from slavery to sin, whose body was broken for us, whose blood was shed for us, who took your wrath upon himself that we could live and have eternal life. So Lord, as we take the bread and the cup, the body and blood, we remember Jesus, and we proclaim his death on this good Good Friday. We proclaim Jesus until he comes again. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.
As you wish, partake, because you now sit at the Table right with God. Have a great moment of worship, and we'll see you tomorrow or Sunday.