March 15, 2020

Places of Discomfort

Passage: John 19:1-5,15-18,28-30

John 19:1-5, 15-18, 28-30                                                                                              “Places of Discomfort”

(Prayer) Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.[a] He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness[b] for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord forever.[g]”                                                                                                                                                    Amen

When some people come to church they want to hear words of comfort. They don’t want to hear things like living our lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be hard. “No one wants to listen to a list of things they shouldn’t do.”[1] There is a temptation to build a church on a hill, and to just preach love and grace as if everybody is good and nobody is bad, and the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ is a free gift of love, grace, prosperity and peace for everyone. (pause) My sisters and brothers freedom has never been free. (pause) There has always been a cost. “For what we want most, there is a cost must be paid in the end.”[2]

The truth is sometimes God allows us to walk into difficult spaces and hard times. Before we walk into those spaces and while we are in those spaces it can be really hard; and scary. I think sometimes we are lead into those difficult spaces for God’s glory. I think sometimes we are encouraged to step into those spaces so we can grow and deepen our faith. And sometimes we make choices which put us in harms way for no better reason than because we made a mistake.

Jesus knew what he was going to face. Jesus knew what he was about to go through, and Jesus was scared. Jesus is God. Jesus was also fully human, and Jesus was terrified about what was to come. Hear again those words from John 19.

Read John 19:1-5, 15-18, 28-30

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

There in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus faced His fears. Jesus prayed before the Lord and Jesus was very sad and upset. Jesus knew He was going to be arrested; beaten, spat upon, and made fun of. Jesus knew He would be thrown into a hole, convicted of being exactly who Jesus is, and handed over to the Romans who further mistreated Him. The Romans beat Jesus with rods. They scourged Him with whips. The Roman soldiers wove a crown of sharp thorns and pushed it down on Jesus’ head. The Romans covered Him in a wrag of an old centurions cape and led Jesus out to Jesus’ own people, the Jews. The Jews shouted, “Away with him! Crucify Him” (John 19:15)! The Romans nailed Jesus’ body to a wooden cross and hung Jesus up like a piece of meat until Jesus asphyxiated and died. Jesus is the Son of God and God did not spare God’s own Son. God did not spare God’s self. Jesus was asked to walk through a very hard and painful time. God loves everyone of us, but God is not about to spoil us. God expects us to be disciples of Jesus Christ. God expects us to grow to become more like Jesus and that means the muscles of our faith have to be strengthened and grown.

The cost of our salvation was high. Freedom is not free. God’s grace did not come cheap. God is glorified when we respond to God’s prevenient grace and take a long hard look at the person in the mirror. When we confess our sins and turn back to God it gives glory the God. Now, here’s the thing. Turning to God and putting God first will make us troublemakers. You see being Baptized is only the beginning of our journey. Baptism is not the end. No Sir! Baptism is the start of the journey. Our faith is like a muscle and like any muscle our faith must bet worked in order to become stronger and grow. If we are serious – really serious about growing closer to God we will become troublemakers for the Gospel. We will become rebellious to our culture. We will not become judgmental of one another. Rather, we will look for ways to grow closer to God together. We will be troublemakers who make troublemakers. When we leave our old lives behind and strain toward the, “upward call of God in Jesus Christ,” we will find ourselves becoming kinder to strangers (Philipians 3:14). By recognizing our own sins we become more patient with those who are aggravating or annoying to others. People are not going to understand why we behave this way. Their confusion will reveal their lack of faith. This will make many of them angry and we will be labeled troublemakers. It is okay to be a troublemaker for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

However, when we cause trouble for the Gospel and live our lives in a counter cultural way we will face trials and struggles. Life will not always be easy. Life will be good, but good according to God’s standards. There will be trials. Through the book of James God sends this message,

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

The message is plain. Our Christian walk will not be easy. There will be times and places we are asked to lay aside what is good for ourselves for what is good for the glory of God. We will be asked to lay aside financial security; friendships, relationships, physical health, and pride for the Gospel so that God is glorified. Please take a moment right now to think about the dark times you have faced in your own lives. (pause) What was hard about it? (pause) What did you have to give up, or of what were you deprived? (pause) Did you grow in your faith through the struggle? (pause) Did you turn away from God because it was hard and did not fit your expectation of a loving God? (pause) Did you become more fearful of what the world can do to you; to any of us? (pause) Or did you become braver? Did you become bolder for Christ because now you know just what God can do in you for others.

God did not spare God’s own son Jesus Christ. I don’t think we should expect God to spare us from the hard times. The question we must all ask is how will we face those hard times? Will we grumble and groan that such a time has come upon us? (pause) We all wish that such a time would not come upon us. Or will we search for ways to use the hard times to help us to grow in our faith. With the threat of the Corona virus, and the NBA, and the NCAA cancelling games it would be easy to cave into fear. With the schools closing and churches not holding worship for two weeks it would be easy to fall into scapegoating the pastor, our elected officials, or the people in China. It would be easy to hoard the toilet paper. It would be easy to hoard the hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes. I was just in the Dollar General the other day and all of the wipes were gone! It would be easy to go the other way to be foolhardy and reckless; to never cancel anything and to travel and to run the risk of exposing ourselves, our families and those we care about to the Corona virus just because we refuse to live in fear. Or we can look to John Wesley’s rules and ask the questions, What does it mean to Do No Harm today? (pause) What does it mean to try to do all the Good we can in all of the ways we can today? (pause) How do we as the church do the most good to the most people while doing the least amount of harm we can muster?

My brothers and sisters there is something about the difficult times and places in our lives that makes them important, or even holy. Historians are not positive where Jesus was crucified. Honestly, I am not sure why anyone would really want to remember that place of pain and shame. However, in the third century AD the Roman Emperor Constantine – after having legalized Christianity decided the place where Jesus died was important. Constantine asked around and discovered what is likely the place of the skull called Golgatha, and there he had a church built. The church is still there today. It is called the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In 2016 some 120,000 people visited this holy site. It seems to me the places which were the hardest to pass through are very often the places we come to revear the most. We value these places or consider them holy because of what they cost us; because of what they taught us; because of what we learned while we were there. How many of the veterans in the room have forgotten where they went through boot camp or what that was like? (pause) How many mothers have forgotten the hospitals where they gave birth to their children? (pause) There is just something about what we went through in those places that leave a mark on our souls. To think of them with reverence is not to cherish the pain we went through, it is to value and appreciate the lessons we learned while we were there.

Perhaps; perhaps all of the closings for the Coronoa virus will be the same kind of thing. Perhaps being quarantined and the closing of schools and churches, and the cancelling of sporting events will be one of those times when the inconvenience will give us an opportunity to grow closer to Christ. How will we show our love for God and neighbor? Maybe we will check in with a neighbor – especially an elderly neighbor to make sure they are alright. Maybe we will share some extra toilet paper. Maybe we will see each other in a new light when we come out of quarantine. Maybe, just maybe we will have a new found respect and appreciation for one another.

My sisters and brothers Jesus really did die on the cross. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins. Jesus’ death is a place in time of heart ache and misery. However, without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we would not have the possibility to die to our sins. Without Jesus’ death on the cross we would not have the gift of Christ’s resurrection. We may also be asked to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. If that is the path God is calling you to walk, “Fear no evil, for God is with you.” God will correct and guide us so long as we seek God first, and allow God to shape our journey.


In the Name of Jesus Christ,



[1] Newworldson, “Learning To Be The Light”

[2] Tia Dalma, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s chest”

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