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This week's sermon:

            Luke 20:27-38  -  "The Political Controversies Of Jesus"
                               
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Someone has figured that if we put all of the materials in the Gospels that tell us about the life of Jesus together that it would equal about 80 pages. Yet, most of that would represent duplication, for we know that some of the Gospel writers copied from others. If, therefore you eliminate the duplication, you would have only 20 pages that tell us about Jesus life and teachings. Of those 20 pages, 13 of them deal specifically with the last week of his life. And if you separate it still further, you will discover that one-third of those 13 pages took place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Thus, in terms of sheer volume, we know far more on this day in his life than any other day. The events of that day represent a significant percentage of what we know about the man Jesus.

 

We know that Jesus spent Monday evening in Bethany, probably in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, since that is where he spent Sunday evening. He arose early on Tuesday morning and he and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. If you will then let your mind drift back through the pages of history, let us assume for a moment that you are living in First Century Palestine. It is the Season of the Passover and you and your family are among the thousands of religious pilgrims who have migrated to the ancient walled city of Jerusalem to participate in the religious celebration. You were there on Monday when Jesus took whip in hand and radically ran the moneychangers from the temple. It had been an eventful day.

 

But now it is Monday and it has come time to retire with your family. As you walk down the Villa de la Rosa you pass by the palace of the high priest, the residence of Caiaphas. You notice that a light is burning in the upper floor of this exquisite mansion. You comment to your family that Caiaphas must be working long hours to see that all of the religious festivities go on as scheduled. Yet, if you only knew what was really going on in that palace that evening. If you only knew what was taking place in that smoke filled room.

 

Gathered around the table that evening in the palace was one of the strangest combinations of political and religious factions that anyone could possibly imagine. Yet, politics makes strange bedfellows. It is interesting to me to see how fundamentalist Protestant denominations find a partner in the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of abortion. It is interesting to me to see how fundamentalist Protestants and Jews are brought together because they have similar views on the protection of Israel. Groups that would normally not have communication are sometimes strangely brought together for a temporary goal. That is what happened that night in Jerusalem. Here is the background.

 

The three groups conspired together that evening: the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. Their common goal was to discredit Jesus of Nazareth in front of his constituency, the common people. It was probably not their intent to assassinate Jesus, which is what eventually happened, but rather to discredit him. They did not want a martyr on their hands. They would much prefer to make him a fool. Let’s give him enough rope and he may just hang himself. Thus, each group would in turn ask him a question, not because they thought that they could learn from him, but because they wished to trick him. They were hoping for that one slip of the tongue. Each group would ask him a question that would be dear to their cause:

 

1. The first question asked was from the Herodians.

2. The next question was asked by Sadducees.

3. The third question came from a Pharisee.

4. Having routed the opposition, Jesus now, in essence, says, “It is my turn! Now I want to ask you a question.

 

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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sermons.com presents Leonard Sweet