Thursday, April 27, 2023

Great Commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah

Over the last year, I had the great privilege and joy of preaching all the way through the Prophecy of Jeremiah for Lanse Free Church. Fifty-two chapters in thirty-six messages! I know that I couldn't have done it without the help of my friends--specifically the friendly scholars who write such helpful commentaries on the Words of Jeremiah. Here is are the best ones I read over the course of our series with a few notes about each one.

If I could only have one commentary on Jeremiah, Wright's is the one I would pick. I can't overestimate how helpful it was for understanding and even applying the sacred text. Even when I reached a conclusion before reading Wright's treatment of a passage, I was relieved to find out that my instincts were "right." It is imminently readable, judicious, insightful, scholarly, and pastoral. Highly highly recommended.

Goldingay has forgotten more than I'll ever know about Jeremiah. I'm glad his commentary came out a few months before I began my series. He proceeds from a few assumptions that I don't necessarily share (which leads at times to conclusions I don't share), but he's incredibly knowledgeable and perceptive. I learned from every page. I knew I needed this tome after I read his summary book The Theology of Jeremiah: The Book the Man, the Message which I also referenced every week using the scripture index to make sure I wasn't missing something important. Read with discernment, these are highly recommended resources.

When I read the introduction to Lalleman's commentary, I understood for the first time the importance of 1:10 and its themes, especially the idea of the coming uprooting that Jeremiah was to predict for Judah. Hence the title of our series: Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah. Thank you, Hetty Lalleman! I don't know what the series would have been like without your help.

This compilation of Ryken's sermons on Jeremiah's books was invaluable to me, especially as a guide to application and homiletical delivery. I hope I gave Ryken credit for all of the turns-of-phrases I used that captured the thought so well. The original sermons are also available to listen to at The Gospel Coalition website.

Wilcock was great for giving a different perspective on passages (without seeming forced or changing the overarching message) and providing of the overviews of large sections together. I was amazed at how much he could pack into a few pages without seeming to be stuffing anything into anything. He also had interesting ideas about the composition of the text and why parts of Jeremiah are placed where they are--always an interesting question since Jeremiah jumps around so much chronologically!

Deceptively short for all the good stuff it contains.

As always, Kidner is concise, precise, and incisive. While C.J.H.Wright has replaced his commentary in the series (and surpassed it, too), Kidner is always worth reading (that's why Wright quotes him so often!). 

Longman knows his Old Testament, and I'm always glad I read him. This one is more like the commentary notes at the bottom of a study Bible than a full commentary, but I don't know how many times, I found something there tidbit to ton that eventually made it into a message. 

Thompson's commentary was the gold standard before Wright and Goldingay came along (Goldingay replaced Thompson's in  the NICOT series), and it's obvious why. I'm glad I read every word.

I found this Bible study by Matthew S. Harmon at The Gospel Coalition to be really helpful, especially as an overview. I think that small groups would profit from using it over a twelve-week period.

Study Bibles

The best study Bibles out there have really helpful notes. I consulted these every single week: NIV Study Bible, NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, CSB Study Bible and the incredible translation notes at the NET Bible online. 

One of the things I enjoyed the most about studying Jeremiah was getting to know Jeremiah the man. I have read his book many times but never felt like I knew him. Slowing down to read his words carefully and discuss him (at least in my head) with these amazing scholars gave me a much better sense of who he was as a person and what his painful message was for the people he loved. I hope I'm a better follower of the LORD because of it.

Tolle Lege!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

“I Am With You Always” [Matt's Messagse]

“I Am With You Always”

Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 23, 2023 :: Matthew 28:16-20

“I Am With You Always.”

What a wonderful promise that is! What a wonderful promise to end this book with!  What a wonderful promise for Natalie and Carter to hear from the risen Lord Jesus on the day that they get baptized in His name! 

What a wonderful promise for all of us who have been baptized into that same name.

Jesus says to us, “I am with you always.” What a wonderful promise for those first eleven disciples who were being given their marching orders from their risen king!

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on and marveling in the reality and meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

This chapter, Matthew 28, goes over a lot of the same details as we studied two weeks ago in Luke chapter 24 with what the women found when they went to Jesus’ grave site on that first Resurrection Sunday.

They found an open and empty tomb. Matthew fills in some details that Luke left out. Like how the guards had been scared by the angel and then conspired to lie about the whole thing for money. And how Jesus appeared to the women and told them to not be afraid but to tell His disciples to meet Him in the North country of Galilee.

Matthew tells us here in verse 16 that they met Him right where He said to. There are only eleven disciples because Judas had betrayed Jesus and killed himself afterwards. But the eleven meet Jesus there. V.16

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Vv.16-17).

I would not have included that part! If this was the Gospel of Matthew Mitchell, I would have left that last part out, but I love that the Apostle Matthew did not. Again, it gives it the ring of truth. That’s exactly what would have happened at first.

They can hardly believe their eyes. Of course, they hesitated! As a general rule, dead people don’t come back to life! Especially crucified dead people!

But here Jesus is walking up to them. And so they worship! And rightly so. They bow down. They marvel. They wonder. They worship Him.

And there is a key word that the Risen Lord Jesus uses four times in the next three verses. In Greek, it’s the word “pas,” and most of the time in English we render it, “All.” 

All authority, all nations, all His commands, always.

Those will be our four points this morning if you’re taking notes.


That’s what He says in verse 18. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

That’s an awful lot of authority, isn’t it?! That’s all the authority that there is. That’s cosmic authority. All authority in heaven and on earth. 

Now, of course, He’s always had that authority. He is the Son of God and God the Son and has been for all eternity. But the Gospel of Matthew tells us how He humbled Himself and came as a little baby in chapter 1. Even then He was “God with us,” wasn’t He? The angel told Joseph that he should name Jesus “Immanuel” because He was God with us from the git-go. “I will be with you always.”

And He had amazing authority. You might remember that we saw that all the way through the Gospel of Matthew in 2017, 2018, 2019 and the first part of 2020. Jesus taught as One with authority. He had authority over disease and demons. He had authority over the wind and waves. He had amazing authority!
But now Jesus has somehow gone to a new level of authority by dying and rising from the dead. Upon His resurrection, His Father has bestowed on Jesus, in some new way, all authority in heaven and on earth.

He is the King of Everything! Worthy of our worship.

“Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore.
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing, and triumph everymore.

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules over earth and heav’n
The keys of death and hell, Are to our Jesus giv’n!

Lift up your heart!
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”
- Charles Wesley

If you had all authority, what would you tell your followers to do?

I think this may be the one passage of holy Scripture that I have preached the most times in the last twenty-five years. I went back through my records, and I found at least seven times that this was the text that I preached from in this pulpit [1998, 1999, 2007, 2016a, 2016b, 2018, 2020].  And I know I’ve referenced it many more times, and rightfully so. Because this passage encapsulates our mission as a church straight from the mouth of our Risen Lord.

If you had all authority, what would you tell your followers to do?

The Risen Lord Jesus tells us to make more followers of Him. V.19 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...”


Did you see the “all” there? All authority, all nations. Every kind of people out there. That’s what the word “nations” means, it means “groups of people,” not just countries and nation-states, but every kind of ethnicity and tribe and tongue and people-group that you can imagine.

This is a key command for the church to do missions–to send people all over the world. Those people on the back wall of the auditorium are some of the people whom we are sending to obey this command to make disciples, followers of Jesus, from all nations. And because the apostles were faithful to obey these marching orders, the gospel of the Risen King has reached our ears! It has made it to the people groups here in central Pennsylvania. That’s why our church is here–because Jesus wants disciples from the people right here in our area.

And in our families, too. Let me tell you about some people who have been trying hard to obey this command. Shane and Holly who have told their daughter Natalie about how Jesus Christ died on the Cross for her sins. And Bill and Shasta have told their son Carter about how that same Jesus came back to life to give him life. These parents have been have been trying to make disciples of their children in obedience to Jesus. 

And Natalie and Carter have believed and chosen to become disciples. They’ve told me that themselves.

So, what’s the next step? What does He say in verse 19? It’s baptism.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, [how do you do that?] baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...”

That’s why we are doing that today. We are not baptizing these two today because it’s fun to see people get wet. This isn’t a dunk tank.

We are baptizing these two because they are identifying themselves with their Risen Lord, in fact, they are identifying themselves with All of Who God is. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The One God that we confessed this morning in the Apostles’ Creed. One God in Three Persons. Did you see that in verse 19? One God. One name. “Baptizing them in THE name.” And then there are these three Persons named as THE name–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Greg Strand taught us about the Tri-Unity of God this last Fall. One God in Three Persons, the Blessed Trinity.

In our baptism class, Carter, Natalie, and I noticed that those same three Persons were present at Jesus’ Baptism. The Father spoke, the Spirit descended like a dove, and Jesus is the Beloved Son.

So, when Uncle Joel dips them back into to the water, he’s going to bring out those same three names as the one name, identifying Natalie and Carter with the Three in One. Saying that Carter and Natalie are WITH this One God. And, at the same time, Jesus is saying it to them: “I will be with you always.”

Natalie and Carter, as you get baptized today, you are taking on this Great Commission yourself. You are saying that you are followers of Jesus and that you are going to engage in making more followers of Jesus.

You will tell your friends about Jesus. You will help missionaries spread the word about Jesus. You will pray about whether or not Jesus might be asking you yourself to go to people around the world and tell them about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because the Risen Jesus wants disciples from all nations. And He’s using us to make them.

Let me ask the rest of you if you have been baptized yourself. Because some people have decided it’s just not that important to be baptized and have put it off indefinitely. Have you been baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ? If not, why not?

Notice who says that we should be baptizing followers of Jesus. It’s Jesus Himself! And He’s come back from the dead to say it! And He’s said that He’s saying it from the position of ALL AUTHORITY. I think you and I ought to take that pretty seriously, don’t you? 

What could be holding you back? What could be holding you back from obeying the Person with all of the authority of heaven and earth from obeying all of His commands? That’s third ALL here. “All His commands.” Verse 20.

“...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”


Including the command to be baptized. Every single thing that Jesus has taught His disciples, they are supposed to pass on to all of His disciples. We don’t get to pick and choose. And notice that it says, “teaching them TO OBEY” all of His commands. 

Making disciples isn’t just passing on head-knowledge, filling brains with lists of commands. It is helping His followers to follow. And not just the commands that we feel like following.

Carter and Natalie, as you are baptized today, you are saying to the Lord and to the world that you are ready and willing to learn everything that Jesus wants to you to do, and you are ready and willing to do it. And that’s true of every baptized believer here in this room. Or, at least, it should be. Are there some commands that we are unwilling to learn to obey? If there are, we should repent of them today. Because Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth!

I’m not saying it’s easy. Following Jesus can be hard. Really hard. Making disciples can be hard. Living as a disciple can be hard. Jesus asks us to some hard things. Read the Gospel of Matthew over again if you need a reminder! (And we all need reminders.)

Yes, it can be hard, but Jesus has all of the authority to require all of His disciples from all of the nations to obey all of His commands. 

And here’s the good news, He gives us the power to do that, and He assures us of His presence as we do it! V.20

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Jesus has come back to life and will never die again. And He has promised to never leave His followers. He sends us out, yes, but He doesn’t stay back while we march out on our gospel mission. He goes with us!

We are not alone. Everything that He asks us to do, we do not do by ourselves. He promises us His presence. By His Spirit. Until He comes back at the end of the age to bring in the fullness of His kingdom.

“Surely I am with you always.” That word “surely” is the word for “behold.” It’s the same word that we emphasized when Ron Bean was baptized on January 8th. “Behold! Look there! I’m telling you, this is important. Behold! Check this out.”  “Behold! I am with you always. You can count on it. You can take it to the bank. Nothing will separate you from me. Nothing can snatch you from my hand. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Behold! Natalie, Carter, Lanse Free Church, you and I can “sing wherever we go” because Jesus goes wherever we go.

Jesus says, “I am with you always.”

Sunday, April 16, 2023

“Because He Lives” [Matt's Messages]

“Because He Lives”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 16, 2023 :: 1 Corinthians 15:58

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

That is incredibly important.  You can tell from what we just read. It is incredibly important that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

And it’s not just important one day out of the year. Every single day this week I posted on social media: “Good news! Jesus Christ is still alive today on Monday” and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday. You get the point.

We don’t just celebrate the resurrection on Resurrection Sunday. Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. That’s why we worship on Sundays!

And it’s why we worship every day of the week. Because:

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Last week, we said that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. 1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us how it changes everything. What all it changes in how we live.

You see that first word in verse 58, “therefore”? What’s it there for?

It’s there to signal that verse 58 is the punchline of the whole chapter! The “so-what” of the whole thing. Here’s how to live “Because He Lives.”

I love this verse. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I’m glad that I get to preach it on this particular Sunday which marks a very important anniversary.

It was exactly 25 years ago this weekend that I first stood in this pulpit and got to preach the Word of God to this congregation. One quarter of a century!

On March 15, 1998, I got this email from Wallace Kephart. Yes, I printed it out and kept it. (Careful sending me emails. It might get read in church in 25 years.)

 “Dear Matt, We have just completed our meting of the Pastoral Search Committee, with [District Superintendent] Leroy Glover. We would like to invite you and your lovely wife Heather to come to Lans,e Pennsylvania as a candidate for the senior pastor position in the Lanse Evangelical Free Church. The suggested dates would be April 15 through the 22. [Which was also the weekend after Resurrection Sunday in 1998.] ... I will be anticipating your call. Feel free to call any time. May God richly bless you and Heather as we continue our pursuit of His will. Walking with Him, Wally.”

And so, Heather and I accepted this invitation and drove our little Chevy Nova eleven hours from Zion, Illinois across Indiana and Ohio on route 80 to Lanse, Pennsylvania at Exit 21 (Gas was $1.06/gallon). We came first to this location. We didn’t have a key, but we peered in the windows to see what it was like for the first time. There was, of course, a big gravel parking lot and no Ark Park yet. Those were still to come. But we could see the great big foyer and the classrooms and the possibilities. And then we went over to Blair and Ruth's home for dinner. They were the first people we met. And Ruth put out a spread!

And then we got to stay with Wally and Nesta and experience the warmest hospitality. And they took us on that weekend to Blue Knob where Bruce and Donna were leading a youth group retreat, so we got to meet the young people (who are in their 40's now!). And that same weekend we got to go to State College and meet the awesome Allegheny District because that weekend was the district conference right over the mountain. You had to go through Port Matilda to get over Sky Top. There was no 99 going there back then. And we got to have dinner with George and Betty Leathers there at a place called Eat-n-Park. (What a strange name! I hope you do the second before you do the first.)

And then on Sunday, we came here inside the doors, and I met a bunch of you. One of you handed me this bulletin. It was printed by Ellen Smith. April 19, 1998. It says, “Welcome Matt and Heather Mitchell.”

How many of you were here at this church in 1998? Raise your hands. I won’t make you stand. Thank you. Thank you. (All the rest of you folks, it’s these people’s fault!)

Seriously though, thank you for taking a risk on a rookie pastor like me. Wet behind the ears. I had probably preached fewer than twenty times at that point in my whole life. And here you were letting me stand here and open God’s Word.

Anybody remember what book I preached from? I don’t expect you to. It was the Prophecy of Habakkuk. Chapter 3.

And then we had a lunch together after church that morning back in that Fellowship Hall. And then a congregational meeting that evening where we answered questions about our philosophy of ministry and how we would try to pastor you if we had the chance. And then we hung around for a few more days, got to meet with the board and the Christian Ed committee. And a week later, you voted to extend a call to me to preach nearly every Sunday and to be your pastor beginning in June 1998.

That was 25 years ago this weekend, and I am so grateful. And ever since that time, I’ve been trying to preach and to live out the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:58. To live a certain way because He lives.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58 NIVO).

I love how Paul addresses this church. He calls them, “my dear brothers.” Or “my dear siblings.” The Greek word “adelphoi” doesn’t just mean the male members of the church family. It means both the brothers and the sisters in this context. Paul thinks of them as his family. Church family. As Holly said in our meeting a few weeks ago, family as church and church as family. But see in v.58 that it’s not just family but BELOVED family. “My DEAR brothers.”

The Greek word there is “agapaytoi.” You hear the word for “love” in there, “agapay?” “Agapaytoi,” dearly beloved. Paul had deep affection and care for these people. They were HIS people.

And that’s how I feel about you all. Heather does, too. You are our “adelphoi agapaytoi.”  Our beloved siblings in Christ.

Some of you will remember that in 2008, I preached a short series called, “The 10 Things” to mark our ten year anniversary. Ten things I had learned the first 10 years. Ten things I was trying to teach the first 10 years. And ten things I hoped for the next 10 years. I just read them again this week. Precious!

How many of you came to be a part of this church in those years? 1998 to 2008. Raise your hands. Thank you. We love you. You are our “adelphoi agapaytoi.”

Ten years later, at the twenty year mark in 2018, I preached a special message to commemorate two decades of ministry together. How many of you came during that decade? From 2008 to 2018? Raise your hands. Thank you. We love you. You are our “adelphoi agapaytoi.” Our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now it’s now been five more years. And those have been some difficult years. Not only did I somehow get to be old (I’m nearly 50 now, I was 25 when I came), but we went through the covid pandemic together. And so much changed.

How many of you came during the last five years to be a part of Lanse Free Church, from 2018 to today? If you haven’t raised your hand yet, this is the time to do it! Thank you. We love you. You are our “adelphoi agapaytoi.”  Our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

The hardest part about going on sabbatical in a couple of weeks is that we will miss you. You are our family. You are in our hearts. You are “our people.” I think it’s clear that I need a rest, and I’m so grateful to you for granting it to us. But I need a rest from responsibility, not from relationship. We will miss being here for your sporting events, the birth of your children, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and Family Bible Week. And, God-forbid, any of your funerals. We love you. You all are our “adelphoi agapaytoi.” Our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. 

We feel about you as Paul felt about the Corinthians, and we want you to live like Paul wanted the Corinthians to live because Jesus lives.

I think verse 58 can be summed up in three points. Because He lives...


That’s what he says, right? “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” I think he means to let nothing move you from the gospel. Stand firm on the gospel.

Like he started the chapter with. In verse 1, he said, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved...” (1 Cor. 15:1-2 NIVO). Don’t abandon it. Don’t stray from it. Don’t bail on it.

You know what has been the hardest part of pastoring the same church for twenty-five years? Seeing all of the people who fall away. All of the people who bail on the gospel. People I have baptized who are no longer living as Christians. People I have discipled who are no longer living as disciples. People who have not stood firm.

It’s hard when there is a conflict and someone leaves. There have been several people over the last twenty-five years that have been disappointed with me or with the church and moved on to another church. Sometimes it’s been my fault, and I’ve tried to do my part to make it good. But if they are following Jesus just at another church, that’s not so bad. That’s hard, but it’s okay.

It’s those people who have not stood firm on the gospel. Those who have abandoned the gospel and walked away from Christ–those are the ones that hurt the most. Especially when I see them at Sheetz or at a football game.

I keep praying. I keep praying for them to repent and walk with Christ again. But Paul tells the Corinthians to not drift away in the first place. Because Jesus is alive, you and I should stand firm on the gospel.

As we have said a thousand times in the last twenty-five years: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ. A lot of things have changed in the last twenty-five years. A lot of things have changed in the last five years. But I hope that nothing truly important has changed because we are standing firm on the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that needs to be true not just for all of us together but for each one of us separately. Stand firm. Hold on. Keep going. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. Be steadfast.

Paul says the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus Christ is what saves us (v.2). Our sins are gone, gone, gone, gone because of what Jesus did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb. “Let nothing move you” from that truth.

Christ has risen! He has risen indeed. Therefore, my dear people, stand firm. Let nothing move you. 

Because He lives:


Look at our verse again.  “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord...”

Something else that we’re not every supposed to drift away from is ministry. We continue to serve. He says, “always” and “give yourselves” and “fully to the work of the Lord.” The Greek word translated “fully” in the NIV is a word that means “overflowing.” It’s the root form of the word that I’ve illustrated before by pouring water all over this stage. How many times have I done that in the last twenty-five years?

The King James says “abounding,” “always abounding in the work of the Lord...” In other words, pour yourself out in the work of the Lord. I have tried to do that for the last twenty-five years, but this verse isn’t just for pastors or church leaders. It’s for all of Paul’s beloved brethren. It’s for all of us!

Each one of us is supposed to be pouring out our lives in service to the King. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of Lord.” Work hard!

Work hard at ministry among this church family. Make this summer a wonderful joyful time of ministry for the church elders over the next few months. Just because I’m going to be away doesn’t mean that this church should slow down. This church is not about me. It’s about serving the Lord. It’s about keeping the main the main thing. It’s about always giving yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

Church family, throw yourself into the work of the Lord in cleaning up our campus, in teaching the children in children’s church, in being greeters, in fixing up the men’s restroom, in serving coffee or a meal, in leading the devotions at Ladies’ Fellowship Hour, in starting up a new Link Group, in praying with someone in a prayer corner or over the back of a pew, or teaching a class, or going visiting or whatever the church family needs. The elders are going to pour themselves out for you, too. Pray for them as they give themselves fully to the work of the Lord.

Heather and I will continue to do the work of the Lord, as well, even when we are on sabbatical. We won’t be working vocationally. We’ll be vacationing. Our work will be rest. An recharging to come back and work hard here again. But we will still look for ways to serve the Lord wherever we are visiting in Great Britain. Just like the retired people in our church family serve the Lord even if you aren’t working full time.

But the work of the Lord is not just serving the church, is it?  There’s also doing our jobs as worship, too, right? So that Andrew and Benjamin are called to do their work as unto the Lord this summer. Taking pictures for Jesus’ sake. Fighting forest fires for the glory of Jesus’ name.

We need to stand firm on the gospel and work hard in the name of the Lord. Because Jesus lives, we should serve Him unceasingly. We don’t take a sabbatical from serving Jesus. 

In what ways are you tempted to stop giving yourself to the work of the Lord? Where you are tempted to let others carry what you know you should? Where are you tempted to run away from serving Jesus instead of running towards it?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we have the best church for faithful servants. Some churches have an 80/20 rule where 80% of the ministry gets done by 20% of the people. That’s not how it is here. We have 80% of our people active in ministry! It looks different for different people at different times. We don’t judge each other. But we do spur each other on to love and good deeds!

Don’t quit! It’s so tempting to quit. I know. Because it often feels futile, right? It often feels like things are just not worth it. Things are just falling apart. And like no progress is actually being made. 

Like that guy in ancient mythology, Sisyphus. The guy who was cursed “the gods” who had to roll that boulder up the mountain every day and then the boulder rolled down the mountain again. And then he had to do all over again. And then all over again.

Does your life feel like that? “Life is hard, and then you die.” What is the point?!

Jesus is the point! And Jesus is alive. And that makes all of the difference.

See the logic here? “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Because He lives...


“Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

What’s the worst thing that someone can do to you? Kill you, right? So you do all of this work for Jesus and then you die. But Jesus has come back from the dead and promises to bring YOU back from the dead, too.

That’s what Paul meant by that stuff he said about “firstfruits.” Jesus is the firstfruits from the dead meaning the early harvest that shows what the later harvest will be like. Because He lives forever, we will live forever, and that means that we can’t lose.

We can’t lose! Paul says that you “KNOW” that you can’t lose. You know that your work is not meaningless. It is meaningful. You know that it is worth it. Everything we do for Jesus is worth it. Because He lives. 

Spoiler alert: We KNOW the ending to the story that we are living in. We win! We are winners. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.57).

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

That means that you and I can literally die doing ministry and nothing can stop us from seeing the return on our investment. Paul could and will die doing ministry, and it doesn’t phase him one bit! 

Do you need to hear that? Nothing can stop you from seeing the return on your investment as your faithfully serve the Lord Jesus with your life. We can’t lose.

Now, that only applies to our work done “in the Lord.” If you are not “in the Lord” then you yourself will not have a blessed resurrection. Your work, your strivings, will achieve nothing more than whatever you can grasp in this life. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). If you are “outside of the Lord,” then I fear for you, and I invite you to come in by faith to His salvation and His service. Put your trust in what Jesus did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb.

And even for Christians, the things we do that are not “of” or “for” the Lord are spurious at best and sinful at worst. We need to be asking ourselves about everything we do, why do we do it. Do we do it for the glory of God?

The missionary statesmen C.T. Studd wrote a little poem that has been quoted many times in the last hundred years. It says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

He means only one short life in this fallen world. Because there is a second life coming in the resurrection and what we do now will reverberate into eternity.

What we do now, for Christ will last.

We stand firm and steadfast on the gospel.
We work hard and pour ourselves out for the Lord.
Because we can’t lose.

Because He lives.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Sunday, April 09, 2023

“What the Women Found” [Matt's Messages]

“What the Women Found”
Resurrection Sunday: April 9, 2023
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
Luke 24:1-12

I’m telling you. These women were taken by surprise! They ran up against something they certainly never ever expected to experience.

Luke chapter 24 gives us the story of the first people on the scene after Jesus’ resurrection. The first witnesses to say what had happened.

And their names were Mary, Mary, and Joanna (v.10). And there may have been more. Mark mentions a woman named Salome. Verse 10 says that there were others in the group like Salome. But they were all women. 

And they were the first on the scene. And they were the first to share this crazy story!

I would have never come up with this story in a million years. And I would never have told it this way. As I was reading it and re-reading it this week for this message, I kept thinking that, “I would never tell this story like this.” 

And, to me, that means that it has the ring of truth! I mean, for one thing, the miracle of the resurrection that we’ve been singing so loudly about this morning is never described. There are no witnesses to the actual moment of Jesus coming back from the dead.

We’re going to see the effects of it.
We’re going to hear that it has happened.
There will be plenty of evidence for this miracle.

But if this was a movie, we’d the see the body sit up. We’d see His legs twitch. It’d be a jump scare. Or we’d see the color return to His flesh. His chest go up and down again. We’d see Him swing around and stand up. We’d see the action of Him coming back from the dead, walking out of the tomb.

But God doesn’t tell His story that way. That all happened in the secrecy of the tomb. No witnesses but the Father, the Spirit, and the Son Himself. 

And then these first people on the scene are women. And I love that! I would have never come up with it. But I love it. I love it because women were, in that day, not trusted as reliable witnesses for public matters. Women often had second-class status in ancient near eastern cultures.

We’ll see in a few moments that they were not initially believed even by their brother disciples!

But in how God tells His story, these women were the first on the scene and the first with the good news. And that does at least two things at the same time:

First, it elevates the status of women. Which Jesus does at every turn. The Gospel of Luke is chock-ful of Jesus’ interactions with women, and they are overwhelming positive. Everywhere Jesus goes He lifts up and improves the lives of women. He treats women with dignity and respect. He often points out where His female disciples have been more faithful and more faith-filled than their male counterparts. Jesus cherishes women and lifts them up at every turn.

Ladies, if you have been taught that Christianity denigrates you, you have been taught wrong. Certainly, Christians have often done that, but Christ has not.

If you want to read more about that, I would recommend this book by Rebecca McLaughlin, Jesus Through the Eyes of Women: How the First Female Disciples Help Us to Know and Love the Lord. It’s a really good introduction to Jesus from the perspective of the women in His life. And, again, their status improves here as women are the first on the scene and the first with the good news.

But at the very same time, that lends credibility to the whole story, because, at the time, nobody would have come up with this!

In her book, McLaughlin says, “The fact that all four Gospels make the women central to their resurrection claim appeals to us as 21st-century readers. But it would have had the opposite effect on literate men in the Greco-Roman world...[quoting Richard Bauckham] ‘[W]omen were thought by educated men to be gullible in religious matters and especially prone to superstitious fantasy and excessive religious practices’...from [their] perspective, Mary Magdalene and the other weeping women who witnesses Jesus’ so-called resurrection were a joke. If the Gospel authors had been making up their stories, they could have made Joseph of Arimathea [the owner of the tomb] and Nicodemus the first resurrection witnesses: two well-respected men involved in Jesus’ burial. The only possible reason for the emphasis on the testimony of women–and weeping women at that–is if they really were the witnesses” (pg. 166-167).

I think that’s exactly right! This way of the telling this crazy story gives it the unmistakable ring of truth.

But we’ve gotten ahead of the story itself. Let’s look and see what Luke actually says actually happened. What these women actually found. Look with me at Luke chapter 24, verse 1.

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (vv.1-3).

I have four things I want to point out that these women surprisingly found on that fateful Sunday morning. And here’s number one:


According to Luke chapter 23, Jesus died on a Friday, and these women who had been following Him for a long time were there at His crucifixion (23:49). They stood at a distance and watched the awful thing happen to Him.

And then Jesus was buried in a tomb, and those same women saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it (23:55). And they had gone home and prepared spices to anoint His body after the Sabbath. They loved Him and wanted Jesus to be honored in His death. And, as obedient Jewish believers, they rested quietly on the Sabbath and waited for Sunday morning to come.

Luke says that it was very early the morning. The sun had just begun to send out beams over the horizon, and they set off for the tomb. They knew where it was. They didn’t know how they were going to get in. They thought they would have to come up with come of plan.

But they were surprised. They were greeted by an open tomb. That was the first clue that something big had happened. And the second clue was the biggest. There was no body there! V.2 again.

“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (vv.2-3).

What’s even more amazing than what they found was what they did NOT find. They didn’t find any corpse! The tomb was not only open but empty.

That never happens, by the way. On Memorial day, you never go down to the cemetery to put flowers on your loved one’s grave, and there’s this great big gaping hole where they had been laid to rest. “Oh, they’re gone. I wonder where they went this weekend.”  The local funeral service has never had one get away from them!

The next verse says that “they were wondering about this,” and no wonder. This just doesn’t happen.

Unless there are grave robbers. That’s what Mary Magdalene thought at first. The Gospel of John says that she told the other disciples that theory that Jesus’ body had been stolen. We looked at that last year on Resurrection Sunday in John chapter 20. But it wasn’t grave robbers. Jesus’ body was not stolen.

And God sent two amazing messengers to make that clear. Verse 4.

“While they were wondering about this [while they were “perplexed”], suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.”

It’s angels! Can you imagine? Their clothes gleamed like lightning. Just think. That’s all the electricity these folks knew. They didn’t have electric lights. They didn’t have stadium lights. They didn’t have LED’s. All they knew was lightning, and these two men’s clothes gleamed like lightning!

How bright?! Ever looked at lightning and then closed your eyes and still see the silhouette, the outline of the lightning on your eyeballs? They were standing next to these two “men” with clothes like lightning! And that’s not the most amazing thing they’re going to see in their lifetimes!
These women hit the dirt. Verse 5.

“In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'’ Then they remembered his words.” (Vv.5-8).
Here’s the second big thing they found:


The angels tell the women that they shouldn’t be so surprised that Jesus is not there. Because He told them in advance that He was going to do this. He said that again and again. They just didn’t understand what He was saying. They just didn’t get it. But that’s why the angel rebukes them. He’s gentle, but the message is clear, “Why do you look for the living [Jesus] among the dead [the tomb]? Don’t you remember what He promised?

He told you that He was going to be betrayed. He knew about Judas. He told you that He was going to be crucified. On Thursday night, He had taken bread and said, “This is my body which is given for you.” He had taken the cup and said, “This is my blood which is poured out for you.” He told you that He was going to be executed by sinful men.

But He also said that He would eat that meal again. He said that He was going to be raised from the dead on the third day. 

And if He can keep that promise? There is no promise that He cannot keep!

There is unbelievable power at work here. The power to raise the dead! And the power to keep every one of His precious promises. 

This is such good news!  It’s good news because it means our salvation. Jesus’ crucifixion paid for the sins of His people, and His resurrection cements the deal. The Apostle Paul said, Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25-5:1 NIVO). He came back to life to give us life. Like the choir sang, “Just as He promised. Just as He said.”

And it’s good news because it means that God’s plan is not derailed. Do you feel sometimes like God’s plan is off track?  You might have come to church this morning after a really rough week. May this week your life was like a country-western song. You lost your girl, you lost your job, you lost your truck, you lost your dog.

And I’m being funny, but maybe you didn’t have anything to laugh about this week. And you’re feeling like God’s plan must be off track. Have you seen the state of the world? Have you read the headlines?

Well, when these precious ladies got up that Sunday morning, they believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was a cadaver. And He had told them that He was going to die but not stay dead. And when these angels reminded them (v.8), “They remembered his words.”

“Oh yeah! Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe all is not lost. Maybe God’s plan is still on track. Maybe Jesus is alive.”

And we say: Christ is Risen! 

Indeed He is. But not everyone believes. Look at verse 9.

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (vv.9-11).

Here’s the third thing the women found:


The apostles “did not believe the women.” It doesn’t say that they didn’t believe them because they were women, but, sadly, that probably didn’t help. 

But it was because “their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Like “idle tales.” Like foolishness.

“What are you saying? What do you mean the tomb is empty? What do you mean there were men shining like lightning? What do you mean that Jesus is alive? That’s crazy! Ladies, what are you talking about?"

Some of you may think that all of this stuff we’re talking about today is crazy. Some of you may be skeptics yourself and have been drug to church by someone you love.  I’m glad you’re here today. Thank you for coming.

I hope this is a chance for you to re-think the evidence and consider the case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not a slam-dunk because these women said these things, but I sure think it has the ring of truth. 

We have a class right now called “Cold-Case Christianity” that is being taught by Keith Hurley here on Sunday mornings at 8:30. The guy who wrote the curriculum was a homicide detective that uses his knowledge of sifting through evidence to examine the claims of Christianity. Next week, they are talking about the standard of proof and debunking conspiracy theories.

Christianity is not something where you check your brain at the door and believe illogical things with no evidence. No, instead, Christianity is something where you engage your brain in weighing the evidence and then believing in amazing things because of it.

Yes, this is an amazing claim. We believe that Jesus Christ came back from the dead. And one of the reasons is because of these women who many people knew. Some of them are named here, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the some others who are not named but were there–gave evidence. They gave testimony.

They went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (vv.2-3).

What do YOU think? If you are not sure, I challenge you to check it out yourself. I believe these women, and it makes all of the difference in everything.

The fourth thing that these women found:


At first the apostles didn’t believe, but then Peter said, “I’ve got to see for myself.” v.12 

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” He wasn’t sure yet either. He walks away scratching his head. Peter could see that the strips of linen were there. If someone stole the body, why would they leave His graveclothes? That just makes it seem like there was a resurrection.

Maybe there is a resurrection!

The Gospel of John tells us that the Apostle John ran with Peter to the tomb, and when John saw the empty tomb and the strips of linen that had been covering Jesus just lying there, John “got it” and believed!

First the women disciples.
Then the men disciples.
More and more people check it out.

And then Jesus starts appearing to them, too.

There are several accounts as this chapter closes. And then Paul documents even more. More than 500 people see Jesus alive over the next forty days! More than 500 people, at different times, will swear upon cross examination that Jesus Christ was alive again. Many of those people were not only willing to swear that Jesus was alive, they were willing to stake their entire life on it. They were willing to die for what they saw.

Peter was one of them. Historical tradition says that he was crucified upside down for saying that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. First the women, then the men, then the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the outer most parts of the Earth.

Even to Central Pennsylvania! The good news has reached our ears. Jesus is alive, and it makes all of the difference in the world.

It means hope.
It means peace.
It means joy.

It means salvation.
It means eternal life.

I would have never come up with this crazy story, and I would have never told it this way.

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Because what the women found truly changes everything.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

“For You” [Matt's Messages]

“For You”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
Palm Sunday :: April 2, 2023 :: Luke 22:14-20

Jesus wants us to take His death personally.

In fact, He tells us to eat it. Our Lord Jesus told His disciples to eat and drink symbols of His death. 
Up in the upper room, our Lord Jesus told His followers to eat and drink, to ingest, deeply symbolic emblems of His sacrificial death which was going to occur in just a few short hours.

These words are very familiar, aren’t they? Perhaps too familiar? We get used to hearing them, and we stop thinking about them. Today, we want to stop and think about them more deeply. What was Jesus trying to do when He gave us His Supper? What was He trying to teach? What was He trying to leave with His disciples, and therefore you and me, when He gave them this bread and this cup?

Well, really a lot of things. There is a lot packed in here, and the rest of the Bible unpacks it. 

There’s Passover.
And there’s the Kingdom of God.
And there’s the New Covenant. That means more to us now that we’ve studied Jeremiah together, doesn’t it?

And there is substitution. Jesus explains that both the bread and the cup are symbols of substitution.

He uses two little words that say so much, the last two words of verse 20, and the title of this message.

“For You.”


Jesus wants His disciples to take His death personally because He personally died for us. 

He told them that just a few hours before He did it. Jesus had gathered His disciples together for a Passover meal in a large guest room. Probably a holiday rental room for those pilgrims that had swarmed into Jerusalem for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

Earlier in this chapter, we learn that the leaders of the Jews have conspired and struck a deal with His disciple Judas to betray Jesus to them. They are going to get Him arrested and executed before the week is out.

But Jesus has plans of His own. He has arranged for a clandestine meeting place with His disciples to eat the Passover feast together without being interrupted by the authorities. And the time has now come. Look at verse 14 again.

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.”

It’s not Leonardo’s famous painting where they are all on one side of the table and sitting upright. They are much more comfortable than that. They are laying on low benches like spokes of a wheel coming out from the hub where the food is laid out in the middle.

And Jesus is so happy to be with them that night. He’s sad for Himself but overjoyed to be with these people He loves so so much. Verse 15.

“And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

He’s been wanting this for a very long time. He loves these men and wants to be with them. Wants to share this meal. Wants to share this time. It’s especially precious because He knows what is going to happen next. Did you see that? “Before I suffer.”

He knows! And, in fact, He’s choosing it. Judas, and the Jews, and Herod, and Pilate, and the Romans are all at fault with their terrible plans. But Jesus is in control! He is choosing this. And He’s choosing to eat this Passover meal with them. One last special dinner together before He suffers. Before He dies.

But notice this! He does not expect this to be His last supper with them. We call it the “Last Supper,” but He actually expects to eat it again. Look at verse 16.

“...I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Isn’t that interesting?! Jesus expects to suffer. And, boy, will He ever! He expects to die. But He doesn’t expect that to be the end for Him. He expects to eat and drink a Passover meal or the “fulfillment” of the Passover meal in the kingdom of God!

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus is invoking both the past and the future at this Table?

The Lord’s Supper looks back on the Passover. What is the Passover? It’s the amazing rescue of the people of God in the Old Testament. We’ve been studying the Book of Exodus on Wednesday nights at Prayer Meeting, and we’ve read about the LORD’s dramatic rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt through the 10 plagues. And the last plague of the 10 plagues was the Death of the Firstborn. All of the firstborn sons of Egypt died, but the firstborn sons of Israel did not die if their parents had placed the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes.  On those homes with the blood on the doorposts, the Angel of Death passed over those homes and saved the firstborn sons. And so Israel escaped from Egypt!

Because of the Passover, they were saved. The Passover meal celebrated the Passover rescue. And that Passover Rescue pointed towards a greater Rescue. A greater Passover. That’s what Jesus was doing on the Cross, and what He was symbolizing with His new twist on this meal.  

But it doesn’t stop with this meal. See what He says in verse 16? “...when it [the Passover] finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Has the kingdom come? That’s a trick question, right? 

Here’s the full answer: The kingdom of God has already come because the King has come, but the kingdom of God has not yet come fully, and the kingdom of God will come fully one day when the King returns.

Jesus says that He won’t eat this meal again until that day. In that day, there will be an even greater feast! One that commemorates not just the rescue from Egypt and not just the rescue from the penalty and power of sin but our complete and total rescue from even the presence of sin!

The Messianic Banquet in the age to come.
The Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
This meal points to that meal!

And Jesus could hardly wait!

He so wanted to eat this meal with them as a foretaste of the glory to come.

So He passes around the cup. V.17

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’ (vv.17-19).
This was one special cup! This was the last drink of wine that Jesus would enjoy until kingdom come.

Traditionally, there were four cups of wine at a Passover meal. This is probably the first of those of those four. Jesus drinks from it, and He has His disciples pass it around and drink from it, too. 

He gave thanks for it. The Greek word there is “eucharistaysas.” It’s where we get the word “Eucharist” from.  Jesus was so thankful to get to drink this with His beloved followers that night. 

Looking back on the Passover and looking forward to the Kingdom and looking squarely at the Cross.

He knows what’s going to happen. He knows the forces that are amassing against Him as He eats. He knows who has been sitting at His table ready to betray Him. He knows that crucifixion is at hand. And so He passes around this bread and this cup. He tells His disciples what is going to happen and what it’s going to mean when it does.

Look at verse 19. “And he took bread, gave thanks [eucharistaysas] and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”

“For you.” Jesus wants us to take His death personally because He died personally for His disciples.

The idea there is substitution. He took our place. His death was for us. Instead of us. Done for us. Just like the lamb who was slain to save the firstborn sons Jesus would be slain to save you and me. 

His body would be broken. That’s why He broke the bread. He knew what He was symbolizing.  In just a few short hours from this moment, Jesus’s body will be broken.

He will be mocked and beaten to a pulp.
He will be whipped. He will wear a crown of thorns.
In His weakened state, He will be forced to carry His own cross to His execution.
He will be crucified–and we can’t understand what that means. If we did, we would throw up. It’s the ugliest thing in the world.

And Jesus said that like this broken bread, his body will be broken “for you.”

In Luke, the verb is “given” for you. It’s a gift. Jesus offers it up at no charge. His followers do not earn it, do not deserve it, and never will. “This my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus tells them to eat it. To ingest this symbol of His death. Jesus wants them to take His death personally unto and into themselves.

This is something new, by the way. This is different from the Passover. This is Jesus’ own special new thing. It’s built off of the Passover and what the Passover was foreshadowing, but this is bigger and deeper. Jesus says that He is like this piece of bread. It’s a metaphor, by the way. He doesn’t mean that the bread literally becomes His body. His literal body is right there holding the bread! This is symbolism. But it is incredibly powerful symbolism. Because His followers are supposed to take that symbol of His broken body, that symbol of His death and put it inside of them. Making it a part of them. Taking that death into themselves.

And the cup, too. V.20

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (v.20).

“For you.”

That is substitution. Like we just said from our EFCA Statement of Faith, “We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins” (Article 5).

Jesus was telling His disciples what all the blood they were soon going to see meant. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

And now, all of a sudden, we’re not talking about Passover or the Kingdom of God, we’re talking about the New Covenant. And we know what that is, right? Because we’ve recently studied Jeremiah 31 which says:

“‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ‘ declares the LORD. [Sound familiar?] ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Jer. 31:31-34 NIVO).

New days.
New hearts.
New closeness.
New slates.
New Jerusalem.

Do you remember what we learned in Jeremiah 31? It is so amazing what God has promised His people in the New Covenant! And Jesus says that the New Covenant is now here. It is now ratified. It is now enacted in His blood. And He wants His disciples to drink it down. He wants them make it a part of themselves. Jesus wants them to take His death personally.

He says it’s because it was “for you.”

“Poured out for you.” That language comes from the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 53. Where the LORD promises to give the blessings of victory to the Suffering Servant. He says, “...I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors [sinners, like you and me]. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12 NIVO).

Later in this very chapter, Jesus is going to come right out and say that that verse is directly talking about Him (v.37)! And it’s directly talking about us.

“...he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors...”

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Take it personally.

How should we apply this to our lives today?

Let me suggest three ways as we begin to head toward the Table.


Put your trust in what Jesus did on the Cross for you. Take His death personally and put your personal faith in it. That’s one of the reasons why Jesus wants us to eat and drink the elements at this Table–because it symbolizes our own personal faith in His death. His death is efficacious for those who take it to themselves and put their personal faith in Him. We are not saved by eating and drinking from this table, but we are are saved by receiving in our hearts what this table symbolizes. Personal faith in a personal Savior who died for persons like you and me. 

Not because we deserved it! It is a gift. But like all gifts, it must be received to be enjoyed. Receive the gift and rest in His substitution. You don’t have to save yourself. You don’t have to make this happen. Jesus has done it FOR YOU. The Apostle Peter said it this way, “...Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Pet. 3:18 NIVO). So come to God!!

And when you do, then you will experience the New Birth because of the New Covenant. You will have a new heart, a new slate, a new future. “...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17 NIVO). And He did all the work! We just put our trust in Him. We rest in His substitution. We trust in His broken body and poured out blood.

Friends, take Jesus’ death personally because it was for you.


That’s actually the only command here in this passage. In verse 19, Jesus tells the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

That’s why we worship at the Lord’s Table. That’s why we “take communion.” Because Jesus left this memorial meal for us to regularly partake of to remember what He did FOR US.

We’re supposed to come back to it again and again and again. Yes, familiarity can breed contempt. But repetition can also be the mother of education. Repetition is the mother of learning. As we come back to the Table month after month. Many churches do it Sunday after Sunday. As we come back to the Table again and again and again we are reminded what Jesus did for us. How He died for us. What He went through for us. This was not just like any other death. We all die. This death was special. And it was substitutionary. Jesus was doing it FOR US. Remember that!

And not just on Communion Sundays. Or on Sundays. But every single day. What love this is!  “Love so amazing, so divine.” Take it personally. 

Think, today, about your sin. Think about your sin on the whole. And think about the last time you sinned. Whatever it might have been. And thank Jesus personally for how His body was broken for you and how His blood was poured out for you. And remember His sacrifice.

I think that kind of remembering helps when the next temptation hits, doesn’t it? When we are living in gratefulness, we are much less prone to wander and sin, aren’t we? And we are more prone to give our soul, our life, our all.

Jesus loved us to death. Not because we were so lovable. He didn’t say, “Oh, they are so cute! I just love them to death.” No, He said, “They are transgressors who deserve death, and in spite of that, I love them and will take that death for them.” And we need to remind ourselves of that every single day.

Take Jesus’ death personally. Because it was “for you.” Remember His sacrifice.


Because this was not His “last supper.” Remember, Jesus expects to eat this meal once again! The Lord’s Supper looks back on the Passover, looks squarely at the Cross, and also looks forward to the Kingdom of God! This meal points to that meal. When all will be made right. 

Jesus knows what we are going to celebrate next Sunday. His broken body will stand up again. His heart will beat and His blood will flow once more.

Jesus is coming back to life on Sunday and coming back one day soon to bring His kingdom. He’s going to eat the meal when it finds fulfillment in the kingdom God. He’s going to drink the fruit of the vine when the kingdom of God comes in all of its fullness.

That’s why the Apostle Paul says, “...whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26 NIVO).

In verse 29, Jesus tells His disciples something wonderful that comes out of His sacrificial death, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk. 22:29-30 NIVO). And just as they will eat and drink at His kingdom table, so one day, will we!

That’s something to look forward to!

Not because we deserve it. Far from it. But because He did this for you and for me.

Let us take Jesus’ death personally.