This Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my church. My text was Matthew 1.18-2.23. One of the struggles I had was not putting in all the great treasures I found in the text (with the help of several commentary friends). I had to limit myself to a few points so that my listeners woud not have to sit for an inexhorbitant amount of time. Of particular interest that I could not include was the relationship between 1.21 and 23. Joseph is told to call his son “Jesus” because ‘he will save his people from their sins.’ The name ‘Joshua’ literally means ‘the LORD saves.’ But the angel tells Joseph that Jesus will save his people from their sins. Extraordinary. This is the LORD who is coming to save his people from their sins.

In other words, when Joshua led Israel out fo the wilderness, it was clear that the LORD had redeemed his people. The redemption was not attributed to Joshua. But here we see that hs name will be called ‘YHWH saves’ because he (this child) will save.

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Eleven Appearances of Jesus

In an effort to make our faith secure, Jesus appeared to his disciples on eleven distinct occasions. Here they are:

1. Mary Magdalene alone (Mk 16; Jn 20.14)

2. The woman returning from the tomb (Mt 28.9-10)

3. Simon Peter alone (Lk 24.34)

4. Two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24.13-35)

5. Apostles at Jerusalem, without Thomas (Jn 20.19)

6. Apostles at Jerusalem, a second time, with Thomas present (Jn 20.26-29)

7. Sea of Tiberias, seven disciples fishing (Jn 21.1)

8. To the Eleven, on mountain in Galilee (Mt. 28.16)

9. To 500+ disciples (1Cor 15.6)

10. To James alone (1Cor 15.7)

11. To the Apostles on Mt. Olivet at his Ascension (Lk 24.51; Acts 1.6-11)

This is mere speculation and devotional in nature, but I thought I would share it. As you may know twelve symbolizes perfection or completion. Could it be that Christ reveals himself through his Word to you and to me as the Twelfth appearance. Blessed are those who have not seen with eyes of flesh, yet see with the eyes of faith. After all, isn’t this what Luke is attempting to do in his gospel and sequel (Acts)? Isn’t he attempting to give an account to most excellent Theophilus (“Lover of God”)? By giving such an account, he wants to make our faith certain that not only these things happened, but they cause ripple effects into our own space and time.

Christ truly is walking amongst us through the power and illuminating power of his Spirit.

Things Concerning Jesus in the OT

I am preaching on reading Scripture devotionally this coming Sunday. I am using the Road to Emmaus as the backdrop to the message (Luke 24.13-35). I am playing with the thesis right now, but it is something like “God reveals himself so that we will be changed.”

In study, I came across this pithy quotation from J. C. Ryle’s sermon on the same text:

In what way did our Lord show “things concerning himself,” in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer . . . is short and simple.

Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head–the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed–the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, the true scape-goat–the true bronze serpent–the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed–the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.

Of course, I am probably going to use this in the sermon. It hits me every time I read it!

A Challenge to My Expositional Preaching Friends

I am convinced that expositional preaching should be the steady diet in the local church. I think it helps people read their Bibles well (if preached well!), unfolds the storyline of the exegeted book better, rounds out the jagged edges of a preacher’s hobby horses, and it forces the church to have to deal with every word of Scripture (particularly the thorny ones).

With that said, I have a challenge. I have been preparing for a message on the grace, mercy, and patience of God this past week and have found myself caught up in moments of worship. Of course, this message will be a topical one. That is my challenge: Do some topical sermons. This is not to say that worship shouldn’t well up in our hearts as we prep an expositional sermon–that most definitely be the case whenever we open the Book.

Rather, the reason I think this specific way of preaching (again, not on a regular basis) has affected me in a profound way is due to my having to thumb through ALL portions and genres of Scripture. I have been reading in the Pentateuch, the Wisdom literature, the Gospels, the Epistles. . .scouring the pages to see how God has dealt in this particular way with his creatures.

Further, I have found myself OVERWHELMED with what to say. This has been good for me since I have found that, at times, in expositional preaching I can come to a place where I feel as though I have mastered or exhausted a passage. I have never felt that way when I am doing a topical sermon. It would be a good reminder for us to proactively fight this tendency by laying the Bible in our laps and saying, “Have a go.” You will be gloriously overwhelmed. There are infinite ways to mine the treasures of Scripture in a topical sermon.

In light of that, I have also been humbled as such a study has reminded me that there is no one way to execute such a task as topical preaching. God has been kind to remind me that just as many preachers there are in the world, so there are sermons on any given topic.

So, my friends, give yourself a few weeks out of the year to be overwhelmed by God’s riches. To be humbled by your lack of knowledge. To worship at the goodness of God in giving you a book with infinite value.