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THE STORY — IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM
by Pastor Mike Fortune
March 8, 2008

Introduction: Amena Brown — Resurrection Video Clip BlueFishTV.com
PowerPoint File

  1. Life is a story all about Jesus [John 8:12; Exodus 13:21-22; Numbers 14:14; Luke 2:25-32; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:16]
  2. Confusion is common [John 8:13-27: 5:31-47]
  3. But it all becomes clear at the cross [John 8:27-30]

When the Washington Territory was ready for statehood in 1889, there was a proposal to call it Columbia, in honor of the mighty Columbia River. Legislators rejected the idea in the fear that our 42nd state would then be confused with the District of Columbia. So they stuck with their original choice, and named it Washington. Or that’s the story anyway.

But stories, even good ones as that video clip reminds us, can sometimes be confusing! Full of irony. And surprise endings. That’s why we’re starting a new sermon series this week entitled the “The Story.” I thought about calling it the Never Ending Story like the movie, but I didn’t want you to think each sermon would never end. So I went with just “The Story.”

But there’s something about stories that appeal to us right? At least they do to Joshua and Lydia. Especially right before they go to bed. Sometimes, they listen to CD stories while they fall asleep. There’s a great series of CDs called The Bible In Living Sounds I highly recommend. Adventures in Odyssey are great too. If it’s too late for either of those, they only get the mandatory bedtime story followed by a Jesus story. But when there’s time, they get the mandatory bedtime story, followed by a Jesus story, which is followed by the make believe and/or embarrassing personal story where I put their names into a “Once upon a time” kind of story or tell an embarrassing true story about how much their mom and I love each other or how we met or how I proposed which usually ends with a description of a kiss of some kind. They groan and moan and hide under pillows when I start talking about love and stuff, but secretly, I think they really like it. Who doesn’t like a love story?

That’s part of the reason the Gospel story is so compelling. Especially this time of year. As we approach Easter. Earlier this year than any other will be for the rest of our lives. Why is that? Because Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox [which is March 20 this year]. And because the dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, it moves around on our Roman calendar. But here’s the curious thing: This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! Why? Because the next time Easter will be March 23 will be the year 2228. Anybody planning on cramming 220 candles on their cake? The last time Easter was this early was 1913. Which is why I said if you’re 95 or older, you may remember an early Easter season like ours this year. Of course, if you’re 95, you may not remember breakfast either! At any rate, let’s begin the story where John does in Chapter 8 verse 12. We’ll be reading through verse 30.

“12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ 13The Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.’ 14Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.’ 19Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’ ‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ 20He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. 21Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.’ 22This made the Jews ask, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'? 23But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.’ ‘25Who are you?’ they asked. ‘Just what I have been claiming all along,’ Jesus replied. ‘26I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’ 27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’ 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.”

Point number one: Life is a story. G.K. Chesteron said it this way. “With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand.” And the part of the story the people in Jesus’ day misunderstood was that Jesus was the light of the world. Isn’t that what He claimed in verse 12? Let’s look at that again. “12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

If you keep reading you can quickly see which part of the story the Pharisees misunderstood. We alluded to it last time. Where in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, the apostle Paul straight out says that the pre-incarnate Jesus was the one leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness and into Canaan. Jesus was the lawgiver. Forgiver. And encourager of all people sincerely serving Him. That’s one of the greatest stories being told. But like many of us still today, they misunderstood it.

Earlier in John 7, Jesus interrupted the ceremonies during the Feast of Tabernacles to announce that He was the water of life [cf. Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13]. This time, during the same feast, He interrupts the ceremony to announce He is also the Light of the World. He is the One who provided light in the wilderness.

They were all familiar with the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night story told in Exodus 13:21-22. “21By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” Moses would also record its significance in Numbers 14:14 which reads, “14And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.”

Which could be why the New Testament writes pick up on this theme. John 1:4,5,9 says, “4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” But when He arrived, aside from a few shepherds and sorcerers, very few people noticed. Simeon was one of them. He was a wise old man. Luke 2:25-32 says, 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘29Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”

Rightly understood, Jesus was always been the Light of the World. Quoting Genesis 1:3, Paul connects the pre-incarnate Christ with the Creator and Light of the World. “6For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” From the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:3 to the very end of it Jesus is the Light of the World. That’s what Jesus straight out says in Revelation 22:16. “16I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

2 Peter 1:19 says it this way, “19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Newsflash people! Life is a story and it’s all about Him! It’s all about Jesus! He is the Light of the World. For Jews. Gentiles. Men. Women. Boys. Girls. Democrats. Republics. Christians. Muslims. Everybody. Though everybody doesn’t know that. Because the story is sometimes misunderstood. Which leads us to point number two. Confusion is common. Point number one: Life is a story. And the story is all about Him! Point number two: Confusion is common. Let’s keep reading in John 8:13-27 to see if that becomes obvious to us.

“13The Pharisees challenged Jesus, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.’ 14Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.’ 19Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’ ‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ 20He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. 21Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.’ 22This made the Jews ask, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'? 23But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.’ ‘25Who are you?’ they asked. ‘Just what I have been claiming all along,’ Jesus replied. ‘26I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’ 27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.”

I don’t know if folks back then ever heard of deja vu, but if they hadn’t, that’s what that awkward feeling they were feeling was. Because in John 5:31-47, the reader of John will remember that we already covered much of this. The whole testimony thing that Jewish law required [Deuteronomy 19:15]. And how Jesus basically doubled up their minimum requirements for proving something true. If you need at least two witnesses to establish the truthfulness of something, Jesus will give you four. Adding the testimony of John the Baptist [in vs.33], His own miraculous healings and works [vs.36], His heavenly Father [vs.37], and the Scriptures [vs.39]. Which may be why John would later write in 1 John 5:9-13, “ 9We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in is Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

You don’t have to do anything before you believe Jesus [as chapter 5 of the Council of Trent requires]. He’ll take you as you are. You don’t have to do anything after you believe come [as chapter 7 of the Council of Trent requires]. Just abide in Him. Assurance isn’t sinful. God wants us to be sure! He wants us to know that He loves us like crazy! [Though that’s not how chapter 9 of the Council of Trent concludes]. But if we forget, He’ll repeat Himself. Isn’t that good news? This story is all about Him! If we get confused, thinking Christianity is primarily about what we do instead of who we know, He’ll understand. Why? Because, point number two, confusion is common! He knows that! That was the case back then. And that is the case today. And it’s okay. He can handle confusion about valid testimonies. The questions about where He came from. And the purpose of the law. That’s why He said in verse 24, “24If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” Why? Because He who has the Son has life. But He who does not have the Son does not have life. It’s as simple as that. It can be confusing. But it wasn’t meant to be. Because point number three, it becomes clear at the cross.

Look at verses 27-30. “27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’ 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.”

One of them was Robert Lowry. Who wrote in 1876 the words we’re gonna sing in just a minute. Maybe some of you have heard them? “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Naught of good that I have done, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. By THIS I’ll overcome—Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh! precious is the flow. That makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be.” That’s what Jesus said. And readers of the book of John already know His prophetic words rang true. Because John 2:22 said, “22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

You wanna do what pleases Jesus? Put your faith in Him. Just like He put His faith in His heavenly Father. Verse 30. “30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” You might as well do it. Cause the only other option is to die in your sins.

Life really is a story. But it’s not primarily about us. The story is all about Him. From beginning to end. Yes, it has its mysterious confusing moments. Where darkness clouds our faith. And we wonder if sincerely serving Him means overcoming our sins by our effort, strength, or might. But then He gently reminds us that overcoming only occurs by the blood of the lamb. Shed at the cross. In fact, it all becomes clear at the cross.

Maybe that’s why we’re encouraged to study it. And focus on it. And spend thoughtful hours thinking about it. Because it’s there that it becomes obvious to us that Jesus is the Water of Life and the Light of the World. He led, protected, and guided His children of Israel. And He’ll do the same for us. As we enter this very special Easter time of year, unlike any before or after it, let’s consider these things. And sing His praises.

Life is a story. That’s all about Jesus [John 8:12; Exodus 13:21-22; Numbers 14:14; Luke 2:25-32; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:16]. Confusion is common [John 8:13-27; 5:31-47]. But it all becomes clear at the cross [John 8:27-30].

Our Father in Heaven, thank you for telling such great stories. And for sending Jesus to play a part in ours. Remind us to make ours all about Him. Amen.