Sunday, 7th March 6.00 pm Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN Almost Persuaded

1 ‘Almost persuaded’ now to believe;

‘Almost persuaded:’ Christ to receive;

Seems now some soul to say?

‘Go, Spirit, go Thy way:

Some more convenient day

On Thee I’ll call,’

2 ‘Almost persuaded:’ come, come today!

‘Almost persuaded:’ turn not away!

Jesus invites you here,

Angels are lingering near,

Prayers rise from hearts so dear,

O wanderer, come!

3 ‘Almost persuaded:’ harvest is past!

‘Almost persuaded:’ doom comes at last!

‘Almost’ can not avail;

‘Almost’ is but to fail:

Sad, sad, that bitter wail—

‘Almost’—but lost!

Philipp Paul Bliss (1838–1876)

PRAYER

READING MATTHEW 16 : 21-28

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

SERMON Why did Jesus HAVE to die?

Last week we were looking at the question WHO DO YOU SAY THAT JESUS IS? He has been revealed to countless people down the ages as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that was Peter’s confession last week. Peter realised that JESUS WAS GOD! (But how are the mighty fallen? We read today how he messed it all up. It just goes to show that ANYONE can fall even those who seem to have got it all right).

And how does Matthew go on from describing Jesus as the very Son of God? Does he go on to tell of Jesus mighty miracles and astounding healings as the Son of God? NO he goes right on to describe for the first time Jesus’ prediction of His impending DEATH!

Now, that hardly seems to tie in with Him being the Son of God. What on earth was in Matthew’s mind as he put His Gospel together? Well, strange as it may seem, it was central to the whole mission of the Son of God that He should die.

This is the first time that Jesus predicts His death – He did so very clearly on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS. Each of the first three Gospels have these three predictions clearly set out and in each of them, upon the first mention of His death. Jesus emphasises the NECESSITY of this death. Look at verse 21: Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he MUST go to Jerusalem and suffer.

On the second occasion Jesus spoke of His forthcoming death, we read that, they were filled with grief, they didn’t understand what He meant – and they were afraid to ask Him about it!

And on the third occasion Jesus raises the matter He is more specific – and speaks about what will happen to Him in more detail. But even on this occasion, the meaning was hidden from them.

But this evening we are looking at the first of these predictions by Jesus, and the key word this evening is MUST.

But WHY did Jesus HAVE to die? Well, we read in Mat 20:28 that the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. So, part of the reason, at least, lies in the fact that Jesus actually died to pay a ransom for the life of all of His brothers and sisters.

Neither should this have come as any surprise to the Jewish world, for we read in Luke 24:26 Jesus’ words to the unsuspecting disciples on the Emmaus Road : Did not the Christ HAVE TO SUFFER these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what, was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Jesus’ death and resurrection were predicted in the OT if only people had eyes opened to see that! Paul saw this message as crucial – he tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3 I received what I passed on to you as of FIRST IMPORTANCE: that Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, (4) that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.

************************************************

In other words, it was crucial to God’s universal plan that His Son should come to earth and die at the hands of wicked men. And that is exactly what we read in Acts 2:23, when Peter is explaining the extraordinary events of the previous few months :

This man was handed over to you by GOD’S SET PURPOSE and foreknowledge…. and you put Him to death by nailing him to the cross.

It was inevitable that when light entered, into the world, that the darkness of our hearts would try to put that light out. People who live in the darkness HATE the light – there are some wicked people who sleep by day and do all their dirty work by night (and I don’t mean taxi drivers!). And extinguish the LIGHT they WOULD… if it took their very last breath. But it was more than just fate – inevitable – knowing what men are like! God designed the world, fully aware that His Son would have to come to take the punishment for the sins of all His people.

Can’t you see now, why Jesus became so ANGRY with Peter for trying to keep Him from going to Jerusalem to die. Peter was trying to stop the salvation of all God’s people – albeit unwittingly!

But Jesus goes on in verses 23-28 to spell out something which was also inextricably linked to this necessity for Jesus Cross – namely that EVERY BELIEVER would have to take up his or her own cross EVERY DAY.

The essence of the Christian life – for those who wish to follow in the Master’s footsteps – is that we must, as He did, take up OUR CROSS and die daily with Christ. In other words we must GIVE UP our lives and our wills in favour of the Lord God and His will for us.

You may think the price too high – but Jesus says that this is the only way of salvation and what can you give in exchange for your soul?

Jesus started off this new religion. He went to the cross. He now calls every one of His followers to take up THEIR cross daily. Are you still in the business of trying to save your life – JESUS SAYS YOU WILL LOSE IT.

Why don’t you abandon all hope of self-salvation and give up your life for Jesus. Count the cost, but also realise that Jesus is coming back some day very soon and He will have His reward with Him… rewards for those who have died with Him… and not for anyone else.

Costly, this Christian life, but INFINITELY WORTH IT – a thousand times over. That gracious invitation comes to us afresh tonight to COME to JESUS. Anyone willing to lay down your life and take up the cross ?

PRAYER

Hymn Come ye sinners, poor and needy

1 Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,

weak and wounded, sick and sore;

Jesus ready stands to save you,

full of pity, love, and pow’r.

2 Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,

God’s free bounty glorify;

true belief and true repentance,

ev’ry grace that brings you nigh.

I will arise and go to Jesus,

he will embrace me in his arms;

in the arms of my dear Saviour,

O, there are ten thousand charms.

3 Come, ye weary, heavy laden,

lost and ruined by the fall;

if you tarry till you’re better,

you will never come at all.

I will arise and go to Jesus,

he will embrace me in his arms;

in the arms of my dear Saviour,

O, there are ten thousand charms.

4 Let not conscience make you linger,

nor of fitness fondly dream;

all the fitness he requireth,

is to feel your need of him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,

he will embrace me in his arms;

in the arms of my dear Saviour,

O, there are ten thousand charms.

Joseph Hart (1718-1768)

Benediction

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