S-1477 AW/3B 2/18/2015 Hymns: (O) #135; (S) #483; (C) #134
Texts: Mark 1:12-13
Theme: “Numbers of Hope-40” (Mark 1:12-13)
1st sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope”
The Opening Hymn: “Jesus, Refuge of the Weary” # 145
The First Narrative: Numbers of Hope! Numbers from Genesis to Revelation are written into the text of the Holy Scriptures by the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. Hope is our number one need in life. It has been said that a person can live 60 days without food, 8 days without water, a few minutes without air, but not a second without hope.
The Hope that this world offers is at best iffy. Presidential candidates offer people all kinds of hope when they are running for office. However, should they get elected, by the time they finish their terms, they stumble and stagger out of their office with a long string of broken promises behind them—leaving people deeply disappointed—destroyed dreams and dashed hope.
Young people today counselors tell us are extremely disillusioned because they have been lied to so often that they don’t know who to believe. As a result they navigate through life without hope. This is why this house of worship exists...a house of hope...to give help to the helpless, hope to hopeless, and heaven to the heaven-less...that neither death nor moth, nor thieves can take away or destroy.
There is in history but One book that is available to all—a book of hope one can bank on—the Bible. The Bible is the story from front to finish how God through Jesus Christ keeps His powerful living promises. This is what hope is. Hope is faith toward the future based on what God in Christ has done perfectly in the past—for you! Because of the lively hope we have through a living Savior, who went to the cross for us and overcame death for us, we view the future with an optimism that is rooted in the perfect merits of Christ.
On top of that, we are convinced that Jesus is working EVERYTHING together for the good of His Bride—the Church. It may not look that way at times when we see history unraveling but God’s perfect record rooted in Christ’s dying love tells us otherwise. Tonight we note our first number of hope. It is the number FORTY. It is a number of testing and trial and triumph.
The number of forty is a fitting number for our first Lenten season service. Forty days we set aside to study carefully how Jesus went through the most difficult tests and trials in history to triumph over all things necessary for our eternal salvation. These Forty days begin our slow measured journey to the cross where we see Jesus bloodied, scourged, and slaughtered...
These forty days initiate at the time the Church studies how Jesus endured forty days in the wilderness constantly tempted by the devil. While the first Adam tumbled terribly in the Garden of Eden while living in plush perfect conditions, Jesus, the Second Adam overcame the devil while enduring the harsh conditions of the wilderness—with its hot burning sand in the day and chilling coolness at night.
For us, for forty days Jesus felt acute agonizing hunger—eating nothing. For us, for forty days Jesus felt the extremes of climate change draining His body to the point of complete exhaustion. Angels ministered to Jesus after these forty days just as they administered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when the weight of the world’s sin pressed down upon His sinless shoulders. For us, Jesus felt for forty days the haunting solitude and loneliness and the howling of wild animals so that as the master Carpenter He could begin to rebuild our broken planet, broken lives, and broken families. His perfect work and perfect keeping of the promises of God on our behalf is our perfect foundation for salvation, for life, and eternity. And so we sing:
The Hymn My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less # 370
The Second Narrative: As Jesus travailed in the wilderness for forty days and nights, undoubtedly He thought about this number forty and how it was connected with the promises of God throughout history. It was Jesus who gave Noah the blueprints for the building of the ark and three forty year periods of time to build the ark—120 years all total. You recall how it rained forty days and forty nights as God covered all the earth with floodwaters. After the flood God promised never to destroy the earth again with a worldwide flood. And God promised to restore the whole broken planet with a new heaven and new earth.
In salvation history the number forty continued to show up in the Bible. Moses would spend his first forty years at Pharaoh's court, forty years tending sheep in the wilderness, and forty years leading God's people through the wilderness. It was a time of continuous testing, trial, and in the end—triumphant as Moses went to heaven—the real Promise Land.
For forty days Goliath taunted the children of Israel. Behind the scenes the devil was using Goliath as a ten foot tall giant hit man to destroy Israel and render the promise of a coming Savior null and void. Jesus, however, raised up a shepherd boy by the name of David to take five smooth stones and turn Goliath into dead bones. After forty days God essentially said, “Times up, Goliath! Time for judgment so that My promise of salvation to the world can go on. And on it went!” King David would reign forty years—33 in Jerusalem...both numbers pointing to the Hope of history, Jesus. Solomon’s temple would be forty cubits long—pointing to the ultimate temple, Jesus, the Hope of history. (1 Kings 6:17) When the devil again sought to destroy the promise of a coming Savior by destroying Judah, King David defeated the Arameans killing forty thousand infantry. (1 Chronicles 19:18).
Forty, forty, forty...pointing ultimately to Jesus, pointing to how God keeps His promises of a coming Savior, pointing to how God wants us to see how the whole Bible hangs together. These numbers are little threads connected with the big redemptive thread of Jesus Christ is the One sure bet in history. The hope that Jesus’ brings is not only spectacular, but sure, solid, unbreakable, and unending. And so we sing:
The Hymn Savior, When In Dust to Thee # 166
The Third Narrative: Hope was a time of testing for the people of Nineveh. Jonah, whose name means “dove” told them “Forty more days and Nineveh will be toast!” (Jonah 4:4) The people of Nineveh listened and trusted in Jesus as the object of their faith and hope. (Jonah 4:5) That hope came to them through One far greater than Jonah, the Lord Jesus, who would dwell in the belly of the earth just as Jonah dwelt in the belly of the great fish. Jesus would also dwell in the belly of a womb—the Virgin Mary.
After Jesus was born, as a child He was taken to the temple in Jerusalem forty days later. He was taken there not only to fulfill the law for us but to bring forgiveness of sins for His mother. The two doves offered by Mary for her purification ironically came through the Child she brought to the temple—the One true sacrifice for all sin. (Leviticus 12:1-4; Luke 2:22-24).
It just wasn’t forty days after His birth but the cruel forty lashes minus one just before His death that marked the life of our Lord. The flesh of His body was cut not only on the eighth day but ripped off His back on His last day before death. Forty lashes minus one for the One who knew no sin. This forty is one more reminder of how deeply Jesus loves us to endure this awful punishment for our sin.
After Jesus rose from the dead He would spend forty days with the disciples showing Himself alive and well. Eleven recorded appearances saving the twelfth recorded one for the end of history. Forty days after He rose bodily from the dead He would ascend into the heavens in a cloud to signal the way He would reappear one day. On the fortieth day after He rose Jesus ascended as St. Paul writes “to fill all things,” that is, to exercise His authority as Lord. Now He is far less than forty inches from all of us as He dwells in our heart. Tonight this risen Savior even gives us His body and blood for added grace upon grace.
May this number 40, sanctified and enlisted by the Giver of all numbers, the Lord Jesus, increase your faith, hope, and love! The revelation of this number is one more Messianic manner in which the Holy Spirit reveals to us how intimately God is at work in history through the Church—the House of Hope. Forty lashes minus one for you...forty days in the wilderness for you...Forty days this Lenten season for you...to learn more about His love. Amen.
The Hymn On My Heart Imprint Your Image 179
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA