Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 29, 2015 By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour (Unclean) Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 19:17-18
Christ has died and Christ has risen. The suffering Servant who gave His life for our salvation is the Lord we proclaim. The risen Redeemer, who conquered death is the Savior whose praises we sing. God grant Christ crucified and risen live in us all. Amen.
Near the geographical center of the U.S. of A. sits the state of Missouri. While some may dismiss Missouri as being just one of many "fly over states," the people of that state take considerable pride in their history, their accomplishments, and their unofficial motto, "THE SHOW ME STATE." Now if you ask them, "How did you get that name?" they will reply, "We don't exactly know"; and they don't. The explanation I like best dates back to1897. It was in that year that Missouri sent Willard Duncan Vandiver to Washington D.C. to serve as their Congressman. With more than a passing physical resemblance to Mark Twain and because he could turn a phrase as good as any, Duncan soon made his mark in the nation's capital. In short, he was selected to serve on the prestigious U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs and was asked to be one of the Speakers at Philadelphia's Five O'Clock Club.
According to the story, Duncan disagreed with the accuracy of one of the speakers who had preceded him. When it was his turn to address the group, Duncan got up and began this way: "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Now the only reason I bring this up is because, in recent decades it seems as if everybody is an honorary citizen of Missouri. That's, because every one of us says, "You have got to show me." It's true, you know. People have become quite skeptical and more than a few are downright cynical.
People want proof. They want proof that our globe is warming. They want proof that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They want proof and until they get that proof the official explanations will be doubted, disregarded, derided, and denied by significant numbers of our neighbors... and maybe by us.
Now there is a simple reason most of us are wary of putting our trust in anyone or anything; there is an easy explanation as to why so many of us have become doubting Thomases. That simple reason is this: so many of the people and institutions whom we were once certain we could trust have bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated the truth. They have put a spin on things which should have been unspinnable; they have stretched the truth like it was a funhouse mirror.
Sure, we expect advertisers to make their claims. Still, not every toothpaste can make our teeth the whitest; not every laundry soap can make our shirts the brightest; not every insurance company can be the cheapest, and not every car can be the greatest. We expect politicians to present their own personal political philosophies, but when will we hear one of them get up and honestly confess, "I'm sorry for what I said and the things I did. I was wrong"? But the reason for our lack of trust goes deeper. How can we trust when our nearest and dearest friends betray us and reveal our secrets? How can a man or woman learn to trust again when they find the love of their lives has deliberately broken their marriage vows; has trampled on the trust which had so lovingly been given?
No, I can understand why you might join with the folks from Missouri and adopt "Show me!" as your unofficial motto. I can understand why, before you believe anything or trust anybody you want to see proof; absolute, unassailable, unqualified, unreserved, unconditional proof. My friends, you have a right to feel that way about many things; but that list of 'many things' should not include Jesus. Yes, I know it's frightening to see the seamy, sad, sorrowful, sinful sides of so many influential pastors and priests. Still, because Jesus' disciples have their flaws and failings, you should not give up on the possibility of being given or believing in Divine truth. Do not join the ranks of those who have concluded that one god, if there is a god, is the same as any other; and one religion's set of beliefs is just as good, or just as bad, as any other.
Does what I'm saying sound familiar? Is it possible that this doubting, show-me attitude is something you've heard from a dear friend or close family member? I wouldn't be surprised. Just recently I received a very short letter from a young man. Having accidentally heard a Lutheran Hour broadcast, he felt compelled to write, and I'm quoting his entire letter: "Dear Pastor Klaus, you began your sermon with the words: "Christ is risen!" Well, Jesus didn't rise from the dead, because when His followers placed Him in His tomb, He wasn't dead." Now this fellow is hardly alone in his beliefs. There are many others who, over the years, have told me they believe the same.
Their beliefs are sincere and heartfelt. Some of these folks have even added, "I wish I could believe differently, but I can't." They tell me, "I can't believe because we have only one book which says what happened to Jesus. Along with that, we have to recognize back in those days medicine was really primitive. I think it is quite possible that the Romans, who crucified Jesus, were wrong. I think Jesus was alive when they put Him in His borrowed grave. I think He revived and when He got out of that grave, people naturally thought He had risen from the dead."
So there you have it, my friends. Before you are two, diametrically opposed positions. The doubters have their truth which says, Jesus didn't die on a cross and Christians have their truth which holds the Savior "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." No matter how you try, the bottom line is this: one of us is right, the other is wrong. And while many arguments can be avoided by agreeing to disagree, that is not the case here. There is simply too much at stake for believers to say to unbelievers, "No big deal, you believe what you want and I'll believe what I want and nobody will be the worse for it." No, Christians can't do that because, if we're right... if Jesus really did conquer death through His unprecedented resurrection, then we can be sure that He is God's Son, the Savior of the world. We can be sure that all who believe on Him as Savior will be forgiven of their sins and rescued from damnation; but we can also be sure that if someone doesn't believe in the Christ as his Redeemer, he remains condemned.
All of which leads me to ask, "Is there anything that I can say to those who are demanding, "Show me"? Well, to be honest, I wouldn't have asked the question if I didn't have a few answers which may be of help to you who need to be shown why I believe Jesus was dead. The first reason I have is the Roman mindset. People who were crucified were slaves or came from the lower segments of society. When someone like Pontius Pilate condemned a person to the cross, they died. They died publicly and they died painfully. The thinking was: "Hey, everybody, take a good look at this cross. This is what happens when you mess with us and disobey our laws." To let a crucified person live would be completely counterproductive to what the Romans were trying to accomplish.
Here's reason #2. While the Romans didn't invent crucifixion, they did it so often, that it almost became an art form for them. When the rebellion of Spartacus the Gladiator was put down in 71 B.C., some 6,000 slaves were crucified along the road between Capua and Rome. None of the 6,000 survived. In 3 B.C., after a rebellion in Judea, the Roman procurator Quintilius Varus crucified 2,000 people. None of them survived. When Jerusalem was besieged in the year 69 A.D., the Romans ran out of wood because they were crucifying as many as 500 people a day. None of those many hundreds lived. Indeed, I know of only one man who ever survived the cross and that was because the Roman general ordered that he should be taken down.
Do you need to be shown proof why Jesus was dead? Fine. Here's another proof. The Romans used professional soldiers, often a four-man execution squad, to crucify those who were condemned to death. If those soldiers bungled the job and the condemned managed to survive, the soldiers lives would have been forfeit. Tell me, if you had been a Roman soldier, would you have slipped up? I don't think so.
But there are other reasons you can be sure Jesus died that day on a cross. Whenever Hollywood shows Jesus being crucified, they have Him suspended, hanging peacefully on a cross about thirty feet in the air. That's usually not the way it was. The Romans were a practical people. Those soldiers didn't want to climb a ladder just to crucify someone. No, they merely took the wooden crosspiece of the condemned, lifted it up, and attached it, and him, to an upright which was permanently set into the ground. In all probability those soldiers could almost look the dying person in the eye.
They most certainly could see the individual move; and the crucified did move. Sometime try hanging onto a chin-up bar for a long period of time. You will find it is very difficult to breathe. It was the same for a person being crucified. To get some air he had to push up on the nails which had been pounded through his feet and pull up on the nails hammered through his wrists. Of course, doing that is incredibly painful and the position is hard to maintain. Eventually the crucified would slump back down. Then the process would be repeated. Up and down. Up and down. Finally the crucified no longer had the strength or willpower to push up and he would die of asphyxiation. And if that person took too long in his dying, the Roman soldiers would simply hasten the process by breaking the legs of the condemned. Without the use of his great leg muscles the crucified person had to use his arms alone. Soon those muscles would give out and death would come. All this the soldiers could monitor from their up close, ring-side seats.
Yes, Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. And if you think that medicine was too primitive to measure the arrival of death, then you should know that John, one of the eyewitnesses who was there that day, reports that when the Romans speared Jesus' heart, 'at once there came out blood and water.' I encourage you to go to a coroner or a pathologist and ask him what it means when "blood and water" comes out of a corpse. I can tell you what he will say. He will tell you that means a person has been dead for a while. You see, as long as your heart is beating, your blood's clear serum and the red corpuscles are mixed. But when your heart stops, the heavier red cells settle out. In other words, Jesus was dead, and He had been dead for a while.
And for those of you who think the Bible is the only book which reports Jesus' death, not so. The Jewish Talmud says, "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged [or crucified]. ... Since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of Passover." Ulla, who lived in Palestine at the end of the third century wrote, "And do you suppose that for (Yeshu of Nazareth - Jesus of Nazareth) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: "Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him."
But there's more. In his Annals, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus said, "Christus ... was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate." Another ancient historian, Lucian of Samosata tells us, "(Christ was) the man who was crucified in Palestine." Then there is the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus who said Jesus was 'a wise man...a doer of startling deeds... (who) gained a following both among many Jews and many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named after him, are not extinct at this day.'
So there you have it. I have shared all of these arguments to help those of you whose hearts are saying, "Show me!" I have done so not to drag you into a logical acceptance of Scripture, but so you may see there is a great deal of weight to the Bible's truth which speaks of Jesus' crucifixion. Time does not allow me to explain how Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection were prophesied 100s of years before He was born in Bethlehem. Time has not allowed me to tell you how, during His life, He did miracles which only God's perfect Son could do, nor was I able to tell you how He resisted every sinful temptation which Satan laid before Him and how Christ lived a perfect life on our behalf.
No, I have concentrated this message on the importance of Jesus' death. But there is one thing which must be said before this message concludes. It begins with the great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who began a series of meetings in Chicago. The first Sunday night, October 8, 1871, Moody spoke to a great crowd. He covered the story of Jesus' passion right up to the Savior's trial before Pilate. As Moody came to the end of his message, he turned to Matthew 27:22, where Pilate asked the Jerusalem crowd, "What shall I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?" Moody concluded his message with the words, "I wish you would take this text home with you and turn it over in your minds during the week, and next Sabbath we will come to Calvary and the cross and we will decide what to do with Jesus of Nazareth."
Speaking in later years, Moody called that conclusion to his address, 'the greatest mistake' of his life. That's because, even as the soloist was singing the final hymn, "Today the Savior calls, for refuge fly, the storm of justice falls and death is nigh,' the Chicago fire engines began to sound on the street as they made their first contact with the great Chicago fire. At the end Moody's hall was in ashes and over 1,000 people had lost their lives. Moody never saw that congregation again, and, doubtlessly some of those to whom he spoke on that Sunday night died in that blaze.
Well, I will not repeat Moody's mistake. The audience size of The Lutheran Hour means that this will be the last message about Jesus that some in our listening audience will hear. By this time next week, on the Sunday when the church celebrates the Savior's glorious resurrection, you will have breathed your last and those you leave behind will mourn you. That is why this sermon will not end without me saying, "Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and He needs to be your Savior, too. Jesus came into this world and dedicated His entire life to the process of saving you. By God's grace, and His omnipotent power, Jesus shouldered every sin you have committed and carried those sins to the cross. There, when He was crucified, your sins went with Him. When He willingly gave up the ghost, those sins died and so did their condemnation. Now there is forgiveness, complete and clear, for all who are brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.
My friends, do you need me to show you that Jesus has died and risen? If so, I encourage you to look to Scripture and hear Thomas, the disciple who, when confronted with the truth of a living, death-conquering Jesus, gladly proclaimed, "My Lord and my God." Look to the Apostle Paul who once had been a persecutor and murderer of Jesus' followers. Paul was struck down by the vision of the risen Lord and then raised up to proclaim, "it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead" Acts 17:3 (ESV). If you have never considered the truth that Jesus wants to be your Savior, do not let this day end as it has begun. The Savior lives and because He lives, you can, in faith, live also.
To that end, if we can be of help, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 29, 2015 Topic: Unclean
ANNOUNCER: Now Pastor Ken Klaus responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: And a good day to you, Mark. I see we have a topic here I don't think we've ever touched upon before. I'm, if you'll excuse the expression, all ears.
ANNOUNCER: Well, that's good because this topic deals with musical instruments. It concerns an incident that happened many, many years ago; but I think it also speaks to some issues we find in churches nowadays.
KLAUS: What's the background?
ANNOUNCER: When our listener was a college student, he played in a musical group that went around to various churches to play in their worship services.
KLAUS: You have a man who is using his talents to praise the Lord. No problem so far.
ANNOUNCER: One Sunday they were setting up to play and the pastor of the church came out to greet them and told them they could play all their instruments except for one. He told them they could not play the saxophone.
KLAUS: With apologies to Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker, the saxophone has not always been my favorite instrument either.
ANNOUNCER: But that wasn't the issue. The pastor said they could play any other instrument they wished, but not the saxophone. That was strictly off limits, and why do you suppose that was?
KLAUS: Because the pastor had once been bitten by a rabid sax player? I can't guess.
ANNOUNCER: No, the pastor said the saxophone was a dirty instrument.
KLAUS: A little Brasso, a clean cloth would fix that.
ANNOUNCER: That's not what he meant by dirty. Have you ever heard anything like this before?
KLAUS: Well, I thought I had heard just about everything, but this is new to me. Normally here on The Lutheran Hour we try not to second guess pastors in their decisions. On this occasion, I think I can go way out a limb and say that to the best of my knowledge, the Bible doesn't condemn the saxophone or call it a dirty instrument.
ANNOUNCER: Why can you make such a bold statement?
KLAUS: Two reasons. First, I don't know of any instrument that the Bible has designated as being dirty or inherently sinful. The second reason, I'm pretty sure the Bible doesn't condemn the saxophone because the saxophone wasn't invented until 1840; long after the Bible was written.
ANNOUNCER: So where does this ban on saxophones come from?
KLAUS: I'm just guessing, but I think the pastor was probably trying to fend off the sounds of any modern music in his church. Brass instruments would have been Biblical, even some percussion, and even some reed instruments are mentioned in Scripture. But a saxophone has a sound which is absolutely unique and definitely is connected with our modern age and certainly not a more traditional time.
ANNOUNCER: And keeping in mind, this incident happened many years ago. At that time I believe the saxophone was primarily associated with jazz and raucous rock and roll; so the pastor probably was concerned about the negative connotations it might evoke.
KLAUS: A modern equivalent might be the use of heavily distorted electric guitar, or rap, or hip hop that the listener might associate those things with negative images and messages from the culture at large.
ANNOUNCER: Could it also be the pastor was just making up rules where Scripture is silent?
KLAUS: You mean was he treading a bit on Christian freedom? Yes, that could be. Pastors must always be on guard against making up rules at times when the Lord is silent. We should not create legal burdens for others in areas where the Lord has not spoken.
ANNOUNCER: Sort of what St. Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, when he talked about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. He said we shouldn't let our freedom become a stumbling block for others.
KLAUS: And the Lord said the same thing to the Apostle Peter when he let down a sheet. He said, "Don't make unclean that which I have made clean." It could be too, Mark, that the pastor was taken somewhat by surprise and he was afraid a saxophone in the service might cause some eyebrows to be raised. So, the pastor just avoided problems all together by just keeping the saxophone out.
ANNOUNCER: How would you sum all of this up for us today?
KLAUS: I think the pastor could have declined to have a saxophone play at his church for any number of reasons; perhaps because it might have drawn attention to itself and gotten in the way of the message, or because he hadn't prepared his people; but he shouldn't have forbidden it on the grounds that a saxophone is a dirty instrument.
ANNOUNCER: I suppose it's like a lot of things God has created for our use. They are not inherently sinful in and of themselves, but they could always be used for sinful purposes.
KLAUS: And Christ has redeemed them and us.
ANNOUNCER: Important to keep in mind. Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
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