This is the sixth week of a series we are calling, “righteousness from God.” By righteous we mean we are in right relationship with God. It is a human quality but it takes on a divine presence when we allow God to make us righteous. We commonly think of it as being moral, being right in all that constitutes a moral persona. To be righteous we are right, we have right conduct which is pleasing to God. It can been seen as a state where you can be judged favorably by Jesus. If you are righteous you will receive a good judgement in the end, Jesus even refers to the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14)
God is a God who will do everything possible to make us righteous. But our effort and cooperation is required. We can’t be righteous if we do not accept it from God. God wants us righteous so we can be ever with God, now is the time to decide if we will put forth the effort to accept righteousness from God.
Over the last five weeks we have looked at righteousness with a specific view from the readings of the week. We began by recognizing the Word is near, the Word of God who gives living witness and leads us to be near God. The Word is the means for us to shed our old ways and take on new. We also saw that we are citizens in heaven, God has made us members of his kingdom and as such we are representing heaven and should model a good life for God and encourage others to want to become citizens. We need to repent or perish; to repent is to change our ways to turn toward God and become like Jesus. If we don’t change we are left out and will perish. We saw that we were made in Christ a new creation. By accepting Jesus and turning to God we are made new, with a new Spirit and a new life. We also discover we must strain forward; to put effort into becoming this new creation and work to be more and more like Christ. Entering Christ can be as easy as accepting but becoming like Christ will take effort.
With God’s help we are moving more and more towards a life that is totally of God. We have the Spirit guiding us, making us aware the work God is doing in our life, helping us repent and learn the Word, becoming new, straining forward to work harder, and act as citizens of heaven. Our efforts and God’s grace helps us become righteous from God and completely ready for new life. God’s plan is for us to succeed. We have God’s aid and cooperation to become completely new.The Spirit is guiding us and making us aware of the work God is doing in our life to help us repent and learn the Word, become new, strain to work harder, and act as if we are already citizens of heaven. Click To Tweet
This week the readings push us to open our ears. We are entering a week of passion. The story told during the week is Jesus entrance into Jerusalem and his walk to his death on a cross. We don’t see a militant Jesus in this process, we see Jesus who listens and is led. He is put to death, which is seen as success, as he listens to God and fulfill God’s will. We are challenged this week to listen, to open our ears which requires we have more humility.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalms 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56. The readings guide us to open our ears, there are moments when we are required to be led, listening and following allows God to lead us where he needs us.
In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah speaks about a servant, many call a suffering servant. This servant has a mission for God and is humbly accepting all for God. It begins with the servant docile and accepting the word of God, being well-trained and knowing how to speak. The servant is not self-taught but trained as an obedient disciple. In this training even the servant’s ears are opened by the teacher. The servant utters not one word of complaint. Though the servant is treated badly, nothing is done to stop the persecutors. The servant is not a coward, rather with God’s help the servant is stronger than the persecutors. This prophecy spoken in the old covenant is meant to represent the nation of Israel, they exist to suffer and serve God, witnessing to others about the one true God. In a new covenant context we see this servant as Jesus, led to the cross for the salvation of many. We see in Jesus’ passion that they did spit on his face and they took a reed and struck him on the head. Jesus showed a self-discipline which communicates a higher presence, for us we recognize the presence of the Father. Jesus offers his complete self, blow after blow, on his back, his chest, his face and he did not turn away to escape the violence. He is other worldly, knowing his suffering would fulfill God’s mission. He knows because he allowed himself to be taught and has ears that are open.Jesus showed a self-discipline which communicates a higher presence, for us we recognize the presence of the Father. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the letter to the Philippians, Paul shares with us what has been called a Christ Hymn. It opens recognizing Jesus is God but does not choose to remain God, rather he becomes human, for our sake. The Word becomes flesh, taking the form of humanity, a vast difference from his own divinity. Jesus is in every way found to be human. He humbled himself even allowing death. We see the obedience of the servant in the first reading to the Father, from Jesus a humble servant his entire life. For this obedience and humility the Father publicly vindicates Jesus’ life and honors him above every human as Son of God. So important was this servant that God declares that even at the mention of the name Jesus all should honor and recognize him, bowing to his Lordship. All should confess that Jesus has done all for the glory of God. Paul’s writing is of one with ears that are open, humbly following the mission of God. Even though what God needs is below Jesus divinity, Jesus does not hesitate to take on human form, serving God without complaint or pride. God so pleased with Jesus, declares that the mention of his name brings reverence. We don’t see a weak Jesus in this passage but a Jesus of humility doing all that is asked by God, receiving God’s strength to endure. We can imagine Jesus, taught by God, with ears that are open coming to serve in God’s name.For this obedience and humility the Father publicly vindicates Jesus' life and honors him above every human as Son of God. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from Luke we read the story known as the “Passion of our Lord.” It begins with the Passover meal for Jesus and his apostles. It includes discussion of a traitor, and the breaking of bread. After the meal Jesus goes to pray and is arrested, betrayed by the traitor, one of his own. He is taken before Jewish leadership and then the Roman leadership and ultimately is condemned to die. The story continues with Jesus beaten, crowned with thorns and carrying a cross to the hill outside the city called Golgotha. Jesus is nailed to the cross, raised and struggles in life for several hours until he dies. He is taken from the cross and laid in a tomb. As it was the Sabbath all return to their homes and the story ends. It is called the greatest story ever told. But for our purposes we should recognize in the story how Jesus is led. He is led to host Passover, he is led to prayer, he is led to his accusers, he is led to the cross and he is led to death and the tomb. Jesus shows complete humility in these final hours. He acts as one whose ears have been open to God and no matter what is going on around him he is only hearing God whispering in his open ears, encouraging, strengthen and giving him hope to continue.Jesus is beaten, crowned with thorns and carrying a cross to the hill outside the city called Golgotha, He is nailed to the cross, raised and struggles in life for several hours until he dies. Click To Tweet
We recognize in all these readings a movement of complete humility, giving all glory to God. We recognize a special listening to God. The servant’s ears are open to hear God speaking quietly, words of strength, courage and hope. We can also imagine God affirming love for his servant, for Jesus, who did nothing unless the Father instructed. How could Jesus let them spit in his face, beat him, nail him to the cross? His ears were open to the voice of the Father. From our view we see a docile servant being led, truly what is happening is God’s will being done.
Jesus ears are open to God as he follows the will of God. He is met by those who want him to suffer and die, to go away and leave the status quo. But as we will see next week, by listening to God, the story is just beginning. Jesus as the servant in the readings, has humility and hearing God through his open ears, he furthers Gods plan and provides for all of us the possibility of righteousness from God for our own lives.Jesus as the servant in the readings, has humility and hearing God through his open ears, he furthers Gods plan and provides for all of us the possibility of righteousness from God for our own lives. Click To Tweet
Open my ears
In the reading from Isaiah we have this opening verse where God is teaching the servant and the servant learns without complaint or interruption. In the teaching the servant attains a well-trained tongue to rouse and open ears that may hear. In the life of the Christian follower we live moments of transition. As we have discussed through this message series, there is the coming to God, discovering what God has to offer and wanting all God offers. Many might call this a moment of conversion. Something significant happens that opens our eyes to the world of God and the hope he has for our life. The greatest example of this conversion is the Apostle Paul when he is struck blind by Jesus and questioned while he was travelling to Damascus to persecute follows of Jesus.The greatest example of this conversion is the Apostle Paul when he is struck blind by Jesus and questioned while he was travelling to Damascus to persecute follows of Jesus. Click To Tweet
Paul’s story has such a profound effect on his life, we can read about it three different places. The most detailed and full version of Paul’s conversion was written by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:1:9). Paul refers to his own conversion in 1 Corinthians 15:8 and Galatians 1:13-18. Paul’s conversion was something he would always remember. In fact Paul would rely on this conversion story whenever he had doubts about his ministry or the work he was doing for Jesus.
At that moment of conversion we would think Paul would be on fire to tell others what happened, but we read he went off alone into Arabia for three years. This is Paul’s time like the servant in Isaiah’s prophecy, a time for training, being taught by the teacher to obtain a well-trained tongue and ears that are open. I believe this is common for conversion experiences. In my own conversion there was this period of waiting, and learning where I know my tongued was trained and my ears opened. My greatest lesson from this time was to listen more and speak less. As I listen more I do hear God differently than I had, and have moments when God speaks into my open ears words that resonate in my heart.
Turning to the conversion of the apostles we see similar teaching. Jesus was with them for three years, teaching them to have well trained tongues and ears that are open. We read about their training and we are able to read about their failures and mishaps. But when Jesus left them they were ready to bring Jesus’ message to the world and live in such a way the many joined the mission of Jesus.
I believe it is a common story for a disciples through their conversion to be in a period of waiting that God uses for teaching. God finds a way to allow us to take our experience and view it through the Word of God. We become students of Jesus and God’s plan for salvation. We discover God is the Father of all. We come to know that as Father God wants all his children to love one another. We learn the Word is always near. We must repent. We become new creations in Christ. We realize we are citizens of heaven and that as new creations in Christ we must strain forward to dwell deeper in Christ. Our effort to become deeper in knowledge, but more importantly to let our ears serve in such a way that we have compassion in our heart and see others as God see them.We discover God is the Father of all. We come to know that as Father God wants all his children to love one another. Click To Tweet
With God as our teacher we do have ears that are opened. This becomes a special way of listening, so that we hear God’s voice in many moments and we stop listening to that voice in our head. We all know that voice in our head, it isn’t always a friendly voice, it can be critical, it can call us out on things, it is a voice that wants us to behave in the ways our human nature pushes. God’s voice in our ears has a different idea about how we should live. The voice in our head is form the world. Living in the world the world will try to talk us into being a success in the eyes of other humans. To climb the ladder to financial success, to have power and to dominate others, in a selfish, self-centered manner. God is not against success, power and servant leading as long as we do it in self-denying, self-giving way. The voice in our head wants us to be a singular success even at the expense of others.In this training we have ears that are open. I see this as special way of listening that we hear God in all moments and not listen to that voice in our head. Click To Tweet
As God trains our ears to be open, we then discover we have God’s voice in our ears, feeding our heart and drowning out that voice in our head. We are guided by the Word who is always near, encouraging us and taking pride when we act in a way that God desires. We hear God’s voice in our ears so our behavior becomes framed in a manner that glorifies God. It is not easy, it is even a regular challenge, because life wants to distract us, life wants us to focus on politics where we define, mock and criticize opponents. Life wants us to see others having more than we have and deciding it isn’t fair, we should have more, telling us we are better than those who have what we don’t. Life wants us to be looking at the wrong things on the internet, to lust after the attractive person at the workplace, to envy over our neighbors car. It is human nature to desire things and be angry and jealous when others have and we don’t. We need ears that are open to the voice of God.
When we have our ears open to hear God, as Jesus, when he was accused of things he did not do, when he was challenged to deny who he was and admit he was not from God, we too can walk with humility and do God’s will. During Jesus’ last week, people wanted him to be king, they treated him as a king entering Jerusalem, they wanted him to take power and defeat their enemies.By the end of that week they wanted him to deny he was the Son of God and not be extraordinary, but to be ordinary, so things could go back to normal. But Jesus ears were open, the temptation of power, the temptation to save himself were being drowned out by the whispering of God in his open ears, repeatedly saying, you are my beloved and I am well pleased. This is Jesus’ truth and all he needed to hear to remain faithful to his mission and the will of the Father.But Jesus ears were open and temptation of power and the temptation to save himself were being overwhelmed by the whispering of God, repeatedly saying, you are my beloved and I am well pleased. Click To Tweet
It is also what God speaks into our open ears, we are the beloved of God and God is pleased with us. We cannot be loved by God any more than we are. We have to hear this in ears opened by God, hearing God’s small voice whispering, “you are my beloved, I will do anything for you, don’t be fooled by the voice in your head, only listen to me.” We have to be ready to hear God, to accept what God tells us in ear open and a heart ready to be changed.
If we listen with the ears God has opened, then the Word speaks into our hearts, we like Jesus can even walk to our death with humility, courage, and hope. We like Jesus will be the success God desires in the world. We like Jesus will do the will of the Father, glorifying God by our lives. Let my ears be open.We have to hear this in open ears, to hear God’s small voice whispering, you are my beloved, I will do anything for you, don’t be fooled by those voices in your head, only listen to me. Click To Tweet
Righteousness from God
The path to righteousness is a path that requires we hear God. We are the beloved of God and we receive righteousness from God when we are open to listening to God’s small voice in our ears. God wants righteousness for us, and so we need a well-trained tongue and ears that are open. Anyone can hear, but to listen to the voice of God we must let God open our ears to his special whisperings. These are whisperings that we will hear over the sounds of every day. Whisperings that tell us, the Word is near, we are citizens of heaven, we must repent or perish, in Christ we are a new creation and by straining forward we put forth the effort to go deeper. These are movements taking us deeper in Christ, readying us for the righteousness from God.We are the beloved of God and we receive righteousness from God when we are open to listening to God’s small voice in our ears. Click To Tweet
With ears open from God we can ignore the negative voices and become truly new. We are God’s beloved and in all our effort God wants us to succeed. God wants us open to receiving perfect righteousness. We must become a new creation in Christ, strain forward and open our ears to the whispers of God.With ears open from God we can ignore the negative voices and become truly new. We are God’s beloved and in all our effort God wants us to succeed. Click To Tweet