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The Human Face of God

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 28, 2021 4:00 am

The Human Face of God

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 28, 2021 4:00 am

If you wonder what God’s like, you’re in good company! Thankfully, He didn’t make it a secret. Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg takes a closer look at what Luke chapter 19 reveals about God’s heart and character.


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A lot of people wonder what God is like.

And thankfully, the Bible does not keep that a secret. Today on Truth for Life Weekend, Alistair Begg describes three scenes found in Luke chapter 19 that show us the human face of God. Today's message was first delivered on Palm Sunday last year, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up. Well, at a time of great uncertainty—and it is a time of great uncertainty—we do what we always do, and that is, we go to our Bibles, we turn to the Bible as the source of endurance and of encouragement and of hope. And the passage that we have read from the Gospel of Luke is familiar material, and it is recorded, actually, in each of the Gospels, at a slightly different vantage point in John. But nevertheless, each of the Gospel writers turn our gaze to this particular incident. And understandably, because while we may not read this in the press or find it on the internet, what we actually are confronting here is a crucial day in the most momentous week in the history of the entire world. It's not uncommon these days to hear people say, Well, we've never experienced anything like this before.

And of course, that is absolutely true. But nothing that we know now compares to the wonder of what took place on that day. And here, in three scenes in this particular section of Luke, in these three scenes, we look, as it were—to use a phrase coined by some theologians of the past—we look into the human face of God. And you will remember, perhaps, that John records for us the incident when Philip addressed Jesus with that very issue. And Jesus said to him, having asked that the Lord would show him the Father, Jesus said to him, Have I been with you so long, and still you do not know me, Philip?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Now, it is in light of that that we look at these three very straightforward scenes that are recorded for us, and let's remember that this is taking place in the last week of Jesus' life. Let's also affirm the fact that we're dealing here with real history and with real geography. We're not delving into the realm of fables, but we're dealing with facts. And if you perhaps have not, of late, been reading the Gospels or even been considering these things, when you turn to the Gospel writers, you will discover that they are not presenting us with ideas to accept or even with a philosophy to embrace, but they are presenting us with facts, with events that took place in real time. Now, this is of vital importance, and this distinguishes Christianity from many other spheres of philosophy and religion in the world. We are not saved by believing a certain point of view. Now, people will often say to us, But that is surely just your point of view.

Well, it is our point of view, but we are not saved by believing a certain point of view. Our salvation is found in certain things that happened—that Christ was born, that Christ died for sin, that Christ triumphed over the grave, that Christ ascended to heaven, that Christ will return. And the best of our poets and our hymn writers have fastened this in our thinking, many of us from our infancy. On a hill, far away, geography, stood an old rugged cross, the embling of suffering and shame. And it was on that old cross that God's dearly loved Son for a world of lost sinners was slain. And the events preceding that day are recorded for us here by Luke.

The first incident is recorded between verse 28 and 40, where we see Jesus riding on a donkey. There's a tremendous amount that is going on in this scene. The crowds had been swelling, Lazarus had been raised from the grave, and on account of that, there was a tremendous interest not only in Lazarus himself but also in the one who had performed this great miracle. And so it was that many who were part of this crowd on this day had been present for what we might refer to as a succession of partially understood surprises. They had seen things happen that they had never before considered.

And their songs were filled with expectation. They were singing from the psalms, Blessed is the King who comes, Hosanna to the Son of David. And so, if we were seeking to summarize it, we would say that the whole event was filled with acclamation, and yet privately and very unkindly, with the indignation and frustration of the Pharisees and religious leaders, and with the question—really, the question of the ages. When Jesus enters into Jerusalem, Matthew records, the whole city was stirred up saying, Who is this?

Who is this? And that, you see, when we come to these high points in the Christian calendar, is the question that is inevitably raised. It may have been raised in your mind. You may have never given consideration to it up until this week. It may be that the events of this week have conspired to make you think along lines that have not been customary for you.

And I'm glad that if I have you within earshot, you can consider this with me. You see, because Jesus here is making a deliberate statement—Jesus, we're told earlier in the gospel, has set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. Jesus realizes that he is fulfilling the prophecy that had been made all these hundreds of years before, in Zechariah. Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, mounted on a donkey. Now, G. K. Chesterton has a wonderful poem on the donkey, which I won't read all of it, but this is just a verse from it, describing the donkey with monstrous head and sickening cry and ears like errant wings, the devil's walking parody on all four-footed things. In other words, this is a strange creature, and it is a strange creature upon which a king would ride. And what is very important to realize is that nowhere else in the entire creature do we read of Jesus riding.

This is the only place where he rides. When we confront Jesus, we do not find Jesus shouting aloud in the streets, drawing attention to himself. But here in this deliberate statement, he presents himself as the king on a donkey, gentle and lowly in heart.

Now, that ought to be enough to cause us to sit down and chew on it for a while. What kind of king arrives on a donkey and then proceeds to wear a crown of thorns? And then, in verses 41–44, the king weeping over the city. So we move, if you like, from God on a donkey to God in tears. Now, why is it that he weeps over the city?

I think it is for two reasons. First of all, because of the love that fills him, and then on account of the judgment that awaits them. It wasn't that these people were disinterested in peace. They longed for peace. But they thought that it would come militarily, that it would come politically, that somehow or another, there would be structures put in place that would make it possible for them to be triumphant over those who had opposed them, and so on—understandable designs and desires, and yet not the plan of God. Some of us today are looking for peace in a similar kind of way. But we've never considered what Jesus says concerning peace and what it means to know this peace.

And you see, what has happened is that they have resisted all of the message that they have received, and they have rejected the messenger who comes. The pathway to peace has been made known to them. Jerusalem is a city loved by Jesus. But they, having been the beneficiaries of the stories that he has told and of the miracles that he has performed, are blind to it. And it is on account of their ignorance and their blindness that Jesus weeps. Would that even you—we might add, of all people—would that you had known on this day the things that make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes. Now, you see, this is not peculiar to the circumstances in Jerusalem. This is actually the predicament of humanity.

This is the dispiece that pervades individual hearts and families and lives and communities and nations—that he who is the Prince of Peace is the only one in whom this peace may be discovered. That he who comes to rule and to reign as a king comes also as a prophet to speak in to our ignorance and to our blindness. You see, people think of sin almost inevitably in terms of things that we do or things that we haven't done that we should do. But in actual fact, sin is a condition before it is an action. And one of the pictures that the Bible uses of our predicament as sinners is blindness. It is sin that blinds us to the fact that we are at enmity with God. It is sin that blinds us to our need of peace with God. It is sin that blinds us to the provision that is being made for peace in Jesus. Well, you see, what the Bible says is that the darkness—the darkness is not as a result of the absence of evidence that may be considered. The heavens declare the glory of God. But the darkness is actually on the inside—that we are blind, that we suppress the truth, and we repress its impact on our minds and our wills and on our emotions.

And as a result of that, we do not know God. And as a result of that, knowing peace with God is the great heart of the Scriptures. I don't doubt that there's not a person within earshot right now who has not been thinking this week about peace. If only I could find peace, if I could find a measure of peace. Some of us have been unsettled by the reality of the prospect of imminent death. And in the night hours, our conscience has stirred. And we say to ourselves, If only I could have peace for all those things that I've done, for all the things that I have left undone. If only I could cast a veil over my past. If only it were possible for me to find peace in this moment, in this present predicament. If only I could look out to the future and discover peace.

If I could find it, if I could have it, I would go for it. Well, here's what the Bible says. It is first in knowing peace with God that we discover the peace of God. And the peace with God has been granted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, when we look at this, we actually look at ourselves. What Jesus is saying to these people here is, Listen, you did not know the time of your visitation.

It may seem like a strange thing to say, but what he's pointing out is this. The tragedy of those in whose company he now finds himself is simply this—that God has come and visited them, has given to them the message of the prophets, has given to them the signs of God's wonder in the works and in the words of Jesus, and yet they are blind to it all. And as a result of that, you have this amazing picture that God weeps. I don't think we should see this as somebody reaching for a little hankie and dabbing his eyes. No, can you see him in your mind's eye? A great, seething, sobbing carpenter.

And why? Because God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. You see, the warning of a coming judgment—a judgment that was actually brought upon in AD 70.

History, again, records this. The warning of this coming judgment—listen, he says, the reason you are where you are is because you did not know the time of your visitation. If you had only known—now, that's not an uncommon phrase. People say, Well, if I had only known, I would never have bought that. If I had only known, I would never have moved there.

If I had only known, I would never have married her. What a tragedy to end an eternity saying, If I had only known! And so, the Bible is given to us here on this Palm Sunday in order that we might know. And the warning of a judgment that comes falls from the lips of one whose eyes are filled with tears. The same Jesus who, looking on Jerusalem, said, How often would I have gathered you like a hen with our young, but you would not come to me. So the severity of God's judgment must be understood in light of the reality of God's love. That brings us, then, to the third and final scene—from the writing into Jerusalem, and the way in which he weeps over Jerusalem, and then the way in which he enters to cleanse the temple of Jerusalem.

Now, Luke, who says in his introduction that his plan was to give an orderly account, really does a masterful job of meeting his own expectations. Because when we arrive here, we really are right back at the beginning of the gospel record. And when you go back to the early chapters of Luke, you realize that we are introduced to Jesus in the temple when Simeon takes him in his arms and declares the wonder of God's salvation. In that same chapter, the record fasts forward to Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy. And as his earthly parents come to find him, they find him seated in the temple in conversation with the religious leaders. And you remember, on that occasion, he says to them, I'm not sure just exactly why it is that you are as distressed as you are.

Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? And the temple in Jerusalem represented the place where God meets with his people. And what Jesus is describing here is a circumstance that is so far removed from the intentions of God that it is inevitable that he, as the great priest, should clean the place up. He knew the Old Testament. He knew Isaiah 56 7. He knew that God had said through his prophet, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. He also knew the prophecy of Jeremiah.

And it is the combined understanding of these things that allows Jesus to speak as he does, so that in Jeremiah—and you can read this on your own—in Jeremiah chapter 7. And then, later on, you have this word of warning concerning the fact that I have made for you a place in which you are going to meet and make your offerings and confer with me. And then he says, But are you going to trust in deceptive words?

Are you going to treat the place as if the building was the issue? This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord? Please, he says, do not trust in deceptive words to no avail. Do not do all these wrong things in them and come and stand before me in this house which is called by my name and say we are delivered, only to go on doing all these abominations.

And then here's the question. Jeremiah 7.11—and Jesus knew this—has this house which is called by my name become a den of robbers in your eyes? So Jesus, as the Lord of salvation, as the King, as the prophet, as the priest, reaches back to the Scriptures that would be familiar to these people, and he quotes them. The folks who had been indignant at the praise that Jesus was receiving are the same folks who are now presiding over this irreligious bazaar.

The details of it are so well known, we needn't rehearse them. They were changing money to an extortionate prophet. They were making the people's offerings of creatures regarded as unacceptable in order that they might give to them acceptable offerings and to give them at a very inordinate price. And all of this has been going on, filled up with animals and filled up with tables and chairs and far removed from what God had intended for his place to be.

Well, those are the scenes, and I leave them to you. God riding on a donkey, God weeping over Jerusalem, God cleansing the place of his appointment with his people. You see, actually, what is happening here? I wonder even, did Jesus on this occasion in the court look across into the temple?

Did he look across and see the curtain that was there, knowing in his mind that within a matter of days that curtain would be torn from top to bottom, that eventually this temple structure would crumble and be destroyed, and one day the dwelling of God would be in the presence of he who is the King? But what do you want to do with this? You've got to settle this for yourself, as I do. You're sensible people. You read the Bible. Are you prepared to consider that what we're dealing with here is history, we're dealing with facts? Have you looked at the identity of Jesus?

Have you considered him as he has made himself known in his words and in his works? Do you understand the tragedy that is here represented in this moment? And it is a tragedy which carries forward into today. Because when you and I resist the day of God's visitation, there is nothing left for us but ultimate disaster. You see, Christ looks at this tragedy, and he weeps of all the things that these days may be. Surely it would be not wrong for any one of us to suggest that this may prove to be, for the nations of the world, a day of God's visitation. In other words, a day and a moment of opportunity, when the King comes riding in, where he weeps on account of the extent of his love and the tragedy of our rebellion.

When he bids us come to him because he loves, he cares, he invites. We need to see God's intervention in our lives as a moment of opportunity. That's from today's message titled The Human Face of God on Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg. At Truth for Life we count it a privilege to teach directly from the Bible every day of the year, and that certainly includes this weekend as we celebrate Palm Sunday. Our passion is to open the scriptures with you each day so that together we can come to know and love and trust the Lord Jesus to save us from our sins and lead us to eternal life. Teaching the Bible plants and waters, the seed of saving faith, but only God can use his word to open blind eyes and soften hardened hearts in a way that transforms us into his children for all of eternity. Thank you for your support of this mission, and as a tangible way of expressing our thanks, we select books each month to help you grow in your faith. This is the final weekend we're offering a book titled The Cross in Four Words. This is a book that provides a brief history lesson on significant parts of the Old Testament, like the Day of Atonement or the idea of the scapegoat, so that we can see just how crucial these are to gaining a complete understanding of all that was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross. Request your copy of The Cross in Four Words by visiting I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Join us next weekend as you celebrate Easter. We'll find out why the disciples hid behind locked doors following Jesus' crucifixion in a message titled Life After Lockdown. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-10 23:16:49 / 2023-12-10 23:24:56 / 8

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