Prelude “Sweet Hour of Prayer” Alan Jackson
In this service for Week three of Lent, the place of the Passion is Gethsemane, where Jesus is betrayed and arrested in this garden under cover of darkness. We witness Jesus being taken away by soldiers, but we know that his journey toward the cross will take away our sins. The meaning, history and spiritual inspiration associated with Gethsemane help us to grow to understand more deeply the hard road our Lord took that the way to heaven might be open to us.
The Call to Worship
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Let us ever walk with Jesus.
To see the depths of his love.
To behold the gift of his forgiveness.
To gaze upon the heights of his grace.
To marvel at the magnitude of his mercy.
We walk with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Where he is betrayed by Judas.
And arrested by the Jews.
So that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
Faithful Lord, with me abide. I shall follow where you guide!
Hymn Great is They Faithfulness Maranatha Music
The Prayer of Confession
Paul writes in today’s second lesson, “Christ came proclaiming peace to those who are far off and those who are near.” (Ephesians 2:17) Heavenly Father, this proclamation has reached our ears but we confess it has not settled into our hearts.
We prefer being peace-fakers and peace-breakers.
We are more ready to worry than to trust.
More ready to fret than have faith.
More ready to blame than to believe.
Forgive our hard hearts.
And make us more alive to the depths of your love.
Show us what it cost to give up your Son.
Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
(Please silently reflect on the fact that though our sin is great, Christ’s love is greater.)
Hear the good news! Jesus walked to places of rejection, suffering, torment and death—for you. Jesus was determined to go to Gethsemane, Gabbatha and Golgotha—for you. That’s why Jesus forgives you completely and loves you eternally. Faithful Lord, with me abide!
I shall follow where you guide!
Special Music Faith is the Victory Plantation Praise and Worship Team
Prayer of the Day
Heavenly Father, because Jesus walked into the perfect storm—betrayal, arrest, assault with a sword and then all his friends ran away—you are able to bring your perfect peace in the storms of our lives. Empower us to believe it and receive it; through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God forever.
Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 53:1-5
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Gospel Reading, Matthew 26:47-56
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
When sailors describe a storm that no one can escape, they often call it a perfect storm. Not perfect in the sense of ideal, but perfect in the sense of its combining factors. Combining factors like hurricane-force winds and a cold front and rain and a high tide. The hurricane-force winds alone would be impossible. But hurricane-force winds and a cold front and rain and a high tide? A perfect storm!
We don’t need to be sailors to experience a perfect storm. All we need is a layoff and a recession and a child going away to college; a disease and a divorce and a parent with dementia; a relationship breakup and a college rejection letter and a C- in calculus. We can usually handle one challenge, but two or three or four at a time? A bomb-cyclone and a polar vortex? Gale-force winds and thunderstorms and hail?
We’re in a series in called Places of the Passion. Today we walk with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane is the place of a perfect storm! Betrayal and an arrest and an assault and desertion—all leading to death by crucifixion.
The crowd collects. “While Christ was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” (Matthew 26:47) Matthew doesn’t mention Romans, that’s because Romans won’t come into the picture until the next day—that’s when they will mock Jesus, flog Jesus and crucify Jesus. The crowd that collects here is a crowd of Jews—the chief priests (who controlled the temple) and elders (who were rulers of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish senate of seventy). This is like the Supreme Court and congress sending the FBI to arrest you!
Who’s leading this Jewish posse with so much firepower and muscle? Judas! And what is Judas up to? Betrayal. Every time we celebrate Holy Communion, we hear the words, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed.” This is that night!
“Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend do what you came to do.’” (Matthew 26:48–50) The Jewish posse wouldn’t be able to recognize Jesus at night. Judas, therefore, gives them a sign—a greeting and a kiss.
In Matthew’s gospel, the term “friend” also appears in Matthew 20:13 to describe a person in a parable who rejects grace for other people. It also comes in Matthew 22:12 to describe a person in a parable who isn’t wearing a wedding garment. A “friend,” therefore is a friend in name only. This is Judas!
The chaos commences. “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51) John’s Gospel tells us it was Peter who drew his sword; that the slave’s name was Malchus; that Peter cut off Malchus’ right ear (John 18:10). The crowd collects and the chaos commences. It’s a perfect storm!
Are you bouncing up and down in a perfect storm? Are you doing everything you can to survive? Have you battened-down the hatches? Lowered the anchor? Consulted the bank? Changed your diet? Called an attorney? Tightened your budget? Gone into counseling or rehab or therapy? Yet the sea still is churning? And the waves are still coming? Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up! Why?
The control is clear. Whose control? Christ’s control! It’s very clear! Judas and the Jews appear to be running things. Let me accent the word appear. Christ is really the one in control! How so?
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52–53) The control is clear! When his enemies come, Christ goes out to meet them. When Judas approaches, Christ doesn’t run. When Peter strikes Malchus, Christ commands Peter to put his sword away.
Jesus says in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord.” Though the powers of darkness rise against him—full throttle—Christ is in control. He could ask his Father for twelve legions of angels. Twelve legions of angels? There were 6,000 men in one Roman legion. Do the math—12 x 6,000 = 72,000 angels! Christ doesn’t need 72,000 angels because Christ is in absolute control!
During WW II, psychologists compared ground troops with fighter pilots. They determined that after sixty days of continuous combat, the anxiety of ground troops was off the charts. After sixty days, though, an astounding 93% of fighter pilots were happy and at peace. Why is that? The fighter pilots had control! They had their hands on the throttle! Ground troops, on the other hand, felt forlorn and helpless. They could just as easily be killed standing still or running away. What’s the point? Popular wisdom tells us, “Always seek control!”
We don’t need a war to prove it! All we need is a backup on the interstate highway! A team of German researchers recently found that a traffic jam triples our chances of a heart attack. That makes sense because in slow traffic we lose control. That’s why popular wisdom repeatedly tells us, “Always seek control!”
So what’s the plan when a perfect storm hits? “Always seek control!” Never board a plane without a parachute. Never leave the house without a gas mask. Never step on a crack lest you break your mother’s back! That’s it! Face every storm by taking control!
There’s only one problem with this popular wisdom. It doesn’t work! Would you like something that does work when you’re in a perfect storm? Rather than seek control, relinquish control—give it all up. Let go. Resign as CEO of the universe. Give your entire mess to Jesus. Look what Mark 4:41 says, “Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Christ’s control is clear!
The calm is contagious. “‘But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’ … All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples left him and fled.” (Matthew 26:54, 56) Christ is calm because he trusts the Scriptures. The Scriptures that predicted all of these events. Scriptures like Zechariah 11:12, “They weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.” Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on me, on him whom they have pierced.” Zechariah 13:7, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
In a Peanuts comic strip, Lucy is struggling with her Sunday School memory verse. Finally, she says, “Maybe it’s a verse from the book of Reevaluations.” The book of Reevaluations!
The Scriptures are a book of reevaluations. They help us reevaluate who is really in control. Christ is in control of sin—and forgives every last one of them. Christ is in control of our prayers—he answers them according to his loving plan. Christ is in control of our heavy burdens—he takes them all to the cross!
When parents send their children to a camp, they often have to sign a form that asks, who is the responsible party? If Johnny breaks his arm or Suzie gets the measles, who is the responsible party? So a parent signs their name.
Christ signed his name for us—and he wrote it in his own blood. When the perfect storm hits, Jesus is the responsible party. Not us. It’s his job to see us through. Christ is the Shepherd, we are the sheep. Christ is the Bridegroom, we are the bride. Christ is the Rabbi, we are his disciples.
One of three things is happening in our lives right now. We are either heading for a perfect storm or we are in a perfect storm or we just went through a perfect storm. No matter what, we don’t have to become hopeless or anxious or faithless. We can stay calm. Why?
In a perfect storm, Jesus delivers perfect peace. Amen.
Hymn Master, the Tempest is Raging. Hymns, Virtual Choir
The Prayers of the People
Onward in Christ’s footsteps treading, pilgrims here, our home above. Full of faith and hope and love. Let us do the Father’s bidding. And so we pray. Heavenly Father, you haven’t promised us a storm-less life. You don’t offer quick fixes or shallow solutions. But you do promise perfect peace, in the midst of whatever happens. Lord, in your mercy,
Grant us your peace.
Heavenly Father when we’re out of bootstraps to pull up, come to the end of our rope and feel like quitting, you are with us and for us. Thank you for being a Father who will never forget or abandon us in our storms. Thank you for working all things together for the good of those who love you. Lord, in your mercy,
Grant us your peace.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your perfect peace—a peace perfectly suited for the moment. Our calling is not to take control, but to mine the riches of the Gospel and never lose sight of your wonderful love. You are the Rock that is higher than us, the Rock of refuge, the Rock of ages. Lord, in your mercy,
Grant us your peace.
Heavenly Father, we praise and thank you for your peace that surpasses all understanding. Anchor us in hope, strengthen us in grace and fortify us with resolute courage.
Jesus let me faithful be, life eternal grant to me. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer Hillsong Worship
Hymn Faith of Our Fathers Geneva Presbyterian Church, Laguna Hills, California
Jesus invites us to walk with him to the Mount of Olives, a place of great suffering and a place of great love. We will walk with Jesus all the way to the empty tomb—and resurrection victory.
Let us ever walk with Jesus!
Closing Song Make Me A Channel of Your Peace
Postlude My Tribute– Andrae Crouch