Today marks number twelve and final message of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us. Today’s character is not named but their words speak volumes. Our “Small Matters” character is The Centurion!
Just who or what is a “Centurion?”
Matthew 27:54 – “The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
Luke 23:47 – “When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”
What was the reaction of the Centurion during and after the crucifixion?
Why did the Centurion have these reactions? Why did the Centurion identify that one particular man as the Son of God?
How about you today? Who do you say He is? Have you listened to God’s voice inside of you telling you exactly who Christ is?
Our whole belief system, our whole understanding of a Savior, our whole concept of the Church hinges completely on our understanding of who Jesus is… it’s all about His identity.
Matthew 16:13-18 - When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Peter knew it…
The Centurion Knew It…
Do you know the true identity of Christ?
Who is Jesus to you? He did something for you no one else could have done. You must know what it was Jesus actually did for you! He did it with simultaneous humility and supremacy! I love how Paul described Him in Philippians & Colossians!
Philippians 2:5-11 - You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:15-23 - 15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. 21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.
As you travel along I-10 in Louisiana there is a large billboard which catches your eye. It stands high above the city just as you start up the Mississippi river bridge. On it is a picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross of Calvary, head bowed. The caption underneath says in bold letters, “IT’S YOUR MOVE!” What a powerful thought. God has already taken the initiative in salvation. Christ died for you.
Who is Christ to you? Will you worship God and fall down and make this exclamation: “Truly this is the Son of God?”
Small Matters: “The Servant Girls”
Today marks number eleven of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us. Today’s characters are not named but challenge our thinking in a significant way. Our “Small Matters” characters are the Servant Girls who questioned the identity of Peter the disciple as he stood nearby the proceedings of Jesus’ trials that led to his crucifixion.
Matthew 26:69-72 69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter’s response to the first servant girl and then repeated again to the second is especially notable in the light of what he had said earlier in this same chapter.
Matthew 26:32-35 - 31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
Why did he react the way he did when the servant girl identified him?
Peter, simultaneously shocked and horrified, was also afraid of his own seemingly perilous situation. Surely, he was afraid that association with the one on trial would make him culpable and subject to whatever charges they were levering again his master.
So the logical reaction? Peter acts like he doesn’t know anything The servant girl correctly identifies Peter but does Peter identify Jesus? He missed a prime opportunity to do what he said he would do. And I quote Peter: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will! Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
The Servant Girls:
1. What can we learn from very specific and pointed words by the first servant girl that actually looks like a statement but spoken like a question? – “you also were with Jesus of Galilee.”
2. The second servant girl’s statement isn’t even a question, in fact, it was a very succinct incriminating question! – ““This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
Peter is following Jesus – he’s just doing it from afar. Do we do that?
Let’s begin to unpack how this might impact our lives as we contemplate this situation.
When Peter heard the rooster crow – he remembered with vivid shock the words of Christ spoken to Him just hours earlier –
Matthew 26:34 - “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
Also, more than likely Peter recalled what Jesus had spoken a few months before that.
Matthew 10:32-33 - “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
Peter’s reaction was swift – Matthew 26:35 - 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Legacy Church’s Mission Statement Reads: “To Develop Fully-Devoted Followers of Jesus Christ.”
Luke 9:22-26 22 “The Son of Man[e] must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.
How do you do it?
How do you un-ashamedly stand for Christ in every situation, 24/7?
Small Matters Part 9: “Pilate’s Wife”
Today marks number nine of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us.
This week, our character is introduced and quoted in only verse in the Bible. And her words echo throughout eternity. Throughout time and history, in various writings, this lady has been referred to as Claudia Procula or Claudia Procles. She – was Pontius Pilate’s wife. Pontius Pilate often referred to as just “Pilate,” was the man responsible for the official sentencing of Jesus to death on the cross.
Matthew 27:19 - Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
How incredible is this one verse? Let’s set the stage by reading the context…
Matthew 27:11-26 - 11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. 15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted.16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”[b] 26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Pilate was a powerful man – but he was a coward.
Pilate had worked the system, worked long and hard to get to where he was – and he hadn’t necessarily gotten to where he was by honesty and integrity – and he was certainly an expert at passing the buck. Washing his hands of the whole issue certainly shows his true fear of the consequences of doing his job.
Pilate had the power to pardon Jesus, or, condemn him to death. The loudest voices in his ear were those convincing him to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion.
There are many lessons to be learned from this very fascination situation. However, I want to zero in on one of them this morning. It concerns the subject of “listening.”
God can speak to us through His Word, through others, in our minds, in our thoughts and yes, even in our dreams.
In this instance, God spoke very clearly to Claudia Procula. It happened to be in a dream, but the message from God was so strong that Procula put her life on the line to get this message to her husband while he was in the middle of one of the most crucial times in his rule. She disregarded her own safety and possibility of rejection and mistreatment by her husband or his guards.
Claudia Procula could have ignored the message of the dream – it would have been easier. But she stepped up courageously because she cared about her husband.
Question #1: “When God speaks to you, do you listen and act accordingly?”
John 8:47 - “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Proverbs 2:1-5 – “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”
Question #2: “When you are about to yield to a temptation to do the wrong thing, do you consider your relationship to Christ in your decision?”
Claudia Procula proclaimed the message from God (the truth) to her husband, Pilate. Her message reached Pilate just as he sat down on the judgement seat to make his decision. It was at that point that Pilate could have used further truth to make the right decision, albeit against strong “mob” opinion. Pilate had already made a judgement in his own mind that he found Jesus to be “not guilty.” Added to that now, came the words from a panic-stricken wife sent with a direct message from God.
What happens when you are tempted? Do you seek and listen for wisdom from God? It was promised it would come.
I Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) – “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
My friends – God’s timing is perfect. Just as He sent Christ “at just the right time (When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6) Just like He sent us a Savior, He stands ready to speak at the very moment of decision.
As part of history and based on the Biblical account, not only did Pilate ignore his own conscience and the words from God delivered through his wife, he passed the buck, issued a death sentence upon an innocent man AND pardoned a hardened criminal – a murderer named Barabbas.
What will you do when faced with a temptation or a direction from God? Will you follow his directives? Or will you find yourself making a decision that could have huge ramifications?
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) – “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
Pilate took the easy way out in spite of Claudia Procula’s warning. Even though this all had to happen for God’s plan to be realized, Pilate still knuckled to public pressure and caved in.
Will you knuckle to public pressure, to pleasure, to popular opinion among your family or peers? Or… will you listen for the voice of God? He is there specifically for you.
Pilate’s wife heard from God and she acted!
What ever happened to Claudia Procula?
There are many stories and speculations. It is believed by some that she became a Christ-follower or maybe even was before (secretly) before the crucifixion. Many believe she was executed for her faith in Christ, as a martyr. In the Passion of the Christ, Claudia Procula gives Mary linens to wipe up the blood of Christ. Wow! What does Claudia Procula’s bold move to get the message of God to her husband say to you about listening to God?
Small Matters Part 8: “The Owner of the Donkey”
Luke 19:29-35 - 29 As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. 30 “Go into that village over there,”he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. 33 And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” 34 And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.
A great question to consider is, why did the owners of the donkey let the disciples take the donkey?
J.P. Holding, a Biblical researcher gives a great perspective:
If someone walks up to your brand new bright red Corvette, takes the keys, gets in, and starts revving up, you will certainly ask (in a less than rational tone, naturally) "Why are you taking my car?" And I very much doubt that you would be satisfied with the answer, "God needs it." If you hadn't already punched the guy's lights out, your next step would be to call the men in the white coats and the police.
Obviously, that didn't happen here -- the owners made no effort to stop what was going on, and the disciples were allowed to leave with the colt unhindered. So there is obviously more to this story.
Today, we want to explore the incredible orchestration of the plan God had to redeem man – the plan, to provide the most incredible divine intervention for reconciliation to be as accessible for all. This entire plan for Holy Week was prophesied in the Old Testament. And, in Christ and God’s plan, all these prophesies were fulfilled – all 29 of them!
The situation of the mode of transportation of Christ on his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem was indeed foretold and completely fulfilled down to the last detail.
In Zechariah 9:9 we find this prophecy spoken about Jesus Christ:
“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.”
Even though skeptics say that this mode of transportation was staged simply to say that Jesus fulfilled every prophecy including Zechariah’s, we believe there is much more to the story. Let’s unpack it a bit more:
Let’s look at the first question and explore some possible explanations:
The Owners of the Donkey – all part of God’s plan and God orchestrated His plan down to the most minute detail.
Whatever He needs to do His will, He will arrange.
Questions to ponder:
Will you let Him arrange your life?
Will you listen to the Holy Spirit for direction? Or will you ignore His voice?
Do you make plans and then ask God to bless them? or….
Do you ask God for His constant presence before you plan? as you plan?
It is important to remember one very important fact as we continue our journey to the cross during Lent. God doesn’t waste any opportunities to help us learn about Him.
Most donkey have a narrow strip of hair that runs down their backs and each of their shoulders have stripes that are of a darker shade. These strips of hair – are in the shape of a cross. Donkeys have been used by mankind to bear burdens for mankind for thousands of years. They are indeed “beasts of burdens.”
The cross of Jesus Christ signifies our burdens being carried by the Christ who was crucified on the cross.
Who would put a cross on an animal unless it were to bear burdens? Who would put a cross on the back of a perfect divine being to pay the price for someone who didn’t deserve it?
God – He planned the events of Holy Week, down to the minutest detail. Why? For you. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice guiding you today!
**Here is a listing of them in order of their fulfillment in the N.T. (Thanks to Pastor Jim Rickard of Grace Fellowship Ministries who provides loads of Biblical resources free of charge!)
Betrayed by a Friend
He Was to Enter the Temple
Sold For 30 Pieces of Silver
Accused By False Witnesses
Smitten and Spit Upon
Silent Before Accusers
Wounded and Bruised
Gall and Vinegar Offered to Him
Crucified with Thieves
People Shook Their Heads
Darkness Over the Land
His Forsaken Cry
Money to Be Thrown into God’s House
Price Given for Potter’s Field
Buried in a Rich Man’s Tomb
Forsaken by His Disciples
He Was to Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey
Hands and Feet Pierced
Made Intercession for His Persecutors
Committed Himself to God
Friends Stood Afar Off
Fell Under the Cross
Garments Parted and Lots Cast
To Suffer Thirst
Bones Not Broken
His Side Pierced