Saturday, February 26, 2022


Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We went a bit further last week than I thought we would; we made it past verse 14, and finished at verse 25 of Matthew 27. We found Governor Pilate between The Rock, and a hard place politically. He had judged Jesus to be a just man, not having done anything in violation to Roman Law. He saw through the witnesses’ lies, and the jealousy of the priests was evident. But, washing his hands of the entire matter, Pilate declared himself to be clean of the blood of this innocent. (Can a Judge declare himself to be Innocent?)

That’s when the Jew clamored for His crucifixion. The crowd had been primed and worked up, and as a mob, they declared, “His blood be upon us, and on our children.” Pilate prevailed at nothing, and instead his actions created an even more riotous response from the Jews.

On this Jewish Holiday weekend, but the City of Jerusalem was filled with duty bound worshipers of Jehovah, but they missed the mark, and followed the lead of the Priests and Sanhedrin instead.

I find it curious that Pilate openly stated that Jesus was a “just person.” Yet Rome had removed the ability of the Jews execute anyone for violating Jewish Law. Yet Pilate’s lack of a spine caused him to cave to the will of true insurrectionists! So, the “son of the father” (Bar-Abbas), was released, and Pilate commanded that Jesus be taken and scourged. The murderous son-of-the-father was accepted, and the Son of Jehovah was rejected.

Mark and Luke tell us that Barabbas was part of an insurrection, and had killed a man in the process. That’s a capital crime against Rome! Jesus had taught His followers to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  - Matthew 22:20-21.  Apparently, the type of government believers live under makes little difference to God. But the Jews wanted their freedom and independence!

Regardless of who or what rules a nation, full trust in Jesus and His teachings will provide a peace that no earthly ruler can. And even in our own tumultuous times, Jesus supplies a peace that surpasses all understanding to them that are looking to Him. Blessed be His Name!

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:7

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 27:26-44 - "The Just and The Unjust"


Today, we are continuing our study in Matthew 27.

Last week, we learned that the Jewish religious leaders tried everything within their power to have Jesus condemned to death. Pilate becomes rattled by the demands of the multitude. He grows tired of trying to reason with the Jewish leaders. He knew Jesus was not guilty of any crime. He knew that the chief priests and elders delivered Him up out of envy. Pilate’s own wife warned him that Jesus was a just and innocent man, and not to have anything to do with it.

And just before Pilate tries to wash his hands of his responsibility in the shedding of innocent blood, he asks the crowd a very important question. It’s a question that we all must ask ourselves, and give an answer to:
“What then shall I do with Jesus?”

Nothing is hidden to God. He knew what Pilate would do, and what He did was play right into God’s perfect plan. The plan of redemption.

Pilate decides to hand Jesus over to the Jewish leaders with his authority to do what they wanted with Him. As we will see, Jesus endured the most horrific pain and suffering imaginable before He is condemned to death and crucified for our sins, thus fulfilling the scriptures.

Today as we look at the agonizing experiences that Jesus went through on this terrible, yet significant, day in history, know that He did so by His own choice. He didn’t have to endure the humiliation and shame. He didn’t have to endure the pain and the suffering. Jesus did not have to stay on the cross; He had the power to get off. In fact Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

It was because of Jesus' faithfulness that He endured humiliation. It was out of obedience to the Father that He suffered the insults of man. It was because of His love, that He laid down His life for you and for me.

John 3:16 tells us why:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 
It was the power of His love, not nails, that held Him there. He did it because it was necessary for our salvation.

J. Vernon McGee said, “If He were to save you and me, He would have to die on that cross. If he had come down from the cross, you and I would have to be executed for our sins.”

This is the moment Jesus had been preparing them for.  Jesus laid down His life to make us right with God.

In order to get “right” with God, we must first understand what is “wrong.” The answer is sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).

The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us salvation. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging your sin. Next comes a humble confession of your sin to God (Isaiah 57:15). “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

This repentance must be accompanied by faith – specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be your Savior. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith, such as John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.

Being right with God is a matter of your response to what God has done on your behalf. He sent the Savior, He provided the sacrifice to take away your sin (John 1:29), and He offers you the promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

What then will you do with Jesus?

The decision to accept or reject Jesus as Savior is the ultimate life decision. Why do so many people choose to reject Jesus as Savior? There are perhaps as many different reasons for rejecting Christ as there are people who reject Him. Whatever the reasons, the rejection of Christ has disastrous eternal consequences. “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), and those who reject Him, for whatever reason, face an eternity in the “outer darkness” of hell where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

Do you believe Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is, and are you trusting Him as your Savior?

Do you believe that Jesus is God in human form (John 1:1, 14)? Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), for which you deserve eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23)? Do you believe that the sacrifice of Jesus, God incarnate, is the only adequate payment for your sins (1 John 2:2; John 14:6; Acts 4:12)?

Do you believe these things? 
"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Whom To Trust

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

From His “arrest” in the Gethsemane, Jesus is taken to the palace of Caiaphas the High Priest to answer charges before the Priest and the Sanhedrin. It is likely to be late in the evening since Judas came to the garden with a crowd carrying swords and staves, well after dinner.

A kiss of betrayal told the crowd which of the Twelve was Jesus. Oddly enough, the crowd would not have known who to lay hold of were it not for that kiss. The crowd did not otherwise know which of the Twelve was Jesus. They literally did not know Him. And they were likely unfamiliar with His teachings. They were acting only at the direction of the trusted High leaders of the Temple, who had conspired against Him among themselves. And they took Him off to Caiaphas for interrogation.

Peter had followed afar off and went into the palace grounds. His clothing and his speech betrayed him as a Galilean. And when asked about his affiliation to Jesus, “Surely thou also art one of them…” And as Jesus had warned Peter, he indeed had denied all knowledge of the Lord three times. Coming towards dawn, the cock crowed, and Jesus had once again revealed how thoroughly He knows each one of us.

Through the next hours, He is taken to Pilate, who sends Jesus to Herod, and is then returned to Pilate. But we also briefly see Judas, as it dawns on Him that the Priests and Sanhedrin revealed their true intent to do away with the Lord. While the Lord knows us inside and out, we do not necessarily know whom it is we can trust in our dealings with them. But learning that his payment from them was “blood money,” their intent was now clear to the betrayer. Judas was remorseful even before they put Jesus on the cross, and he went out and hanged himself.
"It is better to trust the word of the Lord, rather than to put our trust in man, or Princes" - Psalm 118:8-9

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 26:68 - 27:26 - "Whom to Trust"

As we continue our study in the Book of Matthew, Jesus has already gone through a sham of a trial with the Jewish leaders in the courtyard of the high priest. They end up declaring that He was a blasphemer and that He deserves death.

At this point, the problem for the Jewish leaders is that they cannot legally execute someone; that authority lies with the Romans. The Jewish leaders will now try to convince the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to sentence Jesus to death.

Today's message, "Whom to Trust" is appropriately titled.  As we look at the people surrounding our Lord after His arrest, we will clearly see whom these people have placed their trust, and the end result of trusting in anything or anyone other than the Son of God. 

From Peter's pride, putting trust in His own strength and will power, and Judas foolishly trusting false spiritual leaders to force his own agenda, to the unbelieving multitude, God's own chosen people who had a sense of entitlement.  These unbelieving Jews wanted their national freedom, not a Savior to free them from their sin. They didn't want God's kingdom of which Jesus spoke of, they wanted to be free from Rome.   Barabas fit the bill.  He
 had shown violent zeal for Jewish freedom, and he was willing to fight the Romans to achieve it.  Jesus obviously was not.  Jesus came to free them from the bondage of sin, and the punishment for sin. In fact, Jesus tells Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world: 

"Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:33-36

Today we will take a look at all these betrayals, and how each dealt with their sin.  Peter ultimately repents and his faith is restored.  Judas realizes he had been deceived by the false religious leaders and commits suicide.  As to the unbelieving Jews, the Jewish nation did indeed suffer for their rejection of their Messiah. On His way to the cross, Jesus hints at a coming judgment (Luke 23:31). Within one generation of the crucifixion of Christ, Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans. The Jews were scattered, and for almost 1,900 years (until 1948), they had no homeland. There were spiritual ramifications, as well, as the gospel was brought to the more receptive Gentiles (see Acts 18:6). The apostle Paul likens the Gentiles’ inclusion in salvation to wild branches being grafted into a cultivated olive tree. The Jews (the natural branches) are not completely forsaken: “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:23).

The true mark of a true believer is how they respond to sin. They will have godly sorrow which leads to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. They put into practice 1 John 1:9 of confessing their sin and receiving forgiveness and cleansing from the Lord. The true Christian will be grieved at the alienation that sin brings between them and the Lord. They will want their fellowship with Jesus restored. Sin in the life of a true Christian brings godly sorrow unto life.

For the one who has a false profession and the non-Christian, sin brings the worldly sorrow of remorse and regret. Their self-centered nature will keep them from turning to the Lord for forgiveness and direction because their concern will be how the sin affects them personally, not on the fact that the Lord has been offended. The result will be that they will be left in their sin along with its guilt and its consequences of eternal death.


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Betrayal, Lies and Caiaphas

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Building on last week’s text, we begin today in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is essentially a Garden Orchard of Olive trees, a peaceful grove of well-worn paths, olive trees, and rocks. It must have been a favorite place for Jesus to go for some quiet time, for Judas the traitor knew exactly where to bring the soldiers and priests of Jerusalem.

Last week we found certain Apostles falling asleep after their Passover Feast. (It must have been something akin to the after-effects of one of our Thanksgiving celebrations. Full stomachs, and heavy eye lids!) Nonetheless, Peter, John and James kept falling asleep after the Lord ask them three times to pray with him. Like all the Apostles, they had been warned about the events of the days ahead, well, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But the time for praying (or sleeping) came to an end.

Jesus said to them, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”

Quite literally, there was no more time left to escape, or to hide. But in His previous and final prayer to the Father, Jesus had relinquished His will to the Father, an affirmation of the obedience and subjection of the Son to the Father.

Have you ever prayed like that? Seeing what lay ahead; boxed into a corner with no e scape from what’s coming? But eventually, just giving yourself over to God’s watchful, loving, and protective hand?

Truly, what can man do to us that Jesus hasn’t already overcome? It is then when we hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say: “Follow me.” Perhaps we think that we are going through hell, but the voice of the Lord tells us to keep going through to the other side. “Hell” has an end.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" - 1 Peter 1:7

Today's Audio Message:
"Betrayal, Lies, and Caiaphas" - Matthew 26:40-68


As we continue on in Matthew chapter 26, we are already aware that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, that Jesus knew He would be arrested, and that Jesus knew His disciples would abandon Him.

Jesus is ready for this, and He clearly states in verse 56, “. . . all this has happened so that the writings of the prophets would be fulfilled.”

As Jesus speaks of a fulfillment of Scripture and prophecy it is best to view what He is speaking of as the collection of prophecies and Scripture written about Him, His purpose on earth, and the events leading to the end of His life on earth. Everything is coming together. Jesus’ time has come.

Of all the events that happened that night, the most significant of them all was the willingness of our Savior to die on the cross in our place in order to pay the penalty for our sins. God “made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” - 2 Corinthians 5:21. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Last week we learned that after Jesus and the disciples left the upper room, they had traveled the short distance to the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells his disciples to sit a while He goes to pray taking with him Peter, James and John.

Scripture tells us that His heart was very heavy, and sorrowful, and He asks the three disciples to tarry with him and watch in prayer. While Jesus prayed in sorrow even to the point of death, the disciples slept. Twice they were entreated by the Lord to pray so that they would not fall into temptation, He prayed, and they slept.  "...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." - Matthew 26:41

Three times our Lord prayed if it were possible let this cup pass, and three times He yielded to His Father’s will. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” - Matthew 26:39, 42, 44.

After this intense time of prayer, Jesus was ready. Ready to face what He already knew was heading His way. Judas is leading a great multitude, a mob armed with swords and staves, along with the chief priests and elders to have Jesus arrested.

The Gospel of John explains that it was Judas who not only was betraying Him but was the one who organized the expedition to go and arrest Jesus. He arranges a Roman cohort, that’s about 600 plus men. I wonder why he felt it necessary to organize such a massive group to come after Jesus and the other eleven apostles.

Now with a conscience seared, Judas becomes the betrayer of Jesus. Satan has entered his heart and he betrays Him with a kiss.  Rather than point him out, he chooses to walk up to Jesus, look Him in the eye and embrace Him with a kiss. Judas would wrap his arms around Jesus holding on to Him until the Romans could bind His hands and arrest Him.

Again, Jesus knew what was going to happen, and how it would happen.

We know that Peter took his sword and smote off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. Jesus stops this immediately and reminds them that He could call down twelve legions of angels to smite His enemies. All of these things must happen so that the scriptures would be fulfilled.

The disciples deserted Christ as this point. Jesus predicts that, and it came to pass exactly as He had predicted it. When it came down to the very moment of having to take a stand when Christ was taken captive in the garden, “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" - Matthew 26:56. When it came down to the moment of trial, they all fled. Oh, the inadequacy of human strength.

Next, we come to the record of the illegal, and unjust trial of Jesus.

In the dark of night, Jesus is transported from the house of Annas to the house of Caiaphas, somewhere near the temple. The scribes and elders are all gathering. There is no public trial. No defense. No one to give testimony for Christ. Nothing. Here they all are at Caiaphas’ house and it's absolutely illegal.

Jesus is confronted by the Sanhedrin, and Caiaphas. They conspire against Him. They had to invent a crime and then try it. They provide false witnesses so that they can put Jesus to death. These chief priests and elders had no problem with lying, falsely accusing, abuse of power, bribery, illegal arrest, illegal trials, and conspiring to kill the Lord.  Their deeds prove what was in their hearts, evil.  They had no love for God, or His Word, they never really were seeking their Messiah.  They desired power and position and used corruption to get it.

While they were unjustly putting Jesus on trial, the reality was that they were the people on trial that day. They showed themselves to be wretched, wicked, sinful, corrupt, unjust men. They rejected the Son of God, their Savior, and there is no remedy for that.

As we look at this scene, a scene in which Jesus suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies, we see Jesus for who He truly is, we see Him as majestic and glorious. He stands pure, perfect, spotless, sinless and holy. The court that tries Him is criminal, wicked and vile. There are only two paths that you can take in this world; one is to affirm the majesty and deity and perfection of Christ and believe on Him, and the other is to stand with those who deny and reject Him.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Done For Us

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

When we were last together here in Matthew, we saw the indignation of Judas because of the expensive spikenard that Mary of Bethany had used to anoint Jesus, and then Judas’ plot to betray Jesus to the High Priests.

“And from that moment, Judas looked for an opportunity to betray Him.” The Passover meal was prepared according to the Law. Our Passover Lamb would be there at the meal.

The position that Judas held among the Apostles was an important one. John 12:6 also records the anointing by Mary. And it records Judas’ indignation, telling us that Judas really didn’t care about the money for the poor, for he was a thief, and he held the bag. That meant that Jesus allowed a thief to control the money for the ministry. It means that Judas was privy to the plans and expenses for everything that Jesus and His band of 12 would be doing on a day-to-day basis.

Jesus’ knowledge of Judas was more than even Judas knew about himself. His plot to betray the Lord happened when he was drawn away from the Lord by emotion and drawn to an opportunity for 30 pieces of silver.

When we ourselves are drawn away by the things of the world is also a time when we might be drawn away to dark deeds too. Yet, Jesus knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts even before we are faced with a decision. At that point, when we become aware of a looming temptation, it is the role of the Holy Spirit, living in us, dwelling in our hearts that comes to the surface, and He will fight that battle for us. As the scriptures tell us, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Our faith can often be measured by the things that go through our minds when we are alone. Can we focus on the voice of the Holy Spirit within us? Or is the tinkling of 30 pieces of silver too loud to be ignored?

Our adversary is the same one that used Judas, and he is always looking for his next meal, just as he did at The Last Supper.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” ~ 1 Peter 5:8
Embrace the Lion of Judah or be fooled by a poser!

Today's Audio Message:
"Done For Us" - Matthew 26:14-46

As we look at this portion of scripture this morning, there is just so much going on. A careful study of these scriptures brings a greater depth to our understanding of Christ’s mission, the fulfillment of scripture, and the establishment of a New Covenant. Jesus would be that sacrificial Lamb that was slain for the atonement of our sins.

We will see Judas conspiring with the priests, looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.  We see Jesus telling His disciples that He will be betrayed. We see Judas hypocritically asking, “is it me?” We see the fulfillment of prophecy. We see Jesus preparing for His appointed hour. We see the final Passover of the Old Testament taking place, and a New Covenant instituted. We find out that Peter will deny Him. We see his disciples asleep in those final hours. We see Jesus praying to His Father and yielding to His will.  We see Jesus.  We see Jesus. We see His mercy, His grace and His love!  Jesus would fulfill the scriptures!

Passover was the oldest of Jewish festivals, older even than the covenant with Moses at Sinai. It was established before the priesthood, the Tabernacle, or the law. It was ordained by God while Israel was still enslaved in Egypt, and by the time of Christ it had been celebrated by God’s people for some fifteen hundred years.

But the Passover Jesus was concluding with the disciples in Matthew 26 was the last divinely sanctioned Passover ever to be observed. No Passover celebrated after that has been authorized or recognized by God. Though it was significant as it was under the Old Covenant, Jesus was establishing a New Covenant. The celebration of the Passover was a shadow of things to come. Celebrating deliverance from Egypt was nothing compared to celebrating the deliverance from sin.

Christ ended the Passover and instituted a new memorial to Himself. It would not look back to a lamb in Egypt as the symbol of God’s redeeming love and power, but to the very Lamb of God, who, by the sacrificial shedding of His own blood, purchased the salvation of all who believe. In that one meal Jesus both terminated the old and inaugurated the new.

Breaking the unleavened bread was a part of the traditional Passover ceremony. But Jesus now gave it an entirely new meaning, saying, “This is My body” (Matthew 26:26). The original unleavened bread symbolized total detachment from the old life in Egypt, carrying nothing of its pagan and oppressive “leaven” into the Promised Land. It represented a separation from worldliness and sin and the beginning of a new life of holiness and godliness.

By His divine authority, Jesus transformed that symbolism into another. Henceforth the bread would represent Christ’s own body, sacrificed for the salvation of men. Luke reports that Jesus added, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19), indicating He was instituting a memorial of His sacrificial death for His followers to observe.

As the disciples drank of the cup, Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28). Luke’s gospel indicates that the Lord specified “new covenant” (Luke 22:20), clearly distinguishing it from all previous covenants, including the Mosaic.

When God made covenants with Noah and Abraham, they were ratified with blood (Genesis 8:20;15:9-10). When the covenant at Sinai was ratified, “Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8). When God brought reconciliation with Himself, the price was always blood, because “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Hebrews 9:22; cf.1 Peter 1:2). A sacrificial animal not only had to be killed but its blood had to be shed. “The life of all flesh is its blood” (Leviticus 17:14), and for a life truly to be sacrificed, its blood had to be shed.

Jesus therefore did not simply have to die but had to shed His own precious blood (1 Peter 1:19). He shed His blood from the wounds of the crown of thorns, from the lacerations of the scourging, and from the nail holes in His hands and feet. After He was dead, a great volume of His blood poured out from the spear thrust in His side.

The shedding of His blood was required, it symbolized His atoning death, the giving of His unblemished, pure, and wholly righteous life for the corrupt, depraved, and wholly sinful lives of unregenerate men. That blood made atonement for the sins of all who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For those who belong to Jesus Christ, that event in the upper room began a new remembrance of redemption that the Lord will honor until He returns in glory.

Take some time today to consider God’s mercy and His faithful deliverance of His people. Salvation is possible only through the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf (Ephesians 2:8-9). And if you have yet to bend your knee in repentance and faith, know that it is only through the shed blood of Christ that you can be set free from the captivity of your sin (Ephesians 2:1-7).

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