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"Your Jerusalem"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 4, 2003
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2022 Lutheran Hour Ministries
This week on Action in Ministry  Q&A MP3

Text: Luke 24:45-47

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Two thousand years ago, outside the city walls of Jerusalem, those words became God's salvation message to change the world. Today, those words have come to your Jerusalem. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whoever is with you, the Lord is bringing His message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, through the merit of the Savior to your personal Jerusalem. God grant that you hear these words so by the Spirit's power, they become your own.

Let me tell you a story. It is a story. Scripture nowhere says this story ever really happened. But it's a good story and appropriate for today's message. The story begins in the time immediately following the crucified and risen Savior's return into heaven. The Lord Jesus was walking with the archangel, Gabriel. They were involved in an earnest, intent conversation. You can begin eavesdropping on the conversation as Gabriel asks, "Master, You died for the whole world down there, did You not?" "Yes," Jesus replied. "I tasted death for every human being." The angel with a solemn look into Jesus' gracious face commented, "You must have suffered much." "Yes" again was Jesus' answer in a voice very quiet yet filled with the deepest of concern. "Master, allow me to ask, does everybody now know what You have done?" "Oh, no, Gabriel. Only a few individuals in Israel know about how I lived for them, fulfilled the law for them, carried their sins for them, died for them, and rose to show everything I had done for them had fulfilled the Father's plan of salvation."

"Master, I am concerned. You must have a plan to tell everyone. How is the world going to hear that God loved them enough to sacrifice His Son in their stead? "Well," the Lord Jesus replied, "I did ask Peter and James and John and Andrew and some others of My disciples down there to make it the business of their lives to tell others (Matthew 4:19). After they're done, the next generation of believers will tell those who come after them. And that generation will tell the next. Eventually, every human being in their own personal Jerusalem will have heard the story that they can be saved, not by their own works, but by God's grace and faith in Me as their suffering substitute." "I told them repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in My name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem."

Gabriel now spoke with a hesitating reluctance. His words showed he could see problems with the plan's promotion, progress and completion. Nevertheless, he ventured: "Yes, Lord, but suppose Peter fails. Suppose after a while, John simply doesn't tell anyone. Suppose their descendants, their spiritual children, way at the beginning of the 21st century get so busy about things like, well, how the stock market is doing or whether they are going to lose their jobs or how their neighborhood is going downhill or even wars and rumors of wars--just anything really--that they don't tell others. The whole thing is going to break down and You're going to have died for nothing. What will happen then?"

Gabriel's entire posture, if a spiritual being like an angel can have a posture, was tense for he was thinking of Jesus' suffering and the numbers of souls lost if they were left untold about Jesus. "What will happen then?" With complete confidence came back a calm, caring, confident reply. Jesus said, "Gabriel, I have made no other plan. I know these few, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the means of grace, beginning in Jerusalem, will tell the story of salvation. They, and those who come after them, will let everyone know that 'God so loved the world He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him will not die, but have everlasting life'" (John 3:16).

Was Gabriel right? Was Gabriel right in his evaluation of people and their low level of commitment to the cause of the crucified Christ? Scripture shares, only with reluctance, and a lot of arguing with God, that Moses eventually agreed to lead God's people out of slavery (Exodus 4). When God instructed Jonah to sound a call to contrition in the sinful city of Nineveh, the prophet rejected the plan and ran the other way. An entire book of the Bible, the book of Judges, is dedicated to showing that while God loves His people, He was never able to count on His children's continued commitment. With such an untrustworthy Old Testament tradition, you can understand Gabriel's concern.

You should know humanity's unreliable and uncertain sharing of the Savior is not confined to the pages of the Old Testament. When Jesus was still among us, doing His earthly ministry, He once asked somebody to tell others about the kingdom of heaven. The man replied something along the lines of: "I'll be glad to go, but first let me bury my father." To us, that sounds like a reasonable reply. But, when Jesus heard those words, He said, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60).

Wow! When people hear that, they think that's pretty hard-hearted. Please don't think the all-loving, all-caring, all-compassionate Savior all of a sudden became cold and callous. He didn't. I say that for two reasons. First, back in Jesus' time and even today, the custom in near-eastern countries is to have a funeral within 24 hours of an individual's death. If this man's father had died, he wouldn't have been talking to the Savior. He would have been making funeral plans. Second, if this man's father had died, Jesus probably would have gone with them to His house and raised his dad back to life. Remember, this is the Jesus who restored to resurrection life the daughter of Jairus, the young man of Nain, and His friend Lazarus. But Jesus didn't go to the man's house. Why? The only answer I can get is the man's father probably wasn't dead yet.

When Jesus called this man to share the good news with others, the fellow was really replying, "Lord, I will follow you, but let me get all my family obligations, like the death of my father, when it occurs, out of the way first." When would that be? When would he get around to witnessing? If that man was waiting to witness until everything at home was taken care of, until his wife's list of things to do was done, until he became financially comfortable so he didn't have to worry about the future, until the kids were through college, the day of witness would never come. Sharing the Savior, for that soul, was secondary.

When Paul was traveling the world, he upon occasion found comrades who couldn't be counted on. One of them, a colleague named Demas, loved the world too much to continue sharing the good news of salvation (2 Timothy 4:10). Over the centuries, there have been others like Demas and Jesus' man who wanted to make funeral arrangements. There is always a multitude of excuses a Christian can make--a myriad of explanations he can give to stop the sharing of the Savior, and the salvation He won for us at the cost of His life. The temptation remains for us to respond the same way these ancients did. All of us admit sharing the Savior is a necessary job, and somebody ought to do it. But right now, too many of us don't think we can.

Christian friends, faithful listeners to The Lutheran Hour, let me ask, in all sincerity, is there something stopping you from sharing the Savior? Oh, I'm not suggesting you sell everything you own and set out on a foreign missionary journey. But is there someone, someone close to you, a friend, a co-worker, a family member who is lost, a church member who has lapsed? Has the Lord given to you a person or two in your own Jerusalem with whom you can share the Savior better than anyone else? I don't know what your excuse may be, what fear is holding you back, what is stopping you from sharing. But it's time to get your priorities in order. You don't want that soul to leave his earthly Jerusalem before you have shared the Savior.

Years ago, an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. To drive home a point, he used an illustration those students, and probably you, will never forget. As this man stood in front of this group of high-powered, over-achievers, he said, "OK, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Next, he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them one at a time into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked the class, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes." The instructor came back: "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing the pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He smiled and asked the group once more, "Now, is the jar full?" By this time, the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filtered into the empty spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Without replying, the expert grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager-beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is no matter how full your schedule may be, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!" "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. "Let me ask again," he said. "What is the point?"

Just for the record, I'm asking the same question of you, my listeners. What is the point? Give up? The point of this illustration was simply this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all. Want that again? If you don't take care of the big things first, you'll never get them to fit in. There is no bigger thing to do than share, right where you are, right in your Jerusalem, right with your special soul, the story of salvation. The big thing is to share how Jesus suffered and rose from the dead for you and for all the world. The big thing is to share Jesus' sacrifice. The big thing is to share Jesus in your own Jerusalem.

For over 70 years, The Lutheran Hour has been sharing the Savior. Week after week the message has gone out to the world that Jesus Christ, God's Son, was born of a virgin, fulfilled the law by living a perfect life, carried our sins, suffered in our stead, and died on the cruel cross so we might be saved. Broadcast after broadcast has been preached to your Jerusalem, sharing how the Savior rose on the third day and that all who believe on Him as their suffering and resurrected substitute can be saved. But the truth is, I am a faceless voice coming over the air waves to a radio in a car, a home, a hospital, a nursing home, a military base. Because I'm not in your Jerusalem, because I don't know the people in your Jerusalem, this message is like throwing buckets of water at a row of bottles. Some of the water will go in. But if you will talk to these people the Lord has given to you, in a personal way, there's an opportunity to top off those bottles. But, filling the bottles needs to be a priority. Call The Lutheran Hour. We will be giving the number before the end of this broadcast to request a copy of the message. Give it to your friends. Let them read it. Tell them, "You are my Jerusalem." Then, speak to them of the Savior. Speak to them about repentance and the new life Jesus wants to give.

Listeners, up to this point, I have been for the most part, speaking to Christians and encouraging them to witness. Now, I'm talking to you who don't have the joy of Jesus, the peace which passes human understanding. I'm speaking to those who don't know where their eternity is going to be spent. I'm speaking to those for whom the prospect of death is disastrous and the living of life is without direction. To you, right in your car, your home, your motel, your hospital room, your Jerusalem, I am bringing a message of hope. It is a job that I and all of Lutheran Hour Ministries take most seriously. We take it seriously because you need to hear that message.

At the beginning of my ministry, I visited with a very old minister. He spoke of when he was a young man, he was invited by a Christian warden to speak the next day to the inmates of the penitentiary. The night before, the pastor went to the jail to learn the setup of the service. Surveying the assembly room, his eyes were immediately drawn to two chairs draped in black. He asked why. The warden said, "These two chairs are draped for death. The men who sit in these chairs will be executed this week. Reverend, your sermon will be the last these men will ever hear."

Right now in my listening audience, some of you are sitting in chairs draped for death. No, you can't see the drapery, but I am certain, for some of you, this message is the last message of salvation you will ever hear. God is speaking to you in your Jerusalem. He is calling you from past sins to a new life. Please don't be like the man who heard a pastor speak to his congregation on the subject of death. The Reverend got loud as he enthusiastically warned, "All you people of this congregation are going to die. Do you hear me? All you in this congregation are going to die." People got silent except for one man in the back row who started to laugh. Eventually, the minister, seeing nothing funny about his warning, stopped and asked, "Sir, can you tell me what's so amusing?" The man replied, "I don't belong to this congregation."

Well, my friends, you are going to die. Because your chair will someday be draped in black, the Lord is saying to you: "My Son died for you. He took your sins. He carried your pain. He did everything necessary so you can be saved." God is saying, "I am calling you away from your sins, so you may be adopted into My family." That's what God is saying. Please, please don't shut your mind and your heart to Him. Don't slam the door. Don't throw the bolts. Don't set the locks. Right now God has come to your Jerusalem. As unlikely as it may seem, God has come to where you are right now. He may be coming through a friend or family member to whom you are especially important. He may be coming as you are handed a copy of this sermon to read. He may come in the form of a taped message. He may be coming to you through the internet. I don't know how God's message is coming to your Jerusalem, but I know it has come.

Listen to it. God loves you. God forgives you. I don't know what sins you have committed. I don't know what things you have done in the past that ride your conscience. I don't know what these sins are, but I know they are still there. You may have tried to ignore them, disregard them, or bury them, but they are still around. When the Lord Jesus hung upon the cross, He saw those sins and died to take them away from you. By substituting His perfect self for your sinful self, He took your place and you can be free. By His power, you can be turned from what you are. By His will, you can be saved. Believe it. Let us help you meet this Savior. Call in today. Call, because you may be one of those sitting in a black-draped chair. Call and let us introduce you to the Lord who gave His life so you might have a forgiven life in this world, and a joyful life in the next.

When my daughter Kristianna was in nursery school, she'd come home each day with drawings, paintings, and other projects. Next to her own name she'd write that of someone she loved--usually Mommy or Daddy--maybe her brother Kurt or her sister Kirsten. Then, as she gave the recipient her gift, she said with all the love she could muster, "I was thinking of you. I did this for you." That's the way it is for the Savior. He has come to your Jerusalem; He has held out His nail-pierced hands to you and said, "I was thinking of you. I did this for you." Take those hands and say, "Thank you, Lord. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for May 4, 2003

ANNOUNCER: We're here with Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer. This week we are continuing our discussion on Christianity. Last week we started discussing the question "Christianity, what's in it for me?" We mentioned that Christianity isn't what most people think it is. Today, we're going to begin with the question: "Of what benefit is Christianity to the world or to the individual?"

KLAUS: I think the answer comes this way. The gracious love of Jesus Christ has turned the world and the lives of individuals upside down. Because Jesus lives in the hearts of Christians, they take stands against the world's great sins.

ANNOUNCER: But some critics of Christianity complain it can't be a very good religion if after 20 centuries, the world still has the same problems.

KLAUS: I've heard those critics. People who say that are making a number of mistakes. First, they think Christianity, although its influence is far from insignificant, has never been in a position to control the state of the world. Secondly, Christianity can't be judged by its success or failure to remake the world that has always rejected it. The success of Christianity is measured by people's lives. Now the world is filled with hurting people. Can Christianity improve their lives? It can. Here's a story. Back in the days of sailing ships, a young man went to sea for the first time. The ship was hit by a storm and he was told to go aloft and trim the sails. Starting to climb, he made a mistake and looked down. The roll of the ship combined with the tossing of the waves made for a stomach wrenching experience. He was starting to lose his balance when an older sailor underneath saw what was going on and shouted, "Look up, son! Look up!" The boy did and regained his balance. That's what Christianity does. To people who know they are out of balance, Christianity says, "Look up. See Jesus. Be safe."

ANNOUNCER: But Christians don't always feel safe. Why?

KLAUS: Well, Christianity isn't always a safe thing. Abel was murdered, Joseph was sold into slavery, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, Stephen was stoned to death, Paul was beheaded. Even when the world isn't physically persecuting Christ's people, it still tries to make things mighty uncomfortable.

ANNOUNCER: Knowing that, why would anybody want to be a Christian?

KLAUS: King David had the answer--the 23rd Psalm. In that Psalm David wrote: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." On the basis on that quote, I have two questions.

ANNOUNCER: And what are they?

KLAUS: David says, and Christians agree, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." When anything happens, it's nasty. A Christian knows he is being followed by the goodness and mercy of God--all the time. What follows someone without Jesus?

ANNOUNCER: I don't know.

KLAUS: Nor do I.

ANNOUNCER: You said you had two questions?

KLAUS: David said, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." He knew God's goodness and mercy would be with him every day he lived in this world. He knew God's gifts don't stop when an individual's heart stops beating. He knew, with Jesus, he could dwell in God's house forever. Where is the non-Christian going to dwell after death?

ANNOUNCER: Jesus talks about that quite a bit. He describes hell as a place of torment and eternal separation from God.

KLAUS: What does Christianity give a person?

ANNOUNCER: Forgiveness, goodness, and mercy in this world, and an eternal home in the next. I suppose that's why even in those parts of the world where being a Christian can be dangerous, people still hold onto the Savior.

KLAUS: Exactly, Mark. One of the most touching scenes in American history took place on April 5, 1621. The Plymouth colony had managed to make it through their first winter, but only at a heavy toll of life. Of the 102 pilgrims who came over on the "Mayflower" the year before, 51 had died. That's 50 percent. On the fifth of April, 21 men, six boys old enough to work, and a company of women and children stood on the shore and watched the vessel that had brought them to America set sail again. Not a single one of them wanted to return to England. They were devastated by hurt and hardship, but they knew goodness and mercy would follow them all the days of their lives. And that gave them courage and determination to go on. That's what Christianity gives believers. It's something only found in Christianity.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This ends this week's message for "The Lutheran Hour." The next message is titled, "Lay Down Your Life."

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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