Sermon Transcript for Ash Wednesday: February 26, 2020
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Matthew 26:40-41 ~ Wednesday, February 26, 2020
I’m going to start this season with a pop quiz. I’m going to ask you 4 questions about Lent to gauge what you know about this season we are now entering. Here we go:
What is the original meaning of the word ‘Lent’?
How many days are there in Lent?
A) 15 days
B) 40 days
C) 46 days
D) 1 day
Which biblical event does the time of Lent represent?
A) The Virgin Mary’s pregnancy
B) Noah’s days on the ark
C) The days Jesus retreated into the wilderness and fasted.
D) The 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God
What word is often omitted during Lent?
C) God Almighty
D) Jesus Christ
Why did I give you this quiz? I wanted to test your knowledge. But I had another motive. While I could have just told the info I just quizzed you on, by asking you questions about this information, it got you thinking. Your mind is more fully engaged in this message! That’s the power of questions!
Thinking is driven by questions. Reflection is driven by questions. Solving problems is driven by questions. Technological advances and discoveries are driven by questions. Questions help keep thinking alive and fresh. They move the mind.
This past Sunday we started our journey through The Story, a focused effort on engaging together in the grand story of God and his love for us. If you’ve started reading chapter 1 in The Story, you’ve witnessed the power of questions at work from the very earliest of days in human existence!
Think about this: What is the very first question recorded in the Bible? Satan slithers toward Eve and asks: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The devil knew the answer. So why did he ask the question? Because Satan recognizes the power of questions, in this case, to introduce doubt. With his question, Satan opens the floodgates for questions to enter their minds, doesn’t he? God created this whole place for you. He said, ‘Rule over the earth and subdue it.’ He said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’ Isn’t this such a tree? Look at it. I think you’re kind of being silly, Eve. God could not have said, ‘Don’t eat from this tree.’ Besides, he wants the best for you. He knows this would be good for you. You’d get more knowledge. So I think you’re mistaken in what you heard concerning God’s command. So go ahead. Eat. He’d want you to have it.
But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, he actually did forbid you from eating this tree. What kind of a God would keep knowledge from you? Eve, do you really think that God has your best interests in mind? Do you want a God who forbids you from eating something so useful? And he threatens you with death? What kind of God is that? Go ahead. Eat. A God who doesn’t have your best interest in mind ought not to be listened to. All this from one little question! Yes, questions are powerful.
God knows this too. As our Creator, he built our minds with a curiosity for discovery. Questions have a way of activating that quality. It’s also why our all-powerful God comes with a question of his own in response to Satan’s doubt-inducing inquiry. Do you remember what God’s question is? God comes to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, as he had a habit of doing every day, but on this particular day they don’t run to him. Instead they run off and hide. And when they do, God asks, “Where are you?”
Why does God ask the question? He’s God. He knows where they are. So why ask? God asked the question to get Adam and Eve thinking about what has changed. And He asked the question to bring about another kind of change, a change for the good, the change we call repentance.
In our midweek services this season we’re exploring “The Questions of Lent.” These questions will get our minds engaged in thinking about our relationship with God, to see where we have gone astray, and call us back to a right relationship with Him through repentance and Gospel renewal.
That’s the purpose of Jesus’ question tonight: “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?” Picture Jesus’ circumstances when first asked that question. Remember that earlier Peter had promised he would never deny the Lord. In fact, he boldly proclaimed he was ready to die for the Lord! So in the Garden when says to Peter as well as James, and John: “Stay here and keep watch with me,” you’d expect they would gladly do what Jesus asks. Especially when you consider what Jesus was going through. This is the night before he would die on the cross. The agony of what he would suffer the next day was already on him in the Garden. Because the pain he would bear was more than just the physical suffering that would come as he suffocated on the cross. Even deeper, even more painful, even more wrenching: the emotional and spiritual stress he was under as he carried sin’s burden for every human being under the just punishment of his holy, Heavenly Father. Jesus was struggling as he awaited what it would take to pay the full penalty of sin. The anxiety-ridden anticipation of bearing the full brunt of hell’s punishment weighs heavy on his heart. When he returns to Peter, James, and John from his intense prayer pleading with his Father, what does he find? They’re snoring away! Any comfort he might have received from seeing them support him in prayers of their own, any word of encouragement he might have received from them if they had been attentive to what he was going through is denied him because they’ve dozed off. Their failure to live out their promises of faithfulness to him only added to the burden upon him. “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?” Do you hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice?
Does his disappointment resonate in your own soul? Not just over Peter, James, and John’s failure … but because your track record of faithfulness disappoints Jesus too? Are you getting sleepy in your faith? Do you publicly profess great faithfulness to Jesus yet go back to your sins of habit, seeming to care very little about what that does to Jesus, the burden it lays on his heart? Do you listen to what he says but when it comes time to act, do you follow your own heart’s desires even when they go directly against what Jesus asks? Or do you make a good show of paying attention to Jesus’ words yet within your soul has grown unresponsive to what Jesus calls for? Are the needs of this life and the things of this world sapping your focus and your energy so much that you are falling asleep on Jesus? Is your mind and heart engaged in Jesus’ call to watch and pray or are your thoughts and cares too wrapped up in other things to be all that deeply affected by the things that are near and dear to the heart of your Lord? With the same heaviness of heart he felt in the Garden, Jesus questions us: “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?”
Why does Jesus ask this question? Is it to shame and guilt his disciples into greater vigilance? Not at all! Relationships that are motivated by guilt and shame aren’t very deep or very healthy. Jesus doesn’t ask questions to manipulate our hearts. He asks challenging questions to regain our hearts.
He asks this question of you because he thinks about you and truly knows you! He asks this challenging question to re-engage our minds and hearts. You see, deep questions drive us to examine the thought beneath the surface of things. They move us to deal with reality. Questions of purpose force us to probe what our motives are for why we do the things we do at any given moment. Is a change needed in how I am doing things or thinking about things?
Jesus asks this question of us because he truly cares about us! That’s what love does! It provides caring correction. Yes, he asks this question because he loves you dearly. He demonstrated just how deep his love for you is by what he willingly went through for you. How he didn’t turn back from doing what he promised to do for you. He did it in order to forgive you for every time you have not followed through on your promises to him, for each time you have been inattentive to him and his Word to you, for all the times you’ve been unresponsive to what he asks of you! What a Savior! He always was and always is vigilant to your needs, your cares, your concerns. What greater evidence than what he did for you the very next day! Faithfully carrying the full weight of all of your unfaithfulness, carrying it all the way to the top of that mountain called Calvary, where he bore the full weight of its damnable price upon his own shoulders as he hung there suspended between heaven and earth for you.
In light of all that Jesus has done for you, this is why he asks you “Watch and pray that you don’t fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (v. 41). The only way Satan can rob you of the benefits of the victory Jesus has won for you is by causing you to question and doubt that Jesus’ victory actually applies to you! To counteract Satan’s tempting questions, Jesus asks you questions that are intended to lead you to a deeper understanding of the truth of what he’s done for you and further discover all that it means for you. That’s what good questions do! They help the brain comprehend things, activating the intellect to recall things that have been previously taught and build upon what has already been learned. This is called “engaged thinking,” where the mind is actively involved in the learning process, wrestling with a question to discover and apply the answer! And in this way, questions also engage the heart. That’s why Jesus asks questions of you, to remind you, reinforce for you, and refresh in you, in your mind and your heart the most important truth of all: You are right with God because of what He has done for you! No question about it! Amen.