OMG! God Cleans Up Jeshua

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December 17, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

A long time ago, an ocean liner was going across the Atlantic, and it crashed off the coast of Ireland. This was back in that days when an ocean liner crashing into the shore wasn’t that unusual, but the thing that was different about this ocean liner is the captain. This captain was “Mr. Perfect”. He never made a mistake. This guy never got off-course, and this crash was catastrophic. The captain didn’t just crash the boat into the rocky shoals of the coast of Ireland. The vessel went down, and everybody on board died. It really sent a shockwave through the whole community, because people were saying, “How could this guy of all people possibly make a mistake like this?”

Back in that day, in order to investigate a crash, you would try to get to the ship’s compass. It’s kind of like the black box on an airplane today. When an airplane goes down, you send people to try to recover the black box to figure out what was going on. Divers went down off the coast of Ireland, and they found the compass. They brought it back, and they started to examine the compass. Then they figured out exactly what happened. They figured out what the captain didn’t know. Apparently, the captain knew his job; he did his job really well. He never made a mistake…

Well, he wanted to make sure that this compass was reading accurately, so he instructed one of the sailors to make sure that he cleaned the compass up and made sure that the compass was accurate before they left for this cross-Atlantic journey. The sailor couldn’t get into the compass very easily, so he pried the lid off of the compass in order to follow his captain’s orders. He pried the lid off of this compass with his pocket knife, and in the process, a small indistinguishable piece of the tip of that knife cut into it. It broke off inside that compass.

The sailor cleaned it up, put it all back together, and when the boat got in the water and underway, that little piece of metal distorted the compass’s readings just slightly. Of course, in the middle of the Atlantic, there’s no way to know that those readings were distorted, and when the captain finally realized it, it was too late. The ship was already heading to the rocky shoals. There was nothing that could turn it around. The boat went down, and everyone on the vessel died in the process. This guy who never made a mistake ended up costing the lives of a lot of people.

The story that we’re going to look at in the Bible today is found in Zechariah, but before you turn there, I want to set the stage a little bit for you. We’re looking through stories of grace in the Bible that are so overwhelming, so unusual, that if you saw them in the tabloids of a newspaper today, you would say, “That ain’t right! That definitely didn’t happen, because that wouldn’t happen. God wouldn’t do something like that, or God wouldn’t allow something like that to happen!”

We’re going to look at what happens to the high priest of Israel, but before I can set this up for you, I want you to see how Israel gets off-course, and they don’t get just a little bit off-course; they get kind of in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp off-course. They get themselves in such a catastrophic failure that God ends up sending them away into captivity. Israel was supposed to be an entire nation of pure people. Exodus tells us this was God’s plan when he set this nation apart out of all the others. Exodus 19, verses 5-6 says it this way: “Now if you will obey me [this is God speaking to his people], if you will obey me, you’ll keep my commandment [in other words, if you will keep yourselves pure and if you will follow my laws], you will be my own special treasure from among all the people on the earth. For all of the earth belongs to me.”

Then this is what the Lord says of Israel: “You will be a kingdom of priests. You will be my holy nation.” That word holy means that it’s pure. It means that it’s special. It means that it is set apart. “Israel, I’m going to make the entire nation pure, the whole nation set apart. And this is the message, Moses, that I want you to go back and tell the people of Israel.” Israel had a mission to do. God gave them this special relationship with him, and he wanted all of Israel to tell their next-door neighbors about their God. He wanted them to show them, show their next-door neighbors, the people in countries around them, what it was like to be a follower of God. And Israel blew it bad. They didn’t get off-course; they destroyed the blessings of God.

Around 560BC, this became so bad, that God was done with it. He was done putting up with the sin and the filth that ancient Israel had gotten themselves into. So, he sent a foreign army to conquer the land. The Babylonians came. They destroyed the capital city of Jerusalem. They basically burned the Temple to the ground, and they took the nation of Israel and Judah into captivity, and they lived as slaves for 70 years in a foreign land. This was God’s punishment on Israel.

During that 70-year period of time, God started to make some promises about what the future would hold. He gave some prophecies to a guy by the name of Zechariah, and in Zechariah chapters 1 and 2, God gives three specific prophecies about what he’s going to do in the future for this nation of priests. – these people who were supposed to be pure but had gotten themselves dirty with sin.

God says three prophecies in 2 chapters: Israel, I’m going to restore your land. Israel, I’m going to allow you to rebuild Jerusalem, and I’m going to pass judgment on the people who took you into captivity, on your enemies who treated you unfairly. And then in Zechariah chapter 3 and following, God gives 2 more visions, 2 more prophecies to the prophet Zechariah while Israel is in captivity. But, these prophecies are not so much about what’s going to happen in the future; these are talking about what’s happening right now and how God feels about what’s happening right now.

I. Getting caught with blood on your hands

I want you to read with me from Zechariah chapter 3. I want you to imagine in your mind a courtroom scene. Imagine a courtroom scene in Heaven, and imagine that you are standing at a distance, and you’re watching as Zechariah watches these events unfold about what God thinks in reference to what’s happening in Israel right now. Imagine that you are participating in this; you’re in the courtroom in front of God, and you’re standing before him with blood on your hands, because that’s the kind of imagery that we get from Zechariah chapter 3, starting in verse 1. There is no way to explain this away. You are guilty, and there’s no excuse; there’s no alibi that you can use to try to act like you didn’t do wrong if you are the person on trial in Zechariah chapter 3. Here’s what the Bible says:

Zechariah 3:1-2
Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.”

Now, I want you to just picture this courtroom scene in your mind for just a second. Zechariah has been invited to go up to Heaven to see what’s happening right now, and in Heaven, God is judge and he’s sitting on the throne, but of course, you and I know God is not only the judge who’s deciding the law of God; He’s also the judge who wrote the law. He knows right and he knows wrong because he wrote right and wrong. And Jeshua (your translation may use the word Joshua. ‘same name, just a different dialect for it), Jeshua is the high priest. Jeshua is on trial, and Jeshua is wrong. He has no alibi. He has no excuses, and the Bible says that Satan, the capital “A” accuser, is making accusations against Jeshua.

By the way, these accusations are absolutely true. The accusations are: God, the judge, you can’t let this high priest off the hook here. He’s wrong. He’s done wrong. He’s covered in wrong from head to toe, and you’re not a just judge if you let this guy go. Now, the accusations that Satan is making here, I don’t know that the English does this word justice, because it’s not like he’s saying, “Hey God, I want you punish Jeshua.” He saying, “I want you to throw the book at him. -give him the full weight, the full extent of the punishment for his mistakes.”

Imagine in your mind the political campaign of Roy Moore over in Alabama. I don’t know what Roy Moore did. I don’t know if he did anything wrong or nothing wrong, but I do know this: When the accusations about Roy Moore came out, his Senate race was over. Those accusations destroyed the man’s reputation. Maybe he deserves it; maybe he doesn’t, but there’s no recovering from those kinds of accusations.

That’s the kind of accusations that Satan is making against Jeshua. And then God does something that just doesn’t make sense here. God says, “Satan I hear you, and that man doesn’t have any leg to stand on. He has no alibi. But I tell you what. I’m not going to punish him for what he did. In fact, I’m going to [this is future tense really], I’m going to let him off of the hook for what he just did.”

And if you were in the courtroom that day, you would say, “Wait a second. This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. How can this possibly be true that God would allow this man who’s committed these sins, who’s made these mistakes, that God would allow him off the hook. That can’t be right. That sounds like it’s beneath God.”

You see, Satan is making accusations about the way that Jeshua is performing his duties, and every one of those accusations is true, but God knows something that Satan doesn’t know. God knows about what’s going on inside of the heart of the man doing that job. You see, here’s the truth: Inside the heart, even though the outside may be dirty, may be filthy (you might want to write this down, because this should be true of all of us), even though the clothes on the outside are filthy, the heart on the inside can be clean if it’s covered by the blood, covered by the power of the blood of Jesus. Then the heart can be pure and the clothes filthy at the same time.

II. Getting a new wardrobe

Jeshua is standing in the courtroom. He’s got blood on his hands. There’s no excusing this away. “I’m wrong. I made a mistake. I’m filthy.” And God says, “But I’m not going to make this man suffer the full consequences for his guilt, for his mistakes, because he’s been covered by the blood of my son, Jesus” Now, Joshua gets something that he doesn’t deserve, and every time you get and I get something that we don’t deserve, we just got the grace of God. Jeshua gets cleaned up, and Jeshua gets a new wardrobe.

Look, if you understand how significant this is, in the Bible, in Exodus chapter 28-29, the Bible gives two whole chapters to the way the priests of Israel are supposed to dress, and there’s very specific instructions about how the high priest is supposed to dress. It’s more important in Bible language how the high priest dresses than how the king dresses, and if the high priest does his job in the wrong way using the wrong format or wearing the wrong clothes, it’s an incredible offense against God, because the high priest is supposed to represent God to the people and supposed to stand before the people. And Jeshua gets cleaned up in spite of his filth and his sin and gets something that he does not deserve. Here’s what the Bible says, starting in verse 3:

Zechariah 3:3-5
Jeshua’s clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. 4 So the angel said to the others standing there, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And turning to Jeshua he said, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” 5 Then I said, “They should also place a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean priestly turban on his head and dressed him in new clothes while the angel of the Lord stood by.

Jeshua is silent before the judge. He doesn’t open his mouth, because he doesn’t have an excuse, and he knows it. Instead of trying to explain away his mistakes, he stands there getting the full weight of the accusations of Satan, and God steps in and does something for this priest that this high priest can’t do for himself. The Bible makes it very clear: It’s not just that his clothes are dirty. Jeshua himself is a sinner, and he’s gotten himself dirty. Now, if this man’s clothes are to be cleaned up, his heart is going to have to be cleaned up, and God is prepared to deal with both today.

I want you to think about it from God’s perspective. Imagine God is looking down from Heaven and his appointed representative on earth, the high priest, is showing up to do his job in his priestly uniform covered from head to toe in filth or in human excrement. That’s inexcusable. The shame and guilt that would go along with that, you will carry with you for the rest of your life. That’s what we’re reading today from Zechariah chapter 3. That’s what I want you to understand about this word filth and about this whole passage from the Bible.

Imagine that you’re standing there with Zachariah watching the scene unfold, and there’s Jeshua covered from head to toe in filth. Satan’s making accusations and every one of them is true. I want you to focus on God for just a second and imagine the way that it would feel if you were God. -that that man who was supposed to represent you on earth is filthy with sin and with his own personal mistakes, and then God does something unimaginable when God excuses this guy. He lets him off the hook in spite of this filth. But then I want you to focus your attention on Jeshua for just a second. I want you to imagine the shame and the guilt when Satan is making these accusations because they’re absolutely true and he’s got no excuse.

Then God does something that’s scandalous and amazing. This is it. This is the “Oh my God!” moment in this story where God doesn’t give this man what he deserves. He really deserves the full measure of his mistakes and instead, God lets him off the hook. Instead, God cleans him up and gives him a new wardrobe. That just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem fair. How is that possible?

III. Getting a fresh start

The truth is, I don’t think the New Living Translation does this phrase justice. Most Bible scholars think the angel that you’re hearing about in this passage in the book of Zechariah is one of two people. It’s either a messenger angel from Heaven, or I personally believe and many scholars would agree with this, this angel is actually the Lord Jesus Christ himself. You see, the third party in this courtroom -it’s not just God the Father and Satan- it’s Jesus who was standing next to Jeshua and saying, “Yep, that man is a sinner, and there’s no doubt he’s covered in filth from head to toe, but he is also, Father, covered in my blood. And because he’s covered in my blood, now we can clean him up. Now we can give him a new wardrobe. Now we can do something for him that he can’t do for himself. Now we can give him a fresh start. Now we can give him a do-over.” 

It is not because of Jeshua, but it’s because of the Angel of the Lord. It’s because of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. There is a Christmas message in Zechariah chapter 3, and it’s found in verses 6 through 10. Here’s what Bible says:

Zechariah 3:6-10
Then the angel of the Lord spoke very solemnly to Jeshua and said, 7 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: If you follow my ways and carefully serve me, then you will be given authority over my Temple and its courtyards. I will let you walk among these others standing here. 8 “Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. 9 Now look at the jewel I have set before Jeshua, a single stone with seven facets. I will engrave an inscription on it, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and I will remove the sins of this land in a single day. 10 “And on that day, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, each of you will invite your neighbor to sit with you peacefully under your own grapevine and fig tree.”

Go back to verse 8 for just a second. The word Branch should be capitalized. It is a proper name referring to a specific person, singular. This is the Branch that will come from King David. This is the Branch that God has been promising since Adam and Eve committed the first sin way back in the garden. “God, how can you be a just judge and let Jeshua off the hook for what he’s done?”

“Because I personally will step in and snatch this guy out of his filth.” In order to do it, God himself is going to have to get filthy to snatch you back from your filth, to snatch me back out of my filth. 2nd Corinthians puts it this way: “Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us so that you and I could become pure or you and I could become righteous before God.” And he says in the book of Zechariah, “I’ll do it in this instant. I’ll do it in one day. Every sin, all of the filth, I’m going to take it all away in one instant.”

On a mountaintop right outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago when the king above all kings, the Son of God, God made in the flesh, became filthy so that you and I could become clean, this is the scandalous grace of the Bible. This is the story that makes you say, “God, how could you possibly not just allow this to happen, how could you step in and rescue this guy after what he’s done to you?” God says, “I’m not to leave him in that filth.”

But the Bible tells us something even better. “Not only am I going to clean them up and make them pure, I’m going to deal with their conscience. I’m going to deal with the guilt and the shame that goes along with it. I’m going to give them peace after I do this, so they can sit with their friends and not stress anymore about the mistakes that they’ve made in the past and the failures that they’ve committed.”

I was looking for a way to wrap this sermon up and give you this whole idea of being free from guilt because you’re covered in the blood of Jesus, no longer covered in filth, but now covered in the power of the blood. I found this short story by Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author, called Master and Man. The story is about a master of very prominent, very powerful Russian official by the name of the Vasili and Vasili has a servant, kind of the town drunk, who works for him. -a guy by the name of Nikita.

Vasili has a business offer that’s going to make him a lot of money. So, against a lot of people’s recommendations, Vasili grabs Nikita, loads the animals on the sleigh, and decides that he’s going to set out late in the day when the weather is starting to turn bad, to go across the countryside to go make this business deal. Nikita doesn’t want to go, but he doesn’t have a choice. He’s basically a serf or a slave for Vasili.

The short story, Master and Man talks about how the sleigh that they’re in gets off-track, and almost as soon as they get going, a blizzard hits that makes it almost impossible to see where they’re at and where they’re going. They stumble across a farm village, and in this farm village, there’s this family that takes Vasili and Nikita in. It’s terrible whether. The family begs Vasili and Nikita, “Don’t go back out in that weather. If you go out in that whether, it is almost certain that you’re going to die.”

And Nikita has this weakness for alcohol. Nikita starts to drink; he starts to get drunk and he’s convinced Vasili is going to listen to advice and not go back out into that storm. But Vasili is set on making money, and he decides to have Nikita load the sleigh back up and get back out into that blizzard. Not long after this, Vasili and Nikita get off the road again. They drive their animals so hard, that the sleigh goes into the ditch. The animals can’t get back out of the ditch. The animal that’s pulling the sleigh, the mule, dies right there in the ditch, and now Vasili and Nikita both are facing death, because there’s no way to survive the storm. It’s so bad, they can’t even find their way back to the farmhouse they just left, and they have no idea where they are.

Any good man would take care of his servant and look after him, but not Vasili. Vasili can only think about money. So, he leaves Nikita with the sleigh in the ditch, and he takes off on foot. The story unfolds and both of these men realize that they’re going to die.

Then Tolstoy does something genius in this story. He describes what’s different in the heart of Nikita from the heart of Vasili. Tolstoy says that Nikita knows that he’s going to die, and at the moment when Nikita knows he’s going to die, that man, even though he is the notorious town drunk, that man is at peace, because he is settled his sin with Jesus, and he has made his peace with God.

Tolstoy describes it as “He is warm and comfortable knowing that he’s going to die”. Tolstoy says not so with Vasili. You see, Vasili only cares about himself and only cares about money, and when he knows he’s going to die, he’s terrified about what happens after death. Here’s the irony of the story: Vasili is the town priest, and Nikita is the town drunk. The drunk is ready to stand before God because he’s been cleaned up and covered by the blood of Jesus. The town priest, because he only cares about himself, because his heart is filthy though his clothes are pure, he’s terrified at the moment of death.

The story that we’re hearing from Zechariah today, this “Oh my God!” moment is where God does something for somebody that he can’t do for himself, and he cleans up Jeshua’s filth. He cleans up my filth. But in order for him to be able to do it, God has to get a little bit guilty himself by sending his son, Jesus.

Next Steps

• My soul is dirty because of my sin. Today I asked Jesus to clean my soul and give me his perfect righteousness for the first time.
– I have been trying to hide some of my filth from God. Today I was honest with God about all my past sins.
+ With the help of the Holy Spirit, this year I will avoid the things that got me dirty in the past.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you ever make mud pies as a child? If so, what did your mother say when you came in the house?
  2. What would you wear if you were invited to meet the Queen of England? What would you wear if you were invited to a head of state dinner at the White House?
  3. What would it cost for you to totally replace your wardrobe? If you had the money, would you replace everything? Explain you answer.
  4. What is the best trade you’ve ever made?
  5. Any of us can make a mess of our lives. Did anyone enter into your messy life to tell you about Jesus? If so, who and when?
  6. If Jesus were grading you based on your purity, what letter grade would he give you? Explain why you think he’d give you that grade.
  7. Ask Jesus to make you clean all over again today.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...