03/30/M – Man’s Best Efforts

Exodus 36:8-38; Matthew 27:54-66; Psalms 34:11-14; Proverbs 12:5-7

NT: “When the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” …When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Then Pilate ordered that it be released. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb… The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take guards,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” They went and secured the tomb by setting a seal on the stone and placing the guards.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭27:54, 57-60, 62-66‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

The religious leaders of the day, motivated by the kingdom of darkness, put every effort into silencing Jesus and His gospel of the Kingdom of God. Yet after a full day of mocking, berating, insulting, beating, and ultimately killing Jesus… at the end of the day, people were even more convinced that He was the Son of God. Even after Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb, with a large stone rolled over the front of it – the religious leaders were still fearful of Him. They even called on the power and authority of the mighty Roman Empire to keep Jesus buried and silenced. As the scripture says, they made the tomb as secure as they knew how. There was no way, in their minds, that Jesus was coming out of that tomb. But what are man’s best efforts compared to the power of God? Can the gospel of the Kingdom truly be killed, buried, locked down, and silenced? We are about to find out.

Psalms: “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:11-14‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

What is the fear of the Lord? David says, listen to me, and I will teach you. David explains the fear of the Lord through 3 domains: speaking, doing, and pursuing. Put simply, say what the Lord says, do what the Lord does, and pursue Him completely. Trying to do that with our own best efforts, however, is going to fail. First we have to turn away from evil (repent). Among many things, evil also includes self-rule, self-righteousness, selfish ambition, etc. In turning away from evil, we turn to God and seek Him… pursue Him – for He is the source of peace. When we lay down our best efforts, our sense of right and wrong, what we believe to be just and pursue the Lord, that is the essence of the fear of the Lord. And when we fear the Lord, He gives us all grace to walk, and speak, and do righteously.

Proverbs: “The thoughts of the righteous are just, but guidance from the wicked is deceitful. The words of the wicked are a deadly ambush, but the speech of the upright rescues them. The wicked are overthrown and perish, but the house of the righteous will stand.” (‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:5-7‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

The wicked are those who refuse to submit to the Lord, and instead walk in their own way – which ultimately is the way of the kingdom of darkness. Here, Proverbs juxtaposes the ultimate end of man’s best efforts with the result of walking by the grace of the Lord through faith and obedience.

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