Of Threads and Labels
Topical Sermon by Byron Palmer
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church, July 17, 2010
(c)2010 by Byron Palmer
NOTE: Because of a technical issue, Byron's sermon audio begins "in progress." You might want to read the manuscript first, or at least the first few screens. Then click here to hear Byron preach it.
On Facebook, I’ve made a lot of connections with loads of friends, mostly college classmates. The sister of one friend, I learned, left Adventism to join the Catholic Church, wrote a book – IT’S OK NOT TO BE A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST. The cover is a picture of the temple veil being sown up from bottom to top, putting it back the way it was before the crucifixion of Christ.
In the late 90’s, while visiting a family member, I fell sound asleep during a Bible study which they had arranged the topic specifically to share with me a “fallacy of our faith”. Funny thing is, I was neither tired nor inclined to sleep during Bible study.
This study is not an effort to criticize them I have not read any books opposing our understanding of the sanctuary. I haven’t read anything on the subject by Ford, Ratzlaff, the Beems or any others for that matter. I have been studying the Bible and a couple other very helpful books on the topic.
Recently, I made a personal, purposeful, perennial decision to study the Bible as a treasure hunt, looking for Jesus, looking at Jesus – much like Paul: who “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2 NIV) If you’re driving down the freeway and see a white sign with a blue cross and serpent on it today, what do you know is available? Healing, right? A hospital is available at the next exit.
So, here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to show the mechanics of the judgment such as the 2300 days, the beasts – lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! We’re not going to discuss the calendars, the decrees, the kingdoms, the horns or the powers. Those are all great material for Bible studies, sermons and seminars but not our path this morning. Nor am I going to spend time arguing the pros and cons or the strengths and weaknesses of what our critics and defenders argue of this perspective or that.
What I want to do this morning is extend to you a personal invitation to go with me on the treasure hunt which has marked part of my spiritual journey for several months now, a journey that has awakened me during the night or very early in the morning to seek and to pray, a journey that has distracted me during meetings and phone calls and visits with friends. I want you to discover Jesus in the sanctuary and judgment message. I’m not going to be able to complete this message today but I would like to plant the seed that Jesus Christ is and His intercession alone is the Cornerstone of the sanctuary / judgment message.
Wedding Story: In the summer of 1999, my previous employer – FSI – offered me an assignment I couldn’t resist. One of our customers, located in Madrid, Spain needed an Instructor for what is called IOE for several one month stints. For less experienced pilots, simulator training has a few constraints and the pilots are required to complete their training in the jet for real, flying trips with customers on board with a training captain for what is called Initial Operating Experience. Would I be interested?
After verifying that Kim and the kids would be OK and that I could have Sabbaths off – except for Air Ambulance flights I checked my passport, filed with the DGAC or the FAA of Spain for authorization to exercise my pilot and instructor privileges in Spain, in Spanish registered aircraft, teaching pilots licensed in Spain in their new charter operation how to operate a Learjet on the line. They had already trained in the US at FSI but their rules required them to complete their training on the line, flying live trips, the same way a new airline pilot does here.
I eagerly endured FSI’s International Procedures course, packed my bags and scurried off to Madrid. As it turned out, they requested me for a second tour in August. If it had only been for the first assignment, the closest I would have come to royalty would have been my third cousin who had served in the early 80’s as the youngest member of the Danish Royal Guard. Or, perhaps my closest, personal, immediate exposure to royalty would have been the visit I paid to the palace of the King of Spain, looking through glass at the robes, gowns, suits and crowns. The second TDY changed all that.
But on what would be in the top 10, perhaps the top 5, probably even the second or third most interesting flight of my career, I had on board as a passenger, a true gentleman who was to become the son-in-law of the King of Spain. His name, Don Jaime de Marichalar y Sáenz de Tejada, his title-to-be, Duke of Lugo. He was a self-made millionaire telecommunications tycoon on a chartered flight to Rabat, Morocco. Having won a contract to modernize the telephone infrastructure of Spain’s sometimes tense, but more recently friendly neighbor to the south, he was on his way to hammer out details, plans, benchmarks and future growth. What surprised me and my First Officer–Trainee was that we were scheduled to board Sr. Marichalar at the airport of his hometown of Palma, on the island of Palma de Mallorca off the coast of Spain, in the Mediterranean, before we were to pick up his body guard from the island of Ibiza, a short 80 mile flight to the southwest. Another surprise was the difference in handling with him on board.
Normally, flights in Europe are a “hurry up and wait” affair. Be ready now; expect a two hour gate hold. Call for engine start, wait some more, call for push back, wait some more, call for taxi, wait once again but be ready just in case. A half-hour to an hour wait after the first call was quite common. We were not on a state mission nor were we on a diplomatic flight plan nor were we using a diplomatic call sign. Once Sr. Marichalar came through the gate however and boarded our flight, things changed. We suddenly became the most important flight on the airport. Airliners were instructed to clear the taxiway to allow a Lear 35 to pass. I felt important but of course I knew better. It was the soon-to-be son-in-law of the King of Spain in the back. We were now first for takeoff.
Rabat was what seemed to me to be the definition of a bustling stereotypical middle-eastern city. Ghaytah – double-reed, clarinet type instrument – wailing in a minor key to the beat of tambourines filled the air with sounds my ear had only heard from movie sound tracks. The cabs, the streets, the restaurant where my copilot and I had lunch, the mosques, all seemed to be tuned to the same station.
Business must have gone well for Sr. Marichalar that day. He boarded again in the evening with a smile and his tie loosened. He appeared much more relaxed but maybe it was just the heat taking what the adrenalin hadn’t. His visit to the flight deck confirmed my speculation of successful negotiations. He was kind, thoughtful and spoke very good English with a hint of the expected Spanish accent. We visited at length while he told me of his background, family and education. And then the king of surprises, he asked me if I would be interested in attending his wedding to Infanta Elena, the Duchess of Lugo and his bride to be.
It’s kind of eerie to have members of the royal family of another nation know enough about you to invite you to their wedding. He said he would take care of all the details. And sure enough, a few days later, an official invitation showed up at my hotel along with a very official looking hanging bag. I snatched up the invitation and the hanging bag to explore their contents in the privacy of my room. In the bag was not just any suit. This suit was decorated with obvious royal markings and insignia.
Like Air Traffic Control, the hotel staff must have known the source of the invitation and hanging bag. The rest of my visit, I was treated like not like any old guest but like, well, royalty.
On the wedding day, when I showed up at the church, I was totally absorbed by the pageantry and the preparation that transformed the cathedral I had only visited as a tourist into a wedding hall fit for a king or, in this case a duke and a princess.
My suit must have been immediately recognizable because they didn’t even ask to look at my invitation. Funny thing about the suit, I had not been measured but it fit. I had not chosen it, they had. Nor had I chosen the shirt, the tie, the shoes, belt or cuff links. They had chosen it all for me; they had provided it all – at no expense to me.
My seat was about five in from the aisle near the front where I would have an immediate view of the proceedings. As I was seated and those on either side of me were escorted to join me on my pew, I couldn’t help but notice their attire; all perfectly fit, tailor made, current, royal fashion. I couldn’t tell if I was seated between dignitaries from other European nations or criminals on work release.
Your skeptical minds may have conjured this scene as nothing more than a fanciful dream forged during endless hours of high altitude cruise without quite enough oxygen. You might be right – at least about the cruise and oxygen parts.
What happened next will be etched in my mind forever. As the king surveyed the guests during the prelude to a glorious wedding, a single glance to his security cadre beckoned their immediate presence. Apparently a guest across the aisle was not wearing the appropriate attire. No one in my row could tell the difference but the rumor was that this guest liked his own suit better. He was a crafty tailor whose suit had fooled the greeters, had fooled the ushers, had fooled the security team, had fooled everyone but the king. It’s too embarrassing to describe the scene that unfolded. Needless to say, we had one less guest for the marriage.
Now, yes, I did spin a bit of my own parable into a mostly true adventure in my flying history. Everything is real but the royal wedding part of the story. The Duke and Duchess of Lugo had been married for four years already when he rode with me to Rabat, Morocco as my passenger. Sadly enough, they are now divorced, but that’s neither here nor there.
Any biblical parable sandwiched between comments like “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” and “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words” (Mat 21:46 and Mat 22:15) – the last verse of the previous chapter and the verse immediately following our scripture reading today – deserves close scrutiny.
Let’s review the Matthew 22 version of the royal wedding, specifically vv. 8-14.
"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. “Friend,” he asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22:8-14 NIV)
Of those who rejected the invitation – no point in dwelling on their lot. It’s over for them.
Of those who accepted the invitation
Point 1 – Both GOOD AND BAD – the qualifications are:
Do you exist?
Did you get the invitation?
Did you accept the invitation?
Did you put on His wedding attire?
Of those who dressed in wedding attire – What makes acceptable wedding clothes?
Point 2 – His Robe!
Job knew – “I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.” (Job 29:14 NIV)
Isaiah got it – “Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.” (Isa 11:5 NIV) and in 61:10, I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. And again, in 6:1 – In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Point 3 – What clothes do not qualify? Your own – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isa 64:6 NIV) “Filthy rags” is a weak translation for the Hebrew picture “discarded feminine hygiene”
Reweaving – Tell about Wichita Artistic Reweaving – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2Co 12:9 NIV) My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Ps 62:1-2 NIV) I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. (Ps 71:16 NIV)
Point 4 – How to get His robe
The invitation includes one – You look at Jesus and learn of Him: What’s that blue and white highway sign? It’s a snake on a cross. Where did that come from?
(Num 21:8 NIV) The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
When we look at Jesus, we see is that: “Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” DA 25
And we look some more and see that, DA 480 It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the Disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him.
That’s how Matthew 11:29, 30 can command us to – Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Hebrews 4 calls that kind of rest a “Sabbath Rest”!
John 3:16 – Believe (that whosoever believes)
Jude 1:9 – Rebuke the devil
Zechariah 3:1-5 – Be Snatched, Be Cleansed, Be Dressed Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by. (Zechariah 3:1-5 NIV)
Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and we only get part of the picture unless we read vs. 24 and 25 too – “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.”
You see, the sin problem is cured like this: Satan accuses you hoping to destroy you; God snatches you from the fire (of destruction).
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:11 NIV) – note the passive voice.
He TAKES AWAY YOUR SIN AND PUTS RICH GARMENTS ON YOU. Look at the robe; it’s royal. Look closer. It was not made by you nor was it made with threads you spun on a loom of your own devising. Look again; there’s a label under my lapel. It says “In Christ” I look under the other lapel. There’s another label – “Alone”. Wow, I’m glad I started with this one. In Christ Alone is better than Alone, alone! Too often we try to do it alone. Consider the words of this well known poem / hymn – Jesus Paid it All:
I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all
Lord now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone
Can change the leper's spots
And melt the heart of stone
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary's Lamb
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save
My lips shall still repeat
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
(Rev 22:12-14 NIV) “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev 22:17 NIV)