On Sunday 04 September 2022, Apostle Abraham Page conducted the central AVT divine service at Olympus Congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted in South African Sign Language at the altar by Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
The Apostle was accompanied by Priest Walter Carelsen, a music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: O boundless joy, there is salvation! (EH:331)
Bible word: ‘And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”’ (Luke 19:5-7)
My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome you to this divine service today where we celebrate the special day of friendship, where we had the opportunity to invite our friends to this divine service. What is friendship? I read a poster yesterday where it reads, a friend is one who does not see the holes in your fence but sees the beauty of the flowers in your garden. May we be able to look past the holes that we see sometimes in the fence of the one or the other and see the beauty of the flowers in each other's garden, because we all have a garden. And sometimes the garden is not perfect. And maybe the one or the other will say but that one has no flowers in their garden. There are only thorns and something else. Just look a bit deeper. Look past the hole in the fence and you will see the beauty of the gardens. Sometimes the challenges of that person don't always allow us to see the beauty of the gardens, but when we look like Jesus looks, then we are able to see the beauty of the flowers in each other's garden. May that be the case today. And not just today, always. Because all our fences have holes in it. So, what's the use of looking at the fence and complain about the fence of somebody else? Rather look for the beauty. And that is what friendship is all about as well.
That leads us into the word for this divine service today: what Jesus saw in this man Zacchaeus. When we look into the history of Zacchaeus, he was a tax collector in Jericho, and he was a very rich man. At that time as a tax collector, unfortunately, they collected sometimes more than what was expected of them and the people were not happy with the tax collectors at the time, and he was one of them. And because of that, people didn't want to be associated with him. Or whenever they saw him, they didn't want to be part of him because he took their money. And then one day, Jesus came into Jericho, and as always, Jesus attracted big crowds. And Zacchaeus must have heard about Jesus coming through. And then he climbed into a tree because he was short of stature. He climbed into the tree because he was curious to see Jesus. That was his only purpose to be able to see Jesus. Allow me to read it, ‘So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”’ Jesus knew Zacchaeus was going to climb into that tree before Zacchaeus knew he was going to climb into that tree. Jesus came there with a plan that He needed to be in this man's house. Jesus knew it before the time because He knew everything as the Son of God. He knew it before the time. And when He came, he stood under the tree. Just imagine Zacchaeus sitting in the tree. It is not like sitting on a chair. He was most probably laying down in an uncomfortable position seeing Jesus, and here Jesus looked up and had a conversation with him. And Jesus said to Zacchaeus, come down. Today I must be in your house. And it says, ‘So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.’ He was impressed, especially knowing his own situation that Jesus wanted to come into his house. That was the start of the change that was going to happen.
Our message for this divine service today is through Jesus, our life as a new direction. Jesus came into the house of Zacchaeus. It doesn't express the full conversation that they had. But Zacchaeus knew the things that he did. And he also knew the things that were said about him. And because of that, Zacchaeus said the following, ‘Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”’ So whatever he had taken he would have given back, but even by false accusation, he would have given fourfold. That means he had regrets about the things that he had done and the image he had created of himself in society. Fellowship with Jesus allowed this man’s life to change. He took a new direction. He had a change of heart because Jesus came into his home and came into his heart.
A second example. Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons. She suffered from infirmities. She was healed by Jesus. Before I go there, sometimes we see in the one or the other, and I must be very careful how I put it, but we can say I can see they have a demon in them today. You can see it in the eyes and in the speech or in the body language. And in that, we become quiet, we become afraid, we step aside. Just imagine someone with seven demons in them, their behaviour, how they act. Jesus came and He healed this woman, and she stayed in the fellowship with Jesus. She became a disciple of Jesus. Mary Magdalene was one of the women who made financial provisions for the needs of Jesus and the disciples. This was the woman who was possessed. Mary Magdalene was at Jesus’ crucifixion. She was at His burial. Do you know that the first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was Mary? Mark writes about it that the first person that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene. The same person that was possessed by seven demons as is written in the Scripture. If we read in the Scripture, she would have been pushed aside by society at the time. She would not have been accepted by society at the time. She came into fellowship with Jesus, and she remained with Jesus. And that gave her a new direction in her life.
A third example is Nicodemus. Nicodemus was part of the Sanhedrin, the rulers of the Jewish community. He was a well-respected man. Religiously, a well-educated man. He had a good theological understanding of the Scriptures. He came to Jesus by night. It doesn't say why he came by night. Allow me to read John three, ‘There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”’ And he came into conversation with Jesus, even though he was a man of great knowledge, he was seeking something. Then Jesus explained to him about being born again. In the ninth verse, ‘Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”’ Listen to the answer of Jesus to this religiously educated man, ‘Jesus, answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?”’ You are a teacher of religion to the Jewish people of Israel, and you do not know these things. Jesus really put Nicodemus on the spot. You know much but how much do you know about your relationship with God? If you have a relationship with God, you will understand the things that you know. You have more of a relationship with the biblical knowledge, the religious knowledge, and share that with everyone. But you are supposed to know about God because when you have a relationship with God, you're able to expand better on the things that you know. Jesus gave him a teaching. If we read in John 3, the second verse, ‘This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God…”’ He recognized a teacher. But he was unable to recognize God in Jesus. He was unable to recognize in Jesus Christ, God the Son. He saw Jesus as a teacher. A teacher was once a student who has been taught. Jesus was not a student. Jesus is the Son of God. He is part of the Trinity. He was there from the beginning. Jesus gave this teaching to Nicodemus so that change could take place. Yes, you have great knowledge. But come let Me take you on a different path so that your knowledge can turn into wisdom. Nicodemus was moved in such a way that when the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers, challenged Jesus on their own when they received the news about Jesus, Nicodemus became a defender of Jesus. He asked does our law allow that the man be charged before he has been questioned. When Jesus died, Nicodemus was the one who prepared the body for burial. Nicodemus was the one who came and provided 100 pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes that they provided for the body. And when you take the expenses of that, that is provided for a royal funeral, for somebody that is of royal nature. That is how change takes place.
So, when we look at Zacchaeus, when we look at Mary Magdalene, when we look at Nicodemus, when we look at so many others, then it teaches us one thing. God does not exclude anyone. Jesus said to Zacchaeus after he came to the realization, Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham…” That is when change takes place. Jesus went there for one purpose. Here was an opportunity to save someone. He says in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That's why Jesus came, to save him, to bring salvation to his house. And the same applies to us. And now Jesus wants to be welcomed and accepted into our homes, into our hearts. Do we allow it like Zacchaeus? Jesus says, I want to come into your heart. I want to come into your home. I want to talk to you. I want us to discuss things. Jesus speaks to us in the divine service through the spoken word, the word of God, the forgiveness of our sins, and the celebration of Holy Communion. We experience Jesus in our hearts. He wants to save us. He wants to save us whether we feel worthy or unworthy like Zacchaeus did because of his mistakes, and his failings in life. Jesus does not care. All He wants of us is to be welcomed and accepted into our hearts.
Jesus wants to come into our hearts whether we feel like Mary Magdalene having so many problems and challenges in life. He says I want to come in. Allow Me to come in. I can save you. I can help you. That is what Jesus wants to do. Jesus wants to come into our house whether we are educated and know everything or not. He wants to turn our knowledge into wisdom. That's what He wants to do. Now it's up to you and me, do we allow Him in? These three examples that we have received today, they have allowed the opportunity and they experienced the change. We all have our own stories to tell. We all have our own situations. Through Jesus, our life can take a new direction. Let Him in. We sing in one of our hymns, let the Saviour in. To let the Saviour in, that means I must let everything out. Those demons had to first come out of Mary Magdalene before Jesus could get in. Jesus allowed all those demons to get out of her. There was enough space for Him to get in. May we do so. May we open our hearts to Him. I come back to the fact that we all have our stories. We all have holes in our fences. Jesus knows that. He's not interested in the holes. He's interested in the beauty that is inside that we sometimes don't even see in ourselves. Let us also see the beauty within ourselves. We are children of God. As I read earlier, “Today's salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham...” We are also a son of Abraham. We are also a daughter of Abraham. We are also a son of God. We are children of God. Salvation can come into our house. Salvation can come into our hearts. We must just allow it. Become quiet. Today, as we celebrate this friendship day, we have many friends out there and they may suffer. Go look at the beauty in their garden. Go tell them don't give up hope. What you're going through is not easy in life. But look at the beauty in your garden. I spoke to a mother who lost her child some time back, and the grief is heavy upon her heart. I said to her I don't know what it is to lose a child in this manner that you did, but the love that you have for your child, take that love and give this love to the two children who you still have. Take that love and give it to them because your grief also affects your two children. Give it to them and put it into their garden. Let us share the beauty of the flowers in one another’s gardens. See it, share it and make the difference as Jesus has made the difference in this man's life, and in so many others' lives. Yes, we are not Jesus. We will never be like Jesus whilst on the face of the earth. But we can learn from Jesus and make a difference. Make a difference despite the holes in the fence. Don't be bothered about the holes in the fence. See the beauty in the garden. We sing in one of our hymns, “I come to the garden alone….and He walks with me and He talks with me.” That's what Jesus does in the garden with us. He walks with us and He talks with us. May God bless us. Jesus wants to come and make a difference in our lives. Let us allow Him. Don't stop him. Allow Him in. Let the Saviour in. And when we let Him in, we will see the new direction our life is able to take. We will see the change of heart because only He has the power, authority, capacity, and the ability to bring that change within us. Just allow Him to do it. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Abraham Page