No One Escapes the Cross… Do They? (Camp Meeting 7/15/18)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2018 in Pitman Camp Meeting, Sermons | 0 comments

Rev. Jim Hughes brought his friend Thomas to the Camp Meeting service on 7/15/18.  Yeah- that Thomas- the one we  call Doubting Thomas.  How can Jesus be alive?  I saw Him die.  And NOBODY escapes the cross… do they?

Jim Hughes has been a regular at the Pitman Camp Meeting for years.  In fact, for about 150 days or evenings- half the year- he’s “bringing friends” to all sorts of worship services and gatherings.  His ministry of first person dramatizations and music has been a blessing to thousands of people over the years. 

At last year’s Camp Meeting, he was one of those who was there when some people disturbed a meeting with Jesus by cutting a hole through the roof and  lowering their paralytic friend into the Master’s presence.  There were a variety of people there  that day; Pharisees, rich people, poor people, and… you!  Weren’t you there too?

On this Sunday, Rev. Hughes- er- Thomas entered the auditorium singing “Were you There (when they Crucified My Lord)?”

Thomas was there.  But how could he stay?  Like most of the other disciples, he hid in the background when their leader was executed.  Then he ran for his life; could he be next?

As “Thomas” entered our midst, he explained that a week had elapsed since the crucifixion.  Some of his friends sent word to him,  telling him  to return to Jerusalem.  They made some  incredible claim;  something about seeing Jesus- alive?!? 

But, how could that be???  Nobody escapes the cross… Do they???

 

God’s Big Enough for Questions…

Before the “costume change” that replaced Rev. Hughes with Thomas, Jim made some opening comments from the podium. 

We’re all familiar with the story of Thomas.  Doubting Thomas.  Sometimes we’re not sure of things and we need to see some proof.  Sometimes we flat out don’t understand, and we need some answers.  But God’s good with that.  He wants us to search.  He’s big enough for questions.

Thomas gets a bad rap.  He loved the Lord immensely, but just couldn’t get a handle on what had just happened.  Alive??? How could that be?  Nobody escapes the cross… do they???

 

 

Where You There?

After the costume change, Rev. Hughes was gone and Thomas appeared.  As he entered the Grove Tabernacle, he sang the hymn “Were You There?” 

Yes,  Thomas was there.  He was there when Jesus had performed so many miracles in the past.  He wasn’t so sure about them at first either.  On each occasion, he verified that the leprosy was gone, or that the person was really alive, or that the demon was really gone.  He was there.  He saw it!

Jesus really did raise Lazarus from the dead.  Then why- WHY didn’t He prevent what happened to Himself?  He calmed the storm; couldn’t He have called down some angles who would have calmed the crowd who wanted to arrest Him?  He raised Lazarus.  Couldn’t He have prevented His own death?

Yes- I was there when they crucified my Lord.  I heard Him cry out, “It is finished!” right before He took His last breath.  How much I would love to hear His voice again; to hear Him call my name one more time.  But I was there.  I saw Him die.  He’s gone.  Nobody escapes the cross… do they?

 

Take Me Back to My First Love…

Jesus had predicted what was going to happen to Him; that he would be mocked, killed, and raised from the dead.  He said that He was leaving to prepare a place for us.  “I do not understand the meaning behind these words.  I want to believe, I LONG to believe.  But I can’t do it without Jesus…  I was there- I saw Him die.  And no one escapes the cross… do they?”

Thomas then sang the song, “First Love.”  It was a moment of surrender.  Where I am… where I’m running to… where I’m running from… isn’t where I want to be.  I need to be with You. I remember when you talked of love, when you fed the thousands.  How I long to be with Him again.  How I long to hear words of life.  How I long to be taken back to that place where He was the reason for my rising in the morning.  How I long to believe that He’s really alive.”

But Jesus is dead.  And no one escapes the cross… do they?

  • “Bring me back where I was, where I could hear You so clearly…”
  • “Everything was possible with You!”
  • “Take me back to first love, to the place where I once was. Where holiness was all I could find…”
  • “Just wanting only Your anointing…”
  • “They say you rise as you get older.  All I know is I’ve grown colder.  Take me back to first love….”

Thomas then returned to the room where the disciples were staying.  He greeted his friends, admitting that he thought he’d never see them again. 

I poured myself  into Him, but now He’s gone.  I feel deceived.  And now you say that He’s alive again?!?  We try to make ourselves believe He’s alive because we’re the ones who denied Him!  WE abandoned Him.  Now He’s gone. 

You say He’s alive- how I want this to be true!  How I want to return to my First Love.  I’m the one who  tested out all of the miracles when He was here.  Those 12 baskets of food that were left over?  It was me who counted every one of them.  If He rose from the dead, I need to see it for myself.”

But then Jesus appeared!   Peace be with you Thomas!

But Thomas didn’t need any proof.  All he could say is, “My Lord and my God!” 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:26-28

My Lord- I believe!

 

How Beautiful…

“My Lord and My God.”  When Jesus is our First Love; when we see Him active in our own lives, all we can do is praise Him- “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas then sang the song,”How Beautiful.”

  • “How beautiful the Hands that served, the wine and the bread, and the sons of the earth”
  • “How beautiful the feet that walked the long dusty roads, and the hill to the cross…”
  • “How beautiful the heart that bled, and took all my sin, and bore them instead…”
  • “And as He laid down His life, we offer this sacrifice:
    that we will live just as He lived- willing to pay the price.”
  • “How beautiful, is the body of Christ.”

Thomas knelt and replied to Jesus, “Now I begin to understand that we need to be Your hands and feet.  It’s up to us to tell our friends and our family of your life and death and resurrection.  I understand now what you were teaching us at the Passover super when You said that this is My body shed for the sacrifice of sin.  Now I understand what the prophet said that you would be crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53).

Now I understand that we need to tell the story.  Your body was broken so that we could live.  You are the Lamb of God.

Calvary’s Love…

The final song was “Calvary’s Love”…   

  • “Only Jesus.  Free redemption, full and free….”
  • “There’s a yearning in all our lives, that only Jesus satisfies…”
  • “Calvary’s love will sail forever.  Like an ark, on the sea of humanity….”
  • “Calvary’s love will bring us home…”
  • “Calvary’s love can heal the spirits that life has crushed and cast aside…”
  • “So decide to tell the story of a love that loved enough to die…”
  • Calvary’s love- priceless gift (that we’re) unworthy of….”
  • “Sins forgiven, and heaven gained…”

Sins forgiven, and heaven gained. 

 

Yes- Jesus Escaped the Cross!

Jesus did “escape the cross.”  He willingly submitted to its death, but He escaped from that death so that we might have life.  That might sound like a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo, but imagine this:  We’ve strayed so far from God that we sometimes don’t  even want to acknowledge that He exists.  How, then, can we ever have a relationship with Him?  How can we ever claim all that He has to offer us?

But- by dying and rising again, Jesus escaped the cross.  And, He took us along with Him on the escape.  In faith, with our sins paid for, things are put right with God once again.

 

Suddenly, “Thomas” became Rev. Hughes once more.  Jim explained why he came to the Camp Meeting tonight.  He came to tell us that Jesus cares for you, that you are created for Him, and that He will return.  For a world that seems upside down, divided, full of hatred, of wars and rumors of wars… but it’s a world that God is bringing to its point of critical mass.  To a place where soon the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will change everything.

If you know Him, there can be a peace that passes all understanding, when we live in surrender to Him.

 

If you know Jesus as your savior…

Return to your First Love.  Many of us see ourselves in the first chapters of Revelation; Jesus told the church at Ephesus that they had “lost their first love.”  He told the church at Laodicea that their love was lukewarm.  We do good works, but have we forsaken our first love? 

Church- we need to come back to that place where Jesus is everything to us;  where “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (song- “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Are you living in surrender to the King of Kings?

 

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior…

There’s a great separation between God and sinful man. I’ve never heard someone tell me, I’ve never sinned.  There something in us- the image of God- that draws us.  But we try to do it in our own power, trying to be good.  To give money to the church, to even help a little old lady across the street.

But none of it will bridge the gap.  Jesus allows a great exchange to take place: our sin for His righteousness.

Just say, “Jesus come into my life, forgive my sins.”  He will always answer that prayer. 

 

 Yes- because of the cross, we can escape death.  Lord, may there be eternal work done in our hearts.

 

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