Topical Sermon on Matthew, John, Acts
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 5/2/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
[Because it’s been so hectic the last few weeks, I haven’t been putting the print version of my sermons on the website. But now I have a bit of breathing room, so here’s the one for Sabbath, May 2. The sermon starts at the 1:05:59 mark. You can view past YouTube sermons on this website simply by clicking on “Worship” and then on “YouTube Channel.” — Maylan Schurch]
Please open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 9.
This week when I was deciding on what to preach on, I suddenly remembered the times in the Gospels when Jesus would say “Be of good cheer!”
I don’t know how wide you personally open your “news window” these days. It’s a good thing, of course, to keep in touch with what the governor and health experts believe is important for the state of Washington. Just yesterday, the governor regretfully announced that he is extending the stay-at-home guidelines until the end of May. This means that you and I will be worshiping by YouTube at least till the end of the month.
That’s not a lot of “good cheer” to be getting on with, is it? Already some of our church leaders have been planning toward, and hoping toward, our first Sabbath back. I was just on the phone with a pastors meeting with our conference leaders on Tuesday, and they told us they are just waiting on what the governor and the health experts have to say. We are not going to lag behind, but we’re not going to go any faster than what’s healthy.
Yesterday in the mail we got a huge supply of homemade, made-for-us cloth masks created by Shelley’s sister who lives in Kentucky. A couple of the masks are made from a pattern which depicts lots and lots of old books in beautiful tones of brown and gold. Those are my favorite masks. If I could go into Barnes & Noble, which I can’t and shouldn’t, that’s what I would wear.
Anyway, this is a time when we all could use some good cheer. But I got a great surprise when I began to look at those Bible passages where Jesus tells people to be of good cheer. When I started digging into the Greek, I studied out “Be of good cheer” pretty thoroughly. And I discovered some startling facts.
For one thing, in the original, you don’t have the Greek word “Be”, and you don’t have the word “good,” and you don’t have the word “cheer.” They are just not there in the original.
Someone says, “Okay then, why do we see the English phrase ‘Be of good cheer’ when it’s not in the original? What happened?”
Well, what happened was that “be of good cheer” comes from just one Greek word. It’s not easy to translate that word into English. It’s the Greek word tharseo, and that word doesn’t mean “be,” or “good,” or even “cheer.”
No, that Greek word simply means “courage.” So why don’t the translators use the word “courage”? Because in English, “courage” is a noun, not a verb. In Greek, “courage” is an action word. In Greek, you can say “Today I courage, yesterday I couraged, tomorrow I will courage.” In English, that doesn’t work. So that means that the translators into English need to buckle down and earn their paychecks and hunt for two or three words to say the same thing.
So whenever Jesus says “Be of good cheer,” or however else other Bible translations say it, what He’s really saying is “Courage up!”
Have you ever heard the command “Man up!”? According to the online dictionary Wiktionary, “Man up” means “To “be a man about it”; to do the things a man is traditionally expected to do, such as taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, displaying bravery or toughness in the face of adversity, providing for one’s family, etc.”
And of course you can equally correctly say “Woman up,” or “Person up.” Because these and other qualities are not confined to the male gender.
Okay, where am I going with this? This Greek verb tharseo “Courage up!) shows up eight times in the New Testament. And it’s always in command form, where you’re urging–or ordering–someone to courage up. Jesus commands it seven of those eight times. And since two of them show up in duplicate stories in the Gospels, He said it five times.
And this morning we are going to briefly look at all five times He used that word. And by the way, this means that we will have five sermon points, so save enough space on your paper if you’re taking notes.
The reason I’m going through each of these “Courage up” statements is to find out directly from Jesus Himself what He thinks we can have courage about. And we will definitely discover that when He says, “Be of good cheer,” He’s not talking at all about being cheery or chirpy or good-humored. He’s saying, “Courage up!”
Let’s look at where He says this first.
Matthew 9:1 – 2 [NKJV]: So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
If you’re using the NIV, you see that it has Jesus saying, “Take heart, son.” But again, there’s nothing about “heart” here. The Greek word for “heart” is kardia. But this is the Greek word tharseo. What Jesus is saying here is “Courage up! Courage up, son!”
A couple of fascinating things about what we just read. First, it says that Jesus notices the faith, not of the paralytic, but of the people who carried the paralytic into his presence. We don’t know whether or not the paralytic did have faith. But we do pick up very strongly that he seems to be more concerned about his personal sinfulness then he is about his paralysis. Maybe he had assumed that he was paralyzed because of his sinfulness, and it was his sinfulness that was really causing him grief.
Evidently, this paralytic was already deeply repentant for whatever sins he had committed. He doesn’t seem to be a hardened sinner, someone who doesn’t care that he’s sinful. Instead, this paralytic is remorseful. And Jesus immediately tells him to “courage up,” because his sins are now forgiven.
Let’s lay down Sermon Point One. What’s the first thing Jesus means when he says “Courage up”?
Jesus says, “Courage up! I am the Forgiver!”
And faith is a part of this. The paralytic may not have had a lot of personal faith. He did have a lot of personal remorse. But his friends had faith – faith enough to carry him into the presence of someone who seemed to be in touch with God.
You and I need to remember how much our faith can encourage someone else. Thank you to all of you who sent in your encouraging comments this morning. Each of these is a testimony about how the Lord is present in your life, or in the life of someone you know. Each of these comments is a way to carry someone who is less courageous into the presence of Jesus.
And throughout the week, let’s look for ways to bring encouragement to people we might not be able to get together with, or come close to. This would be the time to find that Elder Parish group list of yours and call some of the other people on it, just to check in, just to see how they’re doing. And this is the time to be positive rather than negative in your conversation, whether voice-to-voice or online.
Your faith can carry someone through a darker time than yours, especially someone who needs to be reminded that Jesus does forgive. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Well, later in this very same chapter, Matthew 9, we find another time when Jesus says “Courage up!” Let’s start with verse 18.
Verses 18 – 19: While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
Now, here’s a man who Jesus doesn’t need to say “Courage up” to. This ruler already has supreme courage, supreme faith in Jesus’ power. But watch what happens now.
Verses 20 – 21: And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”
When Doctor Luke researched his version of Jesus’ biography, his physician’s background caused him to hunt for more details. Luke 8:43 tells it this way: “Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment.”
The ruler whose daughter has died is probably standing by, politely but impatiently, crushed with grief about his own recent tragedy. But here’s a woman who for a dozen years has gone hopefully from doctor to doctor seeking help, and spending a lot of money. And Jesus senses that she’s the one who needs real courage. But still she has enough faith to reach out and touch.
Verses 20 – 22: And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.
But we know Jesus didn’t really say “Be of good cheer.” Instead, He said, “Courage up, daughter!” A few verses earlier, He said to the paralytic, “Courage up, son!” And now He says the same thing to this “daughter in Israel.”
Again, notice how faith plays a part in this woman’s healing. The ruler had faith, and this woman has barely enough faith to reach out. Another Gospel version of this story says that she’s very embarrassed and frightened when she’s found out, but Jesus encourages her.
So what’s another thing Jesus means when He says, “Courage up”?
Jesus says not only, “Courage up! I am the Forgiver!” but He also says, “Courage up! I am the Healer!”
I’m not going to tell Charlie Betanzos’ dramatic story here. I’m waiting for him to be here in person, when we can all get back together, so he can tell it himself. But this COVID-19 survivor knows very well that Jesus is a healer.
As a longtime Seventh-day Adventist Christian, Charlie knows the story of the ruler whose daughter died, and knows the story of the woman with the flow of blood. So Charlie trusted Jesus the Healer – and trusted Him to do the right thing. Charlie knows how to put himself in the hands of God for whatever God knows is best.
Because Charlie knows that Jesus the Healer will one day resurrect those who are waiting for Jesus to come, and heal them so well that they will never become sick again.
So what do we do with this? I believe we need to immerse ourselves so completely in the Bible passages which show Jesus in action that we can trust Him to heal in the way, and at the time, He knows is best.
But now let’s move over to Matthew 14 and find a third time Jesus says “Courage up!”
What has just happened in Matthew 14 is that Jesus has fed 5000 men, plus women and children, by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples have watched all this happen – in fact they were the ones who carried those creaking wicker food baskets out to the people.
Let’s pick up the story in Matthew 14:22.
Matthew 14:22 – 26: Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
And so would I have cried out in fear. And so, probably, would you have cried out in fear. The disciples have never seen anything like this before.
This is a perfect opportunity for some “Courage up” talk, and Jesus doesn’t let the opportunity pass.
Verse 27: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
Again, there’s that same Greek word. “Courage up!”
Jesus says. “Don’t be afraid.” But notice what He says next. “Be of good cheer—courage up—it is I.”
In the Greek, “It is I” is ego eimi. It can be translated “It is I,” But it literally means “I am.” In fact, in John 8:58, Jesus is in a tense discussion with some of the Jewish leaders who refused to believe that He is the Son of God. So He tells them flatly, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” And the Jews immediately understand that Jesus is claiming to be the “I AM” God of the Old Testament, and they pick up stones to execute Him for being a blasphemer.
And that is this very same ego eimi which He speaks to His disciples in the boat after He tells them to “courage up.”
So what’s a third thing Jesus means when He says, “Courage up”?
Jesus says not only, “Courage up! I am the Forgiver!” and I am the Healer!” but He also says, “Courage up! I AM!”
And that’s really all they need to know. He could’ve told them “I am the storm-calmer. I am the wind-quieter. I am the wave-flattener.” But He simply said, “I AM.”
And that’s all you and I need to know too. Aside from what the Bible teaches us, we do not know the future. We can’t tell when we will be back inside this sanctuary again.
But we do need to remember who the “I AM” is. He’s the rescuer from Egypt. He’s the creator of the universe. He’s the controller of nature. He is the master of miracles.
And one of these days, the Great I AM will appear above us in the sky. And then human history will draw to a close, and justice will be restored, and joy burst forth in our hearts.
So whatever you’re facing this week, remember that Jesus is all you need. He is the Great I AM.
For Jesus’ next “courage up” comment, we need to turn to John chapter 16.
In John 16, Jesus has been giving His disciples some very concentrated instruction, and they are confused. But suddenly, what He is saying starts catching on, and they start expressing their faith to Him. But notice what happens.
John 16:29 – 33: His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
And here’s the fourth thing Jesus means when He says, “Courage up.”
Jesus says not only, “Courage up! I am the Forgiver!” and “I am the Healer!” and simply, “I AM!” Jesus also says, “Courage up! I am the Victor!”
How many of you own, or have ever owned, some Nike sports equipment? (I can’t see you, so I’ll have to take it on faith that you are raising your hand if this describes you.) Somehow, somewhere I once got a good deal on a brand-new pair of Nike shoes. I have an idea that they were supposed to be used for playing basketball, which means that somebody else would’ve gotten a lot better use out of them than I did! But those shoes were really comfortable, and I just walked around in them until I wore them out.
But when Jesus says here, “Courage up! I have overcome the world,” He is saying (in the Greek), “I have Nike’d the world.” Because the Nike sports brand got its name from the Greek word nike, which means “victory.” Jesus is saying “I have won the victory over the world.”
So what we do with this? We need to remember that whatever we are facing, Jesus is the winner over it. The Bible says that He was tempted in all the basic ways we are tempted, and he was victorious. Now this doesn’t mean that we have to stand in our own strength as we face these challenges – in a minute, will see that He stands beside us.
In First Peter 4:12 and 13, one of the disciples who was listening to Him say these words has these reminders for us: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
Peter passed through his own “fiery trial” when he denied knowing Jesus. But he bitterly and tearfully repented of this, and wrote these ringing “courage up” words I just read to you.
Now let’s look at Jesus’ only remaining “courage up” remark. It’s not in the Gospels, but in the book of Acts, Acts 23. In the first few verses of Acts 23, Paul has just gone through a very stressful and dangerous confrontation with a large group of Sadducees and Pharisees, including the high priest. It gets so bad that he is almost injured in this fight that breaks out between the groups.
Let’s pick up the story in verse 10:
Acts 23:10 – 11: Now when there arose a great dissension, the [military] commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
What is the fifth and final idea Jesus wants to teach us when He says “Courage up”?
Jesus says not only, “Courage up! I am the Forgiver!” and “I am the Healer!” and simply, “I AM!” and “I am the Victor!” Jesus also says, “Courage up! I am with you!”
Jesus says to Paul, “Don’t worry about the future. I have important plans for you.” And those plans were for Paul to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ. But this wouldn’t be a lonely experience for Paul, because Paul had Jesus’ personal assurance that the Savior would be with him every step of the way.
And we can cherish the same promise too, during the week ahead.
Yesterday I saw a very touching sight. A couple of weeks ago I mowed our lawn, but I discovered that our lawnmower had a really bad gas leak. Since I am a total klutz when it comes to fixing lawnmowers, I took it in for repair. And a couple of days ago I got a call from the repair place saying that they would have to order in some parts. I asked them how long this would be, and they said they didn’t know.
The problem was that as soon as I mowed my lawn, I put Weed ‘n’ Feed on it, which means that it is growing beautifully and rapidly. So I was wondering what to do to keep that lawn under control.
Well, yesterday morning I remembered that across the street from us lives a family which has a son who is probably about 14, somewhere around there. So I asked his dad if the son would be willing to mow my lawn if I paid him. The dad was thoughtful for a moment (this might have been his son’s first paying job), but then he said, “Sure. But I’ll be here to watch him.”
An hour or so later, I could hear a lawnmower going back and forth across our front lawn. I peeked out once in a while, and the son was pushing that lawnmower hither and thither. And dad was standing on the sidewalk, alertly keeping an eye on what his boy was doing. At one point, when the mower stopped, I hurried out with the promised payment in a little white envelope.
The dad grinned and said, “Oh, we’re not done yet!” Evidently he had seen some areas where his son had missed, and he wanted to make sure it was done right.
I believe that this is something like what Jesus will do for us. This son had probably never had a lawn-mowing job, or any other kind of paying job, before. This was new territory. But dad was close by, watching, guiding, making sure that things turned out well.
What about you this morning? Are you willing to listen to Jesus’ “courage up” calls to you through the pages of the Bible? Are you willing to look up to Him in faith for moment-by-moment strength? Want to raise your hand, right there in front of whatever screen you’re looking at, and vote for that right now?
Our closing song is a way of singing about what we’ve just decided to do. It’s called “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” and is number 517 in the hymnal.
My faith looks up to thee,
thou Lamb of Calvary,
Now hear me while I pray,
take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
be wholly Thine.
May thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart,
my zeal inspire!
As thou hast died for me,
O may my love to thee
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire!
While life’s dark maze I tread,
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day,
wipe sorrow’s tears away,
nor let me ever stray
from Thee aside.