The Gift – It’s Hard to Believe


Virgil Grant: Well, good morning, everyone. It’s so good to see each and every one of you. I’m Virgil Grant, I’m the senior pastor here at Eastside, I’m also one of the leaders. And we are in a sermon series called The Gift, and we are preparing our hearts for the arrival of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And what we’re doing is we’re looking at three different gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus after he was born.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when you look at the nativity scene, I don’t know what comes to your mind. But what comes to my mind is that white, porcelain nativity scene that was on my grandparents television. You know what I’m talking about? It was the wavy, flowing porcelain. There was, you know, this little, you know, kind of stable, and there’s a star on top of it. There’s a few farm animals. I think there was like a cow and a sheep, and maybe there’s a camel? I don’t remember. And then there’s like three wise men, a couple shepherds, and there’s baby Jesus in the crib. And then underneath the crib was this glowing light that would shine up on Jesus. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? Or is it just me? Yeah.

And so the problem is that when we come to think about the wise men who came and visited Jesus, we have to understand is that there probably were not three of them. Now we say that there were three of them because why? Because they brought three specific gifts that we will look at in a moment. But here’s the thing that we have to understand. There could have been 30 or 40, or 50 of them. We really do not know for sure. History does not tell us that.

And they tell us that it took them a long time to get to the place where Jesus was born. And in fact, most of the historians are scholars. If you were to read some commentaries, they would all agree that Jesus was maybe a year, 18 months. Some scholars would say he was even as old as two years before the wise men got to where Jesus was located.

Now, that gives me a different perspective about the wise men bowing down and worshiping a toddler. Because let me ask you a question. How many of you are in the room right now? You have a two-year-old? Raise your hand if you have a two-year-old. Yeah, some of you are there. God bless you. Praying for you. Praying for you. Right. How many of you had a two-year-old, right? Yeah. How many of you been around a two-year-old, right? You know, I don’t know about you, but when I used to go out to the grocery store, go out to a restaurant before we had kids, and I would see someone with a two-year-old, I was highly judgmental of them. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I mean, they’re over there beaten and banging and yelling and screaming. And I’m sitting here saying to Rose, I mean, those are horrible parents. You know what I’m talking about? And then you get your two-year-old, and then you learn that you do not negotiate with terrorists whatsoever. You do not do that. I mean, you won’t, you know, just. I’ll give you anything. Just be quiet. Just be still. You want a new iPhone? You’ve got a new iPhone. You want a new race car. You get a new race car. You want to turn on and watch a baby. What is it called? Baby shark or whatever? What is the thing? Yeah, like, for the millionth time, just watch it, whatever. It was Barney back in my day. But anyway, but, you know, just whatever you want, you know, I’ll give it to you.

And you think about two-year-olds, and you think about the shepherds going, or the wisemen going and bowing down to Jesus as a toddler, gives me a whole different perspective. And in fact, here’s what the passage that we’re hanging out in, Matthew chapter two, and “When they saw the star,” talking about the wise men, “they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down, and they worship him. And then they open their treasure chests, and they gave to Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Now, here’s the thing, we’ve been camping out. Last week we look at frankincense. Today we’re looking at myrrh. And next week, we’re looking at gold. And these are highly valuable gifts. They were very practical, but they also had spiritual connotations to them. Because remember, we said that gold was fit for a king. So next week, we’re going to talk about the spiritual connotation that Jesus, because he received the gold, recommend look forward to him being the King of Kings. Last week we look at frankincense, and we looked at them as being the oil that the high priest would use. And we looked at the whole concept, that Jesus Christ is our high priest who’s. Sacrifice his body on our behalf so that we could have eternal life.

Well, today, we’re talking about myrrh. And for most of you, you probably don’t know a lot about that. But it is a valuable gum-like substance, and it is referenced in 17 different times in scripture. Oftentimes, it’s referred to as antiseptic. Remember when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and they offered Jesus some wine mixed with what? Myrrh, right? And it was a antiseptic. Just kind of dull the pain. But you remember that Jesus, he rejected that. But more commonly, myrrh was known as the ingredient to use to embalm the dead. And so here it is, is that Jesus is receiving the gift of myrrh that would one day embalm his body when he died, thus foreshadowing, pointing to the fact that he would one day be our suffering servant.

Now, let me ask you a question. How many football fans do we have in the room today? I mean, usually, when I say football fans, they use like, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” But I say football fans, and y’all just raise your hands. I mean, monkey see, monkey do, I guess? I don’t know. But how many football fans we have in the house? Yeah, there we go.

Now, let me ask you a question. What if I could tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the two teams who’s going to be in the Super Bowl in 2023 and February? Now for you that are out there, you’re going, if he could do that, we could make a lot of money. But let me tell you this. We will make a lot of money because listen to this. Not only can I tell you the two teams who’s going to be there, but I can tell you which team each score is going to be for each team. I can tell you the point spread. Now, if you’re a gambler, you’re like, I’m going to go up and talk to him after the church service. I’m going to make some money. Now, let me ask you about this question. What if from 700 years from now that the earth is still in existence, football is still popular, and I could tell you the two teams that’s going to be in the Super Bowl in 700 years from now? I can also indicate to you the score of each team 700 years from now. Now, let me ask you a question. What would that make me? That would make me a real prophet, wouldn’t it?

Well, this is exactly what we have in the story today. If you have your Bibles or your Bible App. I want you to turn or click with me to Isaiah, chapter 53. And essentially, this is what Isaiah did. 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Isaiah predict everything that was going to happen to Jesus in great detail. And here’s what I want you to understand. He predicted that Jesus was going to be your suffering servant. Now you have to understand that Jesus is our suffering servant. We’re going to talk about that in a moment. But here’s the thing that I want to begin with. Why does Jesus have to be or suffering servant? Because if we don’t understand the why, the how, and the what does it really matter? Why did Jesus have to be our suffering servant?

I want you to look with me, Isaiah chapter 53:6, the first part of this verse. Now “All of us, like sheep,” say that with me, “like sheep,” All of us-

Church: Like Sheep.

Virgil Grant: Okay, let’s try that again, y’all did really good. “All of us, like sheep, have straight away. We have left God’s path to follow our own.” Now I want you to understand something, okay? Please understand something. When Isaiah says to you and says to me that we are like sheep, you understand that’s not a compliment, right? Like you understand, that’s not a compliment at all. I mean, like, here’s basically what Isaiah saying, is that you guys are not the sharpest crayon in the box. I mean, if he said you are like a lion, you’re like a tiger. Well, that would be a compliment, right? But he says we are like sheep. That is not a compliment. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever gone to the circus and seen a sheep do a trick? Have you ever said to sheep “roll over” and watch it roll over? I mean, listen to me. You can train a lot of animals. You can train birds, you can train hamsters, you can train elephants, dogs, cats. You can do all kinds of things. But you’ve never seen a sheep who’s done a trick.

And then, folks, when he says that we are like sheep and we have gone astray. You have to understand that there’s three characteristics of sheep that you need to understand. The first characteristic is that they are weak. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this or not, but they are weak. And so this is a comparison to us, to you and I. We are weak, we have no defense mechanism. A sheep has nothing that they can use as a defense weapon. They don’t have sharp teeth. They can’t run fast. They don’t have camouflage. They can’t somehow or another blend into the grass of the ground around them. They don’t have any claws on their feet. They don’t have anything. I mean, they’re so dumb that they don’t even have enough sense to spread out and say, just get one of us. You know what sheep will do? Sheep will all gather together and just say to the prey, just come and get whichever one you want. It doesn’t matter because they huddle up. And sheep is the only animal that I know that has no defensive weapon whatsoever. So when Isaiah says that we are like sheep, it’s not a compliment.

But they are weak, but they’re also witless. And they’re also, in other words, they’re dumb. They don’t have any mindset to think on their own. Let me give you an example. You can Google this. I think it was in 2005 in Turkey, there was 1500 dumb sheep, and they were all hanging out together. And one sheep decided that he was going to walk off a cliff. I said he because it’s probably a guy, right? And he just went off the cliff, and you know what happened? The second sheep went off the cliff as well and plunged to its death. And then you would think after two or three sheep would go off that the cliff, that they would stop, you know, what happened? All 1500 of them went off the cliff. Now, here’s the good news. Only the first 400 died. Because the other 1100, you know what happened? They fell on the sheep pillow. Stop me, it’s bad, okay? But I mean, really, I mean, here’s the deal is that they’re witless. They don’t have any common sense. They’re dumb. They just follow after each other. So when Isaiah says we are like sheep, it’s not a compliment. We’re weak, we’re witless, and we’re wanderers as well.

We’re just wayward in our thoughts. We wayward in our actions. You know, a sheep will just drift off into oblivious and they will not pay any attention to where they’re wandering. And they wander over here, and they’re trying to find some happiness, trying to find some stability. You know what happens? Is that they get over there and they have some sense that we need some joy, and they go out and they spend some money and they don’t have any joy. You know what happens? They get deeper in debt. They go out and they find another experience and they get heartbroken. And so sheep, my friends, are a people who need a lot of help. They are weak, they’re witless, they’re wayward.

And folks, this is the reason why at Eastside. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6 that we are like sheep. And this is the reason why we value shepherding. This is the reason why we have shepherds at Eastside. This is the reason we call them coaches and serve team leaders and life group leaders. But these are people that we have put into the system of our church to love each other, to help each other. Because here’s the thing, folks. We are like sheep, and we’re all one step away from stupidity, right? And this is the reason why we need each other. But look at how Isaiah says in the full verse. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away, and we have left God’s path. See, folks, we are wayward. Our tendency is to leave God. Our tendency is to drift out on our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him, Jesus, the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was their suffering servant.

Let me ask you a question this morning. How many of you are here and you’ve ever been hurt? Raise your hand. If you’ve ever been mistreated, raise your hand. If you’ve ever been rejected, raise your hand. If you’ve ever been overlooked, raise your hand. If you’ve ever been unjustly criticized, raise your hand. If you’ve ever been misunderstood. If you’re married, you know what I’m talking about, okay. If you’ve ever been misunderstood.

Folks, listen to me. Jesus, experienced all of these. Look with me as a chapter 53:2-5. Notice what it says. This is Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, predicting the Super Bowl teams and their scores. And this is what Isaiah was doing. It says that Jesus “was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows acquainted with deepest grief. We turn our backs on him, and we look the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses, our sins, that he carried. It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God. A punishment for his own sins. But he was pierced for our rebellion. Crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Now, folks, listen to me very carefully. What does all of this really mean? Why should I devote my life to Jesus Christ? Because when you understand the magnitude of his suffering and when you understand the depths of his love for you, your only response and my only response is to pursue living an all-in life for Jesus. See, folks, if you, when you understand the suffering that Christ did for you, if you understand the depths of his love. Let me just say something to you. You would not be ashamed to be called a Christian. You would not be ashamed to raise your hand and to worship. Church wouldn’t be an option for you on Sunday. It would be something that you’d be here at every Sunday. Listen to me. Prayer wouldn’t be your last resort. Prayer would be your first resort. Listen to me, when you understand the gravity of the suffering the cross endured on your behalf and on my behalf. And we understand the depth of his love for us. Our only response on this side of Heaven is to live an all-in life for Jesus. And the more I tried to explain to you in detail this morning, the gravity of the suffering that Christ endure. And so here’s how I’m going to do it. We want to begin in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Now, some of you may not know what the Garden of Gethsemane is, but this is the place where Jesus brought a couple of his disciples. And he’s praying. And He’s going to the father in prayer. And remember, he brought a couple of disciples with them. And he says, y’all hang out here, and you do what? Pray with me. And Jesus went by the stone. Throw away. And he began to pray. And he was wanting them to pray with them for one hour. And he goes back a couple different times and checks on his disciples. And what are his disciples doing? Someone tell me. They are sleeping, exactly. And he says, Hey, guys, watch and pray. But he would go and check on them, and they were asleep. And Jesus is all alone, and He cries out to God. God, would you remove this cup of suffering from me? And then Jesus for falls to the ground.

And remember, what happens is there is blood that is dripping from his brow. And we understand that there’s a medical term that when you get so full of trauma that your capillaries will burst and blood will mingle in with your sweat, and when Jesus’s in such trauma, such agony that there’s blood that is mixed with this sweat and it’s dripping to the ground. And Jesus falls to the ground, and he says, my soul, is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of what? Of death. That’s how bad it was. And he says, God, can there be another way rather than me going to the cross? Yet Jesus declares, faithfully, “yet, Father, not my will, but your will.” And then one of his own. One of his disciples had been with them from the very beginning for three and a half years. Betrayed them with the kiss and for 30 pieces of silver. And his name was Judas.

Jesus is arrested. He’s falsely accused. Unfairly tried. And sentenced to death by crucifixion. He would be stripped naked, publicly exposed, humiliated, and shame. They would put a crown of thorns on his head, and those thorns were an inch and a half to two inches long. And there was going into his brow. And then the beating would start. They would whip him across his back again and again. Up to 49 lashes. It was exposing his flesh and exposing all of his internal organs. His back was bleeding, and there was wearing a signet ring, and they would beat him in the face. They would take clubs and they would pound sticks and they would club him across the head, driving the thorns even deeper and deeper into his skull. Isaiah says that indicates that they took the beard that he had, and they pulled all of his facial hair off of his face.

He was so disfigured that he wasn’t even recognizable as a human being. Weak, suffering, and alone. They would give him the cross bar of the cross that was weighing approximately 100 lbs, and he would have to walk and to carry it 650 yards on the path known as The Way of Suffering to Golgotha to be crucified on the cross. They would take out nails approximately seven inches in length, and they would drive them into his wrists and through his feet, hang him on the cross with his back bloody. His internal organs are all exposed. The only way that he could breathe, my friends, was to pull himself up with his wrist and to use his feet. And eventually, his shoulders would be dislocated. His legs would give out, and eventually, he would slowly be unable to catch your breath, hanging in the heat of the day, shamefully naked and exposed as the creation mocks the Creator. That was only the beginning.

The most painful part was when the innocent one, Jesus, who had never sinned, carried the sins of the world, became everything vile, filthy, unholy, and demonic. He became that and God in his righteousness and holiness, could not look upon sin. He pulls away, and the intimate fellowship that Jesus had always known with His Father was broken. And in the most agonizing moment of Jesus’s life, he realizes that his father has turned his back upon him. And he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why aren’t you here with me? Why have you pulled away? And they offered him the wine mixed with myhrr. And remember, he rejects it because why? He doesn’t want anything to dull the process of him being our suffering servant. And he will finish what his father had ordained him to do.

And then Jesus cries out from the cross. “It is finished. Into your hands, I commit my spirit.” And Jesus gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins. And Jesus, the suffering servant, did that and more. Look what Isaiah says. Isaiah says, “Unjustly condemned,” No reason for him to be condemned. But he was condemned, why? Because he took the hit for you and for me. He was led away. He was led to Golgotha. No one cared that he died without descendants. That his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for what reason? For the rebellion of his people. “He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone, but he was buried like a criminal.” how do we know that he was buried like a criminal. “He was put in a rich man’s grave,” how do we know that he was going to be put into a rich man’s grave? Because the Spirit of the Lord Isaiah about it, and “When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, God will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all of their sins.” This is what Jesus did for you and for me.

Friends, let me ask you question. What is it that makes Christianity different than all the other world religions? Have you ever thought about what makes Christianity different than Hinduism? What makes Christianity different than Islam? What makes Christianity different than the Mormon faith? What makes Christianity different than the New Age? And the thing that makes Christianity different than everything else is that God would become flesh.

He would be pierced for our rebellion. He would be crushed for our sins. Beaten so we could be made whole. And by his strides, we would be healed.

See, Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, prophesied that Jesus was going to be our suffering servant. But you know what’s interesting? Jesus understood his mission. Jesus even prophesied as well that he would go to the cross and suffer. Look what Jesus says in his own words in Luke chapter nine. Very familiar passage. “‘The Son of man.'” Jesus is talking about himself. Notice this, “‘the son of man must suffer many things.'” All the things that we just read. All the things we just talked about, “‘and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the law.'” In other words, by all the religious people. “‘And he must be killed. And on the third day, raised to life.’ Then he said to them all, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple.'” Friends, this is important. Leave it up there. Which is an important concept, and I’ll go back and finish reading the verse in a moment. This is an important concept. Let me tell you what Jesus didn’t say. Jesus didn’t say, just pray your prayer, and the rest of your life will be hunky dory for the remainder of your life. Everything will work out, all you have to just say a prayer. All you have to do is just, you know, say a prayer. Invite Jesus into your heart, get into the Jacuzzi, and everything’s going to be okay. That’s not what he said, he said what? You have to be what? MY disciples, you have to be the person who follows after me. And notice what he says is that you must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Listen to me, my friends. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not a hobby. It’s not a hobby. We think that it’s a hobby. We think it’s an add-on. We think that it’s optional. Jesus says, No, no, no, if you want to follow me, it’s not an add-on, it’s not optional. You know, it’s not an upgrade. It is something, it’s a lifestyle, my friends. It’s a lifestyle. See, here’s the reality. We think that, well, we’re just going to talk about Jesus, read the Christmas story at Christmas, because it’ll make us feel better about Christmas, and especially when we go to grandma’s house, it’ll make her happy. So we’re just going to do a little Christmas thing about Jesus to make everything better.

See, folks, I didn’t, I didn’t receive, I didn’t receive Christ as my Lord and Savior to make me feel better about myself. I didn’t receive Christ as my Lord and Savior to become a better person. Let me tell you something, my heart is wicked. I’m telling you, it’s full of wickedness. I didn’t receive Christ because I thought that it made me a better person. I received Christ because of who he is and what he has done on my behalf.

He went to the cross and died the death that I should have died, and he lived the life that I could not live. He went to the cross and he was my substitute, and that’s the reason why I need Jesus in my life. That’s the reason why I pursued the all in life because of who He is, not because of me trying to be a better person. When you understand the gravity of his suffering, when you understand the depths of his love, your only response is to say, Yes, Lord.

And here’s the thing, I’ve experienced the depths of his love. He reached down when I was nine years of age, and he saved me as a young boy. I didn’t understand everything that I was doing, but I knew that he saved me, and I knew that Jesus was in my heart. And here’s the thing, this suffering servant that we’ve been talking about this morning, he died for you. He wants you to be his disciple. And how do you become his disciple? Well, Jesus tells us very clearly how to become his disciple. He says, “‘I’m telling you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God,'” no one can be my disciple. No one can be born again “‘without being born again.'” And so, if you want to become the disciple of Jesus, then here’s the thing. You need to be born again. And the biggest question that you have to answer for yourself, nobody else can answer for you, is have you been born again?

And folks listen to me, I’ve been on beside a lot of people on death bed, a lot of people. I’m holding their hands as they’re taking their last breath. And the only person who knows for sure where they’re going to spend eternity is the person who’s taking their last breath. They’re the only one that knows if they have it right with God or not.

And here’s the question, are you right with God today? Today is the day to make it right. And how do you make it right? How do you become the disciple of Jesus? Well, how is a person born again? It’s as simple as A, B, and C. Letter A is to admit it. Can I just say something to you to admit that you’re a sinner? Listen, if you’re here today and you don’t know Cross. Let me tell you something. I know one thing about you. You know, you filled the weight and the guilt and the shame of your sin. Here’s what I know about you. You’ve tried everything in the world to deal with the weight and the shame and the guilt of your sin. You know? You know what you’ve done? You’ve tried all the pills. You’ve tried all the programs. You’ve tried all the different people from one relationship to the next relationship. Nothing has helped. You’ve tried all the different poisons that are out there, and none of that has helped. I mean, you’ve done everything in your power, tried to deal with the weight and the guilt and the shame of your sin. But here’s the reality. You know that it’s still there. You feel it, and you just keep trying. I mean, maybe you’ve even tried the preacher thing. You’ve tried to talk to a preacher, and nothing has helped. You understand that the sin that you’re carrying around, there’s nothing that I can do about it. There’s nothing that you can do about it. There’s nothing that your parents can do. There’s only one person who can do something with your sin issue, and that is Jesus.

And that’s the reason why we believe that Jesus was sent by God to fix my sin is you and your sins issue. It was God who sent Jesus to die on the cross as a substitute. So that you could have your sins forgiven so that I could have my sins forgiven. Jesus suffered all that He suffered so that you and I could have the opportunity to be set free. And so if you’re here and you’ve got the weight of the world, and sin, and shame of the sins of your life upon you. The only way that you can be set free is to believe in Jesus Christ.

And how do you do that? You confess him as your Lord and Savior. And so this morning, I’m going to ask you about your head. And this past weekend, that winter wonderland, we had multiple people, I think seven people, to receive Christ, who accepted him as their Lord and Savior who was born again. And here’s my belief out of the group of people that are here this morning. I believe that there’s some individuals here today who feels the weight, who’s tired of carrying the weight of their sin, their shame, and their guilt. They want to be free, but they don’t know how. Well, today’s your day to be set free.

And here’s what I want to ask you to do. In a moment, I’m going to pray the prayer of a disciple, a prayer of being born again. And if you’ve never been born again, you’ve never asked God to forgive you. Here’s what I’m going to ask you to do in a moment. In a moment, I’m going to ask you to just raise your hand. No one’s looking around. I want to ask you to raise your hand. Hold it up high. I’m going to count the hands. That’s how I know that seven people received Christ over the weekend at Winter Wonderland. And what I want to do, I just want to include you in the prayer of being born again.

And so if you’re here this morning and you’re ready to get rid of your sin, to get rid of your shame, to get rid of your guilt, to get rid of the weight that you’re carrying, and you’re ready for a fresh start. Here’s what I want to ask you do, I’m just going to ask you to raise your hand. Leave your hand up really high if you don’t care. One, thank you, sir. Appreciate that. Anybody up back, up in the risers, anywhere in the center section? And you want to my left? One individual. All right.

I’m just going to ask everyone to look to the screen and want to ask everyone just to pray this prayer out loud. It’s a good reminder for this one individual that he’s going to pray this and he’s going to receive a new heart and a new soul.

Virgil and Church: Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you’re the son of God. I believe that on the cross you took my sin, my shame, my guilt, and you died for it. You faced hell for me so I wouldn’t have to go. You rose from the dead to give me a place in Heaven, a purpose on earth, and a relationship with your father. Today, Lord Jesus, I turn from my sin to be born again. God is my father, Jesus is my Savior, the Holy Spirit is my helper, and Heaven is now my home. In Jesus name, Amen.

Virgil Grant: Let’s welcome this one individual into the Kingdom of God!