02 Aug 2020

What Is Your Verdict Of Jesus [Matthew 27:11-26]


The Apostle's Creed records that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate. " Pilate was the official governor who sentenced Jesus to death. Yet he was not convinced Jesus was guilty of any charge worthy of the death sentence. In fact, he knew full well Jesus was innocent. Why then did he execute Jesus? That is also the question for you and me, "What is your verdict of Jesus? " Is He a liar, a fraud, a lunatic, a criminal? Or is He truly Lord? Maybe you know the truth, but you will not stake your life on it. Perhaps it is for fear of friends, loss of job, family opposition or societal frowns. . . I hope you will choose wiser than Pontius Pilate today. Listen in to the sermon here and find out more!


Sermon Transcript

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A very good morning to all of you and welcome to Gospel Light Christian Church, our online service this Sunday morning.

Really glad you can join us, as we continue our series in “48”. This is a series that looks into the last two days of the Lord's life before He will go to the cross.

The religious leaders in the Jewish nation hated Jesus Christ. They wanted to kill Him. They wanted to get rid of Him. Many reasons why.

For one, they were jealous, they were envious of His popularity. They were also worried that with more people following Jesus, Caesar, the Roman king, would think that Israel would be staging a revolt, and thereby eliminate their whole nation.
So they wanted to get rid of Jesus.

They also wanted to get rid of Jesus, perhaps because Jesus had just ruined their temple business. And Jesus had also exposed their wickedness. So they wanted to kill Jesus.

But they also wanted to have some legitimacy as to why they killed Jesus. So they held a court, a kangaroo court - a mockery of the justice system, whereby they tried Jesus in a very unfair way. We looked at that some weeks back.

So they laid the charge of blasphemy upon Jesus. And now, they are ready to bring Jesus to the Roman governor, in order for the Roman governor to bring about the capital punishment.

You say, “Why didn't the Jewish leaders execute Jesus themselves?” Well, the reason is because Israel is now not under their own rule. They were ruled by the Romans. And so as a vassal state, they had no authority to execute capital punishment.

So now, we see in this next development of the storyline, Jesus being brought by the Jewish leaders to appear before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

Now, this story is actually quite straightforward. But you do need kind of a piecing together of the various passages in the various Gospel accounts. So we're going to look not just at Matthew, but also at Luke and John, in particular. And we're going to kind of have a picture as to the whole event, when Jesus would appear before Pontius Pilate.

So we begin at John, chapter 18. It is said here that: “Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's” - that is Pontius Pilate’s – “headquarters. It was early morning.” [John 18:28] So the very first thing they could do, was to bring Jesus to Pilate. They can't wait to get rid of Jesus.

“They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” [John 18:28] Now the Jews were very particular that they would not step into Gentiles’ abodes or places of their work. Because they say that that is unclean, and they would be rendered unclean and not be able to partake of the Passover meal.

I think John just puts it here to show us the absolute hypocrisy of these religious leaders. They were so concerned about ceremonial cleanliness, and not bothered at all, that they are going to murder the innocent Son of God.

So Pilate, he had to go out. They won't come in, they have a problem, they have a case. “So Pilate went outside to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered him, ‘If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.’” [John 18:29-30]

Now, this sounds totally evasive, don't you think? They are not forthcoming in their charge. I think you could sense that there's something really wrong. They said, “If there is no guilt in this man, we wouldn't have brought it to you.” But they would not say this as clearly as they should, right from the onset.

So, Pilate said to them, “Alright, if you say that he's guilty, then take him yourselves and judge him by your own law. You can do that.” To which, they replied, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” [John 18:31]

“Ah! Now, I know why you brought Him to me. You want to kill Him, but you cannot kill Him. So you bring Him to me so that I may kill Him.” That must be the thinking behind or with Pontius Pilate.

And as I think he thought about these things - They began to accuse him, saying, “We have a charge!” “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” [Luke 23:2]

Look at this unfair charge! They said that He forbids the people of Israel to give a tribute to Caesar. When did Jesus ever say that? He did say, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.” But it doesn't matter. This is cold blooded murder, and they are laying a charge on Him.

What is this charge? It is a charge of treason, that Jesus is a revolutionary. He's a rebel. He's going to start a revolt. He's saying that He is King, and thereby opposing Caesar, the king.
I want you to notice that when Jesus was tried before the Jewish religious leaders, at the kangaroo court, what did they charge Him with? They charged Him with blasphemy.

But now, when they brought Him to Pontius Pilate, what is the charge they bring? Blasphemy? No! Treason. So they have very conveniently laid whatever charges they could, to just get this man killed. This again, of course, is an unfair trial.

John tells us: “This was to fulfil the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” [John 18:32]

So all this took place - Jesus was tried before the religious leaders in Israel, then brought before Pontius Pilate. Why? John says so that this is to fulfil the Word Jesus had spoken regarding the kind of death He's going to die.

The Romans when they execute their criminals, will sentence them to crucifixion. So all this took place, Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate, so that He may be crucified.

Now, this is no surprise to Jesus. I want you to be reminded of, in Matthew, chapter 20: “the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles” - that's what's happening here - “to be mocked and flogged and crucified”. [Matthew 20:18-19]

Now, why is this significant? What is this crucifixion got to do with anything? Well, we're going to learn about that later on. But Jesus knew He will be crucified. And that's why He now appears before Pontius Pilate.

So take a look now at this dialogue, this interchange. This exchange between Pilate and Jesus.

We read here that: “Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’” [Matt 27:11] “That's what your people are saying. Are you that King of the Jews?”

Jesus then answered: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” [John 18:34] “Is this what you know? Is this what you understand? Or is this just hearsay with no evidence?”

Pilate then replied: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” [John 18:35] So he's saying this in a derogatory way - “Am I a Jew that I will be bothered about your things, about your events, about what your people have to say? Am I a Jew?”

Jesus then answered: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” [John 18:36]

So Jesus is saying, “I am a King. I have a Kingdom. But My Kingdom is not like that of Caesar's. I'm not a competitor to Caesar, because My Kingdom is not of this world. If it is of this world, My servants would have opposed the Roman soldiers. But My Kingdom is not of this world.’

To which, Pilate then replied: “So you are a king?”” [John 18:37] I find it rather comical here. It seems as if that Pilate has a very dense head. He doesn't quite get it - “So after all you're saying, you're a king?” Maybe Jesus was going too fast for Pilate, I don't know.

But, Jesus answered: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth” - to the truth about God, to the truth about sin, to the truth about the Gospel; ‘I've come to bear witness to the truth. That's My mission!’ – “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” [John 18:37]

And Pilate then said: “What is truth?” [John 18:38] Now, perhaps you think, “Ah hah! Maybe Pilate is now in a pensive, contemplative mood. He's thinking about this existential question - What is truth?”

But I say to you, I don't think he is. I don't think he's seriously considering what truth is.

Because we are told, immediately - “After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” [John 18:38] He did not spend any time thinking this through. He's probably not saying this in a respectful way, but in a cynical, sarcastic way - “What is truth?”

But at the end of it, he went back to the Jews, to the people gathered outside, eagerly waiting for the verdict. And he said to them, “I find no guilt in him.” This will be the first time Pilate pronounces innocence upon Jesus.

Now, I hope that would have sufficed. But no! Because the religious leaders, together with the crowds, would not accept this verdict. They just wanted Pilate to rubber stamp their decision to kill Jesus.

So they were angry, they were upset. They were visibly, I think moved. Because the Bible tells us: “But they were urgent, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.’” [Luke 23:5]

So they would not accept what Pilate had said. Even though Pilate had seen that there is no guilt with Jesus, they say, “I don't care. We don't care. This Man has stirred up enough problem in our country, get Him sentenced to death.”

“But when he was accused” - the Bible tells us, Jesus, when He was accused - “by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.” [Matt 27:12] They shouted for His blood. They shouted that He was a troublemaker. He, He did not give an answer.

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’” [Matt 27:13] “Don't you hear what they are saying about You? Don't you have anything to add? Don't you have any defence?”

“But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” [Matt 27:14]

Now, I'm sure Pilate must have met many criminals in his life. And virtually all of them would say, “We are not guilty, release us!” Or, “We are guilty, have mercy on us!” Everyone must have pleaded for their own lives, but not Jesus.

They laid all kinds of charges upon Him, but He did not give an answer. He did not seek to defend Himself, whatsoever. He only testified that He indeed bears witness of the truth. That He's the King of the Kingdom of truth. But He did not directly answer or defend against those charges.

So the people out there were shouting, saying, baying for blood, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” [Luke 23:5]

Now, Pilate is not a stupid man. However, when he heard the word “from Galilee”, his ears pricked up. And he suddenly thought of a brilliant idea.

He asked whether this man was a Galilean. [Luke 23:6]. “Was Jesus from Galilee?” It says that, they said that He started from Galilee - so was He Galilean? Is this where He was raised? Is where He frequented? Is this where He started His so-called ministry?”

“And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.” [Luke 23:7] He says, “Hah! I've got an idea. I don't want to be dealing with Jesus. They want Him to die, they want to execute Him. But I really find no guilt in Him. I rather pass this buck to someone. Let's pass this to Herod - my enemy. I don't like Herod, but he's in charge of Galilee, and this man is a Galilean. So, let me pass this to Herod.”

So he thought he was playing this, the musical chair thing, passing or passing the parcel thing. He thought he could just shirk from this responsibility. So, we see not only did Pilate try Jesus, he is going to transfer Jesus to Herod.

So, Jesus now appears before Herod. Herod was at Jerusalem at that time, this was feast time, every Jew will be gathered there and the governors would tend to gather there. And so Jesus appears before Herod.

And Herod, when he saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to meet this celebrity in Israel, because he had heard about Him and he was hoping to see some sign done by Him. [Luke 23:8]

So Herod was not there for truth, Herod was there for entertainment. Herod wanted to meet Jesus just to see what kind of a guy He is, what kind of magic tricks He could do, what kind of entertainment He could bring.

“So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.” [Luke 23:9] Jesus did not seek to defend against any of the charges leveraged on Him. So we read also that: “The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.” [Luke 23:10]

So they were all there. They were like bloodthirsty hounds, following Jesus wherever He went. And they were hurling and shouting those abuses, those charges at Jesus, when Herod was trying Jesus. And Jesus made no response, no answer.

“And Herod with his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate.” [Luke 23:11] So Jesus was like a ball, an unwanted ball, kicked from Pilate to Herod, and Herod back to Pilate.

And the Bible tells us in Luke, that “Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.” [Luke 23:12] Amazing - how they had fun, ridicule and mockery at Jesus and from that, they bonded.

“Pilate” - having now received Jesus back from Herod – “then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” [Luke 23:13-14]

“Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.” - so this is at least the second time Pilate proclaims the innocence of Jesus Christ - “I will therefore punish and release him.” [Luke 23:15-16]

“Alright! I know you guys are upset with Him. But really, there's no fault with Him, there's no guilt that I could lay upon Him, and He does not deserve to die. So, to just appease you guys, even though it's wrong, but just to appease you guys, I will just give Him a good whack, I'll give Him a good scourge. I'll make him suffer, He will go through pain, but I'll release Him back to you.”

Would that be enough? Obviously, that was not quite enough. I think as a wily politician, he could read the mood, the body language, the volume of voices in the crowd, in a mob. And he knew that, that would not be enough. So he kind of added more to the stakes here.

The Bible tells us in Matthew: “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.” [Matthew 27:15] So this is like an amnesty, a kind of a mercy. Showing of mercy to the criminals that someone will be released.

“And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’” [Matt 27:16-17]

So Pilate was trying to show the people of Israel: “Look at this! There is no comparison. Barabbas is a terrible guy. Would you want him to be released? Or would you rather Jesus to be released?”

Now, any person with common sense would say, “Of course! Let's release Jesus! He is innocent. But Barabbas, he's a wicked fella, he deserves to die.” So he thought that that would somehow give a comparison, to bring some sense to the Jewish mob.

“For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.” [Matthew 27:18] There's really nothing wrong with Jesus.

“Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife” - Herod’s, or Pilate's wife – “sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.’” [Matthew 27:19]

So, this must be something significant for Matthew to include. And so Pilate's wife actually came and told him, "Hey dear! Be careful. Don't, don't, don't sentence this man wrongly. He's righteous, I've been troubled in my dreams, I know it!"

So, Pilate, he thought he would get himself out of this mess by presenting before the people - Barabbas or Jesus. Barabbas, by the way was a robber. [John 18:40] He’s a terrible guy, and he was not only robbing, he was responsible for insurrection - he was responsible for staging a revolt, a treason, and he was also a murderer. [Luke 23:19]

So this guy is that most wanted man in Israel, in terms of crime. But - “the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.” [Matthew 27:20] So “the governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’” [Matthew 27:21]

Pilate wanted to get out of this mess using Barabbas, trading Barabbas for Jesus. But they wouldn't want it.

So - “Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let Him be crucified!’” [Matthew 27:22]

“And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’” - this is the third time, I think, Pilate is saying, ‘Jesus is innocent! What has He done?’ - “But they shouted all the more, ‘Let Him be crucified!’” [Matthew 27:23]

You know, you can't be, you can't read this passage without being shocked, and stunned, and confronted with the absolute disregard for justice. Jesus was not crucified justly, but very unjustly.

“So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.’” [Matthew 27:24] Is he really innocent, by just washing his hands?

“And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” [Matthew 27:25] My friends, I think this is a very scary statement to say - “Let the murder of the Son of God be placed upon us and our children!”

Now again, I want you to know, this is not a surprise to Jesus. Earlier on, Jesus gave a parable about the vineyard. And He said that the tenants, when they saw the son, sent by the owner, coming to gather the produce and the profit, they said to themselves, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.”” [Matthew 21:38]

Jesus spoke this parable, speaking about the Jewish nation. And what is the fate of the Jewish nation eventually? What will be the fate of them when they say, “Let His blood be on us and on our children!” In verse 41, the Bible tells us, the owner, a representation of God, “will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants”. [Matthew 21:41]

Not only this. I remind you, in Matthew 23, Jesus says: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! See, your house is left to you desolate.” [Matthew 23:37-38] You will be in utter ruin and destruction.

So when they said, “Let His blood be on us and on our children!” I think it is prophetic in that Jerusalem will be destroyed in AD 70. And maybe the most obvious example of the sufferings of the people of Israel, will be that of the Holocaust, during Hitler's time.

But if you were to just check it out on the internet, on or on any source, you will realize that anti-Semitism, the anger, the animosity against the Jewish people is not just isolated to these two events, but throughout human history.

I wonder, could it all be attributed to this, when they said, “His blood be on us and on our children!” “We are committing cold blooded murder here, but we don't care. We know it is a Son of God, He is the Messiah, but we don't care. We just want Him killed.”

Then we read, in verse 26: Pilate “released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.” [Matthew 27:26] So the deal is sealed. And Jesus will soon be crucified. We'll look at this, and what happened thereafter next Sunday.

But let me just end, by helping us consider two people here in this story. The first of course, is Pontius Pilate.

You know, Pilate here, is going to be noted in all history for his sinful act. You must have heard about this creed called “The Apostles Creed”. It reads: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” and so on. And you have this sentence, this statement, “He” - that is Jesus – “suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

The Apostles Creed is a creed written many, many centuries ago, one of the oldest creeds. And there, recorded for all times, is this statement that, “Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate”. Why does Pilate deserve such a high mention here? Why is he specifically highlighted?

Well, Pilate was the official authority who gave the sentence to Jesus. That's why. He was responsible for interrogating Jesus. And he was responsible for the verdict, and the judgment he will give to Jesus. And Pilate, he gave “guilty” as verdict, even though he knew “innocent” was the right answer.

Now, why did he do that? Now, I would suggest to you that Pilate was, of course under tremendous pressure, a lot of pressure from the people. The people who he's supposed to rule, they all wanted to kill Jesus.

And that's not found in the Bible, but according to the church history fathers, the fathers, or the original people who wrote about history in Israel, people like Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, they record that Pontius Pilate had made many decisions that the Jewish people were upset with, very bad decisions.

And so Pontius Pilate probably knew that his political capital is running low. And this might be a make or break time for him. If he were to refuse Israel, they might just stage a revolt against him. So for the sake of expediency, for the sake of his reign, for the sake of peace in his rulership, he decides to go against his conscience and to sentence Jesus.

Now, I want you to know that he had, for three times, said Jesus was innocent. He had also the witness of Herod, and his wife, and his own interrogation saying that Jesus is innocent.

He had tried to pass the buck to Herod. He had tried to use Barabbas as a trading tool. He had tried to wash his hands. But ultimately, for the sake of his own political reign, he betrayed Jesus.

And my question to you this morning is this: What is your verdict on Jesus Christ? Because you have been hearing the Bible, you have been hearing the preaching of God's Word.

At the end of the day, you've got to come to a decision regarding Jesus. What's your view of Him? Do you think that He's a criminal, who deserves to die on the cross? Do you think He's someone who is a fake, a lunatic, a liar? Or do you see that from the weeks and months we've been studying the Bible together, He is truly the Lord of our salvation?

But maybe today, like Pilate, you're cowering under the pressure of your friends, your family, your colleagues. You fear that they may laugh at you. You fear that they may persecute you. You fear that somehow they will unfriend you. And for that, you say, “I will not believe in Jesus.”

Maybe you say, “If I follow Jesus, I will have to give up some sinful habits. I will have to give out some of my wrong practices in work. I will be disadvantaged.” And you say, “I will not accept Jesus.”

What's your verdict?

I hope today you'll do better than Pontius Pilate. I hope today that you will see that Jesus is Lord. And there is nothing too high a price for us to pay, than to repent of our sin, believe in Jesus and follow Him. Because when we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus, He promises everlasting life.

Pontius Pilate thought he could wash his hands of the guilt. Now, this is not verified, but there are some who say that there's a tradition, who goes that Pilate was haunted by the fact that he sentenced Jesus to death for the rest of his life. Every time he sees his hands, he will see blood on his hands. And he will be so paranoid that he will wash his hands. He says, “There is innocent blood on my hands!”

My friends, is there guilt in your soul for denying Jesus? I pray today you will repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

But the second and last person I'd like us to focus on, as we have always been doing for this whole series in Matthew, is of course Jesus Christ.

He answered them not a word. He did not defend the charges, just as Isaiah has said hundreds of years ahead. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” [Isaiah 53:7]

You say, “Why?” Because He was there to be our sacrificial lamb. He was not there because He was guilty. He was there to be our guilt bearer. There's nothing to defend. He was there to save. He was there to sacrifice. He was there for you and for me.

That's why He was there silent. He did not bother to answer the charges, because He knew He was innocent. But He was there for you and for me.

“By oppression and judgment” - so by an unfair judgment - “he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?” [Isaiah 53:8]

They thought that He was a weak man going to the cross. Oh no! He was there as the Saviour, going to the cross.

“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” [Isaiah 53:9]

Why did Jesus have to die? Not for His own sin, but for yours and mine.

Just one more thing. It was significant for us to note that the way Jesus died is specified. He had to die a certain kind of death. He had to die the death of crucifixion.

You say, “Why?” I think the answer is given to us in Galatians 3: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” - how? - “for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’”. [Galatians 3:13]

So why did Jesus have to die the death of crucifixion? Because He would be the emblem of the curse. He would become a curse for us, He will be cursed for us. The guilt and the weight of sin of all those who would believe in Him, would be borne by Jesus on the tree.

And that's what Peter also says - “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” [1 Peter 2:24-25]

Jesus dying on the cross is not a symbol of weakness and impotence. But it is a symbol of love, of grace, that He who knew no sin would become a curse for us, that we might be healed, that we might be reconciled, that we might be restored today.

What is your verdict on Jesus? Would you repent and believe in Him? Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You today for Your Word. As we are brought back to memories’ lanes to see Jesus before Pilate, we now see that He was not a weak Man, we now see that He is not a guilty Man. But we see that He is the Lamb of God that You have sent to take away the sin of the world.

All the injustice He bore, all the murderous shouts He heard, all the mocking and scourging He would bear. It was in order to save us from our sins. It was in order for Your grace to be known and shown, for all eternity.

Lord, thank You that there is salvation in Jesus Christ. I pray all friends who are hearing here, hearing this message today, will make a judgment of Jesus for themselves. That they would not fear the crowd, they would not fear the people around them, they would not fear people's opinions, but they themselves would see Jesus is their Saviour. So please grant repentance and faith.

And I pray for Your Church today, we will be glad and willing to follow Jesus even if we may suffer injustice.

Lord, teach us to follow Your Son in this life. May we love those around us. May we be a Gospel witness, and may Your love this morning continue to nourish and bless our hearts.

Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

God bless.

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