Input sound file: Audio 08 26 2018.mp3
As you heard me say a minute ago to the children, the goal is that on that great day, Jesus will say, “I know you.” And he went on to say at the close of Matthew 7, what the goal is, is for us to do our Father’s will. And I shared with you at the end of the sermon that my goal for the new year would be that this verse of Acts 4 would be true in my life, that simply by knowing me, people would recognize and say, “This man has been with Jesus.” Because being in His presence changes us and changes the way we interact with the people around. So I just want to affirm today as last week, this is my new goal.
And it’s again, some of the other things that can distract us. We live in a world of celebrity worship. All you have to do is turn on the television and it’s all about celebrities. And in order to gather our attention, people try to pick fights between celebrities. They’ll have one celebrity go war with another celebrity, putting the other one down, and the other one responds back. And it goes back and forth, and as it goes back and forth, it draws in the attention of millions of people because we become focused on the lives of these people for really, when you think about it, almost no reason. I saw a cartoon this week about a celebrity, I won’t say which one because it applies to most of them, but one cartoon character said to another, so and so, “Who’s that?” And the other one goes, “They’re famous for being famous.” The only thing they did that’s any good is they’re famous. And this is even lead to a new mental illness where there are people who make the life of that celebrity, whether their marriage is happy, where they’re living, what they ate for dinner, the most important thing in their life because they really want to know. And quite often these people become stalkers and sometimes, they become murders. They kill the celebrity because the celebrity is not loving them back the way they think they deserve. Celebrities are a big problem for us today.
Here’s another cartoon that I thought was cute. What do you want to do if you draw a crowd? How do you draw a big crowd? What you need is a celebrity in worship. I checked through the list of celebrities I knew, none [laughter]. So I wasn’t able to get you a celebrity this morning, just some guy who wants you to see Jesus in him. That was the best I could do. Oh, and my incredibly cute granddaughters. But if you have a celebrity in worship you’ll draw a big crowd. And sometimes there’s some problems with big crowds. There really are. Here’s the scripture. Mathew 8:1. When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will.” I want to. I choose too. That’s what the Word means. It’s my will. I will. Be clean. Now, just so that we understand this. This is the faith that brings forth the power of God. Lord, if you want to, then that’s all. I know it will be done. “If it be they will,” sometimes we say in our prayers. And Jesus says, “I will. Be clean.” And it says he’s immediately cleansed.
We don’t quite understand today what it was like to have leprosy in Jesus’s day. But it was a disease– you were diagnosed by the priest. There were some kind of markings on your skin. The minute the priest or the holy man or the rabbi stated that you had leprosy, you were kicked out of your family. You were kicked out of the community. You no longer could live around other people. You were isolated, and you were required, whenever you came within a certain distance to people, to shout out loud “Unclean. Unclean,” to warn decent people that they should stay away from you. That’s the way these people were treated. That’s what this man has been dealing with, and he was able to get to Jesus. Do you know why? The crowd was behind him, and he could get close enough to Jesus for Jesus to help him.
And Jesus only wants one thing. Here’s what he wants. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Verse 4. Here’s the command in this part of the Bible story. Here’s the command. It’s in red. Jesus said to him– there’s just one thing Jesus wants. “See that you say nothing to anyone. But instead, go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded for proof to the people.” You see, there were certain rules. They had to go down that checklist to be cleared of leprosy so that this man could go back home. He could go back to his family. He could go back and work and provide for his children. So he could go back to living a normal life. He needed to do these things. And Jesus asked him two things. Don’t tell anyone, and go get the approval so you can come back to your family. That’s all Jesus wants. This has led to a question that many people have wondered. It’s come to be called the Messianic secret. Why does Jesus tell people not to tell anyone? Isn’t that the opposite of what we think Jesus wants? Doesn’t Jesus want everyone to know? But instead, Jesus says, “Don’t’ tell anyone.” Why would Jesus do this?
Well, first of all, let’s imagine what would happen if a man did did what Jesus asked. If a man did what Jesus asked, he would go home, and his family would know that Jesus had done something in his life because they know him. And his neighbors would notice that Jesus had done something in his life, and they would gradually begin to learn the story. And just because they had a relationship with this man, they would begin through this man to begin to believe in Jesus over time. And that’s what Jesus wants. He says the same thing in context to the gathering [inaudible] and this Scripture we’ll get at another time.
But here’s what happens instead. When you come over to the Gospel of Mark, same story, Mark tells you what happens. Mark tells you the rest of the story. Here’s what, well, not quite yet. I’m sorry. Let me tell you what Mark says. Mark says he goes out and tells everybody, and the news spreads. Now, here’s the problem with the news spreading. Whenever a rumor spreads through a group of people, it always begins to go wrong because the more people who know it, the more misunderstanding. Yes, because if one person tells another, tells another, tells another, it gets farther and farther away from the truth. So a lot of news spreads, the more the crowd gets it wrong. And the press who interviews the crowd, they pick up all these mistaken ideas. The crowd always gets it wrong. The press always gets it wrong.
And it finally gets to the point to where a lot of people know something they think about Jesus, but it’s wrong. And the reason it’s wrong is they got it from other people, not from the source, not from their own personal experience, not even from the experience of someone who knows Jesus. They just heard what people are talking. Jesus and Mark, Chapter 8, looks at the disciples, and He says, “Who do you say that I am?” Their first answer, “Well, this person says that. That person says this.” They’re telling Him what the crowd says about Him. And Jesus says, “No. Who do you say that I am?” That answer has to be based on our experience because the crowd spreading rumors always gets it wrong. Jesus does not really want to know what you think about what the crowd said about Him. He wants to know what you think because you know Him.
There are other problems related to crowds. Whereas this man had done what Jesus said, he would have helped a lot. The bigger the crowd, the worse the customer service. The more crowded the restaurant, the harder it is for you to get your ice tea refilled because there’s too many people. The bigger the crowd, the harder it is for Jesus to help people. And here’s what we see. Mark 1:45, “For he, the man who was told to go home, be quiet, he went out and began to talk freely about it and to spread the news,” what happened, “so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town but was out in the country. And people came to Him from every quarter. Now they weren’t coming to Him because they needed a miracle, because they were sick, because they wanted to talk to Him. They came to Him because they were curious. Almost like the circus had come to town. There’s something different. And as the crowd gets together, service just goes way downhill. The beginning of the very next chapter, the very next verse, when He returned to Capernaum after several days it was reported that He was at home. Verse two, many were gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door. There were people standing in the doorway and around the door. Nobody could get in. And Jesus was preaching the word to them. And the man who needed Jesus, four of his friends brought him. A paralyzed man, on a pallet. They came, bringing Him a paralytic carried by four men, [inaudible]. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, because of the gawkers, because of curious, because of the people who just were wanting to see this different thing, but didn’t really want to know Jesus. They didn’t give up. They took and made a big hole in the roof. And they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. That was the only way they could get him to Jesus. Because of the crowd of people who weren’t really interested in Jesus, but who were really bored and needed something interesting to do. If you read the Scripture, what it shows is that Jesus is frequently on his way from one place to another, and He walks slowly through certain places, and He notices the people around him. And when He notices someone who has faith, who wants to know Him, He stops and will talk to them and their need will be met. But now it’s so crowded that the people who really need Him can’t reach Him. Because He’s surrounded by fans who are treating Him like a celebrity. And Jesus does not want to be a celebrity. He wants to be your Savior. He wants to be your Lord. What are we going to do about that? Well just keep this in mind. There’s 50,000 people in the stadium. And of course the fans are the ones who help everybody get paid, because they pay money to get in. But there’s 50,000 people in the stadium, and there’s 11 players on the field. Which one is the coach focused on? I can tell you if it’s a winning coach, the coach is focused on the players, and not on the fans. One of the questions we have to ask ourselves is does Jesus want fans? Or does he want followers? Followers, I think, are pretty close to the people who are down on the field playing the game. I think Jesus wants us to get into the the game, and I want to tell you I used to play basketball. I don’t know that I can do a jump shot anymore. It’d be hard work for me to go from being a fan to a follower, but I think that Jesus wants us to be on the team. He wants us to play, not just to sit and watch. Sit and watch is what we do with celebrities. Play, act, cooperate is what we do with leaders, and Jesus wants to be like that in our life. He wants and is looking for followers, and the crowds get in the way because they’re not serious. They’re just curious.
So how we may worship and hero-worship should not be confused, yet we confuse them every day, and by so doing, we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models of what it means to be a hero. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous, but the reason that they’re famous is because they’re [real?]. We need heroes. What we get in our culture today are celebrities. And all the news medias told what this celebrity wore, the brand of makeup she wears, what this celebrity had for dinner, all kinds of trivial things when what we need is to learn what it means to be a hero.
[Reading this quote from?] this [next?] book from Daniel Boorstin, he knows about celebrities that their fame doesn’t last because time dissolves their fame because after a while, guess what, we get to know what they’re really like. And we don’t want to know anything more about them. But if a person is heroic, the more time that goes by, the more we want to know. Jesus is knocking on the door of your life. He wants to evolve you in this passive discipleship. He wants you to be someone that other people can see have been with Jesus because then they’ll seek him also. Are you willing to go from the crowd to come forward even if you have to be going through the roof for the real needs in your lives to be resolved by the Savior who can change life?
Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we have lots of celebrities, but we don’t have enough heroes. There are lots of people who are famous for being famous. But, Lord, we need examples of people who are famous because they truly are heroic. Lord, I ask that you would be our hero and that we might spend that time to get to know you, not just as a curious fan but, Lord, as someone who is ready to listen to hear and to follow you. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.
I would like you to stand for our closing hymn
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.