Input sound file: Audio 09 09 2018.mp3
we’ve been talking about how Jesus became famous and people came from all around these bigs crowds because that’s the way people react to a celebrity. They want something from that person. One of the saddest stories that you can read about is the experience of people who have won the lottery. They are three to five times more likely to declare bankruptcy in three years than a normal person. When you read what happens it is really tragic because this sudden influx of wealth causes people to come from all over who know that they are entitled, that if they just ask nicely that you will take care of them. When they get what they need, they’re gone. But see, here’s the sad thing about human beings, just a little bit like a fire, it always needs more wood and they’re always back. This is the trouble with being a celebrity.
What’s in it for me? Some of you may have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – it’s kind of a basic understanding. Not all psychologists agree with it – that we’re highly motivated by one need until that need is satisfied and then the next one becomes important and then the next one. Way down at the bottom on your screen, if you can read it, it says physiological needs. What it really means down there is survival. If your life is in danger, you are highly motivated to do something about it just to survive. But once you know you’re going to survive then you start worrying about security. Will I be able to survive tomorrow? You start doing things to be safer. It’s only after you feel safe that you care or think about other people. Belonging becomes important after you have taken care of number one. It’s a sad reality of human nature. After you feel loved by people then all of a sudden I want to do the right thing and feel good about myself. That’s self-esteem. And if you’re so fortunate that your life is always good, what comes next? Here’s what I want to do. Hey, I did it. Here’s what I want to do. I got that done. If you’re Michael Jordan and you made 99% of the shots you take on the basketball court, what is the point of still playing basketball? Here’s the point. Can I do 99.5%? And you move onward and forward. But you see, the people in line they’re back down there at the survival and safety level. They can’t really help him. They’re focused o their own needs. And they’re not really quite able to think clearly about other people [inaudible].
Let’s move from that to something a little simpler. My five favorite excuses for not getting your homework done it’s a countdown. There’s number five. This one’s famous. My dog ate my homework. A man visited a church once and the pastor was one of those who writes down the sermon word for word. And he was reading through it and after five minutes, he stopped and he said, “Friends, I hate to tell you this, but the sermon is no longer than this because the dog ate the other pages.” At the end of the service the pastor is shaking hands, and the man came up and said, “Pastor, I’m a visitor. I really loved your sermon today. And if your dog ever has puppies, can I have one for my pastor [laughter]?” The dog ate my homework. Here’s another one. You may not have heard this one. My homework is so good. How good was it? Ready? My homework is so good.
How good was it?
I didn’t bring it because, I didn’t want my classmates to feel bad, to feel inadequate, to lose their self-confidence by how incredibly, wonderful I am. There’s an excuse. I don’t know if it’s one you’ve heard of before, but it’s a good one. Here’s another one. My homework? Well, it’s still at home. That’s why they call it homework. I’d still like it. Here’s another one. I thought I’d do my homework tomorrow because I’d be older and therefore be wiser. Now, there’s a good reason to procrastinate. Because tomorrow, or next week, or next year, I’ll be able to get done what I couldn’t get done now. Because everyone knows how far behind young people are. I’ll do later, I’ll be smart. And here’s the number one excuse. My favorite, I should say. I did some research on the internet, and it turns out doing homework is against my religion. And in the United States, we have freedom of religion. And teacher, you’re not allowed to interfere with my constitutional rights. And when Jesus entered Peter’s house he saw Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a fever, verse 15. He touched her hand and the fever left her and she rose and served her. We’re in the middle of Matthew, chapter 8. We’re in the middle of the chapter that talks about understanding who Jesus was and is. Understanding that Jesus is the Lord and understanding what Jesus asks of us. And in this little section in the middle, there are several verses that everybody likes to take out of context. But you have to know that this happens and then what Jesus says is about what just happened. And you can’t understand what Jesus is saying until you understand what was the provocation. The stimulus for why he said that. Here’s what happens when there’s a relationship. Here’s what happens when you know someone. Jesus comes in, you’re feeling ill, you know him and he knows you, or you know him through someone like Peter. When Jesus healed her, she got up and began to serve him that’s the context. This is someone I know. I’m going to get up and do something to meet their needs because my needs were met. Here’s the next context. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons, many who were ill. That’s the provocation. What is the response by Jesus? Anyone who came to him, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and he healed all who were sick. When people brought a need to Jesus, just like that long line of people in front of the house of a lottery winner, when people came to him, he met their needs. This was the fulfillment, he goes on to say, what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah. He took our [impermit?] needs and bore our diseases. The last two weeks, we have talked about the faith that releases the power of God to heal. Where Jesus said to the centurion about his servant, “Be it done according to what you have believed.” Where does the faith of these people come from? It comes from them being way down at the bottom of that hierarchy of needs. They are worried about survival, and for many of them, they see Jesus as their last chance. There are people with him, they’re family, people who love him. They see Jesus as someone who can meet the needs for security for the person that they love. Being desperate can really empower and increase your faith. But it doesn’t lead necessarily and automatically to the long [haul?]. Because the next morning, all these people are gone. They’ve all gone back to their lives as if Jesus had done nothing for them. And a whole new crop of people showed up. They don’t have a relationship with Jesus, other than that they know he can meet their needs. Verse 18, the stimulus. Now with Jesus are great crowds around him, as soon as the healing was done, what did he do? He gave orders to leave. To go over to the other side. Jesus had a very simple way of sifting through and sorting who was ready to follow him. All he did was leave. And whoever put the effort into keeping up, they were serious about their faith. Everybody else would be too busy and just go on their own way. I thought about it this morning and I thought that perhaps what I should announce is that we’re having church in [inaudible] this Sunday, next Sunday we’re going to have church out of the country at Wesley. And the next Sunday we’re going to have church over in Patoka. And the next Sunday we’re going to have church over in Vandalia. So how many of you would meet me at Wesley seven days from now? Well a few of you would. Kim would. She drives [laughter]. But literally, that’s what Jesus did. He instantly sorted out who was serious, because they had to walk a mile. You could say in the same way, who’s serious that got up this morning instead of sleeping in? This is who Jesus divided those who wanted something and for themselves and those who cared about him. He just made it a little hard. As it says in the previous chapter – and this chapter’s an explanation of it – the way is narrow that leads to life. And there are few who find it not because it’s so difficult, not because it’s hidden, but it requires some work. Now I’m not implying that you or people you know aren’t willing to work. What I’d like to suggest is there’s so many different kinds of work that this work might not be in the highest place of your awareness. There’s always dishes to wash. There’s granddaughters to change their diapers. There’s always other work to be done. Jesus offers life to us, but we follow the path.
Here’s the next verse. Here’s the stimulus. And the scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” You should know that a scribe was an educated person. They were someone who wrote down things in a culture where most people did not know how to write. They were in charge of records and business. You could possibly compare them to attorneys today, high amount of education. This scribe, this important person in their culture, comes up to Jesus and says, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And I hate to be just a little bit suspicious, but when I hear that I think to myself, he’s wanting to apply for employment. And when I look at Jesus’ answer, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” For Jesus to say that, I think that Jesus is looking into the heart of this scribe and thinking, “He wants to know where I’m going to set up for him to live. He wants to know what kinds of rooms I’m going to provide.” Will he have a single-room or a two-bedroom apartment in my monastery or whatever. I wonder if he’s volunteering, and his next question is, “Jesus, what are the fringe benefits?” How are you going to take care of me? Because if you want me to follow, I need to know what I get out of it. I really think that’s the motivation here.
Here’s what Jesus says. “I owe nothing. I have nothing. I sleep in the homes of people who are kind enough to welcome me. If that’s what you all want, if that’s what you’re willing to do, you can come. But I am not someone who can take care of your needs the way you want me to.” I am a pastor. I’m a pastor in the United Methodist Church. We have a document. It details what appliances you have to provide for me to come here it goes into great detail about what the personage has to have in it, and around it, in order for the pastor to come. You know why? Pastors’ wives want to know. It’s a good thing. That’s very human. On the other hand, I’d like you to know, in the Methodist Church, we volunteer to go wherever we’re sent. And I have been in nine different placements since my first church in 1979. I’ll be honest with you, I knew that Kinmundy existed because I knew Dwayne. I followed him at Caseyville. But I did not know anything about Kinmundy at all, and in every other case, I’d never heard of the church they sent me to. I had never heard the name of the town that they sent me to, because I was completely surrendered to go wherever I was sent. And I have something to tell you. You can trust God because every day that I have spent as a United Methodist pastor– well, maybe not every day. Some of you are a little cranky from time to time. But almost every day I’ve ever spent as a United Methodist pastor has been a great blessing, because I have to trust the people who send me, and we all need to trust Jesus. But if you want to lay out the size and the square feet of where you get to live, Jesus may have to remind you, “Foxes have holes and birds in the air may have nests, but me? I don’t have any place to lay my head that I own.” Sometimes we just have to trust.
Here’s the next situation. In another, the disciple said to him, “Lord, let me first go–“, go home, “let me first go home and bury my father.” That’s the stimulus. It makes perfect sense. One of the commandments, you are to respect– to honor your mother or father. This seemed so entirely reasonable. What does Jesus respond? Jesus said to him, “Follow,” that word’s in red because it is a command. It’s imperative, and that’s why I think it’s the theme of this whole section. The decision to follow is the theme of this whole section. Jesus said to him, “Follow me and leave, leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Now if you’ll research this in books, if you look at it on the internet, they will take Jesus’ statement out of context and make some sort of statement about leaving the dead to bury their own dead and what kind of dead and what that all means. What Jesus, I think, is actually saying here is, “You need to understand your priorities. And if your priority is to follow me, you can let the needs of your family take a back seat. You can let the needs of your father take a back seat.” Now it helps us to understand the culture. In the culture, the oldest son inherited all property. In the culture, in order for the oldest son to inherit all of the property, the oldest son was expected to follow various customs and one of the customs was this. When someone died, like this man’s father, they would lay his body out. You remember the tomb where Jesus lay? There were nitches cut in the wall. They would lay the body out, and it would rest in the nitch for a year so the people could visit the tomb so that they could pay their respects for a year. This man’s father is most likely already gone. And then after a year, the oldest son would be responsible to gather up the bones, put them in a small box, and they were buried in the center of the tomb. So that the whole family, as layer upon layer would build up, would be buried in the same place.
That’s what they think he’s talking about. Lord, give me a year to clean up everything at home. Give me a year to do everything I’m supposed to do with my father. Give me a year to make sure that I get ahold of the inheritance. Give me a year, because if I follow you right now, my brother-in-law is going to disrespect me. If I follow you now, it’ll cause problems in the family. And I want to follow you but, I can’t have trouble at home. I can’t have problems in the family. Surely, you understand. And Jesus does his job. Follow me. You’re either ready or you’re not ready. And if your family at home, and them liking you, them patting you on the back and telling you that everything you do is wonderful is more important than me, probably not ready, probably not ready. Why? Because when you follow me you have to leave what creates comfort for you. You have to leave that comfort zone. You have to leave off pleasing other people. Because I, Jesus says, become the priority. That’s why the way is narrow. Jesus becomes the priority. Our priority is narrow so that Jesus is the priority. We make a decision. In Latin, the root of the word decision means to cut. We cut ourselves off from other things because now there’s one priority. And we have made a decision, and there’s no excuses. The religious customs, the human traditions, the things that will cause other people to criticize you, they are not a stronger priority than doing what Jesus wants. The excuse that, well, Jesus, next year I’ll be much more a faithful disciple. I’ll be so much better without all these distractions. Well see, here’s the reality, you may get back. And by the way, when have you ever lived a year when there were no distractions. If Jesus is the highest priority, you can’t simply be a Christian at home. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not really heard anybody say this, but I honestly think there’s a lot of it in churches, “You know, I’ll go home and be a Christian. And if I’m a Christian in my house, if I’m a Christian with the person I’m married to
with my children, my grandchildren, my family surely that’s enough. And Jesus says, “The light that is in your soul is not just for the people in your home.” So this excuse doesn’t work. Not only that you’re supposed to let your light shine. You’re supposed to show your work. You’re supposed to let your light shine so that people around you can see and believe that God is good. If you let your light shine, if you do what God wants you to do, I’ll guarantee you sooner or later somebody will criticize you. And if your greatest worry is that everybody likes you, it’s going to be very hard to follow Jesus because the one thing that Jesus couldn’t do is please everybody. And you’re not going to be able to do [inaudible]. What’s in it for you? Well, it sort of depends on where you are on that scale of the needs, what your needs are, but as Rick Warren says in the book the Purpose Driven Life, the main thing for you to understand if you want to be a person of faith, is what’s in it for you is the wrong question because it’s not about you. And to be honest with you, what’s in it for you, is what Jesus received. And you will be able to follow Him if you see that as an honor and as something worth pursuing. So that the whole world and all the people in the world can come to a faith that helps them, sets them free, and saves them. We believe in a Savior who makes a difference. We believe in a Savior who, when you come to Him in faith, He will not turn you away because that coming is a statement of faith that can release the power of God help you with whatever it is that you may be dealing with. And your willingness to follow is a symbol or statement of faith. If you’re able to trust, please know that whatever you can’t attend to because you’re focusing on pleasing God, God will help you with. If this man followed Jesus and his father died, I guarantee you Jesus would send him back home to do what needed to be done. But this chapter is about Jesus [inaudible].
Please pray with me. Lord, Jesus, it’s a human thing to make excuses. It’s a human thing to procrastinate. It’s a human thing to avoid anything that is difficult or unpleasant. It’s a human thing sometimes to avoid what is important in order to focus our efforts on what makes people around us happy as if we can please them all of the time. Lord, it’s a human thing to procrastinate when you call us to follow you. Help us, Lord, not to give in to the excuses that grow like weeds in our hearts. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let’s stand and sing.
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.