Today we’re continuing our sermon series called FOLLOW. It’s all about following Jesus in 2017. Today we want to talk about following Jesus when No One else is. We’re going to look at a very powerful piece of scripture. It’s only two verses long. But it’s two verses packed with a lot of meaning. Our goal is to hear from Jesus himself (1) two very good reasons to not follow him and then (2) one even better reason TO follow him. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Two Good Reasons NOT to Follow Jesus
Today’s Scripture comes from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount – it’s a very famous sermon that Jesus gave all about what it’s like to truly follow God. We’re in Matthew 7:13-14. It’s near the end of the sermon and it’s kind of a good summation of everything that Jesus has been talking about in the two chapters prior to this. It does an excellent job of describing to us what following Jesus is like. He says,
"Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it."
(1) It's Lonely
Let me direct your attention first of all to the number of people on each road – the popular opinion if you will. One road has many on it; the other road has few on it.
This might be something called the Popular Principle. Think about that. If you were downtown Raleigh and there were a bunch of food trucks set up – one with a line of about 30 people and the other without anybody in line, which one would you go to? If you’re in a hurry, maybe the shorter line. But there’s something about the longer line that says to you, “That might be better food. If there’s so many people who like it, I might like it too.”
Well, what about Jesus? Was he popular?
Jump back with me to presumably a bit earlier in Jesus’ life. In Luke 4, Jesus is in Nazareth, the town he grew up in. He makes his way to their weekly church service at the synagogue and everyone’s excited to see him.
“My how you’ve grown. I haven't seen you since you were a young whipper snapper”
“I hear you’re a teacher now. I’m sure your parents are proud of you.”
“Do you remember that time when you finger painted with my son Ezekiel? It was so funny how your people looked just like trees!”
As the synagogue service starts, the people settle down and the local rabbi asks Jesus to come up front, read some scripture and share a teaching. The reading for that Sunday just so happens to be an Old Testament reading about the coming of the Messiah.
As Jesus spoke, they all smiled at him. What a nice young man. A rabbi is a noble calling. We are excited to hear his exposition – as in – we’re excited for him to say what every rabbi says about this part of Scripture: The Messiah is coming and we must prepare our hearts for his arrival.
But after Jesus gets done reading, after he rolls up the scroll, after he sets it back in its protective case, Jesus preaches a different sermon:
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
As in, “The Messiah is no longer coming.”
As in, “The Messiah is already here.”
As in, “I am that Messiah.”
The people are shocked. Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Didn’t he grow up by us? How does he think he’s the Messiah?
And Jesus rebukes them. “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Lk. 4:24)
And I am a prophet.
And you aren’t accepting me.
And you are sinning—You are rejecting your Messiah.
And do you know how the people respond?
No one claps.
No one says, “Amen.”
No one squeezes his cheeks, tells him how cute he is and hands him a lemon bar refreshment.
They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw him off the cliff. (Lk 4:29)
Now Jesus escapes, but can you imagine the word that got around? Why would anyone want to follow Jesus if it meant you’d have to face an angry mob? Wouldn’t it be much easier to be a part of the angry mob? It doesn’t get any easier. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who shouted for his crucifixion just two years later!
It’s just what Jesus said, “Many and Few."
As in many don’t follow Jesus.
As in few do.
It was true back then, but is it true today?
Take a look at some research. This is from the Barna Pew Research group. From 2007 to 2012 they did a survey to discover the growth of certain religious groups. Check out some of the trends:
What’s the point? Christianity is declining. It is not the bandwagon anymore. To be fair, it may have been at one point – and maybe that’s why it was higher in the past. “I’m Christian. Why? Because everyone I know is Christian.” But it’s fading, quickly in the U.S.
But maybe you don’t need facts. Maybe you’ve noticed on your own.
Maybe you’re the only Christian at work, on your block, in your family, at your house!
It feels lonely.
It feels lonely when you’re the only one bowing your head for a prayer.
It feels lonely when your Jesus comment sits on Facebook without any likes.
It feels lonely when your minivan that sits 6 only sits 1 each Sunday…every Sunday…again & again.
It feels lonely to follow Jesus when no one else does…But understand it’s exactly what Jesus said it would be: “Many follow the other roads….Few follow Me.”
(2) It's Hard
But why? Why is it that so many people are not following Jesus? He offers forgiveness of sins, eternal life, & salvation! That’s sounds pretty good, right?
I suppose we could look at all the stats, pour over my Barna research polls, read book after book written on the subject. (There might be some value in doing so). But if you’re looking for the short, quick and entirely accurate answer. Look no farther than Jesus. Hear the second good reason not to follow Jesus.
For…broad is the road that…many enter through it. But narrow the road that... a few find it.
How many of you like going into a crawl space? It’s narrow. The ceiling is low. It’s easy to bump your head. You might even have to drag your knees across sharp gravel. Wouldn’t you rather pick a big door? Maybe one of those doors that they have at the mall where both sides of a door open up at the same time with plenty of room on both sides for you to walk, hand in hand, with a friend!
It’s the same spiritually. One is an easy walk. One is very challenging. That word narrow there means “hard pressed, squeezed.” Who likes being hard pressed? Who likes being squeezed? That’d be like going through each day while a professional wrestler is putting you in a sleeper hold! Who would choose that?
Jesus says that’s exactly why so few follow him. It’s not easy. It’s hard.
That’s what happened even at the time of Jesus. Look at John 6. Jesus had just gotten done feeding close to 10,000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish. (A miracle). People were full. People were happy. Many wanted to make him their king.
But then Jesus began teaching again. He told people that “whoever believe(d) in him would never be thirsty.” (v.36) He said that “everyone who looks to Me and believes in me shall have eternal life and He would raise them up on the last day.” (v.40) He told them that “He was the bread of life & unless people ate his flesh and drank his blood, that would not have eternal life!” (v.53)
And the people said…
You’re crazy. Your flesh isn’t bread. Your blood isn’t drink.
You’re crazy. You can’t bring us back to life.
You’re crazy. You aren’t the Messiah. I won’t trust in you. I’m a good enough person on my own to get to heaven without – some carpenter from Nazareth!
v. 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
People who had seen the miraculous feeding of the nearly 10,000…People who ate of his bread and tasted the fish. People who saw the 12 baskets left over. People who had no problem taking his food – that was easy – found it too hard to follow him.
And they left him.
Isn’t it the same thing today?
Do you know what a MEME is? It’s a photo or graphic with a brief message on it. Some are funny. Some are interested. Some exist to make a point. And in our YouTube, I don’t want to read, show me a photo society – these one sentence picturesque memes are popular. They’re all over social media.
Some aren’t very flattering to Christians. Try this sometime. Google “Stupid Christian memes.” Make sure you put a filter on your search phrase though, because they can get very crude and profanity filled, very quickly. I found one that’s not super crass – but still makes my skin crawl. Ready for it?
Religion - Helping stupid people feel important since the dawn of man.
How’s that make you feel? Good? Do you like it? It’s ok to say “no who would?“
Here’s where the devil does his best work:
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to be on the bandwagon?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just be quiet?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to not have to hear people call you awful names?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to stop following Jesus?
Here’s the reality. It would be.
It would be less lonely – There’s lot of people on the other road.
It would be easier – It’s wide and you aren’t hard pressed on any side.
Why, then? Why then would we keep following Jesus?
One reason. LIFE.
II. One Even Better Reason TO Follow Jesus
Read the passage from Matthew one more time. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.
Zero in on that word destruction. Honestly there’s not a way that I can fluff up that word. There’s not any way to sugar coat it. That big road? The one that’s easy? The one that’s apart from Jesus? The one that lots of people are on and is such a nice & pleasant trip?
When you get to the end it stops being pleasant – real quick.
There’s the burning, incredible wrath of a sin-hating, all powerful, holy God.
There’s hellfire. Forever. In Hellfire.
But the other road? The one that’s lonely. The one that’s tough. The one that isn’t all that pleasant. The one that’s filled with ridicule and scorn and memes mocking you for taking the road?
That road leads to life.
As in, no destruction.
As in, no annihilation.
As in, no hell.
As in, eternal life.
As in, everlasting peace.
As in, glory — forever.
If you’re thinking that sounds crazy – remember that’s the very reason the road is challenging. It seems crazy.
Kind of like when Jesus said he would feed 10,000 some people with a few loaves of bread and two fish—and he did.
And kind of like when Jesus said they could kill him, but he would come back to life three days later – and he did.
The stark contrast in the two roads couldn’t be more clear.
One road seems nice but leads to eternal destruction.
The other road seems tough, but leads to eternal life.
If you’ve been following the wrong road.
If you’ve been choosing the broad road, feel your pulse. Your time is not up. There’s still room on the road to life.
Jesus walked a tough, awful, lonely road to get you back on the right road.
He was left behind by his followers.
He was betrayed by a dear friend.
He was beaten by the people he came to save.
He was crucified by the humans he created.
He died as His Heavenly Father forsook him & abandoned him because of our sins.
But he did all this to make you a path – the only path – to God.
A path of forgiveness.
A path of peace with God.
A path to heaven.
III. What now?
1) Watch Out for Bandwagonism
The Super Bowl is today -- and while I’ve gotten over the fact that this is #NotMySuperBowl – I’m still not certain who I’ll cheer for. I’ll probably just hop on the bandwagon of whatever team the majority of people at the Super Bowl party are cheering for.
What’s a bandwagon you ask? A bandwagon is…
Hopping on the bandwagon, then, is a phrase that means you will cheer for a team, not because you like the way they are coached. Not because you think they’re good. Not even because you think their mascot is cute. Hopping on the bandwagon means that you cheer for a team, simply because everyone else is.
And the bandwagon is fun! You get high fives from lots of people. You cheer with lots of people. You get to sample people’s hot wings & bratwurst – just cause “You’re a fan of my time.” No one mocks you. No one makes fun of you. You laugh together. You win together. You lose together.
It is much more difficult to go against the bandwagon. If you are the only one at your Super Bowl party today cheering for the Falcons & everyone else is decked out in Tom Brady jerseys – that’s not as much fun. You can’t celebrate with all the gusto you want. You feel like you have to smile politely when something good happens – that’s all your celebrations are limited to. You have to endure teasing & raucous cheering when things go bad. Essentially – you, by yourself – are the enemy.
Don't be a bandwagon fan when it comes to Jesus.
Don't do it just because your family did.
Don't follow just because your friends do.
Follow because Jesus leads to life.
(2) Remember the Goal
As Jesus watched the backs of thousands of people, people who had been sitting at his feet just yesterday – but now were leaving him because he was crazy. He looked back at his closest friends – Peter, Andrew, James and John – the men that he had called from the fishing boat “Follow me.” He said, “You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
It was quiet.
The men looked at each other.
All eyes focused on Peter.
He nodded his head and stood up.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Peter was right.
There was no other road for him.
There was no other road for the other disciples.
There was no other road for life.
And even if it was hard, even if it was lonely. There was no way he was turning around.
May God impress upon us the exact same confidence to follow Jesus…even when we’re all alone. Amen.
This Sermon is based on Matthew 26:15-18, 20-22
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!
Pilate slipped into the tub & let the bubbles cover his body until they tickled his nose.
This was so much better.
Earlier that day he had averted disaster. An angry mob had been awaiting him at dawn. They had demanded the blood of this guy named Jesus. Pilate had interviewed him and, found him to be a bit crazy, but unworthy of the death sentence these Jewish people wanted to inflict upon him. Pilate had tried to release him, but the people would have none of it. They wanted blood and they weren’t leaving until they got it.
So…Pilate shirked his responsibility. He sent Jesus to his friend Herod. Herod was the one who was supposed to be in charge of the Jews anyways. Plus – Pilate didn’t like him that much. It made him smile to think of Herod dealing with all those awful people while he was letting the warmth of the tub soothe his muscles.
“Enter.” He told one of his servants as he lifted a glass of wine to his lips.
Umm…sir. They’re back. The Jews. With Jesus.
The wine came flying out of his mouth. Him?
I. The People’s Choice
After Pilate had re-robed, he made his way out toward the angry crowd.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
Similar to the Presidential pardoning of turkey, only instead of a turkey, each year the governor would pardon a criminal. He wouldn’t choose just any criminal. He wouldn’t choose one that was advantageous to him. He would let the people decide. It was a show of goodwill. A way to endear him to his people. A way to settle down the crowds.
So…The people chose the man to release, but he would choose the options.
16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So… Pilate asked the crowd, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus…the Messiah?”
A little bit about Jesus Barabbas. John 18:40 calls him an “insurrectionist.” That means he had revolted against the government. He had caused civil unrest. He hated the current politics. And Mark 15:11 says he had “Committed murder.” That’s probably the actual charge that had gotten him thrown into prison. Murder. Probably during the insurrection.
Murder done in the name of politics.
Kinda sounds like a terrorist, huh?
In essence, this is the choice before the people. Do you want me to release Jesus the Terrorist OR Jesus the Savior of the world? Granted, Pilate didn’t view Jesus as the Savior. He viewed it more like Jesus the Terrorist versus Jesus the mild mannered, slightly off his rock, theologian.
Still…the choice was obvious wasn’t it?
For a moment, Pilate stood with his arms crossed. For a moment, he smiled a smug smile. For a moment, he outsmarted those pesky Jews. For a moment, he had saved an innocent man. For a moment, he had hopes of a relaxing luncheon. For a moment…
…then the crowd made their choice.
21b “Give us Barabbas!”
Pilate was in shock. “Are you serious? You want the terrorist? You want the murderer? You don’t mind that your families won’t be safe and the marketplace might be filled with discord. You don’t have a problem with another possible attack in the future? You’d rather get rid of this Jesus guy simply because you don’t want to have to deal with your sins?"
22 What do you want me to do with Jesus?
The answer was simple…and disgusting, “Crucify Him!”
II. Your Choice
Sometimes they make bad choices on the Oscars. Do you agree?
I remember a few years ago trying to watch every Oscar nominated film. Films that were described as “artsy;” "compelling” and “thought provoking.” After I had seen them, if anyone had asked me for a description of the film I would have used the adjectives: “boring, actionless & mind-numbing.”
Of course -- you’re talking to a guy who still doesn’t understand why Minions didn’t even get nominated, but…Do you get my point?
As bad a choice as they sometimes make in the Oscars, how much worse of a choice did that crowd make outside Pilate's palace!
Instead of someone who gives life, they chose someone who ended it.
Instead of someone who promotes peace, they chose someone who disrupted it.
Instead of someone who provides a heavenly kingdom, they chose someone who broke down earthly kingdoms.
But enough about them.
What about you?
Who did you choose?
Pastor, what are you talking about? I’m not 2,000 years old. I wasn’t there at the palace...I haven’t even been to Israel. I’ve never seen the Roman palace.
True. Your choice was probably not presented by a first century Roman governor.
Maybe it was presented by a friend…
…by an internet link.
...by a guy you met at the bar.
…by the group that likes to complain after church.
Who did you choose?
Jesus? Not always. Barabbas? No. Perhaps someone else. Someone with…
A name like PORN.
A name like GREED.
A name like RACISM.
A name like RAGE.
Names like ADDICTION, SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE, HOMOSEXUALITY, COMPLAINING, PRIDE, LUST, VITRIOL, DOUBT and SELFISHNESS.
Here’s the deal. We know how bad these things are. We know that PORN ruins families. We know that GREED ruins marriages. We know that COMPLAINING destroys the work of the church. We know that ADDICTIONS destroy the body. We know that IMMORALITY ruins our self worth. We know that PRIDE is intolerable to God.
And we know that Jesus is the Savior. He brings forgiveness. He brings eternal life. He brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Yet we still find ourselves struggling to choose Him!?!
Hebrews 6:4-6 says this, “Those who fall…are crucifying the Son of God all over again!” You are driving a nail into his hands. You are swinging the hammer with all their might. You are joining your voice with the crowd.
You are NOT choosing Jesus.
III. God’s Choice
I’ll tell you what:
My arms are tired. I’ve been swinging the hammer so often lately. I’ve been choosing my sins over Jesus. I’ve done wrong.
I…I…I am Barabbas.
I deserve punishment.
I deserve death.
I deserve the cross.
But…God won’t bring it. God provided a substitute.
Do you remember our Old Testament lesson? It was that section that talked about animal sacrifices. For those who are living in downtown Raleigh and are convinced that meat comes from a plastic wrapper at a local McDonalds – this sounds a bit disturbing. If you have ever lived on a farm, then you might understand the sacrifice that animals need to make for you to feed your belly and live.
But here’s where this section is still strange. The goat in the section we were talking about – was not to be eaten. It wasn’t being turned into a burger. It wouldn’t become a delicious slice of goat jerky. It would be killed. It’s blood collected and it was sprinkled…on the altar, on the ground, and on the people. Disturbing? It should be! Because that’s how disturbing our sinful choices are to God! Remember: “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
But look at why the animal was killed: "Sacrifice the Goat for a sin offering.” In other words – it would die in the place of the people. It would die for the people’s sins.
UNDERSTAND THIS: These animals didn’t actually take away the sins of the people; they were simply an illustration of one who would die and would take away the sins of the people.
Another substitute. An eternal one.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin…” That’s Jesus! He lived a perfect life. He chose God every chance he could. He never chose wrong. He never chose sin.
Then, God chose to sacrifice Him.
As bad as it might be picture an innocent animal dying, how much greater when the one dying is God’s eternal, perfect, Son?
But look at why it happened: God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us! Jesus was our substitute. God chose him to suffer. He chose you to live. It wasn’t just Barabbas who got to live because Jesus died.
It’s you. Grasp that.
It’s kind of like having the choice to get a new 2016 Lexus with chrome plating, auto driving capabilities, bluetooth hook up and even a mini bar in the back seat...AND a 1987 Chevy Lumina minivan – with exhaust problems, a missing tire, and a busted radio.
God chose the broken down minivan! He chose you.
Because He chose Jesus, because Jesus died for you, because Jesus rose again three days later conquering sin and death, God chooses to say to you, “You are forgiven. Believe me. Be saved.”
IV. What Now?
1. Relish God’s Choice.
Today is selection Sunday. Basketball teams across the nation will be waiting to see if they make the big 64 team tournament. Some are locks. Some are pretty sure and some are on the bubble.
For those on the bubble, when they find out that they are in, they’ll celebrate! They’ll take a moment and take it all in – to enjoy the confetti, try on tournament shirts and ball caps, and tweet to all their friends how excited they are.
You. Take the day. Take today. Take today and relish this: God chose you!
Because there are plenty of times that we aren’t chosen. Someone else is chosen for the job. Someone else is chosen for the date. Someone else is chosen for the promotion. Someone else is chosen for the part in the school play. Someone else is chosen first for the kickball team at recess…in fact, everyone else might be chosen first.
But today we are reminded that God chose you. He chose you over his Son. He gave up his perfect Son Jesus for you. I need you to write that down. “God chose me.” Write it down and place it somewhere you will read it. Hang it on your fridge. Place it on the dash in your car. Label an alarm on your phone to come up and remind you of that truth everyday!
This will give you strength to follow our section action point…
2) Choose Jesus.
As soon as the worship songs stop, as soon as I shake your hands and wish you a good week, as soon as you get out those doors, the devil will strike. “Choose complaining -- that person is cutting you off in the parking lot!” “Choose bitterness – those kids are running in the hallway.” "Choose gossip – Because it looks like that one lady has information about that other lady.”
Be ready for it. Be ready and choose something different.
Choosing Jesus is choosing to love.
It’s choosing to honor your wife.
It’s choosing to love your kids.
It’s choosing to obey your parents.
It’s choosing to do what it is Jesus did, when he chose us and gave his life up for us!
Choose Jesus and…
3) Avoid the Voter’s Booth Mentality
You aren’t supposed to talk politics with each other. As North Carolina has its primaries, you might be nervous to tell others who you voted for. You may just simply say “mm hmm," to whoever they ask if you vote for. It’d be a great way to avoid confrontation.
If you want to do that with politics, fine. I will. But when it comes to Jesus, don’t hide it. Don’t keep your choice to yourself. Make it obvious. Make it loud. Tell your coworkers your plans to worship Jesus this Easter. Tell your friends what an awesome message from God you heard today. Pass it on via Facebook. Pass it on via Twitter. Take an Easter invite – don’t throw it away – and (gasp) INVITE SOMEONE!
Let the fact that God chose you empower your choosing of him. To the Lord be glory forever and ever! Amen.
The beautiful green colors of the vines offset by the suave mellow of the olives were relaxing his soul. He sat down under a tree and watched the blue of the evening sky fade to yellow – orange – a bit of deep red – purple and then dark. It was gorgeous. Now he could see the golden glow of the moon and he watched as sparkle after sparkle appear in constellations across the nighttime landscape.
Bartimaeus smiled. He was having a wonderful time seeing the wonders of God’s creation. But then, he heard the faint sound of a bird. A nightingale? A lark? He listened closely to hear the unmistakable cockadoodle of a rooster.
Wait…A Rooster at night?
And just like that, Bartimaeus woke up. It had all been a dream. He woke up and all of the colors disappeared. They were replaced by darkness.
Bartimaeus was blind.
As he heard the faint bartering of the early morning fishermen and felt the tremble of the village carts across the cobblestone, Bartimaeus prepared for another day. He loosened the cloak off of his back. He felt around for the side of the city wall. He propped himself up and placed the cloak on his lap to hold his money. He cleared his throat and prepared to do what he did everyday.
Sit. Beg. Sit and beg. And see nothing but darkness.
He sighed. “God have mercy.”
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at God’s DEEP MERCY. We want to compare and contrast the human perception of God’s mercy, understand how that plays out in our lives, and then contemplate the reality of His mercy.
I. The Human Perception of Mercy
Take a look at Mark 10:46 for the start of Bartimaeus’ story. It says “46 Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city of Jericho and a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Obviously Jesus’ reputation preceded him. Even if Bartimaeus had been literally, physically unable to see Jesus -- he still had heard the people talking --
“He made a person who had always been lame to walk.”
“He made a person who had been deaf and mute to hear and talk.”
“I heard he made a dead girl – alive!”
Bartimaeus figures, “Why not give it a shot?” He starts shouting from his beggar post, “Jesus, son of David," which shows an awesome understanding that Jesus is the Messiah – the great, great, great, many times over, grandson of King David, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!”
While Bartimaeus seems pretty confident in God’s mercy, the others there – not so much. 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet.
Why? Here’s a few very likely possibilities:
1) Jesus is Too Busy
If you backup a chapter, the disciples had just learned from Jesus that he was going to make his final trip to Jerusalem. He was going to go there to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world. While the disciples didn’t really get what that entailed, they knew he had a lot on his mind. This was the salvation of the world – we’re talking about. How could he have time for something as unimportant as this beggar’s sight?
Have you ever thought similarly?
Say that your car gets banged up and after taking it to the Auto Shop, the estimate for repairs is gonna cost you a pretty penny. You get nervous. You get a little anxious. You use your apps to check your bank account again and again to see if you can make it. You head to church and the pastor says, “You should pray about it.” You agree and you say you will but…
…something stops you.
“God’s too busy. He’s got refugees across the ocean to worry about. There are homeless people he’s taking care of. My great aunt is sick and dying. Besides that, he’s keeping the world spinning and the planets from being sucked into universe shattering black holes. God doesn’t have time for me. He’s too busy.”
2) You’ve Gotta Be Important
Jesus was very important – the logic is pretty simple here. He’s an important person – He can only be bothered by other – equally as important people.
Bartimaeus was a beggar. He didn’t have really cool friends to introduce Jesus to. No one was clamoring for his autograph. He couldn’t get Jesus a backstage pass to meet the coolest Pharisees in town.
Why would Jesus bother with him?
This is pretty common in religious circles too.
The president of the Wisconsin Lutheran Syond is President Mark Schroeder. Ever met him? He is the leader for over 600,000 Christians in American. I think he’s pretty important.
He attends the same church I attended while I was growing up. So last year, when we were at that church over New Year’s, I saw him in worship. I remember thinking – “He needs to attend church like I do? He needs to say prayers like I do? Doesn’t he have an express line to God? He’s way more important than me. God probably listens to his prayers way more than he listens to mine. He is way more important.”
Do you ever think like that? Do you ever think “That Christian is more important than me. I better get him to pray for me, because God won’t listen to mine. I’m not a lifetime church goer, an elder, or even a pastor. How would God ever bother to listen to me?”
3) You’ve Gotta Earn It
Of course, if you have enough money OR enough to offer…busy, important people always listen. Right?
Have you ever had a hard time ordering a drink at the bar? Try this next time…maybe the sports bar for an NFL game this afternoon. Before you go, stop by the Wells Fargo and get out a $100.00 bill. Then, go get in the middle of a busy bar and wave that Ben Franklin in front of the bartender.
Don’t you think you’ll get some attention? If you have something to offer, suddenly, you get way more attention, right?
Does Jesus work the same way? If this is what the crowd was thinking, then you can understand why they were turning Bartimaeus away. What could this beggar possibly have to offer Jesus?
A tattered rope belt? A pair of dirty sandals? A really cool stick that he found earlier?
Of course, you might be aware that God isn’t really into things and stuff. God demands holiness. That means a life following Him without sin.
We, sinful human beings, can’t offer God that. So immediately, the devil gets into our thinking:
“I was too mean to my wife this morning. God doesn’t want to hear from me now. I’ve forfeited my right to pray.”
“I really need help with this sin. But I just did that sin. Now doesn’t seem like the right time to ask for help with it.”
“I really need God’s help, but how could he ever forgive me? I wouldn’t listen to me. I don’t expect him to ever listen to me.”
Scripture even agrees with this. Proverbs 28:9 says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even his prayers are detestable.” In other words, “If you don’t listen to God, then why would he listen to you?”
We’ve come to a startling, rather shocking conclusion – There wasn’t any reason for Jesus to listen to the beggar. As sinners, there isn’t any reason for God to listen to us. He didn’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it,either.
II. The Reality of Divine Mercy
Maybe that’s what Bartimaeus started to think. He heard the vitriol in their voices, “Stop calling him!” “He doesn’t have time for you.” “You’re just a pathetic beggar. Shut up! You’ve got nothing to offer Jesus.”
They were right. Jesus was busy. He was unimportant. He didn’t have anything to offer Jesus!
Maybe that’s exactly why he kept shouting. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was all about Jesus.
Here’s where it gets awesome. Look at this in verse 49 “Jesus stopped.” This caught me off guard this past week while I was preparing. I’m not even sure I noticed this before. In the Greek, this word is separate and profound. Jesus…who is the God of Heaven and Earth that was literally on his way to give up his life for the salvation of the world…STOPPED.
He didn’t stop to take a phone call from his dad.
He didn’t stop to pick up a burrito at the local Citgo.
He stopped to help Bartimaeus.
And that’s not it. He said to his disciples, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Look at what happens next. The man throws his cloak aside…remember this was probably draped across his lap for donations. Donations that meant nothing to the man now that he had the attention of the Savior of Heaven and Earth. He jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. He didn’t grab his cane and slowly make his way over. He was too excited. He had an audience with God himself! Praise God!!!
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Not, “What do you have for me?” Not, “What can you give me?” Not “What can you do for me?” Nope. He simply, mercifully asks Bartimaeus what God can do for him.
Bartimaeus isn’t shy. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight.
This is God’s Deep Mercy. Here are three things for you to remember about just how deep it is:
Notice that this is what prompted Bartimaeus to keep shouting. It was Jesus’ mercy. Jesus helped Bartimaeus simply because of his Divine compassion – not because he earned it, not because he bought it, not because he was important enough to garner it.
Jesus gave mercy to Bartimaeus because merciful is who he is!!!
Jesus did the same for you. “When you were dead in your sins – when you had nothing remotely good or valuable to God – He made you alive with Christ. He forgave you all of your sins!” (Col. 2:13)
Think about what that is saying. When he died, all of those things that caused God to “turn a deaf ear” to us, have been removed. Even though we haven’t listened to God, he listens to us!
This is truth.
It means – you’ve got to keep shouting.
Whatever is going on in your life – sickness, temptation, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, learn a lesson from Jesus. Keep shouting. Keep praying. Keep pleading with God. Not because you’ve earned it. Not because you deserve it. Not because “I’ve been going to church faithfully for fifteen years, God, you own it to me.”
Please with Jesus for the sake of His mercy.
2) It’s Instant.
Scripture says, “Immediately, Bartimaeus has his sight." Jesus didn’t wait. He didn’t make him earn it. He heard the man and he granted his request.
The same thing happened on the cross. When Jesus died, he cried out! “Tetelestai!” That means “It is finished.” In an instant, all of your sins, all of your failures, all of the things that separate you from God – were removed completely and instantly merciful.
When God worked faith in your heart, the moment you believed, God brought this forgiveness to you. It became yours …forgiven completely. Instantly merciful.
When God washed you with the waters of Baptism, your sins were washed away – completely clean – instantly merciful.
This means if you are a believe, God is being merciful to you right now! You don’t have to be here for a while to earn it. You don’t have to serve three terms on Council to get it. You don’t have to serve cookies three times to convince him to be merciful.
Through belief in Jesus, his love and forgiveness becomes yours instantly.
3) It’s Tailored-to-You.
When Jesus heard the Blind Man’s request, he didn’t barter with him. Jesus gave him exactly what he needed. He gave him back his vision!
But that’s not it. Afterwards, Jesus continues on his way. Not because he no longer cared for Bartimaeus, but precisely because he did care about him. In fact, it was out of mercy for Bartimaeus that Jesus continued his walk to Jerusalem to earn him forgiveness.
Did you get that weekly newspaper that is filled with coupons? Inside they had a coupon for a free drink at Burger King.
That’s nice. Do you know what’s not nice though? That coupon for a FREE DRINK, doesn’t help me when I want a FREE BURGER. I can’t use it to get a WHOPPER. They’ll probably laugh at me when I take it in to Taco Bell.
Jesus’ mercy isn’t like that. It wasn’t tailored just for Bartimaeus. It has been tailored for you too. .
Is yours a sin of sexual immorality? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of greed? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of jealousy? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of lying? He died for that.
Is you’re a sin of idolatry, adultery, false testimony and foolishness? He died for that combo.
Is yours a sin of idolatry, adultery, false testimony, and pride? He died for that combo, too.
Whatever combo of sins you have, whatever combo of unworthiness you have brought on yourself, Jesus’ mercy covers it.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Now what? How does God want you to respond to his mercy?
I imagine that thought went through Bartimaeus’ head. He could see again. He could run to the Garden and check out the beautiful colors he had longed for. Maybe he could run to his family and look into his family’s eyes for the first time in years. He could take a seat on a rock and just enjoyed the beautiful sights and sounds of the day that he had taken for greatned.
But he did none of that.
Instead? Verse 52 He followed Jesus along the road.
When you see Christ’s mercy, it is my prayer that you do the same. His mercy is DEEP. Put your sins aside. Put your pride aside. Join Bartimaeus and follow him. Amen.
John was excited.
Jesus was really on fire today. He was making some awesome promises and giving these people some incredible things to think about. Like a divine Presidential candidate, he was firing on all cylinders – He promised eternal life. He promised forgiveness. He promised peace with God.
This was good. Because, as much as he loved his friends, it would be nice to get some new blood in there. 12 just wasn’t a lot and there were only so many times he could listen to Peter’s best fish stories. They could use some more followers.
John turned around excited to see how well this speech was going.
He was shocked. Some were shaking their heads. Many had looks of disgust on their face. Others were leaving. The fast expanding hollowness of the synagogue picked up every last footstep as it left the building.
Why? Why were they leaving?
I. Too Tough to be True?
Take a look at what verse 61 says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Notice it says, “Many.” As opposed to just a few, there were many. The majority of the people there in the synagogue listening to Jesus, didn’t believe him.
It wasn’t like the crowd was filled with just Jesus’ enemies either. It says “many of his disciples.” Not the Pharisees who planned his death. Not the Sadducees who supported his death. Not the teachers of the Law, not atheists, not evolutionists, not polytheists. It was people who were following him.
They called Jesus’ teaching tough. That was their explanation. “His teaching was too difficult.” Why was it too difficult for them? Here are a few reasons:
1) Because of Who Jesus Was
Jesus was a regular Jewish guy. He was a carpenter. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a degree. He wasn’t even a Pharisee or a Sadducee. He didn’t have a title. He didn’t have a degree. He didn’t spend years out on a mountain searching for the meaning of life. Nor did he hide in a monastery for 15 years of silence nor is there any record of him being a Big muscular, Mr. Universe, strongman type.
Jesus appeared to be so…plain.
Do any of you know who Arielle Barill is? She is an 11 year old girl who appeared on America’s Got Talent this season. Her audition is very interesting. She entered the stage like so many had before. She looked very plain. Nothing fancy. Probably after a long dryspell of talent the judges were a little restless. “Go ahead” they say without a lot of confidence that this will be worth their while.
Then, she opened her mouth. She sang some of the most beautiful opera I’ve ever heard – and I don’t even like opera! She looked like nothing, but she was something.
Same thing with Jesus. Jesus looked like nothing but He was everything. Yet people only saw the ‘nothing.’ So they disregarded him.
The same thing might be happening with you. Jesus isn’t a flashy politician. He isn’t a respected talking head on Fox News. He isn’t a cool rapper. He isn’t a famous movie star. He doesn’t make it into People on a weekly basis. He doesn’t have as many followers on Instagram as Kim Kardashian.
He’s a guy who lived along time ago and was sentenced to death. Do we really want to listen to Him?
God forgive us for trusting our sight more than your Word.
2) Because of What He Taught
The second reason they were having problems with Jesus couples with the fact that Jesus didn’t look like much. What he taught was very tough. Below are just a few of his incredible, audacious statements:
· v.35 I am the Bread of Life…whoever eats of me will never go hungry again
· v.39 God wants me to raise up believers on the last day
· v.40 I will raise them up on the last day
· v.47 All who believe (in me) have eternal life.
· v.50 I am…from heaven.
· v.53 You must eat of me, if not, then there is no life in you!
When’s the last time you said something like that? When’s the last time you told a coworker, “You went to Cousins Subs? They’re good. But if you want a sandwich that really fills you up, take a bite out of me!” Or have you ever written down on an application for a credit card that your address was “Heaven” and your birthday was “before eternity"? Or have you ever went to visit a relative in the hospital and said, “If the doctor’s don’t do a good job fixing you, I’ll bring you back to life when it’s over."?
Can you understand why these statements would have been shocking to the people at Jesus’ time?
To be honest, they are still shocking today. People treat them accordingly.
Ever heard of the Thomas Jefferson Bible? It’s pretty interesting. Jefferson took the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and developed a chronological, comprehensive telling of the Gospel story. All four books rolled into one.
I got my hands on a copy the other day. I skimmed to the end. Wanna know how Thomas Jefferson’s Gospel ends? “They laid Jesus in the grave and rolled a great stone in front of it.”
Did you notice something about that? Is it missing anything? Maybe an incredible earth shattering event three day later where Jesus rises from the dead and appears to over 500 people in a variety of places, at a variety of times, in a variety of ways.
Thomas Jefferson deleted that. He didn’t believe it. In fact, he deletes every miracle in the New Testament and every reference of Jesus to himself as the “Son of God.”
That’s Jefferson’s Bible. But…what about your version? What offensive parts have you dropped? What embarrassing truths do you hide? What ‘intolerant looking laws’ do you ‘fail to mention?
God forgive us when we trust our own sinful reasoning more than the surety of your promises.
3) Because of Peer Pressure
Of course one of the biggest reasons that so many people leave Jesus at this time is probably not their own opinion, but the opinions of others.
You’re sticking around and listening to Jesus? I don’t know who’s a bigger lunatic? You or him.
You’re buying what this guy is saying? You’re stupid.
If you are going to hang out with him, then know that I am not going to hang out with you.
Following Jesus was not the cool thing to do. Not then. Not now.
Tell me if this doesn’t happen to you on Facebook:
Hmmm. Let’s see. What should I post today? I’m really thankful that God has made this day, but…I don’t want to offend my angry atheist cousin. I did really like that devotion, but it implied that the Bible was right in teaching homosexuality as a sin…I don’t want to lose any friends. There’s a nice photo of Jesus with the children, but I know Uncle Joe will just leave a rude remark. Hmmm. Hmmm. I know…. Funny cat video.
Peer pressure’s a tough thing.
God forgive us if we let it affect our faith in you.
4) The REAL Reason
Of course – Jesus wanted the crowd –and us—to dig deeper. Listen to what Jesus says in verse 62 “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” I love that first part. “Do you find it tough to believe that I am the Son of God? What about when I lift off of the ground before your very eyes, a glorious light shines from above, cherubim and seraphim escort me into the divine halls of heaven itself? Would you believe then?”
But then look at verse “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Stop trusting your own sinful reason. Your own sinful eyes. Your own sinful peers. Stop trusting your own sinful self. Because (this is key) your own sinful self doesn’t even have the capability to believe. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
In other words – the real reason that humans pass up the most glorious, incredible, life giving, sin forgiving, guilt removing, God’s love proving message of all time is IT’S WHO THEY ARE!
Think about it. Humans are sinners. All of us. Sin means rebellion from God. Sin doesn’t believe God. Sin refuses to trust God. Sin does not believe.
On our own, that's what we are. Unbelievers. And what does unbelief do? It UNBELIEVES. It convinces itself it doesn’t need a Savior and it doesn’t need saving and it’s doing just fine. Unbelief rejects Jesus’ teachings!
Here’s where it gets interesting. The word used for ‘teaching’ here is logos. It’s a Greek word that means “word” or “teaching.” This is the exact same Greek word that the Apostle John earlier in this very Gospel used to describe Jesus. “The Logos.”
This means that the people were rejecting not just Jesus’ teachings – but Jesus himself! When we reject Jesus’ teachings – we reject Jesus himself!
God forgive us for our rejection!
II. Too True & Too Marvelous to be Too Difficult!
The doors of the synagogue shut.
Jesus stared off in sadness. He had spoken the truth. He had told them of sin. He had told them he was the Savior. They didn’t believe them. It hurt. It hurt him now; it would hurt them later.
He turned around, wiping away a tear, and was shocked. There they were – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, Jude, Simon, and Judas. His 12 friends. His 12 disciples. They were still there.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For the disciples, this faith was too true to be too tough.
1) Because of Jesus’ Words
Listen again to Peter’s two reasons. First he says, “You have the words of eternal life.”
Has anyone here seen the show House? It’s an interesting show. It’s about a Doctor who has a terrible bedside manner. He is selfish. He is rude. He isn’t any fun to work with.
But people come to him – far and wide. Why? Because he is brilliant. He solves medical mysteris that no one else can!
Jesus solves medical mysteries that even House can’t solve. Jesus solves sin. Jesus solves death. Even if coming to Jesus means that you have to admit some difficult things, He is worth it.
Like the Brussel sprouts I used for the kids devotion. They are bitter. They don’t taste great. (In my opinion, mom.) Yet they bring great health benefits. The same is true with Jesus. If we swallow the bitter pill that says, “I am a sinner; I need a Savior; You Jesus are that Savior.” The benefits are incredible!
It starts with forgiveness right now. To hear your Savior speak to your sinful heart and say, “You are forgiven. You are forgiven for rejecting my teachings. You are forgiven for falling to peer pressure. You are forgiven for doubting me. Be at peace. We’re cool. I will always love you.”
The blessings continue in heaven.
Ever had a sliver? Slivers aren’t cool. They hurt. They can be a bother to get out. You might use a tweezers or a needle. My mom used alcohol – it felt like torture.
There are no slivers in heaven. In heaven, arthritis is no more. Kidney struggles are gone. Terrorism is conquered. Hate is removed. Racism is non existent. Fear is too afraid to show its face. Guilt is evaporated. Sin is unwelcomed. The devil is banished. Death is dead!
2) Because He is the Son of God
Peter continued, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For Peter – maybe it was earlier that very morning, when they were stuck on a boat in the middle of a stormy lake and they saw Jesus come walking towards them on top of the water! Or maybe it was when Jesus called to Him and enabled Peter to walk on the water as well. Or maybe it was the feeding of the 5000 that had happened just before that with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Or maybe it was the miraculous healing of the blind man, or the deaf man or the lame man or the leprous men or the boy who had an evil spirit or his mother-in-law who had a fever.
Jesus had convinced the disciples he was the Son of God by doing things that only the Son of God could do!
Including speaking the Word of Life. Literally. Whether it was “Little girl, get up!” as he grabbed the dead girl's hand and returned her to her family alive. Or “Young man, get up!” as he helped him off of his coffin in the midst of his own funeral procession. Or “Lazarus, come out,” as he called into the grave that Lazarus’ dead body had been placed into almost a week ago. Or when he said, “Destroy this body in three days and I will raise it again.” They did...destroy him. Three days…did pass. He did….rise again.
Jesus spoke the Words of Life, because he was the Son of God! Trust Him.
Your evolution profession? Not God’s Son. The angry atheist blogger? Not God’s Son. The LGBT activist? Not God’s Son. Your doubting family members? Not God’s Son. You? Not God’s Son. Neither are your feelings, your reasons, or your desires.
Jesus is! Don’t choose to follow an ‘easier’ teaching; choose to follow the only teaching.
Because, and this is incredible, look at the last thing Jesus says to his disciples, “Haven’t I chosen you?” This is strange. Usually you stroll down the grocery aisle and you choose what kind of bread you want to take home to your kids.
But Jesus? He chooses you. Rather…he has chosen you. He has chosen you to hear his message of Grace. If you have faith in Him, then know that he has chosen you to be his child. He has chosen you to live. He has chosen you to be His.
Trust Him. Trust Him, because what he has to say is too true and too marvelous to be too tough.
In the wake of Father’s Day, it’s always nice to reflect on fatherly wisdom. Dads teach us how to change the oil in our cars, how to open a bottle without a bottle opener, and to always brush your teeth before putting on your necktie.
I saw a Father’s Day card that said, “Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thank you for all the advice you have given me over the years. Today, I’d like to say that I’m finally going to follow some of your advice.” On the inside it read: “I’m not going to waste money on a gift for you.”
Dads are good for all kind of practical, quirky, and useful wisdom. But what about your other Dad? What about your Heavenly Dad? What kind of wisdom has God the Father passed on to you?
In the past two weeks we’ve talked about the Christian heart and the Christian voice. Today we’re going to learn about the Christian mind and the wisdom it possesses.
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1 beginning at verse 26. “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
In this paragraph, Paul is writing to a young Corinthian congregation. In the Corinthian world where many types of wisdom were lauded and sought after, Paul reminds them to search foremost for the wisdom of God.
What is that wisdom? Paul starts by identify three things it is not.
1) Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM.
Paul writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards…”. That’s still true today. We don’t require that you get a high sore on your SAT. We don’t exclude people from the church until they’ve gotten a Bachelor of Arts degree. And we don’t hold periodic games of Jeopardy with the high scorer being written in as the next Council member.
Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM. In fact, the teachings of Christianity often go against conventional wisdom.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Do you know what Trinity means? Three in One. Today is a celebration of the fact that we have a God who is ONE and yet is three PERSONS. Three persons who are divine and distinct and yet there is not three gods, but ONE God. In other words, we are saying, “1 + 1 + 1 = 1”
But it’s more than just the Trinity. Scripture says other things that are not reasonable to the human mind.
Jesus is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. The world was created in only 6 days and the age of the earth is only thousands of years, not billions of years. Some guy died on a cross. And somehow, that takes away all of the punishment for my sins? If you follow Christian logic, you will fail Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies.
Christian wisdom is not about book smart wisdom.
2) Christianity is not about STREET SMART WISDOM.
Society might agree that book smart wisdom isn’t necessary for success in this world. There are plenty of people who have made it big without so much as a high school education. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg are all multibillionaires who didn’t finish college
Is Christian wisdom simply street smarts then?
Paul writes, “not many of you were influential…” To be influential in Corinthian society meant you were a business man. This was a place of the market. The better your business did the more influence you had in rules and laws that were made – even if it were simply through a few extra bucks slipped to the government.
This being said. There was no requirement in the ancient church that prospective members had to have good business sense. They simply preached the Gospel to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between.
This is still true today. To become a member of our church, we don’t have a sit down interview where you prepare a PowerPoint presentation explaining how you think we can maximize revenue and get our brand out into the North Raleigh area. We aren’t a collection of business owners. We aren’t about ‘growing a business.’ When we canvass, we don’t skip the apartments and head directly to the homes that are 1.5 million or above -- because they might have some business wisdom.
In fact, Christian wisdom is not all the smart for business. Think for a moment what might happen if you follow the following business practices in the dog eat dog American business world. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Mt. 5:39) “Humble yourself – don’t exalt yourself.” (Luke 14) “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” (Mark 10:31) “Don’t be greedy.” (Luke 12:15)
Ever seen Shark Tank? In the show, you get a chance to pitch your entrepreneurial business model to multibillion dollar business sharks. They aren’t too kind if they think you idea stinks.
How do you think they’d react to such Christian ideals?
The point? Christian wisdom is not about influential wisdom.
3) Christianity is not about POPULAR WISDOM
Paul adds one more negation to the type of wisdom that is involved with Christianity. He writes, “Not many were of noble birth.” In the ancient world, these were princes and princess. Governors daughters and centurions sons. While this is, in part, a genealogical position, there is still a certain type of wisdom involved with being royalty. (i.e. Walk with your chin raised and always lift up your pinky finger when you drink tea.)
In America, there aren’t kings and queens as such, but we still have royalty. Musicians, actors, actresses, even reality TV stars garner our constant attention.
These pop culture icons also have their own a wisdom and culture. In fact, if you don’t follow it, you’ll never make it into Hollywood.
I’m thinking about Matthew McCauneghey winning an Oscar for best actor, thanking the Academy to raucous cheers, and then thanking God – to crickets. “Who’s God again?”
Or it leaks into our ‘non Hollywood lives” as well, doesn’t it? Popular wisdom tries to dictate our decisions.
Maybe you already knew this, but God's wisdom is not always (usually) popular.
In fact, the world might not consider Christian wise at all. It doesn’t make rational sense. It doesn’t fit into academia. It isn’t even all that popular. Some might call it (and have called it) stupid!
….That’s, the point.
Look at verse 27-29. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Grasp what Scripture is telling us in that section. God chose things that the world would consider foolish! God looked down at human knowledge of physics, human business sense, and human popular opinion and he chose things that were the exact opposite!
There are some very good reasons why God chose to do things in such a splendidly opposite way of human beings.
1) God is eternal!
His knowledge is way beyond you or me. It’s way beyond some Scientist who’s been alive for 40 years. It’s beyond some politicians who's lived to 50. It’s way, way, way beyond some actress who specializes in Science. Of course, his wisdom is different!
It’s like how a child and an adult tie their shoes differently. The adult carefully bends over and politely and precisely ties the shoelaces into a perfect bow. The child bends over, wiggles his fingers around his laces, and finally stuffs the knotty mess into the back of the shoes.
The adult is wiser because they’ve been around longer. God is wiser than any human being because he is eternal! He has always been!
2) God is holy.
Humans, scripture tells us, are sinful. We are selfish. We are greedy. We are hateful. We worry about ourselves.
Now think about this, it means that our collective thought process will always be sinful. It will always be influenced by this hatred. There will be traces of selfishness in every single attitude we have.
God? He doesn’t have that. This means that it will be naturally the exact opposite of human thought. And he can never support these sinful human thoughts, because then, he’d be sinful!
It’s why State fans are never caught dead into Tarheel blue. They can never support Carolina!
God can never support sin. NEVER. Yet, humans are so stupidly sinful that we look at God’s ways and say, “You’re hateful. Not me!”
3) The final reason is God chose to do things in a way that is so drastically different from human reason?
1 Corinthians reveals it to us this way, “God chose the foolish things…the lowly things…the things that are not…so that no one may boast before him.”
God knew that because of sin, not a single person would ever be wise enough to gain heaven. And he also knew that our sinfulness would affect our thinking such that we wouldn’t even acknowledge it. Instead, we find ourselves thinking, “I’m doing just fine. I’m good enough. I can figure it out on my own.”
Is it any wonder that every religion in this world, why there are shallow differences, preach the same basic doctrine? Buddhism says, “Live a peaceful life and earn heaven.” Mormonism says, “Life a like like Jesus and earn your own planet.” Islam says, “Follow Islamic Law and earn paradise.”
Why are they the same? This is the best that sinful human beings can come up with is to try our sinful best to remove sinfulness by doing sinful things.
Thank God that his plan is different:
This is God’s plan. So different and so marvelous, endorsed by all three persons in the Triune God.
What does all of this mean?
It isn’t about you. Thank God. In fact, it isn't about anyone even remotely similar than you! (Can you imagine a salvation plan enacted by a sinful human being? It will result in sinful people sinful failing to win a sinful result!)
Salvation is about Jesus, our Savior. It’s about the Father our perfect Justifier. It’s about the Spirit, our Sanctifier. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved! And praise be to God for making this plan so different that it sticks out as Divine wisdom!
Otherwise, we’d be stuck in our sinful human head: “I’m awesome. I figured out God. I have the smarts to make it to heaven. I deciphered it with my decoder ring. God, of course, selected me for heaven, because of my wisdom!”
But it’s not about you. Paul said it this way, “It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (v. 29-31)
Kids love to boast about their dads. “He’s the smartest guy I know.” He’s stronger than your dad. He was awesome at baseball. If only he hadn’t of hurt his leg, he’d probably be more famous than Babe Ruth.”
Why not boast about your heavenly Father?
“My heavenly Father is so wise he planned my salvation before the beginning of the world.”
“My heavenly Father is so powerful he raised my Brother Jesus from the dead!”
“My heavenly Father is so loving he forgives me for my sinful pride and arrogance.”
“My heavenly Father is the best. Holy. Incredible. Absolute.”
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Amen.