BESIDE THE CROSS OF JESUS
Max Lucado tells this story: A three year old named Carlos was lying down in bed with his favorite Bible storybook. He turned every page, mostly pictures. When he finished he blew kisses to each one in the room. His mother, His dad, his three sisters and to God —“Papa Dios”. He closed his eyes, drifted off to sleep, and awoke in heaven.
Then Max said, “When Carlos’ parents met to plan the funeral for the three year old, the parents wanted Max to see a video they had made of Carlos dancing. He said, “Here was little Carlos moving to the rhythm of a fast moving Latin song. His feet moved, his body shook, trying to keep up with the music, his hands clapped, and his head swayed. “ Then he said, “We all laughed. For a moment, Carlos was there with us. For a moment, there was no memory of the hospital visits Carlos had had to take, the medicine he had been taking to try to keep him alive.”
Then the video stopped and so did the laughter. And this mom and dad resumed their slow walk through the valley of death.
Many of you have walked through that valley. It is a different valley for everyone. It’s hard to bare. no one really understands your grief. Some people will say, “I know what you are going through. But they don’t. Grief is different for everyone.
At first people are aware of your grief. At the funeral. But they don’t now. They don’t understand. Grief continues.
Sometimes you will catch a whiff of the cologne he wore, or hear her favorite song or hymn. Someone last week mentioned my mother’s favorite hymn. In her early 20’s she played the piano at the church my dad pastored. An uncle of mine who went to that church said my dad couldn’t keep his eyes of the pianist so he thought he better marry her. That is when he asked her for a date.
That is how my thoughts moved when someone mentioned my mother’s favorite hymn.
Why won’t the sorrow leave you? Because you buried some of yourself. When someone you love dies, it affects you. For some it is a small flame. For others it is more like a blow torch.
The disciple of Jesus felt this. For them, it was more of a blow torch.
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. The sun stopped shining.”
(Some commentators say that it was an eclipse. I’ve seen an eclipse of the sun. About a 70% eclipse. It was in the middle of the day. At its peak the eclipse lasted maybe seven seconds. Then it began to very gradually become lighter. This was no eclipse at the cross. This darkness was from the hand of God. Three completely dark hours.)
“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” When He had said this, He breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew Him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (from Luke 23:44-49)
The disciples of Jesus, His mother, other followers had to stand and watch him die. A miserable death. An excruciating death. A long death.
The authorities were standing around mocking and belittling Him. And Jesus said while He was hanging there bleeding before the whole city of Jerusalem said, “They don’t know what they are doing. Forgive them, Father.”
The disciples, Jesus’ mother, the other followers as He died were realizing, “I can’t hear anymore of His amazing teachings, or watch Him give sight to the blind, or raise the dead. (He had done this three times that we know of.) He won’t be with me anymore!”
See, Jesus had brought people life. Inner life, that none of them had ever known before. His disciples, His Mother, His followers.
He brought joy to people whose hearts and emotions were dead—
And He brought them hope. In Him and through Him.
He brought peace to peoples’ lives whose lives had been in turmoil, or like a scary roller coaster day in and day out, or for some it was like being inside a coffee grinder.
Then, Jesus came into their life. And they had real life. Capital “L” life I like to call it.
For four of them who had watched Him dying, they had been professional fishermen. They sank their nets deep into the sea. And brought fish into the boat so people could live. Now, these same four men were fishers of men. Bringing people— men, women, youth, children into the Kingdom of God so they could live through Jesus forever.
John 20, verse 31 says,
“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Those who believe that will have Life through His Name.”
Jesus is Lord.
Two Short Sermons
This week , for me, is novel. I am preaching, today, two different sermons, both of which are the shortest sermons that I remember ever preaching.
Both have come out of conversations that I had in the past week.
The first is from a conversation I had with one of those in the church. The other was with an aunt of mine. In both of those conversations I recognized that the Lord was showing me something. So, here they are.
This is part 4 of the sermons that I’ve been preaching about Building Bridges to Jesus Christ and tearing down bridges to Jesus Christ.
The first Sunday I spoke about “What to say to people who don’t know about Jesus?”
The second Sunday I spoke about “How to build a bridge to someone who doesn’t know about Jesus?”
The Third Sunday, I spoke about “Building bridges between sisters and brothers in Christ from different denominations, especially those that seem strange to you”.
This Sunday we’re looking at “Being watchful that you do not tear down another person’s bridge to Jesus Christ.”
And this is going to be short because frankly, I don’t know of a single person here who is active in attendance who tears down bridges. So, this is a reminder. To all of us.
I suspect that we all know someone who will not go back to a church where they belonged because someone acted in some way that was hurtful to them. Meaning that being Christ-Like was not in what the person said or did.
None of us are all the time where Jesus wants us to be.
In what we think..
In what we say.
In what we do.
In the book of Romans Paul says that “we all have sinned.”
There are people out there whose bridge to Jesus Christ is not real firm yet. Sometimes you know that about that person and sometimes you don’t. One of the toughest guys I know gets his feelings hurt, really easily.
Or, there is someone who has been thinking about the Kingdom of God, but is short a couple of bridges that need to be built.
Some unthoughtful comment from someone can deteriorate the few small bridges that had been there .
If we are consciously aware daily of building bridges we will develop much greater patterns to be Christ-Like.
Christian means “Christ Like”. Acting like Jesus would. That is our inner and outward goal. Being Christ-Like draws people. Being un-Christ Like, even for a minute, around someone else, can start to deteriorate their bridge to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. “ Luke 17:1& 2
Some of you are survivors of bridge destroyers. Praise God for you. Forgive them during communion this morning.
That’s the end of sermon #1.
My Aunt Marion gets up at 5:15 every morning . At 96 years old she can no longer see to read so she listens to Christian radio all day. Mostly Bible teachings and sermons. She called the other night to tell me this story that she heard on the radio.
“There was a cruise ship crossing the ocean. The passengers were told that a very severe storm was ahead of them. Each passenger was to go to his or her room and lie in the bed. A woman on the ship asked a cabin attendant to take a note to the captain which said ‘ Turn this ship around and go back to where we came from. This IS NOT safe!”
Ten minutes later the same cabin attendant handed the woman a note. It was from the captain. It said,
‘#1—I am the captain. I will decide the direction of this ship. #2—This ship was made to withstand the exact storm that we are heading into.’ “
Jesus says to us, “I am the captain. I’ll determine the direction of this ship. Your life, given to Me has been made to withstand the exact storm that you are facing, or will face in the future, or the storm you are in right now. With me, you will be able to soar as if you had eagles wings.
For I Am with you.
I built you like Me.
In My image.
And I will never never leave you or forsake you.”
Jesus is LORD