As I’ve oft said, I have been in church since I was “knee high to a grasshopper.” I was blessed to attend a Christian university and earn degrees in church ministry. I have listened to hundreds (probably thousands) of sermons and read tons of books dealing with our faith. I am very grateful for my Christian heritage and wouldn’t trade it for anything this world affords. That being said, I have heard/read/observed things throughout the years that make me sit back and go “hummmmhh!” One of those occasions is hearing “amens” resound when a preacher is giving somebody down the road for something from folks who think of themselves so highly that they assume that the somebody being talked about must be anybody but them. Conversely, and equally perplexing, are the silences I have heard when a feat or calling is being spoken of (such as being a missionary, witnessing to the community, etc.) from folks who have such a low view of themselves (really, truth be told, such a low view of God) that they assume that the somebody being talked about who should or could do something about something is nothing that they could do anything about. Well, I’m not going to quote the title of a song, “It had to be you!”, but what I am going to say, and what I think Scripture points us to, whether it be for the good or the ill, is the question “Could it be you?” This is a concept we looked at with regard to four different areas during a recent Sunday sermon from our series on the gospel of Mark (dealing with chapter 14 verses 12 through 26).
Service (Could it be you?)…When Jesus was preparing to have the last Passover meal He would ever partake of with His disciples, He instructed them to go into town and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. Now, someone may wander how such a man would stand out in a crowd. A knowledge of the culture and customs of the times of Christ helps shed light on this issue. Carrying water was considered to be women’s work (that statement is not part of a “war on women”, it’s simply stating a historical truth). So, a man engaged in this particular labor would stand out like a sore thumb. Or should I say, like a fine gem on a piece of black velvet! The servant of God that the disciples would come into contact with was one willing to do the work of another, gladly doing a job that would be considered beneath the dignity of his position. Once members of Jesus’ inner circle came across this man carrying water, they were to ask him where the guest room was where the Lord could have the Passover with His disciples. The man would not only lead them to the large room, but the owner of the house would have it furnished and ready for the Master’s use. The act of service that this man (perhaps two men were involved) performed would cost him something, it would mean labor and sacrifice, it would involve the willingness, resource, and attitude required to be genuinely hospitable. Who was this man who prepared the facilities in which Christ and His disciples would eat what we have come to call “The Last Suppper?” Speculations abound, but no one knows for sure. Why? Because Scripture doesn’t tell us. This great servant, like so many greats in God’s Kingdom, is nameless…unknown to man…but known well by God! Being willing to do the work, no matter how menial; to sacrifice, no matter the cost; to serve, and only care for God’s glory…Service is a great calling for someone…Could it be you?
Betrayal (Could it be you?)…Jesus had long been telling the disciples that one of them was going to be a traitor. As they sat down for the Passover Meal Jesus reiterates that someone at the table would commit the most heinous and infamous crime of history. Someone who had heard Christ’s teachings, who had seen Jesus calm the waves, cast out devils, heal the sick, and even raise the dead would not only walk away but would be an instrument through which the Lord would be brought to crucifixion. The disciples hearing this word at the table that evening began to say one after another, “Surely not I?” Yet it was one of them. The Lord prophesied it so it must be true, and of course it did turn out to be true…The Bible clearly prophecies that in the last days there will be a great apostasy, a falling away of those who claimed to be a part of the Christian faith. Scripture says it, so it must be true, and of course it will turn out to be true. Throughout my life I have seen people who hear about the warning signs as well as the consequences of sin, and yet fall into its clutches. I, like you, have known of many from afar and some from up close who not long before they committed egregious transgressions never thought that they would be the ones to cheat on their spouses, lie to their friends, or steal from their workplaces. I don’t make such a statement to condemn those who fall for there is certainly forgiveness and restoration for those who repent. However, I do want to make the point that no one, or at least very few, ever wake up one day seeking a course to betray Christ or their Christian witness. They, like the 12 disciples, have read and heard time after time that there are those who will fall away assuming that it could never be them. Yet, little by little, day after day, over the course of months and years, find themselves drifting farther and farther away from the Lord and the things of God. And one day they end up being where they never thought they’d be, doing what they never thought they’d do…Hearing that there will be a falling away, yet not recognizing it even as the process is happening. Having a heart that is cold to the things of God. Selling out what you said you believed for something of such minimal (and temporal) value. Betrayal is a terrible thing…A falling away will happen as prophesied…Could it be you?
Communion (Could it be you?)…Jesus took the bread and the wine, gave thanks, and then served them to His disciples. They had partaken of Passover meals all of their lives but this night they heard some unfamiliar words mixed in with the familiar elements. We tend to look on events of the past through the lens of what we know in the present, but think of the strangeness of hearing someone hand you bread and saying that it was their body and telling you to take and eat, then dispensing some wine/juice saying that it was their blood and instructing you to take and drink. Perhaps it was sheer fear, genuine respect, uncaring indifference, or utter exhaustion (or some combination of all of the above) that kept the disciples from asking Christ at that moment to explain how partaking of the Passover Meal correlated with eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Whatever the reason, the picture the Bible paints is that the disciples didn’t know the totality of what was meant by Jesus’ words at the Last Supper that evening. However, as the events of the night and the next day would unfold; as they saw the Lord, their friend, their teacher, betrayed, falsely tried, cruelly crucified, and finally buried, I think they began to see more clearly. The brutality that put all of His bones out of joint brought back the words of the broken bread as His broken body. The piercings that caused blood to drip and flow from His brow, His hands, His feet, His back, and His side brought back words of the wine/juice as His poured out blood. Their understanding of His words, those uttered at the Last Supper as well as other teachings of Christ that they had been blessed to hear during the Lord’s earthly ministry, would grow as they saw Him risen from the dead, were filled with the Spirit, and “communed” with Him and His Word throughout the remainder of their lives…Believing that we are all sinners who need saving. Knowing that Jesus is the only Savior, that His shed blood is the only means that can wash away our sins, that His broken body was for the healing of our lives. Growing in His grace and knowing more of Him and His word as time passes by. Communion is a wonderful thing for someone to be engaged in…Could it be you?
Worship (Could it be you?)…Recently I had a Monday as my day off from the bookstore. We decided to take a trip to West Palm Beach. My wife’s family has roots there so we visit about once a year to see some landmarks and to go to what is perhaps the best sub shop in America, a little establishment name Russo’s that has been a fixture in the city for more than six decades. Their most popular offering is a sandwich named after the restaurant composed of freshly sliced ham, salami (not the spicy kind), provolone, crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, chunks of onion, and dill pickle spear all encased in a freshly baked soft sub roll dashed with a touch of sweetness. (Hungry yet?!) The Russo Sandwich is so delicious and we get there so infrequently that when we do go we not only eat there that day but we bring several back home to eat in the days that follow…I took one of these sensational subs in for lunch the next day. I didn’t know it at the time, though I’m not surprised, but one of my coworkers noticed how delicious and genuine my sandwich looked. A couple days later they asked me what Subway in town I bought it from because it looked so much better than what they were used to getting. Of course, I launched into my story about Russo’s and let her know that what I had that day for lunch was “something you couldn’t get around here.”…What does all of this have to do with worship? I have always been struck by Scripture making it a point to tell us that right after the Last Supper Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn before proceeding to the Mount of Olives. His followers certainly did not have a firm grasp on what the next hours would hold, but Jesus knew exactly what was in store. Yet, even with the knowledge that He was soon going to pass through the darkest valley ever known, He lifted His voice with others in worship to His Father…That kind of love for God. That kind of peace in the midst of a raging storm. That kind of desire to give God glory. Where does that come from? Well, let’s just say it’s “something you couldn’t get around here—earth that is.”…Worshipping God no matter what. Setting an example that others recognize and ask about. Loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength…Being a worshipper is a wonderful thing…Could it be you?