If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry.
I remember being at West Virginia University in the early 1980’s. Penn State had defeated WVU in football for about 25 years in a row. And Joe Paterno had this reputation of being all grace, humility, and dignity in every one of the victories. But then something unusual happened. WVU won. I was at that game. I was one of the students that rushed the field to tear down the goalpost at the one end of the field that the police allowed it. If I remember correctly, the end of the game went like this: the outcome was decided, but there were 17 seconds left on the clock when the students rushed the field. Paterno threw a fit. He insisted on having the field cleared for one more play, which was insignificant. Penn State could not win. They cleared the field, the play was run, the clock expired, and then we rushed the field again. Paterno took the loss hard and was no longer seen as a gracious gentleman, at least in my eyes. You see, as long as he was winning, he appeared to be a gentleman, but when the outcome wasn’t what he desired, his mean and disagreeable side took control.
In the Scripture today, we have a story where the two parties are agreeable; where the scribe takes comfort that Jesus’ words line up with the scribe’s own words, beliefs, and teachings. You see, the scribe had walked in on the middle of something. In the preceding paragraphs, Jesus is being quizzed by elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees and they are not in agreement. And where we pick up in verse 28, this scribe came and heard them discussing things like, “Do we have to pay taxes?” “If a woman is married more than once, whose wife is she in the resurrection?” And the scribe asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary says this scribe is better than the rest because he didn’t come to trap Jesus, but came to learn. I disagree. He asks Jesus, Jesus answers and the scribe doesn’t say, ohhhh… that’s good. I get it. What does the scribe say to Jesus? The scribe tells Jesus he has answered well. And this scribe was not coming to learn the Shema. The Shema is the prayer that a good Jew prays twice a day, every day: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This scribe would have known the Shema. They learned it like we learn, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, angels watch me through the night, wake me with the morning light.” Or the old school… “If I should die before I wake, pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Jesus does do something new by elevating the love of neighbor here. He basically combined Deut. 6:4 and part of Leviticus 19:18 into a summary of the law. The rabbi’s had calculated that there were 613 laws, 248 do’s and 365 don’ts. Do this and don’t do that. And Jesus says of all, these combined are the most important. If we do these, the rest should fall into place.
The scribe had no objection to this. Well done Jesus. Well done because I concur. Well done because I agree. Well done because I see things the same way. But what happens when Jesus says things we don’t agree with? Sometimes Jesus says things we don’t like. What happened when Jesus said things the religious people didn’t like? I mentioned that this scribe walked in on the middle of Jesus being quizzed. Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells a parable and in 12:12 it says, “When they realized that He had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest Him, but they feared the crowd. So they left Him and went away.”
We know what happened when Jesus said things the religious people didn’t like. They plotted to get Him. They killed Him. They hung Him on a cross.
Can you think of anything the Bible says that you don’t like? Can you think of anything Jesus said that you don’t like? I can think of things that I don’t like and things I know other don’t like. There’s quite a bit about money. I know a few of you are thinking to yourselves, “It doesn’t bother me when you preach about what the Bible says about money.” I’ve come to the conclusion that in most, while not every case, people who tithe don’t mind hearing sermons on money, as a matter of fact people who tithe may like to hear sermons on money because they find it encouraging to know they are doing the right thing in their giving. On the other hand, and once again not in every case, but I believe most, that people who don’t tithe, or people who give very little to the church, or those who give nothing to the church, don’t like to hear sermons about money because they either don’t agree or it makes them feel bad. It’s nothing new. Jesus saw money as something that came between the people and God then, and obviously knew money could be a hindrance in our Christian lives today. And it often is. And just because we may not like to hear about it doesn’t mean the preacher should avoid it.
There’s a lot in the Bible about forgiveness. When Peter asked how many times he had to forgive someone? Jesus said you are to forgive them over and over and over and over and over. Some of us don’t like to hear that. Some of us are of the Gomer Pyle school of thought – Can anyone tell me the Gomer Pyle philosophy? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I don’t believe Jesus means you let someone physically or emotionally abuse you, and you forgive them and let them hit you or emotionally abuse you again. But I do believe Jesus means you forgive them, even if you don’t put yourself in a position to be abused again. In that way, I think Jesus and Gomer agree.
Some people don’t like it that Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Some people don’t like that Jesus said He was the only way to the Father. Some people don’t like it when Christians say Jesus is the only way. I don’t personally want to hurt others’ feelings or make them feel like we think our religion is superior to theirs. We sound judgmental. But the Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin. “That there is no other way to God but through Jesus” doesn’t go over well with some people. A.W. Tozer says in the Knowledge of the Holy, “Whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose. Whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win.” It’s harsh to say that Muslims worship a false God because they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God. Some Christians, who want to be politically correct, want to say there are numerous ways to God. Some Muslims want to kill people who won’t recant Jesus. Odds are that just about all of you sitting here this morning like this part of the sermon and what the Bible and Jesus say.
- Some people don’t like it when we call God Father. Others love calling Him Father. Jesus said, when you pray, pray this way, “Our Father…”
- Some don’t like it when we go to or send money to missionaries in other countries to make disciples and offer aid. Some mistakenly think Jesus said “Charity begins at home.” Others like it that Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The list goes on and on. Sometimes we’re like the scribe and we say, “Yes, Jesus. We agree with you. Well said.” Other times we’re like the Pharisees and Sadducees. We want to ignore what the Bible says and what Jesus says. Or we want to spin it in such a way that it agrees with our thinking. Just because we don’t agree or think maybe Jesus shouldn’t have said something, it doesn’t make us right. In the verse before our Scripture started, Jesus told the Sadducees, “…you are quite wrong.”
Tozer also writes, “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true. Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear.”
Whether you like what Jesus said or what the Bible says is irrelevant. Whether you don’t think a preacher should preach about money, or the wrath of God, or adultery, or divorce, or sex outside of marriage, or abortion, or feeding and clothing the poor… None of that should matter to the preacher. My job is not to tell you what you want to hear. My job is to tell you the truth as I understand God’s Word, as it’s revealed to me through prayer and study.
I don’t like shots. But I’m guessing I would like Yellow Fever or Typhoid less than I like shots, so when I went to Africa, I got shots so I would not get Yellow Fever or Typhoid. I don’t like cutting down on eating sweets, but the truth is I have diabetes and if I don’t do what my doctor says when it comes to eating and taking my medicine, there will be consequences. I don’t have to like it, but just because I don’t like it does not mean I should not be doing it.
Jesus and the Holy Scriptures teach that walking the Christian walk and being a disciple of Jesus is going to consist of things that go against our own desires and sometimes against our earthly self-interests. God’s Word will at times make us and others uncomfortable. Jesus went so far as to say the world would hate us, but not to be concerned. They hated Him first. But don’t be concerned. He has overcome the world.
Like Paterno when he lost to WVU, like the scribes, and Saducees and Pharisees when Jesus told them they were wrong, like today when we hear sermons or read Scripture we don’t like or agree with or want to hear… it’s not so much when things are going well or when we agree that our faith is put to the test, we must humble ourselves, and we must rely on Jesus. But when the Word challenges us – That’s when we need Him to change our heart and fill us with His Spirit more than ever. That’s when we need to remember the message Paul relayed to us – More of Him and less of ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if we like what we hear or read from the Bible. It’s how we react when we don’t like what we hear or read. When there is a disagreement, we mustn’t simply act as if we’re right and Jesus is wrong. Jesus is never wrong. The difficult part is deciding which things were written because of the society and culture at that time and what is meant to guide us today. We mustn’t explain away God’s eternal plan because we don’t like it, and we mustn’t cling to things written specifically for a certain audience that were never meant to be eternal. And sometimes it’s impossible to figure out which is which. For example, in the UMC, we believe women remaining silent in church, and women not leading men were cultural instructions. There’s a judge named Deborah in the book of Judges chapter 24 in a position of authority. Personally, I’d rather have an effective, Jesus loving female pastor than an ineffective, lukewarm male pastor.
We believe loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself was an eternal idea. Raising up children: some people can read the Bible and come to the idea that kids should be home-schooled or at least sent to a Chritian school. That’s fine if that’s what you take from it and what you believe, I can see that. But we mustn’t judge other people who feel like they want to raise their children in public schools.
And finally, we believe repentance and Holy Communion are eternal commands. Sometimes some of us don’t like to hear we need to repent. And sometimes we think it’s only the unsaved that need to repent. People who are not yet a child of God do need to repent and accept Jesus, today. CS Lewis says that repentance creates a special problem for us: “Only bad people need to do it and only good people can do it.” Our ultimate love for Jesus is demonstrated in our repentance and reliance on Him. Yet, it’s not just the unsaved that need to repent. We all need to repent and we need to do it over and over. And that’s what makes us able to come to the Communion Table. It’s not membership in a certain church or how good a person we are. It’s Jesus. It’s His table and He invites you to come. Jesus instructed us that we are to come together, share in this “heavenly feast” while we remember Him. We remember what He did for us on the cross. We remember His blood shed and His body broken, so that we may have our sins forgiven. And some people have or have had a problem coming to communion. We must realize it’s His sacrifice that makes it appropriate for us to come to Holy Communion, and we realize it’s His command that we come. And when we come, we come “with all your people on earth and all the company of heaven, as we praise God’s name and we join their unending hymn, Holy Holy, Holy….”
In my reading from Oswald Chambers this morning, he said it is essential that as a pastor, I give you the opportunity to act on the truth of God. I believe you have heard God’s Word and truth today. And I pray that if you have yet to accept Jesus as your Savior, you will act on that today and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and cover you with the shed blood of Jesus and send the Holy Spirit to make you a new creation. And if you are ready to do this, do it, and come to the table today. And if you and I already claim Jesus as Savior, how can we act? One way is by coming to the table and asking Him to reveal to you what areas of your life need some work and then allowing Him to work – to turn over the main thing that keeps you from growing closer to Him.
Will you pray with me?
Gracious, True, and Perfect God. We thank you for your Word that is sometimes music to our ears. When we read and hear about Your love for us, it can bring us to tears of joy. When we remember that Your love for us cost Jesus His life on the cross, it can bring us to tears of sorrow. And when we repent and turn our lives over to You as You have commanded us to do, it can bring us to tears of relief. Lord, for those You have spoken to and called today to turn for forgiveness, turn from their sin, and turn their lives over to You, and accept Jesus as Savior, hear their cry. If this is you today, cry out from your heart to Him. He will surely forgive you and save you. And God for those of us who already call Jesus our Lord and Savior, soften our hearts even more to accept that there is still work to be done in our lives. Help us to understand that when we hear your Word and it is not music to our ears, but might even upset us, that that’s a good thing and that it may just be that You are at work in our lives to make us more like You. Help each of us to leave here either a little or a lot different today for Your Glory and in Jesus’ Holy Name we pray, Amen.