Summary: Jesus came to speak; let’s listen. Jesus came to suffer; let’s trust Him. Jesus came to save; let’s tell the world. And Jesus came to rule; let’s bow before Him, for that’s what true success is all about.
A few years ago, the Tokyo Times carried a report about a 19-year-old man who was desperate to get to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. So he hopped a bus and demanded that the driver take him there.
He was hijacking the bus, but few of the passengers were concerned. For one thing, the hijacker wasn’t holding a gun, waving a knife, or carrying a bomb. He was completely unarmed. For another, the bus he wanted to hijack was already headed to Haneda Airport, so everybody on the bus stayed calm.
Some said the man was drunk, others that he was disturbed, but the harmless hijacker was quickly arrested. The Tokyo Times commented that the man “just wanted to make a scene. Which if nothing else, he did manage to do successfully.” (Hopeless Hijacker, www.Tokyotimes.org, 3-24-05; www.PreachingToday. com)
You see, anybody can claim success if they set their goals low enough, but is that really success? What about those who have big goals but fail to achieve them right away? Are they any less successful than the man who achieves little, insignificant goals?
If you have your Bibles I invite you to turn with me to Isaiah 49, Isaiah 49, where we see what true success looks like in the coming of the Messiah to this earth. This is the 2nd of Isaiah’s servant songs where he describes the ministry of God’s Servant who had huge goals, but seemingly failed to achieve them in the short term.
Isaiah 49:1-2 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. (NIV)
This is what God’s Servant says to the world, yes even to us on an island at the end of the earth. He says, “Heed what I have to say, because God gave me a pointed message.” You see…
JESUS CAME TO SPEAK, so we better listen.
Jesus came with a specific and direct word from God, so we better pay attention to what He has to say.
His words were like a polished arrow or a sharpened sword. From the very beginning, His message was very pointed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). And for those who didn’t heed that message, even if they were religious leaders, his words were even more pointed.
In Matthew 23, he says to them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are… Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean… You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell” (Matthew 23:15,27,33).
Oh my goodness, that’s not very politically correct!
In John 6, Jesus describes himself as “the Bread of Life,” and tells a crowd of over 5,000 people that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. As a result, the last part of the chapter says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).
Everybody left him, except 12; and soon after that, one of those 12 started looking for a chance to betray Him.
Jesus asked the 12, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
You see, when Jesus preached, people either got mad and left or they believed and were forever changed. He didn’t mince words or pull any punches. He came with a specifically prepared message from God, and it pierced the soul.
Hebrews 12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Soren Kierkegaard, with whom I have many disagreements, got it right when he said, “Christian truth itself has eyes to see with. In fact it is all eye. That's very disquieting. Think of looking at a painting and discovering that the painting was looking at you. Precisely such is the case with Christian truth. It is looking back at me to see whether I do what it says I should do. (Soren Kierkegaard, Leadership, Vol. 6, no.2; www.PreachingToday.com)