Summary: Selflessness is the key characteristic in Jesus' command to take up our crosses and follow him. The stories of Jochebed, Hannah, and Mary (Jesus' mother) illustrate selflessness.
One of the critical characteristics of a follower of Jesus is almost completely non-existent in our society. Now I say “almost”, because there are still times when we see and celebrate it, but those times are largely times of extremes. The prevailing “wisdom” is completely in the opposite direction, and is an example of our ability to take something wrong and mainstream it and then even turn it into the goal of life.
I’m talking about the critical characteristic of selflessness. This is rooted in Jesus’ command/description in Luke 9: “23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”
When was the last time you heard a message about how good self-denial is from our culture? On the contrary, all the messages from our culture are about self-indulgence: here is just one example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIgRFQv92dM
The great irony is that the “devil” already has this guy’s soul. Do you see the contrast between that and Jesus’ words, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it”? Pretty obvious. And even more, do you see the underlying assumption which is now the mainstream, goal of life – it is the false glorification of that type of life. The assumption in the commercial is that the kind of life depicted in the commercial – fast car, beautiful woman, fame, luxury – is the best kind of life. Jesus says, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”.
This morning I want to take us to three stories from Scripture which demonstrate, in a rather potent way, this characteristic of selflessness, and we will see the end result of their selflessness. Each of these stories happens at a critical, pivotal moment in the Biblical story; and in each of them, the selflessness sets the stage for the next amazing thing God has for His people. They are the stories of three mothers.
Jochebed (Exodus 2):
The first story is of a woman named Jochebed, and the story comes from a time when the children of Abraham are slaves in Egypt, suffering horribly at the hands of their captors and crying out for God to come and rescue them. It is from Exodus 2:
About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.
5 Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. 6 When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.
7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.
8 “Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl went and called the baby’s mother.
9 “Take this baby and nurse him for me,” the princess told the baby’s mother. “I will pay you for your help.” So the woman took her baby home and nursed him.
10 Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, “I lifted him out of the water.”
I’m not sure I can imagine the courage and pain it took for a mother to float a 3-month-old baby in a makeshift boat down a river. Can you imagine that? What did she feel as she waterproofed the basket? What kind of anguish was running through her heart as she walked to the river? How much courage and selflessness did it take for her to lay that basket in the weeds and walk away?