Summary: This sermon supports the understanding of humility, which used properly is one of the best weapons in a Christian’s arsenal; and that is by traveling a second mile on a difficult, lonely road; a road Jesus traveled, a road that he want us to travel.
This sermon was delivered at Holy Trinity, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland on Sunday the 19th February 2017; Holy Trinity is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
The readings for today are from:
Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
Back in the day, … that is, when Jesus walked this earth as a man, a Roman solder, under imperial Roman law could demand or command that a Jewish man, (or boy), too carry his load or burden for up to one mile. … This is true, a Roman soldier was allowed to approach any Jew and say, “hei you, come ere, caary these bags fir me”. … He probably didn’t say it in a Maybole accent, but he would say it in an authoritative, bulling, dismissive tone.
Now this seems all very good for the Roman soldiers, but it was not as cut and dry as it appears; because the Jews really resented being treated and humiliated in this way, and so the Jews, being a Jews, sticking rigidly to the law, carried the soldiers burden for one mile … but not one step further.
… This then would sort of annoy the Roman soldier, because he then needed to look for another Jew to carry his load further, and this in some way gave the Jews a wee bit of satisfaction, enabling them to sneer a bit, … because by this time, every other Jews would have seen him carrying this burden, and so they would all stay well clear knowing full well that the Roman soldier would be looking for another Jew to carry his load further.
But all in all, it was still in the soldiers favour, and the Jews absolutely hated this law, … but they had hope … they had a plan, a cunning plan, because a Messiah was soon to appear, and he would sort out these Romans, … but when Jesus did appear, he said on the “Sermon on the Mount”, (verse 41), “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two”.
Can you imagine the Jews reaction on hearing that, “you want us to go two miles … you are not on … stuff that … you caary it two miles”. Ok, they did not have Ayrshire accents either, but I bet you that was said, … and seriously that is not what they expected from this greatly prophesied messiah; … they expected a true political hero, a champion of champions, and not one who would appease the Romans and help them with their cause.
But, do you remember in my sermon from a few weeks ago when I quoted 1st Corinthians 1:18 which read, “For the preaching of the cross to them that perish, is foolishness; … but unto us which are saved, … it is the power of God”.
Well this is a case in point, you see, Jesus knew what he was saying, … he knew that these civilised law abiding Jews were no match for these tough, battle hardened Roman soldiers. You see these soldiers would have had fire in their bellies, they would have a spirit of aggression, authority and intimidation … and if any poor Jew challenged that spirit, … (with their own defiant spirit), then obviously, the Roman soldier would win, and everyone knew this.
However, can you imagine a Jew carrying a Roman Soldier’s load for one mile, and as they neared the end of that mile … and just when the Roman soldier is looking for another Jew to carry the load further, when the Jew pipes up, (just as Jesus commanded), “don’t worry, I will carry it on for you another mile”.
Think about it, what would be going through the mind of the Roman soldier? … Come on, you would have to admit, his heart would sort of melt at those words, he would relax, down would come his defenses, because no other person would speak to him in the way … a way of compassion and understanding.
When we are in conflict, or against someone much stronger than ourselves, we will never beat them head on, … because that is what they are used to, … that is what made them big and strong in the first place. … No, the best way to beat them is to soften their hearts, … and I have known this for years, (you too probably), and you will know that it does not work all the time, but it does work, and when it works, the results can be surprising and outstanding.