Summary: Encouragement to follow Jesus, letting nothing distract.
Would you have been a follower of Jesus Christ if you had lived in the first century? We live 2000 years after the time of Christ, and we see him on the pages of Scripture, and we hear about him in chapel services like this one. We learn about him in religion classes, we hear about him in church. And we say to ourselves, “Well, of course I would have been a follower of Jesus Christ in the first century. I wouldn’t have been so proud, like the Pharisees. I wouldn’t have been so worldly, like the people who would get healed and forget to thank him. I wouldn’t have been so scared like the disciples, who ran away when he was arrested. I would have been humble. I would have been grateful. I would have been brave, and followed him, if I was born in the first century.”
There was something about Jesus in the first century that turned people away from him, something that still today causes people to turn away from him. Do you know what it was? It was something that confused people. For awhile, Jesus would look so great to those who followed him – he would perform a miracle – he would heal someone, he would make thousands of dollars worth of food, he would stop storms, he would walk on water, raise people from the dead – he would look so great.
But there was something about him that would cause people to lose interest and turn away from him. Do you know what it was? It was the fact that he didn’t use his power for earthly purposes. He didn’t cure world hunger. He didn’t get rid of poverty. He didn’t get rid of the corrupt Roman government and become the earthly king of Israel. He didn’t produce a medicine that could be used by doctors to cure people. He didn’t put a stop to all natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes. He didn’t use his power for earthly purposes.
Instead, he told his disciples that he wasn’t going to use any of his power. He was going to be his power on a shelf, and become really humble. Even though he could do all kinds of amazing things, he told his disciples that he was going to be betrayed, and condemned, and mocked and flogged and crucified. And then he would use his power again, and be raised to life.
The disciples didn’t listen. They didn’t pay attention. How many times did Jesus tell them that he was going to rise from the dead? And yet, they still were surprised when he did! Why? Because they weren’t paying attention.
Have you ever seen that happen in class? A teacher says, “On Friday, we will be having a test on this section of material.” 5 minutes later, one of your classmates raises his hand and asks the teacher, “Is there an assignment for Friday? When is the test?” You look at that student, and you’re wondering, “Are you joking, or are you really that dense?”
The disciples were dense. Right after Jesus talked about dying and rising from the dead, two of his best students, James and John, showed that they weren’t really paying attention. They asked if they could be number one and two in his kingdom. They thought Jesus was going to overthrow the Romans. How could they miss what Jesus was trying to tell them? Their minds were on something else - they were so focused on earthly stuff, earthly problems, earthly power, earthly hopes and dreams of overthrowing the Romans, that they weren’t paying attention to why Jesus was really there.
Aren’t you and I sometimes like those disciples? Sometimes we don’t pay attention. We zone out. Why? Just like those disciples, we also can get so wrapped up in our earthly lives. We hear the story Jesus during Lent, we hear about Jesus’ death, and his resurrection. But we don’t really pay attention to it – sometimes, we don’t really care. Why? Just like those disciples, we have other things on our minds – earthly stuff – How does Jesus being so humble help me with my real-life problems at school, my real-life problems with my friends, trying to fit in with other people? How does Jesus, being so humble, dying on a cross, help me with the stress of trying to get good grades, or the disappointment of not making a team? I’m trying to figure out where to go to college, or if I even want to go to college? How does the story of Lent help me when I’m worried about how things are rough at home with my parents. Or how I really don’t like my job. These are the kinds of things that are on our minds, real life problems, real life challenges and worries. And so, when we hear about Jesus, betrayed and condemned and mocked and flogged and crucified and risen – we sometimes don’t hear it – we don’t pay attention. Our minds are on something else – and we miss it. We miss what God is trying to tell us. What is the message of Lent? What is God trying to tell us? You can sum up the message of Lent in three words. Do you know what those words are? Lent is when God says, “I love you.”