Today, I spoke at our local ministerium’s weekly Lenten Lunch service (services last from 12:05 to 12:30, followed by lunch in a different church each week during Lent). Today, we were at West Side UMC, where my wife is the pastor. It was a rare opportunity for the two of us to serve together.
Here is a thumbnail sketch of my sermon …
The Bible describes life as a race—not a sprint, but a lifelong marathon. The race is long. There are days when our lungs burn, our legs are ready to give out, and every fiber of our being is ready to quit. Life is a race, and it takes determination!
Jesus modeled determination in his race, especially as he neared the finish line!
From the time Jesus began preparing his disciples for what would happen in Jerusalem to the Last Supper, where Jesus told his disciples about the bread being his body and the cup containing his blood given for them. Jesus was determined to go to the cross!
Nothing kept Jesus from the cross so nothing could keep us from God!
After the supper, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He began to feel crushed, but I don’t believe he was looking for Plan B. He was preparing himself for the last leg of the race. Jesus, fully God and fully human, had to fully surrender himself for the end of the race. Jesus was determined to go to the cross. Nothing kept Jesus from the cross so nothing could keep us from God!
When Jesus was captured and interrogated by the religious leaders, he clearly showed his determination to go to the cross. When he was interrogated by Pilate, he remained virtually silent. He didn’t defend himself because he was determined to finish his race. Nothing kept Jesus from the cross so nothing could keep us from God!
After the crowd chose Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus, Jesus’ fate was sealed. Jesus was finally headed to the cross, his finish line!
Nothing kept Jesus from the cross so nothing could keep us from God! That’s how much God loves us!
I’ve always loved what Max Lucado wrote …
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, he’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and he chose your heart. What about the Christmas gift he sent you in Bethlehem; not to mention that Friday at Calvary. Face it, friend, he’s crazy about you.
What I’m asking us to do–what I think God asks us to do–in response, is to return the favor.
In Hebrews 11, the writer talks about a number of people who ran their race with determination. In Hebrews 12, the writer talks about the most important race ever. Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before him. In other words, nothing kept Jesus from the cross so nothing could keep us from God!
The writer to the Hebrews offers a couple of challenges: 1) we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us, and 2) we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!
If we’re going to run our race with determination, persistence, and endurance; if we’re going to reach our finish line in a way that honors God, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!