A sermon delivered by Joel Snider, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Rome, Ga., on October 21, 2012.
O God, we pray in the hope, the belief, and the confidence that you will provide for our needs today. We bring our fragmented and disjointed lives into the presence of your wholeness. O God, you know our desire is that somehow your wholeness might shape our lives and anchor us in your solid love. We would bring our thoughts that charge back and forth, here and there, and our changing dreams into the light of your eternity. We pray that you would shape our aspirations according to your purposes that never change. We pray that you would change our thoughts and our fleeting dreams into purposes that have everlasting consequences. We bring our restless spirits to the calm strength of your presence that we might find rest. O God, you know our complaints. You know that friends have failed us, that enemies have wronged us, that families have disappointed us, and that life often seems unfair. Nevertheless, teach us to look to you for love beyond understanding and strength beyond what we had ever expected. Even if the way be hard, may we deal with each challenge in ways that show that your son, Christ, is our master. We pray that we would handle each challenge in a way that shows that we serve the one who conquered sin and death. Fill us with the resources yet to conquer over the things that are unjust, the things that are immoral, and the things in this life that are simply wrong. O God, if you be for us, who can be against us? Teach us to so live our lives that they would always be worthy of your blessing. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
The mission of Jesus – and his Apostles – is directed first of all to those who nobody wants, because they are no good to anybody. It is an offer to help the foolish and helpless, not an appeal for the support of the wise and the strong.
—T. W. Manson in The Servant Messiah
Since the end of summer, we have been working through Great Themes of the Bible. Someone asked me how I came up with what the themes would be. I guess it was in a great moment of mortality when I was in my early 50’s when I realized there were a finite number of sermons left to preach. However long that may be, there is a limited number and I began to think, What would I want the members of this congregation to say that they have heard?
At that particular point, I began to focus on things that I would call the great text of scripture, the great themes of scripture, the most basic and the most foundational parts of faith. When we came upon the idea of the great themes, I began to think, What are those words, concepts, and things that we hear about often that come back again and again in the Bible? It is when we look at those that we tried to pull out what are the most basic things.
Last week, we dealt with salvation. If we deal with salvation, somehow we have to deal with the Messiah. The challenge in some of these themes has been to try to summarize everything the Bible says in 20 minutes. It is just impossible, but I try to at least hit in a place on those themes that are important. For me, the Messiah is not as difficult to summarize as it is to try to bring something that speaks to everyone’s life at the beginning of the 21st Century. It is great to know that we believe Jesus was the Messiah, but what on earth does that have to do with my life today? What does that mean? Is this just a history lesson? Is this just a lesson about biblical backgrounds and Greek language? That is where the challenge has been this week.
Let me try this approach and see if you can identify with this. I have the conviction that everybody—not just all of us gathered here today but everybody—is looking for someone, and the someone that everybody is looking for is the person who can take life, power, and the forces of the world by the horns and make things turn out the right way. We are all looking for someone who can take our highest dreams and our greatest aspirations and make them come true. We are looking for somebody who has enough stature and position in life to make life better.
You don’t need me to remind you that we are a couple of weeks away from a national election, and I will tell you that this is one of the best examples that everybody is looking for someone. We live in a country that is a two-party system and they are two parties that have different views about how things should work. If you listen to pundits and debates, if you read columns in the newspaper and polls, both parties are trying to say that their candidate is the right person. If just the right person will get elected, we will have hope. If just the right person will get elected, things will begin to go the right way. If just the right person is elected, America has a promising future. Essentially, both parties and respective platforms are saying the same thing: We have the right someone. Everybody is looking for someone.
It doesn’t have to be a national election. This is football season, and if you will go to coacheshotseat.com, you will find that fans everywhere are looking for someone. Three of the four top coaches on the “hot seat” according to this website are in the SEC. One of them coaches at my alma mater. SEC fans everywhere are looking for the person to come in and coach and never lose again. The coach is to make sure that we always go to Atlanta, win the championship, and play in the BSC title game. That’s all. We are all looking for someone. How many times have we heard, If Coach X doesn’t win Game Y, it is all over. He is out of here. We are gone. That is even if he is not in the top three or four. Everybody is looking for someone to make everything right, do everything well, and promise that all of our aspirations will come true in whatever area we might be talking about.
If you encounter someone who is not married but is thinking about marriage, they are looking for the right someone. There are parents who look for the right teacher because they believe if they could get their child in with the right teacher, there will never be a problem in school again. People are looking for the right person in job interviews to come and work. We look for the right friends because we are all looking for someone who will make everything OK. We look for someone who has the power and who is in the right place at the right time to make everything good from here on out, whether it be elections, football teams, etc.
For centuries in the Jewish heritage, they were looking for someone to usher in the Golden Age. I don’t know if you have ever thought about this or not, but in the time of Jesus, there never really had been a Golden Age in Israel’s history. They were the descendents of slaves who had escaped from Egypt. If you are trying to establish a pedigree, having slavery in your family lineage is never a real asset. Their leader, at that particular time, was Moses. He tried every way he could to get out of the job. He was brought back from shepherding where he had been in self-imposed exile after committing murder.
The Israelites then wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They went through a period called the Judges. Most of us are not familiar with that particular part. They would have tremendous successes which were usually followed by epic failures.
Saul, who we often think of as the first king, was such an erratic individual that in the Hebrew of the Old Testament they do not use the word for king. It is lost on us in the English but they often refer to him by a different title which was prince. They didn’t want to afford him the same prestige that David would have so they called him prince. They did not want to admit that he was a king because his behavior was such that they just did not want to own up to that.
As appealing as David is and even though he wrote such wonderful Psalms, we know that his life was filled with ups and downs. We know about Bathsheba and, basically, he had to turn a blind eye while his general killed his son in order to retain his throne. It was not the Golden Age. Instead of looking backward, the people of Israel kept looking for their Golden Age in the future. The Golden Age is yet to be. When that special person who is chosen by God comes, everything will be right. That is really what Messiah means—chosen by God. The Golden Age is yet to come and we are only waiting on Messiah. When Messiah comes, our enemies will be defeated. When Messiah comes, there will be prosperity. When Messiah comes, people will be righteous. When Messiah comes, all of these things will take place. Our enemies will be defeated, and it will be like the lion laying down by the lamb. It will be like a great homecoming when the people of faith have been gathered from the ends of the earth. It will be a time when the nations of the earth will fall down and worship the king. Righteousness will be such that you will not even have to tell each other to be good because the law will be written on everybody’s heart. Everybody looks for someone.
We look for someone in a variety of ways. They looked for a Messiah and John. John was sitting in prison. Jesus was an unexpected Messiah. John sent his disciples to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who is coming? Are you the Chosen One? Are you the one we have been waiting for? Are you the one who is going to usher in God’s time or should we look for another?”
Christians are people like you and me who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and we believe that what he says about being the Messiah is the right way.
From our study of Christmas, we always say they were looking for a king on a white horse to come in and defeat Rome but instead he was born in a stable. He did defeat our enemies, it just wasn’t Rome. But he defeated the No. 1 enemy which is sin, and the No. 2 enemy which is death.
The people believed it would be a time of great prosperity, but Jesus ushered in a time when he said, “We are not going to open up the grocery stores to everybody, but I will provide daily bread. I will invite the people who follow me to take care of each other’s needs and it will be enough.” He did not focus on the forces of Rome but on the forces of evil. When he thought about peace, it was not about peace between nations but it was peace in our own hearts in relationship to God. It will be an age of mercy that is possible now because God’s people will be the very agents of mercy. Instead of waiting for a king to pronounce it, we will be able to give it to each other when we forgive as we have been forgiven.
Jesus sent back word to John about all these things that were taking place that were demonstrations of the breaking down of the powers of sin. Jesus said, “Go tell John what you have seen here.” The forces of sin are in retreat, and the power of God at work in his people are doing these great things.
Everybody is looking for someone and we believe that someone is Jesus. He did not come in authority so that he could command us all to believe. He came in the form of a servant so that we might all be drawn to love him. He did not come with great pomp and circumstance so that everybody would want to be a part of his parade, would want to follow him just because of the glory of it all, but would not be able to get near him. He came in humility so that anyone could approach him.
We are all looking for someone. We think it is going to be a president, the coach of our team or whomever it may be, but we are all looking for someone to make life right. We are all looking for someone who will guarantee us the victory, and it is Jesus, the one who was hanged on a cross to make things right with God. It is Jesus, the one who promises not whatever kind of taxes we want but abundant and eternal life. It is Jesus who has already won victory over sin. It is Jesus who did not come so that we might recline in leisure but Jesus who invites us to serve with him so that we can be a part of God’s work in this world and a part of what the chosen one has ushered in.
Everybody is looking for someone. How good it is to have found that person and know that it is Jesus.
Joel Snider is a coach for the Center for Healthy Churches.