A sermon by Robert Browning, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Frankfort, Ky.
February 2, 2014
This morning, our attention is drawn to the table which is before us. In a few moments, we’ll take the bread and cup, which symbolize the death of Jesus on the cross.
The most important thing for you to know today is that Jesus did not deserve to die. He died because his heart was bigger than his enemies’ hatred for him.
“No one has greater love than this,” Jesus said to his disciples as they gathered in the Upper Room, “than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Love and sacrifice go together, don’t they? As a matter of fact, George Buttrick said the deepest level of love always involves sacrifice.
This was true for Jesus. All throughout his public ministry he made sacrifices on behalf of others. Hours after Jesus uttered these words which John recorded, he died on a cross at the hands of his enemies who were incensed by his relentless pursuit of justice and peace.
Jesus died because he spoke truth to power and championed the cause of those who were oppressed by religious bullies and power hungry tyrants. He stood up to these corrupt leaders who formed an unholy alliance with the Roman Empire, exposing their hypocrisy. He called upon them to confess their addiction to power, prestige, attention and money, and he challenged them to care more about the people they were called to serve than protecting their hold on power and lavish lifestyles.
Jesus knew his message was not well received, and his life was in danger. He did not back down, though. His voice and resolve got stronger while his heart got bigger. He loved God, this world and the people who needed him too much to take the easy road or place a limit on what he would do for those he loved.
Four days before he was arrested, Jesus went to the temple and confronted the religious establishment head on. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and ran them out of the temple. This was a bold, courageous and dangerous decision and was the final straw leading to his death. Why did he take this risk and put his life in grave danger?
Love is willing to do the difficult. Love will not let you take the easy road. Love will not allow you to walk away when others need you. Love will not give you permission to be stingy. Love will not give you a pass when so much is at stake. Love compels you to act boldly and courageously because the deepest level of love always involves sacrifice.
“No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” According to Jesus, our love for others is measured by the sacrifices we make on their behalf.
Who sacrificed the most for you to be where you are today? Who blazed the trail on which you are walking? Who wrote the checks so you could have a roof over your head and food on your table? Who stayed by your bedside when you were too sick to take care of yourself? Who sat on those cold bleachers and watched you play an instrument, cheerlead or hit a ball? Who put their reputation on the line when you applied for school or your first job?
Who encouraged you when you were discouraged? Who picked you up when you fell down? Who was there when you made your biggest mistake and gave you hope? Who stood by your side when all others had walked away? Who did without what they needed so you could have what you needed?
Where would you be today without them? What impact has their sacrifice had on you?
Who needs you to love them this much in the days ahead? Who needs your encouragement and help right now? What sacrifices will this demand from you? What must you lay down or give up that means a lot to you? Are you willing to do it?
To be candid with you, I doubt any of us will be called upon to lay down our life this week to save another. On the other hand, each of us will be called upon to lay down things precious to us in order to help those around us.
Dreams and plans will need to be put on hold. Time will need to be used and money spent in ways we had not planned. We’ll have to let go of status, pride and denial as we admit our world and relationships can be as messy and ugly as everyone else’s.
Why would we even think about doing these things? Love is willing to do the difficult, and the greatest level of love always involves sacrifice.
“One of the most difficult things I ever did was to go to Al-Anon,” my friend said. At the time, my friend had been the pastor of his church for eleven years and was well known and respected in his community. Going public with his teenage daughter’s addictions and eating disorders was extremely painful but necessary. He needed a support group and the skills to help her. Doing so, however, meant he had to set aside all the things I mentioned a moment ago.
When he and his wife married, they made a decision to set aside $1,000 a year for the next twenty years. This money was going to be used to fund a trip they would take to celebrate their twentieth anniversary.
The fund had grown to $18,000, and they were already making plans for their special trip. That $18,000, and plenty more on top of it, was used to pay for their daughter’s medical and rehabilitation expenses.
Why did they do this? Love is willing to do the difficult and make great sacrifices. Their
daughter’s survival depended upon their ability to make sacrifices.
Who needs you to love them this much?