(This is the message delivered at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Sunday March 10, 2019. The equipment was not working, so this is the manuscript)
“I just don’t get it!” These words can be expressed from most any student that has tried to solve an equation, anyone trying to learn something new, facing the challenge of fixing a broken piece of machinery, or simply reading a difficult passage. It can be frustrating to search and dig and try to discover only to find a complete loss in the end. Some things are just difficult to understand. Not all of life comes with easy answers or quick fixes. I find that the most valuable lessons I have learned have come from difficult times when I have had to keep learning, keep asking, keep exploring, keep asking “and”…until finally, the lightbulb moment occurred. It can be so rewarding to either see the light or help someone else to see it. The “I don’t get it” turns into an “ah ha!” moment and it is priceless. In today’s reading, I find myself in the position of searching…and listening…and exploring, trying to uncover what Jesus is teaching.
Jesus is talking to a group of Jews – those born and raised in the faith…believers in God…Jesus’ own people, these are people that were searching and trying to put all the pieces together. They didn’t get it. They had not turned away…they had not given up…they were still struggling through Jesus’ teachings. And if we are honest with ourselves, we should find ourselves in this position a lot as we read and study the teachings of Jesus. He presents some difficult teachings on loving and following and serving. He does not sugar coat or spoon feed. With Jesus, he is teaching and leading from the ultimate place of love…but this love convicts us that we are not who we should be…nor do we do all that could… His love challenges us to become more like him and less like the world…and it changes us into the people he has created.
In today’s teaching, Jesus is explaining what it means to follow…to be a disciple…a real disciple. In this, he explains that being a disciple is continuing in his word, the truth. This truth will make the disciple free. This sounds great and we often speak this verse…you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Mostly we speak it when we have remembered a Bible verse or trying to prove we are right. But this verse also insinuates something. If the truth makes free, then the opposite is to be a slave…to be oppressed…to be held down…to be not free. The opposite of free is captured and contained. For a Jewish person, this means something. If we reference back to the Old Testament teachings, there are many indications of freedom from oppression. Indicated here…being a descendant of Abraham means that they are God’s chosen…and as a child of God, not slaves. They may have also thought about Passover and how Moses had led God’s people out of slavery, to be set free. For Jesus to speak about needing to be free is a difficult and possibly offensive teaching.
While we may not find that immediately difficult, the application hits a little closer to home for us, as non-Jews. Jesus answered them that the slavery he is talking about is a slavery to sin. Sin is holding them as slaves and due to the sin, they are unable to see an opportunity for sonship…the chance to be a child of the King. They are missing a place at the table because they don’t understand there is something better for them. They are happy being slaves because they don’t realize that there is more to this life than where they are. They haven’t seen the master’s table, where the children of the Master sit. And they don’t see it because they don’t understand how Jesus fits into their picture. God, they get. Abraham, they understand. Moses, they have learned about. The Law, they have expounded. But Jesus…they do not have a place for. They don’t understand how God has shown them who he is because it is easier to stay like they are, than move forward with Jesus.
They are not the only ones that didn’t get it. There are so many of us that are held as slaves to sin because it is easier than living in the light. There are many of us that would rather live in sin because that is a life we understand. The truth may set us free, but we have to see how enslaved we are to see how free we could be… When we are slaves of sin, we are held back. We are under oppression of sin. We are not free to be as we were created to be. We don’t see that there is a place at God’s table for us.
Sin seeks to destroy, and eats away at us from the inside out. Sin tells us who we are not. Sin whispers that we are losers, defective, failures, bad people, worthless, unclean. Sin says that we have no way out…that we are the way we are and nothing can change that. Sin steals our joy and our hope. Sin…missing the mark, not seeing who we are as God’s beloved…takes the life we have been given and crumples it up like the paper we have written and erased on way too many times. Sin says we can try but we will never succeed.
And the waters become even more muddy because we really are sinners. We make mistakes. We can try so very hard and still mess up. We can make every effort and still find ourselves at a loss…still not good enough…still not succeeding. Sometimes, it seems the harder we try, the more we fail. Sin…those things which hold us back…that keep us from living…that take our eyes off the One that loves and created us…that tells us we are failures…they can take a toll on us.
But Jesus has overcome all of that. Jesus is our way out of all of that. Jesus seeks to reclaim us, to remake us, to reshape us…to mold us into the people we were created to be…free. To be free reminds us that we are God’s beloved. We have a place at God’s great big table because he calls us his own. We are loved and chosen. We are a disciple when we follow Christ. We are a disciple when these words begin to seep into our being and take over our world. We are a disciple when we allow Jesus to consume us. We are disciples when we answer the call of Christ…come and follow me. Drop it all and follow.
To become a disciple…is as simple as following. A disciple is a follower, a learner, a discoverer. It is not about being perfect or getting it all right. It is not about always being successful or receiving any physical gifts. It is about finding peace and hope and joy in the journey. When we are disciples, we find that we are the beloved…we are beautiful creations of a God that continues to mold and shape us into exactly who we were made to be…we are good and chosen and free. To be a disciple is freedom…we choose to follow the One that calls us his own. Do you have a place in you to follow?
It begins with answering the call to follow…Jesus says, come and follow me and I will make you my disciples. Once we follow, he guides and directs where we should go. This is not in a slave situation, but in a freedom situation…we choose to follow the One that created us and gave us life…and he leads us into a life that is free and abundant and where we are loved. When we begin to follow, we begin to listen and learn and grow…to become the people God knows we can be. We hear his Word…we see him at work…we receive a hope that there is so much more. Sin does not have a hold on us any longer. We are free. Will you follow? The cost is everything…the reward is even more than that…the gift is being a child at the Master’s table. Come take your seat…you are one of his beloved. He has been waiting for you.