I want you to watch a 3 minute video I have cued up. And then maybe we can talk about what you’re about to watch.
So what did you hear or see? Ignoring some of the crazy gyrations some of the dancers were making. What did you learn from what you just watched? Again, use your playground voices so I can hear you.
One of the things that the narrator lets us know is that leadership is overrated. I’m not quite sure I fully agree with that, but he does make a point. However – what a leader needs is to have followers, right? And the implication is that the first set of followers needs to be embraced by the leader as equals. It is the followers themselves who invite others to join in, and soon more and more people see what’s going on, they like what they see, and then they join in. And others join in out of fear or concern that if they don’t join in – they might just be left out.
Now – what’s this have to do with Jesus? Glad you asked. What Jesus did was start a movement. A movement – let’s call it an adventure – whose purpose was and is to draw us – to draw all people – back to God. Sin is something that we all have. It is something that separates us from God, so God needed a way to bring us back to Him. So God sent Jesus to show us what it means to be loved. To show us what it means to be forgiven by God. AND what it means for us to love and to forgive others as well. He came to show us how to live life to the fullest. And he invited others to join him – to follow him – to join in the adventure, if you will. And you and I have been invited to join this adventure – AND – to invite others to be a part of the adventure as well.
I would hope that most of us already have a pretty good idea what this adventure that Jesus started is all about. Well, maybe. Maybe not. But we have at least an idea. And that’s why over the next six months or so – we’re going to be learning more about who Jesus is and what he taught – and what he expects from those of us who are following him in this adventure that he started.
We happen to be in the season of the church year we call the season of Pentecost. The color for the season is green. Green is for growth – like the color of the green grass we’ve been mowing like crazy the past few weeks. Green is for the Pentecost season – the season of growth AND the longest season of the church year. Six months long.
So over the next six months our Gospel readings will be from the book of Luke, otherwise known as the Gospel of Luke. Gospel of course means Good News – the Good News of Jesus Christ. By the way, have you ever wondered why we have the readings we have each week? It’s because we follow what’s called a lectionary. So we are in the year of Luke. Next year we will hear from Matthew’s Gospel, and the year after that from Mark’s Gospel, and then back to Luke – with readings from John’s Gospel interspersed throughout each of those three years. Our lessons are chosen for us – they’ve been pre-selected because we use this three-year lectionary.
SO Jesus begins his adventure. He draws followers to him – we know them as disciples – disciples who go along with him – who follow him – and who eventually invite others to come along too.
So this is where today’s lesson comes in. We’re in the 7th chapter in Luke, and by now, Jesus has already established a reputation. In chapter 4, Jesus has begun his ministry – his adventure – in Galilee. We are told here that he is praised by everyone. So already we see he is developing a reputation.
In chapter 5 he calls his first disciples – Peter, James, and John – finally 12 in all. And there are others who follow as well – women like Mary Magdalene and others whose names we never learn. But these are the earliest followers of Jesus who join him on this adventure.
In the meantime, Jesus is building a reputation as a teacher –as a healer – so that by the time we get here to chapter 7 – we find Jesus in Capernaum – a town on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. And we read that a Centurion – in other words a Roman army commander who has 100 men under his command – has a slave whom he values greatly. This slave is ill. Near death.
This Roman Centurion has heard about Jesus, has heard about the miraculous healings he has performed throughout the area. So he sends some of the Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his slave.
Now remember that the Romans were not liked. In fact they were hated. They were foreigners. Gentiles. Military conquerors. They were outsiders. And yet – there seems to be something different about this particular Roman soldier – this Centurion. There is mutual respect between the Centurion and the Jewish elders of Capenaum.
So they go to Jesus and say, “Look, this guy’s a Roman, but he loves our people. He even built our synagogue for us. Jesus – will you come and heal this man’s slave?” And as Jesus approaches the Centurions home, we learn that the Centurion sends others to Jesus to tell Jesus that the Centurion himself feels unworthy for Jesus to enter his home.
“Just say the word, Jesus, and my servant will be healed. I am a man of authority, and I know what happens when I give orders and they are carried out. You have the authority Jesus. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
And Jesus is surprised at the man’s faith. “Not even in Israel have I found such faith,” says Jesus. And immediately the Centurion’s servant is healed.
The point that I want to make here today is that this movement that Jesus started he offers to everyone. Jew, gentile, male, female, Republican, Democrat, Independent. Doesn’t matter. Jesus reaches out – Jesus invites – whoever is willing to rise up – and by faith – to join in the adventure. And as you saw in the opening video – we who are already on this adventure with Jesus – are the ones Jesus uses to invite others to come along.
Around here we call such people disciples. That’s a good word. Disciple. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. His reputation has preceded him to where we are right now. And so we have heard – and we have come to believe. Often that belief did not come without a struggle. Questions, sure. Skepticism, yeah. And maybe you’re here – and you still have questions. Maybe you’re still skeptical about this Jesus thing. And you know what? That’s OK. I can handle that. God can handle that. But you’re here today because someone or someone’s once told you about Jesus. Or better yet – I hope someone has shown you what the love of Christ looks like in action.
So let me ask you. Who do you know who needs to be shown the love of Christ? Who do you know that needs to be forgiven? Who do you know who needs to get back to God? Who do you know who should be with us on this Jesus adventure?
Let me close using the words of author Max Lucado. He says things better than I ever will be able to. Listen to what he says about being a disicple. This is from his book, Next Door Savior. He says:
“You don’t have to lower your standards. Or saddle a high horse. Just be nice. Normal and nice. Discipleship is sometimes defined by being normal! You don’t have to be weird to follow Jesus. [I like that! You don’t have to be weird to follow Jesus.] You don’t have to stop liking your friends to follow Him. Just the opposite. A few introductions would be nice.” And then he asks, “Do you know how to grill a steak?” I like that. In other words – do you know how to do something for somebody – in the name of Jesus? And then Lucado tells the following story. It’s just one example of what the adventure with Jesus CAN look like.
“A woman in a small Arkansas community was a single mom with a frail baby. Her neighbor would stop by every few days and keep the child so [the mother] could do her shopping. After some weeks her neighbor shared more than time; she shared her faith, and the woman followed Christ.
“The friends of the young mother objected. ‘Do you know what those people teach?’ they contested.
“‘Here is what I know,’ she told them. ‘They held my baby.’
And then Lucado asks, “I think Jesus likes that kind of answer, don’t you?”
What Jesus did was start a movement. And he invited others to join him on the adventure. So let me invite you to join the adventure – AND – to encourage you to invite others to come along and be part of the adventure with Jesus too! Amen