Jesus, How Much Further?
by Rev. Randy Brown
Last week we began a two part series, which we will conclude today entitled Jesus Went a Little Further. That’s the scripture out of Matthew’s Gospel and Mark where Jesus was in the garden and he went farther to pray and the other areas of his life where he went further.
Today, we’re going to look, for just a few moments, at the areas where He taught us to go further. Going the distance. I think one of the things that the church has done a disservice, many times we have not shared with folks what’s involved and what’s expected. We just kind of make things a short cut. If we come to church and we come down the aisle and we receive Jesus then that’s all there is. But, that’s not all there is. That’s the beginning. The beginning of a journey that takes us, throughout our lifetime, on to that place not built with hands but eternal in the Heavens.
The Christian journey is not a short journey. It’s a life long journey. We have to, each day, go a little further in our lives and in our dealings with people. I’m reminded of a story, of a jeweler in London, England, years and years ago when Queen Elizabeth first came to sit on the throne there in England as the Queen of the country.
There was a young jeweler just starting out in his jewelry business and he wanted to do something that would set him apart from all the other jewelers in the town. He decided that he would take a ring, that was a very special ring, it was a beautiful and priceless, almost, ring. He would ask for an audience with Her Majesty, the Queen. He was granted the audience. He took the ring with him. He went in to sit down in front of Queen Elizabeth. He said to her, “Your Majesty, I have a jewelry business and I want to give you this ring. Whenever you wear it, if you don’t mind, just let people know where it came from.” She agreed.
Years later, he’s an old man now, he asked for another audience with Her Majesty, the Queen. She granted him the audience. He walks in and they sit. He reminds her of who he is and the gift that he gave. Then he said to her, “Do you still have this ring that I gave you?” She said, “Yes, yes, I still have it.” “Well, your Majesty, would you mind, could I see it again?” The servants were summoned, they brought the ring, and they handed it to him. He held that beautiful ring in his hands. He began to weep. He looked at Queen Elizabeth and he said to her, “Your Majesty, years ago when I gave you this ring I was a young man. I didn’t know the value of it. I didn’t know what it would cost me. I didn’t know how priceless it was. But, through the years of business and experience I now know it’s worth. I now know what it cost. Your Majesty, I want to give it to you again.”
Sometimes in our Christian journey as we start out on the path of following Jesus we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to cost us. We’re not exactly sure what it’s worth. Through the years, as we grow closer and closer and closer to Him it dawns on us sometimes how tough it is, sometimes how valuable it is, sometimes what it costs us. I wonder? Would today at the communion table be the day when we need to examine that and we need to say, Lord, afresh and anew, I want to give myself to you. This may be the day that you need to do that.
Over and over again we can give our life back to Him as we learn more and more about what it will cost. It’s a journey and sometimes it’s a long journey and it’s a long distance. I’m reminded of that lady that I knew growing up and she had a little Southern twang to her voice. Somebody would say, “How far is it from here to there?” She would say, “Frank, it’s a fur piece.” And, sometimes, sometimes, it’s a long journey. I wonder if today is the day that we need to recommit and give anew and afresh our life to Him?
The scripture says whoever puts the hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. I had a lady one time ask me, “Preacher, can I do this and still go to Heaven?” I thought, you’re asking me? I said, “It depends on who’s in charge of your life.” That’s something she had to deal with. Sometimes we want the shortcut. We want to do just enough like Robin was saying awhile ago. That’s not what the scripture calls us to do. You and I are to travel light.
If you go on a trip there’s two types of people that go on a trip. The type of person that knows how to pack just enough for the entire journey and there’s the type of person who takes everything they can cram into the suitcase or suitcases as it may be. Sometimes we want to cram in all the stuff in our life and it’s not necessary. How many times have you gone on a trip and you brought one suitcase that you didn’t even unzip? You brought it back. Sometimes we carry too much stuff with us. We need to pack light. We don’t need to carry the guilt and the resentment and the hurt and the pain and those kinds of things with us. Travel light. Travel light.
Jesus is talking here and He says, “You’ve been told to do it this way but go further and do it this way.” Going the distance. The first area that He talks about is maybe in our interpersonal relationships. Somebody’s wronged us. Somebody’s hurt us. Somebody has done us wrong. Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” Go the distance. Seven times 70 is how many times you should forgive them. Go the distance. Going the distance is not easy.
Let me tell you something about going the distance I learned this this week. And, if I can get if off my mind and into yours we will have accomplished something today. Here it is. Our behavior ... You know when somebody does something we have a choice in our behavior. Our behavior is not determined by the way we’re treated. So often we let it, what we do is determined by the way somebody treated us. That’s not biblical.
I spent yesterday morning in Talladega, Alabama. I didn’t go to the race. I went to the federal prison. A friend of mine is incarcerated down there. He’s going to be getting out next year and can’t wait because he’s got a tremendous testimony that will absolutely blow you away. We were talking and I said, “Bucko, I got a question. What scares you the most about getting out?” His answer, I don’t think I’ll ever forget, he said, “I’m afraid I’ll carry the bitterness with me.” What he’s been through, nobody can blame him. He wants to travel light. He doesn’t want his life to be determined by what happened to him and his behavior. Travel light. Go the extra mile. Turn the other cheek.
The second thing is do more than is expected. How many times have you been a recipient of something that somebody did for you and, let’s be honest, you were expecting a little bit but they did a little bit more than was expected. That’s nice when that happens. Years ago, as I was leaving my first church they had a going away thing and somebody had found out that my billfold that I had at the time was pretty well ragged. It wasn’t good for much. I had to put rubber bands around it just to hold it all together. Somebody found out about it and said to me, “Don’t buy you a billfold, I’m going to get one for a going away present.” I thought, hey, that’s pretty nice. I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting was when I opened it up it had $30 in it. They went above and beyond what they should have done.
We’re called many times to go above and beyond, to go the second mile, to go the distance, to be dependable, not asking, not waiting to be told, and to be generous. If we’re going to go the distance we’ve got to realize it’s not about us. It’s about going the distance for Him. To go the distance we need discipline, we need denial, we need discipleship. We need to realize that we have eaten at His table and when we come to the table of the Lord we remember that He was committed to us. We remember that we make a commitment back to Him but there’s one other commitment and that commitment is we’re committed to each other. When the Psalmist says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
In the Old Testament, if you went into somebody’s house and they invited you to sit at the table they had an oath to protect you even to death. We take it for granted. Sometimes we don’t even sit around the table anymore. It’s TV trays or holding it in our lap as we’re driving down the road. Eating together is a big deal. It’s a spiritual deal. When we sit at table we’re committed to one another. When we come to the table and receive the elements of Holy Communion in a few moments we’re not just committed to Him, He’s not just committed to us; we’re committed to each other. Sitting at the table is a big deal.
You say, “Preacher but I live in the real world.” This is the real world. This is what God calls us to do. Are we traveling light? Are we ready to go the distance? Sometimes going the distance means not to settle the score. We want somebody to get what’s coming to him. You know what Jesus said or what God says in his word? “Vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord. I will repay. If we want him to get what’s coming to him it’s not up to us. God will take care of that. We need to be ready to go the distance, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to give the coat when they just want the shirt and to be ready to be a generous spirit to someone else.
You see, if we go the distance and we travel light that frees us up. It’s hard to travel when we’re pulling everything with us. If you’re going to catch a plane and go to the baggage counter and check your luggage what's easier to take? Ladies, I’ll give you two small bags? Or is it easier to have about eight bags and you’re walking like this. Which is easier? Of course, the lighter you travel – the easier the journey. We can go the distance if we travel light. If you and I experience the transforming grace of God, we’ll go the distance and we’ll travel light.
My prayer for you this morning when you come to the table is that you and I will do what that London jeweler did and we will commit, again, knowing a little bit more about what it will cost us this time. That we will commit again to going the distance. Why is it important to go the distance? If we say we’re a follower of Christ and He went the distance doesn’t that tell us how far we need to go? If He went the distance it’s up to us to go the distance as well. You know Jesus, when He was hanging on the cross, there were seven words but He never said, well this is good enough. He said, “It - Is - Finished,” and He breathed His last. He went the distance. Sometimes we look in our life and even in our service to Christ and to the church and we say, “It’s good enough.” Go a little further. Go the distance because the one who invites us to take the broken body and shed blood of Christ, He went the distance. Now it’s our turn to go the distance. That’s what the book says. The book, never lies.