Jesus Went a Little Further
by Rev. Randy Brown
“And Jesus went a little farther.” That phrase leaps off the page at me each time I read Matthew and Mark’s account of the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. It takes me back to a time of my childhood and reminds me of those times in adulthood where we traveled as a family because if you’ve traveled as a family before and you have young children, sooner or later, and it’s usually sooner, the child is going to ask how much farther?” Can I get a witness? “How much farther?” The adult is going to say, “Oh, just a little farther. Not much farther at all. Just a little farther.”
Luke tells us that Jesus went about a stone’s throw away, and as I said a few weeks ago, that depends on how far and who’s throwing the stone. Mark and Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus went a little farther. “Mom, Dad, how much farther?” “Just a little farther.” You learn quickly and children learn quickly that that means somewhere between 5 minutes and 3 hours. Just a little farther. I was talking to a friend of mine about this the other day and he uses that phrase and he gives this indicator of how much farther and after about the third time of doing, “It’s not much farther,” his daughter said to him, “Daddy, that’s the same distance it was a while ago.” He said, “Honey, it moves very slow.”
Jesus went a little farther. How many times have we used that phrase to get out of a situation? We really don’t know the answer. This phrase that I want to look at today is not about travel and vacation and family journeys. It’s about what Jesus did, about the way that He lived His life. This relates to a story that Jesus was in the garden. He was going to pray and we’re going to be talking about Jesus going a little farther in His prayer time, but before we get into the particulars, let me assure you of this. If you read the scriptures, it was the habit and the custom of Jesus’ life to always go a little farther, always do a little bit more than what we think is requested or required. He was always going a little further.
If you look at that story of the two that are walking on the road back to Emmaus after the resurrection had happened, after the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, they were travelling together and Luke records the story of the two going back to the village called Emmaus. In that chapter, 24:28, it says these words, “As they got to the village, He,” meaning Jesus, “gave the impression that He was going farther, but they invited Him to stay, and He did.” Now if they had not invited Him, He would’ve gone on farther, but they invited Him and He stayed. Jesus stays wherever He’s invited, but had they not invited Him, He would not have intruded. He would not have barged in. He was the perfect gentleman, never to barge in where He hadn’t been invited. He will stay and He will go wherever He’s invited.
Now let’s look further at the things of this story. Jesus went a little farther. The story tells us, first of all, that He went further in His praying. How’s your prayer life? Is it a hit and run kind of thing or is it meaningful? Do you just bless your cornflakes and your latte every morning and then, go about your business of the day? Or do you go and spend some time in prayer, get your day started? Do you pray for your children or your grandchildren?
We’re going through my mother’s house and trying to dispose of some things, and I’ve been over there a couple of times this week and as I was down in what we always call the far end of the house, you can look back through the house and there’s a picture window in their den, and I can stand in one end and see through that picture window at the other end of the house. As I was thinking about that the other day, I remembered the countless, countless times when I would get up early on a school morning and I would look through that same direction and I’d see a light on in the other end of the house. Nobody was up.
One morning, I went up there to see what the light was about and I discovered what it was about. Early, before anybody else got out of bed, my mother was in there having her quiet time. She was praying for her two boys who were sleeping at the other end of the house and for her husband, and for the situations that they would face that day. Do we pray for our children? Do we pray for those closest to us, and our families? We need to.
I remember years ago, it was the first time that I ever spoke on A Walk to Emmaus. That’s a spiritual retreat weekend and the speakers are surrounded in a prayer chapel before they go in to speak to the group. You invite friends and family members to come in and pray for you before you go down to speak. I remember Rachel being there that particular time and I remember her prayer and I remember that after she… Nobody else had to pray. When she got through praying, I was on cloud nine and I floated down the hallway. It was an amazing, amazing experience. She prayed for me to have the gumption and umption of the Holy Spirit and it was there.
Do we pray for one another? Do we pray for our church? Do we pray for… now this is going to get you? Do we pray for our enemies? I remember being at Candler School of Theology and one of the great things that happened when I was at Candler School of Theology, we had a prayer service one day and it was back during the beginning of the Iraq and Iran conflict and we just had a prayer for the world. I remember one particular student praying for the… I remember the quote, “… the innocent women and children who are affected by the war in other parts of the world.”
When the prayer service got over, there was one particular self-righteous seminarian who was mad. You could just see sometimes people mad. The face turns red and just it’s all they can do to keep from crying. That’s the kind of body language this particular student gave off. Somebody said, “What are you mad about?” The answer came, “We prayed for the wrong people.” How do you pray for the wrong people? How can we do that? Doesn’t everybody need prayer? Don’t innocent men, women, and children in other parts of the world whose lives are being bombed because somebody decided to start a war, don’t they need prayer? How can you pray for the wrong people? Scripture tells us, “Pray for those who persecute you. Pray for your enemies.”
Prayer’s a two-way street, spending time with God, talking with Him and listening for that still, small voice. You’ve seen in the last several editions of the Midweek Visitors, a kind of a prayer list. Teachers have this wish list that they put outside their door on different times through the school year. I’m putting some prayer lists there, some things that I feel like God’s calling us to do in the life of the church and the situations that we find ourselves in. If you hadn’t already started, you can pray for General Conference of the United Methodist Church because they’re going to be facing a lot of things. There’s an open meeting for that next Sunday I believe it is, isn’t it, Dana, over at Mount Juliet if you like to go at Providence Church in the afternoon. Do we spend time in prayer?
There’s a group of ladies that come into my office on Sunday morning and pray over me. That’s one of my favorite and most blessed times of the week. Are you praying for your church? Jesus went further in His praying. Jesus secondly went further in His giving. We struggle with that sometimes. We’re called to be good stewards. We’re called to fund the ministries that God has called us to in the local church. I know that this church has the reputation, and I believe it’s one of the most generous churches that I’ve ever had the privilege to pastor. Sometimes, we get behind and you look at the Midweek Visitor and you look at all those things and it may seem like we’re behind, and I would just encourage you and I know summer time’s coming on and that’s a time when sometimes, it’s that summer slump. If we miss a Sunday, don’t miss it often. We miss you, but it’s as a stewardship issue, we need to make sure that we continue to support the church with our presence and with our gifts. Jesus went a little further in His giving.
Jesus went on further in His praying, in His giving. Jesus went on further in His living. He talked a lot about life. He talked a lot about bringing us new life that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we abide in Him and Him in us, and apart from Him, we can do nothing. He talked about being the way, the truth, and the life. He talked about He has come to give us abundant life and joyous life. That’s the purpose for which He came. We need to realize that He came to make our lives better. He came to add value to our lives that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Hear that word. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” If we buy into that, if I could cut your head open and pour that into your brain, it would change your life, but let God’s word change your life. Let the words of Jesus when He says, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly,” we need to do that because everywhere I look, I see people who are grim and white knuckled and they’re just holding on. That’s not what Jesus calls us to. He calls us to realize that He has come to give us life and life more abundantly.
We need to enjoy the resurrection. We celebrated it a few weeks ago and now, we forget all about it ‘til next year. No. Every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. Every Sunday is that day when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ for He’s come to add value to our life. If you notice and read the gospels about Jesus, He never, never, it was never about Him. It was about adding value, giving new life to other people.
The leper that came to touch Him, He didn’t say, “Don’t touch me.” The children who came that the disciples said, “He ain’t got time for you.” He said, “Oh, yes, yes, I do have time for the children because they’re the ones that show the kingdom of God.” The woman who was caught in adultery; everybody else was looking down their long judgmental noses at her. Jesus took the opportunity to love her and to brag on her and to give her new life. Then there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Didn’t matter if it’s a group of small children or a wedding, Jesus was the kind of guy you wanted around. He’s the kind of guy that we need and want and desire in our life for He has come that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus went a little further in His praying, in His giving, in His living. Jesus went a little further in His teaching. We need to teach how to live. My mission statement in life is to invite and equip people to live authentic Christian lives. That’s the one sentence I think that God gave me a few years ago to describe what I seek to be about, to invite and equip people, to live authentic Christian lives. That begins with children and if you’ve got children or grandchildren in the home, it’s your responsibility to teach them. It’s not the school system’s job to teach them right from wrong. It’s not the TV’s job, and if it was they wouldn’t be doing it.
I’ll tell you yesterday, day before, I was flipping channels and I didn’t know what the show was because I didn’t stay around long after I heard this comment. There were two people riding in a car and they were having this discussion and one of them said, “That’s kind of as crazy as believing in Jesus.” I thought, “My Lord, what have we let happen?” Now, there are two ways that we can use that television to teach our children. Hear me. Don’t just leave them in front of it as a babysitter. If you’re going to do that, sit down there with them and watch it and then, talk about it, after it gets through and talk about the issues that are being taught that are contrary to the scriptures and contrary to what the church says. That’s one way to handle it. There’s a second way to handle it. Are you ready? TURN IF OFF. That remote control, it has an off switch on it. Lord, help us.
Teaching. Our job as parents and grandparents is to make sure as best we can that our children get home safe. Years ago when we were living in White House, Tennessee, Randal was playing softball and I use this story with her permission. Now, she inherited her lack of blazing speed from her father, but she was a pretty good hitter. On this particular Sunday afternoon in Greenbrier, Tennessee, she was up to bat and she swung, and that ball just took off to the outfield, hit the fence.
Okay, Hold it right there. I’m coaching third base. If I’m to get another job, I want to be a third base coach because all you have to do is stand over there and do this kind of… that kind of number and know what’s going on. Third base coaching, it’s got to be the easiest job in the world. Well, the ball goes to the outfield. She makes it to first. She’s coming around second. Everybody’s hollering, everybody’s screaming. I’m looking to the bleachers to see what I’m supposed to do because I know her speed.
She’s coming to third base. I’ve got a decision to make. Am I going to hold her there or am I going to send her home? I’m trying to watch the ball and her and listen to folks in the stand. I’ll let you imagine who that was. She’s getting close and I got a decision to make and I thought, “I’m not going to stop her.” She came around third base and I said, “You better be safe when you get there.” They say I ran with her most of the way and maybe I did. Here’s the ball. She was safe. Got the child home safe.
Tell you that story to tell you another story. A few years later, there was a girl in our church who was diagnosed with… help me? Neuroblastoma. Then from the time that she was diagnosed until the time that she went home, she lived more life than most people live in a lifetime. She was adopted by Dream Makers and she had trips to Disney, and she had all these things.
One time, one particular school year in the spring and summer, she was in remission, tried out for cheerleader and made it. Goes to cheerleading camp and across the hall was a young girl named Jenny Gill, whose father is Vince Gill, and they developed a friendship. When Amy (Jenny) died, Vince and Amy Grant, they came, Amy sang at the funeral service. She lived more life. She was laying in bed with her mother from the day that she passed. They prayed together, it was not a particularly good day. She was hurting. Her last words they prayed and Amy (Jenny) said, “Amen” and took her last breath. When I heard that story, I thought about that softball, and I looked at Amy’s (Jenny’s) mother and daddy and I said, “You did what every parent should do, you got your little girl home safe.”
Jesus went a little further in His praying, in His living, in His giving, in His teaching. He went a little further. There’s one last thing that He went a little further in. He went a little further in His loving. The scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” He went further in His loving. Let me illustrate, and I’m finished.
Years ago in the city of Atlanta, Georgia at Grady Hospital, Inner City Atlanta, not the kind of place you want to go for any reason, but there was a young girl who was hired as a nurse and she was a beautiful young girl and she could’ve been the homecoming queen on any campus in the country. She went about her job working with the down and outcast of Inner City Atlanta.
There was a congressman who happened to be at the hospital visiting one day and he went down the hallway and as this nurse went in, she didn’t close the door all the way and this congressman stood outside and saw what she was doing. She was dressing bedsores, and she was emptying bedpans. He waited for a moment and when she came out, he said to her, “Ma’am, I’ve been watching you. I want you to know something. I wouldn’t do what you’re doing. I wouldn’t do it for $1 million dollars.” This beautiful young nurse said, “Mister, neither would I. Neither would I.” She went a little further in her loving. So did Jesus. That’s what the book says and the book never lies.