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Sermon 4/22/07 –
Matthew 10:38-39 - The Cross


 Audio Sermon

The Cross

He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39)

What happened at the college called Virginia Tech in the eastern United States, was simply terrible. It appears that a lone gunman planned and methodically killed 32 people, including faculty and students. He then killed himself. Amazingly, before his death, he sent a series of videos to the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), essentially blaming his victims for what he did to them. He blamed Christianity, the rich, and the lifestyle of his fellow students. He accused everybody else for what happened, but he did not blame the real killer – himself.

Like so many, he missed the point of life. We were created for God's purposes, which includes His command that we are to “love one another” (John 13:34-35). When Jesus uttered those words, He called it “a new commandment,” which it seemed to be, not only for his hearers, but also for the rest of us. Actually, that command was part of the very fabric of God’s intention for us at creation, and it was reflected in the Law given to Israel. God said through Moses, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). As a people, we have not done very well with that command. Most instead feel hurt by people and events to the extent that our ability to love others is limited.

And it is an international problem. The gunman in Virginia was not the only self-centered person in the world. Humanity unfortunately is filled with them and it always has been. For many years, an attempt at genocide has been occurring in the Sudan, the largest country in land area in Africa. The target has largely been Christians, and the instigators have been people like the young man in Virginia – angry people who want to kill.

Those who survive such atrocities, like the survivors in Virginia and the Sudan, have a great deal in common. Those who live and remember will feel shock, anger, hurt and grief which does not go away. Unfortunately, the tendency of many who have been hurt is to respond in kind. The survivors, however, have a choice. They can build walls of resentment and fear around themselves or they can look to the Lord who gives us love.

The real target in Virginia was larger than those who call themselves “Christians.” It wasn’t really about the rich or their lifestyles. The man’s real anger was at God. Those who are angry in heart cannot retaliate against God directly, so they aim at His creation. They kill the innocent because inside they are full of hatred.

For those who survive, what has been called “survivor-guilt” will be with them. “Why my child?... Why my friend? Why not me?” There are survivors of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and all other wars, who have experienced the death of a friend – right next to them. To this day they agonize: “Why not me?”

On Thursday morning, we were at the Southland Convalescent Home. After the Bible study on John Chapter 18, we were to have a birthday lunch with our friend Grace, who would be 93-years old on the next day. But instead of going straight to lunch after the study, she asked us to be with her on her “rounds.” Grace has been visiting thirty to forty other residents almost every day for several years. We met quite a few on her “rounds” that we hadn’t met before. Grace is suffering right now from two falls; one of which broke some ribs. She said “Goodbye” to each one as she spoke to them.

We met many of the people Grace loves, including Dora, Tom, Yettie, Pearl, Richard and Inez. The latter lady said of Grace, “She’s so good to come and see me!” Another one said, “I need a back-scratcher.” We prayed with DeLois, who had a bad toothache. A man named Milton was a Marine who told us about the three injuries he received in World War II, as though it was yesterday. And for him it was. He pointed to the rows of medals he earned, which were displayed across the top of his TV set and on a shelf. In a Navy hospital, he endured one and one-half years of surgeries after the war. As he was about to go under the anesthetic for one of them, he glanced up and looked into the eyes of a nurse. He said, “I looked up right into the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen, and they were looking right back at me.” He continued, “She was a Navy Ensign. We were married,” he continued, “for more than fifty years.

All those we met are suffering the ravages of age. We met one bed-ridden man who is 107. Grace told us “He loves to shake hands,” but unfortunately he was unable to get his hands out of the light blanket to shake hands with us. Age had weakened him.

Jesus revealed one of the great reasons why He left eternity and came to this place of suffering. He said, “I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Now, life doesn’t seem very “abundant” to the survivors and the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives to the angry man in Virginia. Shock and horror don’t leave much room for abundance. We’re more likely to be happy when things go well and we reasonably get upset when they don’t.

But today’s Scripture teaches us another way to regard life. To lose a loved one, to experience the horror of war, to be a victim, to lose our youth – is our “cross.” Jesus said to us, “Take up (your) cross and follow after Me” (Matthew 10:38). We are all like wounded soldiers and the majority of our “wounds” are of the heart. Someone or something has cut into us so deeply that it is like we have been stabbed to the very soul. We try to “get over it” as some have told us, but it’s too much – we want to, but we can’t.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Take the burdens of your situation to Him. When Jesus fell under the weight of His cross, an African man named Simon was enlisted to help Him carry it (Matthew 27:32). God personally KNOWS your need for someone who will help. What is your “cross?” It may be an illness, an injury or the loss of someone, like those who lost loved ones in Virginia and in the Sudan. It may be the process called “aging.” It might be the loss of your reputation. Whatever it is, the Lord KNOWS your need, and He longs to bear that burden with you. Jesus said in today’s Scripture, “he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” You can trust the Lord in your loss, for indeed there is “abundant life” – in Him.

Lord, I cannot bear this burden alone. I need you now. Help me. Save me. Thank You.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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