“Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10 : 39)
Since the dawn of time mankind has struggled to find meaning in life. Jesus posits a challenge in our text this morning.
Jesus challenges us to find not only the true meaning for life; but also challenges us to dedicate the life we find to him for his purposes.
Who am I? Where am I? Am I awake or asleep? Alive or dead? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do while I’m here? Is there life after death? Why is there death?
The Movie, “The Matrix” sought to answer these questions. In this movie the world we know as reality is depicted as some form of pseudo-reality. It was a sham, a hoax, perpetrated by those who sought to enslave humanity through use of its vices and weaknesses. The real world in “the Matrix” was the machine world; a world of reality confined to numbers and cold, unemotional purpose. If you had a purpose you were allowed to serve the Architect of this pseudo reality otherwise you were terminated.
The key was to have your mind expiated from this pseudo reality by Morpheus and to be reborn as a cross between human and machine. Once freed your powers were increased and you could fight the machine world to regain and protect the pseudo reality which you despised in the first place. Zion as it were was the city of bliss and happiness that all humans coveted; it had to be protected at all costs. Zion was the aim and object of those seeking to be freed. It was a very intriguing movie but left us just as confused as we were before its production. For you see trying to answer life’s questions apart from Jesus is futile, frustrating, and fruitless.
Jesus uproots us from this pseudo reality and transports us into a new reality, the reality of God’s Kingdom. We can choose to spend our life trying to discover what and who we are in this world or we can spend our time discovering what and who we are in the Kingdom. In the former choice, we find a never ending story; but in the latter decision we find absolute power, purpose, and passion for living. In other words we can spend our time finding out who and what we are only to keep discovering that we can’t fully discover it or we can find and discover who we are based on our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let us explore these two choices, seeking to find out about ourselves in this world or seeking to find out about our relationship to God in this world.
These two choices are reflected in the words of this text: “Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” This is a strange and mind boggling text. It seems to suggest two pathways; one that leads to death and one that leads to life after death.
In other words, even after we spend a lifetime looking for the answers to the quintessential questions “Who Am I?” “Why Am I Here?” outlined before, even after we find the answers, we will still end up losing our life.
So, should we spend our time looking for our life knowing that we will lose it anyway? Or should we decide how we will live our lives in this world?
Now consider this: We are persons! “A person is one who knows the world around him and particularly who knows himself in relation to that world and to other persons. . . . A person may be influenced from without, but the determining factor in shaping life and destiny is from within. Others may influence us; we determine ourselves. This means that a person has the power of looking ahead and of choosing one’s own course in light of moral distinctive.
Thus the challenge that Jesus poses is a challenge that can literally be accepted. This challenge is to “be or to become.” It is to find out who and what you really are and to “be” that unique distinct person, and then surrender that person to him and his cause. It is what Paul Tillich in his novel work The Courage to Be puts this spin on the text:. ” … Therefore, Jesus says that we are to take accept the life we find or determine within ourselves to use that life for his purpose, power, and passion. That passion is to help others discover their true selves and then commit that self to God through a personal relationship with Jesus as a disciple. Since loss of life is inevitable, Jesus challenges us to lose it doing the will of God rather than our own. But who can make such decision without first discovering who they are and “being” who they are in relation to this world? None of us can truly decide to become disciples of Jesus until we first discover who we are without Jesus. From such thinking is derived the saying of Shakespeare, “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
There are obstacles to determining who and what we are. They are three: intimidation, domination, and manipulation. Each derive from our relationship with others. Your environment influences your choices; intimidation, domination, and manipulation negatively influence you becoming your true self. All three of these obstacles are the forces of darkness that seek to cut you off from the light which shines once you obtain wisdom and knowledge about yourself. Only after overcoming these three negative influences can we discover our true self and with that the “life” of which Jesus speaks.
Many of us quite frankly are hypocrites. We pretend to be who we are not. We have lived in response to intimidation, domination, and manipulation. We have kept our true self hidden, protected from the world or those in our environment.
Only when we develop the courage to be can we relinquish that true self to Jesus in discipleship. Living as someone you’re not keeps you chained, isolated, imprisoned.
Only when you decide to “be” can you realize the depths of your alienation from God and accept God’s Son, Jesus as Savior.
This notion of being is as a homosexual coming out of the closet. It is as an alcoholic refusing to drink another alcoholic beverage. It is as you and I determining to speak our truth refusing to allow others to intimidate, dominate, or manipulate us.
Being you is tough. Being you means accepting who you are at the core of your being: the good, the bad, the ugly. People in the world often exclaim, “Don’t judge me!” “Accept me for who I am.” “What you see is what you get!” Then, go on to be who they think someone else wants them to be. Being you is tough; accepting you is even more difficult.
Yet, this is exactly the you Jesus is challenging you to be.
He does so because this is the you God is after. David, the King of Israel gave God his true self: whoremonger, murderer, selfish,warrior, betrayer, lover, friend, leader, servant, shepherd, singer, song writer, worshipper. David was all these things; but David dedicated his total nature, his true self, to God. And God accepted David as a son. David the Bible commends David on this one point, “David was a man after God’s own heart.” David sought to become who God intended him to be even as David dealt with his own true self.
This is discipleship: surrendering your true nature to Jesus and exchanging that nature for Christ’s nature. It is an evolving, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ.
This, my friends, is the courage to be. Jesus invites us to trust Him with our true selves knowing that Jesus has paid the price and knows the way for us to live free eternally. I urge you to submit your true nature to Jesus today! Amen.
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10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her._
Everyone else had gone home. The funeral was over, tears had been shed, hugs had been given, words of comfort had been spoken. It was over. But Mary stood weeping at the gravesite. She was left behind to mourn alone. Mary was left behind to cry as she reflected on this momentous occasion, the death of her beloved Jesus. And cry she did, all alone. Or so it seemed.
Her grief was severe for Jesus had meant so much to her.
Jesus, you remember had broken every chain that held her bound. Chains caused by being possessed by seven demonic spirits. And while they saw no hope for her future, Jesus in one moment totally changed her life. She fell in love with the man Jesus. Fell in love with him because he freed her from the criticism of men, the cold stares of women less beautiful and less desirable than she. Freed her from the taunt of the religious community that looked down upon women in her condition. Freed her I say from a community that would berate her and hold her as someone to be shunned and ignored.
Yes, her relationship with Jesus while he was on earth was special. Special because it was Jesus who protected her from those who would see her live a depressed, despondent, and deflated life. Special because her entire life changed when she met Jesus and so she spent the rest of her life following him and caring for him. But now that relationship was over; she sits weeping at the gravesite, alone, or so it seems.
Countless women know Mary of Magdala. Women are familiar with her plight. For they too have been left to exist on the fringes of society because they too have been used by men and accosted by women. They too have been ridiculed while being taken advantage of. They too have been visited in the night and then shunned in the daylight. Whispers have been heard in the malls and marketplaces as they have walked by to shop and people have slid down in the pews when they took a seat. Yes, you know Mary. You understand her tears; you too have been left alone. You too have been left at the gravesite to cry all by yourself. People have left you to grieve your aloneness, alone. Or so it seems.
The testimony of the text is that while Mary was crying, God was present. While Mary was weeping angels showed up to question her, and to comfort her. I stop by to tell you, you are not alone. Once you have known Jesus as a friend and brother, you are never alone. Beloved, you are not alone. God sees your tears and is catching them with his heart. Just imagine for a moment your tears being captured not by God’s eyes, yes he can see them. Captured not by his ears, yes he can hear them. Captured not by his hands, yes, he could wipe them. But rather captured by his heart, where he can feel them. That’s an awesome image. Beloved, remember, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
The angels confronted her, “Mary, why are you crying?” “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him,” she responded. In other words, Mary was weeping because her relationship with Jesus had been abruptly ended. He died too soon, she was not ready to let him go. Her world as she knew it had been shattered; her only defender gone, killed by an unjust justice system, killed as many of our young men and women are today while doing nothing wrong.
I imagine she would ask, “Who is going to protect me now?” “How will I once again walk through the marketplace without shame?” “Who will comfort me now?” “Who can I tell all my stories to?” “Who will I laugh with, dance with, cry with?” I imagine Mary thought, even now I can’t visit his tomb because someone has taken his body, the last vestige of my memory of our relationship has been stolen from me.
Families are weeping today. They have the same questions, the same concerns as this Mary of Magdala. But there is good news at the grave. For at the grave Jesus, the resurrected Jesus is standing there. In her grief she does not recognize him; to her he’s only another man who may know the whereabouts of the remains of her beloved Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him because her former relationship has been severed. She doesn’t recognize him because he has come to her in his resurrected body, in a way she has never seen him before.
He asks here, “Dear woman, why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?” She looked at him hoping he had been the man who moved the body of Jesus and that he would certainly tell her where the new gravesite was because she had no idea that Jesus had resurrected from the grave. She wanted to continue mourning her loss, but standing before her was good news at the grave.
He called her name in a way that only he had called it before, “Mary” he said with love and boldness. Immediately, she recognized his voice. “Teacher,” she responded as her heart leaped with joy! She hugged him so tight he thought she would never let him go. “Wait, don’t cling to me like this,” he cautioned. “I’ve still got to ascend into heaven; I’ve not been to see my our heavenly Father yet.” Yes, there was good news at the grave.
Jesus wanted Mary to know that the old relationship they had was over. That relationship had limitations; this new relationship was eternal. Everything had changed at the grave. Life had conquered death. Jesus had been buried, but the Christ had arisen. Weakness had been put in the tomb; but strength had arisen. A man had been buried; but God had arisen. The shackles of sin and death had been forever broken, forever demolished, forever loosed and the power taken away.
Jesus told Mary, “Go find the others and tell them I’m going to see my God and your God. Remind them Mary, that I said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”_
Yes, the good news on that day and this day is that Jesus is at every gravesite. The Bible declares, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”_ Death lurks in the shadows looking for an occasion to strike as if death had the last word. Death does not. For the day is coming and now is where we will rejoice “
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”_ Yes, death lurks in the shadows but the light of Jesus obliterates the sting of death. There is power in Jesus to brighten every midnight hour and every dawn of each new day. In Jesus there is comfort for your grief and comfort for your tomorrow.
Mary discovered Jesus was there at the gravesite. Mary discovered that Jesus had power over death. You too can discover the same thing today. You like Mary can refuse to allow death to consume you in grief. You can respond because you have hope.
For truly the bible declares, “14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”_
“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” ~ (2 Tim 1:7, HCSB)
For as early as I can remember, I have always had this nagging fear of dying and no one knows me. Thus, I have not wanted a house in the country 2-3 miles from my neighbors. I have not wanted a job locked away in solitude to enjoy my work alone. I have wanted to do spectacular noticeable things to ensure someone would know I had lived.
In 2006, of all the things I could have done, I bought a house in the country. It was a 3 bedroom 2 bath home on a country road in Greenville, Georgia. For a time I was happy, but alas it is a place I realize I may never live in again. My fears beckoned me to leave, to return to a place crowded with people. I guess you could say, I am a city fellow now. But I know its not because I like people, its because I fear being unknown, of being insignificant, of dying and no one attend my funeral.
I was beckoned away from the country by a call to serve in Louisiana by a long-time friend. The service I would render would increase my knowledge among an even wider audience. I left without hesitation although I was already known by many people, one never can tell who will forget one. So off I went to discover another place, I had left over 20 years before. Because of these fears, I have and continue to be motivated to excel. And this impetus keeps me moving forward ensuring others will deem me worthy to be remembered.
I agree that God has not given us “the spirit of fearfulness” but I also agree that fear is a natural part of the human experience. Fear motivates us to action. Fear is an activator of our fight or flight reflex. Since, God has gifted us with “love, power, and sound judgment” to fight our innate fears and win, I overcome my fear with faith – the courage to do it afraid. I choose to fight my fears by excellence and trying to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. I choose to exist as a leader, a person who advocates for others, and a person who ensures he is noticed in the world. People have commended me on my efforts and told me they have been helped throughout my journey. Yet, their applause was not what I wanted; it was their friendship. I most of all want to be remembered because to be remembered is mmortality to me.