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James Merritt - Family Matters

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    James Merritt - Family Matters
TOPICS: Family

The great writer and journalist G. K. Chesterton once said this, he said, "We spend the first half of our lives fighting with our parents and the second half of our lives fighting with our children". A lot of truth in that. A lot of truth. I believe that we ought to make sure that we spend all of our lives right up to our last breath taking care of our family and if possible, make sure that we're right with our family. And in something that Jesus said, in the last hours of his life, he did three things that I'm going to ask some of you to do, in fact, many of you to do, and some of you need to do today. If you want to make sure that you die having taken care of family matters, here's what Jesus did. Number one, we should love, you should love your family selflessly. Before you die, you make sure you love your family selflessly.

Now, the famous English writer Samuel Johnson once said, "When a man knows he's about to be hanged, it concentrates his mind wonderfully". Well, you know, that's really true. And if there's ever a time when you would expect anybody to be thinking about themselves, and thinking about what they need to do, and thinking about making sure they're taken care of, it would be when somebody is about to die. But here's Jesus, even suffering the most excruciating death that mankind's ever come up, totally separated from His heavenly Father, but He's not thinking about himself. He's thinking about other people, think about what he's just done. He asks God to forgive his persecutors, who, by the way, deserve to be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He asked God to forgive his persecutors.

Then he turns to a fellow prisoner and commutes his death penalty to an eternal life sentence, even though the man did not deserve it. But now he turns to the most special person in that crowd. Somehow, above the den and the roar, and the mocks and the jeers, and the cries of all the crowd standing there making fun of him, he remembered his mother. So we read these words, "Near the cross of Jesus, stood his mother". His mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, when Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son".

Now, I don't think anybody would disagree, no son in history loved his mother like Jesus loved his mother. No mother in history, ever had a son that loved her like Jesus loved her. Jesus remember, here he is, the son of God, he's bearing the weight of the sin of the entire world on his shoulders. He's about to become the first and only member of God's family to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, totally alone. God's not going to walk with him. The Holy Spirit's not going to walk with him. No angels going to walk with him. For the only time in history, a member of God's family is going to die, totally alone. And he's about to enter into this spiritual no man's land, and yet, he takes one last opportunity to ensure that his mother is secure. He wants to make sure his mother is taken care of. And it really, it breaks your heart when you read this because his heart was breaking for the breaking heart of his mother.

How many of you ladies in here right now, you're a mother, hold your hand up, you're a mom. You really need to what I'm about to tell you. I want you to put yourself in her spot right now, you're the mother of this son. She is witnessing the death, she is witnessing the death of her own son. And it's so unnatural. Psychologists say the most unnatural thing that can ever happen to anybody, is when a parent has to bury their own child. I remember my mom telling me, my grandmother who I never knew, her mother, my grandmother buried two children in one week. She buried a three-year old daughter and a little baby boy, both of them died of smallpox. They buried them in the same casket on the same day.

And my mom used to tell me that years later when somebody would ask my mother, my grandmother, about that time in her life, she would always say, "There's nothing more unnatural than for a parent to bury their own child". It was so unnatural for Mary to be watching this. It was also very unnerving, because think about how this boy's dying. This is her oldest son. This is the son and not only God was well-pleased, she's well-pleased. He's not dying quietly. He's not dying peacefully. He's not dying suddenly. He's not dying instantly. He is dying the most painful, shameful and excruciating death known to mankind. So as she's sitting there thinking this is so unnatural and this is just so unnerving. And then she must have thought, this is so unnecessary because maybe every other man up there deserves to die, but not Jesus.

You know, you moms, if you're like my sweet wife, she thinks all of her boys were the perfect sons. Well, when she was asleep. But you know what? Mary literally had the perfect son. Think about this, mom, have a son that was never scolded one time. Have a son that never had to be sent to time-out one time. Have a son that never had to be punished for anything, one time. Had a son that wouldn't even fight with his brothers and his sisters, you talking about a perfect son. I mean, absolutely perfect. Have a son that even your own mother, who knows you better than anybody else, would have to say, I never found any fault in that boy whatsoever, and yet he's dying the death of a felon. He's dying the death of a convicted criminal. And yet, while he's doing that, he looks at her and he looks at the disciple John and he give her this reassuring word, he said, "Woman, here is your son".

What he was saying at that moment was, "Mom, don't worry, I got this. You don't have to worry about your future. You'll be taken care of. You're going to have a roof over your head, you're going to have clothes on your back, you're going to have food on your table because John is going to take care of you after I'm gone". By the way, it may shock some of you mothers, I'll have to say, well, gosh he called her woman and I know that may sound disrespectful to us, but it really isn't because back in the day, the term for woman was actually a term of respect and honor. As a matter of fact, you know something interesting I bet you didn't know. Go back and read the Gospels. Did you know that Jesus never called his mother, mother? Never addressed her as mother. And here, especially now, he can't call her mother, he calls her woman. Why? Because right now, he's not primarily her son. Right now, he's primarily her savior.

So he says, "Woman, while I am your savior, I'm also your son. Mom, I get it. Mom, you've always been a earthly mother. But, mom, I've always been a heavenly son. And so now I am your savior. However, even though I'm dying as your savior, I realize I am still living. And as long as I am living, I'm still your son". So just like he provided a wonderful home for a wicked thief, now he provides an earthly home for a wonderful mother. He loved his family selflessly. Now, let me just stop right here. I know because I heard about it after the 9:00 service. This is extremely gut-wrenching for some of you to listen to. Very difficult for some of you to hear because you've been ostracized by your family. You've been mistreated by your family. You've got some family members that either you don't speak to, or they don't speak to you. You've been disowned, you've been left out.

As a matter of fact, some of you are saying right now, I've even tried to reconcile with my family, they're not having it. I've tried to make things right with my family, but they just won't go there. Well, let me just ask you to do this. Take a great lesson of what Jesus did on the cross. Take every opportunity you can to love those who are dearest to you. You make sure you love them before you leave them. You make sure you love them before they leave you. You make sure they have your password. Now, I get it, I understand. Yes, you may have to swallow your pride. Yes, you may have to take the next step. Yes, you may get rejected all over again. Here's my advice. Quit thinking about you. Love your family selflessly. If Jesus could think about others while he was dying, surely we can think about others while we're living.

All right. So, first of all, what's the first lesson. Love your family selflessly. Ready? Number two. Leave your family thoughtfully. Leave your family thoughtfully. Now, Jesus has just assured his mother, she's going to be taken care of. Well, how does she know she's going to be taken care of? Because of the next thing that Jesus said. He, and to the disciple, he said, "Here is your mother". Now, he looks at this disciple, we know he's John, who wrote the Gospel and he said, "Okay, John, here's the way this is going to work. I'm going to a throne. You're going to your home, and you're taking her with you. Not as a guest, she is going to be your mom. You're going to take my mom and you're going to make her your mother".

And I want you to notice, he didn't ask John. He didn't get John to fill out an application. This was not a request, this was a command. But I want to go back. Don't miss the timing of this statement. Jesus is at the very peak of his agony, and his torment, and his suffering, and his pain. He's doing his greatest and his hardest work ever. Yet, he calls time out and says, "Hey, I've got to take care of mom". First of all, Mary most likely, was a widow. Joseph, his father, we believe, the Bible scholars believe had already died, and there's several reasons for that. Number one, the last time Joseph is ever mentioned in the Gospels is when Jesus was 12 years old, and he was in the temple teaching the Pharisees about how to study the Bible. After that, you never hear Joseph mentioned again. Mary's mentioned many times. Joseph is never, ever mentioned again.

Now, as the first born son, it was expected he would take care of his mother. So, most likely, Joseph was not even around. But you say, wait a minute, Jesus had brothers and Jesus had a sister. That's right. Well, why didn't he tell them to take care of their mom. Well, the problem was, they didn't even believe in Jesus. As a matter of fact, they didn't believe in Jesus until after the resurrection. They were nowhere to be found. Jesus can't get off the cross and go down to Galilee and find his brothers and sisters. He's got to take care of mom. So he looks at a non-relative who, by the way, was closer to him than his own brothers. And closer to him than his own sister. And you said, "You take care of her". But watch this, something else is going on here. You wouldn't know this just reading this is English. You got to go back 2000 years.

In Jewish thought, when somebody gave something away with their last words, if they bequeathed something in their last words, to a Jewish mindset, that had just as much legal force as if they wrote it down on a piece of paper. In other words, when Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother," Jesus was actually writing his last will and testament. Now, it wasn't very long. I read just the other day, I love to see this, the longest will ever probated, was bound up in four volumes. It contained 95,940 words. I can't imagine anybody having it. But guess what? This is kind of cool. The shortest will ever probated in history, was probated in Great Britain, three words, all for mom. All for mom.

Now, practical piece of advice. Something we ought to learn right here. It's amazing how much you learn from the Bible if you just read it. 70% of all Americans do not have a will. 70 % of all Americans die without a will. Let me tell you why it's almost criminal to let that happen. If you die without a will, guess who probates your will? Guess who decides what you have goes where and who gets it? You want to take a guess? The state. Read my lips. You don't want the state doing anything with your stuff after you die because it's not their stuff. So you love your family selflessly. And you leave your family thoughtfully. You lead your family spiritually.

Now, watch this. One of the great questions to ask yourself that'll help you study the Bible and understand it is to ask a simple question. Why is that even in the Bible? Well, why is this conversation even recorded? Matthew didn't write it down. Mark didn't write it down. Luke didn't write it down. But John made sure this is going to be down. Why did the Holy Spirit say to John, when John was writing his gospel, oh, don't forget to put this conversation in there. Listen to what happens next. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. Not only did a mother adopt a son, but a son adopted a mother, and Jesus arranged the whole thing. Because Jesus said, "I am not going to leave this Earth with any loose ends dangling in the wind. I am not going to leave this Earth until I know I've done what I need to do. I'm not going to leave this Earth with any regrets, whatsoever". So he said, "I know I've got two responsibilities right now. One as a savior, one as a son. I'm going to make sure I fulfill both before I leave this Earth".

So, Jesus dies fulfilling the fifth commandment, which is honor your father and your mother. Now, how many of you here are under the age of arbitrary 35? Hold your hand up, you're under the age of 35. Hold your hand up real high. Okay. I want you to listen to this next statement. You're never too old to honor your parents, and your parents are never too old to be honored. You're never too old to honor your parents. And your parents are never too old to be honored. If Jesus could honor his mother while he was dying, how much more should you be honoring your mother and your dad while you are living? Because the older our parents get, the more determined we ought to be that we're going to love them, we're going to look after them. We're going to care for them. And I learned especially in my mom's last days, parents are never a burden, they are a blessing.

If I were to ask your parents today, do you feel honored by your children? How would they respond? Or if you died today, would you want your family writing your obituary? And what would your obituary sound like? Would Ray the mule be happy if you died? Don't ever grow too old and don't ever get too busy to spend time with your parents and learn from your parents and make sure that they know how much you love them, and honor them, and respect them. And I'll tell you why. God will honor you if you'll honor your parents. He'll honor you, but listen, this saying of Jesus goes even deeper. I want you to realize this because let me take you back... you remember when there was a time? You may not remember this, so I'll just pretend you don't.

There was a time when Jesus was in a house and he was teaching it, it was standing room only, place was packed, there were standing four deep around the wall. There was this big crowd trying to get in, they couldn't get in. Somebody finally kind of snaked their way into the house, they got to Jesus, and they said, "Jesus, we just think you need to know, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you". Listen to what Jesus said. "Who are my mother and my brothers," he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers". You know what he was saying? Faith ties are even greater than family ties. Heavenly ties are even greater than earthly ties.

So when Jesus looked at John who was not his blood brother, it was better than that. He was his eternal brother. When Jesus looked at John, he said, "John, I'm taking your place in my death. I want you to take my place in your life". Now, here's what I want you to hear. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you are his brother. And you are his sister. And Jesus expects us to take his place. So, for example, there are widows out there, they need somebody else's son to look in on them. There are single moms out there trying to raise children on their own. They need surrogate fathers to take care and look after their children. There are people who are sick, and who are shut in. They've got no blood relatives whatsoever. They need us to go and visit them and care for them.

Now, do you know why John accepted this responsibility? Do you know John took on this assignment? Notice he didn't give any objection whatsoever, he didn't say, "Lord, gosh, Lord, I mean, I've already got 10 kids and Lord, I mean, I'm just a fisherman. And, you know, I don't have enough food to go around, as it is". He just, I mean, without any complaint, willingly and gladly, he said, "Lord, your wish is my command. She is now my mom". Where did John learn that? Because for three years Jesus had been leading him spiritually. For three years, Jesus had been teaching him, this is how you live a sacrificial life, this is how you put other people first.

So I want you to do this for me. We're done. Put up your pen, your pad, your notebooks, close your Bibles. And just look up here and give me just three more minutes. We're done. Okay. Can you do that? Just three more minutes. You've been great. You know, there's certain days in your life that you never forget ever. For example, some of you are old enough, you remember exactly where you were when those planes flew into those towers on 9/11, right? You know exactly where you were. You go back a few years and there are some of us that can remember where we were the night that Martin Luther King was assassinated. You remember exactly where you were. Or when JFK was assassinated, you remember right where you were.

There are some of you in this room and you're old enough to remember right where you were when Pearl Harbor was attacked. There's just certain days you just never, ever forget. For me, one of those days occurred in a nursing home about 10 or 12 miles from our church. It's where my mother spent her last days. Mom had pretty much become wheel-chair bound. And I walked in one day to see her, her spirits were low. And when I walked in, I'll never forget, as she was sitting in her wheelchair and she had a plate, a tray of food in front of her, hadn't touched it. And she was leaned over, she was just asleep. And just watching my mom there, just, it crushed my heart. So I went over and I gently woke her up, hey, son, how are you? And I kissed her and said, "How you doing"? I'm not doing that well. And she decided she wanted to go back to bed.

So I got the nurse to come in there and we helped get her back to bed. And I was sitting there talking to my mom, standing over her, actually talking to my mom. And it was just the way she looked in that bed, and I just, I could feel the emotions coming up in me, like I do now. So I walked over to this window, and just kind of looked out, because I didn't want her to see me crying. I had the tears coming down my cheeks because I knew she wasn't going to be here much longer. Probably about three minutes, maybe four, never said a word. Mom said, "Son, what are you thinking about"? And when she said that, I just lost it. I walked over to her and I set down by the side of her bed.

I said, "Mom, it's so hard to let you go. I love you more than I love my own life. And, mom, I could never ask for a better mother". And then I heard my mom say something to me that even at this moment is as fresh in my ears, she said it almost two years ago. She raised that little shaky hand and she put it on my cheek, she said, "Son, I could have never asked for three better boys than my boys. You never gave me any trouble. You've always taken care of me and my dad. You promised dad you'd take care of me after he's gone and you've done such a great job taking care of me. And I know you're going to take care of your brother after I'm gone". And it wasn't a few days later, I got the call. I rushed back up to the nursing home and I leaned over and I kissed the forehead of the body, in which the spirit had long gone to be with Jesus. As I learned over and kissed that cold forehead, I said, "Mom, I have no regrets".

One day, we're going to leave our earthly family for our heavenly family. One day, we leave behind the kids and we leave behind the grandkids and maybe we leave behind the brothers and the sisters. And I just want to encourage every one of you out there, from the young to old, you make sure you love them before you leave them. You make sure you love them before they leave you. Jesus died on a cross so we could be a part of his heavenly family. But before he left, he took care of his earthly family. And we ought to love our family the way Jesus loved his family because family matters.
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