Steven Furtick - Do I Have To Deal With People?
This is an excerpt from "Complete The Cross"
The greatest pain and pleasure you will experience in your life will be in the context of relationship. One of the words Jesus spoke from the cross is commonly called the word of relationship. We're going to deal with that today, but I've been using a flashback technique. I try to be creative in the way I present the Word. I don't know if it makes sense to everybody else, but just ways that make it exciting for me, because I figure I ought to like my own sermons. If nobody else does, I'll subscribe to the podcast. I've been looking at Luke 24, these two people. One is called… We call him Cleo. His full name is Cleopas. He has an unnamed traveling companion. They're going the wrong way to a no-name village called Emmaus. I mean, it has a name, but you can't find it.
If you go to the Holy Land today, they'll say, "We think this is where Emmaus was," but they don't really know where it was. It wasn't some major metropolitan area where commerce happened. It was where they lived. They were going back from the scene of the cross, where they had watched their hope extinguished and had watched the one they thought might be the one die, and they were burying their dreams along the road when the one whose death they were mourning walked up right beside them, and they didn't know it. So they're walking back the wrong way, and there's this whole thing about why would Jesus follow people who are headed in the wrong direction. Why would he leave the 99 righteous to find the one? Why would he come for the sick and not stay with the well?
I think that's one thing we misconstrue about God's presence in our lives, that he's going to be with us as long as we're doing what he told us to do and going where he told us to go, and yet we're surprised by the grace of God busting up in the middle of our conversations and our hopeless situations and chasing us down to the wrong destination so he can turn us around. When they got where they thought they were going, they saw who Jesus really was, and I think they saw it in his scars when he broke the bread, which is an everyday event. You eat every day. God is often found in the common parts of our lives. Seeing where he had been wounded and now seeing his scars, which were the greatest demonstration of his strength that proved his resurrection, they had their eyes opened, and he was revealed and recognized by them in that moment. One thing I didn't point out that I think is very important… I'm going to read the text and emphasize certain words and see if you can find the theme.
The Bible says in verse 32 that after they recognized Jesus… You know, you have these moments where you're like, "Oh yeah, that was God". "Oh yeah, that was God who had him break up with me. He was broke. God was looking out for me". But sometimes you don't see it on the road; you only realize it in reverse. You see their picture 10 years later, and you're like, "Oh, thank you. Mother Mary". They're like, "Oh, that was him. That was the one we were crying over, but he's not dead; he's risen". Look at this. I'm going to emphasize certain words. Verse 32: "They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" Are you noticing anything? Okay, one more verse to make sure you get it. "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together…" Their revelation of Jesus was completed not in the context of their conversation with him but in the context of their conversation with each other.
This message is called Complete the Cross. It is meant to confront some of the things we say in church that sound spiritual but really make no sense in real life, things like, "All I need is Jesus". "As long as I have Jesus, I don't need anybody else". I understand the spirit of that, that he is the most important, and "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you," and "When my mother and father forsake me, then the Lord will take me up". I know those Bible verses too, but even Jesus needed a team. It is significant, I think (maybe you don't think so), that he revealed himself to two people, and they talked with each other, and it was in talking with each other that they figured out who he was. For all of us who think all we need is God and Jesus, the last time I checked, the cross had two beams. This one is the main one. We have to get that right, but it's not a cross until it does like this.
Sometimes the reason we like to say things like, "All I need is Jesus" and "All I need is God" is because as long as we keep the context of our relationship limited to an invisible God, we don't have to deal with people. We can kind of manipulate our image of God into somebody who is comfortable for us to relate to. Then you'll start saying things like, "Well, nobody else gets me, but God does". You're all this. That's awesome, and I love it, but I want to talk a little bit about this, the relationship that is a little bit harder. To do it, I want to remember what happened on the cross. I wonder when Cleopas and his unnamed companion are walking back… The Bible says they got up and turned around. They thought it was the end; it was really the beginning. They had watched Jesus die on the cross. Watching him die, they thought, "This is it," but heaven is watching and saying, "No". When he said, "It is finished," that was just the beginning.
Come on. I need somebody who traveled six hours or more to know that where you are right now is not the end of what shall be in your life. I feel like preaching to somebody who has your head hung down. You've been in Emmaus long enough. You have a round-trip ticket. They turned around and went back, and the Bible says the road they walked was seven miles. We've been using each of the seven miles to represent a different word Jesus spoke from the cross. There were seven of them. The word of forgiveness: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do". Or the word of salvation: "Today you will be with me in paradise". I wonder if they were having a flashback of what happened on the cross. That's not a bad thing to do, by the way, to have a flashback every now and then to strengthen your faith, to remember what really happened on that cross. I mean, what really happened, beyond the crown of thorns that marked his brow, beyond the sign that Pilate put above him in three different languages that said, "King of the Jews," the title he used to mock him, which was actually announcing him.
Sometimes the insults people will say about you are the greatest compliment they can give you. I mean, beyond that, what really happened on the cross, what happened down in my soul when my shackles fell off, when my shame was nailed to those beams, and the chastisement that brought my peace was upon him on the cross. On the cross. That's where my sin is. On the cross. That's where my mistakes are. On the cross. That's where my second guessings and second givings are. That's where all of my regrets are redeemed. On the cross. That's where I hung all of my fears, all of my doubts, and all of my failures. It happened on the cross. I wonder if they reflected on the road on what happened on the cross, and I wonder now in the light of his resurrection if they reflected on his death differently, to know that what had caused them to hang their heads and walk away was actually the greatest proof of his love.
When I need to know that God loves me, I don't look at what's happening in my life. I flash back to what happened on the cross. That's where it was settled. That's where it was nailed down forever. He's always good, and he does good. He showed it to me on the cross. On the cross. That's where that thing the Devil is tormenting you with that's down deeper than anybody else can see should be hanging. It shouldn't be hanging around in your heart and soul. It should be on that cross. I feel kind of old-timey today. I don't feel very modern today. I feel like going and putting my eyes on the middle man, the one who hung there because he loved me, the one who could have dispatched 12 legions of angels but hung there on that cross for me. It was his love that held him there on the cross. So that's the first picture. I wonder if they remembered what happened on the cross, because they were actually at the cross. Maybe not actually in the general vicinity, but they were at the cross.
I've heard sermons and seen movies about what happened on the cross, and sometimes it makes you feel kind of sentimental. Sometimes it makes you feel kind of sick. What happened on the cross went far beyond what a film camera can present in 24. What happened on the cross is the release of the freedom God wants to produce in my life. I think there's something to be seen… Not just what happened on the cross but who was at the cross. I mean, we know who was on the cross between two thieves, but at the cross. To get a clear picture of this, you have to do a little bit of study. Don't worry. I already did it for you, so I'm going to tell you. You don't have to look anything up. I looked it all up this week while you were doing your real job.
It was interesting, because I was putting together what Matthew said, what Mark said, what Luke said, and what John said. They're all telling the same story but from a different perspective, and they're describing the cross. When it came to exactly what happened at the cross, Matthew didn't have a lot to say, because he wasn't there. He was there for the fish and the loaves, so he can tell you about that. He was there for that water-walking thing, where Peter got out of the boat, because he's kind of crazy and isn't content to just sit in the boat. He has to do something special and spectacular. He was there when Peter almost drowned himself and Jesus gave him CPR, but when it came to… Isn't it funny how the cross will thin out a crowd? It was really loud on Sunday when Jesus came into Jerusalem. I mean, deafening. They were crying out something. They were saying, "Hosanna". It means "save now," and that's what they wanted him to do: to save now. But when he died, it deferred their hope.
So as he hung there, the crowds that were there to be fed and taught by his hand were kind of quiet at the cross, kind of quiet where he died, kind of quiet where he suffered. It was really loud when he was teaching. "Preach, Jesus"! Can you imagine Jesus' front row? "Blessed are the poor in spirit". "Preach, Jesus"! I mean, if the Word was preaching the Word, that would be kind of cool to witness. It would probably be exciting. I'm just saying. You'd probably shout. You'd probably jump up. But when he came to his cross, the crowd wasn't so loud.
Oh, by the way, something Peter proves to us is that those who are the loudest are not always the most loyal. When it comes to the cross, Matthew tells us something so disturbing. I imagine it must have hurt him to write this, because Jesus had done so much for them. They really believed in him, and I think they really wanted to follow him, but they could only go so far, and then he came to the cross. The cross is confusing, because it's not supposed to end like this. The cross is confusing, because if he really is who he says he is, how can he be hung up there to die in this kind of humiliation?
Matthew says that at the cross everybody deserted him, all twelve. Remember, he had a team, a really big team…until it came to the cross. Sometimes circumstances in your life will show you who was really with you because they loved you and who was really with you because there was something they got from you, and the moment they don't get from you what they wanted from you… That's really painful.