TD Jakes - Out of the Tomb and Into the Bottle
Not long ago, my wife had a medical problem that slipped upon us like a thief in the night. In the midst of doing our daily tasks and going through our routines, she collapsed on the bedroom floor, and we had to call 9-1-1, and it was just the beginning of a very difficult situation. And it's amazing to me that, every so often, no matter who you are or where you live or how much faith you have or what you drive, trouble comes right to your house. It meets you at the door. It challenges you in ways that you cannot always control or correct, and you have to endure. Endurance is a part of crushing. To talk about crushing and talk about enduring seems like an oxymoron because who can endure being crushed? But we do every day.
We are crushed in ways that people cannot see, and though I kept preaching and though I kept teaching, I came home to deal with her illness and watch her suffer through the pain of trying to recover, and the odd thing about it is, after she had the surgery, the doctor said the surgery was successful, but she was in as much pain afterwards as she was before. I warn you that recovery has pain. We know that injury has pain, but recovery also has pain, and if you're going to be healed, you have to endure the pain. She decided to go see my son graduate from college, but she was in pain, and she kept moving, and crushing is the idea and the notion that life does not stop to accommodate your comfort. The situations and demands will not stop just because you are in a bad place or a bad moment, and some kind of way, every now and then, you have to press above the pain and keep moving.
This is the kind of thing that Jesus teaches us in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the great drops of blood begin to come through the very pores of his skin, he teaches us the agony of going forward. It was easy to heal the sick. It was easy to turn water into wine. It was easy for him to walk on water, not for me. It was easy for him, but now he's come to a place of crushing and pain, and that requires prayer and suffering. The pain that my wife had before surgery seemed purposeless. It was just pain. The pain after the surgery had purpose, and even though it had the same intensity, it had a different ending, and we must realize it's the ending that matters, that God's thoughts toward us are good, that we might have an expected end, but he didn't say anything about the middle.
And so, as we endure the pain and go through the agony, agony like being misunderstood, agony of not feeling loved, agony of being underemployed or unemployed, a agony of losing a job or a spouse or a loved one, I mean, real agony, I'm not talking about you lost your parking space. I'm talking about real agony that tries your soul, that pushes you to the breaking point, that you feel like you're gonna bleed through your skin. You have to know that that does not mean that you're not recovering, that recovery hurts too. Counseling, hurts. Therapy hurts. Confronting old issues and digging out old wounds, that's hurtful stuff and difficult to talk about, but if we don't get to the root of it, we'll never be well. And like her surgery, the doctor had gotten to the root of it, and when he said that it was successful, I expected to walk in the room and find her smiling. Instead, she was writhing in pain.
Sometimes God allows us to go through surgery, and the recovery period may take a while, but that does not mean that we're not getting better. What it does mean, that, once you make a commitment to go through the process, you have to be prepared to endure the pain because the pain is a part of the process, always knowing that the anesthesia to the pain is the blessed hope that we might have an expected end. And today, if you are suffering and in agony and in turmoil and feeling disconnected from the world and like life is passing you by while you wrestle with and grapple with the atrocities and the vicissitudes of life, I want you to know that tomorrow is coming, and if you can endure this moment and withstand this agony, if you can endure the darkness of the night, how shall I say it? "Weeping may endure for a night, oh, but joy comes in the morning". Whenever you quote that scripture, always remember it can be a long night. It can be a long night, but I've never seen a night so long that it didn't eventually give way to the morning. It's coming.
So it is that weekend that is separated from all other weekends that thousands and thousands of years of prophetic utterances have prepared us to have one cataclysmic, dynamic, explosive, intense weekend so powerful that it would change the trajectory not only of the scriptures itself but how we see God. That weekend had been prophesied by the prophets of old, had been seen in shadows and types, had been seen in the shadows of the Old Testament preparing us for the weekend of absolute terror and horror. I'm talking about the weekend that Christ was crucified. I'm talking about the brutalization and the abuse of one man who took on the sins of the world. And I am not sure whether it is the nails of the cross or the beating of his back or the crown of thorns upon his head that hurt as bad as the betrayal of his disciples, the alienation from his friends, or maybe it was the absence of the favor of his father or the agony and the shame of being stripp naked in front of the world and having to bleed out in front of a crowd of onlookers, of spectators, and even those who cheered him, but what I love about the story is, on the third day, not only did he rise, but I am distracted by the women who woke up early in the morning and decided to go down to the tomb to be loyal to a Jesus they thought was dead.
Now, that is covenant relationship because anybody can be loyal to you when you're walking on the water and healing the sick and raising the dead. Anybody can be loyal to you when you're stopping the woman with the issue of blood. Anybody can be loyal to you when you are healing blind Bartimaeus, but now he's dead. And Thomas is on the run, and Judas has hung himself, and the disciples are locked up behind closed doors for fear of the Jews because they're afraid they're going to be next, and that fear was real because many of them would be martyred for the cause of Christ, and everybody was locked up except these women. These women, these women were unique women. They didn't even come from the same side of the track. One of them had had a questionable background, and Jesus had changed her life. Each one of them stands in the presence of Jesus loving him for a different reason.
It's like going to church, and you all hear us say, "Hallelujah," but we all mean something different. We say, "Thank you, Jesus," but we're thanking him for something different. We hear the same song, but we have different memories, and it is the uniqueness of you, it is a special way of loving God that nobody can love him like you love him because nobody has your story. These women got up early in the morning before the break of day and came down to the tomb because, even then, they wanted to protect him. They wanted to protect him. They didn't want anybody to smell him decay, and with their Frankincense in one hand and their myrrh in the other, they rushed down to the tomb to make sure that anybody walking by would not catch the scent of his erosion, only to get down to the tomb and find out that the Jesus to whom they loved to the point of being loyal while dead is missing, and they were the first ones to know that he had risen from the dead.
Revelation is born out of loyalty. You're not really my covenant brother until you've seen me in the ditch, until you've seen me bleed out, until you've stood by me when others forsook me. You're not really my sister until you put flowers on my stench, until you aromadize my agony. That is the sign of covenant in crushing, and all of us crave someone who will go through with us when we don't smell so good. So the next time you read about this weekend, understand that, yes, Jesus is the star. He is the leading man of the whole book. The whole book has prepared us for his entry into the world, and the angels have stood in utter awe and amazement at his entrance into human form. That he would pour out of himself his glory and honor and dwell amongst men was absolutely amazing, and then to be so much a man that he would die like a man when, in fact, inside, he was a God, was staggering.
Even the apostles, in retrospect, found it difficult to articulate the magnitude of who he was. And though he is the leading man, do not forget the supporting cast, for the three women, who rose up before the dew had hit the roses and gathered up their goods and went out into the cold, chilly air of Jerusalem and begin to walk down the cobblestone streets toward Jesus, did not do it for fame or fortune or recognition or titles or recompense of any kind. They simply did it because they loved him so, and I have learned that, when life is tough and painful and hurting, it is not so important that you have somebody who is wise or rich or famous or beautiful or attractive. What is important is that you have somebody who loves you so.
I wanna talk to you about from vineyard to victory. It's quite a stretch, you understand? You must realize that we look at the cross as a place of worship and a symbol of our faith and the authenticity of our Christian belief, but before the cross was a place of faith, it was an execution chamber, and no one would wear an electric chair around their neck or a gas chamber, have it painted on your t-shirt. You see, it was natural, in the days of Jesus Christ, to walk down the street and look up on the hill and see someone dying, writhing on a cross. Jesus was not the only one to be executed, and when Pilate gave the decree that released him, that set him up to go to the cross, he did not send him to the cross as a lamb. He sent him to the cross as a criminal, and the cross was a place of execution.
And the early church did not wear crosses nor honor them nor think that they were special because the cross was a place of suffering and shame and degradation. It was not a place to sing songs and raise your hands and worship and glorify. It was not until many years later when Constantine's mother decided that she would go on a search to try to find those old rugged crosses, and she found what she thought and could have been the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and then she had to struggle with "Having found it, what do I do with it"? She found an antique wooden artifact that she believed was the cross. She splintered it into pieces, rather than to have people fight over who would get the cross, and dispersed it around the world, sending it into basilicas and sanctuaries and chambers, little pieces of the cross that are still in many of the more Greek Orthodox religious institutions. Pieces of the cross are kept and have been preserved and maintained as a testament to the mother of Constantine.
And had she not done that, the Gospel itself would not have caught on fire like it did, but it spread every place the splinters went. The splintering of the cross is what promulgated the Gospel to reach to the uttermost parts of the earth because everybody got a little piece, and it broke open conversations and communications, and it started something special that, all of a sudden, the cross ceased to be a place of shame, and it turned into a place of sacred worship and adoration. It changed its meaning, not its look. It changed its meaning because now the eye of the beholder looked beyond the shame and saw the Savior. You must understand that we go through things in our lives that it is how we behold it that determines how we feel about it. It is how we choose to see it, whether it is execution or offering.
You see, to the Romans, it was execution, but in reality, Jesus Christ was an offering that in Hebrews said, "He went in once and for all," by himself with himself. He is priest enough to be the offeror and lamb enough to be the offering. Do you hear what I'm saying? There's one little notation in the story of the crucifixion that you could easily overlook. It is not the decision of Pilate that changed it from execution to offering, but in a brief statement, one of the Gospel writers records Caiaphas, the high priest, nodded his head, an assent to the crucifixion, and with the nod of Caiaphas the priest, the convict became the Christ, and the execution became an offering because Pilate did not have the authority to offer up a lamb to God. Only the high priest could do that.
So the priest, when he nodded his head, legitimized the offering. Constantine's mother spread it, the offering, and now we stand at the foot of an old rugged cross, "What a wondrous attraction for me, where the dearest and best of a world of lost sinners were slain. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross till at last my burdens I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross". Those kinds of lyrics are born only because Constantine's mother turned the cross into splinters, and the splinters turned an execution chamber into a place of Christian adoration. Crushing, it all depends on how you look at it. One man's misery is another man's miracle, and one man's tests is another man's testimony, and you can't have victory until you've been a victim, so it all depends on your perspective. Check it out.