The Story That Never Grows Old

In our text for today, Jesus is making known to the disciples that the basic reason he came to this earth was to suffer and to die for sins of the world. Repetition makes the point better understood, which is why when you read through the New Testament, you are reminded over and over again that Jesus died for the sins of the world.

Let me give you an example of how we use that same factor. I was sitting one night at a basketball game with a person who had played the game and knew quite a bit about the technical parts of it. As the coach called a time out and the players huddled around him, you could see that he was talking very emphatically. So I asked my friend, “What do you think he is saying?”

“Well,” he said, “I never played for that coach, so I don’t know for sure. But I would think he is telling them something like this: ÔHave you noticed that all the action is around player #23? He is their key man. He is leading them in the scoring, rebounding better than any of the others, and playing good defense. Remember, in preparation for game, I warned you about this particular person. He is the heart of the team. You have to slow him down or we’re going to lose the game.’ Emphatically the coach was repeating again and again: ÔWatch #23!'”

When the second half started, number 23 was really covered by two men most of the time. As a result, they shut him down and won the game. But the coach had to repeat again and again what was necessary Ð that the players understand this team and why they were having such a fine year.

You see, repetition is necessary. When I was a child, my mother said to me many a time, “Will you please hang up your coat?” “How many times must I tell you to hang up your coat?” I finally I got the message, and today I hang up my coat when I come into the house. Had it not been repeatedly said, I might still be throwing it on the chair.

In today’s text, Jesus is telling his disciples very clearly that he had to suffer and die for the sins of the world. That is the central message. Everything else must be secondary to it. Although Jesus did many other wonderful things, like giving us good teachings that make us better people, unless he lives in our heart and we understand that he is who he says he is Ð the crucified and risen Savior Ð none of these things will happen.

Jesus rebuked Peter for telling Him that it was not necessary for Him to say that he would have “to suffer many things,” for this would not happen. Although he might be rebuked, no one would ever kill Him! Why would anybody kill a person who would raise the dead?

Jesus could see that Peter had no understanding of His last days and purpose for coming to this earth. And so he said, “Peter, you keep still! Satan is using you now. He wants you to believe that I have not come to save somebody, but just to teach them some good things. And that is not true! Many of the prophets did that. But I have come to suffer and to die to forgive your sins and to bring you into the kingdom of heaven.” Peter couldn’t understand these teachings and probably didn’t until after the crucifixion was over, for he denied Jesus.

Of course, Jesus had done many great things. For example, one day he put a little child on his knee and said, “Unless you become like a little child, you can never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What a lesson on honesty! What a lesson on humility!

Another day Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house Ð a man who had stolen from his fellow men in the collection of taxes. After their visit, Zacchaeus was a changed man. He said to the people, “If I have stolen from any of you, I will restore it fourfold, and I will give half of my goods to the poor.” That was a wonderful thing that Jesus had done. Wouldn’t they want to keep him in the crowd? Why would they want to sacrifice him?

He healed the sick and raised the dead. He was a great person. All these things should be mimicked by His Church in the days that were to come in as far as it had power. But the main mission of the church was to tell that old, old story: Jesus must die in order that people might live and have everlasting life. The crucified and risen Christ is to live in our hearts Ð not just in our heads Ð in order that all of these good works might flow from us.

We need to hear this often in our individual Christian life. We can do good in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe those who are naked. However, something else is much more important, and that is to point them to the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that today we are seeing the danger of forgetting the primary message of the church and emphasizing the secondary.

We now have the ability to blot out malaria in our world. Part of the Church has taken up the mission to do just that. Our congregation decided to raise a lot of money in this effort.

This was a thrilling goal, and my wife and I were excited every Sunday to hear the report on how much money was being given to this campaign. We enjoyed being a part of it and were thankful when the church reached their goal. On that Sunday, we had a celebration with applause and rejoicing!

This malaria project is a very worthwhile goal. And the fund happened because our congregation knew that Jesus had suffered and died for them, and they had become new people because of it. Christ’s love flows out of their hearts to people who are having serious bouts with malaria. They come in the name of Jesus Christ with money to help blot out this terrible disease. However, if it is not done in Jesus’ name, it is just another project that a service club could do. Although service clubs have done some marvelous things, the Church must come in the name of Jesus Christ! That is something different!

Now let me give you another example. Mike is one of the custodians at our church. We became acquainted, and I have to admit that, after seeing the tattoos on his arms I had questions about his past. So one day I asked him if he would tell me his story, and he did not hesitate.

He began by saying, “I am a new person in Jesus Christ. I was born in a small town in California. My father deserted the family, and at times my mother lived irresponsibly. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I had to care for my two younger siblings, making sure they were fed breakfast and ready for school.

“It was about this time that I quit school and eventually joined a gang. I became involved with street drugs, alcohol, and stealing. I fathered a child and was the same kind of parent my father had been to me.

“Later I married, and we moved to Iowa. I became hooked on prescription drugs, which sent me to the state prison in Anamosa. I was placed in a cell with no windows. In that cell was an old, torn Bible, which I began to read. While reading that Bible, the Lord spoke to my heart, my life was turned around, and I was converted. Now my wife and I are growing in our faith and are committed to raising our children in the faith.”

Now I ask you, should this man’s conversion be celebrated as much as giving money to blot out malaria?

It is that old, old story that we always need to hear. It first changes lives, and then prompts these same lives to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ.

Catherine Hankey wrote this hymn that tells so much:

“Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above.

Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,

For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

“Tell me the old, old story. Tell me the old, old story.

Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.”