Lessons for Late Summer Sundays "Facing Jesus: When He Wants to Know"

You're sort of watching TV, but not really paying attention. Or listening to radio, driving the car. You're shopping, complete with that music that plays in the stores. Suddenly the PA system crackles. You're just surfing the net. This pop-up flashes on the screen, complete with red border. Some giff-animated word flashes before your eyes. Whichever sounds familiar, the same message is the same, "We interrupt this program to bring you…." Now what? Your stomach goes, "Fa-lump!" You sort of freeze in your tracks, sit up and take notice! All of a sudden your attention is focused. And all you wanna know is… what's coming next?

Well, this is just what happens when Jesus wants to know. Here we are, just going along in our everyday lives, our spiritual lives. When things go wrong, when the going gets tough, there's nothing very unusual in our asking, "Why in heaven's name…?" We ask of God, of his son Jesus Christ, of heaven all the time. We ask, and we expect heaven to answer! But when heaven reverses the process, it literally comes to us as a bolt out of the blue! "We interrupt this program, your life, for a special announcement. Jesus wants to know…" Sit up. Take notice. God in Christ has a question for us. Personally! (How's your tummy?) This gets our attention like nothing else. We're brought up short. Interrupted! 'Called to account. Something's happened, or is about to, that'll change our life! After all, this doesn't happen just everyday.

We just might be surprised. In fact, Jesus is asking all the time. As surely as we have questions for him, he has a lot for us. This summer, I've been reading the gospels in a new way. Particularly the Gospel of Mark. I've been looking for what Jesus wants to know. Despite reading the gospels repeatedly, I've been astonished to see how constantly Jesus asks questions of us. Surely we need to know what Jesus wants to know. So all across this year, our messages are gonna be interrupted by what Jesus asks of us. Let's start here. Jesus wants to know, "What are you looking for?" Or, "Who?" Really, you're here. In church. What are you looking for?

Jesus answers our questions with questions of his own. Ask him, "Are you the one?" And he'll ask you, "What are you looking for?" You don't have to take my word for it. Did you hear the story Amanda/Becca read? John the Baptist's under arrest. He can bear the confinement. But not the suspense, the unknowing. Is he right to put his stock in Jesus as the Savior? Surely we wanna know too. So he sends his own to ask Jesus, "Are you the one?" Christ answers, "Look what's happening! The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor get good news! [Daa!] Is this what you were expecting? 'What you were looking for? Then, you're blessed!" [Peterson] John's folks go their way. But Jesus doesn't stop there.

Jesus turns to his own crowds and asks, in effect, "So, what are you looking at? Looking for? When you followed after John, was all you were looking for somebody full o' hot air? A reed bending in the wind? With no real strength-in-the-man-or-the-message to stand up to the evil and sin of this world? Were you just lookin' for a well-dressed salesman-with-a-nice-smile sellin' spiritual life insurance? You can get that on about 5 outta 60 channels on Comcast. And you don't even need to leave home! Is that all you were lookin' for?" (OK, I paraphrased a little, but it's how Jesus might have asked in our time and place.) "Or were you lookin' for the real thing? A prophet with a word from the Lord. Somebody who can see and say what's really goin' on in this world, and help you see it, through the lens of the world to come? And if you think that's a sight for sore eyes and sorrowed souls, I'll tell you this. Wait 'til you see what's comin' in me!"

Jesus still wants to know today. What are you lookin' for? He warns, urges, prays for us. Get clear about what you're lookin' for so you'll know it when you see it! Only a few verses later, Jesus will despair over those who have failed to get clear. He points out, "When John the Baptist came along you didn't follow. You complained, 'He doesn't dance or eat or drink or mourn with us.' Now I come and you gripe, 'He eats and drinks with sinners!' God can't win with you. You don't know what you're lookin' for or what you want. Well, God knows what you need!"

Jesus wants to know. How does what you want compare to what you need? Are you lookin' for somebody to turn your life around? Or just hang around in your life? Are you casting around for somebody who will turn your world upside down? Or just point out your up-sides and never talk about the down? Are you lookin' for a Savior for the sweet-by-and-by, or someone who converts you today, here under the sky?

You've invested an hour of your life in sitting here. A little piece of your eternity, too. Jesus wants to know, "What did you come out to see?" Just a comforter, and a comforting faith? 'Pretty understandable, after Life beats us up all week. But is that what we really need? Rick, we'll call him, was 35. Married, 2 kids, a business…looking into the dark side of others' lives. Depressed. He used to say to me, "I just come for an hour of peace." But it was never enough. It took a mission trip to Central America and a closer walk with Jesus for Rick to get it. He came home and said to me, "Rev., I can't come back here like I used to. All I was lookin' for was a pat on the back. So every week, I took the same me outta here I brought in. My weeks never got better. I met those folks down south. All they've got is cardboard houses. But their souls are golden palaces. Because they trust Jesus so completely, they live so much more fully. Now I'm lookin' for someone to help me turn around. 'Give me a new me for a new week. That'd be Jesus! Isn't this what he means when he says, "Repent"?

Someone to turn your life around. And turn your world upside down. Are you ready for that? Are you looking for that? 'Cause should you find him, Jesus will not do less. Changed hearts lead us to changed lives. Anything else is just a poor imitation. Are you lookin' for a Savior for the sweet-by-and-by, or someone who converts you today, here under the sky? Make no mistake; Jesus comes to fit us for heaven. Is this what you're looking for? But he also comes to fit heaven into life on earth. He even tells us to pray for that! We just completed Work Camp. 400 kids here. 50+ households renovated. Thank You notes are coming now. Many say, "I saw heaven right here on earth" in the witness of these wonderful youth. Recently, in far away N. Ireland, a new peace was declared. Partly because for years, our churches hosted The Ulster Project. Scores of N. Irish youth, Protestant and Catholic came here, far from the violence. Here, together(!), they could excise anger and distrust from their hearts in Jesus' name. It loved the hate out. And helped put out the fire in the heart of the "troubles". If this is the world you're lookin' for, Jesus is the Savior to come out to see.

Jesus wants to know. Is he the one you're lookin' for today? Or will you put it off, look for him tomorrow. Tomorrow, it's back to work. Our mission, our supervisor, our paycheck, all lay claim to save us there. For what? From what? Is he what you're lookin' for today? All of him? Challenge and corrector, promise and pardon; Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. "Easier for a camel through a needle's eye than the rich into heaven; not everybody who shouts, 'Lord, Lord' is headed for the Kingdom," and, "Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light," all wrapped in the same and only Savior, Jesus Christ. Mind-boggling. Heart-opening. Life-changing. Think of it this way. Paul writes, "We have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground. But it's not the popular wisdom of high-priced experts that'll be out of date in a year or so. … It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest – what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us even before we were born. The experts of our day haven't a clue about what this eternal plan is, or they wouldn't have killed [Jesus]. Like the old prophet Isaiah said, "No one's ever seen or heard anything like this, not so much as imagined what God has arranged for those who love him. But you've seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open for you [in Jesus]. I Cor. 2: 7-10, after The Message. Are you lookin' for this today. If so, Jesus is your man! After all, he is God's. We and our kids won't find what we're lookin' for on the ball fields, or in a bottle, or a self-help book or course. No powder or pill gives this high; no new age philosophy or guru gives us peace on earth or peace for our eternal souls.

We don't even know if we have tomorrow. So it's all important where we look today. Roger Schutz, Frere Roger, to me a Father in the faith, was 90. The only haloed soul I've ever personally seen. This week, in his own French church, with 2500 seekers-after-Jesus all around him, he prayed in the candlelight for this world, as always. 100's of children at his feet, several on his lap. I saw this scene many times! A woman rose, walked behind him, fatally stabbed him. Umph! A tragic end to a life I thought triumphant. I was devastated. Then I remembered how he shared with me, "We are never defeated, because we are always forgiven." We are not slain, once we are saved. Roger Schutz died as he lived, "looking to Jesus." Now he lives, no more to die.

Today's the day. (We don't know about tomorrow.) Jesus wants to know, "What on earth are you looking for? Who in heaven's name are you seeking?"

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