The request came out of the blue just like all the others. A friend needed a ride. Actually he needed a ride somewhere and then he needed me to come back in an hour and pick him up and take him home. I was this close to walking out my front door and beginning my day. My day. I had already mapped out my morning with precise detail and had a list of objectives I needed to accomplish. As my dad always used to say, “I had places to go, people to see, and things to do.” Now none of that was going to get done. It was as if my own personal GPS was shouting out, “Recalculating!”
A Roman Mile
As I grumbled to myself I realized I needed to recalculate more than my morning commute. My attitude needed an adjustment. I thought back to something Jesus said that I had taught on just a few weeks earlier.
"Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two." - Matthew 5:41
When Jesus said this I bet there were murmurs and grumbling from the crowd. Jesus and his audience were living under Roman occupation. (For an extremely thorough look at the Roman military in the New Testament check out this great article at bible.org) A Roman soldier had the right to enlist any Jewish citizen who happened to be nearby in the task of carrying the soldier’s gear. Want an example? Remember what happened when Jesus was too weak to carry his cross?
"When they (Roman soldiers) led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus." - Luke 23:26
So if you were just standing there minding your own business or walking along on your way from one place to the next, any Roman solider could say, “Hey you! Come here!” and force you to carry something for them. The only stipulation was the distance was limited to one Roman mile.
Are You Kidding Me?
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how much the Jewish people would have hated the Romans for this? Could you blame them? At any given time they could be ordered to carry something, most often the soldier’s pack and equipment. They could be forced to go one mile out of their way. Once the task was completed you still had to walk a mile back to where you started to resume whatever it was you were doing in the first place. Now that would ruin your morning!
What does Jesus say to this great injustice? He says if that happens don’t just go one mile, go another. Go the extra mile. And please don’t miss this - this is how Jesus says we should respond to our enemies. To which I say, how much more should we be willing to go the extra mile for those we actually like? Our family, our friends, our church.
Our Master, Our Model
As you might expect, Jesus didn’t just talk about this idea of service to others. I understand that God is sovereign, but when you read through the gospels you sometimes get the impression that Jesus’ ministry was just one interruption after another.
Mark 2:1-4 … Jesus is teaching and four men lower a paralytic through the roof in order to get him to Jesus. How do you like it when someone interrupts you when you’re speaking? Far from being upset, Jesus praises the men and heals their friend.
Mark 5:21-43 … Jesus is by the seashore and a father rushes up and pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter. On the way a woman touches Jesus and is healed. Jesus sees none of this as an interruption.
Luke 8:24 … Jesus is asleep and they wake Him because of the storm. How do you like it when someone interrupts your nap? Jesus calms the storm.
Mark 10:13 … People bring children to Jesus but the disciples rebuke them. Jesus doesn’t have time for that. Yes He does. Jesus rebukes the disciples and blesses the children.
This is what true service looks like. True service has to involve some level of sacrifice. There is nothing wrong with volunteering on your day off at a homeless shelter or planning for that mission trip that is six months from now or taking your turn in the church nursery on a scheduled rotation. But ask yourself this - how much of my service to others is only on my terms?
When I got that request to play the role of Uber driver for a day my first thought was, why couldn’t he have asked me to do this tomorrow when I would be off from work? Why not ask me a couple of days ahead of time so I could have planned better? I wanted to help I told myself. But in reality I only wanted to help when I wanted to help. I wanted to help when it was convenient for me to do so. Is that what true service looks like? Isn’t that what we always say when we decline opportunities to serve? I want to, but now just isn’t a good time.
Jesus calls us to a much higher standard. Our hearts should long to serve those around us whether friend or enemy, whenever there is a need.
Do you have the kind of heart that Jesus called for? Ask yourself these questions …
We are all busy. Everyone has places to go, people to see, and things to do. In our crazy hectic worlds we must remember that true service is sacrificial service. Are you ready to go the extra mile today if someone asks you?
"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people …" -Galatians 6:10
Every month we’ll recommend some resources that might help you in your walk with God.
Living by the Book (Howard G. Hendricks, William D. Hendricks) Did you make any resolutions this year regarding your personal time with the Lord? Do you long to dig deeper into God’s Word and really study it, but don’t know how? This book will help you understand how to read and study your Bible.
Knowing God (J.I. Packer) This book is a classic of the Christian faith. Do you want to go deeper in your relationship with God and draw closer to Him? As Packer states in his introduction, “The conviction behind the book is that ignorance of God lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.” How well do you know God?
Olive Tree (www.OliveTree.com) Anyone that knows me knows I am going to recommend this app. If you want to just read the bible on your phone or tablet get any app you want. But if you want to study the bible, get the Olive Tree Bible study app. This app allows you to build a bible study library that will now be at your fingertips whenever you need it. Visit the Olive Tree website to learn more.
Grace to You (www.gty.org) This is the website for John MacArthur’s ministry. Since MacArthur taught through the New Testament verse by verse you can search his sermon archives by book, chapter, and verse. You can then listen to the sermon or read the transcript. So imagine you are studying the Bible and come across something really tough to understand. You can go online and in just a few minutes be reading John MacArthur’s sermon on that passage of scripture.
Christian Book Distributors (christianbook.com) Ever wonder where we buy most of our bibles, books, and booklets? christianbook.com has a great selection of Christian books, videos, and resources for all ages.
"Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will." - Jonathan Edwards
Does that sound anything like the resolutions you made this year? For just a minute think about your resolutions. If years of broken resolutions have turned you into a cynic, then humor me and think of your typical resolutions from past years. Do you know what they all have in common? They are all about you. Typical resolutions revolve around making us into better people (or at least trying). We want to lose weight, quit smoking, save more money, learn a new language … you know the drill. What’s so wrong about trying to be a better person you ask? Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything.
My suspicion is that for those of us still idealistic enough to make resolutions we think to ourselves, “If I can keep these resolutions, by December I am really going to be something!” I’ll be smarter. I’ll be better looking. I’ll be better off. And then that small quiet voice whispers. People will look at me and think now there’s somebody! Deep down (or maybe not so deep) we want to be liked. We want to be popular. We want to be admired.
A Popular Guy
John the Baptist was a popular guy. Israel had not seen anyone or anything like him for 400 years. So when he showed up everybody was talking about him.
“And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem …” - Mark 1:5
The prophets Isaiah and Malachi had predicted that God would send someone to announce the arrival of the promised Messiah (see: Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1). So when John shows up and begins calling people to repentance and baptizing people he becomes a big deal. At a time when there were no movie stars, models, professional athletes, or recording artists John the Baptist fills that void. He is the one everyone is talking about. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine everyone coming to see you? Can you imagine everyone hanging on your every word? Can you imagine all the compliments, all the praise, all the people that just want to be seen with you?
But John wanted nothing to do with popularity.
As the people kept coming and the crowds kept growing John did something out of the ordinary. He deflected all of the attention to someone else. John tells them that the Messiah is coming and that they need to pay attention to Him, not John.
“He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals.” - Matthew 3:11
John’s statement should have stopped everyone in their tracks. You mean there is somebody else we should be paying attention to? You mean there is someone else who is cooler than you are? Now don’t miss this - John is not just saying there is someone else they should listen to and follow. John tells all who will listen that this One who is coming is way more impressive. In their culture one of the most menial and degrading tasks for a slave to perform was to remove the sandals of his master. John says I am not worthy to do that to Him. You think I’m something? I’m a nobody. Jesus is the one who is truly worthy of being admired.
Let me try a little harder to put this into perspective for you. Imagine the most popular and influential people in our world today. (Need some help - here’s People Magazine’s current list) Now imagine any one of these people honestly and sincerely deflecting all the praise and admiration thrown their way and saying, “Really, there is someone else you need to know about; someone else way more impressive than me. And when I compare myself to him I’m not worthy to untie his shoes.” Can you imagine that happening? Yeah, me neither.
But that’s exactly what John did. He said I don’t want all this attention. Let me tell you about Jesus.
John used a great example to drive this point home.
John gave the people listening a great illustration so they would understand what John thought of himself and who John thought was really important.
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” - John 2:29
When I perform wedding ceremonies one of my favorite parts is after the father of the bride has walked his daughter down the aisle. I instruct the dad beforehand that after he kisses his daughter he should place her hand into the groom’s hand. Its a symbolic gesture and I am big on symbolism and sentimentality. In John’s day this role was carried out by the best man. He would place the groom’s hand and the bride’s hand together and then he would step back. This would conclude the wedding festivities. At this point, the groom who had been silent was now allowed to speak and the sound of his voice was cause for everyone to celebrate. The role of the best man having been accomplished, he would fade into the background. (John MacArthur has a great sermon on all of this)
John wanted everybody to know that was how he saw himself. John wanted no part of receiving praise and admiration. He wanted people to look to Jesus. He wanted people to admire Jesus and to talk about Jesus and to follow Jesus. John didn’t want any praise for himself. But let’s be honest - a lot of us secretly crave the admiration and respect and compliments of others.
So back to those resolutions you made and goals you set for this year. Ask yourself these questions …
In our world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram there is a lot of “Look at me!” going on. We are searching for significance and approval in the form of likes and followers. How about we make it our goal to see Jesus get the praise and admiration this year. Or in the words of John the Baptist, why don’t we make this our resolution:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” - John 3:30
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