SPOTLIGHT JESUS 4 of 8
We’re going to be in Matthew 8 this morning.
We’re in the middle of a sermon series
where we’re following Jesus around
watching him with bifocal lenses.
Since its very beginning,
the church has clung to the person of Jesus
as both fully God and fully human.
We’ve been saying it this way:
Jesus reveals what it means to be God,
Jesus reveals what it means to be truly human.
If we want to know what God is like
we look at the life of Jesus—the person of Jesus.
And if we want to know what truest, deepest human life is like—
what it means to fully, completely, perfectly reflect the image of God—
we look at the life of Jesus—the person of Jesus.
So we’re following Jesus around—
looking at him through these bifocal lenses (fully God and fully human)—
and seeing how Jesus sheds light
on the world and on our lives.
Let’s read in Matthew 8, starting in verse 18:
(Matt 8.18-20) When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
A teacher of the law approaches Jesus (v19)
and tells him that he’ll follow him.
“I want to be your disciple, Jesus—
wherever you go—whatever you do—
I want to follow you.”
This is a good thing, right?
“He has decided to follow Jesus…”
I mean, this is what the church does.
We invite people to follow Jesus.
And you would think that
Jesus would pull out some discipleship-paperwork
and have this guy sign up then and there.
But that’s not what Jesus does.
Jesus replies almost like
the narrator of a nature documentary (v20):
“Consider the fox in his natural habitat: a den, a burrow—
a warm, safe hole in the ground where the fox can retreat,
where the fox can raise his young in safety and security.
“And notice the elevated retreats of the birds: the bird’s nest.
It serves the same practical functions of mammalian counterpart—
providing rest, security, protection from predators—
except with a better, more scenic, view.”
And then Jesus drives home his point:
“You want to follow me, but you realize, don’t you,
that I don’t have any of those things?
“The Son of Man—
one of Jesus’s favorite, mysterious ways of referring to himself—
doesn’t have a den or a burrow or a nest…
“The Son of Man doesn’t even have a pillow.
“If you’re looking for instant gratification following me—
if you think I can give you an immediate pay-off or a painless, cushioned life—
you are very much mistaken.
“Following me won’t be plush or cushy or cushioned—
I mean, I don’t even have a pillow.”
Jesus is reminding this guy—
Matthew is reminding all of us by writing it down—
what exactly is involved in following Jesus.
Earlier in Matthew—back in chapter 6—
Jesus had already explicitly taught us
what life following him looks like:
(6.19-24) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
It doesn’t seem to be accidental
that Jesus doesn’t even have a pillow to his name.
Jesus practices what he preaches.
Jesus himself isn’t “storing up treasures” on earth—
he’s not trying to prop his life up comfortably on pillows or cushions.
Jesus himself is investing in an entirely different economy
than the rat race of fame or wealth
or instant gratification.
It’s NOT that Jesus has no interest in treasure—
in good things or beautiful things or valuable things.
Jesus has better taste than us.
Jesus is interested in treasure that doesn’t fall apart—
good and beautiful things that don’t rust or unravel or go out of style.
Jesus is pursuing
a deeper and better kind of treasure
than anything money can buy.
It’s NOT that Jesus has no interest in rest or comfort—
in a life free from anxiety or troubles or threat.
Jesus himself—the Son of Man—is pursuing
a deeper and better kind of rest
than any pillow or mattress can offer.
He doesn’t even have one.
In the way he lives, Jesus reveals that the truly human life
means trusting that God is good and God provides.
Rather than being enslaved to service of money—
the next good thing,
the next clever gadget,
the next stylish outfit,
the next career advancement,
always thinking when I get there—when I get that—
I’ll finally be complete and fulfilled,
Jesus displays the truly human life.
We didn’t start our lives,
we have no control over when our lives end,
and we’re entirely dependent on God’s grace in the middle.
The truly human life means trusting
that God is good and God provides.
We’re invited into a better kind of life.
A life where we’re free from terrifying lie
that we have to provide for ourselves.
A life where we’re unshackled from the unbearable burden
of having to secure our own life, secure our own future,
secure the lives and the futures of those around us—those we love.
The treasures we chase—
the endless pillows we pursue to cushion our lives—
the energy and anxiety we spend fretting about the future—
it’s all totally unnecessary.
That’s immediately what Jesus goes on to say:
(6.25-34) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We’re invited to the truly human life—
to practice learning to believe—learning to trust—
that God is good and God provides.
So when Jesus responds to this fellow in Matthew 8,
this is what he’s clarifying.
Jesus doesn’t have a pillow,
but that’s precisely because
our pillows are often a problem.
We settle for false treasure,
we chase after false security,
we give in to false comfort,
and Jesus loves us enough to call us into something better.
You realize, teacher of the law—O scholar of the Bible—
that it’s that simple and that uncomfortable, right?
God is good and God provides.
It’s disarmingly simple to say
and devastatingly difficult to cultivate into a habit.
But that’s where true life is.
You know what you’re signing up for, right?
It’s not immediate gratification—
it’s going to be an uncomfortable process—
you’re going to have to detox from treasures that fall apart
and pillows that moths eat.
And by talking this way—
by calling us into this kind of life—
Jesus is shows us something about God.
Jesus reveals a God
dedicated to our well-being.
A lot of times when we hear about
Jesus with no pillow—about treasure in heaven—
we think God is interested in raining on our parade—on killing our fun.
But it’s totally and completely the opposite.
God is more interested in—more dedicated to—
our well-being than we ourselves are.
God wants us to feel secure.
God wants us our hearts fulfilled—hearts at rest.
It’s a great mystery to be sure,
but God himself volunteers to go without to give us everything.
God himself suffers with no cushions,
with cricks in his neck, with a cross on his back,
so that we can be made fully and forever alive.
It’s for our sake that the Son of Man has no pillow.
That’s helpful to remember that
whenever we think words of Jesus
sound like a wet blanket or buzzkill.
And God knows that
our hearts go with our treasures.
If we want a secure heart
we need a secure treasure.
If we want lasting rest
we need a lasting pillow.
The 19th century pastor George MacDonald writes:
“[w]hat is with the treasure must fare as the treasure… [T]he heart which haunts the treasure-house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure, will itself be rusted and moth-eaten.”
If we wanted to rephrase what MacDonald is saying,
we could say it this way:
Whatever happens to our treasure
happens to our heart.
God wants our hearts safe and secure and truly at rest
and what happens to our treasure happens to our heart.
If what we treasure is constantly going out of style,
we’re going to find that our hearts are constantly slipping away from us.
If what we value most deeply will eventually break down—
guess what?—our deepest selves will eventually break down.
If what we love above all else is winds up being lost,
we wind up being lost.
Or maybe we could say
our rest only lasts as long as our pillow.
And it’s better to choose to follow pillowless Jesus
and find comfort that cannot be taken away,
than to spend our lives propping ourselves up with cushions
eventually doomed to unravel and fall apart and become food for moths.
That’s what following Jesus is.
It’s NOT a disinterest in life—
in goodness and beauty and treasure and comfort and rest.
It’s a decision, a resolve, an acceptance of following Jesus
on the often difficult path to treasure that will last,
to comfort that cannot be lost.
So as we come to the table this morning:
how are you? how’s your heart? how’s your inner being?
Does it feel rusted? Eaten by moths?
Emptied out by the thief of anxiety?
Are you finding rest? Or are you unravelling?
What happens to your treasure happens to your heart.
Maybe this morning is an opportunity to really feel those things—
to feel the rust and the unravelling—to confess them before God,
and to invite the Spirit to recalibrate your heart.
There’s a fundamental recalibrating and reshuffling and reordering of our lives
that happens again and again as we follow the way of Jesus
and receive the life he offers.
May we be open to this recalibration and captivated by the good news
of a God who goes without to give us everything,
may we be hearers AND doers of what Jesus says this morning,
recognizing that God is dedicated to our well-being
because the Son of Man has no pillow for our sake,
may we surrender all we cling to
that cannot satisfy and will not last,
and may we find our deepest treasure in God crucified for us,
and our deepest comfort that he himself will freely give us all things.