From Hurdles To Heroes

From Hurdles To Heroes – 04.21.2019
[Luke 5:18-25 and Hebrews 12:1-2]
          Did you know that the African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of over 30 feet in a single bound? It’s a truly impressive animal, and yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a simple three foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. They are afraid to jump, because they do not have a good footing, a solid foundation. I believe in a physician, in a doctor, when I put my case into that doctor’s hands, and I trust her to cure me. Even if I’m unconscious during the surgery, I can’t see what she does – I trust. I believe in a banker when I put my money into his hands, and allow him to keep it on my behalf. Even though I don’t see what the bank does with my money – I trust. I believe in a lawyer when I leave my case in her hands, and trust her to plead for me. But when it comes to religion. When it comes to living a moral life, to being a good person, to living my life as a follower of Jesus – sometimes we don’t trust in a savior. We try to be a good person all by ourselves. Do you think – can we put our lives in Jesus’ hands and trust him to take care of us?

          Today is the third sermon in the series Breaking Barriers – the miracles of Jesus. For the month of April we are looking at the things Jesus did that broke down the barriers of our world. We have things in our life that hold us back, barriers that keep us stuck, hurdles that we think we cannot overcome. But what I want to show you this morning is that Jesus turns the hurdles of this world into a little 3 foot wall. All it takes to overcome, all it takes to be free is faith. With faith, you will be able to move from a hurdle to a hero. Let’s take a look.


          So the scripture today starts in chapter five of Luke. Now by now, Jesus’ reputation has spread far and wide. He’s traveling around the country teaching and preaching, but also healing people. And so the people are coming to Jesus are coming to Jesus in huge numbers. And so, to set the stage – Jesus is sitting in a house, talking and teaching some of the religious leaders of that time. It says, [read v.17]. Teachers of the law from every village, even Jerusalem. So Jesus is sitting with lots of fancy and important people with fancy and important titles from fancy and important places. So this is the audience for what’s about to happen. [read v.18-19]. Because Jesus was so popular at this time, there were so many people crowding around him in this house. And what I really want to point out here is the fact that they could not find a way, so they made a way. There was no way for them to get through, so they went and made a way to get to Jesus. They thought outside the box – literally, tore the roof of the box. There’s an old quote, nobody seems to know where it comes from but it says, “if it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse. These friends could have easily said – we can’t get in. We tried, but there’s too many people. That’s a decent excuse, but it’s still an excuse. I guess there’s something to that – a good excuse is still an excuse. Putting God on the backburner in life, even for something that seems legit, a good excuse, it’s still putting God on the backburner of life. Telling God, you are not as important as this other thing I have to do instead. Verse 20 says, [read it]. When he saw their faith – well, now wait a minute. How can Jesus see their faith? Faith is not something you can see. When he saw their faith, which was right after they tore a hole in the roof. They showed their faith, with their actions. True faith is supported with actions. If you really believe, then your actions change. We talked about this last week – faith is not just about belief, about what goes on in your head – it’s about what you do with your life. You can’t keep faith to Sunday mornings, it’s designed for every single day.

       But when Jesus forgives the guy, it ticks off the fancy and important leaders that are in the room. [read v.21-24]. Jesus perceived their thoughts, so either Jesus can read minds – OR they were being really obvious about it. You know how you’re talking to someone and they cannot keep their thoughts off their face? So we’ve got these fancy teachers, making faces at Jesus and he says, look – which is easier, for me to say his sins are forgiven, or for me to actually heal him? Verse 24, [read 24-25]. Basically, Jesus healed this paralyzed man to prove a point. To show them that he, Jesus Christ, son of God, savior of the world has all authority on earth.
    How do I say this? There is a growing movement inside Christianity to dial down the divine in Jesus’ life. We want to think about Jesus as our buddy, as the nice guy who lived all those years ago. The relatable friend. The modern Christian wants to focus on Jesus’ serving others, and on his teachings. And I get it, I’m part of this movement, simply put we are afraid of weirding people out. Start talking about divine healings and Jesus as the son of God, rising from the dead – people will start to look at you funny. And we don’t want to seem like crazy people – believing in ghosts and the boogeyman and miraculous healings. For a long time, in the name of outreach, we have desperately tried to dial down the weirdness of religion. Church can be an embarrassing thing in our lives, people make fun of us for our faith. You’re one of the weird Christians, oh. We want to paint Jesus as a nice guy, a really nice guy. He was a great teacher – why can’t we just leave it at that? That’s the Jesus people like to believe in, because that’s the Jesus that’s easy to believe in, the belief that doesn’t challenge us. Can I have this moment of honesty? I’ve struggled in this sermon series, because the miracles of Jesus highlight the things that are the hardest to believe in the story of Jesus. I read these stories, and I’m tempted to try and deemphasize Jesus’ power. I can’t talk about that – they’ll think it’s weird. What if we have a visitor – they won’t come back because we talked about divine healings. There’re moments of inspiration in Jesus’ teaching, and that’s the easy stuff to preach on. Jesus said love your neighbor – ooo, that’s good stuff. We can talk about that. Jesus said, forgive – ooo, yeah – they’ll like that. Jesus healed a paralyzed man, eeeeeeh, that’s harder to believe, harder to accept. Maybe, we don’t really want to say it out loud, but maybe – just a little bit, we are embarrassed by Jesus. We just want to talk about Jesus’ teachings, focus on that.    


But here’s my problem – the Pharisee’s didn’t kill him because he was a great teacher. Think about this story – they were in the room, from all over the country they came to hear him teach. They liked Jesus as the nice teacher. The problem was, Jesus went further than that. They killed him because he was more, he challenged the way things were – the easy, comfortable beliefs. Jesus didn’t come to give us some nice teachings, he did that – but he didn’t stop there. Jesus came to break down barriers. C.S. Lewis has this quote, where he basically says when we look at Jesus either he was crazy, or he was a liar, or he was the all powerful son of God. A lunatic, a liar or the lord. He doesn’t let us believe in some wishy-washy thing in the middle.
       Hebrews tells us, [read v.1-2]. In every single one of our lives, there are obstacles. There are hurdles to climb over, walls and barriers that keep us stuck. Take a second, think about the hurdles in your life. What are the obstacles you deal with in your world? Drugs? Relationships? Work? Porn? Bad friends? Unfair situations? Grief? Medical illness? I could go on. What are your hurdles? Have you ever looked at your life and said, “there’s nothing I can do about it.” Have you ever given up without trying? It says, [read v.1b-2a]. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. What Hebrews is telling us is that Jesus is the launching point for faith, Jesus is the starting point for a life well lived. With Jesus you can move from hurdle to hero.


    Jesus came to break down barriers, and he starts with forgiveness. These friends rip a hole in the ceiling of the building, which is awesome, they lower the paralyzed man down in front of Jesus, and he says, “your sins are forgiven.” Does that feel a little disappointing? Your sins are forgiven, and the paralyzed guy is like, “great, cool – thanks, but uh… my legs?” Jesus forgave his sins first, because that was more important. Jesus starts with forgiveness. The good news this morning is that Jesus forgives us. Jesus forgives us, which is the launching point for solving every other problem. Let me show you what I mean. Most of the obstacles in your life can be overcome – if you have faith. You see, we are the African Impala, and we are being held back by a three foot wall that we can overcome, but we do not trust. Without faith, we cannot make the leap over the obstacles in our lives, no matter how small they really are. But if we have forgiveness, if we have that connection to Jesus – everything else follows. Jesus forgives us first, washes us clean and gives us a second chance at life – and the rest will follow. Jesus saves us from ourselves, and he does that first, so we can jump over the hurdles with confidence.
       Let’s put it this way. The teacher Jesus is a great way to keep things the way they are. The unimpressive, easy to believe in Jesus, the nice teacher Jesus is great for keeping your life stuck. The actual Jesus, the real saving, all powerful son of God Jesus is a great way to move forward. The pharisee’s liked Jesus the teacher, because they didn’t want the world to change. They liked keeping people oppressed with their religious systems. They liked giving people enough hope to keep them happy, but not so much that they would actually like to do something with their faith. In a world where social justice seems to be spinning its wheels – racism, sexism and more – we don’t need  a comfortable Jesus who keeps things the way they are. I’m not interested in keeping things the way they are – are you? They like comfortable Jesus on Sunday morning – not the real Jesus that shows up every day of our lives. Jesus the teacher is a great way to keep things the way they are in your life, stuck behind the hurdles. The actual Jesus, the divine Jesus, the weird, embarrassing, perfect, risen Jesus is the only way to move forward. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. If your faith is easy, if your faith does not challenge you – it probably won’t help you grow either.


      Step one – Jesus forgives our sins. Belief in the healing power of the son of God is the starting point to overcoming hurdles in your life. There are things in our life that hold us back, sin acts like weights on our ankles. We come to Jesus as broken people – who make mistakes, who hurt others, who live in a way that is not what God taught us. Show of hands, how many of you have hurt other people in your life? How many of you have lived a broken life? We can’t get over the hurdles with a broken leg. But when we bring our brokenness to Jesus, and we ask for forgiveness, we ask for a second chance – Jesus gives it to us. We give our lives to him, we start to follow Jesus and say – I trust in the resurrection, I trust it will make a difference in my life. If you trust Jesus as a teacher, all he can do for you is teach. But if you trust in Jesus as a healing savior, he can do so much more in your life. Are you sick and tired of being stuck? Are you tired of living life with one hand tied behind your back? Or trying to run the race with weights on your ankles? The first step is forgiveness, Jesus wants to forgive you and help you run the race.
       The second step is to make a way. After you trust Jesus to save you, you know you can overcome – so then make way. Where before there was no way, it’s impossible, I can’t see the solution, it’s can’t be done – once you begin to trust in Jesus, you can make a way. Luke 5, verse 19 – seeing that there was no way, they went up to the roof and made a way. Hebrews 12, let us strip of every weight and the sin that clings to us so closely and run the race with endurance. You are capable of more than you ever thought. Are you ready to run the race of life without the weight of the world? Are you ready to overcome your hurdles and move on, to get unstuck and move forward? Where there was no way, where it used to be impossible – make a way forward. Rather than giving up before you try – what if you believed it was possible? Make a way.
Am I limiting my life when I put limits on my God? Is it possible that an unlimited God could take the weights off of my life and open the door to something more? Could a divine, embarrassingly powerful Jesus really move me from hurdle to hero? I think it’s high time we find out. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you believe in Jesus as a starting point, as a launch pad for overcoming hurdles. And where there is no way to overcome, I challenge you – get out there and make a way. Amen