Well, this is it. This is the end of our Jesus is Greater journey. It sure has been incredible, hasn’t it? Jesus really is greater than anything and everything we could possibly imagine. I hope you see that by now. If not, I’d love to talk to you more about it. Feel free to reach out to me and I’ll help you the best I know how.
But for now, let’s finish up with our illustration about the car. Who’s driving?
In 1 Cor 11:1 Paul says: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Other translations say: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
Chapter 13 of Hebrews dealt with the concept of Spiritual Authority. God has created a structure of authority for the church. God has called spiritual leaders to lead your church. Romans 13 says “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”
Just for now, let’s set aside our autonomous American way of thinking that has exalted rebellion and individualism. And let’s just do our best to take Scripture at its word. As a fierce independent thinker, I want to chart my own course and prove in the end that I was able to get to God on my own terms. But, Scripture paints an entirely different picture. Mutual Submission.
Follow me as I follow Christ. As a pastor, my first and foremost responsibility is following Jesus with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength. My primary responsibility as a pastor is not to lead the organization of the church. My primary responsibility is to follow Jesus with everything I am. After that, scripture teaches that my primary ministry is to my family. Then after that comes the church and its needs.
Christ is the head of the church. Every pastor’s job is to follow Christ and lead by example. I submit to Christ, seek His will for our church and follow Him no matter what the cost. Our elders do the same thing. They follow Christ, submit to His leadership in their lives and follow Him no matter the cost. If you’re following someone who’s following Christ, you’re heading toward Christ.
Now, imagine with me your pastor is in the car Christ made for Him to drive. Imagine him as the Sheriff from Cars. Remember how the sheriff started coughing and smoking when he was chasing down Lightning McQueen? Do you remember what he said? “I haven’t gone this fast in years.” In fact, the Sheriff’s car wasn’t designed to chase down a race car. And a race car isn’t designed to drive on country roads. The sheriff only had to chase McQueen down because he wasn’t doing what He was designed for.
Yes, I know I just compared myself to the old sheriff in Cars. I’m fine with that. But the sheriff can only operate within the authority that has been given to him by the county. And the county can only operate within the boundaries set in place by the state and the state by the country. And though we tend to minimize our sheriff to being the thing that deals with the bad people. But they are also community leaders. Having known some sheriff’s, they would rather not need to arrest people.
“Wait, are you saying the pastor is like a sheriff that arrests people?” No. I’m saying that the sheriff has authority that has been given to it but those in authority over them. In the same way, pastors have authority in their church because God has authority over them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t pastors who abuse their authority. But, in large part, most pastors don’t. Most pastors I know just want their people to spend more time with Jesus.
Of course, we get impatient and want to get there faster so we can get on with other, more exciting things. But, the pastor knows that “slow and steady wins the race”. Still, cars will zip up alongside the pastor and say, we need to go this way or try this thing. Or look at those lights over there, let’s go check them out. But the pastor’s job is not to be an adventure guide. The pastor’s job is to follow Jesus and help others to do the same by his example.
“But wait, didn’t you say yesterday that we’re not supposed to have our cars hitched to someone else?” Yes I did. I’m not saying that we just coast behind our pastor. I’m not saying that we rely on our pastor’s walk with Christ to be the only nutrition for our souls. But, It is by following our Spiritual leaders that we are following Christ.
I don’t like to brag about myself, so please don’t hear this as that. But, as a pastor, Jesus if my life. I have spent the last 20 years studying God’s word. And most pastors I know are far more educated about the Bible than I am. I have a degree in Bible and Theology. I study the word in depth week after week. I talk with people more about the Bible than any other topic. Jesus is literally my life. Most pastors I know are the same. Jesus is their life.
But, we live in a suspicious culture that doesn’t trust the church or leaders of the church. Some (a very small fraction) leaders have abused their position. Some have done horrid things with the title of pastor hanging on their door. But, that doesn’t mean all pastors have the same motives. In fact, so many pastors I know are honest, humble, hard-working people who just want their people to know Jesus.
Because our media celebrates every pastor who fails and because we live in a rebel against all authority culture, we tend to err on the side of mistrust. It’s better to be safe than sorry, we tell ourselves. So, instead of making it a joy for our spiritual leaders, we allow the winds of society to lead us to question everything they do, assuming all along the worst of intentions.
We allow a non-believing skeptical world to drive us towards the assumption of corruption in every spiritual leader. And that’s a dangerous place to be. Why?
Well, because, as I said in my sermon on this passage, rebellion is kind of the problem that got us into this mess to begin with. Rebellion is the whole reason we needed a savior. So, we have swallowed the lie that’s been sold to us that all spiritual leaders are corrupt and as a result we resist all spiritual authorities. We decide we’re better off on our own.
Except that’s not how God’s kingdom works. When you’re baptized into Christ, you’re baptized into a new family. You get baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Which means you get a new identity. You literally died to the old one when you put your faith in Christ. So, that old rebellious person is supposed to be dead. Now, within the Kingdom of God, we are united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection with all believers around the world and throughout history. In other words, there is no longer a me, only we. It’s hard to be a we if we aren’t willing to follow someone.
Okay, so let’s wrap up this incredibly long final installment for the book of Hebrews. Did you ever watch the movie “Field of dreams?” Remember the phrase: “if you build it, he will come.” And throughout the whole movie, Kevin Costner is trying to figure out who’s coming. Then James Earl Jones says: “Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.” And he goes on to describe, in detail what’s going to happen. Do you remember that part?
Do you know what part always gets me? It’s not when he starts playing catch with his dad. That’s definitely moving. But the part that gets me, is the closing scene. You know, where the camera starts to zoom out from the game of catch happening between Ray and his Dad to show the long line of cars that is headed towards their little ball field in Iowa.
You see, Jesus was that first car that blazed the trail to paradise. No, I’m not talking about a corn-field in Iowa. I mean God’s real paradise. On our own, people don’t know how to get to Jesus. So we needed a trail-blazer. Not only did we not know the way, we had disqualified ourselves from being able to get there on our own. We needed someone to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death we deserved to die. We needed someone who was better than anyone and anything that had come before to unlock a door we didn’t have keys for.
Jesus carved out the path, gave us each the car that has everything it needs to make the journey and then said, follow me. But, in case you haven’t noticed, Jesus isn’t on earth anymore. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. So, how do we follow Him to paradise if He’s not around any more?
By following the people who have followed Him. It’s that long line of cars, miles and miles long. Not fighting for position. Not upset that they weren’t the first one in the parking lot. Just one car following another following another following another.
The only way to get there is to follow someone else who has gone before us. You know, those witnesses of Hebrew 11. The apostles. The early church martyrs, and church Fathers. Those who have gone before us, who have put their feet in the same steps that Jesus walked. It’s the same trail. It hasn’t changed in 2,000 years.
The question we have to answer is. Will we follow? To answer that question we have to also settle another question. Do we really believe Jesus is Greater? Because if He is, we’ll do what He says no matter what. We don’t allow the winds and waves of this turbulent, disbelieving society to throw us off our course. We’ll keep following that person in front of us, who’s following the person who went before them.
Until one day, we all arrive at paradise. Where together, with the thousands upon thousands who have gone before us we’ll go into God’s paradise, and be able to rest in the presence of our Father who made us. We’ll be able to enjoy him, and who knows, maybe even be able to have catch with him. And together with them all we will echo the truth that has been echoed throughout ages past and will be echoed throughout all eternity:
Jesus. Is. Greater.