Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sermon: They Fell Down Before Him

Tomorrow I will be filling in preaching for a good friend, Bert Foster. I will be preaching at Calvary Covenant Church in Stockholm, WI. Stockholm is a small town on Lake Pepin, across from Lake City, MN, and not too far down the road from Red Wing, MN. Below is my message manuscript. If you know me, you know I vary some from the manuscript, but that I will hit most of what is written as time allows. May Christ be glorified!

They Fell Down Before Him

On a normal day, I don’t sit on the ground. My guess is that is the case for most of you as well. We just don’t. When I’m camping or hiking, sure, but even then I try to find a log or something rather than just plopping down on the dusty trail. In our culture, we’re just not on the ground all that frequently. I grew up working on cars and motor cycles, and I quickly found one of the least desirable places to be was on the ground working. When you get down there, you get dirty, dust gets in your eyes, it’s hard to keep your clothes clean. Today we are going to look at some people who fell down to the ground on purpose. This isn’t just any piece of earth that they were falling on though, it was at the feet of Jesus. Let’s look at some examples where people hit the dirt before Jesus.

MT 9:18 While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live."

MK 7:25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.

LK 5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."

JN 11:32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

JN 18:6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.

MT 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

LK 17:16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan.

LK 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

MK 3:11 Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

MK 5:6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.

MK 5:33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

Now if only one or two people had fallen at Jesus’ feet, we might be able to dismiss those actions, but clearly that is not the case. People from a variety of backgrounds, found in each of the Gospel Letters, are found kneeling at Jesus’ feet. So we can only conclude that this falling at Jesus’ feet teaches us something important, and is therefore worth a closer look.

Some people who fell down before Jesus.
Let’s dig deeper into a couple of these people who fell down before Jesus. If you have your Bible with you, open to Mark chapter 5, verses 1-17. Mark is about 70% of the way into your Bible, after Matthew and before Luke and John. I’m going to paraphrase some for times sake, but I recommend you read this section of scripture in full later today when you have some time.
Let me give you a bit of background first. The day starts out quiet enough. Jesus is teaching by the sea, and as the crowd grew, He moved into a boat to continue His teaching. As you may know, at the end of the day Jesus and the disciples head across the Sea of Galilee, when a great storm hits. The disciples, men who were very experienced fishermen, but yet they were terrified by this storm, all while Jesus sleeps. In their fear, they wake Jesus, and he calms the storm. Even though we aren’t at the kneeling part yet, this is an amazing passage – it’s almost as if nature was kneeling at Jesus’ feet.
We now pick up with Mark 5 where they land on the other side of the lake. Immediately an enraged, demon-possessed, half-naked man comes at Jesus at a full run. This man is all cuts and bruises, probably quite muscular and covered in dirt. The townsfolk had tried to chain him, but every bond and chain they had were broken by him. These were people who knew how to make strong rope, and metal chains. They used them daily in their work in the fields and on their boats. The man was crazed we are told, living in the tombs, howling like a wolf, hitting himself with stones. The people of this town steered clear of him, and undoubtedly prayed for their children to stay away from him as well.

And so this dangerous and crazy man comes running at Jesus at full steam, just as Jesus is stepping off the boat. Imagine the adrenaline rush this is for the disciples. Here they just recovered from a near death experience out on the lake, and this madman is heading straight for their leader. What do I do? Do I try to stop him? Do I pull Jesus back into the boat? Will Christ stop him as He stopped the wind? A lot had to be racing through their minds, but their adrenaline was all for nothing. The demon-possessed, crazed man falls on his knees before Jesus. And he begs.
He bows face down to the ground, shaking, pleading before Jesus. And at a word, the demons in him give up their prized possession. The man is instantly sane and whole and committed to Jesus, ready to get in the boat and follow him anywhere. But at another word from Jesus, he denies his strong desire to go with his healer, and heads back into town to proclaim the power and authority of Jesus there. Can you imagine the testimony he had when he got back into town?
Let’s look at another example of hitting the dirt before Jesus’ feet. When Jesus and His disciples crossed back over the Sea of Galilee, a leader of the synagogue runs up to Jesus, and falls at his feet. And begs. He begs for Jesus to heal his daughter. This man who is begging isn’t just your average man though, he is a man of position and power, and in broad daylight he comes and falls before the feet of a radical itinerant rabbi. Jesus goes with this ruler, but on the way He is stopped by a woman who touched his cloak. She too falls before him, face down to the ground. Are you starting to see a theme here? This was the life of Jesus. His authority and rightful lordship emanated from him, and people from the demon-possessed to the powerful, found themselves at his feet. Many of these people had not previously met Jesus. Something within them just gave way, and they could do nothing but fall before him. He never once asked for it, and I doubt there was anything in His poor dress, ragged appearance or the people He hung out with that would suggest that someone should kneel before him.
When you think about it, kneeling before someone is embarrassing and humbling. It acknowledges your relative position. It is literally to put yourself in your place. To kneel is to make yourself vulnerable. You cannot protect yourself in this position, and that is the point of kneeling. You are placing yourself at the will of another.
The kneeling speaks not only of the lowering of the one who kneels, but also is about the recognition of the position of Jesus. It speaks about the authority that resided within Jesus. These kneeling verses clarify for us that Jesus’ place is on the throne. He has authority and lord ship. He is a Lord. The Lord. He may be merciful and gracious, but make no mistake: He is Lord. Our place is at His feet, humble, silent, and paying attention to his commands.

Have I been falling before Jesus' feet?
So the big question today is Have I been falling before Jesus’ feet? If not, why not? Here we are, a room where I suspect almost everyone is Christian, and yet we are failing at this, aren’t we. We profess Jesus as our Lord, our King, our Savior, but we all struggle to carry that out into our lives. So I want to close today with some practical steps, steps to help you fall at Jesus’ feet.

1. First we must Fear Him.
What do you do with a King? You fear him. We are so accustomed to democracies and committees and consensus decision making that we’ve lost our innate, natural sense of what to do when confronted with authority. Real authority. A King. A Lord. We need to relearn silent submission and reverence. We need to learn how to kneel. Fear of God was something familiar to the Jews at the time of Christ. They had such great fear and reverence, that they would not write out the whole name of God. They would leave letters out, which is how we get the word Yahweh. So if we want to get better at falling at Jesus’ feet, we need to learn to fear Him. And just as a hint, this isn’t going to happen unless you are spending time in the Word.

2. Second, we need to Practice Humility.
In our culture, humility is such a rare thing. It’s not something many people get much practice at, and even fewer pursue it intentionally. Being humble, practicing humility does not mean we are worthless though. We have incredible worth, because God values us.
Humility is elusive. Many people have wondered if you can ever really know you’re humble. “I’m so humble!” seems to be an impossible statement to declare. Just saying it seems like it should disqualify you. Humility is about as un-American a virtue as I can imagine. Can you think of something further from what our culture lifts up and encourages?
So what is humility? Well, it has something to do with acknowledging true places. We need to come to terms with just how poor and broken our own spirits are. If I just counted the number of times I’ve sinned in traffic in just the last week I would be appalled. It might seem a bit humorous to us today to think of it in those terms, but God isn’t laughing. God takes sin seriously. True humility understands that I am low but that there is something truly high and worthy, and we find that in Jesus. God is infinitely perfect, and we are ruined, stained, destroyed by our sin. It is only through Jesus on the Cross that we are able to reconcile this difference.
So as we I close, I want you think this over. Let it weigh on your heart. Have you been falling at Jesus’ feet? Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on each and every one of our parts. Go to His feet. Humble yourselves. Fear Him.

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dt said...

Big Chris--I hope it went well. It looked good, but of course delivery is key. I could read some passion in the manuscript, so I hope that came out.
Question: Point 1 "We must fear him." You reference the Jews leaving out letters which leaves us with Yahweh. Could you please elaborate, either via blog or e-mail. I'd love to hear the research you did. This is a pet project of mine. I understand the lack of vowels and the juxtaposition of YHWH and Adonai. Is that what you are referencing? Let me know. dt

mrclm said...

the short answer would be either Dr. Peter Vogt's OT101 class, Dr. Howard's OT102 class, or Dr. Ferris' OT103 class:-)

The long answer is I would have to get back to you on source material and such beyond that. I'm pretty sure it was OT101 that we talked about it though.

Big Chris