What was the greatest cost you personally ever paid to help someone? I am not asking what was monetarily the most expensive benevolent act you ever performed. I am asking what was to you the most costly thing you have done to reach out to someone. What was the most humiliating thing you ever did to help someone? What was the most unselfish thing you ever did to help someone? What is the most prolonged sacrifice you ever made to help someone?

Is it true that it is natural and common for you to pay great personal prices to help other people? Does that just describe the kind of person you are?

  1. I cannot imagine leaving an existence in heaven with God to assume a life as a human on this earth.
    1. In the realm the son of God left, there are no physical needs--it is not a physical world.
      1. My specific understanding is this:
        1. Where God lives, there is never hunger, thirst, discomfort, fear, weakness, weariness, sadness, pain, grief, or death.
        2. The only realm that has hunger, thirst, discomfort, weakness, weariness, sadness, pain, grief, or death is in an earthly existence.
      2. I thought long and hard about a way to create insights into Jesus' sacrifices, to present those sacrifices in a way that penetrated comprehension instead of being "church building preacher talk."
        1. Consider your "right now" lifestyle. Would you consider completely leaving your "right now" lifestyle, taking nothing with you but your knowledge and the clothes you were wearing, and becoming a peasant in a remote area of China, India, or Africa?
        2. If you did that:
          1. You would live without electricity.
          2. You would never own a car.
          3. Your housing would be primitive by any standard, without plumbing.
          4. You would do most of your traveling by foot.
          5. All your work would be physical work done by man power with primitive tools.
          6. Your only water source for cooking, washing clothes, or cleaning your body, would be a stream or a drainage ditch.
          7. No medical treatment and no medicines would be available to you.
          8. You never, ever would have any discretionary money to spend, and the money you would have would never be enough to feed you and your family.
          9. You would not average one day a month having enough to eat.
          10. You would have no privacy, no freedom, and no hope of changing anything.
          11. Your life expectancy would be forty years, and if you lived forty years you would be considered an old person.
          12. There would be no creature comforts.
            1. Each day's basic issue would be physical survival.
            2. Every morning you would wake up with no assurance that you would live through the day.
          13. No aid or assistance programs of any kind would be available.
          14. You would not have a choice of jobs; you likely would not have a job.
          15. The only power you had would be your knowledge, and people feared your knowledge.
    2. Can you imagine making that choice--deliberately, consciously, with total awareness?
      1. You probably cannot.
      2. Would you seriously consider making that choice?
        1. For a week?
        2. For a month?
        3. For six months?
        4. For a year?
        5. For the rest of your life?
      3. If you made that choice, and the sacrifices you made were compared to Jesus' sacrifices when he came to this earth, in that comparison, your sacrifices as that peasant would not cover the point on a pin when compared to Jesus' sacrifices.

  2. I struggled as I looked for illustrations of how low Jesus stooped to help people. I did not struggle because there were none; I struggled because there were so many.
    1. I decided to use three men and three women.
      1. The three men:
        1. My first is Matthew; Jesus selected Matthew to be one of twelve people to fill an unusual, unique role on earth.
          1. Matthew collected taxes for the Roman government.
          2. That tax system was extremely corrupt.
            1. A wealthy man bought from the Roman government the right to collect taxes in a region of the Roman empire. Anything he collected above the government's assessment was his profit.
            2. The people he hired to do the collecting made their profit from the amount they collected above his assessment.
          3. Tax collectors commonly abused their position to make money. Everyone regarded tax collectors to be thieves. Israelites who worked as Roman tax collectors additionally were considered to be traitors to the nation of Israel.
          4. The apostle Matthew worked as a tax collector before Jesus invited him to be his disciple.
        2. My second man is the leper mentioned in Matthew 8:1-4.
          1. Have you personally seen a person with leprosy? Many with leprosy are grotesquely deformed because the nerves of infected areas die, and they cannot feel in that area.
          2. If you cannot feel, you are not aware when injuries occur. Neglected injuries produce the deformities.
          3. Israel had strict laws regarding leprosy:
            1. Those with leprosy could not be among the general population.
            2. You could not touch anything a leper touched.
            3. A leper had to warn anyone approaching them not to come closer.
          4. This leper came to Jesus, bowed before him, and said, "You can cleanse me if you want to."
          5. And Jesus touched him...and Jesus said, "I'm willing"...and Jesus immediately destroyed the man's leprosy.
          6. Wonder how long it had been since someone without leprosy had touched him?
        3. The third man is one of the two thieves who died beside Jesus at the crucifixion.
          1. Matthew 27:44 indicates that at some point in the crucifixion both thieves dying beside Jesus insulted him.
          2. Luke 23:39-43 gives some detail of what happened.
            1. At some point in the agony and pain of crucifixion, one thief said, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
            2. At that point, the other thief rebuked this man, asked him did he not fear God, and acknowledged that they deserved their execution, but Jesus had done nothing wrong.
            3. Then he made an incredible request of Jesus that reflected an understanding that few Jews had: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom." Do you have any understanding of why that request was so unusual?
            4. Jesus promised him that he would be with Jesus in Paradise that very day.
            5. Can you imagine Jesus making that promise to a thief who was being executed for his crimes?
      2. The three women:
        1. My first woman had hemorrhaged for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48).
          1. Jewish law said a person like her was "unclean" and should not be in physical contact with anyone (Leviticus 15:19-30).
          2. Though she was a woman and though she was forbidden to have physical contact with people, she knew if she fought through the crowd and touched Jesus' clothing, her hemorrhage would stop.
          3. She did, and Jesus felt power leave him.
          4. In the middle of a "pushing, shoving" crowd, he asked, "Who touched me?" and she was terrified.
          5. In terror, she explained why she touched him, and Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well; go in peace."
        2. My second woman is the immoral woman in Luke 7:36-50.
          1. Jesus was invited for a meal in a Pharisee's home.
          2. This immoral woman, likely a prostitute, came uninvited into the house to the place the meal was served and touched Jesus.
          3. Everything she did was strictly forbidden: she touched Jesus, washed [with her tears] his feet, anointed his feet, kissed his feet; let her hair down to dry his feet.
          4. The Pharisee said, "If Jesus knew who she was and what she did, he would not allow her to touch him."
          5. Jesus knew what he was thinking, and proved to him that he knew exactly who and what she was, and that what she did was superior to what the Pharisee did.
          6. Jesus told this immoral woman, "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
        3. My third woman is the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in John 4.
          1. Jesus was alone with this woman when the conversation occurred.
          2. He did several things that simply were not done, were not proper.
            1. He initiated a conversation; Jewish men were not to have conversations with Samaritan women, and men were not to speak publicly to women.
            2. Jesus asked her for a drink, and his request astounded her; she responded by asking what was happening.
          3. Jesus offered her living water that produced eternal life.
          4. Before that conversation, before he offered her living water, Jesus knew she was five times divorced and was living with a man to whom she was not married.
          5. Incredibly, she did something that perhaps only the apostle Peter did--she recognized Jesus as the Christ.
    2. If you consider Jesus' interaction with those six people, how low does Jesus stoop?
      1. May we allow Jesus to answer our question? Consider Matthew 9:10-13.
        1. The Pharisees said Jesus associated with people God obviously condemned, and he went way too far in stooping to help people.
        2. He absolutely should not reach out to tax collectors and sinners.
        3. Their condemnation of Jesus was very judgmental and very critical.
      2. Jesus gave three statements in answer.
        1. The people who need a doctor are the sick people.
        2. The Pharisees needed to understand the prophet Hosea's point when he said to the Israelites God considered compassion to be more important than worship (Hosea 6:6).
        3. Jesus' mission was to call sinners.
    3. Jesus' answer reminds me of Paul's statement.
      1 Timothy 1:15,16 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
      1. Before he was a Christian, Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an aggressively violent man (1 Timothy 1:13).
      2. Jesus stooped, forgave this enemy, and made him the greatest cross cultural missionary this world has ever known.

I want to ask a question and make an observation. My question: is this what the community of Christians at West-Ark is all about? Is our commitment the same as Jesus' commitment? What opportunity exists here for thieves, men and women who are social outcasts, and prostitutes who turn to Jesus?

My observation: no matter where you are or what is happening in your life, Jesus can help you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 January 2001

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