Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
What a sad, sad little man
that is Herod. Very warped on the inside is he. Never really satisfied
with himself for he had to always find affirmation, not from within
himself as to his person, but from outside of himself, always trying
to please and willing to go to all lengths in order to get that affirmation
and acceptance. Why else when would motivate him simply because what
he saw in the face of the people and in their response to his sick way
of running his kingdom.
It’s sad because someone like
that is centered not upon other people, but someone like that is very
self-centered, self-serving. Isn’t it kind of a bizarre thought that
someone who is so self-centered and so self-serving would be so concerned
about someone else and what they thought?
What a sad little man…James,
the elder. It’s very easy to paint Herod as this heinous villain, but
let us look at the fact that he is the one extreme. The one that’s in
the middle…James the elder, he is like you and me. For there’s not
one of us here who sits and sweats as we are this morning who doesn’t
think about what pleases someone else.
Now you would think that could
be all shrouded into, I’m serving
them because when I do this for
them that makes them happy, therefore I am all about
them. In reality, you know and I know most of the things we do are
self-serving. It’s just unfortunately how we roll as sinful human beings.
We can think of examples, but
brothers and sisters we don’t struggle doing anything but trying to
please God. To please ourselves, that comes so naturally. That is always
our modus operandi, how we function and how we operate, but to
serve God, to serve someone else at the cost of ourselves, that’s the
Now that’s why I said, “James,
a sad little man,” because James and John bug the Lord of all things,
God of all creation, Redeemer of their sinful souls if one of them could
sit at the right and at the left in glory. Brothers and sisters, that
has nothing to do with anyone else but themselves.
We all love affirmation. We’re
made, in fact, and knit together by God to continue to receive and give
it. Problem is, like all things, Satan takes that and warps it and bends
it so the ability for us to give such affirmation is withheld. The desire
to look for affirmation, even at the cost of affirming our relationship
with Him, it is that which we struggle. It is that which James himself
struggled. Yet James died a martyr. Now a martyr cannot die as a martyr
unless he dies as one who is in the faith.
We have a lot in common with
James. For if James can die in the faith, being so bold as to ask God
in the flesh if he could sit at His right or His left, brothers and
sisters, we’re in good company. This is the kind of man you and I are
or the kind of woman you and I are because we all share that same desire
of glory in this world and affirmation by other people.
Now this is something that
really struck me that I’ve never seen before until this preparation
for this sermon. Jesus tells them, “You do not know what you are
asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with
the baptism with which I am to be baptized?” Unpack that statement
for you. In essence He is saying, “Can you drink the cup of suffering
I drink? Can you be baptized into the death, unjust so, as I will be?”
They boldly say without even
giving it a thought…because like you and me, we say, “Yes,”
to something. We have no idea of what all the ramifications are…they
say, “Yes! Yes I will do that Lord!” Then God gives them a
great statement of comfort.
Now you may look at this text
and say, “Where’s the comfort, Pastor, because I’m not seeing it.”
This is very interesting because when we read Jesus saying, “The
cup that I drink you will drink. The baptism with which I am baptized
you will be baptized,” and we look at that and think, Wow. He’s
really slamming them. Telling them,
“Yeah you’re going to have it!” That’s how Satan would
love us to look at that.
But that is not how God the
Holy Spirit wishes us to only see those words. Think about it. He’s
saying to these two who have just expressed their vanity and their pride
in open forum with the disciples listening, Jesus tells them, “I
will not lose you.”
Let me say that again. He’s
saying to them in those words, “I’m not going to lose you. You
will be drinking the same cup I drink which means I’m not going to let
go of you and let you forgo drinking that because only a believer in
Christ can drink such a cup. You will be baptized in the baptism in
which I am baptized. I’m not going to let you go. I’m not going to let
your vanity and pride carry you away to hell’s gates. I’m going to hold
on to you as a shepherd does his sheep and I’m going to bring you through
that critical mass point where you will die for Me!” That’s a promise,
that word of God, and that’s His promise to you and me.
Lord have mercy upon us because
you and I know ourselves far too well and Satan doesn’t let us forget
ourselves very often, does he? We have to ask ourselves in those moments,
Lord, why do You not wash Your hands of me and rid Yourself of me for
I, like James, have asked for such pride
and vanity to be granted. I’ve desired things that are far above me,
and bottom line, I have served myself far more than I serve others.
God is saying to you and to
me in this text this morning, “I’m not going to let go of you.
I’m not going to let go of you and your stubborn pride. I’m not going
to let go of you and your vanity. I am going to crush you. I am going
to sift you. I am going to cause you to drink things you do not wish
to drink, but I will hold onto you throughout every stage of such difficult
times, and I will bring you into heaven, and I alone will be the one
who you look upon in heaven and say, ‘To God be the glory.'”
Those are great words of comfort.
That’s what Paul wrote about in the epistle reading. “In all these
things we are more than conquerors. I am sure that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, rulers, things present, nor things to come, nothing
can separate us.” Why could Paul…who knew his hypocrisy better
than you and I do by reading it…say such things? How could Paul…who
knew what he had done and knew the struggle of which he spoke in the
seventh chapter of Romans…speak such words of confidence?
It is because of what God had
said to his vain servant James. “Yes you will suffer for the
sake of My name. Yes you will struggle with your flesh to the point
of almost going crazy at times in your head and in your heart, but you
will not be let go of. You will finish that cup to its dregs. You will
be baptized and I will bring you into My kingdom.” That is what
James died in.
You know those moments before
someone dies? It is often said those moments can be very difficult.
Doubts and questions rise up. Concerns and fears and anxieties well
up. If James had any of these as he heard the steps of the executioner
walk up, as he saw the shadow of that great sword being lifted, they
all disappeared with this promise because he realized at that moment
he was fulfilling what God said God would do in his life. God was fulfilling
what God said He would do in James’ life.
Brothers and sisters, He will
do that in yours. That’s your promise. Be at peace. Paul’s confirmation
of such a great promise is the same thing Jesus gave to James. Nothing
will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Repent.
Believe in His name, Amen.