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Without Jesus

There is an old song that includes the line “Jesus, The Sweetest Name I Know”. That song is meant to emphasize how there is no other name that is more pleasing to the spirit of a Christian than the name or word “Jesus”. There are other songs such as the old hymn “Jesus Saves” that is also very sweet to a Christian because it references what the angel told Mary Jesus was to be. The angel said “you shall call His name Jesus for He will save their people from their sins.” Then there is the shortest verse in the Bible. It combines the name “Jesus” with one other word. That verse is John 11:35 where it reads “Jesus wept”, displaying the compassion He had for Lazarus and his family just prior to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead as we covered two weeks ago. I remember as a fourth grader, our teacher, Mrs. Fannie Lee Cummings, had asked us to come to school the next day having memorized a Bible verse and be prepared to stand up and say it in class. Teachers could do that back in 1967, even in public schools. There were three boys in the class that acted smart and used John 11:35 as their verse. There are other phrases with deep meaning such as “Jesus judges”, as referenced in Acts 10:42 and Acts 17:31 referring to the judgment that awaits those without Christ after their death. Another phrase you could teach on for weeks is the phrase “Jesus prays”. Jesus was constantly taking time away from the group to spend time alone with His Father in prayer. The most famous or highest prayer ever lifted up on this earth is referenced for us in John 17. There, on the last night before Jesus is arrested and then taken to trial before He is executed, we see a glimpse into what Jesus was thinking as He prayed to the Father knowing He is about to be arrested and crucified. All of those could be great topics for us to reflect upon today and may be ones that either I explore deeper or that hopefully one of you will explore deeper and want to share with this group in the future. I want us to consider another phrase today. That phrase is “Without Jesus”.

What first comes to your mind when you hear the term “Without Jesus”? Does the phrase bring sadness to you? Does it bring a brief point of sadness but then rejoicing because you are no longer without Jesus in your life? Does it invoke compassion in you toward those without Jesus? Let’s look at a few passages of scripture as we contemplate this phrase.

Mark 6:34 (NIV)

[34] When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.

Here, we have the account recorded of Jesus and His small group of disciples trying to go to a quiet place for a time of solitude, bodily rest and discipleship. The crowds though recognized Jesus as they were getting in a boat to go to this place. The crowds are so excited that they run all along the shore and are waiting for the boat as they prepare to land. Jesus sees this large crowd of people and scripture tells us He expresses a certain emotion toward them. He looks out upon the crowd and He sees them as sheep “without a shepherd”. We know who the Great Shepherd is and His name is Jesus. So here, Jesus looks out upon a vast crowd of people and sees people that are “Without Jesus”. His first emotion is not one of disgust because they are interrupting the planned and needed quiet time? No, His first emotion is the feeling of compassion.

Many of you probably had this same emotion pop into your mind as soon as I mentioned the focus for today. God has softened your heart so much that you desperately want others to have what you have found in Jesus. Your heart aches for those who do not know Him. You literally may weep for them. I can’t help but picture Don Wikoff teary eyed as he reads this. I also think of Ray Roseborough. Ray is a very, very compassionate man toward the lost. It is a key reason he preaches at the local jail almost weekly and has done so for many, many years.

There are many things a shepherd did in those days. First, he keeps the flock together. Without him they will wander aimlessly or in other words get “lost”. If a sheep is “lost”, what is it the sheep does? He may roam for a while but soon the sheep will cower in fear, not knowing where to go or what to do. Another thing the lost sheep will do is they may eat well for a period but after they exhaust the green grass where they are, they soon starve because they do not have a shepherd to lead them to where the other green pastures are located. Only the shepherd knows where the sheep can have green grass to eat and clean, calm water to drink. There is another thing the shepherd does and that is protect them from predators. These predators often lie in wait up on the sides of the cliff as the sheep walked through the valley or behind rocks in the narrow passes. This valley to some is like a valley of death. Yet, the shepherd is there with the sheep. He does not leave them and protects them through this valley that is so often filled with death and despair.

All of that sounds kind of familiar if you have been to many funerals. What is the passage of scripture most used by funeral homes in the small obituary they hand you as you go to a funeral after the loss of a loved one? It is Psalm 23, the passage known as describing “The Good Shepherd”. The passage in Mark tells us that Jesus is tired, hungry, needing some time alone but the people will not leave Him alone in this instance. He is trying to get away from them for some rest but cannot. He sees them and “has compassion” because He knows they need a shepherd. We all do. Thankfully most reading this have Jesus as our shepherd. We are not “without Jesus”. There are others you know though that are “without Jesus”. Do you have compassion on them? Does that compassion lead you to meet their immediate needs that then opens the door for you to share Jesus with them. Or, are you so tied up with your own plans you do not have time for them and your first reaction is one of disgust or intolerance, wishing or hoping they would just go away? We see in this passage what Jesus felt.

Here is another verse for you to reflect upon.

Ephesians 2:12 (NIV)

[12] Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

In our first passage we saw that people were without a shepherd meaning they were without Jesus. Here we see where Paul is telling the Christians at Ephesus to reflect back and remember who they once were. They once were “without hope”. We know that Jesus is Himself Hope so here Paul is telling them to remember who they once were without Jesus. They were Gentiles who knew nothing about the one true God, Jehovah / Yahweh. Gentiles worshipped many, many gods. Jehovah was the God of the Jews. God had come to Abraham as part of His great plan and chose Abraham and his descendants to be the ones to proclaim His name to the world. He would call these descendants of Abraham His children as well as all those later who would believe in Christ. He had set His love upon them and has prepared a place in heaven for them where He will live with them in glory eternally. Those “without Jesus” have none of these promises or assurances. Those without Jesus, separate from Christ, are excluded from “citizenship in Israel” which is a reference to the fact that all Christians – whether Jew or Gentile – are of the same nation or the same Olive tree, nourished by the same root, as Paul outlines in Romans 11.

Many of us do not want to remember who we were before Jesus because it may have been very painful. There is a popular song titled “I Won’t Go Back”, sang by William McDowell and also by a group named Cana’s Voice that describes how grateful someone is over what God has done for them. The song repeats over and over how they “won’t go back” to their life before they met Jesus or before He delivered them through some difficult trial in their life. They will never “cross back over” to the other side of the river or sea. They are going to stay in the Promised Land. Understanding true grace, which is what Paul has been explaining in Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 2, is what motivates us to truly serve Christ. In a weekly note titled “The Threat of Grace” in April 2020, we discussed how remembering what Christ has done for you and saved you from leads to you serving Him out of a heart overflowing with gratitude. That is what is so concerning and considered a threat to many when you truly explain that their salvation is “all grace”, from first to last. If God really did do all of it, then there is nothing He can’t expect us to do for Him. If on the other hand, I had something to do with the salvation to start with, God can only expect me to go as far as I am personally willing to go since I in essence started the journey on my own anyway. Ephesians 2:12 is telling us we need to remember what God has done and never forget that it was all Him.

In the note in April 2020 referenced earlier, we looked at how this total or radical grace impacts people differently. The famous play “Les Misérables” has two main characters. One man named Jean Valjean is shown radical grace which causes him to turn from a life of sin and devote the rest of his life to doing good and serving others. Another man, a policeman named Javert, never understands this grace. It haunts him when Valjean, whom he has hunted for years for a parole violation, saves his life when he had the opportunity to kill him. This act of free grace to the policeman by Jean Valjean, haunts him so badly that he later commits suicide. This type of grace was a threat to him. It was beyond comprehension for his unsaved mind. Paul asks us to remember just how radical the grace was that was extended toward us and to never forget where we would be “without Jesus”.

If you cannot remember what your life was or would be like without Jesus, it will be more difficult for you to extend grace to others. Remember that we are called to not only preach and teach but to also demonstrate the love of Christ. If you cannot call to mind what your life would be like “without Jesus”, you will struggle ever helping others remove their “grave clothes”.

There are other passages we could review today. Instead of doing that in any detail here, I would ask you to read 2 Peter chapter 2 this week. That chapter describes several types of people who are “without Jesus” and that are actually fighting against the Kingdom of God. As you read through it, ask yourself whether you know anyone as described. These are people without Jesus. Pay close attention to verse 2:17. There Peter says these people have only the “blackest darkness reserved for them”. May that thought lead you toward compassion to pray for them and try to help lead them out of the life they themselves are choosing. They are truly lost, without a shepherd, not able to reflect upon the great grace that we can reflect upon. There is only a certain judgment and blackest darkness that awaits them.

If you would like to listen to a beautiful song on this topic from today, you can click on the following shortcut. It will take you to YouTube for a version of a song with the lyrics displayed titled “Without Jesus”, by Brian Free & Assurance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I listen to the song often.

May God bless you this week as you thank your Father that you now live a life “With Jesus”.

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