The Rev. Fred Craddock tells about a friend and his family who were missionaries in China and were at some point put under house arrest.
One day the soldiers arrive and tell them that they could return home to America and had twenty-four hours to pack. One stipulation: they could only take with them 200 pounds of their belongings.
The husband and wife and their children had lived in China for years. What would they decide to bring? They took their scales and began to weigh and soon after the arguments began. We can’t possibly leave without this… But what about that… Oh, wait, we forgot this…. The children wanted their toys and the parents wanted their few valuables. They chose and chose and weighed and weighed until they had exactly two hundred pounds. Typewriter, vase, essential clothes. Two hundred pounds to the ounce.
When they met the soldiers at the airport the commander asked, “Ready to go?”
“Did you weigh everything?”
“Yes. 200 pounds exactly.”
“Did you weigh the children?”
“The children? No. I didn’t weigh the children.”
“Weigh the children,” he said.
Weigh the children, and in a piercing moment of clarity you finally discover that which is of most importance.
The women returned to the tomb where Jesus was buried, but when they arrived, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was not there. Then the two angels appeared to them and asked, ”Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Betrayed and handed over to be tried, scourged, put to death, and then rise again. All this Jesus did for them and for us – for you. But why? Why did Jesus do all of these things and endure so much? I’ve given this some thought and I think I’ve got a few answers for you.
Jesus did all these things so that you and I would go to church on Sunday mornings and feel guilty when we don’t. He took the abuse of the soldiers and others so that we would read our Bibles everyday. He allowed the crown of thorns to be placed on his head so that we wouldn’t do things like cuss and watch dirty movies. He endured the scourging so that he might vigorously oppose whatever we vigorously oppose, and to stand with the Democrats or the Republicans or whoever shouts the loudest. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed, so that we might all be nice people, smile at one another, and get along.
Yes, we’ve figured out exactly why Jesus suffered, died, and rose again, but we forgot to weigh the children. When we get so wrapped up in the little things, we forget that which is most important, and in the process, God becomes very small. God is no longer about eternal life, but is instead perceived as a task master intent on us following established rules. When we forget that which is most important, God is no longer interested in making all things new and transforming our lives, but is instead only a genius at pouring on the guilt and shame. When we mistakenly understand our faith to be about what we do for God, instead of what God has done for us, then we are essentially rejecting the work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. And God becomes even smaller.
Weigh the children. Seek that which is of most importance. Go to church and read the Bible. Yes. Good. Stop cursing and watching dirty movies. Absolutely! Oppose the injustices of this world. By all means. Democrats… Republican? I got nothin’. Run away. But when it comes to understanding the “Why?” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, understand that these are the vases, books, toys, etc., but these are not the children.
Julian of Norwich, in her Revelations of Divine Love, wrote, “This is the reason why we have no ease of heart or soul, for we are seeking our rest in trivial things which cannot satisfy, and not seeking to know God, almighty, all-wise, all-good. He is true rest. It is His will that we should know Him, and His pleasure that we should rest in Him. Nothing less will satisfy us… We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess Him in fullness and joy.”
The “Why?” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is so that He could seek and find the lost. So that His Father could become Our Father, so that we could become His children through the forgiveness of our sins. He came so that he could destroy the works of the devil. He came that we might have abundant life and life eternal.
A fun – but as it turns out, untrue – story about the great golfer Arnold Palmer. Legend has it that he was invited to play several exhibition rounds of golf in Saudi Arabia with the king. Following all the events, the king was so impressed that he wanted to give Arnold a gift. Arnold said that it wouldn’t be necessary, that he had enjoyed his time. The king was not pleased with the answer and insisted, so Arnold said that a special golf club would be nice. The king was delighted. The following day, a messenger delivered an envelope to Palmer. It contained the title to a golf club. A 465 acre, thirty-six hole golf club.
When it comes to our King, we are thinking too small. For we think He only wants us to practice our faith, when instead He wants to transform our lives and the world around us. He wants to set us on fire with His love so that we might set the world ablaze around us.
Weigh the children. Your life with God – the life He wants for you – is about far more than anything you could ask or even imagine. Weigh the children and in a moment of clarity, discover how God wants to transform your life.
Let us pray:
God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today
raise us up and renew our lives
by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.