The Regret of Refusal
Luke 13:31 through Luke 13:35 (NRSV)
31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Di Arnot tells us of a poor woman in great distress because she could not pay her rent. She was expecting the officer to seize her goods. Her pastor heard of her trouble and went to her house with the money for her rent. He knocked but could not get an answer. He went to different doors and windows, so eager was he to help her, but he received no response. At last he was compelled to go away, carrying the money back with him. The good woman thought it was the officer seeking entrance to carry away her goods, and she had tightly barred every door and window and gave no heed to the knocking. Many people imagine that Christ comes as an enemy to put a yoke upon their necks to add to their burdens, and they shut him out. If they knew what blessings He brings in His hands they would open gladly. --H. F. Sayles Instead, it is what is here in this passage is repeated time and time again through history. instead of accepting Jesus with all that he brings, we engage in the process that these men went through with Jesus. First, there is:
I. The Wily Rejection
A. Through pretended excuse
"A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he
begins to blame somebody else."
- - John Burroughs
B. Through pushy expulsion
*A famous scientist tells how that in the course of his experiments in the mountains, he used to be lowered over a precipice. He would step into the basket, and the men would lower him for his work; but whenever they lowered him they would always test his weight to see if they could lift him again. One day, they let him down farther and farther than ever before, until all the rope at their command was exhausted. When his day's work was done, he would give the signal and they would draw him up. But on this night, when they took hold of the rope to lift him, they could not do so. They tugged and pulled and strained, but they could not manage it, and he had to wait until they got additional men to pull him up. The scientist says that the reason they could not lift him was because they failed to take into consideration the length and weight of the rope. I know why a man of fifty years of age has a hard time to surrender. It is because he must always lift against his past refusals. You say "No," and your heart is hardened; you say "No" again, and your will becomes stubborn, and if you are finally lost, the responsibility is not with God. --J. Wilbur Chapman
II. The Working Redeemer
A. In the midst of rejection
*A preacher asked his congregation to repeat with him one word, the word "Jesus." And they all said it together, "Jesus." Then he said, "Will you repeat with me two words, all who can honesty do so, 'MyJesus?' " Not so many could repeat the words this time. Could you say them this morning, "My Jesus," "My Jesus?" You are redeemed. There is no excuse for your continuance in sin. You may be made a new creature in Christ Jesus if you will submit yourself unto the loving righteousness of God as it is manifested in Jesus Christ. Give yourself unto his spirit, to be filled with his love, and you will be delivered from your transgressions. God is not willing that any should perish, and the bitterest drop in the dregs of the impenitent sinner's cup of woe will be that it was needless, and worse than needless, because of the world's redemption through Jesus Christ. -- B. F. M.
By J. Wilbur Chapan, "Present Day Parables."
B. In a deadly direction
III. The Weeping Regret
A. Heartsick to protect
Psalm 17:6 through Psalm 17:9 (NRSV)
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
8 Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
B. Heartsick over willfullness
I found a business man in Albany, who said he had been earnestly seeking Christ for fifteen years, yet to no avail. He was holding to a straw. It was this. He had said he would never go to an anxious seat to become a Christian He believed one seat was as good as another. And so he prayed earnestly, and sought for fifteen long years to become a
Christian, but had not succeeded.
The difficulty was not in a particular seat, but in his will. There was one thing he would not do, yet it would not have been sinful for him to have done that thing. He found that the will held as firmly upon a straw as it could upon a mountain; that he could not have his way about the least thing, and become a Christian. There must be an unconditional surrender of the will to God, before God can get full possession of the dead affections of the heart, to quicken them into life.
This man would go into an inquiry meeting; he would rise in a large meeting, and ask Christians to pray for him. He knew of no sin in his life that he had not given up, and wondered why he could not find peace.
At last I asked him to leave the seat he then occupied in a large meeting, and come and kneel with me near the pulpit. This was the very thing he had said he would never do. His pride and will rose in a desperate struggle. Should he do, at the invitation of a stranger, what he had said he would never do? Could there be any virtue in a particular seat? (The result showed him the seat had nothing to do with his conversion.) The difficulty was in his will. At last he said: "I will give up, and do what I have refused to do for fifteen years."
He started to come to a front seat, and before he had gone half way to that seat, he felt in his heart that his sins were gone, and that he was "a new creature in Christ Jesus." It was not the measure, but the will in the way. He might have sought Christ fifteen years longer, and died without becoming a Christian, if he had not given up that one condition. The will was holding to a mere straw.
When I was leaving he called to urge me to tell every one about him, and entreat them not to lose their souls by doing as he had done for fifteen years. -- A. B. Earle, From: "Incidents Used ... In His Meetings," published in 1888
IV. The Waiting Reception
A. An empty house waiting
Howard Rutledge, a United States Air Force pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam during the early stages of the war. He spent several miserable years in the hands of his captors before being released at the war's conclusion. In his book "In the Presence of Mine Enemies," he reflects upon the resources from which he drew in those arduous days when life seemed so intolerable. During those longer periods of enforced reflection it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste.
For example, in the past, I usually worked or played hard on Sundays and had no time for church. For years Phyllis (his wife) had encouraged me to join the family at church. She never nagged or scolded -she just kept hoping. But I was too busy, too preoccupied, to spend one or two short hours a week thinking about the really important things.
Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak (the name POWs gave their prison camp) solitary confinement, there was no pastor, no Sunday School teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God. --Howard Rutledge
B. An excited Homecoming wished for
Just as a house is not a home, So the temlple is empty withou God's presence. As we are designed to be the temple of God with Him inside, so we are desolate without him. But if we invite him in and glory in His presence in this humble dwelling, it too can be home.
If we reject Jesus, not only will He regret it, but so will we. Jesus waits for us to come to Him and accept Him on His terms.
*A district visitor left a sheet almanac at a house. The
central picture was a reproduction of Holman Hunt's picture "The
Light of the World." Mother and son looked at it with wonder as
it was placed in a prominent position on the wall of the home.
The father came home for dinner and his attention was called to
it by the boy. "Look, Daddy! Who is it?" The father looked at
the picture, but gave no answer, though he knew. But the little
fellow was not to be denied, and again came the question, "Who
is it, Daddy? Tell me, Daddy!"
At last he blurted out, "A man, of course." "What man, Daddy? What is his name?" Compelled by the earnestness of the child, he said, "Christ." "But what is He doing, Daddy?" he asked. "Why, don't you see? He is knocking at the door," replied the father. "How long will He knock, Daddy?" came the further question. "I don't know," came the reply. Still the boy asked, "What is He knocking for?" "Because He wants to go inside." "Why don't they open the door?" This question the boy repeatedly asked during the dinner, remarking, "I'd open the door. Wouldn't you, Daddy?"
The father began to feel very uncomfortable, and left as soon as he could to get away from the questioning, which had aroused a tumult of thoughts in his mind and heart. Returning from work after the boy had gone to bed, he learned that even during tea the same questioning had occurred. Both husband and wife confessed that the boy's questions had aroused feelings long crushed and silenced, but at last both knelt, confessed their sin of keeping the Lord outside of their hearts and lives, and received Him as their Savior. --Knight's 3000 Illustrations