Most mornings I get up early, make myself a cup of coffee, feed the cats, and the dog, and sit on my front porch for a time of meditation and prayer – my dog, Miss Dolly, usually at my feed, and Zeb, the cat, usually goes down the steps and sits on the sidewalk. We usually just sit there, listening to the morning sounds – the birds, crickets, and sometimes a dog barking in the distance, etc. We (my dog and cat) just spend some quality time with God, with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I often thought of how it must have been in the Garden when God and man fellowshipped together. I then begin to focus my eyes upon Jesus! Thinking about how He has done for me and all others in the world; how He came to this earth and died for all my sins and all the other sins of the world. I thank God for all the blessings He has blessed me with. These are some of the most important times of my day. Starting the day off with God and focusing on Jesus.
Several years ago (1999), I preached this sermon to the congregation, His Place, in New Palestine, Indiana. My passage was from Hebrews 12:1-2a. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great clous of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (1 – 2a)
I appreciate the arts – the visual arts, the dramatic arts, and the musical arts, and have dabbled in all three of them. To be a good artist, one must have focus. To fix one’s eyes and mind; to focus completely upon the subject or the object.
Have you ever fixed your eyes upon a painting of Jesus and wondered if the picture really depicted Him to any degree of accuracy? What would it have been like to have known Him personally? What would it like to have been with Him; listened to Him teach on a hillside, or by the sea shore, or on a boat in the sea of Galilee; to have witnessed the healing of the blind man; a crippled man; one of the ones he healed; or to be one who was called to be a disciple?
Am I the only one who has ever wondered about those things? We were not there, but we had some eyewitnesses.
I Point I in this message is that someone can tell us.
The Shepherds can tell us. For them, it was not enough to see the angels. The night sky shattered with light; the stillness erupted into song; never had the shepherds seen such splendor, but it was not enough to see the angels, the light, the singing, the shepherds wanted to see the One who sent the angels – the one the angels were singing about; the angels were telling about. They would not be satisfied; they went and saw him. They fixed their eyes upon the infant Jesus for themselves (Luke 2:15).
Simeon can tell us. Simeon was a good man; he served the Temple; he had been told of the Holy Spirit he would see the Messiah (the Jewish name of Christ). In that blanketed bundle in Mary’s arms, he saw the Almighty God – creator of all things; the Alpha and Omega; All-in-All; King of the Universe. For Simeon, seeing Jesus was enough. He had seen the maker of the world and now he was ready to die. He had fixed his eyes on Jesus for himself.
The Wise Men can tell us. The wise men like Simeon, like the shepherds, wanted to see God. They would not be satisfied to see the star in the night sky. It was spectacular; it was historical; it was privilege beyond measure, but it was not enough to see the light over Bethlehem, they must see the light of Bethlehem. It was Him, they came to see, and see Him they did. They fixed their eyes on Jesus for themselves.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew can tell us. For them it was not enough to listen to John the Baptist [whom Jesus himself said, “No greater man ever lived than John the Baptist], they wanted to get to know Jesus for themselves; to hang out with Him; they wanted to study His eyes; they wanted to follow His steps; they wanted to know what made him laugh; they wanted what made him cry; they wanted to know if he ever got tired; they wanted what made Him tick. They wanted to fix their eyes on Him for themselves. They wanted to be with him.
Matthew can tell us. He was a tax collector, but this man intrigued him. A curbside conversation could not satisfy Matthew, so He invited him home for dinner (or supper if Matthew was from the south). There is often something that happens over dinner that doesn’t happen over an office desk. Take the tie off, heat up the grill; break out the soft drinks, and talk. Imagine spending such an evening with the One who suspended the stars in the heavens, who made everything that is. Imagine yourself asking, “You know Jesus, forgive me for asking, but I’ve always wanted to know… .” Imagine spending such a relaxed evening with the God of the Universe; imagine Him sitting on your couch or at your dinner table sipping a cup of coffee or tea with Him? That’s the kind of experience Matthew had with Jesus. He fixed his eyes on Jesus and it changed his life.
Zacchaeus can tell us. Zac was a little guy. He had a hard time seeing what was going on. He was not a big guy like Matthew. He had heard that Jesus was passing that way. Evidently ever body else knew it too, a crowd had gathered. Zac heard the whispers of the crowd that Jesus was passing this way. All the different descriptions passed along by those who saw him, made Zac even more determined to see him for himself. What others were saying about Jesus was not enough for Zacchaeus. He had to see Him for himself, so he went out on a limb, dresses in his best suit with his brand-new Italian loafers, he shinnied up a Sycamore tree in hopes of getting a glimpse of Jesus. Zac wanted to see Jesus for himself. And Zac saw him. Zac paid the price to see him. This man was willing to make him a laughingstock, to shinny up a tree to see Jesus. And Jesus rewarded him for this seeking.
Everyone who wanted to see Him, saw Him. No one was turned away. All who want to see Him will find a way, like Zacchaeus did.
II The second point in this message is: There were other who did not see Him. King Herod was content to hear about Jesus. The religious leaders in Jerusalem preferred to read about Him but did not want to see Him. The ratio between those who missed him and those who sought Him is thousands to one. The ratio between those who wanted to see Him, and those who actually saw Him is one to one. All who sought him found him.
III The third point in this message is: Some of those who saw Him did not have time for Him. The rich young ruler is an example. This guy is a bottom line sort of guy; cut to the chase, tell me what I must do to live forever, kind of guy (Matthew 19:6). My schedule is too busy, I do not have time to sit around and listen to you all day; just tell me what I need to know and let me go on my way. There was nothing wrong with his questions, but something fundamental wrong with his heart.
What is the difference between the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus, the disciples, Simeon, the Magi, the shepherds? The young man wanted an answer to a quiz. The others wanted a teacher. The young man was in a hurry. The others had time to get to know the man. The young man was willing to settle for a soda drink in a drive-in window. The others would not settle for anything less than a full-course meal at His table. They wanted more than mere salvation. They wanted a relationship with a Savior. A friend. A teacher. Knowledge. Wisdom. They wanted help to make it through the rough spots in life; direction for living amid the mire of sin, murder, stealing, lying, gossip, anger, envy, hatred, anxiety, resentment, temptation, depression, grief, and even death.
IV The fourth point in this message is: God rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). KJV says, “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” The key words here are earnestly and diligently. To know Him is more than just a casual look at a verse of the Bible every now and then. It required something of yourself. Zac had to climb a tree in his Sunday best to get a glimpse of Jesus, but his climb was rewarded in getting to sit down and have dinner with Jesus.
Don’t be satisfied with angels. Seek Him out as the shepherds did. Long to see him as Simeon did. Worship Him as the wise men did. Do as the disciple did. Do as Matthew did, take him home with you. Imitate ole Zac, risk whatever it takes to get a glimpse of Jesus.
The world has never known a heart so pure, a character so flawless, a spiritual hearing so keen, mercy so abundant, a vision so focused. Jesus is the ultimate model of how God wants us to be.
What I have tried to do in this sermon is precisely what I believe God invites us to do with the rest of our lives. God urges us to fix our eyes upon Jesus. What I try to do in this message is to give a glimpse of Jesus to help us weather the storms, the challenges in our lives. To know Him for ourselves. To spend time with him, like my dog, cat, and I every morning; focus on God and His son Jesus.
Let us pray: Father, Eternal and everlasting God, King of the Universe, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, we thank you for your goodness, your love, mercy and grace toward us. Thank you for coming in the form of the Godman, Jesus Christ, so that we may know you, through Him.
Help us to learn more about Him so that we can be more like You; help to see through Your eyes, feel with Your heart, touch with your hands; love with your compassion, so that we will have the motivation to reach out to a hurting, lonely, misguided world bogged down in the mire of sin and lift those in the world in sin toward heaven in Christ Jesus. Grant us the good sense to follow the example of the shepherds, the wise men, Zacchaeus, disciples, and others in developing and strengthening a personal relationship with you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen!