There’s Nothing Better than Jesus, except power!
How about one more round of applause for our Child Blessing Mom’s & Dad’s, plus all parents who have decided to raise their children to know, love and serve Jesus Christ. For every Mom here & watching online. We thank God for you.
Today I am beginning a new series called “There’s nothing better than Jesus, except…” The genesis of this series took place right here in worship. Several months ago I was standing in the front row in our Worship Auditorium and Chelsea Jo Calo was leading an Elevation Worship song called “Graves into Gardens.” Just a few minutes ago we sang these lyrics. You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies. You turn seas into highways. You’re the only one who can. Oh there’s nothing better than you. There’s nothing better than you. Lord there’s nothing. Nothing is better than you.
And I immediately thought, yes, there is. There are exceptions. Isn’t that terrible? What kind of person, minister – Christ follower am I? Thinking about exceptions. It’s really not that hard. I bet if you thought about for just a few minutes, you could think of an exception or two. Example. Today is Mother’s Day, how many Moms think this – There’s nothing better than Jesus except my kids. My kids are up here. Jesus is done here. I immediately thought of three exceptions. There’s nothing better than Jesus, except money, sex and power. That’s what we’re going to talk about for the next three weeks. Power today, sex on May 16 and money on May 23. It would make perfect sense to talk about sex today since it’s Mother’s Day and many little ears are listening I didn’t think that was wise.
But isn’t it true? How many times has the lure of money, sex or power tripped us up, made us stumble or worse - made our lives spiral out of control! Now just don’t take my word for it. Have you ever heard of J. Warner Wallace? Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. Wallace used his skills as a homicide detective to investigate the claims of the Gospels which led him to write a book called Cold-Case Christianity.[i] As a detective, J. Warner Wallace said, “Sex, money and power is what tempts us most. How many people find themselves in trouble because there was a sex, money or power issue.”[ii] He’s right. Now don’t just take my word or J. Warner Wallace’s word, Jesus said it too! Jesus said this in Luke 8:14: The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. What do we worry about? Everything. Money, fitting in, grades, scholarships, your upcoming surgery, getting a job, keeping your job, getting in a relationship, being in a relationship, getting married, staying married, believing your marriage is over, having kids, not having kids & wondering when your kids are ever going to leave the house. Riches include money, possessions – greed. Pleasures include the desire for other things – the desire for power, the desire for sex, runaway urges and passions.
I believe with all my heart that there’s nothing better than Jesus but Satan tempts Me & Satan tempts YOU many, many times using money, sex and power. Let’s address power first. Open your Bible’s today to Matthew chapter 20. Jesus tells us what power is and then demonstrates his power twice, once in chapter 20 & once in chapter 21. But before he does. This happens first in Matthew 20:20. (Read 20a) Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons…
Happy Mother’s Day. Just take a few minutes to think about your Mom. She might be living. She may have passed away weeks, months or years ago. Mother’s Day is one of those tricky days. One day it can bring you joy, another day it can really hurt your heart. Either way, if you could say something to your Mom. What would you say? (Watch this – Honoring Mom (2:24) For me, it’s her love, I’ve never questioned her love. I’ve questioned why she didn’t let me do some things, but to this day, I know that she loves me. She’s watching online right now. Hi Mom. Thank you for loving me. I certainly love you. But maybe you’d have nothing to say to your Mom. Some Moms are terrible at loving. Some Moms can’t give what they don’t have. They are addicted, confused or just plain selfish. You may not even know your Mom. You question everything your Mom ever did and I hurt for you. I wish I could take your pain away, but I can’t. I can only offer counseling, perspective, prayer – a listening ear. But Jesus can replace your pain with His peace. He has that type of power.
Let’s read all of verse 20. Matthew tells us the name of the father is Zebedee. Mark tells us the name of the mother is Salome.[iii] They have two sons. We meet them in Matthew 4:21. (Read verse 21) James & John are two of the Twelve apostles and two of Jesus closest friends and Salome was Mary’s sister which makes her Jesus’ Aunt.[iv]
Maybe being Jesus aunt, Salome thinks she might have more leverage to get Jesus to do what she wants him to do. It’s possible that Salome is the original helicopter Mom. Always hovering over your kids to make sure they get every imaginable advantage. Dr. Tim Elmore said that helicopter Mom has been renamed to snowplow Mom. Moms who push, negotiate, intimidate and even manipulate others to make sure doors open for their kids. Snowplow Moms possess a controlling spirit. Control makes us feel powerful, but control is myth.
Aunt Salome asked Jesus a favor. Jesus responds with a question in verse 21. (Read verse 21). Maybe Salome got this idea from what Jesus said in Matthew 19:28, that at the renewal of all things Jesus will set up twelve thrones. But who gets to sit where? I picture Salome saying this. Jesus, just imagine. One day soon you will sit on a massive throne right here in Jerusalem. Your throne will be much bigger than Governor Pilate’s throne. Much bigger than the throne Tiberius Caesar sits on in Rome. And I can see my son James sitting on a throne to your right which makes him second in command and my son John sitting on a throne to your left which makes him third in command. This woman is loving the thought of power, and control.
But more likely, her sons James & John pushed their Mom to make this request for them because just like the rest of the Apostles they were constantly jockeying for position & power. How did Jesus answer them? This is verse 22.
It’s easy to do that. To make requests without any knowledge of the end result. Jesus, make me popular. You could become so popular that you cannot leave your home without a bodyguard. Jesus, make me powerful. James & John are saying to Jesus. We are bowing down to you because we want people to bow down to us. They think their asking for a promotion when in reality they are asking to be persecuted.
Did you watch the original Spiderman movie? Do you remember Peter Parker saying, With great power comes great responsibility? With Jesus it’s this - with great power comes great suffering. Jesus asked this question in verse 22. (Read 22 & 23) The cup is the cup of persecution & suffering. Here’s what happens to James. This is Acts 12:1. (Read 1-2) John will be exiled to the island of Patmos. Completely separated from his family. Here he will receive what we call the Book of Revelation. They both received what they didn’t ask for.
This conversation gets back to the 10 remaining apostles and they are not happy. Go to Matthew 20:24. (Read 24-25) The disciples hated that type of leadership. That type of power. Jews despised Roman oppression. So why lead like those who do it wrong? Oppression is typically driven by one of three things. Money, sex or power. As it was then, it still is today. Dr. Larry Chouinard said, “All political systems are tainted to some degree by selfish concerns and personal ambitions. In the world of politics, humility and the refusal to advance oneself at the expense of others, are not considered virtues and a formula for political success.”[v] Don’t put your hope in the power of government. Jesus didn’t. Why should you?
What is Jesus’ definition of power? It’s authority or influence through serving. He explains in Matthew 20:26. (Read 26 (great, important, powerful) (first, important, powerful) -28)
According to Jesus Christ himself. Powerful people are those who serve. Consider this one observation – money, sex and power are gifts from God. All three can be used to honor God and help people or all three can be used to dishonor God and hurt people. Would you use your power to help people? How? By serving them. As you go about this day that the Lord has made would you have eyes to see! Look around. Who can I serve today?
What is Jesus’ greatest demonstration of power? He heals two blind men at the end of Matthew 20. That’s impressive. Jesus has power over disease. He made a fig tree instantly wither in Matthew 21. That would boost any resume. Jesus has power over nature. Both are excellent examples but Jesus greatest demonstration of power is found in what he already said in verse 28. (Read again) According to Jesus Christ himself, his humble sacrifice paid our ransom.
Men & women have the power to do many things. Get a degree. Start a company. Write a book. Record a podcast. Win a NASCAR race. Serve humanity. Become President. But here’s one thing WE are powerless to do. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot pay our own ransom. Our own debt of sin.
I have had multiple people send me this video. We are like this sheep. (Sheep video) Jesus gets us out of trouble, only for us to get back into trouble and then Jesus rescues us again. If you believe in Jesus. He is your Great Shepherd. He has rescued/forgiven you time and time again. Jesus greatest demonstration of power is when he humbled himself on the cross. Pilate said this in John 19. John 19:10 (NIV2011) 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus, in one word, could have annihilated Pilate, but didn’t.
Let’s move into communion. Dr. Steven Lawson said, “No one can be saved until they know they are lost. No one believes the good news until they know the bad news.” The bad news is that we are condemned sinners. The good news is that what we are powerless to do, Jesus did for us. What is your next step? Is it to accept Jesus Christ? Is it to leave here with a profound sense of purpose that real power is found in serving? Is it to thank Jesus for paying your ransom? (Communion Slides)
[i] https://coldcasechristianity.com/books-by-j-warner-wallace/ [ii] https://crossexamined.org/the-ravi-zacharias-scandal-and-the-truth-of-christianity/ [iii] https://www.gotquestions.org/Salome-in-the-Bible.html [iv] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 478 [v] Larry Chouinard, The College Press NIV Commentary, Matthew, 358