rev-o-lu-tion (rev-e-loo-shen) n. 1.The overthrow and replacement of a government or political system by those governed. 2. An extensive or drastic change in a condition, method, idea, etc.
Revolutions have taken place throughout the world ever since Adam and Eve took a bite out of life and overthrew the throne room of their hearts. Revolutions take different forms, have various motivations behind them, and produce vastly different outcomes. Regardless of the outcome—revolutions bring about change. Revolutions are powerful. Revolutions bring about change. Revolutions are started by revolutionaries whose minds are set on a completely different course than the status quo of the day, the power brokers at the podium who cheer the masses while holding them captive.
Throughout history there have been so many revolutions in countries all over the world. Some of those brought about change for the better and others created absolute chaos that made things worse than they were before the revolution occurred. There was a revolution which began almost two thousand years ago which is still underway today. This morning I want to paint a picture before your eyes of a true revolution. I’m not thinking about revolutions like the American Revolution, Bolshevik revolution, South African revolution, or the Arab Spring. I’m thinking about the Righteous Revolution of our Savior which started in a little city in an ancient world. The revolution has grown; throne rooms around the world and around this sanctuary have been overturned as individuals and groups of people have surrendered their lives and wills to the King of all kings!
For the next few minutes I want us to take a stroll with Jesus through the last week of His life so that we might better understand this revolution began by our Lord and Savior. We’ll begin on Sunday, the day our Lord made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In John 12:12-19 we read,
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:12-19 NIVO)
“The whole world has gone after him!” Revolution! Before we jump too quickly into picturing before our eyes an armed revolution like those which have happened around the world for centuries, we need to recognize that the revolution begun by Jesus was a revolution of another kind. Jesus came to overthrow hearts and not political powers. Jesus didn’t come to preach a political gospel, racial gospel, cultural gospel, or an economic gospel, He came to preach the Gospel, the Good News that the shackles of sin holding the human heart could be broken and those who would follow Him could be freed.
The Pharisees were afraid of what was happening because they knew the Jewish Bible. In Zechariah 9:9 we read of God’s annointed King who would come to instigate the revolution of the Kingdom of God.
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10 NIVO)
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, but the Pharisees knew good and well that Jesus didn’t fulfill their expectations of the Messiah they had created in their minds. The Messiah in the minds of the Pharisees would begin a revolution alright, but he would do it by overthrowing the oppressive government and ruling like their powerful king David. Jesus didn’t look like the Messiah they had envisioned, He didn’t talk like their Messiah, and He didn’t act like the Messiah who they thought would come to overthrow the Romans, yet when He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey He proclaimed to the world that He was the Messiah and the revolution had begun.
The gospel of power which the Pharisees were looking for and which is so prevalent in our world today, stands in total contradiction to the power of the cross. Jesus never sought to dominate society by practicing ethnic cleansing or disposing of His antagonists. His ultimate triumph depended not on brute strength which defied the oppressors and stood up in the face of challengers, but in the ability to stoop low and offer His life for those whom others would not give two cents. In the end, the triumph became symbolized by a Cross and not an iron fist or a show of force.
Four days after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, triumphant and proclaiming His Messiahship, He gathered with His disciples in an upper room to share the Feast of Passover. When they arrived at the prescribed place they needed someone to wash their feet since they had been walking on the dry and dusty road. Normally this task was reserved for the lowliest servant in the house, but when they arrived Jesus didn’t look around for a servant, He picked up a towel and a basin of water to teach the disciples a very important lesson. You and I need to understand just how menial a task this was for those in the first century in Palestine. The rabbis or teachers in the first century were taken care of by their followers in many ways, but one thing they were never asked to do—they were not to stoop so low as to wash the feet or untie the sandals of their teachers. The job of washing feet was so menial that only the lowliest servant could perform the task. John the Baptist understood the greatness of Jesus. He said, in John 1:27, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27 NIV) Although John knew that he was not worthy to even untie the sandals of Jesus because He was the long awaited Messiah sent from God, it was the Messiah who stooped to serve His disciples by washing their feet. We read in John 13:3-17,
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:3-17 NIVO)
The day before Jesus was scourged, beaten, and nailed to a tree we find the God of all creation down on His knees scrubbing between the toes of the likes of Peter, James, John, and Matthew. Jesus knew that lasting revolutions never come about because you put on a power tie, bully your way into the throne room, or annihilate those who oppose you. If you want the uprising to last you’ve got to get on your knees.
I love Simon Peter’s discussion with Jesus. I can just see the look on Peter’s face as Jesus wrapped a towel around Himself and poured water into the basin so that He could wash the dirt from the disciples’ feet. As Jesus made His way to the feet of Bartholomew, Peter’s mouth dropped in utter amazement. “How could Bartholomew, a nobody among us disciples, allow the Master to get down on His hands and knees and clean the dirt out from between his toes?” Peter didn’t say a word, no one said a word, they all just looked on…amazed and astonished. Jesus scooted on over to the feet of Thomas who was doubting if Jesus would wash his feet. Jesus handled his feet as though they had been enshrined in the Smithsonian as He gently washed and cleaned Thomas’ feet. Then it happened, the air hung with stillness in the room as Jesus made His way to the feet of Peter. Peter jumped up and said, “No way! No way will you, the Lord of all creation, the true Rabbi, ever wash my nasty, dirty feet!” Jesus looked up and must have known that Peter would respond like he did. Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter being the most compulsive, if not committed of all the disciples, turned to Jesus and cried out, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Have you ever seen a children’s sermon? In a children’s sermon an object is used to teach an important lesson. Well, Jesus preached a children’s sermon that was more profound than any sermon the disciples had ever heard when He used an object, pair after pair of smelly, stinking feet which nobody other than a slave would have ever gotten near, to show His disciples the way of the revolution. After He finished, Jesus said to the disciples,
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:12-15 NIVO)
In our own society and in societies around the world today there is lots of talk about a cultural revolution, political revolution, overthrowing powers, gaining justice, and bringing about a revolution of some kind. The problem that I see over and over again is the talk that comes from modern-day revolutionaries. It appears to me that our mindset is that to overthrow power you must exert an even greater power. Rise up, march in the streets, exert pressure on the powers by any means necessary until the powers succumb and crumble.
The revolution that you and I are a part of today started long. long ago by the One who proclaimed in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Evidence of the rising revolution was seen from the beginning of His ministry as Jesus called the most unlikely men of society to be His closest companions and share every facet of His life on the road to His ultimate act of service — the Cross. It was seen as He took time to give living water to a cast-off four time loser of a woman from Samaria who knew Jews were too “good” to even talk with her, yet for some reason one particular Jew, Jesus, took the time to quench her thirst. It was seen as Jesus took time to reach out and touch the outcast lepers who were used to announcing to the world how unclean they were. Jesus not only healed them, but He reached out and touched their despised and disgusting looking flesh with His hands of love and acceptance. I became most aware of His revolution when Jesus reached down from His throne in glory and lifted me from the sea of despair and hopelessness and filled me with hope and purpose for this life and confidence for life everlasting!
The revolution continues to this very day. While armies work and toil to overthrow evil despots, devilish dictators, and terrorists threats, governments change and revolutions come and go throughout history. The wall separating German from German has now torn down, the Bolshevik revolution has turned into the banishment of icons erected to pay homage to Marx and Lenin, the evils of apartheid have been abolished in South Africa, the Arab Spring which many believed held so much promise has turned into absolute chaos for those living in the Middle East, and revolutionary changes happening in our own society will one day be replaced by new changes.
Those great British theologians, the Beatles, who may be better known for their music than their theology; John, Paul, Ringo, and George once said, “Say you want a revolution? We all want to change the world.” We all want to change the world. We’re hearing about change all of the time with the candidates that are running for elected offices, but administrations on the local, state, and national level come and go, but let’s be honest, what really changes? The societal problems we face we will continue to face, not because of who is in office, but because of who sits on the throne of our hearts. In his wisdom, Leo Tolstoi once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The wisdom in that thought is worth pondering.
Do you want to know the secret of the revolution begun by our Lord and Savior? I am so glad you asked. Jesus didn’t seek to overthrow governments, He sought to overthrow the human heart. By overthrowing the Roman government Jesus would have accomplished much for awhile, but how many governments have since occupied the nations once ruled by the Roman Empire? No earthly kingdom is eternal, but Jesus recognized that within the government of each individual person there could be but one ruler and at the time of birth the individual asserts himself or herself as king of their domain. We can see that truth illustrated by simply taking a look at our own lives. How many times have we said, “You can’t tell me what is best for my life!” We are firmly convinced that we are the captians of our own ship, the makers of our own destiny. We know what is best for us and even if its not the “best,” it’s what we want. You can also see this truth illustrated in the lives of our little ones. Precious though they are, each and every one of those babies has let every one of us know that he or she is the ruler and not the subject. If he is hungry, he demands that his needs are met no matter what time of the day or night the urge strikes him. If she doesn’t like what is going on, she demands that the activity cease immediately and nobody will enjoy peace and quiet until her frustration subsides. If he is bored with the sermon, he will scream out at the preacher and let me know that he has better things to do. All of these self-governing babies are simply small models of you and me. We seek to self-govern our own little world, but Jesus challenges us to hand over the reigns of our life and surrender to the revolution of God’s Kingdom.
The real revolution, the only lasting revolution, is the revolution of the heart. Jesus said, “Seek first God’s Kingdom…” He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Jesus demanded the revolution of the heart, the denouncement of our own will, and our allegiance to Him as our singular focus, if we would be His followers. In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said,
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39 NIVO)
It’s time for a personal revolution. Let the world-wide revolutions continue if they must, but if you miss the opportunity for a personal revolution then you’ve missed it all. I came here this morning to tell you that you need a personal revolution. You need a personal revolution for two reasons: One, that you might find eternal life and release from the shackles of sin which entangle each and every one of us. Secondly, you need a personal revolution so that you might share that revolution of our Savior with someone else. The way we do that is to take up the towel passed on by our Lord and serve those whom no one else is willing to serve. Take Him by the hand and let Him revolutionize your life by coming in and taking a seat on the throne of your heart!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
December 6, 2015