The Extra Mile

I am a fan of Reggie Wayne, number 87 – without whom the Colts would not be the same. Peyton’s in Colorado, but Reggie’s here… I like Peyton too, but Reggie’s HERE!  I am a Reggie Wayne fan. I know ABOUT him. I like him. I think he’s amazing. I like to watch number 87 jump high and catch an impossible ball. I am a Reggie fan.

BUT, I don’t KNOW Reg.  We’ve never talked. We don’t hang out. That would be GREAT for me, probably not so much fun for him. I DON’T KNOW Reggie Wayne, I do know quite a bit about Reggie.  There’s no investment from me in Reggie, other than my Jersey. I am a FAN of Reggies, I am not a FOLLOWER Reggie. We aren’t friends. I can’t call him to help me and surprising as it may be, I can’t help him play football.  There’s no connection other than that I admire Reggie as a football player. That’s it.  I admire him because of what I see him do, not because of who he is.  Because I don’t know who he is. His story is still being written. He could lose my admiration. I like him for who he is in my life now. Not too close. Really requires nothing of me that I don’t want to give. HE’S REALLY FUN TO WATCH FROM  A DISTANCE.

 

Jesus has a lot of admirers. It’s nothing new.  There’s a lot of people who admire Jesus from a distance, but aren’t interested in changing their behavior for Him. There’s a lot of enthusiastic admirers of Jesus, fans of Jesus. But his list of followers is much shorter.

 

In your mind, travel with me to Palestine in the First Century. As we walk along the dusty streets we run into a crowd of boys playing tag.  One in particular is of interest.  Just like all Jewish boys, he has memorized the first five books of the Bible by age 12. He has lots of promise. His parents have given him a name that means “Gift of Jehovah.” Imagine the dreams his parents have for him – and perhaps that he has. He has the back ground to do amazing things – perhaps become a member of the Sanhedrin to guide the people in God’s ways. Perhaps he could be a Rabbi to teach the precious words of God. Perhaps he would accomplish so much in his life that he would be popular and have fans who loved the idea of being his presence.

 

Now fast forward to where we will meet him. When we meet him, he isn’t at the local synagogue handing out groceries to the poor. He’s not running for that seat in the Sanhedrin. He’s not on vacation with his family, admiring the great temple features that blessed the city of Jerusalem.

 

He’s not doing the good family thing…  he’s at work. He’s none of the things I just mentioned. He works for the Internal Revenue Service for the Romans, which means he unfairly takes money from his own people to give to the occupying armed forces of the Roman army. He is as a tax collector…  and coincidently, the Romans are fine with him lining his own pockets with any funds he can collect above what is owed to the occupiers – and Matthew’s quite good at it. As a tax collector, he is a religious and social outcast.  For his parents, their son is not a source of Jewish pride but he is a massive failure and disappointment. Their son who memorized the Torah is not welcome in the inner portions of the Temple of his faith. His only friends are either fellow tax collectors or others so much fallen from grace. Hated. Despised. Shunned. Matthew is only welcome in the lowliest of places.

 

Matthew isn’t the only strange character in this story, however. Meet a homeless rabbi, from of all places, Nazareth. News preceded his arrival. People were amazed and in awe when they hear the teaching of this unconventional rabbi.  He created authority among those who heard him.  The great rabbis had followings of students who had to pass through an application process — meeting hefty prerequisites before even being considered. This Rabbi speaks with authority and yet his acquaintances aren’t material for the local Hollywood Insider. They are just stinkin fishermen. Uneducated. Poor.

 

Who stops at the tax office until they have to? Much less, who stops at the tax office of a known thief and traitor of the people? Nobody of “any worth” to society that didn’t have to. But Jesus doesn’t follow the crowd, and he doesn’t cater to get an audience to follow him. Let’s see what he did:

 

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

 

Notice that Jesus didn’t ask Matthew to join his fan club. He didn’t give him card with “like me on facebook” on it.  He came for something much bigger. He came for FOLLOWERS. And two words that would change Matthew’s life much for the better are recorded here… “FOLLOW ME.” Whatever stains on Matthew’s life and reputation would be washed away in the shadow of Christ’s power and love. Admirers, fans, of Jesus can like Jesus while not being changed at all. However, FOLLOWERS, those who KNOW Jesus will never be the same.

 

Matthew’s life was rewritten. He became an apostle of Jesus and wrote the account of Jesus which has been placed FIRST in our New Testament copies of the Scriptures. We are studying this special account of Christ, the Book of Matthew for LTC this year. It’s a RICH book, a TREASURE BOX that will help us get to KNOW Jesus. Here’s some pretty special things about that.

 

  • Of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, Matthew is the most JEWISH. Remember that he’s the Jewish outcast when we meet him. Yet it was through Matthew’s Pen that the Holy Spirit wrote to convince Jews that the Messiah they sought is indeed Jesus. Matthew’s Pen encouraged those who gave up being Jews to become Christians – that they had done the right thing.
  • Matthew quotes more from the Old Testament than the other Gospel writers. He proves over and over that the prophecies in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the Christ.
  • Matthew uses the word “church” three times in his book while the other gospels do not use it.
  • Matthew is organized, not chronologically, but in major teaching sections.
  • Matthew is poked full of Christ’s teachings, his miracles, his parables, his predictions, and his passion.
  • Matthew is a textbook to help us become FOLLOWERS of Jesus – to KNOW JESUS, rather than Fans who just like him from  a distance.

 

Whether not I’m a FAN, an admirer of Jesus – or if I am a FOLLOWER, one sold out to be ONLY his —  is a really tough question to answer while looking in the mirror. If you really want to know which one you are, ask someone who is dedicated to Christ and who really knows you. Don’t be mad when you hear the answer. It’s very difficult in our times to be a true follower, rather than a fan of Jesus. How do I really know? It just so happens that we are Studying Matthew – and this book can help us know the difference about ourselves – such as in this passage:

 

Matthew 5:38-45

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  39  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

 

One of the ways we can tell whether or not we are a FAN or a FOLLOWER is in the way we deal with people who treat us wrong.  This is by no means the only place even in Matthew that Christ teaches and demonstrates the principle but focus here for now. The Old Testament said that whatever someone did to you, you had the right to do to them. Most of us have enough emotion in us, to be able to that without a law. We see it all the time around us. We feel the tug when we are cut off in traffic, and so on. The weirdo rabbi Jesus says, BUT I TELL YOU…  don’t resist an evil person, if someone hits you, let them hit you again, and if someone sues you for your shirt, give them your coat too. WHAT!?! If someone makes you go one mile, go two. Then he goes on to talk about loving enemies and praying for those who persecute us and all mind numbing stuff – and then vs 45 says do this that you may be the sons of God.

 

Our LTC Theme comes from this passage, verse 41. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  An ancient tradition in Palestine was continued by the Roman occupiers. Soldiers carried heavy loads of armor and weapons – and by law could compel a citizen to carry it for them for a mile. They didn’t have to ask nicely either – and probably didn’t. The same idea is in chapter 27:26 when Simon of Cyrene was walking along minding his business when he was grabbed by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross when he could go no further. An admirer of Jesus will probably draw the line here. Why should I do more than is required. Those who know Jesus – GO THE EXTRA MILE.

 

These words run counter to the culture we live in that is very concerned about it’s rights. Jesus has a different Spin. And one way to tell if we are a fan or a follower is whether or not we go beyond what we have to for those who are mean to us.

 

Another way to tell if we really KNOW Jesus, is to consider if we go the Extra Mile with Kids.

 

Matthew 18:1-6

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

 

In Jesus’ day, kids were not to be seen very often and heard from less. It was an adult male world. Yet the Master when asked who was the greatest — grabbed an innocent child and said be humble like this or you aren’t coming in.   Yet is important for us to really be clear on what we are going the EXTRA MILE for. Parents who’ve ever signed up their kids for extra curriculars will join me in understanding that statement.  In our day it is very easy to model for kids that other things like work, education, schooling, activities, friends, and even family are more important than the fellowship of the church family. I struggle with this one. It was much clearer before I had kids.

 

Jesus puts the EXTRA MILE syndrome on how we deal with kids. We take this to heart, when we talk about kids things and teen things – what  we seek to do – isn’t just baby sitting services for you. It is our hope and prayer to help our kids become FOLLOWERS of JESUS, not Just fans.  By the time a child is in 3rd Grade, and at the latest 6th Grade, his circle of friends – where he/she gains his/her importance is established. I don’t know how to scream loud enough that helping our kids be best friends with other Christians is the best thing we can do for them.  But it’s really popular to simply be a fan of Jesus. So, we are GOING THE EXTRA MILE with our kids through MWLTC.

 

If how we treat our enemies and how we treat our kids indicates our EXTRA MILEness… Most Certainly the way we treat each other as Christians does at least as much so.

 

Matthew 18:15-17

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 

IHow we treat each other in the church (that’s our brothers and sisters, the bride of Christ) tells a lot about whether or faith is on the FAN level or the FOLLOWER level. I don’t think there is a passage more easily abused. If you are sinned against by anyone – go tell them first. I define “sinned against” as anything someone does to you that you can’t get over – completely and immediately. Nothing about consulting with friends. Nothing about venting our feelings at life group. I dare say that if we practiced the going directly to people like our Master said, we’d resolve almost all conflicts immediately. If I treat you the way I want to be treated… it works out nicely. If I don’t it’s just nasty – and the words that come from my tongue tell you about me.  Matthew 12:36-37  -36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”   As one not always responsible for my tongue that bothers me.

 

There are so many other EXTRA MILE type passages in Matthew in addition to the teachings on how we treat our enemies, how we treat kids, and how we treat each other. As a matter of fact, much of Matthew shows us the greatest mystery of life… answers to a question that no one in this world can answer. What’s up when I die? Jesus put it this way:

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

 

I am so blessed to serve in a group of God’s people. I am blessed to serve among a flock of FOLLOWERS, not just FANS. FOLLOWERS KNOW Jesus – and here’s why it’s important that we have all this EXTRA MILE TALK.  Jesus didn’t stop with follow me and lose your life for me… he said more:

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

(Matthew 7:21-23)

 

The ultimate expression of grace is a sinner like me getting to be with Jesus in heaven. AND IT IS VERY COSTLY.  Yet the Master makes these points for us.

  • Not every person who thinks he or she is headed to heaven, really is.
  • Something IS required to go to heaven – doing the will of the Father.
  • Some on judgment day will think they have done the will of the Father in the name of Christ.
  • Jesus has to “know” us for us to not be evil doers.

 

I hope you get to know this Jesus who gave everything so that the Grace of God can be a fantastic free gift, purchased for you by his blood. However, this is the kind of passage that shows us that GRACE IS NOT CHEAP. Your life in Christ is worthwhile with a  promise of treasures in heaven. Keep looking for opportunities to go the EXTRA Mile with enemies, children, and with each other.

 

Bringing you back to where I started… I’m  a FAN of Reggie Wayne. I admire him from afar. He doesn’t change my life. I don’t KNOW Reggie. However, I want to KNOW Jesus. That means he will not leave me as I am but will CHANGE me, and if I’m to FOLLOW HIM, I have to be ok with that.

 

I wrote this piece for my home church as I reflected on our leadership training program them, “The Extra Mile” and Kyle Idleman’s book, “Not A Fan: Becoming A Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.”

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