Below is an evangelistic talk I gave last week. It was part of our Passion for Life events. I interviewed Henry Olonga, former Zimbabwean cricketer who stood up against Robert Mugabe. He gained international attention by wearing a black arm band in the 2003 World Cup to protest the death of democracy. He had to flee the country immediately and now lives in the UK.
He's a tremendous gospel servant, a straight-talking evangelist with a story of courage and integrity. And he's a great singer too - he's had a number 1 in Zimbabwe! And he sang for us on the night. I'd highly recommend Henry for your church!
Shane Warne, Edgbaston, 1993. I was there. If you know cricket, you know what I’m going to say. Shane Warne’s first ball in Ashes cricket and it was “the ball of the century”. Swerved 15 feet in the air, both ways, as I remember it. Dipped, bounced and ripped across Mike Gatting’s outside edge, clipped the off bail.
Ian Healy leapt in the air, Mike Gatting was rooted to the spot. That is my happy place – I can go there any time of day and smile.
In a sense that was a delivery that changed cricket. Suddenly spin was in.
Now I had just arrived in the UK from Australia, aged 14. I turned up at school straight after and said ‘I’d like to play cricket.’ They asked ‘What do you do?’ I said ‘I’m a leg-spinner.’ Could I bowl it? Not a chance. But I had so idolized Shane Warne that, without even trying to, I copied all his mannerisms.
Because here’s the point I want to make. We become like our heroes.
So instinctively when I came in to bowl, I waddled up the bowling crease like Charlie Chaplin. I never appealed I just ran down the wicket celebrating with one hand in the air, and then I’d look back appalled when the umpire gave him not out. So I’d stroke my hairless 14 year old chin and smile wryly at the batsmen. I could do the whole Shane Warne routine. Apart from bowling a decent leg-break. That’s where the analogy breaks down. But everything else came naturally.
And the funny thing is, I didn’t try to become like Shane Warne. I didn’t practice it, it came out of me. Because you become like your heroes.
Tonight we’ve heard Henry’s story – great courage, great strength, great integrity. But Henry will be the first to tell you where it comes from. It comes from his ultimate Hero – Jesus Christ. You become like your heroes. And so I think it’s appropriate that we finish tonight just looking to the One Henry looks to. Henry looks to Jesus, the Greatest Hero with the greatest courage. And courage comes out of him. And you can know this truth yourself.
Tonight, I’m just going to present Jesus to you and I pray that you’ll look at Him as say “Yes. He is the Ultimate. He is the Hero of heroes.” And I promise you lives can change in a second when you see Him as He really is.
Let me show Him to you.
This is a story from Luke’s Gospel – Luke is one of the four biographies of Jesus that are in the bible. And it’s a real favourite of mine this story.
Luke 5:27-32 27 Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Here’s the first of three snapshots of Jesus I want to show you. Here’s the Commander in Chief.
Can you sense the authority of Jesus here? Two words from His lips and they change a man forever. Do you see His commanding presence?
As you read the Gospels you see a Man so self-possessed, so in control. He even commands nature and it obeys Him. He’s at sea in a hurricane and He commands the wind and the waves to be still, and instantly He brings peace out of chaos. He walks around planet Earth like He owns the place. Because He does. He’s the true Creator and Master of this World. And here He calls Levi – “Come under my authority, I can bring peace out of your chaos.” Follow me.
Notice, the Commander gives no earthly guarantees, certainly no earthly job security – Levi loses his job immediately. There are no promises of health and wealth and prosperity. There’s only one guarantee for Levi here – only one guarantee for each of us tonight – if you want to follow Jesus, the one thing you get is Jesus.
But actually He is the One thing you need, and, if you’re seeing things clearly, He’s the One thing you want.
Let me show you why. Let’s read on in the story.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
Here is a GREAT BANQUET and we’ll see that actually Jesus is the life and soul of this party.
Do you know this side of Jesus? Lord Hailsham – the former Lord Chancellor – became a Christian when He appreciated the joy-filled exuberance of Jesus. He wrote:
“The first thing we [should] learn about [Jesus] is that we should have been absolutely entranced by His company. Jesus was irresistibly attractive as a man… What they crucified was a young man, vital, full of life and the joy of it, the Lord of life itself, and even more the Lord of laughter. Someone so utterly attractive that people followed Him for the sheer fun of it…
Why did Levi leave everything? One answer is – for the sheer fun of it. If Jesus came into this room and said “Come follow me” we’d say “Yes!” No question. Because life with Jesus was irresistibly attractive.
[We need] to recapture the vision of this glorious and happy man whose mere presence filled His companions with delight…[He] would have the children laughing all round Him and squealing with pleasure and joy as He picked them up.” (The Door Wherein I Went, 1975)
Do you see Jesus like that? Unless you see the attractiveness of Jesus you won’t follow Him, no matter how commanding He happens to be. But He’s not just the Commander in Chief, He’s also the Host of the Banquet.
And as the Host, Jesus invites us to a Feast to end all feasts.
Jesus promises that when He returns He will host a cosmic banquet. On that day we will celebrate creation renewed, death swallowed up, disease abolished, evil destroyed, sin cleansed, tears wiped away and an eternity of joy with Jesus, the Host of the Banquet. You’re all invited. It costs you NOTHING. It cost HIM EVERYTHING.
On Thursday night we’re going to celebrate the night before Jesus died. Again He hosted a dinner party. He broke bread and said “My body is going to be broken apart like this on the cross to bring you the ultimate feast.” He poured out wine and said “My blood is going to be poured out like this on the cross to bring you the ultimate banquet.” On Good Friday Jesus hung on the cross because it was the only way to bring us to the feast. He really wants you there. It cost Him EVERYTHING to invite you. But He offers you a place for free. The Joy-filled Host of the Banquet holds out His arms to invite you? Will you receive Him?
There’s one more snapshot of Jesus I want to show you. As the story continues, some moral policemen crash the party and complain about the guest list.
30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and`sinners'?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The Pharisees and teachers of the law are ‘holier than thou’ religious types and they hate the fact that the Commander hosts sinners. But Jesus replies saying – “You don’t get it, do you? I’m also the Spiritual Doctor.”
I don’t know about you but I hate going to the doctor. So I usually save up all my illnesses until I have at least 17 and my wife says “Glen will you please stop moaning and go to the doctor.” Why am I like that? Because I don’t want to waste their time. You don’t show up to your doctor and say “I’m a picture of perfect health, I thought you’d be impressed.” They won’t be impressed. You’re wasting their time. Doctors are for sick people. And Jesus is for sinners. He is ONLY for sinners.
Do you see the importance of this? He’s the Doctor. He’s not the Spiritual Prize-Giver – handing out rewards for the good. He’s not the Spiritual Health Police – handing out punishments for the bad. Do you want to know the real Jesus? The real Jesus is the Spiritual Doctor who comes for the sick – only for the sick!
Some here might think to themselves, “I’m too bad to follow Jesus.” That’s like saying “I’m too sick to go to the doctor.” No-one is too bad to follow Jesus. The real problem is people thinking they’re too good. The Doctor is only interested in the sick.
Are you spiritually sick? Are you a sinner? Or do you claim to be righteous like these Pharisees? Of course the Pharisees aren’t really righteous. We’re all actually sick with sin. Some have more obvious symptoms than others, but Pharisees just hide their symptoms and fake it. But it’s tragic when sick people refuse to seek help. So I please with you to go to the Doctor. Because if you don’t, the consequences are dire.
Sometimes I’m asked if I believe in hell. I have to answer the way Jesus did – yes, there will be those who get shut out of the Eternal Banquet in outer darkness. Jesus speaks of that again and again. But, here’s a shock, those who are shut out are not the sinners, but the ‘righteous’. Heaven has a sign written across it’s gates saying “Sinners ONLY! Sinners ONLY, the righteous need not apply.” That’s heaven. On the other hand, hell is the chronic, self-inflicted misery of sick people forever claiming to be well.
You don’t claim to be well do you? The Spiritual Doctor has opened His surgery and He invites us all to confess our sickness and let HIM deal with us.
As the Commander, He has the authority to deal with us. As the Host, He has the best bed-side manner. But will you come to the Doctor with your sickness?
What do you make of Jesus tonight? Maybe some of you are beginning to see Jesus in a new way. All of a sudden you realize – here is the Ultimate Power, the Ultimate Joy, the Ultimate Mercy. Maybe this glimpse of Jesus has captured your heart.
If that’s you, maybe you’d like a chance to respond to your Lord. I’m going to pray a prayer that you can echo in your heart if you like.
It goes like this.
Jesus, You are the Commander – from now on, I follow You.
Jesus, You are the Host – I accept your invitation to the feast.
Jesus, You are the Doctor – I confess I am sick with sin, forgive me and heal me. Please be my Lord, my Joy and my Hope. Amen.