If a Tree Falls in a Forest but Nobody is There to Hear It
March 6, 2016
Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 7:23-25
Part 1: The Big Picture
I would like to begin with the big picture. And it goes like this. We are living in the last days of history. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again and ascended into heaven. And now… we wait. We wait for every soul in the book of life to be saved. We wait for a new kingdom; a new heavens and a new earth. And, above all, we wait for Jesus himself. We wait for the return of the King. This is the big picture. We are now waiting.
But Christian life can be hard as we wait. It can be hard to be a Christian at school or at work. It can be difficult as we start new families or when get stuck in really bad traffic. It is often hard to get through tough times at church. And on top of all of that, it is hard to fight against our own sinfulness. We can be spiritually weak at times. We go through trials and temptations. We need mercy and grace and help in need. Christian life can be hard as we wait.
So what do we do about it? You may think that we have to read more Bible or pray harder. Maybe we should endure better or have deeper faith. Maybe we lack in repentance or we don't fight hard enough against sin. Maybe we need to open up more with others and be more vulnerable at church. These are all good things to do. But the starting question is deeply flawed. Before asking ourselves, “What do we need to do when Christian life is hard,” we ought to ask ourselves, “What does our Lord and Savior Jesus do for us when Christian life is hard? What is he doing about it?”
Part 2: I Is For Intercession
In the recent space movie Interstellar, a father leaves his daugther in order to make a better world for her. He leaves her. And he travels through vast space and time in order to save her. But the thing is that she would spend nearly her entire life without him. He left her. But, as the movie beautifully shows, he didn’t abandon her.
In a very real sense, our Lord Jesus Christ also left us. After he lived a perfect and righteous life for us, after he died on the cross for us, and after he rose again from the dead for us, he ascended into heaven. Jesus is physically away from us. But he has not abandoned us.
For in Hebrews, we are told that Jesus is our high priest who intercedes for us. This means many things for us. This means that Jesus is our mediator to God the Father. This means that Jesus confirms his finished work on the cross and our guaranteed salvation in him. This means that he represents us and defends us against all accusation or condemnation from the evil one. This means that Jesus applies his grace to us through the Holy Spirit who unites us to him. In other words, when we believe that Jesus is our high priest who intercedes for us, we believe that he is helping us. He is praying for us and giving us his mercy and grace. He is not there in heaven doing nothing. He has not abandoned us.
Praise the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, you need to know this. Are you going through trials or temptations? If so, be comforted by the fact that Jesus understands you. He knows what you’re going through. He sympathizes with your weaknesses since he was in every respect tempted as you are, yet without sin. Do you struggle to pray? If so, be encouraged that Christ prays for you. He intercedes for you. Are you weak or are you being persecuted? If so, be strengthened by the fact that Jesus is giving you his mercy and grace. Is your conscience plagued by guilt or condemnation? If so, be assured by the fact that Jesus defends you. Listen to God’s mighty words from Paul in Romans 8:33-34. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Part 3: Worst Day Ever
Do you remember Peter? Do you remember one of the worst days of his life?
It was the day that Peter denied Jesus three times. The rooster crowed. And Jesus died. Peter failed Christ in the hour of darkness. But Jesus rose again from the dead and he appeared to his disciples. But before he ascended into heaven, he met with Peter one last time on earth. He met him at the Sea of Galilee - the same place where they first met. And so there Jesus was, with Peter, on the shore. And Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
How could Peter say such a thing? How could he say that he loved Jesus if he denied him earlier? How did Peter hold fast to his confession?
The answer is simple. Peter still loved Jesus to the end because Jesus prayed for him. Before it all went down, Jesus said these words to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” The answer is simple. At the end of the day, Peter loved Jesus because Jesus prayed that Peter would love him. And so on perhaps the worst day of his life, Peter had the great high priest. And he was safe and secure in the person and work of Christ.
Do you remember Stephen? Do you remember the worst day of his life?
It was the day he died. In Acts 7, Stephen was giving a sermon to people who were hostile to the gospel. The people heard him and were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven, into the throne room of heaven. And what did he see? He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
The people rushed toward Stephen with a loud voice and cast him out of the city and stoned him. As he fell to his knees and died, he said these final words on earth: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Why do I tell you this story of the last day of Stephen's life? In most of Scripture, we are told that Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. And this is true. Jesus has triumphantly taken the seat of his throne. He indeed sits at the right hand of the Father. But in the darkest moment of Stephen's life, Stephen saw Jesus at the right hand of God. And he saw that his Lord and Savior was standing up. This stance, this standing of Christ is hugely symbolic. It means that Jesus was carrying Stephen and sustaining him by his grace. It means that he was interceding for Stephen as his great high priest.
Brothers and sisters, the Jesus who prayed for Peter is the same Jesus who prays for you. The Jesus who stood and sustained Stephen is the same Jesus who stands and sustains you. I want you to know that. You need to know that. So when you face temptation or trial in your wilderness, know that you have a great high priest - one who did not fail back then and cannot fail today and will never ever fail forevermore. Draw near to Christ and receive strength and endurance and faith to get through your wilderness. When you struggle to pray, know that Christ, who is your great high priest, prays for you.
Praise the Lord.
But there’s a problem. There’s a slight problem with this setup. The problem is that we cannot see him.
Part 4: Do You See What I See?
The tough part about Jesus being our priest is that we cannot see him. And because we cannot see him, sometimes he doesn’t seem real to us. On the other hand, what is real to us are our feelings, our circumstances, or our own spiritual performance. And these things become the anchor for our souls. But they are not good anchors.
Listen to the writer of Hebrews in 6:19. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…”
We have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul: the person and work of Jesus. What a brilliant metaphor. When is an anchor an anchor? An anchor is an anchor when it is at the bottom of the ocean floor. Therefore, an anchor does its job when you cannot see it. We cannot see Christ right now. He is in heaven. But make no mistake, Jesus is there as the anchor for your soul.
There is a hugely popular Korean drama out there called The Moon Embracing The Sun. I saw it, I loved it, and I shed many tears over it. The Moon Embracing The Sun is a story about a prince (symbolized by the sun) and a girl (symbolized by the moon), a prince and a girl who fall in love with each other as childhood friends. They get married, but then evil political forces bring about her death. The prince is devastated and grows up to become the king. And he never forgets her. But what he doesn't know is that she never really died. She lives a new life as a priest, having forgotten the memories of her past, of her family, and, most importantly, of her husband the king. But as fate would have it, she ends up serving in the very presence of the king as a servant priest, face-to-face. The heart-wrenching drama of it all is watching her serve the king without knowing who he really is, and watching the king receive her service without know who she really is. She would be close to her husband, as a moon embraces the sun, but the sun does not know that his moon is right in front of her.
If a tree falls in a forest but nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If the priest serves the king but the king does not know who she really is, does it hurt? If Jesus intercedes for us but we are not there to see it, does it still make a difference?
The most heart-wrenching part about Christian life is the fact that we cannot see Jesus. But make no mistake, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…”
Therefore, brothers and sisters, walk by faith, not by sight. Look beyond what is visible. Look beyond your feelings, your circumstances and your own spiritual performance. Look at Jesus our great high priest who is at the right hand of God. Look at what he is doing for you right now and believe in his person and work. You have a great high priest who intercedes for you. You have a sure and steadfast anchor for your soul. Walk by faith, not by sight.
Part 5: Epilogue
The reward for walking by faith and not by sight is huge. The reward is simply this: one day, you will no longer need to walk by faith. One day, you will walk by sight. For the day is coming when God’s final promises will come true. You will see Jesus Christ one day. Jesus says, “I am coming back.” When Jesus comes back with his kingdom, sin and suffering and death and evil will all be gone. You will be sinless. There will be no more wilderness to travel through. There will be no more trials or temptations. You will no longer be a pilgrim, because you will have arrived at home. And when you get there, you will see the Lord face to face. This is the big picture. This is all promised by God. May you believe in this as you go through your trials and temptations in your wilderness during your time here on this old earth.