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TEXT: Matthew 14:1-12
SUBJECT: What to do with Your Sorrow
What do you do with your sorrows?
If they're small ones, you shrug them off. If they're too big for that, you live with them, and in time, they fade away. But what about the sorrows that stay with you and only get worse with time?
What do you do with your sorrows?
Tears provide an emotional release and I highly recommend them. Keeping yourself busy is also helpful, as it keeps you from brooding over your sorrows and making them worse. Exercise is good for you and talking to sympathetic friends is even better. But what if your sorrows are too big for crying or working out or talking them over?
What do you do with your sorrows?
You bring them to Jesus.
WHAT GRIEVED THEM
The people in today's story are disciples of John the Baptist. For the last year or so they have lived with the man and pinned all of their hopes on him.
Now he was dead. For a few weeks John had been in Herod's prison for the crime of telling the king it was wrong to steal his own brother's wife. While he would have preferred his freedom, things were not too bad for John because Herod respected him (in a way) and still enjoyed hearing him preach.
Then came the party. A magnificent ball was held in honor of the king's birthday with all the important Jews and Romans in attendance. After a big meal and plenty of wine, it was time for the entertainment.
Salome, the king's stepdaughter, came in to dance for the king's pleasure, and pleased him so well he made a stupid and reckless promise--
Ask me whatever you want and I will give it to you. Whatever you ask me I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom.
A silly girl would have blurted out the first thing that came to mind: a piece of jewelry, perhaps, or some other trifle. But Salome was no fool. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and she wasn't going to waste it. She went to her mother for advice, who had a clear idea of what she wanted. When Salome stepped back into the party, the king renewed his promise-'Anything you want my dear-just name it'!
I want you to give me, at once, the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
The room fell silent at the sickening request. The king, too, was horrified, for he knew John was a righteous man and believed God would avenge the death of His saints. But, not wanting to go back on his word (in public) , he gave the order. A soldier went to John's cell, cut off his head, put it on a platter, and brought it to the girl, who gave it to her mother.
What a shameful way to die! John was a great man who deserved a heroic death; instead he died on the word of a vindictive woman and her weakling husband.
As if the manner of John's death did not deeply hurt his disciples, remember how young he was when he died. When thinking of the shortness of human life, the Psalmist said,
The days of our lives are three score and ten,
And if by reason of strength they are four score,
It is soon cut off and we fly away.
Lives of seventy or eighty years are way too short; they pass like a watch in the night, like a morning fog when the sun rises on it. But John did not live seventy or eighty years. He lived thirty-one years, and his public ministry was no more than six months long!
John was dead; he was dead for no good reason; and he was dead far too young. No wonder his friends were overcome with grief. It was a terrible loss.
For them personally, and for the Kingdom of God. What is a 'disciple'? A dictionary will tell you he's a student or an apprentice. But don't think of a kid in school or a young carpenter on the job. The relationship between man and master was much closer than these. They didn't take classes with John or work with him eight hours a day. They lived with him, served him, loved him, respected him, and their highest goal was to be like him.
Now he was dead and they did not know what to do with themselves, and worse: they did not know themselves. 'Disciple' did not describe what they did, but what they were. What is a disciple without his master? He's nothing. John's death not only took their best friend away from them, it took themselves away from them! It was a shattering loss.
Then you look at the Big Picture. John was not a teacher; he was a prophet, and not 'one prophet among many', but the greatest prophet who ever lived! He was the one Malachi promised 400 years before-
Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way
Says the Lord of Hosts.
John was herald of The Coming King. Every devout Jew longed for the coming of God's Kingdom; and last night John was bringing in it. But this morning he's dead! His friends had to wonder if the Kingdom died with him.
The disciples of John were broken men.
HOW GRIEVED THEY WERE
Their awful grief came out in three ways, the first of which is.dead silence. The Bible says nothing about their mourning John's death, and this, I think, is noteworthy. When other great men died, their family and friends publicly fasted and wept.
When Jacob died, his large family and all the leading men of Egypt went up to bury him in the family crypt. Of his funeral, the Bible says-
It was a very great gathering.and they mourned there with a very great and solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father.and when the Canaanites saw the mourning, they said, 'This is a grievous mourning of the Egyptians. Therefore, its name was called Abel Mizraim.(or, Mourning of the Egyptians).
Many years later, another great man died, Stephen. His death was near John's in time, place, and circumstance. Here's what Luke says about it, Acts 8:2-
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
If Jacob's family and Stephen's church were grieved enough to cry for their loved ones, the disciples of John hurt too badly for tears.
The second way they showed their grief was by doing their duty. If John's head was on Herodias's platter, his body was lying in the king's dungeon. They fetched it and provided a decent burial.
Here's a piece of practical advice: Let bereaved people go about their business. You do them no favor by doing everything for them. You think you're helping them, but you're not. They want to make the long-distance phone calls; they want to make the funeral arrangements; they want to serve at the reception; they want to do one last favor for their loved one!
Finally, they showed their grief by telling someone John was dead. My mother died eight years ago last Monday. On the night she died, I woke up several people with the news. The next day, I called everyone in the church directory and many others too. I dropped in on several of you, and even talked to my neighbors, whom I barely know. The next Sunday I preached on her death and again at the funeral. I cannot explain my feelings, but I wanted to tell someone: I had to!
John's disciples felt the same way. Their dearest friend was dead and they couldn't keep it bottled up. They had to tell someone.
WHOM THEY TOLD
The One they told first was our Lord Jesus Christ-
Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
Why did they go to Him?
For one thing, their sorrow was too heavy for them to carry alone. Sorrow is a heavy thing; sometimes we can bear it alone, but if it's big, we need help, and we mustn't be ashamed to say so! John was a tough man-living in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey. His disciples were too. But there are some griefs too much for even the strongest men to bear.
Do you know why we have funerals? Funerals are expensive and they're a lot of work for the grieving family. But if they're ever lost, much of our humanity will be lost with them. Death weighs too much for one person or one family to bear. At funerals, others take their share of the load.
They went to Christ because others could not enter into their sorrows. John was a celebrity in Israel with tens of thousands of fans. But their love for him was a shallow thing and an insult to the few who truly loved him. The Pharisees and Sadducees were glad to be rid of him. As for the scribes? They would have 'explained' his death in theological terms, and like the friends of Job, they would be miserable comforters!
They told Jesus because He was a compassionate Man. They knew He would care-not like pretend to care, as professionals are trained to, but really care. His heart would be as broken as theirs! He would weep with those who weep. And mean it.
Did the disciples of John then know Jesus was the Messiah? They should have, but I suspect they did not. Not even the Lord's disciples were always clear on that. But however fuzzy they were of His Calling, they were spot-on on His Character.
It is easy to talk up compassion, and the often did that. Think of the Parables of the Good Samaritan, for example, or of the Prodigal Son.
What's not so easy is to feel compassion and to act on the feeling. But the Lord was often moved with compassion when He saw people suffering. And He didn't leave it there: with a tear on His cheek. The compassion He was moved by moved Him. He ate with sinners and healed the sick and forgave prostitutes and raised little girls from the dead. All because He cared!
If you read the Gospels, you will find only one person coming to the Lord and going away diappointed. He was the Rich Young Ruler, and he left empty-handed, not because the Lord's heart was hard, but his own heart was, Mark 10:21-
And Jesus, beholding him, loved him.
The compassion our Lord felt all His life long came to a head at the cross. It was there, in a unique way, that He-
Bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.
He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But, remember, the sorrow and grief were not His own-but ours. And He bore them for us-not because He had to-but because He wanted to. And 'wanting to' suffer with the suffering is another way of saying, 'compassion'.
The disciples of John brought their grief to Jesus because He was a compassionate Man. He would understand their loss and feel it more deeply than they did.
THIS SAME JESUS
Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could carry your sorrows to Christ as they did? Wouldn't the weight on your shoulders be lightened if He was there for you, as He was for them?
When the Lord rose from the dead, it was the same Lord. To the disciples who weren't so sure He said-
Behold My hands and feet-it is I myself.
When He ascended into heaven, it was This same Jesus who sat down at God's Right Hand-and not another Jesus! This means His character has not changed, and He will give you the same sympathetic hearing as He gave the friends of John way back when.
This is, however, one difference between then and now-and it works to our advantage. While His character is the same now as then, His State has changed. Unlike then, He can now see every tear that falls in the world at the same time! He can feel for the man in China, the woman in Africa, the girl in Argentina, and the boy in Fremont. All at once.
This means: Wherever you are and whatever time it is, you can open your bleeding heart to your Savior, and find His heart bleeding for you.
Because He has suffered everything you have-and more-He can feel for your every hurt, including the ones that hurt so badly you can't tell Him what they are.
This is what you do with your sorrows: You take them to Jesus.
Now do it.
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