A few years ago, I was with a friend at West Edmonton Mall after a meeting we both attended. We had some time to kill, so we decided to go see a movie. The movie we went to was Avengers: Endgame. I looked at the start time and calculated that we should have time to see the entire movie before I had to take my friend to the airport to catch his flight, but I forgot to account for the pre-movie advertisements. Long story short, we had to leave the theater about 30 minutes before the end of the movie. A few days later, after I got home, I told another friend what happened and he said, “The last thirty minutes is when all the action happens.” I waited to watch Endgame again because I wanted to see Black Panther first. The events in Black Panther take place prior to and are connected with those in Endgame. When I finally did watch Endgame, I could see that what my friend told me was correct. What is really important is what happens at the very end.
It’s the same in real life. Life is full of ups and down, but it is what happens at the very end that really counts. In Revelation 21, John describes the vision that Jesus gave him of what life will be like when all things are fulfilled by Jesus. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Dear friends, that is the fulfillment that we are headed towards because Jesus has shown us the full extent of his love and loved us right to the very end. This is what great love does. It selflessly loves people toward fulfillment.
How do we do that? To find out, we turn to the clue John gives us: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. (John 13:3-4) Jesus knew that his Father had given him great power. Jesus had all things in his hands. He knew that he came from God to pay the full cost of redeeming and restoring all things and he knew that he was going back to God to wait for the day when he could complete that redemption and restoration.
But Jesus also knew that he didn’t need to use his power to preserve or protect himself. He knew that his Father would carry him through the deepest, darkest time any human being in all of history would ever experience. Even though the greatest evil in the world would throw its very worst at him as he hung on the cross, Jesus knew that, in the end, his Father would lift him out of the grave and invite him to rule over all of creation. Jesus’ greatest power was his faith in his Father because that is what freed him to use all of his personal power to serve others.
It was Jesus’ great power combined with his great love that enabled him to humble himself and serve others in a way that lifted them up toward fulfilment and completion. With his great power, Jesus did not have to be concerned for himself or what other people thought of him. He was free to humble himself and serve others in their greatest needs. With his great love, Jesus was able to see that his followers’ greatest need was to be shown how to humbly love and serve others, for that is how they grow to become more like him. That is why Jesus washed his followers’ feet and then said, And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. (John 13:14-17)
If you go on online and search for “Darrin Ray I am Second” you will find the testimony of Darrin Ray. Darrin was born with a cleft palate and cleft upper lip, and even though he had several surgeries to correct that deformity, he was still bullied by kids and rejected by adults because of the way he looked. In his loneliness, Darrin became bitter. In his mind, God was just like the bullies who had left him behind.
One Wednesday night, when he was at church with his Mom, Darrin asked her why God made him so ugly. After a pause, she asked Darrin to look at the windows of the church, which were unappealing in the darkness of night. Then she asked Darrin, “What do those same windows look like on a Sunday morning when we’re worshipping, and the sunlight is streaming through, all these brilliant colors falling on our faces?” Then she said, “God has made you beautiful like that. You are a piece of that window. Son, you just have to have the eyes to see it. You’ve got to trust him.” Darrin remembers thinking, “Do I believe my Mom? But even more so, do I believe God?”
Years later, Darrin was married and living with his wife in California. They had a 3 year old daughter and life was really good. But all that changed on August 20, 2006, when an impaired driver crossed over a double center line and hit Darrin’s car head-on at 60 MPH. The accident left Darrin’s body badly broken and his right leg was amputated below the knee. Darrin’s spirit was broken and he questioned God. People tried to remind Darrin that God still had good plans for him, but he couldn’t see those good plans. All he could see was broken pieces and he wanted to lay down and die.
A chaplain by the name of Jerry Roberts kept coming around to encourage Darrin to the point of being annoying. He kept saying, “Darrin, God has a calling on your life.” One day, in a moment of frustration with Darrin’s attitude of defeat, Jerry pointedly asked him, “Darrin, do you really feel that God has called you to be a professional patient for the rest of your life?” That hit Darrin between the eyes and helped him see that God wanted to give him hope in the midst of his despair. Darrin began to want to live, and not only live, but live for God.
Darrin learned that the driver who hit him was in jail and could not pay the $2.5 million that had been awarded to Darrin. When the matter went to court, Darrin asked the judge that the amount the man owed to him be forgiven. When asked why he would do that, Darrin answered, “Because I have a Savior that forgave my debts that I could never repay.” The judge ordered that Darrin’s words be sent to the man in jail and read to him by the warden. When Darrin learned how to forgive the man who hit him, it melted his bitterness and helped him to heal.
Three years after the crash, Darrin went to seminary and became a pastor to senior adults and the disabled. Darrin can now see that, through all those challenging years in the past, God was teaching him how to come alongside other people and help them in their moments of pain that were just like his. Growing up, all Darrin could see in his life was broken pieces. But God took all those broken pieces and put them back together into something completely different to make Darrin whole again.
Dear friends, the challenge that I want to leave you with is this: To turn your focus away from what you have lost and shift it toward what you have been given. When Jesus Christ brought you into a new life with him, he not only forgave you all your sins and gave you the gift of eternal life with him, he also gave you access to his power and his love so we can humbly serve others in his name. And when we do, we connect others to the Savior who can take all the broken pieces of their lives and put them together into a new life that is whole, beautiful and a blessing to others. Great power with great love helps us to humbly serve others. That is our God-given superpower, and it’s how we selflessly love others to fulfillment in Jesus. So we lovingly serve others now because we know how the story will end. Amen.