Good morning! I want to start my sermon this morning by telling you a story I heard a few weeks ago.
It’s a story that takes place a long time ago. It is a story of a little boy that lived with his mum and dad out on a little farm. This farm was out about a mile from a small rural community. Every weekday, the little boy would get up early and go to the barn to do the chores. Then he would walk to town to attend school there in the village. One Tuesday morning, he went to town as usual; and as he walked down the main street he noticed posters on both sides of the street which were not there before. So he went closer to one of them to read what it said. He read that the next Saturday, there would be a circus coming to town. From what he read, it was a good circus, but small. The little boy was thrilled. He never had seen a circus; but he had always wanted to see one. You see, he had heard of circuses. He had heard they usually had lions, monkeys, clowns and elephants. But the little boy had never had a chance to see one. So that day, he went on to school dreaming about it. The other children at the school were equally thrilled about it. They were all talking about it and the teacher even spoke some about it. So when he went home, he ran all the way. He searched for his mum and dad in the field and when he found them, he asked, “Mum, Dad, there is a circus coming next week. Can I go to it?” The parents said, “Yes! He could go, but he must do all his chores first.” Now the week progressed. More and more, the excitement built up. More and more, the kids would speak about the circus coming. When Friday night came, he was barely able to sleep. Early the next morning, he jumped out of bed, ran to the barn and did all his chores. When he ran back in the house, he found his mum and dad, sitting around the breakfast table. He said, “Mum, Dad, my chores are finished. Now can I go to the circus?” His dad looked at him with a smile. He reached into the pocket of his overalls and pulled out a shiny silver dollar. He gave it to his son and said, “You have a good time at the circus!” The boy grabbed the money; he hugged his dad; he hugged his mum; and he ran to the town. When he finally arrived, he saw people lining up on Main Street to see something. He wiggled and he squirmed his way right to the front of the crowd on the edge of the street. He looked up in time to see a group of circus performers, in costumes, waving and doing neat tricks. Then there came a cage wagon down the road. He looked closely in the wagon, and saw for the very first time in his life, a lion. He was thrilled. But then, clowns came by riding monocycles. They were juggling and throwing candies to the children. They were awesome! But there was more! There were other wagons with monkeys.
These were followed by elephants and then ladies standing on the backs of horses, doing head stands and so forth. And then finally, there came one, last clown. That clown, too, was doing tricks. He would stop every so many steps and go shake hands with people, giving candies to the children. When that clown passed directly in front of that little boy, the little boy did a very peculiar thing. He ran out into the street; he looked right up at that clown with a big smile; he handed him his silver dollar; and he ran home. You see, that little boy thought he had seen a circus; but he had only seen a parade. After all, he had never seen a circus before. He was just told there were monkeys, lions and elephants. When he saw all those animals, he thought he had seen the circus.
And the point of that story introduces my sermon this morning. For you see, I have come to realize that everywhere you turn, you seem to find people who think they are experiencing all there is to experience. In reality, most of the time, they only skim the surface.
I see it in parents. Parents are bringing home babies for the first time and they intend to be the very best parents in the whole, wide world. And all of us know the joy of having children. The joy of bringing them into this world and watching them grow and mature, all the way to adulthood, is a treat. But, yet, there are so many parents who never attain the intimate relationships with their children they intend to have. Somehow, for some reason, they end up only experiencing a parade. It happens all the time in marriage. A young man and a young woman marry. They plan from the very beginning to “have the best marriage that could ever be had!” And they want that wonderful marriage. All of us, today, know the benefits of a wonderful marriage. And when that love grows stronger, year by year, and the companionship grows stronger, what a joy! It’s almost inexpressible. All intend to have that joy as they start, but many never reach that point. They never go beyond a parade status. They only skim the surface.
And do you know where I find it as often as any other place? I find it in religion. We know, this morning, the only true religion is that one of Jesus Christ. But do you know that there are many, many people who intend, in the beginning, to get everything that Jesus offers – abundant life, eternal life and all the other benefits; but they never get past the surface. They only skim the surface of religion and they never get all that Jesus wanted them to have.
It’s with all of that, this morning, I want to take you to a parade in John, Chapter 12, verse 12. You find Jesus making His way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. It’s the last trip. Jesus knows He will never come back out of that city again. He knows, this time, He will be put to death. But as He comes into the city, there are many people lining the streets to honor him.
Let us read together v. 12-13. “….”
So in that crowd, there are some people who intend to follow Jesus as far as Jesus goes. But there are also others, who never come to call him King. They never look at Him as the one who brings salvation. They refuse to welcome Him in the city. For some reason, they decide to kill him. And what you find here, are some who see far more than a parade and some who see only the parade. And my question for today is, “Why?”
I. Why do some experience only the parade of life?
Why is it that some people have the ability to go way deep in a relationship and others never get that far? Why can some look at Jesus and see Him as He really is and others never quite get that far?
In the story, with which I began, for instance, the problem was knowledge. The little boy didn’t know what a circus really meant. And I agree that many people today have superficial Christianity because of a knowledge problem. I think there are many parents who want to become excellent parents; but they don’t know how to do it. And I believe there are many husbands and many wives who want to be the best mate they possibly can, but aren’t because they don’t know how to fill each other’s needs. Yes there can be a knowledge problem. That’s why we encourage Bible class and educational lessons from the pulpit. We don’t want anyone to have a knowledge problem.
But listen. The problem with the Jewish leaders, in John, Chapter 12, was not a knowledge problem. If you look back in John 11:47, you see that they knew Jesus could perform miracles. They knew he could back up His claims of being the Messiah. In fact, some of them were starting to stand up for Jesus. Even the high priest would prophecy in favor of Jesus. But they still turned their back on Jesus. So it was not a knowledge problem! But why then, you say? Why did they skim the surface?
Look at v. 48 of John, Chapter 1. Now they are arguing back and forth about Jesus. They can’t deny the resurrection of Lazarus, but they say this. “….” You see, all they think about is themselves. “What will happen to us if this Jesus is allowed to go on?” “What will we have to pay as a price?” They are selfish. They know about His miracles. Some of them believe, but they won’t confess him for fear of being put out of the synagogue. They love the praise of men more than the praise of God. So their problem was they were more concerned about self, than finding out all that Jesus had to offer in life. And that, Folks, is still true today.
Maybe the number one reason parents never have a good relationship with their kids is that they are too concerned about self, too concerned about what they are going to get out of life. Maybe the primary reason marriages never become what they were planned to be, what our Lord intended them to be, is because of selfishness. You see, many spouses think only of what they can get out of life, what they want to be. This concern for self reaches all walks of life. It is even found in our churches today – at home and abroad. Many ministries are hampered because people are there for what they can get personally rather than give.
Also, the reason why many people never have the great relationship with Christ they should have is because they let too much of self get in the way. They worry about what this world can give them, about what they have the right to do and they never invest themselves in Jesus Christ. Oh, are we like that today? Maybe that sounds too harsh, but I believe that’s the root of many of our struggles today. See Tim 2:22 and 3:1-2. And I realize that I, too, battle with this. All my selfish desires are constantly rising in me. So, what’s the solution?
II. Less of Self and More of Thee
The same attitude that was in Mary in John 12:1-8. Mary was one of those rare people, one of those few who goes as far in her relationships as she can. She did because she understood the heart of the matter. She understood in a way Judas didn’t. You see, Judas never saw behind the surface. When he saw the gift of perfume offered, he was concerned, not because of Jesus reaction, but because he saw a waste of money that he could have used to better his earthly conditions. Judas, at best, experienced a parade, but not Mary. The reason, one was willing to love Jesus and forget about self and give the best she had; the other, named Judas, loved himself so much that he could never give anything to Jesus. And so becoming selfless is the answer - thinking less of me and more of Him.
III. Warning and Challenge
So, I have two things I want to end with this morning. If any of us miss the main event, we will, at some point, be sorry forever. I guarantee it; this book guarantees it; God guarantees it. If we miss the main event, there will come a time when we will be very sorry. If you don’t believe me or need further proof, look at parents who missed the boat. Look a them whose children are now gone and there is no in-depth relationship. They sit down and look back and with heavy hearts say, “Oh, if I could do it all over again, I would do it differently. I would spend more time with my child. I would talk to them more at a young age about the Bible!”
And look at those in marriages who have been married 10, 15 or 50 years and their marriage now is shaky or almost gone. How many times will we hear them cry, “If I could start all over again, I would do it in a different way. I would be a better mate and work with all my heart, all my strength, to make it the great thing it never became!”
And there will be many of us, one day, who will look back and say, “Oh, if I could go back and do it again, I would be more involved with a man named Jesus. I would get more involved in his church. I would serve him as Mary did, with all my might.” Many are missing the circus now and will be very sorry later. Secondly, I give you a challenge. Go forth from this point and do everything you can to experience all that our Lord wants you to experience - no matter what area of your life. And by the way, it is not a sport or work. But whether mate, parent or Christian, do all you can in these areas to experience more than a parade. I end with this story.
A few years ago, the Mayor of New York City gave the same challenge to his citizens. He said, “Would you please get involved?” The background of his request was a tragedy that happened in the subway. You see, the week before, a young man, named Brian Hopkins, lost his life in it. Every year, he had come to NY from Utah to attend a tennis tournament with his family. Mum was a fan; Dad was a fan; and Brian was in college on a tennis scholarship. And now they were making their yearly pilgrimage to the US Open Tournament. Only, on this occasion, when they were waiting for the train, a group of delinquent youths came that way. One of them took out a curved, sharp knife. He reached down and cut the pants leg of Mr. Watkins. It cut his flesh and it also exposed his money clip and his credit card. The young boy stole it with his other hand. Another person, in the gang, took his fist and reared back and hit Mrs. Watkins squarely in the face. It’s all Brain could stand. Brian rose to the defense of his mother. But one of the gang members pulled out a long knife and plunged it into the chest of Brian Hopkins. He died forty minutes later in a New York City hospital.
But the most tragic part of the story is this. There were three token-takers who stood and watched and did nothing. So a week later, the Mayor stood at the funeral and said, “We, as citizens, have to get involved. It’s the 18th time this year that this has happened in our subways. I want you to think about it like this. One young man loved his mother enough to give his entire life for her. Three people loved themselves so much, they would give nothing. Which are you today? Would you change that? Would you become more involved? Do you love enough to give all of yourself today. That is the difference between the parade and the circus. So today, would you please get involved so that you may experience all that he intended you to experience? If you need to respond……