Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"I'm Just Dying to Show You This"

Text: Romans 5:6-9

Psalm 28:6-9

In 1993, Clint Eastwood starred in a film entitled “In the Line of Fire.” He played the role of a secret service agent by the name of Frank Horrigan whose job it had been to protect the lives of U.S. presidents for more than three decades. But nearing retirement, Horrigan was haunted by what had happened thirty years earlier.

He was a young agent assigned to protect President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas in November, 1963. When the assassin fired, Horrigan froze in shock.

            According to the storyline, he wrestled for thirty years with the ultimate question for any secret service agent: “Am I able to take a bullet for the president?” In the climax of the film, Horrigan does what he had been unable to do thirty years prior – he threw himself into the line of fire of a would-be assassin’s bullet to save the chief executive. In so doing, Frank Horrigan finally found redemption, and was reconciled to himself.             Secret service agents are willing to jump into the line of fire in real life because they believe the President of the United States is so valuable to the nation and the world that he is worth dying for. Obviously, they wouldn’t take a bullet for just anyone.

            This morning, I’d like us to consider this: the Chief Executive Officer of the Universe reversed roles and, in a manner of speaking, took a bullet for each of us. At the cross of Jesus Christ, we see just how valuable we are; even worth dying for. The Apostle Paul speaks about this at length in his Letter to the Romans, a document often called the most comprehensive theological treatise ever written.

            (Read Romans 5:6-11)

            What do you suppose is one of the most popular and enduring aspects of kindergarten and the early years of elementary school? Show and tell. Children delight in having the chance to bring a treasured object from home and share it with classmates. I think I’ve told you about the children’s sermons I used to offer weekly at 1st Presbyterian in Carrollton. Each Sunday, one of the children was given the mystery box -- which was simply a Nike shoe box wrapped in colorful paper -- to take home. The following Sunday, they were to bring it back with some treasured item in it (as long as that item was neither dead nor alive). The challenge was for the pastor to open the box, then do a short children’s chat based on the object inside. I know many of the kids liked the prospect of being able to stump the old pastor. And a time or two, they did. But more importantly, it was an opportunity for them to share with others something which was significant to them; to stand in the spotlight for just a moment or two and have the attention of the pastor and congregation focused on them. Plus it helped build confidence and a sense of worth.

            The endearing part of show and tell for us adults is that children of this age haven’t developed the bashfulness many of us have in sharing what we know and what is significant to us. Nor do they suffer the embarrassment experienced by many older children and adults when they have to stand and speak in front of a group. For the most part, young children are eager to share, and their peers usually accept them for who they are. They’ve not yet learned to be unaccepting.         But don’t you know we big people have a need to share too. We just don’t call it “show and tell.” Instead, we sometimes use the phrase, “I’m just dying to show you this!” to build anticipation and convey to another our excitement over something, maybe a new acquisition or purchase A teenage girl texts her girlfriend on her cell and exclaims: “I’m just dying to show you the new outfits I got for school!” A sportsman says to his buddy, “Hey, I’m just dying for you to try out my fly fish lures” or “I’m just dying to show you the new putter I got last week!” Or, “I’m just dying to tell you about how our trip went!” It’s one of those figures of speech which doesn’t make much sense to someone who’s learning English as a second language, because we’re not really dying over these things at all. It’s just (and English teachers, correct me if I’m wrong) an emphatic colloquial.        The text under our consideration this morning is about show and tell in a theological sense. In his letter to the Romans, Paul is telling about the actions of Jesus; actions that weren’t done in the physical presence of the recipients of the letter, but actions which were done in advance for them. Paul’s purpose which he makes clear in the opening words of his Roman letter is to give his readers the benefit of knowing that God in Jesus Christ has acted on their behalf; has gotten, if you will, in- to the line of fire and taken the bullet for them, saving their spiritual lives. Why? Because they are so vitally important, worth dying for. The hearers respond with an understandable reaction: “How can this Jesus act on our behalf and for our sake when we don’t even know Him?” Yet that is exact- ly Paul’s intent. Read this, he urges, and you will know Christ. You will be shown what Christ has done. And more importantly, you will surprised to find that Christ already knows you! Let me tell you about it.

            Throughout the text of Paul’s letter, we are being shown with word pictures and told in the language of theology what God in Christ has accomplished for our sake and on our behalf. Jesus has literally said by His actions: “I’m just dying to show you this!” This is no mere emphatic colloquial. What Jesus was and is trying to show us is the height, breadth, and depth of God’s love for us. Paul tells us: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” So when Jesus declared by His life, “I’m just dying to show you this!”, it took nothing short of His death to show us the extent of divine love for each of us – believer and unbeliever, saint and sinner, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, gay and straight, black and white and everything in between. Christ took the bullet for us to prove how far God’s love would go to reach out to all of the children of this creation.

            After these words of “amazing grace,” Paul goes on to say that it is rare that anyone would go to death willingly, even for a righteous person. It goes against every grain of the human instinct for self-preservation to throw oneself into the line of fire. Who wants to give up his or her life? Not many, although it is possible that “perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.” It would depend on circumstances, upon one’s regard for the other person or the objectives at hand. Now we’ve heard of people who have sacrificed themselves for the sake of another, or for a deeply-cherished cause. There has to be a mighty good reason.

            With regard to Jesus of Nazareth, the first questions any of us might ask would be: What is the purpose in this? Why is it necessary? Even Jesus posed a form of those very questions to His Father in heaven while praying at Gethsemane: Is this self-sacrifice – this jumping into the line of fire – imperative, or is there some other way? I suggest that at this juncture, we are privy to God asking God’s self: Are these for whom I die an earthly death of such high value? And the answer comes back a resounding YES! The purpose and the necessity of Jesus’ self-sacrifice – of God’s self- sacrifice – was a singular one: for our salvation; to shield us from taking the hit. In God’s eyes, this was big enough, important enough, earth-shaking enough that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, did dare to jump into the line of fire. And not just for the righteous; not just for the pious; not just for the godly, not just for some elect group, but for all of us. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

            Of course, we do not have recorded Jesus speaking the words, “I’m just dying to show you this!” Then again, actions speak louder than words. And by His actions, that is what Jesus did. For Jesus dying on the cross is what it took to prove to humankind – once and for all – that God really does love us, each and every one. Nothing less than Jesus’ own life would have sufficed for this purpose. Nothing less could have grabbed the attention of the world almost 2000 years ago, nor could grab our attention today -- to let us know that God was and is serious about the business of salvation, reconciliation, drawing us into a Kingdom of life forever. Nothing less than taking the bullet could have saved us from spiritual assassination.

 

            As we come to the table of Christ this morning, let’s look at it a different way. It’s God’s show and tell. At this table, in its invitation and in its elements, is the message. Jesus shows us, “This is my body broken for you….. This is my blood shed for you…..” Then Jesus tells us, Take….. Eat….. Take….. Drink….. When we recognize at this table Jesus saying, “I’m just dying to show you this!”, we can’t help but be awestruck and humbled by God’s amazing grace. We celebrate because we have received an awesome gift: God’s unending love for all of us; so great that God shows God’s love for us while we are yet sinners. Christ took up His position in the line of fire for us. In God’s eyes, we’re worth dying for.