“Mary Had a Little Lamb” Remixed

Sad girl with lamb on her lapThe Lamb Was Sure to Go…

If you’ve ever attempted to learn an instrument…something I’ve tried to do unsuccessfully more than once (a personal focus issue)…there is a good chance you’ve played the children’s song, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Actually, even if you aren’t a “wanna be” or real musician, it’s likely you have heard and/or sang this simple ditty. In the off chance you haven’t, it starts off with:

Mary had a little lamb
Little lamb, little lamb
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleeces was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went
Mary went, Mary went
Everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go1

Not a whole bunch to it, eh? However, can’t you picture cute-as-a-button Mary, all dressed up for school (since we later find it accompanies her there), being followed by an adorable, fluffy little lamb?

Remixing it…

This sermon is going to be “Mary Had a Little Lamb” remixed…reversed…turned upside down…whatever you want to call it. First, instead of looking to a elementary children’s song, we’ll turn to a very weighty book of the Bible that may be a bit more than an ordinary child could handle:

14 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless (Revelation 14:1-5).

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Did you read and hear the “remix”? Instead of the Lamb following a cute little schoolgirl, “these…follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”

Now, I’m not going to do an exegetical sermon on those versus…let it suffice to say that the Lamb the 144,000 follow is our loving Savior Jesus…and that we should all want to be one of the 144,000.

“Follow Me”

When I read those words this past week, not only did remind me of a kind of reverse “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” I thought it would be good to take a look at when Jesus said, “Follow me” in Scripture. After this sermon you should try it too—just search for “follow me” in your favorite Bible software. When I did that, I found quite a bit more than I expected…and I think we can learn some important “follow me” principles from them.

Do it Immediately

Let’s start out with the first time God’s Word records Jesus uttering the two words “follow me” (the way our Bibles are laid out) …which happens to be in Matthew 4:18-20:

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Here we have Jesus choose His first two disciples…and you see His choice immediately validated as wise. How do we know?

Because “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Contrast that to another case where Jesus says, “Follow me”:

59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-60).

It may seem a pretty reasonable request, “Hey, can I go bury my dad first?”…but Jesus knew the man’s heart…and there was something more going on than just a mourning son wanting to pay last respects to his dear old dad. Or, I suppose, Jesus may have said it just to make a point to those who were listening.

And, that point…the point that Peter and Andrew got but this other man did not…is our first “follow me” principle.

#1. When Jesus says, “Follow me”…don’t wait…do it immediately! [Repeat]

Why do it immediately?

First, because it isn’t as much as a command as it is an incredible offer. God Incarnate asks you to follow Him and you hesitate. Are you nuts?! 🙂

Second, because you don’t have no clue how long you have to consider Jesus’ offer and piddle around with things far less important. Your next breath could be your last. Once you’ve breathed it Christ’s offer expires along with you.

Third, because your hesitation reveals your heart…and you do not want have Jesus words, as recorded in the next two verses penned by Dr. Luke, apply to you:

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:61-62).

Be fit for the kingdom of God.

When Jesus says, “Follow me”…don’t wait…do it immediately!

Your Present Condition Doesn’t Matter

For our second “follow me” principle we’ll take a look in Matthew at when Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple:

9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13).

Although in those words we can see Matthew applying “follow me” principle #1 (“When Jesus says, “Follow me”…don’t wait…do it immediately!”)…there is something else implicit in it that informs “follow me” principle #2.

Jesus didn’t just call anyone to be an Apostle…He called a tax collector!

Now, I know in the U.S. that the Internal Revenue Service isn’t the most popular governmental department…and I suspect that is true of equivalents in other countries. But the disdain some have for IRS agents here doesn’t compare to what Jews in Jesus’ time though of Roman publicans…and they had good reason. In his book, Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and what He Wants to Do with You,” John MacArthur starts his chapter on Matthew with:

In all likelihood, none of the Twelve was more notorious as a sinner than Matthew.2

Not a ringing endorsement of Jesus’ choice, eh? It gets worse:

Matthew was a tax collector—a publican—when Jesus called him. That is the last credential we might expect to see from a man who would become an apostle of Christ, a top leader in the church, and a preacher of the gospel. After all, tax collectors were the most despised people in Israel. They were hated and vilified by all of Jewish society. They were deemed lower than Herodians (Jews loyal to the Idumean dynasty of Herods) and more worthy of scorn than the occupying Roman soldiers. Publicans were men who had bought tax franchises from the Roman emperor and then extorted money from the people of Israel to feed the Roman coffers and to pad their own pockets. They often strong-armed money out of people with the use of thugs. Most were despicable, vile, unprincipled scoundrels.3

Boy, it looks like Jesus made a huge mistake, doesn’t it?! Skip the amateur “targeting conservative organizations” of today’s tax collectors, Matthew likely personally “extorted money from the people of Israel to feed the Roman coffers and to pad [his] own pockets.”

Yet, the ears of that evil man heard the words we just read together.

“Follow me.”

And, no…Jesus didn’t make a mistake. As we also read, Christ didn’t come to call the righteous…He came to call sinners.

Like Matthew.

Like me.

Like you.

“Follow me” principle #2?

#2. When Jesus says, “Follow me”…your present, wretched condition doesn’t matter…follow Him! [Repeat]

As TobyMac sings in “Forgiveness,” a song that is a favorite of mine and my little six year-old, Augie:

No matter how lost you are
You’re not that far
You’re not too far

No matter how hurt you are
You’re not that far
You’re not too far

No matter how wrong you are
You’re not that far
You’re not too far

No matter who you are
You’re not that far
You’re not too far

From forgiveness
Ask for forgiveness

You’re not too lost, not too hurt, not too wrong, not too far…

No matter who you are…

When Jesus says, “Follow me”…your present, wretched condition doesn’t matter…follow Him!

Give it All Up

To keep this talk short, and because three is a great number for lists, I’m going to enter the final stretches with a final “follow me” principle. Our “odd choice to be an Apostle” publican, Matthew, records two occasions that speak to the third “follow me” principle:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39).

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:24-27).

“When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ do it immediately? I can do that.”

“When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ don’t worry about how bad a sinner I am? I can do that too.”

“But, when Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ I have to give up what?!”

We already read Jesus warning people not to put their hand to the plow and look back…but these two sets of verses are that on steroids.

I don’t care if your mom has taken care of you since day one.

Jesus has to be more important.

I don’t care if your dad has always been there when you needed him.

Jesus has to be more important.

I don’t care if your spouse is your “soulmate” and you know they are ideal for you because you matched all “29 Dimensions® of Compatibility” on eHarmony.

Jesus has to be more important.

I don’t care if you got all your favorite things for Christmas.

Jesus has to be more important.

I don’t care if you’ve got a great job where you are not only fulfilled, but you are helping others.

Jesus has to be more important.

I don’t care if your life is a perfect blessing from God.

Jesus has to be more important.

Principle #3:

#3 When Jesus says, “Follow me”…He has to be most important. [Repeat]

Or, there is a good chance you aren’t following Him. Instead, you may be following another charismatic leader…or your own “cheap grace” version of Jesus…or some other accursed gospel.

Don’t.

When Jesus says, “Follow me” give up everything else and make Him most important.

Because, as a matter of fact, He is.

Jesus has to be most important because He is most important.

Even more than Mary’s cute little lamb. 🙂

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon, that adorable little lamb followed Mary to school…and, as it so happens, into school. Clearly a lamb, no matter how well behaved, does not lead to a good teaching environment…

And so the teacher turned it out,
Turned it out, turned it out,
And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near

And waited patiently about,
Patiently about, patiently about,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear

“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry

“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
Loves the lamb, you know, loves the lamb, you know
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
The teacher did reply

Remixing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” we can learn quite a bit:

“Why do Christians love the Lamb so?”
Love the Lamb so? Love the Lamb So?
“Why do Christians love love the Lamb so?”
The unbelievers cry

“Why, the Lamb loves His sheep, you know.”
Loves His sheep, you know, loves His sheep, you know
“Why, the Lamb loves His sheep, you know.”
The teacher did reply.

We love the Lamb because He loves us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15).

9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love (John 15:9).

4 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus loves you. Love Him.

Jesus says, “Follow me.” Follow Him.

  • When Jesus says, “Follow me”…don’t wait…do it immediately!
  • When Jesus says, “Follow me”…your present, wretched condition doesn’t matter…follow Him!
  • When Jesus says, “Follow me”…He has to be most important.

And…like the 144,000 from the first verses we read today in Revelation…

When Jesus says, “Follow me”…follow Him wherever He goes.

Footnotes

1Hale, S. J. (n.d.). Mary Had a Little Lamb. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved December 27, 2013, from http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/maryhadmp3.htm

2MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2002). Twelve ordinary men: how the Master shaped his disciples for greatness, and what He wants to do with you (p. 151). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.

3Ibid (pp. 151-152).

4Hale, S. J. (n.d.). Mary Had a Little Lamb. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved December 27, 2013, from http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/maryhadmp3.htm


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