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ROOTED IN CHRIST
Band of Brothers
December 3, 2017
A few years ago, I read a fascinating book by Stephen Ambrose called Band of Brothers. It’s a war book, a true story that was turned into a mini-series on HBO by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. You may have seen it.
The book is about Easy Company, a regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army that served in World War II. They were paratroopers who landed behind enemy lines in France on D-Day, knocked out some Nazi cannons aimed at Utah Beach, and fought their way through bloody battles all the way to Germany where they captured Hitler’s headquarters at Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden. It’s an incredible story of amazing courage and commitment, dedication and community.
About Easy Company, Ambrose writes, “They thought the Army was boring, unfeeling, and chicken. And they hated it. They found combat to be ugliness, destruction, and death. And they hated it. Anything was better than the blood and carnage, the grime and filth, the impossible demands made on the body – anything, that is, except letting down their buddies.”
“In combat they found the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They found selflessness. They found they could love the other guy in their foxhole more than themselves. They found that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them … The result of sharing all that stress through training and through combat created a bond between the men of Easy Company that will last forever.”
There’s something about suffering together, there’s something about sacrificing together, there’s something about serving a cause greater than yourself that can create a deep sense of community, a band of brothers. War can do that.
But so can serving Jesus Christ. There’s something about serving Jesus together, there’s something about facing the spiritual battle together, there’s something about sacrificing for the kingdom cause that can create a deep sense of community too, a band of brothers and sisters.
The Apostle Paul experienced that. He experienced the power of that kind of community and so can we. In fact, the church was meant to be that kind of community, a family of brothers and sisters. And today Paul’s going to introduce us to his band of brothers.
This morning we conclude our series in Colossians called Rooted in Christ. It’s been a fabulous series that’s taught us a lot about who we are in Christ and how knowing Christ changes everything about our lives.
And now Paul finishes his letter with a bunch of names of people we don’t know. And it’s easy to skip over them and move on, but for some reason they’re in the Word of God and I believe each one has something to teach us.
It’s almost like Paul took a selfie with his band of brothers and tucks it in the envelope with this letter to the Colossians. And the picture reminds us that Paul was a team player. He was always surrounded by others who helped him carry out the mission. He was not a free agent. And we’re not free agents either. Serving Jesus was always meant to be a team sport, done with others in community.
There are eight people in the picture standing with Paul. This is his band of brothers that stood by him when he was under house arrest in Rome. These are those who witnessed his beatings, who bandaged his wounds, who were shipwrecked and shivered with him in the cold. These guys were tight. They had been through a lot together.
So, I want to take a quick look at each one and as we do I want you to find your face in the group because you’re in this picture too. And each one has something to teach us.
Turn to Colossians 4:7 (p. 823). The first one in the photo is a man named Tychicus. He’s described in verse 7, Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.
Tychicus appears five times in the New Testament and each time he’s there to help the Apostle Paul. He was one of Paul’s first converts in Asia. We don’t know how old he was, but we know he was in great shape and could hoof it all the way across the Roman Empire. And so, Paul made him his messenger to deliver this letter to the Colossians, the letter to Philemon, and his letter to the Ephesians. He was commissioned to give these churches an update on Paul’s condition, so they would be encouraged.
Tychicus is a guy Paul could count on. He was a “whatever it takes” kind of guy who probably had the spiritual gifts of helps and encouragement. He would do anything to serve the Lord by serving Paul.
Every church needs a whole bunch of people like Tychicus, men and women you can count on, “whatever it takes” kind of people. Because the vision that God gives leaders is always a vision that’s way too big for one person to carry out. Others, like Tychicus, need to step up to the plate and say, “Hey, what can I do to help? How can a serve God’s work here?” We have lots of Tychicus’ at Valley View, but we can always use more. Are you one of them? Are you a fellow servant?
The next face in the picture is that of Onesimus. Look at verse 9, He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
Onesimus has this big grin on his face, because he’s so thankful for what God has done in his life. Onesimus was a criminal, a fugitive, a runaway slave who had ripped off his master. He had come to Rome ready to party hardy and paint the town red. But instead he ran smack into the Apostle Paul who led him to Christ. And his whole life changed!
And as they became friends, Paul discovered that Onesimus was from Colosse of all places and his master, Philemon, hosted the church there. Wow, what a small world!
Onesimus became a great help to Paul in Rome, but he knew he had to send him back to his owner. It was more important that he be reconciled to Philemon than that he stay with Paul. So Onesimus goes back home with Tychicus and carries a special letter in his pocket that Paul wrote to Philemon.
Onesimus reminds us that it’s never too late to become a follower of Jesus. No matter what we’ve done in our past, God can forgive us and turn us into a player for the kingdom.
And I know there are those of you who can relate to Onesimus. You may not have been a felon, but you are well aware of God’s grace in your life and have that big grin on your face too because you understand God’s amazing grace!
The third person is Aristarchus. Paul calls him my fellow prisoner in verse 10. This poor guy always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everything happens to Aristarchus. In Ephesus, he gets caught up in the middle of a riot while Paul’s preaching. Later, he gets shipwrecked with Paul and has to swim for his life.
Now he’s in prison with Paul in Rome. And if I’m Aristarchus I’m ready to say, “Paul, that’s it! I’m out! I didn’t sign up for this.” But he doesn’t. He hangs in there. This guy’s resilient.
Church, serving Christ is going to cost us something. We need the resilience of Aristarchus. We need to persevere. If people don’t beat us up, life will beat us up. We’re going to get knocked down again and again, but we need to keep bouncing back. And with God’s help we can and we will.
The fourth figure standing right next to Paul is Mark also mentioned in verse 10. Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Like Onesimus, Mark’s got this broad smile on his face, because he gets the grace of God too. He’s the cousin of Barnabas and both of them traveled with Paul on his very first missionary journey, but then Mark bailed.
Halfway through, Mark quit. And that ticked Paul off so much that the next time they were planning a trip, Paul and Barnabas couldn’t agree on how to handle Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him, but Paul didn’t. So, Mark went with Barnabas and Paul chose Silas. And they split. It wasn’t pretty.
But God wasn’t finished with Mark. In fact, he used him to write the gospel of Mark. And so, Mark is a reminder that it’s never too late to come back to the Lord. There’s a future for failures. Quitters can get back in the game. There’s always hope for a second chance to serve Jesus. Can anyone here relate to that? Do you see yourself in Mark? I do. I think we all can to one degree or another. God is not finished with us yet.
On the other side of Paul is Jesus called Justus. Verse 11 says, Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.
Mark and this man, Jesus Justus, were the only Jewish men in the picture. The rest are all Gentiles. And Paul, himself a Jew, found it a tremendous encouragement to have two men on his team from the hood. Two guys who understood where he was coming from and could relate to his background.
Sometimes life gets lonely and we just need comfort, we just need someone to be there for us. They don’t even have to say anything or do anything, just their presence is enough. And that’s what Jesus Justus gave to Paul. Just his presence brought him comfort because he knew he understood. It doesn’t take amazing spiritual gifts to do that. It just takes a willingness to show up and come alongside someone who needs encouragement. We can all be Jesus Justus to somebody.
The sixth guy in the photo is Epaphras. He’s already been mentioned in 1:7. He’s the pastor of the church in Colosse who was sent by the church over a thousand miles to check up on the Apostle Paul. And Paul wants his church to know what he’s been doing while he’s been away.
So, he writes in verse 12, Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
I love this guy! Epaphras started the church in Colosse and he depends on the power of prayer. And Paul wants his church to know that he’s been working hard, wrestling in prayer for them. But he’s kingdom minded too. He’s not just praying for his own church. He’s praying for the regional church in Laodicea and Hierapolis. He’s got a Netzer mindset!
Every church needs men and women like Epaphras who do the hard work of prayer, who wrestle in prayer for themselves and for others. Thank God for those of you who wrestle in prayer for Valley View. May your tribe increase! Keep praying that we will stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
There are two more brothers in the picture. The next is Dr. Luke, Paul’s personal physician. This guy could tell a few war stories I’m sure. Our dear friend, Luke, the doctor, sends his greetings (v. 14).
Everywhere Paul went it seems like he got beat up, stoned, whipped or shipwrecked. He was the walking wounded and Luke carried the duct tape that held Paul together. He knew every scar, scab and sore on his body.
Paul wouldn’t have made it without Luke. And Luke stood by him until the end. He gave up a lucrative private practice to follow Paul all over the empire. And God honored him for that by giving him the privilege of writing 52 chapters of the New Testament, the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Luke reminds me that whatever sacrifice we make for Christ is well worth it. Whatever we give up in time, talent, or treasure will be richly rewarded by Jesus. Count on it!
And finally, the last guy in the picture, wearing a crooked smile, is Demas. In verse 14, Paul says Demas sends his greetings also. He’s with Paul now, but soon he’s going to break Paul’s heart. I wonder if Paul suspected that, because he doesn’t say anything about Demas.
Later we discover that Demas deserted Paul. He fell in love with the things of this world and bailed on his commitment to Christ. And if we’re not careful, that can happen to any of us. Jesus had his Judas. Paul had his Demas. And sooner or later every church has those who bail on their commitment to Christ. And it’s always a heartbreaking, gut wrenching thing.
So that’s the picture of the band of brothers that Paul tucks into this letter for the Colossians. Did you see yourself? I hope so. Keep serving Christ and one another.
He closes by saying in verse 15, Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 17Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” 18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Paul opened his letter with grace and now he closes it with grace. And his words to Archippus are words for us all. See to it, Valley View, that you complete the work you’ve received in the Lord. Let’s stay at it church. Our mission is Jesus and our vision is to make disciples for him by inviting, growing, equipping, and going. Let’s stay the course until he comes. And now let’s stand for closing prayer.