Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World

Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781511300070
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 11/10/2015
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.37(d)

About the Author

Rich Wilkerson Jr. and his wife, DawnCheré, pastor VOUS Church, a meeting place of faith, creativity, and diversity in Miami, Florida. Every June, they also host thousands of young adults at the annual VOUS Conference in South Beach. He is the author of Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World and an internationally recognized speaker who has logged over two million air miles preaching the gospel around the globe.

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Sandcastle Kings

Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World

By Rich Wilkerson Jr.

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Rich Wilkerson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3269-2



When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them.

Luke 7:1–6

Garage Duty

My dad traveled regularly away from home when I was a kid. Most weeks he would fly out on Saturday morning and return the following Thursday. He was gone a lot, but that didn't stop him from being heavily involved in our day-to-day lives. He talked to us all the time, even when he was on the road, and he always made sure we knew that he was counting on my brothers and me to help Mom around the house. Before he left town each week he would make a detailed list of chore assignments for us. On one particular Saturday, my job was the garage.

I hated cleaning our garage. I mean, it was a garage! Why did it need to be cleaned? We kept garbage in there, for crying out loud! Now before you judge me for whining, you need to know that cleaning the Wilkerson family garage meant more than sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage cans. Cleaning that garage meant using geometry, or trigonometry, or one of those other "-ometrys" that you think you will never actually use in real life. My dad used colored tape to designate certain parts of the garage for certain items. The bikes had to go in the green zone and the tools in the red zone. In the yellow zone went the mower and other yard tools. The garbage cans had to go in the blue zone. Like a puzzle, everything had its place, and you had to place everything just right for it all to fit.

But on that Saturday, my friends and I planned to go to a movie premier early in the afternoon. I had been looking forward to it all week. Unfortunately, in the Wilkerson house if you didn't do your chores, you weren't allowed to go out with your friends. When I woke up late on that Saturday morning, I realized there was no way I could clean the garage and make it to the theater on time. So I had a choice. Clean the garage and miss the movie or go to the movie and ignore the garage. I consulted the little angel and devil that sit on my shoulders.

You can guess who I listened to. About fifteen minutes later, I was dressed and on my way to the movie. I met my friends, bought my popcorn, and sat down inside the theater. As soon as the lights went down, the reality of what I had just done sunk in. A sick feeling arose in the pit of my stomach. I don't remember what the movie was about. It didn't matter. I spent the whole time worrying about what Mom and Fad would do to me when they found out I had gone to the movies without finishing my chores. So to me it was a scary movie.

That night, when Dad called, Mom told him what I had done and then put me on the phone. "Richie," Dad said, "it's a good thing you saw that movie today because you're not going to be seeing one for a very long time! You're grounded until we're tired of having you around the house. And you've earned yourself garage duty for the next month."

The punishment fit the crime.

Checklist Children

From the time we are very young, our parents reward us for doing what we are supposed to do and punish us for doing things we aren't supposed to do. If we do our chores, we get an allowance. If we don't clean the garage, we don't get to go to the movies. So very early on we learn what it means to "deserve." If we do good things we learn that we "deserve" good things. If we do bad things we learn that we "deserve" bad consequences. This concept is often called "justice," although our parents usually described it as "what's right" or "what's fair."

Understanding justice is an important part of a child's development, and we depend on the role of justice throughout our adult lives. Justice is one of the founding concepts of American society. We punish people for doing bad things, such as committing crimes, and we reward people for doing good things, such as when someone gets a raise for doing exceptionally good work.

Justice is important to us, and we have our own ideas about what it entails. So it's no surprise that when we think about God — ultimate arbiter and source of justice — we expect him to act according to what we think is just. When we do good things, like pray and attend church and walk a little old lady across the street, we expect God to bless us. When someone steals or spreads lies or kicks puppies, we expect God to punish that person. We think God has a checklist and is keeping score. If we have more checkmarks on the "good things" list than on the "bad things" list, God will reward us. If we have more "bad things," God will punish us. Behind this is the idea that we get what we deserve in life. We even have a mystical-sounding name for it: karma. So we have sayings such as: "What goes around comes around." We believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.

That's why it's so hard for us to understand why bad things happen to good people. When dad loses his job, or a favorite grandparent gets cancer, or a criminal escapes punishment, we feel that God isn't doing his part. Did he forget about his checklist? Did all those good things Grandma did not matter to God? We don't understand, so we're resigned to the idea that life (and God) just isn't fair. Well, sometimes life isn't fair, but sometimes it is fairer than we realize. When it comes to God, our concept of justice — the idea that we get what we deserve — is both more right and more wrong that we could ever imagine. More on that later. For now, let's talk about Roman soldiers.

The Centurion

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.

Luke 7:1–3

In the first few verses of Luke 7, Jesus was in a city called Capernaum, and by this point in his life he was fairly well known. He had been travelling through towns of the region, teaching about God and healing people. In the verses just before Luke 7, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, saying, "Blessed are you who are poor," and "Love your enemies," and "Do not judge," and many other remarkable things.

Luke tells us that a large crowd followed Jesus. Some were eager to hear him speak. Others sought healing. Some simply wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Others wanted to be entertained, to see a miracle or two and call it a night. Whatever their motivations, people traveled from all over the country to see and hear Jesus. When Jesus came to town, it was a big deal. He was a celebrity, but without the money and sense of entitlement.

When Jesus gets to Capernaum, it does not take long for word to get out that he is there. Only two verses into Luke 7, we learn that Jesus is already the talk of the town. The news even makes its way to a certain Roman centurion.

Now, in case you slept through your ancient history class, let me tell you about Roman centurions. These dudes were hardcore. They were members of the Roman army, which at that time was the most fearsome and powerful military force the world had ever seen. Centurions commanded around one hundred soldiers. They were chosen to command based on their military experience, their skill with the various weapons, and the recommendations of other officers. Centurions were responsible for training and disciplining the soldiers within their "century," and they were paid well. They were intelligent, skilled, hardened, temperate, and extremely strict. Think of Maximus from the movie Gladiator. (I know, I know. Maximus was a general. But you get the idea.) These guys were not to be trifled with.

So in Luke 7, we read that this centurion had a servant who was so sick that he was near death. We don't know much about the servant, but Luke explains that the servant was especially important to the centurion. Maybe he was highly skilled or especially good at overseeing the centurion's other servants. Maybe he had become close to the centurion in some way. Whatever the case, the servant was important enough for the centurion to try to find him a cure. But nothing so far had worked. For all his power and wealth, the centurion had not been able to see his servant healed. When he heard about Jesus, the famous Jewish healer, the centurion decided to give him a shot.

In Luke 7, the centurion contacted the Jewish elders of Capernaum and asked them to speak to Jesus on his behalf. The centurion, familiar with authority and chain of command, may have believed that it would have been improper for him to go to Jesus directly, bypassing the Jewish elders who were in charge of the Jewish religious life of the city. So it may have been that, in an attempt to approach Jesus in the "proper" way, the centurion requested that the elders go to Jesus and ask him to heal his dying servant.

Please, Please, with a cherry on top!

When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."

Luke 7:4–5

The Jewish elders, however, did more than just take a polite request to Jesus. They "pleaded earnestly" with Jesus, assuring Jesus that the centurion was worthy of his help. They pointed to all the checkmarks the centurion had in the "good things" column. He loved Israel. He treated the Jews well. He had built them a synagogue to worship in.

There is an interesting dynamic at play here. At this point in history, the Roman Empire ruled the land of Israel, and the Roman army was a conquering force, a mortal enemy of the people of Israel. The centurion, as the authority in charge of the Roman soldiers in Capernaum, was one of the most powerful men in the city. He represented Rome, the largest and most powerful empire in the world. Capernaum was almost completely at his mercy. He had the power and authority to make life miserable for the locals, to impose the might of Rome with merciless brutality. But apparently he do not do that. Luke tells us that the elders were fond of the centurion, who loved the people and even built them a place of worship.

The elders spoke highly of the centurion, but his kindness may not have been altruistic. It was common for Roman officials to use measures other than force to keep a conquered people quiet. Uprisings and rebellions were destructive and expensive. If an official could appease the local population by relaxing a few laws or constructing a new building, the ensuing peace was worth the price.

Whether the centurion was a nice guy or not, the elders convinced Jesus to help his dying servant. They went straight to the checklist and pointed out all the "good things" the centurion had done for the Jews. But here's something the Bible tells us about God: He judges people based on what is in their hearts, not on the way things appear on the outside. In 1 Samuel 16:7, we read: "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." The elders tried to convince Jesus that the centurion had earned Jesus' help. They pointed out all the ways the centurion had helped the Jewish people in Capernaum.

The help was real and the elders' appreciation probably was real, but here's another truth the Bible teaches: when we do the right thing for the wrong reason, we don't earn any points with God. God judges our hearts and knows the true motivations for our actions. Ecclesiastes 7:20 puts it this way: "There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins." Unfortunately, even our best deeds are tainted by the sin in our hearts. Isaiah 64:6 says, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." Without God giving us the power to choose good, it is impossible for us to do anything that is truly good. Our "good" deeds are worth as much to God as dirty, stinking rags.

Earlier I said that when it comes to God, our concept of justice — that we get what we deserve — is more right and more wrong than we ever could have imagined. It is right in the sense that God is just. "The Lord loves righteousness and justice" (Psalm 33:5); therefore, ultimately, "the wicked will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 11:21). But we go wrong in two ways. First, we are inconsistent in our desire for God to administer justice. If someone wrongs me, I want God to punish that person. Immediately. But when I'm in the wrong, I'm not so insistent that God punish the wrongdoer. And if I do something I think of as a good thing, I want God to reward me and to do it right now. If he doesn't, I get impatient and start to wonder whether he is just. Second, we give ourselves a lot more credit than we should. We don't think of our righteous acts as filthy rags, do we? We think of them as being pretty special, and we expect to get a little credit, a little pat on the back. The last thing we think is that our good deed was worthless.

Jesus knew all of this. So when the Jewish elders tried to convince him that the centurion was a good man, that he deserved Jesus' help, Jesus knew better. He knew the centurion was not a good man, not in the way God defines "good" — because no one is. The centurion wasn't righteous, because no man is righteous. Maybe the centurion only did those nice things because they lined up with his own selfish interests. Maybe not. Either way, even the centurion's best deeds were like filthy rags to God. The centurion didn't have enough good checkmarks on his list. In fact, he didn't have any good check-marks on his list. Apart from God, none of us have any good checkmarks: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So the centurion didn't deserve Jesus' help. He never could have deserved it. Despite his power, his wealth, his connections, and all the good things he had done for the people of Capernaum, the centurion was morally and spiritually bankrupt, just like the rest of us are without God's help. It should surprise us, then, what Jesus did next.

Amazing Grace

Jesus went with them.

Luke 7:6

Wait a minute! What? Jesus knew that the centurion did not deserve his help, that the centurion's checklist read something like: "Good deeds: 0. Bad deeds: Many." He knew that even the best things the centurion ever did were as valuable as filthy rags to God. He knew that he did not owe the centurion anything. Yet, "Jesus went with them."

What gives? Didn't Jesus understand justice? Didn't he know that people are supposed to get what they deserve? Had he never heard of karma?

Well, Jesus probably never used the word karma, but he knew all about justice. He invented it. In John 1:3, we read that through Jesus "all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." All things. Including justice. Jesus knew what the centurion deserved and didn't deserve, but Jesus also knew that there was something far more important than administering justice in that moment. Jesus knew the two greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30–31).

Jesus could have denied the centurion's request. He did not owe the centurion his help. But in that moment Jesus recognized an opportunity to glorify God by loving his neighbor, the centurion, and to demonstrate to everyone in Capernaum what it looks like to truly "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44). So Jesus went with the Jewish elders.



So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you."

Luke 7:6–7

Airport Lines

Been to an airport lately? It's insane. Everyone is in a gigantic hurry, from the second you pull into the parking lot to the blessed moment when you finally take your seat on the plane. Taxicab drivers, parking-lot attendants, the people at the ticket counter, the agents at the security checkpoints, the pilots ... everyone seems to be in full-scale panic, and many may be in a bad mood. It's like they're all auditioning to be that family from Home Alone — the McCallisters, right? I would have made an amazing Kevin. But I digress.


Excerpted from Sandcastle Kings by Rich Wilkerson Jr.. Copyright © 2015 Rich Wilkerson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword, xiii,
Introduction, xv,
Part 1: The Boss,
Chapter 1: Checklist Children, 3,
Chapter 2: We're Not Worthy, 15,
Chapter 3: How to Amaze Jesus, 33,
Part 2: The Widow,
Chapter 4: A Town Called Nain, 55,
Chapter 5: Don't Cry, 75,
Chapter 6: Get Up, 95,
Part 3: The Preacher,
Chapter 7: John the Doubter, 117,
Chapter 8: Be Blessed, 135,
Chapter 9: Gossip God, 155,
Part 4: The Outcast,
Chapter 10: The Woman with No Name, 173,
Chapter 11: Moving Past Your Past, 189,
Chapter 12: The Parable, 211,
Acknowledgments, 227,
About the Author, 229,

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