As April opens up and Easter is only a few short weeks away, I felt it appropriate to look at the 'final opening' of those last days of Jesus (His last days and some of his teachings/prayers are what I plan to draw out here each Wednesday this month). The book of John is probably my favorite Gospel, something in "the disciple Jesus loved"'s wording strikes a beautiful chord with me. Using keen Bible deduction, seeing the repetitions and order of statements, really seem to nail at the heart of Christ and, knowing that this powerful book was written to show WHO He really was and his Godship, seems to support that idea further.(ref)
Armed with this understanding, I dug into John 12 today, The Triumphal Entry of Jesus on what we now celebrate as "Palm Sunday"
Crowds were there.
The Pharisees were there.
The crowds were excited to see this man who was rumored to have called people out of the grave... one person in particular, which the Pharisees sought to have killed along with Jesus. Why? Because he, Lazarus, the once-dead-man now walking, was a living testimony of the power and might of God through Jesus.
Jesus himself represented a threat to the power and might of the Pharisees. They didn't like that. They wanted to retain their good standing and they knew Jesus' very existence jeopardized years of posturing. Too bad some of these hadn't taken in the Sermon on the Mount:
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted t the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money [or possessions]."
Too bad, also, it didn't sink in with them that you can't kill God! However, it was good for us... it was planned for us. Without the death of an innocent lamb, none of us would know hope for the future. So we will give the Pharisees a break... they were just fulfilling God's grand plan and for that, we can praise Him!
However, I digress... there is sooooo much to draw out of this amazing chapter but the ONE thing I wanted to point our attention to today is this repeated theme:
So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd [presumably a different one in Jerusalem/Bethany area] went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, "you see that you are gaining nothing.
Look, the world has gone after him."
(Emphasis added in each)
Why were alllllll these people following? What was making the Pharisees sooooooo mad about them? The perpetuation of Truth. Here is the formula:
See Jesus speak/work + tell of Jesus' words/work = MORE people drawn to Jesus
But this truly is NOT an addition problem... it is a multiplication one because people weren't drawn by onesies and twosies... nope, CROWDS flocked.
The power of witnessing.
As Christians we do not need to bully or cajole, we just need to talk and live. It's how it was done and now, 2000 years later, this same approach is still what God uses to draw new believers. And, still, to this day, when you go to oppressed or secluded cultures where the Light has never been shared before, they come in droves just at the Word.
Perhaps, in our own culture, many have grown numb to this powerfully trans-formative Truth in the din of so many other ideas... particularly the lie of self-actualization, a concept completely contradictory to the selfLESS living Christ embodied.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life looses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am there will be my servant also.
The believers who witnessed and flocked and witnessed and flocked... followed Jesus. Not self, not ambitions, not the world... no, they followed Jesus. Two groups of people are drawn out at this point: Those who followed outwardly... and those who followed inwardly...
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
If you stand by the precepts of Christ are you afraid to loose friends? Family members? Position? Job? Glory? Recognition? Credibility? Acceptance? When these fears strike, we must remember, they aren't new, but rather, they were held by some very high ranking officials even in Jesus' time. Is He OK with that?
The whole "light under a bushel" comes to mind. So does every preceding verse to the ones just mentioned... how were crowds drawn? By witness. But some loved their life more. Whoever loves his life looses it... you can't love your own life more than that which Christ wants to give you.
So what if you loose friends, family, position, job, glory, recognition, credibility or acceptance. YES, these people and things mean something... they can mean everything, BUT, how many countries have seen faith BOOM because of the dedicated witness of those who were persecuted for the faith? Maybe we aren't in China or the Muslim controlled Middle-Eastern and African countries... but we are still in a battle for souls and how do hostages know where safety is if we aren't willing to stand in the battlefield and point the way, even if it means we get hit with flying arrows?
Digressing doesn't draw.
Bending when pushed, lake grass laying aside as it is trampled, quiets Truth.
STANDING, speaking, believing with our WHOLE heart in the face of all that seeks to kill and destroy... THAT is where people flock and are drawn. The message? "Wow, that must be something amazing if she is willing to stand that firm!"
And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment -- what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore I say as the Father has told me."
If we are called to be like Christ, and Christ did as the Father told Him, shouldn't we follow suit?
This Resurrection season, I pray we may meditate on the gravity of what has been done for us... and that we might let it permeate every crevice of our being to produce transformation which is ready, willing, and actively pursuing opportunity to SHARE, that the roll-call of the faithful might multiply because we stood!
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