Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Strugging with being led

“(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  (2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

(3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

(4) But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

 

Then Jesus was led.  Led.  My Almighty Savior and Lord was led.  He followed someone else.  Jesus was subservient to another person’s will.  He was submissive in walking second in line rather than first in line.  And Jesus lost none of His strength, none of His dignity, Jesus didn’t become less valuable in doing so, and He certainly didn’t become any less God.  These four words are some of my favorite in the Bible because they justify me as a submissive woman and they challenge the world’s long held beliefs on what it means to be submissive.

These four words also challenge me by what follows them.  Jesus did not just submit to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Jesus Christ followed the will of the Holy Spirit.  If you are going to follow anyone, the Holy Spirit should be it.  And that is where I am challenged.  Before I became a Christian I was really good at following various Dominants, or Masters/Mistresses.  I was a fairly obedient submissive.  I know how to follow physical instruction well.  Go here, do this, come back.  I follow baking and cooking instructions perfectly too.  And I am actually really good at putting together furniture from the complicated instruction things you get from stores.  If you gave me directions, or a map, I can find my way anywhere.  I am pretty good at following.

But then I became a Christian and the one thing I was really good at was challenged.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus, and I am to be like Jesus, which means I need to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with a map, an instruction manual, or a Google webpage of ‘How To’s”.  Or at least not a reliable one made by a sane person.  Instead I have to get to know Him.  And that meant recognizing the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Him.  Then I have to begin to recognize His voice among all the other noise going on in my head and heart.  I needed to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit.  At this point I realized this would take time.  This made me realize that Jesus didn’t just come up from being baptized in the Jordan, introduce Himself to the Holy Spirit, and follow Him perfectly immediately.  Jesus had spent years, probably His entire life, getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and personally so that when this day came He could follow the Spirit into the wilderness easily without getting lost.

I know this is true because it says in various other places in Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  They knew one another that well.  Right now I don’t think the Holy Spirit would want to fill me.  I have too much stuff inside of me still that would completely offend Him.  Stuff I am working on with the Holy Spirit to clean up His living quarters inside of me.  So I can be filled and led.  But right now I am not there.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s urging me, or His guiding hand sometimes.  But it is never with the distinction of being led.  Or maybe I am just making up the distinction, but from the world I come from…when you submit to someone….there is a distinct difference between being guided by them….submitting to their urging…and being led.  Being led is like being blindfolded, hands tied behind your back, and completely trusting the other person to get you to the place you are going.  I can’t say I have that sort of trust yet with the Holy Spirit.  I still buck and ask too many questions, and demand to know too many answers.  And I know I don’t know the Holy Spirit well enough, yet, to perfectly hear His leading direction.

With those thoughts in mind I continue forward in my swimming in verse one to read where the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus to the nearest five star hotels.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus on the easiest and safest road.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness knowing Jesus had no tent, no food, no camping gear … nothing.  And what amazes me is that Jesus followed, knowing They were going out into the middle of nowhere with nothing on hand.  I know I wouldn’t have that kind of faith or trust.  I know that if the Holy Spirit began to lead me out into the mountains or the Cascades I would be like…..um no.  I would claim the Holy Spirit’s voice as me losing my mind.  I would turn my back and go home.

Jesus doesn’t do that.  He continues to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into dangerous and unknown territory.  He knows the Holy Spirit well enough to trust Him.  Jesus doesn’t worry about His comfort, or His stomach, or His safety.  He trusts completely, wholly, and without reservation.  Jesus, instead, looks forward to this time to be alone with His Father.  He doesn’t worry about spending one day gorging on all His favorite foods before this fast.  He just follows the Holy Spirit, who leads Him into nowhere land, and says……Hey let’s fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights.  And Jesus is okay with that.  He would rather spend time communing with His Father and with the Holy Spirit…..than eating, than sleeping in a bed, than hanging out and partying with His friends.  God is His priority.  In a way I can’t comprehend.  In a way I admire in awe, and with great humility.  Because this Man, this Jesus, would then come away from His time with God to be tortured, beaten, flogged beyond recognition, and then hung on a cross to bear the weight of my sin, the sin done against me, and all my shame.  And He followed God, and the Holy Spirit there, willingly…again.

Now I believe it is the book of James that says God does not tempt us to sin.  Only Satan, the world, and our flesh tempt us to sin.  But never God.  So I know and trust that completely.  Which makes the end of verse one hard for me to really grasp because the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Verse two tells me the tempting was not the only reason; there was communion with the Father as well, prayer, fasting, and by Jesus’ answers I am going to assume some Old Testament Scripture study occurred during those forty days and forty nights.  And I guess I struggle with this because I have this ‘world’ view that being a Child of God means God will lead me away from pain and suffering and only onto good paths away from bad things.

But if I were to read my Bible I would know differently.  Jesus tells me I will suffer if I follow Him.  Jesus warns me that if I follow the lead of the Holy Spirit I will be attacked by the devil, by people who hate Jesus and therefore hate will hate me, and that the storms will come.  Jesus actually prays for my protection in this world because the only way I will ever follow a safe path led by the Holy Spirit is outside of this world.  Apart from this world when I am in heaven.  And I want to rail against that, denying that claim saying no no no no no no…..my world will be perfectly safe, and a model of a little heaven with a house and a yard, and picture perfect.  The problem is when I do that I buy into the world, I invest into this world and this life and put it into the place of most importance….and I tell my Lord and my God and my Holy Spirit…..sorry you need to lower down on the list because I don’t agree with you.

In this little snippet of Scripture I am shown the right away.  What is wonderful about Jesus is that he doesn’t just tell me the way to do it, but He models this for me.  He doesn’t ask me to do anything He did not do in all His humanity rather than in His divinity.

After forty days and forty nights Jesus is hungry.  It seems like a no brainer statement, but I think a lot of us need to hear it.  I know I need to hear it.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  He rose from the dead.  He is my God.  So in my mind I tend to forget Jesus is also human.  He got hungry.  He needed to sleep.  He was fully human with all the weaknesses of our bodies.  I doubt not eating all those days was something easy for Him.  I am sure He had stomach cramps and pains.  I doubt He got cranky and testy like I would have, but it is a question I plan on asking Him.

So there Jesus was, unbelievably hungry, with the vague possibility of being cranky, and physically weak from lack of nourishment.  The Bible doesn’t tell us He was barely able to move, or that He was crawling, or unable to walk.  Jesus had His mind about Him.  He was standing with the devil on the pinnacle of the Temple.  I have seen people come out of a week long fast and they are almost like zombies.  They are completely drained.  Jesus, however, doesn’t seem to be like that at all and He fasted for forty days.  Which leaves me to believe there is some real truth to the words He speaks to the devil.  So real truth to that Scripture He quotes that I don’t always take advantage of.

First of all the devil challenges Jesus’ identity by saying ‘if’ He is the Son of God, as if Jesus might be unsure of who He is.  The thought seems ridiculous in the context of Jesus..but it is common place in the context of me.  I know I struggle sometimes with the identities the enemy wants to put on me to replace the identity Christ put on me.  I am in Christ.  I belong to Christ.  I am a Child of God.  I belong to Jesus.  I know this, but then little whispers in my ear bring up my past.  They tell me I am a sinner, I am a whore, I am a victim, I have been raped, I have led other people down into the pit with a smile on my face.  Sometimes I give in to those lies.  Sometimes I reach out to put on those identities again and cover up my true identity in Christ.  Jesus is the only identity that counts any more.  All the others have been washed away.

Jesus models how I should respond to this type of badgering.  This type of lie.  He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  It doesn’t affect Him.  Jesus is so secure in His knowledge of who He is He brushes the attempt away easily.  It doesn’t get to Him.  It doesn’t bother Him.  Which I think it is a very important point.  I know that when I respond to an identity being pinned on me it is because there is some small part of me that fears it is true, so I feel I have to defend my true identity.  The truth is I don’t need to defend my true identity.  My identity in Christ it the truth, and nothing can change the truth.  No matter what anyone says, Jesus has a hold of me and nothing will make Him let go.  I need to remember that.

Then Satan tries to get Jesus to perform on command like a dog trick or a pony.  Jesus will turn water into wine.  He will feed thousands upon thousands with a child’s lunchable.  If he wanted to, he could have done what the devil said.  He could have turned the rocks into magnificent feasts to eat.  Jesus doesn’t take orders from satan.  He doesn’t perform on command for His enemy.  He doesn’t need to justify Himself, or validate Himself, to anyone … much less a fallen angel who knows exactly who He is and what He is capable of.  And that is exactly what a lot of non-Christians want me to do.  They want me to perform on command for them so that they might believe or see Christ.  When they really have no interest of seeing Christ at all, they merely want to make me dance.  Jesus doesn’t perform on command for His enemies, for the Pharisees, to make them believers.  Neither should I.

The last part of this section is Jesus’ answer to Satan.  What I love about this is that Jesus answers a non-believers question with Scripture.  He quotes text from Deuteronomy.  Men don’t live on bread alone, they are sustained by the words of God.  And Jesus is proof of that.  Forty days he didn’t have food and he came out of that with His mind intact.  He wasn’t feeble.  He wasn’t falling over.  He wasn’t near death.  Jesus fed His soul, which in turn fed His body.  Which is something that goes against science.  I am, by no means, encouraging people to not eat.  I don’t even think people should go out and fast for forty days and nights without seriously talking to their doctors first.  They aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have that sort of relationship, but it has been done in the past by others.  So it is doable.  But it is just something for me to think about.  I eat three meals a day and what not to feed my body.  Am I reading enough Bible, or doing enough study in God’s word, to feed my soul?  Or is my soul starving?

Back to my original thought, I love that Jesus answers this question with Scripture.  I know a lot of people argue non-Christians with science and everything else.  They do combat on academic worlds and planes.  Jesus quotes Scripture.  The perfect book that God wrote is enough.  People may ridicule me for quoting Scripture to them, but at least I know that the source is good and Holy and right.  The point of teaching I get from this is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture to Satan to convert him.  Jesus knew it was impossible.  He knew there is no forgiveness for Satan and his minions.  Jesus quoted Scripture because it is the truth.  So when I discuss religion with people and my only book source is the Bible….I am not trying to convert them or win the argument.  The only agenda I have in the conversation is sharing the light of Jesus into their life for whatever amount of time they will allow me.  What happens to those seeds afterward is up to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke Scripture because it was true; and not simply because He wanted to be right.  I need to repent of wanting to be right, or to be understood.  I simply need to share what is true and let the Holy Spirit have His way.  Which goes back to that leading thing.

The Good Shepherd

“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(11) I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)

 

Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child.  I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year.  Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened.  It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up.  And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey.  Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.

It was a big deal.  The crowd was huge.  People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks.  And people only had one cloak.  So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste.  This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days.  But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israle!”  The people were pumped and excited.  They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.

Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset.  They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things.  Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it.  So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it.  How much more of a miracle would that be?  That would be awesome!  Creation itself would acknowledge God before man.  So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe.  I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing.  It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.

The rocks are the lesser miracle.  Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ.  The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ!  You are God!  You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation!  My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock.  Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  It was me.  The rocks already know who Christ is.  I am the one who stumbles and has troubles.  I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved.  I am the one in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken.  He picked me up and He is still carrying me home.  And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet.  And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought.  Jesus knew He would die.  He spoke of it more than once.  He spoke of it here.   He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock.  But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him.  Sheep like me.  Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord.  He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up.  All because the Father commanded Him.  Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.

So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street.  People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary.  I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him.  I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless.  I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day.  I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people.  I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.

I don’t know how He did it.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep.  On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep.  We do know His voice.  He didn’t lie about that.  I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it.  But I did know it when I heard it.  Jesus is still searching.  I was still found.  I am still being carried.  I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.

And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den.  Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf.  Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation.  He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies.  Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot.  Do your worst.  I dare you.  I can take it.

And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out.  Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out?  Would Christ fight back?  So the attack began, slowly at first.  But it built, and as it built it became more brutal.  Jesus took it.  He stood there.  He didn’t lash out.  He didn’t defend Himself.  He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels.  He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence.  He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death.  And the wolf danced away, believing he had won.  That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.

Three days later the stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  And Jesus was alive.  And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up.  And Jesus is the one who gave it back.  That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well.  So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away.  Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.

You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile.  Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ.  I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today.  There are a lot of first thoughts for me today.  But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He knows my name, and I know His voice