The current climate of political rancor in the USA has to be as bad as it has ever been. Accusations fly in every direction, and today’s leading voice may be tomorrow’s public goat for political exile – deservedly or not. Who will prevail in the end? With whom do you want to be identified?
As we saw yesterday, the divide between Jesus and the Pharisees was becoming more pronounced. The crowds, though still numbering in the thousands, were more often than not just curiosity seekers. They would not stick with Jesus to the end and be identified with him.
The time would come where it would be safer to not be identified with Jesus. The disciples needed to be prepared for this time. And as we know, they would not stand well in the darkest moments, though ultimately 11 of the 12 would go on to be effective witnesses near and far.
Being identified with Jesus was – both for them, and even for us – never going to be a popular stance with the masses of people. It could be fearful, for sure. And Jesus reminds the disciples to not fear human authorities who could even hold the power of capital punishment; but rather, they should have greater respect for the more powerful God who controls eternal punishment.
Even so, because of their relationship with God, their fear and respect was under the greater umbrella of God’s love and care. His love for them was the ultimate security – illustrated by being a God who cares even about the cheapest commodity of five sparrows who sold for 1/16 of a day’s wages. Even the number of hairs on their heads were known to God. So be confident; don’t fear.
The ones who should be fearful are the Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Spirit (by attributing the genuine work of Christ to the power of Satan). Even those who denied Christ but later repented (such as Jesus’ earthly brothers) would be forgiven, but there was no hope for the Pharisees. This passage likely indicates that there was a work of the Spirit in them to convict them of the truth of Jesus as Messiah, yet even with that they rejected him.
Even when everything went poorly (humanly speaking as the disciples would be brought before human authorities for condemnation), the Holy Spirit would be with them and help them know how to respond in such a contingency.
It is not our natural joy or inclination to welcome being in the minority, particularly when our safety or security is threatened by our convictions. Yet this has been the common condition of God’s people throughout all of time. This is not something to fear. When keeping the larger, eternal picture in mind, there is no harm that can truly befall us. Even the worst thing that can happen is, in the bigger picture, the best thing that can happen. There is health in reminding ourselves of this truth on a regular basis, as we cannot know what all of the days of our lives may bring.
Luke 12:1 – Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Your comment prompted me to think of a few scriptures.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians acknowledged that his pre-Christian view of Christ was flawed.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16 NIV) And (to save myself a few moments) I’ll just paraphrase a few other scriptures regarding Paul’s conversion and how God worked earlier with him.
It appears that God was trying to prompt Paul earlier to follow Jesus (for in some translations when Jesus finally revealed himself to Paul in a powerful way he asked him something like “How long will you kick against the goads?” Some translations say “sticks” or “pricks” if I remember correctly).
Why then did God overlook Paul’s very grave error? In Galatians somewhere, if I remember correctly, Paul wrote that “God had mercy on me because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
So regarding what the Pharisees were saying and doing, people can certainly go astray for a number of reasons. In one of the letters to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Judge nothing before the appointed time.”
It is likely or possible that some of the Pharisees who attacked Jesus may have been aware that Jesus was being used by God, yet perhaps some of them saw an opportunity to capitalize for selfish reasons on putting forth a wicked argument to oppose Jesus, hoping to gain some personal higher status in the group.
A part of the scripture above, “everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven” isn’t one that many people in the evangelical movement give that much attention to.
However, when Jesus is properly understood, our reaction to Jesus (=) is our reaction to God and his heart. We reject Jesus then we are rejecting the Father. But like Saul of Tarsus, not everyone who opposes Jesus has a clear understanding of what they are doing.
We are called to clearly represent Jesus in our life. By doing so we become his witnesses.
Regarding other points you made today. In 1 Timothy 5:22 we are warned “do not share in the sins of others.” I’m bringing that up, because if we are to represent Jesus, then we need to understand how this applies in the political realm. Paul warned Timothy about getting too tightly bound up with any religious figure, elder or whatever, who might bring disgrace on Jesus. There is a tendency in some religious circles to back their sinful and wayward religious leaders even when sins are evident. Paul warned against doing that. I’m expanding that point, to remind people that in the political realm we also should be on guard against being swept in the hate and acrimony of politics. Our kingdom is ultimately in another place. It’s rules are higher and better (Love God and love one another) and its rewards are eternal and unimaginably positive.
One of my gravest political concerns over the long term is that it is becoming increasingly popular to blame a foreign country for everything. While Jesus asked, “Why do you notice the speck in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” it is customary to judge a another nation against a standard that this country doesn’t even make a pretense of following.
Can we apply that principle taught by Jesus to our political stances? Is it right or good to “take the plank out” of our own eye on the national realm? Or do the principles Jesus taught somehow not apply to international relations? Should we be encouraging hostility to another country when our country engages in an alleged wrong behavior far more frequently and in orders of magnitude greater power and frequency?
Jesus wished he could have helped Jerusalem like a hen cares for her chicks. He could not. Similarly since the people of Jerusalem could not or would not follow Jesus teachings, (simple things like carrying a burden an extra mile …) they ended up instead fomenting unnecessary strife with the Romans which led to their nation being dismantled.
We find it easier to build missile systems and expensive defense arrangements than to create areas of opportunities and ways to work together with different nations. I’m not trying to make a political point … but rather like Jesus seeing ahead to the inevitable fall of Jerusalem, I see not a shred of decency in how … (I’m not trying to be negative … but there will be repercussions for us failing to apply the teachings of Jesus collectively.)
The disaster and punishment that may hit this country we live in — it could very well be an order of magnitude greater than the disaster described in the book of Lamentations.
Another scripture and principle you raised was that of “fear.”
Knowing that God is ultimately for us, (specifically as we are for Him) we can jettison cowardice.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death– that is, the devil–
and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
(Heb. 2:14-15 NIV)
From a naturalistic point of view, we don’t often want to make the ultimate sacrifice. And when we start giving in to cowardice we become more and more enslaved by it.
Understanding God gives us a reason to remain steadfast according to his purpose. We are God’s instrument and he wants us to use wisdom as to how to best accomplish his will. Due to the times not requiring a discourse on self-sacrifice I’m not going to bother getting too deep on this topic. Still, knowing that Jesus made great efforts and great sacrifice on our behalf gives us hope and encouragement to “give our all” in service to him in return.
Note: this comment of mine contains a few thoughts … thoughts about the future. No one knows the future. Just like people warn about earthquakes and possible disasters … but don’t know when they might come … we too don’t know about the future. I’m not recommending people live in fear, but rather that we live seriously and soberly recognizing that God is still in control and also that we are not doing a very good job of representing Him nor of following the instructions that Jesus laid out for us.
We can give thanks for his mercy … but let us also all practice his mercy.