There are two kinds of people. There always have been. They work in factories, teach in schools, serve in the military, fly airplanes, operate on people, serve in government and occupy office in high-rise building in the center of New York. Many even go to church.
One group does only what is required of them. They are constantly seeking ways, very cleaver ways to minimize their output and do the very least possible to get by undiscovered. That thought can be troublesome if you are a patient!
They know about Jesus’ parable of the second mile but they consider that as something silly. Some are just lazy but for most being a slacker is the clever way to conduct business. They call themselves dexterous or inventive but the problem is more sever than simple nouns can disguise. They conclude it a victory if they can outsmart you by getting the most from giving the least effort.
We all know them and perhaps are even one of them.
Then there are the others. These are the “slack takers!” Something drives them to the head of the pack. Things half done, promises un-kept, tasks unfinished gnaw at them relentlessly. These folk are not content with giving God the minimum. They are “maximum” people!
And so enters Epaphroditus, longtime friend and co-worker with the Apostle Paul. Here is a man who bears no fancy titles of distinction. He’s not in this race for the “perks.” He’s in it for something far more lasting. Paul calls him “brother,” “fellow worker,” “fellow soldier,” “messenger” and “minister of Paul’s needs.” What a job description! I doubt that any one in today’s modern church would have signed up for his job. We want the title! We want the respect and recognition, but not so for Epaphroditus. Yet it is crystal clear that the significance of his life is far deeper than any title of esteem could convey. But one title that could be given him is he was a “slack taker!”
Paul wrote it like this, “Because he came close to death for the work of Christ risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service towards me…” ()
The church in Philippi loved Paul but as in the case in many places their love was more easily talked about than shown. They said all the right things but their actions were different. They fell slack and so emerges the SLACK TAKER!
With personal disregard Epaphroditus fills the gap left in their service. Unknown, working while sick, never giving up and risking his very life Epaphroditus set the bar high for all future “slack takers.”
The price he paid was not to attain the applause of men either. These people in Philippi would have never known his sacrifice had Paul not told them. But as it is with those fearless doers his actions spoke loudly! Loud enough to be recorded in the Bible for all eternity!
Things have changed little since then. Today we still see them both. My question is…
WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (ESV)
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘ You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’“
“In those days…” They were without a doubt days that would change history. Calendars would determine their dates by the arrival of this man. Here another figure joins John at center stage but this man is the One of whom John spoke, the One whose sandals were more honorable than the prophet’s reputation.
Jesus leaves home. Few outside his immediate family have a clue to his future. Jesus has grown to become a man working hard in his father’s workshop. Hands roughened by years of working with wood are now destined to heal the sick, comfort the hurting and overturn man’s carnal ambitions. All his years at home were in preparation for a brief three and one half year ministry. Our culture demands instant results and often we demand them from unqualified men but one must ask, “What qualifies men to lead?” As we look to the Prime Example in Jesus it would seem quite natural for God to take His time in carefully molding His will and character into the lives of those who bear His name. Jesus was at it were, hidden for thirty years while God was preparing both His Son and those who would receive Him. Growth takes time, even for Jesus!
The day comes when he leaves his family and is guided to a river. He stands in line with families, children, aunts and uncles waiting to enter the waters. Others don’t recognize him but then it’s his turn. John looks towards the next candidate and recognizes his cousin. The Baptist knew what others did not. This was no ordinary man and certainly one that needed no repentance. Mathew describes the moment with a sense of hesitance on behalf of John but John will agree to Jesus’ request.
I wonder what went through John’s mind and his heart as he lowered his cousin into those gentle currents. Questions undoubtedly raced through his mind when suddenly the clouds began moving rapidly as though they were being torn apart by an invisible hand. Looking up it seemed Jesus could peer beyond the physical and see that innumerable host of angels gazing on as the Lamb of God fulfilled all righteousness. In plain view of those observing the Holy Spirit descended like a gently dove upon him. And then suddenly The Father spoke from heaven. His words were heard by all but understood by only a few. Perhaps some thought it was thunder but Jesus heard them clearly. What other men mistake as something of nature those who have ears to hear walk away with understanding. The Portal between heaven and earth literally stood before John!
Mathew the tax collector records it in the following way. “ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But Mark puts it more personal by saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Baptist may have seen the same thing but the message from heaven was not so much for others as it was for Jesus himself. One must consider that if YHWH would give such a clear testimony of Jesus’ sonship what more will He do to assure you that you are His?
The entrance and continuance for the believer in the Kingdom of God is not something that must be guessed for or wondered about. Jesus is fully capable of presenting Himself with such clarity that doubt is overcome by knowing. A voice may not break forth from heaven or a dove lite on your shoulder but that chest-pounding confirmation of the Holy Spirit will arrest your heart and settle you into the absolute confidence that you are his!
His baptism will be his inauguration into his work.
Messiah has come!
Now it begins!
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel ‘s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
“John!” Wam! Bam! Front and center! The mystical John simply appears. Other Gospel writers give us a little history about this “enigmatic man” but Mark doesn’t waste time on things like lineage, or the family tree. For Mark it is “get on with the story.”
Times had been strange indeed for Israel. Having another country dominate over them was not to their liking. There were revolts, uprisings and of course all the intrigue and politics of trying to appease the occupying force. But people lived pretty much in a normal system. Families knew one another; kids played together and teenage boys dated the girl down the street. Yet, out of this somewhat normality, there appears a man who, well, breaks the mold!
The Prophet is not dressed in linen nor does he carry phylacteries on his forehead or arm. His unusual dress, a skin tunic and a leather belt easily identify him in the crowd. One would suppose that that alone was enough to make the man stand out, but there was something else. His message. It was so off the norm. He spoke like no one else using wild animations, launching words that became like arrows convicting even the most hardened hearts. Those who listened could not listen with indifference. There was no yawning in his crowd, no eyeballing the girls, just a people riveted on what they saw and what they heard.
Such is the nature of the Prophet’s message.
His pulpit was a tree stump; his audience was composed of a wide variety of people who came out to the desert to get a look at the latest “Headline.” John’s message was focused on one word REPENT! A sense of urgency ignited his words and the people who heard him were caught in this current that would eventually lead to the Lamb of God.
Oh the people came. From all over Judea and Jerusalem the news had spread and people planned their vacations not to go to the beach but rather go to the desert. John’s message offered hope, it offered a future that seemed beyond imagination and… it offered a new King.
The river Jordan was the backdrop for this “Rural Revival” as there was ample water to baptize the vast throng of people. Some stood on the shore watching and wondering while others joined the long line of men and women, boys and girls, who entered the waters to be baptized and confess their sins. One would suppose that tears mingled with the waters of Jordan as sinners for the first time ever could finally feel clean. As they approached he might have taken them in his arms and dipped them into the waters and upon rising he would say something very strange: “I have baptized you with water but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
“What is this?” they wondered. “We have never heard of such a thing.” But they would and things would never be the same again.
John was not a master of gimmicks or technique. There was no stage with multicolored lights or sound equipment that could make one heard all the way to Jericho. There was just a man who embodied a message that was more than mere words spoken. His message was demonstrated and what it said was, “I am nothing in comparison to the One who is coming!”
John had that strange itch, knowing that Jesus was on his way!
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)
Over the past several months I have been immensely enriched by taking a hand in hand journey with Peter and Mark. My adventure in Mark’s Gospel has drawn me into the scenes, the smells and the sounds of a time in the past and has enlivened my senses to a Jesus who seems to come out of the pages.
I will begin to post my journey here on “Thoughts From My Moleskine” and I want to invite you to come with me, eat with me, feast with me. This is not a technical work as much as it is a story, one that calls us to enter into.
Now… we begin.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
Beginnings start at the beginning and Mark sets in motion the story, not just any story but a story that has impacted all of creation and shall continue to do so for all eternity. This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is filled with amazing joy and deep pathos. There are tears of profound saddness and shouts of Hallelujah, babies, demon possessed, prostitutes, raging seas, jealous followers, cruel death and an empty tomb. But our narration does not begin in a manger. It begins with the pen of an aged Prophet, seven hundred and fifty years earlier who is drawn into the far distant future.
Sitting at his desk Isaiah is arrested by the Holy Spirit. This is no strange thing for this man. It is not a sudden fit nor is it a trance but rather a beckoning to come aside and listen. He is accustomed to such special moments, accustomed but never comfortable with them. He sits attentive smothered with great respect and a sense of awe. His wife a prophetess in her own right understood the things he saw and heard and even his sons were named to reinforce the prophetic narrative of Judah, but this didn’t make anything better for his kinsmen. The enemies of Judah would soon surround her and the life span of her walls seemed numbered.
Smoke from Babylonian campfires would one day soon fill the nostrils of frightened Jews. It was a bleak time but it belonged to YHWH and he was about to speak something that men would hardly believe. It is during this difficult season that God points to a future that seems like a pipe dream to those who hear it. In the darkness of men’s pessimism the Holy Spirit interjects Himself and sounds forth a different narrative, one that contradicts the story on the ground.
Prophets do that! They see an alternative and then against all odds proclaim it with an assurance that causes the “brokers of power” unavoidable tension.
Mark sets the stage with a quote from Malachi and then concludes with a passage from Isaiah’s fortieth chapter. The prophetic announcement bursts forth like a sonic boom with a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.” He uses words like ‘messenger,’ ‘voice,’ ‘crying,’ and ‘wilderness.’ This is no political machine or a new conqueror about to come to the forefront appearing like the proverbial knight in shining armor. It is herald by a single man, a man who would be called the last and the greatest of all the prophets. It is the urgent disclosure that someone is coming and you’d better get ready!
Imagine it. Isaiah was telling people not yet born to set their house in order and brace themselves for the dawning of a new era!
This is where Mark begins!
1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” (ESV)
Isaiah was not your average card carrying prophet of the times. His message flew towards the hearts of Israel like keen edged arrows. They were sharpened with anointing and launched with zeal, yet, these words were often scorned and ridiculed but in time they would proven to be frightfully true. Then it would be too late.
From his quill he worded divine phrases that originated far from his desk.
“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and writers who keep writing oppression to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right; that widows may be their spoil and that they may make the fatherless their prey. “
Israel had left her moorings in YHWH. What had begun as a weak tribe that cared for its members and took care of each other had become a metropolis of unfettered greed and secularism. She had slowly but very consistently wandered from the paths of His righteousness to the point that recovery was impossible. Legislators composed laws that would oppress the people and steal their lands through a form of “Eminent Domain.” The powerful preyed on the widow, a signal of the poor, and would abuse the worker with unjust wages.
The dearth of genuine pursuit of God resulted in an internal weakness that formed a kind of “imperial rot” among this once noble nation. The Power that once guided them through impossible difficulties would now turn against them and the only defense they had for that was DENIAL! “YHWH would never turn on his people, we have the temple! We have the law. We are the chosen ones.” And so denial was well entrenched in the hallowed halls of politics and religion.
But the prophet is about to shatter their illusion. An army is coming from the north that will undo everything achieved over the past three hundred years. The history of their great leader David and the magnificence of Solomon’s empire will be swept away by a cruel and vicious people who will show no mercy but most surprisingly of all, they will be a people equipped and sent by YHWH himself.
“Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him and against the people of my wrath I command him…”
Here is what seems a strange thing indeed – God enforces Israel’s enemies to come up against her and to conqueror her and all with the strength provided her by YHWH. Assyria will come and repay for what Israel herself is guilty of; she will take the spoil, seize the plunder and tread down the residue.
This ambition does not come from Assyria herself but rather YHWH births it. He is behind the scenes prodding Assyria to come to Israel to render His judgment.
But in Assyria’s’ victory he is destined to become proud and arrogant, assuming falsely that he was the one who did this great feat. He boasts that his own hand has gotten him the great victory and YHWH will punish the “Speech of the arrogant heart.” .
The prophet foresees that when God has finished his will on Mount Zion having used Assyria to accomplish his will, he then will punish the arrogant heart and the boastful look of the king of Assyria. He too will be judged.
Now give close attention to the following!
The United States in a similar way has been used to right injustice, tear down evil regimens, topple ruthless dictators, liberate the oppressed and in so doing build an accord with those rescued countries for profit and gain.
But it would seem that our victories have been annulled by our arrogance. We have forsaken God, only calling on him when we want a divine endorsement for our conquest or to protect our cherished barns of riches, which one could call our economy. Our alliances with long-term allies are deteriorating, as they feel increasingly used by the Great Eagle.
God is not just forgotten in our country but rather he is wholeheartedly rejected. We scorn him and make light of him. We do not consider nor declare that it was He who used us to topple evil.
Now, we have become that evil! Everything is imploding around us. Government cannot govern. Our Chief Executive appears to play more than lead. The economy is driven by greed and not helping others. Our enemies are attacking from all sides and our borders are no longer borders but rather open gates.
The moral fabric is in a state of rapid extinction as this once great nation proudly declares, “By the strength of my hands I have done it.”
But the ax has no right to boast against the one who uses it. This “imperial swagger” opens the way for a wasting sickness among his stout warriors and a consuming fire beneath the glory that was once shone by her citizens
Assyria had a divine role in the scene of Israel’s history – but then the powerful one committed national suicide by boasting that it was from himself that the victory came.
America could learn from Assyria… but she will not.
10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, 2 to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! 3 What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? 4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.
5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! 6 Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7 But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; 8 for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? 9 Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? 10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?”
12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
“By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. 14 My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”
15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! 16 Therefore the Lord God of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. 17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. 18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. 19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down. (ESV)
10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, 2 to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! (ESV)
5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! 6 Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. (ESV)
12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (ESV)
Here in Mexico we live with basically two seasons, dry and wet. On the one hand there is apocalyptic drought while on the other there is constant rain, flooding and travel detours. But somewhere between these two extremes for a brief few months we live in the “moderate middle.” This is when the flowers are at full bloom, the temperature very pleasant, the birds are happy, the grass green and the sky clear. There is a feeling that makes one think, “This is it.” The days become almost idyllic. During these times if a cloud comes over the Lake one would think it is an event! But…. “Perfection” can be boring! After awhile we start looking for the smell of rain or, writing our names on the back windows of our cars in the dust.
The point I want to make here is that life is not one continuing straight line of tranquility or struggle. It is a wonderful mixture of both high and low moments, gains and losses, joy and sadness. To put it succinctly, life is seasonal! We enter one while leaving another but it seems we are always in transition: fixed towards the goal but ever changing as we approach it.
I am changing! You are changing! Does that scare you? Would we prefer to remain the same and know what we are dealing with, or would we take the risk to change and discover the next season with all its adventure?
It would seem to me that the only danger we face is to stop the journey, make camp, and put down roots where we are. I think then we would discover what real prison is.
But these seasonal changes inserted into life by Him are not repetitions of the past. They are paths to newness, a higher communion, a stronger divine hug. They are the discovery of what did not serve me in the days behind and an entrance into an “other life.”
Take my hand O Lord. Let’s do this together!
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, of the Lord upholds his hand!”
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. (ESV)
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Self-imposed struggle has become an apostrophe, a footnote of sorts in this modern age of the church. We strive to reduce our efforts by diligently searching the easiest way to a goal or by using purchasing power to acquire a lifestyle of relative ease and comfort. Yet such weak pursuits give evidence all the more for our need for self-imposed struggle.
Paul does not seem to be focusing mainly on eating less or planning more exercise. He is pointing to the voluntary negation of entitlement, that laying aside what is lawfully his for the better good of others.
It is a rare thing indeed to see someone put aside his privilege in this day of acquisition and consumerism for the sake of someone else.
Perhaps the times cry out once again for such strange people!
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (ESV)
He is not a champion, no ribbons, no medals, but he occupies a place above multitudes because he is mine. He came to us by way of the Veterinarian. Living in the streets of Guadalajara he was hit by a car and crawled into a friend’s restaurant broken, skinny afraid and alone.
His family was never found so he came to us and became a “Whitener.” Meals were welcomed but such abundance was hardly known. You could tell by his protruding ribs.
He walked around those first few days in a daze. Not really knowing who we were, cautious of the other dogs (who welcomed him to their bowl) he slowly began to adjust. Through the process he latched on particularly to me. He would walk with us up the mountain and find his place at my feet. But feet were not enough for him. He soon found what he was looking for, a lap.
Now he owns it.
Bud is constantly by my side. He is there when I wake up and when I go to bed. When we walk the mountain, Mandy, our Standard Poodle, will lead the way but Bud lags behind walking always by my side. The speed of the climb is not determined by Mandy but rather by his master.
When it comes time for a bath he grudgingly submits but when it is all over the play begins. Nothing feels so good as being clean!
There were times when my work would cause me to be gone sometimes for weeks and weeks. But he never despaired. Coming home after a long absence I would see his head outlined against the dark room peering out the window like he never left the whole time. His head would begin to sway as his tail danced! It looked like he was grinning. The door opens and I am greeted by pure joy!
Bud was not bought in a store or from a breeder, he was found and he seems to know it. Always thankful for the slightest attention he lives for one thing, me!
My friend has taught me much. For many of us there were no accolades in our past to warrant being chosen. Instead, for most of us we came by way of the “Veterinarian,” broken, malnourished, afraid and abandoned. Colliding with cruelty we found refuge by a stranger who took us in. There were others that we found different from ourselves but they shared their “bowl” with us. We had become one of them.
In this new environment it was evident that something mysterious had happened to us. We didn’t know what it was called but we knew it was real. Things were different. But most of all, the one thing that stood above all the rest was this “Stranger” who took me in. We began to hear his voice. His smell became familiar. His spanking was hard but so were his hugs.
At times we could not find Him. Long periods of absence were dark times but hope kept us at the window. There was no interest in the “bowl” or in the fun of “walking the mountain.” All that mattered was “When will I see Him again?” And then…. From the dark street emerges the One I love! Our hearts skipped a beat and we could hardly wait for the door to open.
In He walks. Majestic, filled with hugs and kisses we sit without formality rolling on the carpet. The long wait is over. He is here!
It is on the lap where His hands just rest upon you, were you kiss them. It is there where you smell His breath, hear his breathing and stare at His face.
Perceptions are quirky things. They are conclusions formed through our personal experiences – history – prejudices – fears – knowledge and hopes.
Sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are not. Nevertheless these perceptions are the end results of a unique filtering system that each one of us has, even Thomas!
The scene. Jesus has been told that his friend Lazarus is dead. He deliberately waits two more days before starting out to Bethany. Earlier in the week Jesus and his disciples had escaped out the hands of an angry mob that tired to arrest him and kill him. The event of the angry riot is still fresh on everyone’s mind. The “mob” is an unpredictable thing. It can be a passive assemblage of people and then turn into a dangerous weapon within minutes. The disciples had seen its fury before and now Jesus says, “We’re going back!”
When Jesus speaks there is no discussion, no arguments to change the Master’s mind. They know by now that He is not following the “whims” of man or desires of His own but rather His steps are to fulfill the will of His Father.
Vs. 16, “Then Thomas called the twin said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go that we might die with Him.”
His mind filters the Master’s command and all he sees is the crowd’s anger, Jesus bent on returning and a funeral for thirteen men.
But Thomas has yet to learn that Jesus is no ordinary man.
Perhaps he considers, “Who is this Lazarus fellow that would put us and our Master at such high risk? Is this man worth dying for?”
But perceptions as we mentioned earlier can be flawed. Jesus commands His death. He will give His life at the right time but not now!
Thomas doesn’t understand and neither do we.
Jesus goes back to the danger of the crowd to raise the dead not be the dead!
A whole different perspective has been discovered. The filter systems are unreliable.
This all so different!
This is no ordinary man!
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (ESV)
Zechariah is commissioned to prophesy to the over 40,000 people who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and its city after 70 years in Babylon. Other prophets were used to encourage the weak to be strong and finish the task of rebuilding but it seems Zechariah’s task was different. His message was one aimed at the heart more than the hands.
The people are hard at work. They have left everything to come back to their homeland; there is sweat, aching muscles and daily challenges, not to mention being surrounded by enemies that want to put a stop to the work. Here enters Zechariah with a different word.
“Return to me … that I may return to you.” () I can imagine the people wagging their heads thinking, “What! We have left it all to return to the promise land and you still want more?”
It appears that Zechariah saw something that we often miss. Namely, you can be about the work and still do it alone! The temple was a showcase of sorts, evidence of a people who had been hand picked by God for a distinct purpose, but Zechariah would not let that purpose be substituted by a lesser work. Their purpose in all of their travels, rebuilding and hardships was to return to YHWH! The message was clear, this task speaks of rebuilding, not one of stones but of the heart. It is the rebirth of a nation that has been given a second chance.
But these who hear his voice are not the only ones who will return. There are others in distant lands that will hear the “Whistle” and come home, much like the prodigal son. Yet, their return will not be easy.
“ And he will pass through the sea of distress and strike the waves in the sea.”
In other words, coming home won’t be easy! It never is.
My Prodigal child, do you think that that the sea will part, the devil applaud and all your old friends admire your response to the “Whistle?” Be certain, they will not! You have sailed these waters before but now they are unkind, harsh, and dangerous. The prophet called it the “Sea of Distress.” But the One who whistles will not leave you floundering like a ship wrecked sailor in the storm. You WILL PASS THROUGH and you will learn to STRIKE THE WAVES and arrive to your appointed destiny!
There you will learn to swim in the “High Seas,” not in a child’s placid swimming pool.
Peter could have something to say about that!
Those at “Home” are waiting for you!
3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (ESV)
10:1 Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field. (ESV)