Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 5 – Did I sit on the sidelines while the playing field burned? – by Rev. Bob Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
Be Careful What You Ask For
By Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Jesus was known to be a peripatetic rabbi, in other words, He was a Teacher who walked around and taught His disciples using natural examples to explain spiritual truths.
For example, while walking and a flock of birds flies over Jesus may have pointed up at them and said “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, an yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:26). However, during this walk to Jerusalem Jesus was not speaking in Parables. He did not use any illustrations such as Jonah (Matthew 12:40) or tearing down the temple (John 2:19) told them as plainly as possible, so that they would not misconstrue what He was saying, as they were apt to do at times. He told them, point blank” “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise. “ Jesus prophesied to them exactly what would occur and in what order it would transpire.
Let’s not gloss over what Jesus has revealed. First, He said that He will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. This means someone close to Him, someone who, until the betrayal was considered a “friend” will sell Him out to His enemies. Secondly, He will be condemned to death by these religious leaders. Then He will be handed over to the Gentiles, which in and of itself was spiritually defiling.
These Gentiles will (1) MOCK JESUS, (2) SPIT ON JESUS, (3) FLOG JESUS and (4) KILL JESUS. Three days later Jesus prophesies that He will rise from the grave.
Notice that Jesus does not announce this forthcoming reality to all the people following Him, He took the 12 aside, his closest disciples and told them. The 12 had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry. These are men who had literally left everything to follow Jesus. Men who had heard the demon cry out “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
You would think that after making such a declaration that His closest disciples would offer some compassion towards their Master considering His fate. Show some concern over what Jesus was surely facing just a couple short miles up the road they were walking on. At least begin to weep and be sorrowful regarding the betrayal, humiliation and torture soon to come. After all, these are His closest ministry associates. Remember Jesus had the “3,” then the “12,” and then the “70.” Here He was speaking to the 12. If anyone should have been devastated by His words, surely it would be these men.
But no. In fact, it seems as though Jesus’ words have sailed right over their heads!
As soon as Jesus is done explaining His forthcoming passion to them, 2 of His inner circle, 2 of His dearest friends, the son of thunder step up and ask Jesus to “do for us whatever we ask.” There was no doubt they believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah of Israel. And since they were on the road to Jerusalem they expected His Messianic glory to be revealed there they wanted to secure for themselves a prominent place in the about-to-be-realized kingdom. Sure they were in Jesus’ inner-circle now, but who knows about the future kingdom; they did not want anyone getting ahead of them in power and authority.
Jesus looks from one brother to the other and says “what is it you want Me to do?” Immediately they speak up and ask “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” They were asking for nothing less than the preeminent place of honor that any human could possibly ask for or receive.
They also could not have asked for anything more self-serving than that either. They did not hear anything Jesus said about His passion all they wanted was for Him to quit talking long enough so they could make their request to Him.
Aren’t we so often like James and John? Aren’t we more concerned with uplifting ourselves in the eyes of God showing Him how “righteous” we are and showing others how “pious” we are versus being focused on God’s plan?
James & John wanted GLORY, they could not hear the message of the forthcoming CROSS. Nobody wants the CROSS but everybody wants the CROWN.
Suffering for Jesus? Are you nuts? As Kenneth Copeland has said many times “He suffered in my place, He did the suffering so I do not have to.” That is the Word of Faith cult and much of American Evangelicalism in a nutshell. The only problem with this belief is that it is unbiblical! Word of faith & American Evangelicalism’s focus on the theology of glory denies plain biblical teachings such as:
Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” TROUBLE, HARDSHIP, PERSECUTION, FAMINE, NAKEDNESS, DANGER, SWORD—sounds more like the THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS doesn’t it.
What about 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.” Living for Jesus Christ will cause the world to persecute you. Ask yourself “how much persecution am I suffering because of my testimony of Jesus?” I believe the times are coming in this country shortly when we ALL will have the opportunity to answer that question.
Look at how Jesus turns the tables on James & John, or as my sainted mother says “hoist on their own petard.” He asks them the following question “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
Without thinking about what Jesus was asking of them they impulsively respond “we can.” This is why I titled this article “Be Careful What You Ask For.”
Jesus nails them by saying “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” James and John would get the cross after all. They would get to drink the bitter cup of suffering and death that was to be Jesus’. However, who will sit on His right and left hand side was not up to Jesus. Those places of honor belong to those for whom they had been prepared! In the lingo of Jackie Gleason; “Kaprow, right in the kisser.”
James and John would eventually learn that the way to any privileged position in the kingdom of God is obtained NOT by grabbing for power but by relinquishing it through suffering and death.
Remember the scene, Jesus has pulled the 12 aside and spoken to them of His Passion. Then James and John step up and make their SELF-SERVING request. Where do you think the other 10 disciples were? They were listening to the entire dialog, probably thinking “I was going to ask Jesus that later on myself when I got Him alone.” Peter was probably standing there with his hand inching back towards the knife on his belt. This much we know for sure the 10 were INDIGNANT with James and John.
Jesus, as He always did, saw this as a teachable moment, for His disciples and pulls them together and begins to teach them about how to truly advance in greatness. The way to greatness in the kingdom of God is not at all like the way of advancement in the world, in fact, the way of Jesus is diametrically opposed to that of the world and if you and I, as God’s people will simply take His Words to heart we will be so much further along in expanding the Kingdom of God. Jesus says: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”
Worldly leaders govern by coercion, domination, and by “divine fiat” due to their status as “leaders.” Jesus says NOT SO WITH YOU! Jesus says, “whoever wants to become GREAT among you must be your SERVANT, and whoever wants to be first must be SLAVE of all. “
Please note that Jesus does not say anything negative about wanting to be great. I want to be a great preacher; I want to be a great shepherd to the flock under my care…I did not say “I am great” but I am striving to be the best I can be. Who wants to be mediocre? I hope everyone who serves God is striving to be the best they can be in their vocation. Whether it is playing the organ, mowing the grass, making a lunch or dinner for the congregation or working at the Post Office. We are commanded to do whatever we do “to the glory of God.” EXCELLENNCE GLORIFIES GOD not MEDIOCRACY!
This is how Jesus views MEDIOCRACY: He says in Rev. 3: 15-16 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Lukewarm discipleship is intolerable to Jesus. It is one thing He CANNOT stomach and He was about to spit these lukewarm Christians out of His mouth and He has not changed His attitude towards lukewarm pew sitters to this very day and in our very midst!
My dear brothers and sisters I am not judging anyone. However, I am urging each one us to ask ourselves some HARD questions. Am I really doing ALL I can to serve my Lord by serving others? Or do I do “just enough” to stay on the church role? When Church activities are scheduled do I set my agenda aside in order to be a blessing to others by participating in local church activities?
How about in regards to our giving and support? Do we give what is leftover to the work of the Lord, or do we prayerfully determine exactly how much we can give? These things are relatively easy and if YOU and I are unwilling to do the Simple & easy things, what if we must face martyrdom one day? Utimately the Lukewarm will get left behind or as Proverbs 1:32 says “The complacency of fools will destroy them.” Luke-warmness and complacency are REAL SPIRITUAL DANGERS. May none of us grow lukewarm or complacent in these last days!
Jesus plainly tells us the way to greatness, AKA “usefulness” in God’s Kingdom and that is being a servant not a Lord to others. This means you and I have to consider the needs of others first before our own.
Why? Because it is not about your desires or mine, it is about serving and supporting others. It is about being a slave to all and a slave does not have the authority to exercise their own opinion about anything. — And YOU and I are slaves of Christ, we are slaves of righteousness as such our opinions do not count. We are in the work of HIS KINGDOM, not concentrating on setting up our own. Oh, how often and how quickly we forget this!
I know this rubs your flesh and my flesh the wrong way; it is certainly not the “America” way nor the corporate way to succeed in business. But remember Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5 “You shall be like God.” Ever since then mankind has been striving to be “God” to rule & reign over others whether it is in the family, at school or on the job and yes even in Church!
You want to be like God? GREAT!! Then look to Jesus who says to His disciples: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
If God the Son came to serve, then what is our excuse for not being like-minded? Matthew 10:24 says “ A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” If God the Son came to give His life as a ransom for many, what is our excuse for NOT denying ourselves, picking up our cross and following His example?
Oh I know our flesh cries out “it is my time off, it is my money, I earned this, I can do with it as I please, no one is telling me what to do, on and on and on.”
This is why we must continually remind ourselves that like James and John we too can drink the cup of suffering. The cup is still being offered to whosoever wants to be like Jesus. James and John drank of it after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, so that cup of willingly suffering for the benefit of others is available to us all and to be a true blessing to someone else always demands a sacrifice.
And in order to drink the cup we must remind ourselves that like James and John we too have died like Jesus in baptism. Because only one who knows they have died to themselves is in any position to live for others.
The blessedness of this reality comes by knowing that you and I are dead to ourselves this frees us to be concerned with the needs of those around us.
The blessedness comes from leaving our needs and our desires in the hands of God and by losing our lives for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom we suddenly find the TRUE-LIFE God has promised to all who would be GREAT in His Kingdom. ♦
Copyright 2009 Robert S. Liichow