By Brenda Black
I quickly turned the channel the other night. I didn't want to see a woman dismembered by the cranking, torturous pull of winched chains secured to shackles that clamped each of her arms and legs. The set-up for the illusion employed brave volunteers with strong stomachs to buckle down the apparatus and stand nearby as witnesses. I watched the prep and the promise of the magic man, but decided I could live my life without seeing the trick fully played out under stage lights and before a live and gullible audience. I don't have a strong stomach.
A few of the mourners who accompanied Mary to the tomb of her brother, Lazarus, probably felt the same way when they heard Jesus ask them to roll the stone away. It's going to stink, warned the practical Martha. But others, no doubt, crept in closer to see all the gory details.
Over the next few days, the novelty of the born again Lazarus beckoned crowds to come and see. They wanted to meet the magician, but they also wanted to see this man he raised from the dead. And between the two of them, their fame presented the Pharisees with a perplexing problem in need of a strategic remedy.
“So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.” (John 12:10)
Here in John 12 is a passage of Scripture filled with the miracle of a man brought back from the dead and a woman anointing the Lord with expensive perfume and wiping his feet with her hair. We hear the Lord predict his own death and learn of people enamored with the One who has power over the grave. Christ directly challenges the crowd to “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” (vs. 36)
Still, even after all this, most did not believe in him.
The Lord's latest attempt to save foolish and hardened hearts came just prior to when the Christ would ride into Jerusalem to the sounds of cheers, but also to the leering looks from those who despised him. While some shouted “Hosanna!” Other were thinking hang him! As his adorers pronounced blessings on him as King of Israel, his enemies cursed him beneath their breath.
Then, nearly almost to the end of this same chapter we find a very revealing and humbling truth. No matter how great the King or how marvelous his exploits, man will only believe as far as they do not bear any risk. “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (Jn 12:42-43)
In my tiny corner of the planet, I have been privileged to live my entire life in places where people are unashamed to profess their faith in Christ, though not everyone I know, knows the Lord. I was in college before I ever met a self-proclaimed atheist. I'd love to find out if she's still breathing since she never thought their was Anyone behind that very basic variable of life.
Though I still live pretty much in the same small space we call the Midwest, the world is now at my fingertips. With changing technology and changing times, it is obvious that more people than that one bitter chick in college have issues about God. And they are free to spew their hateful, irreverent comments on blogs and talk shows, and in articles and sit-coms. I shudder at the audacity of some of the crude and ignorant verbiage. And then I remember what else John 12 warned: “'He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.'” (vs. 40)
This is not about God ostracizing a group of religious leaders. This is not about eliminating their opportunity for salvation. These are the words of a prophet who saw in advance that this is how they are going to treat HIM. Christ's actions and perfection left them faced with a life-or-death dilemma: Believe or kill him!
They killed Him. But, like Lazarus, He was risen from the dead! And now what do the haters and naysayers, the pagan and perverse, the atheists and agnostics have as a back-up plan? They kill the messengers like they wanted to kill Lazarus.
The following is just one of their most recent schemes according to The Voice of the Martyrs at http://www.persecution.com :
Neshan Saeedi, a 27-year-old Christian, has not been seen since his arrest by government authorities in July, according to the Farsi Christian News Network.
On July 24, Saeedi was at home with his wife and young daughter in the city of Ahvaz, Iran, when plainclothes security officers entered his house and arrested the family. Security officers searched the home and seized personal belongings, including a computer, CDs containing films of Christian seminars and teachings, Christian books, Bibles and family photo albums.
The family was taken to the Chaharshir detention center in Ahvaz, where they were interrogated for several hours before Saeedi’s wife and daughter were released. Officers threatened Saeedi’s wife, saying if the family continued its Christian activities their daughter might be taken away. The family was accused of threatening Iran’s national security by participating in anti-government activities. They were further accused of being spies of foreign powers and of leading people to a pro-Israel ideology.
The house church that Saeedi’s family attended has stopped meeting out of fear for their lives and the possibility of further arrests. Government authorities are thought to be actively seeking the arrest of two of the house church leaders.
This incident is the latest arrest of believers in Iran in recent months. VOM encourages you to pray for Neshan Saeedi’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Ask God to protect his wife, daughter and the other church leaders, and pray that God will grant courage and boldness to all Iranian believers.
Pray for those who are persecuted for the cause of Christ. They die every day somewhere in the world.