Thursday, April 17, 2014

Going Up to Lay It Down

By Brenda Black

In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of talk of God these days: Debate over His existence, creative license with His infallible Word, curiosity over His home in heaven. There are people irate about losing their God-given rights and folks who would hatefully blaspheme the Holy One without another thought. Why so divided, why so volatile? Quite frankly, the reason is because there is nothing new under the sun.

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When Christ walked the earth, the battles were the same. Power, prestige, tradition, land, money, and a man's reputation. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus for speaking the truth and fulfilling the prophesies they held most sacred because they were blinded by their self-importance. The Romans got nervous over crowds of commoners who might cause an uprising and challenge their dominance. At stake for both was control of the people.

Look at the subject matter of a thought-provoking movie “God's Not Dead” currently creating a stir. A professor of philosophy demands his humanistic authority and declares himself god of the classroom. Then search the news for updates from way out West and down South
, where landowners are in a showdown with the government over the right to free speech, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Ponder the following thoughts extracted from a pompous online post: “Secularism is advancing, despite your attempts to stop it. The world is becoming safer, more peaceful, better educated, and kinder, despite your attempts to stop this advance.”

Wow! What kind of a rock does a person live under who thinks the world is “safer, more peaceful, better educated and kinder”?

People have not changed. The powerful wield their way over the perceived powerless. The arrogant demand their superiority...until the down-trodden have had enough. Then there is an uprising.
And that is precisely why Jesus came – to create an UPrising.

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life' (Matthew 20:17-19)!"

He knew what lay ahead and yet He went up...up to Jerusalem, up to criticism, up to humiliation, up to crucifixion...and laid His body down for our sin. This sacrificial act flung open the door for division.
“'I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed (Luke 12:49-50)!'” Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit fire that cannot come until He departs and He symbolically speaks of His death as a “baptism” of sorts. The Christ already knows what His act of great love will do. It will make possible the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. It will also force each one to make a choice, to take a stand.
“'Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division (vs. 51).'”

Of course, the message of the gospel is God's love and mercy. But not everyone receives this good news that would bind us all together in blissful unity. There are many who will not receive it; moreover oppose it vehemently. The division Jesus speaks about is the result of their free will, not His causing havoc.

Still, He went up. He Laid His life down for those who would believe and those who would plot for His cruel elimination. Then He conquered death and hate and injustice by throwing off the grave's chains and living again!

Good Friday is a day to remember the beginning of an eternal UPrising. It's a time to decide whether you're willing to lay it down and stand up. And Resurrection Sunday...well it's just that. A day to look UP and believe in the One Who laid it down and then rose UP!

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