Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Has Anyone Heard of Jesus Lately?


Could I tell you a story?

“Is it a true story?” you ask.

Oh very much so. In fact it is a story which reveals the truth which shall decide the eternal destiny of every human being. Now you may think that this story is archaic and little difficult to believe, but I assure you this story has changed lives for thousands of years. This is actually much more than a story although it is a story. But this story has the power to reach out and capture a soul and make that soul part of this very story. It is the miracle of all miracles. And it does not matter what men think or how they alter this story, the true story will live on throughout eternity. Yes, it is that transcendent.

But this glorious story begins in an ignominious and humble way. Even though the story revealed some peeks and shadows for thousands of years, and even though this story began before the first atom came into existence, the story itself actually began in a tangible way in a seemingly obscure town just west of the Sea of Galilee. It was called Nazareth. Could there be any more insignificant place for this miraculous story to begin? There would be no worldwide fanfare and no streets lined with worshipers. This story began with a very young virgin from the loins of Judah and the angel Gabriel.

Mary was a sinner like all of us, but God had chosen her to be the servant through which He would birth this story. And although Mary would play a most prominent role in this story, it would not be about her at all. She was the handmaiden of the Lord and was blessed by God in a sacred and astounding way, but it still would not be about her. In fact, after many years in which God had let the story unfold without much revelation, we see Mary at a wedding feast. And her words were not about herself, no, she opens her mouth and says, “Whatever He says, do it.” In fact, those words describe Mary’s ministry completely.

But back to Nazareth. The angel Gabriel informs Mary that she will be pregnant through the miraculous visitation of God’s Spirit. See, who can even comprehend such a thing? I mean how does that work? Mary was a virgin and she reminded Gabriel of that fact. And yet this frightened and probably confused girl bows before this diving messenger and says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Do not exalt Mary for she is a servant and not a lord in this story, but do not ignore her breathtaking example of servanthood.

And in just nine months the main figure of this story comes forth through Mary. It is not hyperbole to say that this baby is really not the main figure in this story, but He IS the story. And God does not give much detail about this birth except to say “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Yes, the Holy Spirit delicately draws a sacred veil over the human details of the event and moves forward with the real story.

This baby looked like any other baby however many things about His birth had prophetic significance that presented His birth as something very special. To be honest at this point only some shepherds and Mary herself had any inkling that something was happening and that some divine story had taken flight. But the Author of this story had four thousand years of prophetic rehearsal and now He was gently but determinatively revealing a story that would change all of eternity. This baby came forth upon the prophetic foundation already laid by God’s own mouth. But even the prophets who were used to foretell this story did not know the glorious particulars inherent in this story. Even the angels only knew a part.

But God this story would move on for decades, and with the one exception of being in the Temple, the story shifts to when this baby called Jesus is now a man, or more accurately, a God man. You see, I told you that this story is unlike any other. God has come as a man. Just that truth would be enough to boggle the mind, but there is more. Much more. And this Jesus reveals Himself initially at that same marriage feast where His mother bowed to His Word. Jesus performs His first miracle by turning water into wine. Many today have claimed that they can do what Jesus has done and they present some cured headache or backache as evidence. But we all await someone turning water into wine. But this will never be done because Jesus is not part of our story; we are part of His. We are not called to showcase our own spiritual prowess; we are called to continually point to Him and attempt to replicate His story through our lips and lives.

Now Jesus performed many miracles in three years, so much so that many of them had to be cut out of the final historical script. But after many miracles and many miraculous teachings Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on Passover week when He is in His early thirties. Now if you haven’t been paying attention this is the time to open your eyes and ears. This week will be like no other week and in reality the entire story has been told up until now just to get to this part. Buckle your seat belts because there will be some unsettling images, some unexplained hatred, and two scenes that defy human understanding. And everything will not be enhanced by visual effects or enhanced stage lighting or screen writer’s hyperbolic license. This will be raw and visceral and challenging and true.

The entire world was imprisoned by sin which is the direct disobedience and rebellion toward the Creator God. But God had instituted some observances and sacrifices that would provide a temporary covering for sin. Some could be sacrificed daily while one was to be observed on one day in the year. This system had been observed generally for almost three thousand years. But as Jesus entered Jerusalem all of that would change. At the end of the week all of what had been practiced by the Jews because of God’s Word through Moses would be abolished through a better and eternal sacrifice. No one knew. No one even suspected. The earthly Passover lamb would give way for the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. To the natural understanding this is about to get wonderfully strange.

Through a string of self serving events based upon fear Jesus is arrested and brought to trial. After He was interrogated by Pontius Pilate He was sent to be scourged, or in other words, tortured. Here is where it gets an R rating for violence. He was beaten unmercilessly. They lashed His back with a whip made with sharp pieces of stone or iron. Over and over and over again they lashed His back until it appeared as bloody raw meat. He was made to wear a crown of thorns pressed down upon His brow. It was painful in the extreme. He was blindfolded and punched in the face while they mocked Him. Covered in blood and swelling all over, His beard was plucked from His face. His face began to swell which only added to the repulsive spectacle. He stood there at the beginning stages of death. As they placed a robe upon Him they continued to mock Him holding back nothing.

“Now wait a minute” you protest. “Wasn’t this the Son of God?” Yes, it was. He was God in the flesh and the incarnate Creator of all that was, and is, and is to come. “So why then”, you ask, “is He being beaten and tortured and why is He allowing such a thing?

Ok, now I have your attention. This is the part of the story where you must rely on the Spirit’s cliff notes. You might be persuaded that this is a story about a martyr and you would be wrong. You might think that this is a story about how any good deed doesn’t go unpunished and you would be wrong. You might believe this is a story about how wrong things can go and you would be wrong. Let’s go a little further and see how it all unfolds. Remember this is a story unlike any other story ever told and there are profound implications that penetrate much deeper than some principle or some moral to the story. In fact we have entered the part of the story which can only be fully understood through the ministry of the Spirit who told the story.

Those that have tortured Him make Him carry His own cross to the place called Golgotha. A black man is enlisted to help Him. The Romans nail His hands and feet to that Roman cross. Many men were tied to these kinds of crosses since spikes were expensive and the Romans crucified tens of thousands, but the Scriptures had foretold the wounds in His extremities so the Romans used spikes although they were unaware of any prophetic fulfillment. God has His ways. They lift Him upon that cross and with a thump they allow it to find the hole in the earth which will stand it up. And there He hangs, struggling to breathe and beaten beyond recognition. But His pain has only begun.

And here is where we must push the pause button and receive divine illumination. There have been literally tens of thousands of crucifixions at the hands of the Romans, so why is this one any different? This one is so unique and unlike any other that to use the word “different” is doing it an injustice. The word “unique”, although appropriate, still falls far short of awarding this event, this cross, with the hallowed and sacred essence it deserves. This man, this God, this Jesus is dying an excruciating death and with each struggling breath He draws closer and closer to His last. But look again. He is not just suffering within His own body. His pain is not just emanating from His own nerve endings. These sufferings belong to the whole world, and here He is willingly receiving the unfathomable punishment meant for us all in His own human frame. He does not deserve it but yet He has embraced this suffering before the worlds were spoken into existence.

This is where the story leaves the understanding of the three dimensional and wanders into a realm unknown to anyone heretofore. This battered frame, already worn out and bloodied beyond measure, is taking upon itself the sins of the world. And although the Passover lamb under Moses stood as a one year reprieve, this Lamb is paying for the entire portfolio of man’s sins from Adam to the last sin which will ever be committed. Anyone who genuinely wishes to understand this mystery quickly understands his own limitations of complete understanding. Yes, we can understand the words but to understand the depth, the eternity, the sacrifice, the sufferings, and the glory of this redemption is beyond the scope of complete human comprehension. And when a sinner, redeemed by this sacrifice, suddenly realizes he cannot comprehend the magnitude of this crimson event, well it is exactly that realization which drapes us with God’s glory.

What a story! From the innocence of the baby in Bethlehem’s manger to the open massacre of that same person disturbs our sensibilities. I mean what kind of a story is being told here?? What once was a wonderful story of celebration and humanitarian deeds and the performing of the miraculous, has now take a turn of violence and the macabre. This story has become very, very dark. But that is where you would be deeply in error. This Creator, this God, this Savior has now revealed the core of the story! It is this cross to which the story had always pointed even though we could only interpret the story in a finite and even self serving way. This torture, these wounds, this blood, this cross, this death has always been God’s story to us regardless of how ignorant we wish to remain. And the word “story” is now painfully insufficient as a description for what we have witnessed. A narrative? A report? A novel? A chronicle? No, God Himself has given His own story a word which he desires us to use. The word is “gospel”. Yes, this is the gospel. Amidst all the suffering and blood and gore and sweat this is good news! This is the everlasting gospel which is to be preached to every creature. But there is one chapter which also must be included.

Jesus died. God died. Just accept it since it is beyond us all. And add on top of it all that Jesus died for you and me. Receive it and believe it as if it were the gospel truth for indeed it is. But Jesus did not stay dead. Death could never relax with the final victory and present a dead corpse indefinitely. After three days death was vanquished and life came once again into that dead frame and Jesus resurrected from the dead. I said Jesus resurrected from the dead!!!!! Oh please do not let it be said that we have grown so accustomed to those words that they are now stale and contemptibly familiar. Oh please child of God, please rekindle the fire within you and rejoice! Jesus has risen from the dead!! Oh halleluiah forevermore! Death has been defeated and the Lord of Glory has crushed the serpent’s head! This is not just a dusty old doctrine we pull out of a drawer once a year at “Easter”. This is our joy our salvation and our life! At the cross we found life through His death and at the resurrection we die through His life.

This is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you heard of Jesus lately? Among all the many “issues” which consume us and all the temporal worries that so often imprison us…have you heard about Jesus lately? Well if you haven’t then take hold of your heart and mind and walk once again into His story and wade into the waters of the gospel until they wash you once again. You see, the gospel has been stretched across the expanse of time altogether

I Pet.1: 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Amen and amen.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Brother! Great job! Keep up the good work for the glory of God! Lead the lost Brother!

C said...

it took me all day to finish reading this post because I could not stand the pain and even now between the sobs I am not rejoicing, but broken and convicted, and sad and amazed. It is beyond comprehension and I feel like I have to do something to say thank you or make it up to Him somehow and at the same time my heart breaks for those, including my own children who can reject what Jesus did for them, for me, for all.

Broken, so very broken. I have to stop writing. Sorry

Cherie c.

Bill Cotton said...

Brother Rick,
I have a question about your comment "God died". Why would you say that since God is life and cannot die? I personally wondered why you said that and my wife said she had a problem with the comment. I know that you are a brother in Christ and I just wanted to here what you were thinking on that statement. I would appreciate your response. Have a blessed day!

Bill Cotton said...

Brother Rick,
Thank you for the post. It is needed to wake us up once in awhile. I did have one comment/question on why you would say, "God died"? When I and my wife read this, I got an uncomfortable feeling in my spirit. I don't feel like you ment it in the vein of "Jesus died Spiritually" like the Copeland's believe, but it did not sit well with us. Could you explain what you were meaning when you wrote that statement?
Thank you and God Bless!

brother Bill

Rick Frueh said...

Bill - Thank you for your comments. Perhaps my phrase was a little hyperbolic however in the strctest sense it was true, however God still lived while God died. A mystery. Of course I reject anything Copeland and the like would teach.

Anonymous said...

For Bill and Rick: German theologian Jurgen Moltmann published a book in 1974titled "The Crucified God." Heavy reading, but Moltmann is confronting the theological climate of the post-war years, humanism, and You may try to find the jacket description on Amazon or somewhere--good stuff. "Moltmann unveils a naked cross, unrespectable, even "irreligious," shorn of the roses of religious tradition..."

Reine Gnade said...

Let's praise the Holy One who laid down His life for us, that we can rejoice in God's gracious loving gift of access to His holy presence. Notice that to the words of Psalm 31:5, ‘into your hands I commit my spirit’, Jesus adds the word, Father. Right to the very end Our precious Lord Jesus is still trusting His heavenly Father. And right at the very end Jesus knows that His spirit is safe in the hands of Father God.

Yes, after many hours of crucifixion agony, Jesus takes hold of the words of Psalm 31:5 and says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” What a triumphant Savior, King and Lord!