Meet the Makarioi (Dispensers of Grace)

BEING OFFENDED CONTINUED

Hatred clouded the Pharisees’ minds.  They were wrong in assuming that there were no rulers that believed in Jesus.  We know that there was at least one young ruler that had gone to Jesus and even called him a “good teacher” (Lk. 18:18).  There were at least two Pharisees, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus that believed in Jesus.  The Pharisees, themselves, admitted when they saw the crowd following Jesus, “Look at it, the world has gone after him” (Jn. 12:19).  People from all over the inhabited world had come to the feast of the Passover and they were welcoming Jesus as the future king (Jn. 6:15).  The Greeks desired a special audience with Jesus (Jn. 12:20-21).  The people were not the cursed.  They were reaping the blessings because of the hope Jesus had brought when He entered Jerusalem on a baby donkey.  It lasted only one day, but there was none like it since the days of King David.  That was the reason the crowd shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David!” (Mt. 21:9).  To the leaders, it too was an insult.

Nicodemus reminded his fellow Pharisees that the law did not sanction their opposition to Jesus; but they dismissed it as a Galilean concoction.  Instead of rejoicing with the people over the good news Jesus had brought, they spent their time robbing the people of God’s blessings by hating and destroying His messenger, rather His Son.  What must have spooked them was that Jesus had told them in a parable what they would do to Him.  It was an unimaginable fear of what Jesus could do to them and their well-to-do lifestyle if they did not stop Him from taking over the country.  They reasoned, “If we do not stop him, everyone will believe in him; then the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation” (Jn. 11:48).  Then arose to the occasion Caiaphas the High Priest, asserting his role and with intuitive insight declared it to be for the benefit of the nation that one man dies, otherwise the nation would perish (Jn. 11:49-52).  From that day on, they plotted on how to destroy the “One” that offended them.

The Romans did not allow the Jews to kill any one.  The Jewish leaders had to come up with a scheme that would put Jesus up against Caesar.  Jesus had to be made into a political scandal for the emperor.  They told the Governor, “If you set this man free, you are no friend of Caesar’s.  Anyone who pretends to be a king is against the emperor” (Jn. 19:12).  The leaders gave the impression that they were doing the Romans a favor by demanding the execution of Jesus.  In public, the head priests swore falsely, “We have no other king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15).  For political convenience, they went against their own law by making a pagan emperor into their king.  Like during the time of Samuel, the Jews rejected the Lord as their King and chose a man, and Jehovah did not stand in their way.  This time, the leaders, and those that were obeying them, were forfeiting not only their salvation but also losing their homeland.  By denying the Messiah of God, they stripped themselves of their own blessings.  Three days before Jesus was crucified He made this prediction, “Your house will become desolate, and you can be certain of this: you shall not see me again until you shall say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord’” (Lk. 13:35).  Pilate could not halt the crucifixion, but he had the last laugh when he insulted the leaders with the greatest insult by the inscription, “The King of the Jews.”

Interpreters have taken Jesus’ prediction as a future event for Israel.  Paul believed that all Israel would be saved when the Deliverer shall come from Zion.  The Deliverer did come and Jesus was taken outside the religious system and crucified on a hill.  Israel became an enemy of the Deliverer and Israel cut herself off His blessings.  Israel has yet to call on Jesus and beg in His name to be blessed.  And until Israel does, Israel keeps on forfeiting her chance to be part of her future’s blessings.  Regardless of Paul’s belief, Jesus did not promise to come to Israel until she recognized that God had sent Him.  Paul based his reasoning on Isaiah 27:9 and 59:20-21.  He left out two important facts; rather, he altered them.  First, the Deliver comes to and not from Zion.  Second, Jesus comes to those that repent and accept Him.  And third, not all of Israel rejected Christ.  A remnant did accept Jesus and shared in His blessings.  Paul, of course, was one of them.

Jesus left the world.  Also, Jesus left behind eleven men that would pick up the cross and become a scandal for Him.  Just as the world was offended at Jesus, so shall the world be at his followers.  It is not going to be about the personal mistakes they shall make, but for their firm stand for Christ that they shall become the scandals.  Like their Lord, they too will lose their lives, and like their Lord, they shall regain them.  Unlike their Lord, the disciples had to stop being stumbling blocks themselves toward the Gentiles.  They stood in the way of Gentiles coming to Christ.  Paul was heartbroken that his own people were offended by the name of “Jesus.”  Paul had no choice but to leave the synagogue in Corinth.  Paul started a Gentile Church.  Still, the Jews kept persecuting the Apostle for preaching Christ.  In Jerusalem, the rulers and elders commanded Peter and John not to speak in the name of Jesus.  The disciples replied, “You decide for yourselves whether it is right to listen to you more than to God” (Ac. 4:18-19). 

The boldness of Peter and John intensified the opposition to the name of Jesus.  The more they glorified the name of Jesus, the more of a scandal He became for the Jewish people.  They executed James, the brother of John, and stoned Stephen, a deacon.  The remaining disciples went into hiding outside Jerusalem, but a man by the name of Saul found them and brought them back for punishment.  Jesus stopped him, renamed him as Paul.  Jesus made Paul into a scandal in the eyes of his own people.  They hated Paul as much as they hated Jesus.  Paul, along with the disciple, to whom Jesus spoke in person were walking in the footprints of Jesus.  The following words were meant for them. “Everyone will hate you because of my name; but anyone that endures to the end shall be delivered.”  Furthermore, “The student is not above his teacher or the servant above his lord.  It is proper for the student to be like his teacher and for the servant to be like his lord.  If they called the lord of the house Beelzebul, as a member expect to be called likewise” (Mt. 10:20-25).  It was not complimentary to be identified with the prince of the devils or demons. 

The more the world regarded Jesus’ followers as being “scandalous” the more they multiplied.  In Roman circles it was rumored that Christians ate human flesh and drank human blood.  It only created curiosity and attracted new members.  After three centuries, the Romans preferred the Christian way of life to their pagan ways.  By then a drastic change had taken place.  Christians smelled power by turning from the Word to the Sword.  The army of Constantine marched under the symbol of the cross.  Charlemagne defeated the Moors, under the cross.  Columbus discovered America for the cross.  And the Crusaders tried to recapture the Holy Land with the cross.  In all of these advances and failures the “scandalous cross” became the symbol of victory.  The cross and the sword partnered in the propagating of the Gospel.  Even the Pilgrims, that settled at Plymouth, also came with Bibles and with guns.  Other Christians and Indians had to bow to their wishes.  When England demanded more taxes, the colonists bonded united by the cross and they founded a nation under God. 

Two hundred years the U.S.A. proudly identified herself with Christ and the cross.  Christian principles elevated this nation in the world because it did protect religious and political freedom.  The U.S.A. too fell prey to sinful men with humanistic priorities.  The court, and not the sword, ousted Christ and the cross from public life. This resulted in the separation of Church and State.  Now, the politicians can be citizens of heaven and of earth.  They, no longer, do what God ordained, but what human beings want.  They can legalize behavior contrary to their faith.  They can even be people of good standing in their Churches and terminate life in the womb without scruples.  In the name of freedom, they sacrifice their young people in foreign lands.  Free from what?  They want to be free from Christ and the cross and God’s laws to lead sinful lives.  How long will it take to remove crosses from churches and steeples?  How soon will it be illegal to remind people that their behavior is against God?  Who would ever have imagined that Christ and the cross would become “scandalous” for this nation?  Yes, who would ever have thought it possible that Christians would have allowed this to happen?  They did!

Christians, along with their Lord, are now being scandalized.  It has become offensive to pray in the name of Jesus.  I went to a Christmas concert and was told that it was now a, “Winter Concert.”  There would be no songs about “Christ” so that the two percent of the public would not be offended.  I took a relative to a Christian assembly where they proclaim Christ and the cross, but they are against wearing crosses because it is Roman Catholic.  When I displayed my cross, I was shunned.   My own sister told me to hide it.  Pastors smirked at me and they think nothing of leaving “Jesus” out when they pray in public.  I may not be all they think I ought to be, but it is the least I can do to be identified with my Savior and Lord, who is none other than Jesus the Christ, who died for me on a cross.  I was told that I have to have Him in my heart.  I discovered that it takes a lot more courage to show Him on my outside.

The Nazis invaded Denmark and demanded that every Jew be marked with a star.  All the Danes came forth wearing stars.  Just think what would happen, if all the Christians would start wearing crosses and inform themselves whom they represent, would they still be silent about Jesus and allow mockers to run this country?  It is their silence or sleep that has brought us here.  Like in the Parable of the Weeds, the nation began with good wheat.  Christians then retired and expected God to keep watch.  The enemy took that chance to sow weeds.  When the Christians woke up, the weeds had mingled with the wheat and weeding became impossible.  Now, both must live together until harvest time when God will do His job.  Who will suffer the most?  The Christians, who neglected to be on guard, nevertheless, they presumed that God would do their weeding; they will be held accountable.  We need to apply Paul’s words to us, “God’s name is being blasphemed among the heathen because of you” (Ro. 2:24).   How does God feel when we allow His Son to be trampled under foot by unholy human beings?  It is because we have stopped dispensing grace.