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Saturday, October 31, 2015

How much of a threat are you?

As Jesus neared the time when he would be publicly humiliated, beaten, and then marched to his death on a cross, he also is found drawing near and sharing time with those he had formed relationships with on this earth.  One such occasion was upon his return to Bethany, a town best known by the time of his return because of a pretty spectacular miracle he had performed there - the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Now, the "fame" of this miracle wasn't because Lazarus was a "big man" in the town government, religious faction, or some type of a "rock star".  He was simply stated to be the brother of Mary and Martha - two loving sisters who were grieving his loss.  In terms of how this would have been treated today, if this man had been "famous" like Elvis Presley, his being raised from the dead would have had people flocking to his burial place and doorstep by the thousands!  He wasn't Elvis, but the "fame" of his miracle was making a certain group of people more than just a little anxious - the religious zealots of the day.  That seems a little like an oxymoron doesn't it? Those who were supposed to be the religious authorities of the day were actually getting "put out" by the "fame" of this miracle - not because they wished Mary or Martha ill, but because there was now "competition" in the religious "circles"!  You see, they were "losing followers" of their religious community to the gospel message of truth and liberty - the one Jesus was teaching and modeling in his miracles.  They viewed Jesus (and Lazarus by extension) as a threat to their way of life - one which had become a pretty comfortable thing for them and one they didn't want disrupted!

A lot of people came when they heard that Jesus was there. They also wanted to see Lazarus, because Jesus had raised him from death. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus. He was the reason that many of the Jewish leaders were turning from them and putting their faith in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 CEV)

This is kind of how it is whenever "religion" becomes the end all - because "relationship" isn't even a focus any longer.  To the religious zealots of the day (Pharisees and Sadducees), the raising of Lazarus was leading some of their followers (and even some of their religious leaders) to move toward grace and away from religion!  They were putting their faith in Jesus and this threatened their beliefs, practices, and "comfort level".  Religious people are "comfortable" in the pursuit of whatever beliefs and practices they develop - because they are predictable and "comprehended" by their minds.  This is the difference between religion and true faith sometimes - one can pretty much be comprehended by the mind, while the other needs to be trusted by the heart.  

I imagine the crowds were filled with a combined group of those who were merely curious to see the one who had been dead, but was not living life as though nothing unusual had happened, and those who were truly seeking the truth which Jesus showed them by how he spoke and lived.  Some would seek with their minds - while others would reach with all their hearts for something they might not come to fully comprehend with their minds, but which they knew with a certainty they could trust with all their hearts.  This is where faith takes hold - not in the ability of our minds to comprehend truth - but in the willingness of our hearts to embrace it, run with it, count on it, and lean into it above all else.

I don't know if you have ever seen this in this accounting of the story of Lazarus before, but it caught my attention this morning - the religious leaders wanted to kill LAZARUS, not Jesus.  They wanted to do away with the evidence of Jesus' miracle - not the one who performed the miracle.  Lazarus had become a threat to them because his life was a testimony of GRACE and MERCY.  If that doesn't make you sit up and take notice, then I don't know what will!  Stop for a moment to think about the potential each of us has to be living testimonies of God's GRACE and MERCY.  Each of us has the potential to be in the "cross-hairs" of some who don't truthfully understand the mystery of grace - simply because they don't understand it, they might feel threatened by it, and this causes them to want to "silence" the threat.

In a day and age when religious freedom is touted as so very important, isn't it kind of amazing how much the testimony of GRACE and MERCY is resisted and told it has no place in our society?  In essence, I think there are "grace-released" lives being lived which have become a threat to the "religious" who don't understand the mystery of this relationship we have with Jesus.  It has long been the case that what isn't easily understood by the mind is kind of a threat - because man seeks to have a reasonable explanation for things and has a hard time with anything they cannot put into the box of their understanding.  GRACE isn't one of those things which easily fits into the "box" of our understanding - for grace isn't a "thing", but a person.  It isn't a set of deeds we perform, but the continual action of another on our behalf.  

This is honestly where religion and Christianity part ways - in the difference between us doing things to reach God versus him doing everything to reach us.  Lazarus did nothing to reach Jesus - but Jesus did everything to reach him.  Lazarus didn't even know to trust in Jesus and the grace he would extend into his life by giving him back life - allowing him to become a living testimony of grace.  Yet, a life so touched by grace as to become alive in the freedom and joy of grace is truly one which becomes a threat to any other way of living which places someone in bondage to religious pursuits and the "doing of deeds" to find favor with God in any manner.  I wonder how much of a "threat" our lives are to those around us? Just askin?