An Obligation to Christ and the Gospel

Does being faithful to God mean that we have no moments of doubt? Abraham is known for believing God, yet Scripture indicates that at times Abraham doubted. He was human; when no signs God’s promises were evident, he began to doubt; yet, he continued his journey with God. God reassured Abraham of his promises. Being faithful to God means that decisions are at times, difficult for us.  I know what I shoulddo, but I’m afraid of the consequences I may face (ridicule, isolation, etc.). I should pray before I eat, but if I do… or I should offer to help that person, but everyone dislikes him…

Being faithful to God means that decisions no longer honor me, but God! I must choose that which advances God’s desire for me: not other’s desires for me. Despite the outcome, honoring God must always prevail over our own popularity. Abraham’s success in difficult decisions was that he continued his journey with God.  Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, exemplifies this characteristic beautifully (Luke 13:31-35).

Some Pharisees come to Jesus. Their motive is not clear. They may be sincere, not wanting harm to come to Jesus, or perhaps Herod’s handpicked messengers sent to drive Jesus out of his territory (Galilee). Perhaps they are motivated by malice, trying (as Herod) to get Jesus to make himself scarce. Their warning is an opportunity for Jesus to follow human advice and ignore God’s plan. He will certainly gain popularity if he follows their advice.

[Jesus] replied, Go tell that fox. In Rabbinic literature, the fox is an animal of low cunning (sly, but in a demeaning way), sometimes portrayed as an insignificant creature when compared, for instance, to a lion. Either way, Jesus makes his point and stands firm:  Herod’s plans have no influence on him­. He answers to God, not Herod. Jesus’ work will continue for an uncertain, but limited time. The decisive point comes on the third day, when he completes his mission at the hands of God the Father (ref. Today and tomorrow…third day.)

No prophet can die outside Jerusalem! Jesus’ hour has not yet come (cf. 2:38, John 7:30).  He will die in Jerusalem, as numerous prophets before him. Yet Herod will not claim his life—Jerusalem will claim it (cf. 9:22). The decisive point comes on the third day, when he completes his mission at the hands of God the father.

The thought of Jesus’ death as a prophet at Jerusalem merges into a lament over the city, which repeatedly rejected God’s messengers. Interestingly, Lukeplaces Jesus outside Jerusalem when he addresses the city (cf. Mt. 23:37-39, where Jesus is in Jerusalem); Joseph Fitzmyer (Luke, Anchor Bible) believes he is addressing the residents of the city, many of whom have come out to hear him (Luke 5:17; 6:17).[2]

Jesus’ analogy of a hen gathering her chicks is a familiar one. God’s desire is that Jerusalem might accept the message of his prophets, yet he knows she will not, because her inhabitants reject the implications of their message. As Jerusalem accepts Jesus’ message, the people simultaneously agree to submit to him. They are unwilling to do this; therefore, they reject (to the point of murder) the messengers. All this to protect their interests. This attitude keeps us from standing firm in our confession of faith. We want to be counted as co-heirs with Christ, as long as it doesn’t infringe on our goals. God wants us to be faithful to him in our words and actions, even in difficult situations. Decisions indicate the faith we profess and God’s call to live for His purpose. We make the choice knowing that there are consequences:

  • Standing firm at work may cost that promotion
  • Standing firm at school may exclude you from the popular kids
  • Standing firm in the neighborhood may cost you a school board seat
  • Standing firm in the church means you may be labeled a “holy roller”

The Pharisees warned Jesus of Herod’s threat. He could follow their advice, but instead chose to advance God’s purpose in his life. He knew that God was in control, and submission was more important than popularity. The storm raged around him. He was unmoved. He stood firm; and God perfected his will through him for all humankind.

What does it take to persevere in the way of Jesus? Knowing that sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.

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