by Steve Carpenter
Jesus did not come to earth to start a new religion. In some places, His mission has morphed into something quite sad at its best and grotesque at its worst. Yesterday on Good Friday, our family was in the Old City of Jerusalem. Literally thousands of pilgrims from all over the world who represent manifold facets of Christianity gathered to walk the Via Dolorosa – the traditional route of Jesus’ crosswalk to Golgotha. They came equipped with crosses, rosaries, plants and iconic symbols somehow trying to connect with the significance of what happened here a few thousand years ago. As I watched the processions and walked among the pilgrims – some of whom may have had sincere hearts and genuine faith, I realized that most of what I was witnessing had nothing to do with the Christianity that I signed up for when I put my faith in Christ.
Close To The Cross Yet So Far From Christ
In college I read a book called, “No Wonder They Call Him The Savior” by Max Lucado. In the book, there is a chapter entitled, ‘So Close To The Cross Yet So Far From Christ’. Lucado recounts when the Roman Soldiers who were commissioned to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth cast lots for His clothing. These soldiers found themselves inches away from the sinless blood dripping off a wooden beam capable of saving any soul, yet they elected to roll dice, play games and compete for who would collect the robe of the righteous.
He went on to challenge those who seek to truly follow Jesus not to get sidetracked by the religious trappings that surround what we now call Christianity. If we are not careful, we too can find ourselves playing foolish games, focusing on self interested themes and living close to the cross but remaining far from Christ and His real mission.
In Israel, this time of year is about Passover and remembering the Jewish deliverance from Egypt. In the rest of the Christian world, it is about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who delivered every soul from the death sentence of sin and eternal separation from the Father. In each case, deliverance is only achieved by the grace and power of God alone.
Hebrews 10: 19-22 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Behold the Lamb.
Years ago, the Apostle Paul was concerned that the Corinthian believers would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. I wonder if he would be equally concerned today? I suppose that one can easily give a mental nod to the fact that ‘it’s all about Him’ but end up living as though it’s really all about us, our own lives, our own assets, our personal giftings or even our particular version of Christianity.
The prophet John the Baptist was called as a forerunner to simply ‘prepare the way of the Lord’. He called himself, the voice of one crying in the wilderness to, ‘prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight’. When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He said, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I love this about John. Catch this: “And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” John put all the attention and focus on Jesus. He later said to his disciples in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
May the genuine cry of our hearts become even more resolved this Passover season. A cry that says, “Behold the Lamb of God!” In doing so, we will be successfully pointing people to a Redeemer not just a religion and truly preparing the way for His return to the earth.
John the beloved disciple found himself on the Island of Patmos where he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In the spirit, he transcended time and space and came before the throne. In Revelation chapter five, notice how the whole focus is on the Lamb Who also happens to be a Lion.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.”
Keep it simple this season.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
1 Thessalonians 4:14-15 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”