What Will You Say?
October 1, 2017
What Will You Say?
A few weeks ago, I tried to get out of having to attend a faculty meeting at school. I had emailed the principal to ask if I was required to be there as I had another commitment. He let me know that I had to either be at that meeting of the elementary faculty, go to the high school faculty meeting a couple of days later, or meet with him to make up the absence. Finding neither of the latter options attractive, I found myself staying after school for the elementary faculty meeting. All I want to do at the end of the day at school is go home. I was tired, irritated, and feeling a little bit micro-managed as I walked down the hall to where the meeting would take place when I met up with a very good friend. This friend is a Christian inspiration to me. She often makes simple statements that, upon reflection, disclose extraordinarily deep spiritual meaning. She asked what I was still doing in school? I said, ”Ugh! I have to go to the faculty meeting! It’s so stupid! I’m just an assistant. I don’t need to see the programs the principal is going to show us on the chrome books. I’m not implementing the new language arts program. All of this stuff is for teachers. I don’t need to be there. They’re just making me go because they can!”
She replied enthusiastically, ”Of course you need to be there!”
I countered, “What?! Why do I need to be there?!” knowing that as the words left my mouth, she would soon inform me of a very obvious and important detail that I had overlooked.
“You’ve got to be there to represent! You know that in that meeting, none of those people are there to represent Jesus. He needs you in there to represent! That’s what we do. We represent Jesus at all times. Now go do it!”
There I was, the pastor, reminded of her position, not as a pastor, but as a Christian. My friend was telling me that even when in a situation where Jesus is not necessarily thought of or even welcomed and may actually be opposed, it’s our jobs as Christians to represent Him, to be ambassadors for Christ, because WE KNOW THE TRUTH and it’s our responsibility to share that truth through the way we worship in church, teach our children, work at our jobs, and live our lives. Because we know, we are obligated to share what we know with strength and conviction even when it may be unpopular or uncomfortable. It’s our duty to represent.
In the passage we read this morning, Jesus asked the Jewish authorities a question that they would not answer honestly because they feared the consequences of making a choice and being associated with that choice. Our reading highlights the importance of unreservedly representing Jesus, even in situations where He may not be welcomed.
The Jewish authorities were always trying to get Jesus in trouble for the miraculous things he was doing. They complained when He healed a man on the Sabbath, disregarding the law that no one shall work on that day. They were indignant over His habit of spending time teaching tax collectors and prostitutes. Our reading takes place not long after Jesus entered the temple and, as it says in the Bible,
“cast out all who were buying and selling in the Temple precincts and overturned the money changers and those who were selling doves. It is written ’He said to them, ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a robbers’ cave!’ And the blind and lame came to Him and He healed them.
When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting ‘Hosanna-to the Son of David!’ They were angry. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you ever read ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have the perfect praise’? And He left them.”
They were tired of His disregard for all of the man-made laws that they used to control and depress the people. In our reading, we see some of those leaders finally coming to the end of their patience with this free-thinking man who preached love and forgiveness rather than guilt and penalty. They desired nothing more than to discredit Him or entrap Him and have him out of the way. Their importance and their credibility was suffering as a result of His ministry and it needed to stop. So, thinking they could extract what they would have called words of blasphemy from His lips, they asked Him what right He had to perform these miraculous works.
But Jesus knew with whom he was dealing. He knew what they were trying to do. If He had simply said, “Look boys, I do what I do because I’m not like anyone here. I’m the one and only Son of God sent to save my flock.” If He’d done that, His story would have changed dramatically. They would have, at that moment, taken Him to the authorities and the process of His capture, crucifixion, death and resurrection would have begun then. He knew He still had work to do, people to heal, souls to save. His Father’s will had to be carried out to the letter. He knew what His ultimate fate would be. He also knew He couldn’t rush it. Like a terminal patient resisting the means to end his life before his condition caused unimaginable pain, Jesus resisted an early end to His life. He had to hang on and endure all that still lay before Him. Instead of falling prey to their attempt to trap Him, He laid one of His own for them in challenging them to publicly declare John the Baptist’s ministry of heaven or of earth. These Jewish authorities took their time to deliberate over this question. It seems so simple. A one word answer would have sufficed: “Heaven” or “earth.” So, what was the problem? If they said that John the Baptist’s ministry was of earth, all those who had believed in him as a prophet, all who had been baptized by him, would have been outraged for he had been known and recognized by a large portion of society as a prophet sent as a messenger from God. They couldn’t risk a riot or uprising against them. They might have been stoned to death. The other alternative was to say that John the Baptist’s ministry was of heaven. That was something they just couldn’t admit. If they recognized the origin of John the Baptist’s ministry as heaven, because he had very publicly and loudly named Jesus the Son of God, they would be through inference, witnessing that Jesus was just who John said He was: the Son of God.
They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Neither answer was good for them and Jesus knew it. So, as weak, fearful people do, they claimed ignorance, unwilling to face the consequences of whatever they truly believed was the truth, they said, “We don’t know.” They were members of the Sanhedrin, THE group whose duties included the act of distinguishing between true and false prophets. Yet, they said they didn’t know! This is clearly one of the most glaring displays of weakness and fear ever recorded. It’s a display from which we can learn.
Remember, we’re Christians. Christians are ambassadors, representatives of Christ. In our daily lives we will be in rooms filled with people who believe that there are certain places to be concerned with what Jesus would say or do. Many may think that there is no place for Jesus anywhere. We, as ambassadors are designated to always make the choice to say and live what we know to be true about Christ and the way He wants us to conduct our lives. We cannot stand idly by, take the safe route and say, “We don’t know” because that would be a lie. We know. We know we can’t let Jesus down or betray Him that way.
So, as my friend told me, you’re needed out there! Let’s go into the world of people too frightened to stand up for Jesus and say that we know exactly who He is: the only Son of God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, born of the Virgin Mary. He was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father from whence He shall judge the quick and the dead. This is what He did for us. Let us go forth and represent the one who Has saved our souls for eternity.