Jerusalem is in a hustle and bustle. The greatest celebration of the Jewish people was coming up in a few days: the Passover – commemorating the freedom from the Egyptian oppression, through the supernatural intervention of God. People from all over the world were crowding the city – to worship, to watch in curiosity the rituals and customs of the celebration, or to develop their businesses by selling what people needed or wanted.
The time is near. The crowds that are filling the narrow streets have no idea what is really going to happen. But Jesus knows. This is what He came for. The greatest and final sacrifice was about to be made, the final payment that was going to change everything.
This week is crucial. His ministry continues. Many people are finding His message so fresh and different. Different from the rigid religious structures. Different from anything they have ever heard. Everything seems to be upside down in the teaching and life of this Man. His message has authority. It is stirring. It is drawing. But it is also hard to digest. He is challenging the religious system. He is challenging the business practices. He is challenging the self-promoting lifestyle. How can He do that? Who will ever follow Him forever?
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43
The message of the Gospel is powerful! It is so strange and drawing and so unlikely! The Creator-God seeking a personal relationship with His creation who deliberately chose disobedience from Him. What kind of God is this God? What king of love does this God have? Could it be that Love is not just what God does, but Love is who He is? Could it be that we were created specifically to be in this relationship, but we messed it up?
Some of the crowds that were following Jesus knew it. We know it, too. It is stirring our hearts and it is moving our lives: no other thing, no relationship, no religious system, no financial stability, no status or success, nothing, nothing can bring satisfaction and satisfy a soul like Jesus! The message of this Man was Himself! He was the Good News for the crowds back then, and still today.
But this message, His message, always requires a response. Jesus always asked and waited for a response. Knowing His message and not letting it move our lives is not enough. Knowledge about Him might impress others, but it does not transform us. Some of the leaders believed in Him, but they were afraid of people. Their reputation or even lifestyle might have been affected by following Him. You see, following Jesus will always cost us. But you know what the good news is? That what we get in return is so much better than what we could ever lose!
For reflection and prayer:
- Take a few moments to think or write down some of the things that God is telling you today about what He thinks about you? Who does He say you are? How does He say you are? Are you aware of how much He loves you? Are you aware that He calls you His child, His beloved? Take time to let this truth sink in and flood your being.
- How is your Father reminding you of how much He loves you and how He is seeking you today? Did something remind you of Him today? Throughout the day, take time to notice and to write it down. How did you see Him? How did you experience Him? Or maybe today was a hard day. The words that He is near are shallow and mean nothing to you. Tell Him just that. Come to Him and tell Him your honest heart. He welcomes it.
- Ask, in prayer, who is one person who needs to be reminded of just how precious they are? Who needs a a reminder of love today?
- What are you afraid of? Do you seek to be liked by all the people around you and you crave for their admiration and approval? Who are you afraid of? Not afraid that you might be hurt physically, but afraid that you might lose the appreciation of some people. Is this influencing your decisions, your attitude, your mood? Don’t rush this moment. Stay here for a while and listen. Is your heart beating faster? You can be brave and honest in the presence of your Father, because although He already knows you, He loves you completely. He wants you to live in freedom from this fear of people. Are there some faces coming to your mind? Some names? Some instances? Do you see yourself distancing from these people, and they had no idea that they were even on “the list”? Do you see traces of bitterness or judgement? Lack of love and genuine care? Comparison or belittling others, so that you can be big enough? Maybe you don’t do it outloud, it is just there, deep in your heart. But it is feeding you. Come to your Father and confess all of these. Surrender to Him your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts, your actions. Or your lack of actions. Because He wants you to live free from this bondage. He loves you too much to leave you stuck there. Come in surrender, with an open heart and with open hands, even. And also ask Him to show you His beauty and glory, because in the presence of His beauty and character, the weight of the words or opinions of these people pale in comparison to Him! He is so beautiful! But, also, the Spirit might show you that you need to go and ask for forgiveness to someone. Be brave, Beloved, and go. You know that you are not alone in going, but He is with you, holding you, rejoicing over you, giving you strength. Dare to enter into this life-restoring process, remembering just how loved you are, and that you are completely forgiven. Completely. Beloved, you are held.
It is Monday. The city is crowded. Jesus proclaims and lives the most unusual message, one that stirs and challenges. One that fills and fulfills. At night time, people go home – some just the same, others transformed forever.