John 12:26 – Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Is the Church under attack? I’ve been asked that question a lot lately. I remember no other time in this country when conspiracy theories were more apparent, but I’ve only lived a few years. I feel that the same questions on our minds today are no different than those of the 1940s, the 1860s, or the 1770s might have been. Anytime there is conflict in the world, the Church is affected.
Similar queries surely plagued the minds of those living around the world in the 60s. Not the 1960s – just the plain 60s, when Israel fought Rome in the Great Revolt. The church was in its infancy, and Paul was near the end of his ministry and life. When Christians were faced with cruelty as infamous as Nero, it is little wonder the voices of the past are recorded as mistrusting and suspicious. With very little effort, I can believe that very question was uttered through the generations… Is the Church under attack?
I know the correct response: Of course, the Church is under attack. That’s not a theory, conspiracy or otherwise; the Church has been under attack since it formed. Actually, the attack began before the church formed. Religious leaders were entangled with political leaders from the very beginning. Fights for power have always been in play. Unimaginable numbers have died because of their faith. Jesus was targeted because he represented a new way of thinking – a thinking that would reduce the power of some in favor of equality for all. Whoever has power in any given moment is unlikely to welcome the release of that power. From national leaders to children with toys, equality is difficult to attain and even harder to maintain.
His entrance into the city marked quite a day for Jesus and the people in Jerusalem. When the following day begins, palm branches still clutter the streets. The excited chatter continues as the people remember the parade, ponder the tirade in the Temple, and question whether Jesus really is the expected Messiah. The anticipation in their voices betrays their dissatisfaction with the way the Jews have been led. God’s chosen people are irritated at being taxed and pushed around under the guise of protecting their religious freedom. Then, they think they see what they’ve been looking for all along.
Jesus has begun an eventful week which many Jews think will result in an overthrow of the oppressive Roman government. This man! Could it be this man who will lead them with a new power? Will this man help them gain equality for all? Will the worship of Almighty God be lifted up as valid in the face of tyrannical rule? They have waited for generations for Messiah to arrive. Is Jesus Messiah?
The truth is this week will play out very differently than their expectations. Jesus knows who is plotting against him – who is wanting to get rid of him and will ultimately have him killed. He knows what this week holds, and he knows it will result in a strong and powerful Church that worships him faithfully. He also knows that this Church will continue to face oppression, injustice and inequality. As long as there is Evil at large, the Church will be under attack.
This dark and dangerous week in our Church history is worth our attention for many reasons. The best is that Jesus loves these folks in spite of knowing what is coming, and nothing has stopped his passion for God’s people. Even under attack, Jesus thinks of us, prays for us, loves us.
Is there conflict in the world? Yes, always. Is the Church under attack? Yes, of course. Will we continue to face scary threats to our faith? Absolutely. Will I love God and others in spite of any dangers? Yes, with God’s help. Will my side win in the end? Most assuredly, yes.
May God powerfully lead me through this Holy Week, through my continued exploration of the cross, and through my questions. May I be empowered to praise God at every point, and may my heart passionately live in the love of Jesus as we fight back against Evil. May I serve Jesus regardless of the cost.
On the attack back,
PRAYER FROM JOHN 12
Powerful God, thank you for giving me courage and boldness. With your help, I will work to be tireless in the fight against Evil. With your help, I will work to be faithful in serving you. With your help, the attacker never wins. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.