Lent Letter to Disciples
“Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’
And immediately they left their nets and followed Him…
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane…
He said, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’
He came back and found the disciples sleeping.
While He was still speaking, Judas came,
one of the twelve, and with him a great
crowd with swords and clubs…
They seized Him.
Then all of the disciples left Him and fled…
Peter denied Him three times.
They said, ‘We had hoped He was the one.’
[Proving He was the one, Jesus rose from the dead!]
[The disciples were transformed from cowards into missionaries!]
He said to His disciples, ‘Go and make disciples…baptize…teach…
I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Our Master said, “A true friend will die for you. There is no greater love. I am your friend.”
Then He proved it by loving us to death.
You did not return the favor.
When given the chance, you deserted and denied Him.
It happens all the time.
It started in the garden; and there’s been nothing original about sin ever since.
I’ve often joked, as I did in my letter to the crowd, “If I die on Monday, there will be ham and cole slaw in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday; then there will be a congregational meeting on Sunday to elect a search committee for my successor with folks lined up who want to help pick the kinda pastor that they really wanted before I showed up.”
I know I’ve been a disappointment to the people that I’ve been willing to love to death.
I think of a little boy who I asked to pray a long time ago. He said, “I think the best way to pray is like you pray before you preach; so I’m gonna begin with your sin-stained life.”
I didn’t stop him because he was telling/praying the truth.
But God knows He never did anything to deserve your desertion and denial: “He was despised…rejected…a man of sorrows…acquainted with grief…not esteemed…pierced…crushed…oppressed…afflicted…like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…cut off…stricken…although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”
To the contrary, He loved us to death: “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Frankly, I don’t get why you didn’t get it/Him.
When He called you to follow Him, you did.
You left home and work to follow Him.
Mark says you answered His call immediately.
There must have been something about Him that persuaded you.
The miracles, healings, exorcisms, signs, and wonders came later.
It didn’t take much convincing at the start to get you going with Him.
I don’t know.
It’s been said tough times expose but don’t build character; and when the tough times came, you were exposed as fair-weather fans not followers in a feet-do-your-duty-I’m-outta-here kinda way.
Sooooooo while I may not know why you followed Him at first, it’s pretty easy to figure out why you stayed with Him for a few years. It had to be those miracles, healings, exorcisms, signs, wonders, and promises of paradise after cashing in.
Annnnnnnd it’s pretty easy to figure out why you deserted and denied Him.
When the going got tough and He didn’t put up a fight and just surrendered like a lamb led to slaughter, you got going as far away from Him as possible.
You knew all about guilt by association; and His brutal arrest, torture, and hideous execution were enough for you to renounce citizenship in His Kingdom.
Obviously, you were thrilled by the good times; paying no attention when He said He had to suffer as part of the saving plan.
Annnnnnnd when He said a servant is not above his master and that you/I/we would have to suffer like Him to gain goodies after life with Him, that made no sense to you.
You took the rewards but were not willing to pay the cost of discipleship: “When Christ calls, He bids, ‘Come and die with Me.’”
You were like so many of today’s versions of you – fans not followers.
That sounds strange.
Buuuuuuut that’s how strange it seems to me and people like me who can’t figure out how you could have been sooooooo close to Him for sooooooo long and see sooooooo much and hear sooooooo much and experience sooooooo much and not realize He wasn’t kidding when He said the cross is the prerequisite to wearing the crown: “If anyone wants to follow Me, that person must deny self, take up a cross, and then follow Me. You must lose your life for Me to get life from Me. If you die with/for Me, You will live forever with Me.”
How did you miss that/Him?
What the anything-but-heaven was wrong with you?
You were sooooooo dense, sooooooo ungrateful, soooooo…
I’ve got to stop writing.
There’s a voice calling somewhere in the distance.
Someone is trying to say something to me.
It’s…Him: “What’s that I see in your eye?”
“What’s that I see in your eye?”
Oh, uh, yeah, Ooooooookaaaaaaay, I confess…
I was baptized.
I completed Confirmation Class.
I became a member.
I…deserted you when I…
I…denied you when I…
It’s true: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
He loved us to death; but it/He wasn’t enough to convince us to follow Him through the cross to the crown.
He had to do something supernaturally spectacular to convince us to follow Him through the cross to the crown.
He beat death!
His resurrection convinced you/me/us to follow Him all the way.
His resurrection convinced you/me/us to endure whatever in time to live with Him forever.
Like you, His first disciples, we started well when we decided to follow Him.
Like you, His first disciples, we’ve often lost His way along the way.
Like you, His first disciples, we can finish well if we really, really, really believe in Him as incarnated, crucified, risen, and reigning Lord.
I guess I’ve/we’ve learned at least three things from You, Lord.
First, You don’t play favorites. Anybody can be a part of Your family as long as they love You. The disciples prove You don’t care about color, class, or culture. All you care about is making the decision to be Yours.
Second, even good starts don’t guarantee smooth sailing. Except for You, nobody’s perfect and everybody needs Your salvation from desertions and denials. Thanks!
Third, the most important thing in time is to finish well because how we finish lasts forever. The criminal dying next to You as You died comes to mind; as he confessed You as Lord and heard what every disciple, first or last, will hear in the end: “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”
Getting back to you, disciples, maybe the thing I like best about you sounds kinda selfish; but, really, it’s what you taught best.
If you can be saved, there’s hope for anyone…even me.
Part of the Family
Blessings and Love!
So much in the Bible, in the genius of His revelation to us, is to set up mirrors. Pharaoh is a mirror of our disbelief and arrogance. Caiphas is a mirror to our blinding legalism. Those dense disciples are us ... unable to "get it" even after hearing Jesus' explanations, seeing His miracles, having His personal example in front of them ... and still being unable to connect the dots ...
To connect WITH the dots.
We see them as pathetic because they did not, could not, get it. Could not Jesus have been more clear? More obvious? More loving? More verifiable? More powerful? More relevant? More convicting while forgiving? More delivering of eternal hope?
The genius of His revelation is that Jesus of that day is the same Jesus of our day. The humbling revelation is we are no better than the dense disciples who could not "get it."
Just look in the mirror ...
Be blessed ...
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