Friday, February 17, 2012

John 19 38 to 42

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Key Observation:
Joseph and Nicodemus were secret believers.

I saved this portion of scripture because I wanted to think about secret believers. I understand very little of the need to be a secret believer, though I suppose I have felt stifled in my Christian expression. Being a public school teacher there is much that I cannot say, and I envy my daughter who teaches the same grade, but in a Christian environment. I am old enough to realize that many who begin in Christian schools seem not to do any better with regard to finding a Christian life than those in the public sphere, but there is an advantage to being able to openly state the Christian view. In that sense I am stifled, but when I read about people being killed because they profess Christ I understand that people from some cultures come to belief from a vastly different viewpoint.

I remember recently reading Joel Rosenberg speaking about a small revival of sorts in one of the Moslem countries. I cannot imagine trying to be a new Christian in such an environment. I suppose it is obvious to me why Islam seems to win out in almost every clash with Christianity—they advocate for murder and severe persecution. Not so with Christians, at least those who are walking in the Spirit. Our Lord teaches us to turn the cheek and pray for our enemies, that God may grant them repentance and that they may find life. Instead of believing that we Christians have to fight our way to the ruling kingdom, we believe that we must await the return of the King, and only then will our righteousness in Him be revealed to the world.

Both Nicodemus and Joseph in the above passage felt so fearful that they would not publically express their faith, but when push comes to shove, as they say, they chose to do what they could for their Lord. Do I know they had faith? Notice the passage proclaims Joseph to be a disciple of Jesus, and I think it is a safe assumption that Nicodemus was like Joseph. If they went public, they feared for all of their social standing, and even their right to attend synagogue, for they and their families would have been cast out. I wonder how often they managed to tell of their Lord, and when. I wonder about the Day of Pentecost, whether they were also filled with the Spirit. This is the last mention of Nicodemus so we cannot but speculate, but I wonder whether Nicodemus and Joseph got to a point where they had to publicize their faith. Someday the end of the story will perhaps be known, but not on this side of heaven.

I was reading a favorite passage from Tozer last night, and read again his exhortation to believers to find what I would term the deeper walk with Christ. Tozer talks about the immanence of God, and the need for believers to see that, just as Elisha prayed for the King to see the heavenly host and their superiority to the earthly minions. I know what he is talking about, and until about ten years ago, I thought I was the only one to be experiencing the walk in my family. To my delight my brother started sharing with me on how he had found God, and talked and prayed to Him in his evening walks. I suspect that another brother is discovering that walk even now, and again I delight in his discovery.

What kind of walk am I talking about? It is not a walk that is in any sense privileged, because God is the same to each of us, full of love and mercy. It is a walk available to all, but I think Tozer right when he suggests that not many of us find it. Let me share his thoughts: “I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity. Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision. As David put it neatly, "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek."”

I think part of what Tozer calls “spiritual receptivity” is the realization that God is with us, and that there is no time or place or situation or problem where God is not with us. Look at the spiritual faith of Moody, who knew his God, not as many of us pridefully boast to know Him in a theological sense, with lots of doctrine and verses to fit into our views. But rather Moody knew his God in a personal way, somehow coming to this spiritual receptivity very early in his Christian life, before he knew more than the simplest gospel message, and he was successful, I think, in sharing his faith so well because he seemed so immediately in tune with his God. He seems to have been reborn into the Christian faith knowing that the God of the universe was always there, and when he preached so successfully, I think it was because of that awareness. Somehow Moody was able to bring the nearness of his God alive and meaningful to many ears in his audience.

But I think looking at any of the spiritual giants of our faith will quickly bring me to the same reflection—God was very immanent to them—they understood that He was there, and that He cares about them with an all consuming love. Christians today who want “just a closer walk with Thee” would do well to reflect on His immanence. Such reflection surely leads to that closer walk. It is not that such a walk will bring more sight, though I think that is a common result. What a different life I might live, if I could but see the armies of the Lord, as did Elisha. Enoch walked with God, and God took him. I think Enoch is just an early example of someone who walked so closely to God, knowing this great feeling of immanence. Such people as Enoch and Elisha and Moody saw more in life than we commonly see, and such sight did in turn build their faith. It begins with, and ends with, as the hymn says, turning your eyes upon Jesus. Is it at all remarkable that such men should end by being seen as spiritual giants?

Tozer, A.W.; Tozer, Aidan; Tozer, Aidan Wilson; Foundation Press, Christian Miracle (2011-01-31). The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (Special Kindle Enabled Edition with Interactive Table of Contents and Built in Text to Speech Features) (Illustrated) ... | The Writings of Aiden Wilson Tozer of) (Kindle Locations 717-721). Christian Miracle Foundation Press. Kindle Edition.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

2. Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are!

3. His Word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Lyrics: Helen Howarth Lemmel

No comments: