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The Holy Shabbat in Between.

image from A Rocha International

The Holy Shabbat in between the death and resurrection of Christ is where those who follow Jesus Christ find their entire earthly lives. Today is the microcosm for all of life, the holy Saturday, the Shabbat, when everyone who followed Jesus and believed in Him mourned because He was no more; what is more, Jesus had not simply died. He was murdered, and He was tortured, and He was betrayed. And it was not just. Today, our world exists with much beauty of the “already” that glorifies God, but it suffers and groans with much of the “not yet” that destroys and casts down.

Jesus was betrayed out rightly by men he trusted like Judas. He was denied by men like Peter who were afraid and needed to protect themselves. He was betrayed simply by those who even though they WISHED he weren’t being crucified, were too scared to stand up and speak for him. I have to wonder, what would it have been like had literally everyone who believed in Jesus and witnessed Him as Son of God, Son of David, had stood up for Him, on His behalf, and asked for Him to be kept alive. Surely this great multitude who had been served the loaves and fish and healed of diseases and set free from spiritual bondage should have outnumbered, or at least put up a heck of a fight, against the Pharisees who demanded Christ’s death and found their own understandings of salvation and “godliness” to be more sufficient and effectual than the literal Savior of the world. He had walked among them, and He literally explained everything they believed to them, and He confronted them with their sins and how they sought to wash the outside of the cup while allowing the inside to fester with rot. He warned them. It was clear, YET these people did not repent.

This year in particular, these facts are not lost upon me. Standing up for what one believes to be truth and right and godly is not without its earthly dangers and discomfort. People fear being put out of the community, and they look at what has happened to others who have stood up for what honors God or spoken truths to call out patterns of generational sins in families and churches, and they fear “What if that happened to me? How would I survive?” Indeed, standing up for Jesus and demanding that which is good is fraught with dangers of being ostracized and excommunicated by the majority who say they live for Jesus but actually live for their own pride and reputation and grandeur, however passive they may appear. They are those who say they love others and have their best interests in mind but literally abuse others by their mere inability to humble themselves and confess their own sins. Oh how I wish it were not so, but I am reminded literally every day of how much it IS so.

I wonder what those who did not cry for the crucifixion of Jesus felt exactly after Christ died. Did they take upon themselves the responsibility for his death? Maybe, they deceived themselves, thinking that they were not actually part of the crowd that called for His death, and so they were not culpable. So incorrect, however. For anyone who could not stand up against the ruling crowds and say Jesus did not deserve the injustice being done to Him actually supported, by their silence and passivity, Satan and his desires to steal, kill, and destroy. Anyone who could not commit to truth publically, passively supported the lies. And Jesus, Jesus died because of it. He knew He would. That’s why he sweated drops of blood even in the garden. You want to talk of supernatural and of demons. Jesus sweating blood and having to be strengthened by an angel is supernatural. And Judas betraying the man he’d lived and walked with is demonic. Confessing sins and receiving help? That is the key to the kingdom. There is much evil, but God is a good who weaves together all the evil into a plan that glorifies God’s self, and after the holy Shabbat of worship and mourning, there is a resurrection that few even will believe if they see.

So, where is the demonic, the ungodly? The demonic is in the lies of those that seek to tear apart families and hide sin. The demonic is in those who are too afraid to take a stand to right wrongs and injustice and say that those being murdered and made to suffer are actually the ones who are literally carrying the cross of Christ and paying the price to fill up what is lacking in His sufferings, not that Christ’s suffering was not sufficient. No. Christ learned obedience through suffering, but so must every believer in Christ. God has not called us to rosy existences where everyone cheers for us and applauds us and speaks only good of us. That’s not how the disciples were perceived and accepted. They died martyrs. The saints of old, they experienced the greatest of sufferings. I venture to say even for myself, my early commitment to surrender my life and dreams to Jesus are that which is responsible for the desire of Satan to ruin my life and silence my voice which has, from the beginning, spoken truths of God and glorified God, even as a child. “Megin loves Jesus,” written all over my notebooks instead of my crushes names. “Who IS that girl?” She was apparently someone who loved Jesus, although writing that on a notebook isn’t necessarily the way a person is called to demonstrate that love, Megin was, and remains, a girl learning what it means to follow Jesus, and standing up to share about it so that God may be preached and glorified, even in pain, and even when judged.

But God. God knows that this Saturday will not last forever. God knows each of our frames. The Jewish believers were called to rest and worship on the first Shabbat after Jesus died. Joseph of Arimathea worked quickly to have Jesus buried, and he gave the best of which he had and took the chance even that he would suffer for it. Where were the disciples? They’d scattered, and they hid. The women prepared spices and prepared Jesus for burial, and Joseph took the chance of being identified as a follower and persecuted for Him. They did this out of commitment to Christ, and then they worshipped on Shabbat, in the midst of their pain. They did not know Jesus would rise. We serve a risen Christ. They served, that Shabbat, a dead Christ. If there was ever a muddled mind and confusion, these followers of Jesus experienced it, the despair.

This season of my life, there is much suffering; there is much pain. There is much injustice pursued at the hands of even those who claim to be followers of Jesus. Never would I have doubted that they were before, but in seeing their response to the truth and their own inabilities to repent of their culpability in bringing about the brokenness and abuses and toxicity or confessing it that it may be righted demonstrates that perhaps who they serve is not the risen savior, but their own lives and their reputations that they seek to control. There is no control here, only allusion. Our God is sovereign, and though it seem the evil prosper, that is not the final word.

Where are you at today? What is going on in your life? If you are a follower of Jesus, I venture to take a guess that there is some type of deep pain in your life, some type of suffering, something that feels to you the most unjust thing, or perhaps even just the mere empathy and compassion you have for others that you know are suffering. How does such pain lead and guide you? Does it lead you to self-awareness and examination of your own sins? If so, I venture to say you are headed down a good path, toward God. If the suffering of others causes you, however, to feel that you are better, or coming out on top, I encourage you to reread the Gospels, even all at once, and notice the theme of the godly. It is not found in one’s own adulation.

A friend of mine has a daughter who teaches Ukrainians. Talk about innocent suffering- the dead in the Ukraine. What did they do in order to deserve death? Nothing more than you or I have done. They are being murdered and targeted because of the satanic and demonic influence and pride that has over taken a human, a human who even himself is blind to his own sins and deluded into believing his own lies. What’s more, there are plenty who are so lost that they support this man, as well as other countries that are so afraid for their own lives, that they rarely lend aid. For indeed it is possible to be deluded by our own lies, and it is, as well, possible to fear for our lives and thus stand completely silent, watching from the sidelines, and taking no stand for justice. So how do we know, actually, if we can trust ourselves? How do we know if we are indeed following Jesus? Can we stand in the light? Can we stand before a holy God and beat our breasts like the tax collector, saying woe to me a sinner? Or do we stand near the temple, up front, priding ourselves in our righteousness while judging others? If I am found with anyone, I pray it is the tax collector, with Joseph of Arimathea, with the women suffering and crying at the tomb.

But what gives me hope? How does one endure such pain as rejection and false accusation? What gave those followers of Christ hope during that first holy Shabbat? I can’t speak for them. I don’t know what gave them hope. Maybe indeed, they did not have it, like the two people on the Emmaus road. Maybe they were destitute and depressed, not even understanding what was going on around them. There are plenty of times I don’t understand what is going on and have to sit in the pain as God brings understanding to my mind little by little, but I venture to say even those men were better off than the ones who sat in pleasure because they were “winning” and had accomplished what they wanted, having silenced the man who came to preach the GOOD NEWS and the Kingdom of God, who indeed was AND IS THE GOOD NEWS, the word, and the Kingdom of God, setting free the captives and healing the sick in body as well as spirit. If we find ourselves getting everything we want and constantly coming out on top, never suffering for our faith, more than likely what is going on is that Satan himself has no interest in our lives because we are NOT a threat to the kingdom of God being preached. Indeed, we matter very little because our faith, in actuality, is very little. But to suffer for the sake of righteousness? Well, there are entire books in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament dedicated to that, suffering that God might be glorified. If we find ourselves there, we are in good company, and can trust a Holy God to deliver us in some way in time as well as to utilize us to spread that Kingdom news, the Good News of Jesus! He lived. He died. He was buried, and He rose again, and He is coming again for us to take us to a place that even now, He prepares for us. He is our advocate, the author and finisher of our faith, and the first born of all of us adopted into the family of God.

Where do you rest this holy Shabbat? Do you rest in your own righteousness, in the pleasure you have take from your money and comfort and ability to get for yourselves everything you want? Or do you rest in the hope of Christ, that in time, all that is wrong will be righted, that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you so long as you know your life is hidden with Christ? And how do we know that we are indeed serving Christ and not ourselves? Well, we can look at our fruit. Are we making our decisions based on love and peace and kindness, based on patience and joy and gentleness and self-control? Or are we making decisions out of anger, out of pride, out of fear, out of a need to control the narrative to make ourselves look less culpable than other characters in our personal story? Until we can surrender even the most precious of our gifts and beg the Lord to have His will come no matter what cup we must drink or cross we must bear, we do not yet know Jesus. And I venture to say that the loss of one’s reputation or money is not the greatest loss one can experience. Jesus Himself said that it is better to lose the world and gain one’s soul. Reputations matter not in the grand scheme of being used by God and acting in honorable ways. When we function because we are afraid and need to save or validate ourselves, we function in service to ourselves, and we literally break the first and second commandments. We can keep all the other 8 so well, but neglect the first two… and that is why there will be many who stand before Jesus and say “did we not cast out demons in your name?” And Jesus will say, “Depart from me; for I knew you not.”

Godliness is not found in knowing the right words to say, but godliness is found in faithfully living out in obedience the words of Scripture and the ethic of Christ, come what may. I pray this holy Shabbat, God would remind you all of the spirit of love, power, and self-control that you have if you know Jesus and indeed have the Holy Spirit at work in your lives. I pray you would stand up for what is right regardless the cost, regardless the chance that those in power may ostracize you and lie about you, regardless of the cross you may end up carrying. In a world of accusers, be a Simon walking with Christ. Recal the work of the enemy from day #1. Lying… he lied to Eve. He lied about Jesus. And those who allow themselves to carry out the works of the evil one against those who desire to follow and glorify God are the ones that in the end wind up hanging in the fields, (Judas), having served themselves and missed even the narrow way which leads to life. Perhaps today, as those who suffer and experience this life as an never-ending Shabbat between the death and resurrection of Jesus, we should pray not only for them, that they may endure and endure well, but we should pray that God will break the hearts of even those who are hardened and deceived and being used by the evil one to steal, kill, and destroy.

Where the works of Jesus are done and the words of Jesus preached, there is the Kingdom of God. And might I plead a return to Exodus if anyone considers the works of God to be those which appear so miraculous and magical, skilled in arts of miracles even. The magicians that served Pharaoh could do most of all the wonders that God performed through Moses and Aaron. There have always been false prophets, and there always will be. The tongues of man and ostentatious demonstrations of the Spirit are not that which God calls us toward. That is not how the Kingdom of God spreads. The works of Christ are lending to those less fortunate the helping hand, giving a cup of cold water, or the very meager which is actually all one may have. The works of Christ do for the least of the brothers and act out of love for and committed obedience to Christ. The works of Christ suffer not harm to the children or leadeth them astray. Leading away the children, Jesus says, well, it’s better to have a millstone hung around one’s neck and thrust into the sea than to do that. The works of Christ are not the works that receive the most laud and praise and admiration in this day in which we live, but they are the works which reflect that Christ lives within our hearts and minds, and they are the works which will be praised and honored by God, in this life, and much more in the life to come. The poor in spirit, the broken and contrite; God is close to these.

Holy Shabbat. I pray that today we may all remember our hope is from God, not from our ability to control even our own lives or the actions of others. All we can control in life is our responses to what happens to us, our own choices. So choose, this day, whom you will serve, and go in peace to do the works of the Father. Amen.

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MeginLea

MeginLea

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MeginLea is a writer-singer-songwriter-minister from the deep South who expanded her horizon in Asia & has been woven deeply into the fabric of urban NYC.