Sunday June 4, 2006

ANSWER ME! - Mark 11:30

There are times when no answer means no!

I Christ's Challenge - the answer would embarrass them!

Palm Sundays events were echoing in the vaults of time, His actions in the amazed temple! He would not allow people to carry wares for sale, through its precincts. A place of prayer or a den of thieves ? citing by contrast, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11! That was the question implied in His rugged challenge.

By what authority have you done these things ? asked the chief priests, scribes and elders (11:27-28).

Jesus responded, assuring them He would tell them if they first answered a question of His own: the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men ?

If they said, from heaven, then He might ask: Since he showed Me to be the Messiah (John 1:29), as my subsequent actions have verified, why then do you challenge Me! I am cleansing the temple from what you fellows have failed in excluding, these horrid pollutions! Is it not clear ? I am doing it as the Messiah, where purity reigns.

If they said, however, from men, then He might ask: Why then do you not take a clear position against John the Baptist, declaring him  a fraud, confused, or both, for he attested Me, just as My own works from My Father have manifestly done! Cease sitting on the fence and protecting yourselves!

If they said that, rejecting John the Baptist, then  a huge popular wave of revulsion would upset their peaceful temple authority, and it would be they, not Christ who would be in evil focus.

Therefore they did not reply. Thus TWICE, Christ asked them to ANSWER.  Answer me! (Mark 11:29-30). I will ask, He declared, then  'answer Me'. Pursuing it, we find in the very next verse, these words: "The baptism of John - was it from heaven or from men. Answer me!"

There was no room to hide, and their failure to respond intelligently or at all, left them under the cloud of the undecisive, the confounded, idle people either without sight or courage, or both.


II Application of the Theme - John 21... firstly positively

People are often in this position. They may want the stability of 'the church' as the priests did, but not the claims of Christ. They may not want to answer at all. They want the solidity of the institution and its comfort, but not its work, its labour or its meat. They are spiritual vegetarians; they do not like meat. They are conscientious objectors; they do not like to labour in the vineyard.

It is however one thing to fail in some great scene, of which you are ashamed, as Peter did; but quite another, like so many of the chief priests in Christ's day, to answer emptily. There are 100 other things to do,  even in the temple perhaps, one might say, but this does not defile the duty to God. Indeed,  as to a robust faith in Christ which meets every challenge in every situation, some  may say:  Save it for the Marines, they need it!

Not  so. You do too. Leave them out of it. This is one place where a person cannot be left out of it any more than could the priests in Christ's day. Have you done a shabby deal ? have you stolen something, in effect ? have you ditched the testimony you should have made in deed as well as in word, for some imagined gain ? have you betrayed Christ ? It is not an occasion; it is the entire life of testimony, lived for Him or for another. For whom then are you living ?

The question must be faced, and that, not only verbally, for many will tell Christ in judgment day of their good works; but actually. You either do the will of God in preference to your own, your own content and pleasure and wilfulness, or you do not. Crushing conscience will never crush condemnation, but only increase it.

Each must, taking example from the apostles, ask himself, herself, AM I ? The challenge of Christ comes clear from the day He uttered it: ANSWER ME! He will not be put off.

Peter ON AN OCCASION, betrayed Christ, not as a life. Yet even for this, he had to answer. Thus when he had repented and wept bitterly, and found the Lord after His resurrection, Peter had the embarrassing, but soul-cleansing question: Do you love Me ? put three times. It was as if once again, Christ were saying, this time to the apostle: ANSWER ME! Do not quaver, do not equivocate, but ANSWER ME! Peter did, first in word and then in deed. His deeds showed the truth of his words.


III Friend, why have come ? ... then negatively

That was the positive outcome. There is however the negative option, so amazingly popular.

It is that of Judas, who though often close to Him,  and for 3 years in one sense, an ardent churchgoer, insofar as being present with Christ in His mission was like Church work, not mere attendance, yet betrayed Him.

He was a devil, known as such from the first (John 6:64, 70). For all His knowledge, however, Christ still sought the poor deluded religionist, even when he came to show the One to be arrested, by the atrocious deceit of kissing Him in greeting (Matthew 26:48). "Whomever I kiss, He is the One. Seize Him!" he had told the treacherous priests.

There you have some of the elements of religion. First, even Judas is very clear as to the centre and focus of it, Jesus Christ. Secondly, he realises that one must draw near to Him, as Christians also do, for Christ is God, and it is written, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to  you!" (James 4:8, cf. Zechariah 1:3). .

It was in WHAT HE DID WITH HIM, that the error lay. Focus first ? right. Draw very near to Him ? right. Then worship, and receive Him as Lord and Saviour ? so that you DO what He desires ? No, rather seize Him, smother Him up by being near, prevent your soul hearing His voice, by being too near for a conversation; USE religion to escape Christ. This is the formula for very many indeed, and doubtless many will inhabit the legion whom Christ depicted in Matthew 7:24-26. "I never knew you!" He will tell them. How could He say otherwise, since they were merely USING HIM, not worshipping!

Let us revert to Judas. Christ Himself - even under this duress, this frightful scene in which, at the shadowy darkness of night, a disciple so-called, comes with military power to seek to have Christ seized while no one is about who would protest - is slow to condemn. "Friend," He responded, "why have you come ?" (Matthew 26:50).

WHY ? ANSWER ME! That was the pointed question. It was for Judas to answer, for HE KNEW very well why he had come! It was not to serve the Lord, but to seize Him; not to obey but to fray Him; not to worship but to USE Him, to secure the more amply his little nest.

If then even the apostles asked, each one, when Christ spoke of this coming betrayal, "Is it I ?" (Mark 14:19), Judas too asked; and Jesus confirmed that he was the one (Matthew 26:25).

How intimate Judas was, right up to the Last Supper! He was dipping into the dish of the feast with Christ, so close, so cruel, so drawn, so distant: a mass of contrast surging to shame. John 13:30, tells us that Judas being exposed, "went out into the night". It was so not only in the dark hour, since sunset, but in the dark lower of hell.

ANSWER ME! was the desire of Judas, as he asked Christ, Is it I ? ANSWER ME was and is the demand of Christ. It was this that was asked of the faithless priests, it this that was impressed upon the fallen Peter; and it is asked of each one of us. Answer me! are you willing to follow, is it to be hollow as for Peter on that first night, but not thereafter ? Is it into the night, or into the light ?

You cannot have it both ways. If you are His, you FOLLOW Him and drawing close, do not do it in order to escape sacrifice, spirituality and godliness, His supremacy as Lord and His entitlement to your life, but to find it in yielding and obeying.

In your heart, before Sunday's communion, therefore, give Him an answer, that life will attest.

It is the least one can do. After that, let the light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify God; and ensure they are worked BY and FOR Him, in HIS Spirit, not in your own designs and desires. Yieldedness to the Lord is the beginning of service; for how can anyone serve, who is at war with the master, or who withholds the required totality of surrender for service in truth and in spirit! (Luke 14:27ff.) ? If there is just one good thing that you won't do, take care lest that very thing is a mere symbol of rebellion. BE FULL OF LIGHT! is Christ's exhortation (Luke 11:38). On the other hand, if is is mere weakness, ask Him for the strength (Isaiah 42:3), not just to look like what you know you are, but to be it; not to appear like an orange tree, but to grow like one, imperfect maybe, but every whit an orange tree. When HE says, Go! go; and when Come! then come.