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The relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus goes much deeper than mere blood. They were cousins, but we only hear of them interacting in the womb, at Jesus’ baptism, and then shortly before John’s beheading. We can assume that, as cousins, they spent time together growing up and then later, as young men, probably passionately debated scriptures, with Jesus (the younger by a few months) likely besting his older cousin at every turn. At Jesus’ baptism at the River Jordan, John is obviously in awe of his younger cousin and openly considers himself to be so low as to not even to be worthy to put Jesus’ sandals on his feet. When John tells Jesus that he should be the one getting baptized, Jesus gently chides him to go ahead with the baptism in order to fulfill scripture. We catch there a glimpse of the younger cousin again schooling his older cousin.
Jesus calls John the greatest of those born of women, but then also calls him lowest in the kingdom (that is, born of the Spirit). What did Jesus mean by that? It almost sounds like an insult, just as John sending his disciples to Jesus to ask if he were actually “the one” sounds like an insult. Did the cousins have a falling-out that is not recorded in scripture? (more…)
Jesus ended his ministry on Earth exactly as he started it: Alone.
When he was naked and dying in agony on the cross, no-one except him believed anymore that he was the Messiah, just like no-one, when he was growing up, believed he would become the Messiah.
If you plotted in graphical form the number of followers Jesus had during his time on Earth, a classic bell curve would emerge. From the initial 1, the numbers would swell to many, and then back down to 1 again.
Jesus himself is not responsible for the sharp rise and fall of his follower numbers. Rather, it was his followers’ lack of understanding of scripture along with their unwillingness to accept Jesus’ mandate as being spiritual not political that led to their exodus from the truth.
When Jesus burst on the scene dispensing miraculous healings like free condoms at a Pride parade, nearly everyone wanted to be part of the excitement. Jesus was youthful and vibrant and he really sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He thumbed his nose at religious authorities, besting them in every argument, and had a genuine connection with the people. He was a likeable guy doing likeable things. What’s there not to like?
It was only when Jesus started to challenge his followers’ false beliefs that his popularity began to wane. People wanted feel-good excitement and a “winning” candidate that they could get behind, but Jesus was stating very clearly that the winnings would not be in Earthly terms, and that in fact the Earthly reward for being part of the Kingdom would be persecutions and social rejection. Who in their right mind would want to sign up for that?
As follower after follower drifted away, Jesus didn’t water down his message but instead pushed the remaining followers harder and harder. He was weeding them even as he was feeding them. Those who could stomach the truth, stayed; everyone else either ran screaming or slithered off in silence.
At the cross, no followers at all remained, just a few friends and family members along with some soldiers and the usual assortment of haters. No-one believed anymore that Jesus was the prophesied saviour. Some still loved him, but they didn’t believe in him. He alone persisted to his dying breath in the sure belief that he was the Messiah.
After Jesus died, the women went to his tomb a few days later to apply the spices that were part of Jewish burial rites. Even though Jesus had told them explicitly that he would rise from the dead in three days, they still went to dress his corpse. They didn’t believe he would rise because they didn’t believe he was the Messiah. Then, when they found his tomb empty, they simply thought his body had been moved. They thought Jesus was buried, not risen, because they no longer believed he was who he’d said he was.
Self-confidence is a beautiful thing when it’s based on truth. Jesus remained firm in his belief that he was the Messiah because his interpretation of scripture was God-based, not man- or demon-based. In assuming his role as the Messiah, Jesus hadn’t set out to win a popularity contest. He didn’t measure the success of his mission by how many followers he’d accumulated but by how closely he adhered to a Godly interpretation of scripture and how closely his will was aligned to God’s. And in both of these measurements, his mission was more than accomplished.
Most if not all of today’s churches measure their success quite differently. For them, “making converts” has become some kind of a contest and the church with the most “converts” wins the prize. But to make converts to their false version of Christianity, these antichrist Christians – these wolves in sheep’s clothing we were warned about – not only water down the gospel but sweeten it with saccharine lies. I have stood in many of these churches, as have you.
I will stand in them no more, even if it means, like Jesus, I stand alone.
Even if it means, like Jesus, I die alone.