Friday, October 24, 2014

Occupy Till I Come

Life of Christ 142

          Jesus and His Apostles are days away from the crucifixion. They have just left Jericho, with its scenes of the healing of Bar Timeaus and the salvation of Zaccheus. They are ascending the 3600 foot rise from Jericho to Jerusalem that takes most of a day's walk.
          The Apostles knew Jesus was facing the crisis point of His ministry. Galilee was hostile. Judea was downright murderous. Herod Antipas wanted to kill Christ. The Sanhedrin was not only fomenting mob violence against Him but was also carefully plotting His assassination. Jesus' popular support had mostly dwindled away. And they were heading into the mouth of the beast, Jerusalem, where attempts had been made on His life four times in the last six months, and where the whole nation was gathering.
         Ah, this was all true, but had not they seen Him walk on water? Had they not seen Him multiply the loaves and fishes? Heal the sick? Cleanse the lepers? Raise the dead? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! Thus it was they rightly interpreted this moment as the crisis point of His life, and wrongly interpreted the result. The Apostles expected Jesus to do something so stupendous, so publicly undeniable in a miraculous sort of way, so as to turn it all around. The Apostles expected Jesus to be the King of Israel within a week.
          It is in this context, and for these reasons that Jesus tells today's story (Luke 19.11-28). 'And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear' (Luke 19.11).
          When Jesus was a young boy Herod the Great died. His son, Archaleus, was given charge of the region around Jericho under Roman suzerainty. Archaleus developed an appetite for the same title, king, his father had been granted, and so he traveled to Rome to ask Caesar for it. Playing off of that story, Jesus tells of a man who journeys to a distant city in order to be declared king. This man's citizens hated him, and are glad that he is gone. In fact, they think he is gone forever. As he leaves, he commits the current situation to his faithful servants, and tells them that he will return shortly with the writ of kingship. Until then, they are to be busy serving him. When he returns the servants will need to give an account for what they did while the man was away receiving the kingdom.
          The parallels here are obvious. Jesus is the man who is disliked of his citizens, and must leave in order to obtain a kingdom. He will leave via the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. He will return with the legal standing of a king. Until then, He commissioned the Church to be busy serving Him. We will give an account for our service when the King returns.
          The heartbeat of this story is Christ's instruction 'occupy till I come' (Luke 19.13). Implicit in the original language word translated in the King James Version occupy is the idea of going into business. In a very real sense, God's work on this earth in our dispensation is a business. No, it is not a for-profit business, but it is a business. Jesus had long felt that way. 'Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?' (Luke 2.49). Long after Jesus left it was also how the Apostles felt. 'Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business' (Acts 6.3).

          So many people of my acquaintance treat their Christianity like a hobby when they should treat it like a business. They are routinely late to church but never late to work. They casually skip Sunday School but would never skip work. They read their Bible when they are in the mood, but they read the spreadsheet at work whether they want to or not. Their priorities in life, and thus their behavior are exactly backward.
          I am not saying that the only people right with God are those missionaries and pastors who have given their entire life to His service. I am saying that each and every Christian is to take their Christianity seriously. They are to treat it with the same care and thought and emphasis and priority that they would a successful business. They, strike that, we are to be about our Father's business until the King returns.

          'Occupy till I come.' 

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