Do you remember as a child when your friends or siblings said in that tone of accusation, “Aww, are you ever in trouble now?” Some transgression had occurred. Some misstep on your part was taken. Some family or social rule had been violated and your peers knew you were going to be in trouble. You knew it too.
I remember oft being in the deep weeds growing up. Once, me and my brothers were having a “war” of sorts with two of the neighboring kids, Kenny and Cathy Schern. Kenny was my brother Gary’s age (two and a half years older than me) and Cathy was a bit older than Kenny. I have no recollection of what the war was about or how it started. I only know how it ended. They lived across the street; a gravel road named Laura Lane… still there today…and still gravel. Being a gravel road, smaller, throwable rocks abounded. Well, this war was a rock throwing war. Now, at that young age, our aim was really bad. When we threw rocks, no one got hit… it was just a statement of our ire. Except this once.
I wound up with my best high leg kick and sent a rock sailing across the road. It arched beautifully and majestically over the road and bounced high off Cathy Schern’s head. She went down in a heap screaming bloody murder. I thought I had killed her. I did not wait around to find out. I immediately turned on my heels and literally ran for the hills. At the end of our street was a huge rolling parcel of land with a swampy area just to the east of it. It was a good-sized hill behind which I could hide among (literally) the tall weeds and it cascaded down to the swamp. It was there I made my hideout.
From that place, I could peek over the crest of the hill and peer down our street in the distance. I saw my mother, who had been at the store when the assassination had occurred, rolling into our driveway. At that point I knew I was in deep, deep trouble. I determined I could never go home, this murder now hanging over my head.
Well, that was just one episode of being in trouble as a kid. But the thing of it is, adult troubles are far more serious than that one and the older I got, the trouble I got into was more serious and had more severe consequences.
In John 11, Lazarus was dead. But the brother of Mary and Martha did not stay dead. Jesus raised him from the tomb in symbolic reference to his own resurrection to come. This became a great problem for the Pharisees and other religious leaders who hated Jesus because he exposed their hypocrisy. Many were believing in him and going over to him. So, they determined they would have to kill him. This led of course to the crucifixion.
However, a couple of verses in John 12:10-11 have largely escaped the notice of believers down through the ages. They read, “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” The powers that were, were not satisfied to only put Jesus to death. They sought to put Lazarus to death as well because he was the living proof of the power of Jesus over death and his ability to raise his followers to life. Can you imagine Lazarus’ chagrin; not only did he have to die once (and by the way, would have to die again someday) but his subsequent second death was being promised and planned for in the very near future by the same ones who were planning Jesus’ death.
This is an example of what Jesus taught his disciples; “If they hate me, they will hate you… if they persecute me, they will persecute you.” As I have stated repeatedly, persecution in America has already started, and will only accelerate. I just read this morning about how Liverpool, London, has cancelled a scheduled preaching appearance by Franklin Graham because he holds to biblical morality on LGBT issues. This kind of stifling of religious speech is happening more and more in America as well. Chick-fil-A is being barred from doing business in some locations because their founder holds to a biblical morality. Several Christians and their businesses have been dragged into litigation all the way to the Supreme Court (our own Matt Rost family being one of them) because of their religious convictions. CEOs have lost their jobs for voicing their moral position as Christians. Speakers have been barred from some college campuses because their Christian positions were not acceptable. This is only the beginning of sorrows. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
But…relax…most “Christians” and “Christian Churches” have nothing to fear. You only need fear if your presence in the public square causes a “backlash” from those who would take away your religious liberty and desire to silence you. You see, Lazarus had to die because he was the living proof that Jesus was indeed, the Christ of God, who had authority over death. His presence refuted the established powers of the day. And unless you are the living proof, through your words and actions, that Jesus is indeed Lord, Savior, and God, you have nothing to fear. If you stand mute in the face of doctrinal and moral error, you are safe. If you keep your religion inside the four walls of your church building, no one will bother you (at least for now). If you live a surreptitious and covert Christian life, you have nothing to fear. But Lazarus was a walking billboard for Jesus. That is why he had to die. I wonder if we are “walking billboards” for Jesus.
Now, back to me hiding out in the deep weeds that day. As is usually that case in situations where kids determine they can’t go home, loneliness and hunger got the best of me. After a while, I decided I had to go home and take my medicine even though I knew I was in deep trouble. To my utter surprise, as I walked in our kitchen door off the garage, my mom was standing at the stove cooking dinner and said, “There you are…I brought you a candy bar from the store. It is up on top of the fridge.” To my utter surprise I found out, I wasn’t really in trouble at all.
A believer in Jesus Christ, who stands for historic Christianity and biblical morals in this pagan culture, is not really in trouble. Not really! While the world might cause us great grief, we cannot be in trouble with our Father. You see, I might have been “in trouble” with Cathy Schern’s parents. But what counted was that I was not in trouble with mine. And he is the only one that really matters.