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March 4, 2009 / beidson

From the Blood of Abel to the Blood of Zechariah: Mission, Martyrdom and Messianic Vengeance

If the mission of your life right now is to avoid bankruptcy, you might be keeping people frommartyr Jesus.  If the people you hang out with say the greatest thing you’ve ever done is teach them how to be better leaders, you might be leading them to hell.  Not that you shouldn’t avoid bankruptcy, and not that you shouldn’t show others how to lead, but if you do these things to the neglect of a better thing, your mission, whatever it is, will be a failure when all is said and done.

When confronting the Pharisees and lawyers about their greed and wickedness, Jesus did not do a sort of spiritual line item veto against particular behaviors and practices.  Rather, he condemned them entirely, using as judgment against them the very outward righteousness they wore on their sleeves.  It was not that they were unclean outwardly, though they were, even if not obviously. They were doomed because they had yet to clean what was most essential.  If only they had cleaned themselves inwardly, everything would have been clean for them (Luke 11:41).

But there was more to their treasonous spirituality.  Their inward rot was not contained, like the pork chop in the container in the back of a fridge.  Their rot was infectious.  And it was dangerous.  It seemed to be something other than what it really was, and for this reason, it was the object of Jesus’ scorn and rebuke, and will one day be the object of his furious wrath.  The Pharisees were missional, but their mission was leading others to hell.  They had taken away the key of knowledge and were locking others out of the kingdom.  Their mission to enter the kingdom by righteous living failed because it was not centered on the Righteous One, and consequently, they were taking others down with them.  They were like unmarked graves: on the surface, they look like good places to picnic, but not if you really knew what was underneath.  And so they gave cause for praise, but only because they were sealing off the stench of death and hiding the bones of corpses within.

There is a warning for us here.  If our mission does not drive us to martyrdom, we are leading others to death.  In fact, we are calling them to a sort of false martyrdom, giving them reasons to die that are not really worth dying for.  If our lives do not point any further down the road than our next paycheck, we are taking away the key of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ from those who might come.  And like the Pharisees, we can only expect that the blood of these people will be charged against us.

What Jesus demands of the Pharisees and lawyers and us is a righteousness that leads to death, not to the preservation of life.  No doubt the Pharisees were willing to die for their rigorous righteous standard, but Jesus was not asking this of them, and that is what matters ultimately.  The righteousness Jesus secures for us calls us to a life lived unto martyrdom, that is, a righteousness which tithes maticulously but does not overlook justice and the love of God.  This kind of living will not keep others from knowing Christ, but will prove to them that the righteousness he offers is precisely what God demands and gives in Christ.  This kind of living is clean both inwardly and outwardly because there is no stench to seal off and there are no bones to cover up.  And this kind of living will not bring a charge against us.  The blood of the prophets, from Abel to Zechariah, will be charged against those who keep the keys of the kingdom from others by their false righteousness.  This is messianic vengeance, the prerogative of Christ to judge those who judged others by the wrong standard, and so lead them astray.

Will you find yourself with the prophets, whose mission drove them to martyrdom, whose righteousness lead them to their graves because they loved Christ?  Or will you find yourselves with the Pharisees and lawyers, whose mission drove them to murder, whose righteousness lead them to dig the graves of those who loved Christ?

Are you planting in others the seed of martyrdom, which is a supreme love for Christ that follows him to death?  Or are you planting in others the seed of murder, a grievous discontent and anger toward the death that Christ demands of us?  Jesus’ blood and righteousness are sufficient to save, but do we preach against this by living as if they are not?

If your mission in life is to cover up the stench of death in your life, understand that the blood of nations may be charged against you with fierce vengeance.  So repent, and live in such a way that you would gladly die for the One who has given you the righteousness God requires.  Live your life like an empty tomb, and others will follow you to the grave.

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