Now, you can choose to ignore those readings. You can run errands while the gas gauge flashes ‘Empty.’ You can refuse to accept the fact that your car needs attention. You can disagree when your gauge reads: ‘Empty.’ That’s fine— but the fuel gauge in your car is not sharing an opinion. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, when the gauge reads ‘empty,’ your car will stop.
There are instances in life that do not seek your input. Rather, they convey a very real truth. When Jesus preaches and teaches, he is not seeking opinions. He preaches and teaches for the sole purpose of conveying a very real truth. Now, your heart can disregard his warnings, but Jesus makes one thing abundantly clear: Jesus Marches On in spite of rejection, to gather you under his forgiving wings.
That is why you find him where you do today. Jesus stands in present-day Jordan. He has already walked down the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) and is forging ahead one last time into Jerusalem. Only the Jordan River separates him from reaching his destination.
This territory belongs to King Herod. At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” Maybe that’s true. After all, Herod did behead John the Baptist. Still, the Pharisees do hate Jesus that they may be making a veiled threat.
Whatever their motives, one thing is very clear: Jesus is not wanted. God sends John the Baptist to Herod with this message: “You committed adultery by divorcing your wife and stealing your brother’s wife. This is wrong” (Matthew 14:3-4). Understand, God does not offer a suggestion; this is his Sixth Commandment. Yet, Herod does not cherish this command. He refuses to obey it. In fact, he treats God’s command as an opinion. He throws John in prison. He continues living with this brother’s wife, thinking of his rebellion as no serious matter. God sends Jesus to the Pharisees with this message: “You appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness… First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”” (Matthew 23:26-27). This is not an opinion; Jesus makes clear: if you reject the need for a Savior, you will die. The Pharisees do not want a Savior. They want a leader who fights the Romans. A leader who rekindles the national pride of Israel. A leader who rules with power, peace, and prosperity! So, they chase their wish instead of the truth.
That is the purpose for sending out the Word: to call back wandering hearts. God has been doing this for centuries. He sends steady streams of prophets armed with his Word. Jeremiah foretells destruction because of Judah’s unbelief, but Judah rejects Jeremiah. They do not want to hear the truth, let alone be confronted with it. Even the priests rage against the God they supposedly represent. If you read the rest of Jeremiah 26, you see God’s prophets slaughtered. The problem is not with God’s judgment; the problem is with their heart! You look at such treatment and Jeremiah is not to blame. John the Baptist is not to blame. Jesus is not to blame. Wicked hearts produce wicked actions!
The reason for preaching is not to kill, but to save. Not to take away life, but to save life! Jesus himself even laments this: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! If people do not want him, then he will let them have their wish. Jesus Marches On in spite of rejection.
That is an absolutely terrifying reality. God makes it abundantly clear that he is not accepting our opinions. He commands. Jesus does not ask if you appreciate marriage, he lays out a one-man and one-wife commitment until death. Jesus does not ask if worship can sneak into your busy schedule, he commands that you set aside time for worship. Jesus does not ask if you would enjoy respecting your authorities, he commands that you respect them. Jesus does not ask if that one sibling is worth your time, he commands that you purge all bitterness from the heart. God does not change his demand of obedience. It is God who demands you (and I) change to obey. If we do not, Jesus Marches On.
I wonder, how many think that they will enter heaven simply because they demand that God accept them? Humanity might feel that they have the authority to stand before their Maker and demand that he receive them into heaven for no other reason than they say so. And that God will have no other choice but to cave in and accept this plea.
When met with rejection, Jesus Marches On. Herod intimidates Jesus with death, the Pharisees threaten Jesus, and Jesus responds: Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. Jesus will do as he pleases without interference. Nothing will hinder him from preaching the good news to both believer and nonbeliever. In fact, Jesus forces people to fall in line with his plans. [N]o prophet can die outside Jerusalem. Jesus’ time had not yet come (John 7:30, 13:31-33). Herod would not kill him in Jordan. The Pharisees would not stone him. Jesus would be crucified in Jerusalem. Nothing will stop those mouths from admitting: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Nothing. On Palm Sunday Jesus will ride into Jerusalem. People will shout, “Hosanna! Save us, son of David!” Everyone who rejected him as king on that day will forced to acknowledge him as the King he is on the Last Day.
Jesus Marches On in spite of rejection— and no one will stop him because Jesus Marches On to reach his goal of gathering you under his forgiving wings.
This is the reason for Christmas Day; this is the reason Jesus is born. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life… For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:14-15,17).
On that gloomy Friday Jesus would hang rejected. The Pharisees gloat that Jesus is leaving. The people shake their heads, mumbling: “What a fool.” Even God the Father pushes Jesus away like some foul filth. Understand, Jesus is rejected because we chose to reject him. This is what sin deserves: rejection. Yet, it is not you suffering God’s rejection; it is the only One who never rejected his Father. Even in suffering Jesus Marches On to his goal— the goal of gathering you under his forgiving wings. On the third day he reaches it.
Jesus’ resurrection declares that God still accepts Jesus, and that God now accepts us. You can be sure that God does love you, that God does forgive you. How? Well, God used baptism to choose you. This is what God’s Word says: [B]aptism […] now saves you also— not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Marches On to the grave and into life in order to gather us under his forgiving wing.
That is where you rest now. You live under God’s care, and you always do because God rules your heart with his Word. For 47-years [Faith] 137-years [St. John] God has sent you an unbroken chain of Pastors. These men stand in front of you and proclaim: ‘This is God’s Word..’ Think about that for a moment. These men are not spewing out personal opinions about life or fabricate ideas about God. A prophet of God has no right to change the Word— and if he does, then God holds him accountable (Isaiah 8:20; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 John 10-11). A prophet must point to God’s Word and speak only the Word (Jeremiah 23:28).
Those Pastors are sent to you, to bring the Word to you. That may mean your Pastor addresses sin in life. He is not trying to look superior. He is not trying to ruin your day. He is not trying to control your life. Those would be ungodly reasons. Jeremiah does not preach destruction so that he might feel better about life. He preaches some very difficult words because so many strut down the wide road into hell. He speaks to turn back! That’s why your Pastor may say some very difficult words. Understand, he does it out of love. As a fellow Christian, receive those words in love.
That is why we (including me!) willingly receive correction when needed. We listen because these are not manmade words, but the Word that comes from your God. When sin is exposed, do not reject correction. Instead, cherish God’s Word. We forge commitment in marriage because the love God has for us compels us to love his command for marriage. We pray for leaders because the love God has for us compels us to love respecting leaders. We set worship as priority because the love God has for us compels us to love growing in our faith. As we keep the Word in our hearts, we remain gathered under the forgiving wings of the Savior.
The Word preserves life, just like a fuel gauge maintains a frustration-free life. Your gas gauge reports actual readings. If you choose to ignore those readings, then remember, you are not rejecting an opinion. You are rejecting the truth.
When Jesus preaches and teaches, he is not seeking opinions. Jesus Marches On in spite of rejection. When the heart considers this harsh, just remember: The greatest love that God could ever demonstrate is revealing an unbelieving heart so that people may see Jesus and live. That is why Jesus Marches On. He pushes past rejection to deal with your very real punishment. He pushes past rejection to complete his goal of gathering you under his wings. That makes you ready to shout: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! You will not fear. You will rejoice that your Jesus is marching for you.