October 7, 2014

Hair On The Head of John The Baptist

I’ll be the first to admit that my posts have taken a much more forlorn and austere tone than those in the past but I believe to some extent that it is necessary to convey some of harder truths I’ve been stumbling across in my haphazard walk towards Almighty God. It is also a surprising fact that I struggled with the Bible passage in today’s post. Not so much because it was impossible to understand but because it was harder to accept than other truths I’ve come across. It is also because it ties so closely to some of my recent personal circumstances and troubles. I needed to scrutinize it closely to resolve it in my own mind. When I did look closely at it…further logical consequences fell out from the scrutiny. Perhaps more than I expected.

Luke 21:12-19 ~ “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

This passage is in the context of the signs of the end times. It clearly and obviously speaks of persecution. It tells us that followers of Christ will be hated for Christ’s sake. It tells us that people like us will brought before magistrates and leaders due to Christ. It tells us that we should not defend ourselves and we should resolve to do nothing beforehand. If we do speak words of wisdom, those opposed to us (Christ) will not be able to contradict us. Sadly, it also tells us that we will be betrayed by even those closest to us…our friends and even our family.

Yet it tells us not a hair on our heads will be harmed or perish. It tells us that if we stand firm (in faith) we will win life. It as it this point the Spirit convicts me to think of people like the Apostle Paul and John the Baptist. Was John literally a disciple of Jesus? Not really, but John certainly was a follower of the same principles in Scripture and of the same God. This therefore would make him just as hated as later Christian disciples for just about the same reasons. John may have been a forerunner of Jesus but Christ's words could apply to him also since they were preaching essentially the same message just as the prophets of the Old Testament.

Luke 13:34-35 ~ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 
They were hated for Christ’s sake and the truth that they preached. John was brought before leaders. He did not defend himself per se, he merely made statements when questioned. When he did speak words of repentance, truth and wisdom to the people of his time they were not able to contradict him. In all fairness Jesus was correct, they did not harm a hair on his head…

They cut his head off. 

He did not win life, he very clearly lost it.

This is where I struggle the greatest. So what is Jesus saying to His disciples (and us) here? How can John’s beheading in Luke 3 be reconciled to Jesus’ statement 18 chapters later?

First of all, the very context of this passage alludes to the fact that some will die in verse 16. So how is it that people will be persecuted of Christ’s sake and even die, yet not a hair on their head will be harmed? Is this a contradiction as some will claim? How can one take a life yet not harm a person? It is a matter of perspective. Human perspective and God’s perspective. Never forget, we’re dealing with Jesus here folks. Nearly every time Jesus spoke, there were Kingdom implications.

This could only refer to the fact that violent or dogged persecution most likely will befall the true believer of Jesus Christ. It is a clear example of the fact that obedient servants to the Lord may not get a proper reward in this life. There is a good probability then that life will not be all puffy clouds, pink unicorns and rainbows. These words come from the mouth of the Lord Himself. There is a delineation being made here but it takes a Kingdom view to see it.

So again the conundrum remains. How is it that one could potentially lose their head but not have a hair on their head harmed? Are we talking about a corpse with a perfect coif? Well, actually we are...sort of. From a worldly point of view it makes no sense. Form an Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist point of view it also makes no sense. From a Christian view with an eye on the Kingdom of God…it makes perfect sense.

This could only refer to the resurrection of the dead somewhere down the road. Jesus is looking at what is important not necessarily immediate. He is seeing the eternal view not the finite view.

The Lord views everything in the light of eternity. Man nearly always view things in the immediate context. We have great difficulty seeing beyond our momentary existence here on earth. From a secular perception, people who die for their “religion” or faith in Jesus have lost everything. But from Jesus' viewpoint, those that momentarily suffer are in reality blessed in the long-term. Christian martyrs haven't lost anything, they've gain.

Matthew 16:22-26 ~ “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
The Egyptians who enslaved Israel were tools. The Edomites who terrorized the city of God were instruments. And they would have to bear the burden of their sin, their violation of God’s people. But God says that he is the one who sent the locust. He is also the one who restored his people.

Those that suffer or die in Christ are not doing so in vain. 

Philippians 1:21 ~ “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.“

We see a similar passage to Luke 21 in Matthew 10:28-31. The passage alludes to the same scenario. Jesus tells the disciples that even the hairs on their heads are numbered. In other words, everything about their lives is accounted for by Jesus. In their resurrection, they will get all their hairs back…even if their heads have been removed from their body. How? Because God is omnipotent and capable of returning any person to their optimal state.

Matthew 10:28-31 ~ “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

…and here is the linchpin in all this.

In Hebrews we read the following about those who will maintain their faith through suffering or even death…

Hebrews 11:35-40 ~ “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

So what should we do in light of this truth? We need to try and live our lives within these types of ordeals with the perspective that they are nothing but light and momentary trials and afflictions no matter how hard they become. We need to live with this perspective because when God repays us for the wrongs suffered and the death died, what is returned to us by Christ, in Christ far surpasses and outweighs those wrongs perpetrated on us.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ~ “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

What is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal…even the hair on the head of John the Baptist.

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