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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serving Christ in Obscurity

Treasured friend,

I’ve been studying the Gospel of John in my personal devotions and—as always with the Living Word—I’ve been captivated by something fresh, something I’d never noticed quite this way before. In chapter 1, I met a slew of fascinating people ... people who play roles in bringing many others to Christ.

John the Baptist, Andrew, Philip, and Nathaniel are the four who jumped out at me in this reading. Briefly, let me tell you what I noticed; then we’ll get on with how this applies to us as followers of Christ, in general, and caregivers, in particular.
John the Baptist—he’s the one who prepares the way for the Christ to enter the scene. Then, when people question him on his feelings about Jesus taking over and outshining him, JtB makes the most unselfish statement I could imagine: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” In fact, a larger chunk of his defining quote is:

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:27-30 (ESV)

Then there’s Andrew—he’s the first missionary. And he’s the first of the disciples recorded to have signed on to follow Christ. He’s with JtB and hears the proclamation of Jesus as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” And here’s what he runs to tell his brother Simon (Peter): “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” John 1:41 (ESV).

We hear Andrew speak for himself in one other scene, the one with the loaves and the fishes. He’s the one who brings the small cache to Jesus—Who then multiplies it to feed the multitude (John 6). Otherwise, Andrew decreases—while his brother Peter takes over as spokesperson for the disciples. Interesting, the great deal we make about Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ … when early on Andrew makes the same statement—without the need of walking on water to meet the Master or seeing the squillions of other miracles that would come.
Then there’s Nathanael. He’s from the same town as Andrew and Peter—and Philip (who becomes the missionary to Nathaniel). Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). Nathanael scoffs—thinking Nazareth an unlikely source of the Messiah. But when Jesus calls Nathanael personally, the scoffer immediately turns to faith: “Rabbi,” he says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Those are the only words we ever hear from him, even though he too becomes a Christ-follower, a disciple.

I’m intrigued by the fact that these first confessors of the truth about Jesus Christ's deity, these first disciples, all fade into the background as those whom they bring to Him become a sort of inner circle—Peter, James, and John—who make nearly all the headlines in the disciple years and later in the early church recorded in Acts. (We do meet Philip in Acts, when he becomes a missionary to Samaria and when he miraculously arrives on the scene with the Ethiopian eunuch—and later as the father of four daughters who are godly women of faith and prophecy. But then he drops off the radar as Paul rises to prominence in the story.)

I suppose the lesson for us here is found in the faithfulness of these individuals who all decreased so that others, and more importantly, Christ, would receive all the headlines--and any glory that would come. These early believers trusted Christ, and they each served Him in everyday ways. They told others about Him—through their words and their obedient actions. They didn’t seek thanks or praise for themselves (we don’t hear of any one of these disciples asking for the place of prominence in the coming kingdom).

It’s rather like the thankless work of a caregiver. Consistency in a thousand, thousand daily actions—none of which gain for her (or him) elevated praise or glory. And yet caregivers, like disciples, work on. Pointing toward Christ. Serving Christ as they serve their elder charges.

Somehow, I rather think God takes notice of these servants of His. I do believe Jesus’ words on the subject speak for themselves:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

I’m pretty sure I can be content with the notice of my Lord and Master—especially with such an awesome promise of a “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And with Christ calling me "you who are blessed by My Father."

I can live with that. How about you?

Blessings and prayers,


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