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Vilify, Validate, Victimize, Victorious!

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

What do all those words have in common? These words describe the life of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As we go into the Easter season, it is customary to reflect on our Lord Jesus Christ. Just how well do we know Him? It is sometimes hard for us to wrap our minds around the fact that Jesus is fully human and fully God at the same time. When He began His earthly ministry, it is curious to read that the Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Why was that an important part of His human experience? For one thing it helps Him to identify with us in our moments of temptation. In fact He taught us to pray “Lead us not into temptation” because He knew the powerful impact, the desperate energy it takes, to resist the devil.

Vilify: “To speak about in an abusively disparaging manner”.

Jesus’ life began under the shadow of illegitimacy. God chose a virgin to bear His Holy Son so there would be no question about His Divinity. Some folks, refusing to believe God’s miracle, vilify Mary to this day. To be sure there was no stain on Jesus’ name, a prophecy was given hundreds of years before His birth: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call His name “Immanuel” [meaning God with us] (Isaiah 7:14). And so the “Virgin Birth” became a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith!

Before His ministry began, the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the desert for the specific purpose of facing temptation.

After 40 days and nights of fasting, most of us would be pretty weak. When we are tired or hungry, when our felt needs are not met, we become impatient, grumpy, and even fearful and angry. It is interesting to note that right at that time Satan tried to take advantage of Jesus’ weakened physical state. He taunted Him:
If you are the Son of God….” (Matthew 4:3). Because we know Jesus is God, we sometimes pass over the impact this would have had on a physically weak person. Bread? What would He have given for a piece of bread? We know, from His later miracles, that He could produce bread miraculously, but He would not do it to satisfy the cravings of His own mortal body. Certainly He would not give the devil the satisfaction of weakening His resolve – to use this time of fasting to draw strength from His heavenly Father, for all that lay ahead. He knew the battle that His humanity would face, and this was just the beginning! Twice in the desert the devil questioned His authenticity, demanding He prove His unique Sonship. Failing that, Satan used many folks throughout Jesus’ ministry to ridicule Him as the Son of God. We find the Pharisees, folks trained in the scriptures and prophecy, who ought to have recognized who Jesus was, questioning Jesus’ identity, and then of course crucifying Him on the grounds of blasphemy, for making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).

What a rollercoaster of emotion existed in Jesus’ life. Crowds of folks celebrated the man they thought was their deliverer from Roman persecution! His miracles produced entertainment for the multitudes. However, when He was taken prisoner, the chant changed to “Crucify Him”! What made the difference? Ignorance mingled with unrealistic expectations, led them astray. Let us not forget the intensity of Jesus’ feelings when He was vilified. How did Jesus respond?

Consider: how painful was this to the heart of the gentle Saviour who so loved the world that He came to sacrifice Himself for each person’s sin? It was apparently enough to make Him weep over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). We humans all need to feel appreciated. Knowing what we now understand from scripture about God’s purposes, how easy is it for you and for me to yield to the Father’s will? Would we deny Jesus what is due the supreme effort He made to subjugate His humanity to the will of His Father?

Reflection:

The important thing is that Jesus didn’t ever feel He had to prove to anyone who He is. We might take a page from His story to consider that as God’s children, neither do we need to prove who we are. If we are living as God wants us to live, what is that to anyone else? Jesus questioned James’ and John’s desire. A verse worth meditating on reflects Jesus’ attitude towards you and me. Nothing else matters. We may be vilified, but Jesus says: “You must follow Me” (John 21:22).

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

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