FOOL OR HERO – PART ONE
Nick and Joe worked quietly and quickly to obtain permission from local authorities for burial rights of the executed man they had grown to love and trust. Living during times of political oppression and religious persecution made it difficult to trust any person. In their heart, they knew this executed man to be innocent even though public opinion caused him to be condemned to death.
Being successful and well to do businessmen in their community gave Nick and Joe a certain measure of political clout. This helped them obtain permission to bury the their friend and mentor. Joe generously gave up his own pre-purchased burial crypt to expedite the whole heartrending task. These two men were also part of an elite and educated theological society responsible for the execution of their friend. This prominent society exerted pressure on the common people to follow a legalistic set of rules steeped in tradition. Members of this society often taught such a message but did not follow it with their own lives. Hypocrisy and empty rituals left the commoners without hope. Many experienced poverty, heavy taxes and increasing loss of freedom.
Then along came this man who spoke a different message without fear of the local political or religious authorities. He called wrong living and wrong thinking wrong. He encouraged people to admit their shortcomings, receive forgiveness and sin no more. He condemned those living lives of hypocrisy. He spoke with authority as well as love. He healed the sick, delivered people from demon oppression, and performed miraculous acts of giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead. He demonstrated humility by washing feet, eating with lawbreakers and prostitutes. He resisted manipulating those who continually tried to manipulate him to do and say wrong. He urged the people to truly know God through his words and actions.
A warning went out to those who argued, “Anyone who is on God’s side listens to God’s words. If God were your true father, you would love me. The reason you can’t accept my words is because you are from your father the devil who is a murdering liar and you only want to please him. That is why you don’t listen to my words, because you really aren’t on God’s side.” Nick and Joe listened carefully to this man’s words and even visited him secretly to ask more questions. They compared notes and in their hearts they knew what this man was saying and living was truth.
He encouraged Nick and Joe saying, “If you love me, then show it by doing what you’ve seen me do. Wash other’s feet. An employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you then act like it.” If they went public with their decision to become followers of their friend, Nick and Joe knew they would be thrown out of their theological society, blacklisted in their businesses, and possibly arrested.
When the guilty verdict came for their friend, they were devastated. During the court proceedings, he didn’t speak one word in his own defense. He submitted to the whole ugly process as if he was on a mission. Nick and Joe reminded each other of his recent words spoken to them, “I will not be with you much longer. Where I’m going you can’t follow until later. But in the meantime, love one another the way I’ve loved you. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’ve been doing but greater things. When you talk to God as my follower, and ask him for help in a situation, he will do it because of my sacrifice providing you freedom and authority on this earth.”
Watching the execution of their friend, remembering his authoritative words, loving actions and listening to their own hearts sealed it for them. No longer could they keep their loyalty a secret. Nick and Joe didn’t understand all that was happening but they did know this was man of loving truth should be treated with deep respect, even in death. Risking their own lives, they gave their friend a loving respectful burial. Little did Nick and Joe know that the relationship with their dear friend had not ended but was about to deepen and unfold into what was their true destiny, lives filled with greater meaning and purpose.
What is the meaning and purpose of your life and whom are you following to get there?
“A servant is not greater than the master. Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me.” (NLT: John 15: 20 – 21)