READ: John 12
THINK: Between 1892 and 1954 over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through the processing center on Ellis Island. Many of them came tattered and broken, desperate for the hope that a new life in America provided. And as they sailed through New York Harbor on the way to their new lives they passed directly by the Statue of Liberty, boldly holding her torch aloft in all of her copper glory with a broken chain lying at her feet. The statue was a symbol, towering above the ships below, of the freedom, once denied, that those aboard could now taste. It didn’t matter where they came from or who their parents were. It didn’t matter what language they spoke or what level of education they had. This freedom was for everyone, and that fact was made clear by the words inscribed beneath the statue on her pedestal, a poem by Emma Lazarus entitled The New Colossus, which includes the lines:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
There is another monument to human freedom that looms large across the specter of human history, standing tall above the oppression of sin and the brokenness of this world. The cross of Jesus Christ is rather less triumphant in appearance than the Statue of Liberty. It is a splintered and blood stained piece of wood, marked with holes from the nails that were driven through the hands and feet of the Savior. But, as Jesus very clearly said in John 12 he came to save the world and doing so meant that he had to die. He had to die in our place. We were sinners, enslaved and beaten down by our own wickedness, shattered by our rejection of God, and Jesus stepped in and bore the weight so that we could be forgiven and set free. And it doesn’t matter where a person comes from or who their parents are. It doesn’t matter what language they speak or what level of education they have. This freedom is for everyone!
Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The extraordinary, unbelievable, undeserved, indescribable freedom that we have received through Christ is something he wants to offer to every single person in our world. The cross is the great symbol, towering over humanity across time and space, of the ultimate freedom from sin and death that are available in relationship with God. Time and again, God reveals his heart that all people in all places would grab hold of that freedom. And his plan to invite them into it is you and me. He calls his people to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, to carry the gory yet glorious cross to our world and invite them to experience its liberation. The question is: are we doing it?
Too often, the answer is “no.” We aren’t doing it because we are afraid of how people might respond. We’re afraid of being rejected. We’re afraid of what they might think. And so we privately claim Christ for our own but publicly live in a way that is not markedly different than everyone else around us. Why? Because, like the religious leaders in John 12, we crave praise and applause and approval from other people more than we do from God. We deny Him so that they wont deny us. But our world is perishing. People around us are living in darkness, brokenness, and oppression. And we hold the very key to the freedom that they need.
My prayer for all of us, as Christians, is this: that we would not take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted. That we would be so overwhelmed by the gift that we have received that we would respond by proclaiming it to everyone around us. That because we are truly free, we would liberate ourselves from worrying about the approval of others and, because of his great love and through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, seek to be all that God has called us to be. My prayer is that we – the church – would be so passionate about the shattered and lost people around us that we would invade their world with the gospel. That our hearts would beat to bring the good news about Jesus to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse upon teeming shores, the homeless, and the tempest-tossed.
PRAY: Confess the times where you have ignored the lost and chosen not to share the gospel because you were more concerned with the approval of other people than you were with the approval of God. Ask God to break your heart for the things that break his. Pray for God to open doors for you to share the good news with people this week and ask him to give you the courage to walk through them.