Have you ever read a verse from the Bible and wondered ‘What does that mean?’ One such verse is Matthew 11:12, which reads, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by storm.” Wow! Violence. What does that verse imply? Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Violence?
There are various interpretations of this verse, but let me share just one of them.
COMMENTARY ON VERSE
One commentator suggests that what Jesus may have said is, “Always my kingdom will suffer violence, always savage men will try to break it up and snatch it away and destroy it and therefore only the man in whom the violence of devotion matches and defeats the violence of persecution will, in the end, enter into it.” (i.e., enter the kingdom)
There are two aspects to be noted in this interpretation.
• VIOLENCE OF OPPOSITION/PERSECUTION –
“My kingdom will suffer violence.” The church today is under attack in America. There are growing attacks, opposition (not yet persecution as is happening in parts of the Middle East) to Biblically based orthodox beliefs and standards. There is a concerted effort to make over the nation to a purely secular country; to turn away from the Judeo-Christian foundation that America was founded on over two hundred years ago. Revisionist history is changing the story, taking away our heritage. The fight covers many issues, some of which are making their way through the courts on the way to the Supreme Court for a ruling.
• VIOLENCE OF BELIEVERS – “The man in whom the violence of devotion matches and defeats the violence of persecution.” What we have here is not physical violence, but a violent passion, devotion, or, to use the Biblical word, zeal. Men and woman who are keenly enthusiastic and committed, even radically committed, to follow Jesus, no matter the cost. Passion and Zeal are what we need today.
WHAT IS PASSION?
Passion is zeal that is related to some activity, concept, vision or goal that leads us to action. Passion is not primarily an emotion, although emotion can fuel it, keeping it burning brightly. It comes out of a heartfelt desire to accomplish something considered worthwhile. Passion is something we pursue with vigor. It is what I call ‘The Plus Factor to Living.’
JOHN THE BAPTIST
One such person in the New Testament was John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of Christ. John the Baptist baptized people in the River Jordan, calling them to repent of their sins. In the midst of it all, he was arrested and put prison. Sending some of his disciples to Jesus, he asked the question “Are you the one?” Jesus answered by telling them to observe what was happening. The blind see, the lame walk, the leapers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:5).”
This was almost like a eulogy being delivered for John Baptist before Herod’s swordsman took off his head, as Jesus’ words commend John. A friend of mine summed up Jesus’ words of commendation this way.
“Simple living? Camel hair and leather belt.
Eating locusts and honey.
Plain speech? Never pulling his punches.
Condemning Herod for sleeping with his brother’s wife.
Public displays of repentance and
immersion baptism for the forgiveness of sin.”
John the Baptist was radical.
The Orthodox Jewish culture had a ritual immersion baptism the Fall of each year, before the Jewish High Holy Days, called a Mituah, a cleansing ritual. Women used it after delivering a child.
John the Baptist immersion baptism was done in the River Jordan, a shockingly public place, outside the temple and without a priest. To the culture, this was “violence.”
We need radical people like John the Baptist today. Not emotionally violent. Rather people who choose to radically follow Jesus, even if it leads us to new expressions of our never changing faith.
Recently, I went to see a documentary on such a man Charles Mully, from Kenya. His father was unemployed and abused his wife. Food was scarce, and life was hard. One morning, six-year-old Mully woke up to discover that his family had abandoned him. He went to his uncle for help but was turned away. He walked three days to Nairobi, where he became a ‘street boy’ for the next ten years, begging or stealing food to survive. Mully states, “I hated my life and wanted to throw away my life because there was no meaning.”
In the midst of this existence, Mully was invited to church, heard the gospel message, and gave his life to Jesus. Wanting to change his life, he began knocking on doors in a wealthy area of Nairobi looking for work. Eventually, a lady gave him a job doing household chores, such as scrubbing her floors. Because he was a good worker, the lady’s husband offered him a job in his business where he was soon promoted. Mully married a beautiful young lady and eventually had eight children. He then embarked on a rags-to-riches story that was almost too good to be true, involving a taxi service, then a fleet of buses, an insurance business, real estate sales, and gas sales ending up as a globe-trotting millionaire, respected by all and living in luxury.
All this changed when in 1986, Mully was confronted by a gang of young men who stole his Mercedes, causing him to take the bus home. Hit with the reality that he could have been one of those ‘street boys,’ he took another car and went for a drive. Parking on the side of the road, he wrestled with God for some four hours. God called him to give us everything he had to reach out and help the ‘street children.’ Eventually, he prayed, “Yes God, use me!” Returning home, he sold everything, stopped his career, choosing to spend the rest of his life helping Kenya’s abandoned children. He invited the ‘street children’ to live with his family, who were at first not overjoyed by this, thinking their father had gone crazy. His wife, however, supported him in what he did.
The result. Mully has helped some 12,000 or more street children. To get the full story, you will need to watch the film, which was recently shown nationwide. It is an incredible demonstration of passion and zeal in one man’s life. Mully was willing to be radical. He had a vision from God and he had the zeal and passion to see it happen. He was one of those people that ‘take the kingdom by storm.’
We need more Mullys today! “Lord, give us more people who are willing to be sold out for you; to be radical, filled with zeal and passion to see Your will be done; to take the Kingdom by storm.”
Mully Children’s Family USA – https://mcfus.org
To Purchase Tickets – Mully’s documentary to be shown in theaters November 9, 2017 http://mullymovie.com/theaters#zip_finder_box