Sunday August 23, 2020
Fifteen Minutes of Fame
Most people are looking for their fifteen minutes of fame. A heroic deed, a newsworthy story, a heinous crime, or even a feel-good story are all ways of getting some wanted attention. But there was a man in the Bible who had every reason to see the spotlight but chose not to for a higher purpose.
In the Kidron Valley there is a tomb called the Pillar of Absalom. Some believe that Absalom (son of David) built this for himself (2 Sam.18:18). On the south side of the Pillar of Absalom there is an obscure inscription. The inscription is difficult to see because the monument is cut from the natural rock. When an impression of the inscription was taken it was found that it was written in Byzantine Greek of the fourth century A.D. The horizontal inscription reads,
This is the tomb of Zacharias, martyr, very pious priest, father of John.
That really struck me. But before I tell you why, let’s talk about Zacharias for a moment.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. (Lk.1:5-7)
A member of the clan of Abijah (a descendant of Aaron), Zacharias went to the temple to carry out his priestly duties. At the time of Jesus Christ, there were about 7,000 priests in Israel, divided into 24 clans. Each clan served at the temple twice a year, for a week each time.
Luke tells us Zacharias was chosen by lot that morning to offer incense in the Holy Place, the temple’s inner chamber where only priests were allowed. As Zacharias was praying, the angel Gabriel appeared at the right side of the altar. Gabriel told the old man that his prayer for a son would be answered. Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth would give birth and they were to name the baby John. Further, Gabriel said John would be a great man who would lead many to the Lord and would be a prophet announcing the Messiah. Zacharias played a key role in God’s plan of salvation because of his righteousness and obedience. (See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of altar)
By the world’s standards he had every right to be a proud papa. His son would announce the Messiah’s coming, would preach His Gospel, and would baptize the sinless Savior. I can just imagine him saying, “See that man in the river Jordan? That’s my boy!” Or, “Have you heard about that great preacher named John? That’s my son!”
Yet, we hear nothing of Zacharias in the Bible narrative after the birth of Jesus. His purpose was accomplished…the call on his life was fulfilled. How was he remembered? What was his legacy? Is he forever lost in the annuls of history? That’s where the inscription sheds some amazing light.
Now, Zacharias did not write the inscription. He didn’t even know there would be a tomb. But someone remembered him…someone honored him. Not as John’s father (as most of us would want to be remembered), but first as a martyr, then a righteous servant. I wonder if we would choose that order for ourselves.
A Christian martyr is someone who died for his or her faith, rather than renounce Christ. Christian martyrs teach us that we can stand for God no matter the circumstances. Millions of people throughout history have willingly died for their faith. Our love for God should take us as far as God’s love for us took Him—to death. Jesus prepared His disciples for persecution:
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. (Matt.10:32-33)
Martyrs show us what it looks like to stand firm in not denying Jesus. Christian martyrs teach us that we will receive a reward for standing for our faith. Jesus attached a blessing to the suffering Christians face in this world:
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Lk.6:22)
It is apparent that Zacharias did just that! He died for the same cause as his son John did…Jesus. And what was his reward? It’s the same answer…Jesus. And that is what struck me about the inscription. Zacharias did not “cash in” on his fame or that of his son, John. He simply lived a righteous life, allowed himself to be used of God, and gave himself completely – even to being martyred for his faith. What an honor! The writer of Proverbs says it this way:
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. (Pro.29:23)
John the Gospel writer (not John of Zacharias) wrote,
For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 Jn.2:16-17)
How many of us would choose to be remembered for giving all to the cause of Christ? It’s a shame to say that some are “in it” to get something out of it. Our culture is obsessed with worshiping the “famous ones” of Hollywood, sports stars, and pop music stardom. As a society, we are looking for our 15 minutes of fame. But as believers, we are to make Jesus famous. We are to publish His name in all the earth. The Bible expects this to be our number one job. We are to proclaim from the rooftops, “Jesus is the Lord, the Savior of humankind.” We are to lift Him up so that all will know His wonderful grace and love. Habakkuk prayed,
Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.” (Hab.3:2)
This wondrous life with God is not about what we can get out of it. It’s about what we put in to it. What’s in it for you? For me, it’s not a name or a title or possessions. And it’s not for fifteen minutes of fame. It’s for His fame and these humbling words:
Well done, good and faithful servant (Matt.25:21)