Have you ever felt you can’t quit because no one else can replace you? If you’re a key leader, you may not be wrong. Historical records prove that removal or death of a dominating, charismatic leader often severely damages or snuffs out a movement or an empire.
Consider this disheartened reply given by two disciples of Jesus to a stranger who asked what they were discussing as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the crushing death of their leader:
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:19-21 NIV)
As we read the full narrative of this encounter, Jesus reveals himself – not as a stranger, but the Immortal, Irreplaceable One who has always been the center of all Scripture.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)
After they recognized Jesus was the stranger, what was their response when they realized their irreplaceable, powerful leader was still alive?
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”…They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)
Even though evening had fallen, they hurried the seven miles back to Jerusalem to join Jesus’ other disciples and discovered the resurrected Jesus had begun to appear to more and more of them.
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)
How about me, how about you? Do our hearts burn within us so we, in a sense, “travel back to Jerusalem at night, along dangerous roads” to gather with other disciples after being strengthened by the risen Jesus? Are we convinced the Holy Spirit inside us is enough to change lives as we proclaim His message?
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (I Corinthians 15:17-19 NIV)
We are not to be pitied. It’s been two millennia since the risen, irreplaceable Jesus outlined His glorious redemption plan for mankind. Here’s a time lapse map showing what He’s accomplished through seemingly weak, but somehow irreplaceable, Jesus followers like us:
Today, an amazing 30% of the world’s population identify as followers of Christ. (Yes, some are “nominal” or “suspect” Christians, but He’s in charge of sorting that out.) Marvel at the amazing progress of the Gospel. Notice how Chrisitian fervor seems to morph over time.
Then consider that presently 40% of the world has never heard of Him…the need to advance His message of redemption remains. Ask the Irreplaceable One to give you today’s assignment (however small) along with today’s power to further His kingdom.