Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Friday, April 15, 2005

What Opened Their Eyes - 1551

The sight of European missionaries walking around the city must have been very odd, and it must have been even more strange when these oddly-dressed foreigners stood up and began to speak in a loud voice, as if teaching. Imagine if it happened in your town, and the foreigners began to tell you "the way of life". You might nod your head if they said something you agreed with, but you wouldn't want to join them.

What moves us to do something daring, to embrace something that seems totally foreign at first? What convicts us deep in our hearts that something is right or wrong? Will nodding our heads at impressive arguments be enough to help us step out in blind faith and away from what we've known? It takes a lot of courage and humility to say, "Please teach me the way to life, for I realize that I don't know what to do."

When Xavier came to Japan there was a natural language problem between the Portugese missionaries and the Japanese people. Very little progress would have been made without Brother Juan Fernandez, who immersed himself in the Japanese language so well that even when he lay dying in 1567, he prayed to God in Japanese. In addition to serving as translator for Xavier, Fernandez translated several sermons and books for the missionaries to use, as well outlines of the faith for dignitaries and priests they visited. When preaching in public, Xavier and others would read from books Fernandez translated, but Fernandez could speak freely to the people.

In 1551, in the city of Yamaguchi, Xavier and the missionaries went out twice a day to sit on curbs and preach on street corners. Many people spoke well of the missionaries and said their teaching about Jesus was good, but that was all. No one said, "I want to belong to Him", until a certain incident happened...

Otis Cary writes of the event:

"As Fernandez was speaking to a large company of people, a man edged his way through the crowd and, pretending that he was about to whisper something in the preacher's ear, bent forward and spat upon his cheek. The crowd laughed at this exploit and looked to see how the foreigner would react to such an insult. With admirable self-control, Fernandez, without pausing in his address or even turning to look at his assailant, quietly wiped his face with a handkerchief and went on as calmly as though nothing unusual had occurred."

Impressed, the crowd listened to the rest of his talk with a new sense of respect and awe. After Fernandez finished speaking, one man followed him home and said that Fernandez's words and behavior had shown him that Christianity was true and real. It is said that he was a doctor of great influence in Yamaguchi city, and after he was baptized, many others followed. Xavier wrote that in two months, 500 people accepted Christ and chose to give their lives to Him.

The foreigners taught about the "Son of God" who was able to endure flogging, spitting, and crucifixion, and yet prayed for the forgiveness of those who killed Him. Perhaps it had sounded like good morals or fairy tales of lofty virtue to them before. But after Fernandez was spat upon, eyes and hearts were opened.

Sometimes we preach the virtues, morals and truths of Christianity and seem to hope that people will accept Christ because it's "right". So we often try to convince people by preaching about sin, righteousness ("right-ness"), and judgment. But when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit's work of convicting us of sin, righteousness and judgment, He didn't talk about standards, right laws and morals. Instead, He said that we would learn each of these things by looking at Him and what He has done for us on the cross:

"Sin - because they do not believe in Me"
"Righteousness - because I go to the Father"
"Judgment - because the ruler of this world is judged."

(John 16:9-11)

Judgment - Satan is condemned by the cross of God's love.
Righteousness - Jesus alone is righteous. He alone is right.
Sin - God sent Him to carry our sins and become sin for us...

...so that we could be freed from sin and slavery. So that we could accept His free gift of salvation, being credited with His righteousness, not because of what we've done, but because of who He is and what He has done for us. Because He has loved us.

Most of us will nod our heads at what is "right" but will not lay down our lives for it. That is why Paul said that rarely would anyone die for a righteous man. But while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. Because He died for us, because He suffered for us and was spat upon for us, we love Him and serve Him. It was not "right-ness" that led us to Him. God's kindness led us to repentance. And God's kindness spoke to the heart of the doctor in Yamaguchi, so many years ago, when one of His children chose to endure being spit upon because he was filled with Jesus' love for the Japanese -- even for the man who spat on him.

As we seek to share Jesus with our beloved friends & family in Japan, remember how eyes were opened in Yamaguchi. Remember that while we have virtues & morals, our message is not these but, "Christ and Him crucified." His love for us melted our hearts, and His love for them melts theirs, too.

"As His appearance was so marred,
beyond human semblance,
and His form beyond that of the sons of men--
so shall He startle many nations [even Japan];
...for that which has not been told them they shall see,
and that which they have not heard they shall understand."

(Isaiah 52:14-15)


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