On Feb 24, 2019, Jesse Rotholz died.
Thousands were praying, literally, and I think we all expected a miracle.
He had been raised in a religious home but had only come fully to the Lord and into his own faith when soon after high school graduation. And when he came to the Lord, it was all joy in Him and rest in Him, believing God would do his work. He had a strong sense that one day he would preach to thousands, even millions.
Jesse was a young kid in his early 20’s and he went off to serve the Lord for a short season in Uganda. He was an evangelist and one who lived so much in the joy of heaven that he was not weighed down at all by the worries and burdens of this earth. He just lived the joy of Jesus, preached the gospel to an engaged audience, and prayed for everyone he met. He hung out at McDonalds just so he could pray for the homeless people in particular.
He was a student of nutrition and took care of his body fastidiously (except for his fashion). And when he went to Uganda, instead of getting the immunizations, he preferred to abstain, believing that the the immunizations were hard on his body. It would prove to be fatal.
He returned to his homeland and soon after his body began to shut down–cerebral malaria and Hepatitis A. For 5 months he battled impossible odds, overcoming surgeries that were sure to kill him. He had used over 700 units of blood in the past 5 months and the hospital finally said enough. They did not believe he would overcome his total liver and kidney failure, nor the oxygen/life support he had been on for so long.
For some reason everywhere online that his story was shared, tens of thousands prayed. Even among my own friends. It’s strange as there are always calls for prayer from almost everyone. But there was something special in this young man. And people took up his cause for prayer. Even I did. And I’ve never met him. Even my friend did. And they never met him. Even my family did. And they never met him. It was truly a work of God.
Jesse was cognizant, playing catch with his friend with a tube down his throat, and they explained they were removing life support. It was a hard decision and one not made lightly. The family wept, believing to the very end that a miracle was still possible. After 20 labored hours without breathing assistance, Jesse passed away.
It was a tough pill to swallow, even though we know he is with the Lord. We somehow all believed there was a miracle unfolding. But the miracle was to be deliverance from hell into the salvation arms of Jesus.
But I ask myself, what about his visions and dreams and clarity that he had that he would preach to so many?
Then I realized, he indeed preaching to tens of thousands. His young life was so unusually extraordinary, joyful, and wise in the Lord that even on his sick bed he preached. The stories of how he lived preached. The messages he gave online preached. And the fact that tens of thousands rallied to pray for his life gave him that audience that he had deeply known about.
It’s just that it wasn’t a formal place of preaching. Or preaching a specific sermon. But on his dying and death bed, his life preached to the thousands.
It wasn’t what one would expect. That the best of what he had would be offered in his dying and even after his death.
But sometimes that’s the way it works.
From Jesse to Jesus
It was in this context that I was looking at the words God spoke to John the Baptist in describing Jesus the Baptist:
“The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33).
And I asked myself, how did Jesus baptize in the Holy Spirit?
We see that he didn’t really do water baptism, as his disciples handled that (Jn 4:1-2). We don’t see him laying his hands on people and them speaking in tongues as we read in the early church in the book of Acts. Or Jesus discussing the gifts that he is giving.
But we do read this:
“Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).
“He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (Jn 16:14).
For some reason for Jesus to baptize in the Holy Spirit, it was necessary that first he had to leave. Even though he was the one to “baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
It’s strange how things work out sometime. God’s promises are fulfilled, but not always in the way we think they will be.
For Jesse it was in his dying that he “preached” to thousands.
And for Jesus it was in death that he was able to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2).
The ways of God will always be a mystery. We don’t see the promises of God fulfilled as we see them, but we see them unfold the way God sees best.
For that, we must trust Him.
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jn 12:24