Good Sunday morning. As per usual, a post on faith, for believers and non-believers alike. If you are a believer, be forewarned: I may sound a little blasphemous at first to make a point.
If you are a Christian, have you ever stepped back and looked at the ministry of Christ with a broad lens? Here are some interesting things you will see:
1) Only 1/10 of His life was spent in ministry. Most of His years here were unremarkable in that sense.
2) When His ministry began, it began with a miraculous event (water to wine), an event that He really didn’t even want to do at that time – more on that later.
3) Later, large crowds followed Him everywhere, and those descriptions are almost always tethered to statements about how He would do miraculous things among them.
4) The end of His mortal life was punctuated by the most astonishing event ever, the Resurrection.
Now, non-believers will say none of those things happened, but humor me for a moment. Let’s say they did. Then, essentially, the picture we have of the Son of God is of a man wandering around the Middle East trading miracles for an audience. One could easily conclude that He was healing and casting out spirits and the like to guarantee an audience for His words. People weren’t really there to hear what He had to say – they were there to see what they could get from Him. Note that this interpretation has nothing to do with whether Jesus was who He said He was, but everything to do with whom was following Him.
OK, blasphemy over, because there are lessons to be learned for today, as upsetting as that might have been to read.
This kind of mentality is exactly what we see today amidst the pandemic. We are a society of anxiety. We are a collective of uncertainty. We are now to the point where almost everyone reading this is separated from someone by a matter of degree that has been personally affected by this virus. As my wife said, “It can feel like the walls are closing in.”
Humans are predictable creatures when anxiety and uncertainty come – they cling to whatever unassailable beliefs they hold. So you see people saying that the virus is God’s punishment, having dreams about future apocalypse, and claiming the Rapture is nigh. So you see people rabidly defending a country out of the belief that if we just make America Christian, all this will go away. So you see all manner of scapegoating, grasping at straws, ridiculous logic, and closed minds, all happening while the individuals doing them seem to be calm, rational, and clear-headed. If I had a dollar for every post I’ve read that said, “I don’t know whom to believe.”
The Israelites of that day know your pain…
“I’ve heard many false teachers before. I’ve heard the promises of freedom from the Romans. I’ve heard them promise that God would deliver us. So many liars. And now here is the next one – some Nazarene carpenter who thinks He knows it all, telling us that everything is about to get turned upside down around here.”
“Why should I believe Him? But He heals people. He does things that I know shouldn’t happen. I know those people were sick, and now they aren’t. That’s weird. But I’ve been burned so many times. What if these are all tricks? What if this is just another lie?”
“I don’t know who to believe anymore.”
Sound familiar? Jesus knew that His words were being offered to anxious, frustrated, angry people in geopolitical bondage, second-class humans that the Romans regarded as pests. They were always the pests, the rejected, the enslaved. They had watched their nation crumble before their eyes more than once at the hands of invaders. Jesus knew He needed to show them, not just tell them, so He used compassion. Remember the first miracle I mentioned? Why did He relent? He didn’t want to do that, He said so. He relented because of compassion. Compassion is not sympathy – compassion is love in action. He didn’t just feel bad that the party was out of wine – He hurt WITH that host and acted out His love, KNOWING FULL WELL that one act would change the course of His life on earth forever.
In a sense, He sacrificed Himself way before the cross. He did it at Cana, too.
Jesus did miracles because the people NEEDED them, knowing that His ministry would look to the skeptic as just another dog-and-pony show. He didn’t do them for His own glory, but for the compassion He had for the people. Think of how much it hurt to know that His compassion was being treated by so many as “free stuff.” that so many tolerated His words just to get to the payoff.
There are many false teachers today. They look honest. They sound honest. But they are just using us. With clever words and subtle tricks, they take our eyes from the Word and ask us to look at them. They want to be who you believe in your time of anxiety, but for their benefit, not for yours. Don’t believe anything I say or anyone else because we said it – but only if what I say is consistent with the words of God.
Christianity is not a fair trade agreement with God to get what you want – it is surrender to someone greater than yourself, that has already given you all you need to be unafraid.
Have a good Sunday.