Two thousand years later, and nothing has really changed. Surroundings and circumstance, may have, and certainly tools and population have changed. But in the human heart, it remains the same.
I am wandering the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, poking my head in and around the temple, listening to conversations. Two things are quite clear here about Jesus:
He has an impeccable sense of timing.
It doesn’t bother Him that people don’t understand Him. He calls to Himself, those that seek Him.
I have to laugh as I listen to these conversations. The people couldn’t agree on what to do with Jesus. Arrest Him, because they don’t understand Him, and they fear He is an enemy of their neatly arranged lives? Recognize Him as a prophet? Push Him away or draw close? Follow Him or stand off to the side and mutter to each other about Him?
See how things never change?
The purpose of my own journey here is to throw off the confining box in which we have placed Jesus. By ‘we’, I mean the church…the world…you…me. Believers and scoffers alike, we tend to confine things to our own boxes. Think of it like organizing our lives in ways we think help us better manage it. One trip to The Container Store after perusing Pinterest, and we’re ready to put the mess that is us into manageable chunks. We define areas of our lives: clothing, crafts, finances, food, tools, toys, church, work, leisure, family…
While walking down the worn and dusty paths of the holy lands, one thing I notice is that the human heart beats the same over millennia. It wrestles the same. It hopes the same. It despairs the same. It fears the same.
There will always be division where Christ is concerned. While it is true that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), we humans are a people of confusion.
On this journey, I am asking: What of Jesus here? What of His character connects with mine, or convicts it? If I am to live Him in this world, what does that look like?
So, the recorded history of my Savior says this:
*He doesn’t let the confusion bother Him. He recognizes it for what it is, and stays firmly grounded, pointing the hearts of those that mangle God’s truth to the One who wrote them. He knows that, underneath it all, the Author of their faith is his Father. Their Father. Our Father. Jehovah. They have just covered it up with human distortions. See…nothing in human hearts changes over time.
7:16-18 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me;if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
*He points out, not how they have misconstrued the finer points of the law, not how they need to adjust their rules of doctrine, but He points out that they have missed the point of the law.
“If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” v. 23-24
I learn a lot from what Jesus doesn’t say. I begin to understand how to be discerning in living God’s laws. What is the difference here between keeping circumcision on the sabbath and healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Circumcision was a direct act of obedience to God’s direction. Healing was an act of compassion and witness to God’s power and love. Jesus doesn’t say either ‘work’ is wrong. He doesn’t tell them to stop circumcising on the sabbath, if need be. What He does do is draw their attention to the purpose of His actions. Could it be that an act of compassion and power on the sabbath carries the same weight of importance and obedience as a sanctifying routine?
Still pondering Jesus’ silence, I join Him again in the early morning. A crowd has suddenly arrived at the temple gathering. They don’t look happy. Their faces are, perhaps, a little defiant. A little smug. A little self-righteous. (John 8:1-11)
They surround a woman, whose face I can’t quite see. They demand that Jesus weigh in on the application of God’s law given through Moses. They’ve got Him, now, I can see it in their eyes. This should be interesting. Even though I already know whose side I am on, I am intrigued by the collision of religious practice that’s about to happen. If Jesus is who He claims to be, God’s Son, then how can He deny the truth and exactitude of God’s law? They whip out the law, and wield it as a sword, just as they’ve been taught. Only this time, God’s Son offers silence. Given a tool of His Father, He chooses not to pick it up as expected. He had every right to. The tool was not false, or weak, or broken.
Instead, He chooses silence.
People have spent the gift of time trying to guess what Jesus wrote on the ground, as if it were significant. Whatever it was, it had no effect on the crowd, because the accusers keep pestering Him with their agenda. I do wonder, not what He’s writing, but what He’s thinking. All I know is what I see, and all I see is His silence, then His response. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He does not sidestep the law. He raises the level of its responsibility.
Check your own heart first. See that you need grace as much as anyone else. See that you need Me, as much as anyone else. Extend that grace, the one that really isn’t yours to give or receive, to others. It’s Mine, and I give it.
This journey has taught me a lot. If I love this Savior, and commit to letting Him live through me, then I must allow my spirit to conform to His image:
*Don’t let the confusion bother me. The hearts that pull God’s Truth like taffy and make it unrecognizable will always be there. Stay firmly grounded in the core of what I know is true: God loves, deeply, richly and eternally. He has plan, and its unfolding will not look like any human scheme. Don’t get tangled in foolish arguments of doctrine, and don’t own them as my own. Share the big Truths of God’s, and let Him sort out the rest when the time is right.
*Seek to understand the intention of God’s commands as they reveal His character. Let them draw me nearer to Him in understanding instead of using them as a weapon or a box.
*Weigh compassion and grace along with obedience. Dismiss neither. Live both.
I am grateful for your company. Blessings on your own journey. I invite you to share here, in this quiet place, the grace that you have gathered.