Back coffee-shopping in Dandy today. Long day. Busy day. Busy week. Great coffee, lovely people, and peaceful enough to sit and read and write. Not sure I could ask for a lot more on a Friday afternoon to top off the end of a very hectic week. Lovely.
Speaking of lovely, I’ve been making my through the Gospels again and watching (I’m a visual reader) the way Jesus interacted with the various groups of people, messing with their pre-conceived ideas of God. There were very few people who met him and said “Yup, you’re Him, and you’re exactly what I expected“… maybe a handful? But then, apart from maybe Simeon & Anna, even those who had an inkling of his true identity weren’t always certain. Even John the Baptiser sent his disciples to get confirmation when he found himself in prison.
Mostly of course this was because nobody really expected the Messiah to act and respond the way Jesus did. The religions leaders/teachers couldn’t bring themselves to accept as Messiah someone who was so critical of the job they were doing, and on top of that, he went and gave authority to ‘the man on the street’ to preach the Kingdom of God – to teach, to preach, to heal, he even gave them authority over demons and to forgive sins! Completely by-passing the accepted authorities. I mean, how dare he? Even while recognising the wonder of what he did, they were intensely jealous for their own status and significance within their society. I mean, let’s face it. These guys had been the keepers of truth and teachers of Israel for quite some time, how dare this young upstart, this carpenter’s son, challenge the status quo by going about teaching relationship with God, healing on the Sabbath and claiming to be God’s Son?!? Then, then… he gave others the authority to do the same!
The really sad part is that they recognised the good he was doing, the authority with which he spoke, and Caiphas had even prophesied in their midst concerning him! They were just really cheesed off that their own positions were being called into question. When it came down to it, they quite definitely had made it all about them. If only they had had “ears to hear”, they would have realised it really was all about them.
Then there was the common man, daily going about his business of eking out an existence for himself and his family – and along comes Jesus… the Son of God, the Creator himself… right into the midst of their lives, turning them upside down.
The story that ‘gets me’ every time is the one of Peter who had been out fishing all night and had nought to show for his efforts. Jesus suggests he throws the net over the other side of the boat and I get the feeling Pete only does it to humour him – “low and behold” he pulls in more fish than his nets can handle. Peter, confronted with the reality of this one event, reacts in a way that I totally understand… “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” The self evaluation, the sense of unworthiness! And of course Jesus responds in his inimitable way… “Don’t be afraid“… then he invites Pete into relationship with himself! How lovely is that??
Then of course there are the women, the tax collectors, the unclean, the prostitutes, the demonised, the sick the paralysed the, rulers, the children, the gentiles, the rich, the poor, the military, the movers and shakers (to name but a few)… and each time Jesus meets them where they’re at, speaks truth, shows compassion and love and grace and mercy, and turns their respective worlds upside down.
I find myself wondering what my reaction would’ve been 2000 years ago. I suspect I’d react like Peter, feel completely unworthy of his attention, but truly longing to be near him, to hear him, to get to know him. I think I’d also find it difficult not to feel sorry for the religions leaders, after all, they were trying to be true to what they believed, and Jesus really did give them a serving… fair, of course, but harsh. I do love that he made it clear that God Himself had stepped down from Heaven to shepherd his own sheep (slightly reminiscent of Ezek 34). It’s just a shame these guys couldn’t let go or the responsibility they felt (and enjoyed), their status and their positions of honour and get with the relationship…