Can I just say how great it’s been to be (relatively) media-free for a day and a half? My brain feels so much calmer than normal. It’s actually possible to just sit quietly and not stare at my phone. Who knew?
Yesterday (because I wasn’t sitting in front of the computer all day), I read the book of Mark. I’ve also been reading Tim Keller’s book King’s Cross, which goes through the book of Mark. I’m no theologian or expositor on Scripture, so take this with a grain of salt.
I was struck by the plight of the Pharisees. We know they’re the “bad guys.” We look at them and scoff at how they were so wrong. Jesus was constantly rebuking them. They just. didn’t. get. it. I was feeling sad about it – I think because I can so often relate. Here I am in my ivory tower of wisdom, riches, and understanding. I’ve read the Bible times over, I’ve listened to 100s of sermons, I’ve read 100s more books about the Bible and Jesus. I meet with friends to discuss the Word. I can recite the prayers, the hymns, the feast days. I know the “rules.” I try to live a moral life. For all intents and purposes, my life looks a lot more like a Pharisee’s life than it does John the Baptist’s or Jesus.’
After all that, I still so often don’t get it. I still want this Christian life to be predictable. I want to work hard and get blessings. I want to follow the rules and get the reward. I want things to work in a predictable way. I want God to do what I think he should do.
The Pharisees knew the Scriptures that predicted the coming Messiah by heart. They were seeking him. They knew with clarity that they were part of a chosen race and followed the teachings of Scripture better than anyone. The problem was that they were unflinchingly rigid in what they believed the Messiah to look like, and Jesus didn’t fit that. There was no flexibility built into their religion. They had determined a set of characteristics that the Messiah would possess, and they had a limited understanding of the character of God.
Don’t I do that to? I have my list of things that God could never ask of me because it wouldn’t be fair. I have my own understanding of right and wrong, and surely God must follow that. When things are good, it’s God’s blessing, when they are bad, I must have missed the mark. In my mind, it has to work this way. There’s no room for flexibility.
God can’t be limited to my rules and my reading of the Bible. God does not act in ways that are predictable. As my pastor said today, 10 steps in a straight line with God tells us nothing about the 11th step. Of course, God always acts consistent with his Word and his character, but my pea brain doesn’t always put that together.
I’m looking for a King on a throne, but he’s a baby in a manger. I’m cheering for a knight on a white horse, but instead, he’s a lamb led to slaughter. I’m trusting in my knowledge, but Jesus tells me to be like a child. I want riches and fame, but God offers me a heavy wooden cross to carry on my back.
Lord, grant me eyes and see and ears to hear.