Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 2, 2013

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. (John 7:1-9)

People wondered why Jesus didn’t promote himself more widely. His own brothers challenged him about his reluctance to develop a proper reputation among the masses. The devil once tried to lure him into doing spectacular feats in the public arena, with only the tiny proviso that Jesus turn away from worshipping his heavenly Father. After three failed attempts at this temptation, the devil left the project to Jesus’ family and friends.

In this story, Jesus does indeed enter the public arena, but secretly. Jesus apparently wasn’t opposed to being present to people—after all, he did a lot of that. But he was opposed to putting on a big show for sake of self-promotion and crowd delight.

I wonder how many times we’re looking for Jesus in something spectacular and thrilling, when in fact he is already with us in secret? In demanding the dramatic, do we ever risk turning our worship to the source of the drama, only to discover that it was the wrong object of worship?

My impression of Jesus as I read the gospel accounts is that he was a pretty consistent person. Probably still is, in the sense that there is a character in him that is reliable and honest. There were other voices speaking to him that suggested he violate his character and mission and become someone altogether different. He wouldn’t do that. My guess is that he still won’t.

In seeking Jesus in the spectacular, we might risk the attempt to reform him in an image that we prefer. That’s how idols come about. We make them ourselves and then we worship them. It’s usually a bad deal. Jesus won’t allow for such a remaking, and he still comes to us as who he is, and in secret.

Come, Lord Jesus, come as you are, not as I prefer you to be.

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