IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
The weeks seem to be slipping by us, so we chose to do the next two stories in the life of Jesus at the same time. They seemed to fit and they were both short.
It was extremely cold this morning and neither of us wanted to get out of bed to get our coffee.
I complained, “Baby, I made it last night, preparing it for us for today, surely that means you should get up and get it, don’t you think?”
I was proud of myself; I thought I sounded very pathetic. Issy slowly sat up, letting the covers drop just enough and then gave me her own pathetic look.
When I returned with the coffee, she had propped herself on her pillow. She had her Bible sitting in front of her and a triumphant grin on her face. I got back into bed and murmured, “Not fair, Issy, not fair.” And then I put my cold feet directly onto her warm legs.
She yelped and I grinned.
“I’ll read, babe,” I said with a satisfied smile.
And so I began, “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven. . .”[i]
October, A.D. 29, Mistaken Zeal and Wanna-Be Followers of Jesus
I still couldn’t figure Jesus out. He seemed bound and determined to go to Jerusalem,[ii] even though He said he would face much suffering and even die. As of late, this seemed to be His mantra and yet I saw a confidence in Him.
And I realized He was not the only one who was exhibiting some zeal. Was He getting my hopes up? Was He getting ready to be that political Messiah I always knew He could be?
Jesus was, rightfully, being very careful about His approach into Jerusalem. It was no secret to us that the religious leaders had it out for Him. Still, He chose to go to Jerusalem, but covertly.[iii]
He sent a number of us to the Feast of Tabernacles, through a Samaritan village, ahead of Him.[iv] But the crazy Samaritans got angry when they realized Jesus wasn’t going to stay there. A few of us stayed while the rest went ahead to the feast at the Festival of Tabernacles.
I was so hungry I wanted to go, but James and John, the bossy brothers, were organizing and directing us, and I was asked to stay.
When Jesus arrived at this Samaritan village, the people there didn’t welcome Him at all. James and John indignantly asked the Lord if they could call fire down and destroy them.[v]
I’ve gotta be honest with you. You probably know what I think of James’ little brother, John, but with that argument, he showed he could muster up some fight if he needed to, which I liked.
I looked up into the sky, waiting to see fire come down and wipe out the Samaritans. I admit I feared the God of Heaven might accidentally throw it at us, so I wanted to watch to be able to get out of the way, if necessary.
But once again I heard Jesus’ words which confirmed my realization that He was less and less of the so-called-Messiah who would help our nation.
Jesus rebuked James and John![vi] Can you believe it! He rebuked His own men for wanting to protect Him!
And then, to make matters worse, we just moved on. I was hoping to eat. We walked on to another village[vii] and I had to wait that much longer for some much desired nourishment.
While we were on the road to the next village, a teacher of the law sidled up alongside us. He gave his flamboyant welcome, so we all knew he was a big deal, at least in his own mind, and then he leaned into Jesus to speak privately to Him, so I thought.
The truth is this teacher of the law wanted to join us. Immediately a couple thoughts ran through my mind, sarcastic of course; “Believe me, buddy, you don’t want to join us. You never know when you’re going to eat, the people don’t like us, and Jesus refuses to accept the mantle of authority which should be rightfully His and ours.
Jesus simply responded with some crazy talk about not having a home.
A little further down the road we came across another man, friendly to our ministry and Jesus proactively asked him to join us, to follow us, well, to follow Him.
The guy was enthusiastic. Personally I liked him, but he told Jesus he needed to hang at home for a while. I didn’t hear all the details as I was calculating in my mind what another mouth would cost us.
Then I saw Jesus look at me, briefly, and He said, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.”[viii] I thought His words odd, because the dead can’t bury the dead. But I also thought it odd the way He looked at me when He said that.
But Jesus still wanted the guy to follow Him, or at least Jesus wanted him to proclaim the kingdom of God.[ix]
As I thought about it, I realized these two men turned out to be pretty indifferent to Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus, instead of casting them aside, sounded like He had compassion on them.
It didn’t make any sense to me, especially in light of Jesus rebuking James and John because they were the opposite of indifferent. They were zealous, high-spirited, ready to jump, which is a good thing, isn’t it?
I was still scratching my head when another who had been following the last guy, came up to us. We were all still walking (thank the Lord, because I’m very hungry by now). This potential follower had to have heard the previous guy’s excuses.
Nevertheless, he came up to Jesus and says, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
I thought that was a pretty fair and reasonable request. I mean, I didn’t like the reality that we were going to have to feed another mouth, but my experience showed these new guys often come with some money in their pocket which I would soon get into the money bag.
I also like the idea of this guy being one of us, because if we had any real trouble with the Temple guards; I could hide behind him. He was as wide as two men.
But sadly, Jesus just kept walking.
I was lagging behind contrasting the actions of Jesus during the previous few hours. By now I realized I was going to have to wait till we got to the feast before I could eat. Maybe that made me grumpy. I don’t know.
But here is what I did know; Jesus rebuked James and John, for being good followers. But when it came to these non-followers, Jesus seemed to have compassion on them. “It just doesn’t make sense,” I thought. “Why rebuke your own guys and then feel sorry for those who are unwilling to do what it takes?”
March 25th, Sunday Morning, Arlington VA
“Wow,” Issy exclaimed. “I’m glad we studied these two stories together.”
I chuckled, “Really, why? I only did it because we are running short on weeks, and. . .”
“Look at the contrast in both accounts and then observe Jesus’ reaction to them,” she said excitedly.
I turned back to my Bible and the Harmony book.
“James and John showed great, albeit misguided, zeal while the wanna-be-followers of Jesus had more important concerns elsewhere.”
I nodded in agreement and she continued, “Now look at Jesus’ response. To the disciples, He rebuked them. But to the not-yet-followers, he showed compassion.”
I shook my head, questioningly. “Issy, I see the zeal, and Christ’s rebuke. I see the indifference, but as I read Jesus’ response, I don’t think I’d call it compassion.”
“That’s because you are not seeing Jesus’ heart when He talked about foxes, and the dead, and plowing.”
“You’re right,” I confessed to her. “I don’t see it.”
“Baby,” she reminded me, “What do you always tell me about the world versus the church, relative to the way we act?”
“I always say the same thing,” I answered, “The world is not equipped to handle things the way the church can, because the Holy Spirit lives in us, ‘the church’, but not in them.”
The wheels were turning in my head now. “You’re saying Jesus’ compassion came out because He was sad for these wanna-be-followers, knowing they weren’t equipped to follow Him?”
“Yes, Jesus had compassion on the unsaved, and by contrast, He had high expectations of His followers.”
“That’s good, baby. That’s really good.” I said, inching closer and closer to her face.
We kissed, long and slow.
We never did get to our questions, but I resolved to have extra patience, maybe even compassion, on those who think differently than me.
[i] Luke 9:51a
[ii] Luke 9:51b
[iii] John 7:10b
[iv] Luke 9:52
[v] Luke 9”53-54
[vi] Luke 9:55a
[vii] Luke 9:55b
[viii] Matthew 18:22
[ix] Luke 9:60b