Friday, August 28, 2009

John & Sam

I've been spending time recently in the Gospel of John. I think this might be my favorite of the four Gospels for so many reasons: his use of the light/dark motif, his blending of Hebrew and Greek ideas, the fact that one of my clearest memories of God opening up His truth to me during individual study was whilst I was reading John 1.

But I'm not in the happy part of John right now; I'm in John 18 and 19, the account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, and trial. I didn't read much because I got sidetracked after chapter 19 verses 12-16:

The Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, "If you release this man, you are no 'friend of Caesar.' Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar."
When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again....and said to the people "Look, here is your king!"
"Away with him" they yelled. "Away with him! Crucify him!"
"What? Crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the leading priests shouted back.
Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Okay, so I know these guys were royally pissed at Jesus for claiming to be God's Son, the epitome of blasphemy and heresy. But "We have no king but Caesar"? Caesar? Really guys? This distant pagan whose rule was typified by violence and war? The man whose empire squashed the Jewish people? You chose him over a man who preached the real and present Kingdom of God?

Then what came to mind was an event that happened 1000 years before hand, recorded in 1 Samuel 8. Samuel is aging, his sons aren't leading with integrity, so the leaders of Israel ask Samuel to give them a king so they can be like all the other nations. Sam is upset, goes to God, and God tells him to give them what they want; "It is me they are rejecting," God explains to Sam. "They don't want me to be their king any longer."

Is it presumptuous to think I can feel empathy towards God? But ouch!! Here is this group of people that He freed, protected, provisioned, empowered, guided, and loved for generations, and they are now saying, "It isn't enough to have a King we can't see, a King we have to take on faith. God, you aren't enough for us anymore."

I doubt they had any clue that their descendants would do more than reject God's leadership by actually screaming for His death, but it boggles my mind to think that the deep root of Jesus' crucifixion was the Israelites' insistence of having a person step into God's role. "We have no king but Caesar" started with "Give us a king so we can be like other nations."

How easy it is to sit here in 2009 and pass judgment on these people. But aren't I just as prone to this kind of insistence? Aren't I just as tempted to doubt His desire and ability to free me, protect me, provide for me, empower me, guide me, and love me? Isn't it just as difficult for me to move forward with a God/Friend/Love that I can't see as it was for them to do what they needed to do without a physical king?

Yeah -- I see it in my heart. It lurks there -- this desire to supplant the intangible God with a finite being that I can at least see and touch. My prayer this morning is that, for today, I would have the faith and courage to let God be what He wants to be in my heart and thus receive the blessing of being one of those who has not seen and still believes (John 20:29).

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of every election EVER.
    'We need a president who'll save this country from the rut it's in!'