fools gold

Sometimes a move forward may be disguised as a step backward.

I'm no scholar on the subject, but I've got to think that many a wise, good-willed, and learned men must have been extremely frustrated at Martin Luther King Jr's strategy for freedom. Images of police beatings, crooked court rulings, and blatant racial abuses are being transposed on televisions across the country and this guy is suggesting we fight with peaceful, non-violent demonstrations? This is our revered leader, a guy who's confused losing with winning? This is no revolution.

he nineteenth chapter of Luke tells the story of Jesus' famous entrance into Jerusalem. I picture a parade. I hear the noise. Everyone and their cousins are running out to the streets to get a look. The paparazzi have gathered. Cameras are loaded. Exposed openly to both fanfare and criticism, Jesus is on the way. But no one can see Him yet. So as the anticipation is building, attentions are turned toward what might be...

Simply reading the story, we know something is about to go down. Something big. Even my Bible's subheading labels it "The Triumphant Entry" in bold print.

But I've got to say, His entry is anything but what we'd expect from a young revolutionary come to state his claim, rally the base, and subvert the powers that be. Far from it. Instead, the
methods employed are extremely unusual. Here's what we get:

Jesus is short a few party supplies so He tells his disciples, two absolutely unimpressive and average teenage kids, to go find him some reliable transportation- but not any run of the mill chariot, elephant or
Clydesdale, no- He tells them specifically what He wants.

"Go to the village opposite you, where as you enter you Will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you why you're loosing it, say to him that the Lord has need of it."

And so I'm sure this is exactly the kind of errand that made their jobs so fulfilling. I'm sure it's exactly what his excited young
followers had in mind for that moment. Something that would legitimize them in the face of all the risks they'd taken. Imagine if it were their idea:

"Um, guys? Listen, I have a great idea- no just hear me out- something that'll really set the tone for our man's entry into the city. Something that will really let the Romans know that there's a new cat in town. Yeah, I've got it... We borrow a baby donkey, toss our shirts on it for a saddle and put Jesus on top. Come on guys, it's great right, a baby donkey? Us shirtless? Now they'll have no choice. They'll have to take us seriously."

Well... Let's really give this some thought first.

But unfortunately for the disciples at that moment, this is
exactly what Jesus is suggesting they do.

But why?

Couldn't it have been different? Couldn't God have done better? Maybe bring in a private PR firm to do some early planning and make things a little more convincing? I mean, seriously, to leverage some support in the community you'd think the Jew's
campaign for freedom from Roman dominance could have been served better by some strategic alliances with at least Gap or something.

Jesus of

Okay, easy. I'm just throwing out ideas.

But beyond the story- and in every story- why is the way of Jesus always marked with these bizarre tactics? Even if it does fulfill Old Testament
prophecy, why do the climactic moments always leave us so underwhelmed (not my coinage)? Because you'd think, in the name of numbers, of really getting the people behind Him, Jesus would have done differently.

But He doesn't.

he story of Jesus life and death is incredibly unpredictable. There are these strange junctures, these times when the story takes unexpected turns for the worse, when we've got to begin calling His leadership into question.

why is He doing this? Can somebody please remind me again why we're following this guy?

Because it's not exactly a cookie-cutter approach to crowd winning, and far be it from a cheap formulaic strategy for Hollywood happy endings. No. It never is. It's sad. It's upside-down. It's tragic. Is it needless and senseless at times? I don't know, but it's Jesus' answer to every situation. And, time after time, he sticks to it.

Paul talks of this Jesus
ness when writing to the Corinthians he tells them, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." And then he goes on to explain, "...God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things to shame the strong; God chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are."

It's like he's going out of his way to make sure they realize, 'Listen, it may
look like we're losing, and like all is lost; it may not look like much now; this may not be what you had in mind... But God is here. God has won. This is how He wanted it. This is how He works.'

So as we fan through the pages, we see this approach everywhere. Jesus employing His controversial marketing strategies on everything.

The last are first.

Lose your life.

Blessed are the poor.

The meek.

The weak.

The geek, the outcast.

The God who dies for His people.

It's written all over everything. This is brand Jesus. It's crazy. But we'd be lying if we said His strategies weren't/
aren't exactly the type of thing that moves us to our core. We'd be lying to ourselves if, when we really read the stories, see His strategies, and really grasp what's happening, we weren't deeply, profoundly touched.

Because we are.

We connect with the
story because it makes sense. We know what it's like to be marginalized, or if not, we know someone who is. Or, at the very least, if none of the above, we admit that the last should, in fact, be first. Although it's uncomfortable, we've found it is best to lose our life because in gaining the whole world, we often forfeit our soul in the process. We've been disappointed, forgotten and excluded. We've been, on more than one occasion, handed a fallacious love that requires we give something, do something, or be something that we cannot consistently be. And so we've been conditioned to accept love as the result of these crude trade-offs. Although we sense maybe we shouldn't.

And this God who would
die for us? For me? It may be backward, but we know, even in spite of ourselves- deep down we know- it's beautiful. This is a good story. This is a good God.

So while His ways are mysteriously odd, and although His
story seems, time and time again, doomed to failure... we love it.

Because it's
our story.

But how many times do you and I attempt to change the parts we don't like? How many times do you see the way the story's being unfolded and decide there must be a better way? How many times do you question the authority of the author's vision?

Despite what He's done, despite His
consistency, we still fight to manipulate the story and implement our own vision of a better way forward. And He'll let us. But when you and I do, we slide into boots we can't fill. We pencil ourselves in to new scenes, write new lines, and devise an alternate ending that, we think, in the end, will serve a greater good. But when we do so, we unwittingly eliminate a key character- namely you and me.

Because when I'm off playing hero, who is being me?

But the beauty of God is that no matter how many times we write in our own revisions, no matter how much we mismanage and misdirect the script, He's still there adapting and rewriting, and reviving the story. Again and again.

author is still our hero, still come to save us, weather we recognize Him or not. And He'll do anything. He stops at nothing. He creatively brings new characters into the story. Brings old ones back to life. He allows for mistakes, makes miracles, and disregards the record books. He gives grace and goes to great lengths for us.

He even makes entirely new people.

The Jews along the road that day wanted a King who would dethrone the authority of Rome. But they got what they needed instead- a guy on a baby donkey, on a collision course with death on a tree, to dethrone death itself.

Trust the author. Be yourself. Rely on the story, at all costs.


Shannon said...

Isn't that what makes Christ so amazing? That he's so real, almost tangible. Now that's a story that I'll buy, that interests me, because it relates more to me, than some overstuffed, cocky, rich man, riding in a luxurious hummer. More and more I see how Christ was simple. We often make Christ more complicated than he was. His message was simple. Why do we read endless books on other authors and commentaries, when all we need is the Bible? This is the God that I serve- the one without the frills- yet holds endless wisdom and power. That makes him more like a Father, someone you can relate to- not an untouchable, supernatural being.

Trevor said...

Fischer, good question. I have been challenged and shaped significantly by Dallas Willard's work. In my humble opinion, Willard seems to present a trilogy of work in Hearing God, Spirit of the Disciplines, and The Divine Conspiracy. (Hearing God: how we have access to a conversational intimacy with the Creator; Spirit of the Disciplines: How followers of Jesus can take an active role in the grace and spirit of God; The Divine Conspiracy: Living today as an apprentice of Jesus in His Kingdom and how we participate in it).
Now, the Great Omission is another great work by Willard where he reveals the significant lack of Apprenticeship to Jesus in the Church and by leaders today as well as presenting what it looks like to be an apprentice of Jesus. If you're thinking about reading it, do it, you won't be disappointed.
Let me know your thoughts if you do. I visited your blog today after I read your post here and really enjoyed your thoughts, "perspective", and journey of faith!
Peace and Grace,

muzik said...

For every step forward I retreat more backward.

Boyd said...

You say so well what I've been trying to say on my blog about who Jesus is. He is precisely that which can never be boxed in, because he's the throbbing soul of what makes us human.

JoAnna said...

This is simply amazing. I enjoy the way you write. Thank you for captivating me with love for my Savior.