The disciples have been struggling for a long time. Jesus is aware of that struggle – he has been watching them since early evening. Why? Why doesn’t Jesus come earlier? Why doesn’t Jesus relieve them of their burden?
We have been there, haven’t we? We have had long night of sleeplessness, long seasons of struggle. We have had those times when we are tired, frustrated, and sore and we wonder why Jesus isn’t coming to relieve us of our torment. The reality is that Jesus doesn’t always come when we first call him. Jesus doesn’t always come when asked and relieve us of our burdens or stress or worries. Prayer is not a dog whistle that moves God to respond whenever we blow, whenever we pray.
But here is what we do know. God comes. Jesus comes. The Holy Spirit
arrives, the Godhead shows up in power when we are at the end of our resources.
Jesus arrives when we have persevered. Jesus comes when we have done all that
we can do, when we have endured all that we can really handle. Jesus comes not
according to our time, but according to God’s time. And friends, that is always
the right time. There are lessons to be learned from that.
We learn that we are
actually capable of more than we think. We learn that the first appearance of
trouble does not have to be our last chance to survive. We learn that we are
stronger than we think. We learn the value of friends helping friends. We learn
lessons that we can only learn in the midst of struggle. These are not fun
lessons to learn, but they are critical ones, nonetheless. Jesus comes when
only the appearance of Jesus makes it possible for the disciples to survive.
Every culture has those that are in and those that are out. Every
culture has those who bask in the glorious middle while others simply try to
survive after being pushed out onto the margins. Jesus now comes to say that
all are loved, that all can be recipients of God’s grace. Jesus comes and
fellowships with those that had been isolated, alienated, and that there is no
one for whom Jesus is not willing to die! That is such good news.
Yet the listeners of Jesus in his day do not
hear this inclusivity as good news. They do not want to hear that there will no
longer be Jew or Gentile, slave or free – but that we can all be one in Christ.
They want to kill Jesus for that message. Friends, those people exist in our
world today as well. This text reminds us that no church, no tradition, no
denomination, no country can claim an exclusive hold on God. There is no
demographic, economic, political, philosophical, or cultural limit to God’s
Finally, this story is also a tale of
competing values. For his listeners, Jesus threatened a core value for them.
For Jesus to say that God is at work outside the covenant people of Israel
threatened a core principle that viewed Israel as being in a unique and
exclusive relationship with God. When Jesus came to tell them differently; when
Jesus came to elevate the notion of God’s love and grace and redemptive work to
people beyond Israel’s exclusive claim on God, they just couldn’t accept it.
Friends, faith will do that to us. We all have principles and values. We all have ways of organizing our world into a set of principles and convictions that determines the choices we make. I do. My guess is that you do as well. The question is, what are we going to do when our values and principles find themselves in opposition to God’s grace and righteousness? The worshippers in the synagogue decided to shoot the messenger rather than question their conviction. What will we do when it is our turn?