Friday, November 21, 2008

When Heaven has Visited Earth

While we've been studying the Gospel of Mark, I've been noticing the expressions of amazement that are expressed from among the people who saw Jesus. Their amazement is right, when it is expressed, because Jesus is so different from anyone else who has walked the earth. What He says, the authority He bears, His clarity of purpose, His wisdom, His unpredictable answers, His healings, His lovingkindness, His patience, His resistance against sin, His steadfastness in progress toward the unthinkable cross; His sacrifice; His power over sin and death. There are many right reasons to be amazed at Jesus. There is one aspect at the beginning of Mark, where I (having the advantage of the whole New Testament at my fingertips, having heard sermons and read study materials for the last 20 years, and thereby seeing from the comfort of this ultra-extravagant level of exposure to what was going on that the crowds in Mark were just happening upon at this moment in their lives)...I just can't help but be amazed that there is no expression of amazement when God speaks, and says, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well-pleased."
Not even that there is no expression of their amazement; perhaps there was an awestruck amazement that Mark simply doesn't record. But after that...what? If you heard a voice from heaven, might that not change you for life? Might it not redirect your steps? If you heard a voice from heaven say "This is My beloved Son" (standing right in front of you), would you not think you would follow Him everywhere? Or at the very least, stand for Him no matter what stood against Him? Wouldn't you think that you would never let any human argument cause you to waver, because you had personally, audibly heard God's voice from heaven?
That is what is amazing to me. They heard God's voice, and it seems that it all became just another part of the event in front of them, something like the loudspeaker at the football game. There were other times when God intervened in such a way from heaven and the response was likewise substellar. The birth of Jesus, the star that shone down from heaven upon His home while He was small, such that followers were able to locate His home specifically from countries away. That the whole city did not crowd the house and want to discover for themselves--not even just the city, but the country, and the surrounding countries? What is the matter with the human response, why are we made so dull? It would seem that there would be more curiosity, and people would be following the development of this Child through His lifetime...that once He was starting His ministry, they wouldn't be discounting what He said. If nothing else, they would say, "Remember when He was a baby, and that star shone down from heaven upon His house all that time? I always knew there was something from heaven going on with Him." If nothing else, they would refrain from saying, "Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, who played with our kids in the streets?" You would think that they would know that they were calling down judgment upon themselves to so despise Him.
There are other places, too, such as the Transfiguration and Paul's conversion...and of course in the Old Testament, God spoke so often that it was stunning that He had been quiet for 400 years before Christ came. Wherever He speaks, the reason He speaks is clear, and the purpose He lays out is accomplished, but past that it seems to fizzle. The people who are present (except in Paul's case) seem less changed than one would expect as a result of hearing the very voice of God the Father, or the ascended Christ. Paul is the only one I can think of who seems as fully redirected by his encounter with God as one might expect--maybe even more so, depending on who is doing the expecting!
I suppose it is because without the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is impossible to have that sense of amazement continue--the Holy Spirit enables us to be softened to amazed and to remember; otherwise Satan is quick to eat up the seeds that are scattered on hard ground. Praise God for His Holy Spirit! And I am fully aware that I sound prideful and judgmental toward those who have a less than full response to His voice. I am in a different circumstance, seeing from a different vantage historically and I have the advantage of having the indwelling Holy Spirit; who knows, too, but that perhaps I have dismissed God's similarly stunning works in my own life, perhaps regularly? It is always easier to see others' weaknesses than one's own. And so this should be my prayer: "Lord, let me continually be stunned by You, by Who You are, by what You do in the Scriptures and in my life. Let me ask You the questions I need to ask. Let me seek You before and above all else. Don't let me forget Your amazing love, amazing grace, amazing being. Help me always to be soft-hearted and tender to receive You, not to dismiss You who are above all other seemingly good things. Let me listen to the voice from heaven, and heed it, whether the one in the Scriptures, or the quiet one I hear whisper in my prayer time. Don't let me be sneering at these people for their dullness, because I am merely human, just as weak as anyone else; let me be aware of my own dullness and ask You to keep me alert, aware, amazed at You...for all my life, that I might point others continually to You and Your greatness. Amen."

No comments: