Maybe this will sound glib, but it makes utter sense to me that if God became a man, we would all nail him to a piece of wood and spit on him until he died. Hence, the story of Christ’s Passion. People have an urge to get God out of the way.
Christ is a master of the unanswerable question. When the Pharisees are preparing to kill him for rebuking their unprofitable customs, he asks, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone me?” (John 10:32, NKJV). Outrageously, he seemed to find no distinction between himself and God: “The Son of Man [Jesus’s name for himself] is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
His words trembled the Jewish world. By strict ritualism, the Pharisees aimed to maintain stability in the Hebrew lands. This irksome carpenter from Galilee threatened them. “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). Notice that these same Jews witnessed Jesus’s miracles with their own eyes; yet rather than follow him, they calculated how he would affect their interests. So they nailed him down and propped him up, happy that life could continue in convenience.
God’s nature is to get in our way. He means to disturb us from our patterns, our schedules, our preconceived notions. Two of the ways he disturbs us:
He makes us feel our poverty in his presence. When Peter witnessed the fish swarming miraculously into his nets, he fell before Christ and pleaded with him to go away, “for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Unless we find intimacy with God, we are left to contrast ourselves only with other people, and from this we develop the idea that okay is okay. I pay my taxes; I’ve never cheated on a test; I helped that old lady with the restaurant door—I’m just the average good guy. Peter certainly felt this way. But before Jesus’s knees, he felt the contrast of God’s purity with his own shortcomings—his foolhardiness and pride, his self-assurance and stubbornness, all of which would later lead him to deny Jesus just before the Crucifixion. God makes us feel the chips and blotches in our souls to a purpose—he can only weed out our evils when we realize them.
He has other plans for us. In Matthew 8:21-22, Jesus gives what seems a brutal answer: “Then another of His disciples said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” The Savior, though, was not declaring war on the undertaker industry. He was warning his followers against becoming ensnared with the concerns of worldly life, such as careers, family obligations, or relationships. If not well managed, any of these areas can siphon our devotion from God by absorbing the attention we should be giving him.
God disturbs, yes, but in jolting us from our original beliefs and priorities, he gives us a peace beyond comprehension (Philippians 4:7).
Can you think of a time when God made you do a 180-degree turn in your thinking?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
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