Irma has blasted its way across the Caribbean and halfway up the Florida coast. While the destruction is not as severe as once predicted it is still devastating for many, life altering for most, and frightening for all. Right on her heels is Jose, following a similar track but just as unpredictable. And of course we must not forget Harvey that turned Houston upside down just last week. We are in a season of catastrophic, world gripping storms it seems, not just Hurricane Season 2017, but World History this part of our life.
We live through Ferguson only to encounter Charlottesville. We stood toe to toe with ISIS and now Kim Jong-un takes center stage. We twirl from one political scandal to the next, emails, Russian contacts, hanging chads. And even in the church we are becoming more fractured over sexual identity issues and the right to life.
And if you think that is bad, Gizmo ate a chicken bone. Gizmo is the 4 pound bundle of fur and yapping that passes itself of for a dog at my grandkids house, Jon-Mical and Jakson. I could very easily run him through the garbage disposal, a thought that may have been entertained in my brain for more than a fleeting second. But the chicken bone thing was apparently pretty serious and required a trip (read that EXPENSIVE) to the vet. Chicken bones splinter and fragment into small shards in small puppies and can have dire results. Dr. Vet says, “Possible surgery.” Big bucks. Daddy Josh says, “Big bucks. What should I do Dad?” And I say, “Garbage disposal”…but I catch myself and say, “The boys love Gizmo. They will be crushed if something happens to him.” Daddy Josh says, “You’re right,” and Gizmo gets redemption and survives the catastrophic potential he faced.
Wouldn’t it be nice?
All of that has got me thinking about Jesus. (Now there’s a leap for you.) Well, not just about Jesus but about what He really said. I have spent most of my life reading commentaries that talk about what Jesus talked about. I can quote chapters of Paul who was write up there next to Jesus, telling us what Jesus meant when He said what He said. But how often have I stopped and really looked at WHAT HE SAID? Where he said it. When He said it. To whom HE said it. And the reason for saying it. Some would call that exegesis. I call it looking at what Jesus said. Larry Lea wrote, “Read the red and pray for power.” So I dusted out my leather bound, Tyndale, New Living Version, Red Letter Edition and decided to focus on the red letters for the next 40 Days and think about what Jesus really said.
Here is saying number one. With the storms bearing down and the political turmoil in a rage, and global threats on every corner, not to mention Gizmo recovering from his deal, it had better be good. What did Jesus say?
First saying of Jesus in the New Testament, the first time He opens His mouth and says, “Write this down.” Is Matthew 3:15. HE is facing the issue of being baptized. His cousin says, “it’s no big deal. You should probably dunk me instead.” And Jesus says, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” That’s it! Nothing really profound. No great advice. Just that. Or maybe not.
Two very quick things. Jesus is headed into the hurricane. This event of being baptized will usher in His “full-time” ministry that will ultimately get Him killed. He knows that. He’s talked it over with the Father. He is well aware that when He goes under the water a nobody, He comes out a marked man. The Pharisees and religious pious will see the dove, hear the voice, and set their wolves on Him. Up until now a few parlor tricks, providing wine for a wedding, impressing the teachers, He has flown under the radar. But when this baptism things happen all hell will break loose. Jose, Irma, and Harvey have teamed with Kim Jung-un and chicken bones to turn Jesus inside out. He is entering the stormy season of life.
That’s the first thing. Here’s the second thing. Look at what He is looking at when He says what He says. “This needs to be done so that God will be pleased.” Right from the beginning Jesus had one primary goal, to please the Father. We will read later when He says, “My meat is to do the will of the Father.” (john 4:34) Or “I can do nothing apart from the Father. I seek to please Him that sent me.” (John 5:30) And of course the big one, “Let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will….”
On the eve of the biggest stage, the biggest storm, the biggest scenes of His life Jesus say, I’m going to please God.’
Nothing to unpack there. No real commentary needed. You can exegete until the cows come home and it still says. “Please God.” We have watered that down some in our house and elevated Doris to the Supreme Leader (Sometimes I call her Doris Jung-un.) We say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Or happy wife happy life. When the dishwasher breaks or the cat throws up or the doctor says you’d better come back in I think, what can I do here to make Doris happy, to please her.
What if, when the storms are howling, and the sabers are rattling, and the politicians are politicking I just keep focused on pleasing God? What if I make my primary focus “doing what He requires?” Staying faithful, fearless, compassionate, putting others ahead of myself, truly loving, truly loving, truly loving. That might change everything. It might change me. So Gizmo, no garbage disposal for you. God wouldn’t be pleased. It’s off to the vet by way of the Irma donation center and the Doors of Hope drop off box. My father-in-law used to say, “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what done for Christ will last.”
See you tomorrow. Matthew 4 and Jesus’s response to temptation.