Friday, April 22, 2011

Perform, Jesus--Day 9

Thursday night of Passion Week.

More happened to and with Jesus in a twelve hour span than happens to most of us in a decade. As I read and studied the vacillating events I was astounded by the escalation and intensity. I shouldn’t have been. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Jesus took his stand against the devil’s schemes.

Long before Paul would tell us that the struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms—Jesus stood. Paul told us to put on the full armor of God. Why? So we would be able to stand our ground. And when everything else was/is said and done we would be able to stand. Just to remain standing in battle. *

And Jesus remained standing. Read that again.

We need to understand this. Because there will come a time of great darkness in our lives. For whatever reason, under whatever circumstance, by whatever means darkness will come. Not if, but when. If anyone has told you differently they have lied to you

And the darkness is suffocating. It is debilitating. It is paralyzing. It is frightening.

And who will enable you to stand?

Jesus’ night of darkness came. He ate his last meal with his disciples. He prayed in a dark garden until blood seeped from his pores. He was betrayed by a friend. He was pursued as if he were a common criminal and arrested. He had to break up a fight and heal in the midst of the chaos. And everyone who had just shared the meat and drink with him ran.

And then he was brought before the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world.

Caiaphas. Pilate. Herod.

The powers that be. Or so they thought. Believing they wielded the power these three men batted Jesus from one court to another all night long.

Jesus’ trial resembled a circus. A three ring fiasco.

And Herod acted like the circus master. He had acted like one once before, and had John the Baptist beheaded. He had heard about Jesus. Herod’s spies and court soldiers had brought him news and accounts of the activities of this Jesus. He had heard about Lazarus. He had been told about lepers arriving at the temple, clean—skin glistening and healthy. There was a report about a wedding in Cana and water turning to wine. Bread and fish for five thousand. And he had heard that this Jesus, this prophet from Galilee, had called Herod a fox. Yes, he wanted to see this man face to face.

Herod treated Jesus like a performing monkey.

Herod wanted to see Jesus perform. Herod wanted to see the miraculous happen as if it were a show for entertainment and pleasure.

Herod hounded Jesus. Interrogating. Needling. Poking. Plying.

Herod stepped off his dais. Approached Jesus.

“Perform, Jesus. Show me what you can do. They have told me about all your miraculous feats. Demonstrate for me. Prove the reports to me.”

Jesus remained utterly silent. The darkness grew thicker. Heavier.

Herod could hear the black crows of the Sanhedrin pacing and shouting.

As Herod moved close to Jesus’ face the metallic scent of blood caused his nostrils to flair and burn. There was a weakness in Jesus’ body, but there was no sign of weakness in his eyes. Herod saw red. This man had called him a fox, and Herod both liked and hated the implications.

Herod changed his tactics.

Herod turned back to his throne and grabbed his robe. He flitted and danced around Jesus, dressing him in the elaborate garment. Herod’s needling questions became sneers and mockery. He ridiculed and taunted Jesus. Poked and prodded him in an attempt to dredge up a reaction. His soldiers joined him. Laughing at Herod’s buffoonery, they added their own.

“Perform, prophet. I have a cut on my arm, heal it. Make the skin close back and the wound disappear. Turn this pot into gold. It’s dark outside, make it day.”

And Jesus remained silent. But Herod couldn’t handle Jesus. Couldn’t handle the silence or the lack of reaction. Most cowered in front of Herod. Begged for their lives. Pleaded for mercy. But this silence was deafening. Louder than the crows’ vehement accusations. Shriller than his soldier’s mean and drunken teasings.

Suddenly the room seemed dark and the walls closed in on Herod. His breath was shallow and fast. He recognized the feeling. Fear. And Herod hated fear.

“Take him back to Pilate. Take him back.”

And the three-ring circus spotlight moves in reverse.

Herod appalled me. His behavior sickened me. To ask Jesus to perform a miracle solely for Herod’s pleasure and entertainment—

Who did Herod think he was?

Who do I think I am?

How often have I asked Jesus to perform for me? How many times have I said, “Jesus, here’s my problem—fix it. The bank account is almost empty—fill it. I am hungry—feed me. I am lonely—help me. I screwed up—make it go away. I am unhappy—change it.”

How often do I expect Jesus to perform? How often do I act like he is the star attraction at a three-ring circus?

Why should I be surprised if he is silent?

*Ephesians 6:10-14

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