So often modern Christians laugh at the people in the Bible who didn’t believe and obey God. If we had lived back then, we would have been so much different than they were, we say. We often fail to realize that they said the same thing. In Matthew 23: 29, 30, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” “We wouldn’t have killed the prophets, we would have listened…,” they said, and yet they cried out for Jesus, the very Son of God, to be crucified!
Aren’t we the same? Don’t we say that we would not “have been partakers with them” and then turn around and do the very thing we said we wouldn’t?
God delivered the Israelites from the land of Egypt. He drew them out from bondage unto Himself and delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea so that they could escape on dry land. He then killed their pursuers when He allowed the waters to cave in on them. Yet, these very same people turned around and worshipped a golden calf instead of the true and living God. God had manifested His power before them in so very many ways and yet they departed from Him to worship an idol. Looking at them, we might shake our heads in disbelief and say, “How could they turn to a false god, thinking it could satisfy them? We would never be satisfied with a golden calf. We would never doubt God…not us.” But, is that true? We live on the other side of the cross and we’ve heard the Gospel. We know the truth and yet, we, too, turn away. Enticed by the world, we “worship” at the altar of self-fulfillment, materialism and fun. We turn on our one-eyed idol and bow before it at night. Turning a blind eye to God’s commands on righteousness, we welcome blasphemers, adulterers and child-molesters into our homes…all in the name of “entertainment.” In our daily lives, we specialize in bending and breaking God’s laws, willingly ignoring His teachings on self-denial, modesty, honoring our parents, servant-hood, holiness…willingly, knowingly, substituting our own “truths” for His. How are we different than they?
What about Doubting Thomas? We laugh at his expense. Yes, he doubted that a dead Man was now alive…but he wanted to believe. When shown convincing evidence that his Lord, whom he knew had died, was standing before Him alive, he bowed down and worshipped Jesus. How blind he was to doubt, we say. We would have believed right off. We wouldn’t have doubted Jesus, not once. But does our faith really measure up? Have we never doubted God? Or, is it closer to the truth that, not only do we doubt God, but that we live in a pattern of consistent doubt? God tells us through His holy Word to believe that He is faithful and can provide what we need and yet we give into anxiety and worry. We doubt that God was telling us the truth when He said that He created everything in six days. We doubt that He really meant “me” when He said, “Go ye.” We doubt His truth and follow the guidance of Hollywood.
Then there’s Peter. He couldn’t walk on water for long because he took his eyes off of Jesus, stupid man. If we were given the chance to walk on water, we would never take our eyes off of God. We would walk on bold and steady, never floundering at all; yet, do we? Aren’t we exactly like Peter? No, unfortunately, we are much worse than him. Peter sunk beneath the waves, that’s true, but he also reached out to Jesus to save him and accepted His rebuke. What do we do? We take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on ourselves anytime we say, “I know God says that, but…” or “I simply don’t have time…to read the Bible…pray…go to church.” When we fail to delve deeply into God’s Word and weep before Him in prayer, when we fail to obey Him because it’s simply easier not to, our eyes are firmly and squarely on us rather than on Him. When we fail to consider God’s power when waves are crashing around us, we are trusting in our own abilities rather than in His. And, just like Peter, we will sink. Question is, will we rise and accept rebuke…just like Peter?
What about the disciples as a whole? How very slow they were to understand Jesus’ teachings; how very quickly they fled their Lord when things turned truly dangerous. We would never fail Jesus like that. If we could just have lived back then, we would have drank in every word Jesus spoke to us. We would have bowed in prayer, desperate to understand, to learn, to grow. We would have stood by Him to the end, even if it meant our own death. Jesus certainly could have counted on us, we say. But can He count on us today? Our churches are weak on theology and strong on fun. Our lives are wastelands of devotion to worldly things. Jesus bids us come and we go…fast, in the opposite direction. Jesus can count on us? Hardly.
Or the Jews? They followed Him when He served their needs and rejected Him when His teaching became too hard, too demanding…when He no longer filled their bellies. Many, expecting a powerful, physical kingdom, couldn’t accept that a humble Carpenter could be the long-awaited answer to their prayers so they rejected Him. Most of His own family initially rejected Him. His own brothers and sisters did not believe that He was the Messiah…until after His resurrection. What about us? We want God to serve us rather than us serving Him. We give lip service to our obedience to Him but let our stand for Him threaten our finances, our family peace, our nice “stuff” and what do we do? We turn away. We want a “god” who is interested in us and what makes us happy so we reject the real God–a God Who is more interested in our holiness than He will ever be in our happiness because without holiness true happiness is impossible. Just like the Jews of old we find that Jesus isn’t pleasing to us as He is. He is harsh. He is demanding. He doesn’t fit into our ideals of what a “God” should be, so we reject Him.
Consider Judas. All those years with Jesus and yet he sold Him for 30 pieces of silver! Selling the Lord! Can you imagine such a thing? We absolutely, positively, would never even think of doing that! Torture us and we will be faithful to Him. Take everything from us and we will not sell Him out…. “What? What was that? Go to the beach? Great, just a minute, let me grab my bikini.” “Did you see that show last night? Wasn’t it cool? Yeah, I know it has homosexual characters but I just over look that kind of stuff. I mean, come on, everybody watches it.” “Yeah, I missed church last Sunday, but it was my only day off and I really needed to sleep.” No, not us, we would never sell Jesus out. Would we?
What about the Jews in the crowd who demanded Jesus’ crucifixion? A few days before these same people had been praising God and welcoming Jesus as their King. “Hosanna” they cried and laid down palm branches to welcome Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey; how could they then turn around and demand His crucifixion? How could they betray Him like that? We would have been there defending Him, encouraging Him, fighting for Him. But would we have? Do we defend Him today? Do we stand up for the absolute truth of God’s Word…today? Do we bow to the pressure of those who laugh at us for our beliefs? Do we rebuke those who would blaspheme God’s holy name…here and now? Do we stand up for the uncomfortable truths of the Bible? Are we outraged when it Jesus’ name is used as a curse word? Maybe Jesus can’t count on us, after all.
I wonder if Jesus ever laughs at us for our audacity? Or if He just sadly shakes His head at our blindness? Perhaps He cries over us, weeping at our self-centeredness, at our failure to understand that, not only would we have abandoned Him had we lived then, many of us have already abandoned Him here and now.