“Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Matthew 13:17
I find this one verse to be such a powerful statement. As true today as then. As binding today as then. As much a privilege now as then.
This Great God of Creation! This eternal and infinite Being of all Beings. The spiritual centre of (more than) life itself. The heart of all that is precious, beautiful and worthy. The better “me” and the better “you” (whatever name and language we use). All of that history, all of that worship, all of that service. All of those key figures whose names we learn (and name-drop). All of “that!”
And here are a “ragtag bunch or ordinaries”. Uneducated, unsophisticated, unruly and untrained. The Disciples – the Boys – the Dusty Peeps. Never “getting it”, never understanding, never in control. Journeymen and journeywomen – the untouchables in sophisticated circles.
That resonates today.
With all our carefully crafted sociological labels. With all our protected privileges accumulated and fought over. With all our tension between the haves and the have not’s (and all the debate over what “have and have not” actually means). With the production line of “theology” of ever more obtuse names and specialisms (a language of academia keeping the ragtag’s at bay from God Himself?). Seems like not much has changed in 2000 years.
Because something else resonates: this eternal “Us v Them”
Our chosen position to see myself as different, better, enlightened (or chained and cast-out – downtrodden and spurned). And whichever position I take – always the “underdog” mentality – attacked from all sides. And always the same response: “we” must stick together against “them”- the future of The Kingdom is in our hands – are you with us or against us?
And the language becomes very “Hollywood” (or Bollywood – or any other “????wood”). The drama always cranked up. The stakes driven ever higher. Always the poor us fighting the evil them.
I never see that in Jesus.
I never see God Soft Hands Jesus with our bunker mentality. I never see Jesus ignoring anyone. I never see Jesus discriminating. I do see Jesus cross and angry and I do see Jesus challenging. And always I see Jesus as real – as real as the ragtag bunch surrounding Him.
And that is a powerful statement. A statement of being rather than words. A statement of who – and what – “this” is all about (and that is as true today as then).
The disciples never truly got it until “after”. The disciples are you and me. The disciples are not “up there” out of reach – just as we are not. The disciples are you and they are me – the ordinaries – just as we all are. And all these titles and the qualifications we hold in esteem? They are merely clothing. Clothing that some parade with pride – that becomes who they think they are. Who parade around with a “this is me – look at me!” And others who use that clothing for what it really is: “clothing”. And they “put it on” and “take it off” as the need arises.
Because all of us, when naked, are visibly equal. All of us ARE equal in the eyes of this Great God of Creation. So being naked is for our benefit. Because when naked – all of us look the same as each other (unless we want to bring our “body image issues” with us).
I look at me and I know that I follow without much comprehension. I know I don’t get it so often. I know I have no qualifications or titles to offer. I know I have no wisdom or privilege to share. I have nothing of value other than this:
My Great God of Creation is real – my God Soft Hands Jesus is real – and has been my whole life. Sometimes in a vague way, other times as real as you and him and her over there. And I cannot prove this to you. Just as we cannot prove so much of what we take for granted in this life to each other …
Men on the moon? Conspiracy theory! “Anything remarkable”? Conspiracy theory. Always the web of conspiracy theories. We don’t just do it to God – we do it all the time to each other. And yet live happily side-by-side together.
And yes – we live in times where the fracture lines are visible more than at other times. And we cling to the “good old days” as how it should be and could be. And we think that “the end of the world is nigh” again (but we are sure we must be right this time). Which is what the disciples believed even as they lived and breathed – something else we “ordinaries” have in common.
“Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
And most did not recognise that GSHJ was “it”. Many are still waiting for “it”. Many more are still waiting for “it – the second coming”. And we still “follow” without comprehension. We still weave theories to explain “it” better. We still look to the qualified and collared to lead the way. And we make the disciples the original leaders. We always elevate the ordinaries to the extra-ordinaries.
Which I find sad.
Because in the process “we” relieve ourselves of having to do anything but “follow”. And “we” can pick and choose who we follow. So if this “leader” of faith ticks us off, we transfer allegiance to someone else. And if we arrive in a “family group” (that we call congregations or worship groups) wherein we are undervalued, or abused, or simply our specialness is constrained … we can choose to move on. Just who DO we follow?
Because I read these words, in this one verse, and I hear Jesus say this:
“All of those people who looked and longed, who waited and hoped, who read and learned, who discerned and deciphered – who wanted “Me” …
Here I Am.
And here are You.
What are WE going to do about it?”
So to each of us who have said “Yes please – I am following!” Where is our joy? Where is our absence of fear? Where is our certain knowledge – not of understanding – but of assured faith? The disciples are you and they are me. They were not “chosen”… they simply said “Yes”.
Why do we make it so “complicated”?