“Wrong” Sweetness, Buckle Up!

Jesus is asking us, “Are you in? If so, buckle up…”

A client, faced with an immediate and difficult choice, reminded me of the scene in the Bourne Identity when the young woman, Marie, is forced to accompany Bourne as he tries to elude the police. At this critical point, when she barely knows him but has already seen him handle the stress and chase, they are parked in her car. He’s in the driver’s seat. The police are closing in and he gives her the choice; “you can leave now, or else you will be entangled with me from here on out.” The camera shows her reaching over her right shoulder; for the door handle or the seat belt? She buckles up.

There are times in the gospels where Jesus seems to offer a similar choice…

That is at least one way to imagine the brief scenes we looked at in the previous blog, Expecting “Wrong Sweetness”:

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22 (NIV)

Our previous lesson about these verses?

We don’t take well to hard surprises, to unexpected statements.

Today, we want to look not at the message, but at the men receiving the message …

The first man, the “teacher of the law” was someone making a quick decision to follow Jesus with exaggerated promise of faithfulness. Jesus, seeing something disingenuous, hollow, or immature in his heart, gives a graphic image that would become a litmus test for this scribe. “I have no home, no bed, and no comforts; are you willing to live like that? Is that what you had in mind?”

If a potential follower were truly serious… truly convicted and drawn to be with Jesus, perhaps they might have said, “Well, no, but so be it! Let’s go!” Jesus, in an odd way, is being helpful here: “Are you sure you are up for this? For what following me really means?”

Jesus could have discussed the intellectual challenge, the social challenge, the emotional challenge of following him; I presume for some of us that would be the hang up. For this man, Jesus chose to highlight the physical challenge. “This is going to be physically hard. It involves suffering.”

Jesus is quick to help us see our own heart and motive; “How serious are we?” And, “What’s driving my verbal commitment here?”

Remember the odd parable in Matthew 21?

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later changed he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did want his father wanted?” Matthew 21:28-31 (NIV)

Jesus is telling us; “I get you!” “I know how you can be!” That’s why he cautions us about promising something, about vows and commitments; we are often just full of “sound and fury!” (Do you remember this quote? It’s from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”)

It may seem hard, but this is a different side of Jesus’ kindness to us. He wants us to mean what we say, say what we mean, and mostly do what we decide to do and what we hear Him calling us to do.

Once again, we are reminded that Jesus is asking us, “Are you in? If so, buckle up.”

This time we looked at the man who answered quickly; when are you prone to do that? Next time we’ll look a the man who hesitates, who answers slowly.

For now, consider these questions:

  • What would Jesus say to me?
  • How different do I want to be? What’s holding me back?
  • When am I too quick to respond (and then I can’t or don’t live up to it?)

Peace,

Bill

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