by Barry Newton
Tis the season for scary movies to fill the box office marquees. Looking for a good fright? Unless our spiritual compasses are completely out of whack, Jesus can be downright disturbing. Unlike a movie whose situation you can escape by closing your eyes, pretending Jesus’ words are not real does not make his haunting questions go away. Perhaps the best way to introduce one of his questions would be a story about some canoes.
“The Canoe Fleet”
The current had been smooth and lazy as a fleet of canoes glided further down the river. With skill the various teams dipped their oars into the water propelling them further out into the main current. The spirit of those in the canoes could not have been higher as they measured their success through the distance they had covered and how they were competitively faring with each other.
From a distant bank the voice of a single man faintly rose above the sound of the oars slicing into the river. “Stop!” His attempts to halt the river festival were futile as the canoe crews’ optimism and enthusiasm mutually reinforced one another.
Slowly the tree-lined banks of the river gave way to sheer rock cliffs. Around the next broad bend in the river they sailed faster and faster as the river now commandingly pulled them forward. Suddenly, the flotilla’s advance was greeted by a deafening roar. Their eyes widened and panic cascaded through the boats as each beheld the river disappearing into a giant cloud of white mist. Their strongest desire to wake up and escape the nightmare achieved nothing. Closer they were drawn to the massive edge. In the final moments their inner agony only deepened as they recalled the lone voice. Grown men cried out in frustration and terror until their voices fell silent.
Before we consider Jesus’ very simple question, consider how hard it would be to leave the security of your crowd who is clamoring “everything is OK” in order to join a lonely voice headed in a different direction. As you ponder his question below, does not the Master Teacher in just a few words describe the entrapment of a fatal anesthetized self-induced blindness? His question becomes even more poignant if we look beyond his literal message to grasp a general principle. Has Jesus not cast doubt upon the ability of any culture or fellowship to achieve proper goals if it honors its own inbreeding of religious ideas rather than pursuing God’s approval? Ready for the question?
“How can you believe, if you accept praise from one another and do not seek to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).
by Barry Newton