Let me give you two scripture passages which have always seemed strange to me. The first one comes at the end of Luke’s Gospel on the first Easter Sunday. The second one comes right in the middle of the Gospel of John, yet it still occurs during Holy Week.
Listen carefully as Luke describes an event on the first Easter Sunday: “When Jesus had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:37-38) My first reaction is “huh?” they did not believe because of joy? How can joy or amazement be a hindrance to anyone’s belief? I thought, you might say, that joy should be an outgrowth or a result of faith, how on earth could it prohibit real faith?
Now take a moment and hear John relate people’s response to Jesus after his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. Remember, throughout His ministry (at least the previous three years) he has performed innumerable signs (many more than seven, see 2:23; 20:30) bearing witness to who He is, especially in relationship to the Father. So what a shock then when we read, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” (John 12:37) This one for me is especially troubling. The word “performed” is in the Greek perfect tense (sorry to be such a Greek geek), which could be translated “the signs He preformed which have an on-going substantive effect in your life.” And the word “believe” is in the imperfect tense and could be rendered, “continually chose not to believe.” So, John is really saying even though you enjoy and experience the benefits of Jesus’ signs, you refuse to acknowledge Him as the benefactor of your good fortune or believe He is God’s Son.
Wow, rejection in the face of grace. I’m thankful I live today, and am not affected by such shameful action. Or am I? Question: “Is there a danger if you and I begin to expect God’s grace to be part of every day life? To put it another way, if I no longer see it as the gift that it is but rather as what is owed to me, say a “spiritual entitlement.” Let’s see if we can come up with an example. Think for a moment about some of the special facilities we have at IWU;
- McConn…I’d like a mocha-java-decaf-double-shot-latte with cinnamon and whipped cream; and just swipe me.
- Baldwin, three (no count it, four meals a day with fat meal). Then there is Wildcat which serves more food selections than all the restaurants on the Bypass combined.
- A state-of-the-art Rec & Wellness Center and Intramural activities night and day (often more night than day).
- A NEW campus. I mean, we live on a new campus that only has one building older than any of you students. That is of course the old CM Noggle building, which is in the midst of complete renovation.
- Your own private community. Now, this is not what the Apostle Paul would call the “body of Christ” but I mean you have built-in friends everywhere on campus. You never have to look or intentionally make plans to visit with someone; you merely have to look up from the book you are reading and we have created for you “instant companionship.” If you do not believe my definition, just ask anyone who has graduated recently if I’m telling you the truth. They have to go to work 8 hours a day, then stop at Wal-Mart on the way home, buy food, cook it, clean up, pay money to join a health club (if there is time to work out), and then friends, where on earth do I find friends (or if I have friends, where is the time to be with them?)
Would you mind if I asked you a few questions,
- Do you ever take the gifts of the IWU campus as a personal privilege?
- Do you simply assume it will be here tomorrow or that it should be yours; or maybe complain when it is not available?
- Can you sincerely pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” when you still have 90+ meals left for the semester?
- Is there even a place for God to show Himself as our provider when we already have it all? Now does the passage of scripture in Luke 24 make sense, “They did not believe because of their joy?”
Let me try to make a specific application. If our faulty concept of joy is actually getting in the way of our spiritual development, “What do we do?” This week is Holy Week, the 7 days which lead up to Easter. Lent should be a time of self-denial and inner-searching. Maybe try this:
- Focus upon the issues of Doulos this week. Instead of trying to find someone of the other sex as your recreation for the week (spring focus on IWU campus as we all know); what if you rather focused on re-creation; freeing someone who currently is a slave to sex.
- Before you return home for Easter Break; fast and pray for at least 24 hours. Give something up that you haven take for granted. Maybe, just maybe your physical needs will become a bit less of a priority in your life.
- Pray about taking a short-term mission trip. You need to see “real joy” that radiates from someone who has absolutely no material possessions. For many Americans, that is one of the greatest “signs/miracles” they will ever see.
- Instead of spending $4 on a Chai Tea special drink; give the money to a redemptive cause. See number 1.
- And if you do not buy the drink at McConn, intentionally invest that hour not with a casual friend but instead walk down to Colonial Oaks Nursing home (4725 S Colonial Oaks Dr, Marion, IN; 10 minute walk from campus). Spend 60 minutes with someone who has not had a visitor for a month. Call it, “Adopt a grand-parent.” Trust me on this when I say, your casual friend will never miss you; your adoptive grand-parent will not stop talking about your visit for a week! “What you do unto the least of these you do unto me.”
- Direct your attention to the local church this week; i.e., attend Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Find a place to practice the Holy Sacrament of Communion.
- Take 90 minutes this week and read thru John 12-21; Holy Week according to John. It will re-orient priorities.
Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
We want joy that emanates from You; not the world’s second rate substitutes.
We fear that we might settle for the temporal over the eternal;
We do not want joy that comes from what we buy rather we desire what You have purchased for us.
We want to want what You want.
This week, Lord; we want to see with Divine eyes.
Now, Go With God.