Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Breaking All the Rules

My nephew is visiting me this week. I get him for one week a summer. He always challenges my entire life structure. This is something that should be done every once and a while, anyway. I never really know what to expect, and now he is a teenager. It is like an intensive.

He is a different kid from year to year. I have been prayerfully gearing myself up for this. I have choices going in. Will I let my paradigm of our relationship dictate how I will respond to him? Will I rely on the rules of the past to demarcate the present relationship potential? Will I expect him to behave like an adult now? Result…applying rules of relationship to a thirteen year old is futile.

I am reminded of my attempts to wrap my mind around teenagers when I was reading in the book of John. It has the same ring as Jesus speaks to the Pharisees. They know everything and He knows nothing. In fact, the Pharisees are having an entirely different conversation than the one Jesus is speaking.

I can’t solely pin this one on teenagers, though. My husband and I do it all of the time. I like to credit it to my astounding ability to transfer fluidly between topics. He never even knows that I have moved past the current conversation, or that I could return to it at any time. He has other names for it.

That is what John looks like to me. It is a series of tunnels and slides for those who cannot figure out that Jesus is the Son of God. For Jesus, it is a constant, literally chapters of the same conversation. People know that He is acting the way that a Messiah would act, but they are reluctant to call Him that name.

By all appearances, therefore, Jesus is the Messiah. He performs signs with water and wine and He heals. He teaches, leaving people amazed. He does not follow the rules, though. In chapter 7, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Strike one against Jesus of Nazareth. How could He? The Pharisees knew what God would do, and God would not break the Sabbath.

Jesus response…John 7:24, NRSV, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” But that is exactly what the Pharisees thought they had.

The entire body of chapter 9, in John, addresses Jesus healing on the wrong day. The Pharisees, upon finding this formerly blind man, struggle because Jesus is acting like the Messiah, but they are not going to hand out the title to just anyone. So, naturally, they try to refute the identity of Christ. When that fails they try to refute the healing, itself.

John 9:16, NRSV, “Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.” Two things worked against Jesus being the Messiah, he did not respect their Sabbath, AND…Jesus seemed to be too ordinary. He did not fit inside their box.

The Pharisees knew God and they would know if He just showed up healing one day. As a result, they would not know Him at all.

Questions for our box: Do we have rules for Jesus? Do we give Him full authority in some areas, but not in others because that does not follow our rules? Do we rely on our judgment to validate Him, or affirm Him? Is His experience as a non-sinning human too different from mine that I don’t equate our human existence?

I have to think about these questions. The identity of Christ exists independently of me and what I think. That is what these passages tell me. I don’t want to take the chance of missing out on Him.

Father, thank you for being new and fresh to us every day. Let us set aside the notions that limit our understanding of you. Bring us into a holistic experience of you today.

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