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Human nature…

March 4, 2009


Because of the miraculous signs he did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew what people were really like.  No one needed to tell him about human nature. John 2:23-26 (NLT)

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in anyone. John 2:23-26 (NRSV)

Such an interesting few verses from the gospel of John.  Jesus’ miraculous signs had convinced many that he was the Messiah.  They believed.  If the setting was a revival meeting they would have stood and come forward.  But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew what people were really like.  He himself knew what was in anyone.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.   (the tragic comic poet)

The gospel reading for this Sunday uncovers the same reality–that human beings cannot easily grasp the meaning of Jesus’ messianic mission.  Peter also will confess Jesus as Messiah, and within moments be rebuked for looking at things from a human point of view.

Suffering…a cross just does not make sense within the agenda of self-realization, conquest, the Great Human Project.  Babel.  Babylon.  Empire.  “Get behind me Satan.”  Peter’s illusions of grandeur and power do not sidetrack Jesus.  Power over is not his mission.

Jesus is not possessed through belief.  A pious spiritual experience or dramatic “conversion” story does not vouchsafe a long obedience in the same direction.  Jesus knows that.  No delusion there.  He doesn’t need anyone to testify to him what is in our human hearts.  Yet he invites us to a fractal journey of becoming.   Salvation, not as a momentary ontological transaction, but as a way of living rooted in love.

He does not entrust himself to convinced miracle seekers.  He does not deal in self-help.  He invites humans to the way of the cross.  Why is this Good News?

…because only through the cross can we die to false selves. (the tragic comic poet)

Hope lies in a cross.  Jesus’ cross…our cross.  A cross that will inevitably lead us to see in ourselves what Jesus sees (in anyone).  A cross that will deconstruct false notions of our own goodness, our anointing, our importance in the grand scheme of things.  A cross that will deconstruct other gospels which free us to pursue oppressive self-actualization.  A cross which will deconstruct both our self-infatuation and our self-loathing.  Both symptoms of the same propensity of human nature–to be stuck on ourselves.  A cross that will even deconstruct our blind self-centered attempts to seek God.

Attempts that stagnate as we become fixated on our “God experiences”…our God stories.  Attempts that measure progress so we feel in control.  Christianity is working.  Why doesn’t it work for others?  They must not be doing something right? Delusion is hidden.  God the object becomes a possession.  People are objects, consumers of religious goods…projects to validate our mission.  We become artificial characters.  Cultural pawns.  Is this what Jesus sees in the human heart?

And still the words of Jesus come to us, “If any of you wants to be my follower…you must put aside your selfish ambition…shoulder your cross…  Not a “spiritual cross,” but real anguish and suffering in real places.  Desert places in ourselves and the world that cry out for transformation.  It is the via crucis.  Rutba becomes Eden.

The ancient invitation comes to us.  But from where…?  Interior castles or external ruins…

Feeble words…half-hearted commitments…divided allegiance…

Used up suicidal systems of greed and oppression

Forgive us for taking your words and using your image to legitimate our misguided appetites…

We stand with the convinced Passover crowd as humans…

Are we able to see what you see?

Or do we buy and sell in religious language which flows easily and cheaply…

Forgive us for hollow words and presumptuousness

Hands and feet

Spikes and wood…

Is this our path as well?

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