What Can We Really Say To Jesus?
Published: October 11, 2012
When my cousin’s stepfather was dying, there were many people who didn’t understand all the sacrifices she made to take care of him.
Although she was working full-time, she still managed to do the hundred-and-one things necessary to assure that he was comfortable.
Some people, she said, acted as if she were crazy. They just didn’t get it. And then my cousin said something that really struck a chord with me: “They were thinking like the world thinks.”
That reminded me of an emotion-charged scene in the Gospels where Christ tells his disciples that he will suffer and be put to death, and then rise again.
And Peter passionately responds with something you can imagine a really good friend saying: “God forbid, Lord!”
Then Jesus utters those memorable lines that must have seared themselves into Peter’s heart: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
This interchange underscores the basic conflict for Christians living in the ordinary world, where many Christ-centered values are considered ludicrous.
What does it mean to think like the world does?
The world says that if you are svelte and beautiful you are worth more than someone who is overweight or plain.
The world says that if you have a sprawling mansion and a luxury car, you are blessed and should be admired—while the guy rooting around in the garbage to find a sandwich is to be despised.
But Christ said it would be very hard for rich people to enter heaven. He also spent time with people who were poor and outcast, as well as the terribly deformed lepers whom others shunned.
The world says you should do everything imaginable to look younger than you are, and hide every wrinkle and every gray hair.
But Christ talked about a life that comes after the agonies of aging and bodily death. He told people to stop worrying about things like clothing and physical comforts, and to seek their treasure in heaven.
The world says that if a child is conceived at an inconvenient time, it is permissible to terminate its life. But Christ said, “Anyone who receives one child in my name has received me.” And in the Old Testament we hear, “Before I knew you in the womb, I loved you.”
The world says that suffering is horrible and must be avoided at all costs, and that every day should be filled with fun and laughter. Christ said to take up your cross daily and follow me.
The world says that if the person you married has hit hard times or lost a job, then you should call it quits. Christ said, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
The world says that a little dishonesty now and again is fine. So it’s OK to cheat on your taxes, cheat on your spouse and cheat on your exams. But Christ emphasized following the Ten Commandments, and one of them prohibits lying, and another forbids adultery.
In Christ’s time, many people deplored the message that he spread. When he said that whoever was sinless should throw the first stone at a woman caught in adultery, the crowd went slinking away in shame.
When he didn’t flinch from the untouchables, the lepers, the prostitutes and the tax collectors, people didn’t know what to make of him.
What can you really say about someone who turns the world upside down?
What can you say to a man who showed his compassion by healing sick people and raising dead people—and even when the crowds turned against him, didn’t run away but instead willingly went to an agonizing death to reveal the endless depths of his love?
What can you say to a shepherd who so loved his little flock that he went after the one sheep that strayed—and still seeks us out today?
What can we really say other than what Peter said, when people were leaving Christ: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
Or what Thomas said upon encountering the Risen Christ: “My Lord and my God!”
And most of all, what can we say other than what Peter said, when Jesus asked him, three times, about his devotion: “Lord, you know that I love you!”
“Christ at the Gates” artwork by Jef Murray. Readers may contact the Murrays at email@example.com.