Easter 4

So I’m wondering how many of you have had an interaction with a friend or family member or significant other that goes like this: “Honey (Bro, Friend), what’s wrong?”  And they replied, “If you have to ask, then I am not going to tell you!”

If you have to ask…

That’s ugly, right?  You know you’re in trouble when If you have to ask comes out.

It reminds me of the gospel story we just heard: “if the people celebrating Hanukkah that year in Jerusalem had to ask Jesus if he would plainly fess up to being the Messiah, then Jesus was not going to answer.  They either already knew Jesus was the Christ or they did not and if they did not, it was because they were refusing to make the logical connections between Jesus’ work and his unity with God the Father.  So their query was one-part a trick question, one-part a prelude to exactly what does follow just beyond the fringe of this lection; namely, an attempt to kill Jesus for blasphemy.

“So Jesus’ reply to their question really did amount to his saying, “If you have to ask, then I am not going to tell you!”  They had no ear for a tune.  They had no ability to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice.  Jesus could make any claim for himself that he wanted but they were not going to believe him, listen to him, or most certainly follow him.  Their ears were not attuned to hear his message, their eyes were not sharp enough to see the Father who stood behind Jesus every miracle.”[1]

But they knew well enough to ask the question. That should count for something, right?  But Jesus didn’t think so, and so we have to wonder why.

I think the short answer is this: God had spoken to His people for generations, telling them, especially through the prophets, what kind of savior He was to send, telling them what the Christ would look like.  Think about how Isaiah described the Christ: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Surely the religious leaders in Jesus’ time had heard that Scripture read aloud thousands of times.  Surely they had it memorized, set to music, inscribed on the walls, and had their children recite it back to them.

But somehow they missed it.  I don’t blame them.  Being in a long line of religious leaders who don’t always see what’s right in front of them, I miss stuff like this all the time, mainly because when God is trying to give me something over here – something wonderful, something edifying, something actually good, instead I’m looking for something over here – ooh, look, something shiny!  Many in Jesus’ time were looking over here, looking for a war against the Romans, looking for a leader sent from God who would break the yoke of Roman oppression.  But God had been over here the whole time, just where He said He would be, of course, but we missed it.

What’s wrong with this picture?  If you have to ask, then I’m not going to tell you.  Not really.  I’m not that arch.  I think we look for Jesus all the time, which is a good thing, of course, but sometimes we look for Him where we want Him to be.  We try to make Jesus be who we want Him to be: surely Jesus is a warrior or a pacifist or a capitalist or a socialist or whatever or whatever.  I like Jesus more when He agrees with everything I believe, don’t you?

But that’s the classic mistake.  That’s looking over here for what we want versus looking over here where God said He would be.  Maybe that’s the challenge of the day: when we look for Jesus and think we’ve found Him, does He say If you have to ask….

[1] Scott Hoezee, This Week

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