I’ve been offline for a week, enjoying beautiful, sunny Fort Lauderdale with my wife for a few days, now back home in Maryland preparing for a potential winter storm. Fort Lauderdale , home of white sandy beaches and more yachts per square inch than any other place in the world (unofficially), certainly seems better.
But it is good for me to write these, so I am glad to write again. I’m still going to be looking at Jesus Sermon on the Mount, but I’ll get back into that later today. I did get to do some reading while on vacation, rereading parts of Dallas Willard’s “The Divine Conspiracy“, and also reading Brian Zahnds “Water to Wine“. One takeaway I have from the book “Water to Wine” is this – as Christians today, we can sometimes just be far too certain in ourselves.
What do I mean when I say we can be far too certain of ourselves?? I mean that sometimes it’s good to question ourselves. Sometimes it’s good to honestly question our very beliefs. I don’t mean, question whether we believe in Jesus, whether we believe He died for our sins or that we believe in a God who is equal parts Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we can wrestle with what that means for us. We can have doubts when we’re walking through that valley of the shadow of death. There will be trials in our life, there will be times when we come to a point where wonder if we really have the faith we think we have.
Jesus Himself went through these times. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God sent by the Father, struggled with and questioned His own faith in the Father. Remember these words in Matthew when Jesus was on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” Matthew 27:46 ESV. Jesus had real faith in the Father. He went to the cross trusting that the Father would vindicate Him by raising him in resurrection. But as He was dying on that cross, He began to question if He would really be lifted up, if He really could trust the Father. He felt the same thing we sometimes feel when we are going through trials in our life – except we can’t be real enough to acknowledge that we have doubts. Not even with ourselves. We refuse to admit that we have doubt, and in doing so we limit our own growth in Christ. We put on our strong face, stay strong to all around us, even though underneath it all we really do have our moments, don’t we?
But we don’t want to admit it. We don’t like to admit our doubts, because then we might have to actually face them. We might have to face them, and maybe we fear what we will see when we do. So we all become like Peter. Peter, the rock upon which Jesus is building his church, who didn’t want to face his doubts either. “Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.” Matthew 26:33-35 ESV. Peter put on his strong face. He was afraid to face his own doubt. And we should all remember how that turned out – “And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:71-75 ESV. Peter had doubts. And only after he was forced to face his fears, face his doubts, was he able to grow and be prepared for his appointed role as the rock of the church Jesus was planting.
And yes, Jesus had doubts. Jesus, don’t forget, had gone through his wilderness temptations where he had addressed some of the challenges he would come across. But upon that cross, even Jesus had to cry out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? To which, his true faith was revealed with “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” One big thing we miss here with these cries of Jesus upon the cross is Jesus’ trust in those who had come before Him. Jesus was the true son of God, one third of the Holy Trinity, fully God. But we know Jesus was also fully human. Don’t ask me how, it’s one of the great mysteries of our faith, but we do confess Jesus was fully God and fully human. And the fully human part of Jesus gave us the example, both in His temptations and in his cries from the cross, of following in the footsteps and learning from those who came before us. In our certainty, we like to think we don’t need the old traditions of the church, we believe that all those who came before us really don’t matter anymore. We think we have nothing to learn from them. But look at Jesus responses to his temptations, fighting the devil with scripture that he had learned by listening to someone who passed it down to him (in Jesus’ day bibles weren’t on every coffee table). “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”” Matthew 4:4 ESV. “Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'””
Matthew 4:7 ESV. “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”” Matthew 4:10 ESV. Every temptation answered with scripture He had learned mostly from listening to someone who passed it down to Him. Something we don’t like to do these days, listen to those who came before us.
And again, on the cross, both of these cries coming from the psalms…also known as the original prayer book of the Bible. Prayers which would give been passed down mostly orally. Again, bibles weren’t on every table. Jesus would have learned these by trusting others who passed it on to Him. “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Psalms 31:5 ESV. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Psalms 22:1 ESV. It’s ok to have doubts, to wonder, even out loud, where is God. It’s also ok, even recommended by the example of Jesus, to listen to those who came before us. To follow in the path that others have walked before. Lucky for us, we do have bibles on every table (at least as many as we want). But we also have 2000 years of wisdom from those Christians who came before us. We can listen to them, and learn from them. We don’t always have to be so certain of ourselves that we already know it all.
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.”
Luke 23:46 ESV
“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
Psalms 31:5 ESV
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””
Matthew 27:46 ESV
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
Psalms 22:1 ESV