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Posts Tagged ‘the Messiah’

As an eighteen-year-old in my first year at university, I remember studying a play called Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett for our English course. I can still recall where I was sitting in the sloping lecture theatre, the day we all watched a live performance of this play. And I can well remember how confused and ignorant I felt. What was I missing? Did everyone else understand what was happening—or not happening?

I looked around and, to my relief, many others seemed bemused too. We were all wriggling in our seats. And we were bored, oh so bored, as we waited and waited for the person who seemed to be expected to turn up in the play. But even more, we were waiting for that performance to end! If nothing else, Samuel Beckett clearly conveyed to us the hopeless feeling we can get when we have to wait forever for something.

There are different sorts of waiting, it seems to me. I remember what it was like to wait for exam results at school and university. I would be filled with excitement as I anticipated those good marks for the subjects I loved. Yet I felt distinctly nervous at the prospect of seeing a big ‘F’ for ‘Fail’ beside those subjects I did not care for.

And I well remember waiting for our three children to be born, each one of them overdue by around a week. We were so excited to welcome them into the world. Would we have a boy or a girl? Who would they look like? Yet I dreaded the thought of those hours of labour that I knew awaited me. I was not looking forward to that, yet it was part of what needed to happen for the baby to arrive.

These various waiting experiences came to mind this past Easter as I read again what happened after Jesus was crucified.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Luke 23:50-51

The phrase ‘waiting for the kingdom of God’ caught my attention. Joseph, it seems, was a just and godly man—but he was more than that too. John’s Gospel tells us he was actually ‘a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.’ (John 19:38) Yet at this point, he found the courage to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body, along with Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had earlier visited Jesus at night. Joseph was looking for the coming Messiah. He was expectant. He was ready and waiting to believe and follow him. And, despite his fear and the danger he and Nicodemus might face from their fellow Jews, he acted, treating Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, with true dignity and reverence (19:39-42).

I wonder if that is how I am treating Jesus right now. Am I focussed on living for the Messiah who died for me? Am I filled with hope and expectancy, as I wait for that day when I will see him face to face?

I hope I, like Joseph of Arimathea, am waiting well for Jesus in a way that honours him.

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Jo 23Recently, I overheard the following conversation:

‘Would you like some coffee?’

‘I usually don’t drink coffee. I’ve never liked it much, but I’m trying to get used to it.’

‘Um … why would you want to make yourself like coffee?’

‘Well … well, I want to be accepted!’

I tried to hide my smile because I would expect this type of behaviour amongst children, not grown adults, which these two definitely were! Our young grandson, for example, refuses to wear a particular beanie in his school colours anywhere—especially to school! And our youngest granddaughter, at four years of age, has very definite tastes in clothes and other attire—which usually means pink things or things that have pink in them. Recently too, she cried, covered her ears and ran and hid, after she managed to lose one of her pink earrings. When I tried to comfort her, she sobbed, ‘I can’t let anyone see me with only one earring in!’

Being accepted matters when you are four or six—and it matters even more for our two older granddaughters who are fifteen and twelve. Yet it doesn’t stop there, does it? At times, and in certain situations in particular, we all desire to be accepted by those around us. None of us wants to feel rejected, pushed to the fringes, not interesting enough or attractive enough or good enough to fit the bill. So we may choose to act differently or say what we think those around us want to hear—and close our mouths on the words we truly want to speak out but are afraid to, for fear of rejection.

Recently, I came across a situation just like this in John’s Gospel. In Chapter 9, Jesus heals a man born blind and, soon after, his parents are summoned to appear before the Jewish leaders to verify he was indeed blind and to explain how he can now see (18-23). They know that, if they say Jesus healed their son, they will be thrown out of the synagogue, so they feign ignorance. They do not want to risk acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the coming Messiah, so leave their son to speak for himself. In that culture at that time, it would have been a fearsome thing indeed to have been thrown out of the synagogue, to be outcasts, unaccepted in their own community, so I empathise with them.

But I am aware I can also behave like them at times. I may choose to stay quiet when I know I should stand up for the things of God. Or I may decide to water down what I plan to say somewhere, in order to be more accepted. Yet in my heart, I know my worth does not come from pleasing others. Instead, it comes from God, who tells me deep down who I am, who knows everything about me, yet loves and accepts me because I belong to Jesus and believe he died for me.

He (Jesus) came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … John 1:11-12

Now that would have to be best acceptance of all, don’t you think?

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In recent years, I have learnt a few things from our grandchildren. They are all wonderful, of course! Our oldest, Amy—eager, out-going, energetic, blonde and beautiful. Our second oldest, Olivia—warm, a little more introverted, quick sense of humour, brown-eyed and equally beautiful. And our youngest, Zain—almond-shaped eyes, black curls from his Ghanaian dad, gorgeous grin and yummy, milk-chocolate skin! It is a delight to watch them all grow and develop.

Each of them is unique and has had a different reaction when visiting us, we have noticed. When Amy, now ten, was around twelve months old, I well remember her parents walking into our home, holding this cute, blue-eyed little girl who stared solemnly at us. We stared back, absolutely spellbound. We could not take our eyes off her. Eventually, she would frown heavily, scrunch her whole face up, reach out her arm and point her finger in some other, distant direction. Clearly, she was ordering us to take our gaze elsewhere! She did not appreciate being such an object of curiosity and wanted to make her feelings known. Even then, she was mastering the ancient art of deflection.

This picture of Amy came to mind last week, when I read the account of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). I love this story for so many reasons. I love the way Jesus treats this woman with respect, even merely by speaking to her. I love how he cares enough about her to offer her ‘living water’. I love how he tries to break it gently to her that he knows all about her. And, most of all, I love how he chooses to declare to her who he really is—‘I who speak to you am he.

But my heart goes out to this Samaritan woman, as she interacts with Jesus. Can you imagine how you would feel if some stranger told you everything you ever did, as this woman herself puts it later (v39)? No wonder she seems to grasp at any straw and chooses to dabble big-time in that ancient art of deflecting! No wonder she, just like little Amy, tries to point Jesus in an entirely different direction and wriggle out of the situation!

Perhaps her question about the right place to worship was serious and important to her, perhaps it wasn’t. Whatever her thoughts at that point, I can relate to them. With stunning clarity, I see myself in this woman’s response to Jesus. Even when I know much better, how many times do I try that same ancient art of deflection? How many times do I know what Jesus is saying to me, yet I seek to centre his attention elsewhere, foolishly asking him other questions that don’t matter nearly so much?

At last I sit still, listening to the One who knows all about me. Now I put down my arm and stop pointing elsewhere. Now I give him space in my day and in my heart and mind to be who he really is—the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the world sent from God to set us free.

I hear him say to me today, ‘I who speak to you am he.’ And, like the Samaritans of that town, because of his words, I believe.

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