Crickets, roaches and obnoxious saviors.

Mark 9:33-37

“…he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?'” v. 33

Somebody should write a book entitled, “Great Awkward moments in Biblical History.” The Bible, like life, is stuffed to the hilt with them. We’ve all had those moments when, in the heat of some delightfully heated gripe session concerning the job, the class, or the church meeting. We’re telling our safe group of co-laborers in critique all the things we’re too afraid to say to the people who could actually do something about it, for fear of reprisal-or something worse, like being proven wrong. Just when our gleeful gripefest is at a fever pitch, the person in question walks in the room and says, “What are you all talking about?” We’re listening now to the song of crickets in the awkward forest. With polite smiles and nervous laughter we take out our political mops and try to clean up the mess as best we can. “Uh well, uhm…” Nothing is more irritating than to have your dance in the dark ruined by somebody turning on the lights, just when things were getting good. The roaches run for cover and we all shield our eyes and try to adjust without going blind. Speaking of awkward moments in Biblical history, I’ve got a juicy one for you today.

One day the disciples were walking along, and as often happens on long trips, a debate emerged among them. They must not have been following too closely to Jesus, because they were quite sure he would not approve of the content of this conversation. It’s always a good idea to distance yourself from the Lord when you want to talk about things like, how great you are and how you compare with others. The disciples were ranking themselves in order of greatness. Like I said, any time you want to promote yourself and groom your ego, it’s advisable to make sure you aren’t walking very close to Jesus. It’s kinda hard to focus on him and yourself at the same time. But in the midst of their discussion, just when they were sure they had every disciple ranked and categorized in order of importance. Just when they had finally figured out who would be Israel’s next top Apostle. Jesus stops his steady march to the cross, turns around and waits patiently for his sanctified celebrities to catch up with him. I can hear them as they draw closer to him on the road. “Shut up! He can hear us! Quick! Change the subject.” Just as they finish sweetly singing the last verse of  “Heart of worship” they finally catch up to Jesus. Wiping their moist eyes, with hands lifted high while they sway arm in arm to the beat, signing, “It’s all about you Jesus….” Then asks the question, “So, guys what were you talking about back there?” When the music fades all you can hear is the roar of crickets in the awkward forest.

I hate it when the Lord asks me a question that I he already knows the answer to. Once, many years ago, I was driving along in my car listening to my Christian music like a nice preacher. I may have been humming, “It’s all about you, Jesus…” when I noticed a sign out in front of a church as I drove by. I don’t remember what it said, but the message caused me to say something bitterly critical about it. In all my superior dignity I uttered my cutting words of indignant disapproval. Almost immediately I heard the Lord speak to me, as clear as crystal. “Mark, why do you have to do that?” Can you hear the crickets chirping in my soul? I hate it when he does that. He asked me a question, but he knew the answer. I have to criticize and compare myself to others so I can win the prize on “America’s next top Christian”

I’m not secure in myself, or in the love God has for me, so I have to tell myself I’m more spiritual, more correct and more godly than the next person. If I don’t find a way to put myself in a better light than someone else I have to settle for living in the grace of a God who loves me in my brokenness. That’s too hard. It’s much easier for me to keep telling myself the lie that God only loves me when I’m better than you. So I find it soothing to criticize the church sign, the preacher who is too liberal or too conservative, the song with poor theology, and the sinner who’s apparently more broken than me. But I find the only way I can indulge my need to compare and criticize, is to maintain a safe distance from Jesus. While he moves toward the cross on my behalf I’ll just slow down my pace and linger in my delusions of relative sanctification a little longer. It’s safer back here than up there where my savior is leading me. But you and I both know what’s going to happen don’t we? He’s gonna slow down at some point, wait for me to catch up then ask that awkward question, “What are you talking/thinking about?” He loves me too much to be anything less than obnoxious about such things. He can’t leave well enough alone and abandon me to myself. He knows when to burst in at the worst possible moment flip on the light and send the roaches running back to hell where we all know they belong. I’m just glad he’s not sending me there instead. His love has redeemed and is redeeming my broken soul. So, while these awkward moments of truth can be pretty disarming and honestly a bit frustrating to my sense of “betterthanyouness”‘, I’d rather have him stopping me on the road, flipping on the light and chasing away the roaches, than leaving me behind.




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