Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Message

…nobody wants to hear. No, we simply can’t bear it. Things simply can’t be that bad. God really can’t care about things like that. He’s making it all up. Why does he have to keep raving like he does? Lock him up! Shut him up where we don’t have to hear his raving! Deep, down deep! Let him rant at the stones in the dungeon, yes, in the dark dungeon! What? What did you say? You actually think he’s right? Is that why you won’t let me have him killed? You know we’re living in sin? You really believe that? Is that why you’re always going to listen to his raving at the grate? Is that why you insist on keeping him here?

Herod Antipas kept the prophet and forerunner John the Baptist imprisoned in his dungeon and would not kill him, despite his wife Herodias’ displeasure. Herodias had left her husband, who was Herod Antipas’ brother, to marry him. This was a social climbing marriage for Herodias, kicking her status up another notch in the politics of that day. She wanted to keep up appearances and insisted that John be done away with, since he was defaming her new marriage. She wanted the people to see her and Herod Antipas as Torah-observant Jews who followed the commandments, well, at least the important ones. What did a little history of adultery matter?

So what, if they really were living in sin. They were having a good time, weren’t they? They were successful, they had lots of friends, important and influential ones. They were in the flow of things, they were going the way the world was going. Soon it would all be theirs. But there was that noise again! That persistent, stinging invective, those flaming words, “Did you not know, have you not heard? Was it not told you from the beginning? Have you not understood…” Why couldn’t that voice be silenced? But their party must go on, their celebration of the king’s birthday must go on, something or somebody must silence that voice!

Herod arose from his drunken stupor, casting aside his cup, but he was helpless, a man who couldn’t go forward or back. As a “good” Jew he knew what was right, what Torah required of him as a king and as a man, but he couldn’t do it. He was trapped by his own ambitions, by his own lusts. The world had made him its slave, while he pretended, while he went through the motions of being a king. Ah, but where a man can’t be depended on to do a man’s job, a woman will always step forward. Herodias knew exactly what to do. “Music! Music!” she called out with an allusive smile and a broad sweep of her commanding, graceful arm. The music was jacked up and for a moment they thought they couldn’t hear the Word coming up at them through the pavement, echoing along the walls. They and their guests splashed wine down each others gullets. More and more, soon to drown out that voice with its dreaded Message.

So it is with the world. When it can’t bear to hear the Message any longer, it cranks up the music, adds more lighting, wears fancier clothes and better perfumes, it wigs up and makes a bigger pitch for the audience’s attentions, promising ever greater rewards, if only that voice would stop raving, if only that Message would go away and stop spoiling the fun

Who now are the big players on stage?
Who are the actors? Who has written today's script? Who has the Message and who is proclaiming it, and who is pretending to be Torah-observant so they can continue reigning on earth? It doesn’t matter that it’s not the real Torah but only a replica, only a man-made concoction of the latest platitudes and politically correct mantras. Add more wine to the party, add more inebriants, more medication, let the death-dealers come in too, there’s nothing wrong with bringing a little bit of hard, cold reality into the party, and death on demand would be a perfect ending to a perfect life, for some people.

Brethren, the time is close, very close now. Yet we do not proclaim the salvation of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We play juggler with His words, we pantomime Him ceremoniously, we make converts to ethnic festivals, we educate with museums, make our people culturally aware. The Message? What’s that? Oh, is that what you’re talking about? Nobody wants to hear stuff like that. It spoils the fun we’re having. ‘I don’t think we should have dogs in our church!’ as a woman was heard to bark at someone who was actually witnessing for Christ at the Greek Festival a couple of years ago. We want the world to see that we’re observant like they are, that we’re educated, not like those others who keep raving about some Message or other.

Not only the Gadarenes, once having heard and seen what Jesus does, have implored Him to leave their neighborhood, or their world.

1 comment:

Jeff Cronheim said...

Amen. Lord, open my ears!