I had just come from Write! Canada, the annual conference put on by The Word Guild, an association of Canadian writers and editors who are Christian. It was a highlight of my year for many reasons, one of which was the morning worship time. My favorite song that year — the one that wouldn’t leave my head — goes like this:
“Turn my heart, oh God.
Make it ever true;
Turn my heart, oh God.
May I be like you.”
I thought about that song again this morning when I was reading about Jesus.
Here’s how the story in John 5-6 went: In Chapter 5, Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bathesda. On the Sabbath, no less! Then he answered his critics by claiming that God was his father and he was just doing what he saw him do. That didn’t go over well with the Jews who knew the law. It says “they sought to kill him.”
Did Jesus run away or, at least, leave town?
Not at all. He went into a long treatise about his connection to the father and his authority to do what he was doing. And he incuded more than one rebuke for his persecutors (John 5:19-47), ending up with something like, “You didn’t believe Moses, so how will you believe me?”
In Chapter 6, he did another miracle, this time the feeding of a great crowd with just five loaves of bread and two little fish, after which he gave the very unpopular “I am the bread of life” speech. He made this speech in Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, thought by some to be Jesus’ home town during his last three years here. That was the point when many who had followed him turned away and went home. After that, prudence led him to continue to “walk in Galilee” instead of going to into Judea, because the Jews there wanted to kill him.
It must have appeared to many of his family and friends that Jesus was becoming a trouble maker. Maybe they thought he just wanted to make a name for himself. Even his brothers didn’t believe in him anymore, if they ever did, and in true male sibling style, they taunted him saying ,”Why don’t you go on up to Jerusalem and do your ‘thing’ in the open? No one who wants to be known does things in secret!”
Go up to Jerusalem? Where most of his persecutors waited? Nice, boys!
He did eventually go up to Jerusalem, and before long, ended up going to the temple to teach. In the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, no less! Again, he tells them, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE!” The very words that made them angry to begin with! No mincing words. No hiding the truth for the sake of religious correctness. No need to please the people. Just a need to set them free.
I read all this and I wondered: Do I really want to be like Jesus? Am I really willing to do what I see my father doing, even when people don’t understand me or don’t think my motives are pure? Can I follow him on that path?
This comes to mind: “For the joy that was set before him…”