Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle

“Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”  (Mark 8:29)

Then Jesus began to explain to them that he must suffer many things … and be killed, and after three days rise again.  In response, Peter took him (sounds forceful) and began to rebuke him (not sure that was a good idea).  But turning and seeing his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”  (Mark 8:31-33)  He was essentially saying, you do not think like God, but, rather, like a human being.

Well, I suppose if Peter was more of a smart aleck he might have responded by saying, “Really, that’s unusual for me, my thinking rarely rises to level of a human being.” Fortunately, he kept his mouth shut.

Reflecting on this gospel account, my pastor suggested that the disciples had strange ideas about who Jesus was and what he was about.  I wonder do we have strange ideas about who Jesus is and what he is about?  Actually, I wonder how we can have anything other than strange ideas about who he is and what he is about.

Think about it — the disciples were walking and talking and eating with Jesus.  They saw him in action: healing the sick, raising the dead, commanding demons to leave and challenging those in authority at every turn.  They watched him walk on the water, heard him tell the wind to stop and the waves to be calm. They witnessed him feed thousands with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread.  Yet, much of the time, his closest companions didn’t seem to have a clue about who he was and what he was about.

So how are we supposed to know?  Well, we have been given the Holy Spirit and Jesus said the Spirit will lead us into all truth.  I agree that’s true, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t add, the Spirit sure seems to be taking his time leading me into all truth.  For me, the longer I live, the more I experience, the less I seem to know.  

I suspect Thomas More meant something like this when he wrote: “God made the angels to show him splendor — as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity.  But man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.”  I have managed to excel at the “tangle of his mind” part, but the jury is still out on “serving him wittily”.

Nevertheless, returning to our theme, I am not sure how many of us really believe we are better off with the Holy Spirit than we would be with Jesus.  If given the choice, I think a lot of us might choose three years with Jesus rather than a life time with the ever elusive Holy Spirit.  What do you think?  Have you ever really and honestly considered this?

Those of us who are human are much more comfortable with what we can see, hear, touch and smell.  We have our comfort zones, things that are familiar to us, and we like to settle in.  The ways of the Holy Spirit are far too adventurous for us; after all, we are more like hobbits than elves.  Yet we are challenged to live by the Spirit and to forsake the ways of the flesh.  This is a tall order for mere human beings.

Is it any wonder that Jesus described this way of life as a “narrow road”, and a “hard way”?  Rather, for the natural man and woman (say hello to Aretha Franklin), it’s an impossible way; perhaps this is why Jesus referred to the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle.  Impossible for you and me, but not for God.

God is powerful; we, on the other hand, lack what it takes.  But are not without hope because of “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might”.  (Ephesians 1:19)  If we believe, his “power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”. (Ephesians 3:20)  Fortunately, God is not limited by what we ask or think; he has much more in mind for us than we could ever imagine.

However, God’s power is not given so that our silver and gold might increase, or for any other purpose within the province of our natural abilities.  His power is not solely for human endeavors, even though his blessing most certainly makes our natural lives better.  Rather he give us power so that “according to the riches of his glory … we may be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man”, to walk the narrow and hard road, and be fortified to pass through the eye of needle.

We should not be under any illusions, in order to live the gospel life, we must pass through.  We have to undergo a spiritual revolution.  Like Nicodemus, we must be born again and, having been born again, we must learn to walk according to the Spirit.  Nothing in our natural life prepares us to walk in the Spirit.  Just as nothing in Peter’s natural life prepared him to understand why Jesus had to suffer and die.

The gospel life is indeed an extraordinary life.  We have been called to live gospel lives.  But the life we have been called to is quite different than an ordinary human life.  To undertake and complete the journey, we need supernatural knowledge, wisdom, power and  gospel fuel; that is why we have been given the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit is not like a magic carpet that will take us wherever we would like to go.  Instead, the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will; we have to learn to follow.  Like Jesus, we have to devote ourselves to listening to the Spirit, so that morning by morning, he might awaken in us an ability to hear.  (Isaiah 50:4-4)  This is a life long process, but it is a journey worth making.

I would like to know what you think.  Do you have any comments you can share with me and others who may read this?  I am interested in knowing if you have considered any of these ideas in your spiritual journey.  Have you read anything in this blog that has stirred something in you?  These are not meant to be rhetorical questions.  I would like to hear from you — as much or as little as you are willing to share.

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