Jesus, at arm’s length. Matthew 11.12-27
‘How can you be so close to the campfire, feel the heat being cast, and yet not be warm?’ How can you see and feel the miraculous, the touch of the divine – that which cannot be explained or accounted for in human terms, and yet not be moved to respond? How can you be so close to Jesus, and yet choose to keep him at arm’s length?
Fact is, there is never a ‘not knowing’ when you have been close enough ‘as to really know’ … do you know what I mean?
I have been there—when God has touched down, wrought that which could not be done in any other way. For instance, I was there to pray and see a local townswoman and storekeeper, known by many because she has a big presence, healed from stage four cancer . . . I was there to see a long-embittered couple whose shattered marriage was put back together because of a touch of the divine. There was no other explanation for the healing between the two strong personalities to occur! I was there when a little boy was languishing, his life’s blood ebbing, and prayers stormed Heaven and he was completely healed. Miraculous, nothing less.
Webster’s dictionary defines a miracle as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” More colorfully and memorably, C. S. Lewis once explained that a miracle is something unique that breaks a pattern so expected and established we hardly consider the possibility that it could be broken.1 When God does a miracle, he leaves all of us with the choice to accept with gratitude the action, and be forever changed by the knowledge of the divine, and the loving power that is behind it. Or miss it completely, and the tidal wave of transformation that could have been ours.
Jesus addressed those who had been up close and personal to his miraculous work, and yet remained apathetic and unresponsive. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”2 Again, a verse that you skip over, the entire passage listed above something you could skim and think, ‘huh, doesn’t have anything to do with me,’ and you would be wrong.
Step a little closer to the campfire please. ‘Woe to you’ Jesus said. Honestly, the last time I remember anyone saying ‘woe’ like that, it was my mother when I was a teen-ager; she actually said upon my leaving the house, ‘woe to you, Child…you can be sure your sins will find you out.’ (A mother’s worrisome warning.) And you might have heard an old timer say, ‘Woe is me,’ in a time of great sorrow or worry. But Jesus’ ‘Woe to you,’ naming Chorazin and Bethsaida, concerned their hardness of heart and what it would mean for their people in the future—even Tyre and Sidon, known for their wickedness, would have responded! But wait … cities named Chorazin, Bethsaida? Where did the gospel accounts cover Jesus’ visits to these places in the gospels? They did not. I could find no other verses in the gospels that placed Jesus in these two cities, but he obviously had been to both. And whilst there, our Lord had demonstrated that he was from God by the miracles he did in their midst.
This verse is one that gives legs to what John wrote at the end of his gospel where he writes, ‘Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.’3 We tend to think that Jesus said and did only the things, went strictly to the places, saw only the people recorded in the gospels, but Jesus was always at work—loving, teaching, touching and healing—wherever he went.
Back to Jesus’ ‘woe to you’— does it have application to you and me 2000 years later? I believe it does.
When we have been witnesses~
when we have experienced a touch of the Divine~
or been the recipients of the touch of the Master’s hand~
it is his beckoning for us to respond to him . . .
have you responded?
or have you kept Jesus at arm’s length?
‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’4
1 – Miracles, Eric Metaxas
2 - Matthew 7.21
3 – John 21.25
4 – Luke 12.48
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