I hope you had a great two weeks without me. Thank you for allowing us time off. Yuri and I have been spending valuable time with our precious granddaughter and her lovely mother. But now we’re back and I have a question for you.
What kind of messiah do you have?
Some people have the ‘lucky charm messiah’.
This is a handy, pocket-sized messiah. Easily packaged. Easily understood. Easily diagramed. You can put his picture on your wall or stick it in your wallet as insurance. You can frame him. Dangle him from your rear view mirror or glue him to your car’s dashboard.
This messiah wards off vampires and is useful for getting you out of a jam. Need a parking place? Touch your lucky charm messiah. Need help on a quiz? Pull out the lucky charm. No need to talk to him. No need to love him. Just keep him in your pocket next to your four leafed clover.
Perhaps you’ve got ‘Aladdin’s genie in a lamp messiah’. Fast and effective. Just one rub. New jobs, Pink Cadillacs, new and improved spouses. Your wish is his command. And what’s more, he conveniently reenters the lamp when you don’t want him around.
For other people, there is the ‘deal making messiah’. Here’s how it works. It’s really simple. You just say: “All right, Jesus, let’s make a deal.”
You don’t even need to write it down. “For fifty-two Sundays a year, I’ll put on a costume — coat and tie, dress and ribbons — and I’ll endure any sermon you throw at me. In exchange, you give me the prize behind pearly gate number three.”
These are great messiahs for the busy person. Few demands, no challenges. No need for sacrifice. No need for commitment.
But these messiahs are blind and have hearts of stone. They are sightless and heartless redeemers. Redeemers without power. That’s not the Redeemer of the New Testament.
They are like stone statues, made by men, with eyes that cannot see and hearts that have no compassion. The messiah we meet in the Gospels is not like that. Jesus is our messiah. He sees all and feels compassion for all.
Of all the stories, one seems especially vivid. It is early, a nice morning in Jerusalem. Perhaps the sky is blue, the city is bustling, and lambs are bleating. Jesus has just arrived at the temple.
A crowd of people gather round and listen as he sits down and starts to teach them about … Well, we don’t know what he was going to teach that morning because before we can find out there is an interruption.
Hard hearted men with blinded eyes have pulled a woman from her bed and are dragging her through the dust. They push her in front of Jesus. In front of the crowd. They announce that they have just dragged her out of bed with a man who isn’t her husband. She is guilty of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. Cold eyes set in cold faces stare at Jesus. Grim mouths demand of him, “What do you say?”
In the horrid reality of a sinful world, this woman hasn’t been given a chance. There is only accusation, condemnation. And hands gripping rocks, eager to smash the sin out of her.
The woman turns from the cruel glaring eyes, and looks at the face of the messiah.
She doesn’t see a lucky charm or a genie or a businessman making deals. She sees a kind, loving compassionate face. Her wet eyes meet strong eyes that know all about her adultery and her desperate need for love.
So he says nothing. He waits. He writes in the dust. The cruel men slink away. The woman stays alone in front of him. No one accuses her. Neither does he. He sends her home with some gentle advice, “Go and sin no more.”
The Jesus she saw didn’t have a hard heart. The Jesus that saw her didn’t have blind eyes. Did she later stand at the foot of the cross and say in a whisper, “That’s him. He is the messiah.”
Our messiah is Jesus. He is the messiah of compassion and second chances. And third chances.
After following him all over Galilee for several years and being part of some utterly incredible miracles, the disciples of Jesus still didn’t understand him. In fact they were so bad that he called one of them Satan. What should a messiah do with a disciple who is Satan? Surely such a disciple doesn’t get a second chance. Many people would say that such a disciple should never have had a first chance. Jesus should never have allowed him to become a disciple.
Judas betrayed Jesus, and John says in John 13:27 that Satan entered Judas. In fact, all of the disciples betrayed Jesus. In Matthew 26:31 Jesus says, “all of you will desert me.”
The disciple he called Satan was not in fact Judas but Peter. Read Matthew 16:23 – ‘Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan!”’
Most of us do believe that God gives second chances. A survey a couple of years ago found that over 90 percent of Christians believe God gives people a second chance. Most of these people also said they were still living with the consequences of a wrong decision. Another chance does not remove the consequences of our mistakes.
In this survey it asked people how we get a second chance.
It found that 19 percent think we get a second chance when we depend only on God.
A similar number (18 percent) said it happens when a person makes restitution. While 15 percent said we get a second chance when we do enough good, or promise not to repeat the mistake (11 percent).
Almost 45 percent of these Christians believe that a second chance depends on some kind of human effort.
Why did the woman caught in adultery get a second chance? It depended on Jesus.
Why did Peter get a second chance? Why did all of the disciples get second, third, fourth and more chances? Because our messiah and our God have soft hearts and eyes that see all of our sins. The Bible is full of second chances that are undeserved and unearned.
Jonah ran away and was swallowed by a fish. He got a second chance he didn’t deserve.
The whole nation of Israel betrayed God more than once, but got another chance.
The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. He was also an adulterer and murderer—both of which were capital offenses according to the Law of Moses. The story of his affair with Bathsheba and his attempt to hide his sin by having her husband, Uriah, killed by putting him on the front line in battle is one of the most appalling tales of sin in Scripture. But when confronted with his sin, David’s heart broke in repentance and God granted him grace and a second chance.
Rahab was a prostitute. Even 3,000 years ago that was not an honorable profession. Worse, she was a Gentile in the city of Jericho in Canaan when the Hebrews were about to conquer the land. This Gentile woman of ill repute had heard about the God of Israel and his greatness. When spies from Israel showed up at her house, she put her life on the line to hide them. And God granted her a second chance. When Jericho was completely destroyed, only Rahab and her family survived its destruction. More amazing is the fact that we find Rahab’s name in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ.
People who betrayed Jesus and whom he called Satan, were the people he used to build his church. Our messiah has eyes of compassion to forgive our sins and to use us to build his kingdom. He helps us deal with the consequences of our past errors. He gives us his spirit.
He cannot make you accept your second, third or thousandth chance. He doesn’t undo your mistakes. And he isn’t a lucky charm.
Our messiah is using us the same way he used the first disciples, to build his kingdom on earth.
It is up to us if we cooperate with him or reject his free gift.