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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 75
We all have it and it’s a dangerous thing.
As an Equality Manager (the job I had before I became a full-time vicar) I ran training to make people realise we all have prejudices - and that they make us blind.
I had a favourite video which proved the point. It was of a basketball game. The narrator challenged us to count how many passes the team in white could make. At the end of the clip he gave us the answer and asked, “But did you see the dancing bear?”
A big black bear had danced his way across the basketball court, but of the hundreds of people I showed the video to, no one ever saw the bear.
We all pre-judged what the video was about. We had it all figured out. It was about basketball. That prejudging (i.e. prejudice) made us so blind, we missed the dancing bear.
In this week’s scene from
, the disciples reckoned they, too, had it all figured out. Jesus was the Christ and they knew what the Christ was going to do. They had pre-judged what the Messiah, God’s unique representative was all about. And this prejudice made them blind to what was really going to happen.
Let’s see …
The 12 had seen Jesus do so many amazing things. Things you would never even dream of. They always knew, right from the time they first met him, that he was something else. But just how different could he be?
Ever since they were little boys, they had heard stories about the Messiah. He was going to make the nation great again. He would boot out those Romans and set up God’s kingdom. It was all going to be run from Jerusalem. Every time they heard those stories, they would feel a surge of excitement and longing inside.
This Jesus talked a lot about God’s kingdom and he made some spectacular things happen around him. He always said these were signs that God’s kingdom was coming.
But could this Jesus be the Messiah, himself? He was only a woodworker, after all - Messiah was going to be a king, not a carpenter.
Then, all of a sudden, one day the penny dropped. Jesus put them on the spot. Asked who they thought he was. Something strange came over Peter and he just blurted out, “You’re the Messiah.” It was like someone suddenly showed it to him. He didn’t know how he said it and hardly dared believe it, but once it came out, they all knew it was true.
Messiah-fever then took a grip on all of them. They all knew what Messiah was going to do. They were so obsessed with dreams of glory here and now, the stories they had grown up with, they were blind and deaf when Jesus told them what would really happen in Jerusalem. They expected him to get a crown, but what awaited was a cross.
Jesus knows exactly where they are at. He must prepare them for what is going to happen, before it gets too late. The kingdom will come in Jerusalem, but not as they expect.
Jesus and his disciples are on their own now, away from the crowds at last. Jerusalem is coming soon and this is a golden chance for Jesus to explain what is going to happen there. He tells them once more… the betrayal, the death, the rising again.
It all falls on deaf ears. Their prejudice tells them exactly what Messiah will do. They are blind to the truth and all this “doom and death” sounds so dark, they daren’t ask any more about it.
Anyway, they have more important things to think about. When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, it’s all going to happen. That’s when and where Messiah was going to bring in his kingdom. There was going to be plenty of reflected glory for them, his trusted followers, to bathe in. Jesus would head for the palace, he’d be made king … and they would get the top jobs. Who was going to get the best one?
Their hearts and minds are full of excitement and their sight clouded by ambition and competition. Each one of them thinks he deserves something special, has done more than the others and should get a better position. An ugly quarrel breaks out… Jesus is walking way out in front and they think he hasn’t noticed.
How wrong could they be?
Jesus bides his moment and waits until they are stopped off on their journey, at a house.
“What was all that arguing about, back there?” he asks. They are all too ashamed to reply.
Jesus sits down and calls the 12 to him. That’s what he always did, when he wanted to teach them something important. They know a big lesson is on the way. It is one they will never forget. They listen in guilty silence.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good position in my kingdom, but here is how you get it. Not by pushing yourself forward, but by making yourself low. Being the lackey for everyone. Even for little kids.”
Jesus was soon going to “make himself low” - choosing for himself not a crown in a palace, but a cross on the city rubbish dump.
That was going to be his path to glory and greatness in God’s kingdom.
The path to glory and greatness for us lies in “making ourselves low”, too. Being willing to take the lowest position, rather than grabbing the highest, to look after other people’s needs, rather than our own. Be ambitious, yes – but in the Jesus way.