Can’t we relate to Jesus’ reaction to the crowd in Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 as he compares his followers to a bunch of children who cannot make up their minds: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” In today’s vernacular, he might have asked “do you really know what you want? What else will it take for me to help you understand how much God loves you?” It is difficult to exactly pin down the emotions Jesus is expressing but to me they reveal in his Divine incarnation, beautifully human feelings to which we can all relate. It helps us to know that the one whose Word we follow and live by can experience these emotions that are so much a part of our lives.
We all view the world through our own prism or lenses that are largely influenced by the world around us. Two people can hear an identical message, while the same two people will have a different interpretation. This is part of our human nature. Sometimes we consciously create our own reality that serve our desired expectations and “wishes” based on what we want to hear. In most cases, our perception is unconscious and consistent with our view of reality. When we attempt to “re-write” or “re-create” our own “script” for what we know to be reality, we work at cross-purposes with God’s will. Philosophers tell us that “wishing” is more a fanciful dream, not based in reality while “hope,” has more of a factual basis based on real expectations that come into its own when crisis looms…opening us up to new creative possibilities.
“What do you want? Jesus seems to ask the crowd. Except he knows they won’t answer. Can’t. Because what they want is to grow, to evolve, to improve and more. And yet at the same time they want to be left alone, untouched and unchanged. Why? Because to change is to lose something, and so to change can feel like dying. And more than anything else the people who listened to Jesus – want desperately to grow but not really to change. Change, you see, brings the unknown. Change is not certain. Change implies risk and even potential loss. Which is why we often stay in failed jobs and relationships – they may not be much, but at least they’re something and at least we know what to expect.” (David Lose, Dear Partner in Preaching)
In Matthew we see the love of God manifest in Jesus’ ability to embrace our human diversity with his divinely inspired nature. Reaction to the different ministries of John and Jesus provide a model to help us understand that whatever we do can never meet the needs of everyone. We will not be able to reach those whose lenses are distorted by ego and they will forever remain deaf to us. Instead, surrendering our voice to God who through the Holy Spirit will provide the voice that will reach the different ears and different needs, we vainly believe that what we say should be sufficient for all.
Thomas Keating tells us “that there are all kinds of ways in which God speaks to us—through our thoughts and/or anyone of our faculties. But keep in mind that God’s first language is silence. We must listen. We must be willing to listen. The Spirit speaks to our conscience through scripture and through the events of daily life. Reflection on those two sources of personal encounter and the dismantling of the emotional programming of the past prepare the psyche to listen at a more refined level of attention.”
As John and Jesus show us, there is more than one means to the great end… that is God.