Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And I laugh at myself while the tears roll down ...

“When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.” – John 2:23-25

Stuck between the story of Jesus turning water into wine and the story of Nicodemus is this funny little sentence. I had never noticed it before, because when we hear the weekly readings in church, it gets left out. It got me wondering: What does it mean that Jesus “would not entrust himself to them”? Did he stay guarded? Or was it just that he didn’t need to prove himself?

As someone who typically wears his heart on his sleeve, I’m often painfully aware (usually only in retrospect) of the need to keep some things close to the hilt, as it were. It doesn’t do any good to tell everyone everything, or to speak everything that’s on my mind. Often people get hurt this way. One of my Lenten disciplines this year is not to speak so quickly.

Did Jesus pace himself in his acts of self-revelation? I think so. We have just heard that he didn’t perform his first miracle until he was pressed to do so. Or could it be that he was still figuring out what God wanted him to do?

Yet “he himself knew what was in everyone.” He could read everybody like an open book, whether they revealed themselves or not. Christian piety has had faith in this idea throughout the ages—not the man Jesus looking deep into people’s souls, but the person of Christ already residing there, impossible to keep any secrets from. It’s both comforting and terrifying to imagine.
I’ve always liked this song by Collective Soul, “The World I Know.” The rather overwrought video tells a story of a near suicide. But when I hear this song, I imagine Jesus, still being tempted in the desert, looking out over all the kingdoms of the world that Satan has offered to him if only Jesus will worship Satan. Jesus will, of course, rebuke Satan for this offer. But in the meantime, here’s Jesus with these lyrics in his head:

So I walk up on high/ And I step to the edge/ To see my world below
And I laugh at myself/ While the tears roll down/ ’Cause it’s the world I know/ It’s the world I know.

It’s laughable and ironically beautiful that Satan, in all his shortsightedness, would offer Jesus a world that already belongs to him, full of people in whose hearts he already resides.

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