JESUS ANSWERS DOUBTS-JESUS, THAT'S ILLOGICAL
Dear friends in Christ,
My Dad was a wise man. When I said that I wanted to study to be a pastor, he accepted that decision a bit unwillingly. He had said that he wanted to have a son who would be a doctor or a lawyer. He was running out of sons. I was the fourth of five. My three older brothers were going in a different direction. Frankly he never did get his wish.
Pursuing the pastoral ministry meant for me to go away to high school and college. He made a deal with me as I began my second year of high school. He said I would have to pay for it, but he would supply me with a summer job with enough money to pay for it. He had a strategy to make me take responsibility for my life. If I had to earn it, I would not to waste it. He felt that I would work harder. As I look back on it that was a strategy. It taught me the value of work. It taught me responsibility. It taught me to manage my money. As I look back, dad’s reasoning was good.
If my dad were alive today, I know what he would think of the plan a presidential candidate has to make college free to all, except the taxpayer. What my dad would say is exactly what I would say, individual and family incentive, responsibility and accountability is lost.
Obviously there are people who wouldn’t agree. Times are different. It costs a lot more. You can’t pay for college expenses on a summer job anymore. College debt is overwhelming. Everyone has different ways to solve this. We reason differently. We come up with different solutions.
The problem is we are all fallible people. Pride steps into the picture and thinks my way is right and your way is wrong. That pride in us and in people does the same thing with God and people challenge God. As we continue to study the theme of “God Answers our Doubt,” today we address the situation when we are ready to say, “Jesus, You Don’t Seem to be Logical.”. But understand 1) there is a worldly logic; 2) there is a heavenly logic.
Jesus had just done something very exciting and miraculous. A tax man had approached Peter and asked him if Jesus paid his temple tax. The temple tax was a tax to keep up the great temple in Jerusalem, even though Jesus and his disciples were in Capernaum at this time far to the north. When Peter was going back to Jesus, Jesus showed he really was the Son of God. He knew the conversation had already taken place. A conversation about this took place but in the end Jesus ordered to pay the tax Peter, “Go fish.” While Peter was a commercial fisherman, it wasn’t about filling his nets and selling the fish to pay the tax. Jesus would provide a fish and in its mouth he would find a coin to pay the taxes for him and for Peter – a four drachma coin. Not very logical and reasonable, was it?
Guess what happened! But then we don’t have to guess. As unreasonable and illogical as Jesus’ instruction was to a veteran fisherman, Peter found that all worked out just as Jesus had said. If I were fishing it would be a miracle just to catch a fish, but Peter caught a fish with exactly the amount of money needed to pay for Jesus’ temple tax and Peter’s. A simple and important truth here – when it comes to Jesus, take faith over logic any time and every time.
Now Matthew says, “At that time (when Peter discovered that what Jesus said was true), the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” What in the world possessed them to even think about and talk about who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Peter just witnessed a display of Jesus’ omniscience and omnipotence. Time and time again the disciples saw awesome displays of who Jesus was. They had seen many miracles. Yet, they were wondering who was the greatest in the Kingdom of God? They weren’t talking about a poll that would determine if Moses or Abraham or David were greatest; they were talking among themselves. They were talking about themselves. They were bickering about who was going to sit at Jesus left hand and right hand when Jesus was supposed to take over Israel. Won’t it be great that he will provide more fish in whose mouths people can find grocery money, and we will be there right next to him?
Did they ever get a lesson! In God’s kingdom things are measured differently. “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” In God’s kingdom what matters is not one’s greatness – his intellect, his wisdom, his logic or wealth – in God’s kingdom what matters is a humble God-given faith in Jesus that moves people to believe whatever God promises and is ready to love him by serving him by serving others.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the one’s intellect and reasoning power needs to be tossed out the window. Our ability to think is a great gift of God. I am simple minded but I have thought what possessed man to fry an egg for the first time and make something edible out of a yellow ugly blob of goop. I will always remember 1970, when Apollo 13 the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module upon which the Command Module depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17. They did indeed solve all kinds of problems using materials intended to be used for other reasons. Tom Hanks starred in a movie about it. The other day I was listening to a news report that scientists can determine where people have been by taking samples of hair and turning that into gas. If they see certain molecules present, they know where that person has been. They are using it in criminal investigations. It is amazing. We thank God for giving people intellect and reason to do such things.
But it must never replace faith in the Lord. Human reason cannot and will not put anyone on the path to ultimate truth. A Lutheran sermon ought to have a quote from Martin Luther in. Martin Luther has a good quote about human reason and the Bible, “You can reason and figure out that a cow is larger than a calf; likewise that three ells are longer than one ell (an ell was a German way of saying a cubit, the distance from the elbow to the tip of the finger of your hand)…and a roof is better on top of the house than below it. Stay with these things…You are well able to know and figure out how to bridle a horse, for reason teaches you this. For God has given men reason so that they can milk cows, bridle horses and know that a hundred gulden is better than ten. Show your wisdom there; be a master and a good helper; use your knowledge. But here, when we come to the question of how we are to be saved, in heavenly relations and matters of faith, stop your reason; keep still, listen and say: Here I can no longer operate….Curb your reason, therefore and say, I do not understand this; I will not figure or measure it but will keep still and listen, for it is beyond my measuring and is incomprehensible to reason.”
While intellect and reason are good, they too were ruined in Adam’s fall. They are not perfect. Descartes, the philosopher, said the famous phrase, “I think, therefore, I am.” If you think then you know you exist. I will tell you what tells me that I exist, when I am hammering a nail into the wall and miss and hit my finger and have pain, therefore I am. Is my name ready for some philosophy book with that discovery? Do you know there are people who are called solipsists who believe that they exist but nothing else does? They come to that through their own “logical deduction.” Billions of others do the same and miss what God wants us to really know.
All people need a good dose of humility like a child. All need to know that we are not the center of everything. The whole world is not about us. We are not all there is. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” There is a lot said in that passage but the most important words are “says the Lord.” Humility is what leads to sound thinking by submitting to the Word of our God and accepting what it means and what it commands and what it promises.
The simple truth is that God exists in “unapproachable light,” far beyond the short arms of puny human logic. A Christian writer says so simply and correctly, “Human reason, as an instrument, is not only finite but also damaged, along with everything else in this world. God is unknowable and unreachable by the best of human thought – like a sunset to a person born blind. If we are to know him at all, God needed to reveal himself by his own word and through his Spirit.”
When the Spirit works in us our own reason and logic and intellect is changed. One of the teachings among many Christian teachings that offend the sophisticated but worldly intellects of many is the teaching of the cross. God calls for a human sacrifice? How awful! What kind of God do you have? And you believe that God himself was that sacrifice? Paul wrote the following, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” To the unbeliever who prefers his intellect to God’s Word, it is foolishness. To us in whom the Holy Spirit has come through Baptism and is strengthened through the Word preach and forgiveness individualized in the Lord’s Supper (all that sounds unreasonable too, doesn’t it?) the message is clear. The cross is both punishment and love. The sins we have done were punished on Jesus and not on us.
By the power of God’s Spirit, and only by the power of God’s Spirit, we have been changed so that we recognize the Word of God, this book, is more trustworthy that our own thoughts. Human reason and logic will not comfort you when you need to be comforted. Human reason and logic will not soothe your guilty soul. The Word does that with simple and yet grand passages that the young children can understand like “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God declares himself close, not to the brilliant mind but to the broken heart that says, “I am sorry.” God says, “I forgive” because I sent Jesus. Give us your Spirit, Lord, to know that is true wisdom.