Thursday, October 15, 2015

In a Panic

There are actually quite a few stories in the Gospels about persons who meet Jesus this way - in a panic. There is Jairus, whose daughter is dying in some distant place. There is the Canaanite woman, begging for the life of her child. There is the father of the boy whose demon throws him into severe convulsions. There is a bleeding woman who can hardly catch her breath as she sneaks, unclean, through the swarming crowds. There are the disciples during at least two severe storms on the sea. There is the criminal on the cross, just hours from his own death. 

Call it what you will - panic, desperation, anxiety - this is clearly one of the most common places you meet Jesus.

We actually continue to hear stories about this sort of thing today. We hear about the young man who was seconds away from ending his own life, only to be drawn back by some presence he could not explain, only to find out in the next breath that it was Jesus Himself. We hear about the mother in the NICU who has never prayed before, but suddenly starts crying out, interceding for her child. Less dramatic, but no less powerful, we hear about the sinner who seeks refuge in the sanctuary, crying unending tears in a lonely pew in some dark, off-hour of the church, only to be overwhelmed by the peace and presence of Christ. 

It's happening over and over and over again. So what is it about this Jesus that we find in a panic? What is it about Him that is so powerful and meaningful?

I think it's this: these moments, perhaps more than any other, beautifully combine the humanity and the divinity of God. You wouldn't really think of His humanity here, as He doesn't appear particularly "moved" by any of these events. You never hear His voice crack with sympathy. You never see a single tear from His broken heart. (Not here. We do see Him cry at the death of His friend, Lazarus, but that is not a panic narrative.) You don't hear Him cry out against a broken human machine. You don't sense the same frustrations that we have with these moments. You never hear panic or desperation or fear in His voice. 

He's rock steady. 

And that's the divinity coming through. Because He understands that in these moments, as much as you need a friend, you're not crying out to a friend. You're crying out to a God. You need an omniscient, omnipotent, supernatural, compassionate, loving force who is big enough to get you out of this pit you're in, which is too deep and dark for any human intervention. You need to know, right now, that the mountains do move. You need to know that the waves do cease. You need to know that the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame walk and the dead will live again. No human can ever give you that. 

You need a God.

But even as His divinity shines through in an impossible moment, so, too, is He also the very friend you need. Each of these moments is deeply personal. It's the human touch. It's someone who climbs into the pit with you. You can feel His hands touching you. You can look into His eyes. You can hear His voice. He is, in this very moment in which He's doing something indescribable, doing something very tangible. He is physically present. 

Jairus heard the authority in His voice as He spoke a healing word. The Canaanite woman felt His feet in her hands as she desperately prayed, unwilling to let go of Him. The father of the demon-possessed boy took his son back from Jesus' very hands. The bleeding woman knows intimately what His cloak feels like. The disciples have seen Him roll His eyes. The blind man felt His hands on his darkened eyes. 

Even in our modern stories, it's the same. The young man on the verge of suicide has felt a hand pulling him back. The mother in the NICU looks up at the Christ on the wall and sees life in His eyes. The sinner in the sanctuary flushes warm with the intimacy of the moment. 

In a panic, in desperation, in anxiety, in fear, we see the full nature of God more powerfully than any other time. When we meet Jesus here, He is divine, because we desperately need a God, and He is also human, for we're in desperate need of a friend. That's why this is such a beautiful place to meet Jesus. 

Here, we meet all of Him. 

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