By now Jesus had become so well known that King Herod heard of him. Some folks had begun spreading the rumor that John, the Dunker, had been raised from the dead, and that was why Jesus could do all these miraculous things. Other folk were saying he was Elijah. Still others were saying he was like the great truth-tellers of ancient history. Herod, though, who had beheaded John, resolved that Jesus was John back from the dead.
When people start talking about you, they’ll come up with all kinds of stories. Especially when you’re doing something that really is great, people will start to explain your work away. They’ll make up reasons to believe it’s not really you.
With Jesus, they couldn’t accept that he was his own person. He had to be somebody else. It wasn’t that Jesus was simply doing great things because he was Jesus. It had to be that he was a supernatural phenomenon. He got his powers from the underworld. He’s some kind of ghost, back from the dead. (Of course, some people still think this.) He can’t be making powerful changes in people’s lives because he’s Jesus, they think, but he must be some manifestation of the mythological Elijah, or one of those other great people from the past. They just couldn’t accept that Jesus was simply Jesus.
It’s not just Jesus, though. If you’re doing great stuff, people will make up reasons why it’s not really you. You were just in the right place at the right time. You got lucky. You were born with a silver spoon. You managed to find some kind of shortcut to success, or took advantage of something nobody else knew about. Like Herod, their reasons for thinking these things may be their own guilty conscience. In the majority of cases, you just don’t know where the rumors come from, or why.
It’s part of doing great work. In spite of being misunderstood, Jesus keeps on doing it. Every day. Changing lives. Restoring people to wholeness. Confronting oppression. Bringing those who had fallen through the cracks back into the web of humanity. Regardless of what everyone else was saying.
A few years ago, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod published a little book with the title, Ignore Everybody. It was good advice.
It’s part of doing great work. Jesus did it. You can, too.