Do It Now

dates receeding to horizon
Photo credit: <a href="">Stephen Heron</a>

Matthew 12:38-41

Some legalists and bureaucrats said, “Professor, we want you to give us a sign.”

Jesus answered, “This evil, treasonous generation wants a sign. But the only sign they’ll get is Jonah. Jonah was in the kraken’s stomach for three days and nights. Likewise, the chosen one will be buried in the ground for three days and nights. The heathens who believed Jonah will condemn this generation. They changed their ways but you’ve ignored an even more obvious indication.

Remember, Jonah is about deliverance. The insistence on needing a miracle, or some sign, that the time is right before taking action is where, most of the time, people go wrong. Jesus (and Jonah) are about deliverance. Now.

  • “If only (fill in the blank) would happen, then I’d be able to do that thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
  • “If only he/she would change, then I’d be happy.”
  • “If only my boss would recognize my efforts, I’d get that promotion.”
  • “If only I could move to New York city, I’d catch my big break.”
  • “If only Jesus would come back and save me from (fill in whatever hardship you’ve got).”

They say timing is everything. But it’s not. How many times have you looked back (hindsight is 20/20) and said, “I could have…” or “I should have…” But you didn’t. Why? What were you waiting for? The signs were there. You just couldn’t read them. Or, if you did, you second-guessed yourself and didn’t do anything about it. Timing, as it turns out, is nothing. Signs are nothing.

Action is everything.

The time to change is now. Always now. It’s not what happens. Stuff happens all the time. It’s what you do. Not someday. Now.

Don’t Starve Yourself at a Wedding Reception

wedding reception tablesettings
Photo credit: <a href="">Tracy Hunter</a>

Mark 2:18-20

John’s students and the legalists were fasting. So people came to Jesus and asked, “Why do John’s students and the students of legalism fast, but your students don’t?”

“Nobody goes to a wedding reception,” Jesus answered, “and doesn’t eat the food when the groom is right there celebrating. While the happy couple is in the room, you’ve got to eat the food. Someday, after the bride and groom are swept away, it will be time for going on a diet.”

Well, maybe there are dieters at a wedding reception, but more often than not they use it as an excuse to take a break from their diets.

Jesus’ point is similar to the famous line from Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a time, and a season for everything under heaven.” (Turn, turn, turn.)

Any comedian will tell you that timing is everything. And so will just about every stock trader, real estate agent, fertility clinic, and auto mechanic.

Where we run into trouble is when our timing is off. We’ve misread the situation and show up to a black tie dinner in bluejeans and a sweatshirt. We wear white to a funeral and black to a wedding. Or, we miss the chance to be a part of something wonderful because we, “just didn’t see it coming.”

John’s students and the legalists aren’t doing wrong. They’re just doing it at the wrong time.

Three hymns and a sermon aren’t wrong. It’s just that their time is past.

Camping out in Zuccatti Park isn’t wrong. Staying there for days and days wasn’t wrong either. But it’s time for something else.

Windows of opportunity open and close. That’s life. You can take it or leave it. But Jesus’ advice is that when life opens one, take it.

Heavenly Signs Are What You Make Them

Heavenly Sign
Photo credit: David Woo

Mark 8:11-13

The legalists came to start an argument with Jesus. To bait him they asked him to give them a heavenly sign. But Jesus, with a sigh of frustration, said, “Why do you need a sign? You’re not getting one, and that’s all there is to it.” And he left them, taking the next boat back across the sea.

They don’t need a sign, of course. There has already been plenty of evidence of what Jesus is up to. (Jesus has been calming storms, feeding multitudes, restoring people to new life and health. What more do they want?) It’s a matter of paying attention. And the significance of any action is a matter of how you see it.

And that’s the problem with “miracles.” You can’t really tell what they’re about without paying careful attention to the context, the history, the motivations of the people involved in them – the people who “perform” them, the people who report on them, and the people who hear about them second (or third, or fourth, etc.) hand. When a certain TV evangelist claims that a miracle has occurred and his TV tower in North Carolina has been spared by a sudden change in the track of a hurricane, that “miracle” is anything but for people whose life and limb are in jeopardy in Florida.

And that’s the legalists’ angle: if Jesus does something “miraculous” they can find a way to claim it’s demonic. It’s what they’ve been doing all along (see Mark 3:22). For them, there is no miracle. No sign will be given. Nothing will suffice to convince them to change their minds about Jesus.

On the flip side, though, you don’t really need a sign to discern what is right either. If your heart is in the right place. If you can hear what Jesus is saying, you don’t need to believe in miracles and you don’t need to witness any spectacular magic tricks to be convinced that calming storms, feeding multitudes, and restoring people to new life and health is something worth doing. And you don’t need to have any special experience or qualifications or divine intervention to start doing it.