DayBreaks for 2/14/20: Would I Have Believed It?
From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:
I have started a series of sermons on Jesus. Wow – what a shocking thing, eh? But the more I read and study and learn about Jesus, the more amazed I become. I sense that there is no bottom to the depths of Jesus.
In 1993, Philip Yancey read a news report about a “Messiah sighting” in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. In an article for Christianity Today magazine, he wrote about the feverish response of over 20,000 Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews who lived in the region, many of whom believed the Messiah was dwelling among them in the person of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson:
“Word of the rabbi’s public appearance spread like a flash fire through the streets of Crown Heights, and Lubavitchers in their black coats and curly sidelocks were soon dashing toward the synagogue where the rabbi customarily prayed. The lucky ones connected to a network of beepers got a head start, sprinting toward the synagogue the instant they felt a slight vibration. They jammed by the hundreds into a main hall, elbowing each other and even climbing the pillars to create more room. The hall filled with an air of anticipation and frenzy normally found at a championship sporting event, not a religious service.
“The rabbi was 91 years old. He had suffered a stroke the year before and had not been able to speak since. When the curtain finally pulled back, those who had crowded into the synagogue saw a frail old man with a long beard who could do little but wave, tilt his head, and move his eyebrows. No one in the audience seemed to mind, though. “Long live our master, our teacher, and our rabbi, King, Messiah, forever and ever!” they sang in unison, over and over, building in volume until the rabbi made a small gesture with his hand and the curtain closed. They departed slowly, savoring the moment, in a state of ecstasy. (Rabbi Schneerson [later] died in June 1994. Now some Lubavitchers [still await] his bodily resurrection.)”
Later in his article, Yancey confesses he was tempted to laugh out loud as he read about Schneerson and his followers, thinking, Who are these people trying to kid – a nonagenarian mute Messiah in Brooklyn? But then a sobering thought came to mind for Yancey: I am reacting to Rabbi Schneerson exactly as people in the first century had reacted to Jesus. A Messiah from Galilee? A carpenter’s kid, no less? He writes:
“The scorn I felt as I read about the rabbi and his fanatical followers gave me a small glimpse of the kind of responses Jesus faced throughout his life. His neighbors asked, “Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” Other countrymen scoffed, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” His own family tried to put him away, believing he was out of his mind. The religious experts sought to kill him. As for the common people, one moment they judged him demon-possessed and raving mad, the next they forcibly tried to crown him king.
“It took courage, I believe, for God to lay aside power and glory and to take his place among human beings who would greet him with the same mixture of haughtiness and skepticism that I felt when I first heard about Rabbi Schneerson of Brooklyn. It took courage to endure the shame, and courage even to risk descent to a planet known for its clumsy violence, among a race known for rejecting its prophets. A God of all power deliberately put himself in such a state that Satan could tempt him, demons could taunt him, and lowly human beings could slap his face and nail him to a cross. What more foolhardy thing could God have done?” – Christianity Today, Cosmic Combat
This story makes it a bit easier to understand how it was that so many refused to believe on Jesus during his life. I wonder if I would have been one of them?
One more thing: I’m glad that my Messiah can’t suffer a stroke and lose his ability to do great deeds.
PRAYER: When we are so arrogant in our faith, thinking we could never slip, forgive us our arrogance! Thank you for a living Messiah who rules forever and ever! Hallelujah! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>