DayBreaks for 5/15/17: Who Is It You Want?
John 18:3-5 – So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“Who is it you want?” Jesus was always good at asking questions (still is)! It isn’t that he didn’t know who they were coming for – he’d made it abundantly clear to his disciples that he knew exactly what was going to happen – and when – and even why. Jesus asked questions to make those around him probe their real motives and purposes, and to make them think deeply. His questions often make us uncomfortable – try to imagine how Judas must have felt when he first saw Jesus and Jesus asks this question. Faced with a phalanx of armed and hostile soldiers and temple officials, calmly asks a question designed to make them contemplate what they’re doing. It appears that they (especially the officials from the temple) didn’t recognize him – which strikes me as strange since Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times. He’d been very open in his teaching in the temple in the past. But they don’t seem to recognize him even though he’d been in their midst often.
It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize Jesus. It was Mother Theresa who once suggested that she did what she did because when she helped the poor and dying in the steaming streets of Calcutta that in their faces she saw Jesus in a distressing disguise. Some people see Jesus often – in acts of love, compassion, mercy – others rarely, if ever see him or recognize him.
But as haunting as that may be, the real question is plain, and it echoes through 2000 years and it is a question that we must answer today, because Jesus asks is. “Who is it you want?” What a great question! Who is it that you really want? Do you want Jesus? Or do you want yourself? Or do you want your own idea of what Jesus is?
Those who Jesus called to himself in life were called in ways that we might find shocking – almost as if Jesus really didn’t want people to come to him. Consider the rich young ruler – who was told that he had to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. Or the man who said he had to bury his father, but was told by Jesus to “let the dead bury the dead – you, come follow me!” But then he’s said it to all of us, hasn’t he: Take up your cross daily and follow me. In each case, people have to decide who it is that they really want – do we want Jesus, the real Jesus, badly enough that we’re willing to take the challenge he puts before us with this question: “Who is it you want?”
The question is just as valid today as when Jesus asked it in the garden of Gethsemane. They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Yes, they wanted him, but not for a good purpose. The question that Jesus didn’t ask them was why they wanted him. He already knew. But we need to ask the question of ourselves again: “Why do I want Jesus? Do I want him so he’ll make me feel better about myself? So that he’ll give me a home in heaven when I die? So I’ll have a friend?” Those are all things that Jesus can, and will do for us, but they are not the reason we should want him. We should want Jesus because in the life of Christ is embodied the kingdom of God – the RULE of God – throughout the universe but especially in the human heart. We should want Jesus because of Who He IS, and not what he can do for us. That’s what it means when Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind…and then our neighbors as ourselves. God does care about your eternal destiny, but He’s operating on a much greater scale than just individual hearts and minds. He’s operating on a cosmic scale to reconcile everything to Himself again through Christ. And that’s why we should want to find Jesus.
How can I tell who it is that I really want? Probably the best way is to look at what things in life that I chase after. How much time do I spend reading the word, praying, memorizing scripture, sharing my faith, in developing a relationship with Jesus instead of reading fantasy novels, watching TV, going to the movies, playing sports, shopping? Time is perhaps the most precious thing we have – and how we spend it very clearly says something about our priorities and what is truly important to us. And I need to test my motives for why I want him, too. In both these areas, I must remember that I cannot fool Jesus – even though I may fool myself very well, thank you. But when I finally do come face to face with Jesus, I’ll not be able to pretend – like the soldiers, I’ll fall backwards onto the ground with the perfect knowledge that he has seen through me, and always has.
PRAYER: Jesus, help us to want you more than anything else in the universe. Help us to want you for all the right reasons, and for none of the wrong ones. Thank you for wanting us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.