When We Just Don't Understand
Genesis 24:50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Abraham's servant had traveled back to the homeland to find a wife for Isaac. The number of people who were faithfully following God in those days was terribly few. Amazingly Abraham had been teaching his household about God and even his servant was a devout believer in the God of all creation. He prayed for God's leading in finding the right wife for Isaac and God led him to the young girl, Rebekah. What amazes me is the response of her family. Both Laban and Bethuel answer as obedient followers of God. They listened to the faithful witness of the servant and responded in action saying to take Rebekah "as the Lord has directed." They sent off this beautiful daughter, not knowing whether they would ever see her again.
Next we find ourselves in Luke and Jesus is speaking directly to his followers. He reminds them that the journey to follow him happens on a daily basis. What happened yesterday doesn't count for today for even this day we have to take up our crosses and follow him wherever he leads. We can't be protective of what we want in life -- instead, we must leave it all to follow him. He reminds his followers that this journey is the one with the incredible final destination. Keep following, keep being obedient, respond to his nudges and he will take us to where he desires.
Finally the Apostles are complaining that there are others around them that are not part of this "inner circle," who are casting out demons. How could this be -- they're not part of Jesus' spiritual team?! Jesus says not to worry when you don't understand what's going on -- but don't stop those who are doing this in Jesus' name. You may not understand who they are or what they're up to but remember, "whoever is not against you is for you."
In this morning's readings we find a mixed bag of stories and yet there seems to be a common thread throughout. Whether from the Old Testament or the New there is a challenge to follow God's leading, even when it doesn't make sense to us on the human level. Who would believe the words of a servant from another land and send their beautiful young daughter off to marry a man no one has ever seen? This doesn't seem to make sense and yet there is faithful obedience here on the part of Rebekah's family members. It is this type of radical obedience that God is asking from all of us, even when it doesn't make sense. Faith is not just a belief in my head, but a belief that results in action. In this case it meant giving up a daughter -- but a daughter who became the matriarch of a kingdom of people.
This first story really leads us into the second. Even in the Old Testament there were those who were willing to live in radical obedience to God and Jesus picks up on that theme. Faithfulness to God in the New Testament really meant the same thing. It meant believing and trusting in Jesus Christ on a daily basis. It meant to walk in total and complete obedience to him every single day. And that's what he wants from us now. But sometimes taking up our cross and following him may be counter-cultural! Actually not just sometimes, but most of the time it will be counter-cultural and we may even be embarrassed by this! Why? Because being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we are going against the crowd. It's like Jesus walking down the Via Dolorosa on the day of his crucifixion, carrying his cross as the crowds of Jerusalem press against him going the other direction. Not only is he fighting the crowd, but he has to carry the heavy beam of the cross with him as he goes. This is the picture for each and every single follower of Jesus Christ. It is pressing on while carrying the cross -- while the world comes at you -- and you wonder whether it will all make sense?! Don't be ashamed of what God has called you to do -- keep moving forward daily in total obedience to him.
But along the way there may be those who are doing things in Jesus' name that just don't seem to be doing it right! What if there are those who are doing things that just don't make sense to us? Jesus says to look on the result and if the result is kingdom work, then let it be! "But I just don't understand!" -- and Jesus would say, "You don't need to understand."
Lord, thank you for the challenge to radical obedience in the midst of limited understanding. Lord, please help my unbelief! Amen.