EARLEY: An Ugly World Needs a Great Savior
Published 2:27 pm Monday, September 20, 2021
By Al Earley
We feel the light breeze refresh us on a warm day. It makes us forget that those breezes can become violent tornadoes ripping up communities and taking life. We see people walking safely during the day, living their lives, working, and enjoying the community. Too many news reports begin with terrible murders during the night, and we wonder if we are safe. We see a group of teenagers at a movie, having fun, laughing, and being respectful of everyone else. Their smiles and youthful exuberance are so charming we forget for a moment the plague of drugs, alcohol, suicide, and pregnancy that has descended on too many of our youth. We gather with family and friends and we forget for a moment that many are struggling with health and wellness because of covid.
Our world is full of vast contrasts of beauty and ugliness. When Jesus and his disciples gather in Caesarea Philippi the disciples can see the beauty of the world. They have seen the power of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing on the crowds. He asks them who he is, and it is Peter who confesses what they hoped beyond hope was true, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God” (Matthew 8:29).
Jesus praises Peter for recognizing and confessing what God has revealed to him. But this beautiful moment is shattered quickly when Jesus explains what being the Messiah will mean, that he must suffer and die in Jerusalem, and on the third day be raised from the dead.
Peter objects to the ugliness of this Messianic prediction. The world defines its messiahs as superior political rulers, who lead powerful countries, with mighty armies, and high standards of living. Are we like Peter, wanting a messiah to be politically strong, not quiet when persecuted? Powerful and acceptable by world standards, not crucified? Able to protect us when life gets ugly, not walk with us and strengthen us in the ugliness.
By going to the cross, Jesus is reinterpreting history in a radical way. Jesus is revealing that great kings and presidents come and go – Herod, David, Caesar, Washington, Lincoln – but the Messiah must be more than a political leader. The Messiah must suffer to redeem the world from its sinfulness, and reveal that God is present in our lives when our world turns ugly. For when our world turns ugly, when the winds destroy, when there is human cruelty, when young lives are shattered, when our marriages crumble, our children’s lives are broken, we become bankrupt financially, emotionally or spiritually Jesus is there.
The Messiah must suffer and die if we are to find meaning in the ugliness and sin of life. Otherwise, life becomes a meaningless blend of contrasts between beauty and ugliness, and we struggle merely to remain beautiful until the ugliness of death snatches life from us. The Messiah must be raised if we are going to know that we can experience new life in the midst of the fallen world we live in.
Jesus has completely changed the way the world interprets history, as we constantly question the limits of power, fame and fortune. He has changed the way we live our lives as we realize we are still a child of God in spite of failure and sin. He makes us people full of hope and joy, even when our world turns ugly.
Jesus tells Peter, he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah based on lessons learned in the world. The ugliness and beauty of the world shift like the sands of the desert. To confess Christ is to allow God’s Holy Spirit to reveal where love, hope, forgiveness, meaning, and purpose truly are – In Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. The Holy Spirit is working to show each one of us the same truth, that Jesus is the Messiah.
Are you tired of the ugliness of life? Have you endured as many days full of darkness as you care to? Let Jesus Christ into your life in a new way today so His light will shatter the darkness. When was the last time you accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? How would it change your life if you confessed him Lord and Savior every single day? Are you dealing with some ugly aspect of life right now? Have you invited Jesus in to help you deal with that ugliness? Where do you see the beauty that God always puts in your life? Have you thanked God for that beauty, and let it lift you, even as you face life’s ugliness?
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org.