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An honest Messiah

The telling of hard truths only reinforces Jesus' credibility

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 27, 2008

I appreciate Jesus' honesty with us.

Most Messiahs (and every age has them-Acts 5:36-37), especially Messiahs who have had a successful miracle-filled career, would have predicted peaceful and prosperous days ahead as far as the eye can see.

First of all, they would have believed it themselves. The seduction of happy times is always to imagine that they are the beginning of more happy times, ad infinitum. The Messiah, no less than his disciples, would have been swept up into the heady fantasy that his popular triumph would issue in a swift mop-up of all evil. Had he not "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame" (Colossians 2:15)?

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Furthermore, if you're the Messiah, why not tell the people that good times are on the horizon? They've seen the healings and exorcisms. Who could prove you wrong? It's non-disprovable. By the time the future arrives, you're outahere. Or, if things do start unraveling while you're still in town, you can always get on TV and say it was due to "unforeseen events" or "forces outside our control."

For another thing, what great leader wins office by telling people to expect widespread starvation? I don't know why Jesus did that-unless it was the truth. Another proof for me that Jesus is the only real Messiah: He foretold that "Nation will rise against nations. . . . There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences" (Luke 21:10-11). That's the opposite of what one would expect a Messiah to say.

I still sometimes ask myself "why a good God allows ­children to starve." But it goes a long way toward shoring up faith-and dispelling my worst fears about God-when I remember that Jesus told us point blank to expect these tribulations. He claimed, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matthew 28:18)-and yet He claimed that modern Zimbabwes would arise. And He uttered both statements without embarrassment or apology.

If Jesus knew about the starving children, and still­presented Himself as the Son of a good God, then that just thickens the mystery. What is it I don't know? If He could tell His disciples "there will be famine and pestilence," and also tell them "God is love" (1 John 4:8), this is attention-arresting. What is it I don't see that's gunking up the works? What's going on behind the curtain that is postponing the inevitable glory? No Messiah would speak so illogically unless there were a deeper logic.

I wonder if the angels see it better from their ringside seats (Ephesians 3:10) and are biting their wingtips hoping we will realize how silly it is to try to figure it out. Maybe they're screaming behind the thick glass, "Hey, you don't have to understand God to trust Him!" We are like the little kid who wrote, "Dear God, in school they told us what You do. Who does it when You're on vacation?" Or the kid who asked his father, "Dad, is sex better than chocolate?" We just have no idea.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us" (Deuteronomy 29:29). So we do have permission, up to a point, to inquire into the whys of starving kids and imploding economies. I suspect we will only get as far as this: It is men, not God, who invented credit default swaps.

We shall finally have to acquiesce to the fact that God has a purpose for lousy economies.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, "My own­experience is something like this. I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends . . . or a bit of work that tickles my vanity . . . , when suddenly a . . . headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly . . . I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that . . . my only real treasure is Christ."

If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to aseu@worldmag.com.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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