Do we want Jesus to show up?
by Paulo Lopes
Director of Emerging Leadership
World Methodist Evangelism
“When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:15-17)
It’s one of the hardest questions I have learned to ask over the years. It’s hard because it keeps me honest in ministry. Here it is: “Do I really want Jesus to show up in … (this situation, this challenge, this relationship, etc.)?”
The truth is that as exciting as it can be to look forward to what God wants to do in us and through us, sometimes it makes us a bit anxious, nervous. Sometimes, it goes beyond that, even turning into fear. This is precisely what happened to the community in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Mark. When Jesus showed up in this community, they suddenly lost a huge part of their livelihood. Yes, He had done a great thing for a demon-possessed man living by himself in a cave. Yes, something had to be done about that situation. However, in doing so he was messing with things they cared deeply about. So, they asked Him to leave.
The truth is we are more like those people than we care to admit. Most of us want Jesus to show up and to make things better. Fair enough. Jesus said he came to bring us abundant life, and that’s what his presence brings.
The problem is that in addition to wanting an abundant life, we usually want everything else to remain the same.
We want business as usual. Status quo intact. This is true for us on personal levels, but also when it comes to our communities, our cities, and our nations.
We want Jesus PLUS economic prosperity. We want Jesus PLUS safety. Jesus PLUS our jobs. Jesus plus ____________ (fill the blank with the things you think you need).
Jesus doesn’t always work like that, though. It’s not that safety, security, and prosperity cannot coexist with Jesus and his movement among us. It’s just that our desire for safety, security, and prosperity at the expense of Jesus cannot coexist with Jesus and his movement among us.
It may just be that what stands between us and the powerful manifestation of the presence of Jesus in our life is the very thing we believe MUST coexist alongside him. Big things like the economy and politics. Or smaller things like our friends, or our schedules.
But in order to give us what we need – abundant life – sometimes God has to take away some things we think we really want. The things we hold onto most tightly are often those which we need to let go of most desperately.
In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, we read the story of Zacchaeus who instead of hesitating, put everything he owned on the line to ensure that Jesus would come to his house. After Jesus invites himself, verse 7 tells us the people began to mutter “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner”. Zacchaeus promptly offers to give away much of his possession in order to make things right and hopefully guarantee that Jesus would not change his mind. Jesus’ response was “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (vs. 9-10)
On the other side of the risk Zacchaeus decided to take, was the abundance of life that comes with Jesus’ presence. May you and I be willing to take risks for the sake of God’s manifest presence in our lives.