Why do bad things happen to good people? I may attempt to understand Judas, that he was simply human, but can someone please explain to me Joseph? Or Job? Were these two men superhuman?
Of course, in both of their stories, God gives us a glimpse behind the curtains of providence: The devil was trying Job’s faith in God. The brothers were part of God’s intricate plan of redemption.
Yet, while reading these stories, it is easy for us to miss the bigger point. We are tempted to see Joseph as the center of his own story, the hero in his tale. And, to a certain extent, we would be justified in thinking so. Isn’t Joseph the slave boy who worked hard for his master? Isn’t Joseph the young man who fled from sexual temptation? Would it really be so wrong to think of Joseph as the hero in his story?
I guess he hadn’t completely broken off ties with his family. For in this scene, we find Jesus still hanging out with his mum and even attending a wedding together. I wonder, was he a mama’s boy? John doesn’t tell us. But he does tell us that there was a wedding, and that the wedding was apparently under-budgeted. For we see the wine running out just as the happy-hour crowd is streaming in. We are not told what he was doing at the moment. We can try to speculate. Maybe he was chatting up a bride’s maid (I know, that doesn’t sound very Jesusy). Perhaps he was part of a mini-dancing contest; or maybe he was just relaxing at a corner table with his new-found friends and students enjoying the cake and the ambiance. We are really not sure, but we know that whatever he was doing was interrupted by a strange statement from his mother,
“They have no more wine.” (John 2:3)
He could have feigned ignorance and asked, “What are you telling me for? It’s not my wedding and I am not the wedding committee chairman.” Actually, he sort of said something similar (v. 4) but Mary ignored it.
He could have taken this as an exit cue, “I guess it’s time to leave then, isn’t it?”
But he didn’t, even before these five stage-setting words left Mary’s lips and landed on Christ’s ears, they both knew that she was no longer talking to her son, but her master. She was giving Jesus the reins. Take over. Fix this. Do what you came to do, what you do best – the impossible. It’s time to flex those muscles son… I mean… Lord. You have to pause and admire Mary’s faith. Jesus had never performed a miracle, never walked on a puddle or healed a sniffle. At least not that we know of. But she was handing over a whole wedding in jeopardy to him, and you know just how crazy wedding plans can get.
You have to admire Mary’s faith because it is this kind of faith that’s missing in many of us, believers.
We’ve all been there; impossible deadlines, tragic headlines, dying relationships, shocking medical reports, and now weddings wading in impending doom. We’ve been there, we’ve witnessed our best laid plans hitting solid walls, we’ve wept as our best friends betrayed our trust, we’ve helplessly stood by hospital beds as heartbeats slowed down and death smacked its lips. We’ve been there, and we’ve been desperate. We have needed that glimmer of hope, that healing hand, that knight in shining armor. Only to find blank stares and no answers. And we have given up. Many times, countless times.
The answer to that why is simple, but it is not simplistic: We never spoke to Jesus about it; it never even came across our minds. Like Mary’s statement, a phrase like, “My girlfriend dumped me” doesn’t sound like something we would say to Jesus. It’s too open-ended. We half-expect him to respond with a blank “so what?” Yet, Jesus still attends weddings and He still turns water into wine. He still transforms empty shells of people into hope-filled souls. He still heals marriages and mends friendships.
So, instead of running around in desperation, dare to look up for affirmation. He won’t ignore you. Consider running your concerns by Him, however vain they sound to you. Mary did, and we know what happened. Water-jars were transformed into wine-jars as parched taste-buds were suddenly soaked in a divine taste of wine.
Give him your tears, and watch Him turn even that into wine.
G. K. Chesterton, in his classic work, Orthodoxy, says:
“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
It helps to remember that “old age” was never part of the perfect plan of creation. Hmmm… No wonder Jesus died at 33. Someday, we are going to be as children again. Psalm 144:12, Matthew 19:14, 18:3.
He looks at the confused faces around him. Shadows of despair cloud each face in the room. His own heart feels like lead. He doesn’t know what else to add, they don’t understand the words he speaks. Still, they fix their eyes on him;
Questioning eyes, hungry gazes, expectant faces….
They understand that the worst is about to happen. The one that they had been living for was leaving them. Three years is enough time to cement stubborn bonds. And these ones here are hard to break. One by one, Jesus looks at the scared faces of his disciples, huddled together like wet kittens, listening to his words of encouragement, hanging on to each parting word. And as his glance falls upon each face in the room, floodgates of memories fill up his mind, welling up his eyes, and drowning his heart with grief…
‘[Jesus] called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.’ (John 21:5)
Christ the cook. Hardly would one throw this descriptor into a bag full of the popular titles of Jesus: Son of God, Messiah, Healer, Teacher, Redeemer, Savior. We can revere Healers, we do admire Teachers, we long for a Redeemer and we worship Saviors. But a cook? Why would anyone want to worship a cook? Why would I want to write songs and sing praises about a cook? (Unless, of course, that cook is my mother) Well, John did (John 21:7). He shouted over the crackling fire and the sizzling oil and praised a cook.
On 28 January, 2009, a fire razed down Nakumatt Supermarket in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. Security guards locked exit doors in an effort to prevent looting. Angel Wainaina, an actress who played the role of Sergeant Maria on the Cobra Squad TV series, died in that fire. So did Peter Serry, then CEO of Tusker FC. About 50 lives are believed to have been lost in the fire. Three days later, on 31 January 2009, An oil spill ignition occurred in Molo, Kenya, and resulted in the deaths of at least 113 people and critical injuries to over 200 more. The incident occurred when an oil spill from an overturned truck burst into flames as onlookers attempted to obtain remnants of the spilled fuel for personal use. This is the prayer I wrote in the wake of these fiery tragedies: Continue reading Hearts on Fire (A Prayer)