JESUS KNOWS US BETTER THAN WE KNOW OURSELVES
Third Sunday in Lent (A)
My dear encountered couples:
Let me read that last paragraph about Jesus again: “While he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name, for they could see the signs he was performing. For his part, Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”
Yes, Jesus knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Here we are, gathered together, praising God in his name, and declaring our loyalty to him. We are friends to Jesus, we say, we will do all he has asked of us. We will not only keep the Ten Commandments; we will live up to the Sermon on the Mount. We will love not only God at all times; we will love our neighbors as ourselves, even more than ourselves. We will forgive those who offend us, we will give everybody who hurts us another chance, and another, and another. We will not only pray for our enemies; we will do nice things to prove how much we love them.
Jesus knows better. He can see into our hearts. He knows that what we say we cannot be trusted to live up to. Not without his help. Not without his Father’s help. Not without the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows human nature is such that no human being can be trusted at all times to live up to his or her word, to his or her promises, to his or her vows. We are so very changeable, we are so very fickle, we are so very human. “Jesus would not trust himself to them,” we are told, “because he knew them all.” He knows each of us, too. He knows you — and he knows me.
But we mean well, don’t we? We try hard, don’t we? Yes, we do. I believe we do! SOMETIMES! I’m afraid we all have those moments, those days, those weeks, months, even years when our loyalty and faithfulness to Christ runs thin - when our friendship and companionship with Christ is almost nonexistent. Yes, Jesus knows us. Fortunately, he also loves us, for he is our brother.
Let me tell you about brothers - about two of them that never seemed to get along. From early infancy, when their mother bathed them together, they not only splashed each other’s eyes with soapy water, Timmy would throw Johnny’s rubber ducky out of the tub as far as he could across the bathroom floor, while Johnny would squeeze Timmy’s toes as hard as he could until Timmy yelled “Mommy!” That’s the way it was for most of their early years into and through their teens.
Then war came, and they were both drafted. As luck would have it, they were assigned to the same company. And though I hate to say it, they were often found treating one another as in the days of the rubber ducky. Their comrades in arms more than once found them fighting. But the day finally came when they were called to fight others, the real enemy.
They were called upon to put all sibling quarrels aside and go into battle together, shoulder to shoulder. Soon, however, they found themselves separated. Johnny and Tim found themselves far apart on the field of battle.
Johnny was struck by a bullet. Tim saw him fall. He started for him. “Where are you going?” his commanding officer shouted. “To get my brother. He’s been hit.” “He’s probably dead,” said the officer. “There’s no use risking your life to bring in a dead body.” “But he’s my brother.” And after further pleading the officer consented. Just as Tim reached Johnny, Johnny died. “There you see,” said the officer when Tim brought back his dead brother. “You risked your life for nothing.” “No,” replied Tim. “I did what was expected of me, and I have my reward. When I crept up to him and took him in my arms, my brother Johnny said to me, ‘Tim, I knew you’d come - I just felt you would come.’”
You and I, all of us, can expect Jesus to be with us when we need him. Though he knows how disloyal and unloving we can be towards him, though we often turn our backs on him and desert him, our brother Jesus Christ will never desert us. Every time we sin, we stand by unconcerned, and let Jesus be crucified. Every time we sin, Jesus willingly gives his life to save us from our sins.
Jesus Christ is continually going out on fields of battle, doing whatever it takes to save us. And you can expect him to come, to be there every time you find yourself in trouble - no matter how badly you have treated him. When whatever it is that is in your heart, in your character, in your human nature that fights for control of your soul, you can expect Jesus Christ to be with you to help you, to save you, from yourself. We let Jesus die on his field of battle. And not just two thousand years ago. We do it whenever we sin. No wonder he cannot trust our words, our promises, our vows. He knows us too well. We desert him and let him die on Calvary - day after day after day - every time we sin!
“While he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name, for they could see the signs he was performing. For his part, Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”
Maybe he does. Maybe Jesus knows just how rotten we can be. But though he can’t trust us, we can trust him. For we know what is in the heart of Christ. Nothing but love! Love for you, love for me, love for every human being ever to exist. Love without conditions. He has proved such love for us many times.
Jesus is our brother. How can we not love a brother like that? How can we keep our hearts from going out to him and convincing us to live our lives for him? I don’t know. But we do. Shall we see what we can do to better prove our love for him? Let’s try.