A couple taking a long car trip had plenty of time to reflect on my sermon on the death of John the Baptist and wrote asking why God, or Jesus, hadn’t intervened to do something about it. After all, it would have been so much better for everyone if John had lived to continue his ministry so that Herod might even have had a conversion.
Haven’t you two got something better to do with your time? Nothing like coming up with questions that have irritated theologians for hundreds of years. Anyway, here goes.
Most of us want God to answer questions in ways that make sense to our way of thinking, and it goes back to the start. Why did God like Abel’s offering better than Cain’s? Why did God let the people of Israel sit around in Egypt for 400 years before getting them out? The list goes on and on. So your questions fit right in.
Why would God let John be killed, and why didn’t Jesus pull off a simple miracle to stop or reverse it?
We teach and I believe that God is fully engaged with human history, but does not often intervene with a heavy hand to do what we think should be done. People have to work things out for themselves within the context of the overall direction and purpose of God’s creation and plan for salvation. We humans are such slow learners and so unwilling to go where God has led, even when God’s word became flesh and lived among us. I guess we just have to learn the hard way.
A part of Jesus work in life was to demonstrate to us that God is present with us in all things and cannot be defeated by any evil, even if it looks like things are not going too well. It could not be a game of ‘let’s pretend.’ It had to be the real thing. So Jesus and his disciples had to endure everything we all have to endure, and more than that. Nevertheless, Jesus also demonstrated God’s ultimate victory in many ways including the various miracles of healing, and even the raising of the dead in several instances. But remember, not everyone who was hungry got fed, not everyone who was sick got healed, and not everyone who was dead got raised. Those few with whom Jesus came in contact became signs of God’s power that promises ultimate victory for all, but not for all in this life or when we demand it.
In the end, it is the death, burial and resurrection that display God’s ultimate power and our ultimate destiny. In the meantime, God has given us all that we need to live blessed lives, but he has not prevented us from inventing our own trouble or becoming so evil that there is no visible good left in us. God has also not crafted the world to be without danger or imperfection. God has crafted the world to be full of limitless possibility, and I imagine that also means that there are a lot of dead ends and wrong turns.
The ‘what if’ questions are always intriguing and contribute the plot lines for great and not so great fiction such as The da Vinci Code and all those horrible Left Behind books. But, just like Bruce Almighty, given the chance and the power we turn out to be really lousy gods (with the exception, of course, of George Burns and Morgan Freeman). We never seem to understand the Law of Unintended Consequences. As for me, I have daily conversations with God in which some part consists of my instructions on how things should be. I just can’t seem to help myself, but in the end, I’ll stick with Isaiah’s 55th chapter.