Braveheart is one of the most beloved movies of millions. Why? Because it is a movie that brings back the often lost virtue of honor. And when we see such honor, our hearts soar.
Jesus has such honor and more.
When he sees Simon son of John he looks at him and calls him Peter, which means rock (Jn 1:42). And it wasn’t just rock that was stubborn and unmovable but because as Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church,” (Mt 16:18). Peter was just a sinful fisherman with a growing business. Some may have passed him over but Jesus saw who he would become.
Then Jesus sees Nathaniel. “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (Jn 1:47). Jesus didn’t just hear his comment that ‘nothing good comes out of Nazareth’ (1:46) but saw him for who he was and what he would experience in the future. “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (1:51).
Then Jesus goes to a poor man’s wedding with his mother and disciples. His mother asks him to do something about the lack of wine. Even though his “time had not yet come,” (2:4), he honored her and this poor man by changing the water to wine. Honor flowed more freely than this new gift.
As Jesus goes from one situation to the next honoring the Father and honoring the person in front of him, I think to myself if I were to meet Jesus what would he say of me? My initial reaction is think that he would say my weaknesses or my failures but that isn’t Jesus. Jesus saw who the Father made them to be and called that out in them, honored them and gave them a bigger picture of what God wanted to do.
It makes me want to be around Jesus.
The honor continues. We are told next that Jesus goes to Jerusalem and sees it has become a local shopping bonanza. One might ask where the honor is here when he destroys the place, but the honor is to God, preserving His name in his place of prayer. Jesus honored the Father and did not bow to the corruption and greed of buying and selling that was taking place for the worshippers (Jn 2:12-25). Wow! He put honor to God above any fear of man.
And as I’m meditating on how Jesus brings honor (as written in the book of John), I can’t help loving Jesus more. And then just as he seems to be someone that’s predictably kind in his honor, it all changes with a man name Nicodemus.
Nicodemus is a Pharisee who comes to Jesus at night. It appears for all intents and purposes to be a seeker, a genuine seeker while at the same time a Pharisee. John 3:2-10:
“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, bu the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be,” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “”and do you not understand these things?”
The last line is a double emphasis. ‘You are not only a “teacher” but a “teacher of Israel.”‘ A double slap if you will.
Where did the honor go? Where is the seeing what someone was going to become and experience? Where is nice, kind honorable Jesus? In this exchange he seems anything but that. In fact, it comes across as a direct insult to a seeker.
It’s not the only time it would happen.
When the Canaanite woman came in desperation and asking for help, Jesus told her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 15:24).
What’s up Jesus? It’s almost like he puts a wall in their path. Or a block. A stumbling block. The response can only be one of two things. 1) Be offended and hate Jesus. Or 2) Move past the offense and see the kingdom revealed.
For these two this is exactly what happened. The Canaanite woman moved past the “offense” and said to Jesus that even the dogs ate the crumbs from the table. Jesus was amazed and said to her, “You are a woman of great faith!”(Mt 15:28) and then healed her daughter.
And for Nicodemus while we don’t know his response, we know that he would stand up for Jesus at his trial, and made sure he had a proper burial (Jn 7:50; 19:39).
After this incident with Nicodemus Jesus would continue on with jaw-dropping honor to a Samaritan woman, even telling her plainly that he was the Messiah (4:26). He honor a man who was crippled in body but his self-pity was even more crippling, yet Jesus honored him with a healing (5:1-15). He honored those who followed him even though though they had insufficient food but providing food for 5000, while revealing himself to his disciples (6:-15).
The journey of honor continues while at the same time the story of Jesus throwing down blocks and seeing if they would move past them or be offended continued.
This lifestyle of Jesus touches me in two ways. First it endears my heart to him more. Who wouldn’t want to be around Jesus?
And I also realize that there are things in my path that may feel like a block, something I don’t understand that he does. And I too will have two choices. Will I become offended by God’s ways that I don’t understand and harden my heart, or will I find the kingdom on the other side of offense?