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Why selling out is still wrong--part one
I can’t believe there’s a Wikipedia article about selling out.
When bands on independent labels would sign to major ones, they were “selling out.” I remember I cared a lot about it when Anti-Flag signed with a major record label—same with Against Me! The radical messages they brought were watered down and quite frankly, the music just got worse.
The bands “missed the point” of what we were doing. Like a baseball player who is more interested in getting a record than he is winning. Like a person who used to get a drink with someone to relate to them, but now needs a drink to relate to them. Like when someone you know stops coming to your cell because they made their friends already, and they forgot about a mission with Jesus. Or they stop coming around because the resources the church gave them supported them enough so they could get a job, house, husband and children.
How often do we miss the point? Or really just forget the point?
Jesus doesn’t want us selling out either. In the book of John, Jesus does something miraculous to point out who he is the world, and hope that the world will see him—the ultimate point—and not the good stuff he’s doing.
He feeds five thousand men and he walks on water. He brings the tangible thing to fruition then, and it demonstrates to the whole world again that He is truly God Incarnate, the Word made flesh.
There are “clues” in the book of John that point to the ultimate truth. It might remind you of a puzzle or a riddle, but it’s intended to show us the way, not keep us guessing. John mentions that that the events of chapter six occurs during the Passover, likely with the hope that it will remind of the actual Passover—the time that God liberated the Israelites from their Egyptian oppresses and delivered them to the Promised Land.
When Jesus feeds the five thousand, John is giving reference to God feeding the Israelites during their seemingly endless wandering through the desert. They received manna from heaven until they had their fill. John is reminding of us this so we can realize that the bread from heaven has come again—this time it’s the word made flesh (in fact, he will instruct us to eat him in a few chapters, which I think should really deliver the point home).
This is just the fourth sign that Jesus demonstrates, but he runs into the same problem his previous signs have gotten him into. The people want to crown him King; they call him “the prophet” and they want to make him the Messiah.
But he wants them, and us, to believe something deeper. Is Jesus just the Messiah because he provides for our physical needs? What happens when he doesn’t? Will we then lose faith asking where God is? Jesus wants us to have a deeper sense of believe and understanding so that our faith can withstand trial and difficulty.
The crowds are looking for a political savior, one that might liberate them from their Roman oppressors. But he’s bringing something deeper than that. He’s actually liberating the whole world form its evil and cosmic oppressors (which are very well also possessing imperial power like Roman, and our contemporary imperial powers).
He wants us to have faith that’s deeper than immediate gratification. One that can wait, too, for results.
It is perhaps why he does the thing he does next. As you might know, the Exodus of the Jewish people surrounds Moses, the prophet to whom Jesus is being compared. Moses parts the Red Sea and liberates the Israelites from their slavemasters. It’s not surprising considering this is Jewish history that the Jews now expect Jesus to deliver them politically as well.
As it turns out, Jews aren’t culturally down with water. In their ancient writings, they write about the sea as chaotic, dangerous, and unpredictable. They even make allusions to sea monsters! And they praise God for delivering them from the dangerous sea and making it calm. Even fishermen are anxious when they cross the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the storm. Jesus is teaching them something.
He goes off to the mountains to simmer—he needs to pray. They make it most of the way across the lake and Jesus, their friend appears to them walking on water.
People used to say that Jesus was standing on the shore nearby and it only looked like he was walking on water (and people try and rationalize the splitting of the Red Sea by saying there are portions nearby water that is shallow enough to wade across). I don’t think that’s the attitude with which we should be reading the scriptures. We actually need to expect God to reveal himself to us in new and fascinating ways.
That’s not to say we should be gullible or assume the only reason that Jesus does anything is because He can. He’s doing this all to reveal to the world who He is—the son of God, incarnate.
He is even bringing a testimony to the people who are equally puzzled. They know that Jesus had left the multitude (this story occurs after the feeding of five thousand in Matthew and Mark, as well) and gone to the mountains and his disciples have crossed the lake. It would have taken Jesus a longer time to venture around the lake, as opposed to directly across it.
Jesus is showing us that he can conquer the things that make us fear. He can walk on them. Nothing treads of Jesus. And so in your Red Sea, in your Sea of Galilee, remember Christ’s words “It is I—do not be afraid.”
Sometimes it’ll seem like Jesus isn’t on the boat with you, that he’s off doing more important things; know that he is always with you. That he can walk on the stormiest of waters, calming them, and bringing serenity to you, too.
That’s how Jesus liberates us, in many ways. The world is broken and evil and filled with disasters. Open up any newspaper and you’ll find that to be true. Jesus doesn’t promise us that there won’t be any pain or trial or misfortune on the future, but he promises us that he will be with us, walking alongside of us.