Sometimes, I’m amazed at how shallow news reporting has become. Yesterday, there were two stories that made top headlines on radio and television news where I live: the arrest of Justin Bieber in Florida for driving while intoxicated and street racing, and the delay of a speech to be given by the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, because he was stuck in a hotel service elevator for 45 minutes.
To certain demographic groups, these were important stories: namely, teenaged girls and elevator repair personnel (and maybe Toronto city hall reporters). Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, real, life-altering stories continued to unfold. Protests in the Ukraine which may lead to a coup d’état are taking place; and the slaughter of innocent civilians in the civil war in Syria persists. There are countless other atrocities taking place across the globe in these days, but we find ourselves concerned with celebrities instead.
Attempts were made to create a celebrity of Jesus. Folks wanted him to make headlines in whatever was the version of the Jerusalem Post in the first century. But he would have none of it. He wasn’t into self-glorification.
Yet the irony is that Jesus was the only person ever to walk this earth who had every right to glorify himself! He was God in the flesh, for heaven’s sake (and for ours)! Who better to bring glitz and glamour to the realm of faith than the fully human, fully divine God-man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ?
But Jesus didn’t come to be part of a stage show. He came to unveil the Kingdom of God. It would take many pages to explain (in our own limited way) what it means to unveil the Kingdom of God. But Jesus came to do just that.
Yet, even in the first century, people preferred sizzle to steak. People followed Jesus everywhere he went, but most of them were not looking for the unveiling of the Kingdom of God; they were looking for a miracle. And they often misunderstood Jesus and his motives.
We have the advantage, living as followers of Jesus today, to be able to read the Bible and get a clearer picture of Jesus’ motives and ministry. This enables us to follow him not because he is a celebrity, but because he is God’s one and only Son, Saviour of the world and revealer of the Kingdom.
Let’s face it: it’s easier – meaning, more socially acceptable – to cheer for Bieber or not cheer for Ford than it is to follow Jesus. It was easier then, too. Remember Barabbas? The crowd called for the release of a known criminal and for the crucifixion of the One who came to show them what God really was like.
Those making headlines today are not giving us even examples to emulate, let alone eternal salvation in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Who will you follow?
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118.9, NLT).