Monday, April 2, 2012

handing over the keys

The Word for today:
Mark 1:1-15

mark this:
Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)

and this:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1)

People of little faith (and zero Bible literacy) make much ado about the so-called “contradictions” in scripture. The tiniest of discrepancies have them saying, “Aha, told you so! It can’t be the Word of God because there’s a mistake in it!”

“But I thought you didn’t believe in God?”

“I don’t.”

“So you’re saying the reason he never makes a mistake is because he doesn’t exist?”

“Well, umhh, yeah…”

“So if he made a mistake, would you then admit his existence?”

“Well, umhh, no…”

“But you’d have to. He’s got to exist to make a mistake!”


Usually, such situations can be handled with a bit of light-hearted repartee. But not always.

One of the more serious – and tense -- conversations I’ve had about so-called Bible discrepancies had to do with a verse from our reading today:

Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)

I was running with a friend through the small city where I live. As we ran, he asked me about the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he asked how we can be sure that we are being led by the Spirit, like Jesus was.

The answer I gave him (as a rumble of thunder was heard) was that we can’t be empirically sure of matters that are spiritually discerned.  Which, I suspected by the silence that ensued, meant less to him than it did to me.

So I took another tack: “If you hand Him the keys, He will steer.”

“What do you mean, 'Hand him the keys?' "

Just then, the drizzle we’d been running through turned into a dramatic downpour. So we ducked into a nearby bus stop enclosure to wait the worst of it out. Inside the bus stop and out of the deluge, our conversation resumed.

“Jesus was led by the Spirit and driven by the Spirit at the same time. Led implies that he willingly followed the Spirit. Driven implies that he was no longer under his own power.”

At that point, we were interrupted by a question from a loud and unknown voice: “Well, which one was it? Was he led or was he driven?” It was not a friendly voice and he was not alone. He was the front man for a band of five who, trust me, had never been mistaken for accountants or schoolteachers.

As he repeated the question, the tone of his voice escalated from challenging to menacing:

“Which one was it? Was he pushed or was he pulled?”

"Yes and yes," was the smart-aleck retort that I would have blurted in days of yore.  But I thought for a second.  It had taken me a dozen years to learn to wait for the Spirit for that single second.

“When you get on the bus, where are you going?”

“All the way to California. We follow the crops.” They were migrant workers.

“Are you going willingly?”


“Are you driving?”

“Hell no.”

“Do you think you’ll get there?”

“Hell yes.”

“That’s how it was with Jesus. He made up his mind to hand over the keys and let God steer.”

The front man turned to his group. “Any of you guys ever been to Sunday School?” His cohorts could tell the question was rhetorical. Their leader did not want an answer.

But I wanted one. So I asked him, “Have you ever been to Sunday School?”

The man did not immediately reply. Then his eyes and features softened as his guard came down. “I have now.”


I don’t know what became of those men, but I do know that because I’d waited the space of one heartbeat, the Holy Spirit had defused a situation and the Word of God had been heard.

I had been willing, for once in my life, not to blurt out what came to me naturally. So I found myself being supernaturally driven down a path of righteousness for his Name’s sake.

By now, the storm had already blown its way through town. So we set out on our run again. As soon as we were out of the enclosure, my friend spoke first. “Thank God, that was empirical.

“Yeah.  And Holy Spirit-ual.


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