Irresistible Force
By the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, April 13, 2003

Isaiah 55:6-11 The Lord's word will accomplish its purpose

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them; and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

John 12:12-19 The triumphal entry into Jerusalem

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him, and that they had done these things to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

Divine Love and Wisdom #221 The Lord's omnipotence

The Lord entered the world and took on a human nature in order give himself the power to conquer the hells and put everything in order in heaven and on earth. . . . By taking on this human nature, he acquired a divine omnipotence capable not only of conquering the hells and setting the heavens in order, but also of keeping the hells under control forever, and of saving humanity. This power is meant by his sitting on the right hand of God's power and might.

The Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!" (John 12:19)

To the Pharisees who were looking on that day, it certainly seemed as if Jesus were an irresistible force. Palm-waving crowds of people surrounded him shouting "Hosanna," and hailing him as the king of Israel. Nothing the Pharisees had done to try to stop this powerful, charismatic, and heretical leader seemed to have accomplished a thing. He only grew more popular. And we can imagine the Pharisees in something of a panic as their city, the center of their religion and their authority, was engulfed by the uproar of the crowds running after this Jesus. They must have felt as if they were being swept away by an overwhelming human tide.

Have you ever felt that way? I certainly have. As those of you who have been following the recent events in our church on the state level know, practically everything I have worked for over the past six months has come to nothing as I--and others with me--fought against a tide of events that was apparently unstoppable. Sometimes no matter how much we do and how hard we try, things just don't go our way.

That's how it was for the Pharisees on that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. It looked to them as if the whole world had gone after Jesus.

Yet as Jesus himself knew, the crowds are fickle. Less than a week later, this crowd of supporters had melted away, and was replaced by a hostile crowd that clamored for his death. Then the Pharisees had their day, and it was the turn of Jesus' followers to be scattered and disheartened by the crush of terrible events that they could not stop.

In just a few days, the tide turned yet again for the followers of Jesus, as the news of his resurrection reached them, and then they saw him in person. And less than forty years later, when some of those Pharisees who bitterly opposed Jesus and masterminded his death were likely still alive, the worst fears of those Jewish leaders were realized. The Romans sacked Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, and just as Jesus had predicted in the ears of these now elderly Pharisees, not one stone of their temple was left upon another. The Jews themselves were forced out of the Holy Land and scattered in all directions, both their temple and their nation having been taken away by their Roman conquerors. And the story moved on.

These are the tides of human events. Sometimes our tide is rising, our life is full and strong, and we feel effective and in control of our lives. Other times our tide is ebbing; we can feel our life and our love draining away as people and things we hold dear are pulled away from us one by one, and we are left feeling emotionally empty and spiritually abandoned. There is an ebb and a flow, a tide of events that we can do very little about; all we can do is move along with it, knowing that this, too, will pass.

And yet, underneath that ebb and flow of life there is a deeper and more powerful force. The Pharisees did not realize how true their words were when they said, "Look how the whole world has gone after him!" They were not, as they thought, dealing with a mere human being, a mortal, but with the Son of God--one who expressed God's wisdom and God's will here on earth. They were dealing with the Eternal Law made flesh and dwelling among them. They were, in truth, dealing with an irresistible force. It was the force of the omnipotent divine will acting through ultimate divine truth. And it could not be stopped any more than we can stop the rising of the sun.

Yesterday, when I went downstairs to pump the water out of my basement after the heavy rains that had fallen in the previous twenty-four hours, I had a simple experience that illustrated this irresistible force--this inevitable flow--of the divine will and the divine purpose. Though I don't have a regular sump pump, I do have a small submersible pump set up in the front corner of the basement, where an opening was left in the poured concrete floor at the place where the water pipe comes in and the sewer line goes out. This hole in the floor fills up with water as water from the rest of the basement spills into it. When I plug in the pump, all of the water in the basement starts flowing toward that corner, to replace the water being pumped out onto the street.

As I watched that nice, smooth flow of water toward the corner, I noticed that the water didn't really care where I put my feet. If I stood in one place, the water flow simply took a detour around my feet and kept right on flowing by. When I picked up my feet, the water immediately flowed through the place where my foot had been. There was no struggle, no contention. The water simply flowed effortlessly along the path of least resistance, continuing on its journey toward the pump and the great outdoors.

The will and wisdom of God is like that water in my basement. God's purposes may be accomplished one way, or they may be accomplished another way, but they will be accomplished. "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." The Lord is infinitely patient, but also infinitely persistent. With our human will, we may be able to block the Lord from flowing through the space that we personally inhabit. But the Lord will simply flow around us, and accomplish his will in some other way.

Jesus said in another place, "What is the meaning of that which is written, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? [Psalm 118:22]. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and those on whom it falls will be crushed" (Luke 20:17, 18). We cannot thwart God's will. Yes, we can turn our own lives against that great force; but we ourselves, and not God, will be crushed and broken in the process. This will happen, not because God is angry with us, but because we have set ourselves against the irresistible force of the universe. When we break divine law, we are the ones who get broken.

All the world does go after the Lord. All the world, including both the good and the evil in it, is governed by eternal, divine laws that cannot be broken. Yes, we can act against the commandments of the Lord. We can live in evil, selfish, and destructive ways. Yet the divine laws of the universe will continue to bring upon our own heads the consequences of our actions. We will be just as subject to the higher divine law as ever.

As we celebrate this festival of the Lord, let us be both warned and instructed by the prophetic words of the Pharisees. If all the world has gone after the Lord, shouldn't we, also, put our own will, our own thoughts, our own actions into harmony with the irresistible force of the Lord's will and wisdom? Shouldn't we resolve to walk with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength on the path toward eternal life that the Lord has placed in front of us?

 

Painting is entitled "Gentle Healer" 
Greg Olsen and used with permission

Music: Fairest Lord Jesus
 

Color Scroll Bar Scripts Courtesy of:

Graphics by Judy