Jesus in a Bottle

Friends, do we find ourselves more interested in what Jesus immediately offers rather than who Jesus is and what Jesus desires? If so, we are in a large group of religious people who are finding Jesus somewhat interesting for the time being, but will find him not so fulfilling in the end.

In the scriptural text at hand, Pilate had already tried Jesus and determined him to be innocent. However, instead of upholding justice and doing that which was right, he cowered before his Jewish subjects. Because he could not free Jesus and avoid trouble with his Jewish subjects, he determined to rid himself of this problem and send Jesus to Herod. Luke recorded Herod’s reception:

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”     (Luke 23:6-16)

Herod had heard of Jesus’ reputation. News had spread all over Palestine of Jesus’ teaching, exorcisms, healings, and various miracles. As of that day, Herod had not had the opportunity to meet the “Magic Man.” So, when he heard that Jesus was being transported to his residence, he was most excited. He was hungry to see the “Jesus Show.” Perhaps he reasoned, “If I stroke his bottle just right, the Galilean Genie will come forth and wow me with his miracles, signs, and wonders.”

However, Jesus was very disappointed with this king. Herod had no interest in learning the truth about who he was, and Herod certainly had no desire to submit and pursue the will of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus disclosed very little to his earthly monarch. He answered not Herod’s questions and tickled not Herod’s fancy. Ultimately, no miracles were performed in Herod’s house on that day. Tragically, no miracles were performed in Herod’s soul either.

Therefore, as a result of Jesus’ actions, Herod’s initial interest in Jesus was lost. He began the day excited to see this man, but ended the day very disappointed and unfulfilled. And since Jesus would not perform before him, he joined in with his soldiers in mocking and harassing the innocent teacher. Though being in the presence of the Messiah, Herod was not impressed, and Jesus left him unimproved and in his eternally damned condition.

Therefore friends, are we guilty of approaching Jesus as did Herod? Are we more interested in what Jesus immediately offers rather than who Jesus is and what Jesus desires? Have we focused on how Jesus can fix our nation, our marriage, our children, our health, and our business? Are we most interested in how Jesus can make us happy or get us married? Do we find ourselves more infatuated with the gifts and less interested in the Giver? Are we solely focused on his temporal and immediate blessings? If so, Jesus remains disappointed by our focus, and it is very likely that we will leave his presence unfulfilled and unimproved. Consequently, it is only a matter of time until we trade him in or send him packing for something or someone else who will treat us as the kings we think we are. And if we continue in this manner, we will find ourselves like Herod — initially interested in Jesus, but ultimately disappointed, unimproved, and eternally damned.

However, if we learn to focus on who Jesus is and what Jesus desires, we will find him pleased, and we will be fulfilled. Jesus accepts such worshipers, and he spiritually blesses those who understand him to be both Savior and Lord. So let us learn to love the Giver more than his gifts. Let us learn to bow the knee and find pleasure in the presence of the Logos, the Word, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Shepherd, the Water of Life, the King, the Gentle Healer, the Teacher, the Great Physician, the Great I Am, the Immanuel, and the Friend that Sticks Closer than a Brother. He is not our play-toy. He is not our amusement. He is not our butler who comes at the ringing of a bell. He is not our “genie in a bottle” that impresses us when we stroke him appropriately. He does his signs and wonders when he desires, and he is the King of kings who deserves our allegiance even when he does not supernaturally excite us. However, quite often, when his disciples focus on who he is and what he desires, they find themselves also thrilled by what he immediately offers in their presence.

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