“At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Matthew 27:16, 17 (NIV)[i]
Barabbas’ first name was also Jesus, which means “savior.” So Pilate was presenting the crowd that day with two different saviors.
Truth be told we like a savior who is like us. We like a savior who we can form into our own image; a savior who is manageable and predictable; a savior who bends to our formulas for spiritual success; a savior who exists to satisfy our consumer desires. But note God’s exhortation recorded through the prophet Isaiah: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV).
What is God saying? We follow a savior we do not understand. He is often silent when we prefer that he speak. He interrupts us when we prefer he stay silent. He does not bend to our whims or is limited by our despair. It means we conduct our lives with a God who does not explain himself to us. We worship a God who is often mysterious—too mysterious to fit our formulas for better living.
One thing for sure, there is more to God than we could ever comprehend or have yet to experience. This should leave us in a place of awestruck wonder. Without wonder we miss the very heart of what God is doing. Without wonder our faith is reduced to a comfortable system of beliefs about God instead of an uncomfortable encounter with God. Perhaps the greatest enemy of Christianity may be people who say they believe in Jesus but who are no longer astonished and amazed.
Mike Yaconelli writes, “Take surprise out of faith and all that is left is dry and dead religion. Take away mystery from the gospel and all that is left is a frozen and petrified dogma. Lose your awe of God and you are left with an impotent deity. Abandon astonishment and you are left with meaningless piety. When religion is characterized by sameness, when faith is franchised, when the genuineness of our experience with god is evaluated by its similarities to other’s faith, then the uniqueness of God’s people is dead and the church is lost.” (Dangerous Wonder, 29)
He goes on to say, “I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a face that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.” (p. 23)
If we are going to experience wonder we must take care that our hearts do not grow dull. Those with dull hearts will only see disappointment, loss, and hurt. Those who realize, however, that God can be found in places we never thought he’d be, then all of life becomes spectacular.
Look closely at your day. Where were there pockets of wonder? When did God appear in a way you least expected? Don’t miss his appearing because you are not looking.
© Gail Johnsen
[i] NOTE: Some manuscripts do not have “Jesus.”