READING DANGER SIGNS
A motorist watched another motorist coming towards him in the middle of the road. He hoped that the person driving toward him would pull into the right lane. Instead, the cars collided and a lady emerged apologizing for hitting the gent’s car. “Lady,” the man interrupted the woman, “I saw you coming far enough away and I could have turned off, only I did not have sense enough.” Like the male driver, we too lack common sense to stay out of the way when difficulties come our way. Some, we create ourselves and we end up in their way. Jesus had a similar problem with His people reading danger signs. The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt. 16:1-4).
In Matthew, Jesus regarded the Pharisees and Sadducees as His obstacles in His mission. They wanted proof from heaven that He was God’s emissary. Such proof had already been provided in Jonah. Nineveh accepted Jonah’s message, they repented and their city was spared. The Jewish leaders did not heed Jesus’ message and Jerusalem would be destroyed. They were the “yeast” providers that misled the people with false hope. Jesus had to tell His disciples that it was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees that were the cause of the danger no one saw coming. A similar false hope was being proclaimed during the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah. That same false spirit is influencing the best preachers among us today. We keep on hearing that God shall rescue America and that Christ would reappear and take up the saints before the big tribulation. I lived through World War II, and we lost everything including loved ones. We were law abiding Bible believers and had hoped that God would show His hand. We were miraculously spared. My father was a Polish soldier and only he and another man survived in his group. We, his family, survived by hiding somewhere else every night until the Soviets delivered us. Yes, we too had believed the false hope of our Pharisees and Sadducees. The description of being wicked and adulterous fits us. It is early morning and our sky is red, indicating that a storm the kind the world has never seen is developing. We are obligated to test the spirits whether they are of God (I Jn. 4:1-3).
Doctor Luke links the reading of danger signs with personal problems. Jesus said to the crowd, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘it’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? (Lk. 12: 54-56).” Jesus was convinced that human beings could resolve their differences before their problems got out of hand. If we say that we cannot negotiate and yield a little, then we are hypocrites or liars. “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Lk. 12:57-59). In those days, the guilty were gainfully forced to work off their debts. That idea is becoming a reality again soon. No nation can continue provide luxurious jails. This too is a sign that is getting out of control. That was one of the reasons slave labor began. Incarceration incurs rather than reduces debt.
We do live in a world where things are not equal and our desire to turn it into one has and is ill fated. My wife and I have lived and seen how humans treat each other. We had to be kind to our enemies, pretend hard to love them and pray for them (Mt. 5:43-48). We were not perfect, but very cautious not to resort to some form of retribution. Many followed what Jesus recommended. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Mt. 5:38-42). This kind of behavior has a strange affect on those that intend to harm others. My mother’s brother was dragged into a torture chamber at the end of World War II. He turned both cheeks and no one laid a hand on him. Several days later, he died because his heart could not take what he had seen torturers do. My parent’s best friend was trampled to death and our neighbor was clubbed to death. We, too, refused to take the warning signs seriously and turned a blind eye to what was happening. Far too many of our people were led astray by blind leaders.
We all have our own warning signs based on our experience, mistakes and on being able to reason with ourselves. Whenever we want our way, we ought to consider how a chain reaction would affect our personal life and our relationship with others. I tried to fix a leak in a water hose with tape and enlarged the break and made the hose useless. If we develop a leak in our attitude, it will affect who we are and what we do. It will make us useless. Friends gave my parents a silver platter for their twenty-fifth anniversary. Mother put it away and forgot that silver had to be polished regularly. When she found the platter, it no longer looked like silver and she simply threw it out. Can we imagine how she felt that she had thrown away a valuable silver platter? That is precisely what our attitude is. From time to time it has to be polished in order for it to remain sensitive towards the danger signs intended to guide us in this complex world.