God’s promises often create the kind of response described in the last post. Who could believe in such ridiculous propositions? God’s promises are so outlandish, so out of this world, so supernatural that no one who understood how the world “really” works would believe in them. This was as true in the first century as it is today. People believe in luck, but they also know that you have to create your own luck, more often than not. That’s what politics is all about. Making one’s own luck through the manipulation of power, using whatever means necessary—armies, economies, the influential, populace.
But the promises of God are about God making His own luck. And recognizing that although you can’t see Him, God has more resources than anyone else. God doesn’t just have a normal army, he has an army of supermen, powerful warriors just one of which could halt a thousand.55 God doesn’t just have one economy amidst many—He is in control over all the economies of the world and can manipulate them to do just as He pleases.56 He can drop a hint to a few, but he can also change the hearts of kings, presidents and generals. His words have changed whole peoples, and changes the course of history.57 He can influence whole populations and change the direction of armies. Anyone he wants taken out, He can have them killed, legally and cleanly. This is the heart of faith in God—that He has greater power than the powerful and greater influence than the influential. This is the basis of believing in God’s promises, as outlandish as they are.
Jesus believed in these promises more than anyone else in his day. We know this, because he acted on them. He was like Elijah—standing at the top of a mountain in front of a cynical group that he had gathered together to observe the fire of God. If God had decided to take a vacation right then, Elijah’d look like an idiot.58
I have a friend of mine who declared to everyone he knew that God was going to raise him up to heaven in the midst of a busy city. On the appointed day, he stood there, hands raised to heaven. Nothing happened. He thought he was great before God, but he ended up jus looking foolish. We were all embarrassed for him. Even so, Jesus proposed that the man he had just pronounced forgiveness for could truly be demonstrated forgiven if he walked on legs he hadn’t used for years. He told a crowd of mockers that the girl wasn’t dead, just asleep. He told the disciples to feed five thousand folks with a couple fish and a few small loaves of bread.59 Jesus was always just one non-miracle away from looking like an idiot.
But he had no qualms in walking into that place, again and again. Why? Because he truly believed that the promises of God were ready to be fulfilled. Not just some promise that he himself would be exalted—yes, he believed in that, but he didn’t rely on that promise before the proper time.60 Instead, he tested God’s promises again and again.
He commanded demons to go—and they went. And so God’s promise that people would be freed from oppression was fulfilled.
He laid hands on the sick—and they were healed. And so God’s promise that He would heal the sick was fulfilled.
He told the blind to wash their eyes—and they could see. And so God’s promise—delayed for five centuries—was fulfilled.
Jesus started passing out bread in the wilderness—and multitudes were fed. And so God’s promise of abundantly providing food was fulfilled.
Jesus believed the kingdom was coming, and he had proven that it had already arrived in one sense. However he had one problem—many of God’s promises still hadn’t happened yet. God had promised justice for the poor—but the poor and disenfranchised were still rejected. God had promised that the lowly would establish God’s kingdom—but it hadn’t happened yet. God promised that God’s kingdom would fill the earth—no word of it yet. God had promised that his people would be filled with the Spirit—no indication. God had promised a people whose hearts would be focused on God—that certainly wasn’t around.
Jesus was ticked off about it. Why hadn’t God’s promises been fulfilled? What was he waiting for? Then Jesus looked around. It turns out that no one else was really thinking that these promises would be fulfilled. Sure, you get the occasional crackpot holding a sign saying “Judgement is Nigh” like John the Baptist. But almost all of those who called themselves God’s people were living their everyday lives as if they had to create their own luck, instead of depending on God’s luck. That’s not the anawim—the anawim live by faith. They depend on God’s resources, not their own.
So that was the problem. God couldn’t fulfill the promises because the people who were to receive the promises didn’t exist. Well, that was it, Jesus thought. Jesus was as mad as heaven and he just wasn’t going to take it anymore.61 From here on out, he would work to create the anawim.
55. See, for example, II Kings 6:15-18 or II Chronicles 20:20-24.
56. Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:10-12.
57. Isaiah 40:13-17, 21-25.
58. Check out I Kings 18. Think of how that story would have ended if there had NOT been fire.
59. Mark 2:1-12; Mark 5:35-42; Mark 6:35-43.
60. John 7:2-9.
61. If you don’t believe heaven can be mad, check out some select passages from Revelation—e.g. 6:9-17.