“Look at me!”

February 3, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Pool with KidsThis past weekend in ABC, I talked about how far too many of us live by the narcissistic credo, “Look at me.”  What children will say to their parents at the pool right before they do a flip or a dive is the same thing we want, albeit we may not say so in so many words.  Instead, it is our actions – sometimes wild and dramatic; other times passive, yet aggressive – that cry out for people to notice.  And oftentimes, our actions produce their desired effect.  Oftentimes, people look at us, even if for all the wrong reasons.

Sadly, having others “look at me” is a desire that not only resides in the hearts of people in the world out there; it is a desire that resides in my heart.  I want people to take note of who I am and what I do.  Whether it’s a Bible study that I lead or a sermon that I preach or a blog that I post, I can quickly become all too curious to know what people think of what I have said or written and if people care.  And if they don’t think highly of what I’ve said or written, or if they don’t care, I can easily become hurt.  After all, just like so many others, I like to be remembered and recognized.  I want people to “look at me.”

One of the most puzzling motifs in the Gospels is what a scholar named William Wrede deemed “the Messianic secret.”  The Messianic secret describes those times when, after a particularly profound and revealing utterance or after some miraculous feat, Jesus warns His disciples not to share His identity or actions with anyone else.  For instance, after Peter claims Jesus to be “the Christ,” that is, the Messiah, Jesus warns the disciples “not to tell anyone about Him” (Mark 8:29-30).

Wrede claims that, historically, Jesus did not believe Himself to be and did not speak of Himself as the Messiah.  Later Christians came to this conclusion quite apart from what Jesus actually said and did.  According to Wrede, the Gospel writers made up these Messianic “secrets” and inserted them into the Gospels as an apologetic to argue for Jesus’ Messianic identity.

Not surprisingly, orthodox Christians take a different view of these secretive statements.  We believe these statements were not later glosses to create for Jesus a Messianic identity He never claimed, but genuine statements by Jesus concerning who He is and what He had come to do.

But why would He want to keep His grand identity a secret?  The general consensus is that Jesus knew many people would misunderstand what it means for Him to be the Messiah, for many of the Jews of that day had visions of the Messiah as a political revolutionary dancing in their heads.  Jesus, of course, was no such Christ.  He had not come to overthrow a government, but to usher in a Kingdom.

Beyond this, Jesus’ secretive statements also seem to reflect the fulfillment of prophecy.  One of the marks of the Messiah, according to Isaiah, is His humility.  The Messiah will not clamor to pronounce before the world His identity and power:  “He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets” (Isaiah 42:2).  In other words, the Messiah will not come to this world announcing, “Look at me!”

In a world where we struggle with the desire to be noticed, there is a lesson to be learned from the Messianic secret.  Jesus eschewed notice, and yet there has never been anyone more noticeable than Him.  His noticeability came through His humility.

Perhaps our noticeability should come the same way.  Perhaps rather than shouting “Look at me,” we should practice a gentle humility.

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