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12. Jesus’ answers about God’s apparent silence were still not enough
We could never risk criticizing God’s stance on mercy and love and compassion and grace, for, in Jonah’s time, it only took forty days for that terrible city of Nineveh to repent. We also hope for the happy ending like we know happens in fairy tales. Hope is the saving of it all. Not knowing what is in the future, listening to the messages from God, and pressing onward, brings on hope.
The books of the prophets are all like that. They mostly end on a high note of the hoped for better things. There are terrible descriptions of evil and its consequence in their pages, pleadings for mercy but too few able to repent and turn from the evil. Each prophecy is enclosed at each end with hope. It is like the whole of God’s word, which in turn begins in hope with a new Ideal Creation and ends in wonder of the new Kingdom Creation and in between is the terrible record of human history together with the record of those who managed to be righteous through the turmoil. The wonder, after the failure of the prophetical messages, was the advent of the Son of God.
When the prophetic utterances ceased, the Israelites were divided, seemingly without hope and in bondage to one or the other of their conquering nations. Each time it happened they were a bad example of God’s provision and useless as a prominent people exhibiting the works of God. They were so deficient in showing His loving face to skeptical neighbors that they became like dross to be disposed of in the rubbish bin. There was no Joseph, no Moses, no Joshua, no Samuel, no righteous kings or prophets to deliver them. Worst of all, their worshipping structures were in rubble piles. That brought shame on themselves, and disrepute on the name of God.
Four centuries of God’s silence seemed to be a reoccurring Divine indifference, first when the Israelites lived in Egypt, after Joseph and before Moses, and then after the prophets and before the appearance of Jesus Christ. These two long silences might mean that a few righteous people’s longing for a divine intervention became a catalyst for God’s looking again at His people from His turned away face and apparent silence. The Jews, when only Judah was left, knew to watch for a Messiah, and so the waiting took on hope again. These few righteous who looked for the Son of God became the catalyst. Still, after the prophets, and after God’s long silence, with the first advent of His son, the complaints of the disappointment with God, the hiddenness of God and the silence of God continued as before, and contributed again to the questions of unfairness.
God was not silent in that Son made in His image. Anyone who asked Jesus questions got an answer and without pomp or ceremony, with no smoke, no fire, no thundering, no lightening. He reassured his listeners, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. Even his family said, “he is out of his mind”. He was not like a King, nor like a Saviour of the world, as they viewed him.
And as well, in the expectation of the critical others, Jesus was not attuned to the welfare of his followers and in that, it seemed he was “not fair”. He did not take away all sickness or death. Some were revived and some healed, but not all of them. The prophets had promised relief from illness and death if the Jews repented, but Jesus did not “wipe away all tears from their eyes”. “Which is easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say get up and walk?’” They felt his stories of the kingdom left much to be desired, for it never was just around the corner, and his teachings revolved more around God’s forgiveness of sins than healing of bodies and performing spectacular miracles of saving people from stonings or death or crucifixion.
So, sins forgiven take the leading role in this preparation for the Kingdom, rather then spectacular healings that would have really impressed the crowds. Who can tell about sins forgiven or not? Only God knows that. But the people could tell if more lame men walked and more blind men saw. So they required more evidence for their own eyes. They lacked in hope and faith and wanted only the present to be relieved. In their misunderstanding they suffered faithlessness.