Who’s your favorite person in the Bible? And you can’t answer Jesus, because everyone knows that’s who you’re supposed to answer. Who is your favorite non-Messianic man or woman from scripture?
Far and away, my favorite is Jacob. No contest. I like Jacob, because he’s so imperfect. If you were to paint a picture of Jacob, there’s no way he would deserve a halo. He’s a schemer and a scoundrel. He’s so flawed. He buys his older brother Esau’s birthright with a bowl of stew. With his mother’s help he steals Esau’s inheritance by deceiving his old, blind father. After running away and living with his uncle Laban, he manages to leave with all of Laban’s best livestock. And in spite of all of this, Jacob, prospers. Scripture is very clear to say that the LORD blessed Jacob.
But of course, the blessing is never quite what we expect, right? Like they say, “Be careful what you wish for.” Jacob prospers. He has numerous servants, wives, children, and livestock. He is rich. But he is also deceived by his family. He must run from the anger of his brother and of his uncle. And on the night before he is reunited with his brother, he spends an entire night wrestling with God. Finally, toward morning, Jacob asks for a blessing from God. He gets it, but he also walks away with a limp that he carries for the rest of his life.
In Jacob Beuchner’s Son of Laughter, a fictional retelling of the story, Jacob compares the blessings of the LORD to a runaway camel. Eventually all he can do is hold on for dear life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jacob’s runaway blessings lately, and the warning about “being careful what you wish for.” This morning I want us to start talking about how Jesus changes lives. If that’s are theme for the year and our mission as a church, we would do well to think about what it means to ask Jesus to change our lives. And the best place to start seems to me to be this question: Do we really want Jesus to change our lives? Do we dare ask Jesus to change our lives? And if we do, will we get a runaway blessing?
It reminds me of a quote from Ben Witherington’s blog in which he’s talking about the place where Jesus is born. He concludes it this way:
The old medieval Christmas poem said 'though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if he's not born in you, your heart is still forlorn.' Let me just tell you however, if you let that Guest into your inner sanctum, even if you put him in the very back, he will surely take over and become the center of attention in due course. (benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007_12_01_archive.html)
Jesus will change our lives. Are we prepared for the changes he’ll make?