In finding stories of unlikely prophets, there is none better than in the Bible. In Numbers 22 (for those wondering, Numbers is actually a book in the First Testament) we discover the wonderful story of Balaam and his donkey.
To make a long story short, Balaam is something of a prophet and some enemies of the Jews in the area want to hire him to curse the Jews so these enemies may win a battle. Balaam heads out to go with these guys when his donkey that he is riding sees an angel in the road with a drawn sword! The donkey (wisely) turns away, but Balaam doesn’t see the angel so he pulls the donkey back on the road. This happens three times and Balaam eventually beats the donkey for refusing to go further towards certain death at the hands of the angel! Then the story gets interesting when the donkey looks at her master and begins to speak, telling Balaam there’s an angel in the road with a drawn sword, and why are you beating me when I’m trying to save both our lives! And you thought Shrek had a talking donkey! Read the whole story. It really is delightful!
The truth is even those who don’t know they are doing God’s will find themselves doing it because God loves humanity and desires the salvation of all men!
There are countless times in history when those who thought of themselves as God’s enemy found that their actions were, in fact, serving the ultimate aim of the Lord.
Such is the case in today’s Gospel Lesson. In John 11:47-54 we read about the consternation of the religious leaders of the Lord’s day. They are at a loss as to how to deal with the popularity of Jesus in the eyes of the people and how that popularity may be misunderstood by their Roman occupiers. The leaders were afraid that if the Romans perceive the Lord’s popularity as a political threat to their military rule, then the Romans would sweep in with their armies and destroy the nation and the temple! The truth is these leaders were right to be afraid. The Romans had earned a reputation with dealing swiftly to any hint at disruption in their ruling from rebellious provinces. But the Chief Priest of the day intervenes in the discussion with some wisdom not entirely from his own heart!
Listen to the passage: “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” John 11:49-51
So, the High Priest of the Jewish Temple finds himself thinking he is solving a political problem when in fact he is cooperating with the love of God to heal all of humanity through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross!
As we approach the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this Saturday, let’s spend some time today contemplating the wisdom and love of God that would even see His “enemies” cooperating in His divine plan of love and salvation.
Does this give you any insight into God’s love for you? Can you now have a category that even those who “oppose” God and His Church are actually potential partners with God’s plan and His wisdom for your life? With this possibility informing your perspective, you can now rest even in the middle of difficult times, knowing the Lord Who loves you says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Today, as we approach the Cross, that moment when all looked dark for Jesus, the seeds of salvation were already blossoming in His sacrificial love for us all. So much so, that we Christians actually makes the sign of the cross now, wear the cross around our necks, and put the sign of the cross on our church buildings all as an eternal testament to God’s ability to see beyond the temporary pain and tragedy to the wonderful weight of glory He is inviting us all to embrace!
Today, all who wander aren’t lost. All who oppose the faith aren’t abandoned. All who hate us aren’t enemies. The Story isn’t over for any of us. Knowing this reality today, you can “treat all that comes to” you today “with peace of soul and with firm conviction that” God’s will governs all. Let us embrace the purposes of our Lord Who loves us and gave Himself for us, and let us rest in His Story for our lives. Don’t be so clueless that your donkey has to talk some sense into you!