Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

This morning in my Bible time, I feel that God spoke to me… (and I was moved to blog about it… naturally).

This morning I was in Matthew 14, which is a chapter most noted for 3 pretty sizeable events: the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.

At first, I caught myself thinking: man this is a weighty chapter for Jesus and very clearly you see him-every other paragraph-trying to steal away… to be alone, still and quiet. When you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see this remarkable trait of Jesus’ and it’s our first marker for what I want to talk about today.

You see Jesus was in anguish… I mean just generally speaking he was-think about it: the weight of the world on your shoulders-literally to carry the burden of every human being’s brokenness all around you… painful, unimaginable. This is, perhaps, one reason why he was in constant pursuit of alone time with the Father.

But then when we find him in chapter 14 he’s also in a degree of specific anguish I imagine. In the preceding chapter he’s coming home and I’m just amazed how quickly the scene changes here in verse 57…

54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

And even though he goes on in the rest of that last verse saying, ‘yeah well typical… a prophet is never well-received in his home town’ as if he had already anticipated their response (duh, he’s Jesus), but still: these are his people, his hometown, his neighborhood, his original community. And please don’t underrate the community ties of 1st century Palestine… they did not have the same universally accepted norms of individuality.

So he’s coming off of that slap in the face and goes right into hearing the news of the mortifying death of his dear friend, cousin and, in his words, (Matthew 11:11) the most enviable man who ever lived.

That happens, he tries once again to get some solace and yet people find him, track him down, follow him and even here (in feeding the 5,000) he’s very moved (in anguish) for these people-and no, not just because they’re hungry, but I would venture that he was ‘moved with compassion’ for their spiritual hunger… they were ‘sheep without a shepherd.’

It’s what happens next that interests me the most as a teachable moment for what we are going through in our country and our world RIGHT NOW…

The disciples are caught in a storm and here’s what happens…

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

And here’s the radical perplexity of a life oriented toward Jesus and Kingdom-living:

Yes, even in tragedy, even in tremendous loss and sorrow, even in unimaginable pain-these may all be used as an invitation to experience the real and living God.

So when it may seem callous and untimely to suggest, ‘yes all things do happen for a reason’ it is nonetheless the truth of what we believe, the hope of what we live for:

that all things may be redeemed
that all things can be used for good
that all things are a means for showing us and growing us in something

So here is what I want to say:

For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in depression and anxiety…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in your marriage or parenting…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding feeling isolation, lonliness or rejection…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in sickness and death…

For any of these, Jesus is very present, very real and he bids you come…

To the person who says, ‘keep your prayers’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why does God let this happen’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why God, how God, Where’s God’ HE says YES COME

I’ll leave you with one more proof for this as God’s operation in the world.

There’s a wonderful passage from Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah-God’s messenger-brings a word from the Lord to his chosen people-the Jews-who are in captivity (again, 3 a.m., darkest hour) and while there’s a hugely popular part of the passage in verse 11 (for I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…), what I love is what comes next in verse 13: “if you search for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Do me a favor and repost/share this with anyone in you life who may be struggling in this way and if someone reaches out-good, bad or otherwise-send them a direct message, setup a phone call or coffee date and really lean into it with them… it’s worth it and it might just change a life.