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Not who you think I am

Not who you think I am

John 7: 1-31.


I have been following what has been happening to Shamima Begum in the news.

For those of you who may not know who I am talking about, she is the girl from Tower Hamlets that at the age of 15 left London to join Isil in Syria, married an Isil warrior. She is now 19, has had two children that have died and last week became a mother again to a baby boy.

She wants to come home, presumably because she is worried about the health of her child and is worried about the chances of her son surviving in the conditions of the refugee camp she is now in.

On one hand we have people saying that actions have consequences. that she made her choices and now she has to live with them. She seems to be unrepentant about the views and actions that went on in the caliphate while they were strong. She seems to feel that the beheadings were justified. The feeling is that to have someone with her views in this country where she could maybe radicalize young female Muslims is dangerous.

An opposite camp believes that we have no right to refuse her access home. She was underage when she was radicalized herself. She is a victim of abuse and still trying to make sense of what she has done and what has been done to her. That the child she has had is innocent and deserves to be cared for in a safe environment.

I suggest two truths.

The first is that everyone seems to have an opinion on this.

And not only do they have an opinion, they have a strong opinion, even an aggressive opinion. When the topic comes up on talk shows of whether she should be allowed to come home or not people are either violently for or against it.

The second truth is that those opinions, on either side, are based on not knowing all the truth.

We don’t know when she was radicalized; was she 13, 14, 15?

We don’t know what psychological effects it had on her being married off to someone a lot older than she was. If your survival in a foreign country depends on a stranger who is now your husband who could be killed in a battle at any time, and you are now pregnant with your first child living in a country where woman have no rights as we would know them, how do you survive? What do you say to yourself to justify the decisions you need to make to survive, to help your child survive? And then that child dies and you are alone and then you are pregnant again and your only 17. What does that do to your mind?

That conflict of reactions is what is going on in our passage today.

The festival or Shelters is a religious festival in Judaism where Jews live in a shelter overnight to reflect the sacrifices that were made as the people travelled across the desert towards the Promised Land. It is as big a deal to Jews as Christmas and Easter is to us.

And this festival is going on in Jerusalem and Jesus’ brothers say to him, ‘Look your miracles and teachings don’t seem to be making any difference here at home, why don’t you go to Jerusalem where you have more followers.’

It is a tricky time for Jesus. The authorities in Jerusalem are against him, he is safer in Galilee where he can hide easier, where people care about him. But he also knows his message needs to be heard.

So Jesus compromises.

He goes, but not in a huge fanfare.

He lets his brothers and disciples go along to Jerusalem and then when it is a bit quieter he goes and just stays anonymous. Once in Jerusalem he is hearing all the different and violent opinions that the crowd seem to have for him. And those opinions would be as opinionated, deeply held and probably grounded more in emotion than fact; just like this countries varying opinions on Shamima Begum.

Then there is suddenly this incident in the Temple, where Jesus was meant to be anonymous, yet he heals someone on the Sabbath and does teaching and the place goes ballistic. There is screaming and shouting between those that are for Jesus and those against him and in the middle of all this Jesus walks away.

Why should this incident be important to us?

It is important to us because it teaches us something vital about Jesus.

Jesus doesn't care about your opinion of him.

Now you might be shocked about this, you might be offended by this.

But it is true, Jesus does not care about your opinion of him.

His ego, his actions, his teachings, are not going to be varied or modified or changed because of what you or I think of Him.

Fore instance, let’s take, Shamima Begum who we have looked at today. You might think she is a monster that deserves everything that is coming to her, you might think that she is a victim that needs as much help that this country can give her. Jesus doesn't care about your opinion.

What Jesus cares about is that he cares about her, that He wants her to be whole.

Now you might be offended by that, you might be angry at that, you might be disgusted by that...but Jesus doesn't care.

Jesus will not be shaken or diverted from what he thinks the right thing to do is, not by your opinion, not by my opinion.

All that Jesus cares about is that there is someone who is in pain and needs his help, and he is there to help.

So how can I prove that?

Well look at this passage.

Jesus is meant to be under the radar.

His intention is just to stay quiet and listen to what people are saying.

But while he is in the Temple he sees someone in need.

And he helps.

It is his nature, it is his purpose.

Jesus knew fine well that as soon as he helped the guy that he would be outed. Didn't matter, what mattered was that the guy was helped.

Jesus knew fine well that as soon as he helped the guy there would be accusations.

Didn’t matter, what mattered was that the guy was helped.

Jesus knew fine well that as soon as he helped the guy that he would have to justify himself again.

Didn’t matter, what mattered was that the guy was helped.

And sure enough, as soon as the guy is healed people are freaking out.

‘How can you justify healing on the Sabbath? And in the Temple of all places, during a holy festival or all times? The man would have been fine until tomorrow. Why couldn't you have healed him then? A true follower of God would follow God’s rules and God’s rules say no work on the Sabbath.’

Sure Jesus justifies it by saying that circumcision was allowed on the Sabbath. Circumcision was the sign of belonging to God. It was important. And if there was the chance of a child dying before they were circumcised then that was serious. So parents would have their child circumcised on the Sabbath just in case.

Jesus says that if God allows people to know his love on the Sabbath through circumcision then God allows his love to be shown through healing on the Sabbath.

Truth is, Jesus’ words made no difference. Those that believed in him were convinced by his argument. Those that didn’t felt he was just like some slippery lawyer using words to justify something that was wrong.

Jesus knew that, so he didn't care.

What he cared about was the man needed help, that he was given help.

What Jesus cared about was that someone who needed to know of God’s love for them knew of God’s love towards them.

And that message is so important to me.

Because there are times I need to be reassured of God’s love for me.

And the problem is at those times I probably feel that I don't deserve that love, that I could never earn that love.

And God doesn't care about my opinion, of whether I think I deserve or don't deserve that love...He is just going to do his own thing and offer his love to me.

That message is so important to me.

Because there are people that I love dearly who are going down dark ways or facing very dark times ahead of them.

And maybe I don't know if they deserve God's love.

Maybe they don’t know whether they deserve God’s love for them.

Maybe others are sure that because of their actions they don't deserve Gods love.

But God doesn’t care about my opinion or their opinion.

He is God, He sees someone in need and he will reach out in love to them no matter what other people think.

That message is so important to me.

Because there are churches out there that are struggling, haven’t had a minister for years and no sign in the near future of anyone thinking of applying.

And maybe they are struggling financially, and maybe they are struggling numerically, and maybe they don't even have people willing to be office bearers.

And everyone is looking round and saying that maybe they should just be closed.

Maybe people are looking at them and saying, ‘Well they deserve what they are facing because of the way they have treated people in the past.’

And maybe others think they don't deserve God's love.

And maybe even they think they don’t deserve God's love.

But God doesn’t care about others opinion or their opinion.

He is God, He sees someone in need and he will reach out in love to them no matter what other people think.

What a message.

No matter what I think.

God’s love wins.

No matter what I have done.

God’s love wins.

So next time you are facing...whatever obstacle, whatever trial, that seems overbearing,

next time you feel you are beyond help,

next time you feel there is no hope for you or someone you love,

remember this...

God doesn't care what you think, he sees someone that needs help, and he is reaching out.

In the end, that is all that matters.

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