This morning’s excerpt from The Mockingbird Devotional comes from Ethan Richardson.
“Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” (NRSV)
People seem to get deceived in one of two ways. Either the deceiver has done a very good job imitating the real thing; or the deceived forgets the real thing, or had never really known the real thing at all, and so he can’t tell the difference when the trick comes on. A great example of the first is conniving Jacob, wrapped in wool like his hairy brother Esau, to steal Esau’s blessing from Isaac (Gen 27). He must have been convincing, but then again, that story has a little bit of the second way, too: after all, Jacob’s ruse never would’ve panned out had Isaac been able to tell the two apart. Isaac’s blindness was key in his own subversion.
More people than can be counted have and will continue to take on “messianic” deceptions of the most epic proportions. It’s a safe bet: political heads and activists, mystics and celebrities and popular designers have always created a miraculous and watchful stir. Today, with online communities like Pinterest and Twitter, casual messiahs gain “followers” in minutes with opportune tweets or tags. It cannot be denied that we have more (and, frankly, more boring) shepherds today than we have flocks, and the flocks are as fleeting as they’ve ever been.
If we are deceived for the first reason—that our deceivers play a really convincing messiah—then we’ve got the wrong Jesus Christ. Jesus, the real one, never seemed to like the limelight much. It seems instead that we fall more into the second category: either we’ve never heard of the real Jesus, or we’re incorrigibly bent on forgetting him. Who wants a hero that contradicts our inclinations, who wins by losing, who gains strength by forfeit? Not me, not you, and no one else for that matter. He is our people’s messianic antitype—and you know what? This is good news. It means that there will be deceivers, but their ruse will always reach its end at the impossible litmus of death and resurrection. Only one has done this—and he is the real McCoy.