Monday, December 4, 2017
Have you ever pitched a coin into what was known as “a wishing well”? Some will throw away a nickel, dime, or quarter to make a wish, just for the fun of it. Some do it “just in case” it might come true! There may be a few believers who do it, expecting some elf to grant it. Those individuals are usually in the Santa Clause age!
“What if” is closely related to the wishing well. Have you ever been a “What if” person? What if I’d been born in 1849 and traveled West? What if I’d been born to wealthy parents? What if I had gone to Auburn rather than the University of Alabama? What if I had gone to a trade school rather than a college or university? You can “What if” yourself into a legion of situations, but you cannot turn back the hands of time.
There are some who are waiting on an inventor to develop a time machine. They would like to go back to the first century to see, hear, and speak with Jesus. They would like to go back to Luke’s chapter two and hear Peter preach that first good news sermon. They would like to return to that event when Paul preached on Mars Hill. Since we’ve introduced it, “What if” they traveled back in time but were trapped there for an extended period?
Many have a habit of reading our culture and practices into the New Testament rather than understand first century culture. First, you would not be capable of understanding Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin. No one there would know English! Your speech would place you in the “intoxicated” category (Acts 2:13). You would not be able to understand anyone. Second, the money in your pocket, whether it was a single ten, or a thousand dollars, would be colorful pieces of unknown material! Third, Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s, nor Krispy Cream would be present. Even if they did exist, you could not order due to the language barrier and being void of Roman or Palestinian money! Fourth, your clothes would attract attention because of their difference. Some Roman soldier could be insulted by your refusal to respond to his inquiry in one of the four spoken languages. He would not handcuff nor read you your Miranda Rights. You probably would find yourself lying on the ground because he hit you with his fist or the side of his sword. If arrested and thrown in jail, you will not have access to a lawyer. You will not be graced with a bunk bed with pillow and covers, nor will you be fed three times each day. In fact you may lose several pounds due to prison conditions. The other prisoners may take advantage of you since you are “strange.” Hopefully, your wrist will become acclimated to the chains decorating your arms.
Since you weren’t arrested for heresy or anarchy, you will probably be sold at the local slave market. If you are fortunate you may be bought by a good Jew! This may present an opportunity for you to see Jesus and the apostles from a distance. If your owner’s name is Jairus and his daughter hasn’t died yet, you may see Jesus “close up” when that event happens (Matthew 9:18; Mark 5:22-23; Luke 8:42). Since you are ignorant of the four languages, you will not be able to communicate with your master, much less Jesus. Will Jesus, a Northern Palestinian Jew, understand you or speak to you so you can understand him? I doubt it. But, your “What if” has happened. You have seen Jesus! Of course, you will have to spend an extended time there as a slave until the time machine brings you home. The only time clock you will have is the sun. You may be supplied only one meal each day, but at least you will have a bed, even if it isn’t a Posturepedic one. You may also have mattress mates called bed bugs! Besides seeing our Lord, you may have another positive thing to come from this adventure. If you applied yourself, you could learn Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin!
“What if”? Basically, it is dream of fiction, with you as its author. If it could happen, there would be pitfalls that might turn it into your worst nightmare. People don’t like what they can’t understand, and a twenty-first century person suddenly appearing in the first century would be in that category!
It is possible to have a relationship with Jesus and be filled with his Spirit without a time machine. That relationship is viable without a “What if” or an impossible wish! We can believe the good news Peter preached on Pentecost, and follow the instruction he gave in Acts 2:14-41. When we do so, God will add us to Jesus’ body of saved folks, as he added the “about three thousand” (Acts 2:41, 47). We may not visibly see Jesus as Stephen did in Acts 7:55-56, but we will have him as our Lord, Savior, friend, mediator, and brother! Rather than “wish upon a star,” why not follow the example of first century folks as they responded to the good news and clothed themselves with Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29)?