Mulling over last Sunday’s Academy Awards program, I began asking myself, Why are the Academy Awards such a big deal?
First of all, they’re a big deal because the movie industry wants it that way. It’s all about self-perpetuating themselves so they can keep movies popular and continue making money. The Oscars are really just a bunch of people in the movie industry throwing a party for themselves and congratulating each other on a job well done. Gratuitous self-promotion. That doesn’t bother me. It is what it is.
Secondly, I realized this week that the Oscar awards celebrate the best story-tellers. Apart from documentaries–which garner minimal coverage–movies are primarily tales of fiction. The most insightful, innovative producers, directors, writers, and performers who tell a good story usually walk away with the winnings.
But thirdly, I also realized this week that celebrities serve as our heroes. We may not be able to live like George Clooney or Meryl Streep, but we can live vicariously through them. When they walk the red carpet, in some ways, we walk too. By golly, if you purchased a ticket to one of their movies, then you played a part in making them famous. And when a movie you saw wins an award, you win an award, too.
At some level, all of us live vicariously through others. Sometimes it’s okay. But other times it adversely affects us.
Please join me as we explore this further.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 17. With people throughout the camp complaining and questioning his authority, God now takes the offensive with the Israelites. By causing Aaron’s rod to bud, he was giving Israel a permanent reminder of who was in charge—Aaron, but also God.
Numbers 18:1-7. In the last chapter, the Israelites were distraught because they couldn’t share an intimate relationship with God like the priests, upon threat of being struck dead. But in this chapter, God instructs the priests how he wants them to worship him, upon threat of being struck dead, too.
Numbers 18:8-32. Notice that God called all Israel to give the firstfruits of the land to the priests and Levites. Until this point, Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the Levites maintained regular responsibilities like everyone else—in addition to laboring in and around the tabernacle. Now they were freed to focus on their calling. Of course, once they entered the Promised Land, they wouldn’t own any land because God was their inheritance. Priests and Levites were never intended to get rich from their calling.
Mark 16. You may notice that your Bible treats verses 9-20 differently than verses 1-8. The New Bible Commentary explains why: “Mark’s account of the resurrection breaks off rather suddenly at v 8…Vs 9–19 may be a later attempt to write a fuller ending to the gospel. They are not found in the best manuscripts, which is why the niv prints them separately.”
True to Mark, he gets right to the point in his gospel and at times ends things rather abruptly, which is why early church leaders tried to offer an ending to his gospel without leaving the reader hanging. Verses 9-18, then, are loosely based on John’s gospel.
The fact that the two Marys showed up at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning with burial spices proves they weren’t expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. None of Jesus’ disciples’ expected this either, which makes the resurrection even more believable.
Consider, as well, the stone that was rolled away. The two Marys were the last ones at the tomb, and saw it intact—but when they arrived Easter morning, it had moved. It was physically impossible for the two women to move the stone.
Psalm 55. In this psalm, David writes about being betrayed by a close friend. The psalmist offers great advice for times that we feel stressed: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
The end of Numbers 17 is quite disconcerting. After realizing that only Aaron and Moses were able experience a close, intimate relationship with God, the Israelites were distraught. “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!” they cried. “Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”
It seems to me that part of their rebellion was centered in their desire to enjoy God like their leaders. But God pushed them away because his holiness couldn’t be stained by the sins of everyday people. This showed everyone their need for a mediator between them and God, which Jesus later provided on our behalf.
In my experience, many believers still follow this Old Testament mindset toward their relationship with God. They live vicariously through their pastor’s walk with God, believing—even subconsciously—that they could never experience a similar, or even better, relationship.
Yesterday we read in Mark that the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Since that moment, no pastor or priest has any more right to an intimate relationship with Jesus than anyone else.
When I started out in pastoral ministry, I assumed that I needed to be the strongest Christian in my church. As a youth pastor in a congregation of 2-3000 people, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. I thought I needed to read my Bible more, pray more, and be really, really nice to everyone.
But over time, I’ve learned that God places pastors in their position not according to spiritual maturity, but according to their spiritual gifts. Obviously, pastors need an intimate relationship with Jesus, but they don’t have an inside track on God. My self-imposed competition for being the best Christian in my congregation has officially been called off.
If you attend a church, your pastor may have spent a good amount of time studying the Bible. But that doesn’t imply that a secret budded rod is concealed in his or her briefcase.
God calls all of us into an intimate relationship with him—a relationship that only Moses, Aaron, and the high priests of old enjoyed.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity!
- How did God speak to you in today’s reading?
- Thus far in our Old Testament readings, God is very specific about how he wants to be worshiped. In what ways today do you think we stray away from worshiping God as he wants to be worshiped?
- In what ways do you think you have strayed from worshiping God as he wants to be worshiped?
- To what extent have you tried living vicariously through someone else’s walk with God?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.