Why Do We Need Jesus? by The Rev. Fred Kinsey
Why do we need Jesus?
Is there anything Jesus can actually do for us today? What makes it worth spending this 40 days of lent -- amounting to a tithe or a tenth of the whole year – refocusing ourselves on Jesus? Why give this offering, giving ourselves over to walking through the wilderness of Jesus’ suffering and dying, as though it were happening for us today?
Why, do we need Jesus?
Maybe we need to take it back, all the way to the beginning of our human story. As we open the bible to the first couple of chapters of Genesis, we are invited to celebrate the goodness of creation, all that God has given us as humans, to till, and keep. We lose ourselves in the goodness of the garden, among the trees, the sparkling waters, the sky and its lights, the sun, and the moon and the stars. We revel in the goodness of one-anothering, and in the companions we’ve been given to work alongside, in tilling and keeping these gifts of creation. So why do we need Jesus?
As we read on, we run into today’s reading, and to the place just a few verses into paradise, where – like a symphony interrupted, with the needle scratching right off the record – it all went horribly wrong!
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” – as the serpent said – “she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” And all that paradise music grinds to a screeching halt! That’s when we come to grips with life, after paradise, wrestling with the question of why we need Jesus.
The crafty serpent starts the ball rolling – much like the crafty intentions of a presidential tweet, creating conflict, challenging the created intention of the Garden – and Adam and Eve have the choice of following the Tempter’s eye-popping delicious offer, or staying with the pacific beauty and salvific gift of Eden. And what happens when their decision is made, and their eyes are opened? Adam and Eve go through a bout of blaming. The serpent talked me into it! She gave it to me!
Or, we can look at this story, and blame God! God created everything after all, and how good can it really have been... who created that snake, for instance? Why didn’t God tell me my eyes would be opened? And why didn’t I die, like God warned? Maybe the design is faulty, and we should just sue!
And then too, if someone else has ruined your life, you can just sit around and wait for someone else to fix it up. We could need Jesus for that! We could see Jesus as a kind of fixer, our enabler, that lets us continue to be the victims of our uncontrollable needs and wants, since it was either God’s fault, or was all Adam and Eve’s fault, and we’re just helpless children, a kind of, “it’s in our genes,” original sin.
Another way, I suppose, is that we can look at this story as a warning, and decide, not to need Jesus, by never going out on a limb. We can work towards, never needing forgiveness, because we never do anything wrong. We can decide not to reach out for, or risk anything, fearing that it will prove as disastrous for us, as Adam’s and Eve’s, reach for more. We can decide we can follow all the rules, never break a Commandment, keep our nose clean, but without realizing it, never engage in the wonder and goodness of what God has given us, as if we can control our destiny without ever beginning to live. As if we have no desires.
And of course, Lent gives us lots of great opportunities for self-righteousness with our self-denial, fasting, and special offerings. We can distort the season into being about accumulating enough holy points, that we don’t need to rely on Jesus, accumulate enough stuff around us that we don’t need to rely on anyone else, for that matter. We can do it ourselves – and despise anyone else who hasn’t been able to ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’ and be self-reliant.
Why, do WE need Jesus?! Well, St. Paul in our 2nd Reading, figures it this way: “Sin made its entry into the world through one human, Adam, and through sin comes death. The legacy of sin and death, passed on to the whole human race, and no one could break free of it, because no one was themselves free from sin.”
We need Jesus to break free! We need Jesus because we are in bondage to sin, and the fact is, we cannot free ourselves. Even the very things we think will set us free, can come to enslave us, possess us.
We live in a culture and economy that thrives on selling a promise of freedom that we can find for ourselves, buy for ourselves. Maybe because in some ways it seems cheaper and easier than looking to Jesus and his suffering; easier than dying and rising with Christ. The culture does it the same way Satan tempts Jesus.
In tempting Jesus, Satan first sets before him bread and all the material stuff of life, promising it would fill up his barns for the future, and he would never have to feel vulnerable. If only we could have these things, we think, then we’d be happy and we’d have nothing to fear. Then our lives would be complete and we’d be satisfied.
When that fails, the tempter holds up thrill seeking, as a kind of special privilege of the elite, telling Jesus to just let go and fly off the pinnacle of the Temple. All power is yours, for God’s angels will bear you up – an illusory freedom, that the powerful can control all things, even the supernatural.
Finally, he offers the temptation of political control, power to not need anyone or anything else, and squash anyone or anything that would get in your way.
But Jesus defeats all the temptations of the Evil One, and provides a path for us to follow him, a life-giving Way for our needs and desires. What happens in the wilderness does not stay in the wilderness; but it plays out again and again in the ministry of Jesus, and in the lives of all who become followers.
As we come to this beginning of the 40 days journey to the cross, it may still be difficult for us to say we NEED Jesus. Of course, there’s a lot of things we feel we need. Maybe we feel like we need a drink, or need to win the lottery, or need a big steak dinner, or a faster computer, or a better body, a great vacation, or a romance, or a nap, or a new pair of jeans, or more time, maybe even just a day free of pain, or a job, any job, or a gallon of milk for the children’s breakfast, we need a way out of the wilderness of despair! But none of these things can ultimately satisfy us.
Why do WE need Jesus - really? Because we are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves. We need to spend a tithe of our days walking with Jesus and listening, following his example – in order to find God. We need Jesus, to break free of the dead-end alley-way that the serpent offers.
Listening to Jesus’ voice – discerning temptation, from the Tree of Life – helps us develop a sharp ear for the world’s twisted logic, and provides us a wake-up call to look and listen for all that is false and deceiving in the voices around us, and points us consistently to our reliance on God for all things!
It almost seems too good to be true, to believe there is any such thing as a free gift! But that is what God offers in Jesus. A full promise, and a free gift. Jesus shows us the path, within which we can live free, from the tempter’s power.
Jesus – in freedom and obedience – turned away from Satan’s offering of bread, so that he might take bread in his hands, break it, and offer it to us as food for the journey – the free gift of life lived in God forever. Why do we need Jesus? To set us free, and show us the kingdom-life.