Imagine for a moment you are a child psychologist who has been asked to help a patient who is socially withdrawn and lives in a constant state of fear. Previous efforts to help the child have failed; you are his last hope.
This clip is from the movie 'The Sixth Sense' and it's most famous quote, "I see dead people" is both chilling and intriguing. AMC's wildly popular show the 'Walking Dead' is a recent offering that puts the not-so-dearly departed in our midst. Unlike the blissfully ignorant people in the movie, I suspect the dead in AMC's show know they are dead.
Of course the movie and the show are fictitious, but the notion of the dead among us has been around for thousands of years. Surprised? Jesus spoke against the religious leaders who were under the mistaken impression that they were alive. For all intents and purposes, they were the walking dead. Consider His words:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.*
Jesus' message is harsh - intentionally so. He was direct because failure to help those who are seeking to know God will have eternal consequences. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees took great pride in an outward appearance of righteousness without concerning themselves with inward change. They burdened the people with a never-ending list of 'do's and don'ts' no human could possibly keep. They failed to understand The Law was put in place to point people to God not to become a rule-making platform for a select few. People were obliged to meet the letter of The Law, but the Spirit and the intent was lost in a maze of rules and regulations. Jesus challenged assumptions about what makes person righteous, and it had nothing to do with social standing, appearance, education or any other external factors - it is and was a matter of the heart.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, wrestled with his heart. He came to Jesus at night saying he knew Jesus was a man sent by God, but he feared his fellow Pharisees - with good reason. He wanted to know what he had to do to be saved; Jesus told him, "You must be born again." Okay, that might be tricky! Nicodemus was understandably confused; he wanted to know how anyone could go back into the womb after they were born. Jesus was speaking of a spiritual rebirth.
Sadly, some Christians have readily taken the places previously occupied by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Christians are often viewed as self-righteous, arrogance, intolerant. Guilty as charged. The spiritually dead are often quick to point an accusing finger at those who different whether by circumstance or design. They, rather than God, have become the barometer of what is good and acceptable. And if this isn't bad enough, they recruit other 'zombies' to their cause. They have completely missed the message and mission of Christ: love God and love of neighbor; these are the foundations upon which Christianity is built. How can we hope to reach the world for Christ if we are busy condemning others, and ignoring the fact that Christ came for all - not just a select few?
What it comes down to is this: Are we willing leave the places assigned to the dead and be reborn? Jesus didn't come to earth to bring more rules; He came bringing righteousness and hope. As people of the Light may we allow our light to shine brightly in a world of the dead and dying so that others may come to know the fullness of life.
Amen and amen.
* Matthew 23: 27 - NIV
* The Sixth Sense - Hollywood Pictures 1999
To know more, read Matthew 23: www.blueletterbible.org