By: Danny Wallace
So much of life is a performance. A life lived in performance is far different from a life lived for others. A performer “appears” to present his, or her artistry for the benefit of others, however, a true artist that is worthy of applause thinks of others, while a performer thinks of self, and works to “receive” that applause.
If others are benefited in the effort, then it is merely a by-product of the performer’s true agenda. If you don’t believe it, then fail to applaud for the seemingly, “sacrificial” performer and see if they return to the stage again. It will not happen. The performance is the only thing that the performing artist has to give, and a performance is never given without the payment of respect, and applause, and the audience’s full attention. An artist creates when isolated in the desert for years, with no one to behold his art, or applaud for his creativity.
Jesus pointed this out to the religious crowd that was constantly surrounding Him in an attempt to trap Him into doing, or saying something worthy of stoning Him to death. He told them that they prayed in public to be seen, and heard of men. He said the same for their worldwide evangelism, and their tithing down to the legalism of herbs like, mint and cumin. He pointed out to them that all they wanted was to be recognized by their credible titles, and to sit in places of respect in the synagogues and other public places of recognition. Jesus called such religious performers, “White-washed tombs,” sparkling on the outside and full of dead men’s bones on the inside. So it is with any performance.
Only in sacrifice is the true heart of God and man revealed. While a performance reveals artistic adherence to a well-rehearsed script, “sacrifice” is true artistry that is altogether, and wholeheartedly about others. Jesus is the Master of sacrifice.
From a heart of performance we have taken the words and actions of Jesus and turned them into our own varying displays of public performance. We rattle on and on like pagans in a religious attempt to be seen and heard of men. A performer needs everyone to know what he, or she has endured to be here today. The sacrifice of an artist speaks for itself.
Jesus had a last meal with His disciples and told them that as often as they got together to break bread together to remember His completed sacrifice for ALL people, not just a few. What do we do with that? We have turned that into one more religious ritual with which to exclude those whom we deem not worthy of receiving it, or in denying those who are not members of our particular “brand” of religion. How did we go from having an intimate meal among beloved friends in honor of the full and completed sacrifice of Jesus, to what we have today as one more exclusive “communion?” As far as the spirit of religion is concerned, it’s what we do best.
If Jesus came to set us free why do we continue in such religious bondage? Could it be that instead of picking up the cross of Jesus, we simply picked up the Torah and retooled it to suit our own particular mandate for the people? Are we the crowd of Matthew 23 – so desperately needing to be recognized that we’ve lost sight of Grace?
Life is truly a grand performance. We do and say what we “do and say,” for the approval of those in religious authority over us. We too, want the respectable seats in public places. We too, want to be heard praying in a manner that dresses people down, and sets others straight, rather than stealing away to a private place and having a loving conversation with our Papa. Life is a grand performance, indeed.
No performance is necessary to impress Jesus. He was so impressed with even the least of creation that He laid down His life for us while we were at our very worst. We didn’t need to clean up for it, or be able to buy a ticket to witness it. Why?
Because Jesus is not a performer, He is the complete, and unselfish sacrifice of a God, “who is a Love artist,” laying down His life, so that we could love others the same. A performance, no matter how wonderful and full of artistry, only strips the audience of the price of admission.
Sacrifice dies to self so that others might truly live.