One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you”. He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.
All the boy could see however was flame, smoke and blackness.
As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof.
His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you”. But the boy protested, “Daddy I can’t see you”.
His father replied, “But I can see you and that is all that matters “
For that boy, all that actually mattered (but it didn’t feel remotely like this at that moment) was that his dad was trustworthy (true to his word that he could see him and was going to catch him) and capable (that he indeed had the ability to see him through the smoke and to catch him when he jumped).
The interesting thing about that story is that the boys sight was not a factor in whether he should or should not jump. The fathers trustworthiness and capability didn’t depend on the boys sight. The boy longed for it to give him comfort. But ultimately he put his confidence (con fides, with faith) the trustworthiness and capability of his dad. His faith was not built on sight but a relationship with his dad. It might have felt like a leap in the dark at that moment (although the father could see his son in the darkness), but the boy had a relationship built over years to base his faith and courage upon. It wasn’t a blind leap even though in that moment the boy could not see his dad.
On the Cross Jesus was like that boy on the roof. For the first time in his life Jesus could not see the Father; the smoke and darkness of our sin which he willingly took upon himself in our place temporarily hid the Father from view. But in his death, Jesus chose to jump in to the arms of the Father. He chose faith (in the trustworthiness and capacity of the God the Father to catch him and raise him up) over fear and doubt.
Fear and doubt are very real temptations and Jesus was not immune from the temptation to ‘see’ the darkness rather than his Father in heaven. But even his cry of dereliction is a cry of faith “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In recent weeks I have lost the ability to speak comprehensibly. That might not sound that traumatic , I love silence as much as anyone. But I didn’t realise how awful it would be in the context of not being able to do anything for myself. I hadn’t realised how dependent I had become on my voice to function with the help of carers. It’s very frightening when your need help because you cannot move and you discover people are looking at you helplessly because they cannot understand what you are saying. This is honestly not a poor me blog post. I just wanted to share why I have had a crisis of confidence in the last few weeks. I have not been able to see a way through. But I’m posting this blog to remind myself that my way through doesn’t depend upon my sight. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And mot because faith is a blind leap in the dark – even though it feels like that in the trials of life. But because we can base our confidence and assurance upon a father, Abba, who sees us always and is utterly trustworthy and capable.
How do we know that? Because when Jesus the Son of God (words spoken by a previously disinterested centurion who saw how he died) jumped into the utter darkness of death and hell on Good Friday, he was caught in the loving and trustworthy arms of the Father who raised him up to life on that first Easter Sunday. We might be tempted to also think that this faith is belief in an historical event that although true doesn’t give us that relationship with the father that the boy on the roof had or Jesus had with his Father in heaven. But that relationship is not in the past. Even, as I have felt these past weeks, unable to see a way through and lost for the words of faith with which to pray (even if I could physically) we read this amazing promise in Romans 8: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.” … We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” The relationship Jesus had with his Father has become ours too because first jumped into his Father’s arms, and we can know that as a present hope even when we’re struggling to see a way through. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”