"If Jesus would come down right now, I would believe." "If God would give me a sign and let me know he exists, I would believe." "If he would...I would believe" Really? Are you sure about that? Because, according to this account from Jesus' ministry, there were three cities off the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus performed many indisputable deeds of power, where he would heal anyone who had faith in him by coming to him and asking him to heal them. And yet it wasn't enough. People would still not heed the message of Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
One would think that if some holy man was healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, giving the lame the ability to walk, etc... that there would be mass repentance. There would be great hordes of people rejoicing that the kingdom of God is at hand. But, alas, there was not. How could this be?
Because our ultimate problem is not that our Father in heaven has not spoken to us. Our ultimate problem is that we do not want to hear what our Father in heaven says. For to hear what He has to say to us, gives us the responsibility to live as he wants us to live. And so, we arrogantly construct all kinds of intelligent-sounding justifications for why we simply can not believe in the God of the Bible or the Son that He sent.
As Jesus has already taught and as he will continue to teach throughout his ministry, following him is not an intellectual exercise. It is not the winning of a debate nor the superior use of clever arguments. Following Him is a matter of the heart. Do I believe that Jesus is who he says he is and will I allow that to make a true difference in the way that I live?
This is why he goes on to talk about the upside-down kingdom of God. He confounds the wise and gives the truth to children. We have seen Jesus over and over again teach in the synagogue and on mountainsides. We have seen Jesus touch the untouchable and heal the unclean of Israel. Who believes in Him? Who has thrown parties in his honour? Who has left their professions to follow Him? It are those whom the ruling religious class disregards; the poor, the unclean, the tax collectors and sinners. Who criticises Jesus? Who is plotting to kill him and therefore shut him up? The people who had placed themselves as stewards of God's Word for the people. The religious class.
It is as though Jesus is telling those who may have had desires of living a life for God, but have given up on the idea because they have been ridiculed, disregarded and/or harassed by their religious leaders, "Following me is easy. In fact, if you trust me with your life, you will find a peace that you never knew was possible. Lay your concerns with me and I will take them upon myself and we will go forward together."
On a separate note about this account, it is interesting to me that Jesus does not pronounce his judgment to individuals but to cities. This should not sit well with those who regard Jesus as a mere "personal" saviour who has nothing to say on how entire communities are to respond to his message of "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."