Tough Crowd

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ” ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.'” (Matthew 11:16-17)

Gee whiz. What does a guy gotta do to get a little appreciation? You heal the sick. You raise the dead. You kick some demon butt. You preach some desperately needed good news. And what do you have to show for it?

It’s not the hostility that gets to you. That, at least, is something. Besides, when you’re doing cutting edge stuff you have to expect a few bad reviews. Not everybody likes new stuff. (Your cousin, John, did a pretty good job of warming up the crowd, but even you have to admit that he was a little on the rough side.) No, hostility isn’t the worst thing that could happen. At least it shows that they’re paying attention. Besides, animosity at least fills the seats.

The worst thing is disinterest. There you are, waxing as eloquent as anybody about love, the kingdom of God, salvation—and all these guys do is yawn on you. So you throw in some free fish and chips and, after they eat like pigs, they leave you nothing but a mess to clean up. So you get a little flashier. You heal a few blind and crippled guys, and toss in a couple excorcisms (pretty impressive, if you say so yourself). But after the show, they shrug and wander off. Except for a handful of lowlifes, nobody gives you a second glance. No autographs either.

Then you ratchet up the flair by raising some dead people. This, you think, will do the trick. You even make sure there are lots of crying people around. Nothing sets up a dramatic death reversal like full-on despair. But, except for the parties involved, the whole thing drops like a lead balloon. Sure, you got some groupies out of it, but they’re not exactly the kind you had in mind. The rest applaud politely and head to the mall.

Finally, you decided to go for the whole ball of wax. You stage death-defying act that has never been attempted before. This will be the coup d’état, a show of inexplicable power that will turn these comatose idiots on their heads. You carefully arrange everything, from the trial before the Sanhedrin to the public appearance with Pilate. You will be paraded, beaten and half dead, through the streets at the busiest holiday of the year. You’ll be nailed to a cross and, after some well-chosen last words, die like a dog in front of everybody. To make sure everybody knows you’re really dead, you’ll let them wait for a couple of days. Then, on the morning of the third day, you blow the joint, gloriously resurrected.

Trouble is, you do the resurrection thing early in the morning and nobody’s there to see it. Mary shows up after the fact, but she’s virtually incoherent. Besides, as a woman, nobody believes her anyway. So you appear to your groupies who have locked themselves in a room—not a good sign. You try desperately to drum up some press by appearing a number of times to small crowds (though one was as big as 500). But after all that, all that you’ve accomplished is getting them dissed in the tabloid press.

So you call it a game. You gather your most devoted followers and say goodbye. In a last impressive gesture, more as a favor to the loyalists, you slowly levitate before their eyes until you disappear in the clouds. You’ll be back, you tell them. Oh yeah, you’ll be back. But this time you’re going to blow the freaking planet away.

You’ll definitely get their attention next time.

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