In spite of the fact that too many preachers (and most TV evangelists) tell us that if we pester Jesus enough, he’ll help us break through to triumphant living — and make us thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent in the bargain — he just won’t. He won’t even promise to make us happy — at least not according to our recipe. But do you know why he won’t? He won’t because he has bigger fish to fry than the smelts of our success we want him to cook for us. He’s not interested in opening the doors of our choosing, because every now and then we might batter our way through one — and promptly pat ourselves on the back be being hotshot door openers. He isn’t about to hand us a program for prying our way into pet projects, because if he did that, most of us would fail the final exam, and the few of us who passed would be insufferable.
But Jesus doesn’t want most or some or a few; his pet project is for getting all. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth,” he says in John 12:32 (and he means lifted up in his death) — “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” But since death is the only door in the world at which he can find the entire human race standing flat-footed and with nowhere to go — and since it’s the door at which every last one of us will be deposited, seedy and by ourselves, without keys to open the lock, without strength to turn the handle, and with no wits left to thing of a better place to be — it’s in death, and death alone, that he chooses to offer himself as the Door of life. Only in death does he promise to do a blessed thing for us.
Admittedly, he did open a few doors for a handful of the blind, lame, and sick. And he raised three dead bodies, stated two spectacular mass feedings, and once produced 180 gallons of wine for a wedding reception whose guests were already three sheets to the wind. Be he was stingy with those miraculous interventions — and he had no intention of poking them into the lives of everybody and his sister. Those grand openings of closed doors were not his program; they were simply the signs of it. His program was to break down the door of death by getting locked behind it himself — and then to escape scot-free in his resurrection.
Do you now see why he did it that way? He chose the certainty of death over our undependable efforts to “get a life” because apparently he found it the only way he could save all instead of some. Jesus came to raise the dead, not to improve the improvable, not to cure the curable, not to teach the teachable. Any such program would have netted him about two dozen fish out of the entire ocean of human history. Eternal life and everlasting happiness would have been for the handful of over-achievers who could save their own lives. The great, gray-green, greasy mess of humanity would still be out there drowning in the drink.
–Robert Capon, The Foolishness of Preaching