I want you to imagine your embarrassment if you showed up before an opera crowd dressed to perform a ballet. (If you’re like me, you can’t even imagine how ridiculous you would looked dressed for a ballet – but work with me here.) Let’s say you spent months practicing for this spectacular ballet performance. You trained your body to make every move perfectly. You conditioned yourself to be able to pull off this performance with poise and grace. You put on the perfect costume. This was going to be the performance of a lifetime but when you walked on stage the crowd erupted in laughter.
By all standards this would be a performance disaster. There’s no way to salvage the performance, if the crowd showed up expecting an opera and you performed a ballet. There is no middle ground between the opera and ballet. There is no way to blend the two. The problem in this scenario is not with your preparation. The problem is not even with the venue – you can conduct a ballet in an opera house. If the crowd came to see a ballet, there’s no way to recover from performing before the wrong crowd. The ballet performance of a lifetime would still be a total disaster, if it was performed before a crowd expecting an opera or a rock concert.
Longing for the applause of others
Life sometimes feels like performing a ballet before an opera crowd. We all feel foolish when people laugh at us, criticize us, or make fun of us for our efforts. Sometimes life feels like we’re dancing our heart out before a crowd expecting a rock concert!
Most of us want to have the applause of others. Most of us enjoy hearing someone tell us “good job.” We like it when people pat us on the back for our efforts. Be careful – this desire can also be dangerous. Longing for the applause of others is dangerous because the crowd is fickle. What they cheer for today they might mock tomorrow. Performing your heart out today and receiving a standing ovation doesn’t mean the same performance next week will give you the same results – even if it’s performed before the same crowd. This is exactly what happened to Jesus in Luke 23:23. The crowds loved Jesus when he was providing them food to eat. They cheered for him when he healed the sick and gave sight to the blind. In this verse those very same people have turned their back on him and are crying for his death.
Worshipping the wrong god
What caused the crowds to turn so quickly on Jesus? I think they were worshiping the wrong god (notice the “g”). They were worshiping the god of their stomach when they applauded Jesus for giving them something to eat. They were worshiping the god of their needs when they were sick and wanted a healer. Even King Herod Antipas was worshiping the god of entertainment when he had an audience with Jesus in Luke 23:8. Herod didn’t want to know the truth, he just wanted to be entertained. He was disappointed when Jesus wouldn’t perform a miracle for him.
All humans, even atheists, tend to worship themselves or someone bigger than themselves. Either you have a view of a transcendent God that is bigger than you and calls the shots in your life, or you are probably worshipping yourself. This is part of a common human condition – meaning all people in all places always tend to worship themselves. They love someone if they make them feel good. When that person stops making them feel good – they “fall out of love” with them. They want someone that they can meet their needs. You have made yourself into your own god when you allow your desires or your wants to drive you.
Jesus refused to perform for the wrong crowd. He refused to allow his own desires to dictate his actions. This is most clearly seen the night before he went to the cross. In this moment of extreme suffering he made the decision to submit to the will of God even at the cost of his own life (Luke 22:42). What motivated Jesus should also motivate his people. We should be willing to sacrifice for the glory of God. Jesus’s people should be motivated by the applause of our Father in Heaven – not for the applause of other people here on earth.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to want to be applauded. I’m not telling you that your hard work should go unnoticed. It seems unfair not to be recognized for your efforts. I’m suggesting that followers of Jesus should be performing for God our Father above all others. Remember – God is not fickle because he never changes, and he has a perfect reward waiting for you in Heaven.