Are You Chosen? Am I?
Are You Chosen? Am I?
The difficult line in John 13, in Jesus’ words after he has washed his disciples’ feet is: “What I say is not said of all, for I know the kind of men I chose.” Right after that, he hands a morsel dipped in wine to Judas and tells him to be quick in what he is about to do.
This idea of being “chosen” by God has deep roots and many examples in Scripture. Isaiah has God fondly refer to “Israel, whom I have chosen” (44:1). Peter calls his early Christian readers “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, …a people [God] claims for his own” (1 Peter 2:9). There are detailed, exciting and deeply emotional stories of people being chosen to carry out God’s plan of salvation. Think of the people chosen for the covenant relationship with God: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Sometimes they had their names changed: Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel. If you were chosen, your status would be passed on to your children. There are careful records of genealogies to show who this favored status included.
Think of the choice of Moses to lead the most portentous deliverance in history; or how about the choice of his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam? Think about the call to Samuel and the Judges, and Samuel’s anointing of that great King, David, son of Jesse. Women figured into the plan as well: Sarah and Rachel and Ruth and Deborah just to name a few.
Then there were the prophets, with some pretty dramatic choices in Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah. How about the choice of Job to be tested by the Accuser to the depths of his being? In the New Testament, we have Zachary’s story and Elizabeth’s and Mary’s and Joseph’s, John the Baptist’s and Jesus himself. In his time, Jesus chooses his disciples and apostles. After his death, they chose Stephen and the deacons, and Saul—sprawling on the ground, unable to see, the voice of Jesus ringing in his ears–got chosen in spite of his venomous actions toward Jesus’s followers.
Are WE chosen? By whom and for what? Do we want to ‘be among their number, when the saints go marching in’ to eternal life and happiness? In his “priestly prayer,” was Jesus talking about US when he said: “For these I pray—not for the world but for these you have given me, for they are really yours” (John 17:9)?
Don’t we imagine that we are chosen for some special purpose, some special mission? Isn’t Paul implying that the Corinthians are chosen because they have different gifts, each one a benefit for the community (1 Cor. 12)? Don’t we imagine we are like Isaiah, responding to his horrific vision of having his lips burned with an ember from the fire, when we sing: “Here I am, Lord…Send me!” (Is. 6:8)?
I think the answer is yes, with this twist: the Jewish people were NOT chosen to be superior to others, to lord it over others, to be saved while others were damned. Most of those chosen had some serious character flaws or were the humblest of people (“He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid,” Mary exclaimed in her hymn). Being chosen required some cooperation.
We are chosen for others. Maybe as pinch hitters, designated batters, replacements, off the bench or front and center. The choosing is not about us individually. We may not be able to mess It up or thwart the plan. Jonah tried that. Didn’t work. There is a force involved, a green fuse (Dylan Thomas), a freshness deep down things (GM Hopkins) BECAUSE, as Hopkins boldly and baldly states from his deep faith: “The Holy Ghost over the bent world broods…With warm breath and with—Ah!—bright wings!”