Tuesday evening, on my way home, I was driving up Metairie Road in heavy traffic. Suddenly as we drove past a small side street, I glimpsed a fellow on a bicycle coming out of that street, headed straight for our line of cars. In a split second, the bike whipped straight toward us, then at the last moment turned a sharp right and moved in the same direction we were going. I almost had a heart attack; I just knew I was hitting a cyclist and killing him.
And now, for perhaps 10 seconds he was pedaling alongside my car, just off the right window. I rolled it down and called.
“What are you doing? You scared the daylights out of me!”
He said, “Don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing.” The light up ahead turned red, the traffic stopped, he crossed at the light, and was gone.
I thought of twelve things I wanted to say to that foolish man. “Maybe you know what you’re doing, but I don’t–and I’m the guy with the car!” “You’re trying to commit suicide, that’s what you’re doing.” I even thought of saying to him, “Friend, you’re going to get killed. I can’t say that bothers me a great deal, but it will devastate your loved ones. And, frankly, I don’t want to be the one who hits you!”
So, so foolish. “I know what I’m doing.” He was in a little world all his own, dead certain that if he followed his own rules, he would do just fine.
My strong hunch is that the impatient motorist on the interstate, the one weaving in and out of traffic, the fellow who tailgates you flashing his lights until you get out of his way, then pulls the same stunt on the next driver in front of him, that foolish speeder no doubt feels he knows what he is doing.
He may indeed. Until he meets up with another nitwit just like him, then all bets are off.
Earlier the same day, maybe at 1:30 or so, I drove a few blocks to a little eatery that has opened up on Elysian Fields Avenue close to the University of New Orleans. I’ve been there once, trying to patronize businesses that have reopened in our area. The food was nothing special, but I decided to give them another try.
Inside the door, a sign instructed me to seat myself. The one vacant table, however, had not been cleaned and the last diners had clearly been messy eaters. I pulled out a chair, sat a little back from the table, and looked for a waiter. A couple of minutes later, he arrived, towel in one hand and a stack of menus in the other. When I asked for a menu, he said, “In a minute,” and proceeded to–I couldn’t believe my eyes–rake the mess off the table onto the tiled floor.
I sat there frozen in place. Did I want to eat here?
I said, “You’re raking that food onto the floor?!” He didn’t say a word, just kept at it. I stood up and said, “Friend, this place is too dirty for me. I believe I’ll eat somewhere else.” And walked out. Nonplussed, the waiter called, “Thanks for coming in, have a nice day.”
Clueless, apparently. Or maybe he just didn’t care.
What are they thinking? I can understand the restaurants that serve you a bucket of roasted peanuts encouraging customers to drop the dry shells onto the floor. But wet, sloppy food onto a tiled floor? No thank you.
I drove down the street to Cafe Roma, a lovely and classy affair with great food, friendly staff, and better prices.
Do they know what they are doing, one wonders.
You visit a church where no one speaks to you, no one greets you at the front door, no one gives you a bulletin, and no one even acknowledges your presence. You’re uncertain where to sit, completely in the dark on where the nursery or rest rooms are, and feeling more alone by the minute. You can tell by the empty pews that this church is in trouble. You find yourself wondering, do they know what they are doing?
Or more specifically, what they are not doing.
You finally talk your wayward adult child into visiting a church in the city where she lives. This is a big day for you and a major change for her. You are praying fervently for her to connect with someone at church, to hear a word from God in worship, for something positive to happen. Alas, she returns home and by all reports, nothing happened. No one from the church met her when she came, cared while she was there, or sought her out as she left.
You wonder, do they not care? Do they know what their callousness is communicating about themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ?
“Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
The crowd around the cross was dead certain they knew what they were doing. They were ridding Israel of a troublemaker, ridding Rome of a nuisance, and ridding themselves of a troubled conscience. The religious leaders never doubted they were on top of their game and were giving a heretic his just reward. The Roman officials knew they were giving in to the Jewish rulers to keep peace in Jerusalem. The soldiers knew they were doing as they had been ordered. The mob was cursing and spitting and taunting because their religious leaders had ordered them to do so.
They would have argued with Jesus. They knew exactly what they were doing.
But the Lord thought otherwise.
Jesus looked beyond all that and saw that in reality they did not have a clue what they were doing. They were wrong about who He was, wrong about what He was doing, wrong about what He had been teaching, and wrong about Who sent Him. They were wrong about a hundred other things, including who was responsible, who was behind all this, and what would come from it. They were wrong about service to God, wrong about how to treat someone they find disagreeable, and wrong about capital punishment.
The most amazing thing of all is that Jesus understood.
Even while agonizing from the nails in his hands and feet, while struggling to catch a breath, He thought not of Himself but of His torturers. And He prayed for them.
He forgave them while those were in the act of killing Him.
No wonder we stand in awe of such love. No wonder we hold such grace in so high esteem.
At the foot of the cross, Mary was weeping. Standing beside her, John was perplexed. In the distance, Peter was ashamed and fearful. The other disciples were nowhere to be found, so heartbroken and distraught and afraid were they.
The only one who knew what He was doing that day was Jesus Christ, the man on the cross.
“No one takes my life from me,” He said. “I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)
You may recall a tiny phrase from the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15. After weeks and months of grieving his father, burdening his elder brother, squandering his inheritance, and flaunting his upbringing, he found himself broke, hungry, dirty, and slopping hogs. In his squalor and misery, something rather wonderful happened.
“He came to himself.” (verse 17)
That’s when he finally figured things out. Even his father’s servants lived better than this. If he were to get up and go home, he could ask father to have mercy and make him a servant. For the first time in a long time, he was thinking clearly. So, he walked out of the pig stye that day and came home.
Finally, he knew exactly what he was doing.
How about you. What are you doing?