“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith.
Last week I read the stories of Ezekiel and John, two men who tasted the reality of God, albeit in different ways. Ezekiel was the bold prophet sent to pronounce God’s judgment on his rebellious people, while John the Baptist trumpeted the arrival of Messiah and saw him walk, talk, teach, and heal.
Their experiences got me thinking about the proverb, “The proof is in the pudding.”
Actually, “the proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb.” So says Ben Zimmer, language columnist at the Boston Globe. Zimmer notes, “The original version is the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what it meant was that you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.”
In one sense, Ezekiel and John got to “try out” the food. Their experiences were first-hand, the kind most of us wish for from time-to-time: “Oh, if I could have just heard the voice of God like Ezekiel!” “If I could have just witnessed the work of Jesus like John.”
Not so fast.
Despite having seen Jesus, John the baptizer had his own crisis of faith. His doubts about Jesus spilled out as he sat in Herod’s prison. So unsure was John that sent his followers to ask:
How does Jesus respond to this temporary lapse of faith? “You go and report to John what you hear and see:”
The blind see
The lame walk
Lepers are cleansed
The deaf hear
The dead are raised
The wretched of the earth learned that God is on their side.
John, the proof is in the pudding. If this is what you were expecting, count yourself most blessed! Because you’re seeing it. The reality that I am the Messiah.
John’s problem — his nagging doubt — reminded me that we all live in the tension of proof and faith. In other words, we may get to see the pudding, but not taste it this side of heaven.
I turn the pages of my Bible to Hebrews 11, to those notables whose pictures grace the faith Hall of Fame: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the rest of that confident cohort. They possessed a faith so strong we’re on a first-name basis. Yet, in one sense each of these only saw the pudding, never sampled it.
The members of the Faith Hall of Fame tasted the reality of God, but walked in the unseen reality of the day-to-day. What are we to make of all this?
For starters, God does not owe you or me a tidy wrapped package that is the life of faith. “Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God.
I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words to the crowd after this encounter with John:
“How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Matthew 11:16-19 The Message
Jesus is telling me that while the meal may not look the way I want it, I still need to come and eat. And as I continue to read Matthew 11, he urges me to come to his table.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith. But Jesus, like the Psalmist, knows the happy person is the one who sits to dine, who comes to him.
Ezekiel, John, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab . . . they all dined with God. They trusted him — even when it didn’t seem to make sense — and found he is good.
How about you? Taste and see. The proof is in the pudding.
Note: “The proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb . . .” from “The Origin Of 'Proof Is In The Pudding'“, transcript of Morning Edition, August 24, 2012. National Public Radio. www.npr.org. Accessed October 15, 2018.