This week the headlines encompass the Pope's visit to America. I've struggled to understand the hype surrounding it, wondering if it is also part of our day-in, day-out media frenzie. What seems evident from the coverage and crowds is the sacredness surrounding this man because of the position he holds and the title he bears.
I mean no disrespect. I am not Catholic so it does not resonate with me. In the Baptist world, I liken him to Billy Graham who is a true giant of the Christian faith. But he's not holy. He's not perfect. He's not more important in the eyes of God than anyone else. He's a man. Just like the Pope.
Thousands have been gathering and waiting for hours just to "catch a glimpse" of the Pope, so they reported. Thousands more waited and observed the Catholic mass held in DC. They worshipped, no doubt. I am sure it was deeply spiritual for so many who attended or watched. Thousands more lined the streets of New York waiting for him to pass by. It got me thinking.
When Christ was on this earth, he spoke to crowds just like yesterday's mass. The streets were lined as he made his way on a donkey (quite different than the Pope-mobile.) He blessed two fish and five loaves and multiplied it and fed literal thousands. A true miracle for sure. I can't help but wonder what our media coverage would be like if Christ was on earth today. No doubt the pomp and circumstance would follow as He made his way from town to town. "Another miracle on the streets of Jerusalem, today," I imagine they would report.
But remember. Those same crowds who followed and cheered for Him would later turn on Him and call for His death. Can you imagine? The same masses gathered waiting to behold the Pope, the leader of their faith, only days later calling for Him to be executed because of His preaching?! It seems unthinkable considering the reverence and respect they're treating him with, so many gathered in hopes of their moment with the Pope.
It doesn't matter whether you believe in his faith, he says, only what's in your heart. He asks for prayers and seeks to bless others. An honorable man known for his humility, his reputation is followed by stories of his kindness and simplicity. All of these things are noteworthy. And yet he's still a man. An imperfect human just like you and me.
He cannot save us from eternal separation from God. He cannot redeem us from our sinful state. He cannot provide eternal salvation. He can offer hope, encouragement, a message of eternal life, but it's not something he can actually give. Yet he's called "Your Holiness," upheld with more reverence than the Son of God who came as Holiness wrapped in our human flesh. I dare say these same crowds hovering in to catch a glimpse of this one man will not be calling for his death. He's making history, they say. He's brought a message of hope, they say. But only one man came with a true message of hope, a truth that would change all of history and eternity.
None of us in our fallen flesh are holy. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Only one man, one message, one way is eternal. One life that was given for all to withstand the test of time. One life paid the price to provide a way for eternal life with a Holy God. No one has ever come before Him and no one will ever come behind Him. We can revere these giants of faith but we must not mistake or replace them with the One True Holy God.