Rules Of The Road #2: You Can’t Drive Forward Without a Rear View Mirror

Based on Sweet’s Quantum Spirituality 177ff.

Jackson Snyder, July 5, 1995

Dedicated to Jeremy H. Snyder

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Leonard Sweet Upside Down CakeJohn 14:13-21. 13. Now that very same day, two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem,  14. and they were talking together about all that had happened.  15. And it happened that as they were talking together and discussing it, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side;  16. but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  17. He said to them, "What are all these things that you are discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, their faces downcast.  18. Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, "You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days."  19. He asked, "What things?" They answered, "All about Jesus of Nazareth, who showed himself a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and the whole people;  20. and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.  21. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have now gone by since it all happened;  22. and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning,  23. and when they could not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive.  24. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing."  25. Then he said to them, "You foolish men! So slow to believe all that the prophets have said!  26. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?"  27. Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.


 28. When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on;

 29. but they pressed him to stay with them saying, "It is nearly evening, and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

 30. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.

 31. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight.

 32. Then they said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?"


Man Was There Snow

   Some old folks will recall the blizzard of 1978.  In a very short time, snow drifted up to 15 or 20 feet in some areas.  The wind chill factor brought the temperature down to 50 below.  Many highways were closed for weeks.  I was playing the Hammond organ for a living in those days.  I had finished up a month’s gig in Muskegon, Michigan and was booked for the next month in Kansas City.  Although there were winter storm warnings out, I packed my equipment up late at night and headed southwest, hoping to get to KC by the next morning, and to bed.

   By the time I hit the Chicago by-pass, it was snowing like I had never seen it snow before.  Except for the reflection of my headlights off the snow, it was pitch black.  Visibility on the road was nearly zero, then suddenly, it was zero. 

   I wanted to get off the road, but I thought there was a ditch to the right.  I didn’t dare stop in the middle, because if someone were behind me, they surely wouldn’t see my lights in time to stop.  And I couldn’t even see the stripe on the road in front of me.  I began to panic, as I shot forward by faith and not by sight.  It was like one of those nightmares where you are driving with your eyes closed, just awaiting the crash....

   I prayed a few words in desperation then looked into my rear-view mirror.  My van was cutting a swath through the snow; in the mirror, I could see the stripe on the road behind me.  So I drove slowly through that blizzard - forward - while looking in the rear-view mirror for that stripe behind me.  I gauged my forward direction entirely by where I’d been - a dangerous practice except in a blizzard.  It was the only thing I could’ve done.  And thank Yahweh there was nobody in front of me, for if there had been, chances are I would not be here today.  I didn’t make much forward progress, but my life was spared, and I reached my destination late but safe. 

   It was through my experience on the Chicago by-pass that the second rule of the road became most clear to me - You Can’t Drive Forward without a Rear-view Mirror.  And though my experience demonstrates a most unusual and risky use of the rear-view mirror, it illustrates two corollaries essential for Christian living: 1) Trying to move ahead by looking behind is dangerous, yet 2) The past, in its proper perspective, may have a very positive bearing on what is yet to come.  Let’s look at the three uses of the rear-view mirror.


Use #1: Seeing What’s Coming Up From Behind

   Two disciples of Yahshua are making the seven-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They’re dismayed and horrified at the literal fulfillment of Yahshua’ prophecy about himself - that, though he was without crime, he would die at the hands of sinful men in Jerusalem.  Perhaps Cleopas and his friend are driven to Emmaus by fear - fear that they too, as disciples of Yahshua, might be caught up in the web of arrests that were to follow.  Maybe they too might have to face a cruel cross if they didn’t flee.

   As they’re walking, they’re talking - “How could this have possibly happened!” they’re saying.  “We know he was a just and righteous man.  But we thought him to be the Messiah and King, the Anointed One from Elohim who would save us from our enemies.  Moreover, we have given all we have for his cause, and spent all these many years in his service.  How could this possibly be?”

   They reflect on the terrifying crucifixion of Yahshua, which has burned an indelible impression upon their minds, wiping clean both the promise of Scripture about Yahshua, and Yahshua’ promises to them.  All they can see now is the awesome specter of a bloody man on a cross.  They’re blinded to everything else, even to the message of an empty tomb and visions of angels.  They can’t see where they’re going, but they’re headed for spiritual disaster.

   And they can’t see who’s coming up from behind either.  For if they would only look in their faith’s rear-view mirror for a moment, they would discover that it’s Yahshua himself who approaches -- the very one of whom they speak – the very one who’s the object of their preoccupation with the terror.  And when he overtakes them, they still can’t see him.  And when they finally see him, they don’t recognize him, even though they’d been his followers.


Unloading Baggage with Peace of Mind

   Instructions for assembling a certain make of Japanese motorcycle begin with these words, “Before assembling motorcycle, obtain peace of mind.”  A person who is “assembling” her own “salvation with fear and trembling” simply cannot see, hear, taste, or touch the will of Yahweh for her life unless she first obtains a measure of peace.  We can’t go forward in our ministry or our discipleship clinging to past hurts, resentments and failures no matter how great an impression these have made.  The Japanese way for putting together motorcycles is a good way for us to put our lives on track.

   The Italians, too, have a peculiar custom.  On New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of 12, the windows of the houses fly open.  To the sound of laughter, music and fireworks, each member of the family pitches out old crockery, detested ornaments, hated furniture and personal possessions which remind them of something in the past year they’re determined to wipe out of their minds.  We have a similar custom in the U.S. - only we do the same thing in broad daylight and call it a “yard sale.”

   We must unload this baggage from the past and obtain from Yahweh forgiveness, deliverance, justification, empowerment, and glorification, before we can make progress forward.  We must, through the Savior’s help, extricate ourselves from the Slough of Despondency to walk through the fair meadows of Yah’s Grace upward to the Celestial City of Zion.

   We may only obtain such peace if we change our minds, lay down our crosses, and pick up His cross, and follow him; for it is His cross and not yours that he bids you to lift.  I know a man named McGee in West Pensacola who puts on gym shorts, a muscle shirt, and tennis shoes to run his fifteen miles every day despite a recent heart surgery.  We can follow McGee.  We must lay aside our troubles and put on the gear to run.  We must meet Yahshua each morning in the driver’s seats of our hearts, and run the race with him.  As we compete, matching speed for speed, we’ll get to know him: for he will reveal himself in greater and greater ways as we commit greater and greater hours and days.  And we can become like him if we abide with him – if we can keep up with him - his assurance we can own - assurance that will more peace than insurance, especially in the midst of a blinding blizzard. 

   Friend, do you want a solution to your inner hurts, worries and distractions?  Then you need to leave the pack and run with the King.


Use #2: Seeing Where One Has Already Been

   In the text, when Yahshua finally addresses his unsuspecting Emmaus-bound disciples, he calls them fools!  That gets their attention - it takes their minds off the past few days and on to the insult of this “stranger.”  Yahshua exhorts them, “How slow of heart are you to believe all the prophets have spoken concerning the Messiah.  Don’t you remember that your Scripture tells you he must suffer before entering his glory?”

   With these words, Yahshua turns their eyes to what is behind them, forcing them to look in the rear-view mirror.  It is not Yahshua they see there (for he has caught up with them).  What they see is their Scripture, which “cannot be broken.”  In turning their minds toward the Logos and away from their sad experience, Yahshua helps them to the big picture of hope rather than the little picture of despair.  He demonstrates the correct use of the past to inform the present and direct the future. 

   Yahshua must’ve carefully explained the various forms of sacrifices in Scripture and related them to his sacrifice - the burnt offering of the bull without blemish, the cereal offering of fine flour, oil and frankincense, the peace offering of a perfect lamb, the sin offering of a young bull, the guilt offering of two spotless turtle doves, or of a ram without blemish, along with many shekels of silver. 

   He surely reminded the disciples there on the road of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son if it was necessary; and the willingness of Yahweh to sacrifice his son, as well.  In the light of unbroken Scripture, he must have recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the final sacrifice,

Isaiah 53:6,10.We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all. {10} Yet it was Yahweh’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though Yahweh makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of Yahweh will prosper in his hand.

   Later, after these disciples reach Emmaus, they will proclaim one to the other, “Weren’t our hearts burning while he talked with us on the road and opened the Logos to us?”  For the very one who was led like a lamb to slaughter showed them step-by-step, event-by-event, record-by-record, exactly how the past had led to the present, and was leading to the future, Yahweh’s future, for Yahshua’s people.  Turning their eyes back to something greater than their sadness, they became converted to a new way of thinking – a higher way.

   The rear-view mirror of my car has a little decal pasted on it.  It says, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  It often seems that the promises of Scripture and the evidences of its fulfillment are far from the daily grind of our lives.  Yet, when we set our eyes and “minds on things anew,” we realize despite ourselves that He’s real, his power strong, and his future for us bright. 

   In looking to the promises of ancient scripture we find Yahshua the focal point.  Yet Yahshua’ coming did not fulfill Scripture entirely – only in part.  Those unfulfilled prophecies are promises that He has not yet been able to bring forth in our lives due to our blindness and lack of faith.

   These unfulfilled promises are powerful indicators of what he wants for each of our lives - of which direction he wants us to go.  Unfulfilled promises may include: “You shall receive power,” “You shall be my witnesses,” “You shall speak with new languages,” “You shall pray for the sick, and they will recover,” “You shall love one another, as I have loved you,” “You shall receive peace, my peace.”  “You shall receive the words you must say,” “You shall never see death.” 

   How do such directed scriptures speak to us today in our lives, within the contexts of the various dilemmas we face, within those situations that’ve caused the blinding of our forward vision?  How do we measure up to what he wants us to be?  How do our future hopes compare to his perfect destiny for us?  How do we who are operating our vehicles in his permissive will, “now looking into the rear-view mirror dimly,” plan to navigate toward his perfect will?  Are our “hearts burning within us” as the Word of Elohim convicts us of short-sightedness and convinces us of eternal worth?

   “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  Sometimes you just have to abandon the rear-view mirror to get the true picture of what all is behind you.  Sometimes you just have to take your eyes off the road and crane your neck around to see the true picture of what the Almighty wants to do with your life.  Sometimes it is valuable to reflect on the many difficult, even impossible, situations and circumstances in your life in which He intervened in a miraculous way to bring you through.  If such reflection doesn’t convince you that you are worthwhile and precious to him, and that he wants to do more with you, then nothing will. 

   Looking back in this way, seeing Yahshua’ love for you, will propel you into your future for him.  And the past, now in its proper perspective, may have a very positive bearing on what is yet to come in your life.  Just as both fulfilled and unfulfilled promises of scripture encouraged these Emmaus disciples to see Yahshua in the broken bread, we, in the here and now, who hold such promises dear and move ourselves toward their fulfillment, will see Yahshua face to face, and recognize him as our own.  But that’s down “the long and winding road - on ahead”: a destination to whence we’ve yet to arrive.

   One skin salve calls itself: “Future Perfect Micro-Targeted Skin Gel.”  The ad promises to give your skin what it needs – luminosity - light.  The ad reads:  “The past forgiven.  The present improved.  The Future Perfect.  Future Perfect Micro-Targeted Skin Gel!”  That’s quite a claim for a product that is only skin deep!   The fact is, such is the promise of a Yahweh who can’t lie!  “The past forgiven.  The present improved.  The Future Perfect.”  Make these promises yours and you will see them fulfilled in this life.


Use #3: Seeing To Drive In Reverse

   When Cleopas and his friend recognized Yahshua in the breaking of the bread, they also recognized their error and changed their direction.  They turned from their despair and misunderstanding, and set their course back - back to Jerusalem - back to the excitement - back to the danger - back to the place from whence they’d just come.  Back to the City of Gold, where there was an upper room furnished for prayer.  For it was in this upper room where they would eventually receive their Baptism with the Holy Spirit, a precious promise fulfilled, and new direction for their life’s journey.  And in the fulfillment of this promise, the found assurance.

   I used to make the trip down Wildwood Chapel Lane in my truck just about every day, backwards.  As I drove in reverse, I watched very closely in my rear-view mirrors so that I don’t crash into the wildwood.  Reverse gear is for limited distances, and a rear-view mirror used in the process of backing up is a very limited tool.  I suppose that’s why automakers went from one rear-view mirror per vehicle to three.

   But when I get out on the road, I can see my way clear to take my vehicle out of reverse and shift it into drive.  Driving to Winn Dixie or the District Office in forward gear is so much more convenient and less hazardous that trying to drive the whole way in reverse.

   Our Emmaus disciples did not walk backward to Jerusalem.  If Yahweh wanted them to walk backward, he would’ve created them with eyes on the back of their heads instead of on the front.  No - now that their minds were turned around by the witness of Yahshua himself, it was only fitting that they turn their bodies around for the return trip.  They changed their direction to follow the promises of Yahweh rather than their own fears and designs. 

   And we all should, too.  We need to turn around and face Yahweh’s promises and our destiny in the kingdom.  If you will put the cause of the Messiah first in your life instead of last, if you will shift your powerful vehicle from reverse into “drive,” if you will look forward to your Jerusalem and your Yahweh -- then He will move on your behalf - you will “live long and prosper,” and your assembly will, as a fringe benefit, grow in faith, hope, and love. 

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