Shock and Awe
A fellow Taiwanese guy tipped me off on this fellow Taiwanese guy who is tearing it up on YouTube: Yif, who many are calling the Asian David Blaine for his astounding street magic skills, including pulling an ice cream sundae out of a menu, forcing an iPhone into a closed bottle of water, and making a soda can open by itself. I'm a sucker for magic, but you gotta admit this guy is good.
What's been fun is not just his tricks but his bystanders' reactions to them: giggles, amazement, disbelief. Interestingly, some respond differently, with a look of abject fear and terror. You can almost hear what's going on in those people's heads: who the heck is this guy, how the heck did he do that, and what the heck else could he do?
I am reminded of a story from the Bible, in which the fisherman Peter, who has recently left all he's known to follow this charismatic teacher named Jesus, is asked by Jesus to put out his nets at the end of a long and fruitless day of fishing. You can imagine Peter's skepticism - "Jesus, you seem like a sharp guy and a moral authority, but I'm the fisherman and not you" - but he accedes, perhaps borne of the desperation of not having caught anything all day.
When the net returns bursting with fish, Peter realizes he is in the presence of no mere good teacher, but something far more, and something far more terrifying: someone who has authority over the rules of nature. Interestingly, this realization - that the teacher Peter once ascribed only moral gravitas to actually has reign over far more - returns Peter to the moral realm; he shrinks back and says, "go away from me, for I am a sinful man!"
Telling, isn't it? Faced with the realization that the man he has followed as a sage moral man is actually much more, Peter is overcome with guilt and awe. Similarly, I suspect - I know this is true of me - that even the most devout Christians would, if they had a face-to-face encounter with the real Jesus, become completely undone in the realization of our unworthiness in the presence of His utter worthiness.
The Bible story of Peter and Jesus fishing, and the reaction of some to Yif's magic, gives me a useful reminder of the power of the real Jesus. May we not dilute that power and play fast and loose with such an awe-inducing and fearsome presence; it is far too tame to consider one merely a wise and profound teacher who actually has authority over all creation.