I heard a tale once of a man who lost everything; his family, his fortune, his home and his health. He found himself covered in sores from head to toe, scraping his skin with a piece of broken pottery, sitting in the ashes of everything he had lost, but in spite of everything he still praised the name of his God. I still remember what he said. He said “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”. What madness is this?
I heard of a prophet once. He was called to be a righteous man to an unrighteous people. With his words he rebuked a nation. He took a prostitute as a wife and even when she left him to return to sin, he bent so low as to buy her out of slavery and whoredom. Yet through it all he loved her as God loved Israel. What madness is this?
I heard about a great king once. His conquests for God made him famous in all the world. He reigned as one of the most powerful men in the world, and yet the majority of his writing is him crying out to God for help. They say he would wander the streets clothed in sackcloth, covered in ashes, crying out to God. What madness is this?
I heard about a man who had everything. His riches were without compare; he had every possession and pleasure that mankind could contrive under the sun. But I remember what he said. He said “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” What madness is this?
I once heard about a wild man. He wore the hair of camels and ate locusts, living a life of poverty and destitution in the wilderness. He forsook the riches of the Temple and chose to preach and baptize in the waters of the Jordan. He was a madman. He deemed the religious leaders a brood of vipers. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. I still remember what he said. He said “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What madness is this?
I heard about a righteous man once. He spoke words of grace and power, proclaiming a name that was dangerous and illegal. He disputed with those who would deny this name, and none could withstand his words. He was cast out of the city and stoned for what he said. But as the stones came down and he fell to his knees, he said something that I’ll never forget. He said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” What madness is this?
I heard a tale of a madman once or twice. They say he went by a different name long ago, killing all who called upon that name that he hated most. But then something changed. He saw and heard something; what, I do not know. But from that moment on, he would never be the same. He spoke of things that were unpopular. He said things about the religious authority and called upon a name that had gotten men and women before him killed. He suffered for this cause. He was beaten. He withstood many lashes. On multiple occasions they attempted to stone him. His writings were from the cold, dark depths of a Roman prison. But I still remember what he said. He said “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” What madness is this?
But I also heard about the greatest madman of all. They say he was born in poverty, living a life of destitution. He was tempted to sin, but remained blameless. They say he performed miracles, healing and casting out demons. He was a rebel. They say he ate with sinners. He challenged the religious authority, going so far as to claim the name of I Am. He was mocked. He was scorned. And he was ultimately murdered, suffering crucifixion, what is arguably the most painful death a human being could ever experience, crying out in his last moments “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” What madness is this?
But then I found it; the final piece of the puzzle. Darkness fell across the land when he breathed his last. They say that while he hung on the cross, the curtain covering the most holy of holies was torn. They say that he was laid in a tomb of stone. Three days later that stone rolled away, and he was not there. They say that he rose from the dead, having paid the price for mankind’s sin. He did not abolish but fulfilled the Old Covenant, bringing about the New Covenant. Not only did he atone for the sins of man; he made it possible for man to come into the presence of God, imperfect but washed clean by his blood.
And then I finally understood. These madmen were madmen for God, rebels called to be countercultural in a broken and sinful culture. And I decided that I wanted to be like them. I want to pursue God in a culture that pursues money. I want to be content in his presence, even though the culture says to be content with sex. I want to be drunk on his spirit in a culture that’s drunk on wine. I want to be a madman for God.