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How to Make Hard Tasks Easy
I teach New Testament Greek at St. John’s Seminary. The first thing I told my class on the first day was to put away the notebooks and pens; they would not need them to learn the alphabet. I know what would happen. They would be writing down the Greek alphabet in their notebooks, and they would have every good intention to learn them that night. Days later, they would come to class, and I would ask if they memorized the Greek alphabet, and they would reply, “no.” “Why not”? “Because we had other stuff.” Apparently, the metaphysics professor had given them a ten-page paper.
So, they would not be learning the Greek alphabet tonight or tomorrow morning. They are going to learn the Greek alphabet now. So after they put away their notebooks, I told them, “You can’t chew alphabet soup and gum at the same time. Repeat what I just said.” Naturally, they did not want to say this because they thought it sounded silly, but I insisted. I said, “louder…say it again, again… congratulations, you know, the first three letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha, Beta, Gamma. Do you want to know the fourth letter of the alphabet”? “You can’t chew alphabet soup and gum at the same time on a Delta airline: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta. My class learned the Greek alphabet in twelve minutes. How? I made it easy for them. That is what a good teacher can do. They take something difficult and make it easy.
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, and my new dentist was standing in front of me, holding a giant plastic tooth, demonstrating the proper way to brush. I felt the urge at that moment to tell him that I fly fish with a friend who is a dentist, Mel Harris. My dentist put down the tooth and replied, “You know Dr. Melvin Harris? He is one of the most respected dentists in the field. I was his student; I saw his work–he has made great contributions, simplifying complicated procedures. Everyone took his seminars because he simplified procedures.
John the Baptist was like that. Notice that everyone from Jerusalem and all of the inhabitants of Judea went to see him. Why? John could take something hard and make it easy. Change is hard, turning your life around is hard, and getting your life on the right track is hard. But John could make it easy. How? John gives us new access to God. And we know when we are with God, everything is easy with God.
When I was growing up, there was a pile of sand across the street from our house. We used to play there with our trucks. There was a large stone, and I tried to remove it. I dug around it and used a stick to pry it loose. My father came over after work and asked me what I was doing. I told him I could not remove the rock after having tried everything. Dad retorted, “You did not try everything. You did not ask me.” He reached down like Hercules, pulled out the rock, and carried it away. That is what happens when John the Baptist puts us back with God. Now, we can ask God to do things we were not able to do before.
Christ called himself a teacher. That means that with Christ, changes that used to be hard are now easy.