Tales From The Darkside #1
“Ferris Bueller is a street-wise kid who knows all the tricks. Today he decides to take the day off school. When Ferris takes the day off, so must his best friends, Cameron and Sloane. Cameron is reluctantly persuaded to borrow his father’s Ferrari, and together they hatch a plan to get Sloane out of class. Suspicious dean of students Ed Rooney knows all about Ferris, but can never catch him. Ferris’ sister Jeanie is also frustrated that Ferris always gets away with his tricks and she doesn’t. Furthermore, Ferris is an ‘angel’ in his parents eyes. It’s Ferris’ day off, he’s out to enjoy himself, and he does!” (1)
And that’s the plot of one of the most iconic teen movies of the 80’s, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In that little interchange between, Ferris, Mom, Dad and his sister Jeanie you see all the elements of one of the most beloved and nefarious characters of the Old Testament. You can see the struggle between siblings and the smooth tongued manipulation of parents. You can see the mind of the ultimate Trickster at work. My contention has always been that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was simply a modern retelling of the story of Jacob. And that’s this morning’s Tale of the Darkside, the story of Jacob.
Let’s look at a portion of the story from Genesis 25:24-34 (NRSV)
 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.
 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.
 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.
 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.
 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.)
 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”
 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”
 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
As you can see, Ferris Bueller and Jacob have a lot in common. They are both consummate con men who have a unique way of getting what they want. They seem to have golden tongue and to be made out of Teflon. Nothing sticks to them except friendship and loyalty. Let’s review the story of Jacob and then we’ll look and see what we can learn about God through how God dealt with Jacob.
I. THE STORY:
A. Jacob was the original conniver. He was a con man par excellent. Scripture tells us that Esau was born first but Jacob came out right on his heals, literally hanging onto Esau’s foot like he was trying to be born first. And that pretty much describes their relationship. The name “Jacob” means ‘grabby’ and “one who supplants” or “one who trips up.” And Jacob lived up to his name.
Esau? Well, Esau wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. We find out that this was a divided household but it didn’t have to do with which college they went to, it had to do with something parents really aren’t supposed to have when it comes to children; and that’s favorites. Esau might not have been the brightest bulb in the box, but he was Dad’s favorite. He was big and burly; rough and tumble; didn’t talk much, just grunted. He was a man’s man. And Isaac loved him more than Jacob.
Jacob was a mama’s boy. Because he was small, Rebekah took him under her wing, where she protected and pampered him like only a Mother can. Jacob sort of got the short end of the stick when it came to physical prowess. He wasn’t as big and burly as Esau. But it evened out, Esau got the muscles and Jacob got the brains. Esau was impulsive and Jacob was a planner. So, Jacob didn’t really have to work very hard to con Esau or eventually be the first. He just waited for the right moment.
Notice how in one sentence Scripture pegs the character of both of the boys. One day while Jacob was cooking, Esau came in from the fields famished. He couldn’t demand the food but he could and did ask. And the price Jacob exacted was Esau’s birth right. Jacob successfully swapped birth positions after the birth. For all intents and purposes, Jacob became the first born, with all the rights and privileges of the first born son.
B. Then comes the ultimate challenge. He got the birthright from his idiot big brother but how does he get the Family Blessing that goes along with it? That’s where Mom comes in. Jacob and Rebekah join forces. Notice, his mother was in on this. She’s the one who prods Jacob on. Together they proceed to trick Isaac, who is going blind, into giving the traditional blessing of the father to the first born, to Jacob. Jacob the trickster. Jacob the conniver.
Esau might not have been very bright but Isaac, Jacob’s father, had been around the block a few times. He had probably seen every trick in the book and used at least half of them. So, I’ve never been fully convinced that Isaac was all that surprised or even who tricked who. As impulsive and dimwitted as Esau was, it was obvious he wasn’t cut out for the job of taking over Dad’s affairs. Esau may even have been a little relieved about the deception, no more pressure. The same thing goes for Isaac.
I mean really, I know scripture says Esau was a hairy man, but unless his hair was as thick as a goat’s, there’s no way Isaac couldn’t tell goat skin from a hairy arm. So, I think Isaac knew. The point is Jacob got the blessing and the birthright. But eventually Jacob has to do what all con men have to do, run away and hide. Esau was mad and he could have pounded Jacob as flat as the hide Jacob used to trick dear old dad.
C. Jacob thinks he got away with it. But God didn’t let Jacob or an of them off the hook for their actions. Their actions had repercussions. The fallout from Jacob’s trickery haunted him in everything else he did in life. It’s just like Paul will say later in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” The street version is equally as true: “What goes down, comes around.” And boy did it.
Jacob got his comeuppance when he met his uncle Laban didn’t he? It was love at first sight when Jacob saw Rachel. And Laban saw it in Jacob’s eyes. Laban knew that Jacob would agree to almost anything to marry his daughter. So, Laban exacted seven years of service and hard work from Jacob.
Seven years. Seven years of seeing Rachel every day. Seven years of flirting and expectation. Seven years of waiting and anticipating. And on the first morning of the honeymoon, Jacob discovered he had been tricked. It’s not the younger daughter, Rachel, whom he married, it was the older daughter Leah. Jacob had been conned. He’d been hornswaggled just he hornswaggled his father and brother.
And on it goes in Jacob’s life. The deal he dealt his own family keeps coming back to haunt him. And yet through it all, and despite it all, the one thing we see, that really surprises, is that God is faithful.
And you see, this whole tale of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau isn’t really about them, it’s about God and how God is faithful to the Covenant even when we’re not.
II. COVENANT KEEPER:
God honored the Covenant, not because of the actions of Jacob or the others, God honored the Covenant because God is a COVENANT KEEPER. God has never broken covenant with us. He said, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” And yet, we break the Covenant all the time. But not God. God is faithful to the covenant because God is God, and the Covenant is about God. And it models for us what God desires of us in our covenant relationship with God.
God wants us to be faithful to the Covenant. God wants us to be as faithful as God. As faithful as Jesus. God even sent Jesus to show us how. And then God chose to empower us to be Covenant Keepers, too, through the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
God even went so far as to do what He wouldn’t let Abraham do with Isaac. God’s own Son was offered up as the final sacrifice for ALL sin, so that we could and we would return to our Covenant relationship with God; a Covenant not of the law but a Covenant of Unconditional Love through the Grace of God.
III. GOD OF GRACE:
A. It’s not about us. It’s about God and what God can do with us, even the worst of us. We call that Grace; God’s unmerited, unearned gift and blessing; the gift that takes a lifetime to unwrap. You see, God isn’t just a COVENANT KEEPER, God is also a GOD OF GRACE.
In everything that Jacob messed up; in everything one of his family members messed up; God’s presence and God’s Prevenient Grace can be seen at work.
Prevenient Grace is a Wesleyan concept that describes God’s Grace at work in our lives before we’re even aware of the presence of God. It is God leading us into a a relationship with God. It’s God working out God’s plan for us before we’re aware of the plan. It’s God going before us and preparing the way.
It’s also the grace that prevents us from falling so far away from God and our relationship with God that we can never get back. Boy was that active in Jacob’s life and the life of his family.
Our God is a GOD OF GRACE. And Grace is about God, it’s not about us. It’s not about who deserves it. The truth is that NONE of us deserve it. None of us are ever good enough to deserve God’s Grace. None of us can even earn God’s Grace. Grace is an unearned gift from God. Sort of like the scene at the end of Ferris Bueller where his sister, Jeanie has him right where she wants him; Mr. Rooney is ready to bust him and she’s ready to rat him out to their parents. WATCH
Jeanie is so much like Esau. You see, later in Jacob’s life, he returns home. Fearing that Esau is still upset about the whole birthright thing, Jacob plans an elaborate scheme to return home. When Jacob enters the homestead, he sends his flocks of animals, servants, and family to Esau in waves, hoping to wear Esau down. Finally Jacob meets Esau and what does Esau do, he wraps his arms around Jacob and welcomes him home with a big bear hug. That’s Grace. He was expecting the worse and received the best. That’s Grace.
The point is, God takes and uses the worst of us, the weak, the foolish, the inept, the corrupt, the bumblers, the connivers, the tricksters and jokesters. God uses the worst of us to show us how powerful and Grace filled God is. God can use the worst reprobate and sinner on earth for God’s glory because it’s not about them, it’s not about us, it’s about God and what God can do.
And if God can use Jacob the Trickster and Conniver for good or Peter of the foot in mouth disease or Paul who had warrants for and was breathing threats and murder against the early church, then God can surely use you and me. And that’s what Grace is all about. Grace is about God. Our God is a GOD OF GRACE.
That’s what the gift of salvation is all about. What Christ did for us on the cross is so much more than we deserve. We’re like Jacob but look what God did with Jacob. With nails in his hands and feet, with a crown of thorns jammed on his head, with his back a bloody mess from the whipping he had received, with blood flowing from his side from the Roman spear, Jesus looked out at the crowd and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
This is the heart of our faith. This is the heart of Grace. We’re simply called to accept the forgiveness which God offers through Jesus. It’s not what we’ve done but what Christ did for us. Because of God’s greatness, because of God’s love for us, because God is a God of Grace, God offers us the precious gift of salvation through Jesus.
We don’t deserve it. But then that’s the point of Grace. Grace is a gift from God. And it’s about God. And God keeps God’s Covenant to be our God in spite of our failures, Through our Redeemer, Jesus, we are enabled to hear God’s love for us and accept it.
And that’s the challenge, to accept Christ and forgiveness offered to us through the Grace of God and in response, attempt to live a life that honors God. So, are you up for that challenge.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. www.IMDB.com Written by Rob Hartill