Michael Jackson had it all; world-wide fame, a long career, the adulation of millions, phenomenal wealth and status. He was what millions long to be, or strive to obtain. But as you look back on his life there is that nagging question which keeps on coming back again and again – but was he happy? His talent and ability were never in doubt, the Guinness Book of Records recognise him as the most successful entertainer of all time, Thriller is still the best selling album ever, yet there were also hard times, stranger actions, failures and accusations. Michael Jackson always left you with the feeling that he was still unsatisfied, still searching for meaning.
He was not afraid to look at the world and see what was wrong and try to make it better, his songs called on people to make a change to make the world a better place. Yet his own search for meaning shows he recognised the need for someone greater than him to make that happen, his mum was a Jehovah’s witness, and certainly explored Islam and Christianity in his search for meaning before his tragic death.
So what would Jesus have said to Michael Jackson?
There is an end to the search.
I think Jesus would have taken MJ back to a small and surprising book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. In it the teacher sets out to find out the meaning of life, what brings peace and fulfilment.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labour,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
The teacher tried it all and concludes that it is meaningless, none of it satisfied. All the fame, all the adulation, the mansions, the millions, the relationships, nothing was gained under the sun.
But I think Jesus would go on to explain to Michael that it isn’t hopeless, that little phrase is the clue, in Ecclesiastes there are two ways of looking at the world – “one is under the sun” viewing the world as if God did not exist and he concludes whatever you try from that viewpoint it will prove meaningless.
The other is seen in his conclusion
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of every human being.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil."
Fear God and keep his commandments. That fear doesn’t mean be terrified of but listen to, respond to, respect and reverence God, know him and live under his ruler understanding that in knowing God is wisdom and an end to restlessly searching.
I think Jesus would have wanted to explain more about what that looks like, specifically how he satisfies.
We are not the answer
Michael Jackson recognised the world was broken and that there was something wrong, but he seemed to think we could fix it just be changing just by trying harder, by changing ourselves.
In his song Man in the Mirror Jackson sings:
“If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself and then make that change.”
Here is a comment from an interview he gave: “We have to heal our wounded world. The chaos, despair and senseless destruction we see today as a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment.”
I think Jesus would share Michael’s pain at the brokenness around us but he would say that we are not the answer, that we are incapable of fixing it.
Turn to Mark 7:14-23 what does Jesus say the problem is?
It is our hearts, it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside because the problem is on the inside. We can amend our behaviour and that might work for a while but ultimately the problem will remain and will show itself at some point. Sin lives in our heart not in our actions.
The problem is far worse than we realise, sin is so serious no amount of behavioural change will get rid of it. Turn on to Mark 10:13-22.
The rich man asks a question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words how can I make sure I am saved, and he has been very, very good, he has kept all the commandments, surely he has feared God. But notice Jesus says he has a rival to God it’s his money, and he leaves sad. Being good, being religious aren’t the answer, in fact teh problem is so serious we can't provide an answer to it..
Accept God’s gift
The contrast in Mark is made with the children, the children come with nothing in their hands, they don’t come touting their good works, or religion they simply come and accept the gift, the welcome, the rest Jesus gives.
Jesus would have offered to Michael what he offers to each of us - rest and a relationship with God by grace, he solves he problem of sin for us at the cross and gifts us not just mercy but grace - God's undeserved favour and an end to the restless searching.