While watching an episode of All in the Family, “Edith’s Crisis of Faith,” a few nights ago, I found myself thinking about Jesus. Funny how that happens; but why shouldn’t Jesus show up in a sitcom? Back in the day, he certainly showed up in lots of places considered odd by those who knew how a Messiah should act and with whom he should be found.
Even the disciples had a hard time dealing with folks who weren’t, according to their understanding, truly religious. They were used to seeing Jesus do the miraculous. In time, they would even come to understand that much of what Jesus did, they could do as well. But they had little tolerance for the outsider. Consider this conversation recorded by Mark in chapter 9, verses 48-41 TNIV:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
That’s what made me think about Jesus as I watched All in the Family. In this particular episode, Michael, the Bunker’s son-in-law, the meathead, was Jesus.
Beverly LaSalle, a female impersonator was in town, where he was to appear at Carnegie Hall, and came to visit his friends, Archie and Edith. Michael left the Bunker house with Beverly, walking with him to the taxi stand. On the way, they were attacked and severely beaten. Both of them were taken to the hospital. Michael’s injuries were not too serious. Beverly was not so fortunate; he died just hours after the attack.
Beverly’s senseless death left Edith sad and angry—angry at God. “How could God allow that to happen?” she asked. She was inconsolable. When Christmas Day came, habit led her to dress and step out the door to attend church; but she got only as far as the front porch. She wasn’t going, she told Archie, Michael, and Gloria. It was Christmas, but there was no joy.
Later in the day, Edith prepared and served the traditional Christmas meal; but she refused to offer the blessing, leaving that to Archie.
“Lord, A. Bunker here,” Archie began. Edith left the room to sit alone in the kitchen.
Michael told Archie he had to talk to her. Archie explained that he already had. “I told her that what is is. Then I told her that what was was. And then I told her, most important of all, what’s gonna be is gonna be.” It was time for Jesus to take over.
Michael walked into the kitchen and sat with Edith. She acknowledged that she was mad at God. She added, “I don’t understand.” Michael asked her if she had ever had a subject in school she didn’t understand.
“Well, yeah. Alegbra! I never could understand it.”
Michael asked, “Did you quit school because you didn’t understand algebra?”
“No,” Edith replied. “I couldn’t quit school just because I didn’t understand algebra.”
You could see a glimmer of understanding dawning in her eyes, and then encompassing her face. “Ohhh . . . .”
Reentering the dining room with Michael, Edith stood to offer the blessing. “Lord, E. Bunker here.” She acknowledged what she didn’t understand, and then her prayer moved into thanksgiving for all she did understand and all she had.
To Edith, Michael Stivic, the atheist, became the Mediator, Jesus. A. Bunker may also have played a role.
“No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Be on the alert, Jesus might show up at your kitchen table; and who knows, he might not be the Jesus you were expecting.
There is so much in life that we don’t understand, even after a lifetime of living. So, give thanks for what you do know . . . it might just be enough.