Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
AUGUST 4, 2022
by Sean Nolan
The first time I spent the night at my best friend’s house in high school, I learned his secret: he was the sole child of alcoholic parents. We had a lot of fun that night…until we didn’t.
At first I was impressed with the delicious food and the volume at which Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” played. The night was off to a great start…until it wasn’t. The other shoe had yet to drop.
I didn’t know a whole lot about alcoholism then, and I’m no expert now, but what I learned—as Tommy knew—was that the party was always fun…until it wasn’t. The other shoe would always drop and that meant chaos, sometimes violence, and occasionally police intervention.
I’ve noticed that my grasp of the unadulterated, see-you-to-the-bottom-and-love-you-anyway-gospel of Jesus Christ often imitates the lives of children of alcoholics. I expect the Good News to soon be followed by bad news. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I suspect we all are.
Luke’s Gospel tells us this fascinating event:
And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…
to proclaim good news to the poor.
… liberty to the captives
and … the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
Jesus is in his hometown, he’s known there (or so they think they know him) and he stands up to do what is natural to him—read the Scriptures. He’s given the prophet Isaiah’s lengthy scroll and he opens up to what we now know as chapter 61 and begins reading the first two verses. A short amount of Scripture to read, by our modern preaching principles.
He doesn’t even finish the second verse, he stops short, rolls up the scroll and sits down.
All eyes are fixated on him. He’s broken the social norm, shouldn’t he get fired up and exposit the Scripture for thirty minutes until he reaches fever pitch? Shouldn’t he warn them of the consequences of sin?
He states simply, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Their response is to marvel at the grace in his words. Does disbelief snatch away their amazement?
“Surely this profound display of God’s grace couldn’t come from Joseph’s son. We know him!”
They thought they knew the messenger and they thought they knew God and the Scriptures. Jesus hadn’t finished the verse, the remainder of Isaiah 61:2 goes on to proclaim: the day of vengeance of our God.
Like the children of alcoholics, did the audience expect a two-shoed proclamation? The first shoe: liberty, favor, good news; but the second shoe; vengeance, wrath, justice. This messenger, Joseph’s son, he drops the shoe of liberty and God’s favor but leaves them hanging. Why would he do such a thing?
An explanation is quickly concocted: surely news this good couldn’t come from a homegrown boy! Surely news this good cannot be true.
But it did, and it is. Are we living under a similar effect? We’ve experienced fleeting moments of unadulterated grace only to later rationalize them away as fluke or misunderstanding. Partial news partially good, but bad news will surely follow.
The other shoe eventually drops, reality never leaves us hanging in a fallen world. Sure, God is good, but he’s not that good.
Except he is.
He’s not mad at us. Jesus intentionally left them hanging because he would hang in their stead. When the other shoe would drop, it would drop not on them but on him. But here we are still waiting in disbelief. Conditioned by parents made in the image of Adam to expect chaos to immediately follow joy. But what if our heavenly Father is nothing like the alcoholic parents so many of us have experienced? What if the other shoe has already dropped 2000 years ago on Calvary so that we don’t have to walk on eggshells anymore?
I suspect I believe that on occasion, but too often I’m all too willing to settle for a good news that isn’t otherworldly. I believe, help my unbelief.
Sean Nolan is a former punk-rocker and atheist still being blown away by the radical grace of Jesus that gripped him 18 years ago. He’s a husband, father of four, and member of Engage Albany Church in New York. Extroverted and excitable to a fault, you can find him biting off more than he can chew.