In the joke, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are camping out in the wilds. In the middle of the night, Sherlock awakens and hisses out, “Watson! Quickly! What do you see?”
Watson rubs his eyes and looks up. “I see the sky has cleared of the clouds from earlier in the day. I see countless stars and recognize a few constellations. We’re so far from electric lights that I can see an unusually large number of the fainter stars that are even farther out in the distance of space.”
Sherlock interrupts. “But what does it mean?”
Watson thinks hard. “Well, so many stars could not happen by accident. The order and settled pattern suggests a Great Creator behind the panorama. That suggests there may be a meaning and pattern for our own lives as well, to suit some cosmic plan intended by that Creator, and that suggests we might also find other clues to this Creator’s existence beside the stars we see.”
Sherlock bursts out, “Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”
I’ve loved the Sherlock Holmes detective stories all my life. Sherlock is one of the most popular and memorable characters in all of fiction. He is the only reason we still remember his creator today, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle grew tired of Sherlock’s popularity and tried to kill him off but the fans refused to accept it and kept demanding more stories.
I was wondering, the other day, why Sherlock had been such a successful character. I think it may well be because Sherlock seems to display the trait we all desire most. Sherlock can look at anything and, instantly, he understands it. He makes all the right deductions from the clues and fragments of evidence he finds. He never needs anyone to explain things or direct him in his investigations. By contrast his friend, Dr. Watson, never notices the important details or makes the right guesses. Sherlock scolds him in one of the stories, “You see but you do not observe.”
(It is this reputation of Sherlock’s skills that caused me to raise an eyebrow over one detail in the current TV series from England that places Holmes and Watson in a contemporary setting. The most recent episode ended by revealing that a woman who had paid a visit to Sherlock earlier, on the pretext of needing his help as a detective, was in fact the mysterious sister to Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft. How could Sherlock, the superhumanly astute observer, have failed to see who she was? I expect an answer to this puzzle in the next installment.)
In real life, all of us soon recognize that we are John Watsons, not Sherlock Holmes, no matter how much we like to flatter ourselves that we can figure everything out for ourselves. Jesus always manages to see and know something that we do not.
The other day I was reviewing the story of the lame man let down through a hole in the roof by his friends because the crowds around Jesus were so great there was no other way to get close to him.
One of the things that sets this story apart from all the others is that, in this instance, no one tells Jesus what they want him to do. Jesus doesn’t ask, either. He simply goes ahead and gives the man what Jesus considers is most important — forgiveness of his sins.
This is not what the man, himself, or his friends had in mind. They probably thought the need for healing was so obvious it didn’t need to be pointed out. That was the important need to them. Jesus saw beyond that. He gave the lame man what he really needed but didn’t know to ask for.
There is a reason that Jesus taught, when we pray, our first request should be, “Thy will be done.” We are talking to One Who loves us greatly. We should expect that He is doing what is best for us in His Kingdom, even when we can’t see it at first.
I was talking with my spiritual mentor the other day. He told me that lately the Lord had been dealing with him about being more patient. My friend knew he should be more patient with his wife and children. Then he realized God also wanted him to be more patient with Him. Even if it meant waiting awhile longer for God’s plans and purposes to become clear.
It does no good for Dr. Watson to argue with Sherlock. The facts are what they are. The truth is the truth even before Watson grasps it.
The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. Even when we are surprised or befuddled at the things Jesus has allowed in our lives, we may be sure of his great love. Nothing can separate us from that. He is trust worthy. We are wise to stay close to him and under his protection.
Because as long as he sees what is going on, it doesn’t matter if we cannot.