“Read ’em and weep!” A bold statement – famous words, familiar to all card players. Whomever it may be that speaks this proclamation, that person believes that the hand they are laying down is unbeatable. Quite often they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they are dead wrong! Many tales of the old west, or of Chicago in the ’30s, had a card game where the “winner” got shot. Sometimes they were shot for cheating; sometimes it was because the shooter just didn’t like to lose.
Jesus made bold statements also. But, His statements were not founded on conjecture; they were the very foundation of Truth. “Read ’em and weep” was never spoken by Jesus, as such, that we are aware of. However, He did know how to “read” people, as was demonstrated when he questioned their sincerity and on occasion, openly called their bluff. Take for instance the rich young man, who was so intent on following Jesus; until he was told to sell his possessions and give the money to poor. Pretty high stakes from the human perspective. He folded.
Sometimes, the ability to read people can make you weep. Jesus was no exception. He openly demonstrated this when; “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41,42) Jesus knew their hearts and wept knowing that their own desires would cloud them from the Truth of Who He really was. Sometimes the truth can hurt – but, The Truth can also be hurt – “Jesus wept.”
Religious leaders flushed with evil intent, threw down their hand; a woman caught in the act of adultery. This woman and their witnesses were going to be their ace in the hole. “We’ve got Him now”, they thought. “No matter how He chooses, He loses”! The crowd gathered around, waiting to see how this would play out. Putting on His best poker face, Jesus took His time. He knelt in the dust, perhaps letting them think that He was calculating the odds, which truly appeared to be in their favor. Then, His calm still intact, Jesus called their bluff. The hand of Perfection held out His bid – a rock to be cast by anyone that could claim sinlessness. They had to admit that they had no business in judging. God alone holds those cards. One by one, beaten by the Truth, they walked away from the table. Game over.
Jesus knew He was always “holding all the cards”. His was and is the “wisdom of the ages”. He also knew that He was “playing into their hands”, or more appropriately, they were playing into His – they just didn’t know it. They had cheated, connived and tried to entrap Him and failed miserably. The stakes had grown higher. They were starting to look bad. Jesus had to go!
As most Wild West buffs are aware, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was killed by Jack McCall in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on August 2, 1876. Hickock was shot in the back of the head while playing poker and holding Aces and eights (two pairs) ever since known as the “dead man’s hand.” Eyewitness accounts reveal that Hickock never knew it was coming. If he had, history would probably read much differently. He had killed others, including McCall’s brother. One more wouldn’t have mattered, especially in self defense.
Not so with Jesus. In contrast to the violent life of Hickock, Jesus healed and gave life. Instead of reliance upon a Colt or Winchester to save and protect Himself, Jesus entrusted His life into the Father’s hands. When men tried to throw Him from a cliff, He walked through the crowd. When they hit Him, spit on Him and ridiculed Him, He remained silent. When they nailed the Son of God to a cross, He forgave them. Time after time, Jesus had told His disciples that His life would be forfeit. Yet He also said that no man could take it from Him. In spite of those planning to end Jesus’ life, It was His Alone to give.
Unlike “Wild Bill”, who was caught unaware and killed instantly, Jesus knew what was to come. He could “read” the circumstances leading to a lingering, painful death. He could “read” the hearts of those who would betray and abandon Him. In the Garden, this knowledge made Him weep “tears like drops of blood”.
Yes, “read ’em and weep” could apply to much of Jesus’ time here on earth. But, it wasn’t a game. A Spoonerism is a reversal of beginning letters between two words. If we do this to our phrase “read ’em and weep”, we end up with “weed ’em and reap”. That really drives home the point of Jesus’ tears and sacrifice. He mentioned that “the fields are ripe for the harvest”. (John 4:35) But, Jesus also mentioned that the unbelievers will, at the time of harvest, be weeded out and cast into the fire. (Matthew 13:38-42) This is pointed out quite vividly in Rev. 20:12-15. There before God’s Great White Throne, all will gather and “the Books will be opened”. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”; at which time there will be “great wailing and gnashing of teeth” – the ultimate “read ’em and weep”!
God isn’t an unfeeling “pit boss” who tells us to “play the hand we’re dealt”. Out of His love, we were created. Our Creator lovingly continues to care for us. But, He also expects us to acknowledge this life we have been blessed with as more than just a game of chance. Many times a day, we are faced with the decision to “hold, fold, or discard”; all of which can be either bad or good. You can hold God’s Truths in your heart. But you shouldn’t hold onto the things of this world. Sin should be discarded. But, too often the good seed of God’s Word is discarded when it is cast upon hard or thorny ground. We can fold our hands in prayer. Yet, too often we want to bend the rules, allowing our lives to be folded in compromise instead being of broken through repentance. God gave us His Word to read and obey, which brings rejoicing in the reaping – not weeping in the weeding. Those who place their faith in anything or anyone other than Jesus, will one day see that faith collapse like a house of cards. Life is not a game – if you gamble – you lose!