I heard a story the other day that left me scratching my head. Anybody who has flown a lot will have a story or two about going through airport security.
When I started taking groups internationally, security was much more relaxed. You and your family, including your crazy Uncle Charlie who carries his pet rooster everywhere, were allowed to go back to your departure gate. When you returned, the same crowd that saw you off was usually standing there. You were never sure if your crazy Uncle Charlie had ever left the airport, but you were glad to see his friendly face as you exited the plane.
With today’s security, no one is allowed back to see you off or greet you when you return. Now as you depart the plane, silence falls across the passengers as they begin the “walk of loneliness.” Dragging your carryon behind you, you look first for a bathroom and then for the security exits.
Next comes a phenomenon only seen at an airport exit: a school of tightly knit human beings swarming like fish, waiting to welcome a friend or family member who has just completed the walk of loneliness. Young and old, families and strangers are packed near the exit trying to catch a glimpse of their loved ones.
Back to my story. A man was trying to go through airport security with a foil-wrapped pan of spaghetti and a container of marinara sauce. He placed these items on the conveyor belt along with his shoes, belt and jacket. As he stepped through the scanner, nothing beeped; everything seemed to be going smoothly.
Suddenly, one of the airport security officers hurried over and asked if they could inspect his belongings. Removing the foil from the pan, the security officer saw the perfectly cooked, al dente spaghetti and jokingly commented about how good it looked and that it made him hungry. Then he asked the traveler if he could open the other container. The man agreed to the search.
“What is this?” the officer asked as he peered into the container.
“Marinara sauce,” replied the passenger.
“It’s a liquid,” said the security officer.
“Most sauces are.”
“Liquids are not allowed on a plane unless they’re in a three-ounce or smaller container and carried in a quart-sized zip-loc bag. Liquids can be used for making explosives.”
The traveler waited, wondering. He didn’t want to leave the sauce behind; after all, what good is spaghetti without marinara sauce?
“What if I mixed the marinara in with the spaghetti; could I take it on the plane then?
“Yes. Then it would no longer be considered a liquid, because the spaghetti would absorb the sauce.” So the man poured the liquid into the pan of spaghetti and shook it around until the noodles were thoroughly coated. Now both the passenger and security agent got what they wanted.
When I heard this story, I had to say to myself, “What?!” As I told you, I only heard it, and I have no way to confirm its truth—but it doesn’t surprise me. If it is true, I know now that if I come across a potentially dangerous liquid, all I have to do is dump it into a pan of noodles, because noodles have the power to neutralize explosives.
I also understand that there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The security officer had a job to do: not to let any liquids over three ounces onto an airplane. The traveler had a job to do, too, and that was to deliver a pan of spaghetti with marinara sauce.
By the time Jesus was born into the world, the religious leaders had taken God’s Word and turned it into books of do’s and don’ts. Even today, when I visit modern-day Israel, I see how the people interpret the Shabbat as a day of rest.
They are not allowed to push a button on an elevator, so for 24 hours, it runs up and down, stopping at every floor. They can’t write, erase or tear anything in a 24-hour period. They can’t drive or ride in any type of vehicle, and the list goes on and on.
Jesus didn’t come to add to the list, but we still do. When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed to dance, play cards or go to movies. But Jesus is more concerned about why we do things than what we do. A person whose heart is right will do the right thing anyway. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov.4:23).
I wonder what Jesus thought when He saw what they did with His Father’s commandments. I don’t know, but I bet it sounded like “What?!”