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Some of you know the story. If I may, all of you should. It’s the pilgrimage of Christian and his good friend, Faithful, as they travel the King’s Highway on their way to the Celestial City. It’s Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” I’m referring to.
Toward the end of their journey, the Highway took them through Vanity Fair. They had to go through it. So did Jesus, as Bunyan explains:
“The way to the Celestial City lies just through this Town, where this lusty Fair is kept; and he that will go to the City, and yet not go through this Town, must needs go out of the World. The Prince of Princes himself, when here, went through this Town to his own Country, and that upon a Fair-day too: Yea, and as I think, it was Beelzebub, the Chief Lord of this Fair, that invited him to buy of his Vanities; yea, would have made him Lord of the Fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the Town. Yea, because he was such a Person of Honor, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the Kingdoms of the World in a little time, that he might, (if possible) allure that Blessed One, to cheapen and buy some of his Vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the Town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these Vanities. This Fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great Fair.”
We may think Vanity Fair, like an old western town springing up during the gold rush, came to be in our lifetime. No. It’s “an ancient thing.” The world fell a long time ago. Jesus walked its streets.
Now it was Christian and Faithful’s turn.
“Now these Pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this Fair. Well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the Fair, all the people in the Fair were moved, and the Town itself, as it were, in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons.”
Why did the two cause such a ruckus?
“First, the Pilgrims were clothed with such kind of Raiment as was diverse from the Raiment of any that traded in that Fair. The people, therefore, of the Fair made a great Gazing upon them. Some said they were fools; some they were bedlams; and some they were outlandish men.
“Secondly, and as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the Fair were the men of this World. So that from one end of the Fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.
“Thirdly, but that which did not a little amuse the merchandizers, was, that these Pilgrims set very light by all their wares; they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding Vanity’ and look upwards, signifying, that their trade and traffic was in Heaven.”
In short, they looked different, talked different, and weren’t interested in the wares of the world. When asked what they would buy, they simply responded, “We buy the Truth.”
Vanity Fair is all around. Seemingly everywhere. As such, here are some questions to consider. Does our existence cause a ruckus? Or are we so assimilated that our presence isn’t even noted? Do the citizens of Vanity know that our citizenship is elsewhere? Does Vanity recognize we are dressed in the righteousness of our Lord? Is our dialect “funny” to the residents of the Fair because we speak the language of Heaven? Do our interests, desires, and “shopping carts” reveal we are only passing through?
Peter addresses believers as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Would Vanity Fair address you as such? Or are you just the guy who lives next door? The gal in the adjacent cubicle? The student in the next desk? That is, nothing distinctive that lets others know you’re a Pilgrim.
Wear the clothes, talk the talk, and only be interested in the Truth.
Pastor Rich Hamlin
September 15, 2022