It’s easy to think that if we had been alive when Jesus walked the earth that we would have followed Him. After all, we would have been amazed by His miracles. We would have understood His teachings. We certainly wouldn’t have been among the chief priests who conspired to use the Roman government to have Him crucified! Right?
It’s hard to let go of knowing how the story evolves, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor to examine the story again from other angles in order to appreciate it anew and learn more about ourselves, we followers of Christ, who are always pursuing deep growth.
So how do we enter again the drama and grow in self-awareness and faith?
There is much to consider as we try to put ourselves in the events as they unfold, but one major question to reflect on is: “Within the story, whom do I most resemble in my words and my actions?”
Perhaps the most usual comparison to come to mind may be aligning ourselves as Jesus’ disciples. They heard His stories and witnessed His miracles. They believed He was the Messiah. Peter, James and John even experienced the transfiguration and heard God say, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.” (Mark 9:7) Like them, we have chosen to follow Him. It seems a logical and even noble choice to think of ourselves as one of the disciples. We resemble them in many ways, and we too have heard the stories and believe He is the Savior. However, it’s important to consider that like the disciples, even in our knowing, we lack understanding.
On the way to Jerusalem, James and John made known their desire to sit at the right and left of Jesus when He came into His glory. (Mark 10:37) They’d spent years under His instruction and still misunderstood the upside down kingdom He came to bring; that is, they were still concerned with their position in the hierarchy, claiming their own place of honor.
Am I like these two? Am I believing, following, learning and yet, on some level, still seeking my own glory?
Most of us definitely would not see ourselves as Judas. However, am I following with my words and actions while still holding a portion back for myself? Do I judge how others worship or how leadership manages? Do I question how mission funds are used? Can I get so frustrated when money is seemingly wasted on people I deem unworthy or things I think unimportant that I choose self-reliance at any cost? (John 12:4-5)
Maybe I’m impulsive like Peter–am I so eager to learn that I sometimes ask awkward questions? Am I reactionary? Am I quick to draw the sword to defend what I believe? (John 18:10-11) Do I try to defend my ideas even when they don’t require defending? Do I hold so tightly to how I think things should be that I am, in fact, aiding the enemy? (Matthew 16:21-23) Finally, when I can’t see Jesus clearly in my life, when my faith is questioned by others or if I feel some threat because of my beliefs, am I tempted to deny Him? (Luke 22:54-62)
What if I move past the easy connections to the disciples to less familiar comparisons?
For instance, am I Pilate, bound by the law of the land and my position? Do I try to let Jesus, and myself, off the hook? In other words, I know He’s done nothing illegal, yet I find myself caving in to the pressure of others. Am I more concerned with satisfying the crowd, with letting them push their agenda, than I am with doing what I know is right even if it’s unpopular? ( Mark 15:14-15)
How about this juxtaposition: Am I one of the rebels hanging next to Jesus? Have I chosen to live my life my own way and by my own rules until the last moment? Will I cling to my stubborn hard-heartedness, or in that moment, will I realize I am connected, somehow, to this One who can save me?
Truthfully, there is a good chance I possess a little of the good and the bad in each of them.
This Easter weekend my prayer for me, and for you,
is to lean hard into the Story.
On Friday, may we acknowledge our complicity in crucifying the real Jesus. May we recognize our own efforts to make Jesus into who we want or expect Him to be. May God show us where we try to adjust His teachings to fit our own structures, government and culture.
On Saturday, may we sit in the waiting silence and grieve the ways we have missed who He really is and may we repent of the times we have done damage in His name.
On Sunday, may we rejoice that despite our misunderstandings and our failings, He willingly sacrificed all His humanity and all His divinity for our sake. May our grateful response be to live out to our every ability His kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. (Matt 6:10)