...The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
Reading this story about Jesus, I have to wonder something: instead of assuming that Peter was telling Jesus something he already knew about himself, what if he was hearing something for the first time... something new, some deep-seated revelation that perhaps made him think or feel, "Oh crap!!!" Perhaps his blessing of Peter was the only way he could think to respond to such a statement. Maybe it was like hearing something that contradicts all the voices in his head. Maybe Jesus had to deal with voices that told him, " You aren't good enough. You'll never amount to anything. You'll never make a difference. You aren't important."
I realized just how much of my life I've spent waiting for the future only to deprive myself of the present. I'm almost always in my head, thinking about something, longing for something. The struggle to rest in the present moment is a persistent and pervasive one for me, and for so many of us. We have to think 2 hours, 8 hours, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ahead. Now doesn't exist... unless we will it so.
The last will be first. The first will be last. The meek shall inherit the earth. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek. The Gospel news is about turning things upside down and changing the world for the better. It's about recognizing that things aren't the way they should be and trusting that Jesus came to make all things new. What it isn't about it is tooting our own horn of righteousness and presuming that we are better, holier, than anyone else.
We don't know what the first Easter was like for its main character. Jesus didn't ring in that Sunday morning with bright pastel colors, mimosa-filled brunches, large family get togethers, or any of the other modern occurrences we associate with the holiday. I imagine the first Easter to have been very quiet (given its unexpected nature). No one expected Jesus to come back, and so his welcoming committee was probably rather sparse.
This story is honestly one of my favorites, mostly because in this scene, you see a different side of Jesus: the mildly frustrated, cut-straight-to-the-point, unable-to-mince-words Jesus. He's just had another go with the Pharisees, men so caught up with legalism and stringent piety that they fail (on a regular basis) to see God's presence and activity right in front of them. Even after observing countless healings and miracles, these guys are obstinate enough to ask for a sign. Jesus' response: No. You aren't getting one. At least not the one that you seem to think is going to change your mind.
I am so incredibly disappointed and hurt right now. I am frustrated. I am infuriated. I am saddened. How have we gotten to a place where the Gospel, where the supposed "Word of God" can yet again be used as a weapon against a group of people that have been hurt over and over again? How can so many of "God's people" think it is okay to show such blatant hostility against "the least of these" simply because they've been told that Matthew 18 says it's okay to do so.
Jesus' intent for most if not all of his encounters with people isn't just about living. It's about thriving. It's about being a part of community, about having a place to call home. Often, after Jesus healed someone in scripture, that person would ask to follow Jesus, would show a desire to be a part of the work he was doing. More often than not, Jesus' response was, "No. Go home. Go back to where you belong." It wasn't that Jesus' didn't want the company or the friendship. It was that his healing a person was always more than just a physical act. It was holistic, encompassing the whole of a person's life.
Growing up, I remember hearing the phrase "Jesus came to die" over and over and over. Back then, I simply believed it, took it at face value. As I got older and struggled with depression and thoughts of self-harm, the idea that the person who was supposed to save me only showed up to die was pretty heartbreaking....
It had to be about more than death...
A good friend shared with me this morning that he's finally found his calling. Part of me wanted to ask, "Where'd you find it? Was it easy? Did you have to look hard?" For some of us, the experience of finding our place in this world (forgive the Michael W. Smith reference) is not a pleasant or enjoyable one. It's difficult, painful even — feeling layer upon layer of ourselves be pulled away from our skin until, at last, we begin to see our true selves.