Let Jesus Always Surprise
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Monday, March 22nd: Psalm 119:9-16; Isaiah 43:8-13; and 2 Corinthians 3:4-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
If I could convince anyone about anything about Jesus, it would be to let ourselves be surprised by Him. This puts Jesus in control rather than us putting Jesus in boxes of our construction. This allows for a lively faith to take hold of us so that we may become “ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
I trust that there are many paths to God. I trust this because I have had the pleasure of meeting so many good and decent people, inspiring people, who find God along those many paths. For me, my path is Jesus. I am thoroughly impressed by Christ, and continue to be surprised by Him. It amazes me to no end that Jesus empties Himself, as we will read on Palm Sunday, of His divine prerogatives and from birth to crucifixion Jesus is thoroughly human.
The surprising truth of Jesus is that in Him God experiences unfiltered human life. God reveals Himself in the passionate relationship Jesus has with Abba, Father, but we are revealed to God in the sacred reality of Jesus’ human nature. Jesus is the uniquely personal connection between God and us. He is Son of God and Son of Man. His human nature must, therefore, be protected from the pious temptation to let the divine interrupt the human.
For example, Mark, the oldest Gospel, tells the account of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion. This is a thoroughly human experience. Jesus prays to “Abba, Father,” but is not sure of a response. Jesus seeks support from His closest followers and is disappointed. Then, He is betrayed by one of His own, and all of this happens even before He is handed over to His enemies.
The burden of this night is horrendous as any of us can imagine. Some ten or more years later, however, Luke or an anonymous editor is bothered by this commonness. 22:43-44 is not present in some of the ancient biblical sources. In the NRSV, therefore, these verses are printed within brackets. Luke or the editor add an angelic messenger into the account of Gethsemane. This may have comforted Luke or the editor, but it distorted the reality of Jesus’ human experience of those horrors. To pray to God as Father with a conditional sentence of “if” and to then be sent a strengthening angel steals away the genuineness and the meaningfulness of the experience.
Jesus’ humanity must be protected from such pious intrusions. Jesus must be us. This is the ultimate purpose of His Incarnation and the cost of our salvation. We cannot stop at this point though. Jesus’ full humanity does not mean that Jesus is only fully human. His full divinity experiences His full humanity. God knows us and we know God in Christ.
This is God not judging from afar, but encouraging us beside us, and “if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!” Let Jesus surprise us in His full humanity and in His full divinity because what other reaction is possible when we consider that Jesus is our crucified God?
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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