Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The ever surprising, unpredictable Christ

During Lent, I make it a practice to read through one of the gospels. This year, I'm reading through John's account of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. No matter how many times I do this, Jesus always catches me off guard. I'm always subconsciously making him easier to follow than he actually is. Jesus is never as polite or nice as I expect him to be. He talks to his mother harshly. He makes a mess of the Temple. Nor is he as articulate as I'd hope. He rarely answers a question directly. Just when I think he should come out and declare himself Lord of lords and King of kings, he slips away into the night. Such declarations must wait until after the cross.

The cross. I know it's there, an integral part of his story. Its presence in the narrative doesn't catch me off guard, so much as I'm caught off guard by my place in this narrative of the cross.

"Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be [even if that's on a cross!]" (John 12:25-26)

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first . . . A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me" (John 15:18, 20-21).

It's no wonder John 6 reports that "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." And yet, I can't turn away. I'm compelled to stay with this story that defies my expectations at the very same moment that it exposes the truth of my own heart.

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asks (John 6:67).

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69) . . . even if you constantly surprise us, offend us, and keep us on our toes.

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