As we walk through the season of Lent, we are reminded of the difficult journey of Jesus. We often romanticize Jesus’s earthly ministry. Sure, it would have been glorious for those He healed. The demon possessed, the lepers, the sick would have been overwhelmed with joy when Jesus showed up. Yet an element of discomfort characterizes the ministry of Jesus.
Certainly, he did not enter a comfortable world. He spends much of his time walking around in sandals in the arid, hot Middle East countryside. He does not own a car, a house nor does he have the support of a wife and children. Through the season of Lent, we are challenged by Jesus’s lifestyle.
Not only was Jesus’s lifestyle unconventional, but His message disquiets his would be followers. He often challenges them in improbable ways.
(Luke 9:23 NIV) If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Can any of us honestly say that we live up to this? When we really think about the implications of Jesus’s message, we get edgy. We live in a world that teaches us to work hard in order to succeed and to win at all costs. Jesus reminds us, however
(Mark 10:31 NIV) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
I don’t know about you, but this sort of talk makes me uneasy. Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he disturbs the status quo. The religious leaders are so threatened by him, they seek to crucify Him.
It is only in hindsight that we begin to understand Jesus’s purpose. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,
(Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
God, through Jesus, was doing a great work. But at the time, people had trouble understanding what He was up to. God was prompting them out of their comfort zones, into His mission. How tragic for those who failed to join him! As we make our way toward Easter, may we be reminded that God continues to challenge us in uncomfortable ways.
As a church, we continue to transition. In the coming months, we may be challenged to rethink how we do ministry; budgetary constraints may force us to change the way we operate. While such talk may make us anxious, we can be sure that God is in control. While no one likes change, the season of Lent reminds us that Jesus was an agent of change and how can we as Easter people fail to follow His example?
May we be open to God’s movement. May we continually seek his direction as we navigate the challenging waters of this age. May we understand that our circumstances are not coincidental; God continually prompts us to follow him in new ways. And just like the early followers of Jesus, we will discover the joy of following God into the unknown.