We stand at a vantage point from which we can see Easter this week. We have walked with Jesus toward Jerusalem, meeting people along the way that he encountered. We met the widow who put her last two cents into the offering at the temple. We met the lawyer whom Jesus confronted about his hypocrisy as Jesus taught people that loving God and loving others are the most important commandments of all. We met a woman who poured a vial of ointment onto Jesus which was worth tens of thousands of dollars. And Jesus said she made the right choice! Next Sunday we will meet the owner of a donkey that Jesus needed as he rode intro Jerusalem. Jesus’ followers simply told the owner that “The Lord needs it.” All of these encounters remind us that the Christian faith is centered on service to God, giving of what we have for God’s kingdom. To walk with Jesus is to truly bear your own cross and follow him as he carries his.
In no way did Jesus sugarcoat the nature of the life to which he was calling his followers. He lived it in front of them, suffering for it but embracing it anyway. His was not just a life of confrontation with his critics. For the most part, every encounter was aimed at bringing a more abundant life to someone or some group in society. When he healed people, he made their lives better so that they could serve God fully. When he taught people, he taught them how to avoid spiritual pitfalls in life and live with less anxiety as they served God. When he was in a confrontation, it usually centered around someone who was taking advantage of others, mostly for money. Jesus’ confrontation had the effect of making it harder for those whom he encountered to continue wronging others. He shed a light on their schemes, and the gig was up. You would expect his community to embrace him with open arms as one who finally had come to bring God’s kingdom to the world. Instead, he was rejected by the people he came to save. His experience was the experience of so many prophets who had come before him. And it is the experience of so many others since who have made it their lives’ mission to do what they consider to be God’s work. But in the end, God honored Jesus like no other. We walk with Jesus knowing that God will honor our efforts, too. And that is why we retrace the footsteps of Jesus during this important time of the year.