Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.
In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, they highlight the fact that Jesus made time for solitude amidst the incredible demands of his ministry. “Jesus, of course, was well aware his presence and words were in demand. This is precisely why he traded an hour or two of sleep for time alone. For Jesus, solitude and quiet, reflection and prayer, were lifeblood” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 118).
Why do stories captivate kids so much? Here’s something to consider: Have adults somehow wrongly categorized storytelling as “kid stuff”? Isn’t it true that we never hear the local library advertising story time for adults? And yet storytelling continues to be a significant part of our lives as we read books, watch movies, stream Ted Talks, and follow our favorite Instagram influencers. Perhaps, in our work, we are storytellers by trade…
Jesus was committed to using various forms of storytelling during his three-year ministry. Storytelling is just as important today as it was for Jesus’s listeners… If we want to follow Jesus and be good storytellers, it means much more than being good verbal communicators. We have the opportunity to be good storytellers in our spoken, written, visual, and various digital communication media that we regularly use.
A child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well.
Jesus contrasts two very familiar first-century characters: a Pharisee and a tax-collector. Perhaps Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Jesus challenge the smugness of the Pharisee, but to praise a tax-collector would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus raises up the value of a person’s honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness when it comes to one’s relationship with God. And he implies that his true followers will embrace an authenticity that will be noticed by God and others.
Jesus had a way of using questions to help people see better… Leaders become good at asking questions that help others see barriers in their lives and in their world. But leaders more importantly need to live a compelling life that forces people to ask the right kinds of questions, challenging assumptions and leading people to make choices for a better life revolving around Christ.
When a blind beggar cries out to Jesus for mercy, Jesus decides to ask the man what he wants. Isn’t it obvious? A blind beggar obviously needs to be healed! But Jesus respects the man by not assuming, but instead asking an empowering question that allows for the one in need to express his desire. Just this one observation of Jesus’s leadership speaks volumes to how we should engage with those we serve.
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who connected with people by coming near to them. In today’s passage, we see Jesus coming near in powerful and vulnerable ways by taking on the role of a servant. As a pastor and speaker, I can sometimes rely too much on my words to exercise leadership. Jesus, as a revolutionary communicator, was certainly an expert with his words, but his life modeled putting those words into action.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus connects with people. He touches lepers, dines with outcasts, prays for the unclean, enters Samaritan villages, and cries with the grieving. Jesus, the prophesied Immanuel, made it a leadership habit to come near, enter in, and be present. We continue the ministry of Jesus when we cry with others, listen to their stories, and are simply present. We can carry the presence of Jesus wherever we go.