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All too often, prayer has been utilized as a time where we drop off our wish list to God and quickly exit stage left. To be clear, we do have the privilege of taking our burdens and requests to our God, who is always attentive to our cry. However, prayer is a dialogue where we talk and listen. Just as we desire God’s ear, God also desires to be heard. The key to hearing God’s voice is to learn how to be an active listener.
Leadership, for those of us who take the Bible seriously, means connecting our voice with our touch. What we say and how we act are meant to be congruent with one another. Today’s text reminds us that the commandment to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might,” is intended not only for us but for those who follow us –
Christians from all over the world come to Jerusalem to walk along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, the way of the cross. This path through the streets and alleys of Jerusalem is believed to be the path Jesus actually walked on the way to his crucifixion.
Jesus had said this would happen. For quite some time he had predicted his suffering and death.
In the final events of his life, Jesus seemed to be orchestrating events that might otherwise have been out of his control.
So, though the crucifixion of Jesus is horrendous from one point of view, it is also wondrous from another perspective.
What cruel irony! Jesus finally received the words he deserved: “Hail, King of the Jews!” For once he wore a crown upon his head. Yet it was not the golden crown of sovereignty or the olive crown of victory, but the thorny crown of suffering.
There has been a tendency in the Christian telling of the Passion story to exonerate Pilate, or at least to make him an unwilling pawn of the Jewish leaders and crowds. Pilate, it is claimed, was a truth-seeking man who was caught between a rock and a hard place. Were it not for the pressure he received from the Sanhedrin and their supporters, he wouldn’t have crucified Jesus. This view of the noble Pilate seems at first to fit the facts of the New Testament Gospels. But, upon closer scrutiny, it falls short in a number of crucial ways.
Why did Peter deny Jesus? After all, he had been one of the first to follow Jesus, leaving so much behind to walk the uncertain road of discipleship. Peter had seen mighty wonders as his Master healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. Peter had witnessed the miracle of the transfiguration. And he had even walked on water for a few brief moments. So why did Peter, of all people, deny Jesus?
Jesus knew the power of compassion. He knew that desiring good for those we have named “enemy” retrains our brains and transforms us, through the literal renewing of our minds. Practicing loving-kindness and compassion makes it possible for us to de-escalate divisiveness and point people toward something more.
Though it’s reassuring to realize that Jesus himself, the Son of God, faced opposition and disagreement, this realization doesn’t always help when we face our own conflicts at work. When it seems as if a coworker is trying to throw you under the proverbial bus, your gut reaction might be to retreat or to lash out. However, as followers of Christ, it’s important to remember that our goal is always to build loving relationships and to live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us — even at work.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus wasn’t clearer about who he was and what he had come to do? I certainly have. It seems like it would have been so much easier for all, including those of us who seek to follow Jesus today, if he had only said, “Yes, I am the Messiah, but not in the sense you expect. I have been anointed by God to bring the kingdom, but not in a military-political way. The kingdom is coming through transformed hearts, communities, and cultures. Most of all, the kingdom is coming through my death, as I bear the sin of Israel, and, indeed, the sin of the world. As Messiah, I must also suffer in the role of Isaiah’s Servant.” Yet Jesus didn’t say this directly. It’s something we have to piece together from his words and deeds.
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