I wrote the Lenten reflection for March 20 in the ISN Series: Broken. Here was another piece of my reflection that I didn’t have space for in that post…
Many of us are taught to strive in United States culture. We are encouraged to be the best; we are lauded when we win. Status is a big deal; labels, degrees, positions – these mean so much. It seems the early followers of Jesus knew this same thing.
But Jesus is not playing that game. He is not striving. Contrarily, he is being. Being present to the ill and the cast offs… Being in people’s homes, on the streets, and in the Temple.
In order to do this, he must sometimes cross lines, physical and invisible. He must make an extraordinary effort to be with those with whom his culture does not want him to interact – menstruating women, people with leprosy, tax-collectors, to name a few. It is out of his way to be in their presence. This is by design.
It is still by design in much of U.S. culture. Our schools, our neighborhoods, our homeless encampments, our polluting factories, our freeways, our public transportation. A lot of it is set up to segregate us. Poor people live and travel here, rich people live and travel there. Check out this 2018 study on the segregation of our commuting patterns.
We literally do not even *cross paths* with people who are in a different economic or racial class than ourselves in the United States.
Jesus went out of his way to break these barriers.
And he knows this behavior will get him killed. He explains it to the disciples at the top of the Gospel passage.
When I mention to my students that Jesus proceeded, even though he likely knew state-sanctioned death was in his future. They are confused. Shocked. Even scandalized. “But, Ms. Dominguez, isn’t that what the suicide bombers do? March into death, believing salvation lies in the next life?”
It’s a worthy question.
But no. This is not what the suicide bombers do. Choosing death is not ours to choose. In fact, I would argue, Jesus did not choose death, at least primarily. He chose justice. And the government of the time chose to punish him with death. It’s just that Jesus knew that death would not be a lasting punishment. In fact, by freely accepting death, he ‘publicly disarms’ the powers that wish to silence him.
Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann puts it this way:
“Remember, now, that the State has only one power it can use against human beings: death. The State can persecute you, prosecute you, imprison you, exile you, execute you. All of these mean the same thing…The grace of Jesus Christ in this life is that death fails. There is nothing the State can do to you, or to me, which we need fear…Since death is their only power, any disciple truly free to die, disarms them publicly.”
How is God calling you to break across barriers this Lent? Whom does Jesus invite you to meet by taking a different route or placing yourself in a different space?