Each Sunday, I teach a Sunday School class where we attempt to connect the Scripture with the world around us and the issues and situations we face each day. The hope is that we begin to think of the world from a more Christian perspective and begin to ask ourselves what does it mean to be a Christian in the world around us, our families, our jobs, and other responsibilities and issues.
This week, we looked specifically at the Gospel passage for this Sunday from the Revised Standard Lectionary. It was Luke 13:1-9 and Jesus’ call that all need to seek repentance followed by Luke’s telling of the Parable of the Fig Tree. There is much going on in this passage – repentance, ranking of sins, fruits of repentance, God’s patience, grace, etc – but one really stood out to me in working with this passage.
That is Christ Jesus’ perseverance in the midst of potential danger.
Luke tells of two instances that are not recorded anywhere else in Scripture. The first was of the death of Galileans by Pilate’s soldiers. Their blood had been mixed with the Temple sacrifice and many believed there sins were worse because of the way they died, which Jesus denies with his call that all are in need of repentance. We don’t know much of this incident. The best guess that we can gather is a recounting from Josephus who reported of many of the authorities committed by Pilate, including a similar story where Pilate’s soldiers went to the Temple undercover and killed the Galileans. What was Pilate’s issue with the Galileans? Most likely, it is believed, that the Galileans were against Pilate’s building of the Aqueducts with Temple funds and use of Roman religious symbols in Jerusalem.
It was not an easy time to be a Galilean and yet here was Jesus, from Galilee, who was on his way to Jerusalem. When you add in Luke’s reporting of King Herod wanting to kill Jesus later in Chapter 13, we learn more that it was not an easy time for Jesus as well.
Yet, he pressed on with the call and the mission. And we know how the rest of the story goes as it leads to The Passion, Christ’s death on the cross, and his eventual Resurrection on that Easter morning.
But, I have to think about my own reaction in the face of such danger, fear even. What decision would I have made? Would I have gone forward with my own mission? Or would I have changed my course? Chose a different route or tried to do things that would have achieved less danger or more popularity even?
I have to admit, in honesty, that there are times and have been times where it has been easy to “pick up my ball and go home” or change the course in the midst of fear, uncertainty or danger. Of course, none of my obstacles or decisions face the level of the danger that the Galileans faced, but we each face daily and life decisions that require difficult choices and how we respond to those choices shows our character and growth as a Christian.
It is easy to follow the way of the world and seek the easier way when we are faced with a difficult choice or an uncertain future. We often fall into the desire to find the easiest path that requires less of us, less sacrifice, and, perhaps even, more stability.
That’s often not the call of Christ.
The call of Christ is devotion in the midst of struggle, dedication in the midst of fear, and a heart committed to following God in spite of our fears and doubts. It’s a life directed towards the Triune God that requires sacrifice, making the difficult choices, and reversing our lives in focus of not ourselves but God.
I believe that is how Jesus responded in this passage. It was one of the many moments in the Gospel narrative where Jesus faced, I believe, a temptation to go a different route and yet he stood firm with the calling he had received from the Father. He continued to preach the need for repentance – his first message to the people – and continued on his path to Jerusalem.
We have the example to live into that response and to follow that path when we face obstacles and difficult moments that require difficult decision. We can be thankful for a Lord who has walked among us and has shown us the way of discipleship and dedication in those times.