Jesus did not ask his disciples to worship him; he called disciples to follow him – to learn from him and from the world around them. They called him Rabbi – and as most students do, they so often failed to understand the depth of his lessons – until later. Over the years, they had eureka moments; the actually began to understand. They grew in age and wisdom throughout their journey together. In later years, they began to see what Jesus saw, and And in this vision, they also saw the Spirit of God in themselves and in all others that they encountered. They saw that the Spirit of God revealed self in and through love – in relationships that were connected and life giving.
Then, as now, people were looking for a Messiah; a savior who would become the new Moses and lead them to the promised land. They were looking for someone who would lead a great army and defeat the Romans who controlled most of the know world at that time. They envisioned a powerful leader who would smite all of their enemies and make them a free and a powerful nation. Many thought that Jesus might just be that person. They saw that God worked wonders through him and just maybe, Jesus would become the Annointed One of God. He spoke to power, warning them that they were following the wrong path. The more that he gathered people around him, the more that they became his followers and they listened and watched, hoping. In all of this, the leaders felt their positions were being threatened and schemed how to eliminate him as a potential rival.
Here was Jesus, born in Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, without wealth or the trappings of power. He was teaching – and attracting followers, and a threat to those in power. He did not expect them to worship him, but he did ask them to follow – to use their senses and to observe carefully those that he touched, walked and spoke with – those who were seen as unclean and the lepers of their society – who were for the most part ignored or pushed aside. He treated them as equals – as important – as part of God’s creation. He challenged those who worshiped wealth and power – who saw others simply as a means of achieving their own goals. He challenged them to see that God walked with all – bringing life to the world – not death.
Often, then as now, individuals sought power and wealth as signs that they were more important that others; they were/are convinced that the world was there to serve them and their wants – that were disposable things to be used to move them into power and then to do everything to hold on. They seemed to place themselves as a god, much like the Roman Emperors, the Pharaohs of Egypt, and so many others. Jesus challenged this vision, seeing that God was present in the lepers, in the poor, in those labeled unclean and of no value.
Jesus gathered his disciples from among the lower rungs of society. They walked, watched, listened and so often failed to understand. What Jesus was teaching went against the grain and they also recognized that they were coming to a climax. At times, they were waiting for him to call the troops – the people to overthrow the Romans – and they were both attracted to this decision, but also fearful, recognizing the threat that Jesus was presenting to them. At the time of the arrest and trial of Jesus – we observe the battle between the two kingdoms; the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. The discussion between Pilate and Jesus is most enlightening as is the teaching of Jesus in allowing the torture and crucifixion to take place without a confrontation. The teaching continues, with the awareness of the disciples of death leading to the fullness of life. The disciples looked at the story of God entering the world, full of love and teaching that love is what brings life, and that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference – of not opening our senses; our mind and most importantly, our hearts to others brings death.
Another teaching, sometimes lost, is that of his call to the disciples to “Follow me.” He did not require that they worship him, but rather to follow him. He assured them that that same Spirit that was in him, was now in them and that they were filled with the Spirit of life. They could move mountains, if they chose. He reminded them that they, the people of God, God’s creation – were responsible for their world and for one another. They were called to become life-givers – to move outside of focusing only on themselves and to look carefully around them, and see that all of life is connected – that we need one another – and that we are all broken and wounded by the struggles that life brings.
We learn that we are all called to enter into the struggle, into the pain of creation. It is in entering into the struggle that the old dies and brings new life. Life/love is not passive, enabling us to be indifferent to the suffering of creation – of people, animals and plants. We can sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, or filled with anger, pointing our fingers at others, condemning and insulting those that might seem to be different. The fact is, they are different. The fact also is, life requires diversity for growth. Death and Resurrection are two sides of the same coin.
To let go of our lust for power or the signs of power is a primary teaching in the God become human. The cosmos is born into relationship, constantly changing and transforming and being transformed. Jesus calls us to be actively involved in this process. As the Book of Genesis reminds us; God created us, male and female, in His image we are created; and then he gives us the give of caring for one another and for our world. We, and all of life, depends on clean air, clean water, and life giving earth – of which we are the product. All of life, is connected and works together for the common good. In this we are called to allowing our vision of our life to die, in order that life can continue to develop in mysterious ways.
We are not called to hang on to the past, or even a vision of the past. We respect the past, but at the same time, allow it to rest in peace. We are called as disciples to accept active responsibility for our world and for all of life – to accept life and then to share it with all. Jesus asked his disciples; “what are you afraid of?” – and then he walked on water, assuring them that they too can walk of water – to do the impossible, understanding that the Spirit of God is within us, in the same way that that Spirit was in Jesus. Creation is positive – live giving – transforming – and possible when we let go of our fears and grasp that divine life that resides within our world – within all people of all times, when we open our minds and our hearts to allow love to change us.