For twenty-eight years I have been a Christ-follower. That’s longer than I have done or been anything other than being alive. I have not always been diligent. I have not always been full of fervor. I have not always been a Christ-follower to emulate. But I could never turn away. I loved the faith. I loved Christ.
Somewhere along the next twenty-two years ago he became very familiar. And I took liberties and made assumptions. One of the ways this attitude manifested was I wouldn't read certain passages in Scripture because I already knew them. I knew the words written there. Again, familiarity bred contempt. I didn’t want to call it that. I didn’t want to put such an ugly name on it.
But we must call ugliness what it is.
Our Resurrection God recognizes this in his followers. He sees the sneers and smirks of contempt long before we do. He sees them as they begin inside. For me not to read a passage (especially the narratives of Jesus’ last week here) because I already knew them is a sin. And that sin is pride. Let me call it what it is.
But He didn’t deal with me harshly. Never does.
He asked me to go to the place of the greatest familiarity. Go back to the Gospels.
That was six years ago.
Six years ago I fell in love with Jesus. This is familiar phraseology—the best I can do to explain my relationship with Jesus. And it is a far-cry from the reality, but it’s close.
Six years ago I began to re-read the Gospels from a different perspective. I read and studied those four books simply to watch Jesus.
I watched him. I followed him through the crowds like an orphaned waif. I shadowed him through villages and followed behind him on the dusty roads. I saw him reach his hand out to a leper. I witnessed him raising a little girl from the dead. I listened as he gently chastised Martha. And I shrunk behind walls when he faced the Pharisees, the religious leaders, and called them white-washed tombs. I cried when he comforted the Widow of Nain. I hurt for him when his friend, Lazarus, died. I saw him show mercy so many times. He withheld condemnation when everyone else held rocks in their hands. He ate with people who were despised.
I saw him laugh and joke. I marveled at his teaching ability. I heard his encouragement to his disciples. I listened when he explained something to them for the fourth time and they still didn’t get what he was saying or doing. I witnessed him doing things that were beyond my comprehension—events I still do not fully understand. Apparently Peter, James and John didn’t either. I was nearby when he took the bread and fish and looked up and spoke with his father. I was in the crowd when the woman scooted under my feet and touched the dusty hem of his garment. I watched him make mud-pies and write in the dirt. I took a step back when he rebuked Peter. I saw him pick up a child and put her on his shoulders.
I fell in love with this man, Jesus. How could I not? How could I watch him and not love him?
But you see, he loved me first.
And I saw it on his face.
He was on his way to Jerusalem. He was navigating the treacherous Jericho road. So many told him not to go. He was warned. There was a bounty on his head. Cunningly the traps were being set and strategically the snares were being placed to entangle and indict him. They were waiting for him. And the ones around and with him were discouraging him—advising him to lay low, fly under the radar until the heat cooled.
But Jesus’ face was set. Like flint. He would not be deterred in this final journey. This was what he was sent here to do. To go to Jerusalem and die. He knew the details. Every single one. He knew the itinerary of this trip. He knew how it would end, and he went anyway. Love compelled him. He went because somewhere on that Jericho road he saw the shadow of me.
And the shadow of you.
And he set his face towards Jerusalem.
Don’t miss this.
He saw us.
Don’t dismiss this reality because of familiarity.
Jesus set his face because of me.
Because of you.
Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7