I’ve all but reached the grand finale in the book of Luke. I know the events leading up to Jesus’s final hours, how he taught in the temple, and slept on the Mount of Olives, all too well, and yet things are remarkably not as the seem (21:34-38).
Wa church members worshiping in Yunnan.
The wonderful thing about scripture is that our own context always alters its meaning, lifting certain moments out of obscurity.
That…and the Holy Spirit, of course.
And so this morning as I find myself lamenting the divisions of my Church in America, as well as the fledging churches in China, I am humbled to see how Jesus surrounded himself with (unlikely) broken beings. I think of Peter in his denial, Judas in his betrayal, and what rings true is not the prowess of Jesus’s twelve, but rather their inability to understand, their fears, their selfishness--in short, their humanity.
Rural church in the mountains of Yunnan.
The other morning as my friend and I reflected on the passage about the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Luke 8), she remarked wisely that Jesus responds to people with authentic need. How true that is, I think, for all throughout scripture we see people who in humbling themselves before Jesus, their hearts have already been cured in that they’ve found their way to humility, servanthood, and faith. Therefore, they are freed of their burdens, cured of their disease, and fully healed.
Meanwhile we who feel we have bigger fish to fry, we who, like the disciples, no sooner have we received Jesus’ sweet communion do we start to quibble about who among us is greatest (Luke 22:14-30) and who shall be saved, we mistakenly see ourselves as without need. Jesus famously says in the fifth chapter of Luke that those who are well have no need of healing, and that he’s come to call not the righteous but the sinners to repentance (5:31).
Surely Jesus was being sarcastic about those healthy, righteous people, right? Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hear the tone of some of these one-liners!
Context, my friends. And thank God for the Holy Spirit.
Mandarin Bible with Dai translation notes.
As I read about that Holy meal this morning in modern China, that famous last supper, what strikes me today is not only the communion Jesus offers to all of us so greatly in need, but how that last meal is tainted with the foreshadowing of betrayal. We will all succumb to the lie in life that we’re healthy, shiny got-it-all-together disciples, and only when that lie comes apart at the seams do we find ourselves crawling back to Jesus.
So today I’m praying that God would make me ever aware of my own fragility, that I’ll stick to a life of groveling, crawling, and humbling myself–in short, the life where I belong. And that the humanity of others would only make me see myself more clearly, more accurately, and that would only make me cling, in my neediness to Jesus.
Sounds like another job for the Holy Spirit!
Inside a Wa church in Yunnan province. All photos by Evan Schneider.