Monday, January 16, 2006

For the World

There's a famous passage in Luke's gospel where Jesus "sets his face to Jerusalem." If you've made a serious study of Luke, you're surely familiar with it. But the Bible has a way of hiding things in familiar verses. Take a look at Luke 9:51 -- "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." The NASB is even more explicit, translating this as the time for his "ascension".

All the gospels are clear that there is an inescapable connection between Jesus' glorificaiton and his crucifixion. Here in Luke, this connection is made early. Significantly, Luke follows almost immediately with a collection of sayings about discipleship (Luke 9:57-62).

Sister Ann Shields never tires of quoting John 13:16 in this regard -- "Servants are not greater than their master." If being "taken up" means crucifixion for Christ, then should we be surprised if it means the same for us? As Bonhoeffer says, "When Christ calls us, he bids us to come and die."

This is not a popular model for discipleship (even if people like to quote the saying), but it's an appropriate one for today as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Early in his career, during the Montgomery bus boycott, Dr. King received a death threat: "If you aren't out of this town in three days, we're going to blow your brains out, and blow up your house." Shaken, he sat down over a cup of coffee and prayed. This is the answer he received:
Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And Lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world.
Three days later, his house was blown up. But by then, Dr. King had set his face on Jerusalem.

I heard a quote today from Pope Paul VI: "We are in the world, but not of the world...but for the world." This is something Martin Luther King Jr. surely understood. His was surely a life for the world.

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