This morning I opened my Bible to read Chapter 4 of the Book of Luke. I was led there because a friend of mine, Harvey Yoder, brought it up during a lunch we shared a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about the need for Christians to be engaged in serving their communities.
Of course, the show-stopper in Luke 4 is found in verse 18. Upon standing up to read from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue, Jesus chose to read the passage that says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
I love that Jesus, in the same breath, cares about specific, personal needs and big picture "justice" issues. He didn't limit his work to a lecture circuit, preaching virtue but expecting others to go out and do the (literally) dirty work. He did both. He taught plenty, but He was also personally involved with the sick, diseased, poor, and demon-possessed. I want to be like Him.
I love that Jesus demonstrated obedience (unto death!), and that He honors efforts at obedience, even when paired with imperfect faith. When Jesus told Simon (in Chapter 5 of Luke) to put down the fishing net, Simon Peter's response is so full of honest doubt. "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." Jesus doesn't balk at the expression of reluctant doubt. Rather, He rewards the willingness to simply obey by giving the fishermen a record catch and allowing Simon to become His follower.
I love that Jesus challenged the notion of the "untouchable," and ignored the stigmas that resulted from cultural patterns of discrimination based on gender, occupation, poverty, religious sect and ethnicity. There were no "outsiders" when it came to this Gospel. He didn't shrink back even from notorious sinners, because he saw their need.
I love that Christ did not allow concern for His reputation or His standing in the community to interfere with doing His Father's work. He cared more for the people who needed Him than for garnering support among the religious leaders of the day or winning their endorsement.
And as I reflect on His ultimate fate from a human perspective--His death on the cross--I am amazed that He was not deterred from His calling (to the cross) by a desire to proclaim a more immediate "victory" over His enemies. I love His perspective, that He could let go of the desire to be proven "right" to His opponents. (I wonder how many times our simple acts of obedience are hailed as "victories" in Heaven even though they may appear as utter defeats here on Earth, even to us?)
How I long to be more like Jesus, and how far I am from the goal! May I at least be like Simon Peter, then, and obey the Master in the midst of my doubts and fears.