Bill Steward: email@example.com
First Sunday in Lent: Luke 4:1-13
The story of Jesus’ testing in the wilderness begins in the waters of baptism (Luke 3:21-22). I have come to believe that the familiar biblical illustrations of Jesus’ baptism misrepresent the event. John and Jesus are often pictured having the River Jordan to themselves, the only two in the water. But where’s the crowd? Where are all the others, young, old, young, rich, poor, yearning for a new life and a new world? The gospel writers make it a mob scene. Jesus was one of a restless, rebellious throng. Jesus came with the flood of people because he was one of them. He knew their hearts. He loved them---and believed that the future of the Kingdom-Reign of God was dependent upon their savvy and strength.
After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness---where he again affirmed his commitment to the power and place of the people in the coming Kingdom-Reign of God.
Jesus rejected using magical powers to turn stones into bread. He responded: NO---Only God’s people have the power to create a just and bountiful world that will endure. (4:3-4)
Jesus rejected absolute political power. Jesus said: NO---The people are the only rightful possessors of power to govern justly. It belongs to them, not to the Roman Emperor, not to me. (4:5-8)
Jesus rejected absolute religious authority. Jesus said: NO---All power that sustains and has revolutionary traction in history is bottom-up community-power. (4:9-12)
Jesus was embraced by the common people (and crucified by the Roman Empire) because he was uncompromising: authentic power belonged to the people. He understood their essential role in God’s Kingdom-Reign. He refused to assume power himself because he knew that power that lasts through time is communal power. “Greater things you will do than I have done,” he testified. (John 14:13) He refused to do what we the people have the agency and responsibility to do for ourselves.
Black History month is a good time to remember that the civil rights movement triumphed not only because of great individual leaders but also because of the tireless work of many indispensible and unnamed heroes---many of them “church ladies.” Lynne Olson has provided documentation in “Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970.” Behind-the-scenes women were the ones who cooked the meals, set up and took down rally sites, walked and provided transportation during bus boycotts and registered voters. Typically, in 1963 the hundreds of students at Florida A & M University who were charged for protesting segregated movie theaters were mostly young women. Six of the Little Rock Nine, black teenagers threatened for integrating the public high schools in 1957, were young women. Amen, sisters.
Jesus’ time of testing is over. His gaze is now fixed on us. “Follow me,” he says. The test is on us now.