Monday, September 9, 2013

Beginning of the end

If someone asked you what was the event that set in motion the crucifixion of Jesus, what would you say?

Today we hear Luke's answer. It was the healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. After that

they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

From this good deed reported in chapter 6 of Luke's gospel begins the series of machinations that will ultimately lead to crowds chanting crucify him, and to the crucifixion.

How often do we make the mistake of thinking, when we see someone in a bad place, "He must have done something wrong." Or when it is ourselves we ask, "What did I do to deserve this?"This gospel reminds us that this is simply a wrong way of thinking.

This gospel reminds us that there is evil in the world. And it does not operate as overtly as in the horror movies and TV shows. Evil is slow and methodical and patient. It works through the petty in all of us, jealousy, envy. The leaders saw that Jesus was good and had real power, the power to help and to heal. And in their jealousy, decided he had to be brought down. His violation of the sabbath law was merely the excuse they used.

Most of the people in the crowd yelling "Crucify him" had probably never even met Jesus and had no idea how they were being manipulated by their leaders, and how long these people had been working on a plan to destroy Jesus. The sad truth is, 2000 years later the crowd still loves a good crucifixion. Just turn on the TV or the Internet. Instead of wood and nails we now use words and pictures.

We are social by nature and that is a good thing. The danger is that we can easily get sucked into group-think, and loose sight of the fact that moral responsibility is always individual. In the end I will be judged by God for the choices I make. Sin of omission can be a damning as sins of commission. If I allow myself to be swept along by the crowd. Everyone was doing it cannot be my excuse.

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. The level of my responsibility is proportionate to my freedom. As a middle-class American I have enormous freedom, a level of freedom most people can only dream about. How will I use it today? To tear down or build up, to wound or to heal. Which voices will I heed today?