The Journey to the Cross
Consider the life of Jesus leading up to his death by crucifixion. It would be natural to focus on the last few years leading up to his death, but think back to his birth... his coming to earth... his incarnation. What made God reveal himself as a human... then allow himself to be executed?
Recently, I started reading "Banker to the Poor" by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. He began Grameen Bank in 1983 by providing "micro loans" to the poorest people of Bangladesh, but his life altering mission really took root in 1976 when he loaned $27 of his own money to forty-two stool makers in a small village. Grameen Bank has now provided more than $3.8 billion to 2.4 million families in rural Bangladesh.
Leading up to this, Yunnus had been an economics professor at the university in Dhaka, Bangladesh while the country was experiencing a gripping famine. The famine hit hardest in the remote villages, but eventually drove the poorest people into the cities to search for food and relief. People were literally dying in the streets.
Yunnus admits that during this time he was lecturing the students on economic principles that would work in theory, but obviously were not working in the country at the time. He said, "I started to dread my own lectures. What good were all my complex theories when people were dying of starvation on the sidewalks and porches across from my lecture hall?"
He goes on, "I needed to run away from my theories and from my textbooks and discover the real-life economics of a poor person's existence... I opted for 'the worm's eye view'. I hoped that if I studied poverty at close range, I would understand it more keenly." This sounds strangely similar to what the Son of the Creator did a couple thousand years ago. In a sense, he left the "lecture hall" of heaven and came to discover the real-life existence of humanity.
So, when we think of Jesus' life on his way to the cross, we need to consider the 30 years he lived prior to the historically public side of his life that is recorded in the Gospels.
Thirty years is a good amount of time.
I wonder why his ministry didn't begin at the adolescent age of 13... or the driving age of 16... or the voting age of 18... or the drinking age of 21?
Maybe it was because his Father wanted him to get a good long 'human's eye view' of the world... to study people at close range... so he could understand us more keenly.
I have to imagine that Jesus absorbed a lot while he was going about his life for thirty years. As he was building a chair for the neighbor in Nazareth, he was learning what it was like for a Jewish person to live, work, raise a family. As the Roman soldiers rode in to town on their horses, he must have watched as fear washed over the faces of his family and friends... and as manipulation and control were exerted by the warlords of the Empire. As the religious rulers wielded their power he must have been observing the prideful way they carried themselves and influence they had on people.
By the time Jesus was baptized by John... he had a lot of life experience to draw from. And I imagine he was ready. A few years later when it was time for him to be crucified... he was able to hang there in our place. He was God... with a complete understanding of what it meant to be fully human.
I believe that is why the writer of Hebrews was able to say, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin."
Jesus' journey to the cross included his identification with what life is like for us in the world.
Inspired by Jesus (and even by Muhammad Yunnus), we will be moving to downtown Raleigh in the next few months. As God has been giving us a burden for the people who live and work there... we feel drawn there more and more. It is becoming more evident to me that it may take a while for us to understand what life is like for people in that part of the city. In order to understand, we need to do a lot of what Jesus did for thirty years... live life among the people we are called to reach.
Muhammad Yunnus realized he needed to do something different to make a difference in his country. He said, "Traditional universities had created an enormous distance between their students and the reality of everyday life in Bangladesh... I decided I would become a student all over again, and the people of Jobra would be my professors. I vowed to learn as much as possible about the village."
May we be inspired by the life of Jesus (and this example from Yunnus' life) to learn as much as possible about the people of our "villages".