Jesus was taking some of what could be called, “Personal time.” Who would blame him? He had been busy teaching. Crowds surrounded him. His home town folk rejected him. The news of John the Baptist being beheaded had just come. So Jesus sent the disciples ahead in a boat while he spent the night in prayer.
I think we can identify with Jesus. The daily news simply can wear a person down. Covid-19 continues to spread and death totals rise. Leadership seems more interested in maintaining their base than coming together to address the issues. Job losses. Rent coming due with not enough in the bank account. Yes, personal time for prayer would do us all some good. While we might identify with Jesus, we are far more like the disciples in the boat. They had spent all night rowing against a strong headwind.
If you have ever been in a boat on a windswept lake, you know that conditions on the water get rough quickly. Getting to shore fast is important for safety. The water can become very chaotic which describes well how the world is functioning right now. In Scripture, water represented chaos. Scripture also reminds us that the Spirit hovered over the waters and it was from there that a beautiful and life giving creation came into being. Jesus came walking to them over the water, over the chaos of the world. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped and they worshipped him “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter wanted to join Jesus walking on the water. The first steps went fine but at the sight of the swirling water Peter started to sink with calls for Jesus to save him. On our own we are no match for the chaos. On our own we are overwhelmed. Jesus wasn’t a ghost as they first thought but the Son of God in flesh and bone come to save us. Even the disorder of an unjust court and a hasty crucifixion couldn’t stop the One who brings life out of a watery and formless void. The resurrection is God’s response to the chaos we cannot control.
Jesus’ example of time away for prayer is good for us to follow, especially now. Hear the words that Jesus said when they first saw him walking above the watery chaos, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Fear is a strong motivator. There is a lot of fear these days. We fear getting Covid. We fear change and what is different from what we think is normal. We fear the loss of job and paying the rent. We are told to fear the immigrant and those of a different race. We fear the loss of privilege. We fear exposure as we lose that carefully developed facade of who we think we are. Of course, there is the fear of death. At the core of fear is loss and losing what we own. No wonder that fear is used so effectively in politics. The reading from Matthew has Jesus telling the disciples to not be afraid. If there were a group of people having a right to be afraid, the disciples would be that group. What Jesus was asking of them would lead to loss, a lot of loss. What Jesus also announced to them and to all willing to listen, was their value to God who is concerned about the insignificant sparrow. Obviously we are of greater value than a sparrow. What Jesus was stressing wasn’t just the recognition of what may be lost but the importance of gaining life – life that is found within the kingdom of God.
Jesus was preparing the disciples for a big evangelism effort. He was also warning them of the consequences and what they might lose. He warned that his coming was not for peace but will bring the sword, division instead. They will lose relationships with brother, sister and in-law. They will even face death itself. Why? The message to be proclaimed will bring exposure…what is done in secret will be revealed…the coming of God’s kingdom promises to cause tremendous change with the powerful brought down and the low lifted up. There will be fear.
Jesus repeatedly told them not to be afraid and that is for us to hear as well. The God who raised Jesus from the dead and who will raise us as well, cares for us to know even the number of hairs on our heads. This same Father knows even when a little sparrow falls to the ground and we are of greater value than a sparrow.
The final verse talks about what is gained and what is lost. Those who find their life will lose their life. Those who find life on this world’s terms with tear-gas bombs, photo-ops, violence and fear will lose the life they have in the kingdom to come. Who loses their life for Christ will find it. Those willing to speak to what is done in secret for it to be exposed in the light of Christ are the ones who find life
These days of rallies and protests are filled with fear and anger. Racism and its various forms which have been kept in secret are becoming exposed. As Jesus said,
So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Exposure is needed because that leads to confession. With confession, comes the opportunity for healing to begin and for us all to find our life in the kingdom of God.
Exposure is the topic for this week. I’m not writing about being exposed to Covid-19 and precautions. I am writing about how it has exposed our humanity and fear. Covid-19 has reminded us once again of our mortality and our lack of invincibility. High school sports are cancelled. College sports are cancelled. Professional sports are cancelled. Church services are cancelled. Store shelves are empty. Scammers are selling their secret cure. Sales of Corona beer are down as people fear getting the virus from drinking it. Covid-19 has more than exposed us to a virus. It has also exposed our humanity and fear.
Today’s reading has Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at the community well and much was exposed about humanity in that day. Namely, biases and fear and insecurity. A God fearing Jew would avoid Samaritan land or find the fastest way through it. They would not have held a conversation with a Samaritan nor drank water from the same cup. A man would not have had a conversation with a woman in public. What Jesus was doing would have raised the anxiety levels of the righteous in those days. What he was doing also exposed our bias and fear.
There is more. Jesus asked her to get her husband but she had no husband. Then Jesus exposed her as having had five husbands. She wasn’t unlucky in love. Jesus exposed the insecurity of a woman in a society where wives were easily divorced (discarded) but needed men for protection.
While much was exposed, Jesus offered water but not water that came from the community well. He offered water that bubbled up like a fountain rising up to eternal life. He was the source of that water. Eternal life is a quality and way of life lived out under Christ as Lord in the reign of God. Jesus brought eternal life to a woman society had built walls around and raised up her dignity in a cast aside culture. She went off to town to tell others and the Samaritan town believed and welcomed Jesus to stay. They saw in him the Savior of the world.
The disciples showed up and were aghast that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus had come to do the work of bringing eternal life to this world and many others were needed both Jew and Samaritan to be a part of this work. The eternal life that Jesus brings is a life where biases and fears of others are removed and those cast aside are raised up to dignity as children of God. For this to happen, a lot of workers are needed. The disciples needed to understand this.
Covid-19 is a reality that has brought much of the world to a stop. It needs to be taken seriously. The prayer is for all infected to quickly recover and know again the goodness of health. At the same time, our humanity has been exposed with all its fears and insecurities. This needs healing as well. The invitation is to join in as one of the workers bringing the water that bubbles over to eternal life. Jesus is that water.