Cruciform Power: Our Faces Like Flint
In the church calendar this Sunday is usually referred to as “Palm Sunday.” Historically, Palm Sunday messages account for a version of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” However, rather than utilize the aforementioned line from Mark 11, the lectionary today turns our attention to Luke 22:14–23:56, the “Liturgy of the Passion,” which includes the entire narrative of Jesus' final evening with his disciples, his trial, crucifixion, and burial.
That’s a lot of verses.
Rather than attempting to cover such a large passage today, I recommend that as a community we read Luke 22:14–23:56 each day this week leading up to Easter. Each time you revisit the text, look for a new word or a sentence that stands out at you.
Our lectionary texts from Isaiah and Psalms this week also involve language of anguish and distress. In Psalm 31, the psalmist writes, “My life is consumed with sadness, my years are consumed with groaning.” Similarly, the author in Isaiah boldly writes, “I gave my body to attackers and my cheeks to beard pluckers. I didn’t hide my face from insults and spitting.”
The writer continues… “God will help me, I haven’t been insulted. Therefore, I set my face like flint and knew I would not be ashamed.”
Here, Isaiah demonstrates a profound amount of trust in God’s strength during persecution. His trust in God shapes his entire perspective through oppression, knowing that God will transform his pain into flint that sparks a flame of justice. A gospel protest!
How do we understand and appropriate strength, power, and influence in our world today?
Within the Luke passage for this week, an argument breaks out among the disciples about power and influence. Jesus interrupts their bickering and asks, “So who is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table?” Jesus answers… “I am among you as the one who serves.”
Jesus’ leadership and appropriation of strength is always upside down. For instance, a few hours after that argument, Jesus is patching up the ear of a high priest’s servant who was wounded by Jesus' defender. Jesus, the suffering servant, loves, forgives, and heals both the oppressed and the oppressor. Yet, his innocence and mercy was met with hostility and aggression. Similar to Isaiah, Jesus gives his body to his attackers, knowing that the path of God’s justice is always peace.
In a culture in which influence and strength are often measured by paychecks, military might, the proper friend groups, good grades, or an enviable career, Jesus demonstrates through his death that cruciform power in the Kingdom of God is not measured by those criteria. Rather, it is simply by our willingness to trust God, serve others, and use our faces like flint to spark love, kindness, and justice.
At the end of our reading this week, Jesus is taken from the cross, his body is wrapped in a cloth, prepared with spices, and laid into a tomb. And on the sabbath they rested...