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Trudging through the hill country

by davesandel on March 13th, 2023

Monday, March 13, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Trudging through the hill country

They rose up, drove him out of the town and led him to the brow of the hill to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Shusaku Endo, Japanese author and Catholic Christian, wrote Silence, about feudal, samurai Japan’s quietly violent eventual rejection of western missionaries in the 17th century. Martin Scorsese crafted a masterful film after reading Endo’s book decades earlier on a train trip through Japan.

Endu also wrote A Life of Jesus.

When we patch together all the scattered references to unpleasantries in Nazareth, we grasp the extent of the hard feeling which greeted Jesus after returning. The breaking up of his disciples mentioned only in John 6:66 left only a few. “Do you also want to leave me?”

Perhaps they did want to leave, but as Peter said, “Where else would we go?” They trudged on. Picture them …

these dozen men or so, silently walking behind Jesus of Nazareth, their bone-tired feet carrying them into the lonely hill country stretching before them toward the north.

There was nothing special about them, except for their obedience. What did they see in Jesus?

Was it some kind of inexpressible purity and melancholy in the eyes of Jesus? Maybe the only thing which held their little band together was a feeling that they would be haunted by lonely regret for the rest of their lives if they were to desert him now.

Although, when push came to crucifixion, they did desert him. All but John fled.

They were pretty much like the rest of us after all – a collection of no-good cowards and weaklings.

But then Endu-san sees what we all see. After Jesus’ death and resurrection everything changed for these once bedraggled, weak, wandering men.

They never flinched at any physical terror. For Jesus’ sake they stoutly bore the rigors of distant journeys, and stoutly they held out under persecution. Peter underwent martyrdom in Rome about the year AD 61. Andrew was put to death by starvation in the Greek city of Patras. Simon, who had belonged to the Zealots, is said to have been killed for preaching Jesus in the city of Suanis, and Bartholomew was flayed alive and then hung on a cross at Albanopolis.

In the spiritual presence of the resurrected Jesus, God’s love transformed them. It transforms us too, even though we resist. We don’t know what it will take, but suddenly our resistance collapses. Naaman the great Syrian soldier found that he had leprosy. His king sent him to Israel, to Elisha. At first Naaman was angry when Elisha did not leave his house to greet him. He felt ridiculed by Elisha’s instructions. Then his servants helped to take him down a notch.

If the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you the simple thing, “Wash and be clean.” So Naaman went and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God, and his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child. And he was clean.

Like Jesus’ disciples, Naaman knew the pure power of God’s love, on his skin and in his soul.

Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.

I can hear him sing the psalm, and I want to sing it with him:

Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?

(2 Kings 5, Psalm 42, Psalm 130, Luke 4)

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