By Sarah Smoot
As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead. –James 2:26 (CEB)
Recently, many Christians have honored Lent. It is a season to confess and repent of sin, to recognize human frailty and failings, to journey to the cross with Jesus as we acknowledge our boundedness to ashes and death.
Whatever discipline we have taken on during Lent... it has reminded us of Jesus’ humble life and ministry.
Some churches honor the irony of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem by burning the palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday to make the ashes that mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Whatever discipline we have taken on during Lent—fasting, simple-living, prayer, service, or otherwise—it has reminded us of Jesus’ humble life and ministry. Jesus began his ministry knowing that the end of his journey would not be the place of palm branches, but the place of the skull (Golgotha). His crown would not be gold, but thorns; his throne would not be the seat of power, but the cross, the place where criminals are executed.
We are not mere passersby during Jesus’ road to the cross. Jesus’ disciples today follow in the same steps as our forebears, Jesus’ best friends. On Holy Thursday we take our place around Jesus’ table, and depart as Peter, denying Jesus three times, or as Judas, selling our friend for a quick buck. On Good Friday, we are the Centurion, finally recognizing the Son of God in the moment that he slips away from us.
On Saturday we mourn, as Peter, as Judas, as Mary, as Martha, we weep…
Every day we have the opportunity to deny Jesus by the way we live... or breathe new life into our dry, lifeless, faith with resurrection actions.
But then there is an empty tomb. On Sunday morning, when we expect to tend to Jesus’ lifeless body, we see the stone rolled back, Jesus’ coverings strewn on the ground, and no body! We can’t believe it. We suspect the worst, that another religious leader stole the body in mockery, or a Roman soldier has taken it for some desecration. But in the midst of our pain and suffering, somehow the risen Jesus comes to us. As a gardener, as a storyteller on the road, as a friend cooking breakfast. Our faith that died in fewer hours than Jesus spent on the cross is restored, our lives made new; we taste the resurrection.
Everyday our actions put flesh and bones to our faith, or they crucify it. Every day we have the opportunity to deny Jesus by the way we live. And every day we have the opportunity to breathe new life into our dry, lifeless, faith with resurrection actions. Jesus showed us the way. Touching those considered unclean, listening to those no one wants to hear, eating with sinners and tax collectors, giving someone a second chance, and a third, and a fourth, healing the powerful and the impoverished, resurrecting the words of God’s law with love. Jesus taught the prayer, “Give us daily bread,” and Jesus became daily bread for the whole world. Jesus’ faith is faithful action, and in his resurrection, he leaves us with the echo: “Go, and do likewise.”
Questions for Thought and Discussion:
- In the last 24 hours, what have your actions said about you? What has inspired them?
- Which characters do you identify with today? Peter denying Jesus? Judas betraying Jesus? Mary encountering the risen Jesus in the garden? The centurion confessing his faith?
- What is an area of your life in which you need resurrection actions?
- What actions will you take in following Jesus this week?