Shake the dust

Welcome to Holy Week. This is the Christian tradition. Beginning earlier this week with Palm Sunday - a day to celebrate Jesus's triumphal entry, riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey. This is the start of Passover, the week we remember a garden betrayal, a mock trial, and the crucifixion of our savior. It culminates this coming Sunday, honoring the resurrection on Easter - the grandest of all Christian holidays.

Some things get missed among the plastic eggs, candy, and bunnies. Even in the pomp and circumstance of church services and big family dinners, we forget a detail of great importance. It is not the last supper with the broken bread and cup of wine. It is not the traitor's kiss. It is not the guards who tortured Jesus and gambled for his clothes. It is not the empty tomb.

The detail that we overlook is not the what but the why. Why, if Jesus was the son of God, why would he willingly endure the suffering and indignity of a Roman execution?

The simple answer is that he did it for us. As is often true, the some answers lead to new questions. If Jesus was a sacrifice for us, then why us?

If anything is clear, we the people - the most dominant species on this planet, we are a messed up population. Prone to mistakes and failure, constantly at war, jealous and power hungry. We are greedy and selfish humanity. But even at our best, our flaws are evident. We are Han frozen in carbonite. We are Marty McFly trying to undo our mistakes in both the past and the future. We are the Goonies looking for one last adventure before being evicted from our homes. We are Jack Shephard leading others yet feeling unfit to do so.

Why us? I am positive that the twelve disciples had similar thoughts when Jesus first approached them and said, "Follow me."

"Are you talking to me?" they must have asked, "Or that smarter, better qualified, and more handsome fellow over there?"

These were fishermen and tax collectors. People that flunked out of religious school and returned to the family business. Minimally skilled, unappreciated, despised, and deemed not good enough to be a disciple of any of the other rabbis. Jesus asked them to follow and somewhere inside their hearts they had to respond, "Uh, OK, but are you sure you have the right guy?"

When Jesus wasn't preaching to the crowds or healing the sick, he was pouring his life into a motley crew of men who never considered themselves to be good enough. He showed them compassion and love beyond comprehension. Even into his final days, Jesus displayed lavish acts of love for people he knew would betray him, deny him, and abandon him.

In every conversation they shared, in every mile they walked, in every meal they ate, Jesus was consistent in the message he had for his followers. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you've been, or what you do - I love you."

Jesus knew their pasts, but he also knew their futures. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was preparing them for their lives beyond the present moment. He was providing instruction for their ministry but tempering with the warning that they wouldn't always be welcomed or accepted. In those instances where they were mistreated or rejected, Jesus gave the order to shake the dust off of their feet as they left that place. This was a way for them to separate themselves from their bad experience. Shake the dust, shake it off, leave it behind.

Jesus loved these men. He knew they were all tragically flawed. In telling them to shake the dust off of their feet, he was also giving them hope to move on. "You're broken people but I chose you."

It is through these imperfect heroes that the church was born. It is through these imperfect heroes that the gospel was spread across Judea and into Rome. It is through these imperfect heroes that Jesus displayed his perfection.

That is why I celebrate Easter. It did not happen in spite of humanity's failures, but because of it. We needed someone perfect to cover our imperfections. We need that hope to give us the courage to shake the dust, to leave it behind, and carry on the Good News to those who desperately need it.

The above video was filmed at a To Write Love On Her Arms event called Heavy and Light. For more information, you can read about it on the TWLOHA site here.

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