March 2, 2021
The Way Down
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
The way of Christ is the “way down.” Just like the kernel of wheat in the parable, Jesus’ victory went through the grave. The way down started in the Incarnation: the Almighty God laying down his power and coming to us as a little baby. This is a strange way of revealing yourself as the Creator! This pattern continued in Jesus’ earthly ministry, which was characterized by an outspoken love for those on the margins of society, rather than for those whose careers have “skyrocketed.” Even at the height of his popularity, in his triumphal entry to Jerusalem, he was not on horseback, but on a colt. What happened afterwards is history: although the atmosphere was ripe for a revolution, especially after Jesus’ cleansing of the temple (Luke 19), he retreated. Unsurprisingly, his message and attitude would get him arrested, sentenced, and executed. How deep can you go?
Christians throughout the ages have looked at this life, this crucial event, to re-examine contemporary life. What happened to Jesus somehow affected our lives. His “way down” proved to be a “way out” for us. They tell us that Jesus’ example of laying down his life is more than a soteriological event. It is a model to follow. Through death we get a new perspective on life. When we embrace his perspective on life, we can lay down our rights, our ego, and our “precious little wrongs.”1
For generations of Christians, following Jesus’ way down meant giving up material wealth. It is in their writings that we find some of the deepest mystical insights into what Jesus did for us. The so-called Desert Fathers and Mothers, for example, aimed to leave society behind, seek solitude, and devote themselves to prayer and fasting. Their extreme example (though some of the stories may be fictional) reminds us of Jesus’ 40 days in solitude in the desert before embarking upon his public ministry. The wilderness became a place of challenge and confirmation for him. Jesus faced demonic temptations, but was comforted by angels afterwards. Likewise, the Desert Fathers and Mothers sought the wilderness to face their demons, to reflect, to seek God’s face, and thereby fight a spiritual battle beyond our wildest imagination. Looking back on such early Christian ways, we may recognize the wilderness in ourselves, the temptations we face and our struggles in solitude.
Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, open our eyes. Show us where and how we can lay down our rights, face our despair, and find you.
1 “The Vision Poem” on 24-7prayer.com