The last "Jesus movie" I saw was one that came out in the 1970s. I missed The Passion simply because too many people where talking about it. But, perhaps it's where I am on my spiritual path, I knew I had to see Son of God.
I thought about doing a review of the movie. Perhaps even interviewing several theologians to gather their thoughts on the movie. But there are real reporters who are doing that, I'm sure. Instead, I want to explore with you what was one of the strongest points of the movie to me.
Don't worry. If you haven't seen the movie, I'm not going to spoil it for you. After all, nothing in the movie is a surprise if you know the "highlights" of the Bible and Jesus' life as recorded therein. So, you can keep reading :-).
At the end of the movie and as recorded in Matthew 28:19, after Jesus had been resurrected, he says to the disciples (who included Mary), "Go and teach…" And, without question or complaint or long sorrowful goodbyes, they walk away.
Fast forward two thousand or so years and here we are studying, confessing, sharing, worshipping, singing, praying, communing, remembering, debating, writing, researching, dissecting, proclaiming, healing, preaching, teaching about the life and love of God through Jesus. A revolution began. Lives were literally sacrificed for this the good news of Jesus.
So, how can we sit comfortably in our pews, concerned with our finances and church membership numbers when there were eleven (or some small number) who took the word and examples of Jesus into the world (with much less material means than us)? How can such a small group, started with/by the Son of God, be a catalyst to transformation, and, today, our church (forget thinking of church collectively) be stifled and limited?
Here are, what I believe, unique characteristics to the disciples from which we can learn:
1. They had a personal relationship with Christ. Each disciple spent quality time with Jesus. They asked questions. They communed with him. They broke bread together. They saw Jesus' heart. Yes, Jesus isn't here physically but can't we still have a personal relationship with him? Don't we have evidence of what he's done and is doing in our own life that we can use as examples that he's real? It takes commitment and discipline to have a relationship with Jesus now and it did then.
2. They risked everything to follow him. Are we willing to leave the comforts of our home or church to follow the true, living God or are we comfortable getting by keeping the status quo? Are we willing to sell our goods and spread the gospel? I'm not saying everyone has to do that to be a true disciple, but I think we have to ask ourselves the question, "Am I holding on to something that I need to let go of that's keeping me from fully following Jesus?" And risk what we think we need in order to grow in our faith in God.
3. They were followers, in faith. The disciples followed, i.e. obeyed Jesus. They let him lead which means they had to have faith. Sure, they doubted at times. After all, there is "doubting Thomas," who is more like us than many are willing to admit. But the ones who followed Jesus to the end knew, beyond just a mental understanding, that Jesus was the Son of God. Often, when we are doubtful we stop following Jesus and follow our fears instead. When we do, we stumble as Peter taking his eyes off Jesus when walking on the water. Thank God, we have an advocate and can return, humbly, to the path of Jesus.
That scene of the movie of the disciples walking off the mountain, after hearing Jesus, has stayed with me. The disciples had renewed faith having spent those 40 days after the resurrection with him. They were empowered and gifted the Holy Spirit. They did not hesitate or ask questions when Jesus spoke what was next. They got up, knowing in their heart what they were called to do. With faith, they were committed to begin the ministry of Christianity.
Today, we, as Christians, must do the same: get up and spread the radical love and forgiveness of God. It doesn't matter the number of those who walk with us or who sit in the pews of the church next to us. What matters is the heart of people who believe. The faith. The vision. The desire. When we ask, "What are we to do next", I think we already know. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." And then there is this, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of age."
Are you ready? I will meet you on the path!