Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” - John 18:4-5
Yesterday, late afternoon, Rebekah went out into the garden for a stroll while I got busy in the kitchen with some fresh vegetables and a few slices of pork loin.
It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and clear at around 65 degrees. Our garden is a serious mess right now - it needs a couple of full days of hard work - but that's not stopping the early roses from blooming. They push their way out, regardless, full with the promise of summer and bursting with hope.
So Rebekah snipped one and brought it inside to sit on the counter top. This morning the rose opened all the way, caught in the first rays of sunlight as I ground the coffee beans.
WILDERNESS and REDEMPTION:
One of the themes of Lent is wilderness. People often read Bible passages relating to the forty-days (a long time) that Jesus spent in the desert, wrestling with his purpose and preparing for public ministry. There's often a run at self denial in Lent. People try to enhance spirituality by moving away from pleasure or distraction. I understand what they're doing, but I believe it's a uncreative to routinely mistake grey-tones and solemnity for God.
I can imagine the irony Jesus must have noted when the Temple guards came bursting through the night in Gethsemane, looking for someone in fear, panicked, and running away. Instead they came across Jesus, calm as you like, not going anywhere.
So Jesus asks these people who it is that they are looking for. And they answer, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Jesus stands in the dark place like the rose Rebekah discovered in our garden, blooming his heart out. It's thought-provoking to consider the fact that these people - like millions throughout history - were "looking for Jesus"!
I've never really thought about it before, but the tragically confused, and the angry, and the criminal, and the hateful, and the misfits, and the lost, and the resentful - they are all looking for Jesus. Jesus recognized this, and he was willing to meet them where they were; the master always is.
Christ blooms with beauty in the middle of the desert - the run-down garden - the oppressive workplace - the broken relationship - the lost life - the abandoned faith - Gethsemane... Jesus blooms there because he understands the searching heart.
Even when we're at odds with everything - maybe especially then - he does not leave us... because he is always ready to be found by his children.
I love the way this is expressed in Jeremiah 29. Right at the end, the idea is summed up in terms of bringing us back from the place of exile. That's what Christ's point is. That's the message of the rose. Back from exile.
- For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. – Jeremiah 29