First Saturday of Lent

Isaiah 52:1–53:12, John 15:17–16:2, 2 Timothy 2:1–10

“(He/She/They) never impressed me much.” This phrase is often spoken when some leaves in disgrace, or leaves well and everyone who remains is jealous. This phrase is also used when famous people do stupid or immoral acts that get them. Regardless of the reason or circumstance, the phrase is always used to diminish another person. Yet, Isaiah’s “Song of the Suffering Servant” takes that phrase and uses it to make a point. God’s Suffering Servant would be dismissed by so many. Even many who knew him would avoid him. Despite being treated poorly, the suffering servant would still take on the suffering of many, and also the mistreatment by many.

Jesus commands his disciples (and by proxy, us) to love one another. There are multiple pieces to this. It cannot be coincidental, however, that—right after that moment—Jesus talks about the world hating the disciples because the world hated him first. There have been many who wear the hate of the world as a badge of honor, which it would be if they were hated for loving and following Jesus. Often people are hated not because they follow Jesus wholeheartedly, but because they follow something (or someone) else and dress it up in “Jesus” language. It is a constant threat to the Christian walk that something (with good intention) is followed as if it were Jesus, but it isn’t Jesus. Is there a particular thing in mind, here? Yes and no. That’s the problem.

There are so many things that people follow/believe and dress up in “Jesus” language that it can become very hard to discern who Jesus really is. Think about that. If that pet issue or concern confuses people about Jesus, then the issue is probably about you, not Jesus.

What gets really confusing at times is that sometimes we show Jesus to others, and sometimes we hide Jesus from others. We can’t tell the difference, and neither can those who don’t follow Jesus. There will indeed be times where we righteously choose Jesus and the world hates us for us. There are times we choose something other than Jesus and the world hates us for it. We cannot judge the “Jesus” path by the hate of the world. Which ties us back to love one another.

When we love one another, we can be honest with each other. We then strengthen the aspects of Jesus we see in others, lifting that above the mire of our souls. When we fully live in love with one another, we experience and live out the holiness of God, and God’s grace thrives in us.

Through loving one another and with God’s grace in us, we can be strong against the world. When we are together in such a way, as Paul reminds Timothy, we keep ourselves from getting more involved in the world than is needed to be ambassadors to it. Our primary focus should always be to please God, and that will often bother those who do not know God.

1) Have you ever used the phrase “[someone] never impressed me much?” Why?

2) Have you ever felt hated because of what you believe? Are you able to separate yourself from Jesus, and see who (or what opinion) is really hated?

3) What is “Jesus” language? Where have you seen it misused?

FD) Hate is a strong word. Love is stronger, but we often don’t feel that way. Why?