xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: Where Jesus Learned His Obedience

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where Jesus Learned His Obedience

March 24, 2015

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

There are two sacred observances happening within the next week whose juxtaposition rarely gets much attention.

The first event is tomorrow, March 25, known as Annunciation Day.  It is precisely nine months before Christmas Day, and commemorates the visit by the angel Gabriel to a young Mary, in which she was told that she would give birth to the Messiah. The second event is Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week, in which we once again travel the dark, desolate path that ends with the cross on Golgotha. 

I never realized it until now, but even though the date of Palm Sunday moves around from year to year, these two events are always within proximity of each other. There was likely no intentionality behind scheduling the two so closely, but theologically, considering them together makes a profound statement about the nature of Christian obedience.

If there is anything we admire about Mary, it was her willingness to say yes to God. Her fears and doubts would have made it quite understandable for her to choose the easier path of self-preservation. Instead, she chose to obey God, regardless of the cost and pain that was sure to follow.

Thirty-three years later – but only a matter of days in liturgical time – we find a similar scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here the son of Mary wrestled with the very same kinds of questions that his mother faced when he was conceived. A choice between comfort or obedience, between self-preservation or self-sacrifice, between human will and God’s will.

By linking together Annunciation Day and Palm Sunday, we can draw parallels between these bookends of the life of Jesus.  He was born of a woman who chose to obey God at all costs, and chose to live that same life of obedience until the very end. We might even imagine Jesus, as a very young boy, learning this important life lesson about obedience from the one who learned it herself at a very young age:

“Mother, tell me the story again of how the angel visited you,” he might ask.

“Well, dear, he caught me by surprise one day,” Mary would respond, beginning the tale just like she had in countless prior retellings.  “He told me not to be afraid, and that God had chosen me to give birth to you.”

“Were you afraid, Mother?”

“I was at first, of course.  Nothing like this had ever happened to me, and I didn’t know what others might think.  But there was something about the presence of God in that angel that gave me great comfort.  I said yes, and I’m so glad that I did.”

“Why were you glad, Mother?”

“Because then I could have you in my life, son!  But more than that, I knew deep down in my heart that God was going to do great things to change the world, and that God wanted to do them through me. To exalt the humble, fill the hungry, remember the lowly:  it is a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way.  We must say yes, even when it is difficult to do so.  Do you understand, son?”

“Yes, Mother.  May I ask another question?”

“Of course, dear.”

“Can you sing me that song again?  The one you sang when you said yes to the angel?”

I’d like to think that when Jesus was praying with a blood-soaked brow in the Garden of Gethsemane, the words of his mother’s Magnificat entered his mind.  In those moments when life is most difficult, and the pain and trauma of life have us squarely in their crosshairs, we tend to have our sharpest and clearest memories of the lessons our parents taught us.  Lessons about staying steadfast in our convictions, unwavering in our principles and courageous in our actions.  We learn from our ancestors how to claim our future.  And I think Jesus learned a thing or two about obedience from the woman whose obedience brought him into earthly existence.

Maybe it would be good spiritual preparation for us to pause for a moment, before the pageantry of Palm Sunday, and the passion of Holy Week, to remember these words from Annunciation Day.  May they call us to a spirit of obedience, just as they might have for Jesus himself:

My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

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