Mark 8:31 includes Jesus saying that he “must undergo” great suffering, and would die at the hands of the temple leaders. Still today, it is regularly debated in the church whether or not Jesus “had” to die. Perhaps this question is best answered in by asking the question in reverse: “Was it possible for Jesus to be 100% committed to God’s will for humanity without facing the burden of the Roman cross?”
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Their presence harkened back to the final text of the Old Testament, in which Malachi invites the faithful to remember the covenant made with Moses, and the to look forward to the return of Elijah. The Transfiguration solidifies what the disciples were longing for, the promise of the prophets made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, come to liberate them from the fear of death and the hatred of oppression.
Isaiah promises that the Messiah to come will come as a suffering servant. This would have been an unexpected and unwelcome announcement by those who desired a warrior-like king to redeem them from their enemies. Yet, as Jesus walked the Emmaus Road with the disciples, he likely not only identified himself as the suffering servant, he probably invited the disciples to consider how they might heed God’s call for the faithful to see themselves as freed from the powers of empires that we all might be servants of the Almighty.
Zechariah promises a humble king to come, making his entrance on the back of a the colt of a donkey. This is an unlikely king who comes to rule with the full strength of God’s peace. Make no doubt, it’s overpowering, but in God’s way, not the way of human empires.
Jesus uses the Hebrew Scriptures to point to himself as the Messiah. Looking at 2 Samuel 7, it seems that not only does Jesus hail from the line of David, not only is Jesus the one who is called the Son of God, not only is Jesus the one who calls God “Abba,” “Father,” but it is Jesus that proclaims the divine “but,” which refuses to give sin and death the final say.
In his use of the Hebrew Scriptures to point to his role as God’s Messiah, Jesus probably would have used Micah’s prophecy. Micah, like the other prophets, promises one who is to come who will not rule through militaristic adventures and war mongering. He promises one to come who will be Savior, who will reign with peace and offer a new way to salvation.
What did Christ say to the disciples while walking the Emmaus Road? I wonder if the disciples walking down the path were bemoaning Christ’s absence and failure to fulfill their hoped-for vision of a Messiah, much like many of us as the faithful do today, lamenting that God hasn’t granted us what we expected or wanted in the Messiah. And yet, this is God-in-flesh.
In the parable of the bridesmaids, we always want to identify with the bridesmaids who made it in to the wedding banquet. But is that really the best option? Was that group really the best witness of faithfulness? It’s time we rethink this parable, and admit, that while we may identify with the prudent bridesmaids, having sufficient oil for ourselves, in reality, we’re just as foolish as the morons who forgot their oil.
The Bible is full of examples of what it means to ‘walk humbly with your God,’ and they help us understand what Micah is instructing to God’s faithful community. But walking humbly isn’t an isolated instruction. Micah’s instructions are offered as one word of guidance, and to be faithful, we must follow all three of them in tandem.
Micah calls the people of Israel to humbly walk with God. But what does a humble walk look like? Why don’t we start with humility … what is humility? Not an easy question to answer, but the Biblical witness gives us some guiding words.