[Note: I wrote this before September 1st, but didn’t finish it until today, October 13th]
As I said in my previous post, time to update has been scarce lately. Owing both to Imprint, the backpacking sojourn into Mineral King which the Residence Life staff and RAs took a few weeks ago (already?), as well as to the rigidly organized and jam (or preserves, if you prefer)- packed training regimen of the past fourteen days. There has hardly been time to stop and think, much less crank out a coherent set of paragraphs on any particular subject.
One facet of Imprint is a “solo” night wherein each RA gets a night on his or her own, nobody to talk to but God, almost nothing to read, and basically nothing to do but listen and pray. This year we were given two articles on solitude and a page which we chose from Stu Cleek’s bible to read if we chose. One of the two articles was an excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.
“The Day Alone” talks a bit about solitude, community, and the relationship between the two. Essentially, Bonhoeffer’s point in the excerpt is that neither the individual nor the community can exist without the other. Through solitude, we learn to meditate on the Word, pray for ourselves, and to intercede for those in the community we belong to. Only by existing in solitude can an individual have healthy community relationships. The solitude bit of this equation has never been difficult for me, but I’ve always struggled with what separated community from “the crowd”. It wasn’t until I got to reading the page which I (nearly randomly, as it happens. I’m not usually one for random page-turning to meaningful things in the Bible, but this time it seems to have worked.) tore from Stu’s Bible that I understood what community was about in this case.
1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
12Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.
This response is not recorded in any of the other three gospels and I think it has a stronger significance than Jesus’ recorded response in them. In the synoptics, the line is akin to “this must happen to fulfill the scripture,” implying (to me) an inexorability that needs no affirmation. But in John, Jesus’ question implies a response. Somebody needs to drink the cup of God’s wrath. Somebody needs to take up the burden, only one man is right for the job, and if he doesn’t nobody will. Jesus responds by taking an active acceptance of his burden. He knows that Peter will deny him, he knows that he must die, and he knows he must become utterly alone. This does not stop him from taking the responsibility which he knows is from him.
Why? Why would any human accept this burden? What could he – what could anybody – possibly have to gain? Jesus seems to answer this question in his inquiry before Pilate:
33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Jesus’ sacrifice testifies to the truth of his kingdom. This unseen kingdom garners the fealty of “everyone on the side of truth”, building a kingdom of believers far more sublime and coherent than anything ever seen on earth – all through the isolation and sacrifice of one man. Because Jesus chose to be alone on the cross instead of allow his “crowd” of servants to deter him from his purpose, the ultimate community was formed.