John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
What do we do with this man? How do we place him in our lives of traffic lights and speed limits, yellow school buses and garbage trucks? Where does he fit in our churches with steeples rising to the limits of technology and colored glass and upholstered pews. Where in our nine-to-fives - our schedules of summer vacations and weekend plans? How do we reconcile his story - his birth in a stable, his death on a cross - so long ago, so far away. How do we relate to his life? His teaching? His stories? His love?
Sandals on dirt roads, robes frayed with washing and use. No laundromats. No deodorant. Nothing easy or readymade. No grocery stores. No cars. A man and his followers walking in the dust. In the heat. Gleaning in the fields. Fishing.
Come, he said, and I will give you rest.
I am the Way, he said.
I am the truth, he said.
I am the life, he said.
Follow me, he said.
I drive through the city and see the frayed coats, worn and dirty, shuffling behind grocery carts piled high with street treasure - bundles of cast-off clothes and blankets. A horn honks, traffic moves on. The woman on the corner holds a sign, a cardboard sign. She doesn't look up as I pass. A sleeping figure wrapped in a blanket on a park bench. A lump of humanity in the busy day - alone. Wrapped. Sleeping. In the open, under the sky, beneath the stares of people passing by.
Sandals on dirt roads. No laundromats. Would we have seen him? That man? Would we have been curious because of his words - What if he lived today - would he be a YouTube sensation - gone viral for the miracles he worked? For the chaos he created in the temple? For his different point of view? Would he be the next big news item - another cult leader with a claim to divinity? A homeless, scruffy old hippie touting a religion of free love and back-to-nature living. Would he found a movement of live-in-the-moment, one-day-at-a-time, don't-worry-be-happy? A give-it-all-to-the-needy simple life?
He had to convince his followers. Time after time, story after story. Patiently explaining, patiently repeating - truly, I say to you - over and over - pleading for understanding, his message urgent and oh-so-difficult-to-believe. A message of non-competition - the first shall be last. A message of forgiveness and grace - undeserved and unearned reward given in the land of law and obedience. How hard it must have been to be him. How difficult to be his follower. Nothing easy or readymade. The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
I sit at my computer, in the early, early morning and think about my Savior, my God, my Hope, my Light. And the details don't matter. He lived. God came to earth in the form of Jesus, two thousand years ago. He lived. He died and he rose from the dead. He lived and now He lives. There is nothing easy about Christ. Everything is easy with Christ. Sandals on dirt roads. I understand that. I can start with that.
Father, thank you for Jesus. Truly. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thank you for Jesus.