I expect to love Jesus. And I expect Jesus to love me. I want to be near Jesus. And I want Jesus to want to be near me.
Yet when I encounter the apostles and they lead me to Jesus, I pause. I pause and I stop because Jesus looks different when he’s surrounded by his saints than he does when he’s alone in my mind, standing at a distance. Alone in my mind, I gaze upon him with joy. But alongside his saints, I lose sight of him and begin only to see myself – my own inhibition, my own reluctance, my own unwillingness to receive Jesus completely.
On my own, Jesus is one thing. I know him, I love him, I desire him, I give him everything.
But when I venture beyond my frontier, I find myself lost and in need of a guide. In his great mercy, the Lord provides. He gives to me his servant Luke, the evangelist, the one who leads me beyond my capacity and into the desire of his own heart, into his own great love, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus appears different here than he did before. I see him more clearly and as a result I’m filled with regretful ambivalence. This isn’t the Jesus I want and it’s not the Jesus I know, at least not intimately, not the one who stands in my mind alone and at a distance, appearing dimly as he comes near.
This Jesus makes me pause and stop and he pierces my heart because I no longer know my Savior; they have taken him and Luke has led the way, in front of them all, heralding the good news of my regretful ambivalence.
Nonetheless I make my approach, though only to be turned back. Jesus turns and reveals himself to me, and I turn away in confusion as he says:
“You cannot follow me.”
This word is familiar – the word I always knew somehow, yet always dismissed and hoped never to hear. Jesus has shattered me. I now lay beside him, broken, waiting for someone to carry me away, away from Jesus and into the kingdom of my fantasies. I wait an eternity. Ages pass beyond ages and Jesus stands with me shattered at his feet. Finally, Luke came and knelt beside me and said:
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and Jesus turned to them and said: ‘Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”
I had ears. And I could hear. And Luke’s words shattered me even more. I lay beside him with shame, clinging to the dust, my eyes shut with tears I shed only for myself.
Then Jesus spoke again as I hid in the dust, as I dreamt alone in my mind of one who would truly love me. Yet Jesus continued and said:
“The servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. Do not be mistaken, the ones who didn’t want me to be king over them, they will be brought before me and killed in my presence.”
So I shuddered. I trembled not with fear, but with sadness that I could be so conflicted – in love with a Savior who stands at a distance and shattered before one who threatens as I draw near. Luke had led me beyond my frontier and into his own heart, where I lay dismantled, in need of repair.
But the repair I wanted never came. Instead I remained with Jesus, who turned to me, heard my cry, and said:
“Leave everything. Then come and follow me.”
My desire was to follow, not leave. I sought to come, but with everything. So I conjured the words in my mind, “But who can?” I knew this was true, that none could. Yet I fell further, crushed even more, when I heard Luke reply:
“We have left all we had to follow you, Jesus. We have nothing left to give, but take what we do have.”
It was then that my sadness left. Lying at Jesus’ feet, folded in ambivalence, I turned from the dust and at last I gazed again upon Jesus. What I saw was wondrous. The heart of Luke was a cavernous expanse where Jesus’ brightness went unhindered. I saw how near Jesus had become and I saw him clearer than before. So I shook, then I stood and looked at Jesus, who said to me:
“I have come to call sinners to repentance.”
The call was to repentance. I saw that the apostles had left everything and I knew it was true. I saw the apostles had come near to Jesus and allowed him to come near to them. The call was to repentance and a battle-line drawn over control – to yield or to resist; to give everything and follow and so bear the presence of the Almighty or to fall and lie shattered at the feet of Jesus whose nearness in the saints becomes the unbearable dismantling of the world.
I want control of Jesus, at a distance, alone in my mind. But Jesus demands control of me, unlimited. Jesus must be unlimited. I must relent and give way and enter the heart of Jesus in the vast expanse of the saints. There the sweetness and beauty of Jesus fills all things unhindered. In the heart of the saints I draw near to Jesus, where I stand, only to fall out of reverence before him, consumed by the brilliance of his radiant love.