First Steps

With any transition we might experience, the first steps on the new path are supremely important. These first steps signal an intended direction. Furthermore, it reveals insight into the “why?” questions. The first steps that come on a new path are also, often, the most intentional steps we make. When we experience changes in our life, we are usually faced with numerous choices as to which path we take. Even though there may be one choice that emerges as the most obvious/necessary choice, it still requires an intentional act. Even if our first steps on a new path seem tentative to us, they still need our full attention. These first faithful steps put us on the path to the destination we hope to see. Each step we take will help us to live into and understand all of the steps that will follow on the path.

The Unexpected Path

Sometimes our first steps on a new path might mystify the people around us. It is likely that this was the case when Jesus led his followers from the Sermon on the Mount. In the context of First Century Palestine, there would have been certain people to whom Jesus would have been expected to take his teaching and ministry. The insiders, well-connected, wealthy, and privileged were usually the people who received the benefits of their society. Theoretically, these benefits would have trickled down to others. But Jesus does the unexpected. In Matthew’s telling of the Gospel story, the first people with whom Jesus shares the message and power of his ministry were a leper and a Roman Centurion. I suspect that this would have scandalized the more conservative adherents to Judaism. Both of these persons would have been untouchable. They were both considered to be unclean. Both would have a rendered Jesus ritually unclean. None of this seemed to matter to him.

Embody the Message

The argument could be made that Jesus’ engagement with the leper and the Centurion would have been the only actions that made sense. Given the nature of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, these first actions in Matthew 8 are perfectly consistent with the teaching. If Jesus had, instead, taken this message and shared this power with the privileged of his time, it would have made the teaching pointless and impotent. Instead, Jesus’ first steps from the Mount were precisely the path that would lead him to the cross. These would be the first steps in which he consistently embodies the call that “greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In the various transitions of our faith, our first steps beyond the experiences of grace that bring healing to us are critically important to our ultimate destination as Christ-followers. As we learn and grow, living through the inevitability of change in our life, this passage reminds us of the importance making intentional choices to reflect the love of Christ in all we do. Join us on Sunday as we explore this call through the celebration of Baptism and the sharing of Christ’s Table.