My five year old son rode his bicycle without training wheels for the first time today. The moment he did it was joy-filled and exhilarating. It was also nerve wracking and a bit terrifying.
As he wobbled down the sidewalk, he veered into the yard, nearly missing a tree. Within the span of ten minutes, he is zooming around the block with a sense of accomplishment and a taste of freedom. Another milestone in the life of an American boy has been crossed, and I, his father, bear witness to it.
As I write this on a Sunday evening in March, Easter is three Sundays away. Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about Jesus and his disciples as they journeyed toward Jerusalem for the Passover and the events of Holy Week. Along the way, Jesus asks his disciples about himself.
When Jesus … asked his disciples, ”Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. ”Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)
This was a watershed moment that informed the rest of their journey toward Easter. Peter bore witness to Jesus’ life and ministry as the Messiah. It was as if the training wheels were taken off and the road ahead would become increasingly challenging for both Jesus and the disciples. At the same time, though, there was an empowerment that happened. The disciples had been brought into the life and economy of the kingdom of God. They were no longer an entourage of tag-a-longs, but associates, agents, and participants in Jesus’ ministry, which was to bring about the realization of the kingdom of God.
Opportunities to bear witness are more regular than we might realize, and do not always have to be as significant as Peter’s to be worth our while. We may see that in bearing witness to God’s faithfulness, to a loved one’s accomplishment, to a friend’s thoughtfulness, or to a random act of kindness, we just might empower those around us, setting them free to take the risks necessary to embark on the next leg of the journey they find themselves on. It’s just loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Grace and peace,