What is your favorite underdog story, whether a book or film? A recent internet search pulled up loads of stories where the least likely, the nobody, the total loser, the one scorned by all, started from below scratch and made life work despite the obstacles blocking the way. The best of these are ones based on real life, the actual ‘miracle’ stories. It is a common theme, certainly in the sports world and there are plenty of those on all the lists consulted. But there are others, too, who by luck or grit and determination or a full dose of both, challenged the naysayers (sometimes they were their own) and persevered until all the striving paid off and they could bask in their achievement or the blessings that had been bestowed on them.
Jesus’ twelve-member band fit this picture well for me. Little or no formal education; little or no significant social status, little or no means to bankroll a ministry, little or no understanding of the story they were being called to participate in, all of them Jews, all with a mutually-held, fervent desire; to stay off Rome’s radar. There is a deeply moving verse (Luke 22:15) that gets to me every time I read it. The setting is what we call The Last Supper. As the group arrives upstairs for the evening and begins settling in around the table, conversation buzzing, some friendly jostling, some quiet joking about someone’s clumsiness, undoubtedly some other good-natured banter, too, Jesus abruptly segues with this riveting statement: “I have longed with passion and desire to eat this Passover lamb with you before I endure my sufferings.” Really, Jesus, these guys with whom you’ve shared three years of life and travel and miracles and Kingdom teaching, with mixed results up till now, these very guys who had a penchant for misunderstanding, these guys who were well known for their ‘adventures in missing the point’? You eagerly desired to carve out this sacred time with them? Within twenty-four hours of your certain death, you made the choice to invest these hours, this feast, this important celebration with Peter, John and company? And yet! And yet! There was another Piece to this puzzle Who was soon to arrive, to powerfully transform this ragtag, sometimes contentious squad into a bold and brash force to be reckoned with. May we be of that ilk. PD