There was a time when Jesus spent hours in prayer on His knees:
“ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,” –Luke 22:41
And during that time John gives us some of what his prayers contained, “20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” –John 17:20-23
Jesus prayed for all believers of Him to have unity, because He is in them and them in Him. So whether you kneel or stand for a pledge, if you believe in Jesus, The Christ is calling you to have unity with one another. And I think we all know that unity is more than just tolerating one another. Unity means loving unconditionally one another as in, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
However, Jesus’ prayer doesn’t end with signing off with God in the garden. Jesus then begins to live out the prayer he just prayed. As he is arrested and “on trial” he lives his desire to ensure that there can be unity through setting the world to rights. Jesus does speak some here, but doesn’t need to say much when accused of false wrongdoing.
“12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” –Matthew 27:12-14
Jesus was being accused of crimes he didn’t commit and he says nothing. The world right around him is in such an uproar. Riots could commence. Violence seems certain. And why? Because an entire race is being backed into a corner and treated unfairly? NO! Because the government is withholding rights for only certain people? NO! Because unnecessary killing is happening in the nation? NO! Because Caesar isn’t getting his due? NO! Then why?!
The crowd is getting temperamental. A minority race is on the verge of violent rioting. The government is being pressured into an unmerited judgment. Pilate’s wife is nervous. Pilate is beginning to seem incompetent. All of these things are happening because a teacher and his 12 closest friends along with some other followers have turned the religion of some on its head and challenged the status quo of how things work.
And now that his life is being threatened and now that everything that he came into existence for is on the line, Jesus does this…kneels in silent protest. It seems anticlimactic. Even to his 12.
They are waiting in great anticipation for Jesus to stand tall, snatch the whips from their hands and turn the tide. They are hungry for rebellion against injustice. They are finally in prayer asking God to come down in an angry cloud of fire to wreak wrath upon evil. In their minds, at any moment Jesus, through the power of the God they have heard about all their lives, is going to overthrow anything that seems worldly and through force and “spiritual cleansing” create a new kingdom where everyone will believe in God, act accordingly, and live in utopia infused love. Everyone will get along and believe the same or at least those who live. Rebellion will die a quick, just death.
Of course when we keep reading the gospels, none of those things happen. Jesus kneels in silence, walks in exhausted wounded pain, and dies in tortuous humiliation.
“50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” –Matthew 27:50
The power of the cross isn’t the death it created. The power of the cross is in how the death was accepted by Jesus. He was willing to be silent, tortured, humiliated, and murdered so that we might be united. The reason the cross is such a powerful icon is because it is something all Christians can point to and say, “We are united to Him and He to us!” Just like he prayed.
And on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. At this point all that he kept silent about to Pilate. All that Jesus wanted for this world. All the teachings of unity. All the teachings of serving one another. All the examples of love and creative worship come to its finishing and beginning point. Jesus’ resurrection makes his death different than anyone else’s. His death is the only one that is completely overturned. And that overturned death brings everything in this world that is wrong…right!
And now that all things have been set right, we can too have our death overturned. The world is set right, but not just yet. It is a timely action for a future promised to be lived now. In our world there is still suffering, genocide, murder, molestation, rape, inequality, violence, addiction, immorality, corruption, disease, gossip, lies, dishonor, hate, racism, and unbelief. And while we wait on the final return of Christ his prayer before his death still rings true and goes unanswered completely. “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:23)
There is this one time when Jesus kneeled in silent protest for the unity of all. It cost him his life. The cost of His life should not and cannot be wasted by those for which he died. Kneeling or standing. Protest or silence. Majority or Minority. This nation or that nation. See Jesus for who He is. He is Unity! His passion story shines upon our need for unity. Not to see all things the same, but to see everyone the same. We are ALL Jesus!
Male, Female, Jew, Gentile, Politicians, Athletes, White, Black, Rich, Poor, Soldier, Activist, Kneeling, Standing…all Jesus wanted was for us to be equal. He wanted it so much, He bet His life on it! God wanted it so much He resurrected His son! The Spirit wants it so much, She is still calling us to it!
So please, don’t forget that time when Jesus kneeled in silent protest of the world. Because it was then that His Passion made us equal.