Over the past week in Kansas City we have been paying attention once again to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Last Tuesday board leaders and six Central students accompanied me to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference luncheon. Julian Bond was the speaker, and he did not disappoint. He recounted milestones of progress, but warned against assuming all the work is done.
Slavery endured for over two hundred years. Why would we think that a mere fifty years after the Civil Rights Acts that a level field would be established? One of the things our school cares about deeply is flattening educational privilege, finding ways to make preparation for ministry more accessible—even if one did not have equal opportunity in secondary and baccalaureate degrees.
We are not a post-racial society even if we have re-elected the nation’s first black president. Many will acknowledge that the inordinate amount of slings and arrows he has endured would not be accorded a white president. That he has borne this with uncommon grace speaks of his character; I trust he will be judged by that rather than by his color, as Martin hoped for future generations.
Prophets do not come to a peaceful end, as the stories of John and Martin will attest. As we journey with Jesus further into his early ministry, we learn of another interface of his life with that of John the Baptist. Each of the Gospels wants to make clear that John is clearly an indispensable forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord. In addition, each wants to make clear that Jesus eclipses John.
“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee,” Matthew recounts (Matthew 4:12). Jesus begins his public ministry away from the region of Judea where John had proclaimed his message of repentance. Jesus’ message is also a call for repentance—with an added affirmation: “for the reign of God is at hand” (v. 17).
The arrest of John is a pivotal time for Jesus, as well as for John. We get a fuller picture of this event if we consult other Gospels, in addition to Matthew. The imprisonment of John becomes a time of questioning for him as he wonders if Jesus is really “the one who is to come.” Jesus perceives the costly pathway ahead for him. If John’s faithfulness ended up with his incarceration and ultimately his death, what might lie ahead for him?
There are those in our midst speaking truth to what Walter Brueggemann calls our “culture of death.” Our captivity to market ideology, exceptionalism, and weaponry make for a life-diminishing reality. I pray that we might recognize the prophets God is sending our way.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity. To learn more about us, continue visiting our website.