Ray Zahab is a pretty ordinary looking fellow. In his 40s, slight build, medium height, he looks like a lot of others. Ray Zahab however is also quite remarkable. Last week, Ray began a run that will take him 2300 kms across the Gobi Desert. Running 70-80 kms each day for over a month through a desolate landscape of rock and sand, he will cover parts of Mongolia and China.
Ray Zahab has done this before. He has run such “ultramarathons” through harsh terrain in many parts of the world. In 2007, he ran across the Sahara Desert. Running for four months in the sand and heat of North Africa desert would be a challenge for anyone and it was for him. But he did it. To do what Ray Zahab has done repeatedly, is extraordinary. But why would someone want to embark on such a challenge? Ray Zahab has a message that he wants to share with others: I want others to realize they can do their own version of the extraordinary in their own lives. Ordinary people, in fact, do extraordinary things.
What is extraordinary about Ray Zahab and his “ultramarathons” is not the physical effort that it takes. It is more the determination and perseverance that such a challenge presents. Footfall after footfall through the harshness of the desert and the rock would demand a willingness to continue no matter what. This man needed above all a strength of will to meet the challenges that he faced. What an image of discipleship.
As Luke tells the story of Jesus on his mission of the Kingdom there is a turning point that comes in chapter 9. From this point Jesus is directed to Jerusalem where his mission will be completed with his crucifixion, resurrection and return to the Father. Luke aims to point out the resolution and determination that will mark Jesus on his mission. As he moves along this journey of mission, he continues to call disciples to join him.
At this turning point in Luke’s story, we see the demands that will be placed on those who respond to Jesus’ call. They will need the resolution and determination of Jesus. They will need the perseverance and commitment to purpose of a Ray Zahab. In Luke 9:51-62 we see this expressed. The Gospel tells us of three persons willing to set out on the mission with Jesus.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus presents them with the challenging reality that they will face. Their decision will demand commitment. It will mean setting priorities in which they cannot do everything. Some things in life, even good things will have to be given up. In all of this, they will have to “stick with it.” They will often need to persevere in the face of challenges and the temptation to turn around. Discipleship will have a cost for them.
Responding to the call to discipleship has a cost for all of us. If we are to take up the mission that Jesus accepted and follow him in this mission, it will have demands for us. The call to discipleship is not so much about what we will receive as it is about what we are to give. In the end, however, it is about discovery. It is about seeing how surprisingly extraordinary we can really be in our own lives.
Question - When have I discovered I had something to give for the sake of others?