Days 21-30

Day 30: "The raw frailty of Jesus' body."

"For a brief and affecting moment, Jesus did not bear his cross alone. Simon of Cyrene, of whom history knows so little, was forced by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross when its burden became too much for him to bear."

—From Ch. 30 ("Sharing the Burden"), Jesus Journey

In chapter thirty of Jesus Journey, Trent continues to narrow the gap between our understanding of Jesus Christ as the "I am," the "Ancient One," the "Messiah," the "Son of the Blessed One," the "King," and Jesus of Nazareth as someone betrayed by a friend, wrongfully accused, severely beaten, and sentenced to death. Along this trajectory of seeing Jesus as fully human, Trent emphasizes the raw frailty of Jesus' body, focusing on the moment when Simon of Cyrene steps in and shares "the physical burden of Jesus' cross."  

It's a crucial moment when two agendas meet in a vivid exchange. We see Jesus carrying both the physical burden of the cross, and the spiritual burden of "our sins" (1 Peter 2:23).  One can only imagine that the combination of the weight and awkwardness of the cross, coupled with the immensity of his suffering, is so overwhelming that he comes to a place where he simply can't go on any longer.  All of a sudden Simon is summoned (I've been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately!), and he steps in with a moment's notice, alleviates Jesus' burden, and they continue together.

On the one hand, it's hard to think that Jesus the "Messiah" needed help to carry out the Messianic vision and plan, much less from some random dude from Cyrene. It's much more comforting to imagine that one of his disciples was on hand and jumped in to help, but that's not what happened. In a way, this is yet another heavy reminder that even his closest friends and followers had abandoned him, adding further insult to injury. This was a crucial moment of Jesus coming to terms with the limits of his temporary body, and accepting them.  

There are so many different perspectives that we could take on who and what Simon of Cyrene represents in this passage. At the very least, it seems that Simon was able—and available—so he was chosen to serve the "King." While at first glance it may appear that Simon got the raw end of the deal, being forced to carry a heavy load to a place where he wasn't headed. Looking closer, as Trent suggests, we see "the extraordinary legacy that Simon of Cyrene left his family: he is the only other human in history who, at least for a little while, shared the physical burden of Jesus' cross."

Today's guest post is by Matt Trimble: Born in Memphis, TN, Matt has since lived in Kuwait, Los Angeles, and Boston. He is a Christ follower, the founder and principal of Radlab (, and an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah. He, his wife Candice, and their two kids currently live between the United Arab Emirates and the United States. You can follow him on Instagram @matthew.a.trimble and @radlabinc.

Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson

Day 29: "Stay here."

“Stay here,” said Jesus to the disciples, “while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him, and became quite overcome and deeply distressed. “My soul is disturbed within me,” he said, “right to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” 

Mark 14:32-34

So much of my reading of Jesus Journey has caused me to pause and reflect again on what I know of Jesus. I feel so tenderly grateful for these pauses; pauses that have drawn me nearer, invited me to look again… to be in awe again of who He is and the measure of what He has done for me, and you, and every person I have ever set eyes on, and every one I will ever see, and every other person who has ever drawn breath.

I can lose the big-ness of it all so quickly in my day to day, and yet it’s in this big-ness that I am over and over again aware of His voice speaking with that mix of soul-arresting power and the gentle whisper of His quiet truth in my ear. 

What happened at Gethsemane is BIG. It’s the moment when it seems God as a human came undone. (I think it’s safe to say that if you or I were literally sweating blood, being “undone” would be a term that we would use about what we were going through.) It was the moment when Jesus as a man felt alone and overwhelmed and just not sure He was going to be able to handle what He knew was ahead for Him.

But it’s in this BIG moment that I hear a still small voice. It’s a voice that tells me, “It’s okay—even I felt alone.”

I don’t know about you, but for me there is some kind of relief in knowing that even Jesus felt these things. Of course it’s unfathomably heartbreaking to think of what He was facing: so much more than you or me will EVER face. But just the fact that He pleads not just once, but twice “Stay here,” gives me permission to remember my own moments of desperation without shame. 

If Jesus felt alone in His fears, then it’s okay that I have felt something like that too at different times in my life...

There was a particular time in our lives when our children were very young, and they were facing exceptional challenges that sent us to-and-from what seemed like an endless merry-go-round of specialists and therapy and care, while at the same time my husband and I were trying to manage an escalation of ministry and advances in career... and both of us were facing challenges personally that we felt unequipped to handle.  Honestly, it all just felt like WAY too much.

In the darkest of those days I can remember on multiple occasions sobbing into my husband’s arms, begging him to “make us a glass house so everyone can see just how hard all this really is!”

Those are memories of that feeling of longing to be understood... even when we know that no one is going to understand unless they could somehow walk in our shoes.  Reading what Jesus went through in Gethsemane—and pausing to let it sink in—makes me think that longing to be understood isn’t something to be ashamed of. No, it can’t be. Because I can’t be ashamed of what it seems Jesus felt too. In a way, He might even have related to me wishing for a “glass house”—If only ANYONE could have truly seen what was going on in His world, understood His anguish and the agony He knew was coming…

So it seems that the longing to be understood is not sinful in itself. In fact, the gift of pause that Jesus Journey has given me through the reading of this chapter is that the longing to be understood is, in itself, simply a part of being human. And it means so much to me knowing that Jesus understands the pain of what that feels like more than I can ever know. 

Some of you may be similar to me, looking back at your own Gethsemane-like moments in your life and realising that even though that particular “cup” didn’t pass from you, you actually weren’t alone after all. Just as Abba Father was with Jesus in Gethsemane, He was with you too. He was with you and saw you and understood your pain and all that you were facing, all that you were walking through...

He was with you all the while.

He stayed.

Today's guest post is by my precious sis-in-love/law, Tori Sheppard, who married my big brother and makes the world a more magical place: Hailing from the same town as the Sheppards just outside of Atlanta, GA, Tori met Tré (Trent’s brother) at the age of 16 and fell head over heels in love with him (and his family). Tori & Tré moved to the UK in 1993 and are now based in Northern Ireland since 2006, with their two, grown-up, world-changing children: Aidan and Elena.  Tori delights in leading the Women’s Ministry for Causeway Coast Vineyard, and she counts it as one of the finest blessings of her life to have been one of the founders of The Factory with Youth with a Mission and the subsequent 12 years of touring worldwide with the band Onehundredhours.  Tori has spent much of her life in ministry and mission and her heart is “part-time” in sub-saharan Africa where she serves on the boards of both E3 Initiative ( and one of E3’s partner projects, Zimele Wethu (

Photo credits: "tree" & "roots"—Maria Khoroshilova / "rocks"—Chelsea Hudson

Day 28: "The Revolution Will Be Eaten."

“When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”

—N.T. Wright

As a journalist who covers food and restaurants and as a Christian, I love this quote from one of my favorite theologians. Bishop Tom’s right, too: as the religious elite engages in its seemingly endless contemporary debate about the meaning of the cross and atonement, Jesus shushes us, gently telling us, “Take…and eat.”

As Trent notes throughout Chapter 28 of Jesus Journey, meals can be times of deep connection and meaning. For me, this was sitting around a table in Austin, Texas, with my wife’s family asking for her hand in marriage and declaring my intent to love her forever. It’s breaking bread with neighbors of mine who are experiencing homelessness at our local soup kitchen. It’s the many laughs and tears shared around the table with family and friends who are like family. Meals sustain us in more ways than just the physical.

This was (and is) especially true for Jewish people. Almost every significant commemoration or milestone is marked with food and drink. As Trent beautifully illustrates in this chapter, the Jewish Passover is teeming with delicious symbolism and memory of how a beloved community was delivered from the hands of death and destruction. And to put flesh and blood on the significance of his own rescue mission in the world, Jesus didn’t hand us a stuffy systematic theology … he gave us a meal. That’s revolutionary.

But let’s back up for just a minute. Why would the Creator of the universe choose a simple meal—and I do believe it is intended to be simple, accessible, and open to all—to illustrate such a weighty theological concept? To encapsulate the central unifying act of one of the world’s major religions?

Because food—a meal—is universally understandable. In a world population of 7 billion, the meal is perhaps the one practice we all understand. Yes, of course we all must eat to be sustained—to live. But as someone who spends his days talking to eaters, growers, servers, and chefs around the globe, I’m convinced that the practice of table is as central to human existence as mere caloric intake. Even the most materially poor cultures enjoy rich mealtime rituals and celebrations. Bread tastes better when broken with someone we love. Wine does not warm us when consumed in solitude quite the same way it does when we’re toasting with dear friends. Trent’s right: we homo sapiens are quite unique in the animal kingdom in our propensity to experience deep meaning and celebration in the act of eating. In a very real way, communal meals not only sustain our bodies, they sustain our spirits as well.

In the fullness of his humanity, Jesus was no different from any of the 7 billion humans on Planet Earth in this way. Some of his most significant ministry moments occurred around the table. Jesus eats his way through Luke’s Gospel from beginning to end: dining with Pharisees and tax collectors—including little ole Zacchaeus; sitting there as a “sinful woman” anoints his feet during dinner at Simon’s house; enjoying a meal with Mary and Martha; feeding more than 5,000 men and women with a few loaves and fishes; and sharing the table with his disciples in the hours before his betrayal and crucifixion. After his resurrection, he’d mark the last moments with his dear friends before his triumphant ascension into Heaven the way he did so many other milestones—with two simple meals.

I love to think about a hungry Jesus of Nazareth, sitting and laughing and sharing for hours with some of his closest friends and kin over a delicious, filling meal and jars of the best wine (because Jesus liked the good stuff). We don’t have to wonder whether Jesus did this, either. He was fully human. Of course he did this.

In this way, commemorating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in sharing the Eucharist meal takes on new meaning. And enjoying delicious meals and mealtime rituals with neighbors and friends is one of the most spiritual, revolutionary, and Christ-like human actions.

Today's guest post is by Steve Holt: As a freelance writer and journalist, Steve has reported on everything from food to urbanism to crime for publications and websites including Civil EatsThe Boston GlobeBoston MagazineEdible Boston, and Sojourners. In 2011, his feature about sustainable hamburgers in Boston was selected to be a part of that year’s Best Food Writing anthology. A Connecticut native, he and his wife Chrissy live with their two hilarious and talented children in East Boston—probably the best neighborhood anywhere—where they’ve thrown in with a home-based faith community called Ekklesia. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @thebostonwriter.


Day 27: "Et tu, Petre?"

"Jesus washed the feet of both Peter and Judas..."

—From Ch. 27 ("Jesus and Judas"), Jesus Journey

"Papa, how do we know Jesus is with us tonight, if we cannot see him?"

A Master's degree in Biblical Exegesis just isn't enough for the profound bedtime questions of my twin six-year-old girls! These two can't fathom being alone—they never have been. 

I light a candle (ok, it's battery-powered) next to our Icon of the Anastasis (from a beautiful fresco we saw once at the Chora Church in Istanbul), so my girls can see Jesus in resplendent white reaching back into time, lifting up Adam and Eve from the grave. We have seen him!—which is why the Eastern Orthodox church rightly believes that iconography, rightly understood, is not idolatry. And one day, we will see him... face to face. 

But for now, my two little monkeys eventually fall asleep, knowing that they are not alone.

Chapter twenty-seven of Jesus Journey stirred my imagination regarding the profound loneliness Jesus must have felt, even as He was washing the feet of Peter and Judas. I have always wondered why Jesus would have called into his most intimate circle two men who he knew would betray and deny him. Or... did he know? 

The Gospel writers are clear that Jesus knew at least by the time of the Passover meal, as they were breaking bread together. But did Jesus know when he first called them? When he found Peter fishing in the Sea of Galilee, why did He call him of all the fishermen who were on the water that day? Couldn't Jesus see in Peter's heart the seeds of denial in the way he saw honesty and integrity in Nathaniel's heart (John 1:47)?

Maybe Jesus couldn't yet see that in Peter. Or, maybe He could, because the Father had revealed it to him (John 5:19-20), and He chose Peter anyway, just as He chose you and me. Regardless, Peter's denial was still devastating for Jesus, just like the death of his dear friend Lazarus.

I can only imagine: "First, Judas.  Now...

      "You too, Peter?"

But that was only the beginning:

     "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Seemingly, even the Father turned away...

Jesus felt utterly alone. Such crushing, cosmic loneliness.

I believe Mother Teresa was right about loneliness being the greatest poverty of all: “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for."

If Jesus was not fully human, how could he have been crushed by this greatest of poverties? But because He was human—and still is, thank you, Trent, for reminding us!—Jesus knows us in our loneliness. 

To every unborn child that does not see the light of day. To every infant lying alone in an incubator for three months. To every child chosen last on the playground. To every sibling overshadowed by another sibling. To every high-schooler frantically trying to fit in. To every college student overwhelmed by their inadequacy. To every immigrant realizing they will never entirely belong. To every newlywed shocked by the fight on their honeymoon. To every divorcee crushed by grief. To every bereaved family member choking up at the sight of an empty chair at the table. To every senior waiting for a visit in a nursing home. To every man and woman breathing their last. To every orphan. To every widow. To every refugee...

To these, to my precious twin daughters, to us, to all, Jesus says, "I am with you always, to the end of the age. I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5)

Today's guest post is by Justin Jacobson: Justin and the best friend of his life, Victoria, hail from Patagonia and Kyrgyzstan respectively but now live in the Chicagoland area with their two sets of twin girls. When they are not changing diapers, you can find them dreaming about how to provide music education to children around the world—they founded The Bellas Artes School of Music in 2009. Justin and Trent were housemates and fellow longboarders during Trent's Wheaton Graduate School days. Victoria was at YWAM Honolulu in 2001 where Tré, Trent's older brother, visited to teach, long before ever Victoria and Justin ever met. Justin's dear sister, Anna Fletcher, was a roommate of Bronwyn, Trent's wife, at Wheaton College. It's the Brady Bunch.

Photo credits: "cactus"—Bill Pekrul / "Icon of the Anastasis" / "stone path"—Maria Khoroshilova

Day 26: "Ridiculous love."

"A woman approaches Jesus with the alabaster vase. Silently, she breaks the precious seal and a costly fragrance fills the air. Tenderly, reverently, she pours the valuable ointment on Jesus' head as if she is anointing him King."

—From Ch. 26 ("Holy Waste"), Jesus Journey

A friend posed this question: If I was away from the kitchen and my young daughter started doing the dishes for the first time out of pure desire to help me and to bless me, but in the mix of slippery soapy dishes she broke a favorite, heirloom dish of mine, how would I respond…?

It’s a good thing to ponder. How would you respond?

This scenario came to mind whilst reflecting on this memorialized gal who over two millennia ago poured oil on Jesus’ head in preparation for the not-yet... and, for many at the time, the unfathomable.

I like to sit and imagine these recorded stories of Jesus happening in real time. Just some of my questions: What’s it like to get oil poured on your head? (I have only ever had lemonade poured on my head, and I didn't like it.) Did she ask Jesus first if it’d be okay? Was it done quietly or did everyone stop to watch? What was the look on her face? Was she silent or did she sing some sort of a blessing? Did she see or feel the eyes of the disciples—Jesus’ companions—watching her, looking at her, wondering what in the world she was doing? 

I imagine it all as a big, sacred pause, a holy “you-could-hear-a-pin-drop” moment… but perhaps it had some awkward moments too, perhaps Jesus got some oil in his mouth or nose.

The smell of the oil would have filled the room. In fact, the disciples probably smelled it on Jesus for some time afterwards. And Jesus would have likely smelled it for days too.  He would remember that moment, that love-poured-out-from-a-grateful-heart moment. Perhaps even at his dying, Jesus caught whiffs of that “ridiculous” love for him.

You know, I really want to be more ridiculous for Jesus. And I know it comes from knowing him, doesn't it? Reading through Jesus Journey has made me fall-in-love with Jesus all over again.

When I was first coming to know Jesus fifteen years ago, I was smitten with him—his humor, his heart-aimed questions, his nights away to retreat, how he disappeared out of a crowd (I like to do that, too), his delight in a good meal around a table, his enjoyment in feeding people, and especially his preparation of breakfast along the seashore with his besties (that story gave me the emoji with heart eyes!).

I realized that Jesus was the friend I had been looking for my whole life...the companion that all of me longed to journey with and to know, to dream with and to do life with. And then to discover that he gave his life for me so that I might be with him, eat with him, laugh with him, cry with him, and never go a second without him—I was ALL IN.

Fifteen years on, I continue to want that daily abundant life in Jesus. And in our fast-paced, smartphone-driven culture, that will meaning doing some ridiculous things for him. It will mean turning off the phone at times, checking out of social media, and periodically disappearing from the crowds just to be with him...

Because Jesus is after our hearts. The woman with the alabaster vase understood that, which is why two millennia later we're still learning from her "ridiculous" love for Jesus.

Today's guest post is by Allison Riggs: Allison is affectionately known as All-Is-On. You can actually read about her in Trent’s other book, God On Campus, chapter nine. Back then, during her university days, she was also affectionately known as “Crazy Allison." Now she is known as “Crazy Mom” by her three affectionate children. Allison and her "hunk of a husband" (who wrote yesterday’s reflection) reside in the home Allison grew up in—their children are now the seventh generation of Allison’s family to inhabit the 160-year-old house. It all began with Great Uncle Willoughby Dayton Miller (go ahead, Google him!), who discovered the cause of tooth decay long ago… and now Allison and her family get to live in his house. And yes, they’re open to visitors, so swing on by!

Photo credits: Maria Khoroshilova