We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6, verses 19-20.
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day. I didn’t watch much TV, and I didn’t even listen to the radio as much as I usually do, so I didn’t see whether or not there was much coverage or celebration. It seems that, the farther we get from 1968, the more challenging it can be to remember why we commemorate such a great man. I was only a little boy when King was killed and I don’t remember it. I do remember that my second grade teacher, Mrs. Kennon, taught me about him. Dr. King was one of her heroes; I believe she may have marched with him or met him at one point. Mrs. Kennon was a highly educated black woman hired as an elementary teacher in a predominantly white Episcopal school in the early 1970s. Forty five years later, she remains one of my favorite teachers. Dr. King had already been dead five years when I was first introduced to Mrs. Kennon, but she brought him to life for our class, telling how he lived out his faith in fighting to gain rights that had been won for people in the Civil War over a hundred years before. She taught us how Dr. King stuck to his principles and protested peacefully against bigots who confronted him in violence. She taught us that Martin Luther King believed in Jesus.
Next year, Dr. King will have been dead for 50 years. In the 30+ years since the start of his national holiday, legend has started to overtake history in describing him. To some, King is practically a civil rights Jedi knight. To others, he was just a great but flawed man who said and did the right things that needed to be said and done. He has almost become an untouchable idol to our society. I suspect the real Martin King was somewhere in the middle of all that. He was a fighter for justice. He was a preacher schooled in Scripture, Ghandi, and non-violence. He was a husband and father. He was a sinner who had multiple extramarital affairs. He was a Nobel laureate. He was martyred by people hung up on hatred. He was a man who simply did the best he could. MLK wanted the best for all of us, and he died living out that best desire.
Yet before anything else in his life, Martin Luther King wanted folks to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It was his sworn duty as a minister of God’s word. It was the truest reflection of why he fought and died for equal rights for black people. It was the best expression of everything he held dear in life. Dr. King unswervingly believed that the real hope of mankind was in Jesus, that only by firm and secure faith in Jesus that lives deep in the human soul. MLK fought for equal rights as an American because he already knew that he had equal rights before God as a human being. He fought for what was guaranteed to all people, and that included civil rights.
That’s worth dying for.
It’s worth dying for because Dr. King understood that Jesus was our ultimate judge and ultimate intermediary. A minister of the cloth himself, King understood how Jesus was our true minister, the only priest who could enter into God’s presence on our behalf and plead for our souls. Jesus pleads for us in God’s presence because we are His intimate brothers and sisters. We are His friends and His followers. Jesus was willing to give up His life for we the people who He loved so dearly. He did it so that we could have a personal, intimate, just relationship with Him and His Father. Martin Luther King understood these things and lived the life he did working so that others could understand them as well on an equal footing with all our peers.
Mrs. Kennon understood them as well. I Googled her and found that she retired from the school in 2013 and has been a very active citizen all her life. I have no idea where she is now, but I do know I’m one of thousands she touched in years serving at Breck School. I learned about Dr. King from her, and that Dr. King lived as he did because he followed Jesus before anything else.
For further reading: Leviticus 16:2, Hebrews 9:2-7, Hebrews 4:14.
Lord Jesus, thank You for heroes of the faith like Dr. King. Thank You for being our true priest, our Savior, our friend, and our teacher.