Summary: In this Lenten season, to focus upon "the Extra mile" our Lord went in the three phases of His life.
The Extra Mile
Now old habits die-hard! Having been an executive in a State-owned Oil marketing company for 13 years in India, (before coming into full-time spiritual service), even today I cannot restrain from reflecting on any extra-ordinary event involving the Indian oil sector.
Some time ago the State-owned Oil companies (there are only three of them in the Retail Marketing sector) came –up with branded fuels bearing catchy names such as Extra –mile. What was so different about them? Now what connection is there with this event and the Lenten season, some may muse. You would understand "as we journey along" in our Sermon drive!!! Unlike normal gasoline or diesel, these fuels (claimed their producers) carry a blend of additives guaranteed to give extra-mileage whilst driving. Though costlier than normal fuels, these fuels (it is claimed) contribute to better functioning of the engine especially in an aging vehicle by cleaning the carbon deposits and restoring its mileage back to the original optimum level. However these fuels were not received well in the Indian market, because of their relative high price. Time to switch tracks and come to the spiritual realm (high-time some I presume are already sighing)…
Well, Well… there is a mention of “Extra-mile” concept in the context of an effort in the Bible too. The only difference is that this unique “Extra-mile product” (actually a labour of love, for the Lord) comes or is at least expected to come to the world through any Christian AT NO EXTRA COST to its recipient! Now let me come finally to the spiritual realm (high time, some readers might say). Culled from the Sermon on the Mount are these words of the Saviour “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” (Matt 5:41-NLV). Firstly let’s understand the contextual meaning of the words spoken by our Lord (Note: By the time Jesus’ ministry began, the Jews had been under the Roman rule for nearly 90 years), before coming to its application in His own life and in our lives too in this modern age.
The Jewish audience, which Jesus was addressing, knew the context in which the Redeemer’s words were spoken. During the Roman rule in the I century A.D., the Roman soldiers were empowered by the Roman law to even forcibly (if the situation so demanded) take the assistance of the ordinary citizens of the conquered nations (under their domain) to carry their military gear for what was then construed to be a mile, which incidentally Biblical scholars claim was a distance actually measuring less than the present-day metric mile.
Naturally, the citizens of that age resented in extending a helping hand to the soldiers of a foreign country, which had subjugated them; firstly, for psychological reasons as helping these soldiers would not go down well with their self-esteem & secondly for the ordinary citizens who were not simply battle-scarred tough individuals- this was too much of a physical ask!