In the years following the American Civil War (1861–1865), Union Major General Lew Wallace served as a governor of the New Mexico territories; New Mexico not yet having been admitted as a state. His work there put him in contact with many of the characters that make up the Wild West’s near-mythic history, including Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett. It was here that Wallace wrote what has been called by some “the most influential Christian book” of the 19th century, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
On the clock tower of my alma mater is an Art Deco bas-relief sculpture titled The Sower. The inscription beneath it is from Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man soweth.” Michigan State University remains a leader in agricultural research, but despite many improvements in farming techniques and crop production, this fact remains: Seeds of corn will not produce a crop of beans.
I remember watching television news reports in 1991 as the nonviolent revolution took place in the streets of Moscow. Russians who had grown up in totalitarianism suddenly declared, “We will act as if we are free,” taking to the streets and staring down tanks. The contrast between the faces of the leaders inside and the masses outside showed who was really afraid, and who was really free.
When Kelly Steinhaus visited Harvard Square to ask college students what they thought of Jesus, the answers were respectful of Him. One said He was “a person who took care of people.” Another said, “He sounds like a cool guy.” Others rejected Him outright: “He was just a guy. I don’t think He was the Savior.” And “I do not accept any faith system that says, ‘I am the only way to God.’” Some people thoughtfully question who Jesus is and some reject Him.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the dwarfs gathered to go up against Smaug, the fierce dragon, to retrieve their stolen treasure. In spite of the dangerously frightening quest, Balin, the dwarfs’ second-in-command, expressed confidence in Thorin: “There is one I could follow. There is one I could call King.” His commitment to the mission, as dangerous as it was, was empowered by his confidence in his leader.
A friend once spent a day installing large stone steps in his backyard. When his 5-year-old daughter begged to help, he suggested she just sing to encourage him in his work. She said no. She wanted to help. Carefully, when it would not endanger her, he let her place her hands on the rocks as he moved them.
In 1867 on a farm in South Africa, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs saw a stone glistening in the sun. The shining rock was eventually reported to a neighbor, who wanted to buy it from the family. Not knowing its value, Erasmus’ mother told the neighbor, “You can keep the stone, if you want it.”
How quickly public opinion can change! When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the Passover feast, He was welcomed by crowds cheering to have Him made king (John 12:13). But by the end of the week, the crowds were demanding that He be crucified (19:15).