Tag  |  jesus

Strength in Suffering

When eighteen-year-old Musah received Jesus as Savior, his family rejected him because their tradition was of a different faith. But the Christian community welcomed him, offering encouragement and financial resources for his education. Later, whebn his testimony was published in a magazine, his persecution intensified.

But Musah did not stop visiting his family. He visited whenever he could and talked with his father, even though His siblings cruelly prevented him from participating in family affairs. When his father fell ill, Musah overlooked his family’s slighting and attended to him, praying his father would get well. When God healed him, the family began to warm up toward Musah. Over time, his loving witness softened their attitude toward him—and some of his family members became willing to hear about Jesus.

Our decision to follow Christ may cause us difficulties. Peter wrote, “It is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:19). When we undergo discomfort or suffering because of our faith, we do so because “Christ suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example that [we] should follow in his steps” (v. 21). 

Even when others hurled insults at Jesus, “he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (v. 23). Jesus is our example in suffering. We can turn to Him for strength to continue.

Basin of Love

One day in physics class many years ago, our teacher asked us to tell him—without turning around—what color the back wall of the classroom was. None of us could answer, for we hadn’t noticed.

Sometimes we miss or overlook the “stuff” of life simply because we can’t take it all in. And sometimes we don’t see what’s been there all along.

It was like that for me as I recently read again the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The story is a familiar one, for it is often read during Passion Week. That our Savior and King would stoop to cleanse the feet of His disciples awes us. In Jesus’s day, even Jewish servants were spared this task because it was seen as beneath them. But what I hadn’t noticed before was that Jesus, who was both man and God, washed the feet of Judas. Even though He knew Judas would betray Him, as we see in John 13:11, Jesus still humbled Himself and washed Judas’s feet.

Love poured out in a basin of water—love that He shared even with the one who would betray Him. As we ponder the events of this week leading up to the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection, may we too be given the gift of humility so that we can extend Jesus’s love to our friends and any enemies.

Who Is This?

Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with onlookers by a dirt road. The woman behind you is on her tiptoes, trying to see who is coming. In the distance, you glimpse a man riding a donkey. As He approaches, people toss their coats onto the road. Suddenly, you hear a tree crack behind you. A man is cutting down palm branches, and people are spreading them out ahead of the donkey.

Jesus’s followers zealously honored Him as He entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. The multitude rejoiced and praised God for “all the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:37). Jesus’ devotees surrounded Him, calling out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v. 38). Their enthusiastic honor affected the people of Jerusalem. When Jesus finally arrived, “the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ ” (Matthew 21:10).

Today, people are still curious about Jesus. Although we can’t pave His way with palm branches or shout praises to Him in person, we can still honor Him. We can discuss His remarkable works, assist people in need, patiently bear insults, and love each other deeply. Then we must be ready to answer the onlookers who ask, “Who is Jesus?”

National Treasure

When an advertiser altered a photo of Michelangelo’s famous marble sculpture of the biblical hero David, Italy’s government and gallery officials objected. Picturing David with a military rifle slung over his shoulder (instead of his slingshot) would be a violation—“like taking a hammer to it or worse,” a cultural official said.

In first-century Jerusalem, David was remembered as the shepherd-songwriter and soldier-king of Israel’s fondest memories and greatest hopes Prophets foretold that David’s descendant would finally defeat the enemies of Israel. So, centuries later, when crowds welcomed Jesus as the Son of David (Matthew 21:6–9) they were expecting him to lead the revolt that would overthrow their Roman occupiers. Instead Jesus knocked over the tables of Temple money-changers to restore His Father’s house as a house of prayer for all nations, Israel’s leaders were furious. This wasn’t the kind of Messiah and son of David they were looking for. So without realizing what they were doing, they called for Roman executioners to take a hammer to the hands and feet of the true glory of Israel.

Instead of stopping them, Jesus let himself be lifted up on a cross of shame—defaced and disgraced. Only by resurrection would it be known that the true Son of David had defeated His enemies with love, and enlisted the children of all nations to spread the word. 

Growing a Servant’s Heart

It was a long day at work. But when I got home, it was time to start my “other” job­: being a good dad. Greetings from my wife and kids soon became, “Dad, what’s for dinner?” “Dad, can you get me some water?” “Dad, can we play soccer?”

I just wanted to sit down. And even though part of me really wanted to be a good dad, I didn’t feel like serving my family’s needs. That’s when I saw it: a thank-you card my wife had received from someone at church. It pictured a bowl of water, a towel and dirty sandals. Across the bottom were these words from Luke 22:27: “I am among you as one who serves.”

That statement of Jesus’s mission, to serve those He came to seek and save (Luke 19:10), was exactly what I needed. If Jesus was willing to do the dirtiest of jobs for His followers—like scrubbing His followers’ no doubt filthy feet (John 13:1-17)—I could get my son a cup of water without grumbling about it. In that moment, I was reminded that my family’s requests to serve them weren’t merely an obligation, but an opportunity to reflect Jesus’s servant’s heart and His love to them. When requests are made of us, they are chances to become more like the One who served His followers by laying down His life for us.

Jesus Loves Maysel

When my sister Maysel was little, she would sing a familiar melody in her own way: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells Maysel.” This irritated me to no end! As one of her older, “wiser” sisters, I knew the words were “me so,” not “Maysel.” Yet she persisted in singing it her way.

Now I think my sister had it right all along. The Bible does indeed tell Maysel, and all of us, that Jesus loves us. Over and over again we read that truth. Take, for example, the writings of the apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7, 20). He tells us about God’s love in one of the best-known verses of the Bible: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John reinforces that message of love in 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Just as John knew Jesus loved him, we too can have that same assurance: Jesus does love us. The Bible tells us so.

Helicopter Seeds

When our children were young, they loved trying to catch the “helicopter seeds” that fell from our neighbor’s silver maple trees. Each seed resembles a wing. In late spring they twirl to the ground like a helicopter’s rotor blades. The seeds’ purpose is not to fly, but to fall to earth and grow into trees.

Before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified . . . unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”  (vv. 23–24). 

While Jesus’s disciples wanted Him to be honored as the Messiah, He came to give His life so we could be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him.  As Jesus’ followers, we hear His words, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (vv. 25–26).        

Helicopter seeds can point us to the miracle of Jesus, the Savior, who died that we might live for Him.

An Encounter with Stones

After centuries of war and destruction, the modern city of Jerusalem is literally built on its own rubble. During a family visit, we walked the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrow), the route tradition says Jesus followed on His way to the cross. The day was hot, so we paused for a rest and descended to the cool basement of the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. There I was intrigued by the sight of ancient pavement stones unearthed during recent construction—stones etched with games played by Roman soldiers during their idle moments.

Those particular stones, even though likely from a period later than Jesus, caused me to ponder my spiritual life at the time. Like a bored soldier passing time in idle moments, I had become complacent and uncaring toward God and others. I was deeply moved by remembering that near the place I was standing, the Lord was beaten, mocked, insulted, and abused as He took all of my failure and rebellion on Himself. 

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

My encounter with the stones still speaks to me of Jesus’s loving grace that is greater than all my sin.

The Perfect Prayer Partner

Few sounds are as beautiful as hearing someone who loves you pray for you. When you hear a friend pray for you with compassion and God-given insight, it’s a little like heaven touching earth.

How good it is to know that because of God’s kindness to us our prayers can also touch heaven. Sometimes when we pray we may struggle with words and feelings of inadequacy, but Jesus taught his followers that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). God’s Word shows us that one of the reasons we can do this is that Jesus himself “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34).

We never pray alone, because Jesus is praying for us. He hears us as we pray, and speaks to the Father on our behalf. We don’t have to worry about the eloquence of our words, because no one understands us like Jesus. He helps us in every way, presenting our needs before God. He also knows when the answers we ask for would not be good for us, handling every request or concern with perfect wisdom and love.

 Jesus is the perfect prayer partner—the friend who intercedes for us with immeasurable kindness. His prayers for us are beautiful beyond words, and should encourage us to always pray with thankfulness.