One day last spring, I was walking home from work. I was in an excellent mood. It was nearing the end of the school year and I was feeling like I had got a lot accomplished during the day. As I near home, I see a young lady storm out of one of the apartment blocks, sit down on the curb of the sidewalk and start weeping.
What is the appropriate reaction to such a situation? What would you do?
To further complicate things, I had just been thinking of what it would mean to be a disciple of Jesus. I was starting my preparation of the sermon series that inspired this blog series. What would Jesus want me to do when a heartbroken stranger plops down in front of me on a sunny day as I hurry home from work? How can I be a life-giving and restorative person?
So I slowed down. Stopped. Awkwardly stood over this sobbing young woman and asked a casual “Ça va?”
She looked at me like I was stupid, said yes and resumed ignoring my existence. I wandered off, wondering how that could have been done differently.
What was it like to follow Jesus when he walked through Galilee? It doesn’t seem to fit with the seemingly random, uncomfortable events like that encounter on my way home. I imagine the disciples so confident, so sure of themselves. I see them like spiritual super heroes, wandering around with the assurance of Buzz Lightyear at the beginning of Toy Story One. In Mark chapter 6 we see Jesus call his disciples together, pair them up in teams of two and send them out to chase out demons and heal the sick. The classroom teacher in me wonders how long it took him to make the teams, but that’s besides the point. So the disciples go out and do exactly what Jesus tells them and amazing things happen. The disciples were successful to the point that the king of that region heard about Jesus. King Herod freaks out and starts wondering if the prophet he had beheaded had risen from the dead and was appearing everywhere.
Fast forward two thousand years – another wanna-be disciple of Jesus is walking home from work, sees a hurt person and can do nothing but engage in awkward conversation.
Why is that? What was it about these men that gave them the courage to be bold with in their actions in a way that I seem to be unable to… most of the time?
I don’t really know the full answer to that question, if I did I know my opening story might have played out a bit differently. I do expect that the disciples were genuinely surprised that when they spoke the sick were healed or that when they told demons to leave that it actually worked. Wouldn’t you be? However, I suspect the insider information they had about Jesus gave them a confidence and trust that gave them supreme trust in the power of their mentor.
Just the chapter before, in one of my favorite stories of all time, Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. There is a beautiful piece of art from Gabriel Max that shows Jesus sitting next to the girl he just awoke, the fly still sitting on her relaxed arm. Simon Peter was part of that inner circle of disciples that witnessed that intimate scene. When you stand in front of the life sized painting at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, you feel like you are standing in Peter’s sandals, watching the tender love and awesome power in the man working in the man that he had decided to follow.
It was this uneducated rabbi, the one that brought joy to that grieving family, that asks Peter to go and preach HIS message in HIS name.
So as Peter and his partner go out and preach the next day, from where did their confidence come? I can’t image they wasted any time thinking of their own limited abilities or dwelling in their own insecurities, they could say with confidence – my Lord raises the dead and He can help you through anything.
As I grow up, I need to remember what Jesus has done and can do. When God puts the needs of people on my path, like He did that afternoon, I need to remind myself of the power and tenderness of the Jesus I am following and then dare to speak His message in His name. Let the insider knowledge you have about Jesus provide the confidence you need to act. If you haven’t ever gone out of your way to share the message of Jesus with anyone – try it – it feels odd, but ultimately it’s not about how we feel – it’s about how Jesus can meet that person’s need.