A week before the Crucifixion of Our Lord, the wife of Zebedee, approached Jesus asking for a favour – to grant her sons to sit, one at His right and the other at His left when He comes in glory (Mathew 20:21). Our Lord knew that everyone had been impressed with the wild popularity and the adulation of the crowds and had assumed that it was only a matter of time before Jesus became the Lord of Jerusalem and drove out the Roman soldiers.
But Jesus knew what would happen in the space of only a few days. “You do not know what you are asking,” He told them. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” The Apostles failed to perceive what leadership meant in the Kingdom of God. Leadership in the world is all about prestige and pride. But in the Body of Christ, it is all about self-sacrifice. It is all about surrender and submission. It is all about setting one’s own interests aside for the sake of others. It is all about laying down one’s own life so that others may live. Jesus explained that unlike when the Gentiles rule with tyranny, here it would be “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all“ (Mark 10.42-44).
We see our Lord opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, strengthening the legs of the lame, opening the minds of the unbelieving, and forgiving the pollution of sinners. Do we not see Him most clearly, as a Servant, when He bent down, at the Last Mystical Supper, to wash the feet of His disciples? And do we not hear Him call us to the same service?
As He has become our Suffering Servant by ascending the Way of the Cross, so also must we become His servants, and the servants of our fellow man.
Serving our fellowman requires that we point man to paradise; it requires that we give up our own demands for prestige, for power and influence, from getting in our way. Let us show kindness to one another. Let us be gracious and merciful. Let us treat each other with the greatest respect and honor. Let us be patient with eccentricities and limitations. Let the world know that our fellowship is bound together with cords of love, forgiveness and grace. We can achieve this only when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts to attain the level of humility our Lord reflected.
“.. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We live in a society where we want our requests to be granted in an instant. Social media and societal influences affect our lives, even if we don’t know it is. In this era of Instagram and instant noodles, sometimes we find ourselves expecting our prayers to be instantly answered on-demand as well.
We pray and pray for the deepest desires of our heart – for a promotion, or a new job, or for recovery from illness, for a life partner, for anything – and when it doesn’t happen in the time frame we want it to, or society expects it to, we tend to lose hope in God.
When my sister and I ask our parents for things or permission to do something, they either answer with a YES or a NO. Regardless of whatever their answer is, they would always tell us to accept it equally. NO may not be the answer we wanted to hear, but it was still an answer and the final verdict we had to follow, and we had to accept is as easily as we would have a YES.
I like to believe that God has two answers : YES, or WAIT, BECAUSE I HAVE SOMETHING BETTER PLANNED FOR YOU.
Patience and trust can be a tiring ordeal. Many times, this ‘waiting time’ feels like ‘wasting time’, but God makes us wait for a reason, and he allows opportunities and blessings to happen in His timing.
It reminds me of when Martha and Mary asked for Jesus when Lazarus fell seriously ill. Perhaps they looked about anxiously for signs of His arrival. Perhaps with every knock on the door and the sound of shuffling feet outside their home, they thought it might be Jesus finally appearing to save their brother.
But Jesus didn’t come.
The funeral service had been over for 4 days when Jesus finally came to town.
I appreciate Martha for how human she was, how honest and blunt she was for telling it like it is when she told Jesus “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” This is a natural response. Even I would have been this upset and mad if the only person who I knew could have saved him waltzed into the scene when it was way too late.
While her initial doubt was much like mine, the faith and certainty that followed it was unlike me.
When she said “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You”, I wonder what she expected at this point. I mean, her brother had been dead for 4 days after all, what did she expect would happen now?
And yet, with just a word from Jesus, Lazarus’ spirit returned to his body, and he opened his eyes, almost as if he’d just woken up from a deep sleep!
Jesus had bypassed the simple healing of His sick friend in order to perform the far greater miracle of bringing him back to life!
Similarly, when Mordecai uncovered an assassination plot on King Xerxes, the King’s life was saved, but Mordecai was forgotten. His only reward was that his name was recorded in the King’s chronicles.
Later in the story, when Mordecai was to be executed due to the conspiracy plotted by the King’s wicked official, Haman, God decided that Mordecai’s delay was now over. As a result, the King ended up preparing a handsome reward for Mordecai and chose Haman to do the honors and parade him around town, letting everyone know who Mordecai was and what he had done!
Waiting for God’s timing may also give us a greater miracle than we had hoped for.
I read somewhere that the bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants we know of. At first, they appear quite slothful. The bamboo is part of the grass family and doesn’t have any branches, so depending upon the soil and the climate, it emerges very slowly. While there is seemingly no progress above ground, its unique multi-tiered root system is forming taking hold and strengthening its foundation below the ground. And once the roots are ready, some species of bamboo are known to surge upwards as fast as 39 inches in 24 hours!
It is no wonder they are called bamboo ‘shoots’, for the way they suddenly shoot up towards the sky!
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
There is a very famous and overly-used statement in the English language, “If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, then it is meant to be“. The reason I call it over-used is because we seem to use that when it comes to our earthly relationships, but we tend to abuse it when it comes to our divine relationship with God. How often do we let go of God and then come back to Him? How often do to we fall back in the same pattern of getting hurt and hurting, arriving and leaving? Through the various ups and downs, through all the going and coming, there is one thing that is certain – it is easier to let go than to hold on, but we tend to let go of the right ones and hold on to the wrong.
Letting go is a divine act of Man. Acceptance is a divine act of God.
No matter how many times we fall astray or let go of God, He still sets us free, relying that one day we will realise the quality of His love for us and come running back to Him. He lets us leave every time we decide to, but He doesn’t let go of us. He gives us the freedom of making our own choices when we decide to go, He tries to stop us but never forces us. His love is so abundant, so gracious that it accepts every single one of our flaws and loves us the same – as if nothing happened.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.”
Let us consider the story of the good Samaritan here. The priest and the Levite saw the wounded man and simply let go of him and moved on, going about their business. But the Samaritan looked at this man with pity and accepted him as one of his own. Nursed his wounds, took him to the closest inn where he paid the innkeeper to look after the man. He even agreed to bare the additional expense of this man’s recovery.
Here is a fine example of letting go and accepting. If the Samaritan didn’t let go of his pride and accept this man as his own brother, he would’ve surely perished!
Like St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless unless they find their rest in you.” That is the state we, as humans, are constantly battling. Our restless hearts are always looking for attachments, looking for connections but none of them last. Simply because we were not meant for this world. Even if this world tells you a million times that you belong, just one whisper from the Lord will make you realise that you don’t. You were made for something greater, nothing short of extravagant. So every time you find yourself out in the world losing a battle, and straying far away from home, fear not! We have a God who doesn’t let go of us even when we think we are too far gone. Just remember to look for Him and you will find Him holding on to you as if His life depended on it!
What a friend we have in Jesus!
God is faithful in the little things; provident in the big. But how often do we fall back to rely on this abundant providence?
Sean and Lynette have been together for as long as anyone can remember. They met as kids when the lived in the same neighbourhood, went to school together. Even the long distance at college couldn’t separate them! Soon enough they got engaged but that is when things slowly started to change. They got jobs in different cities. God knows how much they needed it, so they decided to put off their wedding for a year. It began with missing calls, then missing their weekend dates and even their Skype dates. But they were committed to their relationship. Their dates always began with a prayer and they continued to pray for each other even when their relationship was on the rocks. They were faithful in the little things. Soon enough Lynette got a transfer and moved to the same city as Sean and they got married.
Today, as they look back at all their trials, they can only see God’s faithfulness through the years.
Ashley was a bright little girl. Always first in her class, regular to church and even spent her time helping out the lesser fortunate. Every time she had a problem, she looked to God. Sometimes her patience would get the better of her but that didn’t mean she gave up on God. After she graduated from college, she was without a job for a year. During that time, her grandmother passed away and her father fell seriously ill. She could barely support herself when she was expected to support her younger siblings. The God she trusted suddenly went missing, but she never gave up on her prayers. Even when the situation got bad, she trusted and followed God. Even when her heart was not in it, she prayed. Even when the pain and struggle got worse, she prayed.
In due time, God acted and her troubles vanished as quickly as they appeared. Her life was a vineyard of blessings and everyday she witnessed a new miracle. Her faithfulness was the blueprint of God’s providence in her life!
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
I love the confidence with which St. Paul states that verse. It is true that God is a multi billion-billion-gazillionaire! He can give us anything and everything we ask for, if it falls in line with His plan for us. God’s providence is directly proportional to the amount of dependence you have on Him. If you rely on the Maker for just the big things, you miss the opportunity to practice your faith in the little things. Like the little drops of water make the mighty ocean, you dependence on the little things is going to increase your faith in the mighty ones. So before you decide to walk on water, learn to jump in the boat with Him so He was lead you in the way He has prepared. The destination is waiting for you, the choice of the journey is yours to make. Be dependent, choose God.