Christ's Love, Sorrow

Comfort to Pass on

God's comfort

Have you ever experienced God’s comfort in a real and almost tangible way? I hope you have. But in order to experience that comfort we must also experience pain–emotionally or physically. At the same time, pain in this life is unavoidable. Experiencing the comfort only our God can give makes the pain, not only bearable,  but also worthwhile.

Most of us know that sooner or later we experience less than ideal circumstances. Something we didn’t see coming. Something that overwhelms us and brings us to our knees. It may not seem like a tragedy, but we are inconsolable because of a rejection, a broken relationship, a lost job or any number of crises. That broken relationship or rejection could be a spouse leaving or a grown child you haven’t heard from in years. That lost job could be what you thought was a God-given calling. But then the doors slammed shut. And you were left to figure out what to do next, attempting to make sense of this loss, and perhaps determined to never dream big again.

Second Corinthians teaches us that God is a God of comfort “who comforts in all our tribulation.” In all our tribulation. That includes trials, conflicts, rejection, and broken dreams. Isn’t it wonderful that the God of the universe wants to gather you in His arms and comfort you?

But there’s more to this promise. He comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” You get that? We are to comfort others with the same comfort God has given us. That may make some of us uncomfortable. We may not like the idea of comforting others. But every gift God gives us–mercy, kindness, love, comfort–is something we can pass on to others.

It may be that our own tears need to clear a bit before we are ready to reach out, but eventually we’ll see someone who needs our compassion because they are going through a similar sorrow. Our hearts will stir, and we will be able to pass that wonderful gift of God’s comfort on to another.

Prayer:

God, please use my hurts so that I may see you as my Comforter, and please use those hurts as a way for me to comfort others who are in need.

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Christ's compassion

The Woman with the Bleed

Scripture: Mark 5:25-34

Jesus ministered to all kinds of people with a wide variety of illnesses and struggles. The one I want to look at today really touches my heart because it shows His concern for a condition that is almost uniquely that of a woman. And one that most of us would probably want to just keep quiet about. But since it is such a sweet story of Christ’s love for us, I want to take a close look at it.

Jesus has just crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples when we meet this woman with the bleed (or hemorrhage). Before she reaches him a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, kneels at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Him to come heal his daughter. So while Jesus (and apparently the crowd) takes off in that direction, this woman whose name is never given approaches Him thinking “if I can only touch the hem of his garment then I will be healed.” I imagine her hand as it reaches through the tangle of sweaty legs and dusty feet. And she does it. She touches His garment.

Before we move on, we should realize a few things about this woman:

  • She has not only suffered physically and financially (going to one physician after another, spending all her money and growing worse instead of better), she is also suffering spiritually and socially as this affliction marks her as unclean and therefore not fit to go to the temple or synagogue. (Leviticus 15:25-27)
  • If she is married there is a huge problem with her uncleanness. Her husband would not be able to have relations with her. For twelve years.
  • We don’t know how old she is so we don’t know if she has children and at this point in time she would be unable to have them.
  • She is basically an interruption to an important mission—that of a desperate synagogue leader whose daughter is dying.
  • She goes to Jesus in what she hopes is a private way. (No one else need know of this—she can touch Him, disappear into the crowd, and head home.)

Now it would seem Jesus had a choice to make. At the woman’s touch, He knows something has happened. Should He ignore it and continue with the synagogue leader? Wouldn’t that have been easier? Wouldn’t it have been better to hurry to the dying daughter? Or should He stop and acknowledge what has just happened?

Jesus chooses to do the hard thing.

He embraces this “interruption” and asks who touched Him. I can imagine the look on the disciples’ faces as they say, “well, ya know, you’re in this huge crowd pressing up against you like you’re a rock star or something and you want to know who touched you. Lord, are you…all right?” Yes, I am taking a slight liberty with Scripture but the point is the disciples often have a tough time understanding what Jesus is doing, and maybe they’re a little embarrassed by his behavior. Perhaps they’re thinking “all right, Lord, we’re here for You, but perhaps You need to get out of the sun for a bit.” At any rate, Jesus keeps looking around, pretty much ignores the disciples, and keeps asking. He knows that someone has touched Him and received healing.

Now I’m sure Jesus already knows who touched Him, after all He has the ability (even with His human limitations) to perceive what is in people’s minds and hearts. So…if He does know, why would he ask who touched Him?

Maybe He wants the woman to come to Him by choice, not because He points her out saying “I know it was you.” But isn’t Jesus still trying to embarrass her? Surely she does not wish to be brought to everyone’s attention. She didn’t want to get up in front of all those people and ask healing for this delicate matter. No, she wanted just to touch Him secretly with no one else knowing, and be done with it. But Jesus has other ideas, and I don’t think it is to shame her any further, but rather in His tender way, He wants to tell her something in front of the whole crowd.

Since he is so insistent, the woman comes forward and falls at his feet “in fear and trembling.” Was she afraid she was about to be rebuked for touching Him? After all, she was unclean and had no business touching anyone. And surely she couldn’t help but touch some in the huge crowd. We can’t be sure but we do know she tells Him the “whole truth”, apparently not mincing her words. And I’m wondering now, does this crowd already know about her situation? Do they know this woman has not been to the synagogue for twelve years? Does this synagogue leader who is standing next to Jesus know these things? And are they appalled at her words?

Well, it seems that Jesus knows exactly what to say to her. Jesus does not shame her because of all this. Instead of saying “oh, now look what you’ve done. Now I’m unclean too” He chose compassion. He chose to praise her faith. He chose to tell her she was whole, to go in peace, to be freed from suffering.

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But first he calls her “daughter” which probably meant “daughter of Abraham.” I hope you see the significance in that. She had been cut off from worship of the God of Abraham, from so much of what made her Jewish, and now Jesus is calling her “daughter.” He plays a part in re-establishing her place in the community and in the synagogue. If He, as God in the flesh calls her daughter, then He apparently establishes a personal relationship with her. He could have said “dear woman” as He did His mother but He chose the term daughter for significant reasons.

In just a breath or two Jesus establishes a relationship with her, compliments her faith, wishes her peace, and frees her from a terrible affliction.

Jesus may not always free us immediately from our affliction or our suffering, but He does make a way for us to go in peace. And perhaps a more important thing to consider is how we can help others “go in peace.” So here’s some homework: Ask God to give you an opportunity to speak peace into someone’s life outside your regular circle of family, friends, and co-workers. Be honest if this is new or difficult for you. You may find that you have helped someone with a smile or a kind word. Voicing your appreciation to a waitress or a nurse or cashier can make their day and perhaps help lift a burden that you are not even aware of. And don’t be surprised at the peace you find in ministering to another.

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Women of Christ’s Lineage

How many of us have examined our personal history? Our legacy? Have you ever visited one of those sites that explore your ancestry? Or perhaps you know stories that were handed down word of mouth. My aunt recently went to an ancestry site, and found some interesting facts about our family. Among the treasures of the past she located documents, censuses, marriage licenses, and so on. This has helped her to learn a great deal about our relatives, and to dig up a number of interesting facts.

 To some a family legacy is not that important; whereas to others it is essential.  To the Jews it was their identity, providing the essence of who they were. So as Christmas approaches, I would like to take a look at the genealogy of Christ. (Yes, a genealogy, but it is in the Bible so don’t ditch me now.) This is an often overlooked part of Jesus’ history, but something very meaningful to Him and His Jewish family. We as Christ’s followers, however, tend to skip over it, and leave it out of the Christmas story altogether. After all, it’s boring, irrelevant, has nothing to do with the advent of Christ. Hmm. Perhaps you can tell my opinion is different from many Christians.

While I am not going to write out the entire genealogy from Matthew chapter 1, I ask that you look carefully at some of the names in His lineage, and take note of the women who are mentioned.

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,and Jesse the father of King David,David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

 The writer mentions four women with interesting backgrounds. First of all, in Genesis 38 we find Tamar. This particular Tamar is not the one raped by her half-brother, Amnon (David’s son), but who waited by the road dressed as a prostitute in order to entrap Judah. Why had she done this? The answer is simple when you consider the culture of the day. She was Judah’s daughter-in-law (I know, ewww, but hang with me) whose husband (Judah’s son) Er, had died. Judah had promised that she could marry his son Shelah when he grew up, but failed to keep his word. And she wanted a child, hopefully a son. Having a child in those days especially a son, was essential for a number of reasons. Long story short, when Judah was confronted with the evidence, he had no choice but to admit his blunder. He was the man who had sex with Tamar and now she was pregnant. Not only that he had broken his promise to her, and admitted that he was more wrong than she.

 Next woman on the list, Rahab, (Joshua 2) who the Bible frankly tells us was a harlot. She helped the Israelites to capture Jericho when they first came into the Promised Land by hiding the Israelite spies. She and all those in under her roof were protected by a simple red chord displayed outside her home. She went on to marry an Israelite named Salmon. Not only was she a woman of ill-repute but also a Gentile, but she recognized the God of Israel.

 Third woman mentioned is Ruth. You may remember the story of Naomi whose husband and sons died while they were living in Moab to avoid a famine in Judah. Ruth, a Moabite, and one of her daughters-in-law insisted on going with Naomi back to the land of God’s people. Ruth’s tender words to her mother-in-law are well-known: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Who was Ruth but a heathen woman from a foreign land? Yet she loved her husband’s mother so much, she literally could not leave her. The wonderful love story that follows of a man named Boaz who “spoke tenderly” to her and became her husband is a romance that touches the heart. 

 The fourth woman is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. It’s difficult for me to find fault with her. Some say she was raped by King David, that he was the one purely in the wrong. Others seem to think that she was a willing participant in the affair and, perhaps by bathing where David could see her, provided ample temptation (no excuse for the king in my mind). But if David as sovereign of the land, called her to the palace, she had no choice but to go and to do as he bid.

Four women listed in the genealogy of Christ: Tamar who played the harlot and becoming pregnant by her father-in-law; Rahab, a heathen prostitute; Ruth also a Gentile who loved her Jewish mother-in-law and became a follower of the one true God. And lastly Bathsheba who some would call an adulteress. No matter, she is still one who gives us a wonderful insight into God’s love.

 I think we can learn from this that God esteems women. He loves them and can take broken, perhaps shame-filled lives, and redeem their past mistakes, making them into something beautiful. What a reversal—the honor of being named in His Son’s lineage!

You and I will never receive that particular prize, but isn’t this adequate evidence that God does indeed take lives that seem messed up beyond repair and love those individuals into His kingdom? You may think your hurts, your sins are outside the reach of His love. Your shame and guilt may have wreaked havoc on your conscience. You believe your deeds have done the same to your relationship with Him. But God is there, unashamedly waiting for you, wanting with all of His heart for you to know His love. His arms are open.

 

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