Monday, December 5, 2016

What Advent Asks ~ Do we really know this Jesus?

Several years ago a friend asked me to write a devotional on Mark chapter 1, and this is what came out. It's the account of Jesus healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law. This was not intended for Christmas time, but each year Advent asks of me, do I really know Jesus? Do my affections for this man I've never met face to face, but have felt in my heart, line up with my words about him?
This is simply my perspective on a particular dimension of how God's Word describes Jesus. I pray we continue to open our eyes and hearts to grow to know and love Jesus well, to see his evidence in our lives.

My dad's favorite ~ Akiane Kramarik's painting of Jesus

This Man Called Jesus

Even with dusk approaching, sunlight streams into the open windows of Mama’s room. The merciless heat shrouds me like a heavy blanket. Mama’s fatigued, shallow breathing fills the room, her weary lungs grasping for more air. Limp and thin, her body occupies a straight, unmoving lump under the pile of blankets and offers no hint of recovery. I examine her gentle face which appears impossibly aged from the course of just one week: rosy cheeks now gray and hollow and sunken, dark circles encasing her once-bright eyes.
Where did this fever come from? With each day it grows more and more tenacious for claiming Mama’s life. Was it someone she spoke with at market? Someone’s hand she took in a warm embrace who unknowingly passed on this disease?
I glance out the window upon hearing my husband’s voice in the distance. Mingled with a far-away child’s cry and the bustle of marketplace shoppers, I hear Simon’s excited, boisterous talk above the others. Thank God he’s home. He and Andrew have no idea how bad Mama is, how this terrible, relentless fever racks her body. Wringing water from the rag for a thousandth time, I place the wet towel across Mama’s forehead and lean to kiss her before running to the door.
Wait, who are all these men? I can make out John and James, and of course there’s Andrew, but who is this other man?
It must be Jesus.
Well, this is not the time. Not the time to prepare a meal and entertain Simon’s new friend. I have no bread prepared, and barely enough water for cleaning hands and feet. Our home is a mess. Every bit of my energy is poured out for fighting Mama’s fever.
And anyway, I don’t know what to think about Jesus. He asked Simon to give up his life’s work of fishing - and Simon said yes! How does my husband expect his and Andrew’s new “work” of walking from town to town with Jesus to put bread on the table? People are starting to talk - even my friends question Simon’s loyalty to this strange man.
As they approach, my relief with Simon’s presence overrides my frustration with his days-long absence. I run to meet him on the road.
“Simon, come quick! It’s Mama!”
He reaches to embrace me, but sees my distress and instead races toward the house.  Andrew’s face flushes with concern, and James and John and the stranger hurry close behind.
Back in Mama’s room, Simon asks his friend Jesus for help. Jesus?!  To help my Mama? I didn’t ask for this man! Without hesitating, Jesus goes to the bedside and takes hold of Mama’s hand. He folds his dusty, dirt-caked hands over Mama’s limp palms, bending over the bed and leaning in close to her face. I watch him watching her, and something in me relaxes.
This Jesus has gentle eyes. Gentle eyes and strong hands that seem to embrace Mama with tenderness and authority all mixed together. Mama’s eyes flutter open, the first time all day. She gazes at Jesus and smiles a faint smile, and he lifts her to sitting.  Before I can say a word, Jesus pulls back those stagnant covers and helps Mama stand on the rug by her bed.  Her eyes are twinkling, and I rush through the men to hold her. I press my face to hers. Gone is burning heat of fever, replaced with the warmth of restored health.
I glance across the room to Jesus, now leaning against the doorway, this mysterious man who in one touch healed Mama. Who is this man? Simon trusts him, says he’s a man of God and has come to bring hope to the brokenhearted and freedom to prisoners; to restore sight to the blind and the make the lame walk and preach good news to the poor. The people in our town whisper all kinds of things. But looking again into those gentle eyes, I realize that I have already begun to trust this man called Jesus.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14