I wrote this a few months ago. This should give you a dose of some life-changing moments from last year.
It is difficult to go about business as usual. October was surreal. I survived a car accident, got caught up in a protest, gave $5 to a homeless and unemployed minority single mother, listened to a genuine apology from a Broadway theater bartender, and watched an Indy car driver’s life end on TV. My eyes have been opened.
I read once that the most dangerous prayer in the Bible was the one in which Moses asked God, “Show me your glory.” Last month, I prayed a similar prayer in which I mirrored the Brandon Heath song “Give Me Your Eyes” and asked God to help me see the world as Jesus sees it, to view others with love and compassion, to flee from apathy and embrace empathy, to share with others the brevity and beauty of life and the blessings of following the Will of God.
This is a difficult and humbling prayer from someone comfortable with his safe life. While I don’t consider myself conservative, I often brush off problems as something someone else will handle. I stay out of drama, unless it affects me or a relative or close friend. I keep my money safe in my wallet. I make excuses. I would donate more but I’m barely getting by myself. How do you know those people really need help anyway? I have to take care of my own before I worry about everybody else.
I have learned through some recent experiences that this attitude is unbiblical and defies the message of the cross. Jesus did not discriminate when he suffered crucifixion, nor did he question his motives or make excuses. Imagine if the Garden of Gethsemane prayer had gone much differently:
Um, Dad… I don’t really want to do this. I don’t know these people. You know thousands of years from now they’re just going to deny you even exist. Then they’ll be all mad when nothing in their lives makes sense. I love you completely, so why do I have to die? Can’t someone else do it? Or can’t you just send another flood or something and wipe them all out… save us both the hassle?
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up His life for everyone, for the murderers and the adulterers, for the politicians and the poor, without questioning future motives, agendas, or slip-ups. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45b).
Amidst doubt and disbelief, Jesus wept just before he resurrected Lazarus from the tomb, even though He knew what He was about to do. The Bible says Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33b), so much that he “wept” (John 11:35). I remember when I first learned that verse, John 11:35. There was a joke that it was the easiest to memorize because it was the shortest. But as a writer and voracious reader, I think about how the author, John, chose to write such a short verse, as if separating this point and hammering it into the reader’s mind. Jesus wept. The disciples assumed his tears were for Lazarus, and John never says otherwise, but I wonder. Jesus knew He had the authority to raise Lazarus from the dead. “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the Glory of God?” Shortly after this, He calls Lazarus out of the tomb and Lazarus emerges, as if he were never dead.
Why the tears, then? Why would Jesus weep if not for the death of Lazarus? I personally feel that Jesus’ tears were tears of compassion, not sadness. Jesus knew that death was not an end for those who accepted Him as one with God. He voiced this to Martha just before resurrecting Lazarus. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26a).
It amazes me how often I see in the Bible, in words and deeds, the overwhelming compassion Jesus has for others. Matthew says that when Jesus saw the crowds, he “had compassion on them” (Matt. 9:36a) or as the King James Version puts it, he was “moved with compassion.” Keep in mind that this crowd was not a church congregation filled with believers, well-dressed men and women, pious church-goers, and devout Jesus freaks. Sure, some of them were well behaved, curious, even polite, but many of them were unsavory, doubtful, pushy, dissatisfied, and insistent. Many of them were self-seeking, looking to be healed, or to disprove that this man was who He said He was. And yet Jesus, who knew their hearts and knew of their selfish desires and doubts, had compassion on them.
Part 2 later.