Matthew 22: 36-39
Thought: It was well over two years ago that Jesus began his public ministry. Most people remember how he turned water into wine at a wedding reception as being his first public act on his journey. Others recall his early teachings, healings and other things. However, as Jesus now looked around Jerusalem, he remembered again how it all began…and it wasn’t any of the above!!
No, his first act of ministry was when he went into the wilderness and fasted and prayed for forty days! What did he do while there? He spent his time sorting out what was important. When he was finished, it was clear that he denied evil’s offering that humanity’s goals should be worldly treasure (in any form you can get it!) and that the good life is the absence of hardship and/or pain. Instead, Jesus was bent on offering us a pathway to new, rich, and fulfilling living that is above external circumstances. That’s why he was walking around in Jerusalem this Tuesday on his way to the cross.
What were his closest friends, the disciples, thinking at that point? There’s little doubt that they were worried, frustrated that Jesus would even come into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. After all, if he was God as he said, or if God was his father, how on earth could he ever begin his kingdom with no earthly resources, and with all the authorities mad at him? Didn’t God have a better plan than this?
Helen’s great-grandfather came to live with her family when she was eight years old. With him came two battered suitcases and a cardboard box filled with his “valuables.” That was everything he owned. His stay was indefinite. “Just till my time comes,” he would say. At a moment’s notice his serious face could light up with a bright smile. At the top of the stairway was his room. It was an ordinary room, yet different. There was no bed. Because of his asthmatic condition he slept in a brown leather chair with his feel resting on a footstool. Helen found there was love in Grandpa’s room. His love for her was apparent in many ways, but in his room she learned of his great compassion for others. His “valuables” had a story all their own – pleasant memories of the past. Countless times he leafed through the pages of a faded album, lovingly touching each picture as if he were caressing old friends and loved ones. His open Bible lay by his chair. It was well worn with penciled markings throughout. The cover was nearly off.
Grandpa was almost totally deaf. However, every Sunday morning he sat in the first pew at church, cupping his hand to his ear, trying to hear the sermon. During the cold, wintry weather in Iowa, he never missed a church service. At night, Helen often crept down the hall and sat crouched outside the door to hear Grandpa’s prayers. He prayed long and loud, beginning every prayer with the same words: “Thank you, Lord, for my many blessings!” “Blessings?” she would think to herself. Being old and deaf, having to sleep upright in a chair, no worldly goods…what blessings could he have? One evening in late summer, they came home to find Grandpa’s crumpled body lying at the bottom of the stairs. He looked up at Helen as if to say, “My time has come.” And shortly after that he died.
After he died, Helen sat in his big chair many times. She missed him, as well as the box of “valuables” – the old photograph album and his well-worn Bible. Sometimes at night she could still hear his prayers, always opening with the words: “Lord, thank you for my blessings.” One day it finally occurred to her that he really did have the greatest blessings of all – a steadfast and abiding faith in the One who traveled with him on every step on his life’s journey, good times and hard times; the one who understood every heartache, every sorrow, every pain, because he had experienced them all Himself.
…and that’s why Jesus was walking around Jerusalem that Tuesday.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for lifting us up on our own earthly journey. Amen.
Questions: 1. When things go wrong what kind of feelings do you deal with? 2. What were Jesus’ strongest feelings that Tuesday?
Rev. Dr. Richard E. Rusbuldt