A Savior To Rescue Us

Jesus is the best teacher to guide us and truest friend who comforts us. But to make it through life’s hardships we need more. We need a savior to rescue us.

According to popular opinion, God promises not to give us more than we can handle. While Hallmark may promise this, the Bible does not. As strange as it may sound, this should come as a relief to you. First, history and experience vividly illustrate that God does give us more than we can handle. Imagine giving the Hallmark promise to a Jew in Auschwitz, or a parent who just lost their only child, or a person with stage four pancreatic cancer. Who wouldn’t be tempted to punch a person for giving such encouragement? Second, it should relieve you that the Bible is for people clobbered by reality, not just those so sheltered that they naively fall prey to sentimental well wishing. Third, identifying this promise as false will help you more easily recognize the real Jesus. He came to earth precisely because we’ve failed to handle what God has already given us.

So yes, God gives us more than we can handle.

In fact, Jesus seemed intent on putting his disciples in impossible situations to teach the most important lesson — to rely on Him, not themselves.

“Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side. . . [the boat was] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them and in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass them by.” (Read the full event in Matthew 14:22-25 and Mark 6: 45-52)

When a dangerous storm hits, where is the last place you want to be? Flailing about the sea in a tiny fishing boat might qualify. Yet, that is exactly where Jesus sent Peter and the disciples after they helped him feed 5,000 hungry people. Why would Jesus send his exhausted friends into a devastating storm? Jesus even lingers on the shore until the last watch of the night before He walks by their sinking boat. Yes, you heard me correctly. Jesus intended to pass them by.

Children’s Bibles gloss over these details. As a child, that’s probably why I confused Mr. Rogers and Jesus. Mr. Rogers would never give us more than we could handle. But the real Jesus is not so tame or predictable.

He seems fine overwhelming us with more than we can handle so that we see our need for Him.

Think about Peter’s experience with Jesus in just one day. After working all day, Jesus asked him to feed five thousand people. With what? Five loaves, and two fish! Really? Then Jesus sent him into an unyielding storm. Peter strained at the oars all night long, unable to bring his boat to safe harbor.

When Peter realized he could not handle his situation, something dawned on him. He cried out to Jesus in desperation and Jesus responded. He enabled Peter to walk on water. But Peter, habitually self-reliant, turned his gaze from Jesus. As Peter sank into the depths, Jesus grabbed him.

Even in Peter’s best moment, he was clearly in over his head.

In a specific situation, we may never completely understand why God gives us more than we can handle. We will feel frustrated and terrified when it happens. But God will use it to replace our self-reliance with a fuller reliance on Him.

Having a teacher and friend are helpful but not sufficient for lasting hope. So many things can go wrong which we cannot fix or even understand. They are simply beyond our comprehension and our abilities.

But they are not beyond God’s wisdom or power. God understands the nature of every poison that ruins, as well as the nature of every antidote that heals. He alone can provide the healing we require.

Most often, antidotes are developed from the same poison that kills. So in order to heal us Jesus Christ consumed every toxin known to bleed humanity of life: betrayal, mockery, loss, cruelty, abandonment, loneliness, sickness, pain, and death. He drank the poison during his life and emptied the bottle at his death. Through consuming the poison he has rescued us and also developed the only elixir capable to heal — his saving blood.

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(This is an edited version of my post from August 2015 titled Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

A True Friend to Comfort Us

Jesus was the truest friend, but not the easiest. He had the ability to speak to people’s hearts with such force and wisdom that they felt exposed, even naked. Yet, despite feeling naked and ashamed, people wanted to be near Jesus because he loved deeply.

Jesus comforted the afflicted, but he also afflicted the comfortable. This explains why the “wrong sort” of people usually loved him: tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. And the “right sort” usually hated him: religious people and leaders. But not always. Even religious people (and leaders) came to love him; if they could endure the humiliation of being stripped of their self-righteousness (and self-reliance) and see their need of him.

Jesus loved with compassion and wisdom. He loved with an awareness of a person’s individual fears, desires, and personality.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Martha cried out in frustration when Lazarus died. (See John 11:17-44)

From other accounts, Martha seems to be a thinker, not a feeler. This would explain why Jesus reasoned with her.

“Your brother will rise again.” Jesus said.

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha said. But she wanted him back now! She missed him.

“I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus said. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord.” Martha replied.

Martha believed in Jesus’ power over death, but she tended to see Jesus as a means to an end. When Jesus said, “everyone who believes in me shall never [really] die” he wanted Martha to change her perspective. Heaven would be heavenly not because it extended life forever, but because it reconnected people to life’s source — to Him. Until Martha was ready to see Jesus was the end, not merely a means to an end, she would never experience life to the fullest; even if she had her brother back from the dead that day (which she would).

Mary, Martha’s sister, approached Jesus saying the same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” But Mary’s grieving process was different. Unlike her sister, Mary was a feeler, not a thinker. Jesus knew the way to comfort her was not with reason but with tears. So, Jesus took the time to weep with Mary; even though he was about to raise Lazarus.

He loved each sister perfectly. He gave each exactly what she needed to feel loved and understood. We might assume that the really important thing was to physically restore their brother to them. But for Jesus, it was just as important to restore each sister emotionally and spiritually.

Jesus is the truest friend who knows how to comfort us in our pain. We can trust him to break through to us in exactly the way we need him. Unlike Mary and Martha, we may have to wait longer than several days to see God’s full power. But even if we have to wait until the final resurrection, we have a true friend to comfort us now.

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The Best Teacher To Guide Us

When we face a new challenge, the first thing we often look for is an experienced teacher to guide us.  We ask: Who has already faced this? How did they handle it? 

We can learn a lot from someone who has gone ahead of us. They can guide us through the unknown because they’ve been where we are going. We can capitalize on their experience. We can avoid common mistakes and save a lot of time and frustration.

The best teachers are not only wise and experienced. They are also loving, patient and able to communicate effectively.

Jesus is the greatest teacher of all time. Without question, no figure from history compares. Unlike so many academics, Jesus did not seclude himself in an ivory tower or lecture hall. He lived the wisdom he taught and he took it to the streets —  to people’s homes and to small town synagogues. He never had to compensate for a mediocre intellect by using long sentences and a complex vocabulary. He spoke normally and used illustrations everyone could understand. When he taught at the Jerusalem temple, he confounded academics with his wisdom, even at age twelve.

Jesus even impressed his opponents who constantly tried to trap him in a logical inconsistency. At each turn they ended up with egg on their face. (For humorous examples read Matthew 21:23-27 and 22:15-22.)

The crowds were astonished at Jesus’ teaching because he taught with real authority, not like their scribes. People took off work and followed him around the rugged countryside often forgetting to eat at normal meal times. The words Jesus spoke seemed more important than food and work.

His disciples called him Rabbi (meaning teacher) at the beginning, but over time they would call him My Lord and My God. They came to recognize that he taught with the wisdom and knowledge of God Himself.

And Jesus always led by example.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Jesus said. “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemy and pray for those that persecute you.”

Jesus loved his enemies to the end. On the night he was betrayed he washed Judas’ feet just as he did for the others.  That same night he healed a soldier who attacked his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane.

“Crucify Him!” his enemies shouted at the Roman governor’s headquarters.

“He saved others but he cannot save himself.” They mocked at the cross.

“Father Forgive them.” Jesus replied. “They know not what they do.”

Jesus warned his followers about the storms to come. He told them to keep their head and trust Him through it.

“A servant is not above his master.” Jesus said.  “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. . . They will put you out of the synagogue. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

History shows that is exactly what happened. Dark times would come but they would not last.  Like a seasoned captain facing a terrifying battle, Jesus shouted commands to his inexperienced men:

“Do not fear!”

“Follow me!”

“Listen and obey”.

“The gates of hell shall not prevail.” Jesus said.

The gates of hell would fall — first at the empty grave, then around the Roman Empire, then Europe and then the New World.  Today hell’s gates continue to fall in China, India, and Africa. And they fall each time a person lost in their addiction and despair, finds freedom and hope in Jesus.

No matter the situation Jesus can guide you through.

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